April 27, 2015
There’s One Born Every Minute…

…but don’t let it be you. Excerpted from Jim Wright’s thumb-sucker at Stonekettle about what the old toe-sucker is up to now:

No, [Dick] Morris and those like him are right now attempting to paint Hillary Clinton as more Republican than Republican. It’s deliberate and you can tell because Morris specifically didn’t mention certain things, such as: Abortion, Climate Change, Minimum Wage, Income Inequality, Marriage Equality, Education, and etcetera.

Morris and his friends are not trying to make conservatives hate Hillary Clinton, obviously there’s no need for that. They’re trying to make liberals stay home…

Conservatives hated Barack Obama, but they didn’t like Mitt Romney either. So they stayed home. Two years later, liberals hated their truculent obstructionist Congress, but they didn’t much care for Obama either. So they stayed home…

And that, that right there, is exactly what people like Morris are counting on in 2016. Your apathy. They’ve got a clown car full of unlikeable nuts. And Hillary Clinton.

And if they can convince liberals, and progressives, and the fickle free-range undecideds to just stay home, they’ll take back the White House.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 6:55 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Elections | Political Commentary | Republicans
April 26, 2015
Train Wreckers

Here’s George W. Bush, our first frat boy president, speaking to the board of directors of American foreign policy:

Several attendees sensed a tacit critique of Mr. Obama and his failure to follow through on his threats to use force when Mr. Bush said “you gotta mean it” when talking tough, and that America’s allies and enemies needed to know where an American leader stood. He said also discussed his own approach in Iraq, saying he changed course when it was warranted.

“You call in the military and say, ‘Here’s my goal. What’s your plan to help me achieve that goal?'” he said, according to attendees. He said that when asked what had to be done with terrorists bent on America’s destruction, the answer was “well, you kill em,” several attendees recalled.

Bush, like our first half-white president, fails utterly to grasp what should be the cardinal principle of all public policy, foreign and domestic: If you’re on the wrong train, all the stops are wrong.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 1:48 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
Afghanistan | America is Doomed | Declare Victory And Leave | Our Longest National Nightmare Ever | Weakening America | World Affairs
April 24, 2015
Where Are the Defense Attorneys?

From the New York Times:

Ms. Lynch is not expected to push for changing marijuana laws. Under Mr. Holder, the Justice Department did not stand in the way of states that legalized marijuana. And in his final months in office, he questioned whether the government should keep marijuana on the list of the most serious drugs, in the same category as heroin. Ms. Lynch, who told aides during the confirmation process that she had never smoked marijuana, does not share that view. She told the Senate that she did not support legalization and did not agree with Mr. Obama that marijuana may not be more dangerous than alcohol.

Another reason not to appoint career prosecutors to run the Justice Department, any more than banksters should run the Fed or the Koch Brothers Energy or union bosses Labor. Bad enough that both house of Congress are loaded down with lawyers, most of them former prosecutors thoroughly marinated in our astonishingly cruel and corrupt criminal injustice system. Incest is inevitable.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 4:15 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
Legal Absurdities
April 23, 2015
Those Chinese Really Know How to Throw a Funeral

Agence France Presse reveals:

Chinese authorities on Thursday bared the details of their latest anti-vice sweep: a campaign to halt the hiring of strippers at funerals.

In a statement posted on its website, China’s Ministry of Culture pledged a “crackdown” on the practice, which it said has become increasingly common in rural areas… China’s official Xinhua news agency said such performances are typically organised in order to draw a larger crowd at last rites. One example cited by the Ministry of Culture was a funeral in north China’s Hebei province.

“Two strippers wearing revealing clothes danced on a stage at a public square in our village at night on February 15,” an eyewitness surnamed Zhang told the state-run Global Times newspaper earlier this month. “They first danced passionately and then took off their clothes piece by piece,” the man said. “Behind them, an electronic screen was displaying a picture of the deceased with elegiac couplets on either side.”

In another case later that month, a troupe in east China’s Jiangsu province was detained for funeral performances that drew crowds of as many as 500 local residents, according to provincial news site xichu.net.

The troupe engaged in “erotic performances on the stage with sexual organs exposed and imitating sexual acts,” police officer Tang Jinyang told the news site. Such shows “disrupt the order of the rural cultural market and corrupt the social atmosphere,” China's Ministry of Culture said.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 2:21 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
Reveling in the Weird | World Affairs
April 22, 2015
News That Matters

From the New York Times:

Denmark passed legislation Tuesday banning bestiality, toughening a law that animal rights activists feared was encouraging animal-sex tourism. The bill amends a previous ban on intercourse that harms animals. Farm Minister Dan Jorgensen argued that the previous ban was inadequate, saying in an opinion article, “It’s hard to prove that an animal suffers when a human has sexual intercourse with it, and that is why we must give the animal the benefit of the doubt.” Those voting for the bill said Denmark did not want to remain the last northern European country where bestiality was legal, as this was attracting animal-sex tourists. Germany, Norway, Sweden and Britain previously banned bestiality. A 2011 Justice Ministry report surveyed veterinarians and found that 17 percent of them suspected that a human had had sex with an animal they treated.

Once upon a time, long enough ago that all involved but me are safely dead, I was sent by the Washington Post to report on something or other at the National Zoological Park. When I was done I asked the director if anything else interesting was going on at the zoo.

“Well,” he said. “Last week a night watchman heard a noise from the llama cage. The llamas looked okay but there was an empty liquor bottle on the floor, so he shined his light around. A guy with hair all over the front of his pants had climbed up on one of the roof beams, so the watchman took him back to the guard house and called up to see if the D.C. police wanted to charge him with anything. Once the desk sergeant stopped laughing he said, ‘Why? Did the llama complain? Just throw a scare into the guy and let him go.'”

“Does that kind of stuff happen a lot?” I asked the director.

“Not a lot, but it happens.”

“What animals?” I asked, hoping for pythons or at least ostriches.

“For some reason,” the director said, “it’s always the llamas.”



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 3:16 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
No Human Involved

From an interview with filmmaker Nick Broomfield on his documentary, Tales of the Grim Sleeper:

NB: There is a police slang term that, when the police call in a homicide, for example, they would say “NHI,” [meaning] “no human involved.” Which [means] don’t really bother with proper forensics. He’s a John Doe or Jane Doe. It’s a homeless person, a drug addict, prostitute, gang member, we don’t really care. We probably don’t expect to find the person responsible. Just book it in. But don’t spend a lot of time on it.

That’s kind of what it means. It’s used for disposable people. People who aren’t worthy of a proper inquiry. And again, disposable people, people who obviously aren’t represented, aren’t considered part of the political process, have no employment. They don’t count.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 1:40 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Class Warriors | Race | Weakening America
April 21, 2015
If At First You Don’t Succeed…

…then fail, fail again. What’s next? Yemen?

Back in Washington, Gloria Emerson of the New York Times, perhaps the most passionately anti-war of all American correspondents, recorded the irrational elation, backslapping, cigar-lighting and self-congratulation over the Mayaguez operation at the White House, and the extraordinary increase in the government’s popularity it brought about. The Mayaguez was a US freight ship whose crew were detained off Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge a few days after the fall of Saigon. The Americans sent in marines to rescue the crew, who, it turned out, were probably not in any danger.

The operation then somehow got ludicrously pumped up as a counterweight to the humiliation of 30 April in Vietnam and the earlier fall of Pnomh Penh. In reality it was a botched and stupid affair in which the Americans lost a lot of people while attacking Khmer Rouge forces who — in a foretaste of the future — were in fact preparing to defend what they saw as their territory against the new masters of South Vietnam. In its poor intelligence, wasteful firepower and bloody confusion, it encapsulated much that had been wrong about the war that had just ended.

The Mayaguez affair was the first indication that you could take the United States out of Vietnam, but you could not take Vietnam out of the United States. In the decades since, the US has never ceased to fight the war. It continued to fight it, in the most immediate sense, by vindictively isolating the new Vietnam economically and politically. This it later took to a monstrous extreme by effectively favouring the Khmer Rouge regime remnants who were resisting the new Vietnamese-imposed government in Pnomh Penh.

The two countries are now almost as friendly as Ho Chi Minh had hoped they would be in 1945, when his appeals to the US for help in achieving independence from France went unheard. But if the US has finally stopped chastising Vietnam itself, the war still goes on in other ways. Everything the US has done in the world since then has been conditioned by its fear of the consequences of trying to reassert itself militarily — and by its compulsion to do so.

The fear is of another Vietnam, another quagmire, another debacle. The compulsion, though, constantly seeks out other places where something like Vietnam can be taken on again, but this time won, cleanly and conclusively. The US has sought this compensatory victory again and again, most recently in Afghanistan and Iraq. Vietnam, like Hamlet’s ghost, refuses to go away. The war never went away in America, at the most fundamental level, because it became a test of how Americans saw their country.

(The excerpt above is from a superb summary of Saigon’s fall 40 years ago by Martin Woollacott of The Guardian. In the photo an American charter pilot punches a would-be refugee away from a DC6 already overloaded with 264 others.)



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 1:06 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
April 20, 2015
A Major Media Fail

None of what follows is news in the sense that it has never been reported before. It is news in the sense that most Americans, due to a combination of incompetence, laziness and spinelessness on the part of our media, are completely unaware of it. Proof of this is the almost universal outrage over Putin’s actions (reactions, more accurately) in the Crimean crisis. Pay special attention to what George Kennan said below. As usual, he was right. And to what Clinton did. As usual, he was wrong.

From the campaign trail on Oct. 22, 1996, two weeks before he defeated Bob Dole for a second term as president, Bill Clinton used NATO enlargement to advertise his assertiveness in foreign policy and America’s status as the “world’s indispensable nation.” Clinton bragged about proposing NATO enlargement at his first NATO summit in 1994, saying it “should enlarge steadily, deliberately, openly.” He never explained why.

President Clinton, thus, reneged on the pledges made by Baker to Gorbachev and Shevardnadze. Clinton lamely called upon Russia to view NATO’s enlargement as an arrangement that will “advance the security of everyone.”

Clinton’s tough-guy-ism toward Russia was, in part, a response to even more aggressive NATO plans from Clinton’s Republican opponent Bob Dole, who had been calling for incorporating Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary as full members of NATO and had accused Clinton of “dragging his feet” on this. Clinton was not about to be out-toughed.

Those three countries joined NATO in 1999, starting a trend. By April 2009, nine more countries became members, bringing the post-Cold War additions to 12 – equal to the number of the original 12 NATO states.

Clinton made what quintessential Russian specialist Ambassador George Kennan called a “fateful error.” Writing in the New York Times on Feb. 5, 1997, Kennan asserted: “Expanding NATO would be the most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-cold-war era.

“Such a decision may be expected to inflame the nationalistic, anti-Western and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion; to have an adverse effect on the development of Russian democracy; to restore the atmosphere of the cold war to East-West relations, and to impel Russian foreign policy in directions decidedly not to our liking.”



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 2:00 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
Historical Perspectives | Media | News/Current Events | Our Longest National Nightmare Ever | Our Sordid Press Corps | Weakening America
April 19, 2015
Inside Team Hillary

Spring is in the air, and a young man’s thought turn to love.

Wait. Let me update that for the times: Spring is in the air, and a jaded middle-age man’s thoughts turn to … the upcoming Bush Clinton election farce. Egads, just when you thought hemorrhoids and heartburn were gone for good …

The words “orgy” and “indigestion” don’t often fit in the same sentence, but when I contemplate Bush v. Clinton they merge together as naturally as peas and carrots, or warm beer and a headache, or bunions and toe jam. I just can’t get over it.

We’ve got climate change and peak oil and wealth inequality and the death of the middle class. We’ve got major tectonic problems grinding below the surface, and the best that American democracy can come up with is … Bush v. Clinton? Burp. Scratch your balls and go back to sleep, Mr. America, there is nothing to see here.

I keep thinking Millard Fillmore or James Buchanan, or Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain, or any of the other dull gray epic failures of oligarchic democracy who preceded great disasters. They bumbled and dawdled and stooped and stuttered, like Mr. Magoo, while the ground split beneath their feet and dropped them into a void, and their only thought on the way down was, Where’s my hat?

There is a really obscene joke being played on us, people. Here are your hand-picked machine candidates, now do your civic duty and vote! The only interesting thing will be watching how both of these rich, inside baseball, orthodox establishment clones turn themselves into pretzels running against “Washington” and the “status quo.” A public that accepts this deserves to get them, and, to paraphrase the great H.L.M., deserves to get them good and hard.

I’m getting chuckles watching Hillary’s populist “road trip.” Who thought that one up, I wonder? Has someone at Team Hillary recently watched Animal House? Did they take a fucking poll?

…Read on

Posted by OHollern at 1:12 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
April 18, 2015
A Room Without a View

Lindsey Graham, a United States senator, on the man who landed a tiny unarmed gyrocopter on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol as a protest against the Citizens United Decision:

“He should have been subject to being shot out of the sky. I don’t know why he wasn’t, but our nation is under siege. Radical Islam is a threat to our home land. There are probably radical Islamic cells in our backyard already. And if somebody is willing to, you know, approach vital government infrastructure, they should do so at their own peril.”
In a more advanced society, the senator would be kept in a quiet place and treated kindly until he was judged to be no longer a threat to others.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 3:04 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
Idiots | Psychology and Society
April 17, 2015
What Happens When You Don’t Check Whether Your Predictions Were Accurate…

One area in which we in the US can still stake a claim to lead the world is the politics of paranoia, as Richard Hofstadter’s immortal essay made clear. And he wasn’t just talking about your garden-variety crazies like Ben Carson or Mike Huckabee; paranoia reaches even the highest rungs of the political ladder, as Richard Nixon so admirably demonstrated.

James Forrestal, one of my favorite examples, had a long string of impressive accomplishments, from excelling at (though not graduating from) Princeton, to claiming the first flag raised by American forces at Iwo Jima (the second flag-raising was captured in the famous photograph), to pushing racial integration in the Navy when his predecessor as Secretary of the Navy died of a heart attack and he became Secretary, to becoming our first Secretary of Defense. He was famously and uncompromisingly anti-Communist and anti-Soviet, concerned that the evil represented by Communism exerted a strong pull on societies decimated by the Second World War. His belief that Communism would not cease in attacking until it had destroyed all representative government might sound a bit paranoid, but Eisenhower, with whom Forrestal consulted during the War, apparently wrote in his personal diary that he “never had cause to doubt the accuracy” of Forrestal’s judgments on the issue. That level of paranoia, in other words, was pretty normal in those days.

After the war, Forrestal urged Truman to take a hard line with the Soviets over Poland. He also strongly influenced the new Wisconsin Senator, Joseph McCarthy, concerning infiltration of the government by Communists. Upon McCarthy’s arrival in Washington in December 1946, Forrestal invited him to lunch. In McCarthy’s words, “Before meeting Jim Forrestal I thought we were losing to international Communism because of incompetence and stupidity on the part of our planners. I mentioned that to Forrestal. I shall forever remember his answer. He said, ‘McCarthy, consistency has never been a mark of stupidity. If they were merely stupid, they would occasionally make a mistake in our favor.’ This phrase struck me so forcefully that I have often used it since.”

In the end Forrestal was asked to resign as SecDef and was quietly transferred to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda where the cover of his psychiatric diagnosis of depression could be maintained. For the same reason they placed him on the 16th floor. Unfortunately, his body was later found on the roof of the third floor, with some reports claiming a bathrobe sash cord was tied around his neck. While he had never been given an official diagnosis of paranoia, it was rumored that he harbored a physical and individualized fear that Communists were coming to get him. On the other hand, given his opposition to the partitioning of Palestine it is likely that he was in fact being followed, though probably not by Communists.

Poor guy, and what a paranoid and inaccurate conception of the world! To imagine that your putative enemy is so powerful that they never make mistakes and are completely consistent, properties unknown to human organizations or even individuals. They are aggressive and relentless, and the complete destruction of your way of governing and thus of your culture is their only motivation. They are not, in short, human, but simultaneously both superhuman and subhuman. And to imagine this was true of the Soviets, who lost an entire generation of men, had been reduced to poverty nearly everywhere, and were struggling to feed their people and rebuild their devastated country! But paranoia builds its own sorts of reverse-Potemkin villages.

If only Forrestal had lived in the time of gyrocoptors! But his spirit lives on in the senior Senator from South Carolina.

“He should have been subject to being shot out of the sky,” Graham said. “I don’t know why he wasn’t, but our nation is under siege. Radical Islam is a threat to our home land. There are probably radical Islamic cells in our backyard already.”

“If somebody is willing to, you know, approach vital government infrastructure, they should do so at their own peril,” Graham continued.

Even the Washington Times couldn’t swallow that one whole: “The small vehicle was unarmed and likely would not make a formidable weapon, even if used kamikaze-style.”

This man has a vote on serious matters. Or would if the Republican Congress ever made an effort to address its responsibilities. In practice, however, so little happens in the Senate that Lindsey gets antsy, talks of running for President, and starts singing war chants with his BFF.

Which way’s the boogeyman comin’ from, Senators?



Posted by Chuck Dupree at 12:02 AM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
McCain | Political Commentary | Psychology and Society
April 16, 2015
Living Down to Expectations

Apparently the following is old stuff, but it was new to me. I therefore assume it will be to you, too, since how could you be better informed than I am? The excerpt gives the rough outline; for more background, go to Professor Wolff’s fascinating blog, which ought to be on your daily checklist if it isn’t already.

The UMass Afro-Am doctoral students dominate the annual conventions and have assembled a brilliant record of publication. The applicants, most of whom apply to several doctoral programs, still have appallingly low GRE scores. What’s up?

A good many years ago, a brilliant African-American psychologist named Claude Steele asked the same question, and launched a fascinating series of experiments to find out. [When I had dinner with Steele in Amherst, MA many years ago, he was the Chair of the Stanford Psychology Department. He is currently the Executive Vice-Chancellor and Provost of UC Berkeley.] Steele formulated the hypothesis that Black students are well aware of the widely-held view that they are dumber than White students, and this awareness, which Steele labeled “stereotype threat,” undermines their ability to do well on the sorts of “intelligence tests” that the White world expects them to do badly on.

Steele devised a variety of experimental protocols to test this hypothesis, and again and again, the data proved him correct. For example, Steele would put together a multiple-choice test, and give it to two groups of college students [mixed White and Black.] The first group would be told that they were being tested for intelligence; the second group, given the identical test in identical testing circumstances, would be told that they were being tested on their general knowledge. Sure enough, the first group of Black students did markedly worse than the second.

Steele then broadened his investigation to other stereotypes. Women are commonly thought not to be able to do math, so Steele tested two groups of women on the same math exam. Each group was asked to fill out a little personal data form before taking the test -- name, address, age, college class, etc. The last question on the first form, answered just before taking the test, was “gender.” The second form omitted that item. Lo and behold, the women who were called on to identify themselves as women just before taking the test did worse than those who were not so asked! Steele was even able to replicate the result by putting the gender question first on the form in one case and last in the other.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:31 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
Education | Psychology and Society | Race
April 15, 2015
A Prick in a Robe

Undernews reports:

A Fulton County superior court judge handed down severe prison sentences to 10 former school administrators, principals and elementary school teachers for their role in a citywide test cheating scandal at the Atlanta Public Schools.

The educators and one other teacher were convicted April 1 for inflating test scores in 2009...

The case was brought by county prosecutors in what the Atlanta Journal-Constitution — which backs the vendetta — called a “novel use” of state racketeering laws normally reserved for organized crime activities such as such as prostitution, counterfeiting or illegal drugs and weapons trafficking.

To the gasps of courtroom onlookers on Tuesday morning, Judge Jerry Baxter announced maximum 20-year sentences for three former school administrators — Tamara Cotman, 44; Sharon Davis-Williams, 59; and Michael Pitts, 59 — that include seven years in prison, 13 years on probation, fines of $25,000 each and 2,000 hours of community service.…

Judge Baxter was visibly enraged by the public sympathy for the educators whose families and friends packed the courtroom Monday to demand leniency. When spectators reacted with horror to his sentencing, the judge angrily blurted,
“Everyone starts crying about these educators. There were thousands of children harmed in this thing. This is not a victimless crime … When you are passed and you can’t read, you are passed and passed on, there are victims that are in the jail that I have sentenced, kids…”

After prosecutors sought to blackmail the educators with promises of lighter sentences if they accepted guilt and waived the right to appeal their convictions, Baxter reacted angrily, saying, “I’ve got a fair sentence in mind and it involves going to jail. Everybody.”

All involved are black except the judge, who is a vicious, ignorant bully who disgraces his race and his robe.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:13 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (3)
Education | Idiots | Legal Absurdities | Race
For the Love of “God”

Glenn Greenwald at The Intercept:

Almost half of all Americans want to support Israel even if its interests diverge from the interests of their own country. Only a minority of Americans (47%) say that their country should pursue their own interests over supporting Israel’s when the two choices collide. It’s the ultimate violation of George Washington’s 1796 Farewell Address warning that “nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded… .The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave.”

It is inconceivable that a substantial portion of Americans would want to support any other foreign country even where doing so was contrary to U.S. interests. Only Israel commands anything near that level of devoted, self-sacrificing fervor on the part of Americans. So it’s certainly worth asking what accounts for this bizarre aspect of American public opinion.

The answer should make everyone quite uncomfortable: it’s religious fanaticism. The U.S. media loves to mock adversary nations, especially Muslim ones, for being driven by religious extremism, but that is undeniably a major factor, arguably the most significant one, in explaining fervent support for Israel among the American populace…

The wildly popular “dispensationalist” sect is driven by the dogmatic belief that a unified Israel in the hands of the Jews is a prerequisite for Armageddon or the Rapture and the return of Jesus: a belief shared not by thousands but millions of Americans.

Read it all. Truly frightening stuff. I’ll be having more on this soon.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:33 AM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (5)
Idiots | Religion and Society | Weakening America | World Affairs
April 12, 2015
“Ridicule Can Do Much…”

Of course my reading world is a bubble; with so much available these days, what’s the alternative? I don’t even visit major news sites any more; I read their stories through an aggregator that allows me to train it much like one trains Pandora or Spotify. As a result I get what I ask for.

So I can’t claim to have surveyed a representative sample of reporting on Rand Paul’s announcement of his Presidential campaign. But a large proportion of the center-left pundits I read this week took particular glee in highlighting not so much points of substantive disgreement as errors in execution. To some extent this might reflect a narrative in journalism of Southern politicians as perhaps a few fries short of a Happy Meal, a slightly unfair characterization in that, while technically true, this trait doesn’t distinguish them from their compatriots who hail from less muggy climes.

I grant that if Hillary’s made any spelling errors in her first-week campaign materials she’ll hear about it for weeks from the right-wing echo chamber. But I don’t regularly read writers whose strongest arguments are issues for which most people these days rely on word-processing software. True, it evinces a lack of professionalism in realms highly valued by political professionals and their journalist colleagues. But those are possibly the only two groups who believe that such things matter to anyone else.

In fact, as Dean Burnett’s enjoyable article explains, there are a number of good psychological reasons for how politicians approach us and how we evaluate them. Good, that is, in that they make solid logical and scientific sense. Practically speaking, their effects are generally bad. For example, confident people are known to be more convincing. It’s also known that less intelligent people are generally quite self-confident, because they don’t have access to the higher-level metacognitive abilities. Metacognition is how we think about our own ways of thinking, the patterns in our own behavior. If we don’t look at our own patterns we don’t tend to see our mistakes or areas of ignorance, which can lead us to be quite confident without solid reasons for being so.

In addition, people tend to be put off by subjects that seem complex or are presented as requiring expertise. Since practically everything involved in governing a country is inherently complicated, or at least refers to issues most of us don’t confront in daily life, democracy begins with a disadvantage. We like to feel we’re involved and affecting things, but we don’t like digging in to complexity; as a result we tend to spend a good deal more time talking about trivial stuff we understand than complex stuff we don’t. Thus someone who relates a wealth of detail and sees both sides of the situation will be thrown over for someone who says history is bunk and it’s really all quite simple.

Put all this together, and a less intelligent politician is likely to be supremely confident and ready with an oversimplified solution to any complex problem. But it also turns out that confident people who are proven to be either wrong or lying drop to the bottom of the credibility list. So politicians are encouraged by the system to promise a great deal and to do so confidently, despite the obvious impossibility of fulfilling those promises. When they fail to deliver, they’re massively devalued. Repetitions of this cycle convince people that politics is stupid and cannot be affected or improved. As Burnett puts it:

The majority of people are prone to numerous subconscious biases, prejudices, stereotyping and prefer their own “groups”. None of these things are particularly logical and invariably are not supported by actual evidence and reality, and people really don’t like being told things they don’t want to hear. People are also keenly aware of social status; we need to feel we are superior to others in some way to maintain our sense of self-worth. As a result, someone more intelligent saying complicated things that contain uncomfortable (but accurate) facts isn’t going to appeal to anyone, but someone demonstrably less-intelligent is not challenging to someone’s perceived social status, and if they’re going to say simple things that support inherent prejudices and deny uncomfortable facts, then so much the better.

Personally, I wonder if there isn’t something in the hilarity Rand Paul provokes among liberals that conceals a lack of understanding and an unspoken fear. Liberals in the US have tended to gather round an understanding of government as at least a potential force for good in the community as against the conservative view of government as inherently bad, with our visions reflecting our respective feelings about ourselves as much as anything else. But the current version of conservatism is quite far from opposing big government; it simply wants big government to be singularly focused on enriching the ultra-rich, and the only sustainable means to that end is constant, relatively low-level conflict and warfare, preferably as far from the US as possible.

To some extent, therefore, and regardless of rhetoric, Democrats and Republicans mostly agree on the need for big government, they just disagree on its purpose. Paul is differentiating himself from this crowd in clear and conscious ways. His positions don’t seem coherent in part because he’s not trying for a coalition that fits current categories. He really is against government, a stand that many Americans can relate to at the gut level despite intellectually rejecting it.

So am I trying to follow my successful prediction during the primaries in 2007 that Obama would be President with a similar one about Paul? In a word, no. He doesn’t have a realistic chance to be nominated by the GOP, who would prefer to lose with Bush or Walker or Rubio.

But if he were nominated, he’d be a fascinating candidate to watch, capable of snipping off a bit of left-wing support for his stances on war, drugs, voting rights, and prison reform, and at least attempting to reach out to constituencies Republicans advertise to but rarely actually converse with. He’s against so many things that practically everyone agrees with one or two of them. And his inability to hire staffers who can spell might not matter, given the precedent set by the most recent successful GOP nominee.

In the end, however much we might wish it were otherwise, intelligence isn’t necessary to be a winning candidate for President; in real life Jed Bartlet would lose to George W. Bush. And to those whose view of candidates is rather superficial, Rand Paul has many of the folksy qualities of W. without the baggage of his New England WASP family history or his interest in big government and war.

Rand Paul is not a threat precisely because his approach represents a threat to the existing structure of political coalitions. That’s what makes him so much fun to watch.


Posted by Chuck Dupree at 5:50 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
Political Commentary
As It Must to All Men…

Something I never knew or more likely forgot, this from a book review in today’s New York Times:

Since the early 1900s, parents who willfully withheld medicine in the name of religion have been prosecuted and convicted. But, Offit tell us, beginning in the ’70s, the prosecutors’ task became difficult. The blame for this setback can be ascribed to two powerful men in the Nixon administration, H. R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, both famous for their roles in the Watergate scandal, and both Christian Scientists. They became involved because of Lisa Sheridan, a 5-year-old who in 1967 died of pneumonia. Her mother, Dorothy, a Christian Scientist, had opted for prayer instead of antibiotics. The autopsy of the child showed a quart of pus in her chest, and the Massachusetts district attorney charged Sheridan with manslaughter. She was sentenced to five years’ probation. This was around the time when Walter Mondale was working to introduce the landmark Child Abuse Protection and Treatment Act (Capta).

“Elders in the Christian Science church saw the trial of Dorothy Sheridan as a wake-up call,” Offit writes. “If she could be prosecuted for following the tenets of her faith, all of them were at risk. Capta was about to shine an unwanted light on their way of life. Something had to be done. So church authorities turned to the two men they were certain could help.”

Haldeman and Ehrlichman inserted a religious exemption into Capta: “No parent or guardian who in good faith is providing a child treatment solely by spiritual means — such as prayer — according to the tenets and practices of a recognized church through a duly accredited practitioner shall for that reason alone be considered to have neglected the child.”

Ehrlichman wavered in his faith by accepting dialysis treatments in 1999, and then died after discontinuing them. Haldeman, resolute in his nuttiness, refused treatment for the cancer that killed him anyway in 1993.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 3:52 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
An Angel Directs the Storm | Idiots | Politics and Religion | Religion and Society
The White Man’s Burden

Check out these photos of Donald Trump's kids on safari. I think it’s guillotine time, my friends. Well, okay, just make them wear name tags and work at Wal-Mart. I didn’t think people did this shit anymore, but apparently the rich are different.


Posted by OHollern at 10:09 AM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (3)
April 11, 2015
What Would Jesus Grab?

The excerpt below is from The New York Daily News. For a fuller account, and I know you’ll want one, go here.

The Christian family band that brawled with police in an Arizona Walmart parking lot were not slowed down by repeated hits from Tasers, pepper spray and batons, newly released dashcam video shows. The fighting stopped only after a 21-year-old member of the Gaver family was fatally shot, his brother was struck in the stomach and a cop took a bullet to the leg…

The Gavers knew hitting police in the torso would not be effective because of their protective gear, Fanning said. "Their main mode of fight is to grab the officers' faces, eyes, ears and mouth and try and pull as hard as they can," Fanning said, according to AZFamily.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:29 AM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
Religion and Society | Reveling in the Weird
April 10, 2015
The Self-Surveillance State

Naturally you read Paul Krugman in the New York Times, but you may have missed today’s posting on his blog. It’s depressing, mostly because it’s likely to turn out to have been accurate. Here’s a taste, although you won’t be able to appreciate his full argument unless you go here.

But it’s easy to imagine how a wristband that provides information to others could be very useful — easy to imagine because it already happens at Disney World, where the Magic Band tracks you, letting rides know that you have bought a ticket, restaurants know that you’ve arrived and what table you’re sitting at, and more…

But will people want a Disney-like experience out in the alleged real world? Almost surely the answer is yes. Consider the Varian rule, which says that you can forecast the future by looking at what the rich have today — that is, that what affluent people will want in the future is, in general, something like what only the truly rich can afford right now…



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 7:16 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
April 09, 2015
Evil Teachers

I chuckle when I hear about what what fat and lazy parasites public school teachers are. I chuckle all the way to the mailbox, where I send my modest earnings to Chase Manhattan and Citibank, and thence to the campaign coffers of Republican politicians, who make profitable careers out of telling the public what a leech I am.


Posted by OHollern at 2:08 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (3)
April 07, 2015
Drinking on the Job?

I came across this yesterday in a posting about something called First Look Media, with which I should probably be familiar but am not. The writer is a former employee:

Employees were initially told that we were free to spend whatever we needed for our reporting and the company simply asked that we spend its money responsibly, as we would if it were our own. But soon new orders came down from management that made it difficult to pay for a source’s drinks — and to report, at least in Washington, it is pretty much required that you be able to take sources out for drinks to have discreet, relaxed conversations. Over time, management began closely scrutinizing expense reports. Some of us became so frustrated, and intimidated, that we decided to simply stop expensing some legitimate reporting costs because it wasn’t worth the hassle of trying to get reimbursed.
More than a half century ago (can it have been that long?) I was a reporter in Washington myself. I don’t remember ever taking sources out for drinks to have discreet, relaxed conversation. I was an editor for a while as well, and to the best of my recollection none of my reporters ever put in for such “legitimate reporting costs.” I think I would have remembered, too. Who can forget a good laugh?

Eventually I turned into a source myself, as a speechwriter for President Carter and later the head of public affairs for the Federal Aviation Administration. I had plenty of relaxed conversations with reporters, all right, many of which turned out to be less discreet than they should have been. (For example it might have been wiser not to tell the New York Daily News guy that writing humor for Carter was like giving tap dance lessons to FDR.) And none of those reporters ever even offered to pay for my drinks, damn it.

My point is not that we had standards back then, by God, not like these kids today. The ethical level of journalism now is probably no worse than it was; for all I know it’s better. I’m just curious. Any reporters out there? Is it routine to buy drinks for your sources these days? Can you expense them?



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 5:40 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (6)
Media | Our Sordid Press Corps
April 06, 2015
Your Daily Chandlerism

I’ve never read anything by Raymond Chandler, but I’m a big fan of Chandlerisms. Here are a few choice examples:

”She smelled the way the Taj Mahal looks by moonlight.”

“I’m an occasional drinker.The kind of guy who goes out for a beer and wakes up in Singapore with a full beard.”

“If you don’t leave, I’ll get somebody who will.”

“She gave me a smile I could feel in my hip pocket.”

“I felt like an amputated leg.”

“Then her hands dropped and jerked at something and the robe she was wearing came open and underneath it she was as naked as September Morn but a darn sight less coy.”

There are many, many more.


Posted by OHollern at 2:34 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
Your Tax Dollars at Work

More on the TSA’s “Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques” which bemused me at the airport a little while ago. The picture shows the sweaty palm check. I am proud to be an American. Aren’t you?

The $900 million (!) program, Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques, or SPOT, employs behavior detection officers trained to identify passengers who exhibit behaviors that TSA believes could be linked to would-be terrorists. But in one five-week period at a major international airport in the United States in 2007, the year the program started, only about 4 percent of the passengers who were referred to secondary screening or law enforcement by behavior detection officers were arrested, and nearly 90 percent of those arrests were for being in the country illegally, according to a TSA document obtained by The Intercept

One senior homeland security official said the behavior checklist could work, but TSA’s behavior detection officers have not been properly trained to use it. “My guess is most of them wouldn’t have stopped bin Laden if he walked through their lane,” the official said.

Nothing in the SPOT records suggests that any of those arrested were associated with terrorist activity.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 1:24 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
America is Doomed | Civil Liberties | Idiots | Police State | Weakening America
April 03, 2015
Sauce for the Gander?

I just came across this specimen of young American manhood in a photo gallery attached to an unrelated story from yesterday’s Orlando Sun Sentinel. Here is the caption on another old photo from the same gallery:

Ku Klux Klan members rally in front of the Eckerd Drug store at Griffin Road and University Drive in Davie on Saturday, September 14, 1991. About a dozen Klansmen stood along the road protesting the refusal by a different Eckerd’s store the previous week to print KKK photographs.
Which brings us to an interesting question, in view of the recent troubles in Indiana and Arkansas over efforts to ease the pain of “Christian” bakers forced to violate the deepest tenets of their faith by selling wedding cakes to gays. Should the state have forced Eckerd’s, back in 1991, to print those photos?

(Note: the quotes above reflect my doubts that Christ ever said anything at all about homosexuality, good or bad. For that we have to go to Leviticus, where we are also commanded not to eat or touch the carcass of any seafood without fins or scales.)



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 6:41 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (4)
Essential Liberties | Idiots | Politics and Religion | Religion and Society | Reveling in the Weird
April 02, 2015
Artificial Turf

Ain’t nobody here but just us folks:

Andrew Ogles, the young director of AFP-Tenn, laughed off intimations of Koch-conspiracy, saying “Obviously David Koch is our chairman and we appreciate everything he does for us, but we’re grassroots.” Ogles says that the group’s opposition to Insure Tennessee is rooted in the ACA. “From the onset we’ve opposed Obamacare. Insure Tennessee is funded by the Affordable Care Act and it’s an extension of Obamacare.” Toppling the ACA is a priority and their opposition to insuring low-income Tennesseans is part of that plan.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 1:56 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
APRIL FOOLS | Health and Aging | Idiots | Public Health and Welfare | Republicans
March 31, 2015
Palmar Hyperhidrosis

Last week in the Hartford airport I watched a TSA agent run some kind of swab over each palm of the man behind me in the security line — just a standard-issue sandy-haired young Anglo-Saxon type, no beard or weird skull cap. What was the agent looking for? Naturally I didn’t ask. Maybe he’d take it wrong, do a palm-swab on me just to show the wise guy to mind his own business. God knows what he might find. You don’t want to mess with the war on terror.

But just yesterday, in one of those incredible coincidences that could only happen in real life, I came across this possible answer on the internet:

Fidgeting, whistling, sweaty palms. Add one point each. Arrogance, a cold penetrating stare, and rigid posture, two points.

These are just a few of the suspicious signs that the Transportation Security Administration directs its officers to look out for — and score — in airport travelers, according to a confidential TSA document obtained exclusively by The Intercept



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 2:48 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (5)
Our Long National Nightmare | Police State | War on "Terror"
March 29, 2015
Love the Handbasket! Where’re We Headed?

There’s a fun article by Elizabeth Stoker Breunig up today at TNR. She looks at Ohio’s John Kasich and finds a politician who actually seems to have some consistency and intellectual integrity with regard to his interpretation of Christianity. “Yeah, right!”, I hear someone saying, and with good reason. Anyone who remembers Kasich in the House recalls his general orientation as pretty far out there. And of course he spent six years hosting a Fox News show while a managing director of Lehman Brothers until the firm collapsed in 2008. So he’s got all the marks of a died-in-the-wool “Christian” conservative who’s mainly interested in money.

But remember also that he was a Representative from 1983-2001, a period when the GOP was pushing its Christian contingent to the right but that push had not gone nearly as far as it has now, and it’s a bit easier to accept that Kasich doesn’t seem to fit the mold. For example, he doesn’t accept the standard Republican position that welfare from the government is morally hazardous to both giver and receiver. As Elizabeth says, the story that Jesus commanded generosity from individuals and never said that government should be involved is theologically incoherent and contradicted by explicit statements in the New Testament. Those propounding that line are simply using religion to advance their own selfish interests.

When hawking a story that creaky, politicians must maintain a unified front, lest the disparity between right-wing zeal for Christian teachings on sexuality versus Christian teachings on poverty expose opportunism. Yet John Kasich, for whatever reason, did not get the memo.

You’ve probably seen this Kasich quote before, but I’m impressed with it so I’m reproducing it again.

Kasich told reporters in 2013 that “when you die and get to the meeting with Saint Peter, he’s probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small. But he is going to ask you what you did for the poor. You better have a good answer.” For linking the extension of healthcare coverage to some 275,000 vulnerable Ohians with his Christian principles, Kasich received scorn from flustered rightwingers. Writers from RedState, The National Review, and The Wall Street Journal all converged to offer a collective sneer at Kasich’s pro-poor Christian politics…

They’re flustered, of course, because the enormous gap between their protestations and their actions is on the verge of being exposed by one of their own, and their hypocrisy might be measured against actual belief. A politician from their own ranks who acts on what he believes despite knowing that it will harm him politically is a standard few would wish to be measured against.

In the end, though, what fascinates me is that Kasich has no chance of being nominated for the office he clearly wants, in large part because he actually appears to make some effort to live by the creed his party loudly espouses when his colleagues are spending all their effort convincing crowds of potential voters that they are True Believers. Yet Kasich could very likely draw a nontrivial portion of the Democratic vote away from, say, Hillary for exactly the same reason; how many Christians who vote Democratic because they dislike both war and poverty could switch sides when the Democrat is known as a relative hawk and the Republican can tout not only an expansion of Medicaid but a willingness to go around his Republican legislature’s opposition to do it? Every day brings new evidence that the GOP is self-destructing.

[h/t to TeaParty.org for the image]

Unfortunately that leaves us stuck with the Democrats.


Posted by Chuck Dupree at 4:09 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Political Commentary
March 28, 2015
Maybe Next Time, But…

…there won’t be a next time. Baylor knocked Iowa out of the Sweet Sixteen 81-66 last night and granddaughter Bethany’s college basketball career ended not with a bang but an elbow. To her nose, knocking her out of the game with four minutes left to play. There was plenty of blood but no permanent damage and so life goes on. As will this year’s WNBA draft, on April 16.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 4:53 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Sports | What Actually Matters | Women's Basketball
March 26, 2015
“They Just Kind of Broke”

Since it would be immodest for me to brag on our granddaughter Bethany, I’ll step aside and let the opposing coach do it. From the Associated Press:

Doolittle scored 22 points, Ally Disterhoft had 15 and third-seeded Iowa beat 11th-seeded Miami 88-70 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday, earning its first trip to the Sweet 16 since 1996.

“That team is full of great players and she just had a great performance,” Miami’s Adrienne Motley said of Doolittle. “She just had a great performance. She played like a Division I basketball player trying to get to the Sweet 16.”

Doolittle shot 8-for-16, mostly turnaround jumpers, and grabbed 11 rebounds — none bigger than the one she collected after Iowa’s Samantha Logic missed a free throw with Miami trailing just 69-63.

After a couple of passes, Doolittle got free on the baseline and buried a jumper, starting a 15-3 run that all but wrapped up the victory for the Hawkeyes (26-7).

“She hit a jumper right in our face,” Miami coach Katie Meier said. “That was a four-point swing in a six-point game, a huge turnaround. From that point on we just kind of broke.”

Tomorrow Iowa is scheduled to upset fifth-ranked Baylor in the Sweet Sixteen. Be there Friday via ESPN2, at 6:30 Central Time.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 4:58 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
Sports | What Actually Matters | Women's Basketball
March 24, 2015
Ted Talks, But His Logo Reveals the Truth

As the political pundits have spent enormous amounts of time discussing, Ted Cruz announced his not-even-quixotic candidacy for President yesterday. David Pescovitz at BoingBoing flagged something (flagged by Twitter user UPSO) that’s interesting about his campaign logo:


Check out the logo for Al Jazeera, presumably one of Cruz’s favorite news sources:


So, it appears not only that Cruz is a foreigner, not even (as Donald Trump has helpfully pointed out) born in this country, but also that he’s a not-so-secret admirer of those he publicly denounces. Perhaps that’s why he thinks he has a shot at bringing in those who might not otherwise be attracted to his Double-High personality, combining standard Right-Wing Authoritarianism with a Social Dominance Orientation. After all, if he can bridge the gap separating the horde of flag burners, the self-professed Christian groups defined mainly by who they hate, and the left-wing Arab groups whose experience of the US is largely as an exploiter and oppressor, then he can bring peace in our time.


Posted by Chuck Dupree at 1:41 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (3)
Political Commentary