June 28, 2015
Garbage In, Garbage Out

From News: the Politics of Illusion, by W. Lance Bennett:

More important, a hard look at information quality shows that far from “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable,” the mass media play a major political role by not taking sides at all. In theory it seems fair for the media to be neutral. In practice, however, journalistic neutrality means that groups with the loudest, best financed and most rehearsed voices get their messages across more effectively and more often. The result of journalism’s unwillingness to develop a voice for democracy is that the news has become virtually a direct pipeline for propaganda from powerful organizations to the people. In practice then, medial neutrality must be a great comfort to the already comfortable and an additional affliction to the already afflicted.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 3:39 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
Class Warriors | Media | Weakening America
June 27, 2015
The Rich Stay Rich and the Poor…

Going through the archives today, I came across this from a 2003 piece in The Nation by Professor Gar Alperovitz of the University of Maryland. Since we’re paying more attention these days than back then to economic inequality, here’s a little more ammo for the class war:

“Most Western European nations tax wealth — in Sweden, the highest annual rate is three percent; at the low end of the scale is Switzerland, with a tax of only one third of a percent. The United States, however, for the most part only taxes the kind of wealth most people own — their home. Moreover, we tax the total value of the home even though most people actually own only a part of the house — i.e., their net property value after subtracting the mortgage amount they owe. We simply do not directly tax ownership of the kind of wealth which is concentrated in the hands of the plutocracy: stocks and bonds.”

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 4:49 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Class Warriors | Economics and Society
June 26, 2015
Nick Danger Has Left the Office

One of the dangers of growing old is that your networks tend to be created less through happenstance and more through past contact. As a result it’s easy to find oneself continually in a state of loss. Though minor in a larger context, a significant loss to me happened last Thursday, June 18, with the death of Phil Austin of the seminal comedy group Firesign Theatre, whose name the New York Times is unable to spell correctly even a single time throughout a rather extensive article on Austin and the group. I suppose consistently spelling it the same wrong way at least proves the text was copy-edited, but apparently no one even noticed that the group’s website to which the Times article links spells it “Theatre”, not “Theater”, in the very URL they used in the link. This is neither an infrequent nor an obscure spelling, and the Times shows a certain disrespect for Mr. Austin by printing his obituary but misspelling the name of his most familiar accomplishment. So thanks, Times, for some classy coverage.

Firesign Theatre was not readily described. Their comedy was very social and media-savvy in the environment of the late 60s and early 70s, yet in the midst of the war on Vietnam and the Nixon presidency the Theatre skits were not overtly political. They loved to skewer the ridiculous aspects of life wherever they found them. Check out the pitch from Ralph Spoilsport at Ralph Spoilsport Motors (Austin is in the lower middle in the picture):



These four guys from Berkeley (all as it happened astrologically fire signs) in the midst of political and social turmoil imagined both the current world and possible future ones from what was then a radical point of view, one in which the government and the powerful could not be trusted in the manner to which Americans had been accustomed during World War II and its aftermath. Without mentioning Nixon or the war the Theatre could explicitly and occasionally viciously eviscerate the viewpoints and behavioral tendencies of the supporters of both, and this at a time when everyone was forced to side one way or the other; no one was neutral about the American presence in Vietnam. Yet the name of that country never came up in their work as far as I know, though I admit to not being familiar with all of their work from the most recent few years.

Still, somehow they told us truths that helped guide us through murky and dangerous times. How can you be in two places at once, they quite legitimately wondered, when you’re not anywhere at all? Physicists are still working on that one. Everything you know is wrong! Quite right, and it’s proven every day. We’re all bozos on this bus? Look at the results.

This is why it took me a while to warm up to Monty Python, whose comedy at the time avoided any social commentary whatsoever and focused entirely on individuals and their silly situations and actions. Hilarious, certainly, but not as deep, I thought; but that idea too evolved, as Python developed over the years.

Anyway, Regnad Kcin, also known as Nick Danger when the name is read from the front of the door rather than behind, was a noir-style detective in LA whose antics Theatre fans lapped up. Austin voiced Nick, so I’ll sign this off with that signature performance. But seriously, check out the Youtube videos for the group, they remain pretty damn funny.

RIP, Phil, you gave us a lot of laughs and insight to boot. You were the real deal.


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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 6:05 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
Crime Fiction | Heroes and Friends | Media | Political Commentary
June 22, 2015
Oooh, That Man Just Said Nigger, Mommy

Here’s where to find President Obama’s fascinating podcast interview with comedian Marc Maron. It’s an hour well spent. Among many other things, you’ll find out how absolutely absurd is the handwringing over the President’s use of the word nigger.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 8:10 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (3)
The Donald

Kiernan Majerus-Collins is a student at Bates College as well as a Democratic Town Committee member from West Hartford. Plus he went to a Trump rally in New Hampshire so now you don’t have to. Just read his account in CT News Junkie. Excerpt:

After getting past the slew of part-time models Trump had manning the door, we joined the long line of old white people (and College Republicans, who are old white people in the making), and waited for the doors to open. While we stood there, I managed to snag a Trump shirt, which I’m willing to trade for an O’Malley button and a bumper sticker to be named later.

After waiting for about an hour, and talking to a local woman who “really likes” Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders, we managed to get into the college gym where Trump would make the magic happen. First, though, we had to hear from a variety of warm-up speakers — a talk-show host, a failed gubernatorial candidate, a state representative, and so on. My favorite was Miss New Hampshire USA, who said being a beauty queen was the greatest achievement a little girl could dream of. Someone should introduce her to Hillary Clinton. (As an aside, I’m betting either Miss New Hampshire or Miss Iowa wins the Trump-sponsored Miss USA contest this year.)

As exciting as it was to hear from various unknown New Hampshire politicos, it was even better to meet some of my fellow rally attendees. Mingling in the crowd was political satirist and perennial presidential candidate Vermin Supreme. I chatted with him about what it’s like to run for president, and he gave me a lollipop and showed me his dental records…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 2:06 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
American Heroes | Idiots | Republicans | Reveling in the Weird | Rich White Trash
June 20, 2015
People Are Corporations Too

This Salon article by Corey Robin came as news to me. For those equally out of it, here’s an excerpt. At first I was surprised by the cynicism displayed, but of course I shouldn’t have been. These corporate control freaks are only acting in according to a basic rule of life: Why does a dog lick his balls? Because he can.

According to these employers, leveraging their workers, along with more traditional modes of lobbying, is the most effective way to control the political sphere. That’s how firms get laws passed and candidates elected. Mobilizing workers, employers claim, is more effective than making campaign donations, buying ads, or investing in large corporate lobbies like the Chamber of Commerce. Workers seem to agree: almost half of the workers Hertel-Fernandez surveyed claim that they changed their political behavior or beliefs because of their employers.

One of the reasons employee mobilization is so potent a force is that workers can be deployed with almost military-style precision. As Hertel-Fernandez explains in his paper, firms have extensive HR offices, which compile databases about where employees live and who their legislators (local, state and federal) are. Firms issue specific instructions to specific workers living on a specific street, say, to write personal letters to a specific representative. Then the firms fire more volleys, lobbying that representative with reminders of how many letters were sent and from where.

To ensure that workers do as they are told, firms use online systems that track whether a worker opens an email from her boss, clicks on the links, downloads information and sends her message to her representative.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 5:48 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Political Commentary
June 19, 2015
Yes, the Charleston Killings Were Racist! See, That Wasn’t So Hard

Although I put no small effort into it, I’ve been unable to recall anything in recent American politics as shameless and craven as the rush of Republican candidates to avoid the obvious about the horrific murders in Charleston.

Of course Fox will say it’s not about racism and if we’d just shut about racism already it would be a non-factor. And naturally the Wall Street Journal will opine, grossly dishonestly, that:

What causes young men such as Dylann Roof to erupt in homicidal rage, whatever their motivation, is a problem that defies explanation beyond the reality that evil still stalks humanity. It is no small solace that in committing such an act today, he stands alone.

And similarly outrageous views are to be expected from much of the GOP field based on the simple fact that most of them are stark raving bonkers, or batshit crazy as we say in the psychology biz. Of course Santorum and Perry and their ilk will try to claim the murders had something to do with religion; see previous sentence. But the nature of the marketplace for Republican primary votes is such that even the Establishment candidate Jeb! Bush is unable to bring himself to admit straightforwardly that the killings were racist in nature.

When asked about whether he thought the attack was racially motivated, Bush told a Huffington Post reporter, “It was a horrific act and I don’t know what the background of it is, but it was an act of hatred.”

When pressed again about whether race motivated the attacks, Bush said, “I don’t know. Looks like to me it was, but we’ll find out all the information. It’s clear it was an act of raw hatred, for sure. Nine people lost their lives, and they were African-American. You can judge what it is.”

The question came after a speech Bush made at a Faith and Freedom Coalition summit in Washington.

“I don’t know what was on the mind or the heart of the man who committed these atrocious crimes,” Bush said in his remarks. “But I do know what was in the heart of the victims.”

Apparently looking into the hearts of some folks and not others is a Bush family trait; you no doubt remember how well that worked out with W. and Putin.

First, what kind of electorate both desperately needs to deny obvious racism and has the power to approve Presidential nominees? It’s a pretty disgusting group, though of course as with any large group there are individuals who don’t fit the pattern. But basically we’re talking about old white racists, many of them in the South though by no means all, and if you need their support what do you expect can come of that?

And second, why is it so hard for Republican candidates simply to state the obvious? Typically, John Kasich is the closest to sanity of the group, responding to a question whether the shooting was racially motivated by saying, “You read what they said about the guy. It sure appears that way.” What was so tricky about that? Are you afraid, a la Jon Chait, that you’ll lose the votes of all those racist potential murderers who might otherwise back you as the GOP nominee?

Update: Pope Erick has weighed in:

A society that looks at a 65 year old male Olympian and, with a straight face, declares him a her and “a new normal” cannot have a conversation about mental health or evil because that society no longer distinguishes normal from crazy and evil from good. Our American society has a mental illness — overwhelming narcissism and delusion — and so cannot recognize what crazy or evil looks like.

The technical term for this is projection. I could make a reasoned response but it would be wasted. Instead I’ll simply say, Eat it, Erick.


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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 8:30 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
Political Commentary
Plus His Stuff Was Getting Rebarbative

The Guardian twists itself into sooty pools trying to explain “Why Jackson Pollock Gave Up Painting”:

With their sooty pools and block structures, the ‘black pour’ paintings of Pollock’s late period mark his rejection of sex and the erotic aspects of his drip techniques. A new exhibition shows how the artist formerly known as ‘Jack the Dripper’ reached the end of the line … A number of New York artists — including the abstract expressionist Willem de Kooning — had recently tried painting in a restricted palette of black and white, but Pollock’s black pours are especially distinctive because of their drily rebarbative, block-like structures. They don’t feel as if they have been effortlessly “splashed out” (code for “ecstatically ejaculated”) so much as strenuously carved and kneaded. Rather than being “all-over”, with the potential for limitless lateral spread, they often have a tight internal frame that seems to compress the contents.
Either that or he hung up the old paint pail when he finally realized he couldn’t do hands.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 4:13 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (3)
Arts and Literature
Boy, That’s a Real Head-Scratcher…

…what the heck could that something have been? From The Washington Post:

It wasn’t that long ago that a broad majority of Americans supported gun control. In April 2007, 6 in 10 said controlling guns was more important than protecting Americans’ right to own a firearm, according to the Pew Research Center. That figure had fluctuated some over the prior 15 years, but generally speaking, gun control was popular.

Something changed in the first year of the Obama administration, when support for gun-control measures fell sharply. Late last year, Pew reported for the first time that a majority of Americans thought that gun rights outweighed gun control.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:47 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Idiots | Our Longest National Nightmare Ever | Race | Weakening America
June 17, 2015
A Separation in Progress

I’ve been finding the musings on Israel from Zack Beauchamp over at Vox to be interesting and thoughtful even when I disagree. Today he has an interesting bit about a video released by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs that was apparently intended to clarify the realities of the recent war in Gaza:



It’s hard to imagine whom they hope to win over with such a heavy-handed approach. As Beauchamp puts it:

This is what Israel’s government actually believes a winning PR campaign looks like. And that speaks to a serious and growing problem for the country: stuck in an echo chamber of its own making, it is struggling to connect to anyone who doesn’t buy its government’s line.

He concludes that the video’s creators must be unable to conceive of viewers in the West, especially the US, seeing the world in any way other than that of the far right wing of Israeli politics. This, of course, is delusional, but there it is.

In addition to typifying the communal behavior of Right Wing Authoritarians, it strikes me that the perverse consequences of living in an echo chamber are not limited to the government and the growing right wing in Israel. That echo chamber is supported in no small part by American billionaires, particularly Sheldon Adelson who started a free nationwide newspaper there specifically to promote Netanyahu and his ideas. It is also shared with Netanyahu’s allies here in the US, in particular the Republican so-called leaders in Congress, who are increasingly out of touch even with their own constituents and in thrall to conservative media. Come to think of it, the echo chamber here involves many of the same personalities, supplemented by the free-standing echo chamber of right-wing Christianity whose actual goal is Armageddon when Jews will finally be forced either to convert or to suffer eternal damnation. Tricky allies at best, but they share with this section of Israel a life lived entirely inside their chosen echo chamber.

It’s beyond me how the Israeli government expects to maintain even the level of international cooperation it currently enjoys while continuing the policies it knows are noxious to those very nations. As Josh Marshall puts it:

Obama came into office wanting to make the ‘peace process’ into a peace reality, or to put it more prosaically, to move from the policy of permanent negotiation to a final territorial settlement. Netanyahu came to office wanting to end the ‘peace process’, or more prosaically, believing that a generation of Israeli leaders from Labor, Likud and Kadima had made a series of unmerited and unreciprocated concessions to the Palestinians which he meant to rollback. For good.

From where we stand currently it’s difficult to see Israel remaining integrated into the Western democracies in the way it has been over the past fifty years. A split is underway between the Israel-right-or-wrong crowd, AKA the neocons, and those Americans who believe that actually trying for peace makes it more likely to happen. It’s even possible that American policy will become oriented to American interests and goals rather than reflexively supporting whatever illegal actions Israel decides to use American support to cover. That would be a big change, as Matthew Duss at TNR reported (h/t Ed Kilgore):

[R]epresentatives of the Obama, McCain, and Clinton teams appeared [in 2008] at a Jewish community forum. Daniel Kurtzer, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel and Egypt, spoke for Obama, explaining that he wanted to see a “plurality of views” on Israel. Clinton adviser Ann Lewis responded that the United States should simply support Israeli policy, regardless of its content. “The role of the president of the United States is to support the decisions that are made by the people of Israel,” she said.

It was a pretty strange statement (is there any other country in the world to whose electorate anyone would similarly suggest outsourcing U.S. policy decisions?), but it does accurately describe the operating theory upon which much of conservative pro-Israel advocacy in Washington is based.

Whatever we might say, whether as individuals or as a nation, our actions are the measure of our character.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 11:33 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
World Affairs
Picky, Picky…

…that’s McCain for you:

“He just hasn’t met the expectation level of what we expected of a Bush,” said Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, who is supporting Senator Lindsey Graham’s candidacy but likes Mr. Bush. “And that’s been a hindrance to him.”
And McCain is no slouch when it comes to low expectations. Don’t forget, he’s the shrewd judge of character who chose Sarah Palin to be a heartbeat away from the presidency. As for the two Presidents Bush, they chose as their potential successors Danny “Potatoe Head” Quayle and Dick Cheney.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 6:15 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
June 15, 2015
Lest We Forget…

…what actually happened in Ukraine, as opposed to what the lamestream media has been obediently feeding us. This from James Howard Kunstler:

Ukraine became a failed state due to a coup d’état engineered by Barack Obama’s state department. US policy wonks did not like the prospect of Ukraine joining Russia’s regional trade group called the Eurasian Customs Union instead of tilting toward NATO and the European Union. So, we paid for and enabled a coalition of crypto-fascists to rout the duly elected president. One of the first acts of the US-backed new regime was to declare punishment of Russian language speakers, and so the predominately Russian-speaking people in eastern Ukraine revolted. Russia reacted to all this instability by seizing the Crimean peninsula, which had been part of Russia proper both before and through the Soviet chapter of history. The Crimea contained Russia’s only warm water seaports and naval bases. What morons in the US government ever thought Russia would surrender those assets to a newly-failed neighbor state?

Was Vladimir Putin acting irresponsibly in this case? The opposite would be a much more logical conclusion. And what interest does the United States have in Ukraine? Surely no more than Russia would have in Texas. And when else in the entire history of the USA all the way back to George Washington did any government official declare Ukraine to be America’s business? Answer: Never. Reason: we have no legitimate interests in that corner of the world. So why in the early 21st century are we making this such a sore spot in our foreign relations? Because our waning influence in the world, in turn a product of our foolish inattention to our own economic problems and failing polity at home, is driving America batshit crazy.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 3:49 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
Historical Perspectives | Media | Our Sordid Press Corps | The Fall of the Roman American Empire | The Real World | Weakening America
A Dark Prediction

Watching an anthill is more interesting than anything David Brooks or Thomas Friedman ever write. It is infinitely more engaging than anything Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton ever say. Insects are more fascinating than anything our so called “elites” ever do. I get more wisdom from ants dragging a moth carcass around than I do from Bill Gates or Warren Buffet.

I’m thunderstruck by how dull and unexceptional our “leaders” are. They are the colorless emanations of an exhausted culture. They can offer nothing but stale thinking and shopworn cliches. Sooner or later, a sinister Ted Cruz type is going to step into this leaderless vacuum and take us all down. Just watch. He’s going to kick the door down while our idiot weakling leaders dither. They will mindlessly repeat conventional wisdom while this evil demagogue speaks the “truth” to people. Fifty percent plus one of the electorate will go along with him.

I’m telling you this country is ripe for it and it will happen if we don’t get our shit together.

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Posted by OHollern at 2:09 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
June 13, 2015
Indecision Time

I have a big life decision coming up. Wait, stop yawning! Should I go teach in China or should I stay with a girl I've recently started seeing? Should I choose China or the girl?

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Posted by OHollern at 1:45 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (6)
June 12, 2015
Support Your Local Sociopath

What would a support group for sociopaths look like?

“I first stopped caring about people at ten.”

“I stopped caring at birth.”

“I didn’t ask for your opinion.”

“I don’t care.”

“I don’t care either.”

“Hey, let me explain something: All of you are just objects to me.”

“You’re just an object to us.”

“ I don’t give a shit.”

“We don’t give a shit either.”

What gets me on this subject? This weird blog that I suspect is fraudulent. At any rate, there is a fine line between sociopath and narcissist. I think we’re dealing with the latter here.

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Posted by OHollern at 2:31 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
June 04, 2015
Presented Without Comment

From the New York Times:

In an affidavit filed in Tate County Justice Court last month, one woman, Ursula Miller, was charged for “yelling and clapping while inside the building after announcement had been made for all to hold their applause and celebrating until after the end of the [high school graduation] ceremony.”

Her “loud, boisterous noise,” the affidavit said, was “against the peace and dignity of the State of Mississippi.”

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 2:24 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (3)
Education | Idiots | Legal Absurdities
So Next Time Just Order Out, Okay?

From Agence France Presse:

Eating one’s own placenta after giving birth may be trendy but there is no scientific evidence that women derive any benefits from it, researchers said Thursday. A review of 10 previously published studies showed no “human or animal data to support the common claims that eating the placenta -- either raw, cooked or encapsulated -- offers protection against postpartum depression, reduces post-delivery pain, boosts energy, helps with lactation, promotes skin elasticity, enhances maternal bonding or replenishes iron in the body,” said the study by experts at Northwestern University. “There are a lot of subjective reports from women who perceived benefits, but there hasn’t been any systematic research investigating the benefits or the risk of placenta ingestion,” said co-author Crystal Clark, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 1:53 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Good Eats | Reveling in the Weird
It’s Not as Bad as You Thought…

…it’s worse. From The Hightower Lowdown:

Meanwhile, the $1.3 trillion mountain of debt rung up by students at all types of U.S. colleges is endangering our entire economy. It is more than people owe on credit cards or auto loans, and second only to home-related borrowing. Student debt will soon surpass the subprime home mortgage debt that crashed the economy in 2008.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:04 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
America is Doomed | Economics and Society | Education | Weakening America
June 03, 2015
Good News for McDonald’s

From The National Geographic:

The latest discovery: Chimps have all the cognitive abilities necessary for the uniquely human behavior of cooking. They don’t do it in the wild because they’ve never learned to control fire. But aside from that, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Academy B, chimps' brains are pretty much fully equipped to take the great culinary leap our direct human ancestors did in the dim past.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 2:01 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
May 27, 2015
When Cops Weren’t Weenies

From today’s New York Times:

At a time when the Obama administration has bemoaned the lack of data surrounding the use of force by the police, even when people are killed, Cleveland has agreed to document every time officers so much as unholster their guns. Police supervisors will investigate the uses of force in much the same way that officers investigate crimes.

From a 2007 post that I’ve resurrected once or twice before. Sonny is likely dead by now. Certainly his approach to law enforcement is.

I’m reminded, as I am every time I see SWAT teams all dressed up in their body armor like so many beetles, of Sonny Lee.

Sonny was a detective sergeant when I was a young reporter in Arlington, Virginia. He was a little below average height, solidly built, and legendary in the department for his toughness and bravery. If you wanted somebody to kick down a door and drag out the suspect inside, Sonny was your man.

One day I asked him if he had ever had occasion to use his gun. “Hell, no,” Sonny said. “A man needs a gun to do this job, he’s in the wrong line of work.”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 4:26 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
May 25, 2015
A Memorial Day Message

This cartoon is tendentious and carries a dangerous message:




We do not owe everything we have to the military. Our rights, benefits, and living standards are not bestowed on us by the Pentagon. In fact, constant warfare and a bloated military establishment are the most direct and dire threats to constitutional government there is, as Madison famously pointed out: “Of all the enemies of public liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of all the others.” We should honor those who have fought and died in wars, but we should do so from an honest perspective. We do not need not to distort history or succumb to militarism to pay tribute to the victims of U.S. wars. I don’t wish to give offense, but no American soldier has died defending our freedom since World War Two. Ho Chi Minh, Manuel Noriega and Saddam Hussein posed absolutely no threat to our “freedom.”

Terrorists may threaten our physical safety, but they have no ability to subvert or destroy our liberty. Homegrown flag wavers are chiefly responsible for doing that. Sharia Law is not coming to America and never could, not because of the military, but because of American popular culture, which is totally antithetical to fundamentalist Islam. The burka is no match for American Idol or Dancing with the Stars, not even close. Our crass stupidity will save us from Muslim theocracy, brothers and sisters, count on it.

The invasion of Afghanistan may or may not have been just retribution for 9/11, but our freedoms weren’t threatened by the Taliban and their medieval beliefs. None of the grubby little skirmishes we’ve engaged in over the last half century had anything to do with preserving our freedom. All they did was enrich a few privileged industries and make us hated everywhere in the world.

This constant, uncritical praise of the military is deeply unsettling. It creates a category of individuals — soldiers — and an institution — the military — that are effectively beyond criticism. This is pernicious in the extreme and characteristic of fascism, not democracy. It is also reflective of deep insecurity: It’s not a coincidence that all of this hyper-inflated soldier love is occurring while the U.S. is in palpable decline and losing wars.

…Read on

Posted by OHollern at 10:28 AM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (9)
May 23, 2015
Mencken On The Radio

Ever wonder what H.L. Mencken sounded like? You’re in luck. Check out this radio interview that he gave in 1948, shortly before the stroke that put him out of action forever. He sounds like a stodgy old grump, which, of course, he was.


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Posted by OHollern at 1:29 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (4)
May 22, 2015
I’m Already Sick Of Elon Musk

Once upon a time, there was a planet drowning in bullshit and fraud. Then, one day, Elon Musk came along at saved it all with lithium batteries, or so his press agents said.

I know very little about Elon Musk and care even less. Is he the one who sky dives and rides around in a hot air balloon over the Himalayas, dreaming about space flight, or is that the other asshole? I forget. So many tedious billionaires, so little time. I do know that this particular capitalist wheedled one fine deal with Big Guvmn't in Nevada to build his “gigafactory” outside Reno, and the free market had nuthin’ to do with it:

$725 million in sales tax abatements over 20 years, which is equal to about 80 percent of the total sales tax revenue state government receives in a year.

$332 million in real and personal property tax abatements over 10 years—an amount equaling two and a half times the amount of property tax revenue Washoe County receives in a year.

$195 million in transferable tax credits, which other Nevada companies will be able to buy from Tesla in order to reduce their own tax liabilities to the state.

$27 million in payroll tax abatements over 10 years.

$8 million in electricity rate discounts over eight years.

Basically, Tesla is operating tax free for ten years and gets a discount on the electric bill. That’s the invisible hand of capitalism in action.

That’s the way our world works and there’s no use complaining about it. You and I would take the same deal, but just don’t give me all this jive about free markets, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, and welfare moochers and looters. The government picks winners and losers, and it’s done so since Alexander Hamilton ran the Treasury, so let’s drop all of the Milton Friedman, University of Chicago free market bullshit.

And please stop telling me that Elon Musk is some kind of visionary. Is he is bad as the Wall Street parasites who are eating our colons from the inside out? No. He’s actually making something. But just because he builds electric cars doesn’t mean he’s Leonardo da Vinci. Stop telling me all of his quirks and personality flaws are symptoms of genius. He seems to me like a full-fledged creature of the modern age: a media savvy techno geek with a Gordon Gekko attitude. Forgive me if I don’t get wet.

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Posted by OHollern at 7:53 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
May 12, 2015
Going Pro

Back next week: off tomorrow to watch granddaughter Bethany be graduated from the University of Iowa. Her amateur days are over; next season she's playing for a pro team in Calais. Which is in France. But you knew that.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 4:50 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
Sports | What Actually Matters | Women's Basketball
May 10, 2015
My Favorite Stupid Movie Lines

Now that I have your attention …

Just kidding. It’s Sunday and politics have become a great big bore to me. I remain as firm as ever in my conviction that Jeb Bush will be the next president of the United States. I am not happy about this. I don’t want it to happen. I am just acknowledging reality. There will be a third Bush, America. It is written. We are sinners and this is our punishment.

And so what? Is he going to do anything substantively different than what President Hillary Clinton would do? Yeah, he’ll nominate some primitive, hanging judge prick conservative for the Supreme Court, some scowling, dehydrated, ass-puckered “strict constructionist” type who pines for the glory days of the eighteenth century; Clinton will nominate a solid liberal. He’ll oppose gay marriage; Clinton will support it. He’ll tell the rubes they should be able to wear sidearms to Disneyland; she’ll favor background checks, but only after carefully affirming her commitment to our Second Amendment rights. Viva effing democracy.

I won’t bore you with any more Hillary bashing, apart from saying that her phony baloney populism is an insult to anything with a forebrain and opposable thumbs. I think she has genuine liberal sentiments, but ambition trumps sentiments in politics, and she’s running for president of the United States, not president of Sweden or Denmark, and we don’t truck with too much liberalism. Not one minute after she she snookers us libs into voting for her, she’ll be off to brunch with Lawrence Summers and Lloyd Blankfein, and they won’t be eating hot dogs and spare ribs like the folks. They will, however, be having Very Serious Discussions about raising the retirement age and cutting those wicked entitlements. They will be drafting her inevitable speech about “fiscal responsibility” that we’re all going to have to endure. Just watch.

I can hear it in my nightmares. I can hear it in my daymares. I can see it, smell it, feel it and sense it as if it’s a tangible, living presence hovering over my shoulder getting ready to pounce, the Ghost of Establishment Politician’s Past come to smother me with smugness, condescension and hypocrisy.

…Read on

Posted by OHollern at 7:20 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
May 08, 2015
Critic Criticizes Critics

“It will thus be seen that the author has no justification for expecting serious criticism from reviewers, and that, in becoming elated or indignant over anything that is written about his books, he is wasting his nervous energy. His reviews, if he knows how to read them, may have for the author a certain interest; but he will not be able to find out from them very much about the value of his work. For this he will have to depend on other sources, such as remarks made in casual conversation and evidences of his effect on other writers — always bearing in mind, however, that the true excellence or badness of what he has written may never really be grasped during his lifetime — a hazard for which we must all be prepared. And in the meantime he should read his reviews, not as the verdict of a Supreme Court of critics, but as a collection of opinions by persons of various degrees of intelligence who have happened to have some contact with his book. Considered from this point of view, there is occasionally something to be learned from them.”

…Edmund Wilson

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 3:03 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (4)
Arts and Literature | The Critics Criticized
May 07, 2015
I’m Not the Only One, I'm Afraid

I haven’t been able to understand the words of practically any popular song for some time now, approximately since the death of the great Patsy Cline in 1963. It came as a relief then to find out that FBI is just as dumb as I am, or at least it did until I gave the proposition a moment’s thought.

From The Intercept:


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 2:09 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
Music
May 06, 2015
Born Gentle

Can there be a lower life form than the American tobacco executive? From the New York Times:

Tobacco companies are pushing back against a worldwide rise in antismoking laws, using a little-noticed legal strategy to delay or block regulation. The industry is warning countries that their tobacco laws violate an expanding web of trade and investment treaties, raising the prospect of costly, prolonged legal battles, health advocates and officials said…

Alarmed about rising smoking rates among young women, Namibia, in southern Africa, passed a tobacco control law in 2010 but quickly found itself bombarded with stern warnings from the tobacco industry that the new statute violated the country’s obligations under trade treaties. Three years later, the government, fearful of a punishingly expensive legal battle, has yet to carry out a single major provision of the law, like limiting advertising or placing large health warnings on cigarette packaging.

Oh, yeah, another thing:

Twenty percent of births in America are to mothers who smoked during pregnancy. These babies have smaller head circumferences on average, and because nicotine increases the testosterone in the woman’s uterus, some theorize that this may lead to a greater penchant for aggressiveness, particularly among sons. Patricia A. Brennan of Emory University found that when a mother smoked a pack a day during pregnancy, her offspring were more than twice as likely to be violent criminals as adults.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 3:18 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Public Health and Welfare | Regulation for the Benefit of Public Health, Safety and Welfare
May 05, 2015
Pennsylvania is Two Big Cities…

…with Alabama in between. From the New York Times:

Dr. Offit’s home state of Pennsylvania permits a religious exemption to the wearing of bicycle helmets, and is one of a few that permit parents with religious objections to medical care to adopt children. In places where these exemptions do not exist including Canada, Britain and, as of 2011, Oregon, medically avoidable deaths among children ascribed to parent’s religious beliefs have essentially disappeared. In most of the United States, they continue to occur.
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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 2:34 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
Idiots | Legal Absurdities | Politics and Religion | Religion and Society | Reveling in the Weird
May 04, 2015
Capitol Ants

From The Origins of Morality and Honor by the evolutionary biologist Edward O. Wilson, the world’s greatest ant expert:

Nevertheless an iron rule exists in genetic social evolution. It is that selfish individuals beat altruistic individuals, while groups of altruists beat groups of selfish individuals. The victory can never be complete; the balance of selection pressures can never move to either extreme. If individual selection were to dominate, societies would dissolve. If group selection were to dominate, human groups would come to resemble ant colonies.

Or Congress.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 7:28 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
Animal blogging | Congress