June 30, 2009
Spoiled Brat’s Toy Taken

Unless Governor Pawlenty makes the weird decision to buck the Minnesota Supreme Court, Franken is in and Coleman is, at long last, out of the U.S. Senate. Coleman can console himself with the knowledge that he has set a mark for ungraciousness in defeat that future losers will have great trouble surpassing.

From Reuters:

MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) – The Minnesota Supreme Court on Tuesday declared Democrat Al Franken the winner of a tight U.S. Senate race over Republican Norm Coleman, which should give Democrats the 60-seat majority they need to overcome procedural obstacles and push through their agenda.

Coleman has said in published reports he is unlikely to appeal the state court’s decision to the federal courts. Under state law, the court’s decision gives Franken the right to occupy the seat, which has been up for grabs since last November’s election.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:28 PM
June 29, 2009
Monsters IV



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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:14 PM
The Prince of Piece

Religious notes from the New York Times:

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Some of those seated in the pews of New Bethel Church here Saturday night, their firearms tucked to their sides, saw themselves as modern-day pioneers…

Likewise, Tommy Hillerich, 68, a retired truck driver, and Maya, 58, his wife, a former auto upholstery worker, did not bring their firearms inside but firmly believe in their right to do so.

“I don’t see a thing wrong with having a loaded gun in there,” Mr. Hillerich said. “If the pastor’s in there and he’s got a concealed weapon and somebody comes in and starts shooting people, he can take him out. That’s his right.”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:36 PM
June 27, 2009
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

From today’s New York Times:

Police officers, responding to an attempted robbery at a Brooklyn day care center on Friday afternoon, shot a man who had stormed into the center and pointed a gun at arriving officers as a group of frightened children stood nearby, the authorities said…

Later, one parent, Somalia Williams, smiled as she left the precinct station with her daughter, Yosha, 2, who was wearing a pink onesie over a diaper. Ms. Williams said the children were given snacks while they waited. “She’s O.K., thank God,” she said.

“My friends were crying,” Yosha said, adding “I had pizza.”

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:19 PM
Chemtrails in the Sky

It has recently come to my attention that the entire population of the world except for China is being poisoned by chemtrails. These are the apparently innocent contrails from commercial and military jets — secretly modified by the Power Structure to suppress evolution so that the New World Order (NWO) can be imposed on mankind.

Why and how? This is complicated stuff, so pay attention:

The NWO will fail if citizens become genetically empowered to wake up and fight with superhuman powers against tyranny. This is already occurring, and chemtrails are ultimately ineffectual at preventing the inevitable.

Few know the chemtrail program’s true purpose, and most of those implementing it have been told lies. They believe the “mass vaccination” scenario, that what they are doing is beneficial to citizens. Unfortunately this illusion, like all others created by the power structure, shall fall away in due time.

The point (more fully explained here) is that we are evolving into organisms with 12 helixes in our DNA rather than the standard two. Dr. Berrenda Fox is currently working with children who only have three helixes, but are already telepathic and can fill glasses of water just by looking at them. Plainly if this kind of thing continues, mankind will become too intelligent to fall for the Power Structure’s tricks.

But it will not continue, because many ordinary people such as yourself have already armed themselves with orgone generators capable of neutralizing the evolution-halting power of those chemtrails that fill our skies.

These generators may be had at the website linked above for $95 plus shipping and handling for the natural finish model and only fifteen dollars more for a copper patina finish.

If I were you I’d go for the copper patina option despite its higher price. Why? Here’s why:

While many people are fascinated by the natural look of orgone generators, other people might prefer a more finished, art-like appearance with less need to answers questions like: “What’s it’s for?”

The Weathered Copper Patina finish gives these orgone generators the look of an esoteric art object either dug up from a ancient Minoan archeological site or something Mr. Spock brought aboard The Enterprise. Either way, it looks nice sitting on a shelf, on top of the TV, or on a desk — without raising suspicions about its true function.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:14 PM
Khamenei Is Losing Legitimacy

Two good points on the Iranian situation from Gary Sick. He has some experience observing Iran as the principal White House aide for Persian Gulf affairs from 1976 to 1981, and working on the staff of the National Security Council under Ford, Carter, and Reagan. He’s also on the board of directors of Human Rights Watch, and is well known to students of history for his writings about the October Surprise. So he’s got a sense of the longitudinal aspect of the current struggle.

Don’t expect that this will be resolved cleanly with a win or loss in short period of time. The Iranian revolution, which is usually regarded as one of the most accelerated overthrows of a well-entrenched power structure in history, started in about January 1978 and the shah departed in January 1979. During that period, there were long pauses and periods of quiescence that could lead one to believe that the revolt had subsided. This is not a sprint; it is a marathon. Endurance is at least as important as speed.

I like that because it confirms what I’ve been thinking, which is that the show of force by Iranian hardliners is a sign of decreasing control leading to desperation. When you’re forced to assert that the election is the cleanest since 1979, while at the same time admitting there may have been 3 million votes screwed with; when you have to send in militia and riot cops to club peaceful demonstrators; when you have to eject representatives of the press, or keep them under house arrest; that’s when you better be packing your bags and arranging your Swiss bank account.

Sick points out that Iranian politics is a tricky and subtle business. “They prefer chess to football,” he says, a point I’ve also been known to make.

So what should we be doing?

For the United States, the watchword should be Do No Harm. The situation in Iran is being exploited for short term domestic political purposes by those who have been looking for an opening to attack the Obama administration. Wouldn’t it feel good to give full throated expression to American opposition to the existing power structure in Iran? Perhaps so — but it could also be a fatal blow to the demonstrators risking their lives on the streets of Tehran, and it could scotch any chance of eventual negotiations with whatever government emerges from this trial by fire.

The crisis in Iran is an Iranian crisis and it can only be resolved by the Iranian people and their leaders. There is no need to conceal our belief in freedom of speech and assembly and our support for the resolution of political disputes without bloodshed. But we should not be stampeded by domestic political concerns into pretending that our intervention in this crisis could be anything but pernicious.

Can President Obama play chess as well as he plays basketball?

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 01:33 AM
June 25, 2009
The Great Gasoline Heist

While we’re on the subject of disgusting greedheads (see previous posting), let’s take a look at what the banksters are up to as well. You knew the current run-up in gas prices wasn’t plain old Econ. 101 stuff, didn’t you? A simple case of supply and demand?

Here’s why you were right. The excerpts are from McClatchy Newspapers, which have been out in front of the MSM on this story, as on so many others.

June 12: Oil prices shot past $72 a barrel this week, and a growing number of experts point to Wall Street speculators as a key reason why Americans are suddenly paying a lot more for oil and gasoline…

May 20: …This turns oil futures contracts into a way for investors to hedge against inflation at the expense of American consumers, who have to pay more to fill their gas tanks as oil and gasoline prices rise.

Masters and other critics say this speculative flow of money into commodities markets is a self-fulfilling prophecy that’s distorting the usual process by which buyers and sellers set prices and is driving up the prices of oil, gasoline, grains and other essentials…

And for facts and figures, see the PDF from which the following summary comes:

In our new world of trillion dollar Wall Street bailouts, $110 billion does not seem as shocking as it once did, but this number must be put it in perspective. The U.S. Congress and President Bush passed the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 in February of last year. It called for tax rebates of between $300 and $600 per person. By the time this stimulus finally reached the average American, the high cost of energy and food prices had nearly canceled out the entire economic benefit of the bill. At that point, the Stimulus bill simply helped Americans pay the “excessive speculation tax” levied on energy and other commodities…

Once again we have William Jefferson Clinton, Wall Street’s BBBB (Butt Boy Before Bush), to blame for this disaster. Him and his Treasury Secretary, the sainted Robert Rubin of Goldman Sachs. Here’s Jim Hightower on this point:

Why is this allowed? Because the Commodity Futures’ Modernization Act of 2000 included a provision that was quietly tucked into the law by then-Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, specifically prohibiting any regulation of such commodity-based derivatives. Among the enthusiastic backers of this legalized thievery were Robert Rubin, the Wall Streeter who was Bill Clinton’s treasury secretary, and his protege, Larry Summers, who is now Barack Obama’s chief economic advisor.

This bipartisan cabal created a speculative mechanism that’s presently sucking money out of your pocket with every gallon of gas you pump. Meanwhile, every dollar that Goldman, Morgan and the rest use to inflate oil prices is a dollar they are not investing in real economic activity that could create middle-class jobs…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:48 PM
Your Friendly Neighborhood Insurance Company

Here’s the money shot from an Associated Press story that the New York Times ran in today’s business section instead of on the front page where it belonged.

You have to admire the evil ingenuity and ravening greed of these people. Well, no, actually you don’t.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congressional investigators said Wednesday that two-thirds of the nation’s health insurance industry used a faulty database that overcharged patients for seeing doctors outside their insurance network, costing them billions of dollars in inflated bills…

More than 100 million Americans have plans that allow them to see doctors who are not part of their insurance network. For more than a decade, insurers submitted data to Ingenix to determine the typical cost for care received in such visits.

But Congressional investigators say companies would deliberately skew data to underestimate the costs of medical services, leaving patients to pay more in out-of-pocket expenses.

“The result of this practice is that American consumers have paid billions of dollars for health care services that their insurance companies should have paid,” according to the report of the Senate Commerce Committee’s investigative staff.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:06 PM
June 24, 2009
Monsters III



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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:45 PM
No Phone for the Princess

Here is Princess Sparkle Pony, trying and failing to give money to two giant American corporations:

First I went to ATT’s web site to order the service. Now, here’s another bit of PSP trivia: I don’t have a credit card; haven’t since college! I do have a debit card, of course, but I simply don’t use credit. So at the ATT site, they did a “credit check” and found me wanting, and decided that the iPhone wasn’t for me. So I “spoke” to an online rep, and the conversation went something like this:

Me: Hi, I want to get an iPhone, but failed your credit check.
Rep: Sorry, then you are ineligible for the service.
Me: Really? Just like that? But I was going to pay with a debit card.
Rep: Sorry, if you fail the credit check, you’re ineligible.
Me: Seriously? What if I pre-pay for the whole two-year plan?
Rep: We don’t offer that.

Basically: no iPhone for me!

This morning, I decided to actually call ATT on the phone and find out if this was really true. And, of course, it isn’t. The person on the phone said I could, indeed, get iPhone service, but I’d have to go to an ATT store and would probably have to tender a $750 deposit (!!) as a punishment for being sensible with my money and not buying things I can’t afford.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:57 PM
Sanford’s Class Act. Considering.

South Carolina’s governor just retired the Wandering Politico’s Apology Cup for all time.

He apologized to his wife. He apologized to his four sons. He apologized to his staff for “creating a fiction in regard to where I was going.” He apologized to his friend Tom Davis and to “all the Tom Davises of the world.” He apologized to people of faith in South Carolina and throughout the nation. He apologized to his spiritual adviser. He apologized to his father-in-law. He apologized to his “dear, dear friend” from Argentina, where he had “spent the last five days of my life crying.”

He did not apologize to me, but he didn’t need to. What he does with his dick is none of my damned business, and that goes for the dicks of McGreevey, Spitzer, Clinton, Edwards, Vitter, Warren G. Harding and so on and so forth throughout the long annals of American politics. It does not go for specimens like Ensign and Craig, who obsess unwholesomely over the uses to which other people put their dicks.

Actually I thought Governor Sanford handled himself with a certain amount of class during his public ordeal, and I applaud him for it. And I particularly applaud his wife for the dignity she displayed in not standing by her man during his self-crucifixion.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:27 PM
Obama vs. Obama?

From Paul Krugman’s blog:

Really bad news on the health care front. After making the case for a public option, and doing it very well, Obama said this:

“We have not drawn lines in the sand other than that reform has to control costs and that it has to provide relief to people who don’t have health insurance or are underinsured,” Mr. Obama said. “Those are the broad parameters that we’ve discussed.”

There he goes again, gratuitously making a big gift to the other side.

My big fear about Obama has always been not that he doesn’t understand the issues, but that his urge to compromise — his vision of himself as a politician who transcends the old partisan divisions — will lead him to negotiate with himself, and give away far too much. He did that on the stimulus bill, where he offered an inadequate plan in order to win bipartisan support, then got nothing in return — and was forced to reduce the plan further so that Susan Collins could claim her pound of flesh.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:15 PM
June 23, 2009
Scaring the Crap Out of Congress

Some excellent points have been made in comments about my previous post comparing Iranians and Americans, and I think they deserve a bit of exploration.

First, it’s certainly the case that a huge number of Americans turned out to protest the (most recent) war before it started, and that the TV news largely ignored those protests. To me, this indicates the problem with TV news. In general I think a word is worth a thousand pictures; the former conveys information, the latter feelings and sensations. (How many pictures does it take to tell you how to make beef bourguignon?)

From Iran we get tweets and mobile-phone videos, and I think we probably agree that this democratization of reporting is mainly a good thing. Disintermediation, it was called back in the dot-com boom days. If we had similar public strife here in the US we’d probably get similar tweets and videos.

Which leads to my second point. To my mind a critical lesson is that the struggle won’t be won soon. It won’t be won in this generation, for example. We can certainly hope to make significant strides; we can even dream, and not without reason, of taking bigger steps than those who struggled before us. But it’s not reasonable to expect to finish the fight, because we’re struggling against aspects of the human psyche that are likely to remain with us for some time to come.

That’s not meant as a downer, but as a realization of what’s actually possible. I fear a movement that overestimates its possible impact, because it will dissipate when it fails.

It’s also meant to help us stay grounded in the fact that our problems lie in the human method of thinking. It’s not just a few bad apples, any more than torture is. Humanity in general, and Americans in particular, have some habits of thought that get us in trouble. We need to recognize them in ourselves first, then we can help the community to eliminate them.

So it seems to me that the most recent war against Iraq could not have been stopped, no matter how many Americans took to the streets. Unless we made it impossible to raise an army, the invasion would have happened in the teeth of the strongest protests. But as Chomsky said, never before in history have millions of people protested a war before it started.


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These protests had an effect quite evident to a historically educated eye. True, they had no chance of stopping the war; but they did force it to be short. They did force the Bush administration to forbid coverage of anything war-related, including the return of flag-draped coffins, which in previous wars were used to inflame public distaste for The Enemy, but have now become another reminder of a war the American public would rather switch channels away from.

In short, I think the American economy, what Chomsky calls the Pentagon system, depends on relatively regular wars. Modern manufacturing is so efficient it needs increasingly large markets, of which the modern world has a decreasing number, producing an obvious tension. What’s the best market? A bottomless pit called War, a market that can never be satisfied.

Thus we have to protest war and the ravages of globalization and environmental exploitation just as others have protested racism and slavery and religious intolerance. We have to know, as we do so, that these are long-term struggles. Martin said he might not get there with us; we have to take the same view toward future generations. We’re part of a multi-generational, indeed multi-millennial, struggle. We’re not tasked with winning; what we have to do is our share of the heavy lifting.

As a particular instance of this precept, my feeling is that large demonstrations in a few major cities would make a difference in the health-care debate. Suppose that one day everyone wore white armbands or whatever; wouldn’t that scare the crap out of Congress?

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 05:38 AM
Dan and Julia

Having just chopped my thumb, I had to look up Akroyd playing Julia Child.


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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 01:41 AM
June 21, 2009
Who Teaches Democracy, and Who Learns?

As we wait to see what will follow the latest protests in Iran, I’m struck by similarities and contrasts between our countries.

For instance, in Iran candidates for office are vetted by the religious establishment quite explicitly. Many Americans consider this a violation of the doctrine of separation of church and state, and I agree. As I understand it, Islam has a similar doctrine, and the Islamic Republic is in a way an attempt to finesse that issue.

On the other hand, our American doctrine is looser in theory but not much less so in fact. For example, I identify as a Zen Buddhist when asked in polls and so on. How many public offices in the US would be open to me, assuming I met the residency and other requirements? Suppose I converted to atheism — would that help me as much as converting to Christianity helped Obama? (Would Obama be President if he hadn’t converted?)

Here in San Francisco, neither would be much of a hindrance; I wouldn’t tend to get the Christian vote in any case, and it’s not as influential a block as in other spots. Of course my best shot, hypothetically (I’m not actually thinking of doing this), would be local office; not even in California would a Buddhist be elected to statewide office.

More importantly, national offices are pretty much closed to non-Christians, except for a few Jews. There’s one Muslim in Congress, and no doubt a large number of lapsed thises and unbelieving thats. But I argue that our ideology is as strictly enforced as the Iranian one; it’s just that our enforcement mechanisms are more distributed and less obvious. Which I grant is preferable, as far as it goes. I’m just saying the differences here aren’t as big as they seem.

One contrast in particular strikes me, the active engagement in civic affairs. Watch one of the mobile-phone videos submitted to the BBC (which the Beeb notes it cannot verify); or read the accounts of the crowd size and the silent marching. Can you imagine such actions from Americans?

Suppose some color became associated with the idea of universal health care, which we know the vast majority of Americans want now, and have wanted for many years. Maybe the color would be white, or red, or whatever. Suppose further a large march some summer Saturday afternoon, coordinated around the country, a peaceful demonstration with an underlying political threat. I’m betting that Congress would be scared into taking some useful action, and quick.

Thank god we’ve got television and movies and video games to keep that from happening. We haven’t sunk to Iran’s level yet.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 11:20 PM
Not Quite Good Enough

In 1963 I won an award for humor from the Washington chapter of the Newspaper Guild, perhaps the most ineffectual union in the history of the American labor movement. It was the only award of my life, making me particularly sympathetic to my loser of a granddaughter, Eliza. From one loser to another, then, I post this paper she wrote last month for her English class. The paper got an A, which of course casts doubt on its whole thesis.

I long for the days when everybody won an award. The days when no matter what you did someone patted you on the back and said, “Good job kiddo, have a nice shiny medal.” Those were simpler days when there were no grades (I went to an independent elementary school where teachers taught to “enrich our minds not to prepare us for a test”) and teachers said things like, “Eliza is an animated, expressive child who brought enthusiasm to our school day. She entered our classroom eagerly each day… She often had a story or point of interest to share with a sparkle in her eyes…” Isn’t that just the nicest thing? What it means, I have no idea, but it is really very nice.

Speaking of that girl, the second grader with the sparkling eyes, I have no idea what happened to her, she can’t possibly be this one here, now desperately trying to get into a good college.

Everyone wants to win, to be the best at something. It doesn’t matter what it is. We all want to have that wonderful feeling that we are better than everyone else. At least that’s what I imagine, seeing as I have never felt that way. Never, in my whole life have I won an award…

Actually, that’s not true — I won most improved in seventh grade swimming. However, even after all that improving, I was still one of the slower swimmers on the team. I am profoundly unathletic, I was always the last picked for games in elementary school and I very quickly realized that gym class was not for me. Being dyslexic, I always have had problems with games involving directions (wait, that’s all of them…) and when I was in third grade I horrified the boys in my class by not knowing whether to run to first or third during kick ball. The darn things all looked the same to me! Then they started yelling and I got flustered and…well you can imagine how well that ended.

I have occasionally gamely tried my hand at various team sports to disastrous results. I gave it my all in field hockey but I eventually had to quit the team since I couldn’t run the mile on a regular basis. (Did I mention I’m asthmatic? I have a bad back too so you can see how ill fated this athletic odyssey was from the start). A foray into lacrosse was an unmitigated disaster, during which I never really got the hang of keeping the ball in the stick, which is apparently important. I think I played in one game that season and only when we were so far ahead that even I couldn’t mess it up. This is all bad enough on its own, but when you compare me to the girl who is a world ranked ballroom dancer (she is second I believe, behind someone from Russia) or the boy who is the fifth best wrestler in the nation, I look even more pathetic. Well, I guess I won’t be going to college on an athletic scholarship.

Sports is not the only arena in which I lack skills. Every attempt by my parents to teach me how to drive has ended badly, either with tears or, in one memorable instance, with me nearly hitting the sign at the dog kennel. This inability to drive has been a problem. In high school, a large part of your worth to your classmates, especially if you are, like me, old for your grade, is the ability to drive them around, something I obviously cannot do. I have lost count of the number of times people have said, “You’re seventeen, you can drive us!” and I have also lost count of the number of times I have had to explain how I cannot drive them, no, not even illegally.

Another downside is the fact that I have to take the bus to school. This may not seem to be a big problem but it is. If you, dear reader, have never heard the amount of noise caused by a dozen seventh graders in a confined space, consider yourself lucky. They are incredibly loud and they simply refuse to shut up. In my days as a j-schooler I was terrified by upper schoolers and if one of them told me to be quiet you could bet I would be. But kids these days do not have that healthy fear. They talk back and yell louder when asked to be quiet. A noisy bus ride is worse after a long day, which I often have.

My days are long because I always have a nagging fear that I am not good enough. I thought my grades were good but the other day a girl, who shall remain nameless to protect the ridiculously talented, said, “ Uh, I am so upset about this grade I think I am getting a A-, I had hoped to go through high school without getting anything other than A’s.” Keep in mind, dear reader, that this girl is a senior who has already gotten into Harvard.

Naturally this started me thinking, “How will I ever get into college?” As a junior, this is a thought that comes up very often. I guess colleges won’t be blown away by my GPA. Maybe I can save my application with great test scores. Alas, I don’t think my SATs are good enough.

A while ago I was talking to a fellow Hopkins student, who shall again remain nameless to protect the overachieving. As we were both planning to take the SATs the following weekend we were discussing our studying strategies, when she said, “I have a 2350 and I really hope I can get that last fifty points.” I was shocked. In my wildest dreams I could not imagine getting a 2350 on the SATs! So I guess I’m no athlete, my grades are nothing special, and my test scores are not that good.

Perhaps I can wow colleges with my community service. Wait — I am afraid I don’t measure up there either. I am not saving starving babies in Cambodia, and I haven’t founded one AIDS clinic in Haiti. I hear about my classmates’ trips to India and Africa and South America where they build schools and hospitals. They and their philanthropic cohorts collect thousands of dollars to send to the disenfranchised everywhere in the world.

This aggressive do-gooding makes my small contributions seem even smaller. I simply cannot find the time to stand on street corners and ask for money for hours at a time or miss weeks of school (or, god forbid, weeks of vacation) running around the globe saving people and I don’t know how others do it. I am perfectly happy to throw a few dollars in a collection pot or even run the pot myself during the canned food drive, and I thought that was enough. I was wrong.

One of my friends (again nameless, to protect…you know the drill) was telling me about her plans to volunteer at a hospital over the summer. I was impressed, then shocked when she told me that she was only doing it because colleges like it, and that she, “hates sick people.” I cannot imagine doing something, no matter how altruistic, just because colleges like it, and I really don’t have the time.

I simply cannot find time to do many clubs either, plus I am just not a joiner. I tried to get involved in yearbook but it didn’t work out. I envy those who have time to be so involved, but I do not know how they do it. I barely have time to do my homework and go to bed on time. Writing papers takes me what feels like an eternity. School exhausts me. I need to go to bed by nine. Every night. This means that when my classmates need to contact me a majority of the time I am not awake. This makes my friends and project partners very angry. I think this is because the average Hopkins student seems to have evolved from a normal, sleep-needing human (like me) into mutant sleep-shunning beings who have hours more time to work than I do.

How am I ever going to be good enough? I’m up against geniuses who get one hundred percent on every physics test, kindly souls who volunteer for every community service opportunity around, jocks of the highest caliber, and people who are in every club. As far as I am concerned the average Hopkins student is like a cross between Mother Theresa, Babe Ruth, and Einstein and I am, well, just normal. I do not get straight A’s, I hate sports, I can hardly ever find time to volunteer, and I am sort of in one club. Long story short, I am a failure when you compare me to my fellow Hopkins students.

Maybe I could go back the second grade — sure it took me two years, but at least the teacher liked me…

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:20 PM
Monsters II

Already our education in the world of monster trucks progresses. Ten Bears comments that the truck in the first picture of the series wasn’t a truck at all, but actually a 1956 Chevy Belair with really big wheels.

Mike answers that the truth is more complicated. Since monster trucks lead a hard and short life, they are topped with disposable plexiglass “bodies” that can look like anything you want.

The picture below gives you the idea. In this case the owner made a shell that looks like a pickup body, and then defaced it with the team sponsor’s logo. When this one gets smashed up they’ll just bolt on another, cast from the same mold.



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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:53 PM
How Will Congress Avoid the Popular Will This Time?

The New York Times reports that nearly three-quarters of Americans favor a government-run Medicare-like health care plan that’s open to everyone. This is a serious and direct threat to the existing power structure, and as such a perfect measure of whether The One is really gifted, or simply fluent. Let us hope for the former, because we need it.

What really surprised me is not that

  • People with greater incomes are more upset about taxes
  • Folks are concerned that their own personal health care might suffer, but they’re willing to deal with that outcome to make sure everyone has some
  • Even half the Republicans responding favor a government-run option
  • By 65-26, Americans think covering everyone is more important than controlling costs

No. What surprised me was that the Times straightforwardly asked the single most relevant question.

When anti-single-payer people are pressed to the wall, they’ll often say, “Well, do you want your health care run by the government?” No reasonable person is completely comfortable saying yes. But considering that the alternative is insurance companies running your health care, I was happy to see the Times mention what pollwatchers have long known.

The Times poll asks, Do you think the government would do a better or worse job than private insurance companies in…

  • …providing medical coverage?
  • …holding down health care costs?

For the first question, it’s Better by 50-34. Two years ago it was 30-44. For the second, it’s gone from 47-37 to 59-26. Another reason to thank George W. Bush.

No semi-intelligent semi-rational being falls for the insurance company propaganda about private enterprise doing things cheaper because they have the profit motive. If you’re assuming I’m that dumb, you can expect business from other locales.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 06:00 AM
June 19, 2009
Friends of the Earth

First they cut down the forests in Canada and make a terrible mess on the denuded land. Animals flee, streams turn warm and can’t support fish.

Then they truck the trees to the paper mill where they are turned into newsprint. In the process the air is badly polluted, and so are the rivers into which the waste from the process is dumped.

Then tons of paper rolls are trucked out to newspapers around the country daily.

Then the newspapers are printed and delivered to the readers. When they finish reading them the readers discard the papers, and the taxpayers pay to have them collected and taken to landfills. There is some recycling now, but the newspaper companies never took it upon themselves to collect their used product.

From start to finish making newsprint and distributing newspapers cause major pollution and degradation of the environment.

Wait a minute. Don’t newspapers run editorial after editorial bemoaning the pollution that other manufacturers cause?


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Posted by Bill Doolittle at 06:57 PM
Monsters I

I’m guessing that a lot of you latte-sipping losers are less familiar with monster truck rallies than you ought to be. My son Mike the photographer is anxious to help out. He took this shot last month at the 4-Wheel Jamboree Nationals in Lima, Ohio. More will follow in the days to come, so you will at last be able to talk about monster trucks without making a total fool of yourself.



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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 06:29 PM
Premeditated Murder

One of the most fascinating (and underreported) stories of the millenium has been the outbreak of democracy all over Latin America despite the best efforts of George W. Bush.

And a good way for the uninformed (such as I) to keep up with these developments is to visit BoRev.Net, which offers flip but deadly serious “dispatches from the Bolivarian revolution.”

An excerpt from today’s dispatch:

Special Rapporteur Philip Alston just wrapped up a 10-day United Nations investigation into the hundreds (thousands?) of innocent Colombians murdered by the military to meet government kill quotas. The report is out, and it’s devastating. The Uribe administration naturally still claims that most of the dead were a real live guerilla rebels, but duh they’re just lying:

‘The evidence that shows victims wearing newly ironed camouflage garments or wearing field boots four sizes bigger than their feet, or left-handed individuals holding a pistol in their right hand … negate even more the suggestion that they were guerrillas killed in combat.’’

The U.N. found that the murders were “more or less systematic,” not the actions of a few bad apples, and that the government has pretty much refused to punish the culprits, choosing instead to harass human rights workers who talk about it publically…

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:40 PM
Your Family Insurance Company

This doesn’t surprise me, but I hadn’t seen these figures before. They’re in a letter to the New York Times from David A. Balto, of the Center for American Progress.

I was disturbed to see your editorial suggest that the blame for “ever rising premiums” falls primarily on physicians. Let’s give credit where credit is due.

Between 2000 and 2007, the 10 largest publicly traded insurance companies increased their profits 428 percent, from $2.4 billion to $12.9 billion, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

During the same period, the number of insurers fell by nearly 20 percent, largely because of a huge wave of mergers that led to stunning consolidation. And premiums increased by more than 87 percent, rising four times faster than the average American’s wages.

Today, 95 percent of American insurance markets qualify as tight oligopolies. As in so many industries, blind reliance on free-market forces has failed the American public.

Clearly, doctors bear a responsibility to curb costs. But the real culprits are the middlemen who, after years of lax regulation, now have such a tight grip on the market that they can — and do — charge whatever they want.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:53 PM
Money Talks, Bullshit Walks

Wonderful post on unions by Joe Bageant today. The taste below contains a quote — the one about one man, one vote — that was new to me. The unnamed speaker had nothing to worry about. In two short years the Supreme Court would solve his problem by ruling in Buckley v. Valeo that money was the functional equivalent of votes: the more of the former you had, the more of the latter you could buy.

If a few pricks and gangsters have occasionally seized power over the dignity of labor, countless more calculating, bloodless and malevolent pricks — the capitalist elites — have always held most of the cards — Gould could sneer, “I can always hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.” And why a speaker at the U.S. Business Conference Board in 1974 could arrogantly declare, “One man, one vote has undermined the power of business in all capitalist countries since World War II.” And why that same year Business Week magazine said, “It will be a hard pill for many Americans to swallow — the idea of doing with less so that big business can have more. Nothing in modern economic history compares with the selling job that must now be done to make people accept this new reality.”

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:12 PM
June 18, 2009
Froomkin Has Been Dumped

We followers of Dan Froomkin’s wonderful blog at the Washington Post are teetering between depression and rebellion at the news that he’s been dumped. (Our esteemed founder has already weighed in, and Glenn Greenwald talks about it here.)

The Post, like any other major media company, will try to sell the dumping of any relatively clear analysis, claiming that such is inherently socialist and Americans don’t wanna hear it (in other words, to paraphrase Colbert, reality has a well-known socialist bias). They’ll say, I’m betting, that it was a business decision, not an editorial one.

But that’s obviously false. Froomkin seems to have been the most linked-to author on the paper’s website, and as the news migrates from paper to the web, you’d think you might want to keep writers who generate lots of links and thus traffic.

Perhaps that’s only true if the writer in question favors torture. Froomkin recently had a dust-up with one of the Post’s in-house neocons, Charles Krauthammer, over this issue. Krauthammer is one of many Republicans these days who are comparing themselves to oppressed folks around the globe, to the point that he says critics of Obama on Fox News are “a lot like [Hugo Chavez’] Caracas where all the media, except one, are state run.”

Yeah, here in America we have freedom of the press, and the newspapers all parrot the same line, which is part of why they’re dying. They used to offer a variety of views, reporting from different angles and with different agendas, but no longer. What we’ve lost is huge. What we’re left with is a privately owned media monopoly that is collectively the best propaganda machine in history, which is at the service of a small and shrinking set of mega-corporations that are trying to control the world, water, air, soil, seeds, the genome, everything.

The Mighty Wurlitzer remains powerful, but alternative voices are starting to be heard more clearly, in large part due to the internet’s democratizing influence. My guess is that Froomkin was originally brought on board as a sort of loss leader to bring in readers from the blogs; but he’s got a bit of a voice now and he’s using it to contradict the Fred Hiatt pro-war pro-torture lines. And that will not be tolerated.

Personally I’ve taken the Post off my browser’s speed dial, and complained to the ombudsman. I’m sure they don’t care what I think; henceforth I return the compliment.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 09:22 PM
The Washington Post Moves Even Further Right

Bad news from Steve Benen at Political Animal:

Update: I've spoken to Dan [Froomkin], who confirmed that he is, in fact, leaving the Post.

“I’m terribly disappointed,” Dan said. “I was told that it had been determined that my White House Watch blog wasn’t “working” anymore. Personally, I thought it was still working very well, and based on reader feedback, a lot of readers thought so, too... I also thought White House Watch was a great fit with The Washington Post brand, and what its readers reasonably expect from the Post online.

“As I’ve written elsewhere, I think that the future success of our business depends on journalists enthusiastically pursuing accountability and calling it like they see it. That’s what I tried to do every day. Now I guess I’ll have to try to do it someplace else.”

Indeed, far-right complaints notwithstanding, Froomkin has spent months scrutinizing the Obama White House, cutting the Democratic president no slack at all. Just over the past couple of days, Froomkin offered critical takes on the president’s proposed regulations of the financial industry, follow-through on gay rights, and foot-dragging on Bush-era torture revelations.

Froomkin was one of the media’s most important critics of the Bush White House, and conservative bashing notwithstanding, was poised to be just as valuable holding the Obama White House accountable for its decisions.

When I worked at the Washington Post myself, in the pre-Watergate days, it was considered a liberal paper. But it wasn’t. It merely, as Karl Marx once said of John Stuart Mill, drew its eminence from the general flatness of the terrain. The only truly liberal dailies I can remember from that period were the Madison Capital Times in Wisconsin, the York Gazette in Pennsylvania, and the New York Post. (Yes, you heard right.) The Washington Post owed its liberal reputation almost solely to its anti-McCarthy cartoonist, Herblock.

And then came Watergate.

Any paper willing to stand up to Nixon and take him down had to be liberal, Q.E.D. Right? Actually wrong. Ben Bradlee hated Nixon because Bradlee was in Kennedy’s inner circle. And Nixon was a parvenu, a sweaty striver. Left vs. right had little to do with it.

It would have taken a close observer to discern an ideological difference between Kennedy and Nixon. On questions of race, war and peace, and economic policy, both were slightly right of center in what had become, after World War II, a very frightened, aggressive, and conservative nation. On the most important issue of the day, the Post supported the Vietnam war so slavishly that President Johnson named its editorial page editor, J. Russell Wiggins, as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

(Wiggins offers further proof of my theory that you can never trust a man who parts his name to one side; I knew I was in trouble when I arrived at our embassy in Laos at the height of the war to discover that the ambassador and my new boss was a gun-toting, draft-dodging old Yalie who called himself G. McMurtrie Godley III. You can’t make this shit up.)

But back to the Washington Post.

There were and are many fine reporters at the paper, and they have done immensely valuable work over the years. But though the leash was sometimes a long one, it was always present. Since Eugene Meyer bought the paper at a bankruptcy auction in 1933, that leash has always been held by conservative publishers from his family.

The surprise isn’t that Froomkin has been fired, but that he lasted as long as he did. And the beauty of the internet is that he will be able — if he so desires — to keep the audience the Post enabled him to assemble.

I hope he so desires.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 07:55 PM
Welcome, Stranger

A collection of search engine queries which brought visitors to Bad Attitudes:

what should be the attitude of the secretaries needs to possess?

how many kinds of attitudes r there

white teachers winning over bad black attitudes

How do you acquire a guardian angel as to work another guardian angel, gods, mystics

attitudes of preschoolers to skin testing

five heartbeats just in case lyrics

is it bad luck to to have a head picture of king tut?


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:58 AM
Cash For Clunkers

They’re breaking out the champagne again at the War Department:

House passes $106 billion war funding bill

(AP) — War-funding legislation survived a fierce partisan battle in the House on Tuesday, a major step in providing commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan the money they would need for military operations in the coming months.

The $106 billion measure, in addition to about $80 billion for military operations, provides for an array of other spending priorities, including $7.7 billion to respond to the flu pandemic and more than $10 billion in development and security aid for Pakistan and Iraq as well as countries such as Mexico and the nation of Georgia.

The bill also extends credit to the IMF and contains a so-called “cash for clunkers” provision, “which gives people vouchers of up to $4,500 to trade in their old cars and buy new ones with higher fuel efficiency…”

So, when you trim away all the fat, it’s only $80 billion for the military. But remember, this is a supplemental spending bill, which means it’s not part of the Pentagon’s normal budget. In essence, it’s an $80 billion dollar bonus.

Does the Pentagon really deserve a bonus? Let’s take a look at its record over the past sixty years and see. Bear in mind, I’m only counting the ‘big’ wars here, not all of the ‘peace-keeping’ or ‘humanitarian’ missions, or the silly show biz bombings, like Libya or Sudan. Nor am I making any judgment about the morality or necessity of these wars. I’m just viewing them from a simple standard of win or loss. Here goes:

Korea, tie; Vietnam, loss; Panama, win; Iraq War I, win; Serbia, win; Afghanistan, loss; Iraq War II: This Time It’s Personal, They Tried To Kill My Daddy, loss.

By my reckoning, that makes the War Department 3-3-1 at the very thing that justifies their limitless funding, fighting wars. Given this record, I think all talk about supplemental spending increases is, to use the Pentagon’s own style, highly premature at this stage of operations.

And it gets even worse:

Passage of the bill, which provides funds through the end of this fiscal year on Sept. 30, would bring to nearly $1 trillion the amount spent on the wars and other security matters since the Sept. 11 attacks. More than 70% of that has gone to Iraq, the Congressional Research Service said in an analysis.…

The Pentagon has said that without the bill the Army could start running out of war funds as early as July.

One trillion dollars over eight years and it’s still not enough, the Army could start running out of funds … They should move the Pentagon to Wall Street.

Cash for clunkers indeed.

Fortunately, the House debate over the bill wasn’t totally devoid of statemanship. Here’s what Dennis Kucinich had to say: “Another $106 billion, and all we get is a lousy war. Pretty soon that’s going to be about the only thing made in America: war.”

To which I can only say: Kucinich in 2012!


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Posted by OHollern at 12:51 AM
June 17, 2009
Most Peculiar, Momma

It behooves us all to STFU until we figure out what’s actually happening in Iran. I’m talkin’ to you, McCain.

This from McClatchy:

TEHRAN, Iran — Supporters of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his main rival in the disputed presidential election, Mir Hossein Mousavi, massed in competing rallies Tuesday as the country’s most senior Islamic cleric threw his weight behind opposition charges that Ahmadinejad’s re-election was rigged.

“No one in their right mind can believe” the official results from Friday’s contest, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri said of the landslide victory claimed by Ahmadinejad. Montazeri accused the regime of handling Mousavi’s charges of fraud and the massive protests of his backers “in the worst way possible.”

“A government not respecting people’s vote has no religious or political legitimacy,” he declared in comments on his official Web site. “I ask the police and army personals (personnel) not to ‘sell their religion,’ and beware that receiving orders will not excuse them before God…”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:12 PM
The Two Faces of the GOP

Carl Sandburg once wrote, “Why does a hearse horse snicker/ Hauling a lawyer away?”

And why should I snicker when yet another Republican pol is caught with his zipper down? Gingrich, Craig, Vitter, etc., etc., and now the beat goes on: Nevada senator John Ensign.

Snicker? When I gave Clinton and Edwards and Spitzer a pass?

Here’s why (h/t to Doonesbury):


“Last year I had an affair. I violated the vows of my marriage. It is the worst thing I have ever done in my life.”
— Senator John Ensign

“I came to that conclusion recently, and frankly it’s because of what he has put the country through. He has no credibility left.”
— Ensign, calling for Bill Clinton to resign over the Lewinsky affair


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:47 AM
Pregnancy Denial

The babies-in-the-freezer story from France has apparently been around for three years, but this item from BBC News is the first I’ve heard of it. Amazing almost to the point of unbelievability. Terribly sad:

…In the flood of articles on the subject this week, it was a double-page spread in the left-leaning Libération which really grabbed my attention.

The figures the paper gave were startling — every year in France, between 1,600 and 2,000 women apparently suffer from pregnancy denial, and at least 230 discover or admit they're pregnant only at the moment they give birth.

Surprisingly, most of the examples cited were not of teenage girls who had never had a baby — they were mainly mothers of at least two children who were all so mentally opposed to the thought of having another child that they didn't show a single physical symptom of their pregnancy.

Apart from a tiny weight gain of one or two kilos there were no visible changes to their bodies. Many of the women even continued to menstruate — the need to deny the pregnancy was so strong, explained doctors, that the mind controlled the body and suppressed all external manifestations of the pregnancy…

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:36 AM
June 16, 2009
Socialism in the Senate? I Wish

Bernie Sanders, the only actual socialist in the Senate, is right again.

He’s pushing a single-payer health care system, he’s got a petition, and he’s asking people to contribute their stories.

Clearly single payer is the cheapest way, which is precisely why it hasn’t happened. The American health care system, like pretty much every part of American economic life, is designed to concentrate wealth. Any actual health care given or received is incidental to the process.

As the petition says,

The U.S. does not get what it pays for. We rank among the lowest in the health outcome rankings of developed countries, and on several major indices rank below some third-world nations…

It also points out that the number of insurance company bureaucrats has grown at 25 times the rate of the number of physicians. Ah! That’s where all the money’s going…

So sign the damn petition already!

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 07:05 PM
June 15, 2009
Red Roses


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:19 PM
Levity Among the Lutherans, II

Here’s an old item from the dawn of Bad Attitudes that I just came across. Sadly, it’s still relevant.

The Reverend Michael Bray of the Reformation Lutheran Church in Bowie, Maryland, runs an annual benefit banquet for imprisoned murderers, bombers, arsonists and other criminals in the anti-abortion movement:

“For example, he said, Paul Hill, convicted for the 1994 killings of a doctor who performed abortions and his escort in Florida, sent along a letter listing the ten commandments. Mr. Malvasi’s contributions to the charity auction, Mr. Bray said, included the watch he used as a timing device in a bombing attempt in the 1980s.

“‘You can understand the level of levity here,’ Mr. Bray said. He added that the items sold for amounts up to $100.” (New York Times, March 31, 2001)


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:36 PM
June 14, 2009
Carpetbagger

Go on, read the rest of the story. You know you want to.

A man walks into a bar. He’s carrying a carpet under his arm. He wraps himself in the carpet, lies on the floor, covers his face and waits for people to step on him. A sign taped to the bar reads: “Step on carpet.”

People step on the carpet — dozens, in fact. The more people who step on the carpet, particularly if they are women in heels, the happier the man is. Some are timid, others are audacious. Some dance on the man. Some step on him while ordering their drinks, completely unaware that a live body is underfoot…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:27 PM
Health Care Notes from an Alternate Universe

Factoid found in a New York Times story about free breast implants as a recruiting bonus for Czech nurses:

Dana Juraskova, the Czech minister of health and a former nurse … said there were other ways to motivate nurses: for example, the recent introduction of a fee of one euro, or about $1.40, for visiting a doctor — which spawned a national outcry in a country accustomed to free health care — had resulted in cost savings that were now being passed on to nurses, she said.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:56 PM
June 13, 2009
Mountain Laurel


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:13 PM
Where Did All the Dollars Go, Long Time Passing?

I knew of course, like most of us, that the current economic collapse was caused by a bunch of horse thieves making shit up. In this case, money.

But I never understood the actual mechanics until I read this analysis on Of Two Minds by Zeus Yiamouyiannis. It sounds right to me, but what do I know? I was an English major. Read it and tell me what you think.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 04:19 PM
June 10, 2009
No Laughing Matter

We’ve invaded a country to rip off its resources, subjected its people to bombardment, kidnappings, rape and torture, and a comedian goes over to yuck it up with the troops. Does that strike you as a tad bit unseemly?

What if Chinese troops occupied San Francisco, turned the Presidio into a torture chamber, looted the de Young museum (or at least allowed it to happen because they were ordered to guard the financial district instead), and were building a gigantic, armed fortress in Golden Gate Park.

Then, after six years of this, they sent a comedian over who subsequently made jokes about all the steep hills and the damp fog, engaged in funny banter with the commanding general, and buttered-up the soldiers by calling them the best looking fighting force the world had ever seen?

What if all this was going on as car bombs were blowing up and killing people at the same time?

I’m a big Stephen Colbert fan, and I appreciate that he’s trying to help the morale of American soldiers. They are, apart from the Iraqis themselves, the biggest victims of the moral catastrophe called ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom,’ which at best was naked theft, and at worst was George W. Bush’s wicked attempt to get his face carved on Mt. Rushmore.

But this whole thing feeds into a deep, underlying militarism that pervades our language, outlook, and culture, which in turn enables the U.S. government to persist in vicious and costly imperial follies that will, eventually, bring this country down (if they haven’t already).

Here’s James Madison, writing in 1795:

Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes … known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few… [There is an] inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and … degeneracy of manners and of morals ... No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.

Now look at the effusive praise we’re required to heap on our soldiers. Notice that saying, “Thank you for your service” has become etiquette when speaking to veterans (and which is often uttered with the mechanical emptiness of a Safeway clerk telling you to have a nice day). And consider the endlessly repeated statement that our soldiers are “defending our freedoms” when, at least in the case of Iraq, they most certainly are not.

All of these seemingly benign displays of patriotism effectively place the army above criticism, which also, conveniently, places the Pentagon above criticism, allowing it to indulge its bottomless need for more war, more money, more political power. Our patriotism and good manners are cynically turned against us so the Warfare State can rumble along, unimpeded by any significant opposition. We become damned by our virtues. It’s Madison’s “degeneracy of manners and of morals” in action.

This also serves to relieve us of the guilt we all share for acquiescing in the abuse and maltreatment of our soldiers. Despite all the jingoistic noise to the contrary, this country has a long and shameful history of mistreating its veterans, from Shay’s Rebellion to the suppression of the Bonus Army, right on down to the epidemic rates of alcoholism and suicide among Iraq veterans (which the Pentagon is only belatedly recognizing as a problem).

We know, down inside, that our soldiers are being used as de facto mercenaries for venal contractors or pawns in the service of grubby political aims that have nothing to do with our freedom or security. So we ostentatiously brag about how we support the troops, stick a magnet on the back of our car, and convince ourselves that we really are good patriots. It’s like a man who constantly tells his wife he loves her to conceal the fact the he’s having an affair.

Meanwhile, have you heard about the $100 billion dollar military appropriations bill to fight the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq currently going through Congress? Maybe you have, maybe you haven’t, but I bet you’ve heard about Stephen Colbert getting his head shaved.


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Posted by OHollern at 04:04 PM
Touchy, Touchy

From CBS News:

Israeli TV newscasters Tuesday night interpreted a photo taken Monday in the Oval Office of President Obama talking on the phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as an “insult” to Israel.

They saw the incident as somewhat akin to an incident last year, when the Iraqi reporter threw a shoe at President Bush in Baghdad.

It is considered an insult in the Arab world to show the sole of your shoe to someone. It is not a Jewish custom necessarily, but Israel feels enough a part of the Middle East after 60 years to be insulted too…

Israel’s Channel One TV reported that Netanyahu was told Tuesday by an “American official” in Jerusalem that, “We are going to change the world. Please, don’t interfere.” The report said Netanyahu’s aides interpreted this as a “threat.”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:28 PM
June 09, 2009
If Not Now, When?

Who needs the Mafia when we’ve got Congress? Here’s a taste from William Greider. Go read it all in The Nation.

The much-celebrated “Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights” is a fresh example of how the Democratic Party tries to have it both ways — avoiding the tough votes while mollifying the folks. The credit card reform measure imposes new rules on the industry and does away with many of the most outrageous gimmicks bankers use to extract more money from debtors. Banks cannot raise interest rates retroactively on old credit card balances or pile on hidden fees or fail to give advance notice for rate increases. These and other changes are worthy.

The achievement seems less courageous if you know that Congress was largely ratifying the regulatory rules already adopted by the Federal Reserve last year. Or that the legislation gives the industry another nine months to gouge their customers before the new rules go into effect. Or that Visa and MasterCard, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase are free to raise future interest rates to the sky — without limit. That is the industry’s intention, as bank lobbyists reported after the bill was passed.

One of the fundamental issues that party managers wished to avoid was the scandal of American usury. Usury is the ancient sin of charging inflated interest rates sure to ruin the borrowers. It is considered immoral by Judaism, Christianity and Islam because usury involves the powerful using their wealth to ensnare weak and defenseless borrowers. The classic usurer offers an impossible choice that debtors cannot easily refuse. If they reject the terms of the loan, they will not be able to pay the rent or buy necessities. If they accept the usurious interest rates, their debts will accumulate until they are bankrupted (at which point the creditors claim their property). No civilized society can endure in such conditions.

Usury used to be illegal in the United States but it was “decriminalized” in 1980 — the dawn of financial deregulation. A Democratic president and Congress repealed all interest-rate controls and the federal law prohibiting usury. Thirty years later, American society is permeated with usurious practices — credit cards charging 30 percent and higher, subprime mortgages and other forms of predatory lending, the notorious “payday” loans that charge desperate working people an effective interest rate of 500 percent or more. Businesses, especially smaller firms, are also prey to usury in less direct ways…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:38 AM
June 08, 2009
Tree Peony


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:51 PM
Shameless Commerce Department: Autoerotic Asphyxia

The circumstances of David Carradine’s death in a Bangkok hotel closet seemed more unusual than they were. I learned about the prevalence of autoerotic asphyxia while doing research for my second Tom Bethany mystery, Strangle Hold.

Steve Russell, a judge and a professor of criminal justice, tells you all you probably need to know about the phenomenon at The Rag Blog. Or you could do what I did, and dig up a copy of Autoerotic Fatalities, by Hazelwood, Dietz and Burgess.

Or, best of all, buy a copy of Strangle Hold and educate yourself the painless way. From the reviews:

Through his Tom Bethany character, a private investigator with no clear clientele, but an intense focus on righting wrongs, Doolittle lets readers know immediately — NO, NOW! — what’s wrong with bureaucrats, lots of businessmen, some cops, lawyers and many others whose very existence makes others suffer. And, oh, yeah. Lots of Republicans.

And…

Great Characters, I laughed out loud at “The Hocker.” One of the best. Do read as soon as possible. Like all his books catches you on page one, and then the squeeze is on. Thankfully back in print.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:56 AM
Saving Us from Ourselves

Father knows best, except, just maybe, when he’s sold us out to his campaign contributors in the insurance industry. Robert Parry at Consortium News:

As the health insurance industry and its defenders in Congress lay out their case against permitting a public option in a reform bill, perhaps their most curious argument is that some 119 million Americans are ready to dump their private plans and jump to something more like Medicare – and that’s why the choice can’t be permitted.

In other words, the industry and its backers are acknowledging that more than one-third of the American people are so dissatisfied with their private health insurance that they trust the U.S. government to give them a fairer shake on health care. The industry says its allies in Congress must prevent that.

The peculiar argument that 119 million Americans must be denied the public option that they prefer has been made most notably by Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, which is one of two panels that has jurisdiction over the health insurance bill…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:28 AM
In Praise of Efficient Markets, Especially in Health Care

At least we’re finally getting to the core of the argument about health care.

In a nutshell, the question is whether insurance companies should be allowed to continue their bloodsucking ways, insulated from market forces; or whether their high-paid execs should be given that free market they claim to want, competing against a so-called public option similar to Medicare.

Medicare is clearly cheaper and provides better outcomes, which is why the health-care industry, so called, is against it.

…critics argue that with low administrative costs and no need to produce profits, a public plan will start with an unfair pricing advantage. They say that if a public plan is allowed to pay doctors and hospitals at levels comparable to Medicare’s, which are substantially below commercial insurance rates, it could set premiums so low it would quickly consume the market.

Although the numbers are disputed by public plan advocates, the Lewin Group, a health care consulting firm, recently projected that a plan paying Medicare rates would prompt 119 million of the 172 million people who are privately insured to switch policies (while also providing coverage to 28 million of the 46 million uninsured).

Makes sense, if you consider it. A public, or single-payer, plan would have less overhead and therefore be cheaper. Any idiot can see that, even an insurance-company executive. Then there’s the negotiating leverage, currently firmly in the grasp of execs from the drug and health-care companies, that would naturally end up in the hands of consumers. Namely, you and me.

It’s so unfair, so contrary to the basic philosophy of capitalism, to start with a pricing advantage arising from superior efficiency and reduced need for profit! It’s cheating, really; you can see why true capitalists want to be insulated from such practices.

Capitalism, to paraphrase Prudhon, is theft. The sooner we realize that money is holding up the advance of civilization, the sooner we grow up and reach for the stars. Universal health care should be a basic human right: if you exist, you get health care. And food, clothing, housing, education, and transportation. We could do all that now if we chose, but we don’t because it wouldn’t serve to concentrate wealth.

Sunset all corporations; force those whose aspirations require a large gap between themselves and others to declare that fact publicly. After all, markets are most efficient when most fully informed.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 04:59 AM
June 07, 2009
NOT AS CRAZY AS SANTORUM, ANYWAY

Talk about your great bumper stickers, huh? Here’s one Pennsylvania Democrat’s welcome to her party’s newest senator:

Pam Janvey, a Democratic committeewoman from Bucks County, found Specter’s presence at the gathering more than a little odd. “Am I in a dream?” she asked.

Janvey said that Specter hit all the right notes in his speech on Saturday and that although she had worked to defeat Specter in the past and never voted for him, she would back him this time around.

“Even when I have worked against Arlen over the years,” Janvey said, “I never felt the kind of fear that I did when I worked against Santorum…”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:31 AM
June 06, 2009
Workers of the World, Unite!

Read these stories from today’s New York Times back to back. The first tells how the disgraced and incompetent but very, very rich gamblers from Wall Street rolled the President of the United States. The second tells how the Prime Minister of Russia rolled Russia’s richest man.

Okay, okay, I know. The parallels are not exact. Russia is not the United States. Putin is not Obama. Fine. But here’s something to think about. Unlike the unpaid factory workers in Pikalevo, our unpaid factory workers are, by and large, taking their beating from Wall Street and shutting up about it. Only when they start kicking and hollering as loud as their Russian counterparts will Obama have the political muscle to cram down his various cram-downs.

Tangentially on this point, here’s Heather K. Gerken at Balkinization:

Some naively think that the Obama administration can pass anything it wants because the Obama campaign had so many energized supporters and such an impressive grassroots network.

That’s a mistake. Electioneering is different from governing. Note, for instance, how hard it’s been to convert Obama for America into an equally muscular Organizing for America. Elections are the rare moments when voters pay attention; the drama of the race focuses people’s attention on the issues, and candidates provide human stand-ins for abstract policy proposals. Politics, in short, is what happens when policy gets personal.

When candidates turn to the workaday project of governing, voters tend to fall away. They stop organizing, they stop volunteering … they even stop paying attention. That is precisely why passing policies comparable in scope to the New Deal is exceedingly hard to do…

Voters use party ID as a rough proxy for holding election officials accountable. The problem is that voting based on party ID isn’t usually enough to put the fear of God into politicians; it’s too rough a proxy for holding politicians accountable on specific issues. Americans want health care reform, yet they routinely vote for politicians who don’t provide it. As long as people vote based on general conditions, not specific legislative failures, the status quo remains a pretty safe option for politicians.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:16 PM
June 05, 2009
An Historic Day

Why is it so important to recall where we were on any given historic day? This seems to be the parlour game du jour on any famous anniversary. It was all the rage the other morning on CNN, with Kyra Phillips announcing the twentieth anniversary of the Tienanmen Square massacre with the breathless excitement of someone declaring we’ve found a cure for cancer. “Where were you on that historic day?”

She reminded me of a sexier, kinkier, russet-haired version of Miss Nancy from Romper Room making sure that all us kids knew it was a BIG DAY!

So where was I?

Uh, I dunno. Going to work? Doing the laundry? Watching it happen on TV? (Bingo!) The same thing I do every day. Why ask? An individual’s immediate, perceptual experience of a given event may be important to them, but it isn’t really all that significant in a larger context, and it’s beyond tedious to hear about.

Just once, I’d like to hear some man-in-the-street testimonial of this sort that had some symbolic or metaphorical value:

Well, I was sitting at my breakfast nook eating Grape Nuts and doing a crossword puzzle, trying to figure out a seven letter word for masturbation that starts with ‘O’, when word came over the TV that the U.S. had captured Manuel Noriega. I stopped, stared at the television, marvelled at what a historic moment it was, and resumed eating. When my children came downstairs, I told them, “Look, kids, this is an historic day,” to which they brusquely replied, “Who cares?” “I hate history,” and “I can never remember dates,” and that was that. I went back to my crossword, with terms like ‘Operation Just Cause’, ‘Pre-Dawn Vertical Insertion’ and ‘Operation Nifty Package’ jangling around my head, when it suddenly hit me: Onanism! That was it! Onanism, a word I’d never heard outside of Bible study. Now, and for the rest of my days, I will associate the glorious climax of Operation Just Cause with defeating Panama and re-discovering a synonym for masturbation. Ah, yes, January 3, 1990, a magic day!

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Posted by OHollern at 10:59 PM
Birds of a Feather

Robert Dreyfuss’s take in The Nation on the Cairo speech:

But the emerging apoplexy on Planet Neocon is a sign that Obama did something right in Cairo. Interesting, isn’t it, that with Hamas praising Obama, the only criticism of the Cairo speech is coming from (1) the neocons and their allies, and (2) Osama bin Laden, who is clearly panicking about Obama’s play for mainstream and conservative Muslim opinion. Strange bedfellows, indeed.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 02:41 PM
Geeks and Greedheads

Here’s what was happening while our “best and brightest” were studying economics at Harvard (a notorious gut major when I was teaching there) so they could be yuppie investment bankers and never grow up.

Last month, my news assistant came in with a new Blackberry. Only it wasn’t a Blackberry. It was a cheap Chinese knockoff of a Blackberry. Of course, the Chinese knockoff wasn’t the same as a real Blackberry. It was better.

He’d had a real Blackberry for six months — bought it on a trip to the US for $400, then had to pay another hundred or so in Vietnam to get it unlocked for local mobile service — and it was inconvenient and flukey. The new one, he found easier to use. The parts, obviously, were exactly the same — they clearly came from the same factories. But he even found the Chinese software more convenient. They were adding features that hadn’t existed on the “real” Blackberry. The knockoff cost $150.

I thought about this after reading this Derek Thompson Atlantic Business post referencing BusinessWeek’s Michael Mandel’s article arguing that the US may be losing its innovative edge. Mandel points out that the US ran a $30 billion trade surplus in advanced tech in 1998. By 2007 it was a $53 billion deficit. Thompson asks: “Where Mandel’s explanation comes up short is: What are these innovators doing wrong?”

The example of the Chinese knockoff Blackberry suggests that maybe US innovators aren’t doing anything wrong. It’s just that they’re now competing against Chinese innovators, where they weren’t 10 years ago. This may have happened for two reasons. The first is that lack of intellectual property protection, combined with the outsourcing of manufacturing for all those high-tech products to China, gradually destroyed the US’s technological edge.

The second is that in 1998, China didn’t have very many top-flight engineers. But they’ve spent the last 10 years doing nothing but graduate engineers, and now, they do. And that changes everything.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:59 PM
Stairs to Hayloft



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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 01:00 PM
June 04, 2009
The Voice of the Loyal Opposition

Here’s Rush Limbaugh again, still scribbling away on the walls of America’s toilets:

They don’t like Gitmo, we have to shut it down. They don’t like what we’ve done, fine, Obama will run around and apologize. I’m telling you, folks, it is not the United States of America that serves as Barack Obama’s role model. It’s other socialist nations that have failed and the concept of socialism that is his role model. I’ll tell you what, stupid little community organizer, organize this.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:49 AM
June 03, 2009
Nostalgie de la Bush

Here we have Mitt Romney, the silver-tongued orator of the GOP, offering advice to the rhetorically-challenged Barack Obama:

WASHINGTON – Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Wednesday accused President Barack Obama of failing to sufficiently highlight America’s strengths in his travels and speeches around the world…

Interviewed from Boston on NBC’s “Today” show as Obama set out on a tour that will include a speech in Egypt on U.S. relations with the Islamic world, Romney said that “of course, America makes mistakes.” But he also said considers it inappropriate to “go around the world apologizing.”

Romney, who unsuccessfully sought the Republican presidential nomination last year, said Obama should talk more about the sacrifices the United States has made on other nations’ behalf, such as during World War II, “what we have done in blood and sacrifice.”

If I’m understanding this correctly, and I am, Romney is accusing Obama of failure to be a sufficiently arrogant asshole.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 03:08 PM
Unfortunately You Can’t Castrate Sotomayor

Sparky Satori at Shorts and Pants reminds us of a former racist activist on the Supreme Court — Chief Justice William Rehnquist. A superior work of snark, found in its entirety here.

November of last year, it was assumed that the USofA had finally vanquished the lingering ghosts of racism and was poised on the cusp of a new post-racial dawn. The long dark night of lynching and discrimination was finally over. “Huzzah!” bleated the media, smugly self-congratulatory.

But that was then. This is worse. And leave it to the hyper-sensitive Republicans to sniff out whiffs of the new racism being foisted upon the nation by its first black President. GOP stalwarts Newt Gringrich and Rush Limbaugh were quick to alert the country to a leading practitioner of this new racism, Sonia “Maria” Sotomayor ["SoSo" to her non-friends]. But she’s not your average garden-variety racist, according to the GOP braintrust. Per Newt and Rush, she is a “reverse racist,” rarer than even the “Albino Negro.” This alone should disqualify her from sitting on the Supreme Court, which has never, ever had any benchers who suffered from an iota of racial insensitivity…

Here’s a snippet from the Nixon tapes to give you an idea of the vetting process from which Rehnquist emerged. Full transcript here. As always with Nixon, fascinating stuff. Sure he was evil, but nobody ever called him dumb.

RMN: Yeah, all right, call me back when you get it. But remember, let’s figure on the Rehnquist thing. The political mileage basically is the same kind of mileage if we were to go with Smith. The idea being that we are appointing a highly qualified man. That’s really what it gets down to.

[Attorney General] John Mitchell: Yeah.

RMN: And also he doesn’t smack of the corporate lawyer as much as Smith.

JM: No, he’s more of a general practitioner.

RMN: Incidentally, what is Rehnquist? I suppose he’s a damn Protestant?

JM: I’m sure of that. He’s just as WASPish as WASPish can be.

RMN: Yeah, well, that’s too damn bad. Tell him to change his religion.

JM: All right, I’ll get him baptized this afternoon.

RMN: Well, get him baptized and castrated, no, they don’t do that, I mean they circumcise— no, that’s the Jews. Well anyway, whatever he is, get him changed.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 10:52 AM
Rafters



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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 09:18 AM
George Just Likes to Blow Things Up

Christopher Hitchens on the late Amos Elon, in Slate:

His lifetime as an Israeli journalistic insider gave him the most extraordinary sources. One day in Washington several years ago, as it became obvious that things in Baghdad were becoming hellish for the American-led coalition in the Iraq war, he told me the following story. In the run-up to the intervention in Iraq, the United States had approached the Israelis and asked how many citizens they had who spoke “Iraqi Arabic” — i.e., who had lived in Iraq before they had left or been expelled and who understood the local idioms and vernacular. The answer was that there were still quite a few. A group of these was put aboard an AWACS plane that flew high over Iraqi airspace and asked to listen in to radio traffic between Iraqi officers as the date of the Bush ultimatum to Saddam drew nearer.

When debriefed, all the former Iraqi Jews were of one opinion: Saddam’s army would not fight, and many of its soldiers had already decided to melt away when the attack began. I thought this was a mildly interesting anecdote and indeed told him so, on the Watergate balcony where we happened to be standing. He was exasperated with me. “Don’t you see?” he said. “This means that all the ‘shock and awe,’ all the damage to Baghdad, all of that, was completely needless? We could have brought down Saddam without smashing Iraq.” I have been brooding on this ever since.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 08:20 AM
June 02, 2009
R.I.P. GOP

That rancid rust-bucket that is the Republican Party sits ever lower in the water and appears to be foundering. Should we attempt a rescue or let the wretched old tub sink to the bottom? The vote here is for the coup de grâce. Put a torpedo into her amidships and let her go down without further ado. Glub, glub, GOP; it’ll be a far better world without you.

There was a time when the Republican Party stood for something, or at least appeared to stand for something. It took its name and founding philosophy from the Jeffersonian republican ideal, although the party would soon enough make a mockery of its idealistic name by becoming the champion of short-sighted greed and selfishness, the party of business.

But it started out as the party of the antislavery activists in the 1850s and came to power with the election of Lincoln in 1860. It was the party of the Tafts, dull, toothy Ohioans, who championed a conservative philosophy of self-reliance and fiscal responsibility, a credo now honored mostly in the breach. For reckless economic policy, no party has ever come close to the modern GOP. And it started with Reagan and his supply-side shenanigans. You may recall that Bush Senior referred to this nonsense as “voodoo economics.”

It was the party of Teddy Roosevelt, who took on the big corporate monopolies and, when he wasn’t starting wars or shooting beautiful animals, upheld a certain maverick standard of governmental integrity. It was the party of Grant and Eisenhower, successful warriors, each of whom served two terms in the White House without ever quite getting the hang of the job or looking like they really wanted it.

Then there was handsome, hapless Warren Harding, another Ohioan, and his equally inspiring successor, Calvin Coolidge. Coolidge famously said, “The chief business of the American people is business.” He is remembered mostly for wearing an Indian headdress. And don’t forget Hoover, who said, after the great Wall Street crash, that the markets would restore financial order if given the chance.

And, of course, there was Nixon and his infamous Committee to Reelect the President, aptly shortened to CREEP. And Reagan, who played the part so well many people believed he actually knew what he was doing. And Bush Two. And Bush Two again.

Somehow the country survived two terms of W., but will his party? How can any self-respecting Republican even whisper words of fiscal integrity in the mountainous shadow of a Bush-incurred debt so high it blots out the sun? Well, silly question. Of course they can, have, and will again, but the difference is that now nobody takes them seriously. When Newt Gingrich emerges from under his troll’s bridge to test the presidential waters, is this not a sign that the party is in its death throes?

Meanwhile, all those Wall Street banks, those bastions of fiscal discipline and Republican virtue, have lined up for billion-dollar hand-outs from a Democratic administration. Whether or not the big bailouts were a good idea is debatable. What is not debatable is the spectacular hypocrisy of the big shots that flew down to Washington in private jets to beg Congress for public money. How many of them were not Republicans?


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Posted by Paul Duffy at 07:25 PM
June 01, 2009
The Legal Mind

From The Symbols of Government, by Thurman W. Arnold. He was a Yale Law School professor and FDR’s trust-buster, and then a founder of the Washington mega-firm, Arnold & Porter.

This is the attitude of the so-called “legal mind.” Thomas Reed Powell of Harvard has described that attitude as follows: “If you think that you can think about a thing inextricably attached to something else without thinking of the thing which it is attached to, then you have a legal mind.”

Arnold and Powell were advocates of what is now called situationism. Back in law schools of their day it was was called “legal realism.” By the 1970s the same general approach had been reborn as “critical legal studies.”

P.S. An hour or so after posting this, I came across this on Politico. Now “legal realism” is being used by the GOP faithful as a stick to beat Sonia Sotomayor. Reality is always the enemy of religion — in this case the absurd religion of the law.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 05:45 PM