From the The Guardian:
As purchases of General Atomics’s MQ-9 Reaper ballooned from 60 aircraft in 2007 to the current 401, air force officials did not justify the need for an expanding drone fleet, the Pentagon said.
During that time, costs for purchasing one of the signature counter-terrorism weapons of Barack Obama’s presidency increased by 934%, from $1.1bn to more than $11.4bn, according to a declassified September report by the Pentagon inspector general. Purchasing costs are a fraction of what the drones cost to operate and maintain over their time in service: in 2012, the Pentagon estimated the total costs for them at $76.8bn.
Anyone who reads the papers and cares about these things was already familiar, in general terms, with most of the horrors contained in the redacted summary of the Senate’s torture report.
But the details count, and are sufficiently gruesome to insure that we will never do such things again. Anymore than no trigger-happy cop will ever again murder an unarmed civilian.
One detail that struck me was how easy it is to con many, many, many millions of dollars out of the CIA in return for a steaming pile of horse shit. Just ask a couple of quack psychologists named James E. Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. They walked away with 81 million bucks, not bad for a couple of sociopathic clowns.
Their function was to provide advice on inflicting the maximum amount of pain without leaving marks on prisoners held by George Tenet, Dick Cheney and George W. Bush. Actually a good deal of work had already been done in this field by various Popes and Puritan divines, Hitler, Stalin, Pinochet, and on and on. More humbly, plenty of American prison guards and police detectives have more hands-on experience than Mitchell and Jessen, and work cheap. Scholarly studies in the field include The Story of O and the Marquis de Sade’s seminal work, Justine. Both are available as eBooks, at no charge.
From The Guardian:
In November 2002, a suspected Afghan militant, Gul Rahman, died of hypothermia inside a CIA black site north of Kabul known as the Salt Pit. Rahman had been left in a cold cell, stripped from the waist down and had been doused in water, according to reports from the Associated Press.
The torture report contains more details on Rahman’s death, including details of the CIA’s interrogation methodology used. This included “48 hours of sleep deprivation, auditory overload, total darkness, isolation a cold shower and rough treatment”. The CIA Headquarters did not approve these methods in advance, the report says. But the day before Rahman’s death, one CIA officer ordered that Rahman be shackled to the wall of his cell and sat on the cold floor whilst naked from the waist down. CIA headquarters had approved the use of “enhanced measures” at this point.
The CIA officer who sent these instructions received no reprimand. Instead, four months later, he was given a $2,500 cash reward for his “consistently superior work”.
From USA Today:
AUSTIN -- Some 100 jars of brains, possibly including one from infamous UT sniper Charles Whitman, have gone missing from a psychology lab at the University of Texas at Austin…
Waterboarding is in the grand old High WASP tradition, it seems. My son Mike came across this excerpt from George Biddle’s autobiography in a 1939 edition of Harper’s Magazine. The Reverend Endicott Peabody founded Groton School in 1884, with the object of shaping the moral character of rich kids.
For Peabody, the primary method of instilling a “manly, Christian character” was through athletics, primarily football. Sports taught cooperation, teamwork, along with a respect for following rules and sportsmanship. Everyone had to play. A letter from 1909 conveys the importance that Peabody placed on football. “In my work at Groton I am convinced that football is of profound importance for the moral even more than the physical development of the boys. In these days of exceeding comfort, the boys need an opportunity to endure hardness, and, it may be, suffering.”
Discipline was administered in a hierarchical manner by the faculty and older boys. George Biddle, who went on to become a well known artist, recounts going to a secluded basement bathroom and watching a dozen third form boys punishing a new boy, “little Teddy Roosevelt”, then 14 and the son of Theodore Roosevelt, who had violated some unspoken rule.
One boy held a stopwatch as the others held the offender under a faucet where the water “came from the open spigot with tremendous force and the stream could be concentrated in violence by thumb and forefinger. Besides the culprit was winded and frightened and held upside down during the pumping. He was being forcibly drowned for eight or ten seconds…” He recounts how they water boarded “little Teddy Roosevelt”, not for a specific transgression, but to send a message to the whole second form whose “tone … we disapproved of.” Amazingly, Teddy “was very plucky and began answering back. Shouts arose: ‘Shut up! Under again. Shut him up!” So they waterboarded him twice.
…nor do I play one on TV like some Republicans I could mention. Watch this amazing time-lapse picture of the sun and wonder. There are more things in heaven and earth, Marco Rubio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy
…not if you live in the White House.
Googling myself, I just now came across a piece I had forgotten writing for Salon back during the 2008 presidential campaign:
Is a man fit to be commander in chief if he won’t even fly the flag from his buttonhole?
Does that man, Barack Obama, think he’s “too good — too patriotic! — to wear a flag pin on his chest?” Because that’s what William Kristol believes.
Grow up, the Chicago Sun-Times advises: “Oh for Pete’s sake, Senator Obama, pin the darn American flag to your chest.” Otherwise, the poor dope will “catch a world of hurt for … polarizing comments [that] make him sound like a hardened leftist.”
Has Obama’s failure to wear a flag pin really done “more damage to his White House hopes than a bomb bursting in air?” The New York Daily News thinks so.
Or is it just possible that Barack Obama knows more about getting to be president than all of these pundits laid end to end, as they probably should be? Is it possible that an empty buttonhole might actually help a candidate of either party, now that the nation’s No. 1 flag-wearer is circling the bowl with the lowest presidential approval ratings ever recorded?
Let’s go beyond the Beltway and take a look. Out there on the campaign trail, who’s actually been wearing lapel flags in this race and who hasn’t — and how’s that been working out for you guys anyway?
On April 26 of last year in Orangeburg, S.C., the Democrats held the first debate in the campaign that never ends. First thing that morning the candidates were all in a hurry to throw on their clothes, grabbing any old thing that came to hand. Yeah, right.
It was the most important day of their political lives to date, and they agonized over each tiny sartorial decision. Windsor knot or four-in-hand? Blue or red?
Here’s where everybody came out on lapel flags. The photo coverage of the debate shows that only Joe Biden decided to wear one. The other seven — Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, Bill Richardson, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards and Chris Dodd — went without.
Of course you’d expect that from a bunch of surrender monkeys, wouldn’t you? So let’s turn to the Republicans, tough-talking patriots to a man. Their first debate came a week later in Simi Valley, Calif. And sure enough, Tommy Thompson, Tom Tancredo and Rudy Giuliani, nonveterans all, were careful to pin on their flags.
Wait a minute, though. Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Sam Brownback, Jim Gilmore, Duncan Hunter and Mike Huckabee all left their little flags back home on the bureau. And so did John McCain. Hmm.
By May 15, at the Columbia, S.C., Republican debate, Tancredo had stopped wearing his flag. By June, Democratic candidate Joe Biden had deflagged as well.
The only candidate of either party who chose to add a flag in the course of the campaign was Bill Richardson, who flagged up toward the end of the summer. With Biden’s flag gone by then, Richardson had become the only Democratic candidate to wear a flag in the debates.
On the Republican side, Tommy Thompson continued to wear his flag till the bitter end, which came in August when he placed sixth in the Iowa straw polls. The empty Thompson slot was filled the following month by Fred. The lobbyist/actor picked up Tommy’s banner, so to speak, and was still wearing it in January when he, too, dropped out.
Rudy Giuliani, who probably wears a flag to bed, dropped out a week later after racking up a pathetic 15 percent of the vote in the Florida Republican primary.
Do we see a subtle pattern emerging here? Every presidential candidate of both parties who ever wore a lapel flag during the debates, even as briefly as Biden, bought himself a one-way ticket to Palookaville.
And every major party candidate who remains viable today — John McCain, Mike Huckabee, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama — has seldom if ever been spotted with a flag in his or her lapel.
Don’t think the press hasn’t been noticing, either. To this day there has been a steady drumbeat of silence in the media over the flaglessness of Huckabee’s, Clinton’s and McCain’s lapels.
Nor would Obama’s disrespect have made news if only he had thought to point the finger at everyone else still in the race when a TV reporter posed his trivia question back in October. But instead he gave an honest if incomplete answer.
Obama said he had worn a pin after 9/11 but stopped once he began to notice, and here I paraphrase wildly but no doubt accurately, that most of the people still wearing lapel flags were assholes.
On the evidence of the campaign so far, Obama wasn’t the only one who noticed. Clinton, Huckabee and McCain, we may say with confidence, would wear anything or even nothing at all if they thought it would help them win the nomination. Then why, when it came to miniature flags, did the three join Obama in opting for nothing?
Dosed with Pentothal, each would most likely come up with a variant of the answer Obama had hinted at: that lapel flags no longer signify simple patriotism, but something that you don’t want sticking to your fingers these days.
For these past six years and more, men with those bright little flags apparently riveted to their lapels have fed the voters a daily diet of fear, secrecy, lies and a cruel war with neither point nor end.
No sensible politician would want to march under this tiny, metallic banner. Just look at all the fallen stars who did.
Nevertheless Obama, once in office, seems to have had the stars and bars stapled immediately to every lapel in his closet. What was he afraid people would think he was president of? Kenya?
I knew if I looked hard enough there’d be some good news coming out of yesterday’s election. From the New York Times::
PORTLAND, Maine — Bear hunting with bait, dogs, traps will stay legal in Maine because voters rejected a ballot initiative to ban the methods.
Animal rights advocates and others pushed for the law change, which they said would have eliminated cruel and unsportsmanlike hunting methods. Hunting groups, outfitters and the state Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife campaigned hard against the referendum.
Bait — typically sugary human food such as doughnuts — is by far the most common method of bear hunting and accounts for about four-fifths of the hunt.
A recent front-page political “news” analysis in the New York Times ran under the headline, “A Steady Loss Of Confidence.” Confidence in the expected performance of the units within our national government, that is. The article’s support for this premise was lengthy: the VA failures, the Secret Service failures, the Ebola epidemic control failures, the IRS failures, the Border Patrol failures, the bungled roll-out of the Affordable Care Act.
In the next day’s Times, an article discussed the seemingly flawed and apparently deadly design in the highway guardrails made by the Trinity company. The article noted that the Federal Highway Administration “had defended the product for more than two years, even after it learned that Trinity had changed the design in 2005 without notifying the government, as required.”
In response to this, according to the article, “Brian Farber, a spokesman for the Transportation Department, said in a statement, ‘As we have previously stated, we are going to leave no stone unturned in getting to the bottom of this issue.’” Are those the same stones that it failed to turn over during the nine years since learning of the redesign, and the several years during that time when motorists’ injuries and deaths related to the guardrails were being reported?
We do not think our government people should say stupid stuff, stuff that carries no detectable information or even simple meaning. Mr. Farber should be fired for saying stupid stuff. His section head and his advisors should be fired for approving stupid stuff to say. The head of the entire Transportation Department should be fired for supporting the employment of stupid people or — worse — people co-opted by industry.
No wonder we are all perpetually pissed off. It seems clear by now that our current President’s inexperience in government, despite his other, better qualities, has born fruit. Can we reasonably expect anything different from the next President, or the next Congress? Before you reply, remember: don’t say stupid stuff.
Each day brings new wonders in my search for the perfect asshole. I had heard neither of canned hunts nor of a specimen named Ted Nugent. Now that I have, my lack of faith in the human race is powerfully reinforced:
In most canned hunts tame or semi-tame game species, reared in captivity, are placed in enclosures of varying sizes, and the gate is opened for the client, who has been issued a guarantee of success. Canned hunts are great for folks on tight schedules or who lack energy or outdoor skills. Microchip transponder implants for game not immediately visible are available for the proprietor whose clients are on really tight schedules. And because trophies are plied with drugs, minerals, vitamins, specially processed feeds, and sometimes growth hormones, they are way bigger than anything available in the wild. Often the animals have names, and you pay in advance for the one you’d like to kill, selecting your trophy from a photo or directly from its cage. For example, Rachel, Bathsheba, Paul, John, and Matthew were pet African lions that would stroll over and lick their keepers’ hands before they were shot in Texas…
“If we don’t protect our image, we may not have a heritage,” says the Colorado Wildlife Federation’s treasurer and board member, Kent Ingram, a leader in the recent well-fought but failed battle to ban canned hunts in the state. He reports that he was informed by a Denver taxidermist that half the elk coming in to be mounted had tattooed lips, which identify captives. Ingram also said he had reliable information that one canned-hunt customer had flown into Colorado and paid $40,000 to kill a Minnesota-raised bull that had been trucked in for the one-day shoot.
Today’s award is shared equally between Judge Thomas Keith in Peoria, Illinois, and that city’s mayor, Jim Ardis. In 140 words:
A Swat team burst into Elliott’s house in Peoria looking for the source of a parody Twitter feed that had upset the town’s mayor by poking fun at him. “My identity as mayor was stolen,” he said after he dispatched the police… A Peoria judge ruled that the police were entitled to raid the house under the town’s “false personation” law which makes it illegal to pass yourself off as a public official. Judge Thomas Keith found that police had probable cause to believe they would find materials relevant to the Twitter feed such as computers or flash drives used to create it. It is not known whether he now regrets his decision to send in the Swat team. One measure of its success is that there is no longer one parody feed ridiculing Ardis on Twitter — there are 15.
From the New York Times:
On Fox News on Monday, a county sheriff in Texas said he had received reports that Qurans and Muslim clothing had been found on smuggling routes. He said that was evidence that Muslims had been smuggled into the United States.
“If they show their ugly head in our area, we’ll send them to hell,” said the sheriff, Gary Painter, of Midland County. “I would like for them to hit them so hard and so often that every time they hear a propeller on a plane or a jet aircraft engine that they urinate down both legs. When you do that, then you’ve accomplished a lot.”
…brought to you by Alternet:
In Israel, Jewish women fought for years for the right to pray at the Western Wall, braving routine threats, abuse and harassment by ultra-Orthodox Haredi Jews who believe the holy site should only be open to men. Finally, the reformers won a ruling in Israel’s courts, opening up a designated prayer section at the wall for women. The ultra-Orthodox responded by ordering their own wives and daughters to show up en masse and pack the women’s section, so that the women who actually want to pray there and who fought for the right to do so couldn’t get in.
From The Washington Post:
At least four hostages held in Syria by the Islamic State, including an American journalist who was recently executed by the group, were waterboarded in the early part of their captivity, according to people familiar with the treatment of the kidnapped Westerners.
James Foley was among the four who were waterboarded several times by Islamic State militants who appeared to model the technique on the CIA’s use of waterboarding to interrogate suspected terrorists after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks…
…from that mean old Congress:
WASHINGTON — Just after the Senate Intelligence Committee voted in April to declassify hundreds of pages of a withering report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s detention and interrogation program, C.I.A. Director John O. Brennan convened a meeting of the men who had played a role overseeing the program in its seven-year history…
Mr. Tenet, who declined to be interviewed for this article, has arranged a number of conference calls with former C.I.A. officials to discuss the impending report. After private conversations with Mr. Brennan, he and two other former C.I.A. directors — Porter J. Goss and Michael V. Hayden — drafted a letter to Mr. Brennan asking that, as a matter of fairness, they be allowed to see the report before it was made public. Describing the letter, one former C.I.A. officer who spoke on condition of anonymity said that the former directors “think that those people who were heavily involved in the operations have a right to see what’s being said about them.”
Wisdom from Ronald Reagan’s Peggy Noonan, in the immigrant Rudolph Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal:
There is every sign [Obama] let the crisis on the border build to put heat on Republicans and make them pass his idea of good immigration reform. It would be “comprehensive,” meaning huge, impenetrable and probably full of mischief. His base wants it. It would no doubt benefit the Democratic Party in the long term.
The little children in great danger, holding hands, staring blankly ahead, are pawns in a larger game. That game is run by adults. How cold do you have to be to use children in this way?
Judging by the above excerpt, Peggy, precisely as cold as you.
On that April morning of 1983, when Ronald Reagan was presumably in the Oval Office, John Reid was in what remained of his office in our Beirut embassy, lying under the debris of a fallen wall:
“The first thing I heard was Beth in the adjacent office, shouting, ‘John, are you okay?’ I replied, ‘I don’t think so.’ Blood was running from my face and scalp, I had lost my glasses, I could see out of only one eye, and I was pinned to the floor.”
John, later a colleague of mine in Laos, survived his injuries and so did Ambassador Robert Dillon. But 63 others died. The quote above and the picture below are from Reid’s article, “The Deadliest Attack Ever,” in American Diplomacy. More from that article:
Recently, I listened to recordings of some statements to media after the 1983 bombing. I am astonished by some of my mistakes, some of the details I got wrong. I had not seen or remembered things correctly, I had not yet compared with my experiences with those of others, everything was chaotic and confused, and everyone was under enormous pressure to say something, to do something, to understand and explain what had happened. I regret my errors, I am glad that, 30 years later, they don’t matter, and that’s my excuse. I was not engaged in conspiracy or cover-up, nor were people responsible for errors and contradictions in similar circumstances after the September 11, 2012, Benghazi attack. To allege that they were is demeaning, self-serving and ridiculous.
Several months after the embassy bombing (and after Reagan had ignored numerous warnings that the detachment of American troops at the Beirut airport was a magnet for future terrorist attacks) a suicide bomber killed 241 U.S. Marines there. A mere two days later Reagan responded forcefully by launching “Operation Urgent Fury” (Seriously. You can’t make this shit up.) — an attack on Grenada. Eighty-seven people died in Reagan’s hasty changing of the subject, 18 of them American soldiers and sailors.
Most of our troops, however, were luckier:
The Army has awarded 8,612 medals to individual Americans involved in the October invasion of Grenada, although it never had more than about 7,000 officers and enlisted soldiers on the island.
So was Reagan, whose murderous little misdirection worked so well that he was not only not impeached, but re-elected by the fools he had kept safe from the threat to our freedoms posed by Grenada (population 91,000).
Here’s a small part of Jim Wright’s advice to the warhogs currently polluting the airwaves. For the full cathartic, go here.
What’s the goal? What’s the objective? Is it to end terrorism? Is it to enforce peace at the muzzle of a gun? Is it it to make defense contractors rich? Is it for jobs? Or is it for magic flying bunnies who shoot rainbows and cheap gasoline out of their little assholes to the sound of Yankee Doodle Dandy?
Or, or, is it just because you hate Barack Obama?
That’s it, isn’t it?
You sons of bitches one and all, you simpering capering madmen, this time at least have the courage to face the cameras, to look into America’s eyes, and tell them that their sons and daughters will be dying because you John McCain, because you Mitt Romney, because you Dick Cheney, because you Donald Rumsfeld, because you George W. Bush you lying bastard, because you conservatives hate Barack Obama and for no other reason. Go on, tell us, go on. Wave your little flags and beat your fleshy chests, roll out the marching bands and tell us just how many more American soldiers should die. Go on, put a number on it. Ten? A hundred? Fifty four thousand? How many of us have to die? How many more bodies will it take to satiate your mindless hunger for blood and revenge? How many more American lives are worth your insane hatred of the president? How many? How much further into debt should we drive our nation, another trillion dollars? Two? Ten? A hundred? Put a price on it you insane sons of bitches, go on, give me a number, write me a check. Tell me how much you’re willing to pay, show me the goddamned money. How many more years? How many? One? Five? Another decade? Fifty? What is it? Don’t wave your hands and make some vague prognostication, give me a number, how many lives, how much money, how many years? You look us in the eye and you fucking tell us…
Word has reached the Koch brothers that a few North Carolina judges remain unbought. From the New York Times:
RALEIGH, N.C. — The ad first appeared on television the Friday before last, a black-and-white spot charging that Justice Robin Hudson coddled child molesters and “sided with the predators” in a North Carolina Supreme Court dissent. It has run constantly since.
As notable as the ad’s content and frequency, though, is its source. It was created and aired not by one of Justice Hudson’s two opponents in Tuesday’s primary election, but by a group that had just received $650,000 from the Republican State Leadership Committee in Washington, which pools donations from corporations and individuals to promote conservatives in state politics and is now broadening its scope to target judicial races.
The sums have been unusual for such elections. The primary race for Justice Hudson’s Supreme Court seat alone has drawn more than $1 million — the bulk of it by independent groups including the Republican committee and an arm of the state Chamber of Commerce, which has spent $250,000 to promote both of her opponents with money from companies including Reynolds American, Blue Cross Blue Shield and Koch Industries…
If after-death rotation exists for atheists, Ayn Rand must be spinning in her grave. From today’s New York Times:
BOSTON — The death rate in Massachusetts dropped significantly after it adopted mandatory health care coverage in 2006, a study released Monday found, offering evidence that the country’s first experiment with universal coverage — and the model for crucial parts of President Obama’s health care law — has saved lives, health economists say.
The study tallied deaths in Massachusetts from 2001 to 2010 and found that the mortality rate — the number of deaths per 100,000 people — fell by about 3 percent in the four years after the law went into effect. The decline was steepest in counties with the highest proportions of poor and previously uninsured people. In contrast, the mortality rate in a control group of counties similar to Massachusetts in other states was largely unchanged…
Big deal. As the second paragraph clearly shows, Romneycare’s so-called “success” consists mainly of keeping a bunch of moochers and slackers on big government’s teat for a few more years.
I now count myself an early adherent to the life school of Ron Kaplan, chief executive of Trex, a manufacturer of outdoor decks. In today’s New York Times, he was asked, “How do you know which people to make your allies?” He replied, “By watching and listening. When people speak, you measure the variance between what they tell you is going to happen and what actually happens. The smaller the variance, the greater the credibility…”
This may at first strike you as a fancy restatement of the obvious, as it did me. But then I thought of the many pundits whose oracular certainties appear and reappear without end — yet are almost invariable proven wrong as to Mr. Kaplan’s “what actually happens.” I thought of Exhibit One, William Kristol, on the Iraq invasion and on the Affordable Care Act, to name two of many topics. I thought of the Times’s columnist Thomas Friedman on pretty much everything. I thought of the pompous talking-head David Gergen, and of the bloodthirsty military strategists John McCain and Lindsay Graham. Wrong, wrong, wrong time and again — but their confident predictions and prescriptions nevertheless continue to pop up time and again as VSPs (very serious pronouncements).
The Kaplan Principle seems therefore not to be obvious at all … and in any case its application is underutilized. Vastly. I have come to realize, as well, that under another banner the principle has been around for a while. In Western New York, where I grew up, we just disregarded someone who was wrong most of the time as being full of shit.
From the invaluable Catherine Rampell:
Then there are all the other really bizarre, often retrograde requirements that some teams have to regulate not only the cheerleaders’ professional appearances and performances but their private lives as well.
Here’s a selection of rules from the Buffalo Jills’ handbook, as published on Deadspin. It includes an entire section titled “General hygiene and lady body maintenance,” quoted here with typos intact:
“Do not be overly opinionated about anything.”
“When menstruating, use a product that right for your menstrual flow. A tampon too big can irritate and develop fungus. A product left in too long can cause bacteria or fungus build up. Products can be changed at least every 4 hours. Except when sleeping, they can be left in for the night.”
This from The Washington Post. Why am I not outraged?
Roughly half of the money — nearly $18 million — has gone to pay for fundraising and direct mail, largely provided by Washington-area firms. Meanwhile, tea party leaders and their family members have been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees, while their groups have doled out large sums for airfare, a retirement plan and even interior decorating.
The lavish spending underscores how the protest movement has gone professional, with national groups transforming themselves into multimillion-dollar organizations run by activists collecting six-figure salaries.
Three well-known groups — the Tea Party Patriots, the Tea Party Express and the Madison Project — have spent 5 percent or less of their money directly on election-related activity during this election cycle. Two other prominent tea party groups, the Senate Conservatives Fund and FreedomWorks, have devoted about 40 percent of their money to direct candidate support such as ads and yard signs.
From a Time story on Chelsea Manning, serving a barbarous 35-year sentence for committing the truth in a public place:
For starters, the Department of Defense was known as the Department of War until 1947, when the newly-created (and named) Air Force, along with the Army, gathered under the same roof for the first time with the Navy (the new outfit was known as the National Military Establishment until 1949).It would have been immediately clear to George Orwell (who was to publish 1984 two years later) that the United States was about to embark on a series of wars that would continue, almost unbroken, for the rest of the century and well into the next one.
War has always had, not to put to fine a point on it, a specific and violent meaning. With the end of World War II — and the beginning of the Cold War — the U.S. government found itself needing a standing Army for the first time in its history. Replacing War with Defense made the change more palatable.
From the Washington Post (via Herlander-Walking) comes final proof that we as a nation are completely, totally, inarguably, definitively, provably, and pathetically nuts. There is not a public (and hardly a private) swimming pool in America that doesn’t have a higher urine content than this:
Though California needs rain, not all of the American West is struggling with drought.
Portland, Ore., will discard 38 million gallons of drinking water after surveillance video showed a 19-year-old man urinating into a reservoir.
Frank Rich’s monthly essay in New York is out, and let’s hope he’s right. Which I think he is. Excerpt:
The received wisdom that sex scandals threaten a Hillary run is preposterous. It’s the reverse that’s true. The right’s inability to stanch its verbal diarrhea on the subject of female sexuality — whether provoked by rape, contraception, abortion, “traditional marriage,” gay marriage, gay parenting, or pop culture — did as much as anything to defeat Mitt Romney, his “binders full of women” notwithstanding, in 2012. (He lost women voters to Obama by 11 percentage points.) And that obsession with sex can defeat the GOP again. Todd Akin, the avatar of “legitimate rape,” may be gone, but many of the same political players will be in place in 2016 as in 2012 — more than a few of them alumni of the Clinton sexcapades of the 1990s.
No matter how much Republican leaders talk of reining in their sexist language (though not their policies) to counter charges that the GOP conducts a war on women, they just can’t help themselves. Whether or not there’s a war on women in 2016, there will be a rancorous and tasteless war on one woman. And it is guaranteed to backfire, drowning out fair G-rated questions about the Clintons’ dealings just as Monica and other “bimbo eruptions” drowned out such now-forgotten Clinton scandals as Filegate and Castle Grande.
…and May, June, July and so on.
Can there anything more pathetic than a grown “man” who would pay thousands of dollars to shoot a tame deer bred to have great, bulging deformed antlers?
(Now that I think of it, maybe there is. Back in the day in Laos, I worked for an American ambassador who would strap on his six-shooter when he went upcountry to our CIA base near the Plain of Jars, safely surrounded by spooks and our Hmong guerrillas. His own generation’s war was World War II, which he had sat out at our embassy in Switzerland.)
Can’t say I’ve searched the entire narrow span of the MSM, but this is the first major mention I’ve come across of the remote possibility that the United States might in some minuscule fashion if you viewed the matter from just the right angle hold some microscopic measure of responsibility under certain circumstances perhaps not totally unimaginable for the present mess in Crimea. From the New York Times, and good for them:
…Safeguarding this maritime muscle may well have been one reason President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia sent armed forces to seize Crimea. But is it possible that the Sevastopol base is just the most concrete manifestation of Russia’s deep interests in Ukraine that the United States and its NATO allies either ignored or forgot as they tried to bind it more tightly with the West?
For years, Mr. Putin has complained about the West moving unilaterally to reorder the Continental balance of power — promoting Western capitalism and democracy — with little indication anyone was heeding his concerns. Its courting of Ukraine, apparently, was a step too far, prompting Mr. Putin to risk sanctions and the worst conflict since the Cold War to make clear that Washington and its friends do not call all of the shots anymore…
Read the rest and then forward it to the idiot McCain and Graham, care of any of the Sunday talk shows.
From the New York Times:
In what represented a cautionary tale for terrorist teachers, and a cause of dark humor for ordinary Iraqis, a commander at a secluded terrorist training camp north of Baghdad unwittingly used a belt packed with explosives while conducting a demonstration early Monday for a group of militants, killing himself and 21 other members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, army and police officials said.
My day began with my wife informing me she was not quite 300 dollars overdrawn at the bank. By an odd coincidence, I was in a position to make up that shortfall for her. And since we were low on cat food and the grocery and the bank are in the same shopping center, I opted to drive down and deposit cash rather than to do an online transfer. I'm old enough to remember when depositing cash was the fastest way to do that sort of thing.
Well, the nice lady at the bank informed me that I had to show ID to deposit cash into an account for which I am not a signatory. That was irksome, but not as troubling as the fun fact she laid on me next: As of March 1, no one but the authorized user of a given account can make a cash deposit into that account. This, I was told, is a new federal regulation to combat money laundering. In the interests of politeness, I refrained from pointing out that perhaps our federal regulators should be directing their efforts toward the banks themselves, rather than the customers of those banks.
However, I was rude enough to point out that in performing a very straightforward transaction, the base assumption was that I am committing a crime, until proof to the contrary is provided. Nor is this the only day-to-day transaction that is so treated. If I wish to purchase certain (nominally) over-the-counter cold remedies, I have to provide ID — because the base assumption is that these products are mainly purchased to make meth. I have to provide ID to buy a compressed air cleaner for my computer — because the base assumption is that I am purchasing it to get high. Apparently, in our business-friendly America, we can no longer conceive of legitimate uses for a lot of the products being sold to us. (While we're at it, if I buy that compressed air cleaner at the right electronics chain, I will be asked on my way out to furnish proof that I did not shoplift it.)
Even more troubling is the thought I had getting into my car: Apparently our government now views its own currency mainly in terms of how it can be used to break the law. Tell me I'm overreacting...
For the absolutely final final word on those anti-Christian and anti-life subhuman obscenities in Texas who tried to use a corpse to delay the still-birth of a doomed deformity, go to Stonekettle. And be glad you don’t live in Texas, unless you do. In which case embarrassment, despair, shame, regret or emigration would all be appropriate.
I gave David Brooks a pass on his embarrassing marijuana column this week, feeling that the poor fellow was just a mild-mannered deluded doofus and why bother? But now comes this, from a printed exchange with Gail Collins in today’s Times. Give me a minute and I could come up with half a dozen Republicans I’d rather see in the White House than Hillary Clinton, but this? This?
GAIL: Ah, the Clinton health care proposal. Back in the days of yore, when giants roamed the earth and senators still engaged in bipartisan drinking sessions.
DAVID: If she can prove that she now understands that dumb, simple laws are better than smart, complex ones, I could definitely feel some comfort with her. I do think she is hardheaded and practical. If she runs against Ted Cruz, I’m going to be in an awful pickle.
And a Happy New Year to bloggers everywhere:
TORONTO (AP) — Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has put his name on the ballot to run for another term, defying repeated calls for him to step down after admitting he smoked crack “in a drunken stupor…”
“If you want to get personal, that’s fine,” he told reporters, according to the Star. “I’m sticking to my record, and talk is cheap. You’re going to see action like you’ve never seen before.”
Evolution has been shown to occur in only 66% of the population:
The excerpt below is from Charles Pierce’s double evisceration of the utterly unspeakable Elliott Abrams and the painfully pathetic David Gregory. Read it all here. Please.
The last time a president was as “bold” as Gregory wants this one to be, he lied us into a war that continues to wreak ruin to this day. Elliott Abrams was working for him at the time. The time before that, peasants got slaughtered and American nuns got raped and murdered, and archbishops got ventilated on the altar, and Elliott Abrams, to whom the Dancin’ Master directed his volley of bad history, cheered all of this on, lied about it as part of his official duties, and continues to believe that to have been the height of patriotism and public service. Ghosts of the dead should howl him awake every night. He should be spat upon by the surviving families of the dead every day on his way to teach his history class. History itself should vomit him out of its mouth. Journalism should revolt at the very sight of him. He should be whatever is one rung below a pariah. Instead, he gets a guest shot to tell the nation he has spent his career misleading into armed conflicts in which he never would have picked up a weapon or stood a post that its foreign policy is not blood-soaked enough for his taste. It was a living parable of the uselessness of dead memory.
Ted Cruz is right up there with Toronto’s Rob Ford when it comes to gifts that keep on giving. The senator has lent his name to a coloring book, the link to which I will not post because it’s time you did a little work for yourselves. Besides, Ted Cruz to the Future — Comic Coloring Activity Book is temporarily out of stock at Amazon anyway. Here’s the top five-star review, though:
Besides, you don’t really need to buy the book at all because Sparkle Pony has already colored it for you. While you’re there, take a look at “Close Encounters with Callista’s Hairdo” and the four-part Condi Rice retrospective, both linked in the right-hand column. If there’s one person you really, really don’t want on your case, that person would be Sparkle Pony.
“There was a time when a black man couldn’t kiss a white woman on TV. That day has passed,” wrote Robert Farago on his TruthAboutGuns blog about the NFL's decision to ban the ad from Georgia gunmaker Daniel Defense. “Yet a firearms company can’t advertise its products on network TV. It’s high time that ballistic barrier was broken.”
Farago’s twisted sense of history was hardly alone in pro-gun circles. “What a bunch of hypocrites! The 2nd Amendment is ultimately what allows the NFL to even exist,” wrote TreeManTwo on the website of Guns & Ammo magazine, which broke the story last Friday that the NFL rejected the ad for violating its advertising policy. “It does have to do with us being able to keep and protect our rights to do things like play football!”
Here’s Tan Man, trying out the party’s new pickup line:
Boehner urged his colleagues Thursday in response to this POLITICO story to “be a little more sensitive” when running against women. “Some of our members just aren’t as sensitive as they ought to be,” Boehner said.
Boehner (R-Ohio) said bluntly that “when you look around the Congress, there are a lot more females in the Democrat caucus than there are in the Republican caucus.”
Yeah, but the females in the Republic caucus are hotter… Oops, is it okay to say that? Chicks are so damned sensitive nowadays.
…watching the Louie Gohmerts or Sarah Palins or Glenn Becks of this world. From Psychology Today:
Fremdscham describes the almost-horror you feel when you notice that somebody is oblivious to how embarrassing they truly are. Fremdscham occurs when someone who should feel embarrassed for themselves simply is not, and you start feeling embarrassment in their place…
Besides the emotional response, Fremdscham-inducing events and items … also usually cause one to ask this question: “how on earth can these people be unaware of how stupid they are being right now?”.
And more than to lecture you about the beauty of the German language, I want to write about a classic psychological theory that laid the groundwork for addressing precisely this question of how people remain ignorant of their ignorance.
Dunning and Kruger often refer to a “double curse” when interpreting their findings: People fail to grasp their own incompetence, precisely because they are so incompetent. And since, overcoming their incompetence would first require the ability to distinguish competence from incompetence people get stuck in a vicious cycle.
“The skills needed to produce logically sound arguments, for instance, are the same skills that are necessary to recognize when a logically sound argument has been made. Thus, if people lack the skills to produce correct answers, they are also cursed with an inability to know when their answers, or anyone else’s, are right or wrong. They cannot recognize their responses as mistaken, or other people’s responses as superior to their own.”
The medical term for this sort of behavior is “autophagia.” Soldiers in Vietnam used to call it “stepping on your own dick.”
When Republicans and the Tea Party contribute to hunger by attacking food stamps, people of color aren’t the only ones who suffer: Republicans are physically harming their own base. Slashing food stamp benefits won’t harm the Koch brothers or JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, but it will definitely harm poor whites in a place like McDowell County, West Virginia, which is 94% white (according to the U.S. Census Bureau), rural and has a life expectancy of only 63.9 for males and 72.9 for females (according to a report that the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington released in July 2013). If life expectancy is any indication, the economic conditions for white males in McDowell County aren’t much better than the economic conditions in Haiti, where, according to the World Health Organization, males have a life expectancy of 62. In contrast to McDowell County, that study showed a life expectancy of 81.4 for males and 85.0 for females in Marin County, California — which is affluent and heavily Democratic.
“The Republican Party, I really believe, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder from years and years of bullying and taunting. The Republican Party is Jonathan Martin. The Democrat Party and the media are Richie Incognito.”
Well, yeah, maybe. Except for Jonathan Martin being black.
I tried not to post this, God knows I tried. But here it is. O Canada! —
From today’s Paul Krugman New York Times, words that ought to be tattooed on every Democratic politician’s teleprompter :
A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government.
Former University of California, Davis policeman John Pike, who stirred public outrage by pepper-spraying peaceful student protesters during a 2011 sit-in against tuition hikes, has been awarded just over $38,000 in worker's compensation from the university for what Pike called psychiatric damage.
The ex-officer said he suffered mental distress after receiving more than 17,000 angry or threatening emails, 10,000 text messages and hundreds of letters when the video of the pepper-spraying went viral…
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Pike had earned more than $110,000 from his job in 2010, citing a database of state worker salaries from the last year for which figures are available.
…if only Charles Pierce hadn’t gotten there first:
You work for the bilge pump of wingnut propaganda. The “professional thing” for you to do is to slink off and do five years penance reading the hog reports on a 300-watt station in west Texas before you’re allowed in respectable company again. The “professional thing” for journalists with any pride to do is to spit at the mention of your network’s name and to hang bells around the neck of you and all your colleagues so that we know when you’re coming and can clear the room. You’re lucky you have Jay Carney. Put me in that job and you’re doing your stand-ups from a chicken wagon halfway down the mall. Put me in that job and your picture is in every guard shack.
Your organization is a running sore on the profession. It’s what happens when a craft fails to keep its septic system up to date. You do not deserve the respect given to a schizophrenic in Lafayette Park who screams about the aliens from Zontar and the Rockefellers. I know people who staple their screeds to lamp posts in Central Square who are far more worthy of professional courtesy than you are. You work for a Chronic Ward of grifters, unemployables, and whatever else sticks to the bottom of journalism’s shoes on a hot summer’s day.
From Jennifer Senior’s interview of Justice Anthony Scalia in New York Magazine:
Flogging. And what I would say now is, yes, if a state enacted a law permitting flogging, it is immensely stupid, but it is not unconstitutional. A lot of stuff that’s stupid is not unconstitutional. I gave a talk once where I said they ought to pass out to all federal judges a stamp, and the stamp says — Whack! [Pounds his fist.] — STUPID BUT — CONSTITUTIONAL. Whack! [Pounds again.] STUPID BUT — CONSTITUTIONAL! Whack! — STUPID BUT CONSTITUTIONAL … [Laughs.] And then somebody sent me one.
From the Constitution of the United States, Article [IX]:
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Flagellation or flogging is the act of methodically beating or whipping (Latin flagellum, “whip”) the human body. Specialised implements for it include rods, switches, the cat o’ nine tails and the sjambok.
…is bigger than Barack’s wee wee any day.
“This is not just about Obamacare anymore,” centrist Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., said.
“We’re not going to be disrespected,” conservative Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., added. “We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”
… in just six words the GOP’s threats to shut down their own country’s government and destroy its credit rating:
Alice Rivlin ran the Office of Management and Budget in 1995 when the Republicans forced one of their earlier government shutdowns. Here is a memory from that childish GOP tantrum of yesteryear:
AR: The questions you get are “Let me tell you about this activity; is it essential.” So you have to make a call on that.
My two favorite stories of that period are these. One was [the National Institutes of Health]. The clinical facilities where they had patients, that was clearly essential. But most of NIH is research and research management. We decided that was not essential. And so we sent the researchers home. But then you have laboratory animals. You can’t leave the laboratory animals to starve. So the technicians that take care of the laboratory animals are essential and the researchers are not.
— Ogden Nash
From Jay Bookman:
“The General Assembly finds and declares that outdoor advertising provides a substantial service and benefit to Georgia and Georgia’s citizens as well as the traveling public. Therefore, the General Assembly declares it to be in the public interest that provisions be made for the visibility of outdoor advertising signs”…
Well, if a publicly owned tree, growing on public property, might possibly interfere with the visibility of a privately owned billboard, state law gives the billboard owner the right to come onto public property and chop that tree down. Previous law exempted hardwoods with a diameter of more than eight inches and pines with a diameter of more than a foot, but under HB 179 those protections, like the trees, are gone.
The Guardian brings us more news from the pews:
Of the 1,001 people surveyed, 35% of Americans said they believe in the statement: “With just Bible study and prayer, ALONE, people with serious mental illness like depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia could overcome mental illness.”
Of the respondents who self-identified as either born-again, evangelical or fundamentalist Christian — 48% agreed.
From Tim Weiner’s history of the CIA, Legacy of Ashes:
The ambassador [Henry Cabot Lodge] resented the agency’s exalted status in Saigon. “CIA has more money; bigger houses than diplomats; bigger salaries; more weapons; more modern equipment.” He was jealous of the powers held by [CIA station chief] John Richardson, and he scoffed at the caution the station chief displayed about Conein’s central role in the coup plotting. Lodge decided he wanted a new station chief.
So he burned Richardson — “exposed him and gave his name publicly to the newspapers,” as Bobby Kennedy said in a classified oral history eight months later — by feeding a coldly calculated leak to a journeyman reporter passing through Saigon. The story was a hot scoop. Identifying Richardson by name — an unprecedented breach of security — it said he had “frustrated a plan of action Mr. Lodge had brought with him from Washington, because the agency disagreed with it…one high official here, a man who has devoted most of his life in the service of democracy, likened the CIA’s growth to a malignancy, and added he was not sure that even the White House could control it.” The New York Times and the Washington Post picked up the story. Richardson, his career ruined, left Saigon four days later; after a decent interval, Ambassador Lodge moved into his house.
You remember George Zimmerman, I know you do. And that his wife called 911 on him the other day. If not, go here.
I liked this touch:
Mark O’Mara, who represented George Zimmerman in his murder trial, said on Monday that his client did nothing wrong and the dispute was typical for a couple going through a divorce. On Tuesday, O’Mara said he was not going to represent George Zimmerman in this matter.
“I’ve come to know them as a family, and it’s not a good idea to get in between them,” O’Mara said.
Jim Wright at Stonekettle explores the true legacy of 9/11 in the excerpt below. As a nation, we have responded to the tragedy like a man stricken with lung cancer who chooses to self-medicate with two packs of Marlboros, taken daily.
…Since 911, an entire generation has been born and grown to self-awareness. Those young Americans have never known their nation at peace.
They have never known a nation that is not divided … They have never had a single day where they weren’t told to hate their neighbors and to report them if they don’t seem patriotic enough … They have never lived a single day in a nation that wasn’t bent to the terrible business of revenge.
They have never known a nation that didn’t roil in fear and cringe in terror every single day … They have never flown on an airplane without having been treated like a criminal … They have never checked out a book from the library without having been subject to secret scrutiny.
They never sent an unmonitored email or made an unmonitored phone call … They have never lived in a house that isn’t subject to unwarranted search … They have never had the right to redress or legal challenge when their name is placed on secret lists — and in point of fact, they don’t even have the right to know if their name is on that list at all.
They have never lived in a nation where they have the right to confront their accuser and demand proof of more than just suspicion … They have never lived without the threat, however unlikely, of being disappeared … They have never lived in a nation that didn’t regard the torture of human beings as an acceptable option.
This new generation has lived under the shadow of those falling towers every single minute of every single day since the moment they were born.
The terrorists didn’t do that to them.
Florida is the gift that just keeps on giving. Here’s its attorney general, setting out her priorities. By the looks of her, a job on Fox News is waiting if the political thing ever goes south on her.
Attorney General Pam Bondi said Monday she should not have requested an execution be rescheduled from the night of her “campaign kickoff” fundraiser.
Bondi’s statement came after Gov. Rick Scott said he was unaware that the waterfront Tampa fundraiser, scheduled for Tuesday, was the reason she had requested the delay in the execution of convicted murderer Marshall Lee Gore.
“As a prosecutor, there was nothing more important than seeing justice done, especially when it came to the unconscionable act of murder,” Bondi said in a release. “I personally put two people on death row and, as attorney general, have already participated in eight executions since I took office, a role I take very seriously.”
From Yahoo News:
The attorney who helped murder defendant George Zimmerman win a controversial acquittal last month was frustrated to learn his client toured a gun factory on Thursday…
“We certainly would not have advised him to go to the factory that made the gun that he used to shoot Trayvon Martin through the heart,” Shawn Vincent, a spokesman for attorney Mark O’Mara, told Yahoo News. “That was not part of our public relations plan.”
From the New York Times:
Just a few years after the setting of an American withdrawal deadline for 2014 evoked alarm and worry among Afghans, the tone now has perceptibly hardened: even the officials who openly want the Americans to stay are now saying that staying must be strictly on Afghan terms.
The latest is Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal, once a favorite of the Western contingent in Afghanistan, whose anger at the American attitude about customs fees led him to institute steep fines and briefly led Afghan officials to close the border crossings to Western military shipments.
“At the heart of all this is not just a revenue collection issue,” Mr. Zakhilwal said in an e-mail on Thursday. It is about “respect of Afghan laws and procedures…”
Now that the coalition is trying to take out its equipment, the Afghan government is demanding each container either come with its paperwork — or a $1,000 fine. Najeebullah Manali, a Finance Ministry official, put the number of trucks at roughly 70,000. That would mean a fine of $70 million.
Or, as a great poet once wrote:
Why are high schools free but colleges aren’t? For over 150 years, our nation has recognized that tuition-free primary and secondary schools were absolutely vital to the growth and functioning of our commonwealth.
By the middle of the 19th century, New York City also provided free higher education through what would become the City College of New York. Hunter and Brooklyn colleges also were tuition-free, as was California’s rapidly growing post-WWII state college and university system. The GI Bill of Rights after WWII provided significant resources to over three million returning veterans to go to school tuition-free, which in no small part, helped to build American prosperity for the next generation. (Tuition was even provided if GIs attended private colleges and universities.) A further impetus to free higher education came as America fell behind the USSR during the Sputnik-era space race.
But the spread of free higher education stalled and then retreated precisely as Wall Street began to grab more and more of the nation’s wealth. As financialization transformed the economy starting in the late 1970s, average wages flattened while Wall Street incomes shot through the roof. At the same time taxes on the super-rich collapsed placing more and more of the burden on working people. Lo and behold, free higher education rapidly became “unaffordable.” Wall Street then swooped in with loans as students and their families loaded up on debt in order to gain access to higher education. This is the very definition of financialization.
All I know about this nauseating video is that it comes from KLAS-TV in Las Vegas. The worst is not the weeping, baffled young victim nor the pig of a marshal. Not even the toddler crying for her mommy. The worst in this whole filthy mess is the family court judge who turns her back on the outrage in front of her to play, unconcerned, with the little girl’s teddy bear. Proof, once again, that scum rises to the top.
We seem to be in Aunt Em and Uncle Henry’s RV, deep in the heart of Kansas:
Other than being surrounded by more than a mile and a half of 6-foot-high chain-link fence topped with sharp rows of barbed wire, the land above ground isn't distinguishable from expanses of hills and trees that surround it. The proposed shelter's entrances — nondescript concrete loading docks tucked discretely into the wooded hillside — are easily defensible against any potential intruders provided there's not a full-scale military attack, Vicino said…
Before it comes time to ride out Armageddon or a deadly global pandemic, though, Vicino says the Vivos Survival Shelter and Resort will be a fun place for members to take vacations and learn assorted survival skills to prepare them for whatever world-changing catastrophe awaits.
Texas (are you surprised?) Republican congressman Michael Burgess stays classy:
“Watch a sonogram of a 15-week baby, and they have movements that are purposeful,” said Burgess, a former OB/GYN. “They stroke their face. If they’re a male baby, they may have their hand between their legs. If they feel pleasure, why is it so hard to believe that they could feel pain?”
I’m in Minnesota at the moment, involved with granddaughter graduations and related festivities. As I slowly improve at using the touchscreen and keyboard on her MacBook, posting will resume.
My thought for today is that the GOP is the gift that keeps on giving. Take for instance Senator Saxby Chambliss from Georgia, who just added the diagnosis below to our store of medical knowledge. Media attention so far has centered on the “hormone level created by nature” passage. But don’t miss an earlier snicker from the sly old solon — the part about “folks who slip through that crack.” Unintentional? You be the judge.
Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller rips away another of the scabs with which Obama tries to hide the diseased and festering mess he has made in Washington. Coming next week: The so-called “president” is secretly half-white!
Lois G. Lerner, the embattled Internal Revenue Service official who apologized for improperly scrutinizing the tax-exempt status of conservative nonprofit groups, is a member of the Humane Society of the United States, a liberal animal advocacy organization.
Lerner — the suddenly infamous IRS Exempt Organizations Division director — “is an active member of the Humane Society of the United States where her efforts in performing pet rescues necessitated by the 2005 Gulf Coast hurricanes were widely acknowledged,” according to her biography…
Carlson’s own history with the Humane Society is somewhat ambiguous: he loves him some animals even harder than the HSUA does. For instance, he is a strong proponent of the death penalty for animal abusers.
Shoot the shit out of others as you would have them shoot the shit out of you. McClatchy reports:
AUSTIN, Texas — After successfully firing a gun made with a 3-D printer over the weekend, a University of Texas law school student hopes to refine the prototype and ultimately distribute online files so anyone can make one…
Ultimately, Wilson wants to distribute downloadable files that can be plugged in to a 3-D printer. “It’s about empowerment of the individual over political hierarchy,” he said.
Syrbal, at Herlander-Walking, is herself a veteran. So is her husband. They have a son who just left for Afghanistan on his second tour in the Bush-Obama wars. Not that Bush and Obama are the only ones responsible for those evil, idiot wars. Read her post to the end.
I know keeping very, very busy is the best idea right now. Distraction was my only friend the last year he was in the war zone; but this time it is far more difficult to keep my mind away from sharp cliff edges. At least, this time, it seems most Americans, even in this perversely red county of a blue state, have decided the wars are not a jolly good time.
Last time, seeing the service star on my car, or if it came up in conversation I still had idiots say the equivalent of “Right on!” which made me tilt my head and eye them like a hungry raptor before verbally pecking them to death. This time, if I apologize for temporary mental lapses with the explanation of my son being deployed, faces fall and people say “Oh, I’m so sorry,” or “Oh, no!”
Why, oh, why was that not the response in 2001 and 2003? It was the same lie then? And over 8000 men and women from a host of nations including our own have paid for that lie with their deaths. And that is not even beginning the count of Iraqis and Afghanis.
During the long, sad evening of the election night when Reagan won reelection in a landslide, a colleague in Gore campaign headquarters defined the word democracy for me. “Democracy,” he said, “is that system of government in which you give the people what they want. And you give it to ’em good.”
From the New York Times, page one:
WASHINGTON — A new assessment by the Pentagon’s intelligence arm has concluded for the first time, with “moderate confidence,” that North Korea has learned how to make a nuclear weapon small enough to be delivered by a ballistic missile…
The assessment’s existence was disclosed Thursday by Representative Doug Lamborn, Republican of Colorado, three hours into a budget hearing of the House Armed Services Committee.
This is kind of an amazing coincidence, really. Let me backtrack a little and you’ll see what I mean. There is a small hospital in Sharon, Connecticut, which means that there are lots of doctors in our town. Now and then they leave off old medical school textbooks in the Swap Shop at the local dump.
Just last Tuesday — you’re not going to believe this — I picked up one called Brain Surgery for Dummies and proceeded to read that sucker from cover to cover. Finished last night, and now I can say with moderate confidence that I have learned how to perform a prefrontal lobotomy. Drop by any time. Special rates if your name is Doug Lamborn.
One thing about living in a country with amnesia is that the old becomes new over and over again, as we repeat our forgotten idiocies. Here is a post I put up on Bad Attitudes on September 12, 2002, still fresh as a daisy:
Looking up something else in the files I just came across a four-year-old article from the New York Times, written as the Taliban were about to take over Afghanistan.
It’s easy to forget, and most of us conveniently have, that the Taliban was Made in the USA. What if, for just that once, we had managed to mind our own business?
From the Times of August 13, 1998, speaking of the likelihood that the mullahs would soon seize power:
“If so, the outcome is full of tragic irony for a nation that seemed set on a completely opposite course in 1973, when King Zahir Shah, the last representative of the Durrani Dynasty that had ruled the country for 250 years, was ousted in a coup mounted by his cousin, Mohammed Daoud.
“As President, Mohammed Daoud proclaimed himself a modernizer but lasted barely five years before he was killed in April 1978 in a coup staged by the Soviet-backed Communist Party, which proclaimed a still more radical modernization program.
“The Communists’ program aimed at uprooting the pervasive influence of Muslim clerics, whose support of the Durranis had consigned Afghanistan to a social and economic backwardness.
“Within hours of seizing the Arg Palace in Kabul, the Afghan capital, the Communists vowed to emancipate Afghan women, achieve universal literacy, and move the country beyond its bullock-cart economy.
“But the bid to force compliance with the Communist program, especially in the arch-conservative world of the Afghan village, triggered a civil war that drew in Soviet forces in December 1979.
“This in turn prompted President Jimmy Carter and later Ronald Reagan to commit the United States to backing the Afghan Mujahedeen, the self-styled Muslim holy warriors who drove out the Russians in February 1989.”
To put the matter clearly, the Russians were the nearest thing there was to good guys in the Afghanistan of the late seventies. The nearest thing to bad guys, then and now, were the ignorant village clerics…
As so often happened during the Cold War, we jumped eagerly into bed with the worst guys in sight. Even worse than the Russian alternative? Well, figure it out. Our exciting fling with the primitive, lawless Mujahedeen created the conditions for the Taliban takeover that the Russians had feared. And the takeover created the kind of country an Osama Bin Laden could get comfortable in.
Well, okay, but still.. We couldn’t very well have left this tiny land in the terrible claws of godless Russia, could we? Of course we could. We did it all the time, before and during the Cold War. And in this case, so what? Three and a half years later the Soviet Union collapsed anyway, giving everybody a get-out-of-jail card.
But wasn’t that collapse precisely because we had armed and financed those brave Afghan freedom fighters? Pretty doubtful. The Soviet Union had been a basket case for decades. It might have stayed on its feet for a year or two longer if Cold War cowboys like Zbigniew Brzezinski and William J. Casey hadn’t been gnawing at its crutches in Afghanistan, that’s true. But the aging invalid was about to topple in any case..
Suppose those few years had been spent under the Russians rather than the warlords and the Taliban? A number of things would have happened, all of them good. Afghanistan wouldn’t have been devastated in a pointless civil war, hundreds of thousands of Russians and Afghans would still be alive, and the country would be independent today just like the other ’Stans in the neighborhood. No better off, but no worse either.
And yesterday — September 11th of 2002 — could have been just another lovely day in early autumn.
After the Tennessee State Capitol got a $16 million makeover in December, some members of the Congress were curious why a utility sink, formerly mounted on the wall, was moved to the floor. Some wondered, was it a sink for Muslims to wash their feet before praying?
According to the AP, Legislative Administration Director Connie Ridley wrote in an email:I confirmed with the facility administrator for the State Capitol Complex that the floor-level sink installed in the men’s restroom outside the House Chamber is for housekeeping use … It is, in layman’s terms, a mop sink.
Although Jesus is certainly welcome to use it (John 13:12) if He decides to land in Tennessee and can find any disciples there. Good luck with that, guys.
Jim Hightower writes:
In 2009, an interim Texas school superintendent declared that sex-education classes were unnecessary in his rural district. Most of the area’s school kids live on farms, he explained, therefore: “They get a pretty good sex education from their animals.”
It’s this kind of thinking that makes Texas so special… (To continue with Hightower, go here.)
Maybe you’ve heard the old joke about the farm boy showing a girl around the ranch when they come across a bull mounting a cow and stop to watch.
Boy: I wouldn’t mind doing that, would you?
Girl: Go ahead, she’s your cow.
…not that we ever knew, or knowing, cared.
“In Iraq, the US record speaks for itself: it backed Saddam’s party, the Ba’ath, to capture power in 1963, murdering thousands of socialists, communists and democrats; it backed the Ba’ath party in 1968 when Saddam was installed as vice-president; it helped him and the Shah of Iran in 1975 to crush the Kurdish nationalist movement; it increased its support for Saddam in 1979…helping him launch his war of aggression against Iran in 1980; it backed him throughout the horrific eight years of war (1980 to 1988), in which a million Iranians and Iraqis were slaughtered, in the full knowledge that he was using chemical weapons and gassing Kurds and Marsh Arabs; it encouraged him in 1990 to invade Kuwait…; it backed him in 1991 when Bush [senior] suddenly stopped the war, exactly 24 hours after the start of the great March uprising that engulfed the south and Iraqi Kurdistan…”
Now and then life gives you a big, sweet, juicy red apple instead of a lemon. For instance, I just came across this from Wonkette:
James O’Keefe — the blonde bombshell who set the conservative world of hidden-camera YouTube movies ablaze — has just agreed to a $100,000 settlement to calm down the unjustly fired (and weirdly litigious about it) ACORN employee Juan Carlos Vera. According to a copy of the deal, obtained late last night by your wonkettes and viewable after the jump, O’Keefe has also agreed to ink an 11-word non-apology apology, that sources close to reality are calling “insincere” and “suuuuuuuch bullshit.”
According to the final 5-page agreement, signed by O’Keefe and his legal counsel Mike Madigan this past Tuesday, the boy detective now publicly “regrets any pain suffered by Mr. Vera or his family.” O’Keefe and his counsel have also consented to fork over the $100,000 within 30 business days of the settlement agreement’s being signed…
This is from the settlement: “O’Keefe states that at the time of the publication of the video of Juan Carlos Vera he was unaware of Vera’s claim to have notified a police officer of the incident. O’Keefe regrets any pain suffered by Mr. Vera or his family.”
O’Keefe, that is, tried to trap Vera into taking part in a plan to smuggle underage girls into the United States from Mexico. When this didn’t work, he doctored tapes of the encounter so as to falsely implicate Vera and sent them to the media. Back in the real world though, Vera had actually called the cops.
It is to the eternal shame of the MSM that O’Keefe was able to play them into destroying ACORN. Any reporter dumb enough to fall for a nasty little shit like O’Keefe is in the wrong business. Or maybe not, now that I think about it.
To get a fuller picture of just how nasty and how shitty O’Keefe is, see this from The Phoenix. And reflect on how even more nasty and shitty his grownup employers must be.
…Now You Still Don’t. Is there any possibility at all that Americans will be stupid enough to pay money for this crap? Sure there is. We pay for bottled water, don’t we?
Switching from a sales pitch about eliminating stains to one about unseen soiling may seem to be an about-face, but Cheryl McKenzie, group account director for Union, said that what remained consistent for Wisk was a willingness to address unpleasantness. “…The new taboo that no one is talking about is that while you can’t see the dirt that’s in your clothes, it’s there…”
“When we talked to consumers,” Ms. Van Velsor said, “they said that whether it’s in the kitchen or the bathroom, they’re looking for thorough cleaning. They know that it can’t just look clean — it has to be clean all the way through.”
With laundry detergent formulations having improved enough in recent decades that many consumers trust store brands for stain removal, “there is so little differentiation in the category that you have to step above stains in order to break through,” Ms. Van Velsor said.
I have no idea how link to a tweet, or even what a tweet is, and so I’ll just put up this screen grab from The Maddow Blog.
How could I not pass this one along?
Randolph Bean tells WOFL FOX 35 that two men attempted to steal his 2002 yellow Corvette at gunpoint outside an Orlando hospital, but ended up running away after they couldn’t figure out how to drive his car.
“They apparently couldn’t start it,” Bean 51, is quoted as saying in a police report. “I had to tell him four different times to push in the clutch, because it’s a standard transmission.”
After several failed attempts, the thieves eventually fled the scene.
Just when you think the human race couldn’t get any stupider, it gets stupider. Somehow this idiocy had escaped me till now:
A man who found six children in his driveway in Newtown, Conn., after their teacher had been shot and killed in last month's school massacre has become the target of conspiracy theorists who believe the shootings were staged.
“I don’t know what to do,” Gene Rosen told Salon.com. “I’m getting hang-up calls, I’m getting some calls, I’m getting emails with, not direct threats, but accusations that I’m lying, that I’m a crisis actor, ‘How much am I being paid?'”
Rosen, a 69-year-old retired psychologist who lives near Sandy Hook Elementary School where the shootings took place, says his inbox is filled with emails like this one:How are all those little students doing? You know, the ones that showed up at your house after the ‘shooting’. What is the going rate for getting involved in a gov’t sponsored hoax anyway?
“The quantity of the material is overwhelming,” Rosen said, adding that he's sought the advice of a retired state police officer and plans to alert the FBI.
If there is life in the universe more intelligent than ours, I can imagine its scientists examining Earth and concluding that it is under attack by two-legged cancer cells, multiplying wildly and on the point of killing their host. Already the malignancy has metastasized. Metamedically speaking, this is the significance of the Mars rover…
The expansion of European settlement in Australia triggered a massive coral collapse at the Great Barrier Reef more than 50 years ago, according to a new study.
The study, published Nov. 6 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, found that runoff from farms clouded the pristine waters off the Queensland coast and killed the natural branching coral species, leaving a stunted, weedy type of coral in its place. The findings suggest that decades before climate change and reef tourism, humans were disrupting the ecology of the Great Barrier Reef.
Here's Syrbal, herself an army veteran, off on a crazed rant against patriots who just want the government to keep its filthy hands off their well-regulated militias:
I mean, a whole bunch of people are screaming about how “sacrosanct” the second amendment is, (one much louder than others), but some Rethuglican ones have decided they can tell Gabrielle Giffords to “stay out of our town”, not to mention the inherent denial of first amendment rights there?
Seriously, a Republican is daring to accuse a woman NO LONGER IN POLITICAL OFFICE of having only political reasons to visit a shot-up town to express her heart-felt commiseration?
And yes, Alex, Alex, Alex….YOU, who are screaming like someone who DID in fact miss his meds, YOU blaming Prozac for mass shootings, but not your “sacrosanct” fucking right to own a ton of guns? Good green goddess dressing! Step away from the steroids, or wtf EVER you are on; I mean really, Dude, is your dick THAT small? For pity’s sake, go buy a gigantic pick up to drive two blocks to pick up more cheap red wine or Budweiser, ok?
Mulvaney, however, waged a silent protest that lit up the Internet as reporters and political junkies around the country watched the proceedings live at the U.S. Capitol and broadcast on C-SPAN.
Nine Republican lawmakers voted for someone other than Boehner, three of them backing his deputy, Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia.
Mulvaney, by contrast, declined to vote for anyone despite being present in the House chamber. Raul Labrador of Idaho, like Mulvaney a tea party favorite who first gained election in 2010, chose the same tactic.
On his way into the House chamber, Mulvaney signaled that Boehner might face a rocky ride to re-election as speaker, urging reporters to “bring your calculator” and telling them the vote “should be interesting…”
Mulvaney, who represents South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District, later declined to respond to subsequent requests for comment from reporters.
“Mick won’t be available to speak,” his press secretary, Stephanie Faile, told McClatchy. “He is spending the rest of the day with his family.”
…Instead of reading Ralph Waldo Emerson, over and over and over, until he has it memorized: “When you strike at a king, you must kill him.”
The GOP is continuing its charm offensive among the lesser breeds. Here (h/t to Sister Pat in Ann Arbor) is one Ron Weiser, who was named finance chairman for the Republican National Committee last year:
“There’s no machine to go to the pool halls and the barbershops and put those people on buses and then bus them from precinct to precinct where they vote multiple times,” Weiser says in the video. “And there’s no machine to get ’em to stop playing pool and drinking beer in the pool hall. And it does make a difference.”
He added: “Obama has hired a lot of people to help him get that vote out. But if you’re not from Detroit, the places where those pool halls and barbershops are, you’re not going to be going at 6:30 in November. Not without a side arm.”
From an interview with Gail Collins on her new book, As Texas Goes: How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda.
Martha Rosenberg: You write, “Quite a bit of the information Texas students are getting seems to have arrived from another era. An abstinence-only program used in three districts assures them that if, ‘if a woman is dry, the sperm will die’ — which harks back to colonial-era theories that it was impossible for a woman to get pregnant unless she enjoyed the sex.”
Eric Hartsburg, the 30-year-old Michigan City, Ind., man who had Mitt Romney’s campaign logo tattooed on his face, has had enough.
Even though in the wake of Romney’s defeat, Hartsburg said he planned to keep the 5-by-2-inch image, he told Politico on Wednesday that he’s now preparing to get the image removed by laser after Romney’s postelection comments. Hartsburg pointed to Romney’s claim that President Barack Obama won because he offered gifts to minority voters.
“It stands not only for a losing campaign but for a sore loser,” Hartsburg said of his tattoo and its connection to Romney. “He’s pretty shameful as far as I’m concerned, man. There’s no dignity in blaming somebody else for buying votes and paying off people. I can’t get behind that or stay behind that.”
A new study (pdf) in the Nov. 14 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience showed that men in relationships that were given the hormone oxytocin were more likely to want to stay farther away from an unknown woman they found attractive, compared to single men given the hormone or men that took a placebo…
“Previous animal research in prairie voles identified oxytocin as major key for monogamous fidelity in animals,” Dr. Rene Hurlemann, a psychiatrist University of Bonn in Bonn, Germany, said in a press release. “Here, we provide the first evidence that oxytocin may have a similar role for humans.”
It doesn’t seem to work for Rush Limbaugh, though…
…or are you just happy to see me?
From Flagler Live:
After a deputy spoke with the Chevrolet’s occupants, Both Blackwelders and Shope told the deputy that Draper had fired the rifle — a Marlin Firearms Co. .22 — while they were riding around in the park. He did so, according to one of the occupants, as the truck was being driven along the circular dirt road near the restrooms. Deputies found a live round in the chamber and two live rounds in the rifle’s magazine.
“During the investigation,” the deputy reported, “I detected a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on Timothy’s breath. Post Miranda, he advised that he had been consuming beer during the night. Jeremy refused to cooperate during the investigation and continuously advised that a gun was never fired, but could not explain why one was between his legs during the traffic stop.”
This is from our local weekly, The Lakeville Journal:
LAKEVILLE — Diplomat John L. Loeb shared a startling memory with students at The Hotchkiss School in a talk on Tuesday, Oct. 9.
It was the fall of 1945 and Loeb was one of a handful of Jewish students at the school.
During movie night, the students saw newsreel footage of Nazi concentration camps.
Far from being horrified, Loeb said his fellow students “cheered and hooted.”
Afterward, one young man told Loeb, “We don’t like Hitler but at least he killed Jews.”
I didn’t know Ambassador Loeb, who was an upperclassman and, if I remember right, editor of the school newspaper. But one of my classmates was Jewish, as well as being musical, intelligent, small, and unathletic. He was, that is to say, asking for it.
So he was taken to the woods alongside the golf course, depantsed, and made to mimic masturbation. Photos of this were circulated. The following year he was expelled for stealing a watch that one of his tormentors had planted in his bureau drawer.
This was long ago and I’m told by people familiar with the school today that sadism and hate crimes are no longer condoned and tacitly approved at Hotchkiss. This may well be, as a fish rots from the top. In my day the headmaster turned a blind and benign eye on this sort of thing. His successors, I understand, have not.
From the Associated Press:
The Tennessee Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld the state’s new law requiring voters to show photo identification at polling places and ruled that election officials must accept an ID issued by the Memphis public library. A three-judge panel of the court ruled unanimously in a case brought by the City of Memphis and two voters who lacked photo ID and cast provisional ballots during the August primary. The opinion said that the identification requirement was allowed under the State Constitution and that the cost of obtaining a birth certificate to get a photo ID did not amount to a poll tax.
The court cited Tennessee case law in finding that the City of Memphis is a branch of the state, so the library card, which was redesigned this year to include a photo, is sufficient for proving identity. The Tennessee secretary of state, Tre Hargett, said the library provision would be appealed.
Mr. Hargett, bless his heart, understands that the greatest threat to 21st-century-style American democracy is from voters who are all the time reading books. Here’s Albert Jay Nock on the subject:
[Universal literacy] makes many articulate who should not be so. It enables mediocrity and submediocrity to run rampant, to the detriment of both intelligence and taste. In a word, it puts into a people’s hands an instrument which very few can use, but which everyone supposes himself fully able to use; and the mischief thus wrought is very great.
From the Kansas City Star:
Republican Todd Akin compared his Democratic opponent in the Senate race, incumbent Claire McCaskill, to a dog at a Springfield fundraiser Saturday.
In audio leaked to PoliticMo, Akin is heard saying, “She goes to Washington, D.C., it’s a little bit like one of those dogs, you know, ‘fetch.’
“She goes to Washington, D.C., and gets all of these taxes and red tape and bureaucracy and executive orders and agencies, and she brings all of this stuff and dumps it on us in Missouri.”
From CBS News:
Shots that protect against cervical cancer do not make girls promiscuous, according to the first study to compare medical records for vaccinated and unvaccinated girls.
This is so amazingly counterintuitive! It just seemed obvious that any 11-year-old girl who got vaccinated against some disease she never heard of that might someday lead to some other disease she never heard of would naturally celebrate by jumping the bones of every junior high school boy in sight.
From the Christian Science Monitor:
“Thursday, March 12, 2009: I had a sore throat. My father took me to the doctor. There a woman told us about a boy named Anis, ‘Anis was with Taliban.’ His Taliban friend told him that he had a dream that he is surrounded by heavenly virgins in Paradise. The boy then asked his parents if he could become a suicide bomber to go to the Paradise. The parents refused. But Anis exploded himself at a check post of security forces, anyway.”
For why this might not have been such a good idea, go here and scroll down to “Good News for Vegan Martyrs.”
Tired of home-grown class acts like the Romneys and the Koch brothers? Time to hate on Gina Rinehart for a change:
The richest woman in Australia has caused a storm by calling her struggling fellow countrymen ‘whingers’ and telling them to get out of the pub and work harder…
The daughter of the late Australian iron-ore mining magnate Lang Hancock, 58-year-old Mrs Rinehart was declared the world's richest woman in May…
The controversial Mrs Rinehart has also attacked Australia’s ‘class warfare’ and insists it is billionaires such as herself who are doing more than anyone to help the poor by investing their money and creating jobs…
In an extraordinary accumulation of riches from the mining industry, Mrs Rinehart’s wealth has grown by an unprecedented £11 billion this year alone. She makes more than £630,000 every 30 minutes, say financial experts.
One thing about Republicans, they never underestimate the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people.
And to the wonderment of those of us still clinging stubbornly to reality, nonsense works. Consider death panels, birtherism, trickle-down economics and rape-detecting vaginas. Consider this, from a New York Times story headlined “Romney Adopts Harder Message for Last Stretch”—
Mitt Romney is heading into his nominating convention with his advisers convinced he needs a more combative footing against President Obama in order to appeal to white, working-class voters and to persuade them that he is the best answer to their economic frustrations…
“We will absolutely be able to get our message out,” said Russ Schriefer, a senior campaign adviser. “We still have an opportunity to tell the story of the last four years of how President Obama has failed the country…”
Mr. Law said his group, Crossroads, had reserved roughly $35 million in advertising for the rest of the campaign and planned to spend more on efforts speaking to their other perception, that Mr. Obama had not been able to deliver.
“These folks know they are not happy with what Obama has done, but they are struggling between, ‘I voted for him, I liked him, but he’s not getting the job done,’ ” said Carl Forti, political director for American Crossroads. “That’s where Mitt needs to take advantage.”
A close textual reading of this compelling new message reveals its meaning to be, “Vote Republican, suckers, because Obama let us sabotage his economic recovery plan.”
It’s a message that could only resonate in empty heads, which ought to make the rest of us very afraid.
In 1980, attorney James Leon Holmes wrote, in a letter arguing for a constitutional ban on abortion, “Concern for rape victims is a red herring because conceptions from rape occur with approximately the same frequency as snowfall in Miami.”
He later apologized for his comment and was successfully nominated to a federal judgeship by George W. Bush in 2004, the inside-Washington controversy over his remarks notwithstanding. Today he serves as the chief judge of the Eastern District of Arkansas.
Besides, what’s the big deal about forcible rape, anyway? For the Ayn Rand crowd, it’s kind of hot. As it used to be back in the 40s and 50s for Smith and Vassar coeds, who lapped up Rand's description of Howard Roark raping the haughty Dominique. What real woman could fail to grow moist over prose like this:
She fought like an animal. But she made no sound. She did not call for help… He did it as an act of scorn. Not as love, but as defilement. And this made her lie still and submit. One gesture of tenderness from him — and she would have remained cold, untouched by the things done to her body. But the act of a master taking shameful, contemptuous possession of her was the kind of rapture she had wanted…
She turned the light on in the bathroom. She saw herself in a tall mirror. She saw the purple bruises left on her body by his mouth. She heard a moan muffled in her throat, not very loud. It was not the sight, but the sudden flash of knowledge. She knew she would not take a bath. She knew that she wanted to keep the feeling of his body, the traces of his body on hers, knowing also what such a desire implied…
She had found joy in her revulsion, in her terror and in his strength. That was the degradation she had wanted and she hated him for it.
I have known quite a few assholes in my time, as who hasn’t. But it never occurred to me that they could be monetized, and even deducted as a business expense. Just take an anus to lunch in the course of researching a book about famous ani.
Geoffrey Nunberg has written such a book, bless his hole, and called it Ascent of the A-Word. Here’s an excerpt from an excerpt on AlterNet. The last sentence belongs on everyone’s list of little lessons to live by.
Still, nobody would argue that being an asshole is essential to business success. The books on leadership that line the business sections of Barnes & Noble offer career models to suit every personality type. One can take one’s cues from successful leaders ranging from Bismarck and Golda Meir to Nelson Mandela and the apostle Paul, not to mention Generals Lee, Grant, Custer, and Attila the Hun. With that choice before them, the managers who make for the shelf that holds books on Patton and Jobs aren’t settling on assholism as a career expedient, they’re looking to justify their predilection for it. Few people become assholes reluctantly.
… a conversion narrative brought to you by Business Week:
Before I met Ayn Rand, I was a logical positivist, and accordingly, I didn’t believe in absolutes, moral or otherwise. If I couldn’t prove a proposition with facts and figures, it was without merit. In the midst of a conversation, she said to me, “Do I understand the thrust of your position? You are not certain you exist?” I hesitated a moment, and I said, “I can’t be sure.” And she then said to me, “And who, by chance, is answering that question?” With that little exchange, she undermined the philosophical structure I had built for myself. The contradiction was too glaring and opened me up to listen to the rest of what she had to say. We remained close until she passed away in 1982.
After which Greenspan presumably became certain she did not exist. Or uncertain she did not exist. Or existed only in the sense that a bundle of AAA-rated subprime mortgages may be said to exist. Or something.
Well, what the hell, at least the future Fed chairman wasn’t mindfucked by L. Ron Hubbard. We’d all be hooked up to E-meters and audited by Tom Cruise.
Paul Ryan’s intellectual development was tragically halted in his teen years by exposure to a Russian atheist calling herself Ayn Rand. To this day the congressman requires his staff to read her books, which are very long and full of words arranged so as to resemble thought, if you are a semi-bright 19-year-old coming across books for the first time.
Presumably, though, Ryan’s staffers are not required to adopt every single one of Rand’s insights, any more than conservatives are required to believe some of the New Testament’s more preposterous notions, such as the Golden Rule and the Rule Against Eating Eagles [Leviticus 11.13]. They are permitted to pick the cherries and ignore the lemons, or let’s hope so.
Because this is what the childless Philosopher Queen had to say about abortion:
An embryo has no rights. Rights do not pertain to a potential, only to an actual being. A child cannot acquire any rights until it is born. The living take precedence over the not-yet-living (or the unborn).That was from Rand’s book, The Voice of Reason, not one that Ryan passes out to Republican staffers on Capitol Hill. And here’s another salient quote Ryan and his cronies ignore, from The Ayn Rand Letter: “Never mind the vicious nonsense of claiming that an embryo has a “right to life.” A piece of protoplasm has no rights — and no life in the human sense of the term. One may argue about the later stages of a pregnancy, but the essential issue concerns only the first three months. To equate a potential with an actual, is vicious; to advocate the sacrifice of the latter to the former, is unspeakable...
Abortion is a moral right — which should be left to the sole discretion of the woman involved; morally, nothing other than her wish in the matter is to be considered. Who can conceivably have the right to dictate to her what disposition she is to make of the functions of her own body?
Observe that by ascribing rights to the unborn, i.e., the nonliving, the anti-abortionists obliterate the rights of the living: the right of young people to set the course of their own lives. The task of raising a child is a tremendous, lifelong responsibility, which no one should undertake unwittingly or unwillingly.
Procreation is not a duty: human beings are not stock-farm animals. For conscientious persons, an unwanted pregnancy is a disaster; to oppose its termination is to advocate sacrifice, not for the sake of anyone’s benefit, but for the sake of misery qua misery, for the sake of forbidding happiness and fulfillment to living human beings.”
Mitt the Twit offers us this assessment of the choices we face in November:
...I hope people understand this, your friends who like Obamacare, you remind them of this, if they want more stuff from government tell them to go vote for the other guy — more free stuff. But don’t forget nothing is really free.
Mitt, Mitt, Mitt… “stuff from government” is not free. We pay for it. That’s what those things we call “taxes” are supposed to be used for. It’s not free. And most of us realize it’s not free. You only think “stuff from government” is free because you’re not paying those same taxes.
I hope this has been helpful, Mitt. Feel free to drop me a line if you find any other fundamentals of the social contract to be confusing.
Going through old files yesterday I came across a 1990 letter I had evidently written to someone at the Planned Parenthood Federation of America who had asked for advice on a speech. I’d give the same advice today, substituting only Rick Santorum for the late, despicable Jesse Helms of North Carolina (below).
The real issue isn’t stopping sex. Even Helms knows that can’t be done. The real issue is making sex costly and painful for women — although not, of course, for men. If the real purpose of all this legislation and legal effort is indeed to cut down on teenage sex, then I have a suggestion for Mr. Helms. I will join him in support of it, in fact. In all cases of pregnancy outside of marriage the Federal government should carry out mandatory DNA testing to determine the biological father. The Internal Revenue Service would then withhold child support payments from his salary until the child reaches the age of 21. Simple. No problem. This would be the most successful population control program since the Black Plague…
Incidentally, I did a lot of research some years back on the settling of the Pacific Northwest in the years between 1848, roughly, and the 1880s. One of the things that fuels the Reagan world-view is ignorance of history. It might be useful to point out that in those days, teenage sexuality wasn’t much of a problem. Parents virtually (and often literally) sold their daughters into marriage with middle-aged widowers when the girls were 13 and 14. A single girl of 17 was considered an old maid.
The only occupations easily open to single women were teaching, taking in laundry, sewing, and prostitution. Every tiny town had its red-light district, where divorced and abandoned women wound up. Orphaned children were taken in by kindly farmers who worked them half to death, often beating and abusing them, until the kid (if male) got to be big enough to whip the old son of a bitch and run away. These were the true good old days, and any number of histories will give you examples.…
Parental notification for teens is, very openly, a control issue. The state attempts to bring the wayward girl back under Daddy’s control. The essential battle is already lost, of course, since the girl is plainly no longer a virgin. But at least she can be punished. The state can make her undergo birth and the loss of her child to others, or birth and a life sentence of struggling all alone to support that child…
The reason a girl doesn’t tell her parents she’s pregnant is precisely because they have already proven themselves incapable of dealing with the human and universal issues of sexuality. Under the proposed legislation the state would force them into that very area where they have already shown themselves to be awkward, ashamed, incapable, and incompetent.
You gotta hand it to the Republicans, at least they’re equal opportunity election-riggers and ballot box-stuffers. They even do it to each other. Read the whole amazing story from which this excerpt comes (h/t to Charles P. Pierce):
Opinions remain divided as to whether the convention chaos that has been witnessed at recent state conventions across the country is a result of a coordinated national effort by Republican party leaders to disenfranchise Ron Paul delegates.
In both Maine and Nevada, for example, Romney supporters were caught distributing counterfeit delegate slates. In Arizona, there were complaints of ballot stuffing and the convention was eventually shut down when it appeared likely that a Ron Paul supporter would be elected as the national committeewoman. In Massachusetts, after Ron Paul supporters won 16 of 27 district delegate slots, state party leaders quickly moved to try to invalidate the results.
Missouri legislators have developed a cure for those suffering from an inability to vomit:
Sure enough, justice is blind. Also deaf to reason and dumb. The proof is right there in the New York Times:
…The case involves Malaika Brooks, who was seven months pregnant and driving her 11-year-old son to school in Seattle when she was pulled over for speeding. The police say she was going 32 miles per hour in a school zone; the speed limit was 20.
Ms. Brooks said she would accept a ticket but drew the line at signing it, which state law required at the time. Ms. Brooks thought, wrongly, that signing was an acknowledgment of guilt.
Refusing to sign was a crime, and the two officers on the scene summoned a sergeant, who instructed them to arrest Ms. Brooks. She would not get out of her car.
The situation plainly called for bold action, and Officer Juan M. Ornelas met the challenge by brandishing a Taser and asking Ms. Brooks if she knew what it was.
She did not, but she told Officer Ornelas what she did know. “I have to go to the bathroom,” she said. “I am pregnant. I’m less than 60 days from having my baby.”
The three men assessed the situation and conferred. “Well, don’t do it in her stomach,” one said. “Do it in her thigh.”
Officer Ornelas twisted Ms. Brooks’s arm behind her back. A colleague, Officer Donald M. Jones, applied the Taser to Ms. Brooks’s left thigh, causing her to cry out and honk the car’s horn. A half-minute later, Officer Jones applied the Taser again, now to Ms. Brooks’s left arm. He waited six seconds before pressing it into her neck.
Ms. Brooks fell over, and the officers dragged her into the street, laying her face down and cuffing her hands behind her back…
The officers won a split decision in October from a 10-member panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco. The majority said the officers had used excessive force but nonetheless could not be sued because the law on the question was not clear in 2004, when the incident took place. While the ruling left the three officers in the clear, it did put them and their colleagues on notice that some future uses of Tasers would cross a constitutional line and amount to excessive force.
Chief Judge Alex Kozinski dissented on the first point, saying Ms. Brooks had been “defiant” and “deaf to reason” and so had brought the incident upon herself.
As for the officers, he said: “They deserve our praise, not the opprobrium of being declared constitutional violators. The City of Seattle should award them commendations for grace under fire.”
Another dissenter, Judge Barry G. Silverman, said “tasing was a humane way to force Brooks out of her car.”
Credit where credit is due. These adornments to the federal bench were appointed by President Reagan (Kozinski) and President Clinton (Silverman).
Not in the Times story, and probably of no significance whatsoever, was the name of the school to which Ms. Brooks was driving her son. It was the African American Academy.
It came out this week that Mitt Romney was an asshole back in prep school, too. The hijinks cited in the Washington Post article include assault and battery, and whimsically tricking a vision-impaired teacher into walking into a door. Romneybot’s empathy simulation protocols were malfunctioning even then. In short, our Willard was something of a bully.
Oddly enough, that’s okay. Or it might be. Sort of.* People do stupid things when they’re young, and some of them are egregiously, even criminally stupid. Part of growing up is learning that those things were stupid or wrong. Part of being a grownup is to be able to acknowledge one’s mistakes, and what one learned from them.
I’ll let Steve Almond explain that part that is not and could never ever be by any stretch of the imagination even sort of okay:
I don’t mean to suggest that Romney is without compassion. I believe, for instance, that he loves his wife and his children, and that he believes in God and the flag. But there is something in his character that I am starting to get frightened about, an unwillingness, or an inability, to feel remorse, to simply own up to a moral failing, to apologize not just if “somebody was hurt” but because you know, deep down, that you hurt someone.
Think about it: here are these half dozen men who took part in a savage act nearly fifty years ago. It has haunted all of them. And the ringleader, the guy who made the plan and led the mob and cut the victim’s hair off remembers … nothing?
It’s just bullshit, total fucking sociopathic bullshit. And it makes me sad that such an episode comes to light and all Romney can do — a guy who wants to be elected to our highest office — is nervously lie and make excuses, as if this were political problem.
Nicely put. And it got me to asking a very simple question: What is Romney afraid of here? Is he afraid to admit to having been cruel and thoughtless as a teenager? Or is he afraid to admit that he is no longer cruel and thoughtless as an adult? Frankly, it’s pretty clear that he’s still thoughtless, if not cruel, as an adult. But hell, even George W. Bush knew enough to pretend to care. Even George W. Bush could declare, however glibly, “When I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible.”**
All of this has crystallized in my mind just what it is I find so troubling about Mitt Romney. I don’t think this guy has the slightest idea just who it is he wants us to think he is. Never mind who he actually is — I don’t think that one’s even knowable. Who does he want us to see when we look at Mitt Romney?
Obviously, Mitt wants to be president in the worst way. And if elected, he would be. (Ba dum pum!) But here’s the thing: He’s not even willing to pretend to do the first part of the job — i.e. act like he gives a shit during the process of campaigning. He was willing to pretend to be something he wasn’t when he ran for Governor of Massachusetts. And in the earlier primaries he was obviously willing to pretend to be anything else. But here — when he arguably should have the sense to put up a good front — nothing. I guess putting up a good front, like laws and taxes, are for little people.
(In reflecting on this I can’t help hearing in my head the voice of Greg Marmalard from Animal House saying, “Let the unacceptable candidates worry about that.”)
There’s one other thing that really bothers me about the bullying story. Consider: Mitt was born into a rich family. His father was the goddam governor. He didn’t just go to Harvard, he knew he was going to Harvard, pretty much from the moment the doctor announced “It’s a boy!” What’s more Harvard knew it too. And all of this wasn’t good enough for our Willard. No, he had to torment classmates and teachers alike to prove — what, exactly?
I’m guessing we’ll never know that one either.
* By saying it might be okay, I don’t mean that bullying is acceptable or something to shrug off. I was myself bullied in high school for being gay — even though I wasn’t gay. My point here is that if Mitt showed an iota of reflection or empathy, we could at least put his actions in prep school in some sort of perspective.
** Okay, it’s waaaaaay too early to be starting any sentence with “Even George W. Bush...” Hell, it took 35 years for things to get bad enough to start sentences with “Even Richard Nixon...” Says something about our friends in the GOP that they can hit a moral nadir and keep going down.
What would we do without Al Arabiya News, which gives us this:
Egypt’s National Council for Women (NCW) has appealed to the Islamist-dominated parliament not to approve two controversial laws on the minimum age of marriage and allowing a husband to have sex with his dead wife within six hours of her death according to a report in an Egyptian newspaper…
The controversy about a husband having sex with his dead wife came about after a Moroccan cleric spoke about the issue in May 2011.
Zamzami Abdul Bari said that marriage remains valid even after death adding that a woman also too had the same right to engage in sex with her dead husband.
And elsewhere these further details:
One of the weirdest and most controversial fatwas in 2011 was one issued by an Islamist preacher who lives in Europe. According to this preacher, women are prohibited from eating phallic-shaped fruits and vegetables like cucumbers, bananas, and carrots. Touching or consuming those, he argued, are bound to turn women on and make them engage in sinful fantasies.
In Morocco, the head of the Moroccan Association for Jurisprudence Research stirred both outrage and controversy when he issued a fatwa allowing Muslim men to have sex with their just-deceased wives under the pretext that nothing in Islam prohibits sex with corpses. This fatwa followed a series of sex-related ones issued by the same cleric.
Hold the outrage for a moment, as you remember the multitude of vaginal probe and “personhood” laws being pushed by the mullahs of our own Christian right. All done? Now consider that many of those fatwas have a good chance of being enacted, and others already have been. Unlike those of Zamzami Abdul Bari, who would at least extend to both sexes the joys of necrophilia.
In celebration of Easter here’s (via Brainstorm) Spiro Agnew whining about people smarter than him. Nixon’s soon-to-be-former vice president disparages such vermin, in words insinuated into his oral orifice by his amanuensis, Pat Buchanan, as “an effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals.”
Alex Henderson, on Alternet:
Meanwhile, in Laurens County, South Carolina, the local Republican Party is asking possible candidates to swear off all porn consumption. In late February, the Laurens County GOP unanimously adopted a resolution asking local Republicans who want to get on the primary ballot to sign a 28-point pledge that includes opposition to abortion, gay marriage and same-sex civil unions as well as vows to abstain from premarital sex and not view any porn. The pledge states: “You cannot now, from the moment you sign this pledge, look at pornography.”
Ohio state legislator Nina Turner has decided to dramatize the War On Women: Contraceptive Theater of Operations by attempting to place an equivalent burden on men:
...the Democrat has become the latest in a series of female state legislators to give her male colleagues a taste of their own medicine by introducing a bill that limits men’s ability to get a Viagra prescription without meeting certain government conditions.
Not bad. But I suggest we think in different terms. This is a calculated burden on a settled issue of the rights of American citizens. I modestly propose we burden another settled right, to dramatize that fact. Therefore, no one should be allowed to purchase a firearm in this country without being required to watch a 30-minute montage of coroner’s photos of children who have been killed by firearms in this country. The montage’s soundtrack should include “Tears in Heaven” by Eric Clapton and “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion. Remaining music should be left up to the states, in acknowledgment of the Tenth Amendment.
Undoubtedly we will hear that this violates the Second Amendment. But since it doesn’t actually prevent anyone from acquiring the means to slaughter additional children, that argument should be easily countered.
It must be very strange to be the man who wrote this. Who can he be? The answer is here.
It must be very strange to be President Bush. A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius, he can’t get anyone to notice. He is like a great painter or musician who is ahead of his time, and who unveils one masterpiece after another to a reception that, when not bored, is hostile.
Here’s another (see previous post) of George W. Bush’s adornments to the federal bench:
HELENA — Chief U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull on Wednesday admitted to sending a racially charged email about President Barack Obama from his courthouse chambers…
The subject line of the email, which Cebull sent from his official courthouse email address at 3:42 p.m. Feb. 20, reads: “A MOM’S MEMORY.”
The forwarded text reads as follows:
“Normally I don’t send or forward a lot of these, but even by my standards, it was a bit touching. I want all of my friends to feel what I felt when I read this. Hope it touches your heart like it did mine.
“A little boy said to his mother; ‘Mommy, how come I’m black and you’re white?’
“His mother replied, ‘Don’t even go there Barack! From what I can remember about that party, you’re lucky you don’t bark!’”
From Ezra Klein:
“People who don’t have money don’t understand the stress,” said Alan Dlugash, a partner at accounting firm Marks Paneth & Shron LLP in New York who specializes in financial planning for the wealthy. “Could you imagine what it’s like to say I got three kids in private school, I have to think about pulling them out? How do you do that?”
If Jesus has anything to do with it, which one do you think will make it past St. Peter — Barbara Johnson or a nasty, vicious little shit named Father Marcel Guarnizo? (Details here; video below)
There Barbara Johnson stood, before Jesus and her family, first in line to receive the Eucharist at the funeral Mass for her mother, a woman so Catholic she’d come to after her heart attack and crossed herself.
If you’ve seen Wednesday’s Washington Post, you know what happened then: The Rev. Marcel Guarnizo, of Gaithersburg’s John Neumann Catholic Church, “put his hand over the body of Christ,” Johnson said. He “looked at me and said, ‘I can’t give you Communion because you live with a woman, and in the eyes of the church, that is a sin.’ ”
Apropos of nothing, here’s an item from the late Abigail Van Buren’s advice column in the Washington Evening Star of September 3, 1963:
DEAR ABBY: I just read the letter from A Buddy’s Buddy who cried along with the guy who didn’t want to live any more because he got a “Dear John” letter from his girl back home. Well, I feel sorry for all the commanding officers who have to play wet nurse to a lot of slobbering crybabies who want to blow their brains out because some two-timing little tramp gave them the brush. A real man would go out and celebrate getting rid of her. If A Buddy’s Buddy is typical of our men in uniform today we should recall some of the old soldiers from World War II. CAREER MAN.
At last night’s debate — which I made a point of not watching — we had this exchange, when John King asked each candidate what was the top misconception about them, and Romney responded with the usual blather:
KING: Is there a misconception about you? The question is the misconception.
ROMNEY: You know, you get to ask the questions you want, I get to give the answers I want.
KING: Fair enough.
Far be it from me to tell John King how to do his job. But I humbly suggest a better response might be along these lines:
“Governor Romney, has it occurred to you that while I’m employed as a journalist, I am also a citizen and a taxpayer? Has it occurred to you that the reason we are here is that you are asking me as a citizen to vote for you, and as a taxpayer to cover your salary and benefits for four to eight years? Do you understand that one of the fundamental principles of this republic is that the president is answerable to the citizens — like me, for instance? Is it your contention that you are not in fact answerable to citizens — or only answerable to those with whom you happen to agree?”
I’m not holding my breath for that kind to follow-up to any exchange with a Republican...
This from Mike Lofgren, a retired Republican staffer on the House and Senate budget committees:
An observer of the right-wing phenomenon must explain the paradox of followers who would escape from freedom even as they incessantly invoke the word freedom as if it were a mantra. But freedom so defined does not mean ordinary civil liberties like the prohibition of illegal government search and seizure, the right of due process, or the right not to be tortured. The hard right has never protested the de facto abrogation of much of the Bill of Rights during the last decade.
In the right-wing id, freedom is the emotional release that a hostile and psychologically repressed person feels when he is finally able to lash out at the objects of his resentment. Freedom is his prerogative to rid himself of people who are different, or who unsettle him. Freedom is merging into a like-minded herd. Right-wing alchemy transforms freedom into authoritarianism.
Sure, it’s Alabama. But still…
Alabama legislators were given a 62 percent raise in 2007, and State Senator Shadrack McGill (R-AL) says the raise discourages corruption among lawmakers. The previous low salaries “played into the corruption, guys, big time,” he says. “You had your higher-ranking legislators that were connected with the lobbyists making up in the millions of dollars. They weren’t worried about that $30,000 paid salary they were getting.” By paying lawmakers more up front, he says, they are less susceptible to taking bribes: “He needs to make enough that he can say no, in regards to temptation.”
However, if teachers were given pay raises, then people who are not “called” to teach would begin joining the profession, he says. “Teachers need to make the money that they need to make. There needs to be a balance there. If you double what you’re paying education, you know what’s going to happen? I’ve heard the comment many times, ‘Well, the quality of education’s going to go up.’ That’s never proven to happen, guys. It’s a Biblical principle. If you double a teacher’s pay scale, you’ll attract people who aren’t called to teach. To go in and raise someone’s child for eight hours a day, or many people’s children for eight hours a day, requires a calling. It better be a calling in your life. I know I wouldn’t want to do it, OK? And these teachers that are called to teach, regardless of the pay scale, they would teach.
Foster Friess, one of the leading bidders in the current E-Bay auction of the 2012 election, is being rightly excoriated for saying this:
“This contraceptive thing, my gosh it’s such [sic] inexpensive. Back in my days, they used Bayer Aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly,” he said.
There are men in this world still who think contraception is solely the woman’s problem. Clearly, Mr. Friess is among them. That would be fine, maybe, if they would at least get out of the way and leave it to the women to solve. Right?
Apparently not. For we also have this:
Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) walked out of the hearing in protest of [Issa’s] decision, citing frustration over the fact that the first panel of witnesses consisted only of male religious leaders against the rule. Holmes Norton said she will not return, calling Issa’s chairmanship an “autocratic regime.”
So what we have is what we always have, in the Republican worldview: It’s your problem, whatever it is - until you try to do something about it. Then and only then will they take an interest - and only to tell you that you can’t solve it at all.
And they call this process “freedom.”
Googling myself just now, as who hasn’t, I came across this 1982 meditation in The Nation on the worthlessness of the CIA. Nothing has happened in the 30 years since to change my opinion that we would be better off if the agency had never been spawned. The only change I’d make today is to reveal the identity of Mr. D____. He was the late Larry Devlin, who was to reveal in his 2007 memoirs that he was once ordered to kill Congo’s prime minister Patrice Lumumba with poisoned toothpaste, but dragged his feet until Belgian spooks murdered the man instead.
Most of the piece is after the jump. Here goes:
Years ago there was a really good murder in the upstate New York town where I was a cub reporter. The newsmagazines, the wire services and the seven New York City dailies all sent reporters. But the little Middletown Times-Herald managed to stay out in front of these out-of-town hit-and-run artists, because we knew the territory. So when an eyewitness to the killing turned up, we got the tip.
The managing editor sent me to interview the man, an unemployed laborer with kids to feed. When he seemed reluctant to talk, I encouraged him with $25 of the paper’s money. Not only did we beat the competition with his dramatic eyewitness account, we beat them again the following day with the story of how he flunked a lie detector test on it, up in Albany. I listed the $25 on my expense account as “Bribe,” but the managing editor made me change it to “Miscellaneous Expenses.” I never paid for information again, on that newspaper or any of the others I worked for, even if it did seem like a good way to get imaginative stories.
The C.I.A. man gave me a holler as I walked by his office in our Casablanca consulate. Since I knew lots of people from my job with the U.S. Information Agency, he thought I might be able to identify some faces in a pile of photos he had. They had been taken at a party the Russians had given to mark the opening of their new consulate in town. (We had all been invited, but the American ambassador didn’t want us to go. He was frightened of the Russians, poor little man; maybe he thought they would infect us.)
I identified a dozen or so of the guests, but I didn’t know one particular man who was in so many of the photos that the C.I.A. officer thought he must be important. “Bill,” I said — that’s not his real name, naturally, since Reagan might jail me for ten years under the naming-of-agents act if I used it —“Bill,” I said, “all you had to do was go to the party and you could have been introduced to him.” It would have been a break for the taxpayers, too, not having to pay for an extra set of prints from the society photographers every time the Communists threw a party.
A Moroccan came to my office one afternoon to ask if I had seen that month’s copy of the magazine he published. It had a picture of dead Vietnamese on the cover, identified as victims of American bombing. The U.S.Information Agency had sent him the picture a long time ago; it showed civilian victims of a Vietcong rocket attack.
“In Arabic we have a saying,” this poisonous little toad told me. “‘A man can bite, or a man can kiss.”’ Now that he had shown America his teeth, he was ready to kiss her. He would print anything we wanted in his magazine. We could even plant somebody in his office, if we liked, to watch over our interests.
I told him he would just have to keep on biting, since the U.S.I.A. didn’t have funds for that kind of thing. “Well, there are some Americans in your embassy who do,” he said, and he was right. The C.I.A. pays to place garbage in rags like his. Of course I didn’t say that, because I was a diplomat, then.
One day I went out to the labor office in Khouribga, a Moroccan mining town, with our labor attaché Jim Mattson. (I can reveal his name because he was a State Department officer, not an intelligence op.) He was the only one of us in the consulate who spoke Arabic.
Afterward he told me what he had asked the labor officials: Did a man fill out a card when he registered for work? Where do you put the card then? Do you mind if I look? Where do you put his card after you find him a job? How long does the card stay in that file before you throw it out? How many are still in the file? And so on…
By the end he had learned plenty of things about the labor situation in Morocco’s biggest phosphate mining center. One of them was that the office provided jobs and benefits for practically nobody except the functionaries who worked there. Over the months and years, Jim had gotten to know more about Morocco than any of us, and that’s the way he did it. He just walked in and asked polite questions.
In my first week as the press attaché at our embassy in Laos, the C.I.A. station chief briefed me on what he thought I should know about his operation. (I won’t reveal his name, either, although it was spelled out on his parking bay in the embassy lot. The signs went like this: “Ambassador,” “Deputy Chief of Mission,” “USAID Director,” “Mr. D_____.”) Mr. D____ told me many secret things, and I learned more elsewhere as time went on. I never leaked them, but every one of them got out somehow and appeared in the papers sooner or later. It didn’t make any difference, though. We kept on doing them anyway, because Nixon and Kissinger felt they were things we ought to be doing. They kept on not working, too, and now Laos is a colony of Vietnam.
Reagan has fired William Kennedy, his U.S. Attorney in San Diego, for telling the newspapers that the Justice Department was blocking the indictment of a car thief named Miguel Nassar Haro. Nassar used to sunlight as chief of Mexico’s Directorate of Federal Security. He moonlighted not only as the head of a ring that stole cars in the United States for sale in Mexico but as a C.I.A. source on the rebels in El Salvador and Guatemala.
The incident raises disturbing moral and legal questions, unless you are as hard to disturb as the President and his Attorney General. It also raises two questions that are neither moral nor legal but just common-sensical.
This: if Reagan/Haig/Casey/Weinberger had known everything there was to know about the rebels in Central America — not just what a Mexican car thief could tell them, but absolutely everything — what would they have done about it? Anything different? And this: if you pay a car thief to steal you a Chrysler, he will steal you a Chrysler; if you let him know you’re interested in Sandinista support of the Salvadoran rebels, what will turn up in your driveway?
From Gail Sheehy’s 1995 profile in Vanity Fair comes all you need to know about Newt — semi-smart but with nutty ideas, poor follow-through, and a mess left for somebody else to clean up.
Surprisingly, the boy in the bottle-thick glasses with a plaid shirt and plastic pocket protector was only a runner-up as a National Merit Scholar. He did make the debate team, but, according to his stepfather, Bob Gingrich, “he wasn’t an A student … He wasn’t the class pride.” His mother Kit claims that Newt’s I.Q measured in the 120s…
“He always tried to be one of the boys,” says Kip Carter. “He never quite was.” To illustrate the point, Carter tells a down-home kind of story from the 1970s. Newt and Carter, who was then his campaign treasurer, used to barbecue hogs in the Gingriches’ driveway in Carrollton, Georgia. They would go to a friend’s farm and pick out a hog and shoot it.
“One day, Newt says to me, ‘I need to be the one to kill the hog. It’s only right, just morally.’”
Carter showed Newt how to use a Walther P-38, a W.W. II German pistol. “I said, ‘Put some corn in your left hand. When the pig comes over to get it, put the pistol against his head and shoot him between his eyes.’”
“So the pig comes over and he starts eating,” says Carter. “Newt flinches as the round hits the pig on the side of the head and ricochets down.” But the shot only stunned the hog and sent it fleeing back into the pen. “Newt keeps trying to get this pig to come back to him. Newt’s getting madder and madder. I said to him, ‘You just shot the son of a bitch in the head, Newt, why do you think he’s gonna come to you?’”
Carter recalls urging his comrade-in-arms, “‘You gotta get in there, in the hogpen, and go get him.’ But Newt wouldn’t do it. So I ended up going in the pen and killing the hog.”
Years ago an elderly relative of mine, sick and near death, told me the only thing that kept him going was opening the paper one more morning to see what stupid shit the bastards were up to now.
He’d be alive yet if he had known that Oklahoma State Senator Ralph Shortey would surface one day, introducing a bill to ban the sale of food made from the kidneys of aborted human fetuses.
The senator believes that cells from these innocent pre-born Americans are already being used, or could be used, or might be used, or something, to enhance the flavor of soft drinks and potato chips. Or something. But let Senator Shortey tell you about it himself. Here’s the audio.
From Tom Degan at The Rant, a line I wish I had written:
Well over a year ago I predicted on this site that the religious bigots and crazy people who long ago hijacked the “the party of Abraham Lincoln” would never nominate Mormon Mitt Romney. “David Duke will be named head of the NAACP before that ever happens” I speculated at the time. It appears that I might be forced to eat a healthy dish of crow on the occasion of Mitt’s victory in the New Hampshire Primary last night. This is not to imply that the half-witted “base” of that party are happy about what happened last evening. Anything but. Let me put it to you this way: The Republicans just got the news that they’re pregnant and they’re trying to fall in love as rapidly as possible.
Hot off the wire from CNN:
In his last days in office, outgoing Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour pardoned two men convicted of murder, a state official said Monday…
OMG, is it possible I’ve been wrong about Haley Barbour all these years? Is it possible he’s not a complete, top-to-bottom, front-to-back vicious asshole? Could he really be correcting some hideous miscarriage of justice? Nah—
Both men, according to the affiliates, were working as trusties at the governor's mansion.
A vicious, extremist nut is a vicious, extremist nut whether disguised as a Christian, Moslem or Jew. It would be nice to think that a just God exists, able to consign the whole lot of them to hell. It is particularly sad to see this sort of swine slowly taking over Israel, a nation born of such bright dreams.
The Israeli public has been rocked by a series of recent reports about the behavior of extremist Jewish groups, which has included forcing women to sit at the back of public buses, erecting signs calling for the separation of the sexes on sidewalks and even the physical assaults of schoolgirls by ultra-Orthodox men who found their school uniforms immodest.
Naama Margolese, an 8-year-old American immigrant who attends the Orot school in Beit Shemesh, became a focal point of the outcry after an Israeli news station filmed her facing daily abuses from extremists. TV news footage showed the shy, bespectacled second-grader shaking and brushing tears from her eyes as she described men who spat at her and called her “prostitute” for attending the school.
A group of extremists has taken issue with the Orot school’s location, near a hard-line religious school for men. Though the Orot school was exclusively for Orthodox girls — nearly all of whom dress in long skirts and long-sleeved shirts — in August a group of men began gathering every week to curse and threaten the students.
“My stomach hurts every time I need to walk to and from the school and I know those men will be there,” Naama said. “They are scary.”
I can’t let this one slide. Here’s Thomas Friedman — sort of, kind of — calling Baby Bush the father of the Arab Spring. Even putting Shock and Awe into the same paragraph with Tahrir Square is an obscenity.
So no matter the original reasons for the war, in the end, it came down to this: Were America and its Iraqi allies going to defeat Al Qaeda and its allies in the heart of the Arab world or were Al Qaeda and its allies going to defeat them? Thanks to the Sunni Awakening movement in Iraq, and the surge, America and its allies defeated them and laid the groundwork for the most important product of the Iraq war: the first ever voluntary social contract between Sunnis, Kurds and Shiites for how to share power and resources in an Arab country and to govern themselves in a democratic fashion. America helped to midwife that contract in Iraq, and now every other Arab democracy movement is trying to replicate it — without an American midwife. You see how hard it is.
God know what he was telling Freddie Mac, but here's a summary of the clueless Newtster’s most recent attempt on history:
Gingrich, who explained that he was outraged by activist liberal elitist judges imposing their secular values on America (and more generally by “lawyers” who have come “to think that they can dictate to the rest of us”), declared that as president he would simply ignore Supreme Court decisions he didn’t like, abolish Federal appeals courts whose “anti-American” judges ruled in ways he didn’t like, and encourage Congress to subpoena judges to explain their decisions.
He claimed that Lincoln had similarly “just ignored” the Dred Scott decision, when he issued his Emancipation Proclamation; he said that Jefferson had similarly abolished Federal circuit courts whose judges he opposed; and he asserted that Jackson and FDR had also taken stances against what he declared to be the spurious doctrine of “judicial supremacy”— that the courts can pass judgment on the constitutionality of presidential actions or acts of Congress.
He insisted that the Supreme Court’s 2008 decision on detainees at Guantanamo could be declared “null and void” by the president “because it infringes on my duties as commander in chief to protect the country.”
He wrapped up his case by invoking those infallible and all-seeing guides, the Founding Fathers, who he said “were very distrustful of judges, saw them as an elite instrument of government designed to oppress people. And, as a result, consciously made the judicial branch the third branch and the weakest branch.”
You knew instinctively, of course, that all this was just more waste product from the GOP’s current White Hope (its Black Hope having self-destructed). But you probably didn’t have the time or inclination to do exploratory surgery. However The Liberal Curmudgeon (from which the above excerpt comes) has done a thorough dissection for you; sadly, the patient did not survive.
I belong to an online forum called Vietnam Old Hacks, made up of correspondents and other observers of our murderous Southeast Asian follies. Lately there has been a discussion of whether a forum member should have flat-out called Henry Kissinger a war criminal.
We Americans learn nothing, absolutely nothing, ever, from our stupidities of even the very recent past. And our Vietnam idiocy, given the shortness of our national memory, now seems even more remote and irrelevant than Clinton’s repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act. Still, what’s an Old Hack to do? He’s got to try. So here’s Andrew Pearson, who was a television cameraman, correspondent and producer in Vietnam back in the day:
In 1970, Telford Taylor’s book was published: Nuremberg and Vietnam: An American Tragedy. The subtitle: Is the US guilty of war crimes in Vietnam? He was America’s chief counsel for the prosecution at the Nazi war-crimes trials at Nuremberg in 1946. When I saw the cover of the book some forty years ago, I wasn’t ready to absorb the argument though by then I had witnessed in South Vietnam what various Geneva Conventions would say were crimes of war.
On page 206, Taylor writes, “... when the nature, scale and effect of intervention changed so drastically in 1965, it is more than “puzzling” (as the Senate Refugee Subcommittee put it) that virtually no one in high authority had the capacity and inclination to perceive and articulate the inevitable consequences. How could it ever have been thought that air strikes, free-fire zones and a mass uprooting and removal of the rural population were the way to win ‘the allegiance of the South Vietnamese’? By what mad cerebrations could a ratio of 28 to 1 between our investments in bombing, and in relief for those we had wounded and made homeless, have even been contemplated, let alone adopted as the operational pattern? One may well echo the acrid French epigram, and say that all this ‘is worse than a crime, it is a blunder’— the most costly and tragic national blunder in American history.... Somehow we failed ourselves to learn the lessons we undertook to teach at Nuremberg, and that failure is today’s American tragedy.”
Forty years after having read Taylor’s book, I really don’t mind at all when those of us call the old “leaders” war criminals. It’s apt. Reagan tried to get everybody to get over it with his invocation that it was a “noble cause.” Not even a blunder. Where does responsibility lie? Do we excuse our decision makers because, looking back, they didn’t know anything about the history of the place — didn’t think they needed to know anything about it. But the trouble with wars is that a lot of people can’t “get over it” for a variety of reasons. The older they get the closer the old memories cling. Truth seems to mature with age and language becomes more blunt.
From The Liberal Curmudgeon:
I have been perplexed for some time why Newt Gingrich is routinely acknowledged even by his bitter enemies within the Republican Party as a “genius,” but the answer turns out to be simple: he acts exactly like one of those obnoxious elitist intellectual know-it-alls that the right-wing know-nothings think is the hallmark of an intellectual. He is constantly reminding us of his doctorate in history; he routinely claims he understands issues more deeply than anyone else; he has made a career of denouncing or (when he had the authority) eliminating professional expertise that might challenge his own certain pronouncements; and he is a veritable fount of crackpot “big” ideas (mining minerals on the moon, protecting the United States from sci-fi doomsday scenarios, and “fundamentally transforming” everything as a first step to doing anything.
Another useful rule of thumb: real geniuses, as opposed to simple egomaniacs, do not generally refer to themselves in the third person.
From The Carter Center:
Half of the workforce of the artisanal mining sector in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is comprised of children. Children as young as two years. Without viable economic alternatives, most children must join their parents in rudimentary mining pits. Children as young as two years transport, wash, and crush minerals to earn half a dollar a day.
These schools should get rid of unionized janitors, have one master janitor, pay local students to take care of the school. The kids would actually do work; they’d have cash; they’d have pride in the schools. They’d begin the process of rising…
Go out and talk to people who are really successful in one generation. They all started their first job at 9 to 14 years of age. They are selling newspapers, going door to door, washing cars. They were all making money at a very young age.
My nephew Jason sends this along. So watch it or die.
On Fox Business, Eric Bolling asks the question no one else dares to:
“ARE LIBERALS TRYING TO BRAINWASH YOUR KIDS AGAINST CAPITALISM?”
1) The Muppets are currently owned by the Walt Disney Company. It is extremely unlikely that a major corporation is attempting to brainwash kids against capitalism. Especially a major corporation that markets directly to your kids. (Full disclosure, if anyone is interested: Said major corporation currently employs me.)
2) We don't need the Muppets to brainwash kids against capitalism. Our current version of scorched-earth capitalism is doing that very nicely all by itself.
How ’bout a little professional curtesy, Mr. Bolling? It is unseemly, to say the least, for one puppet to attack another...
It just took a few shootings at Kent State to shut that down for good.
Surely Ms. Coulter couldn’t have said that out loud, right where humans could hear it? Maybe the San Francisco Weekly was doing a Lazy American on her: maybe “shootings” referred to what photojournalists do and “that” referred to the Vietnam War. To be fair and balanced, which is sort of a religion with me, I went to the KFSO radio site and made myself listen to the whole interview. The Weekly had the quote right, word for word. In context, “shootings” referred to the 67 rounds fired by the Ohio National Guard at long range, murdering the four unarmed, nonviolent students pictured below. “That” referred to student protests by the SDS and other commie-loving surrender monkeys of the day.
I suppose dopey comments from Michelle Bachmann aren’t really worthy of notice. Stupid people have been saying stupid things for millennia, after all. But this one caught my eye, nonetheless.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said she would add former presidents Ronald Reagan, James Garfield and Calvin Coolidge to Mount Rushmore Tuesday in an ABC News/Yahoo! interview Tuesday.
When asked who she would add to the South Dakota monument, she proposed Reagan. She then mentioned James Garfield, who was president for just over seven months before being assassinated. She reportedly said she chose him because he is the only person to become president from the House of Representatives. (Bachmann could be the second if she is elected president.) She then said Calvin Coolidge would be a good candidate for the monument, since he “got the country’s budget back on track.”
Of course she would. But I have to ask, why not Eisenhower? Why not Grant? I mean, Garfield and Coolidge aren’t exactly heavy hitters in the proud history of the GOP. Of course, history doesn’t seem to hold much interest for our Republican friends, not even when they might invoke it to their credit.
For the record, there is a reason each of those four men is memorialized on Mt. Rushmore. Washington was instrumental — if not indispensable — in creating this nation. Jefferson doubled its size. Lincoln kept it from tearing itself apart. And Roosevelt turned it into an empire (although McKinley helped on that one.) Each of them, in other words, fundamentally transformed the country — physically, not just ideologically. The reality is that there aren’t any other presidents about which that can be said. That’s not to say those are our four best presidents ever (FDR, anyone?), of course, or that these men did not have flaws to balance against their achievements.
As for Bachmann’s choices, Reagan began the dismantling of this country. Coolidge is generally cited as a positive example by his admirers precisely because he did next to nothing, and Garfield is remembered for being shot. (Robert Klein once observed that when you look up Garfield in the encyclopedia, it says “See ‘Assassination.’”) Like Sarah Palin invoking Paul Revere’s bells, this doesn’t even cut it as glib and superficial pandering.
Luckily, Mt. Rushmore isn’t exactly sound enough structurally to add another sculpture. Unless, of course, the plan is for Marcus Bachmann to pray away all the parts of Mt. Rushmore that don’t look like Reagan, Garfield and Coolidge. So I guess we don’t have to worry about that happening any time soon. We do, however, have to worry for the foreseeable future about boneheaded conservatives proposing that Saint Ronnie be added to Mt. Rushmore…
How dumb can the GOP get? How dumb ya got? How about this, for example, from McClatchy Newspapers:
WASHINGTON — In a move aimed at improving national security, House Republicans want to give the U.S. Border Patrol unprecedented authority to ignore 36 environmental laws on federal land in a 100-mile zone stretching along the Canadian and Mexican borders.
If the legislation is approved, the Border Patrol would not have to comply with the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Solid Waste Disposal Act and 32 other federal laws in such popular places as Olympic National Park, Glacier Park, the Great Lakes and the Boundary Waters Wilderness Area…
Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, filed a bill this week to bring back “dwarf tossing,” the barbaric and dangerous barroom spectacle that was imported from Australia and thrived briefly in Florida before it was outlawed in 1989.
“I’m on a quest to seek and destroy unnecessary burdens on the freedom and liberties of people,” Workman said. “This is an example of Big Brother government.
“All that it does is prevent some dwarfs from getting jobs they would be happy to get,” Workman said. “In this economy, or any economy, why would we want to prevent people from getting gainful employment?”
I suppose there are the obvious observations: In the midst of what is a Depression in all but name, this is what a (nominal) public servant decides to focus on??? Just how many jobs does Workman think this move is going to create? Are there a lot of little people clamoring for this particular remedy? Did it not perhaps occur to Mr. Workman that maybe — just maybe — the “jobs they would be happy to get” are the same jobs the rest of us would be happy to get? Y’know — the ones that pay decently and offer benefits, like our parents’ jobs generally did in a bygone age?
But apart from the WTF quality of this particular proposal, there is something deeper. Namely that Mr. Workman and his fellow Republicans consistently see “freedom” in terms of the crassest exploitation. That Terrible Horrible No-Good Very Bad government is preventing the free market from exploiting dwarfs! Surely there is no other word for this but Tyranny. And just as surely it must be as beneficial to dwarfs to be exploited as it is for those who would exploit them!
Or children, for that matter — as the various state-level proposals from our Republican friends to do away with child-labor laws demonstrate.
So dwarfs opting to be tossed — that’s Freedom! Of course, if these same individuals were to decide to congregate outside Mr.Workman’s office to demand decent jobs and real economic fairness, I have no doubt that he would waste no time in denouncing them as un-American. Such is the compassion of today’s conservatives.
From the New Mexico Independent:
Though medical marijuana is legal in New Mexico, the drug is still regarded as an illegal scheduled substance by the federal government. Given the federal government sets the rules on who can own guns, medicinal marijuana smokers of this state and 15 others are barred from owning guns.
The point was reiterated in a late September letter written (PDF) by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and sent to federal firearms licensees. Owners of gun stores are instructed to withhold the sale of arms or munitions to anyone suspected of having an interaction or addiction to scheduled drugs, including marijuana. The letter specifies individuals known to have a medicinal marijuana card can be reasonably assumed to be an abuser of a controlled substance and gun shop owners must refuse purchase.
Moreover, the letter affirms the illegality of a medicinal marijuana smoker purchasing weapons. Already, those who seek to purchase firearms or ammunition must fill out ATF Form 4473. Question 11.e. specifically asks: “Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?” Answering ‘yes’ legally bars the individual from purchasing guns or ammunition.
The ATF letter several times referred to marijuana as an addictive drug. According to a summary of the book The Science of Marijuana (2008) in Psychology Today, a person’s risk of developing an addiction to marijuana is roughly 9 percent, compared to 33 percent for tobacco users and 15 percent for alcohol users.
From New York magazine:
The so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” finally opened Wednesday at 45–51 Park Place. Last year, Park51, as the mosque–community center two iconic blocks from the WTC is called, was the flashpoint of the most heated New York City public debate in decades, prompting raucous community-board meetings, much incendiary rhetoric about the supposed Islamization of America, and, eventually, the uncommon sight of Mayor Bloomberg crying on television while defending New York as an unending beacon of tolerance where “no neighborhood is off-limits to God’s love and mercy.”From Kevin Drum, in Mother Jones:
On Wednesday night, however, aside from the cop car that sits outside the building 24/7 and a number of burly, black-clad bouncers, Park51’s recent history was little in evidence…
No one I talked to wanted to discuss the outrageous events of the past year. In fact, neither Pamela Geller or Robert Spencer — the firebrand bloggers who concocted the bulk of the anti-mosque talking points — even mentioned the Park51 opening on their sites. Then again, they may still by lying low in the wake of the disclosure that their views were widely quoted in the papers of Norwegian gunman Anders Behring Breivik.
The mosque was introduced to the public in December 2009, Pamela Geller shrieked about it, and no one cared. In May 2010 the project was approved, Pamela Geller shrieked about it, and no one cared. A week later, a New York Post columnist wrote a piece called “Mosque Madness at Ground Zero,” Pamela Geller continued shrieking about it, and —
And suddenly Rupert Murdoch’s other New York-based news operation took notice. After all, there was an election coming in November, and what better way to rally the troops? It was just one more log for Fox to toss onto its Bonfire of Xenophobia last summer..
Rick Santorum offers up this frothy bit of wisdom:
“Does anybody in this room believe that somebody that’s 62 years old is too old to work in America today?” Santorum asked. “Social Security was established for people who were too old to work and therefore they needed the support of the federal government.”
For the moment, let’s leave aside that this is not historically correct. (Thom Hartmann neatly pointed out on his show today that both Roosevelts believed people should be able to retire after a lifetime of work. But since they were both commies, that probably doesn’t count.) Instead, let’s take Santorum’s statement on its own terms. Just for a few moments.
I don’t know specifically who was in the room when the statement was made. But the reality is that there are a lot of people who believe that someone who is 62 years old is too old to work in America today. Most CEOs. Most HR managers. Most of the so-called “job creators.” Pretty much everybody, in other words, in a position to actually hire someone who is 62 years old.
But don’t worry — they feel the same way about someone who is 52 years old. This is the reality in America today: the de facto retirement age is somewhere in the neighborhood of 49. That’s the age at which business is done with you — unless it’s your own business, of course. But if that’s the case, you’re most likely not hiring people older than 49 either. And if you’re a Republican you are most likely berating everyone you think is too old to hire for being lazy when everyone else with a job to offer makes the same unfair assessment of older workers that you did.
So, Rickster, here’s a modest proposal: Ask your campaign contributors if they think 62 is too old to work.
And then get ready to offer “the support of the federal government” to a whole lot of middle-aged, able-bodied people.
Speaking of Vogons, here’s more from From Crazy for God, Frank Schaeffer’s memoir of growing up evangelical:
“The other day,” said Pat [Robertson], “I was invited to speak to the Orlando chapter of The Full Gospel Businessmen’s Association. At the end of my talk about how God will bless us if we plant a seed of faith and give richly to His work, by supporting the 700 Club’s special fund, I said, ‘Now bow your heads, open your hearts, and close your eyes so no one but God and me can see you. Now each one of you men’ — they were all successful, married, Christian men in their midforties to fifties — ‘raise your hands if you still masturbate.’ And do you know, over half raised their hands!”
From the New York Times:
Neither critique of the C.I.A. is new. In fact, some of the information that the agency argues is classified, according to two people who have seen the correspondence between the F.B.I. and C.I.A., has previously been disclosed in open Congressional hearings, the report of the national commission on 9/11 and even the 2007 memoir of George J. Tenet, the former C.I.A. director…
A spokeswoman for the C.I.A., Jennifer Youngblood, said, “The suggestion that the Central Intelligence Agency has requested redactions on this publication because it doesn’t like the content is ridiculous. The C.I.A.’s pre-publication review process looks solely at the issue of whether information is classified.”
She noted that under the law, “Just because something is in the public domain doesn’t mean it’s been officially released or declassified by the U.S. government.”
Here is a posting on The Corner by a philosopher named David French. It deals with the well-documented links between poverty and sin. Jesus was dismayed by the same phenomenon. He is on the record as saying, “For ye have the poor always with you,” while twitching the hem of his richly embroidered robe away from some beggar lest it be soiled.
Read French's powerful mini-essay, and then scroll down to this comment, in which it is dissected and its parts laid out for inspection by a reader (almost certainly not named George W.) who seems actually to be poor, or to have been poor once, or at least to have known one or two of the nasty wretches.
Now this is truly sick. It’s from a piece on former District of Columbia school superintendent Michelle Rhee by one of my favorite reporters, Michael Winerip.
Always, she preens for the cameras. Early in her chancellorship, she was trailed for a story by the education correspondent of “PBS NewsHour,” John Merrow.
At one point, Ms. Rhee asked if his crew wanted to watch her fire a principal. “We were totally stunned,” Mr. Merrow said.
She let them set up the camera behind the principal and videotape the entire firing. “The principal seemed dazed,” said Mr. Merrow. “I’ve been reporting 35 years and never seen anything like it.”
For this call to storm the barricades we are indebted to Jim Fallows. The true horror comes not from the video itself, but from the fact it was made at all.
In the interest of knowing thine enemy, I direct you to this. Don’t laugh. These pre-Gadarene swine are behind you, and catching up:
…Even the most conservative evangelicals said they were “New Testament Christians.” In other words, they believed that after the coming of Jesus, the harsher bits of the Bible had been (at least to some extent) transformed by the “New Covenant” of Jesus’ “Law of Love.”
By contrast, the leaders of Reconstructionism believed that Old Testament teachings — on everything from capital punishment for gays to the virtues of child-beating — were still valid because they were the inerrant Word and Will of God and therefore should be enforced. Not only that, they said that biblical law should be imposed even on nonbelievers. This theology was the American version of the attempt in some Muslim countries to impose Shariah (Islamic law) on all citizens, Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
It was my old friend, the short, stocky, bearded Armenian American Rousas Rushdoony who in 1973 most thoroughly laid out the far right/religious right agenda in his book, The Institutes of Biblical Law. Rushdoony changed the definition of salvation from the accepted evangelical idea that it applies to individuals to the claim that salvation is really about politics. With this redefinition, Rushdoony contradicted the usual reading of Jesus’ words by most Christians to mean that Jesus had not come to this earth to be a political leader: “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).
According to Rushdoony, all nations on earth should be obedient to the ancient Jewish/Christian version of “God’s Law,” so that the world will experience “God’s blessings.” Biblical salvation will then turn back the consequences of the Fall, and we’ll be on our way to the New Eden. To achieve this “turning back,” coercion must be used by the faithful to stop evildoers, who are, by definition, anyone not obeying all of God’s Laws as defined by the Calvinist and Reconstructionist interpretation of the Bible…
How must you feel if you’re a Member of Congress these days? Embarrassed? Unclean? Do you mind being classified with the creepy-crawlies?
There was a time when members of the U.S. House of Representatives were not held in the same esteem as slugs, rodents and lice. But nowadays, when they’re not carrying on like demented five-year-olds, they are featured in ads fleeing from the Orkin man or checking into a Roach Motel.
How did so many Congressmen and Congresswomen fall from respect to obloquy? How many times have you heard your neighbors say, “Let’s get rid of all of them in the next election? Wipe the slate clean and start over. The next batch couldn’t possibly do any worse.”
This is of course the old “Throw the bums out!” refrain, but it doesn’t bode well for the country when people start to think of Congress as so much mildew. It will be a sad day when voters bring bottles of Tilex to the polls. And this day is coming soon.
Was it always thus? Well, maybe not always but too often. The problem seems to be that so many Congresspersons can’t hold a thought for very long. They forget who they are, where they are, and why. Many of them don’t seem to grasp the fundamentals of representative government, and those who do can’t seem to cope with those who don’t. This pathetic corrosion of reasonable governance has now infected both houses and the Oval Office. Nobody can do anything except to vigorously do nothing.
So now, after an incredibly drawn-out and tiresome exercise in schoolyard power politics, we have a “deal,” a bill that creates another commission to study the debt problem and come up with recommendations. Congress apparently forgot that we’ve already done that — twice. But why do something only once if you can spend another few millions doing it again, and again, all the while calling for fiscal responsibility?
Fiscal responsibility used to be the byword of the Republican Party and Republicans are still trumpeting this conceit as the bedrock of their political philosophy. Once upon a time it was a respectable, if selfish, position, but now mainly draws exasperated guffaws and clucking from all but the most deranged right-wingers, the tea party extremists, for instance. Except for its own highly paid ideologues and a profoundly ignorant and mean-spirited segment of the electorate, no one in the GOP, including its elected officials, can possibly believe in its claim to fiscal responsibility.
George W. Bush and a Republican-controlled Congress added more than four trillion dollars to the national debt, which he carried as a non-budget item, off the books, as it were, to finance not one but two ill-advised wars, wars that have accomplished absolutely nothing except to take or ruin the lives of thousands of American soldiers and countless Iraqis and Afghans. Bush loaded more onto the national debt than any president in history.
He also lowered the tax rates to give an unneeded bonanza to the richest people in the country, did much to protect the various exemptions and tax advantages enjoyed by some of the richest companies and then he tried to privatize Social Security, an idea that some scholars have called the single-most irresponsible initiative ever undertaken by an American president.
But, hey, fiscal responsibility takes many forms. And sometimes the people, they just don’t know what’s good for ‘em. But that’s what we’ve got the tea party for, to show us the way. And that’s what the Democrats are for, to mount the loyal opposition — Quiet Please! — and then to roll over so the Republicans can scratch their bellies. Thanks so much; that feels so good.
The very thought of it all brings to mind the first verse (actually, the only verse) of a favorite childhood rhyme:
Generations hence, when the river of time has worn this presidency’s importance to a small, smooth pebble in the stream of history, people will still marvel that its defining trait was a mania for high-speed rail projects. This disorder illuminates the progressive mind…
Forever seeking Archimedean levers for prying the world in directions they prefer, progressives say they embrace high-speed rail for many reasons — to improve the climate, increase competitiveness, enhance national security, reduce congestion, and rationalize land use. The length of the list of reasons, and the flimsiness of each, points to this conclusion: the real reason for progressives’ passion for trains is their goal of diminishing Americans’ individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism.
To progressives, the best thing about railroads is that people riding them are not in automobiles, which are subversive of the deference on which progressivism depends. Automobiles go hither and yon, wherever and whenever the driver desires, without timetables. Automobiles encourage people to think they—unsupervised, untutored, and unscripted—are masters of their fates. The automobile encourages people in delusions of adequacy, which make them resistant to government by experts who know what choices people should make.
Will gives away the game with the phrase “delusions of adequacy.” It is pure projection, since the whole point of the GOP’s own marketing is to keep the suckers quiet with delusions of adequacy. If the boobs can drive their car anywhere they damn please, no damn government Nazi is going push them around (that’s the bank’s job, the minute they’re late with a payment.) An AK-47 over every hearth is adequate to the task of protecting freedom-loving Americans from the feds who would otherwise enslave them (never mind Waco or Ruby Ridge.) And of course there’s nothing like a submissive wife and obedient children to make a fellow feel adequate. Except maybe pushing around a minority while you’re still, precariously, in the majority. Or that greatest delusion of adequacy of them all: belief in American exceptionalism as our ship of fools slowly sinks under the weight of their delusions.
We look back at the Great Depression and out the window at our present one, and wonder why we never seem to learn from our mistakes. At the cycle of deficits and income inequality and again wonder why. At Vietnam and Iraq and wonder why. Are we blind? Amnesiacs? Idiots?
If an individual citizen presented with symptoms so repetitive and self-destructive, no psychiatrist would hesitate to pronounce him, in layman’s terms, crazy. Why can’t they — the conservatives of both parties — ever learn?
This, though, is to misunderstand matters. They have learned. The disasters brought on so predictably and persistently by Republican administrations were not, in their view, deplorable. They were, and are, great victories.
From the GOP’s point of view both Reagan’s and George W. Bush’s stewardships of the economy were not failures, but wildly successful. Wages stayed flat or dropped, unions were busted, public and private debt skyrocketed. Good news everywhere you looked — if you were a stock gambler or an asset-stripping takeover artist or a money lender. Jobs lost to assembly lines in China, call centers in India? Marvelous. Pointless and endless wars? God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world. Without war what would become of war profiteers?
What would become of the rest of us, you ask? Who cares. We’ve got ours, Jack. And yours, too.
Somehow I missed this beauty when it first came out. In case you did, too, the full story is here. As far as I can tell from Google, the case has not yet been resolved in court.
RALEIGH, N.C. — A Bible-waving preacher protesting at a gay pride event was kissed on the cheek by a female gay rights supporter — a 74-year-old woman who was charged with simple assault, with the preacher’s blessing.
Joan Parker admits she kissed a preacher on the cheek at the Saturday event in Salisbury, N.C., proclaimed by the mayor as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Day.
“He was just waving his arms and has a Bible in one hand, up and down, and screaming at the top of his lungs, ‘sodomites’ and ‘you’re going to hell,’” Parker said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. “I thought he needed a hug. So I gave him a hug…”
Rory Collins, police chief in the town located about 45 miles northeast of Charlotte, said Belcher wanted to press charges, which he hadn’t expected. Belcher contends police would have charged him if he had touched a 74-year-old woman and that he didn’t personally pursue charges…
Belcher contends the kiss “was just one of many attempts to silence the preaching to those in need of salvation who practice a death style that they call a lifestyle.”
From Anthony Summers’ biography of J. Edgar Hoover, Official and Confidential:
In September 1964, when King was due to visit the Vatican, Edgar’s friend Cardinal Spellman was asked by FBI not to grant King an audience. To Edgar’s astonishment, the Pope ignored the advice. Then came news that the civil rights leader was to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. King, in the hospital suffering from exhaustion, thought it “the foremost of earthly honors, not for himself but for the movement.” Edgar was beside himself with rage.
“The mores of this country has [sic] sunken to a new low,” he scribbled, overlooking the fact that the Nobel was awarded by foreigners. “He was the last one in the world who should ever have received it,” he said. “I held him in utter contempt…” King, Edgar thought, deserved only the “top alley cat” prize.
Bitterness was compounded by jealousy, for Edgar had long hankered after a Nobel himself. Herbert Jenkins, the longtime police chief of Atlanta, talked with him at this time. “For years and years,” Jenkins later revealed, “Hoover had tried unsuccessfully to win the prize. Many prominent Americans had been asked by Hoover to write the Nobel Committee … but every year Hoover was passed over … Then along comes a Negro southerner who is awarded the prize. It was more than Hoover could stand. It just ate away at him.”
…and that nice Bachmann couple have made it:
Along with offering faith-based counseling at his clinic, Bachmann also gives presentations at various conferences. In November 2005, he and Rep. Bachmann both ran sessions at a “Minnesota Pastors’ Summit” in Eden Prairie, Minnesota: hers focused on the gay marriage amendment she was trying to push through the state legislature, and his was titled “The Truth About the Homosexual Agenda…”
The climax of the presentation was when, according to Prins, Bachmann brought up “three ex-gays, like part of a PowerPoint presentation.” The trio, two white men and a black woman, all testified that they had renounced their homosexuality. “One of them said, ‘If I was born gay, then I’ll have to be born again,’” Prins recalls. “The crowd went crazy.”
This is from the maiden speech of Florida’s Senator Mark Rubio, and a childish, thought-free piece of work it was. In it he asked, trembling with fear for the world beyond our borders where there be dragons:
If America declines, who will serve as living proof that liberty, security and prosperity can all exist together?
Gosh, that’s a tough one, but I’ll give it a try. Great Britain, maybe? Canada? The Netherlands? Costa Rica? France? New Zealand? Norway? Switzerland? Australia? The Isle of Man? Japan? Ireland? Sweden? Belgium? Spain? Germany? Italy? Iceland? Denmark? Luxembourg? Austria?
There must be others, but I’ve got to go now. They’re calling me for din-din.
Is there any way you’re not going to click on this?
From CNN we learn that Portland has a zero tolerance policy on urine. Its water bureau subscribes to the Dick Cheney theory of risk management, which on the national scale brought us the Department of Homeland Security (Heimat Sicherheit in the original German), endless war in the Middle East, and a citizenry of cringing cowards. Search a baby’s diaper for explosives at the airport, and a clear majority of Americans will call it regrettable, but a necessary price to pay for our freedoms.
Is it possible that nobody at the Portland Water Bureau has ever visited a public pool full of pissing, splashing and swallowing kids who nonetheless manage to survive? Are the Water Bureau’s managers incapable of calculating the number of ounces in a gallon, multiplying by 8,000,000, dividing by 16, and then having a good laugh over the immeasurable trace of piss remaining in a glass of city water? Of course they’re not, but the poor bastards answer to a public long since reduced to a permanent state of fear. Good Americans snivel their way through life's darkness, cowering at every small sound and literally worried sick.
Oregon’s Portland Water Bureau is draining an 8 million-gallon reservoir after surveillance cameras caught a man urinating into it this week.
The move will cost the water bureau $35,000 – $28,000 in lost revenue and $7,500 in disposal costs, CNN affiliate KATU-TV reports…
A healthy bladder holds up to 16 ounces of urine, according to the National Institutes of Health.
From the Washington Post:
In one-quarter of the country, girls born today may live shorter lives than their mothers, and the country as a whole is falling behind other industrialized nations in the march toward longer life, according to the study…
What surprised Murray and his team was that despite increased consciousness about disparities and per capita spending on health care that is at least 50 percent higher than European countries, the United States is falling farther behind them with each passing year.
What failed to surprise me and my team was this:
The region where life expectancy is lowest, and in some places declining, begins in West Virginia, runs through the southern Appalachian Mountains and west through the Deep South into North Texas.
This is a swath of red states where the right to bear arms is particularly cherished. Without it, voters would have trouble shooting themselves in the foot on election day.
Sarah Palin had this to say on the subject of Paul Revere:
He who warned, uh, the ... British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms, uh, by ringing those bells and making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free, and we were going to be armed.
But here's what really pisses me off: Paul Revere's ride had already been distilled down to its simplest possible terms. It was already shorthand. It was already a cartoon. It doesn't require an explanation of any kind. And Palin doesn't know even that.
It's as if she was trying to explain what Bugs Bunny looks like, but doing so by describing Daffy Duck.
A couple of particularly stupid remarks from Republicans have been bothering me for a while, so I thought I’d get them off my chest.
Rep. Rob Woodall, a Georgia Republican, made a vigorous ideological defense of ending Medicare as it currently exists, telling seniors at a local town hall that they ought not look to the government to provide health care for the elderly just because their private employer doesn't offer health benefits for retirees.
A Woodall constituent raised a practical obstacle to obtaining coverage in the private market within the confines of an employer-based health insurance system: What happens when you retire?
"The private corporation that I retired from does not give medical benefits to retirees," the woman told the congressman in video captured a local Patch reporter in Dacula, Ga.
"Hear yourself, ma'am. Hear yourself," Woodall told the woman. "You want the government to take care of you, because your employer decided not to take care of you. My question is, 'When do I decide I'm going to take care of me?'"
I’m sure it never occurred to Rep. Woodall that government IS one of the ways we take care of ourselves. We all contribute to the cost of building and maintaining a civilized nation in order that we may all reap the benefits of being citizens of that nation. It’s the first thing in the Constitution. You can look it up and everything.
And that's leaving aside the sad irony that Woodall and his ilk have dedicated their political lives to ensuring that this woman and the majority of all Americans will be denied the wherewithal to "take care of me."
A Kansas state Representative had this to say last week, on the subject of rape:
During the House’s debate, Rep. Pete DeGraaf, a Mulvane Republican who supports the bill, told [state Rep. Barbara Bollier]: “We do need to plan ahead, don’t we, in life?”
Bollier asked him, “And so women need to plan ahead for issues that they have no control over with a pregnancy?”
DeGraaf drew groans of protest from some House members when he responded, “I have spare tire on my car.”
“I also have life insurance,” he added. “I have a lot of things that I plan ahead - for.”
So what Rep. DeGraaf seems to be saying is that women should expect to be raped. Is that what he tells his wife? Or daughters, if he has any? For that matter, how would Rep. DeGraaf feel if anyone so cavalierly treated the rape of his wife or daughter? (Hey, if we can ask Michael Dukakis how he'd react to his wife being raped, I think a similar question may be fairly asked of Rep. DeGraaf.) And just what sort of “planning ahead” does he have in mind? Surely he doesn't mean that women should be saving up for an abortion. If women should expect to be raped, then every man they encounter is a likely rapist, right? Perhaps women should just pre-emptively mace the men they come across in their day-to-day affairs. They might want to start with Pete DeGraaf.
Between this and the unconscionable response of congressional Republicans to the tornado in Joplin, I have to ask myself, Is there any human tragedy dire enough to to register on the Republican psyche as a genuine misfortune?
Available evidence suggests there is not.
Another note on the decline of the American Empire from Robert Stein at his always interesting blog, Connecting.the.Dots. I hope I’ll be that sharp an observer when I get to be his age.
Never mind men in outer space or those slogging in Middle East mud, media attention is on a horny old Frenchman in Manhattan detention, a former body builder with no procreative self-control and a preening pack of politicians playing Chicken with the national debt limit.
In the Age of Viagra, masculinity is being downgraded everywhere. Even 60 Minutes is obsessed with strength cheating by Lance Armstrong and other cycling idols.
The Bogart-Eastwood days of strong, silent men are long gone, replaced by caricatures on the national stage, flexing fake muscles and abandoning all the responsibilities that used to be associated with responsible manhood…
For further information, please apply here.
The end of the world has been predicted for tomorrow, and the best jokes have already been made. (I, for one, immediately clicked “Like” when I got the Facebook invite to Post-Rapture Looting.) I’m not terribly worried about the impending Armageddon. I’m more worried about Sunday morning, when the Faithful awaken to find themselves still here and the heavy drinking starts. Sorry, folks — if you want oblivion, you’re going to have to provide it for yourselves.
Of course, in the unlikely event that the Rapture does happen I will be profoundly upset. Not because I will be among those left behind to suffer Tribulation. But because it would mean that God is as big a doofus as the fundies claim He is. I don’t know why some people find the notion of a Cosmic Psychopath subject to capricious whims and temper tantrums so very comforting, but they do. They seem to like that quality in their presidents, senators and governors as well...
Curse you, Red Menace, why did you walk off the floor and leave us dancing all alone? Osama stepped up and filled the gap for a while, but now folks are starting to wonder if the GWOT was really worth bankrupting the country for.
It’s getting scary here in the Pentagon. Maybe we should try pumping up that old Yellow Peril doll in the attic. If we’re lucky Congress won’t notice we’re already getting our bloated ass whipped with roadside bombs at a couple hundred bucks a copy.
From the Associated Press:
…Land-based drones are in wide use in the war in Afghanistan, but sea-based versions will take several more years to develop. Northrop Grumman conducted a first-ever test flight — still on land — earlier this year.
Van Buskirk didn’t mention China specifically, but military analysts agree the drones could offset some of China’s recent advances, notably its work on a “carrier-killer” missile.
“Chinese military modernization is the major long-term threat that the U.S. must prepare for in the Asia-Pacific region, and robotic vehicles — aerial and subsurface — are increasingly critical to countering that potential threat,” said Patrick Cronin, a senior analyst with the Washington-based Center for New American Security.
China is decades away from building a military as strong as America’s, but it is developing air, naval and missile capabilities that could challenge U.S. supremacy in the Pacific — and with it, America’s ability to protect important shipping lanes and allies such as Japan and South Korea…
… the mystery of what ails Limbaugh’s dittoheads and the Tea Party and Fox News listeners and Glenn Beck fans and birthers and the entire alumni body of Liberty University as well as the electorates of Texas, Oklahoma and South Carolina. It turns out that these unfortunates may suffer from frontotemporal dementia, rendering them unable to recognize lies and sarcasm. No cure is in sight, but at least their malady now has a name.
While millions of dollars are being spent on scientific research to find an early detection system for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, scientists at the University of California, San Francisco think they have found a simple method. They say senior citizens unable to detect sarcasm and lies are likely victims of dementia.
By asking a group of older adults to analyze videos of other people conversing — some talking truthfully, some insincerely — a group of scientists at the University of California, San Francisco has determined which areas of the brain govern a person’s ability to detect sarcasm and lies.
Some of the adults in the group were healthy, but many of the test subjects had neurodegenerative diseases that cause certain parts of the brain to deteriorate. The UCSF team mapped their brains using magnetic resonance imaging, MRI, which showed associations between the deteriorations of particular parts of the brain and the inability to detect insincere speech…
The ability to detect lies resides in the brain’s frontal lobe. In diseases like frontotemporal dementia, this is one of the areas that progressively degenerates because of the accumulation of damaged proteins known as tau and the death of neurons in those areas.
Because the frontal lobes play a significant role in complex, higher-order human behaviors, losing the ability to detect lies is only one of several ways the disease may manifest. The first signs of the disease may be any number of severe behavioral changes. People sometimes behave in socially inappropriate ways or undergoing fundamental shifts in outlook — switching political affiliations or changing religions, for instance.
Schumer can be such an idiot, particularly when he spots a chance to get on TV:
New York (CNN) — In light of recent findings that al Qaeda was mulling targeting railroad lines to mark the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, a senator from New York is calling for tighter rail security.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer proposed an increase in rail security and an Amtrak version of the Secure Flight “no-fly” list…
Schumer proposed the creation of a “no-ride” list that would check passengers against a list of suspected terrorists to prevent would-be terrorists from boarding trains. The list would be used like the government “no-fly” list that screens air travelers.
“Obviously there are certain things that would have to be done, but Amtrak, unlike our commuter rails or subways, does have a (manifest) of everyone that rides Amtrak,” he said. “They check your name as you walk down so it doesn’t seem like it’s that difficult to do.”
Even from the bottom of the sea, Osama bin Laden has no trouble getting the senator from Wall Street to take the cape, a concept explained here by former Pentagon official Chuck Spinney. As information from bin Laden’s computer files continues to be released, we will continue to play his game for years.
Did it ever occur to Al Qaeda, for instance, that access to many major bridges in the United States of Paranoia is already controlled by toll booths? Obviously there are certain things that would have to be done, such as requiring all motorists to sign up for E-Z Pass so their names could be checked against a “no-ride” list, but it doesn’t seem like it’s that difficult to do.
And it would certainly give Osama a good giggle, between virgins.
From CNN News:
News outlets in Pakistan have made public the name of an American they identified as the CIA station chief, but a senior Pakistani intelligence official said Monday the person named is not the station chief.
Referring to a name cited in the Pakistani newspaper The Nation, the intelligence official said, “If we were going to release the name, we would release the right one.” The official said he did not know where the name came from.
A U.S. official said there is “no current plan to bring home the current chief of station” in Pakistan.
The remarks came amid reports suggesting Pakistani officials may have leaked the name of a CIA official in the country.
I am shocked, shocked to find that Pakistani reporters were unable to find the name of a CIA station chief. In the parking lot of the American embassy in Laos, back in the day, there were six reserved parking spaces. They were labeled Ambassador, Deputy Chief of Mission, USAID Director, Army Attache, Public Affairs Officer, and Mr. Devlin.
From a press release issued by the institution formerly known as the Fort Worth Public Library:
The word “public” has been removed from the name of the Fort Worth Library. Why? Simply put, to keep up with the times. In today’s day and age, the word “public” implies a place that, at one time, might have been viewed as institutional and restrictive. All are welcome at the Fort Worth Library. By removing one word with a potentially negative connotation, the Library aims to appear more welcoming and accessible to all.
American rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, formerly known as Nazi rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, once published a memoir called I Aim at the Stars. The un-American comedian Mort Sahl suggested adding a few words: — but Sometimes I Hit London.
Writing at Alternet, David Morris adds his own few words clarifying Fort Worth’s experiment in rebranding:
All things public are under attack. The Fort Worth rebranding is an indication of how effective this attack has been. The city explained that it was dropping the word “public” because of its “potentially negative connotation.” The Founding Fathers would be disconsolate. John Adams wrote in 1776, “There must be a positive passion for the public good, the public interest … established in the minds of the people, or there can be no republican government, nor any real liberty: and this public passion must be superior to all private passions.” Thomas Jefferson agreed, “I profess … that to be false pride which postpones the public good to any private or personal considerations.”
Would it be improper for me to mention the Forth Worth rebranding initiative was mostly paid for by a large oil drilling company?
Just about four years ago the Grand Old Tea Party held a cattle call in South Carolina for its hapless crew of presidential hopefuls. A lot of the old gang are still around and still hopeful. One is Ron Paul, for whom I’ve had a soft spot ever since. Here’s why, from my post of May 16, 2007:
Sure enough, Pastor Mike Huckabee had the crowd in giggles right off the bat with this thigh-slapper: “We've done what Senator McCain has suggested. We've had a Congress that's spent money like Edwards at a beauty shop.”
My, how they laughed! The folks wouldn’t have been more delighted if good old Mike had just gay-bashed Mark Foley or Ted Haggard or Ken Mehlman or Mary Cheney or Karl Rove’s beloved stepfather. Probably less delighted, actually.
But enough of that.
A few minutes later an odd thing happened. Some guy that nobody ever even heard of grabbed a mike and committed common sense, right up there on the stage with women and innocent children watching.
It came as a mild but not unpleasant shock, like pulling up the lid and finding a rose in the toilet …
The perpetrator was named Ron Paul, who turned out upon investigation to be an obstetrician with libertarian leanings, an Air Force vet and an obscure Texas congressman who once represented Tom DeLay’s old district. Here’s some of what he said:
We’ve started with — we’ve just — the Republicans put in the Department of Homeland — it’s a monstrous type of bureaucracy. It was supposed to be streamlining our security and it’s unmanageable. I mean, just think of the efficiency of FEMA in its efforts to take care of the floods and the hurricanes…
We were spending $40 billion on security prior to 9/11, and they had all the information they needed there to deal with the threat, and it was inefficiency. So what do we do? We add a gigantic bureaucracy, which they’re still working on trying to put it together, and a tremendous amount of increase in funds…
There’s a strong tradition of being anti-war in the Republican party. It is the constitutional position. It is the advice of the Founders to follow a non-interventionist foreign policy, stay out of entangling alliances, be friends with countries, negotiate and talk with them and trade with them.
Q: Congressman, you don’t think that changed with the 9/11 attacks, sir?
No. Non-intervention was a major contributing factor. Have you ever read the reasons they attacked us? They attack us because we’ve been over there; we’ve been bombing Iraq for 10 years …
We don’t understand the irrationality of Middle Eastern politics. So right now we’re building an embassy in Iraq that’s bigger than the Vatican. We’re building 14 permanent bases. What would we say here if China was doing this in our country or in the Gulf of Mexico? We would be objecting. We need to look at what we do from the perspective of what would happen if somebody else did it to us. (Applause.)
Q:Are you suggesting we invited the 9/11 attack, sir?
I’m suggesting that we listen to the people who attacked us and the reason they did it, and they are delighted that we’re over there because Osama bin Laden has said, “I am glad you’re over on our sand because we can target you so much easier.” They have already now since that time — have killed 3,400 of our men, and I don’t think it was necessary.
MR. GIULIANI: Wendell, may I comment on that? That’s really an extraordinary statement. That’s an extraordinary statement, as someone who lived through the attack of September 11, that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq. I don’t think I’ve heard that before, and I’ve heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11th. (Applause, cheers.)
And I would ask the congressman to withdraw that comment and tell us that he didn’t really mean that. (Applause.)
I believe very sincerely that the CIA is correct when they teach and talk about blowback. When we went into Iran in 1953 and installed the shah, yes, there was blowback. A reaction to that was the taking of our hostages and that persists. And if we ignore that, we ignore that at our own risk. If we think that we can do what we want around the world and not incite hatred, then we have a problem.
They don’t come here to attack us because we’re rich and we’re free. They come and they attack us because we’re over there. I mean, what would we think if we were — if other foreign countries were doing that to us?
This is the first time I can remember that any candidate for the presidency, of either party, has taken seriously the question that Osama bin Laden once suggested we ask ourselves: Why didn’t his men attack Stockholm? The misnamed “War on Terror” can only be won once we react to that question like grownups, not like Rudolph Giuliani and the fools who cheered him so wildly last night.
Remember, you read it here first. Unless you read Naked Politics:
During last week’s discussion about a bill that would prohibit governments from deducting union dues from a worker’s paycheck, state Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Orlando, used his time during floor debate to argue that Republicans are against regulations — except when it comes to the little guys, or serves their specific interests.
At one point Randolph suggested that his wife “incorporate her uterus” to stop Republicans from pushing measures that would restrict abortions. Republicans, after all, wouldn’t want to further regulate a Florida business.
Apparently the GOP leadership of the House didn’t like the one-liner.
They told Democrats that Randolph is not to discuss body parts on the House floor.
“The point was that Republicans are always talking about deregulation and big government,” Randolph said Thursday. “And I always say their philosophy is small government for the big guy and big government for the little guy. And so, if my wife’s uterus was incorporated or my friend’s bedroom was incorporated, maybe they (Republicans) would be talking about deregulating.
“It’s not like I used slang,” said Randolph, who actually got the line from his wife. He said Republicans voiced concern about young pages hearing the word uterus.
Joe Klein seems to be a tad put off by the current crop of Republican presidential kinda-sorta-candidates:
This is my 10th presidential campaign, Lord help me. I have never before seen such a bunch of vile, desperate-to-please, shameless, embarrassing losers coagulated under a single party’s banner. They are the most compelling argument I’ve seen against American exceptionalism. Even Tim Pawlenty, a decent governor, can’t let a day go by without some bilious nonsense escaping his lizard brain.
Nicely put, except for the part about Pawlenty being a decent governor. After all, this is a guy who prefers letting bridges collapse to raising the taxes necessary to maintain them.
Here is the sad and simple reality of our current political landscape: America has two major political parties. One of them is conservative. The other is insane.
You can decide for yourself which is which...
The looming imposition of Sharia law on God’s country is bad enough, but at least a handful of courageous politicians are fighting to save America from the horrors of stoning, amputations and 11-year-old brides.
Who, though, will be brave enough and wise enough to save us from the Moslem plot called Ramadan? Representative Peter King (IRA – NY) doesn’t even have Ramadan on his committee’s agenda, possibly under the impression that it’s a hotel chain.
But Ramadan is something far more sinister than the harmless face it shows the world. The terrorists would like you to think that it’s just a sort of Moslem Lent, only more ascetic: no food or drink at all between sunrise and sunset for a whole month.
Sounds more like Weight Watchers than an Al Qaeda plot. But in Michigan this alien practice is already wreaking havoc among America’s unborn, the very cohort upon which we depend to furnish the congressmen of tomorrow.
The mechanism is ingenious, but simple. Women undernourished during pregnancy tend to deliver underweight babies, more of them girls than boys, with an increased risk of mental disabilities. This creates, as our enemies understand, a demographic time bomb. Before long we will be a nation of dummies. Oh, wait…
For details click on this and download the full study. Here’s a taste to get you started:
We use the Islamic holy month of Ramadan as a natural experiment in fasting and fetal health. In Michigan births 1989–2006, we find prenatal exposure to Ramadan among Arab mothers results in lower birthweight. Exposure to Ramadan in the first month of gestation is also associated with a sizable reduction in the number of male births. In Census data for Uganda and Iraq we find strong associations between in utero exposure to Ramadan and the likelihood of being disabled as an adult. Effects are particularly large for mental (or learning) disabilities.
…With or without the 50 inmates, California will spend $10 billion a year on prisons, more than it spends on the University of California and California State University systems combined.
Until California politicians and voters confront the costs of the three-strikes sentencing law, we will be a little like Roney Nunez, the demented 85-year-old prisoner who reached down from his wheelchair and scratched the surface.
The flyer below dates back to 1955, more than a decade before Glenn Beck was born. But there was already plenty of stupid around and much of it survives today, barely changed. Fear of fluoride, for instance, will be familiar to any student of the paranoid right. And “communistic” has been replaced by fascistic and socialistic.
But the main reason I’m resurrecting this “Unholy Three” flyer is that in 1958 I covered a political meeting in Arlington, Virginia. One of the candidates for county office was from the tinfoil end of the political spectrum (for which see numbers 1, 2, and especially 3, below.) He had already spoken when Sam Eastman of the Washington Evening Star arrived, and so Sam passed him a note, hand to hand down the line of candidates, asking him to summarize his remarks.
The candidate did so, and passed his answer back. It read, in full, “I spoke in opposition to mental health.”
Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn expressed doubt Wednesday that likely Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has what it takes to be president. “He is undoubtedly the smartest man I’ve ever met,” Coburn said of the former Speaker of the House in an interview with C-SPAN. “He is a thinker. He has great vision. The question to me is, does he have the capability to lead the country? And having served under him in the House, he is probably not one that I would choose to support in a presidential primary.”
When you think about all the people Coburn must have met in the course of his life, you have to conclude that he wouldn’t recognize smart if it came up and bit him in the ass.
A Georgia legislator has introduced a really nifty bill:
Legislation recently introduced to the Georgia legislature by House Republican Bobby Franklin would make abortion the legal equivalent of murder and require miscarriages to be investigated by authorities.
Careful what you wish for, Bobby. You start investigating miscarriages and you just might find some of them were caused by the shit your campaign contributors are dumping into our water supply...
“The State of Georgia has the duty to protect all innocent life from the moment of conception until natural death,” the bill stated.
Hang on — I could have sworn that was... SOCIALISM!!!
Former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour, whose heart brimmeth over with compassion for the littlest people of all, spake thus to the Conservative Political Action Conference:
“My first year as governor my pro-life agenda was adopted by our Democrat-majority legislature, and Americans United for Life, I am proud to say, named Mississippi the safest state in America for an unborn child,” Barbour said.
He made no mention of born children, perhaps because life expectancy in Mississippi, 73.6 years, is fiftieth among the states. Topping the list at 80.0 years is Hawaii, where President Obama may have been born in the summer of 1961. If so, he can be expected to live until August 4, 2041, a Sunday.
At a press conference this morning, Li’l Johnny “Where-are-the-jobs?” Boehner had this to say about the presumptive fallout from the GOP’s suggested budget cuts:
“In the last two years, under President Obama, the federal government has added 200,000 new federal jobs,” Boehner said. “If some of those jobs are lost so be it. We’re broke.”
Of course, he neglected to mention one thing: We’re broke because we choose to be. We’re broke because of a deliberate strategy of his party and his party’s backers to bankrupt this nation as a way of targeting those individuals, groups and programs of which they disapprove. (It’s what Grover Norquist means by “starve the beast.”)
And just to add to the fun, yesterday Obama spoke of “living within our means.” Jerry Brown said the same thing not too long ago — I guess this is what Democrats say now to look grown up. But it raises a question that no one seems to be asking anywhere: Just what are our means? A government has the means to increase revenue darn near anytime it wants to. It seems to me if we’re talking about maintaining the basic trappings of a society — which is a topic for another time — that a government has the duty to do so as well.
We’re fond of the metaphor of a family tightening its collective belt. Somehow we’ve overlooked one of the things families consider when they tally up the bills: How to bring more money into the house.
Just ask any parent working multiple jobs…
It’s all about The Finesse, The Donald explains to The Fox News:
I think my whole life has sort of been about finesse when you get right down to it. I mean it's — what running a country is, is to a certain extent we have to bring principle back and we have to also bring common sense back," Trump said.
From the New York Times review of Donald Rumsfeld’s apologia pro sua vita. It is titled Known and Unknown, and its 800 pages can be yours for the low, low price of $36 — less than a nickel a page! (All sales final.)
“Too many troops could hurt our ability to win Iraqi confidence,” [Rumsfeld] writes, “and it could translate into more casualties, because more troops would mean more targets for our enemies.”
…but Gail Collins did:
The Senate sponsor is James Inhofe of Oklahoma, who recently claimed that the supercold winter proves that theories about global warming are “an intellectual fraud.” We could blame Senator Inhofe, but he really isn’t all that satisfactory a villain. It’d sort of be like blaming nuclear proliferation on gophers.
At Ketchup Is A Vegetable, Brady Bonk easily outshoots the NRA. Not that it matters. In a nation of cowards, fear beats logic every time.
A threatening person enters your home. You pick up a gun from your nightstand, and you successfully fire it into the person’s chest, ending his life and protecting your home. The police shake your hand and send you on your merry way and tell you what a good person you are.
It seems more likely to me that you’ll end up killing someone in your family or yourself and end up in jail or dead.
I mean, you think the guy on the phone this morning regularly takes his gun to a range? You think he’s had classes in gun safety, think he’s bothered to learn how to properly handle a firearm?
And, further: Do you think he has a fire extinguisher in his kitchen?
Well, I mean, come on. If your reason for keeping a firearm in your nightstand is that you have to defend your home, don’t you think you should be equally prepared to defend it from fire? And which of the five types of fire extinguisher does he own? And does he know whether to pick up his A, B, C, D, or K model depending on which sort of fire he’s got?
Does his family have an escape route in case of fire? Has he seen about installing a tougher deadbolt? Reinforced the windows? Locked down his sliding glass doors? Has he plugged unused electrical sockets? I mean, if you’re going to be the kind of guy who’s interested in defending his home and his family, then be that guy or stop with the bullshit nonsense…
These sorts of stories must seem incomprehensible to the more adult portions of the world:
The only U.S. manufacturer of sodium thiopental, a chemical used in executions, said today it will stop making the product.Look, people, we’re not putting poor old Rover to sleep here so he won’t hurt any more. We’re killing another human being and we don’t actually give a good goddamn whether it hurts him or not. We just don’t want it to hurt us. So we pretend it’s nothing but a painless medical procedure, sterile and strictly scientific. All done as Baby Jesus would do it, with loving concern for the poor sinner’s comfort.
Hospira, based in Lake Forest, Illinois, said it never intended for its chemical to be used to kill people. It intended to start making sodium thiopental at a plant in Italy, but Italian authorities required the company to guarantee the chemical would not be used in executions, Hospira said on its website… Hospira suspended production of the drug in 2009, and many state prison systems have run out, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Only a nation fundamentally childish could take any of this seriously. You want quick and painless? Luckily for you, extensive field work was carried out during the last century on modern, efficient, and economical ways of executing human beings. And — not that Stalin or Hitler or Mao cared — the winning technique just happened to be swift, sure, and painless. Here’s how the Mafia describes it: “Two in the head and you know he’s dead.”
Grow up for once in your life, America. The condemned man isn’t Rover, and you aren’t putting him gently to sleep so he can wake up in Doggy Heaven. Stop acting like you care, because you don’t. Or you wouldn’t be killing the guy in the first place.
Brother Bill forwards this CNN story. It would be beneath my dignity to pass it on to you, if I had any dignity. Neither does Anderson Cooper, as you will see by following the link and watching his in-depth investigation.
Police said they will search Thursday for what is left of the cremated remains of a man and two dogs that robbers stole from a Florida house and then snorted after mistakenly thinking it was cocaine…
Way back when, I wrote the following:
Lest we forget, American tanks blocked off access to Firdos Square on that triumphant day [April 9, 2003]. Inside were many American soldiers and civilians and a small group of Iraqis, most of them members of Chalabi’s private, U.S.-funded militia. The statue was toppled by an American cable pulled by an American tank retrieval vehicle operated by American soldiers. The American flag which briefly ornamented Saddam’s head was put there by an American soldier. It was an American officer who realized just in time that the stars and stripes were somewhat off-message, and ordered them removed. Somehow or other, an Iraqi flag happened to be on hand…
As an old flack myself, I had recognized a photo-op even as I watched this one over and over on the day it debuted. But I didn’t know the half of it. For the rest of the story, as the unlamented Paul Harvey used to say, read the fascinating full account by Peter Maas in Pro Publica from which this excerpt comes:
Very few Iraqis were there. If you were at the square, or if you watch the footage, you can see, on the rare occasions long shots were used, that the square was mostly empty. You can also see, from photographs as well as video, that much of the crowd was made up of journalists and marines. Because of the lo-fi quality of the video and the shifting composition of the crowd, it’s hard to give a precise number, but perhaps a quarter to a half consisted of journalists or marines.
The crowd’s size — journalists, marines, and Iraqis — does not seem to have exceeded several hundred at its largest, and was much smaller for most of the two hours. The Iraqis who were photogenically enthusiastic — sledgehammering the statue, jumping on it after the toppling — were just an excitable subset of all Iraqis there.
“I saw a lot of people watching with their arms crossed, not at all celebrating,” Collier noted. Closeups filled the screen with the frenzied core of the small crowd and created an illusion of wall-to-wall enthusiasm throughout Baghdad. It was an illusion that reflected only the media’s yearning for exciting visuals…
I pass along this from Robert Paul Wolff so you won’t have to waste any more of your time reading crap about Sarah Palin’s presidential prospects.
Back in the early seventies (when the late unlamented Richard Nixon was as yet an undisgraced president), I was sitting around with several UMass colleagues gossiping, as was our wont, about a mutual friend. He had just been elevated from the faculty to a Deanship, and we were speculating about what sort of administrator he would be. Since he had not even served as a Department Chair, we had no track record on which to base our speculations, so we were very much at a loss.
Then Zina Tillona, a Professor of Italian in the Romance Languages Department (since phased out as part of a long, tragic world-wide assault on the Humanities) offered a bit of folk wisdom that, with the benefit of many years of hindsight, I now recognize as truly profound.
“Well,” she said, “most people do most things the way they do most other things.”
At first, what she said struck me as being very close to tautological, but as I reflected on it, I began to realize the deep insight of that simple remark. People have styles of behavior, modes of interacting with the world, that are grounded in their character, and a person’s style of being manifests itself in small things as much as in large.
If a person is perpetually late, lingering with a student in her office rather than promptly moving on to the next student on her appointment list, she will probably continue to be late when it is Deans and Provosts she is dealing with. If a professor’s desk is neat and cleared of all papers, with six pencils lined up in a row, their newly sharpened points exactly aligned, then he will almost certainly be punctilious, precise, and obsessively complete in his scholarly work.
I thought of Zina’s maxim when trying to puzzle out the political ambitions and intentions of Sarah Palin. Would she run for the Republican presidential nomination? Did she even want to be president? One of my sons, to whom I had long since passed on Zina’s folk wisdom, recalled it for me, and went on to suggest that it held the answer to my questions.
Palin has held three significant positions in her life: mayor of Wasilla, Chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Commission, and Governor of Alaska. She walked away from the second and third, each time because she saw an opportunity to maximize her fame and personal wealth. She clearly had no interest in actually being Governor of Alaska, nor is there the slightest indication that she wanted actually to be, or even had any idea what was involved in being, Vice-President of the United States.
Since most people do most things the way they do most other things, she will almost certainly run for the nomination, because that is the best way to remain famous and to develop new money-making opportunities without working for them. But should she have early successes in the 2012 primaries, as well she may, she will find some way, before the nomination process is complete, to drop out of the race, presenting herself as a victim of all manner of plots and prejudices.
Indeed, even if she secures the nomination, it is a virtual certainty that she will quit the race before she is defeated on election day. That this will cause chaos in the Republican Party will be of no concern to her, for at no time in her entire career has she ever exhibited the slightest loyalty to anyone or anything beyond her own immediate interest.
History repeats itself, no question. And no surprise either. It was formed and deformed back then by human beings; it still is, and by an unimproved species.
There are two ways of looking at this regular reemergence of past follies in almost identical shapes: either we have learned nothing from our mistakes, never will, and are therefore all doomed; or what the hell, we lived through these stupid patches before and so we probably will this time too. Take your pick, bearing in mind that it is Christmas, a season of hope.
Meanwhile, here’s a patch that I lived through as a young man, more or less intact and still bitching. This description of it is by Richard Hofstadter, in a 1963 speech at Oxford which was later published in Harper’s Magazine as “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.” Read “socialism” for “Communism” and “Obama” for “Roosevelt” and you’ll feel right at home. Professor Beck and Deacon McConnell make their appearances, too, along with many other familiar folks.
But the modern right wing, as Daniel Bell has put it, feels dispossessed: America has been largely taken away from them and their kind, though they are determined to try to repossess it and to prevent the final destructive act of subversion. The old American virtues have already been eaten away by cosmopolitans and intellectuals; the old competitive capitalism has been gradually undermined by socialist and communist schemers; the old national security and independence have been destroyed by treasonous plots, having as their most powerful agents not merely outsiders and foreigners but major statesmen seated at the very centers of American power. Their predecessors discovered foreign conspiracies; the modern radical right finds that conspiracy also embraces betrayal at home…
The basic elements of contemporary right-wing thought can be reduced to three: First, there has been the now familiar sustained conspiracy, running over more than a generation, and reaching its climax in Roosevelt’s New Deal, to undermine free capitalism, to bring the economy under the direction of the federal government, and to pave the way for s0cialism or communism. Details might be open to argument among right-wingers, but many would agree with Frank Chodorov, the author of The Income Tax: The Root of All Evil, that this campaign began with the passage of the income tax amendment to the Constitution in 1913.
The second contention is that top government officialdom has been so infiltrated by Communists that American policy, at least since the days leading up to Pearl Harbor, has been dominated by sinister men who were shrewdly and consistently selling out American national interests.
The final contention is that the country is infused with a network of Communist agents, just as in the old days it was infiltrated by Jesuit agents, so that the whole apparatus of education, religion, the press, and the mass media are engaged in a common effort to paralyze the resistance of loyal Americans…
As a member of the avant-garde who is capable of perceiving the conspiracy before it is fully obvious to an as yet unaroused public, the paranoid is a militant leader. He does not see social conflict as something to be mediated and compromised, in the manner of the working politician. Since what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, the quality needed is not a willingness to compromise but the will to fight things out to a finish. Nothing but complete victory will do.
Since the enemy is thought of as being totally evil and totally unappeasable, he must be totally eliminated — if not from the world, at least from the theater of operations to which the paranoid directs his attention. This demand for unqualified victories leads to the formulation of hopelessly demanding and unrealistic goals, and since these goals are not even remotely attainable, failure constantly heightens the paranoid’s frustration. Even partial success leaves him with the same sense of powerlessness with which he began, and this in turn only strengthens his awareness of the vast and terrifying quality of the enemy he opposes.
This enemy is clearly delineated: he is a perfect model of malice, a kind of amoral superman: sinister, ubiquitous, powerful, cruel, luxury-loving…
Very often the enemy is held to possess some especially effective source of power: he controls the press; he directs the public mind through “managed news”; he has unlimited funds; he has a new secret for influencing the mind (brainwashing); he has a special technique for seduction (the Catholic confessional); he is gaining a stranglehold on the educational system.
This enemy seems to be on many counts a projection of the self: both the ideal and the unacceptable aspects of the self are attributed to him. A fundamental paradox of the paranoid style is the imitation of the enemy. The enemy, for example, may be the cosmopolitan intellectual, but the paranoid will outdo him in the apparatus of scholarship, even of pedantry…
One of the impressive things about paranoid literature is precisely the elaborate concern with demonstration it almost invariably shows. One should not be misled by the fantastic conclusions that are so characteristic of this political style into imagining that it is not, so to speak, argued out along factual lines. The very fantastic character of its conclusions leads to heroic strivings for “evidence” to prove that the unbelievable is the only thing that can be believed…
The singular thing about all this laborious work is that the passion for factual evidence does not, as in most intellectual exchanges, have the effect of putting the paranoid spokesman into effective two-way communication with the world outside his group — least of all with those who doubt his views. He has little real hope that his evidence will convince a hostile world. His effort to amass it has rather the quality of a defensive act which shuts off his receptive apparatus and protects him from having to attend to disturbing considerations that do not fortify his ideas. He has all the evidence he needs; he is not a receiver, he is a transmitter…
The Associated Press reports:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Bank of America Corp. has joined several other financial institutions in refusing to handle payments for WikiLeaks…Curious as to just how rigorous the Bank of America’s “internal policies” might be, I turned to Google.
“This decision is based upon our reasonable belief that WikiLeaks may be engaged in activities that are, among other things, inconsistent with our internal policies for processing payments,” the bank said.
Similarly, traffickers used accounts at Bank of America to purchase three planes that ended up smuggling 10 tons of cocaine. “Federal agents caught people who work for Mexican cartels depositing illicit funds in Bank of America accounts in Atlanta, Chicago and Brownsville, Texas, from 2002 to 2009,” the article says.
And here goes again:
Among Bank of America’s 50 million customers, Pierre Falcone was far from ordinary. An infamous global arms dealer who unlawfully sold weapons to Angola for its civil war and an international fugitive, Falcone was convicted of tax fraud and illegal arms dealing in 2007 and 2009 and is currently serving six years behind bars.
Yet for nearly two decades, Falcone and his relatives freely used 29 different bank accounts to funnel at least $60 million into the US from secretive havens like the Cayman Islands, Luxembourg, and Singapore, and from shell corporations and secret clients. Despite his criminal record and worldwide notoriety, Bank of America essentially treated him like any other depositor.
And yet again:
In withering complaints filed in state courts in both states, the attorneys general accused Bank of America of assuring customers that they would not be foreclosed upon while they were seeking loan modifications, only to proceed with foreclosures anyway; of falsely telling customers that they must be in default to obtain a modification; of promising that the modifications would be made permanent if they completed a trial period, only to renege on the deal; and of conjuring up bogus reasons for denying modifications.
During a Google search for something else, I just now came across a nativist blog called stoptheinvasionoforegon. It is a particularly repellent specimen of the genre and contains a particularly revolting selection of racist images. If you have the stomach for this kind of thing, Google it for yourselves.
If the internet had existed in the 1830s I imagine that the Cayuse and Klamath tribes would have spread the same sort of welcome mat for the wagon trains of land-hungry settlers just then arriving from Independence, Missouri.
It’s curious that Senator Jim DeMint should call himself a Christian when his religious beliefs are revealed by his political ones to be in every important respect the opposite of what the Prince of Peace commands. This, for instance, is what he considers to be sacrilege:
“We shouldn’t be jamming a major arms control treaty up against Christmas; it’s sacrilegious and disrespectful,” he told POLITICO. “What’s going on here is just wrong. This is the most sacred holiday for Christians. They did the same thing last year — they kept everybody here until [Christmas Eve] to force something down everybody’s throat. I think Americans are sick of this.”
And here’s a similar view of what constitutes “disrespect,” from another gentle Christian soul:
DeMint’s comments echo those of Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) who said Tuesday that Reid’s voting schedule is impossible to accomplish “without disrespecting one of the two holiest of holidays for Christians.”
For the love of God, how stupid are we?
KABUL (Reuters) — The military handover from NATO-led forces to Afghans should start in the first half of 2011 but poor security in some areas could see it run past a 2014 target, a NATO official said on Wednesday before an important summit…
Sedwill said the transition could run “to 2015 and beyond” in some areas that could still face security problems. “We expect to have strategic overwatch in large parts of the country by that time (2014),” he told reporters in Kabul, with civil administration to follow the security transition.
NATO troops would then assume support and training duties as Afghans took on the burden of combat roles. “The end of 2014 does not mean that the mission is over, but the mission changes. It’s the inflection point, if you like,” Sedwill said.
Did you know that we had hundreds of tactical nuclear weapons stashed away in Europe in case the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics ever decides to attack? No? Neither did I.
Read Daniel Larison’s whole article, excerpted below, on the shameful failure of the United States to lead the way in nuclear disarmament. If an individual reacted this way to a threat from a deceased enemy he would be considered clinically insane. Or, as we say in American English, a Republican.
Any U.S.-Russian arms control agreement brings new opportunities to denuclearize the European continent. The strongest advocates of this idea are the European “non-nuclear weapon states” who are hosting U.S. warheads under a NATO flag. These countries — Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, and Turkey — together host an estimated total of 150 to 220 U.S. tactical nuclear weapons. In 2006, the Belgian Senate passed a bill to remove U.S. weapons from Kleine Brogel Air Force Base. Last year, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle singled out the issue of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Germany during his first visits to NATO and the United States. Parliamentarians of all host countries have urged Obama to withdraw U.S. warheads from Europe, and foreign ministers have written to NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen asking for the issue to be placed higher on the alliance’s agenda. These European “abolitionists” fear that, without New START, Russia will be more reluctant to negotiate further arms limitations, giving fewer reasons for Washington to remove its weapons from Europe.
The news that U.S. tactical nuclear weapons will remain in Europe means that relations these governments are about to become more difficult. The leaked document ahead of the Lisbon summit means that the Europeans that had hoped New START would lead to the withdrawal of these weapons would have been disappointed no matter what happened in the Senate here. The failure of New START will ensure that there will be no discussion of tactical nuclear weapons with the Russians, who will have no reason to negotiate new arms reduction agreements if the U.S. cannot ratify this agreement. U.S.-Russian relations are going to take a hit because of Republican opposition to the arms reduction treaty, and our relations with Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, and Turkey are also going to suffer.
…are wasting no time — as you will see by the whole article (and links) from which this excerpt comes:
Republicans who were elected on Tuesday are beginning to deliver on their campaign promises to kill America’s future. Within hours of declaring victory, the incoming tea-party governors of Wisconsin and Ohio stood fast on pledges to kill $1.2 billion in funding for high-speed rail in their states.
The funding, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will revert to the federal government for investment in other states — unless Republicans in Congress are able to kill that, too. Walker warned he would fight President Obama to keep the Milwaukee-Madison link killed “if he tries to force this down the throats of the taxpayers.” Kasich — who called the high-speed rail project linking Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati “one of the dumbest ideas” he’s ever heard — used his victory speech to announce, “That train is dead.”
So is that brain.
…Which part of “Fuck you” don’t you understand?
“Over the past week, some have said it was indelicate of me to suggest that our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term in office,” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell plans to tell the conservative Heritage Foundation, according to excerpts of his speech provided to POLITICO.
“But the fact is, if our primary legislative goals are to repeal and replace the health spending bill; to end the bailouts; cut spending; and shrink the size and scope of government, the only way to do all these things is to put someone in the White House who won’t veto any of these things,” the Kentucky Republican will say.
How to explain the mostly dismal results of yesterday’s elections? Here are a few comments on the AP’s story on Tea Party-backed Republican Paul LePage’s victory in Maine’s gubernatorial race over a moderate, experienced and able independent challenger, Eliot Cutler:
LePage will do some good.Maine has too many unemployed bums roaming the streets.Busy bodies in everyones personal business are driving people away that could benefit the state…
good things still do happen, thank you Maine…
Their brains seem to be working better up there ,maybe it's the water, maybe it's the air, and maybe its because, they are tired of dimschit socialist bullschit, which would be my first choice…
Finally - a true American has ousted the communist & racist left from Maine. Power to American moraled values that founded this country!…
Still haven't heard........DID MAINE VOTE YES TO LET ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS VOTE???? I didn't think I'd have to ask this question in AMERICA!!!!…
This man should be praised for once being a homeless child, and then making his mark in the business world. It would have been easier for him to grow up in a gang like the inner city kids, and then sell drugs I guess.. huh Democrats? Then all of America could have helped pay his way through life. This is a win for America! It shows that the dream is still alive and well…
There is an old political saying: As Goes Maine, So Goes the Nation! Republicans, Democratic Conservatives and TEA Party members will make their voices heard in 2012. The new wind sweeping across our great country will blow away the Socialist, Libertarians and weak Social Democrats, who are freeloaders of any society. No Red Flags here! Fascism and Socialistic Communism is dead-let them stay that way, RIP!…
Umm Since when is it the job of the Federal Government to FORCE companies to hire American workers? You REALLY have no concept of how our Government works, what it can and can not do. Do you realize that , The Takeover of GM and Chrysler by Obama caused to loss of 7 million jobs to other nations and counting? GM is now owned by Canada and the US Governent and Chrysler is owned by FIAT. Not to mention what Cap and Tax would have done to send jobs over seas. Regulation, the EPA, and Taxiation caused jobs to flee the Nation. I know its a strange concept but companies are in business TO MAKE A PROFIT, not to provide you with a job or health care or anything else. It is not up to the Government to say who can make what where and employ who. that is the job of COMMUNIST Governments not Free ones and we have all seen what success stories Communist Governments are. Get a clue, Get a life, or maybe get a girlfriend andmaybe you would not be so prone to rants on subjects you know nothing about
Lauren treaded right on my foot with her mean old head, mommy. Really, really hard, too. It really, really hurt. Really, I’m not kidding.
When she was on the ground, [Timothy] Profitt put his foot on her. “I said, ‘Now you stay down,’” he said.
Profitt said he and others were only trying to subdue Valle because of the potential threat to Paul. Profitt apologized, but also blamed MoveOn for forcing the incident.
“It was actually like a self-defense thing, the way I see it,” said Profitt, who is retired.
Who can blame the poor little frightened fellow (shown below with a friend)? Not the even more little friend, who bravely manned up as follows:
“It really was something where you walk into a daze of lights flashing, people yelling and screaming, bumping up. There was a bit of a crowd control problem,” Paul said. “I don’t want anybody, though, to be involved in things that aren’t civil. I think this should always be about the issues. It is an unusual situation to have so many people, so passionate on both sides, jockeying back and forth, and it wasn’t something that I liked or anybody liked about that situation.”
Nearly two decades after Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his fractious Supreme Court confirmation hearing, it remains unclear who was lying…
Really? Consider this, then:
Lillian McEwen, a retired administrative law judge who said she dated Clarence Thomas from 1979 through the mid-1980s, told The Washington Post: “The Clarence I know was certainly capable of not only doing the things that Anita Hill said he did, but it would be totally consistent with the way he lived his personal life then…”
And most of all, consider that at the time of his confirmation hearing in 1991 nobody but those with a political reason to do so believed Clarence Thomas for a New York minute. This is because his denials so obviously flunked the Pubic Hair Test, first described in the literature by me in January of 2001, which I now repost as a public service:
Fans of political theater will recall that Professor Anita Hill had charged her former boss with a pattern of sexual harassment which included showing her a Coke can with a pubic hair sticking to it. Judge Thomas swore, no doubt truthfully as the truth is vouchsafed unto him, that he had never in his life done such an ungentlemanly thing.
How could we, the millions of spectators at this morality play, know what to think? Was it the stern federal judge who was telling the truth, or was it the demure law professor? Along with thousands of others, no doubt, I applied the principles that comprise the Pubic Hair Test:
Could Professor Hill could have made up a story so peculiar? In other words, was there anything in the accuser’s much-investigated background to suggest that she was a pathological liar? Did she suffer from hallucinations? Was she “creative?” Perhaps even an aspiring novelist?
And if she were such a pathetic fantast, as the Republicans pretended to think, would the Coke can invention be more destructive to her presumed enemy than any other lie she could just as easily have dreamed up?
No to the first question. Professor Hill seemed depressingly literal and humorless. It was impossible to imagine her engaged in a flight of fancy. The only suggestion to the contrary came from a young black man who seemed principally interested in reciting his resume on national TV. He thought Professor Hill had imagined that he was attracted to her, whereas she was really attracted to him, poor thing. This textbook case of projection could hardly have seemed plausible even to Orrin Hatch.
And no to the second. The tale of the pubic hair and the Coke can was so meaningless and bizarre that the most simple-minded listeners (and there were several among the senators) would have rejected it as a lie casting doubt on the rest of her story. To do maximum damage, any competent slanderer would have stuck to such old standbys as indecent exposure, groping, and dirty pictures.
The Pubic Hair Test therefore indicated with zero probability of error that this particular woman could not and would not have invented this particular senseless and incomprehensible story.
God knows whose pubic hair that was, or what the future Supreme Court justice thought its presence on a Coke can signified, or what made him imagine that his weird performance might be seductive, but the incident plainly happened pretty much the way Professor Hill said it did.
From Chris Floyd, further thoughts about those undisciplined socialist frogs:
While the Europeans protest for jobs and dignity, Americans pour out into the streets in angry demonstrations against the very idea of helping the poor and the economically devastated, or putting the slightest restraint on the rapacious super-rich.
The Europeans protest actual policies, while our American “dissidents” froth and rant about a fantasy world of “socialist” programs that only benefit shiftless darkies and sneaky, border-crossing Messicans — and, of course, the devil-worshiping Muslims, who are plotting every hour to poison the precious bodily fluids of real Americans and take over the country from within.
The American protesters vociferously denounce the healthcare “reform” bill — not because it is actually a gargantuan corporate boondoggle deliberately crafted to kill off the chance for any genuine reform of the system for generations, but because they believe it is communist Muslim atheist Nazi socialism, and because a few slivers of the boondoggle might possibly trickle down to help a few of those darkies and Messicans. (Although in fact it will imprison them in an inhumane system of corporate control.)
They protest against the laughably anemic “financial regulations” that the Administration has meekly proposed for its masters on Wall Street — PR measures, tissue-paper thin, that fall miles short of the kind of mild regulations that operated during America’s greatest periods of growth and broad-based prosperity.
Both the Rude Pundit and I watched last night’s debate between Sharron Angle and Harry Reid, but only he had the wit to call it an inarticulate tortoise fight, and to caption the picture below
“Photos That Make the Rude Pundit Wonder if Parents Can Be Aborted.”
So I’ll spare you my reactions and refer you instead to his obscene, pornographic, scatalogical, thoroughly tasteless and absolutely dead-on coverage here.
…if you live in Guam. From the New York Times:
And even when banks did begin hiring to deal with the avalanche of defaults, they often turned to workers with minimal qualifications or work experience, employees a former JPMorgan executive characterized as the “Burger King kids.” In many cases, the banks outsourced their foreclosure operations to law firms like that of David J. Stern, of Florida, which served clients like Citigroup, GMAC and others. Mr. Stern hired outsourcing firms in Guam and the Philippines to help.
This is from The Authoritarians, by Bob Altemeyer:
But research reveals that authoritarian followers drive through life under the influence of impaired thinking a lot more than most people do, exhibiting sloppy reasoning, highly compartmentalized beliefs, double standards, hypocrisy, self-blindness, a profound ethnocentrism, and — to top it all off a ferocious dogmatism that makes it unlikely anyone could ever change their minds with evidence or logic. These seven deadly shortfalls of authoritarian thinking eminently qualify them to follow a wouldbe dictator. As Hitler is reported to have said, “What good fortune for those in power that people do not think…”
Intrigued, I gave the inferences test that Mary Wegmann had used to two large samples of students at my university. In both studies high Right Wing Authoritarians went down in flames more than others did. They particularly had trouble figuring out that an inference or deduction was wrong. To illustrate, suppose they had gotten the following syllogism:
All fish live in the sea.
Sharks live in the sea..
Therefore, sharks are fish.
The conclusion does not follow, but high RWAs would be more likely to say the reasoning is correct than most people would. If you ask them why it seems right, they would likely tell you, “Because sharks are fish.” In other words, they thought the reasoning was sound because they agreed with the last statement. If the conclusion is right, they figure, then the reasoning must have been right.
Turns out the Greeks had a word for what ails the Republican Party — Anosognosia. To explore this disorder on its home turf, go to a Tea Party rally armed with official budget figures, agreed upon by economists of both the Keynesian and the Friedman schools, which prove beyond the shadow of a mathematical doubt that the Republicans are, historically, the party of high deficits. Now try to convince any random demonstrator of this simple historical fact.
The thing can’t be done, because the poor devil suffers from anosognosia. It is what allows him to cry out “Keep your government hands off my Medicare” without his head exploding.
Here’s a dictionary definition of what keeps his head together:
Anosognosia is a condition in which a person who suffers from a disability seems unaware of or denies the existence of his or her disability.
For more, go here.
To those of us who are getting along the news these days can seem, in a certain sense, comforting. After all we have been here before, haven’t we? — time after time, even. For an instance take a look at this, substituting Tea Party for pseudo-conservativism, Obama for Eisenhower, and so on as needed. Very few of Richard Hofstadter’s words would need changing if they were written for tomorrow’s New York Times. In fact they were written for The American Scholar in 1954. We somehow managed to stumble through that outbreak of national idiocy, soiled and tattered but mostly intact. With luck, we may even do it again.
The new dissent is certainly not radical — there are hardly any radicals of any sort left — nor is it precisely conservative … It can most accurately be called pseudo-conservative because its exponents, although they believe themselves to be conservatives and usually employ the rhetoric of conservatism, show signs of a serious and restless dissatisfaction with American life, traditions, and institutions.
They have little in common with the temperate and compromising spirit of true conservatism in the classical sense of the word, and they are far from pleased with the dominant practical conservatism of the moment as it it represented by the Eisenhower administration.
Their political reactions express rather a profound if largely unconscious hatred of our society … Adorno and his co-workers found that their pseudo-conservative subjects, although given to a form of political expression that combines a curious mixture of largely conservative with occasional radical notions, succeed in concealing from themselves impulsive tendencies that, if released in action, would be very far from conservative.
The pseudo-conservative, Adorno writes, shows “conventionality and authoritarian submissiveness” in his conscious thinking and “violence, anarchic impulsiveness and chaotic destructiveness in the unconscious sphere … The pseudo-conservative is a man who, in the name of upholding traditional American values and institutions and defending them against more or less fictitious dangers, consciously or subconsciously aims at their abolition.”
Who is the pseudo-conservative and what does he want? It is impossible to identify him by social class, for the pseudo-conservative impulse can be found in practically all classes in society, although its power probably rests largely on its appeal to the less-educated members of the middle classes. The ideology of pseudo-conservatism can be characterized but not defined, because the pseudo-conservative tends to be more than ordinarily incoherent about politics. The lady who, when General Eisenhower’s victory over Senator Taft had finally become official in 1952, stalked out of the Hilton Hotel declaiming: “This means eight more years of socialism,” was probably a fairly good representative of the pseudo-conservative mentality…
The restlessness, suspicion and fear shown in various phases of the pseudo-conservative revolt give evidence of the anguish which the pseudo-conservative experiences in his capacity as a citizen. He believes himself to be living in a world in which he is spied upon, plotted against, betrayed, and very likely destined for total ruin. He feels that his liberties have been arbitrarily and outrageously invaded. He is opposed to almost everything that has happened in American politics in the past twenty years. He hates the very thought of Franklin D. Roosevelt. He is disturbed deeply by American participation in the United Nations, which he can see only as a sinister organization…
It’s not censorship when you do it to yourself, people. It’s editorial judgment.
He whose name ought not to be spoken wants to burn Korans in a southern state on the anniversary of 9/11. He exists as news because various television, internet, radio and newspaper editors and writers decided that he was news. And so he became news.
Another editorial judgment, this one based not on the law of the journalistic herd but on that of common sense, would turn this fool back into nonnews, and restore him to his proper invisibility as pastor of a church with a congregation of fifty. Maybe fifty. Has anybody actually counted, or did you all take his word for it? Because he exaggerates, you know. For instance, he calls himself a Christian.
New Left Media, may Allah smile on all its works, went to the Glenn Beck pray-in so you wouldn’t have to. Take a look at the result, in case you suffer from American exceptionalism. Something is certainly exceptional about us, and certainly Jesus hasn’t been able to cure it. Maybe we need more mosques. More libraries. Less TV. Who knows? Just help us for God’s sake, any God at all, because we’re on the point of drowning here. Already we’re up to the lower lip in stupidity.
Should we let those terrorists build that mosque on what Chris Matthews keeps calling hollowed ground? Or not until they let us build a megachurch in Mecca? Or until hell freezes over? Or is the whole squalid fuss actually, literally, about nothing? It looks that way, to judge by a Politico story which has so far attracted zero attention.
In GOP World, however, enormous structures can be fabricated easily and profitably on the basis of impossible hypotheticals. One might think the suckers would have wised up by now, but one would be wrong. Look at the birther myth, which has no more substance than a floating figure in a Macy’s parade. Or than a nonexistent non-Mosque never to be built on the unhallowed ground formerly occupied by a Burlington Coat Factory.
When President Barack Obama turned the battle over a planned New York Islamic center into a national debate over religious freedom, he unwittingly allied himself and his party with an ill-planned, long-shot development project described by one of its most prominent allies as “amateur hour.”
The efforts to launch the $100 million Cordoba House (now dubbed Park51) two blocks north of the World Trade Center site have been an uphill battle from the start, and not just because of controversy. And even as the “Ground Zero Mosque” emerges as a hotly debated national symbol, New York government officials and real estate insiders are privately questioning whether the project has much chance of coming to fruition.
The Cordoba Initiative hasn’t begun fundraising yet for its $100 million goal. The group’s latest fundraising report with the State Attorney General’s office, from 2008, shows exactly $18,255 — not enough even for a down payment on the half of the site the group has yet to purchase…
Below is an August 26, 1875, letter to the Bristol (Connecticut) Press. For the word “tramps” may be substituted, depending on the period, French, Irish, Negroes, Catholics, Polish, Germans, Czechs, Jews, Chinese, Japanese, Italians, Muslims, illegal immigrants, or an oppressed, defenseless minority of your choice. Tea Partiers will want to choose themselves…
There would appear to be no immediate prospect of abatement of the tramp nuisance. Rather, the tramp seems to have become ubiquitous and the growth of his order is only equaled by his capacity for villainy and “general cussedness.) The few mild measures taken in some sections for the suppression of this dangerous class have proved wholly inoperative, thus far. How long the community at large will continue to bear the afflictions before resorting to a more vigorous and wholesome treatment is difficult to determine.
From the way in which people permit themselves to be imposed upon and cowed into acquiescence with all that these rascals insolently demand, we should judge that this is sort of a tramps’ millenium and is to be of indefinite duration. At any rate the tramps are increasing and with their multiplication, robbery, incendiarism, intimidation, rape and murder in like ratio become more and more common.
This tramp nuisance will continue just as long as people submit to it and no longer. The remedy is within reach. It is a simple remedy, easily supplied. It may appear to some to be harsh, but if people would be rid of the evil, they must first make up their minds that harsh measures are the only ones that can be made effective.
In the first place, stop feeding tramps. Secondly, let every man, woman, and youth learn now to use a revolver and have one or more of these useful articles in every house, especially if in an isolated situation. Then whenever a tramp appears, peremptorily refuse him food or shelter and escort him off the premises at the muzzle of a cocked revolver and if he isn’t easily scared and attempts force, shoot.
A trusty weapon in every house and a disposition to use it on very slight provocation, will do more to squelch this abomination than any other means possible to use. And when people drop their squeamishness and sickly philanthropy and all other classes of criminals with that promptness and fidelity which is possible only by taking the law into their own hands, the moral atmosphere will improve wonderfully and life, property and virtue will be properly respected.
This story, shyly hiding on page A15 of today’s New York Times, unarguably exposes the Glenn Becks, the Rush Limbaughs and the Sarah Palins — among so many others — for the filth they are. And ignorance, as in Palin’s case, is no excuse. The truth is out there, Sarah, hidden in the pages of books and the tubes of the internet. Go look.
As for the Becks and the Limbaughs and the Congressional troglodytes of both parties, a just Lord would, as their ends approached, bring each of them before life panels. There they would be sentenced to death by modern medicine — weeks or months entombed in dead bodies kept warm by pumps and tubes as the tenants cursed their own cruelty.
In a study that sheds new light on the effects of end-of-life care, doctors have found that patients with terminal lung cancer who began receiving palliative care immediately upon diagnosis not only were happier, more mobile and in less pain as the end neared — but they also lived nearly three months longer…
It shows that palliative care is the opposite of all that rhetoric about ‘death panels,’ ” said Dr. Diane E. Meier, director of the Center to Advance Palliative Care at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and co-author of an editorial in the journal accompanying the study. “It’s not about killing Granny; it’s about keeping Granny alive as long as possible — with the best quality of life…”
Those getting palliative care from the start, the authors said, reported less depression and happier lives as measured on scales for pain, nausea, mobility, worry and other problems. Moreover, even though substantially fewer of them opted for aggressive chemotherapy as their illnesses worsened and many more left orders that they not be resuscitated in a crisis, they typically lived almost three months longer than the group getting standard care, who lived a median of nine months.
It might help if Congress had a sense of humor about itself. Except for Barney Frank, nobody in our estimable House of Representative seems to have the slightest idea how funny they are — funny in a stupid, vulgar sort of way, but funny nonetheless. Congress is the Whoopee Cushion of government. Is that really funny? Well, yes — if you think Whoopee Cushions are funny.
How about the Senate: funny or not funny? Many people insist on seeing the August Body as a serious, deliberative council full of earnest public servants trying to do their best by the voters who sent them there. This is a nice conceit but ignores the obvious fact that the Senate is actually opera buffa. How can any organization that would embrace the likes of Alphonse D’Amato, Strom Thurmond, Mitch McConnell and Joe Lieberman take itself seriously? And let’s not forget John McCain, who used the last presidential contest to develop his considerable skills as a stand-up comic. The Senate is Steve Martin arrow-through-the-head funny. It is Chevy Chase pratfall-funny. It is W.C. Fields child-hating funny. The Senate is a laff riot.
The Supreme Court is something else. It has a distinct sense of humor but it doesn’t play for laughs. The court’s idea of good fun is the practical joke. A good example of what it thinks is funny is its recent ruling that corporations and unions are just the same as private individuals and can contribute as much money as they see fit to political campaigns. This subtly hilarious judgment wiped away the fruits of fifty years of legislative struggle to limit the influence of money on American politics.
The ruling on campaign contributions was a fine example of high judicial humor, the kind of well-planned prank that brings that creepy smile to John Roberts’s lips. But this stunt, however amusing, was as nothing compared to the ruling of the Rehnquist Court that gave the 2000 presidential election to George W. Bush. Now that was funny. And it was funny in a way that goes on being funny. It is still funny to the young soldiers who were blinded or lost their legs in Dubya’s Arabian adventure, itself quite a good joke. Of course we’ll never know if the thousands of soldiers who have been killed in Iraq saw the fun in it, but we can say that they would never have had the ultimate comic opportunity without the help of the Supreme Court.
This brings us to some interesting questions. Who is the funniest Supreme Court justice? John Roberts? Sam Alito? Clarence Thomas? Thomas held the title for years, but competition arrived with the appointment of Roberts and then Alito, both of whom are knee-slapping, gut-wrenching, tears-starting hilarious. Most court-watchers believe that Thomas has been eclipsed by the two newer justices not only because they are funnier but because he has run his one joke into the ground. After twenty-some years, nobody thinks a judge acting like a moron is amusing.
On the other hand, Roberts and Alito, the Abbott and Costello of the court, are not only the funniest of the justices, they are the smartest. Roberts, it is said, is so smart he will have nothing to do with any of the other justices except Alito and Scalia. Alito and Scalia are so smart they know how they are going to rule in a case without reading briefs, researching the law or listening to arguments. Roberts follows much the same judicial method.
Remarkably, they always agree, although they express their opinions in different ways. Alito shows delight by scowling while Scalia revels in judicial bad manners, interrupting and insulting the lawyers who appear before the court. Roberts smiles in a way that suggests that a small dog is biting his ankles under his robe. Laurel and Hardy were never better than this, perhaps because they lacked the nuanced comic depth one can only acquire at Harvard and Yale law school.
From the Colorado Independent:
The program in question? Denver’s bike-sharing program, B-Cycle. [Republican candidate for governor] Maes later told the Denver Post, “At first, I thought, ‘Gosh, public transportation, what’s wrong with that, and what’s wrong with people parking their cars and riding their bikes? And what’s wrong with incentives for green cars?’ But if you do your homework and research, you realize ICLEI is part of a greater strategy to rein in American cities under a United Nations treaty.”