A hearty, happy “20th” birthday to my Uncle Jack!
Wednesday, February 29, 2012 7:33 pm
Deep in grief, Barbara Johnson stood first in the line for Communion at her mother’s funeral Saturday morning. But the priest in front of her immediately made it clear that she would not receive the sacramental bread and wine.
Johnson, an art-studio owner from the District, had come to St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Gaithersburg with her lesbian partner. The Rev. Marcel Guarnizo had learned of their relationship just before the service.
“He put his hand over the body of Christ and 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,’ ” she recalled Tuesday.
She reacted with stunned silence. Her anger and outrage have now led her and members of her family to demand that Guarnizo be removed from his ministry.
Family members said the priest left the altar while Johnson, 51, was delivering a eulogy and did not attend the burial or find another priest to be there.
And this is the church that Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich want to use as the basis for telling the rest of us how to live, which is unconstitutional in both their cases and, in Newt’s case, is just cranium-explodingly hypocritical besides.
And let me tell you, Barbara Johnson, who pledged to pray for Guarnizo even as she seeks his removal from the pastorate, is a better Christian than I would have been in those circumstances.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012 8:45 pm
Even with the most basic scientific caveat — it’s just one study — this probably seems intuitive to a lot of people:
The rich really are different from the rest of us, scientists have found — they are more apt to commit unethical acts because they are more motivated by greed.
People driving expensive cars were more likely than other motorists to cut off drivers and pedestrians at a four-way-stop intersection in the San Francisco Bay Area, UC Berkeley researchers observed. Those findings led to a series of experiments that revealed that people of higher socioeconomic status were also more likely to cheat to win a prize, take candy from children and say they would pocket extra change handed to them in error rather than give it back.
Because rich people have more financial resources, they’re less dependent on social bonds for survival, the Berkeley researchers reported Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. As a result, their self-interest reigns and they have fewer qualms about breaking the rules.
“If you occupy a more insular world, you’re less likely to be sensitive to the needs of others,” said study lead author Paul Piff, who is studying for a doctorate in psychology.
But before those in the so-called 99% start feeling ethically superior, consider this: Piff and his colleagues also discovered that anyone’s ethical standards could be prone to slip if they suddenly won the lottery and joined the top 1%.
“There is a strong notion that when people don’t have much, they’re really looking out for themselves and they might act unethically,” said Scott Wiltermuth, who researches social status at USC’s Marshall School of Business and wasn’t involved in the study. “But actually, it’s the upper-class people that are less likely to see that people around them need help — and therefore act unethically.”
Some of the comments unintentionally reinforce the researchers’ arguments, too, such as this one time-stamped 8:41 a.m. today:
Unlike the illegal Mexicans who sell oranges on street corners rich people actually have somewhere to go. There’s a sense of urgency in their lives, a plan, some sort of schedule. I find that the people with the slowest brains are generally the slowest drivers and walkers. Doing the California roll at a stop sign usually happens when the less motivated, lazier drivers can’t decide what to do.
Wow. Just … wow. The possibility that the California roller’s GPS might have just gone on the fritz doesn’t even occur to this commenter. [/irony]
This finding, if it holds up, has implications for the growing wealth and income inequality in the U.S., where the top 0.1% and .01% are putting distance between themselves and the rest of us at an accelerating rate. Even people who don’t believe that inequality is, in and of itself, bad suggest that growing inequality may mean that the rules are being enforced differently depending on how much money you make or political power you hold — an impression reinforced by the vast number of war criminals and fraud-committing economy-destroyers who haven’t seen so much as a subpoena, let alone the inside of a cell.
But these findings — again, subject to confirmation — suggest something even more insidious: Great wealth isn’t just a symptom, it may also be a cause. This research suggests that having more makes one want more still while blinding one to the needs of others. And that, in turn, undermines one of the greatest stories we Americans tell ourselves about ourselves: that all of us are created equal.
Although I thought the 2008 election presented Barack Obama with a Rooseveltian opportunity, I was not under the illusion that he would be another Roosevelt. I contented myself with the reality that he merely was not another George W. Bush or John McCain. That has helped, but it hasn’t been enough — and lately, at long last, Obama himself seems to be realizing it. Consider this speech he gave today to the United Auto Workers, one in which he gave the four remaining GOP presidential candidates a righteous hiding:
“You want to talk about values?” he asked. “Hard work — that’s a value. Looking out for one another — that’s a value. The idea that we’re all in it together — that I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper — that is a value.”
He continued: “But they’re still talking about you as if you’re some greedy special interest that needs to be beaten. Since when are hardworking men and women special interests? Since when is the idea that we look out for each other a bad thing?”
Memo to the wingnuts: There are many worse things in the world than the United Auto Workers, and in the past 30 years we’ve been confronted with them damn near daily. Jesus, in that book the Dominionists among you claim to love so much but instead have turned into just one more idol, said we’re to look after one another. He meant everyone, everywhere. I’d be happy if, in the actuarially remaining lifespan I have, we just started doing it consistently here in the U.S.A.
America: It was a really good idea. And it can be once again.
As regular readers know, I believe that the Earth’s climate is changing in undesirable ways, that this change is being driven primarily by increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and that human activity (both carbon emissions and logging the rain forests that turn the greatest amount of carbon dioxide into oxygen) is to blame.
Not coincidentally, this is essentially the view of the vast majority of climate scientists, whose work, comprising more than 30,000 studies dating back decades, many of those studies confirming earlier findings, would seem to put this question beyond the range of rational dispute — the key word, of course, being “rational.” I waded into the discussion thread of one of Atlantic economics blogger Megan McArdle’s posts on climate change last week, and lemme tell you, for every halfway cogent criticism of the theory of anthropogenic global warming, there were 20 dittoheads who just wanted to repeat talking points and punch hippies. It was a Sargasso Sea of DERP.
Well, when rationality fails, I fall back on Occam’s (or, as my research textbook spells it, Ockham’s) razor, which sounds painful. But Occam’s razor is actually a principle of logic: In plain English, it means that all other things being equal, the simplest explanation for a problem is most likely correct.
And so it is in the spirit of Occam’s razor that I present the following graphic, created by Brooke Jarvis.
I know which of these I think is more likely, but set that aside for a moment and just answer me this: Which one is simpler?
I’m a little late to this, but apparently GOP presidential candidate and pre-Vatican II Iron Catholic Rick Santorum said this:
I don’t believe in an America where the separation between church and state is absolute. The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and visions of our country.
Whereupon which Erik Kain observes:
This is either straight-up opportunism dressed in religious drag or it’s one of the dumbest things to have fled a politician’s mouth in, well, days.
Aw, Erik, why such a pinched, crabbed, constricted outlook? Couldn’t it be both?
Saturday, February 25, 2012 1:31 pm
… or, “My wife loves the Redskins more than she loves me,” and now we know why:
Albo is one of the sponsors of the bill in the Virginia legislature that would require women undergoing abortion to first undergo an unneeded and invasive medical procedure, transvaginal ultrasound. Requiring this procedure is not only medically unethical, it is, as I’ve previously observed, the practical and legal equivalent of sexual assault with an object.
If we are to take this allegedly humorous story at face value, Albo’s wife went all Lysistrata on him because of his support for the bill. And he thinks this means some other legislator owes him an apology. The sociopathy,the borderline personality disorder — they burn.
Bonus creepiness: Notice how he apparently believes his man-parts will fall off if he utters the word “vaginal.”
Friday, February 24, 2012 7:26 pm
My friend David has figured out a way to get rich the Romney way. I am in awe:
Based on the two main things I have learned from Mitt Romney as a bishop in the Mormon church and CEO of Bain Capital, I have stumbled on a sure fire, high profit business model. A paradigm shift in investment grade financial instruments which can make us all filthy rich, but will NOT damage the environment, or break any existing laws.
My plan is simple:
We sell Mormon souls to the devil.
Hey, I know what your first question is going to be, “But David, you can’t sell someone else’s soul to the Prince of Darkness.” Silly commie liberal, you don’t understand the business concept of “leverage” or other modern investment strategies like those used by Bain Capital.
You NEVER invest your OWN money in a business venture, you invest OTHER PEOPLE’S money.
In this case, why sell our own souls, when we can sell other people’s souls?
Of course, anything that can be monetized also can be collateralized, and such financial instruments must be rated for investors. David’s way ahead of you: “Obviously souls of politicians and Mormon Elders would not be investment grade.”
If S&P or Moody’s were rating them, I bet they would be treated as investment grade, but I think the regulatory authorities in this field have many more teeth than does the SEC. Not to mention claws.
Thursday, February 23, 2012 8:00 pm
The late, great Doug Marlette, a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist who started his career at The Charlotte Observer, once submitted a cartoon for Easter Sunday showing Christ in his crown of thorns, lugging an electric chair on his back toward Golgotha. It was rejected, of course, but every year thereafter he would re-submit it and every year thereafter it would be rejected. Though this isn’t quite as graphic, it’s every bit as pointed. I don’t know who’s the best editorial cartoonist working today, but Danziger has to be a contender.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012 8:59 pm
Your president, ladies and gentlemen …
Not half bad. Oh, hell, who are we kidding? He hit maybe 50% of the right notes. But he still managed to sound pretty good with that band behind him. Of course, two alley cats copulating could sound good with that band behind them.
(*Line from this.)
Tuesday, February 21, 2012 7:22 am
Hooper: I can’t get this part to stay on.
Me: Hmm. Have you tried reading the directions?
H: No. (reads directions) Oh! You have to snap it on AND turn it to the right!
Me: Good. Now, what have you learned from this?
H: You have to turn it to the right! Duh!
*RTFM = “READ THE [FULL] MANUAL.
Thursday, February 16, 2012 8:37 pm
Lemme help the Virginia legislature out: Not to put too fine a point on it, you’re conspiring to commit sexual assault
You force an object into a woman’s vagina when she doesn’t want you to? That’s sexual assault. Period.* And that’s exactly what the faux-Christians in Virginia’s legislature are preparing to do:
The ultrasound requirement may evoke images of the abdominal sonograms standard in most pregnancies, fuzzy black and white pictures conjured by a wand passed across a woman’s stomach.
But those ultrasounds are ordinarily done fairly late in pregnancy. In the beginning, particularly the first weeks, an abdominal ultrasound may not be sensitive enough to detect anything.
That’s why doctors in many cases use a transvaginal ultrasound. In plainspeak, they insert a condom-covered probe* into a woman’s vagina to obtain an image.
In order to satisfy the goals of the legislation – which includes a requirement that a doctor determine the gestational age of the pregnancy- a transvaginal ultrasound may be the only reliable course.
The bill, among the most invasive ever passed in Virginia, is the result of frustration by lawmakers opposed to abortion. Unsuccessful in making abortion illegal and unwilling to be frank about their goals, they have tried by technicality and obfuscation to make it harder for a woman to terminate a pregnancy.
And now this. In addition to the ultrasound, the bill mandates a waiting period of at least 2 hours and as long as a day before a woman can have an abortion. That waiting period has no medical necessity at all.
*That would be a probe larger than most penises, apparently.
I can envision how this might annoy some women even before hearing from some who have undergone the procedure, such as commenter Julie Robinson at Nance’s place, who said, “… once was enough for me. … I will decline to have it repeated unless it’s life-and-death-necessary.”
Look, guys, you have tried and tried to make abortion illegal. You lost. You need to sack up and accept that in a free country some people are going to do things that you don’t like, and that you do not have a right never to be offended. If you don’t like that, there are plenty of theocracies elsewhere where you can take your ideas.
Look, contrary to published reports and Internet rumors, I’m an easygoing guy. Not many things in the past 52 years have made me want to jump into a ’73 Buick LeSabre with a bunch of music and beer and go on a multi-state junk-punching spree. But this bill is rapidly climbing to the top of my list. Legalized sexual assault is still sexual assault. It’s rape with an object instead of a penis. It’s wrong. And that you think it’s a good enough idea to vote for this proposal makes you a conspirator to sexual assault. If the condom fits, wear it.
UPDATE (2/27): This is all part of larger war on women and on Roe v. Wade. For 35 years the Religious Right has concealed its authoritarian aspirations under at least a thin veil of feigned concern for American freedom. Now they’ve stopped pretending. In a way, that’s good: Like the annoying pink ribbons on consumer products, now you know whom and what to avoid. Commenter Ishmael at Ed Cone’s place nails it, so to speak: “For those ‘gentlemen’ who suggest that an aspirin between the knees is a good contraceptive (link added): I think a perfect contraceptive for men is a clothespin on their junk.”
As some of you ’round here know, the Greensboro City Council had a discussion on Feb. 7 regarding Amendment One, a referendum item on the ballot here in May that would rewrite the state constitution to outlaw civil and domestic unions other than marriage. Among speakers from the floor was a woman named Rachel Lee, who identified herself as communications director for Vote for Marriage NC, a political action committee that supports the proposed amendment.
Which would be fine, except that Ms. Lee told the City Council something that I and others confirmed to be untrue. She said that “70 percent of citizens here in Greensboro support the marriage protection amendment [sic] as cited by Public Policy Polling.”
The only problem is that there was no such poll. Not by PPP. Not by anyone else, insofar as I could determine through searching both Google and the wide variety of commercial databases available to me by virtue of my status as a graduate student at Carolina.
As Roch Smith reported at his blog the next day:
In fact, the latest poll from Public Policy Polling, released on December 9, 2011January 12, 2012, does not provide specifics for Greensboro. It does break out results for area code 336, which includes Greensboro, Guilford County and fourteen other surrounding counties, an area extending from Asheboro north to the Virgina state line and from Burlington west to the Tennessee state line, hardly a sampling of Greensboro.
Nonetheless, within this expanse, the poll found that 56% 53%of respondents favor some sort of domestic union for gay and lesbian people, either marriage or civil unions.
I wanted to find out why Ms. Lee either maliciously or negligently gave false information to the City Council in an attempt to influence the public policy of my city. So I visited the PAC’s website and, finding no email address for her, used the generic contact-us email address, asking in the subject line that the email be given to Ms. Lee. I wrote as follows:
Ms. Lee:As a longtime Greensboro resident and taxpayer, I’m curious as to why you apparently stood up last night and attempted to influence our city’s public policy by saying something that you either 1) knew to be false, or 2) recklessly asserted was true without having done your due diligence.I’m referring to your assertion that Public Policy Polling — a respecting polling operation, and deservedly so in my experience — had polled Greensboro residents on Amendment 1 and that 70% of respondents supported the amendment. As you no doubt know by now if you did not know last night, no such poll has been conducted by PPP nor, as nearly as I can tell from both web and commercial database searches, anyone else.So I’d like to know: How is it that you came to be standing in front of my City Council and saying something that was utterly untrue in an attempt to get them to reject a resolution that was in opposition to your position?A prompt response would be appreciated.Sincerely,Hooper “Lex” Alexander IV
Needless to say, I have not heard back from her.
I bcc’d a couple of friends, including Roch, who posted the letter on his website. (I hadn’t realized he would do that, but I’d meant to do it myself anyway here and just got interrupted, so no harm, no foul.) As you’ll see if you follow that link, the post drew some comments from someone purporting to be affiliated with V4MNC. I asked him if he’d be kind enough to ask Ms. Lee to respond directly to me, rather than having a flunky respond to me on someone else’s blog.
Ed Cone, to whom I also sent a copy of the letter, actually got hold of Ms. Lee. His account of their conversation is enlightening.
More than a week later I have had no response from Ms. Lee or anyone else at V4MNC, nor, at this point, do I expect one. I can only presume that the PAC employs a professional liar, and a bad one at that.
I’m not sure where and how people like Ms. Lee and V4MNC got the idea that they could arrogate for themselves a right they would use the force of law to deny others without violating the Golden Rule. But such attitudes certainly suggest they haven’t been reading their own sacred texts attentively.
As to the larger issue, my encapsulated thoughts on gay marriage, civil unions and the like are at the bottom of this post. With regard to Amendment 1 in particular, I oppose it because it would outlaw civil unions of any kind, including existing domestic-partnership benefit programs offered to employees of Greensboro and some other N.C. cities.
In closing, I have observed with dismay the growing use among online liberals of the pejorative “god-botherers” to describe religious conservatives like Ms. Lee who believe their personal religious beliefs should be universally imposed by the power of government. I deplore the use of this term as inaccurate. They’re not bothering God — certainly not on the scale that, say, war criminals and investment bankers do. But they’re annoying the hell out of me.
Wednesday, February 15, 2012 7:57 pm
… from Athenae: “If you want to be evil you’d better be at least halfway competent.”
Investment bankers? Check (he said, bitterly).
Scott Walker? The Prop 8 defenders in California? The backers of Amendment 1 here in North Carolina? Not so much.
(And, yes, I really should blog my own letter. I just either haven’t had time or, when I’ve had time, I’ve forgotten about it. I’m still not sure why I didn’t blog it when I sent it. Oh, wait, I remember — laundry.)
Anyone who argues differently is not trying to sell you something, he’s trying to steal what little you have left.
Facts and logic having failed to persuade anyone to do the right thing with respect to the economy, I decide instead to try a good rant, outsourced to Charlie Pierce:
Austerity has murdered any hope of recovery in the UK. It seems to have done the same thing in Italy. And, in Greece, the citizens of democracy’s birthplace seem to be taking offense at the notion that their first obligation is to punish themselves to make a lot of international bankers whole again, and to cement Angela Merkel’s place in European history, which will be further propped up in Germany by an economy that depends on strong labor unions, a thriving government safety net, and the world’s oldest universal health-care system, to which Germans are entitled, but to which Brits, Italians, Greeks and, if you believe David Gregory, Americans, are not. Make no mistake about it. “Austerity” is a theological construct. It is about punishing the alleged sins of sloth and gluttony. It is about purging through pain. It is about enshrining into law every misbegotten slander about the poor and struggling that’s been floating around the political dialogue for generations. And it doesn’t work.
The deficit is not our biggest immediate economic problem. Joblessness is. Questions? See post title.
Tom Sorensen at the Charlotte O makes an interesting, but by no means compelling, case.
The upside is that at his best, Moss has been among the best WRs ever to play his position, and the Panthers’ need for a receiver who can stretch the field the way Steve Smith does AND take double-teams off Smith could be a boon for the offense and a blessing for Cam Newton.
The downside, though, is formidable. Moss is 35 and didn’t play in 2011. His performance in 2010 was subpar. He has a history of off-field problems and fomenting locker-room discontent. The Panthers think WR Brandon LaFell may be about to blossom, and they have WR David Gettis coming back from injury, and they have WR Legedu Naanee, who performed well in 2011 but whose contract is up. They’ve also got the best pair of tight ends in the league in Greg Olson and Jeremy Shockey, although Shockey, too, is aging and will need a new contract. And the contracts matter, because the team has damned little wiggle room under the salary cap.
The Panthers have a history of overpaying past-their-prime superstars (**cough ReggieWhite cough**), true. But that history is mostly in the last century. In this one, the past-their-prime stars have been people like Stephen Davis and Jeremy Shockey, big upgrades at their position. Even Keyshawn Johnson wasn’t awful, just mediocre. And although owner Jerry Richardson shied away from problem children after the Rae Carruth disaster, his measured gambles on Cam Newton and Shockey have come up big. (That said, although I was skeptical of Newton’s ability to play in the NFL, I generally thought his father was a much bigger off-field problem than he himself was.)
My guess is that the salary cap alone means this won’t happen; Moss is nowhere near enough of a sure thing to make the Panthers go through the hassle of restructuring several other players’ contracts. They’ll be doing enough of that anyway, plus cutting or not re-signing some good people, as it is.
But if it were up to me, and in the absence of any better affordable options in the draft or free-agent market, I might do what Sorensen suggests: Bring Moss in for an interview, and if Moss can convince me that he’s going to give me body and soul on every down he plays and keep his behavior between the white lines in the locker room and after hours, offer him a one-year contract heavily weighted toward back-end incentives on both health and performance, some of them unlikely enough not to count against the salary cap. If he takes it, great. If he doesn’t, no hard feelings. If he takes it and underperforms, you’re not out a ton of money, and if he takes it and greatly exceeds expectations, he’ll be worth the money without being a huge hit against the cap.
Cam Newton needs weapons. If — and that’s a big if — the Randy Moss of old returned for even a single season, the fireworks those two would create could light the division’s entire geographic footprint.
Tuesday, February 14, 2012 7:49 pm
Here’s just a little reminder of how wonderful people can be against all the odds, and what a great country this can be when we don’t always let the the jackasses get the last word.
Here’s another such story, with a 45th anniversary coming up in June.
Not to worry. The regular misanthropy will return on the morrow.
Monday, February 13, 2012 8:23 pm
… for you are a monster:
CT Magazine: In 2002, you wrote a letter to parishioners in which you said, “If in hindsight we discover that mistakes may have been made as regards prompt removal of priests and assistance to victims, I am deeply sorry.”
EGAN: First of all, I should never have said that. I did say if we did anything wrong, I’m sorry, but I don’t think we did anything wrong. But I hate to go back over this. I think there’s more to life than that one issue, especially when I had no cases.
Jesus wept. Literally. There is so much wrong with these four sentences from Egan, this one short paragraph, that I’m surprised the very pixels on my monitor haven’t burst in outrage.
First of all, his “apology” was a nonapology (“If we discover that mistakes may have been made …”). By that time, as then-Bishop Egan then knew, many such mistakes had been thoroughly documented and already in the public record.
Now he says he shouldn’t even have said that much? The mind. It boggles.
And the reason he says that is that he doesn’t think the diocese and archdiocese did anything wrong. Never mind what the independent experience of victims, their families, law enforcement and social workers found. It’s what he thinks that gets to determine what goes into the history books.
And he hates to go back over it. Awwwww, poor widdle factotum, he hates to go back over this. Does he not understand that the victims are forced to go back over it, every single day of their lives? Does he not understand the devastation that sexual abuse wreaks upon the soul of a child — devastation that many, despite the best care, never get over?
I guess that has to be a rhetorical question, because then he says, “I think there’s more to life than that one issue, especially when I had no cases.”
Because it’s all about you, isn’t it, you narcissistic turdwaffle? Sure, there’s more to life, but in the lives of the victims, the pain, shame, humiliation, guilt, self-recrimination and second-guessing are the issue of life, every day, forever. But the fact that you “had no cases” — which, frankly, I don’t think is fact at all; I think it’s bullshit — somehow trumps what the victims went through and, in some cases, their further victimization, through intimidation or blackmail, by a church desperate to keep its skirts clean, its donations flowing and the moral rot at its heart somehow, in Bizarro World, consonant with its professed principles.
And these are the people claiming the moral authority to decide whether women who aren’t even Catholic can get their contraception covered by health insurance.
Burn in hell, you toad.
h/t: Athenae, who comments, “Obama looks around like, ‘And I don’t have one with the presidential seal on it WHY, now?'”
I like the part where the kid says he tested it by shooting himself in the leg with it. That’s giving it up for science.
Sunday, February 12, 2012 8:58 am
A friend of mine emailed a few days ago to ask me for my take on the whole Susan G. Komen situation. (I think Karen Handel’s resignation had not yet happened when he wrote.) I wrote him back and gave it to him, bcc’ing another friend who had asked a similar question. The other friend suggested that the email might make a good summary of the case as a blog post. So, if you can stand another Komen post, I’ve copied the email below, with a couple of redactions to preserve my friends’ anonymity.
* * *
I don’t know that I have an organized, synthesized “take” on Komen yet, but I have a bunch of observations which, taken together and combined with my background in investigative reporting on nonprofits gone bad, lead me to a tentative conclusion … [snip]
– Karen Handel, the ousted VP, ran for governor of Georgia on a strong pro-life platform that was explicitly anti-Planned Parenthood. (She lost in the GOP primary to someone who was even more anti-abortion than she, which is a neat trick in the GOP these days.) Given her relative lack of PR/marketing background … I think it’s reasonable to surmise that she was hired for the position of VP for Public Policy for her political views and connections in the pro-life movement.
— However, in her resignation letter, she maintained that the board had been troubled even before she got there about Komen’s relationship with Planned Parenthood because of pressure and criticism from those who oppose abortion. I wouldn’t believe the woman if she said the sky was blue without looking out a window first, but that actually strikes me as plausible, for reasons I’ll elaborate on farther down. It further strikes me as plausible that the board hired Handel, if not specifically to manage cutting off PP, then at least to serve as an ambassador to the anti-abortion community.
— CEO Nancy Brinker raised a ton of money for Bush 43 and was given an ambassadorship in return. Absent any other information about her, that fact alone suggests that even if she herself was not anti-abortion, she was very comfortable with those who were and very comfortable with very wealthy people. Not to generalize too broadly, but particularly in the past decade we’ve seen a number of instances in which very wealthy people (see: Romney, Mitt) demonstrate an utter lack of awareness of what it’s like to be poor or even working-class in this country. That demographic is a huge part of PP’s client base, and both on issues related to PP and economic issues in general, that demographic is damned tired of being disrespected (see: OWS [Occupy Wall Street] and the 99% movement).
— Again, assuming that what Handel says about the board is true, it is likely that the board itself was largely, if not unanimously, in favor of cutting off Planned Parenthood in hopes of getting the anti-abortion movement off its back, if not actually receiving more donations from members of that movement.
— Now, here’s why I think Handel’s account of the board’s position is plausible. There are two important things to note about the anti-abortion Right [with respect to] Planned Parenthood: 1) Many of them believe, in the absence of scientific evidence, that abortion causes breast cancer or makes it more likely. This is not true; a ton of disinterested research has found no link whatever, but in many cases in this movement, you’re dealing with people who are pretty anti-science in general. So we’re talking here about people who believe, to a significant degree, that PP is in the business of, in effect, knowingly giving women breast cancer. 2) Many of the anti-abortion folks sincerely believe and/or cynically claim that abortion is just about all Planned Parenthood does (it’s actually about 3%), and many of THOSE folks believe and/or cynically claim that that service is highly profitable, that PP is in it for the money. And all the documentation in the world won’t change their minds. You can Google this example: Just in the past few days an anti-abortion state legislator in Louisiana was taken in by a fake news article on The Onion in which Planned Parenthood announced it was building an Abortionplex to perform as many abortions as quickly as possible. [Link added to this post -- Lex]
— Do I believe the Komen folks thought to that extreme? With the possible exception of Handel, no, but I do think a milder version of that world view, and their general lack of empathy for the poor and working class, blinded the Komen staff and board to the likelihood of backlash when they cut off money to PP that was used not for abortions but for breast-cancer exams and referrals. If you take Komen’s stated mission at face value, such a move is inexplicable. They were so seriously out of touch that they were unaware, for example, that for decades a fair number of lower-income people have relied on PP for primary medical care in general, not just birth control or abortion. ([Redacted], then just out of college and working a low-paying, crummy-benefits job, was one of them.) And they certainly appeared unaware that not a few women had had their breast cancers detected early — and, thus, their lives arguably saved — through a Planned Parenthood breast exam. And Brinker’s YouTube video [link added to this post -- Lex] after [the PP cut became news and prompted the backlash] demonstrated just how out of touch she, at least, was and how illogical and inconsistent Komen’s stated motivations were. It was almost Palin-esque in its word-saladness. [Redacted] I cringed as I watched it: She did enormous damage to her brand in just a few minutes, which leads me to think she either got no coaching on what she was going to say and how she was going to say it (and visually, the rich person’s library backdrop also didn’t help), or she figured “I’ve got this” and blew off offers of help.
So, trying hard not to generalize too much in the absence of a recording device in the Komen headquarters, I think what we have is an organization:
- that was generally pro-life to begin with and that hired a public-policy person who was rabidly so and, further, that the organization either didn’t know or didn’t care how rabidly anti-science, and anti-PP, this constituency is.
- that apparently knew little and cared less how its grantee used the money it was given, even though that money use was directly consonant with Komen’s stated mission.
- called “Komen for the Cure” though it actually spends less than 20% of its massive budget on cure research and almost 40% more on “education,” which is about one part actual education to four parts corporate marketing. (That fact is available to anyone who looks at their [IRS Form] 990s, of course, and some Komen critics have been pointing it out for years. But it went viral in the wake of the PP decision, and so a lot of people who had supported Komen only learned it for the first time last week.)
- that pays its CEO and top staffers a lot more than what most lay people think is appropriate for nonprofit executives even at big, national organizations (Brinker alone gets ~$460K). For good or ill, that’s actually not all that out of line for such organizations, but to the lay person, it looks grossly inappropriate.
- whose stated reasons for the cut were both implausible (e.g., they say no money to groups “under investigation,” but they’re cutting $680K from PP, which is the subject of a politically motivated congressional witch hunt, but not $7.5M from Penn State, which is under a very real criminal investigation because of the Sandusky case?) and inconsistent (the stories changed wildly within just a few days)
I think you can put that picture into the dictionary next to the definition of “perfect storm.”
Now, good for Komen that Handel is gone. But if the organization is serious about its mission, then Brinker and any board member who supported this move need to be gone, too. They clearly are out of touch with the people they claim to serve and clearly are out of touch with their own organization’s mission. If the organization is to survive — and I would argue that it shouldn’t, necessarily — it must be governed and run by people who are dedicated to the apolitical position of working for women’s health in general and a cure for breast cancer in particular, period. Sure, Brinker was Komen’s sister, yadda-yadda, but the organization was no longer hers the instant it got charitable tax-exempt status and began soliciting other people’s money. At that point in the life of any nonprofit, the organization becomes a mission that is bigger than any one person. ([Name redacted] forgot that at [the nonprofit he led, with which both I and the recipient of the email have worked], and both he and [that nonprofit] have paid an enormous price as a result.)
And I don’t think this is over.
For one thing, the Komen documentary released last week ["Pink Ribbons, Inc." -- title and link added to this post -- Lex], which makes many of these same points, is going to have a much bigger audience now than it would have originally. [Link added to this post -- Lex] I’m old enough to remember how “meh” everyone was about the release of “The China Syndrome” in 1979 — until Three Mile Island happened a couple of weeks later. I don’t think the documentary will be that kind of hit, but I would imagine that many people who might have been won back by Handel’s resignation will see it and decide to forget Komen permanently.
For another, for good or ill, I think that the political Left, which got Obama elected and then has been disappointed by him over and over, smells blood. They’ve gotten a big win for the first time in a long time, and I think, for good or ill, that they want more. And that’s a problem, because Komen’s corporate sponsors are, pretty much to a company, in the consumer-products business and thus vulnerable to Internet-driven boycotts, letter-writing campaigns and other such actions. Microsoft and Apple are too big and too irreplaceable to care, but Yoplait yogurt? They’re screwed. And the pink ribbons on those products cut both ways: They now make it very easy for anyone interested to know what NOT to buy. If those partners pull their support, Komen is dead.
The big season for Komen races is still a couple of months off, so it’ll be interesting to see how participation is affected. I’m guessing it’ll fall at least 50% across the board, and in some politically blue areas, it’ll be 80%.
Bottom line: Whether Komen survives or not, Nancy Brinker and Karen Handel are going into a marketing textbook soon, and not in a good way.
Friday, February 10, 2012 8:50 pm
One days in the mid-1980s, my brother Frank, then finishing college at N.C. State and a newly diagnosed Type 1 diabetic, went into insulin shock while driving home. As he described it later, he could see his field of vision being constricted by darkness, which must be scary as hell if you’re sitting in your living room or lying in bed, let alone behind the wheel of a moving car in afternoon rush-hour traffic.
He had no sweets with him, so he sped toward home. And got pulled for speeding.
I’m not sure whether the Raleigh police officer let him go on the spot or the charge (speeding was then a criminal misdemeanor in N.C.; it’s now a civil infraction) was later dropped, but the point is that nothing like this happened:
A Highway Patrol trooper enters the scene first, gun drawn, and kicks the driver’s window of Greene’s four-door sedan. After several moments, the trooper opens the door.
The trooper, his gun still raised, then gives Greene conflicting commands. He first tells him not to move, then tells him to come forward.
A second trooper quickly cuffs Greene’s wrist and pulls him from the car, which rolls forward until an officer stops it.
Greene flops to the ground, clearly dazed as five officers rush him. A sixth officer, with Henderson police, enters the frame late and delivers five well-placed kicks to Greene’s face.
“Stop resisting mother (expletive)!” one officer yells.
Greene doesn’t scream until a second Henderson officer knees him in the midsection — and then does it three more times. Greene was later treated for fractured ribs.
Police suspected Greene was intoxicated as he weaved among lanes about 4 a.m. on Oct. 29, 2010, and finally stopped his car near Lake Mead Parkway and Boulder Highway in Henderson.
But that wasn’t the case, which they soon discovered after they searched Greene.
“Call in medical,” one officer says in the video. “We found some insulin in his pocket. … He’s semiconscious.”
“Let’s get medical out here. He’s a diabetic, he’s probably in shock,” the officer later tells dispatch.
Click the link and watch the video (cops’ language NSFW). It’s chilling. And all I could think was, “That could be one of my brothers.”
Some of my friends say I complain too much about excessive use of force* by law enforcement (or, as they called it when I was a kid, police bruality). I politely invite them to get bent. This is a symptom of lazy or incompetent training and leadership, pure and simple, and it needs to be torn out of our law enforcement root and branch. I have too much respect for good cops to have any respect for bad ones, and I’m not alone. John Cole comments:
I’m not really sure what my favorite part of this video is — first, the warning for offensive language. Actually, [offensive language doesn't] bother me anywhere near as much as watching some douchebag cop run in and kick a man in the neck when he is clearly restrained and not resisting. Check out that real tough guy with a badge at 45 seconds in. Any chief that keeps that guy on the force is part of the damned problem.
My next favorite part is when these morons start asking each other if they are ok. What could they hurt? Their toes on the guy’s head?
And then, of course, the laughter afterwards, when instead they should be shaken up by how bad they screwed the pooch and how poorly they handled the situation.
If you’ll notice, the [driver] has done what you are supposed to do when you get pulled over, doing so even in a diabetic shock. He’s stopped the car, his hands are on the wheel, and he waits for instruction. Yet our Rockette Rambo has to go over guns drawn, kicking the window, acting like a maniac. I always thought the point of police was to defuse a situation, not escalate it.
At this point, though, with our politicians and courts bending over backwards to negate our rights and to look the other way when cops misbehave, I suppose we should all be happy they didn’t just execute the guy on the spot. Thank god there was no dog in the car.
And by the way, in my near ten years in the military, with all the exhaustive weapon training I received on a number of firearms, never once did an instructor inform me that the proper thing to do with a drawn and loaded weapon was to kick one foot up into the air. If you did that … on any range in the world, they would kick you out and might possibly give you an article 15 [nonjudicial punishment in the military -- Lex]. What would happen if his foot slipped and he discharged? What if he shot the guy because of that? Or himself? Would the other cops think he had been shot when they heard the discharge and saw him on the ground and then unload into the driver? Just terrible [expletive] policework.
My delight at the phrase “Rockette Rambo” pales in comparison to my anger at the cops, the people who trained and supervise them, and anyone who thinks this is in any way OK. It’s not. It’s not constitutional, not legal, not moral, and even, as Cole observes, not safe for the cops.
Police culture is insular, and cops tend to close ranks to defend their own. Frequently it’s admirable. In the case of brutality such as this, it’s illegal, unconstitutional and despicable, and Cole is correct: Any chief who would defend this behavior with anything short of termination is, indeed, part of the problem and needs to find another line of work before he or his minions kill someone.
And politicians who support police who engage in this type of behavior need to be flushed out of office.
If you’re a regular reader, you know how I feel about voting and the bogus “voter fraud” spectre being raised by the GOP. I’ve argued, to varying degrees of belief on the part of my readers, that the real problem isn’t voter fraud — that is, someone casting a vote he is not legally entitled to cast, by virtue of his not residing where he votes or by virtue (?) of his posing as an existing eligible voter or by virtue of using an entirely fictitious identity.
Rather, I’ve argued, the real problem is that the Republican Party, apparently believing it cannot win an honest election, is doing everything it can to prevent legally eligible voters from voting, using “voter fraud” as an excuse for measures, such as requiring photo I.D. (an unconstitutional poll tax under another name, as more than one court has found), that it knows will make voting harder for certain large populations — the elderly, very young adults, racial and ethnic minorities, those who do not or cannot drive, and ex-felons — who tend to vote disproportionately for Democrats.
It’s an anti-get-out-the-vote campaign. It’s illegal and it’s unconstitutional (and arguably a federal crime), but the Republican Party and a good bit of our mainstream media are treating it as simply one more debatable notion in the era of postmodern law and politics.
Unfortunately, here in the real world, facts still matter, valid data still matter. And David Rothschild, an economist for Yahoo! Research (and, boy, doesn’t the phrase “an economist for Yahoo! Research” tell you how much the world has changed) with a Ph.D. in applied economics from the Wharton School of Business, tells us that those data show that Republicans, on this issue as on so many others, are full of crap:
Based on the most conservative estimates, then, we can estimate that voter ID laws could disenfranchise between 10,000-500,000 eligible voters for every 1-100 blocked fraudulent votes. Here’s how I get there:
It may seem like a government-issued photo ID isn’t so much to ask to cast a vote—after all, you need one to drive, get on a plane, or have a beer. The fact is that many eligible voters do not have the right documents under new or proposed laws. The right-wing Heritage Foundation trumpets a paper that claims that only 1.2% registered voters lack valid a photo ID. That may seem low, but nearly 130 million votes were cast in the 2008 presidential election, so that would translate into roughly 1,560,000 voters. The Heritage Foundation’s estimate is the lowest I could find. In 2007, the Georgia Secretary of State estimated 198,000 registered voters there did not have government issued photo IDs and in South Carolina, 200,000 registered voters do not have a photo ID that would be valid for voting under the proposed law, according to the state election commission. That translates into roughly 4-5 percent of voters for Georgia and 8-10 percent of voters for South Carolina, based on 2008 registration and vote totals.
Those eligible citizens who do not have a photo ID tend towards the more disenfranchised citizens:25% of African-Americans have no photo ID, 15% of people earning less than $35,000 have no photo ID, and 18% of the elderly have no photo ID. This represents millions of citizens in each category. Such laws also penalize college students since many of these laws require in-state photo IDs, which prevents college students from voting at their college if they attend from out-of-state.
Voter ID laws do not stop people who have fraudulently registered as themselves. The vast majority of these cases are people who believed themselves to be eligible, notably felons that do not know they are ineligible to vote in a given state. States that bar felons, such as Florida, have traditionally been so vigilant in blocking felons that thousands of eligible voters have been inadvertently purged from the voter rolls in the state’s fixation to ensure that felons do not vote. Nor would these laws stop non-citizens from voting as themselves. (Even so, investigations have found voting by non-citizens to be extremely rare; a study of 370,000 votes cast in Milwaukee from 1992-2000 showed 4 votes by non-citizens.)
The main voter fraud that photo IDs would stop, then, is that of a person voting in lieu of another registered voter; this is likely someone who has died, as it is otherwise hard to estimate when a live registered voter will not be voting. Again, studies have shown very few votes by dead people in recent election cycles; this study by the FBI showed that all 89 dead voters in a Maryland election died after they voted. Many other presumed dead voters are caused by clerical errors on death certificates.
So here’s the question: if the most conservative estimates are correct and 10,000 eligible voters are disenfranchised so that 100 non-eligible votes can be stopped, do you think that that is a fair deal for democracy?
That’s a good question. Let’s rephrase it:
So here’s the question: if the most conservative estimates are correct and 10,000 innocent people are executed so that 100 murderers can be stopped from getting off scot-free, do you think that that is a fair deal for democracy?
But wait, you say, voting and murder aren’t the same thing, and not getting to vote isn’t like being wrongly executed!
In terms of the consequences, of course, that’s absolutely correct.
But in America, we consider the right to life, absent due judicial process, to be fundamental and absolute. Guess what? We think exactly the same thing of the right to vote. Just as Americans have died over the centuries to protect their fellow citizens’ lives, so, too, have Americans died — and not just in the Jim Crow South — to protect the rights of their fellow citizens to vote. The right to vote is a Big Damn Deal and the closest thing to settled law, outside the realm of life and death, that this country has. Indeed, given our constitutional transgressions post-9/11, you could argue it is the most settled point of constitutional law.
So why are the Republicans doing what they’re doing, besides the tactical fact that if everyone who is eligible to vote does so, they’re going to lose a lot more than they’re going to win?
Because, philosophically, Republicans who support these voter-suppression efforts do not believe that every citizen has the right to vote. And whatever else you want to call that belief, you need to call it what it is: un-American.
David Frum, who — have I mentioned this? Why, yes. Yes, I have — has blood on his hands, gets some more on in a good way with this stinging takedown of Charles Murray’s latest not-so-cryptoracist screed:
You are a white man aged 30 without a college degree. Your grandfather returned from World War II, got a cheap mortgage courtesy of the GI bill, married his sweetheart and went to work in a factory job that paid him something like $50,000 in today’s money plus health benefits and pension. Your father started at that same factory in 1972. He was laid off in 1981, and has never had anything like as good a job ever since. He’s working now at a big-box store, making $40,000 a year, and waiting for his Medicare to kick in.
Now look at you. Yes, unemployment is high right now. But if you keep pounding the pavements, you’ll eventually find a job that pays $28,000 a year. That’s not poverty! Yet you seem to waste a lot of time playing video games, watching porn, and sleeping in. You aren’t married, and you don’t go to church. I blame Frances Fox Piven.
When 95 percent of the American work force has got a secure job that provides enough to covers its needs, provide for occasional wants and leave a little over to be put aside toward its dreams, then I might entertain lectures from our social overlords about the morality of the lower classes. Until then, however, Murray and his ilk need to STFU.
Tuesday, February 7, 2012 10:52 pm
Economist Dean Baker on the Post’s reporting on unemployment:
The unemployment rate for the 30 percent of the workforce with college degrees is still more than twice its pre-recession level. If the Post had done its homework it would know that the problem is not the skill levels of unemployed workers, the problem is the skill level of people who make economic policy.
Wingnut Karen Handel resigned today as senior vice president for public policy of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. And her resignation letter has to be read to be believed. Commenter BGinCHI at Balloon Juice called it “masturbation for people who are too repressed to touch themselves,” and that pretty much nails it.
In this brief missive, she 1) implicitly criticizes her former employer, 2) makes clear that, as we suspected, most of what we heard from Komen about its decision to defund Planned Parenthood in the first place was crap, and 3) makes clear that CEO Nancy Brinker and the Komen board were all in on the defunding decision and, therefore, ought to resign as well.
I cannot recall a more incredibly self-indulgent, self-centered resignation message from anyone in public life, although I admit I do not have those of former FEMA director Michael “Heck of a job, Brownie” Brown or New York Times reporter Judith “I was proved f—–g right!” Miller handy.
AJC blogger Jim Galloway, to whom the first link above links, notes that Handel declined a severance package, thus leaving herself free to keep talking. If this is any indication of what she’ll say, I hope she keeps talking, because the more she talks, the deeper the poo in which Komen finds itself.
And that needs to happen, because this is far from over.
I’m sure lots of liberals are celebrating Handel’s resignation, along with anyone else who actually, you know, gives a damn about the health of women, particularly poor women. But if what Handel said is anywhere near true, then Brinker and the board need to resign as well. No one should be celebrating until that organization is in the hands of people whose ONLY focus is women’s health, full stop.
That means no money and no volunteering. That means pressuring the group’s corporate sponsors.
This deal ain’t closed yet, and it’s one deal that desperately needs to be. Lives depend on it.
Sunday, February 5, 2012 10:55 pm
[h/t: John Cole]
Saturday, February 4, 2012 6:47 pm
You can’t make this crap up:
Ari Fleischer, former press secretary for George W. Bush and prominent right-wing pundit, was secretly involved in the Komen Foundation’s strategy regarding Planned Parenthood. Fleischer personally interviewed candidates for the position of “Senior Vice President for Communications and External Relations” at Komen last December. According to a source with first-hand knowledge, Fleischer drilled prospective candidates during their interviews on how they would handle the controversy about Komen’s relationship with Planned Parenthood …
In November, Komen advertised for a top level communications position in Roll Call. Promising applicants received a call from Fleischer. The advertisement is no longer posted on the Roll Call website, but a portion is accessible via Google:
According to a source, during at least one interview, Planned Parenthood was a major topic of conversation. Fleischer indicated that he had discussed the Planned Parenthood issue with Komen’s CEO, Nancy Brinker, and that she was at her wits end about how to proceed.
just one question: Why would anyone with a problem turn for a solution to a member of the crew who brought you 9/11, Enron, environmental rape, widespread theft of government resources, Iraq, a housing bubble, the Katrina screwup, and the biggest theft of private property in history — and, oh, yeah, didn’t bring you the head of Osama bin Laden? What kind of mushrooms do you have to be snorting to believe there’s even a middling chance that such a decision could end well?
One other thing. I’ve said in other fora, in response to the suggestion that Komen should have its tax exemption yanked for partisan political activity, that there’s no grounds for doing so. I still believe that, but the issue isn’t nearly as clear-cut as I thought.
Friday, February 3, 2012 8:44 pm
Komen folds, outsourced to TBogg:
Komen CEO Nancy Brinker blinked, presumably after every PR agency in the world told her that she had screwed the pooch on national TV in HD and 5.1 Surround sound audio and everyone in America had DVR’d the act. [snip] Not to be ungracious, and not that it will undo the damage because nothing ever will , but Brinker might want to bring us the head of [Komen senior VP and anti-choice activist] Karen Handel as a peace offering. It’s not like Handel has been using it in the first place.
Well, it’s nice that Komen is going to reverse course on, you know, killing poor American women, but this pooch is well and truly screwed. And Komen’s “leadership” is continuing to lie, in tacit acknowledgment of the fact that not only is there nothing they can do now to unscrew it but that they’re also going to be showing up in marketing textbooks in a few years, and not in a good way:
We have been distressed at the presumption that the changes made to our funding criteria were done for political reasons or to specifically penalize Planned Parenthood. They were not.
Uh, Nance, your own employees aren’t even buying that crap.
It is our hope and we believe it is time for everyone involved to pause, slow down and reflect on how grants can most effectively and directly be administered …
Uh, no, Nance, you can clap as loudly as you like, but this is not going away.
… without controversies that hurt the cause of women.
Because letting women get dead faster because of political pressure from anti-women religious zealots isn’t nearly as big a deal as your precious, lucrative marketing arrangements, is it, you … I was going to call you a morally retarded old whore, but that would be an insult to competent, ethical professional sex workers worldwide.
We urge everyone who has participated in this conversation across the country over the last few days to help us move past this issue.
Why? Y’all can file for Chapter 7 without our help.
We ask for the public’s understanding and patience …
Sorry. I’m fresh out. And you’re done. You’re done because a lot of people are angry enough at being taken in by Komen that they’re starting to think like John Cole:
But the important thing now is to not back down. Komen is backpeddling [sic], which is good, but it doesn’t change who they are. All that has changed is that they realized they were just a tad too brazen this time around. The nature of the beast has not changed, the same people who cut stem cell funding to Hopkins and other universities are still there, the folks who attempted to play petty partisan games by attacking Planned Parenthood are still there, and they will do the same sorts of things in the future, only this time they will try to be more sophisticated in the PR efforts. Keep up the pressure. Keep calling companies and pressuring them to drop Komen. Don’t do what liberals always do and stop just because it appears we have won. Keep your foot on their neck, no matter how many times Nancy Brinker whimpers “uncle” through mealy-mouthed PR releases. We need this to be an object lesson in pain for anyone else who wants to try some bullshit like this in the future.
That, my friends, is how free markets are supposed to work.
Thursday, February 2, 2012 10:03 pm
Let’s be very clear. This wasn’t just a PR mistake. This was a fundamentally disastrous error in judgment of the type an organization and its brand ought not to survive.
Komen hired a stupid, vicious person who led them to do a stupid, vicious thing, and now their head is doubling down, lying publicly and shamelessly about the reasons. (And if you doubt they’re lying, let’s just see if they take back the $7.5 million they gave Penn State.)
Stupid because it was absolutely predictable that many women who identified with the group’s ostensible aims would be outraged by the action and see through the rationalization.
Vicious because unless Planned Parenthood can make up the money Komen is withholding, a nontrivial number of American women will die of breast cancer, a disease in which early detection is key to survival, because they can’t afford to be screened or get mammograms anywhere else.
The bigger picture here is that the American Right simply does not care about women, and in many cases is actively hostile to them. When Rick Santorum argues that most forms of birth control should be illegal because sex is only for procreation, when Komen cuts off money for breast-cancer detection, then the issue has gone way past abortion and into an area even more indecent and un-American.
These people need to be called out. They need to be shunned. And they need to be kept away from the levers of power, if not institutionalized as dangers, perhaps to themselves and unquestionably to others.