Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Thursday, March 29, 2012 12:25 am

Is it too late for John Cole to file an amicus brief with the Supremes?

 

Because he has a good point:

I just discovered what it ["the broccoli mandate"] is, and it distresses me to no end that our wingnuts are actively trying to make us dumber. Of course no one is going to be mandated to buy broccoli, you wankers. But you know what I am mandated to buy because of the actions of a bunch of midwestern conservative pols? Corn. There is a live, actual corn mandate. Every time I go to the gas station to buy gas, I am forced, against my will, to buy corn products.

So you know where you jackasses can stick that broccoli…

I also don’t see the Supremes objecting to the fact that I have to pay for wars I don’t support.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject, Antonin Scalia stumbled onto something very interesting with his point about legislative inertia. And, by interesting, I mean, “damning.”

Scalia, remember, is a guy with a long track record of claiming that congressional gridlock is a feature, not a bug. Now, however, in today’s “severability” argument — that is, what, if anything, else should the Supremes do if they find the Affordable Care Act’s requirement to buy health insurance unconstitutional: toss out that part only and leave the rest to Congress, or toss the whole thing and order Congress to start fresh?

A couple of points:

First, I was listening to this on the car radio, but it sounded to me as if Scalia was arguing that the court should toss the whole enchilada because Congress, which he believes should, can’t. If that’s in fact what he meant, it’s an interesting 180-degree switch from his view up until now that it ought to be hard to get Congress to do things.

Second, it’s interesting in that he appears to be arguing that the Congress isn’t just inertial, it’s dysfunctional. Given that the reasons for that are well-known and objectively attributable in the main to one and only one party, Scalia’s party, it’s kind of damning in terms of how it characterizes congressional Republicans.

Third, he appears to be making the case, then, that separation of powers means nothing if that separation leads to an outcome he doesn’t want (or, technically, fails to lead to an outcome he desires). This is the apotheosis of judicial activism, which, of course, we have been roundly assured that conservatives such as Scalia oppose. Relatedly, given the fact that the GOP has no alternative — not even an unworkable one; they literally have nothing — to the Affordable Care Act, I eagerly await Scalia’s leaping in to craft health-care law from the bench once the ACA is struck down, 30-million-plus currently insured Americans get kicked back off the rolls and all hell breaks loose. Ahem.

An awful lot of really smart legal scholars, even some who worked in the Bush 43 administration, predicted that the court would uphold the Affordable Care Act, individual mandate and all, and now many of them are horrified to find out that this case might not be decided on the facts and the law after all. In point of fact, the scales fell from my eyes more than a decade ago, with Bush v. Gore. I figured that any court that could issue that ruling might well find public sodomizing of kittens constitutional as long as a GOP solicitor general argued for it, and Scalia’s questions and tone in this week’s oral arguments on the health-care law seem to bear that out.

Well, OK, that’s not exactly what I said seven months ago, but it’s close:

So this puppy is headed to the Supreme Court, where a ruling against the mandate would be both the overturning of 70 years of case law and not all that surprising, given the predilection the Roberts Court has shown for legislating from the bench. … But were I forced at gunpoint to make [a] prediction, I’d call for no worse than a 5-4 majority to uphold. The bottom line is that Justice Kennedy hasn’t gone crazy. Yet.

Kennedy’s sanity isn’t as much of a lock now as it was in August.

 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012 8:53 pm

Why am I not surprised?

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 8:53 pm
Tags:

Tuesday, March 27, 2012 8:09 pm

Where has Louie Gohmert been?

Say what you will about the constitutionality, or lack thereof, of the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that people buy health insurance, most people on both sides have been arguing strictly on the basis of whether or not they think Congress has the constitutional power to impose such a requirement under the authority granted by the Constitution for Congress to regulate interstate commerce (the so-called “commerce clause” you hear about). As I understand commerce-clause law — and, say it with me, kids, I Am Not a Lawyer — the Congress probably does, but that’s neither here nor there for the purposes of this post. What’s important is that up until now, the arguments I’ve heard all around the subject have tended to bear directly on that question.

Up until now. Because now, here’s Rep. Louie Gohmert, who is giving Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe a run for the title of Dumbest Sitting Congresscritter, conjuring up a really, well, interesting slippery-slope argument:

It ought to scare liberals to come run and join conservatives, because what it means is when this president’s out of the White House and you get a conservative in there, if this president has the authority under ObamaCare … to trample on religious rights, then some redneck president’s got the right to say, “You know what, there’s some practices that go on in your house that cost people too much money and healthcare, so we’re going to have the right to rule over those as well. “

Yeah, he’s right. It would be awful if that happened. And it’s interesting that he explicitly concedes that it’s “redneck” right-wing government makes unconstitutional, un-American personal intrusion more likely and not Big Gummint Liberals.

Monday, March 26, 2012 8:01 pm

Breitbart really was the brains of the outfit; or, In which O’Keefe takes on the IRS

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 8:01 pm
Tags: , ,

Man, March 22 really was a red-letter day for James O’Keefe, the Andrew Breitbart minion. Not only did we learn about his “Panty-Stealing ‘Rape Barn’ Sex and Racism Scandal,” we also learned that his Project Veritas was advertising itself as a charitable nonprofit when, in fact, it was no such thing – and that O’Keefe is not above using the pretense of undercover journalism to try to settle personal scores. That latter post also has some things to teach conservaclowns about the difference between real journalism and the kind of funhouse-mirror crap practiced by Breitbart and his acolytes.

O’Keefe, the provocateur/fake pimp whose faked very selectively edited videos involving the organizing group ACORN led to its demise although no wrongdoing by the group was ever proved, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor after being charged with a felony after some sort of weirdness involving the office phones of Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. He also attempted to prank CNN reporter Abbie Boudreau by luring her onto a boat filled with sex toys, which makes the barn incident involving onetime colleague Nadia Naffe enlightening even if no charges came from it.

It’s true that the IRS violation committed by Project Veritas was technical and easily corrected. But it’s also true that it’s potentially a very big deal if a lot of money gets contributed to the group under false pretenses. It’s also true that it’s never a good idea to go out of your way to get on the bad side of the IRS.

If stupidity were painful or lethal, the world would be a more pleasant place. O’Keefe’s been cutting corners for a while, now, and if he keeps it up, we’re going to get an illustration of how much more pleasant it could be.

Sunday, March 25, 2012 4:21 pm

Quote of the day, Affordable Care Act edition

Filed under: We're so screwed — Lex @ 4:21 pm
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From commenter Barry Friedman at Charlie Pierce’s blog:

Twelve milliseconds before ACA was passed, there wasn’t a rube in this country who actually liked his or her insurance company; twelve seconds after the Supreme Court strikes down the law, the rubes will remember why.

Saturday, March 24, 2012 3:12 pm

Israel and Iran: Goldberg says to be afraid

Filed under: We're so screwed — Lex @ 3:12 pm
Tags: , , , ,

The Atlantic’s James Fallows and Jeffrey Goldberg engage in an email conversation about Iran’s nuclear ambitions, what Israel might do about them and the ramifications of this dynamic for the U.S. (Goldberg recently interviewed President Obama on this subject.) Short version: Goldberg believes the current Israeli government is engaging in some magical thinking that, if followed to its logical conclusion, is unlikely to end well.

Part 1.

Part 2.

Part 3  (although labeled “Round 2″; the end, for now).

My utterly uninformed take: I could be wrong, but I bet the Israelis have Mecca and Medina targeted in the event of what Goldberg calls an “extinction-level threat.” And I would be stunned if the Iranians (and other predominantly Muslim countries not friendly with Israel) don’t know this, or at least strongly suspect it. Which makes what Goldberg describes as the Israeli government’s determination to strike against Iranian facilities very, very scary.

 

Friday, March 23, 2012 8:42 pm

Death is on Twitter …

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 8:42 pm
Tags:

… but he hasn’t tweeted yet.

He will eventually, you know.

Thursday, March 22, 2012 10:56 pm

Finally, contraception even the Roman Catholic Church can love; or, It’s time to pick a side

Filed under: Evil — Lex @ 10:56 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

I’m finally getting a little caught up on outside reading tonight, and, dear God, I wish I hadn’t:

At least 10 teenage boys or young men under the age of 21 were surgically castrated “to get rid of homosexuality” while in the care of the Dutch Roman Catholic Church in the 1950s.

Evidence of the castrations has emerged amid controversy that it was not included in the findings of an official investigation into sexual abuse within the church last year.

The NRC Handelsblad newspaper identified Henk Heithuis who was castrated in 1956, while a minor, after reporting priests to the police for abusing him in a Catholic boarding home.

Joep Dohmen, the investigative journalist who uncovered the Heithuis case, also found evidence of at least nine other castrations. “These cases are anonymous and can no longer be traced,” he said. “There will be many more. But the question is whether those boys, now old men, will want to tell their story.”

Mr Heithuis died in a car crash in 1958, two years after being castrated at the age of 20, while under the age of majority, which was then 21.

In 1956 he had accused Catholic clergy of sexually abusing him in his Church run care home.

Two clergymen were convicted of abuse but Mr Heithuis, a victim, was nonetheless transferred by police to a Catholic psychiatric hospital before being admitted to the St. Joseph Hospital in Veghel later that year.

There, court papers confirm, he was castrated “at his own request”, despite no submission of his written consent. Sources told Mr Dohmen that the surgical removal of testicles was regarded as a treatment for homosexuality and also as a punishment for those who accused clergy of sexual abuse.

Cornelius Rogge, 79, a well-known Dutch sculptor whose family knew Mr Heithuis in the 1950s, reported the castration to an official inquiry into abuse within the Catholic Church. But his evidence was ignored.

“We once asked Henk to drop his pants when the women were gone. He did that. He was maimed totally. It was a huge shock,” he said.

Last December, an official investigation by Wim Deetman, a former Dutch minister, received 1,800 reports of sexual abuse by clergy or volunteers within Dutch Catholic dioceses in the period since 1945.

The Deetman inquiry received a report of the Heithuis case from Mr Rogge but it was not followed up because “there were few leads for further research”.

Evidence emerged on Monday that government inspectors were aware that minors were being castrated while in Catholic-run psychiatric institutions.

Minutes of meetings held in the 1950s show that inspectors were present when castrations were discussed. The documents also reveal that the Catholic staff did not think parents needed to be involved.

There are also allegations that Vic Marijnen, a former Dutch Prime Minister, who died in 1975, was linked to the case.

In 1956, Mr Marijnen was the chairman of the Gelderland children’s home where Mr Heithuis and other children were abused. He intervened to have prison sentences dropped against several priests convicted of abusing children.

Dutch MPs will today call for a parliamentary investigation into the allegations.

Hey, on the bright side, at least none of those boys grew up to father children who would be aborted.

**drinks entire beer in one gulp**

Where to begin?

Well, let’s begin by making the lines of responsibility and accountability clear. The Roman Catholic Church — or, at least, the Latin Church, which is what most people are talking about in Western Europe and the Americas when they talk about Catholicism — isn’t like Baptists, where each congregation is autonomous, or like Presbyterians or Methodists, which are national denominations with policymaking done by an assembly of clergy and laity. No, the Latin Church is authoritarian and hierarchical: Policy is set in Rome, and Rome, as every pope since John XXIII has shown, demands absolute fealty, the needs of the flock be damned. And those popes have demanded that that fealty take the form of obstructing justice, intimidating witnesses, aiding and abetting first-degree sexual assault tens of thousands of times over the decades, and absolutely refusing to take any kind of responsibility for the most monstrous clerical behavior in the West since the Inquisition.

We are now drowning in evidence that the Roman Catholic Church is, and has been for decades, a continuing criminal enterprise of the type described in the Racketeering-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. That the Justice Department has refused, under presidents of both parties, to investigate it as the law and justice demand does not change this basic fact.

But, you know, political cravenness and corruption, I can understand, if not tolerate. Here’s what I can’t understand. It’s a serious question directed at my Catholic friends, and it’s not rhetorical: I want a direct, honest answer, right here in the comments.

How can you continue to support this? Because every single time you drop a dollar in the collection plate or spend an hour serving on a board, that’s what you’re doing. Unless you are, yourself, taking out pedophile priests or turning state’s evidence while remaining a church member, you are part of the problem. Because this organization is uniquely resistant to change from within. Let’s be clear: That is not happening in our lifetimes, and if you think it is, you are mentally ill.

So you have a choice to make. Are you going to support the continuing criminal enterprise? Or are you going to let the tens of thousands of victims, with their bloody anuses and their charred souls, know that you hear their cries?

I don’t give a damn how valuable your Catholic heritage is to you, because everything that is most important about your relationship to the Church, you can take with you when you go: your faith, your memories, your ability and willingness to show and be Christ’s love in the world. And if, after all these years of disgusting revelations without any sign of real contrition, real repentance, from the institution or the individuals who run it, you can still bring yourself to contribute anything more than an upraised middle finger to this vile parody of Christ’s love, then you are just as much a criminal as they are.

Most of us in Western society get to bumble along through life’s many shades of ethical gray without having to make a lot of stark moral choices, and thank God for that. The grays are hard enough to navigate, but the stakes are lower.

But this? This is as stark as it gets, it is not going away, and the longer you put off a decision, the greater your complicity. Pick a side.Right now. You can pick the criminals or the kids, but you’ve got to choose. And if you choose the criminals, then God help you, because I sure as hell won’t.

Incoming, or, War on women? WHAT war on women?

I’ve been beyond swamped lately. I worked for 40 hours straight this past weekend on a research paper (yes, “straight” means “without sleeping”), slammed through a boatload of reading and video-watching for school and am leading discussion this week in one of my classes. And that doesn’t even get into the day job and kids.

But I did a little Twittering over meals, during which I was battened onto by some troll claiming to have served someplace where women are second-class citizens and insisting that because the Taliban are stoning women and setting them on fire and whatnot, American women have no right to suggest that there’s a war on women going on in this country. I pointed out that he had the awareness and grasp of metaphor of your average cinder block and then blocked him because I’m too old for that crap.

But there’s a lot of that going around, as Angry Black Lady at Balloon Juice points out with this jaw-droppingly stupid rant from some woman named Cathy McMorris-Rogers. Her thesis: There is no Republican war on women; there is only a Democratic Party trying to scare women for political gain.

No, really:

Because I’m still swamped, I’m outsourcing my response to ABL, who can add a uterocentric perspective that I cannot. her language is a little coarse, which, in light of all the circumstances she describes, I ascribe to her being in good cerebrovascular health:

This woman is out of her f—— skull.  How DARE she? Democrats are scaring women to drum up votes?  Is she serious?  Let’s take a little walk down GOP F—ery Lane, shall we?

  • Republicans want to tax us if we choose to get an abortion.
  • Republicans are forcing doctors to flat-out lie to us about abortions increasing the risk of breast cancer.
  • Republicans are trying to force us to get permission from the man (Father? Rapist? Who cares!) before getting an abortion.
  • Republicans think we’re sluts for wanting insurance coverage for contraception—whether for birth control or otherwise—all the while demonstrating how utterly devoid of brain activity they are by suggesting that the doctor-recommended use for birth control is “a-pill-per-screw,” and that maybe we could pay for our ovarian cyst treatment if we’d just stop drinking so many f—— soy lattes.

(She left out one other one: Tennessee was until just recently considering a bill that would make public details about every abortion in the state, along with information on the doctor who performed it. Because, the sacred notion of medical privacy aside, there’s no way anything bad could come of that. But don’t take my word for it — we can just ask David Gunn, John Britton, James Barrett, Shannon Lowney, Lee Ann Nichols, Robert Sanderson, Barnett Slepian or George Tiller. Oh, wait, no, we can’t.)

Republicans want us to lie back and take it.  They want us to just “close our eyes” while they shame us and guilt us and emotionally traumatize us and out us to the public for making a choice about our bodies that has absolutely f—-all to do with them.  And they’re doing this under the guise of “education” and “life-affirmation”; attaching quaint and pithy names to horrific bills which violate our rights as humans.  Names like “Ultrasound Opportunity” or “Right to Know and See.”  Don’t worry.  It’s all about knowledge.

Knowledge is power, you see, and frankly ladies, you don’t know what the f— you’re doing.  You think you’re incubating baby iguanas in your wombs while storks slingshot babies through open windows in the dead of night.  No, no, silly one.  This here probe will give you all the knowledge about the birds and the bees that you need, and conveniently, since you’re pregnant in the first place, you’ve already consented to be vaginally probed by our metal knowledge stick. Hooray!

Oh yeah—and let’s not forget that we’re getting f—— FIREBOMBED for daring to believe that a woman’s uterus is hers.  Not her husband’s.  Not her boyfriend’s. Not her father’s or uncle’s or brother’s. And certainly not some f—— politician who does not now nor has he ever owned a uterus, or the feckless Republican women who fall in line behind these misogynist [asses].

And you can f— right off with that “oh, the firebomber was just a crazy homeless dude” crap.  As Melissa MacEwan at Shakesville so eloquently put it:

Guess who else is “crazy”? Anyone who sees a pattern of anti-progressive violence—and, very specifically, misogynist and/or homophobic and/or racist violence—and has the unmitigated temerity to suggest that, hey, maybe this [stuff] isn’t happening in a void.

All of this is to say the following—

Cathy McMorris-Rodgers? Jump up your own uterus, lady. You don’t speak for me. You don’t speak for thousands of women who don’t have the distinct privilege of standing on the Capitol steps spewing bullshit in order to protect the misogynist necks of the Republican men to whom you’ve sold your soul, your dignity, your humanity, your personal freedom, and, indeed your life; all the while knowing that should you or your daughter Grace require birth control or an abortion or any of the women’s health services that you and your ilk are viciously stripping from us, you will be able to get them.  After all, as a member of Congress, you have some of the best health insurance in the country!  And we all know that the rules which you seek to apply to millions of women—many of them poor women of color—don’t apply to the daughters of deluded state politicians from the Pacific Northwest. (Dontcha know.)

So, Cathy, you want to give up your reproductive rights? Or the reproductive rights of your daughter? Fine. Go right ahead.

But back the f— up off of mine.

And the notion that Democrats are scaring women by shining a light on the horrific human rights injustices that you Republicans seek to impose on us is patently absurd.  Democrats aren’t scaring women, Cathy. Republicans are scaring women.

I’ll go one better than that: Republicans aren’t just scaring women, they’re terrorizing women.

And I’ll borrow from another of Melissa’s Shakesville tweets to summarize:

There are a lot of things that don’t get called terrorism in this country, but chief among them is the anti-choice movement, which is the most brazen, unapologetic terrorist campaign in the US, its co-ordination and orchestration done right out in the open, where no one in the media or politics will call it what it is. It is an inherently violent ideology, backed by a decades-long campaign of intimidation, harassment and violence directed at abortion providers and abortion seekers, that is ignored by one party and mainstreamed as a central plank of its party platform by the other.

Now, Republicans will deny that they’re involved with such a thing, or that they even could benefit from it, let alone consciously try to cash in. To which I say, with all due respect: Bullshit.

It’s terrorism. The perps need to be locked up in SuperMax for the rest of their miserable, bitter, un-American little lives, and all their privileged enablers (and I’m looking at you, Cathy) need to be held legally and publicly accountable as well, because if there’s a war on terror, then that war, like charity, needs to start at home.

It’s the 21st century folks, and I’m damned tired of coddling criminals.

Quote of the Day

Filed under: Evil,Journalism — Lex @ 8:52 pm
Tags: ,

From Rachel Maddow, and, dear God, I wished more journalists had the stones to call this what it is. Speaking on the Mitt Romney/Etch-a-Sketch fiasco, she said (at about the 6:30 mark):

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32545640

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

In the general election you don’t have to be any one ideological thing in order to win over the country. But you have to not be a liar. Here’s how else Mitt Romney is like an Etch-a-Sketch. It’s not just speaking French. It’s not just outsourcing jobs to China. It is not just fudging  his conservatism. It’s fudging everything, all the time. And this is hard to talk about in the day-to-day news context because there are such low expectations for politicians’ being truthful and because the word ‘lie’ is both underused and overused to the point where everybody’s a little touchy about it. But the degree to which Mr. Romney lies — all the time, about all sorts of stuff, and doesn’t care when he gets caught — is maybe the single most notable thing about his campaign.

If the Republicans want to make this presidential election about character and not about the economy and jobs and the endless war in Afghanistan and the rising ocean and shrinking window for doing anything about it, well, then, let’s have that conversation.

And as we do, let’s remember that the three most important rules of political journalism are 1) Look at the record, 2) look at the record and 3) look at the record.

Obama has let me down, to the point at which I publicly called for his impeachment more than two years ago. But the reality for a long time has been that in the system we have, the best we can hope for is the lesser of two evils.

On top of that, Obama has carried through on some important things on which he campaigned in 2008, including health-care reform, stimulus for the economy and finding Osama bin Laden. The sole Supreme Court justice he has appointed to date appears not to be a sociopath. He can, on some subjects, be trusted, at the least, not to do the wrong thing.

But Romney has a history of doing the wrong thing, time and time again, particularly in the economic sphere, where we remain vulnerable. On top of that, he has held so many positions so many times on so many issues, it simply is impossible anymore to place any credence in anything that comes out of his mouth, including his own name.

N.B. I pray for the day when Rachel Maddow gets to moderate a presidential debate. Because as much as she comes across about as threateningly as your smarter little sister, she will cut a guy. And I want to be watching when it happens, because as politics goes, I suspect it might be the single greatest moment of my lifetime.

Lost in translation

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns!,Fun — Lex @ 6:08 pm
Tags: ,

With all the genuinely sad  news this week pertaining to race, at least we have some funny-sad news in that arena.

Saturday, March 17, 2012 11:43 pm

Study break

Filed under: Cool! — Lex @ 11:43 pm
Tags: , ,

My friend John Graham’s daughter Katie is a freshman at Davidson. Here she is with the college Jazz Ensemble, under the able direction of William “Doc” Lawing just as when I arrived in 1978, performing Jerome Kern’s “Can’t Help Lovin’ that Man.”

I think the kids are alright.

OK, that was nice. Back to my research project.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012 8:49 pm

Devoured by moths and rust; or, Sex is the hill they have chosen to die on

As I’ve said before, the Roman Catholic Church is a continuing criminal enterprise, an international scheme to victimize children, intimidate and/or bribe the victims and their families and protect the guilty.

It is also, as is true of all people and most human institutions, a mixture of good and evil. It has spoken out on behalf of the poor (though, I would argue, not nearly loudly enough) many times, for example. And not that you’d know it because it has the megaphone turned down on this issue, but it  currently also is speaking out against a hasty rush to war with Iran.

But on some issues, the church speaks more loudly than on others. What it speaks most loudly on today in this country — abortion and other issues related to women’s sexual activity — is a matter of conscious choice. The church likely would deny this and claim that all its moral stands are of equal importance, which, even if it were true, would fly in the face of logic. All sin is equal before God, true, but here on Earth we have long since comes to grips, those of us in the reality-based community, with proportionality. That’s why we execute people for premeditated murder but not for parking violations.

The Church, although a body of believers and a body of belief, also is an earthly institution with vast but finite resources. And so it, too, has to come to grips with proportionality and make choices. If the Church does not choose carefully, innocent people will be harmed, both as a direct result of the church’s emphasis and as an indirect result of the church’s refusal to emphasize other issues that could have helped other people. That’s going to be true whatever the Church prioritizes, of course. But one must wonder what could have led it to decide that abortion and contraception are more important than starting a war. As Matthew’s Gospel (6:21) says, where your treasure is, there your heart is also. And so we see that the Church’s heart – where it has allocated its treasure, defined as its efforts and resources as a megaphone of moral authority — is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican Party, siding with the powerful against the poor and poor in spirit, siding with those who refuse to comfort those who mourn, siding with warmakers against the gentle, siding with criminals against their victims, and on and on and on, all in contravention of the teachings of the Christ that this same church professes to love and worship.

Which makes particularly sad this comment from Athenae at First Draft:

“When it comes right down to it the Church has made a deliberate choice that sexual intercourse is going to be the hill they want to die on. And absent some massive backlash on the part of the faithful, dying is exactly what they’re going to do.”

Monday, March 12, 2012 8:17 pm

Tell me again how rare racism is among conservative white Southerners

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 8:17 pm
Tags: , ,

Cause it’s not like the Deep South is totally bereft of schools and news media:

ALABAMA

Q22 Do you think Barack Obama is a Christian or a
Muslim, or are you not sure?
Christian 14%
………………………………………………….
Muslim 45%
……………………………………………………
Not sure 41%

MISSISSIPPI

Q22 Do you think Barack Obama is a Christian or a
Muslim, or are you not sure?
Christian 12%
………………………………………………….
Muslim 52%
……………………………………………………
Not sure 36%

I wish being stupid were painful.

Bonus fun: 60% of those surveyed in Alabama and 66% in Mississippi do not believe in evolution. Someone want to explain to me again why these states still get two senators apiece?

Friday, March 9, 2012 8:44 pm

Defining bullying down

Filed under: Evil — Lex @ 8:44 pm
Tags: , , ,

When I linked last night to the New York Times story about Texas shutting down health care for poor women while claiming it was all about abortion, I said this: “This is just people being dicks and punching defenseless women because they can.”

In other words, bullying.

I know from bullying. Between third and sixth grade I got my ass kicked fairly regularly by a couple of neighborhood kids. My parents, as parents did then, said, “Deal with it yourself. Fight back.” I did, although not very effectively. The only time I unambiguously won one of those battles was when I smashed a lunchbox across the other guy’s nose. And, naturally, this did not make him go away but for about two days.

Nowadays, the public schools where I live are all about “zero tolerance for bullying,” which is at once both an improvement and kind of quaint when you have kids bursting into middle school in search of a student they believe sexually assaulted a relative. But that’s only an improvement for the kids. The adults are now more into bullying than ever. Sometimes it takes the form of policy proposals that would further enrich the already wealthy at the expense of society’s most vulnerable, such as Rep. Paul Ryan’s kill-Medicare proposal, or that Times article I linked to about cutting health care for poor women in Texas. And sometimes it’s not even that subtle.

Athenae at First Draft offers some suitable perspective:

The only people who like bullies are bullies and the pathetic, conflict-averse, morally cowardly hangers-on who think that by throwing a few rocks they’ll avoid getting stoned to death at some point too. Everybody else recognizes what’s going on and thinks it’s gross, and even kind of sad, and shouldn’t we be past this now, we’re supposed to be grown-ups.

Let me tell you something about pregnant kids and how radically the landscape has shifted since I was in school. I went to a doctrinaire Roman Catholic high school, and in my senior year there were a couple of girls who were pregnant. And not once did anyone in authority, principal down to the … janitor, treat those girls with anything less than the respect every single other student received. You can’t stop kids from gossiping, and I don’t know what went on between the girls and the authorities behind closed doors, but seeing those girls treated just like everybody else went a long way toward keeping the more vicious and nasty kids under wraps.

That’s the real difference between what goes on in the schoolyard and what goes on in our national politics. People have always been mean nasty bastards and they’re always going to be. But once upon a time we didn’t have an entire media establishment dedicated to cheering on the bullies and making them feel good about the dark places inside them that make them hack off on the powerless, 24 hours a day, on TV and the radio and now in the wingnutsphere. Once upon a time you got cuffed upside the head for picking on the smaller kid, the weaker kid, the poorer kid, the dumber kid. Once upon a time, no matter your politics, that was just considered rude, and too easy, and cut it out anyway, jerks.

For the past 30 years we’ve been building to a bullying critical mass, and with what happened to Sandra Fluke quite a few people got a faceful of what that looks like. And they don’t like it. They remember being in a situation where somebody richer, somebody faster, somebody with more friends, made fun of them and all that person’s little pals giggled along. They remember how that felt and they remember every time they didn’t speak up for someone else in the same situation, and they’re starting to speak up now.

The ugly truth that America has spent most of the last 30 years avoiding is that what juvenile delinquents do to their physically weaker peers differs only in degree, and not at all in kind, from what Rush Limbaugh did to Sandra Fluke and what the wealthy and powerful do to the less fortunate in this country via public policy every day: Just as stealing billions with a pen is as much theft as stealing a few bucks with a pistol, bullying via public policy is just as much bullying as stealing a kid’s lunch, tripping him on the stairs or punching him in the nose.

And unfortunately, knowing that bullying is the act of a person with power who still feels powerless doesn’t make it any easier to stop, nor does it make the victim feel one whit better. I don’t know what the metaphorical equivalent of a lunchbox across the bridge of the nose to these people would be, but we need to find it and start using it over and over and over, because to judge from Limbaugh’s actions, it’s the only language they understand.

Thursday, March 8, 2012 10:10 pm

Andrew Breitbart is still dead. And still stupid. And yet, apparently, the brains of his outfit.

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns!,Fun — Lex @ 10:10 pm
Tags: , ,

That’s apparently the only rational explanation for the Big Reveal: Obama hugging some guy more than 20 years ago in video that aired on PBS in 2008.

This was supposed to bring down a Presidency? Really?

Some stuff is so stupid that all one can rationally do is mock. I didn’t check, but I’m sure the Farkers were on the case. And before I went to bed, not only was Twitter joining in (@owillis, in particular, made a number of distinguished contributions), but a submeme also had arisen involving mashing up #HugGate with lines from movies. Forthwith, because Samuel L. Jackson is a badass, my humble contribution to the proceedings:

I’m honored that Angry Black Lady made this her Tweet of the Day.

It was a JOKE, you farking morons

The inestimable TBogg once joked — and I can’t find it now — that Republicans want to withhold all medical care from women of childbearing age because otherwise they might survive to have abortions. Now the Arizona Senate has taken a big step in that very direction:

It’s called a “wrongful birth” bill and it’s all about preventing women from having an abortion, even if it kills them. The Arizona Senate passed a bill this week that gives doctors a free pass to not inform pregnant women of prenatal problems because such information could lead to an abortion.

In other words, doctors can intentionally keep critical health information from pregnant women and can’t be sued for it. According to the Arizona Capitol Times, “the bill’s sponsor is Republican Nancy Barto of Phoenix. She says allowing the medical malpractice lawsuits endorses the idea that if a child is born with a disability, someone is to blame.” So Republicans are banning lawsuits against doctors who keep information from pregnant women so as to prevent them from choosing to have an abortion.

This bill is actually more disturbing than the Republicans seem to realize. Giving doctors such a free pass risks the lives of both the expectant mother and the fetus she carries. Prenatal care isn’t just for discovering birth defects and disabilities. It is also for discovering life threatening issues such as an ectopic pregnancy which often requires an abortion to save the life of the mother. With rare exceptions, ectopic pregnancies are not viable anyway, but Republicans are allowing anti-abortion doctors to keep life threatening information from pregnant women all because they are obsessed with stopping any and all abortions. Women may not know they have a life threatening condition until they die on the emergency room table. And the doctor couldn’t be sued.

And as nearly as I can tell, the American Medical Association is just fine with this.

And then there’s this:

Leticia Parra, a mother of five scraping by on income from her husband’s sporadic construction jobs, relied on the Planned Parenthood clinic in San Carlos, an impoverished town in South Texas, for breast cancer screenings, free birth control pills and pap smears for cervical cancer.

But the clinic closed in October, along with more than a dozen others in the state, after financing for women’s health was slashed by two-thirds by the Republican-controlled Legislature.

The cuts, which left many low-income women with inconvenient or costly options, grew out of the effort to eliminate state support for Planned Parenthood. Although the cuts also forced clinics that were not affiliated with the agency to close — and none of them, even the ones run by Planned Parenthood, performed abortions — supporters of the cutbacks said they were motivated by the fight against abortion.

Now, the same sentiment is likely to lead to a shutdown next week of another significant source of reproductive health care: the Medicaid Women’s Health Program, which serves 130,000 women with grants to many clinics, including those run by Planned Parenthood. Gov. Rick Perry and Republican lawmakers have said they would forgo the $35 million in federal money that finances the women’s health program in order to keep Planned Parenthood from getting any of it.

Although Texas already bars clinics that take such money from performing abortions, the new law is intended to prevent any state money from benefiting Planned Parenthood. “Planned Parenthoods across the country provide abortions, are affiliated with abortion providers, or refer women to abortion providers,” said Lucy Nashed, a spokeswoman for Mr. Perry.

Wayne Christian, a Republican state representative said, “I don’t think anybody is against providing health care for women. What we’re opposed to are abortions.” He added, “Planned Parenthood is the main organization that does abortions. So we kind of blend being anti-abortion with being anti-Planned Parenthood.”

The situation in Texas is mirrored in several other states that have tried to eliminate various methods of financing Planned Parenthood.

Re-read that bolded paragraph again. So, yeah, a lot of poor women may die for lack of health care that had nothing to do with contraception or abortion, but hey, at least we prevented a few abortions.Except that none of those agencies actually, you know, perform abortions. This is just people being dicks and punching defenseless women because they can.

And these are the people who call themselves pro-life.

Now somebody mansplain to me how there’s no War on Women.

Citizens United and this other thing; or, How to steal an election

This short post by Charlie Pierce at Esquire on a World War II veteran who was denied the right to vote on Tuesday because elections officials refused his government issued Department of Veterans Affairs card is a model of providing context, a key function that journalists now more or less refuse to do because it’s hard and they might get called a bad name or something:

As the election year goes on, these kind of stories are going to become a staple of campaign coverage, like watching the candidates try to eat corn dogs in Iowa, flip pancakes in New Hampshire, and pretend to care about baseball in Florida. There is going to be a story like this in every media market. Some ambitious young reporter is going to be assigned to the Old Guy Who Voted In Every Election Since FDR But Who Couldn’t Vote This Time Because Of The New Law beat. There will be pathos. There will be drama. But the fundamental fact that these laws are an organized national assault on the right of the people to elect their own leaders, because sometimes the people elect leadersof whom the rat******s of the organized right do not approve, like Kenyan Muslim Usurpers Of The Alinsky Underground, will get lost in all the pathos and drama. These people will be treated as sob stories, not cautionary tales. They will be used as background election-day “color.” They will be depicted as individual figures of pity and not of what they are: American citizens cheated out of the most precious right they have by a nationwide conspiracy to defraud. See the trees. See the forest, too.

A small quibble: I don’t think it’s “conspiracy to defraud” so much as “conspiracy against rights” as defined in Title 18, Section 241 of the U.S. Code:

If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same;…

They shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, they shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.

I think “oppress” covers what’s going on here, and given emails that already have been made public, there’s no lack of evidence.

Now, back to Pierce. There are, in order of increasing degree of difficulty, three types of hard-news stories.

There is the event story, such as that of our unfortunate voter.

There is the pattern story, which would note a confluence of similar events.

And, finally, there is the system story, which explains what gives rise to these patterns.

In one reasonably short paragraph, Pierce illustrates how this works. (I won’t say “shows how it’s done” because he makes assertions that, while provable, are not documented in this short blog post.)

The Republicans, given a clown car full of big red noses at the top of the ticket and a nearly unbroken string of losing issues from their economic plans to their drumbeats for war with Iran to their unconscionable defense of Rush Limbaugh to their attempts to ban contraception and shrink government enough to turn it into a transvaginal probe, know that there are only two ways to win in November: outspend their opponents overwhelmingly via the mechanisms made possible by Citizens United v. FEC, and keeping the other side from being able to vote. And if you have to break a few state and federal laws to do it, well, screw the Constitution, we’ve got an election to win.

There have been some encouraging developments along this front, but this was is not over and the good guys — by which I mean the people who believe that every eligible American citizen who wishes to vote should be enabled to do so and not frustrated by government efforts — will not stop.

Let me offer one last bit of systems reporting, or analysis of other people’s reporting, bringing in a topic that might appear mostly unrelated.

There has been a movement afoot among some conservatives lately to repeal the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which was enacted to ensure that states that had been the most egregious offenders against minorities in the Jim Crow era didn’t act with respect to voting and elections in ways that would unduly burden minorities. One attractive argument for repeal is that we’re now in a “post-racial era” in which the sins of Jim Crow have been expunged.

But as the effort to enact photo-ID requirements for voting gains steam, it is clear that Jim Crow has not left the building: Racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately less able to obtain photo ID of the type some states are requiring, and requiring people to pay for. (So are the very old, the very young, the disabled, those who do not or cannot drive, ex-offenders who have had their citizenship rights restored, and other groups, all of whom share a tendency to vote disproportionately for Democrats.) Not only does requiring people to pay to get ID suitable for voting violate Supreme Court rulings banning poll taxes, it also violates the Voting Rights Act, which bans not only the intent to discriminate against minorities, but even measures that have the unintended effect of disproportionately harming minorities.

That’s why Republicans, particularly, want to repeal the Voting Rights Act: Repeal would allow them to use the most potent weapon they have to suppress the votes of people who are unlikely to vote for them. They know damn well that racism hasn’t gone away, but that’s almost beside the point. The point is that they’re trying to prevent people from voting who almost certainly will vote against them. (The claim that voting fraud is a substantial problem in the real world, for which photo ID is a practical solution, is a canard. In the real world, vote fraud is vanishingly rare, in part because of the enormous personal risk relative to the reward.)

When people engage in this kind of behavior in almost any other realm, we call it cheating. In elections, we call it a federal felony and assign a significant, meaningful punishment. It’s long past time we started punishing people.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012 8:31 pm

Limbaugh sliced, diced, dissected and wreckeded

I’ve never met John Cole, the proprietor of the blog Balloon Juice. But this much I know: I never want him to become my enemy.

Rush Limbaugh has been an enemy of Cole’s for a while, but his baseless attacks last week against Sandra Fluke have made Limbaugh Cole Enemy No. 1.

I don’t often say this (12 times in 10 years of blogging, in fact — this is the 13th), but, seriously, go read the whole thing. Not only is it a serious contender for Blog Post of the Year, it also is an encapsulation and indictment of just how thoroughly debased, divorced from fact and context, and vicious (in the older sense: vice-ridden) our public discourse has become, and how few consequences there are for severe, serial social deviance therein.

And that was on top of this public challenge to Hot Air (sorry, I ain’t linking to them) proprietor Ed Morrissey:

For those of you who can not watch videos, here is a .pdf of the transcript. At no point anywhere in her testimony did Sandra Fluke make any mention of her sexual activity. Never.

I challenge Ed right now — show me where she talked about her sex life in that testimony, and I will write a check for $1,000.00 to the RNC [Republican National Committee]. She simply didn’t make her sex life the topic of discussion, and Ed is lying out his ass. You could watch that video or read the transcript, and as far as you could tell, Miss Fluke might very well be a virgin.

Ed is lying. The people who made this issue, which was about medical health, into an issue about Sandra Fluke’s sex life are Rush Limbaugh and all the amoral cretins like Ed who decided that just like Graeme Frost, anyone who goes against what the right wants RIGHT NOW, is a target who needs to be destroyed.

So take the challenge, or apologize for lying, Ed. $1000.00 to the RNC the moment you can show me where she discussed her sex life, you lying sack of [excrement].

In a sane society, people like Limbaugh would live in locked, padded rooms, and whatever Cole is doing, we’d find a way to incentivize him to do more of it.

Sunday, March 4, 2012 10:04 pm

Hitting Rush where it hurts, cont.: local stations, local advertisers

In the past 72 hours, while I’ve struggled with work, school, my kids’ schedules and a migraine, a great exodus has taken place among Rush Limbaugh’s national advertisers after his abuse of law student Sandra Fluke for trying to stand up for basic health-care rights for women. I won’t rehash the merits of the issue, which by now are pretty well settled among those with ears to hear. (I’ve tweeted about it a bit if you want to go look.)

The question now is: What else can we do to put pressure on Rush and his parent corporations? One thing we can do is pressure the local advertisers on the stations that carry his show. Commenter “Jager” at Balloon Juice provides instructions on how to go about this [I've added a few clarifications in brackets], and as a former radio guy I can say he’s more or less on the money:

Go after the local advertisers on his show. There are very few local advertising [slots] on Rush’s show and they sell at a premium. Monitor the Rush station, make a list of the local advertisers and do the following:

1. Call the advertiser; be polite.
2. Write a letter to the advertiser; be polite.
3. Copy the station and the Federal Communications Commission with the advertiser letter.
4. Politely call the General Manager of the station, tell the GM what you are doing and why, tell them you have contacted the advertiser and copied the FCC.
5. If the local advertiser uses an agency, contact the agency, as well. Just ask the local business [whether] they use an agency.

[It's not clear to me why the commenter thinks calling the agency will help, unless you're also threatening to boycott any of the agency's other advertisers, or any other stations with which the agency places advertising, or in some other way putting pressure on the agency's revenue stream. -- Lex]

It won’t take many letters and phone calls to get their attention and remind the station that the letters need to be placed in the station’s public file. (the public file is an FCC requirement)

Local stations don’t get many local [advertising slots] in Rush’s show and many [stations] pay a huge fee to Premiere [Radio Networks, the Bain Capital/Clear Channel Communications subsidiary that syndicates the show] to run the show. If they start losing business because of that [expletive], they will raise hell with Premiere.

Although I don’t think there’s any guarantee of that because I think 27% of Americans would be happy if Rush killed infants and ate their entrails live from noon to 3 weekdays, I do think the commenter’s suggestions are about the likeliest approach of any to get results. So if you want to apply financial pressure to Rush to at least start behaving like a civilized member of society, target the local advertisers on your local Rush station. I’ll update this post when I’ve had the time to even figure out who that is in this market — that’s how out of it I’ve been lately.

UPDATE: Well, duh, it’s Rush Radio — WPTI (94.5 FM).

Mailing Address
2-B PAI Park
Greensboro, NC 27409

Phone number – 336-822-2000
Program Director – Angie Vuyst – angievuyst@rushradio945.com
Sales Manager – Tom Hennessey – tomhennessey2@clearchannel.co

Friday, March 2, 2012 11:32 pm

She shoots — make that “runs,” she scores!

Filed under: Victoria — Lex @ 11:32 pm
Tags: , ,

Victoria scores the first run of the Kiser Tigers’ young softball season. She reached on a bunt, then took second on an overthrow. Another play advanced her, and then when a teammate tried to steal second, she alertly broke for home and scored easily.

The team already looks much better than it did last year. Thanks to Coaches Albright and Little for their work with the girls!

Thursday, March 1, 2012 2:30 am

The vampire squid and the hurricane

Matt Taibbi, who normally writes for Rolling Stone, daytripped over to the new fthebanks.org site today to announce:

There are two things every American needs to know about Bank of America.

The first is that it’s corrupt. This bank has systematically defrauded almost everyone with whom it has a significant business relationship, cheating investors, insurers, homeowners, shareholders, depositors, and the state. It is a giant, raging hurricane of theft and fraud, spinning its way through America and leaving a massive trail of wiped-out retirees and foreclosed-upon families in its wake.

The second is that all of us, as taxpayers, are keeping that hurricane raging. Bank of America is not just a private company that systematically steals from American citizens: it’s a de facto ward of the state that depends heavily upon public support to stay in business. In fact, without the continued generosity of us taxpayers, and the extraordinary indulgence of our regulators and elected officials, this company long ago would have been swallowed up by scandal, mismanagement, prosecution and litigation, and gone out of business. It would have been liquidated and its component parts sold off, perhaps into a series of smaller regional businesses that would have more respect for the law, and be more responsive to their customers.

But Bank of America hasn’t gone out of business, for the simple reason that our government has decided to make it the poster child for the “Too Big To Fail” concept. Because it is considered a “systemically important institution” whose collapse would have a major, Lehman-Brothers-style impact on the economy, two consecutive presidential administrations have taken extraordinary measures to keep Bank of America in business, despite a staggering recent legacy of corruption schemes, many of which were simply overlooked by regulators.

This is why the question of whether or not Bank of America should remain on public life support is so critical to all Americans, and not just those millions who have the misfortune to be customers of the bank, or own shares in the firm, or hold mortgages serviced by the company. This gigantic financial institution is the ultimate symbol of a new kind of corruption at the highest levels of American society: a tendency to marry the near-limitless power of the federal government with increasingly concentrated, increasingly unaccountable private financial interests.

The inevitable result of that new form of corruption is this bank, whose continued, state-supported existence should naturally outrage all Americans, be they conservative or progressive.

My position on this is to kill ‘em all and let God the FDIC sort ‘em out, because by any honest accounting standard not a damn one of our big banks, with the possible exception of JPM, is solvent and they’re all a clear and present danger to the country’s economic well-being. And BAC is a serial felon besides. Lord, if we’ve got to have a death penalty, let’s start using it on TBTF banks.

(h/t: Jill)

The crux of the biscuit …

… and the quote of the new day, from low-tech cyclist at Cogitamus:

You know, when liberating the free market makes “the United States” richer, it doesn’t do a damned bit of good for most of us unless some of that extra richness finds its way into our pockets.  But when the median household in 2010 is only 7% richer than the median household in 1973, despite the fact that we’re clearly way, WAY richer as a nation, that means our economy has failed in a very essential way.

Why, yes. Yes, it has.

Remedial education

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 1:06 am

Anyone pondering commenting here should read this first.

Don’t like it? You’ve got the whole rest of the Internet to play with.

 

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