Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Wednesday, December 25, 2013 12:58 am

The Gospel According to Pierce; or, A Christmas Prayer, With Carrion

And Pierce wrote, saying:

But this is the argument in season over these holidays. That the poor must suffer in order to be redeemed. That hunger is a moral test to be endured. That only through pain can we hope. What doesn’t destroy you, etc. Santa Nietzsche is coming to town. The idea that we should — hell, that we must — act out of charity for each other through the institutions of self-government is lost in the din of a frontal system of moral thunderation aimed at everyone except the person who is out there thunderatin’ on behalf of personal-trainer Jesus, who wants us to work, work, work on that core. That was the way that government operated once before; the specific institutions that Scrooge mentions, and with which the Spirit eventually reproaches him in his own words – the prisons, the union workhouses, the treadmill, and the Poor Laws – were all government institutions based on the same basic philosophy that drives the debate over the food stamp program today.(We even seem to be going back to debtor’s prisons.) We have speeches on self-reliance given by government employees to people who increasingly have only themselves on whom to rely, day after grinding day. It is a way to keep the poor from having a voice in their own self-government. It is a way to keep the wrath of the boy at bay. There will be a reckoning, one way or another. But it can be staved off by platitudes, and by verses from Scripture wrenched from the obvious context of the Gospels. The sepulchers brighten whitely while the bones inside grow increasingly corrupt. This is what this Congress believes, as it goes home proud of itself and its members dress themselves to sing the midnight carols with no conscience sounding in counterpoint, and this is Christmas in America, and it is the year of our Lord, 2013.

Merry Christmas to all, and tonight, God bless us, every one. But forgive me, Lord, in advance, for hoping and praying that the year of our Lord 2014 brings plague and pestilence upon those who would force the suffering to suffer further, those who would insist upon morality tests for the poor that they themselves could not pass, those who would require that many of our fellow Americans be denied a voice with which to insist anything. Bring on the plagues for them, turn their fruit into locust husks, their wine and water into blood, and their foie gras to feces, and let their corrupt bones and those of their first born be cast out from the whitely brightened sepulchers to be feasted upon by jackals and vultures.

Except for those who repent and atone. Always except for those.

Amen. And Amen.

Monday, December 9, 2013 9:18 pm

Religion in America, Oklahoma Edition

I can honestly say I’ve never been more proud of American Satanists than I am right now:

In their zeal to tout their faith in the public square, conservatives in Oklahoma may have unwittingly opened the door to a wide range of religious groups, including Satanists who are seeking to put their own statue next to a Ten Commandments monument outside the Statehouse.

The Republican-controlled Legislature in this state known as the buckle of the Bible Belt authorized the privately funded Ten Commandments monument in 2009, and it was placed on the Capitol grounds last year despite criticism from legal experts who questioned its constitutionality. The Oklahoma chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit seeking its removal.

But the New York-based Satanic Temple saw an opportunity. It notified the state’s Capitol Preservation Commission that it wants to donate a monument and plans to submit one of several possible designs this month, said Lucien Greaves, a spokesman for the temple.

“We believe that all monuments should be in good taste and consistent with community standards,” Greaves wrote in letter to state officials. “Our proposed monument, as an homage to the historic/literary Satan, will certainly abide by these guidelines.”

I could have told the Oklahoma Lege that this would happen, had they but asked. But no.

Friday, December 6, 2013 7:35 pm

Quote of the Day, Response to Cardinal Timothy Dolan Edition

So Cardinal Timothy Dolan went on Press the Meat this past Sunday to argue that Catholic doctrine on gays and women has been “caricatured” by Hollywood and the media and that the Church has been “outmarketed” in spreading its message. No, he really said this. So Charlie Pierce responds:

And the Founder assured us that the gates of hell would not prevail against his Church, and you’re arguing that you got “outmarketed” by the Sundance Festival?

(Dolan also argued that the Pope “can’t make doctrinal changes,” which would surprise the hell out of most Catholics, the Pope included. You can’t make this stuff up.)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013 8:58 pm

There is a different, and much lower, bar for conservatives

After pseudohistorian David Barton, who has been making money for more than two decades now by telling bald-faced lies about the Founding Fathers, published a “nonfiction” book so bad that it was repudiated by its own publisher, you would think that no one in conservative political circles would want to be caught dead next to him. He’d been called a liar by secular historians, evangelical historians, and his own publisher. Did I mention that his own publisher said his book was a pack of lies? Next to that, having your book voted “least credible history book in print” by readers of History News Network is nothing.

But you have to remember that Barton’s market is the same people who think Jesus rode dinosaurs, as Politico — and God forgive me for linking to it — explains:

Barton has huge standing among “social conservatives that make up a significant base of a caucus electorate,” said Craig Robinson, editor of The Iowa Republican website. “You want to appeal to those people if you’re a Ted Cruz or a Rand Paul.” …

But to his critics’ astonishment, Barton has bounced back. He has retained his popular following and his political appeal — in large part, analysts say, because he brings an air of sober-minded scholarship to the culture wars, framing the modern-day agenda of the religious right as a return to the Founding Fathers’ vision for America.

“It has been shocking how much resistance there is to critically examining what Barton says,” said Scott Culpepper, an associate professor of history at Dordt College who has critiqued Barton’s scholarship. “I really underestimated the power of the political element in evangelicalism.”

In March, Barton gave his presentation on America’s biblical heritage to dozens of state legislators in Kansas. In May, he spoke at the official National Day of Prayer breakfast at the Fort Leonard Wood Army base in Missouri. He rallied activists at the National Right to Life Convention in June with a rousing speech drawing on the Declaration of Independence to make the case for abortion restrictions. Cruz followed Barton in the program and echoed his analysis to thunderous applause.

“I’m not in a position to opine on academic disputes between historians, but I can tell you that David Barton is a good man, a courageous leader and a friend,” Cruz told POLITICO. “David’s historical research has helped millions rediscover the founding principles of our nation and the incredible sacrifices that men and women of faith made to bequeath to us the freest and most prosperous nation in the world.”

This fall, Barton will share that message before audiences in Oklahoma, Nebraska and Kansas. He also continues to travel to Washington to lead his signature Capitol tours — sponsored and often attended by members of Congress — at which he expounds on America’s Christian roots.

Radio host Glenn Beck’s publishing company, Mercury Ink, has even announced plans to republish “The Jefferson Lies,” although a spokesman would give no details about timing, print run or whether the manuscript would be edited to address the criticism. [I just bet -- Lex.]

Barton’s enduring popularity “embarrasses the academic community,” Throckmorton said. But, he added, no matter how loud the scholarly chorus, Barton has a trump card: His message “is useful politically.”

Indeed, political strategists say Republican candidates are wise to consult Barton and hitch their wagon to his star.

Your Republican Party, America. Be proud. And ask yourself: If they’re willing to lie about the Founding Fathers, what else are they willing to lie about? An easier question might be: What are they not willing to lie about?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013 10:53 pm

I was right, bitches; or, A Dominionist theocracy is coming to a legislature near you, so GET DRESSED.

Back when Michelle Goldberg’s book “Kingdom Coming,” about the rise of Christian Nationalism in America, was published, I reviewed it for the News & Record and the blog I then wrote for the paper, The Lex Files. As you can see from the comments, as well as from this site, I took a lot of grief for stating, on the basis of my own reporting on the subject and my familiarity with some of Goldberg’s original sources, that there were significant numbers of people in America who wished to turn this country from a secular, constitutional democratic republic to a Dominionist theocracy; that is, a country where the law is based strictly on the Christian Bible.

Impossible, they said.

(You’ll also note that they accused me of saying all evangelical Christians want this. Rather, I said a certain subset of evangelical Christians adhered to that ideology. I didn’t believe all of them did then, I don’t believe that all of them do now, and I said so at the time specifically, not least because Goldberg herself was very careful to draw that distinction.)

Well, as it happens, down in Salisbury, the Rowan County commissioners want to be able to pray to Jesus in their official capacities, and so a bill, House Joint Resolution 494, has been introduced in the N.C. legislature that would allow that and much more besides.

This bill claims that the First Amendment’s ban on government making law “respecting an establishment of religion” applies only to the federal government, not the states, because in the minds of the (blessedly few) 11 sponsors signing on so far, the Fourteenth Amendment, whose equal protection  clause extends the protection of federal law to every citizen of the country, never happened.

It’s tempting to call these people batshit crazy and let it go at that. Tempting though that approach is, however, it lets them off too lightly. This is an attempt to turn one state among 50 in a constitutionally established secular democratic republic into a Dominionist theocracy in violation of the very Constitution the legislators have sworn an oath to uphold. They should be impeached and removed from office. Unfortunately, we don’t impeach legislators in North Carolina because we can’t. The best we could hope for would be for the House to vote to expel the offending members. But it won’t, because whether they’re ready to admit it or not, a majority of the N.C. House, or very close to a majority, thinks this is a great idea.

It would never stand up in court, I’d like to think. But “never” is a long time, and the Dominionists are playing the long game. They must be called out and they must be stopped, if for no other reason that Jesus had very specific notions about where one ought to do one’s praying and it would be a shame if our fellow North Carolinians went to hell for disregarding that directive.

(edited to remove duplicate grad)

Thursday, January 17, 2013 8:42 pm

Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God, the Lord is one — VERY strange dude

Filed under: Religion,Weird — Lex @ 8:42 pm
Tags: , , ,

Yeah, OK,  I’m mixing my faith references here. Sue me. But I got tickled when my friend, ex-colleague and former boss Teresa Prout, then and now the city editor of the News & Record, posted on Facebook the other day about  getting an email from a man who claims his father is one of four prophets who have been designated by God to carry out His will before the end of the world, which is coming March 11. (Naturally, one of my midterm projects is due March 7. But, noooooo, the world couldn’t end a week earlier.) The prophet in question is in prison for killing his wife and a judge, by the way.

Nobody spends much time in the newspaper bidness without encountering religious zealots, and it can be hard sometimes to distinguish the merely overzealous from the outright insane. But her anecdote reminded me of an incident when I was the N&R’s religion writer (and Teresa was my editor at the time) that led me to write a column that, as it happens, was published 15 years ago last week. Unlike a lot of my older stuff, it actually has held up pretty well:

One busy afternoon just before Christmas, one of our receptionists called to say that a man had come in who wanted to talk to someone immediately about an important religion story.

I walked downstairs to the lobby, where I met a man about my height but heavier, with long, slicked-back, salt-and-pepper hair and a salt-and-pepper beard. He was dressed in black from his jacket and shirt down to the pointed toes of his boots. In fact, he cut such a Mephistophelian figure that I shouldn’t have been surprised when we had sat down in the lobby’s only two chairs and he announced that he was Jesus Christ.

A number of questions began running through my mind, the first one being the question of why there was no guard at our lobby security desk. The second one was: How can I get this man out the front door? The third one was: OK, even if this guy isn’t Jesus, he’s still a human being toward whom, according to Christ’s second great commandment and the dictates of good customer relations, I have some obligations, so how can I meet those obligations gracefully and compassionately?

And — hey, I am a reporter — the fourth one was: What if he’s telling the truth?

“I see,” I said. “Have you always known that you were Jesus?”

“Found out about 10 years ago,” he said.

“And where were you when you found out?”

“I was in prison,” he said.

“No kidding. Where was that?”

“Butner,” he said. Butner, just northeast of Durham on Interstate 85, is the home of a well-known state mental hospital and a lesser-known federal prison and mental facility.

“Why were you there?”

“I beat a man up in Eden pretty bad” — Eden being the Rockingham County town, not the garden, I ascertained.

“But you didn’t yet know you were Jesus when you did that?”

“That’s right,” he said. “I wouldn’t do that now, of course.”

“Well, if you are Jesus, that’s obviously a big story,” I told him. “But see, we’ve got a problem. We’ve got to convince my editors. We can’t just write a story saying that you’re Jesus. We need proof. Now, the Bible says there will be signs and wonders to accompany the return of Christ. Got any of that?”

No, he said. He couldn’t really prove he was Jesus.

“OK, as Jesus Christ, what is it you’re here to do? Anything in particular?”

“Judge the world,” he said, shifting a bit in his chair. As he did, I realized there was some kind of bulge under his jacket near the left armpit, and what had been a mild situation suddenly felt threatening.

Was it a gun? I couldn’t tell. But now, in addition to my obligations to this man, I had other obligations, namely protecting my co-workers — two receptionists were behind the desk nearby, and other people were walking casually through the lobby — and myself.

I gauged the distance between my left hand and the flowerpot on the table between us. I gauged the angle. And I resolved that if his right hand so much as twitched toward his jacket, I was going to smash that flowerpot against his temple as hard as I could.

“Judge the world,” I repeated. “And how are you going to do that?” He looked confused, so I added, “I mean, are you going to judge the world collectively or individually? Everybody at once or one person at a time?”

“Oh, one person at a time,” he said. “That seems fairest.”

“Well, won’t that take a long time?”

“Yeah,” he said. “But I’ve got a long time.”

Whom would he start with? He wasn’t sure. When would he start? He wasn’t sure about that either.

We talked about 10 minutes more, and I kept steering the conversation back to the point that unless we had some kind of objective proof that he was Jesus, the News & Record wouldn’t be doing a story about him. He wasn’t terribly unhappy about that, but he wasn’t taking the hint, either, and there still was no security guard.

Finally, I mentioned that I might entertain the notion of his writing a guest column for the Religion page. That prospect brightened him a bit, and he agreed to consider it. We stood up and shook hands, and he walked out the front door.

No reporter stays long in this business without hearing — usually by mail — from someone claiming to be Jesus. And after almost every one of these contacts, I have speculated upon the exact manner in which Jesus might choose to make himself known if he were to return today. (In my more disgruntled moments, I even draw up an agenda for him.)

The Book of Revelation foretells the manner of Christ’s return, and its account bears little resemblance to the manner of my black-clad visitor. It certainly doesn’t suggest that he might come back as a rough-hewn man of the street with a simple, powerful and disturbing message.

But then, that’s pretty much how he came the first time.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012 4:44 pm

Quote of the Day, Athenae on Sandy and the Govt. Edition

What it boils down to is: What kind of country are we going to be — the kind people want to live in, or not?

When a disaster strikes I want big government, small government, medium-sized government. I want all the government ever. I want the neighbors and the charities and the churches and the families and the friends, too. Every crack in the plaster needs to be patched and every problem needs to be solved, and I want as many people putting that puzzle together as possible. All hands on the [expletive] deck. Here’s a bucket. Start bailing the water out.

I want everybody to be figuring out how to do more, instead of fighting over the best way to do less without looking like too much of an [expletive] about it.

And you know, I think the majority of Americans want this, too. It’s just that for the past 40 years we’ve had this constant drumbeat of no we can’t, it’s too hard, we can’t afford it, everybody fends for themselves, there’s no help for anybody, let’s all just go home and if you have to step over a homeless dude to get to your car then do it because that’s the price of doing business. People deserve to have their homes submerged and their shops wiped out and their lives ruined because of where they live or what they do or who they are, and there’s nothing anybody can do about it, because only government is big enough to solve this problem and we all know government isn’t the answer to anything anymore.

But deep down we’ve still got that nagging feeling that somebody somewhere ought to be on top of [stuff] that most of the time people don’t deserve what they get (and thank God for that, by the way, she says while conducting the express train to hell), that we are better and bigger and stronger than this, and we’re just straining against the goddamn harness to do something. And disaster preparedness and emergency management are some of the most basic things government can do to prevent us from tearing ourselves apart when something [awful] happens, to take that instinct and direct it outward instead of inward.

To make us help, rather than letting us hurt.

I made the mistake earlier today of getting into an argument on Facebook with a couple of wingnuts. They argued that “compulsory charity” — which, for reasons that escape logic and which they declined to explain, they defined strictly as “government” charity; guys, go tell it to the LDS Church — is always wrong. (They also argued that abortion is the biggest sin there is, but then consistency is seldom a hallmark of wingnuts.)

Jesus said to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and to God that which is God’s. The implication, often offered up by wingnuts as stone fact, is that the two differ. And certainly they frequently do. But there’s no practical or metaphysical reason why the two couldn’t overlap from time to time, as in, say, stopping the Nazi genocide machine.

Or helping our fellow Americans, our family, our friends, our neighbors to get their lives back in order after an unparalleled natural disaster.

No one with a lick of sense will claim that he knows what Mitt Romney believes, but it is a matter of public record that Romney has said that private interests ought to be responsible for disaster recovery. Given that mutant weather alone is likely to become an important aspect of our new normal in this century, that claim alone disqualifies him from any role in government. And yet somewhere around 50 percent of Americans say they are ready and willing to make him president, as if, in this “Christian” nation, the Golden Rule and the Second Great Commandment were tiny codicils in the articles of incorporation for a company that Bain Capital long ago acquired, stripped of its assets and steered into Chapter 7.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012 8:03 pm

A Wendy’s franchise owner steps into a big bucket of something warm and brown that is not hamburger

Jim Furmen, CEO of Tar Heel Capital, which owns 86 Wendy’s franchises in North Carolina, says he stands with Chick-Fil-A. Fine; I and mine are walking elsewhere.

Image (and story h/t): TowleRoad.com

ATTN: Jim Furmen, CEO, Tar Heel Capital.

I’m a Republican, a conservative and a Christian. And it is because of, not in spite of, those affiliations and the beliefs that undergird them that I will not patronize any Wendy’s franchise owned by Tar Heel Capital so long as the company supports Chick-Fil-A’s bigoted stand.

If you don’t like gay people getting married, don’t marry one.

And repent and come to Jesus, you jackass.

Thursday, July 26, 2012 8:53 pm

“This is the gate of the Lord, enter into it, you who have fed the hungry.”

Filed under: Evil,Religion — Lex @ 8:53 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

From my friend Rabbi Fred Guttman, originally posted on Facebook, via my friend John Graham:

Food Stamps – Last week, the House Agriculture Committee passed a Farm Bill which slashes $16 billion from one of the most effective anti-poverty programs in our nation, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. At the same time, the overall cost of the bill does not go down but adds an additional $9.5 billion over 10 years for an entirely new agribusiness subsidy under the guise of crop insurance. A cut of this magnitude means that at least 2 million families will lose access to the program. All told, about 1 billion fewer meals will be available to low-income families each year—meals that are a bargain for taxpayers at about a $1.60 a meal—as well as a basic responsibility for our society. 85 percent of those receiving Food Stamps are living on incomes below the federal poverty line of $23,350 for a family of four. In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has calculated that each dollar of supplemental nutrition assistance benefits create $1.79 in increased economic activity. America’s “hunger bill”—the cost of avoidable illness due to poor nutrition and poor education outcomes due to hunger—is already over $165 billion.

Three points:

Here in Greensboro, both Conservative and Liberal congregations support the very needed and I would say holy work of the Greensboro Urban Minsitry. The leadership at GUM is extremely concerned about such proposed cuts.

Second, I cannot see how this is not class warfare, an example of taking from the poor to give to the wealthy.

Finally, I leave you with a small piece of rabbinical teaching from the time of Jesus himself. “When you are asked in the world to come, ‘What was your work?’ and you answer: ‘I fed the hungry,’ you will be told: ‘This is the gate of the Lord, enter into it, you who have fed the hungry’” (Midrash to Psalm 118:17)

(Some additional context, from the News & Record.)

A presumably well-meaning but misguided friend of mine took issue with this point, suggesting that government anti-poverty efforts have been both inefficient and wasteful:

Now let me be clear, I don’t object to poor people getting help. My problem is a government throwing money at programs that clearly aren’t working. Consider this: All this welfare spending adds up to $20,610 for every poor man, woman and child in the country.

For a poor family of three, that’s nearly $62,000 dollars. The poverty line for that family is just $18,500. With this kind of spending, poverty should be wiped out – instead it’s growing.

Today, one in seven Americans is living in poverty. The most in almost two decades. All the while spending is soaring.

And, welfare spending for the last four decades — adjusted for inflation? Up, up, up. How can we spend all this money, and see so little progress? …

… we should be stopping the taxes and bloated regulations that hold back economic growth and job creation. People need work, not handouts.

Unfortunately the only solution the president sees is throwing more money at the problem. More government, instead of less. More dependency instead of empowerment.

Leaving aside for a moment the “up, up, up” argument, whether or not adjusted for inflation, and whether or not more properly calculated on a per-capita basis or as a percentage of GDP, that was an awful lot of both factual and contextual inaccuracy in just a few lines. I responded:

You know what, [friend's name]? First of all, don’t change the subject. Second of all, I can sleep a lot better at night if govt money is being wasted so that people don’t go hungry than I can if it’s being wasted blowing sh*t up in an illegal war or bailing out criminal banksters.

Poverty is growing because the government hasn’t done enough direct economic stimulus to stimulate demand enough to lead businesses, which are sitting on $2 trillion in cash, to create jobs. And it hasn’t done enough because Republicans LIKE having American workers poor and desperate.

Deficits are soaring primarily because of 1) our broken health care system, the least efficient in the Western world, which the ACA at least goes some way toward fixing; 2) two wars, both of which Obama put back on budget after Bush ran them off-budget, and a defense budget unnecessarily sized at bigger than those of the next 26 largest combined, most of whom are our allies; and 3) the fact that federal taxation is at its lowest rate as a % of GDP in 60 years AND that top marginal rates on the wealthy are at their lowest rate in longer than that.

And why is that? Because of GOP obstructionism, aided and abetted by a few badly confused and/or corrupt Democrats.

You want to make excuses for screwing over poor people? Fine; go do it on your own page.

All most religions ask of us is basically that we not be dicks. And stealing food from the mouths of the hungry to give it to large corporations is being a dick.

 

 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012 8:13 pm

Today’s lesson in bad PR: Chick-Fil-A

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns!,Evil,Religion — Lex @ 8:13 pm

And the lesson is: Things are never, ever so bad that you can’t make them worse. Congratulations, Chick-Fil-A. In the space of a week, you have crapped on your own brand — in this case, by trying to protect a “Christian” brand with serial violations of the Ninth Commandment and the Second Great Commandment — more thoroughly than anyone this side of Komen.

Sunday, April 8, 2012 9:05 pm

He Is Risen: An outsourced reflection, a prediction, a prayer

I spent this weekend finishing up a final project for one of my courses for the semester. Save a proofreading, it’s done, and I can turn it in two weeks early. Which is good, because the project in the other course is going to kill me, but that’s not today’s point.

What’s today’s point, and yesterday’s, and, really, the point for all of Holy Week and the point for all time for anyone who claims to be a Christian or just admires Christ as a historical figure, is the radical nature of what Jesus asked us to do and who he asked us to be. I’ve read volumes on that subject over the years, and despite my misanthropy, recent dearth of church-going and occasional proclivity for PG-13 language here, I take it seriously.

And I’ve found few pithier summaries than this one, posted on Good Friday by Charlie Pierce. He responded to a temporal event in a specifically Roman Catholic context with small-c catholic truths that show no sign of dimming after 2,000 years:

… the liturgies of Holy Week … are the most moving because the one thing they’re not about is authority.

Authority is the villain during Holy Week. Secular authority, in the person of Pontius Pilate. Religious authority, in the institution of the Sanhedrin. What matters most throughout the season is the individual conscience. As Garry Wills never tires of pointing out, Christ did not make priests. He did not make a Church. And he sure as all hell didn’t make a Pope …

What stands out in the Holy Week services is humility in the face of unreasoning authority. What stands out, ultimately, and whether you believe in the Resurrection or not, or think the whole thing is a bunch of hooey imported from the Egyptian mystery cults or somewhere, is that, in the story of Easter week, unreasoning authority loses. It loses badly.

I am under no illusions about what life is going to be like in this country in the coming decade or two. Our bankers are going to insist that the rest of us kiss their asses and give them our money, and no one is going to stop them. Our church leaders are going to continue to engage in the decades-long continuing criminal enterprise of protecting child abusers and enabling history’s biggest thieves. Our police officers are going to use sexual humiliation to subjugate us and pepper spray and worse to keep us from exercising the rights our ancestors (and some of our contemporaries) died to obtain and protect, all in the name of protecting unreasoning authority. And our so-called leaders are going to continue to ignore the protests that the Earth itself is voicing in the plainest language, because, as Upton Sinclair famously observed, it is difficult to get a man to understand something when his paycheck depends upon his not understanding it.

And, make no mistake, the pain will be widespread and it will be awful. We or people close to us will lose jobs, homes, health, even lives. And as bad as it will be here, it will be worse still in other places, many already enduring suffering unimaginable to most Americans.  I’m old enough not to care so much anymore about myself, but I’m terrified for my kids.

But, as cynical and pessimistic as I am, I also have faith — literally, the belief in and hope for something of which no evidence is visible — in this: Every single theft, every single swindle, every single assault, every single official lie, every act of abuse and dereliction of duty, every sin of commission and sin of omission by our unreasoning authorities, will, by engendering actions by Americans, others, or even God’s creation itself, bend the long moral arc of the universe just a tiny fraction closer to justice … in this world or the next.

Amen. Be armed, but go in peace.

Friday, June 18, 2010 8:02 pm

Shorter Pat Robertson: If your husband flirts with other women, it’s because you’re ugly and boring and don’t do that thing he likes.

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns!,Religion — Lex @ 8:02 pm

You can’t make this stuff up — but apparently Pat can:

TERRY MEEUWSEN (co-host): Pat, this is from Anne who says, “My husband has always been a flirt and loves to talk with other women he finds attractive. He says he would never cheat on me but his actions are starting to get to me. What should I do?”

ROBERTSON: Anne, first thing is you need to make yourself as attractive as possible and don’t hassle him about it. And why is he doing this? Well, he’s doing it because he wants affirmation that he is still a man, that he is attractive — and he gets an affirmation of himself. That means he’s got an inferiority complex that’s coming out. And he’s not gonna cheat on you. He’s just playing.

But you need to not drive him away or start hassling and hounding on him, but make yourself as beautiful as you can, as fun as you can …

I’d like to think that when Pat got home that night, Dede slapped him, but I kind of doubt it.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010 7:05 pm

Let’s say you’re a guy …

… or there’s one in your life whom you care for. And let’s say that you, a guy, are struggling to meet the demands of both your life and your faith. Well, hey, have I got a program for you.

It’s called Men in Balance. My stepdad, Jerry Hancock, started it. It’s sort of like Promise Keepers, only with 99% less  bullshit.

You can read more about Jerry and the program here. And unless your life and faith are already in perfect balance, you probably should.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010 8:21 pm

At what point can we officially write off the entire Christian right as psychotic?

George Rekers of the Family Research Council apparently “hires an assistant to carry his luggage” the way Mark Sanford “hiked the Appalachian Trail”:

The pictures on the Rentboy.com [NSFW] profile show a shirtless young man with delicate features, guileless eyes, and sun-kissed, hairless skin. The profile [describes him sexually and] explains he is “sensual,” “wild,” and “up for anything” — as long you ask first. And as long as you pay.

On April 13, the “rent boy” (whom we’ll call Lucien) arrived at Miami International Airport on Iberian Airlines Flight 6123, after a ten-day, fully subsidized trip to Europe. He was soon followed out of customs by an old man with an atavistic mustache and a desperate blond comb-over, pushing an overburdened baggage cart.

That man was George Alan Rekers, of North Miami — the callboy’s client and, as it happens, one of America’s most prominent anti-gay activists. Rekers, a Baptist minister who is a leading scholar for the Christian right, left the terminal with his gay escort, looking a bit discomfited when a picture of the two was snapped with a hot-pink digital camera. …

For decades, George Alan Rekers has been a general in the culture wars, though his work has often been behind the scenes. In 1983, he and James Dobson, America’s best-known homophobe, formed the Family Research Council, a D.C.-based, rabidly Christian, and vehemently anti-gay lobbying group that has become a standard-bearer of the nation’s extreme right wing. Its annual Values Summit is considered a litmus test for Republican presidential hopefuls, and Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter have spoken there. (The Family Research Council would not comment about Rekers’s Euro-trip.)

He has also influenced American government, serving in advisory roles with Congress, the White House, and the Department of Health and Human Services and testifying as a state’s witness in favor of Florida’s gay adoption ban. A former research fellow at Harvard University and a distinguished professor of neuropsychiatry at the University of South Carolina, Rekers has published papers and books by the hundreds, with titles like Who Am I? Lord and Growing Up Straight: What Families Should Know About Homosexuality. …

Rekers is a board member of the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), an organization that systematically attempts to turn gay people straight. And the Huffington Post recently singled out Rekers as a member of the American College of Pediatricians — an official-sounding outfit in Gainesville that purveys lurid, youth-directed literature accusing gays of en masse coprophilia. (In an email, the college’s Lisa Hawkins wrote, “ACPeds feels privileged to have a scholar of Dr. Rekers‘ stature affiliated with our organization. I am sure you will find Prof. Rekers to be an immaculate clinician/scholar, and a warm human being.”)

“Warm human being,” huh? In English that means “self-hating bigot.” Either that, or Lisa Hawkins is failing epically in her ad-copywriting competition with Rentboy.com.

Extra-special ick factor: Rekers has taken in foster children and four years ago adopted a then-16-year-old boy who is now the same age as his rentboy.

These people are totally messed up, and yet they and people like them have real, and pernicious, influence on public policy in this country. And I’m sorry, but governing the greatest country on the planet should not be left to people so heavily in need of therapy.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 5:27 am

Coming to Jesus

Filed under: Religion — Lex @ 5:27 am
Tags: ,

My denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), needs to repent of its ongoing, longstanding violation of Christ’s second great commandment.

(h/t: Barbara Dua on Facebook)

Monday, March 8, 2010 9:37 pm

Shorter Glenn Beck: Jesus sucks!

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns!,Religion — Lex @ 9:37 pm
Tags:

Yeah, pretty much:

On his daily radio and television shows last week, Fox News personality Glenn Beck set out to convince his audience that “social justice,” the term many Christian churches use to describe their efforts to address poverty and human rights, is a “code word” for communism and Nazism. Beck urged Christians to discuss the term with their priests and to leave their churches if leaders would not reconsider their emphasis on social justice.

“I’m begging you, your right to religion and freedom to exercise religion and read all of the passages of the Bible as you want to read them and as your church wants to preach them . . . are going to come under the ropes in the next year. If it lasts that long it will be the next year. I beg you, look for the words ‘social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!”

Uh, dude, that “kingdom of God” and “kingdom of Heaven” that Jesus was talking about? He was talking about Heaven, all right, but he also was talking about our duty to others here on Earth, and he made that clear time and time again.

UPDATED to add “Shorter” to the title and remove the quotation marks, inasmuch as some readers are not familiar with the Internet “shorter” convention, invented by Daniel Davies and perfected by Elton Beard. Some people are aware of all Internet traditions, but I realize that neither my readers nor I am among them.

UPDATE: One of my Facebook friends’ commenters adds, “Is there a SMITE button?”

At which college would you be most likely to find Jesus?

Filed under: Religion — Lex @ 8:18 pm
Tags: ,

The answer may surprise you. The reason probably won’t.

UPDATE: Article wasn’t behind paywall when I started the post, but it is now. Stupid Chronicle. Hmph.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010 9:29 pm

Persecution

Perhaps the least surprising aspect of this story is that the N&O had to shut down comments on it because they became so abusive:

A Wake County middle-school teacher may be fired after she and her friends made caustic remarks on a Facebook page about her students, the South and Christianity.

Melissa Hussain, an eighth-grade science teacher at West Lake Middle School in southern Wake County, was suspended with pay Friday while investigators review her case, according to Greg Thomas, a Wake schools spokesman. The suspension came after some of Hussain’s students and their parents objected to comments on her Facebook page, many revolving around her interaction with Christian students.

Hussain wrote on the social-networking site that it was a “hate crime” that students anonymously left a Bible on her desk, and she told how she “was able to shame her kids” over the incident. Her Facebook page included comments from friends about “ignorant southern rednecks,” and one commenter suggested Hussain retaliate by bringing a Dale Earnhardt Jr. poster to class with a swastika drawn on the NASCAR driver’s forehead.

“I don’t defend what the kids were doing,” said Murray Inman, a parent of one of Hussain’s students. “I just couldn’t imagine an educator, or a group of educators, engaging in this kind of dialogue about kids.”

Hussain did not return calls and e-mail messages Monday.

The Wake district doesn’t have a policy on the use of social networking sites, Thomas said. But the district, North Carolina’s largest, does have a code of ethics for employees that the school spokesman says applies to social networking. The code says employees’ conduct “should be such as to protect both the person’s integrity and/or reputation and that of the school system.”

Teachers across the nation have been suspended or fired because of questionable material posted on their Facebook pages and other online social networking sites.

Other thoughts:

  • The first rule of blogging about the day job is don’t blog about the day job. What the teacher did was stupid.
  • The second rule of blogging about the day job is don’t blog about the day job (unless blogging about the day job is part of your day job).
  • Commenters on one’s Web site/Facebook page can and will say all manner of stupid, objectionable stuff. While I would argue that one may have a moral obligation in some cases to take down such comments, I wouldn’t argue that one has any legal (or regulatory) obligation to, and I sure wouldn’t fire someone for comments someone else posted. In other words, whatever was posted in response to the teacher’s postings ought to be irrelevant for purposes of this discussion.
  • One irony about this case is that under current First Amendment law, government employees and non-government employees have roughly equivalent levels of freedom and risk with regard to speech about their respective employers, but the practical result is that government employees have less protection under the First Amendment itself, which protects citizens from government interference in their speech, than do private-sector employees.
  • The district’s employee code of conduct says employee conduct “should be such as to protect both the person’s integrity and/or reputation and that of the school system.” To the extent that this phrase even has any meaning, that meaning is BS. The school system cares only about its own reputation, and it cares about the employee’s reputation only to the extent that it is perceived to reflect upon the school system’s reputation. Moreover, who decides what actions do or do not damage one’s integrity or reputation? If, say, a war criminal like Dick Cheney claimed that I had a lousy reputation and no integrity for criticizing him, I would interpret that as proof that I had an outstanding reputation and a great deal of integrity, and so would many other people. I am not defending the teacher’s postings in this particular case; I’m saying that the code of conduct appears to be meaningless and therefore useless and irrelevant to this case.
  • If Murray Inman can’t imagine teachers “engaging in this kind of dialogue about kids,” then Murray Inman isn’t very imaginative. Everybody in every line of work imaginable says disparaging things about his/her customers from time to time, and teachers are not immune. If Inman meant he couldn’t imagine anyone would do so publicly, well, all I can say is that no level of human stupidity should be unimaginable; as a species, our capacity for Teh Stoopid approaches infinity. Some stupidity is fatal, and evolution is our friend in this regard, but it’s a long, slow process.
  • What the teacher did was stupid. It bears repeating.
  • What the children did was both stupid and cruel, which is worse than stupid alone even allowing for the fact that we’re talking about kids. These are middle-schoolers, not kindergartners.
  • What the parents who are defending their kids’ behavior and arguing for punishment for the teacher are doing is less teaching the teacher that actions have consequences, although it is that, than teaching their children that stupid, cruel behavior can and should be rewarded.

Thursday, January 28, 2010 9:14 pm

Odds and ends for 1/28

The ultimate Miller Time: Earlier this month, Harriet Ames turned 100 and then scratched the last item, getting her college diploma, off her bucket list. The next day, that sheepskin in her hand, she died.

To the best of my ability, I will never again say a bad word about the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Conflict of interest?: The New York Times isn’t commenting on a report that the son of its Jerusalem bureau chief is serving in the Israeli military. I understand the problems that publication of this fact, if fact it be, is likely to create for the editor and the paper, as well as the possible security threat for the son and his unit if in fact this is the case. But this isn’t something the Times can ignore or stonewall.

Sen. Judd Gregg: PWNED!!111!!: Gregg, who has been pimping this idea of a bipartisan deficit-reduction commission to shield Congress from the political liability of making tough decisions, shows why he needs the shield when MSNBC’s Melissa Francis, whose work will never keep the Peabody Award people up nights, asks him to name something he’d cut from the budget and he refuses to answer. (To say nothing of the fact that he hems and haws around the question of cutting education spending when that has practically been Job 1 for the GOP since Reagan. Brother, please.)

But you don’t want to reward them, either: Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz says we not only need a lot more stimulus spending, we need it targeted where it will provide a decent rate of return if we’re going to be able to reduce our debt long-term. And where would that be? Technology, infrastructure, education — all the things the Republicans have been trying, by and large, not to fund. Even a ROI of 6% will help pay off long-term debt. But the ROI on spending on banks is 0%. You listening, Mr. President?

Conservative victimization: Obama calls out the Supreme Court for its wrongheaded, wrongly reached ruling in a wrongly accepted case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, and the wingnuts accuse the president of trying to “intimidate” the conservative activist wing of the Court. Questions, for the wingnuts (which is most of ‘em) who spent eighth-grade civics out back smoking dope: How, exactly, do you go about intimidating someone who already has been confirmed to a lifetime appointment? And how easily intimidated do you have to be to hold such a job and still be intimidated by … well, pretty much anything?

The cops lied, and fortunately, 12 of 14 jurors were willing to do something about it. I’ll say it again: I have too much respect for good cops to have any tolerance for bad ones.

George Stephanopoulos asks a good question. NewsBusters has a hissy fit, spouts objectively false claims. (“Liberal media” = “They won’t tell the lies we WANT them to tell.”)

In many important ways, the United States sucks compared to other countries, and it is important to remind ourselves of that. On the other hand, we — alone, I believe, among industrialized countries, and I’d be sad to be wrong about that but not for the reason you probably think — have given corporations more rights and fewer freedoms than people, so we’ve got that going for us.

Bigotry in Malawi: A gay couple in that country are being held “for their own safety” in jail. Where they’re being beaten up.

“I’ve never actually played FarmVille, but any game worth playing has to have Pork Knights”: How to Suck at Facebook.

The Great American Interrogation Disaster, from the man who may know more about interrogation than anyone else alive.

Memo to Andrew Breitbart from the Universe: Payback’s a bitch.

You may be a mansplainer if …: Consider me warned.

Freeloaders: In Moscow, stray dogs use the subway. For free. For real.

Britain’s libel laws are much stricter than America’s. There’s just one problem.

America loves Brett Favre: How much? More than anything that wasn’t a Super Bowl since the “Seinfeld” finale in May 1998.

Huge loss: Journalist Joe Galloway is hanging up his notepad. In recent years, Americans who have worn the uniform and those who wear it still have had no better friend.

Huger loss: J.D. Salinger, RIP.

I have just found the one college course even cooler than my employer’s “Ten Greatest Pop Songs of the Past 50 Years”: ZDI.001: Introduction to Zombie Defense. I forwarded this to several friends, one of whom said she also would post it and added, “I’m also going to read closely for practical purposes.”

And in that vein, I love people who think like this: Seated with Michelle Obama during the State of the Union was 18-year-old high-school senior Li Boynton, who’s researching ways to test water for purity. After reading Life of Pi, a novel about a guy stranded in the middle of the ocean, Boynton designed a solar-distillation device in case the same thing ever happened to her. She was in fifth grade.

And, finally, this is genius: Dante’s Internet:

Wednesday, January 27, 2010 11:06 pm

Odds and ends for 1/27

And people think I’m crazy for suggesting that Obama is as bad as Bush: Marcy flags something that the Washington Post’s Dana Priest wrote down but apparently failed to grasp the significance of: “Somewhere there’s a list of Americans who, the President has determined, can be killed [by their own government] with no due process.” OK, I’ll say it: Impeach him. I’m dead serious. Because if what Priest reports is true, the president has illegally and extraconstitutionally conspired to commit murder.

Think George W. Bush will watch on teevee?: Britain’s former prime minister Tony Blair testifies Friday in the inquiry into that country’s decision to join the war in Iraq. Even if he escapes indictment — and that is far from certain — Blair’s place in British history appears sure to fall into the Brit equivalent of Warren Harding country.

Cue ominous music: The SEC voted 4-1 today to suspend automatic redemptions from money-market funds. People who value these investments for their liquidity now have no reason to value them. Let the stampede begin. What’s the larger meaning? I have no idea, but I’m about 98% sure it ain’t good.

The banksters screw us again: Citi temporarily tamped down some of the criticism of its big bonuses by announcing that every part of anyone’s bonus over $100,000 would be paid in stock, not cash. The idea is, you tie employees in to the company’s goal of long-term growth and profitability. Which would be great if the stock weren’t redeemable for a couple or three years. But this stock? Will be redeemable in April. As stock bonuses go, that’s practically cash.

How the banksters screwed us the first time: The so-called “Schedule A,” the list of crap mortgage-backed securities that the New York Fed took off AIG’s hands at 100 cents on the dollar when they were actually worth around half that, has finally been made public. Not sure exactly what it will mean, but inasmuch as the NYFRB tried to keep this list secret until 2018, you can be reasonably sure it’s nothing good.

Smoking gun: Goldman Sachs could and should have had to eat some of its bad investments in 2008, but the New York Fed let it off the hook, documents show. That’s the same New York Fed then run by our current SecTreas, who REALLY needs to be returned to the private sector posthaste. Oh, wait: He has been a “public servant” his whole life. Well, that’s OK. After what he appears to have done for Goldman, they should pay him a princely sum for life and not even require him to show up for work. Then they’d have a slight taste of how we taxpayers feel, except for the part where they NEVER ACTUALLY DID ANYTHING FOR US, not that I am bitter.

Cops bumping into each other: Joining the House Oversight Committee in looking into the New York Fed’s bailout of Goldman Sachs and AIG is Neil Barofsky, Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, better known as the bank bailout program, who testified today before Congress.

Oh, and lookee what Mr. Barofsky had to say: “According to these [Federal Reserve Bank of New York] executives, then-President [Tim] Geithner ‘acquiesced’ to the executive’s proposal. When asked by [Barofsky's office]  if the executives felt they had received their ‘marching orders’ from then-FRBNY President Geithner to pay the counterparties par [instead of the roughly 48 cents on the dollar they actually were worth], one FRBNY official responded ‘yes, absolutely.’” But … but … Geithner and the White House both say Geithner wasn’t involved in the decision to screw taxpayers by paying AIG customers (including Goldman Sachs) more than they should have. So somebody’s lying. And Barofsky’s the one under oath.

And the hits just keep on coming: A report from Rep. Darrell Issa, ranking Republican on the House Oversight Committee, nails Tim Geithner’s butt to the wall.

Memo to commenters on this article: Genocide is not a contest. There is no prize.

If Steven Pearlstein were president, he’d say the state of the union sucks.

Mixed blessing: In his article “Appalled in Greenwich Connecticut [sic],” downloadable (.pdf) from his site StumblingonTruth.com, Clifford Asness of AQR Capital Management, whom I have not read before, combines grossly unfortunate metaphor (“Unfortunately for this President, he will, I hope, find the financial community not cowering from his Cossacks on a shtetl in the Pale of Settlement (Greenwich, CT), but meeting his accusations with logic and patriotism.”) with both an entitlement mentality AND common sense (“So, how do you fix too-big-to-fail? Well, this is complicated, give me a moment. I got it. You let them fail.”). For a quant, he manipulates words real purty. I may return.

The problem with cutting Medicare and Medicaid: Abe Sauer explains.

Tax the rich! Tax the rich! Oregon’s doing it. Sort of. A little. For the first time in 80 years. But the media is all Scott “Our Next President” Brown, so if you don’t hear about this, that’s why.

Wrong AND lame: President Obama’s proposed 3-year freeze on domestic discretionary spending is not only exactly not what the economy needs in a time of depressed consumer demand, it’s also almost meaningless in its effects on the budget deficit, given that it doesn’t affect big-ticket items like defense, wars, interest on the national debt or entitlements. It’s one more example of trying to appear to people who believe you incapable of doing the right thing that you’re doing the right thing. You will never win those people over, so you ought to just go ahead and do the right thing. Simpler. More effective. Pisses off the people who are wrong. Everyone’s a winner.

Rhodes Scholar tackles spending freeze, president loses.

Related: A roundup of amusing reactions to the quote freeze unquote.

And if you want to look for budget savings, here’s a suggestion. Even George W. Bush’s last Defense Secretary thinks we’re spending too much on defense, and spending it the wrong way. Observes Spencer Ackerman, who covers this stuff for a living, “Everyone in Washington who studies the Pentagon budget quickly finds gobs and gobs of wasteful spending. Not some people. Not dirty hippies. Every. Single. Defense. Analyst.”

Can we like ACORN again? Reminder: O’Keefe’s videotapes were doctored. And August J. Pollak’s commentary on the case is short enough and good enough for you to hie thee hence and read it in its entirety. Go on. I’ll wait.

(pause)

Oh, good, you’re back. Moving on, then …

Conflict of interest: Tyler Durden points out reason to believe that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has a quite personal reason for wanting to see Bumbling Ben Bernanke reconfirmed as Fed chairman as early as Thursday.

Whoops! Not so fast, there, Fast Harry: Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., claims to have documents showing that Bernanke overruled his advisers in approving the AIG bailout. And here we thought Harry Reid was just venal. Y’know, nothing is becoming Jim Bunning’s Senate career like his leaving of it. Maybe the old guy is going senile, but he’s actually, at long last, acting in the public interest here. Or maybe he just hates Democrats. Either works for me.

Hard cases make bad law, and this hard case has led a judge to make some awful case law.

You might want to put down the knife, Ms. Quinn, because the Secret Service does NOT mess around: Obama has been advised to make sure the bunny is secure. Commenter El Cid at Balloon Juice adds, “I think it’s kind of funny that Sally Quinn goes to the trouble of asking her readers to ‘indulge [her] for a moment’, as if that woman spends the tiniest femtosecond of her life not being indulged.” And this would be funny if every other Washington journalist weren’t just like her.

The teabaggers are “good Republicans even if they don’t know it.” That’s about the best description I’ve seen.

Speaking of good Republicans, the ones doing PR for the party are just top-notch: The GOP response to the State of the Union tonight was given in — I am not making this up — the hall where Jefferson Davis was inaugurated.

The public option: C’est popular. Corporations: pas tellement: In a Research 2000 poll in 10 swing congressional districts whose seats are currently held by Democrats, a majority of Republicans favor a public option, and a plurality of Republicans, 43%, say Democrats need to do more to fight big corporations.  In the single N.C. district polled, Larry Kissell’s NC-08, voters overall favor a public option by 73% to 16%, with 11% undecided, and a 59% majority of voters, the biggest majority of any of the 10 districts, said Democrats need to do more to fight big corporations. It’d be interesting to see the results if the vague “big corporations” was changed to “banks” or “health-insurance companies” or both.

Against it for all the wrong reasons: Polling ace Nate Silver points out that part of the reason health-care reform isn’t polling as well as its supporters wish is that sizable chunks of the population believe (bad) things about the bill that are objectively untrue.

Why wouldn’t a combination of high-deductible health-insurance plans and Health Savings Accounts fix the problem? That’s pretty much the question one of my cousins asked me in an e-mail the other day. Well, Nancy, here’s your answer.

It would be funny if these people didn’t effectively control the entire U.S. school textbook market: The Texas Board of Education [sic] bans Bill Martin Jr.’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? from its third-grade reading list after confusing its author with that of the book Ethical Marxism.

Afghanistan Fail: The guy who once held Stanley McChrystal’s job running the U.S. military in Afghanistan and is now ambassador to Afghanistan says McChrystal’s anti-insurgency effort in Afghanistan is doomed.

Good news, for a change, for vets: Iraq and Afghanistan vets suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder but denied monthly disability benefits from the VA can join a class-action lawsuit to get their disability ratings increased to the level required by law, which will make them eligible for benefits. The relevant law was quite clear on what disability rating vets with PTSD are supposed to be assigned, so the fact that someone even had to sue over the issue is a disgrace and an outrage.

CBS: Morons: They won’t let people run factual advertisements about George W. Bush’s war crimes, but they’ll let Christianist wingnuts Focus on the Family run a forced-pregnancy ad during the Super Bowl. I think maybe I’ll just skip the game, then — all the best parts (i.e., the other commercials) will be on YouTube next day anyway. Also, I hope all the fans of Tim Tebow, who’ll star in the commercial, read this. The money quote comes from “an NFC South talent evaluator” who is most likely with the Bucs, since the Saints and Falcons are fixed for starting QBs and the Panthers have neither the money nor the draft pick to go after a potential first-round QB.

Don’t don’t-ask-don’t-tell: That well known military-hater, retired Gen. John Shalikashvili, who implemented “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says it’s time to repeal the military’s ban on openly gay people. I’d say that time actually was 1775, but I’m happy to welcome J-Shal to the bandwagon.

The lessons of Stuyvesant Town: But by all means, let’s re-confirm Ben Bernanke. Jesus wept.

Rush Limbaugh confesses that he AND the world would be better off if he killed himself: Only on The Onion, unfortunately.

Why Howard Zinn and not Rush Limbaugh?: Zinn, who came up with the radical idea that the history of a democracy shouldn’t be by and for aristocrats only, is dead at 87.

Would it be irresponsible to speculate that since he’s getting a divorce, Karl Rove is now free to woo and wed Jeff Gannon? It would be irresponsible not to.

OK, this is just weird:

You’re looking at the performance of Apple stock earlier today. That big dip came right around the announcement of the iPad. I’m not sure what it means, but I’m pretty sure it ain’t what the Apple board expected.

Best. Apple. Humor. Ever.: The Wikipedia Entry for the iPad (until today): “iPad was a prototype for a feminine hygiene product that purported to digitize a woman’s menstruation cycle and store it on a password-protected Web server.[1]“ More iPad humor here, but guys may want to give it a miss.

Keith Richards, sober? Because he was so upset by how hard Ron Wood fell off the wagon? I think The Awl says it all: “If Keith Richards stops drinking because he thinks you have a problem, well, you have a problem.”

This cannot possibly end well: George Lucas is producing a computer-animated musical.

And you thought Blog on the Run was minor-league: I’ll have you know this blog has just 35 fewer paying customers than Newsday.com, so there. And that’s after spending $4 million less on my site design than Newsday spent on theirs!

And you thought my carpal-tunnel syndrome happened because I type a lot.

How Japan intends to win the World Cup (this one goes out to my friend Beau):

(Note that the numbers on the radar are kph, not mph.)

And, finally, things journalists should know about polls:

Friday, January 22, 2010 1:44 am

Odds and ends for 1/21

Does Rielle Hunter know?: Former presidential candidate John Edwards finally admits that he is the father of a former campaign staffer’s daughter. I would say “Stop the presses!” except that the presses stopped on this one a long time ago.

One last party before the walls come down: Morgan Stanley has earmarked 62% of revenues for employee compensation. Not earnings, revenues. Which is good if you’re an employee, because there were no earnings; the company posted an annual loss for the first time in its 74-year history. Goldman Sachs will be paying its employees a comparatively modest 36% of annual revenue, although that amounts to 121% of earnings. Question: What do the (non-employee) stockholders think of this?

What part of “all” did you not understand?: Rep. Darrell Issa, ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is asking committee chairman Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., to hold Federal Reserve Bank of New York officials in contempt for turning over only some, but not all, subpoenaed documents relating to the AIG bailout. Zero Hedge, which has been on this subject for close to a year, helpfully offers some other questions Issa could raise.

Why do teabagger leaders hate America?: Tea Party leader arrested on first-degree rape charge; search turns up stolen Army grenade launcher; YouTube video features him planning to be a “domestic terrorist.”

Remind me again who’s not being bipartisan enough?: I happen to think the proposed commission is a horrible idea, if not unconstitutional, but still: Congressional Republicans have demonstrated repeatedly that they cannot take “yes” for an answer. Jackasses.

So. Um. Troops to Haiti — why, exactly?: Two possibilities, neither flattering.

OK, maybe the Mayans were right: Quoth DougJ at Balloon Juice, “With unlimited corporate money fueling crazed Nixon-style anger, things are going to get very, very ugly.”

I sort of want to know what exactly Spencer is talking about and I sort of don’t.

Finally, the people who know what they’re talking about get a turn: Obama pushes a Paul Volcker-backed plan to limit the size of banks, so as to eliminate the possibility of “too big to fail.” The idea here is to reduce the taxpayer’s exposure to any privately incurred risk in the financial industry. And that’s a good idea. (Know who else thinks so? Mark Zandi, the guy who advised McCain’s presidential campaign on economics.)

Purse v. policy-making: The pants-wetters want the Khalid Sheikh Muhammad trial not to be held in civilian court. Congressional Republicans are plotting to get some moron Dems to go along with them on barring funding for it. Now, why is it that the existing appropriation is in such a condition that that approach is even possible? And who would know enough about the appropriations process to have made this possible to begin with? Hint: it ain’t anyone with an R after his name.

As Alannis said, this could get messy: Sen.-elect Scott Brown got a lot of support from teabaggers, and he very quickly and publicly blew them off. We know how Rush reacts to that treatment. Let’s see how the teabaggers do.

And people wonder why I think Christianists and Islamists are essentially the same species.

Ethnic profiling won’t help: “An additional concern, [a Senate Intelligence Committee report] says, ‘is a group of nearly 10 non-Yemeni Americans who traveled to Yemen, converted to Islam, became fundamentalists, and married Yemeni women so they could remain in the country.’ One U.S. official, it reports, described them as ‘blond-haired, blue-eyed types’ who ‘fit a profile of Americans whom al-Qaeda has sought to recruit over the past several years.’”

Related: More pants-wetting. C’mon, America, man/woman up, will ya?

And even more pants-wetting, called out by Digby: “Everyone seems to forget that a year ago, Obama only had 58 votes in the Senate and everyone was in a state of near hysteria over his massive institutional power and soaring mandate. Now he has 59 and he’s suddenly impotent.”

As we turn more security operations in Afghanistan over to that country, we need to beware of residual problems.

AWOL pirate: Well, skull of pirate. Skull of total butt-kicking 14th century German pirate Klaus Störtebeker, who — and I must admit this even though I’m from North Carolina — makes Blackbeard look like Richard Simmons. Reward.

Awwww: Shiba Inu puppycam!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010 10:20 pm

Odds and ends for 1/20

Guantanamo homicides update: Col. Michael Bumgarner, the officer at the center of Scott Horton’s article in Harper’s about the “suicides” of three Guantanamo detainees on the night of June 9, 2006, issues a non-denial denial, including denying ever knowing the same witness whose Army Commendation Medal certificate he had signed less than three weeks before the deaths. If that’s the best he can do to cover something up, he’d better get a lawyer.

And speaking of homicides, a memo to the president: Inviting Rick Warren to pray around your inaugural, misguided as it was, is one thing. But attending an event sponsored by the Christofascist anticonstitutionalists The Family is just ridiculous. And sitting down to eat At. A. Freakin’. PRAYER BREAKFAST with a guy who is trying to legislate homicide (a fact that the article in the Ugandan paper, whose Web site claims it offers “truth every day,” conveniently forgot to mention)? Completely, flatly, absolutely unacceptable.

What you don’t know can hurt you: Did you know that the EPA has not banned asbestos despite its clear causal relationship to lung cancer? Did you know that it can’t? I didn’t. But apparently the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act makes it impossible. Fortunately, some changes to the law — which endangers the health of not only consumers and chemical workers but also the medical personnel who treat the latter — are in the works.

Things you should know about Afghanistan: Bribery is 23% of GDP, and the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction says that about three-fourths of its investigations involve at least one Westerner.

Things you should know about banks, courtesy of David Stockman, once Ronald Reagan’s budget director: “The baleful reality is that the big banks, the freakish offspring of the Fed’s easy money, are dangerous institutions, deeply embedded in a bull market culture of entitlement and greed. This is why the Obama tax is welcome: its underlying policy message is that big banking must get smaller because it does too little that is useful, productive or efficient.”

Things you should know about the fault line that caused the Haiti earthquake, particularly if you live in the Dominican Republic: “It is important that the world takes [Purdue seismologist Eric] Calais’ warning about the Septentrional Fault, with a great deal of Urgency. The fault, which runs through the Northern Dominican Republic is due for a quake even larger than that which occurred in Haiti. The Dominican Republic should learn all that it can from Haiti’s experience, as they are proverbially walking down a geological hallway with a large kick me sign affixed to their back.” With very cool, very scary maps.

Professionals face the threat of the amateur: This article focuses specifically on certain types of musicians, but it makes clear that the boundary delineating amateur from professional is growing thinner and grayer in a wide range of areas (including my former bidness, journalism). This tension has been manifest since the medieval rise of craft guilds and informs today everything from blogging to labor law.

And bloggers are killing journalism: Jeffrey Birnbaum, a journalist who has done more to expose the malignant effect of lobbyists on Congress than perhaps any other, is leaving journalism to become a lobbyist. This is not unlike the Mafia luring away the nation’s best FBI agent. Actually, it’s worse: Lobbyists are a bigger plague on society than the Mafia in terms of dollar value of the damage they cause, and there were already far fewer journalists of Birnbaum’s caliber and expertise than there are FBI agents. Sigh.

Opposition to gay marriage faces the threat of the McCains: Sen. John McCain’s wife Cindy has joined the “NoH8″ campaign in California to repeal Prop 8, which banned gay marriage. (Their daughter Meghan joined last summer.) Good for her.

Interesting poll results you probably haven’t seen on TV: By a 3-2 margin, people who voted for Obama in 2008 AND who voted for Republican Scott Brown in Tuesday’s U.S. Senate election in Massachusetts oppose the current health-care bill — not because it goes too far, but because it doesn’t go far enough.

Marrying insight and brevity, Brad at Sadly, No! sums up the meaning of Tuesday’s election: “People will support you if they see that you’re making their lives better. If you don’t do that, then they’ll get [angry] and vote for whatever else is around. And guess what? ‘Whatever else is around’ is, sadly, the [expletive] GOP.”

And after Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling legalizing corporate contributions to politicians, the U.S. will look like Italy: Italian lawmakers have preliminarily approved a bill that would retroactively limit the length of criminal trials, which would have the entirely incidental and coincidental (I’m sure) effect of making pending corruption and tax fraud charges against prime minister Silvio Berluscone just … go away.

Great moments in editing, via my friend Alex Johnson at MSNBC.

And, finally, the Quote of the Day, from Jon Walker — it’s long, so I put it at the end:

Let me put this as simply as possible. Democrats control everything in Washington right now [except SCOTUS, but for legislative purposes, yeah -- Lex]. They control the White House. They have huge margins in the House and in the Senate. Democrats have larger margins in both chambers than any party has had for decades. They have zero excuses for failing to deliver. Americans will not find some nonsense about having only 59 Senate seats as an acceptable excuse for failing to accomplish anything. If Democrats think they can win in 2010 by running against Republican obstructionism, they will lose badly.

Not only will Democrats lose badly if they adopt this strategy, but they will be laughed at. Republicans never had 59 Senate seats, and that did not stop them from passing the legislation they wanted. Trying to explain to the American people how, despite controlling everything, Democrats cannot do anything, because a mean minority of 41 Republican senators won’t let them, is a message that will go over like a lead balloon. If you try to use that excuse, people will think elected Democrats are liars, wimps, idiots, or an ineffectual combination of all three.

Monday, January 18, 2010 8:53 pm

Odds and ends for 1/18

Memo from the NY Times to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission: Public hearings are good, but subpoenaing documents is better. Yup. Banksters committed fraud on a massive scale. This commission isn’t a law-enforcement agency, but what it finds can help Justice and SEC investigators do their jobs. In fact, it may force them to do their jobs, which a mere sense of duty has not, so far, sufficed to do.

More from the FCIC: The head securities regulator for the state of Texas testifies about how the feds have kneecapped state investigators/investigations, not because they would do a better job but to protect the very people they’re supposed to be regulating. Biggest. Fraud. In. History.

Memo to right-wing nuts (and anyone else, although I suspect only the wingnuts would be stupid enough to try this): Do not invite journalists into your home, sit for an interview and then demand their tapes at gunpoint, because your ass will go to prison and your wallet will go to the journalists. Having once covered the Klan, I’m taking particular satisfaction in the outcome of this case.

The Fed elides oversight and political meddling because it thinks you and I are too stupid to know the difference. Stupid Fed.

Darrell Issa wants Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson to testify about the AIG bailout. So do I, but Issa has a little more leverage than I do. Uh, Democrats, that slamming sound you hear is Issa walking out the back door with your populist mandate for 2010.

More fraud uncovered: This time, short-sale fraud. And wonder of wonders, it’s CNBC that has uncovered it. Memo to Mary Schapiro: When CNBC looks both more honest and more industrious than the SEC, then you are officially Teh Suck.

For once, J.P. Morgan outperforms Goldman Sachs … if, by “outperform,” you mean, “directs an even more inexcusably large percentage of its total revenues to banker bonuses”64 percent of revenues. Not of profits, of revenues. Remember, Morgan, like the other 37 banks reviewed by the WSJ, has significant amounts of crap disguised as assets on its balance sheets, and even more crap off the sheets that soon will have to be moved onto the sheets. And are the banks setting aside capital to cover the inevitable write-downs? No, they’re buying helicopters and Hamptons houses.

If voters could vote on Obama’s financial appointments they way they can vote on Chris Dodd, Obama would be paging a lot of empty offices. For good reason.

Liberal academia? Yes — because conservatives choose disproportionately not to become college professors. These findings, albeit not yet published, are consistent with some earlier research.

Who killed Pat Robertson? Why, it was Lily Coyle, in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune (2nd letter down), with a clue.

Freedom’s just another word for no one left to screw: Retiring Sen. Chris Dodd could be scrapping the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency before he goes.

Well, it’s a step: The U.S. releases the names of 645 detainees at Bagram. Good. But some  of those people have been held for years without even being told why. Not good.

PhrMA theatens to blow up health-care reform. A friend of mine has proposed that any attempt to make a profit off health care should be made a crime. I think that’s extreme, but when stuff like this happens, I understand the anger that gives rise to such suggestions.

Dawn Johnsen might say torture is illegal. Therefore, she cannot possibly be allowed to run Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, or else the terrorists win.

Memo to special prosecutor John Durham: In the marathon investigation of the destruction of CIA torture videos, the DFHs are eating your lunch. Bet they aren’t charging the government as much as you, too.

All of a sudden, “conservatives” are in favor of privacy. And it’s interesting how the kind of privacy they favor dovetails neatly with protecting them from being held accountable for their actions. Just a coincidence, I’m sure.

If you’re following Perez v. Schwarzenegger and it sounds awfully like Dover v. Kitzmiller, well,  there’s a reason for that: In both cases, science is/was under siege. Science won in Dover. Let’s see what happens in Perez.

Republicans, having fed off the productive among us for so long, are now simply outraged that one of their own is doing it to them. More specifically, their cynical selection of Michael Steele as national chairman to try to appeal to African American voters now means that even though he needs firing and is daring them to fire him, they can’t do it.

Why does Rush Limbaugh hate the troops? And why do the troops continue to air him on Armed Forces Radio when he hates them?

More map pr0n! Geocurrents has created a map blog tied to news events.

Thought for the day: Requiring drug tests for welfare recipients makes sense only if we also drug-test recipients of federal earthquake relief, tax credits and bank bailouts. Despite what you may have been told, your odds of getting into Heaven do NOT increase in direct proportion to the number of times you kick poor people.

“Never (annoy) a walrus.” Because if you do, the bucket is the least of your problems.

Friday, January 15, 2010 7:15 pm

Odds and ends for 1/15

Why Haiti is so poor: Because it’s an abused nation, David Brooks, you staggeringly stupid person.

The Fort Hood Shootings: DOD’s official report, out today. Haven’t had time to read it.

But Fox News is cracking down on inaccuracy! Really!: The author of a study that Fox claims proves we’re entering a “mini ice age” says, “I don’t know what to do. They just make these things up.”

Relatedly, global-warming denialism is becoming (surprise!) big business.

The Politico has a scoop! “GOP leaders have privately settled on a strategy to win back the House by putting the vast majority of their money and energy into attacking Democrats — and turning this election into a national referendum on the party in power.” Because Wow! They’ve never done that before! [headdesk]

“I want uninterrupted expertise.” Who cares what the public thinks?

For God’s sake, no one tell David Broder: The public thinks bipartisanship is less important than principles. Richard Burr gets this. Does Kay Hagan?

The National Center for Counterterrorism? Has serious problems.

Don’t ask. Don’t tell. Plan: The Pentagon is preparing for the likelihood that DADT will be repealed. Good. Whether they like it or not, Obama certainly campaigned on repeal, so they at least ought to be prepared.

If Joe Lieberman doesn’t like being called “untrustworthy,” maybe he should stop acting, you know, untrustworthy. Because otherwise, a blog not predisposed to liking Joe very much might throw an impromptu contest to see who can come up with the best synonym for “untrustworthy” (oh, so NSFW), and that would be simply awful.

“The costs of imprecision” are staggering and growing.

One of history’s biggest arguments, settled. (I win.) (h/t: Fred)

ZOMG! Real-life “Calvin & Hobbes” snowmen!

Reason No. 4,298 why I love FailBlog (h/t Jill, who had to be a student in sex-ed classes taught by her mom at both school AND church, which must be, like, a preadolescent’s worst nightmare):

Thursday, January 14, 2010 9:57 pm

Odds and ends for 1/14

First, the important stuff: Links where you can contribute to Haiti earthquake relief:

Oxfam
American Red Cross
AmeriCares
Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders

As in most other major disasters, the main thing these organizations need right now is money.* Their experts will know how best to spend it, what’s needed where, etc. In other words, right at the moment, rounding up clothing or canned food or bandages or what-have-you, although certainly well-intentioned, is less helpful than giving these groups the resources to do what they know best how to do. As they identify particular needs, they’ll publicize them.

Anything you can give will help. And please give something. The suffering there is already horrendous, and it will quickly get even worse than most of us can possibly imagine.

*Unless you have a helicopter.

OK, then …

HUNGRY vampire squid: Goldman Sachs didn’t get just 100 cents on the dollar on its exposure to AIG, courtesy of the taxpayers. No, by reselling its AIG credit-default obligations while knowing the taxpayers were going to bail out AIG, but before that info became public, it effectively got more. About $1.2 billion more.

Which is a big part of the problem: Pat Robertson is far more important than you will ever be.

Remember, she reads every newspaper, too: Glenn Beck: Who’s your favorite Founding Father? Sarah Palin: All of ‘em.

Which dinosaur?: A shark described as “dinosaur-sized” attacked and apparently ate a swimmer Tuesday off Cape Town, South Africa. But they didn’t say whether they meant this dinosaur or this one.

Lighter backpacks: Obviously, colleges are going to switch to electronic textbooks to save students money. That move now has a deadline in California: 2020, which seems a bit far off considering that almost two-thirds of the roughly 13,000 textbook titles published by the six largest U.S. publishers already are available electronically.

“If you are watching this video, then I have been murdered by the president of Guatemala hit men I hired myself”: A UN commission concludes that the “assassination” of a lawyer, alleged in a posthumous video to have been ordered by Guatemala’s president, actually was arranged by the lawyer himself in an attempt to destabilize the government. Dude, if you wanted him out, why not just run against him?

You know that scene in “Waterworld” where Kevin Costner drinks his own pee?: The astronauts are feeling his pain.

China vs. Google: Is it really China vs. the U.S.? And was this hack attack, if not a cyber-Pearl Harbor, at the least a dangerous breach of national security?

Senate health-care bill: “A teacher tax, not a Cadillac tax.”

Related: Who needs Republicans when the unions are just as willing to screw the middle class?

Um, ‘cuz they’re, I don’t know, WHORES?!?: Retiring Republican Rep. John Shadegg, asked whether he supports a public option: “Well, you could better defend a public option than you could defend compelling me to buy a product from the people that have created the problem. America’s health insurance industry has wanted this bill and the individual mandate from the get go. That’s their idea. Their idea is, ‘Look, our product is so lousy that lots of people don’t buy it. So we need the government to force people to buy our product.’ And stunningly, that’s what the Congress appears to be going along with. Why would they do that?”

Except it wasn’t hindsight, jackass: I could’ve told you this on Jan. 20 and saved everyone a lot of time: Harry Reid has just now figured out that Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, was never going to vote for health-care reform.

AIG tick-tock: Firedoglake, which has published valuable analysis on such issues as torture and the Scooter Libby case by means of creating documented timelines, applies the technique to the federal government’s bailout of AIG (and its use of AIG to indirectly bail out Goldman Sachs), working with a cache of e-mails obtained and posted online by The New York Times. FDL cautions that it ain’t complete, and I haven’t even begun reading it yet, but if you’re interested in the subject, this is sure to be a valuable resource.

Speaking of torture: The brother of the Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates is caught on videotape torturing and attempting to murder a guy he thought had screwed him in a business deal, but the court let him off anyway after he claimed he was too whacked on medication to know what he was doing. I’ll just say he must have been pretty damn whacked to run over a guy repeatedly without actually quite managing to, you know, kill him.

SCOTUS vs. the U.S.: As I suggested on Monday, the Supreme Court isn’t going to sign off on anything that could be a basis for its having to allow itself to be televised someday. Jackasses. Go ahead and keep talking about how this court’s majority is so strict-constructionist and all, but speak up: I’m going to have trouble hearing you over my own laughter.

Allegany County, Maryland, needs more alligators: Andy says so, and he’s there so he should know.

The Internet — the greatest collection of knowledge in history: How can I make my chicken taste just like the junk they serve at school?

Rupert Murdoch: plagiarist.

Teddy Pendergrass: RIP.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010 10:49 pm

Odds and ends for 1/6

Wall Street vs. Main Street: Despite record profits and record bonuses on Wall Street, overall U.S. payroll withholdings and corporate tax payments in December were down 8.2% (to a multi-year low) and 61.5%, respectively, from December 2008. If you still need proof that the banksters are feasting on the rest of us, well, I’m sorry, you’re just going to have to accept at this point that the sky really is blue, not pink with purple polka-dots.

With sepsis, we can at least hope he suffered some: James von Brunn, the white supremacist who shot and killed a guard at the Holocaust Museum in Washington last June, died today in prison of congestive heart failure and sepsis. Saving the taxpayers the expense of a trial, appeals and execution, von Brunn’s death appears to have been the first considerate thing the 89-year-old ever did in his life.

No matter where in the U.S. you live, one Texas wingnut creationist is deciding which textbooks your kids will use in school. Maybe we should let ‘em secede; the national IQ would probably go up 30 points.

Speaking of wingnuts, Allen Quist is right. Just not in the way he thinks he is.

But … but … but … Democrats are dropping like flies! ABC said so!: As of today, more Republican than Democratic U.S. representatives, U.S. senators and governors are retiring than Democrats. But ABC says Democrats are dropping like flies. This is why I told my reporters not to use subjective terms when objective ones will do.

Speaking of the media, it’s only Jan. 6 and we’ve already had the best media criticism of the year, from commenter PeakVT at Balloon Juice, on why things like Travelgate and Filegate seem to get more media attention than, say, torture and other war crimes: “Republican scandals tend to involve the press corps. For instance, starting an unnecessary war under false pretenses was immensely helped by stenographers like [The New York Times' Judith] Miller. Democratic “scandals” are limited to Democratic politicians, which makes them a lot more fun for the press.”

I’ll believe it when it happens: According to one report, White House anonymice are claiming President Obama will re-nominate Dawn Johnsen to run (and, please God, clean up) the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. Good news, if true.

I would watch this on pay-per-view: MSNBC’s liberal talk-show host Ed Schultz may run to succeed retiring N.D. Sen. Byron Dorgan. Republicans, who are confident of picking up the seat, think of Schultz as just another Al Franken, and they say that like it’s a bad thing.

Jogging bores me to tears, but I will read any jogging blog that regularly uses lines like this: “I’ve been needling my 67-year-old friend Jim to run the half-marathon with me just so I don’t come in last. What kind of friend exploits a slow-moving retiree? I’ll tell you what kind: the kind who doesn’t want to come in last. “

The legal group that worked hardest to create the modern system of capital punishment now says its efforts have been a failure. Given the risk at which it places innocent defendants, it’s hard to argue otherwise. (And yet I find a way, sort of.)

Quote of the day, via Maru:  “What happens if Rush dies in Hawaii? Will anyone believe the death certificate?”

Another Quote of the Day, from Paul Volcker to BusinessWeek, via Goddard Taegan’s Political Wire: “The American political process is about as broken as the financial system.”

And why not one more Quote of the Day, this one from Jason Linkins at HuffPo on the Apple iSlate and its ilk: “… the short-term ‘end of print’ apocalypse will not be felt by people clutching pricey panes of glass, but by a forgotten class of people who need quality journalism as a stopgap against a whole range of societal ills.”

And James Fallows, for the win: “That is the American tragedy of the early 21st century: a vital and self-renewing culture that attracts the world’s talent, and a governing system that increasingly looks like a joke.”

He says he’s only a sportswriter, but Mike Lupica of the NY Daily News says it all with remarkable economy: “Cheney used to be a much better liar than this.”

Cue the “Applachian Trail” jokes. And worse: U.S. Rep. Joe “You Lie!” Wilson, R-S.C., Tweets about hiking through Panthertown National Forest with an “expert hiker” who also happens to be a babelicious congressional intern. (Although I’ll grant that if he’s dumb enough to Tweet about it, he’s probably guilty of nothing more than bad judgment.)

When Guantanamo inmates get transferred to Illinois, will torture come with them? It’s entirely possible.

I’d just like to say that my friend Andy Duncan rules. Yes, he does. And we’re really looking forward to lunch with him and Sydney on Saturday.

Out of the box. WAY out: As America struggles with an Afghan insurgency and the Center for a New American Security prepares for its June convention, Spencer Ackermann proposes what would be a fascinating keynote program: Gen. David Petraeus … and Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap.

Geoffrey Chaucer, who hath a blog, now also hath a forthcoming book, “a solid volume the which ye kan underlyne and spille egg-salad upon and take yn to yower jacuzzi whanne the mood stryketh yow.” Huzzah!

Those of us who don’t work for the MSNM see this as a feature, not a bug: Time’s Mark Halperin whines, “… politically and personally, the First Couple and their top aides have shown no hankering for the Establishment seal of approval, nor have they accepted the glut of invitations to embassy parties and other tribal rituals of the political class.” That would be because they have a mess to clean up that you pretty much ignored for eight years, jackass.

Charmed life: Tsutomu Yamaguchi, the only person known to have survived both U.S. atomic attacks on Japan, is dead at the age of 93.

Better the devil you know than the other devil you know: Sen. Christopher Dodd’s retirement is coming only because of the virtual certainty that he would be unseated in 2010 because of his coziness with banks. But his successor as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee will be even worse.

What part of “public” were you lying about?: C-SPAN’s Brian Lamb, bless him, reminds Congressional Dem leadership of their promise to have House/Senate reconciliation of health-care reform out in the open.

And yet I languish without, probably because of a relative lack of explosives: The demolition of Texas Stadium now has an official corporate sponsor.

Twitter through history. “Too soon? In the Twitter Era it is probably already too late.” And more.

Sunday, January 3, 2010 9:44 pm

Odds and ends for 1/3

Cliff May really wishes his penis were bigger.

Why it’s important to try Khalid Sheikh Muhammad in a civilian court in New York City, by Cynthia Kouril: “Treat him like what he is, a common criminal. Not a great boogeyman, not an arch criminal, not a martyr, just a guy who could not make a success in life living within the social contract and resorted to life on the wrong side of the law. Or in other terms, a failure.”

“People who suck … at analyzing events in real time really, really shouldn’t try to do it a year in advance”: John Derbyshire, Katherine Jean Lopez, Mark Hemingway and especially Jonah Goldberg, call your office. It’s called “reporting,” guys. Learn it. Love it. Live it. Hell, just try it once.

We’re the land of Joyce, but we don’t like to talk about that much.: In the Republic of Ireland it is now punishable by a 25,000-Euro fine (about $40KUSD) to commit blasphemy, defined as “publishing or uttering matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion.” This is just a power grab by some “religious” earthly authorities. Memo to, just for starters, the Roman Catholic Church: Given all your pedophile priests and abusive nuns in Ireland alone, you’ve got bigger fish to fry. Memo to Muslims: I know you want to try to pull this same crap at the global level, but don’t hold your breath.

“Danger, Will Robinson!”: The aforementioned Cynthia Kouril also goes through the string of AIG e-mails recently released and finds that some of those e-mailers are facing, shall we say, significant legal exposure. Interesting how one blogger attorney is laying more prosecutorial groundwork than the SEC.

A moment in time, not a long-term shift: Micah Sifry examines how and why Obama has let down his base. Digby thinks he’ll pay a political price. I think she’s right … and that Congressional Dems will, too, first.

And about those Congressional Dems: They need to listen carefully to what White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanual says and then do the exact opposite.

The good news: New unemployment claims came in at 432,000 for the week ending 12/26, down 22,000 from the week before and lower than expected.

The bad, and more significant, news: The number of people receiving emergency unemployment compensation — money for people whose regular unemployment benefits have been exhausted — hit an all-time record of 4.2 million in November. For the week ended Dec. 12, the number of new EUC claims came in just under 192,000, bringing the overall total to 4.5 million. With numbers like those, consumers won’t be driving any recovery for a long, long time to come.

Follow the money: The Labor Department claims that X number of Americans are unemployed and receiving unemployment or EUC payments. However, cash-flow reports from the Treasury Department suggest that the amount of money going out for such payments would mean that either check amounts have gone up — which hasn’t happened — or the number of people receiving such payments is actually 32% higher than Labor says. That means that if the “official unemployment rate” is roughly 10%, the actual unemployment rate may be more like 13%.

Privacy is so 1984: In case you didn’t know already, police can obtain info from your cell-phone carrier on where you are (or, to be precise, where your phone is) whether or not you have the GPS function enabled, and they don’t need a warrant to do it. The only way you can hide your phone’s location effectively is to remove the battery.

The Bush White House expected congressional Republicans to obstruct justice: So says Alberto Gonzalez in this Esquire interview (how did I miss this earlier?): “We should have abandoned the idea of removing the U. S. attorneys once the Democrats took the Senate. Because at that point we could really not count on Republicans to cut off investigations or help us at all with investigations. We didn’t see that at the Department of Justice. Nor did the White House see that. Karl [Rove] didn’t see it. If we could do something over again, that would be it.”

Fannie and Freddie really are to blame, Marla Singer says, but not in the giving-mortgages-to-poor-black-people-who-shouldn’t-have-gotten-them way that some conservative pundits are arguing. No, it’s worse than that.

What do you call one investment banker out the door? A good first step: A senior AIG officer quits rather than accept a federally imposed salary limit of $500,000 a year. Door. Ass. Of course, for some unfathomable reason the federal “pay czar” let her keep the $2.8 million in severance she claimed she was entitled to, but, hey, at least we’ve called one bankster’s bluff. Sort of.

Speaking of bankers, if you have a money-market fund, you might want to put that money someplace safer because the government may be ending instant redeemability.

Friday, January 1, 2010 12:39 am

Odds and ends for 1/1

I have no idea what the Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee is, but inasmuch as it just sued the Fed for records, I like it already.

Auld Lang Syne: Sam Stein reminds us that then-N.C. Sen. Elizabeth Dole was among 8 GOP senators who voted in 2007 against spending $250 million to upgrade U.S. airport security. On the one hand, what was she thinking? On the other hand, in hindsight, what have we gotten for that $250 million?

Feeling safer yet?: The guy overseeing the probe of how the U.S. compiles and uses its terrorist watchlist is the same guy who 1) helped design it under Bush and 2) got rich working on it in the private sector.

I call BS: VH-1 had some special on tonight about shocking moments in rock or somesuch, one item of which was Keith Richards’ reportedly having snorted his dad’s cremains like cocaine. Unless he ground ‘em up really, really well, it never happened. Cremains are actually coarse enough to give you a fast lung abcess or three if you inhale them. (Sugar will do the same — inhaling pulverized sugar was a favorite suicide method of Soviet Gulag inmates — and cremains are even coarser.) So, as with so much else Keith has done or been reported to have done, kids, do not try this at home.

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times: Ten Things That Totally Sucked About the Media in 2009, followed by Ten Things That Did Not Suck About the Media in 2009.

I presume this legal theory also will be brought to bear in the cases of Guantanamo inmates: Four Blackwater (now Xe) mercenaries get off on murder charges because federal investigators, despite explicit warnings from prosecutors overseeing the case, relied too heavily on compelled statements.

Another military history: The New York Times has obtained and posted a secret, 422-page official military history of the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2005, and the parallels between it and the Vietnam War’s Pentagon Papers are striking and depressing. Memo to those with whom I was arguing on Christie Tatum’s Facebook page on government secrecy: This is a big and classic example of the kind of stuff I was talking about.

“I can’t help but think this is God’s way of telling Rick Warren to STFU.”: So sayeth Lisa Derrick on the lying megachurch pastor’s plea for $900,000 before year’s end. Warren implies that church services to jobless members has combined with lower-than-expected offerings on the last weekend of the year to create this budget gap. I have two questions: How can one weekend create a gap that big? And why should we believe a word that comes out of Rick Warren’s mouth?

Clearly, Focus on the Family needs to STFU, too: This wingnut Christianist outfit has laid off more than 500 people in the past four years but thinks it’s important to spend $4 million on a Super Bowl ad to tell people it opposes abortion. Like we couldn’t have guessed. Jackasses.

Other people who need to STFU: The Dumbest Quotes of the Decade.

Memo, which The Washington Post hasn’t read: Pete Peterson and his outfit are not disinterested analysts/journalists/commenters. They have an agenda, and the agenda is to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and give that money to rich people.

The Stones are crooning “Dead Flowers” and I’m drinking a carbonated beverage made from dead, fermented grain of some sort, and it’s getting on toward bedtime. To better days.

Monday, December 14, 2009 10:02 pm

Odds and ends for 12/14

Kabuki: President Obama talked tough to the bankers today, but don’t be misled: If he 1) knew what he was doing and 2) were serious about it, a lot of the executives he’s talking to would have been jobless by now and the U.S. taxpayer would be substantially better off.

Heck of a job, Bushie: The Bush administration’s birth-control policies helped fuel a population boom in Africa, which also means a poverty boom. Nice.

Tony Blair: We were gonna remove Saddam, and if he didn’t have WMDs, then we’d come up with some other reason. No, that’s actually pretty much what he said. If we don’t put these people in prison, our grandchildren are going to be calling us “good Germans.”

Rumsfeld, 10 military officials skate on torture liability: The Supreme Court declined today to hear an appeal of an appeals-court ruling that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and 10 military officials are immune from civil claims of torture filed by four now-released Guantanamo prisoners from Britain. Even the normally reliable SCOTUSBlog hasn’t elaborated on this ruling, so I’m not sure what it means, but any time the word “immunity” appears close to Rumsfeld’s name, my gorge rises. (So, yeah, in case you’re wondering, I’ve spent the last five years throwing up in my mouth a little bit.)

“The bill is a hodgepodge. And it should be.”: Physician/journalist Atul Gawande, author of this groundbreaking article on why medical costs are rising so fast, says there’s actually a century-old historical precedent for measures in the health-care reform bill to improve efficiency, and a successful precedent at that: agriculture. It’s an unexpectedly optimistic piece. Check it out.

Burn in hell, Joe Lieberman: Ezra Klein says it best: “At this point, Lieberman seems primarily motivated by torturing liberals. That is to say, he seems willing to cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in order to settle an old electoral score.”

“You have toyed with me for the last time!”: Fully a third of Democratic voters say they’ll be less likely to turn out in 2010 if Congress doesn’t pass a public option. Also, 81% say Joe Lieberman should be punished if he filibusters health-care reform. I think Lieberman should be punished in any event, just for being an ass.

Not so fast with that cover-up, there, mate: Also related to the Iraq invasion, six top physicians in Britain have launched legal action to have the purported suicide of government bioweapons expert Dr. David Kelly re-investigated. Kelly died in 2003, supposedly a suicide, just days after he was exposed as the source of a news report that a dossier of evidence regarding Iraq’s WMD program had been “sexed up” to justify invading Iraq. The physicians credibly claim that the investigation was, in technical terms, screwed six ways to Sunday.

Not so fast, the sequel: The Russian Supreme Court has overturned the acquittals of four suspects in the 2006 slaying of journalist Anna Politkovskaya. All four were accused of being accomplices. The actual triggerman, who evidence in the trial said was paid $2 million, is believed to be still at large. (Earlier.)

What’s going on in southern Russia? In August, 20 people died in a suicide bombing, described in Russian news reports as the latest in a series of attacks in the republic of Ingushetia. Then early today in that same area, a large bomb on an above-ground natural-gas pipeline was defused. Insights, anyone?

Ho-ho-home: Authors Stephen and Tabitha King are paying $12,999* so that 150 members of the Maine National Guard, currently in training in Indiana before shipping out to Afghanistan in January, can come home for the holidays. Glad they’re getting to go home. Wish they didn’t have to go overseas.

*Because he thought $13,000 was an unlucky number. One of King’s personal assistants kicked in the remaining buck.

Friday, December 11, 2009 6:21 pm

Odds and ends for 12/11

Memo to BoingBoing.net: Rick Warren has not “done the right thing.” Rick Warren has merely done the only thing that might stave off a PR disaster for himself and what he laughably passes off as a “ministry.” There’s a difference. “Doing the right thing” would have required Ranger Rick to immediately, loudly and repeatedly denounce state-sanctioned murder of gays (and imprisonment of their families/friends for not reporting them). Now study up; this will be on the final.

Why don’t we have a health-care bill yet? Here’s one reason.

Success! Because why in the world would we want to regulate the financial instrument that almost destroyed the global economy?

Aetna’s solution to Robert Steinback’s health-insurance needs: “Die, Mr. Steinback.” As the brother of two guys with Type 1 diabetes, I feel his pain, and I’m still waiting for someone to explain credibly to me why we don’t need at the least a national, robust public option, if not single-payer.

Not exactly giving us what we like: The Senate health-care proposal is less popular than the public option. How much less popular? Seventeen percentage points. That’s huge.

You want death panels? You can’t handle death panels!

And speaking of panels: Digby has a name for the panel Pete Peterson is proposing to figure out a way to balance the budget: the Bipartisan Committee To Destroy Social Security and Medicare So Wealthy People Don’t Ever Have To Pay Higher Taxes. Prolix but accurate.

Facts matter. So take that, Glenn Beck supporters.

The party of responsibility and accountability, which controls the S.C. legislature, has declined to impeach Gov. Mark Sanford.

Another way to get by without health insurance: Yitzhak Ganon just didn’t go see the doctor. For sixty-five years.

We’ve killed al-Qaeda’s No. 3 guy. Again.

The grownups of fact-checking take on “Climategate.” Their findings will surprise no one and enrage denialists.

Shorter Sarah Palin: “Correcting my (many) factual mistakes = making the issue something it’s not.”

Does Fox News want to make us laugh, or is it simply trying to bankrupt Rupert Murdoch?: Even by the rug-burn standards of online polling, this question is so loaded it is leaving big cracks in the digital asphalt.

Green? Shoot!: The number of people shifting to emergency unemployment insurance because their regular coverage had run out topped 379,000 last week, bringing the overall total to a record 4.2 million. At the current rate of increase, the number of people getting emergency payments will top the people getting regular payments (5.5 million) within a month.

Green? Shoot!, the sequel: Independent financial analyst David Rosenberg (via ZeroHedge) says that 1) because of contracting credit and asset deflation, we’re not in a recession, we’re in a depression; 2) the 20% deflation of household assets in the past 18 months — a loss of $12 trillion in value — is “a degree of trauma we have never seen before”, 3) … aw, hell, just go read the whole thing. It’s orders of magnitude more depressing than anything on CNBC, but also appears orders of magnitude more fact-based, unfortunately.

Green? Shoot! Reloaded: Paul Krugman offers some objective criteria by which we might determine exactly what constitutes “good news on the job front.”  Just remember, we’ve got to make up lost ground. A lot of lost ground.

Public pants-wetting: Why do Reps. Trent Franks, Steve King and Sue Myrick hate America?

In news that will surprise exactly zero parents, scientists now say 98% of children under the age of 10 are sociopaths.

And, finally, some good news (h/t: Fred), or, When the Germans say “Prost!”, they mean it: Beer could fight prostate cancer.

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