The celebration of my cousin Geoff Ecker’s life, held Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, in Government Camp, Oregon. Hundreds of family and friends in a little town set on rugged terrain an hour and a half from the nearest airport. Laughter and tears, speeches, poetry, reminiscences, good music and, well, Whitesnake lyrics. (And Geoff’s dog, who now has a new home.) I wish I could have been there.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013 7:01 pm
Wednesday, October 2, 2013 9:56 pm
I’ve posted several times in the past few years (here, here, here, here, and here) about the growing likelihood of a connection between playing pro football and a type of brain injury called chronic traumatic encephalopathy. But between work and school, I never did get around to writing about the recent $765 million settlement between the NFL and former players that was supposed to put to rest allegations that pro football caused debilitating brain injuries. I personally had reservations about any settlement that allowed the NFL to keep its records secret, and I always meant to circle back to this but never did.
Just as well, because two ESPN investigative reporters are publishing a book that appears to have blown the lid off. All the emphases in the excerpt are mine:
The National Football League conducted a two-decade campaign to deny a growing body of scientific research that showed a link between playing football and brain damage, according to a new book co-authored by a pair of ESPN investigative reporters.
The book, “League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions and the Battle for Truth,” reports that the NFL used its power and resources to discredit independent scientists and their work; that the league cited research data that minimized the dangers of concussions while emphasizing the league’s own flawed research; and that league executives employed an aggressive public relations strategy designed to keep the public unaware of what league executives really knew about the effects of playing the game. ESPN The Magazine and Sports Illustrated published book excerpts on Wednesday morning.
The NFL’s whitewash of the debilitating neurological effects of playing football suffered by players began under former commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who left office in 2006, but continued under his successor, current commissioner Roger Goodell, according to the book written by ESPN investigative reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru.
The book, which will be released Tuesday by Crown Archetype, compares the NFL’s two decades of actions on health and safety to that of Big Tobacco — the group of cigarette-making corporations whose executives for years covered up the fact their products contained dangerous, addictive, potentially deadly and cancer-causing chemicals.
“There are many differences,” the Fainaru brothers write in “League of Denial,” “but one is that football’s health crisis featured not millions of anonymous victims but very public figures whose grotesque demises seemed almost impossible to reconcile with their personas.”
NFL executives declined to cooperate with the authors on the book. On Wednesday morning, league spokesman Greg Aiello declined to comment.
Among the major findings in “League of Denial,” which the Fainarus spent more than a year researching and writing:
• Two original members of a concussion committee established by Tagliabue disavowed the committee’s major findings, including the NFL’s assertion that concussions were minor injuries that never led to long-term brain injury.
• As far back as 1999, the NFL’s retirement board paid more than $2 million in disability payments to former players after concluding football gave them brain damage. But it would be nearly a decade before league executives would publicly acknowledge a link.
• Beginning in 2000, some of the country’s top neuroscientists warned the NFL that football led to higher rates of depression, memory loss, dementia and brain damage.
• The league in 2005 tried unsuccessfully to have medical journals retract the published work of several independent concussion researchers.
• Independent researchers directly warned Goodell about the connection between football and brain damage in 2007, but the commissioner waited nearly three years to acknowledge the link and to dismantle the league’s discredited concussion committee. In 2009, two other independent researchers delivered still more evidence that football caused brain damage during a private meeting at the NFL’s Park Avenue headquarters. Yet the league committee’s co-chairman, Dr. Ira Casson, mocked and challenged the researchers so aggressively that he offended others who were present, including a Columbia University suicide expert and a U.S. Army colonel who directed the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center.
• As the crisis escalated, the NFL tried desperately to regain control of the issue and contain damage to its brand. Before an October 2009 hearing on football and brain injuries conducted by the House Judiciary Committee, the NFL lobbied successfully to prevent Goodell from testifying on the same panel as the father of a high school quarterback who had died after sustaining a concussion.
• Dr. Ann McKee, the leading expert on football and brain damage, told the authors that she believes the incidences of neurodegenerative disease among NFL players will prove to be “shockingly high” and that “most NFL players are going to get this. It’s just a question of degree.” Since 2005, when the disease was first diagnosed in deceased NFL players, McKee has studied 54 brains harvested from deceased NFL players. All but two had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). “I’m really wondering where this stops,” she told the Fainarus. “I’m really wondering if every single football player doesn’t have this.”
I am particularly struck by the very apt comparison of league officials to tobacco executives. The sole significant difference at this point is that league officials, to my knowledge, have not stood up and lied to Congress about what they knew.
But they’ve run all these smarmy promo ads about how concerned they are about preventing and treating concussions and teaching young kids heads-up tackling and all the rest. Meanwhile, they were just as aware as I and many others of what the research is showing us, which includes the fact that you don’t have to get a concussion, let alone multiple concussions, to sustain brain injury. There’s no technological fix on the horizon for that, and no way to change the game and still have it be recognized as football. Tagliabue and Goodell are guilty of, at the least, negligent homicide
This won’t kill the NFL, of course. But over a generation or two, potential players will drift to other sports, and the audiences with money will, too. The poor and desperate will be the only ones who play, and the NFL will fade into the shadows.
Wednesday, September 11, 2013 9:19 am
My last big post on the anniversary of 9/11 was in 2010, and I really have little to add to that, other than deep gratitude that we might be getting an indication in the case of Syria that things don’t always have to be like this. Instead, I’m going back, as I do every year, to read Sarah “Sars” Bunting’s post-9/11 essay, “For Thou Art With Us,” and I strongly urge you to do the same.
Tuesday, July 16, 2013 7:26 pm
Monday, July 15, 2013 6:42 pm
If there really were a national background check for mental stability before you could buy a gun, I’m not sure American Society could pass one.
One man accosted another and when it became a fist fight, one man — and one man only — had a firearm. The rest is racial rationalization and dishonorable commentary.
If I were a person of color in Florida, I would pick up a brick and start walking toward that courthouse in Sanford. Those that do not, those that hold the pain and betrayal inside and somehow manage to resist violence — these citizens are testament to a stoic tolerance that is more than the rest of us deserve. I confess, their patience and patriotism is well beyond my own.
Except in self-defense, violence is never the answer. And my take on this case is that it was Trayvon Martin, not George Zimmerman, who, under the law, was standing his ground and defending himself.
But this pooch of a case was screwed from the start, when the Sanford PD failed to take elementary care of the crime scene, and no amount of after-the-fact investigation, no matter how disinterested and well-intentioned, was going to unscrew it. The verdict was sad, even awful, but not, to me, surprising. And Charlie Pierce at Esquire is not the only person who has said, repeatedly, that no good will come from this case. I’d dearly love to be surprised, but I share his sentiment.
Wednesday, July 10, 2013 8:04 pm
This is an anecdote, not data. But it’ll make you wonder.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013 6:56 am
Berkeley economist Brad DeLong includes in his blog a valuable daily feature, “Liveblogging World War II.” This is the installment from May 8, 1943 — two years to the day before the war in Europe ended — written by the Nazis’ propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels. The level of projection is mind-boggling, as if Goebbels had consumed magic mushrooms, but it’s also a reminder that there’s a boatload of projection, differing only in scale but not in type, in today’s political dialogue, and that, no, both sides don’t do it.
The War and the Jews
The naivete, not to mention ignorance, with which certain European circles see the Jewish Question in the fourth year of this gigantic struggle is astonishing. They cannot or will not see that this war is a war of the Jewish race and its subject people against Western culture and civilization. Everything that we Germans and Europeans, defenders of the principle of a moral world order, hold dear is at risk. The above-mentioned circles are too inclined to see the Jewish Question as a humanitarian issue. They make their judgments on the feelings of the moment rather than on the knowledge and insight resulting from clear and calm reason.
It is clear that if during this war we show the least weakening of our determination to resolve the Jewish Question, the result will be the gravest danger to our people and Reich and all of Europe.
Jewry wanted this war. Whether one looks to the plutocratic or the bolshevist side of the enemy camp, one sees Jews standing in the foreground as instigators, rabble-rousers and slave drivers. They organize the enemy’s war economy and encourage plans to exterminate and destroy the Axis powers. England and the USA recruit from among them bloodthirsty and vengeful agitators and political lunatics, and they are the source of the terror commissars of the GPU. They are the mortar that holds the enemy coalition together.
In the National Socialist Reich, they see a power that resists their drive for world domination both militarily and intellectually. That explains their rage and deep hatred. Do not think that the Old Testament tirades of their newspapers and radio are merely political propaganda. They would carry it all out to the letter, should they have the opportunity.
Our state’s security requires that we take whatever measures seem necessary to protect the German community from their threat. That leads to some difficult decisions, but they are unavoidable if we are to deal with the threat. This war is a racial war. The Jews started it and they direct it. Their goal to destroy and exterminate our people. We are the only force standing between Jewry and world domination. If the Axis powers lose the war in Europe, no power on earth could save Europe from the Jewish-Bolshevist flood.
It may seem surprising that such a small minority possesses such great power and is such a deadly danger. But it is so. International Jewry uses certain criminal methods to gain world domination that are not evident to uneducated nations. The same is true in private life. The Jews do not enjoy economic success because they are more intelligent than non-Jews, but rather because they follow a different moral code. They attempt to conceal their methods for as long as possible, until it is too late for the affected nation to defend itself. Then it takes a revolution to dislodge them. We know how difficult and tiresome that is.
We constantly hear news that anti-Semitism is increasing in enemy nations. The charges being made against the Jews are the same ones that were made here. Anti-Semitism in enemy nations is not the result of anti-Semitic propaganda, since Jewry fights that strongly. In the Soviet Union, it receives the death penalty. Jewry does all it can to oppose anti-Semitism. The word Jew itself, for example, is hardly to be found in the otherwise so talkative English and USA newspapers, not to mention the Bolshevist press. Still, anti-Jewish attitudes are growing among the enemy public. This is an entirely natural reaction to the Jewish danger on the part of the affected peoples. In the long run, it does the Jews no good to plead in parliament and the newspapers for tougher laws against anti-Semitism, or to haul out the highest secular and spiritual dignitaries, among them naturally the Archbishop of Canterbury, to say a good word for the poor innocent persecuted Jews. They did that in Germany before 1933 too, but the National Socialist revolution took place nonetheless.
None of the Führer’s prophetic words has come so inevitably true as his prediction that if Jewry succeeded in provoking a second world war, the result would be not the destruction of the Aryan race, but rather the wiping out of the Jewish race. This process is of vast importance, and will have unforeseeable consequences that will require time. But it can no longer be halted. It must only be guided in the right direction. One must also be sure to strike the weapon of public deception from Jewry’s hands, which it is desperately using to save its skin. One can already see that in the face of approaching catastrophe the Jews are shrinking into the background. They send their pet Goy to the fore. It will not be long before they will not want to do it any longer, and wash their hands in innocence.
As one has to grant, we have some experience in these matters, and are taking action to be sure they do not succeed. The Jews will have to answer for their countless crimes against the happiness and peace of mankind, and one day the whole world will give them the penalty that they are suffering today in Germany. We speak without resentment. The time is too grave to spin naive plans of revenge. This is a world problem of the first order that can be solved by the present generation, and must be solved by them. Sentimental considerations have no part here. We see Jewry as the embodiment of a general world decline. Either we will break this danger, or the peoples of the world will break under it.
No one should say that winners are boastful. At present, we are the victors only in our own nation. Our victory at home, however, drew upon us the diabolic hatred of World Jewry, whose advance members the Jews still with us see themselves as. They want to see the Axis powers defeated, for that is the only way for them to regain their old privileges. It makes sense for us to secure our rear so that we can continue the battle before us with full energy and enthusiasm.
When dealing with the Jews there are only two choices: to surrender to them or to fight them. We have chosen the latter. As our enemy attacks without mercy, so do we. The future will prove who is right. Developments to far, however, seem to be more in our favor than the enemy’s. Opposition to the Jews, not friendship with them, is growing around the world. We are convinced that at the end of the war, Jewry will face a humanity that fully understands the Jewish Question.
Recently a leading London newspaper, which is wholly under Jewish control, printed an article that wondered at the alarming increase in anti-Semitism. It received many letters in response, and had to admit that only a tiny percentage took the Jewish side. The pro-Semitic letters, though the newspaper did not say this, probably were written by the Jews themselves. The others made the strongest attacks on Jewry, and the readership forced the paper to print some of them. They included all the insults one could hope for. This anti-Semitism is not racially grounded, and its roots are not at all clear, but one may still establish with some satisfaction that healthy popular instincts are beginning to manifest themselves even in enemy nations, Things are not much different in the United States. One of the letters encouraged the newspaper to send reporters to streetcars and trains. There they would hear numerous opinions about the Jews that deserved more than ironic dismissal.
That is the way it normally begins. The Jews in England are reacting in the usual ways. First they look injured and unjustly persecuted. In the synagogues, the rabbis encourage people to be more careful in public, and to avoid provocative behavior. Then they rent a few respected, but buyable leaders from society, business or religious life to make their case. Their well-paid job is to condemn anti-Semitism as a cultural disgrace that is the result of enemy propaganda. They call for stronger laws against it. The poor Jews whine in public about everything they have done for the country, what wonderful and patriotic citizens they have always been and will continue to be, the important offices they hold, etc. The innocent citizen is persuaded by a flood of words that he must have been mistaken in always seeing Jews behind all major political or economic crimes. Soon they find some high church leader who is ready to condemn anti-Semitism as anti-Christian. By the end, not the Jews, but their enemies are responsible for every national misfortune. Then the game starts all over again.
One has to grant that extraordinarily clever tactics are being used, and that it takes some intelligence or sound instincts to see behind the Jewish facade. But here, too, the jug carries water until it breaks. International Jewry’s attack on the culture and moral order of the world is cleverly concealed, but not cleverly enough so that it cannot be seen through. One must keep at their heels, and give them no rest when they begin to tire. They are virtuosos at the art of transformation. They can appear in a thousand forms, yet are always the same. If one has caught them, they claim injured innocence and send their guard of pity on ahead to beg for mercy. But if one extends them even a finger of pity, they chop the whole hand off. They must therefore be kept in the fear of the Lord.
We know that they hate us from the depths of their souls. We take pleasure in their hatred. There is nothing that they would not do to us if they had the power. We cannot therefore give them even the slightest bit of power. More than that, it is our duty to tell the world of their nature and their depravity. We must again and again prove their sick role in beginning and carry on this war. We must attack them incessantly, accuse them without pity of the crimes of which they are guilty, until the nations begin to wake up. That may take a long time, but it is worth it. We are dealing with the most dangerous enemy that ever threatened the life, freedom, and dignity of humanity. There can be no mercy. We have pity only for the countless millions of our own people and those of other European nations who will be given over to the hate and destructive will of this devilish race if we become weak and give up the battle. Those Philistines who today are so eager to protect the Jews would be their first victims.
We must all keep alert. We must be on guard against the insidious cleverness of the international world enemy. In the depths of his soul, he realizes that this war that he so frivolously began, expecting it to be the last step to world domination, has instead become a war for his racial existence. He desperately seeks to stop the inevitable march of events. It will do him no good. We will keep at him. In the end, the Führer’s prophecy about World Jewry in 1939, which they laughed at then, will come true.
The Jews laughed in Germany too when they first saw us. They are not laughing any longer. They chose to wage war against us. But that war is turning against them. When they planned a war to totally destroy the German nation, they signed their own death warrant.
Here, too, world history will be the world court.
A footnote: My Uncle Frank, who, as a 19-year-old Army lieutenant in Germany, witnessed some of the camps and attended some of the Nuremberg trials, lies in hospital this morning after removal yesterday of what the pathologist called a “big, ugly” Stage III tumor. He’s an atheist — probably not the only one who experienced what he did — but I’m sure his family would appreciate your prayers.
Friday, May 3, 2013 6:47 pm
Charlie Pierce bashes gun nuts AND points out a double standard so that I don’t have to (thanks, Charlie)
If your “way of life” involves handing deadly weapons to five-year-olds, your way of life is completely screwed up and you should change it immediately because it is stupid and wrong. (And, again, also, too: goddammit, “learning to use and respect a gun” means at least knowing that the fking thing is loaded when it’s sitting in the corner of the parlor like it’s a damn umbrella stand or something, and we should talk about that part, too.) It is not in any way “normal” to hand a kindergartner a firearm. If a mother from the inner-city of, say, Philadelphia did that, and the kid subsequently shot his sister to death, Fox News never would stop yelling about the crisis in African American communities and the Culture Of Death, and rap music, too. If your culture is telling you that children who have only recently emerged from toddlerhood should have their own guns, then your culture is deadly and dangerous and that should concern you, too. If your culture demands that, in the face of a general national outrage over the killing of other children, your politics work to loosen the gun laws you have, as they apparently did in Kentucky, then your culture is making your politics stupid and wrong and you should change them, too. I do not have to understand these people any more, and it is way too early in the day to be drinking this much.
Actually, as I post this, it is not at all too early to be drinking this much.
Saturday, April 27, 2013 8:00 am
Tuesday, April 16, 2013 12:05 am
I was so buried in my own little world of work and homework today that I didn’t hear about the bombs in Boston until almost five hours after the first explosion. About 4:30 this afternoon, the whole Internet seemed to freeze, so I tweeted from my phone, wondering who had broken the Web. I got answers almost immediately but didn’t see them until much later.
We appear to know little now, and that’s OK. We’ll find out what we need to. I refuse to speculate, except to say this: Whoever set those bombs, whoever killed and wounded those innocent people, is a coward. Of that I’m confident to a moral certainty.
In addition to the Boston Marathon, and tax day, today is the day on which are commemorated the battles of Lexington and Concord, the beginning of the American fight for independence. And so it is that I am reminded of two quotes, both by Edward R. Murrow, the broadcast journalist who grew up a stone’s throw from where I type this evening:
“No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices.” – 7 March 1954
“We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men — not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.” — 9 March 1954
The cowards who planted the bombs want us to be afraid. But so do many of our leaders. “Be afraid,” they told us after 9/11. “Be afraid,” they told us after 7/7. “Be afraid,” they told us after 3/11. And why not? For the more afraid we are, the more of our freedoms they can take, and the more they have taken already. If you doubt me, look at what has happened to the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments after 9/11. And yet we worship the Second as if it were some Aztec idol into whose bloody maw the still-beating hearts of our countrymen must be thrown for appeasement, even as we know that no number of firearms could have prevented what happened today.
But no. Let us not be afraid. Not this time, and never again. This time, let us bury our dead, minister to our wounded, and comfort our bereaved as best we can even though we know for some there is no comfort and never will be. And then let us go live as the best Americans and the best human beings we can be, knowing that the time may come when any or all of us might have to run into the fire, like the cops and firefighters and EMTs did today, whether that fire be caused by a bomb or by the sociopathy of those, domestic and foreign, who would destroy what is best about America and who have run wild for far, far too long.
(Edited to correct late-night grammar.)
Thursday, April 4, 2013 6:53 am
Forty-five years ago today, Martin Luther King was murdered.
I saw U2 perform this song in the old Atlanta Omni during the 1986 Amnesty International fund-raising tour, and let me tell you, when they did, live in a full arena in the middle of King’s home town, I felt the hand of God in a way I seldom have, in or out of church, in my entire life. More than a quarter-century later I still get chills just thinking about it.
“In the name of Dr. Martin Luther King …. sing!”
Friday, March 15, 2013 7:24 am
Friday, February 1, 2013 5:01 am
Ten years ago today, the astronauts aboard the space shuttle Columbia died when their vehicle broke up over Texas on re-entry, about 14 minutes before a scheduled landing in Florida.
Not to get all technical on you, but a piece of the booster rocket that lifted the shuttle into space broke off and damaged its wing. In the vacuum of space, that didn’t matter. But in the searing temperatures of atmospheric re-entry, the heat plus the damage destroyed the wing and with it the shuttle and the lives aboard.
The best tribute I read to those astronauts was written the next day, by a guy who sent it in an email to blogger Nancy Nall. I saw it on Nancy’s blog and posted it myself; when I went looking for it recently, it was gone, alone with some other of Nancy’s older entries. (A few of my older entries are missing, too, victims of a screwed up export from Blogspot to WordPress that even Archive.org couldn’t make right.) But I still had it on my blog.
The shuttle program is over, and as I write this, it is far from clear what shape U.S. manned space flight will take, if there even is any more in my lifetime. I hope that there is. Space captures the imagination of almost all of us, from Ptolemy to “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry, but we don’t all of us get to go, and the guy who wrote this to Nancy on Sunday, Feb. 2, 2003, knew why:
I hope that tomorrow morning all over America schoolteachers are pointing out to their students how many Ph.D’s and master’s degrees were on board Columbia. Willie McCool had three of them. He graduated second in his class at Annapolis [the U.S. Naval Academy]. Whenever we lose one of these things we lose some amazing people. That’s because every time we launch one we send up into space amazing people.
Laurel Clark was the least accomplished of the crew: she was a mere MD.
I love it that Ramon took that drawing up with him. I love it that David Brown (another mere MD) was once in a circus. Just as I loved it that Judith Resnick was a classical musician.
Spock was a musician. Kirk was a history buff. Sulu read Dumas. Roddenberry knew who’d be going because that’s who’s always gone. Cook and Darwin and the captain of the Beagle and Merriwether Lewis.
“Come find me.”
More and more I think that’s God’s First Commandment.
And only the best and brightest obey it.
Thursday, January 24, 2013 8:10 pm
From PBS’s Frontline:
Brain scans performed on five former NFL players revealed images of the protein that causes football-related brain damage — the first time researchers have identified signs of the crippling disease in living players.
Researchers who conducted the pilot study at UCLA described the findings as a significant step toward being able to diagnose the disease known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE, in living patients.
“I’ve been saying that identifying CTE in a living person is the Holy Grail for this disease and for us to be able make advances in treatment,” said Dr. Julian Bailes, co-director of NorthShore Neurological Institute in Evanston, Ill., and one of the study’s co-authors. “It’s not definitive and there’s a lot we still need to discover to help these people, but it’s very compelling. It’s a new discovery.”
If it turns out that we can now diagnose CTE in living patients — and that remains to be confirmed, I hasten to add — I think the NFL’s days as America’s Sport are numbered. I don’t think pro football could be either regulated or sued out of existence, but I think it probably would move well away from the center of popular culture toward the fringes. Put another way, well-off and middle-class kids would find other things to do with their time because their well-off and middle-class parents would probably insist on it, and a lot of the NFL’s current audience would find other things to do with its time as well, and so there would go the big advertisers and there would go most of the big money.
And there would still be young people poor and/or desperate enough to play the game for money even in the face of incontrovertible evidence that it was damaging their brains and shortening their lives.
Thursday, November 1, 2012 6:09 pm
Maybe, just maybe, we’re going to see something we haven’t seen in America in a long time – institutional justice as well as personal punishment:
Graham B. Spanier, the former president of Penn State, was charged Thursday with helping to cover up the child abuse allegations involving Jerry Sandusky that have roiled the university and its famed football program over the past year.
During a news conference, Pennsylvania’s attorney general, Linda Kelly, said Spanier faced five charges: perjury, obstruction of justice, endangering the welfare of children, criminal conspiracy and failure to report suspected child abuse. She also said that two other former university officials — Gary Schultz, the former university vice president, and Tim Curley, the former athletic director — would face the same five charges.
Schultz and Curley were already scheduled to stand trial in January on charges of perjury and failing to report child sexual abuse. Kelly specifically mentioned incidents in 1998 and 2001 when Spanier, Schultz and Curley spoke about allegations that Sandusky had abused boys on campus but did not take measures to stop him.
See, Justice Department? That wasn’t so hard. If a state attorney general can do it, how ’bout the feds go after the child-molesting priests and their enabling bishops and Pope? You know, seek … um, what’s it called again? Oh, yeah, justice.
Wednesday, October 24, 2012 7:17 pm
The fall of the mainstream media has had many causes, but speaking as someone who spent a quarter-century working in it, I think few have been more damaging than the adherence to narratives that were either no longer operative or never true in the first place. And nowhere has this adherence been more in evidence than in how the MSM, your so-called liberal media, has behaved toward the Republican Party. Yes, journalists tend toward the middle of the political spectrum (there are almost no true leftists anymore), but 45 years of working the refs has had such an all-encompassing effect that no one is mentioning the elephant defecating in the room. Steve M. at No More Mr. Nice Blog summarizes:
But the press had a story. It’s a great, multi-threaded story, really, even though nobody in the press thinks it is. It’s a story the press could have been telling us for years, but never wanted to bother: the story of a major American political party going absolutely stark raving mad, while having the power and persuasive ability to potentially take the country with it. It’s a party that flirted with nominating barking lunatics such as Donald Trump, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum before settling on a guy who was able to mollify supporters of those lunatics by faking (or imbibing) madness himself, by being a pathological liar, and by spending millions of dollars — because this party is crazy about the rich, and has persuaded much of the country to want to coddle the rich even after the rich nearly destroyed the world.
The party lurches from superstitious belief to superstitious belief (in the phoniness of climate change, in the existence of massive Democratic voter fraud, in the imminence of sharia law in the U.S., in the socialist/Muslim leanings of the centrist Christian in the White House, and so on). The rich guy at its head flirted with some of those beliefs and gave aid and comfort to firm believers in them.
If the party were a celebrity or a historical figure, it would be Charlie Sheen or Caligula, and everyone would want to tell the story. But nobody wants to tell this story. Nobody wants to write that the GOP is insane. Nobody wants to write that a great country can’t survive with crazy zillionaires selling conspiracy theories to angry white people via 24/7 media, just so they can get somewhat lower tax rates.
The story is there, guys. It wasn’t good enough for you, I guess.
Or, as Driftglass puts it:
And yet the MSM continues to prop up the rotting carcass of the GOP like the corpse in ”Weekend at Bernie’s”, and waltz it lovingly across the national stage year after year after year, protecting it as ferociously as they would their own children even as it goes raving mad, putrefies and crumbles to reek and maggots in their arms.
If a guy commits a crime and you help him, you’re guilty of a crime yourself — aiding and abetting, at the least. So when you aid and abet the journey to insanity of one of the country’s two major parties, and perhaps the entire country along with it, what does that make you?
Tuesday, October 23, 2012 7:32 pm
Freelance journalist Benjamin Hall in this guest post for Esquire:
I have just returned from Aleppo, the northwestern Syrian city with some of the most bloody fighting (at least 20 dead today) and some of the most striking examples of just how factious the rebellion has become.
I watched as one FSA brigade fired a 50-caliber machine gun as cover fire for another to retrieve a dead body, only for the same two groups to scream at each other later and refuse to help in fighting the next day.
I watched (and ducked) as rebel groups fought over a new weapons influx and shot over each others’ heads, and I wondered: If they’re shooting arms at each other, how do we decide who to better shoot at Assad’s army?
I watched (and listened) as FSA members told me they prefer to enter into Aleppo illegally, rather than crossing through an FSA gate held by the Islamic Asft Alshmal brigade, saying, “They’re not our guys — they’re bad and they take bribes from refugees.”
I watched (and worried) as Salafi jihadis entered into the conflict here, voicing their opposition to Western values — and their aim to impose Sharia law — and I wondered: “Partners”? What partners?”
Obama seems to be indicating (correctly) that it is impossible to know where U.S.-backed weapons will end up and who will get them — that it could then become irresponsible to arm any factions at all. “We are making sure that that those we help are those who will be friends of ours in the long term,” he said on Monday — in a seemingly rationale (if cautious) approach.
Romney believes (correctly) that weapons are getting to the wrong people already, and that is irresponsible for the West not to try and flow weapons to more moderate groups — that it is not impossible. “We need to have a very effective leadership effort in Syria,” he said at the debate, “making sure that the insurgents there are armed and that the insurgents that become armed are people who will be the responsible parties.”
The president shot back that the U.S. is, in fact, “playing the leadership role,” but therein lies the Catch-22: If the U.S. doesn’t actively arm rebels, fundamentalists might get more weapons anyway; if the U.S. goes far enough, as Romney has suggested, to arm FSA partners with rockets and surface-to-air missiles, Sunni insurgents can’t be far behind in tracking down that kind of heavy artillery in the crossfire. And we all know how that turned out in Iraq.
Thursday, October 11, 2012 8:21 pm
Two years ago, my sister-in-law Christine Alexander and her brother Mason Kunze published in book form the journals kept by their grandfather, a Wehrmacht infantryman who had fought on the Russian front during World War II. The hardcover version of the journals, which began just before the June 1941 German invasion and continued through mid-1943, sank without a trace,. That didn’t surprise me — small publisher, labor of love and all — but it did disappoint me because the book was compelling enough to appeal to a wide audience, even people without any particular interest in World War II. The writer wrote simply, from a grunt’s-eye view, and he wrote without flinching about what he witnessed. As the kids say, it was about as real as sh*t gets.
However, the Kindle version did better. Much better. In fact, unbeknownst to any of us until earlier today, back in mid-August the Kindle version hit No. 8 on the Wall Street Journal list of best-selling nonfiction e-books.
If you’ve got a Kindle and 10 bucks, download it. I’m not going to swear that you’ll enjoy it, but I promise you you’ll have a hard time putting it down. And when you’re done, take a minute and think about the fact that sterile terms like “pre-emptive strike” and “collateral damage” boil down, in real life, to the savagery you’ve just read about.
Tuesday, September 11, 2012 5:54 am
For my money, still the only thing written in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 that’s worth revisiting every year. Would to God it weren’t necessary, but take a bow, Sars.
Thursday, July 26, 2012 8:29 pm
Sorry, but, yes, the 2008 bank bailouts really were as much of a reaming of the American taxpayer as we thought at the time
Another crappy “both-sides-do-it” column: Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers write at Bloomberg that our current political debate on the economy is a “sham” because leading economists unanimously agree that the bailouts helped the unemployment situation. But economist Dean Baker provides the missing context: While that claim might be technically true, the bailouts could have been structured far more constructively than they were, both to address then-current problems and to help prevent the recurrence of similar problems:
The Wall Street banks were on life support in the fall of 2008. Without trillions of dollars of government loans and guarantees (much more came from the Fed than the TARP money that went through the Treasury), they would be dead, deceased, pushing up daisies, out of business. The boys and girls getting those huge paychecks on Wall Street were at Uncle Sam’s doorstep pleading for help. There was no one else to save them from destitution.
In this context there were three main choices. One was to drag out Mitt Romney and give them a lecture about the free market and tell them the government is not about giving people stuff. In this case the banks go under leading to a full-fledged financial melt-down. In this story, the economy certainly takes a bigger immediate hit, but the advantage is that we have a Wall Street free world. Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan and the rest would be history. They are in receivership, waiting to broken up and sold off. This parasitic sector that has led to so much waste, corruption and inequality is no longer a drag on the economy. Consider this short-term pain for long-term gain. (Just kidding about the Romney part, he supported the bailout.)
The second choice is hand over the money, which is the route we took. Oh yeah, Congress did put conditions on the money, but we know that was just for show. One of the most disgusting things I’ve seen in my years in Washington were the excellent stories on how executive compensation was treated in the TARP that the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal ran after the TARP passed.
Both articles featured comments from compensation expert Graeff Crystal who explained that the government could have changed compensation patterns on Wall Street forever (the Wall Street boys needed the money), but Congress instead took a pass. It would have been great if Crystal’s views were part of the public debate before the bill was passed.
This brings up option number 3, hand the money over but with real conditions. Congress could have said that banks that got TARP money, funds through the Fed’s special lending facilities, or benefited from the various Treasury and FDIC insurance commitments had to:
a) strictly limit all pay in all forms for the next five years;
b) set up a clear, legally enforceable plan for writing down underwater mortgages on their books;
c) agree to a breakup schedule that would get them below “too big to fail” size by a set date.
To my mind, option #3 was clearly the best route since it would fix the financial industry and avoid the crash that would result from going cold turkey in option #1. But let’s say that the choice is just the full crash in option #1 or the handout in option #2. In order to seriously decide between these we need some basis for assessing the size of the downturn. Saying that the short-term impact would have been worse in option #2 doesn’t tell us anything about the proper policy choice. We pay short-term costs for long-term benefits all the time. We need the terms of the trade-off.
In ths respect, the commonly claimed “second Great Depression”scenario is, to use a technical economic term, “crap.” The first Great Depression, by which I mean a decade of double-digit unemployment was not locked in stone by the mistakes made at its onset. There was nothing that would have prevented the government from having the sort of massive stimulus spending that eventually got us back to full employment (a.k.a. World War II) in 1931 instead of 1941 and without the war. The fact that we remained in a depression for more than a decade was due to inadequate policy response.
In this respect, to claim that if we let the banks collapse we would have been destined to suffer a decade of double digit unemployment is absurd. That would only be the result if we continued to have bad policy, not just in 2008, but in 2010, in 2012, right through to 2018.
The serious question is how bad could we reasonably expect the downturn to have been if we had gone the cold turkey route. The place to look for insight on this question is Argentina, which went the financial collapse route in December of 2001. This was the real deal. Banks shut, no access to ATMs, no one knowing when they could get their money out of their bank, if they ever could.
This collapse led to a plunge in GDP for three months, followed by three months in which the economy stabilized and then six years of robust growth. It took the country a year and a half to make up the output lost following the crisis.
While there is no guarantee that the Bernanke-Geithner team would be as competent as Argentina’s crew [indeed, subsequent events have shown that they are not -- Lex], if we assume for the moment they are, then the relevant question would be if it is worth this sort of downturn to clean up the financial sector once and for all. I’m inclined to say yes, but I certainly could understand that others may view the situation differently.
Anyhow, this is the debate that we should have had the time and at least be acknowledging in retrospect.
We had the bastards down in the fall of 2008, and we didn’t hit them with the chair. A century from now that failure will be considered the key turning point in the transition of the U.S. from a democratic republic to a full-on oligarchy.
Saturday, July 7, 2012 3:41 pm
UPDATE, 11:25 p.m. 7/10: He just showed up, in good shape but very skinny and hungry. Now he’s fed, and we’re breaking a general rule tonight and letting him sleep with us. Ahhhhh …
UPDATE: I’ve made this post sticky for a bit. Newer content begins below.
Tracy, our 3-year-old, neutered male orange tabby, is missing.
He was last seen last Saturday evening, June 30, in our fenced back yard on South College Park Drive. He weighs about 10-11 pounds and has prominent stripes and a small, healed notch in his right ear. He’s sociable enough to walk right into your house, but at the time he had no collar on and could be mistaken for a stray. Anyone who sees him, please get in touch. We want him to come home! You can email me at lex dot alexander [at] gmail dot com.
UPDATE: I’ve made this post sticky for a bit. Newer content begins below.
Friday, April 13, 2012 5:40 am
Ill and aging, the psychiatrist who claimed in 2001 that therapy could turn gay people straight now admits that he was wrong:
The psychiatrist behind a prominent 2001 study declaring people can go from gay to straight has retracted his original claims.
Although the research is still cited by anti-gay organizations as proof that so-called ex-gay therapy works to change someone’s sexual orientation, the study has endured scientific criticism for years.
Now, Robert Spitzer, who led the research, told American Prospect that he wants to publish a retraction.
“In retrospect, I have to admit I think the critiques are largely correct,” Spitzer said. “The findings can be considered evidence for what those who have undergone ex-gay therapy say about it, but nothing more.”
Spitzer’s confession was part of writer Gabriel Arana‘s account of growing up gay, and struggling to change his sexual orientation by undergoing therapy.
Arana interviewed Spitzer, 79, who is now retired and suffering from Parkinson’s disease, at his home. He asked Arana to print the retraction of his study “so I don’t have to worry about it.”
Well, props to him for finally being honest. Too bad it comes only after he has done untold damage to untold numbers of people.
Thursday, April 12, 2012 6:21 am
Congratulations to former Page High School and Greensboro College head football coach Marion Kirby, who is among five people who will be inducted May 14 into the Catawba County Sports Hall of Fame. [Disclosure: I work for GC.]
That’s not especially surprising, given not only Kirby’s coaching career but also the fact that his game-winning field goal in 1960 gave Catawba County’s Lenoir-Rhyne University its only national championship in football.
But what was most interesting for me was what Kirby had to say about how his upbringing shaped his career:
All of my education except for my year of graduate school at East Carolina was here. I went to Viewmont Elementary, Westmont Elementary, Highland Elementary, Hickory Junior High, Hickory High and Lenoir-Rhyne College and I walked to every one of them.
“Over the years. I’ve realized how fortunate I was to grow up where I did. My backyard was connected to (the late) Clarence Stasavich’s family’s backyard, (the late) Frank Barger lived in an apartment condo at the end of the street.
“Luke Beam, the great band director at Hickory High, lived two houses up and C.O. Miller, whose name is on the YMCA, I could hit his front porch with a rock.
“So it occurred to me that as a youngster I had a lot of really great male role models in my life, and I’m really humbled to have grown up on the shoulders of giants in my neighborhood.”
And I wonder: How many of our boys today are growing up with those kinds of giants in their neighborhoods, those male role models who lead, mentor and inspire?
Probably not nearly enough of them.
Wednesday, April 4, 2012 7:23 pm
The little old lady from
Pasadena Orlando is finally parking her car:
After 576,000 miles — more than a trip to the moon and back — in the same 1964 Mercury Comet Caliente, Rachel Veitch is stepping on the brakes due to age-related macular degeneration in both eyes.
She realized her vision had completely failed her in early March after running a “bald-faced red light,” Veitch told FoxNews.com.
“I am legally blind, so I can no longer drive my lovely Chariot,” she said by phone. “They don’t have to take it away, I would not dream of driving that car again.” …
She credits her near-obsessive dedication to the car as the main reason why it’s spent nearly half a century in her care.
“When I buy gas, I write down the mileage, the date and how many miles per gallon I got,” she told FoxNews.com in 2009. “I’ve never been a destructive person and I’ve just taken care of everything, except my husbands.”
Wednesday, March 14, 2012 8:49 pm
As I’ve said before, the Roman Catholic Church is a continuing criminal enterprise, an international scheme to victimize children, intimidate and/or bribe the victims and their families and protect the guilty.
It is also, as is true of all people and most human institutions, a mixture of good and evil. It has spoken out on behalf of the poor (though, I would argue, not nearly loudly enough) many times, for example. And not that you’d know it because it has the megaphone turned down on this issue, but it currently also is speaking out against a hasty rush to war with Iran.
But on some issues, the church speaks more loudly than on others. What it speaks most loudly on today in this country — abortion and other issues related to women’s sexual activity — is a matter of conscious choice. The church likely would deny this and claim that all its moral stands are of equal importance, which, even if it were true, would fly in the face of logic. All sin is equal before God, true, but here on Earth we have long since comes to grips, those of us in the reality-based community, with proportionality. That’s why we execute people for premeditated murder but not for parking violations.
The Church, although a body of believers and a body of belief, also is an earthly institution with vast but finite resources. And so it, too, has to come to grips with proportionality and make choices. If the Church does not choose carefully, innocent people will be harmed, both as a direct result of the church’s emphasis and as an indirect result of the church’s refusal to emphasize other issues that could have helped other people. That’s going to be true whatever the Church prioritizes, of course. But one must wonder what could have led it to decide that abortion and contraception are more important than starting a war. As Matthew’s Gospel (6:21) says, where your treasure is, there your heart is also. And so we see that the Church’s heart – where it has allocated its treasure, defined as its efforts and resources as a megaphone of moral authority — is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican Party, siding with the powerful against the poor and poor in spirit, siding with those who refuse to comfort those who mourn, siding with warmakers against the gentle, siding with criminals against their victims, and on and on and on, all in contravention of the teachings of the Christ that this same church professes to love and worship.
Which makes particularly sad this comment from Athenae at First Draft:
“When it comes right down to it the Church has made a deliberate choice that sexual intercourse is going to be the hill they want to die on. And absent some massive backlash on the part of the faithful, dying is exactly what they’re going to do.”
Thursday, February 23, 2012 8:00 pm
The late, great Doug Marlette, a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist who started his career at The Charlotte Observer, once submitted a cartoon for Easter Sunday showing Christ in his crown of thorns, lugging an electric chair on his back toward Golgotha. It was rejected, of course, but every year thereafter he would re-submit it and every year thereafter it would be rejected. Though this isn’t quite as graphic, it’s every bit as pointed. I don’t know who’s the best editorial cartoonist working today, but Danziger has to be a contender.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011 8:33 pm
Elmore Leonard just turned 86.
He won’t live forever.
And when he dies, Mitch Albom will write something about him.
Thursday, September 29, 2011 6:08 am
It was bound to happen, and now it has: Two former college football players have filed a class-action suit against the NCAA, alleging that it hasn’t protected players against concussions and the brain injury that can result from them. Dozens of former pro players sued the NFL in July.
This is an area in which we don’t know a lot. But we’re learning more, and the more we learn, the worse the news gets.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011 9:07 pm
Note to the irony-impaired: No, I do not actually believe we should invade Pakistan, or drop missiles on it or anything else but get out of AfPak and bring our troops home.