April 17, 2015
What Happens When You Don’t Check Whether Your Predictions Were Accurate…

One area in which we in the US can still stake a claim to lead the world is the politics of paranoia, as Richard Hofstadter’s immortal essay made clear. And he wasn’t just talking about your garden-variety crazies like Ben Carson or Mike Huckabee; paranoia reaches even the highest rungs of the political ladder, as Richard Nixon so admirably demonstrated.

James Forrestal, one of my favorite examples, had a long string of impressive accomplishments, from excelling at (though not graduating from) Princeton, to claiming the first flag raised by American forces at Iwo Jima (the second flag-raising was captured in the famous photograph), to pushing racial integration in the Navy when his predecessor as Secretary of the Navy died of a heart attack and he became Secretary, to becoming our first Secretary of Defense. He was famously and uncompromisingly anti-Communist and anti-Soviet, concerned that the evil represented by Communism exerted a strong pull on societies decimated by the Second World War. His belief that Communism would not cease in attacking until it had destroyed all representative government might sound a bit paranoid, but Eisenhower, with whom Forrestal consulted during the War, apparently wrote in his personal diary that he “never had cause to doubt the accuracy” of Forrestal’s judgments on the issue. That level of paranoia, in other words, was pretty normal in those days.

After the war, Forrestal urged Truman to take a hard line with the Soviets over Poland. He also strongly influenced the new Wisconsin Senator, Joseph McCarthy, concerning infiltration of the government by Communists. Upon McCarthy’s arrival in Washington in December 1946, Forrestal invited him to lunch. In McCarthy’s words, “Before meeting Jim Forrestal I thought we were losing to international Communism because of incompetence and stupidity on the part of our planners. I mentioned that to Forrestal. I shall forever remember his answer. He said, ‘McCarthy, consistency has never been a mark of stupidity. If they were merely stupid, they would occasionally make a mistake in our favor.’ This phrase struck me so forcefully that I have often used it since.”

In the end Forrestal was asked to resign as SecDef and was quietly transferred to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda where the cover of his psychiatric diagnosis of depression could be maintained. For the same reason they placed him on the 16th floor. Unfortunately, his body was later found on the roof of the third floor, with some reports claiming a bathrobe sash cord was tied around his neck. While he had never been given an official diagnosis of paranoia, it was rumored that he harbored a physical and individualized fear that Communists were coming to get him. On the other hand, given his opposition to the partitioning of Palestine it is likely that he was in fact being followed, though probably not by Communists.

Poor guy, and what a paranoid and inaccurate conception of the world! To imagine that your putative enemy is so powerful that they never make mistakes and are completely consistent, properties unknown to human organizations or even individuals. They are aggressive and relentless, and the complete destruction of your way of governing and thus of your culture is their only motivation. They are not, in short, human, but simultaneously both superhuman and subhuman. And to imagine this was true of the Soviets, who lost an entire generation of men, had been reduced to poverty nearly everywhere, and were struggling to feed their people and rebuild their devastated country! But paranoia builds its own sorts of reverse-Potemkin villages.

If only Forrestal had lived in the time of gyrocoptors! But his spirit lives on in the senior Senator from South Carolina.

“He should have been subject to being shot out of the sky,” Graham said. “I don’t know why he wasn’t, but our nation is under siege. Radical Islam is a threat to our home land. There are probably radical Islamic cells in our backyard already.”

“If somebody is willing to, you know, approach vital government infrastructure, they should do so at their own peril,” Graham continued.

Even the Washington Times couldn’t swallow that one whole: “The small vehicle was unarmed and likely would not make a formidable weapon, even if used kamikaze-style.”

This man has a vote on serious matters. Or would if the Republican Congress ever made an effort to address its responsibilities. In practice, however, so little happens in the Senate that Lindsey gets antsy, talks of running for President, and starts singing war chants with his BFF.

Which way’s the boogeyman comin’ from, Senators?


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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 12:02 AM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
McCain | Political Commentary | Psychology and Society
April 16, 2015
Living Down to Expectations

Apparently the following is old stuff, but it was new to me. I therefore assume it will be to you, too, since how could you be better informed than I am? The excerpt gives the rough outline; for more background, go to Professor Wolff’s fascinating blog, which ought to be on your daily checklist if it isn’t already.

The UMass Afro-Am doctoral students dominate the annual conventions and have assembled a brilliant record of publication. The applicants, most of whom apply to several doctoral programs, still have appallingly low GRE scores. What’s up?

A good many years ago, a brilliant African-American psychologist named Claude Steele asked the same question, and launched a fascinating series of experiments to find out. [When I had dinner with Steele in Amherst, MA many years ago, he was the Chair of the Stanford Psychology Department. He is currently the Executive Vice-Chancellor and Provost of UC Berkeley.] Steele formulated the hypothesis that Black students are well aware of the widely-held view that they are dumber than White students, and this awareness, which Steele labeled “stereotype threat,” undermines their ability to do well on the sorts of “intelligence tests” that the White world expects them to do badly on.

Steele devised a variety of experimental protocols to test this hypothesis, and again and again, the data proved him correct. For example, Steele would put together a multiple-choice test, and give it to two groups of college students [mixed White and Black.] The first group would be told that they were being tested for intelligence; the second group, given the identical test in identical testing circumstances, would be told that they were being tested on their general knowledge. Sure enough, the first group of Black students did markedly worse than the second.

Steele then broadened his investigation to other stereotypes. Women are commonly thought not to be able to do math, so Steele tested two groups of women on the same math exam. Each group was asked to fill out a little personal data form before taking the test -- name, address, age, college class, etc. The last question on the first form, answered just before taking the test, was “gender.” The second form omitted that item. Lo and behold, the women who were called on to identify themselves as women just before taking the test did worse than those who were not so asked! Steele was even able to replicate the result by putting the gender question first on the form in one case and last in the other.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:31 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
Education | Psychology and Society | Race
April 15, 2015
A Prick in a Robe

Undernews reports:

A Fulton County superior court judge handed down severe prison sentences to 10 former school administrators, principals and elementary school teachers for their role in a citywide test cheating scandal at the Atlanta Public Schools.

The educators and one other teacher were convicted April 1 for inflating test scores in 2009...

The case was brought by county prosecutors in what the Atlanta Journal-Constitution — which backs the vendetta — called a “novel use” of state racketeering laws normally reserved for organized crime activities such as such as prostitution, counterfeiting or illegal drugs and weapons trafficking.

To the gasps of courtroom onlookers on Tuesday morning, Judge Jerry Baxter announced maximum 20-year sentences for three former school administrators — Tamara Cotman, 44; Sharon Davis-Williams, 59; and Michael Pitts, 59 — that include seven years in prison, 13 years on probation, fines of $25,000 each and 2,000 hours of community service.…

Judge Baxter was visibly enraged by the public sympathy for the educators whose families and friends packed the courtroom Monday to demand leniency. When spectators reacted with horror to his sentencing, the judge angrily blurted,
“Everyone starts crying about these educators. There were thousands of children harmed in this thing. This is not a victimless crime … When you are passed and you can’t read, you are passed and passed on, there are victims that are in the jail that I have sentenced, kids…”

After prosecutors sought to blackmail the educators with promises of lighter sentences if they accepted guilt and waived the right to appeal their convictions, Baxter reacted angrily, saying, “I’ve got a fair sentence in mind and it involves going to jail. Everybody.”

All involved are black except the judge, who is a vicious, ignorant bully who disgraces his race and his robe.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 12:13 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (3)
Education | Idiots | Legal Absurdities | Race
For the Love of “God”

Glenn Greenwald at The Intercept:

Almost half of all Americans want to support Israel even if its interests diverge from the interests of their own country. Only a minority of Americans (47%) say that their country should pursue their own interests over supporting Israel’s when the two choices collide. It’s the ultimate violation of George Washington’s 1796 Farewell Address warning that “nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded… .The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave.”

It is inconceivable that a substantial portion of Americans would want to support any other foreign country even where doing so was contrary to U.S. interests. Only Israel commands anything near that level of devoted, self-sacrificing fervor on the part of Americans. So it’s certainly worth asking what accounts for this bizarre aspect of American public opinion.

The answer should make everyone quite uncomfortable: it’s religious fanaticism. The U.S. media loves to mock adversary nations, especially Muslim ones, for being driven by religious extremism, but that is undeniably a major factor, arguably the most significant one, in explaining fervent support for Israel among the American populace…

The wildly popular “dispensationalist” sect is driven by the dogmatic belief that a unified Israel in the hands of the Jews is a prerequisite for Armageddon or the Rapture and the return of Jesus: a belief shared not by thousands but millions of Americans.

Read it all. Truly frightening stuff. I’ll be having more on this soon.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:33 AM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (4)
Idiots | Religion and Society | Weakening America | World Affairs
April 12, 2015
“Ridicule Can Do Much…”

Of course my reading world is a bubble; with so much available these days, what’s the alternative? I don’t even visit major news sites any more; I read their stories through an aggregator that allows me to train it much like one trains Pandora or Spotify. As a result I get what I ask for.

So I can’t claim to have surveyed a representative sample of reporting on Rand Paul’s announcement of his Presidential campaign. But a large proportion of the center-left pundits I read this week took particular glee in highlighting not so much points of substantive disgreement as errors in execution. To some extent this might reflect a narrative in journalism of Southern politicians as perhaps a few fries short of a Happy Meal, a slightly unfair characterization in that, while technically true, this trait doesn’t distinguish them from their compatriots who hail from less muggy climes.

I grant that if Hillary’s made any spelling errors in her first-week campaign materials she’ll hear about it for weeks from the right-wing echo chamber. But I don’t regularly read writers whose strongest arguments are issues for which most people these days rely on word-processing software. True, it evinces a lack of professionalism in realms highly valued by political professionals and their journalist colleagues. But those are possibly the only two groups who believe that such things matter to anyone else.

In fact, as Dean Burnett’s enjoyable article explains, there are a number of good psychological reasons for how politicians approach us and how we evaluate them. Good, that is, in that they make solid logical and scientific sense. Practically speaking, their effects are generally bad. For example, confident people are known to be more convincing. It’s also known that less intelligent people are generally quite self-confident, because they don’t have access to the higher-level metacognitive abilities. Metacognition is how we think about our own ways of thinking, the patterns in our own behavior. If we don’t look at our own patterns we don’t tend to see our mistakes or areas of ignorance, which can lead us to be quite confident without solid reasons for being so.

In addition, people tend to be put off by subjects that seem complex or are presented as requiring expertise. Since practically everything involved in governing a country is inherently complicated, or at least refers to issues most of us don’t confront in daily life, democracy begins with a disadvantage. We like to feel we’re involved and affecting things, but we don’t like digging in to complexity; as a result we tend to spend a good deal more time talking about trivial stuff we understand than complex stuff we don’t. Thus someone who relates a wealth of detail and sees both sides of the situation will be thrown over for someone who says history is bunk and it’s really all quite simple.

Put all this together, and a less intelligent politician is likely to be supremely confident and ready with an oversimplified solution to any complex problem. But it also turns out that confident people who are proven to be either wrong or lying drop to the bottom of the credibility list. So politicians are encouraged by the system to promise a great deal and to do so confidently, despite the obvious impossibility of fulfilling those promises. When they fail to deliver, they’re massively devalued. Repetitions of this cycle convince people that politics is stupid and cannot be affected or improved. As Burnett puts it:

The majority of people are prone to numerous subconscious biases, prejudices, stereotyping and prefer their own “groups”. None of these things are particularly logical and invariably are not supported by actual evidence and reality, and people really don’t like being told things they don’t want to hear. People are also keenly aware of social status; we need to feel we are superior to others in some way to maintain our sense of self-worth. As a result, someone more intelligent saying complicated things that contain uncomfortable (but accurate) facts isn’t going to appeal to anyone, but someone demonstrably less-intelligent is not challenging to someone’s perceived social status, and if they’re going to say simple things that support inherent prejudices and deny uncomfortable facts, then so much the better.

Personally, I wonder if there isn’t something in the hilarity Rand Paul provokes among liberals that conceals a lack of understanding and an unspoken fear. Liberals in the US have tended to gather round an understanding of government as at least a potential force for good in the community as against the conservative view of government as inherently bad, with our visions reflecting our respective feelings about ourselves as much as anything else. But the current version of conservatism is quite far from opposing big government; it simply wants big government to be singularly focused on enriching the ultra-rich, and the only sustainable means to that end is constant, relatively low-level conflict and warfare, preferably as far from the US as possible.

To some extent, therefore, and regardless of rhetoric, Democrats and Republicans mostly agree on the need for big government, they just disagree on its purpose. Paul is differentiating himself from this crowd in clear and conscious ways. His positions don’t seem coherent in part because he’s not trying for a coalition that fits current categories. He really is against government, a stand that many Americans can relate to at the gut level despite intellectually rejecting it.

So am I trying to follow my successful prediction during the primaries in 2007 that Obama would be President with a similar one about Paul? In a word, no. He doesn’t have a realistic chance to be nominated by the GOP, who would prefer to lose with Bush or Walker or Rubio.

But if he were nominated, he’d be a fascinating candidate to watch, capable of snipping off a bit of left-wing support for his stances on war, drugs, voting rights, and prison reform, and at least attempting to reach out to constituencies Republicans advertise to but rarely actually converse with. He’s against so many things that practically everyone agrees with one or two of them. And his inability to hire staffers who can spell might not matter, given the precedent set by the most recent successful GOP nominee.

In the end, however much we might wish it were otherwise, intelligence isn’t necessary to be a winning candidate for President; in real life Jed Bartlet would lose to George W. Bush. And to those whose view of candidates is rather superficial, Rand Paul has many of the folksy qualities of W. without the baggage of his New England WASP family history or his interest in big government and war.

Rand Paul is not a threat precisely because his approach represents a threat to the existing structure of political coalitions. That’s what makes him so much fun to watch.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 5:50 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
Political Commentary
As It Must to All Men…

Something I never knew or more likely forgot, this from a book review in today’s New York Times:

Since the early 1900s, parents who willfully withheld medicine in the name of religion have been prosecuted and convicted. But, Offit tell us, beginning in the ’70s, the prosecutors’ task became difficult. The blame for this setback can be ascribed to two powerful men in the Nixon administration, H. R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, both famous for their roles in the Watergate scandal, and both Christian Scientists. They became involved because of Lisa Sheridan, a 5-year-old who in 1967 died of pneumonia. Her mother, Dorothy, a Christian Scientist, had opted for prayer instead of antibiotics. The autopsy of the child showed a quart of pus in her chest, and the Massachusetts district attorney charged Sheridan with manslaughter. She was sentenced to five years’ probation. This was around the time when Walter Mondale was working to introduce the landmark Child Abuse Protection and Treatment Act (Capta).

“Elders in the Christian Science church saw the trial of Dorothy Sheridan as a wake-up call,” Offit writes. “If she could be prosecuted for following the tenets of her faith, all of them were at risk. Capta was about to shine an unwanted light on their way of life. Something had to be done. So church authorities turned to the two men they were certain could help.”

Haldeman and Ehrlichman inserted a religious exemption into Capta: “No parent or guardian who in good faith is providing a child treatment solely by spiritual means — such as prayer — according to the tenets and practices of a recognized church through a duly accredited practitioner shall for that reason alone be considered to have neglected the child.”

Ehrlichman wavered in his faith by accepting dialysis treatments in 1999, and then died after discontinuing them. Haldeman, resolute in his nuttiness, refused treatment for the cancer that killed him anyway in 1993.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 3:52 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
An Angel Directs the Storm | Idiots | Politics and Religion | Religion and Society
The White Man’s Burden

Check out these photos of Donald Trump's kids on safari. I think it’s guillotine time, my friends. Well, okay, just make them wear name tags and work at Wal-Mart. I didn’t think people did this shit anymore, but apparently the rich are different.



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Posted by OHollern at 10:09 AM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (3)
April 11, 2015
What Would Jesus Grab?

The excerpt below is from The New York Daily News. For a fuller account, and I know you’ll want one, go here.

The Christian family band that brawled with police in an Arizona Walmart parking lot were not slowed down by repeated hits from Tasers, pepper spray and batons, newly released dashcam video shows. The fighting stopped only after a 21-year-old member of the Gaver family was fatally shot, his brother was struck in the stomach and a cop took a bullet to the leg…

The Gavers knew hitting police in the torso would not be effective because of their protective gear, Fanning said. "Their main mode of fight is to grab the officers' faces, eyes, ears and mouth and try and pull as hard as they can," Fanning said, according to AZFamily.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 11:29 AM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
Religion and Society | Reveling in the Weird
April 10, 2015
The Self-Surveillance State

Naturally you read Paul Krugman in the New York Times, but you may have missed today’s posting on his blog. It’s depressing, mostly because it’s likely to turn out to have been accurate. Here’s a taste, although you won’t be able to appreciate his full argument unless you go here.

But it’s easy to imagine how a wristband that provides information to others could be very useful — easy to imagine because it already happens at Disney World, where the Magic Band tracks you, letting rides know that you have bought a ticket, restaurants know that you’ve arrived and what table you’re sitting at, and more…

But will people want a Disney-like experience out in the alleged real world? Almost surely the answer is yes. Consider the Varian rule, which says that you can forecast the future by looking at what the rich have today — that is, that what affluent people will want in the future is, in general, something like what only the truly rich can afford right now…

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 7:16 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
April 09, 2015
Evil Teachers

I chuckle when I hear about what what fat and lazy parasites public school teachers are. I chuckle all the way to the mailbox, where I send my modest earnings to Chase Manhattan and Citibank, and thence to the campaign coffers of Republican politicians, who make profitable careers out of telling the public what a leech I am.

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Posted by OHollern at 2:08 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (3)
April 07, 2015
Drinking on the Job?

I came across this yesterday in a posting about something called First Look Media, with which I should probably be familiar but am not. The writer is a former employee:

Employees were initially told that we were free to spend whatever we needed for our reporting and the company simply asked that we spend its money responsibly, as we would if it were our own. But soon new orders came down from management that made it difficult to pay for a source’s drinks — and to report, at least in Washington, it is pretty much required that you be able to take sources out for drinks to have discreet, relaxed conversations. Over time, management began closely scrutinizing expense reports. Some of us became so frustrated, and intimidated, that we decided to simply stop expensing some legitimate reporting costs because it wasn’t worth the hassle of trying to get reimbursed.
More than a half century ago (can it have been that long?) I was a reporter in Washington myself. I don’t remember ever taking sources out for drinks to have discreet, relaxed conversation. I was an editor for a while as well, and to the best of my recollection none of my reporters ever put in for such “legitimate reporting costs.” I think I would have remembered, too. Who can forget a good laugh?

Eventually I turned into a source myself, as a speechwriter for President Carter and later the head of public affairs for the Federal Aviation Administration. I had plenty of relaxed conversations with reporters, all right, many of which turned out to be less discreet than they should have been. (For example it might have been wiser not to tell the New York Daily News guy that writing humor for Carter was like giving tap dance lessons to FDR.) And none of those reporters ever even offered to pay for my drinks, damn it.

My point is not that we had standards back then, by God, not like these kids today. The ethical level of journalism now is probably no worse than it was; for all I know it’s better. I’m just curious. Any reporters out there? Is it routine to buy drinks for your sources these days? Can you expense them?


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 5:40 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (6)
Media | Our Sordid Press Corps
April 06, 2015
Your Daily Chandlerism

I’ve never read anything by Raymond Chandler, but I’m a big fan of Chandlerisms. Here are a few choice examples:

”She smelled the way the Taj Mahal looks by moonlight.”

“I’m an occasional drinker.The kind of guy who goes out for a beer and wakes up in Singapore with a full beard.”

“If you don’t leave, I’ll get somebody who will.”

“She gave me a smile I could feel in my hip pocket.”

“I felt like an amputated leg.”

“Then her hands dropped and jerked at something and the robe she was wearing came open and underneath it she was as naked as September Morn but a darn sight less coy.”

There are many, many more.



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Posted by OHollern at 2:34 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
Your Tax Dollars at Work

More on the TSA’s “Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques” which bemused me at the airport a little while ago. The picture shows the sweaty palm check. I am proud to be an American. Aren’t you?

The $900 million (!) program, Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques, or SPOT, employs behavior detection officers trained to identify passengers who exhibit behaviors that TSA believes could be linked to would-be terrorists. But in one five-week period at a major international airport in the United States in 2007, the year the program started, only about 4 percent of the passengers who were referred to secondary screening or law enforcement by behavior detection officers were arrested, and nearly 90 percent of those arrests were for being in the country illegally, according to a TSA document obtained by The Intercept

One senior homeland security official said the behavior checklist could work, but TSA’s behavior detection officers have not been properly trained to use it. “My guess is most of them wouldn’t have stopped bin Laden if he walked through their lane,” the official said.

Nothing in the SPOT records suggests that any of those arrested were associated with terrorist activity.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 1:24 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
America is Doomed | Civil Liberties | Idiots | Police State | Weakening America
April 03, 2015
Sauce for the Gander?

I just came across this specimen of young American manhood in a photo gallery attached to an unrelated story from yesterday’s Orlando Sun Sentinel. Here is the caption on another old photo from the same gallery:

Ku Klux Klan members rally in front of the Eckerd Drug store at Griffin Road and University Drive in Davie on Saturday, September 14, 1991. About a dozen Klansmen stood along the road protesting the refusal by a different Eckerd’s store the previous week to print KKK photographs.
Which brings us to an interesting question, in view of the recent troubles in Indiana and Arkansas over efforts to ease the pain of “Christian” bakers forced to violate the deepest tenets of their faith by selling wedding cakes to gays. Should the state have forced Eckerd’s, back in 1991, to print those photos?

(Note: the quotes above reflect my doubts that Christ ever said anything at all about homosexuality, good or bad. For that we have to go to Leviticus, where we are also commanded not to eat or touch the carcass of any seafood without fins or scales.)


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 6:41 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (4)
Essential Liberties | Idiots | Politics and Religion | Religion and Society | Reveling in the Weird
April 02, 2015
Artificial Turf

Ain’t nobody here but just us folks:

Andrew Ogles, the young director of AFP-Tenn, laughed off intimations of Koch-conspiracy, saying “Obviously David Koch is our chairman and we appreciate everything he does for us, but we’re grassroots.” Ogles says that the group’s opposition to Insure Tennessee is rooted in the ACA. “From the onset we’ve opposed Obamacare. Insure Tennessee is funded by the Affordable Care Act and it’s an extension of Obamacare.” Toppling the ACA is a priority and their opposition to insuring low-income Tennesseans is part of that plan.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 1:56 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
APRIL FOOLS | Health and Aging | Idiots | Public Health and Welfare | Republicans
March 31, 2015
Palmar Hyperhidrosis

Last week in the Hartford airport I watched a TSA agent run some kind of swab over each palm of the man behind me in the security line — just a standard-issue sandy-haired young Anglo-Saxon type, no beard or weird skull cap. What was the agent looking for? Naturally I didn’t ask. Maybe he’d take it wrong, do a palm-swab on me just to show the wise guy to mind his own business. God knows what he might find. You don’t want to mess with the war on terror.

But just yesterday, in one of those incredible coincidences that could only happen in real life, I came across this possible answer on the internet:

Fidgeting, whistling, sweaty palms. Add one point each. Arrogance, a cold penetrating stare, and rigid posture, two points.

These are just a few of the suspicious signs that the Transportation Security Administration directs its officers to look out for — and score — in airport travelers, according to a confidential TSA document obtained exclusively by The Intercept


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 2:48 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (5)
Our Long National Nightmare | Police State | War on "Terror"
March 29, 2015
Love the Handbasket! Where’re We Headed?

There’s a fun article by Elizabeth Stoker Breunig up today at TNR. She looks at Ohio’s John Kasich and finds a politician who actually seems to have some consistency and intellectual integrity with regard to his interpretation of Christianity. “Yeah, right!”, I hear someone saying, and with good reason. Anyone who remembers Kasich in the House recalls his general orientation as pretty far out there. And of course he spent six years hosting a Fox News show while a managing director of Lehman Brothers until the firm collapsed in 2008. So he’s got all the marks of a died-in-the-wool “Christian” conservative who’s mainly interested in money.

But remember also that he was a Representative from 1983-2001, a period when the GOP was pushing its Christian contingent to the right but that push had not gone nearly as far as it has now, and it’s a bit easier to accept that Kasich doesn’t seem to fit the mold. For example, he doesn’t accept the standard Republican position that welfare from the government is morally hazardous to both giver and receiver. As Elizabeth says, the story that Jesus commanded generosity from individuals and never said that government should be involved is theologically incoherent and contradicted by explicit statements in the New Testament. Those propounding that line are simply using religion to advance their own selfish interests.

When hawking a story that creaky, politicians must maintain a unified front, lest the disparity between right-wing zeal for Christian teachings on sexuality versus Christian teachings on poverty expose opportunism. Yet John Kasich, for whatever reason, did not get the memo.

You’ve probably seen this Kasich quote before, but I’m impressed with it so I’m reproducing it again.

Kasich told reporters in 2013 that “when you die and get to the meeting with Saint Peter, he’s probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small. But he is going to ask you what you did for the poor. You better have a good answer.” For linking the extension of healthcare coverage to some 275,000 vulnerable Ohians with his Christian principles, Kasich received scorn from flustered rightwingers. Writers from RedState, The National Review, and The Wall Street Journal all converged to offer a collective sneer at Kasich’s pro-poor Christian politics…

They’re flustered, of course, because the enormous gap between their protestations and their actions is on the verge of being exposed by one of their own, and their hypocrisy might be measured against actual belief. A politician from their own ranks who acts on what he believes despite knowing that it will harm him politically is a standard few would wish to be measured against.

In the end, though, what fascinates me is that Kasich has no chance of being nominated for the office he clearly wants, in large part because he actually appears to make some effort to live by the creed his party loudly espouses when his colleagues are spending all their effort convincing crowds of potential voters that they are True Believers. Yet Kasich could very likely draw a nontrivial portion of the Democratic vote away from, say, Hillary for exactly the same reason; how many Christians who vote Democratic because they dislike both war and poverty could switch sides when the Democrat is known as a relative hawk and the Republican can tout not only an expansion of Medicaid but a willingness to go around his Republican legislature’s opposition to do it? Every day brings new evidence that the GOP is self-destructing.


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Unfortunately that leaves us stuck with the Democrats.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 4:09 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Political Commentary
March 28, 2015
Maybe Next Time, But…

…there won’t be a next time. Baylor knocked Iowa out of the Sweet Sixteen 81-66 last night and granddaughter Bethany’s college basketball career ended not with a bang but an elbow. To her nose, knocking her out of the game with four minutes left to play. There was plenty of blood but no permanent damage and so life goes on. As will this year’s WNBA draft, on April 16.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 4:53 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Sports | What Actually Matters | Women's Basketball
March 26, 2015
“They Just Kind of Broke”

Since it would be immodest for me to brag on our granddaughter Bethany, I’ll step aside and let the opposing coach do it. From the Associated Press:

Doolittle scored 22 points, Ally Disterhoft had 15 and third-seeded Iowa beat 11th-seeded Miami 88-70 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday, earning its first trip to the Sweet 16 since 1996.

“That team is full of great players and she just had a great performance,” Miami’s Adrienne Motley said of Doolittle. “She just had a great performance. She played like a Division I basketball player trying to get to the Sweet 16.”

Doolittle shot 8-for-16, mostly turnaround jumpers, and grabbed 11 rebounds — none bigger than the one she collected after Iowa’s Samantha Logic missed a free throw with Miami trailing just 69-63.

After a couple of passes, Doolittle got free on the baseline and buried a jumper, starting a 15-3 run that all but wrapped up the victory for the Hawkeyes (26-7).

“She hit a jumper right in our face,” Miami coach Katie Meier said. “That was a four-point swing in a six-point game, a huge turnaround. From that point on we just kind of broke.”

Tomorrow Iowa is scheduled to upset fifth-ranked Baylor in the Sweet Sixteen. Be there Friday via ESPN2, at 6:30 Central Time.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 4:58 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
Sports | What Actually Matters | Women's Basketball
March 24, 2015
Ted Talks, But His Logo Reveals the Truth

As the political pundits have spent enormous amounts of time discussing, Ted Cruz announced his not-even-quixotic candidacy for President yesterday. David Pescovitz at BoingBoing flagged something (flagged by Twitter user UPSO) that’s interesting about his campaign logo:


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Check out the logo for Al Jazeera, presumably one of Cruz’s favorite news sources:


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So, it appears not only that Cruz is a foreigner, not even (as Donald Trump has helpfully pointed out) born in this country, but also that he’s a not-so-secret admirer of those he publicly denounces. Perhaps that’s why he thinks he has a shot at bringing in those who might not otherwise be attracted to his Double-High personality, combining standard Right-Wing Authoritarianism with a Social Dominance Orientation. After all, if he can bridge the gap separating the horde of flag burners, the self-professed Christian groups defined mainly by who they hate, and the left-wing Arab groups whose experience of the US is largely as an exploiter and oppressor, then he can bring peace in our time.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 1:41 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (3)
Political Commentary
March 21, 2015
America’s Brief Reign

In retrospect, it will seem completely natural that America’s period of worldwide dominance only lasted a short time. It is intellectually unfit to rule the world. It just doesn’t pack the gear to handle the job. Just as Sparta couldn’t rule Greece after the Peloponnesian War, so America couldn’t rule the world after the Soviet Union went down. We just aren’t cut out for it.

Think about it: America’s moment as the super power du jour spans the lifetime of the baby boomers. That’s it. In history that’s the blink of an eye.

We talk up a storm and build gaudy monuments, but in reality we’re just trashy used car salesmen experiencing a chance, temporary monopoly, and we can’t even handle that. We went from Jonas Salk to Rush Limbaugh in the time takes for hair to go gray. We went from the Marshall Plan to quantitative easing and Wall Street bailouts in my mother's lifetime.

She was born in postwar middle class splendor; she’s ending her days in a mobile home on social security.

(She grew up in Manhattan Beach, California, where I lived as a child; it was a beachy, middle class place. Now it is an exclusive rich suburb, home to obscenely affluent fuckwads like Sharon Stone and Tiger Woods, and a legion of sniffy plastic yuppies. Last time I was there, they were all racing out to buy mini-coopers, because they were just oh so fucking hip and trendy at the time, don’t ya know? God, that fucking place always makes me feel like I need a shower.)

(Although I did meet Chuck Woolery in the produce department at Ralph’s once, and I’m a better man for it.)

Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in one generation.

American exceptionalism will be a term that refers to the speed of our decline, not any special quality within us.

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Posted by OHollern at 4:05 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (4)
March 18, 2015
Time Off

Off tomorrow a.m. to watch the women's basketball NCAAs. See you again once Iowa has swept the field, carrying even Connecticut before it to the astonishment of a wondering nation.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 6:07 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
March 17, 2015
A Near Miss

Thanks be to God that William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Anthony M. Kennedy and Sandra Day O’Connor managed to save us from having this turkey in the White House:

His slide show on the threat of climate change, presented in the movie “An Inconvenient Truth,” won an Academy Award. His efforts to spread the word about global warming earned him, along with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a Nobel Peace Prize. His was a dire call to strenuous and difficult action…

His slide show on the threat of climate change, presented in the movie “An Inconvenient Truth,” won an Academy Award. His efforts to spread the word about global warming earned him, along with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a Nobel Peace Prize…

Much of what he makes, including all salary from his early stage investing work as a partner at Kleiner Perkins and his Nobel Prize money, goes to his advocacy group, the Climate Reality Project…

He co-founded Generation Investment Management, a firm that takes positions in companies that manage themselves along principles of sustainability, including the effects of climate change. He also sits on the board of the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, which invests heavily in green start-ups. He sold his cable channel, Current TV, to Al Jazeera America in 2013 in a deal that earned him a reported $100 million … His success in the business world has surprised many people, Mr. Kramer says. “I didn’t think of him as a business guy — I’m sure nobody did,” he says, adding that “he is a phenomenally deep student of critical forces that ultimately change society.”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 4:16 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (1)
Elections | Graft, Corruption and Malfeasance | Idiots | Legal Absurdities | US Supreme Court | Weakening America
March 15, 2015
Demonizing Bill Clinton

Maureen Dowd is her usual witty, penetrating self in today’s offering. Here, for instance:

When the Rogue State of Bill began demonizing Monica Lewinsky as a troubled stalker, you knew you could count on the complicity of feminists and Democratic women in Congress. Bill’s female cabinet members and feminist supporters had no choice but to accept the unappetizing quid pro quo: The Clintons would give women progressive public policies as long as the women didn’t assail Bill for his regressive private behavior with women.
This stalker stuff comes up with tiresome regularity. It shouldn’t be necessary to say, but stalkers of both sexes do in fact exist, and Monica Lewinsky defines the term. She aimed herself at President Clinton from the first day she set foot in the White House, no doubt having gathered from news reports that he was enthusiastically heterosexual. She was not an innocent child. She was free, white and 22. She was already involved in a five-year affair with her married high school drama teacher. She had in no sense been pressured or seduced by a powerful boss. The only one stalked in that whole squalid business was Clinton.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 5:17 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (4)
The Real World
March 12, 2015
The Making of a Terrorist

A nice boy like Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, what could have got into him?

On Saturday, Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, proclaimed allegiance to al-Baghdadi, the so-called “caliph” of ISIS. In an audio statement posted to Twitter, Shekau said, “We announce our allegiance to the caliph… and will hear and obey in times of difficulty and prosperity,” according to the BBC…

Hashem says al-Baghdadi is described by people who knew him in Baghdad as “calm” and as someone who wouldn’t attempt to draw attention to himself. Hashem was also told that al-Baghdadi is extremely intelligent. Indeed, he reportedly holds a PhD in Islamic Studies from a university in Baghdad. People also mentioned the militant leader’s prowess as an attacker on the soccer field, a quality that would later earn him the nickname “Maradona,” after the famous Argentinian World Cup champion, when he was held by the Americans in Camp Bucca, Iraq.

The major turning point in al-Baghdadi’s radicalization and his decision to join what was then known as al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI) was the U.S. occupation of Iraq and his incarceration in 2004 at Camp Bucca, a detention center set up the U.S. military, Hashem told MintPress.

“He’s a normal person, at least he was,” Hashem said. “He was a young man who came from a village to study in Baghdad, but his life changed after the American occupation.”

The first way al-Baghdadi’s life changed was that he became a militant. The Guardian’s Martin Chulov reported that al-Baghdadi helped to found Jeish Ahl al-Sunnah al-Jamaah, a militant group, just before he was arrested by the Americans in February 2004.

According to Hashem, al-Baghdadi was radicalized inside Camp Bucca, where he was able to meet the big names inside al-Qaida and former Ba’ath party members — all of whom were fighting against the American occupation of the country. With all of these people in the same place, Hashem said, “You can just imagine the kind of plan that is going to come out of such a place!”

Radicalization as a result of being at the camp was not uncommon, he explained. “This was the situation, not only for al-Baghdadi but for several people that entered the jails as normal people, at least not al-Qaida… And then they went out of the jails as al-Qaida operatives.”


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 4:35 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Afghanistan | War on "Terror" | Weakening America
March 11, 2015
Byproducts

I don’t remember ever before laughing out loud at a cartoon, but it happened this morning. Is there, just maybe, something wrong with me?


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 4:20 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
March 10, 2015
Would You Rather Have High Blood Sugar…

…or try your luck with JARDIANCE? What the hell is JARDIANCE, you’re no doubt wondering. Well, you may know it by its street name, empagliflozin, a new prescription drug supposed to lower blood sugar. Among other things. The following is from a three-page ad in this week’s Time:

Women who take JARDIANCE may get vaginal yeast infections. Talk to your doctor if you experience vaginal odor, white or yellowish vaginal discharge (discharge may be lumpy or look like cottage cheese), and/or vaginal itching.

Men who take JARDIANCE may get a yeast infection of the skin around the penis, especially uncircumcised males and those with chronic infections. Talk to your doctor if you experience redness, itching or swelling of the penis, rash of the penis, and/or pain in the skin around the penis.

…If you have any of these symptoms, stop taking JARDIANCE and contact your doctor or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 7:12 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (2)
Regulation for the Benefit of Public Health, Safety and Welfare
March 09, 2015
There Goes Your Overtime

From an interview with Matthew Fogg, an African American former special agent for the Drug Enforcement Agency:

The special agent in charge, he says “You know, if we go out there and start messing with those folks, they know judges, they know lawyers, they know politicians. You start locking their kids up, somebody’s going to jerk our chain.” He said they’re going to call us on it, and before you know it, they’re going to shut us down, and there goes your overtime.

What I began to see is that the drug war is totally about race. If we were locking up everybody, white and black, for doing the same drugs, they would have done the same thing they did with prohibition. They would have outlawed it. They would have said, “Let’s stop this craziness. You’re not putting my son in jail. My daughter isn’t going to jail.” If it was an equal enforcement opportunity operation, we wouldn’t be sitting here anyway.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 1:55 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
An Angel Directs the Storm | Class Warriors | Race
March 08, 2015
Naïvete, Cynicism, and Spinelessness

When Jonathan Chait reports the following nugget from Dan Pfeiffer, a recently-former senior advisor to President Obama, he seems to do so without irony. True, Chait is an Obama cheerleader, and true, as well, that he has been known to state as fact assertions that are at least controversial, even among those on the same general side of the aisle. Still, he is a thoughtful and intelligent writer, and one might hope for a bit of self-reflection based on this anecdote.

The original premise of Obama’s first presidential campaign was that he could reason with Republicans — or else, by staking out obviously reasonable stances, force them to moderate or be exposed as extreme and unyielding. It took years for the White House to conclude that this was false, and that, in Pfeiffer’s words, “what drives 90 percent of stuff is not the small tactical decisions or the personal relationships but the big, macro political incentives.”

It took years for them to figure this out. That in a nutshell is the problem we face. Even stipulating our ability to elect a decent human being to the office of President, which only occasionally happens, we end up with someone so naïve that they could reach the highest office in the land without knowing things that had long been obvious to any serious observer of the political landscape. It takes six years and three elections to reach the conclusion that even us bloggers had figured out and stated for years. It makes one feel a bit hopeless.

Perhaps the juiciest bit is what Chait reports as Pfeiffer’s views on the House Republican leadership:

“You have to be careful not to presume a lot of strategy for this group,” Pfeiffer said. “I’ve always believed that the fundamental, driving strategic ethos of the Republican House leadership has been, What do we do to get through the next caucus or conference without getting yelled at? We should never assume they have a long game. We used to spend a lot of time thinking that maybe Boehner is saying this to get himself some more room. And it’s like, no, that’s not actually the case. Usually he’s just saying it because he just said it or it’s the easiest thing to solve his immediate problem.”

Does the American ideal of self-government end like this, not even with a bang, managing only a whimper? Caught in the crossfire of a cynical manipulator at the head of one chamber of Congress, a gormless spokespiece in the other, and an executive more naïve than much of the populace? At least Rome had the dignity of being desirable to sack.


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Posted by Chuck Dupree at 11:32 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (4)
The Fall of the Roman American Empire
Can’t Win ’em All

Despite granddaughter Bethany’s twenty-one points, Iowa went down to Ohio State 91-85 in overtime in the Big Ten semifinals last night. Oh, well. On to the NCAAs later this month.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at 6:03 PM | Permalink & Email Post | Comments (0)
Women's Basketball