“There was a time when a black man couldn’t kiss a white woman on TV. That day has passed,” wrote Robert Farago on his TruthAboutGuns blog about the NFL's decision to ban the ad from Georgia gunmaker Daniel Defense. “Yet a firearms company can’t advertise its products on network TV. It’s high time that ballistic barrier was broken.”
Farago’s twisted sense of history was hardly alone in pro-gun circles. “What a bunch of hypocrites! The 2nd Amendment is ultimately what allows the NFL to even exist,” wrote TreeManTwo on the website of Guns & Ammo magazine, which broke the story last Friday that the NFL rejected the ad for violating its advertising policy. “It does have to do with us being able to keep and protect our rights to do things like play football!”
Another masterpiece in porcelain from the ineffable Kate MacDowell:
Granddaughter Bethany in the midst of scoring her 25-point career high earlier this evening. Oh yeah, I almost forgot. The rest of the team pitched in to help her beat Syracuse 97-91.
Here’s Tan Man, trying out the party’s new pickup line:
Boehner urged his colleagues Thursday in response to this POLITICO story to “be a little more sensitive” when running against women. “Some of our members just aren’t as sensitive as they ought to be,” Boehner said.
Boehner (R-Ohio) said bluntly that “when you look around the Congress, there are a lot more females in the Democrat caucus than there are in the Republican caucus.”
Yeah, but the females in the Republic caucus are hotter… Oops, is it okay to say that? Chicks are so damned sensitive nowadays.
Al Jazeera reports:
Police in Iceland said Monday they shot dead a gunman — the first time armed police have killed someone in the nation's history…
Rubber Hose spells out what should be obvious to anybody who doesn’t mainline Fox News. Apparently it isn’t, though, to judge by the polls. You’d think that nobody on God’s little green footstool ever had an insurance policy cancelled until Obama came along.
One annoying thing about the ACA is anything bad related to health insurance is deemed to be an Obamacare problem even if it is a problem that long predated the health reform law.
For as long as I have been aware of this stuff, companies have cut employee hours to avoid giving them benefits. Just after I graduated high school, a friend of mine worked 29 hours per week at a book store. Why such an odd number? The company gave benefits to “full time employees” and defined people as full time if they worked 30 hours or more. This was in 1988. But when it happens today, it is all Obamacare’s fault. Labor stats don’t back up the notion that the ACA is causing any cutback in hours. But any company that cuts its hours has an incentive to say that it is doing the cuts because of Obamacare because then the law, and not the company, becomes the bad guy.
Likewise, business have been reducing the number of employees who get health insurance for decades. That phenomenon is what people were calling the “health care crisis” back in the early 1990s and the reason that Obama campaigned on health care reform as an issue which led to the ACA’s passage. But whenever any employer drops health insurance after the ACA’s passage, it must be Obamacare’s fault. And private insurance carriers have long been restricting the doctors and medical facilities you can visit (in-network vs. out-of-network), changes in policies, etc. This stuff was not invented by the 2010 law.
We’re still number one in unfairness but tiny Israel is closing fast, according to Alex Kane on Alternet
But most Americans probably don’t know that the 2nd most unequal “rich” country is the close ally and client state of Israel, whose own oligarchs own a significant slice of the Israeli economy.…
About 21 percent of Israelis live in poverty, the highest among developed countries that are part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
I was 14 in 1948, when Israel was born. It sounded wonderful. From the horror of World War II had come a new nation dedicated to just and progressive communal values, to the dignity of labor, and without poverty or excessive riches. I dreamed of joining a kibbutz some day. Would they take goyim, though? Of course they would. After all, Israel was tomorrow!
…and tomorrow and tomorrow, crept in its petty pace to today.
This is a job for Rob Ford.
Bethany Doolittle wins the tip as Iowa goes on to beat USC 78-65 last night in the Cancun Challenge. Tonight the Hawkeyes are scheduled to crush Boston College. (Update: Game just over. Iowa 75, Boston College 68.)
Obama is well into his second term now, and the apocalypse hasn’t happened. Churches aren’t being shut down; guns aren’t being taken away; conservatives aren’t being rounded up and thrown into FEMA camps; our children aren’t being forcibly converted to secular humanism and homosexuality. Last I checked the opposition party runs the House of Representatives. If Obama really is this totalitarian thug, he seems to be a pretty ineffective one.
Did you know that November 19 was World Toilet Day? 2.5 billion people do not have toilets. Over one billion practice open-air defecation. It’s a really serious sanitation issue.
the some rich bastard spent $900,000 on a gold Kate Moss statue. Let me repeat that. Some rich bastard spent $900,000 on a gold Kate Moss statue. Some one else paid over forty grand for a lock of Justin Bieber’s hair. I shit you not. Some days I think the meteor can’t get here soon enough … Marquis St. Everemonde
Have I ever mentioned how much I hate country western music? I’m sure I must have in one of my miscellaneous rants. Now I’m not talking about authentic stuff, Patsy Cline, Hank Williams Sr., Johnny Cash and such. I’m talking hip young country. Serious noise pollution like Garth Brooks and Toby Keith — rich, manicured Republican cowboys, poseurs. You can still see the Nordstroms tags dangling from their hats. Shit makes me wince. It makes my teeth ache and my hemorrhoids hurt. I used to love a women who listened to that crap. She was a conservative, too. Love is blind; the heart has its reasons and all, you know. Anyway, it didn’t work out. It usually doesn’t. People who see each other naked always become enemies.
I bring it up because some of that very noise is blaring most annoyingly in the other room. Coming up next, obligatory military hero worship. No holiday is complete without it these day. We must continuously, ceaselessly, eternally thank our troops, from whom all good things emanate. The fact is, this is a form of soft core militarism. Not only does it undermine democracy, it also enables a foreign policy of permanent war. It subordinates civilian values to military ones, and it places the military above criticism. A child thirteen years or under has never lived in America that wasn’t at war, and all we have to show for it is Guantanamo Bay, NSA spying, unsightly celebrations at the assassination of one man. We have hyper-nationalistic displays that, for all of their bravado, contain a palpable element of nervousness and insecurity. We know, deep down, that we are full of shit and our culture is all wrong. But America being what it is, we’ll choose the wrong path to change. We’ll look to some asshole conservative Chris Christie type to save us. Worse, someone downright sinister like Ted Cruz. We’ll double down on plutocracy, double down on consumerism, double down on tax cuts, double down on war. Churchill said the United States can always be trusted to make the right decision after its tried all the alternatives. We haven’t gone through the alternatives yet.
Here’s another good quote by Bismarck along similar lines: “God takes care of fools, drunkards, and the United States of America.” Not anymore.
USA #1: We have more prisoners than anyone else. “More than Russia. More than Rwanda.” We have more prisoners in this county that construction workers or teachers! Is this a great country or what?
Not all Romans liked the games. This is a quote from the stoic philosopher Seneca:
“Do not, my Lucilius, attend the games, I pray you. Either you will be corrupted by the multitude, or, if you show disgust, be hated by them. So stay away… nothing is so damaging to good character as the habit of lounging at the games; for then it is that vice steals subtly upon one through the avenue of pleasure. What do you think I mean? I mean that I come home more greedy, more ambitious, more voluptuous, and even more cruel and inhuman, because I have been among human beings.
Years ago, before our mean and pathetic paranoia had pretty much wiped out the practice, it was still possible to get around the country by hitchhiking. One day a farmer who had given me a lift in his ancient pickup told me, “If you need a hand, son, always ask a poor man.”
This remains true. From Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times:
Low-income Americans, who actually encounter the needy in daily life, understand this complexity and respond with empathy. Researchers say that’s why the poorest 20 percent of Americans donate more to charity, as a fraction of their incomes, than the richest 20 percent.
Young, old, democracies are all the same. From the New York Times:
NEW DELHI — At a certain point this fall, the presidential elections in the Maldives stopped looking like the hiccups of a young democracy and veered into the realm of farce.
Mohammed Nasheed was the leader after a first-round election back in September, but the country’s Supreme Court begged to differ. The court, which was allied with one of his rivals, voided the September election before it could reach a second round, citing irregularities in voter rolls…
I just heard some glitzy, glammy dork on TV refer to Thanksgiving as “Gray Thursday.” Gray Thursday. We have one holiday that doesn’t lend itself to commercial exploitation, so there is an effort afoot to subvert and destroy it. It wasn’t enough to crowd it out between early Christmas advertising and “Black Friday.” That wasn’t working. People, even Americans, enjoy a holiday that doesn’t make you wave the flag or buy cartloads of disposable crap. The only demands the day puts on you is to cook, eat, and give thanks. Obviously, such a simple, homely holiday has no place in our mindless consumerist utopia. It must be destroyed so that our overlords at Wal-Mart can raise their stock price a half a point.
There is no life outside of shopping. There is only gray. Hence, “Gray Thursday.”
If you hear somebody trying to be cute and use this phrase, politely say something. Don’t let this revolting term become socially acceptable and mainstreamed.
Today’s New York Times, in what is surely a first for the Paper of Record, frontpages a nip-slip. For why, go here.
…watching the Louie Gohmerts or Sarah Palins or Glenn Becks of this world. From Psychology Today:
Fremdscham describes the almost-horror you feel when you notice that somebody is oblivious to how embarrassing they truly are. Fremdscham occurs when someone who should feel embarrassed for themselves simply is not, and you start feeling embarrassment in their place…
Besides the emotional response, Fremdscham-inducing events and items … also usually cause one to ask this question: “how on earth can these people be unaware of how stupid they are being right now?”.
And more than to lecture you about the beauty of the German language, I want to write about a classic psychological theory that laid the groundwork for addressing precisely this question of how people remain ignorant of their ignorance.
Dunning and Kruger often refer to a “double curse” when interpreting their findings: People fail to grasp their own incompetence, precisely because they are so incompetent. And since, overcoming their incompetence would first require the ability to distinguish competence from incompetence people get stuck in a vicious cycle.
“The skills needed to produce logically sound arguments, for instance, are the same skills that are necessary to recognize when a logically sound argument has been made. Thus, if people lack the skills to produce correct answers, they are also cursed with an inability to know when their answers, or anyone else’s, are right or wrong. They cannot recognize their responses as mistaken, or other people’s responses as superior to their own.”
This is a weirdly fascinating document:
…the secret personal diary of Abu Zubaydah, one of the most high profile prisoners in Guantanamo Bay whom the Bush administration once labeled one of the key figures in the War on Terror.
The remarkable documents cast fresh light on Zubaydah himself, will challenge some of the official US accounts of its campaign against Al-Qaeda and related organizations, and provide unique insights into the chaotic Afghanistan civil war of the 1990s that gave rise to those organizations.
The diaries, repeatedly cited by U.S. officials in making the case for holding a number of prisoners at Guantanamo but never released, have been long sought by terrorism experts and journalists for their participant-observer account of the decade’s events that led to the September 11, 2001 attacks that claimed almost 3,000 American lives.
Zubaydah was captured in Pakistan in 2002 after fleeing Afghanistan in the wake of the collapse of the Taliban regime. The diaries were found with him.
The thought kept coming to me, as I read, that a similar journal could have been written by any number of pathetic losers on the crazy fringes of our own society — Eric Rudolph, Ted Kaczynski, Scott Roeder, Timothy McVeigh. Only the targets are different.
From the New York Times:
One year after the Tazreen factory fire in Bangladesh, many retailers that sold garments produced there or inside the Rana Plaza building that collapsed last spring are refusing to join an effort to compensate the families of the more than 1,200 workers who died in those disasters…
A handful of retailers — led by Primark, an Anglo-Irish company, and C&A, a Dutch-German company — are deeply involved in getting long-term compensation funds off the ground, one for Rana Plaza’s victims and one for the victims of the Tazreen fire, which killed 112 workers last Nov. 24.
But to the dismay of those pushing to create the compensation funds, neither Walmart, Sears, Children’s Place nor any of the other American companies that were selling goods produced at Tazreen or Rana Plaza have agreed to contribute to the efforts.
The medical term for this sort of behavior is “autophagia.” Soldiers in Vietnam used to call it “stepping on your own dick.”
When Republicans and the Tea Party contribute to hunger by attacking food stamps, people of color aren’t the only ones who suffer: Republicans are physically harming their own base. Slashing food stamp benefits won’t harm the Koch brothers or JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, but it will definitely harm poor whites in a place like McDowell County, West Virginia, which is 94% white (according to the U.S. Census Bureau), rural and has a life expectancy of only 63.9 for males and 72.9 for females (according to a report that the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington released in July 2013). If life expectancy is any indication, the economic conditions for white males in McDowell County aren’t much better than the economic conditions in Haiti, where, according to the World Health Organization, males have a life expectancy of 62. In contrast to McDowell County, that study showed a life expectancy of 81.4 for males and 85.0 for females in Marin County, California — which is affluent and heavily Democratic.
…but it makes up for that by being useless:
[FISA court judge John] Bates’ heavily redacted opinion suggests that the collection of the internet and email metadata from Americans in bulk provided only minimal relevant information to FBI for generating terrorism investigation leads, the entire purpose of the program. Bates questioned, as a “threshold concern”, the government’s willingness to represent its activities to the Fisa court it cites as the principal check on its surveillance powers.
We’re Number One again! Aren’t you proud?
Juvenile life without parole is banned in the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has been ratified by every single country in the world except three: Somalia, South Sudan and the United States. In Somalia and South Sudan, there are no known cases of people serving a life without parole sentence for a crime committed as a minor. In the U.S., there were around 2,500 as of 2008, according to a Human Rights Watch tally.
From the New York Times:
JACKSBORO, Tenn. — In a mix of old-time religion, modern media and Tennessee law, a 22-year-old preacher who has become a reality television star because of his experience in handling poisonous snakes pleaded not guilty on Friday to illegally keeping dozens of them that he and his congregants routinely touch during worship services…
“This ain’t no longer just a fight for snake handling,” Mr. Hamblin, the father of five, told a group of supporters wearing red — to symbolize the blood of Christ — before his arraignment on a misdemeanor wildlife possession charge. “This is a fight for freedom of religion…”
“If they take him to jail, I’ll go to jail with him,” said Bucky Rouse, a former embalmer who is now an interior designer. “This is something we believe in.”
“The Republican Party, I really believe, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder from years and years of bullying and taunting. The Republican Party is Jonathan Martin. The Democrat Party and the media are Richie Incognito.”
Well, yeah, maybe. Except for Jonathan Martin being black.
A retired insurance executive sends along this discouraging analysis of Obama’s latest cave-in to the insurance companies and the Republicans or — as the president no doubt considers it — to reality.
I am appalled that Obama’s advisers, in trying to get him out of the jam created by promising that the insurance companies would not kick anyone off a plan they liked, allowed him to go out there and promise to fix the problem by allowing the insurance companies to continue offering the old plans for another year.
It’s repeating the exact flaw from the first pledge: in order for the promises to work, both rely on totally voluntary actions by the insurance companies! No government official can force an insurer to offer any policy, ever. There are some options governmental players can use to force insurers to comply with certain requirements once they do decide to issue a policy or a plan — but that presumes that the carriers have decided to offer a plan. No one — President, governor or insurance commissioner — can force an insurer to offer a plan in the first instance.
So Obama’s political advisers are telling him to fix a problem caused by implicitly promising that insurers will continue to offer certain plans by ... promising that insurers will resume offering certain plans.
It is not unlikely that the insurers will behave that way — it is impossible. Even if they wanted to do this, which they don’t (who wants the headache and expense of offering a bunch of small little plans for a dwindling number of policyholders when the business is shifting to a new and much larger arena with much better economies of scale) they actually physically, logistically and legally can’t do it.
Issuing a health care plan is incredibly difficult, cumbersome and complex. Launching a new plan requires at least a year of hard work and prep — designing the benefit, underwriting it, getting the actuarial work done, getting the state rate filing process accomplished including time for a rate appeal, making sure the right network of providers are in place ... on and on it goes.
Bottom line is that the fix the president just promised can’t happen until January 2015, even if it was a good idea, which it is not. And even if the issuers wanted to keep offering the old plans, which they don’t — something we know to a 100% certainty because they dropped these grandfathered plans even though they already are currently free to continue to offer these plans.
Obamacare allowed the issuers to continue the grandfathered plans — and the plans chose to drop them instead. So now the president announces that the plans can re-offer the grandfathered plans they were already allowed to offer, but chose to drop. Which the plans not just won’t, but can’t do, making the president again look like a liar.
This is political malpractice — the president has just made another healthcare promise on which he cannot deliver. And just like the first time, he appears to have no clue that he is doing so. This is going to be like chickenpox — the first time, it is bad enough. But when the same virus comes back the second time you get shingles, a much worse and more painful condition.
It’s almost as if no Democrat has ever worked in the health insurance industry or at least the White House isn’t checking with them. You’d think the political and communications advisers would want to get the policy part right to make sure the reality would match the message, but they appear oblivious.
So weird. Potentially devastating and entirely self-inflicted.
I tried not to post this, God knows I tried. But here it is. O Canada! —
The excerpt below is from Conservatives Without Conscience, [Viking, 2006], by Nixon’s White House counsel, John W. Dean. Substitute Obama, Boehner and Cruz as appropriate.
Not withstanding Clinton’s soaring popularity, conservatives had become myopic; they were fixated on getting rid of him. Five days after the House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to begin an impeachment inquiry (with all Republicans, who controlled the committee, voting for it and all Democrats voting against) a Washington Post public opinion poll showed that 62 percent of Republicans opposed impeaching the president. Knowledgeable Republicans passing through the MSNBC green room privately explained that House Republicans would pursue the impeachment anyway, on behalf of the 31 percent who wanted Clinton removed. (Seven percent of the Post poll of the GOP had no opinion.)
The motive of the GOP leaders was simply to appease the party’s “base”; the wishes of the base were their command. That base was composed primarily of Christian conservatives, in particular evangelicals. Republicans with whom I spoke before the November 1998 midterm elections were convinced the party would be vindicated at the polls for its treatment of Clinton. As it turned out, however, they had misread the mood of the country and they lost the great “impeachment election” when Americans refused to make the election a referendum on Bill Clinton’s behavior. Republicans, who controlled the House and Senate, not only gained no seats in either body, but lost five seats in the House; Speaker Newt Gingrich resigned after his plan was defeated.
What was even more stunning was that the election results did not stop these hardcore conservative Republicans from continuing to push for Clinton’s impeachment and, at the same time, issuing increasingly stern demands for party loyalty. As someone who had previously spent over twenty years in Washington observing Congress up close, l found this new level of party discipline remarkable. I understood that DeLay scared them, but so badly that they would vote against their consciences? I was relieved that a few of the conservatives with whom I spoke believed the GOP leadership was going too fast…
And in 1987, notes Washington Post reporter Peter Baker, “Democratic leaders agreed to forego impeachment proceedings against Ronald Reagan for the Iran-Contra affair once former Senator Howard H. Baker, Jr., took over as White House chief of staff, pledging to put things back on track … A constitutional crisis had been avoided. But now so-called conservatives who controlled the House of Representatives had pushed the process for political spite and cheapened an extremely important constitutional check by using impeachment solely to attack a president of whom they did not approve. Conservative demagogues shamed themselves in ways far worse than Clinton had himself, and their behavior was certainly more threatening to the democratic process than anything the president had done.
Our huge ethanol blunder has only gotten worse. This is another one of those messes — like raids on marijuana dispensaries, drone strikes, government secrecy, uncontrolled NSA spying — that so many of us hoped President Obama would work to correct. But once more he has doubled down on bad bets made by previous presidents. Excerpted from a disturbing and depressing report by Dina Cappiello and Matt Apuzzo:
As farmers rushed to find new places to plant corn, they wiped out millions of acres of conservation land, destroyed habitat and polluted water supplies, an Associated Press investigation found.
Five million acres of land set aside for conservation — more than Yellowstone, Everglades and Yosemite National Parks combined — have vanished on Obama's watch.
Landowners filled in wetlands. They plowed into pristine prairies, releasing carbon dioxide that had been locked in the soil.
Sprayers pumped out billions of pounds of fertilizer, some of which seeped into drinking water, contaminated rivers and worsened the huge dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico where marine life can't survive.
The consequences are so severe that environmentalists and many scientists have now rejected corn-based ethanol as bad environmental policy. But the Obama administration stands by it, highlighting its benefits to the farming industry rather than any negative impact.
Theoretically the mob is the repository of all wisdom and virtue; actually it is the ultimate source of political power. Even the plutocracy cannot make war upon it openly, or forget the least of its weaknesses. The business of keeping it in order must be done discreetly, warily, with delicate technique.
In the main that business consists of keeping alive its deep-seated fears — of strange faces, of unfamiliar ideas, of unhackneyed gestures, of untested liberties and responsibilities. The one permanent emotion of the inferior man, as of all the simpler mammals, is fear — fear of the unknown, the complex, the inexplicable. What he wants above all is safety. His instincts incline him towards a society so organized that it will protect him at all hazards, and not only against perils to his hide but also against assaults upon his mind — against the need to grapple with unaccustomed problems, to weigh ideas, to think things out for himself, to scrutinize the platitudes upon which his everyday thinking is based…
In America it is the newspaper that is his boss. From it he gets support for his elemental illusions. In it he sees a visible embodiment of his own wisdom and consequence. Out of it he draws fuel for his simple moral passion, his congenital suspicion of heresy, his dread of the unknown. And behind the newspaper stands the plutocracy, ignorant,, unimaginative and timorous…
It is precisely here, the first and favorite scene of the Great Experiment, that the culture of the individual has been reduced to the most rigid and absurd regimentation.
—H. L. Mencken, writing in 1920. The bogeyman of that time was the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, locally represented by unwashed and unintelligible immigrants from Italy, Eastern Europe and Russia itself. What he would have written about the Tea Party, Ayn Rand, the TSA and the NSA, we can never know. For even if the Great Misanthrope were to come back to life, his head would explode upon contact with Fox News.
Iowa beat Dayton 97-93 in overtime today. Here’s Bethany about to rack up two of the 22 points that made her the Hawkeyes’ top scorer. Did I mention that Dayton was ranked 16th in the nation until very recently?
The endless repetition of that Ronald Reagan quotation — “Trust, but verify” — must be stopped. The saying is an insult to intelligence, yet is hauled out on all sorts of occasions by commentators of pretty much any political stripe. Why an insult? Because while at first glance it seems to encapsulate vast worldly wisdom, a little thought shows that it contains no wisdom at all. Or worse.
The saying seems to suggest, to the gullible mind, that you can simultaneously (a) trust something and (b) act to verify it. Unfortunately for The Gipper and his admirers, the two verbs — trust and verify — are mutually exclusive, logically as well as in practice. In other words, the saying is stupid (or, more politely, empty). To trust something, such as a statement, means to rely on its veracity without the need for any proof or other demonstration of trustworthiness whatsoever. To verify, on the truly separate other hand, is to require empirical proof of veracity. There is no end run around that meaning of verify.
Also: trust is a description of an individual’s mental state, while to verify is an empirical act, necessarily involving exploration out into the world. So: you either rely on a statement without verification, which is to feel trust in it or its source; or you seek verification of the statement, which means you do not feel trust it or for its source. You cannot be said to trust something, even in the deepest recesses of your mind, yet simultaneously make an effort to verify it. Otherwise, why would you verify?
Yes, you can feel trust for a while, yet move toward verification sooner or later — but that is merely to abandon trust and toggle to empirical verification. Ronald Reagan’s vaunted shrewdness is just more flapdoodle. Please help stop it.
From Paul Krugman in the New York Times:
It’s been a really nice, civilized day: talking about economic research and policy issues with smart, knowledgeable people, plus sharing some good memories of graduate school.
I suppose I could have stayed in that life, which would have been really comfortable. But it’s not the real world of economic policy, which is full of people who aren’t smart, don’t know what they’re talking about, and/or are anything but honest. And someone has to take that real world on.
That last sentence sounds like something Tailgunner Ted Cruz might have said, and very likely even has. And maybe Paul Krugman, too, is an asshole. Not knowing the gentleman I can’t say, although I don’t know Cruz either, and I’m not letting that stop me. What I do know is that Krugman is an immensely useful citizen, and I hope he never lets the bastards grind him down.