Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sunday Morning Comin' Down

"What Is Dead May Never Die" Edition.

For sheer yardage gained in the direction opposite of reality on a single play, I've got to give it to Howard Kurtz of Fox News this week.

As you may know, Mistah Kurtz's career as a third rate purveyor of media insider gossip was in ashes, until Roger Ailes came to his rescue and added Kiurtz to his vast stable of street-corner dung-hustlers.

Usually Mistah Kurtz's soap whittlings are too trivial to mention, but this Sunday he really elevated the ambient level of completely fucking surreal at Fox by conducting a puppet show with a couple of other Fox News nobodies about what a God Damn Crying Shame it was that "the media" had lost so much credibility with Real Murricans since the Age of Cronkite.

According to Mr. Ailes' script as it was recited by these persons, the main reasons Real Murricans don't trust the media are, in no particular order...
Chelsea Clinton!

No one in "the media" is ever held accountable for anything!


Did I mention no one in the media who lies or fucks up is ever held to account for it?

And, of course -- Liberal.  Media.  Bias.
Also too, "Frank Luntz asked a focus group..." and, when all else fails, Both Sides.

As the scattered members of the Lost Tribe of Gilliard will recall, for most of this career Mistah Kurtz was just one more Republican shill embedded in the Mainstream Media, using his position to flak for horrible people with bad ideas and cover their escape route with a thick schmear of "fairness" concern trolling.
Which is why Hunter Thompson was a hero. He was honest to a fault and mean to a fault. In a world where journalism has become about asking questions politely and fiction about settling grudges with parents and schoolmates, he was about something far more important.

Blogs follow in the tradition of outlaw journalism, but without the flourishes he liked. It's not about just being outrageous, most of the bloggers are little different than their peers in newspapers, clean living young men and women. They don't get drunk and naked for fun, they pay their bills, stay faithful and maybe have a beer too many. However, it is the spirit of what Thompson meant, to be outside the laws of journalism, not the rules, but the laws. The laws of not offending advertisers and friendly pols. The laws of family friendly copy. Those laws. Not the rules about honesty and decency.

When Howard Kurtz whines about "fairness", someone needs to tell him the truth. "Mistah Kurtz, we are not fair. We are honest." Bush uses fairness like a Samurai uses a katana, to slice and dice and win. Fairness will no more stop Bush than a bazooka could stop a Tiger tank (couldn't come close). It is honesty which will stop him. People have to tell the truth. Kurtz and his fellows are people to be derided and mocked, not argued with. To accord him respect and seriousness, in the job most journalists disdain like cops hate internal affairs, is to give him power that his peers would never. The next time he whines about fairness, laugh in his face, wave a shrunken head in front of him, show him a picture of King Leopold. Do anything you want to show him the contempt you hold him in. But his words are meaningless to the people who matter, our readers.
Which goes a long way towards explaining why the Daily Beast thought paying him a still-undisclosed-but-definitely-not-$600K!-sized pile of money to print his gooey mash notes was a good idea.

And why no one was terribly bothered by his second wife's very active, lucrative career as a Republican flak.
Yes, Howard Kurtz' current (second) wife is Sheri Annis, a professional Republican operative now working at (running?) an outfit called Fourth Estate Strategies. She's written for National Review, was a spokesperson for the Arnold Schwarzenegger, and helped run anti-affirmative action, anti-bilingual education, and anti-immigration campaigns.
And in the end, his tour of duty as a Respected Mainstream Journalist about whom no one bitched (except some grumpy Liberal bloggers) accomplished what it was intended to accomplish: it permitted Mistah Kurtz to cash in at Fox News mouthing the Ailes Party Line, immune to criticism that he's just another Fox News street-corner dung-hustler (except from some grumpy Liberal bloggers) , because after all, look at all my shiny Respected Mainstream Journalist street cred.

At that point I ran away from the teevee for awhile, returning later long enough hear a Fox!News!Alert!

So was it a missing blonde girl, Benghazi, or a Special Fox News panel speculating about which sort of depraved criminal Michael Brown would probably have grown up into anyway?

Turns out it was the middle one.

It seems a bunch of yahoos with guns calling themselves "Dawn of Libya" took some abandoned buildings away another bunch of yahoos with guns.  These buildings had been evacuated by American diplomatic personnel two months ago.  American diplomatic staff had left nothing of value or interest behind -- no files, no computer hard drives, no communicators.

But this rated a Fox!News!Alert! because it may "disturbingly echo" Benghazi...because remember! something something...four Americans killed!

Later, during the concluding ceremonies of the longest running funeral in Sunday Morning Gasbag history, NBC finally got enough of the David Gregory-smell out of the carpet and drapes 

to conduct a cheery "Meet The Moderator" segment in which we, the viewing public, were re-re-re-re-reintroduced to Shuck Todd.

Mr. Todd made it clear that he believes his primary function as the new captain of the S.S. Conventional Wisdom is to serve the public interest.

But of course as we exotic language experts know, when translated from Beltway Weaselspeak into English, "To Serve the Public Interest" does not mean what you think it means...

Saturday, August 30, 2014

House MD

Meditate for a moment on this latest manifestation of mental unbalance by prominent Conservative lunatic Dr. Ben Carson:
Ben Carson: No, I'm Not Sorry I Compared U.S. To Nazi Germany

Conservative Ben Carson isn't backing down from his previous statements likening progressives and Obama supporters to Nazi sympathizers.

The topic was broached and reported on in a profile of Carson in The Washington Post.

"You can't dance around it," Carson told The Washington Post's Ben Terris. "If people look at what I said and were not political about it, they'd have to agree. Most people in Germany didn't agree with what Hitler was doing…Exactly the same thing can happen in this country if we are not willing to stand up for what we believe in."

In February Carson suggested that liberals could turn the country into Nazi Germany...
Well of course Ben Carson is not sorry. Conservatives don't do sorry. No matter how despicable or insane what comes out of their pie-holes may be, the only thing Conservatives do anymore is "Say it again, only louder."

So meditate on that for a moment, and then consider that the clowns who believe that Ben Carson is the savior of the GOP are the same fucking clowns who said that Scary Negro Barack Obama was automatically disqualified from being President of these United States because he was in the zip code as Scary Negro preacher Jeremiah Wright who said an intemperate thing that one time (and was, of course, taken wildly and deliberately out of context by the entire Conservative Noise Machine, forever and ever, amen):

But you know what?  I actually agree with what Dr. Carson said, although not in any way that would make him happy.

The despair and rage and paranoia of post-WWI Germany that made the rise of Nazism possible -- an overpowering sense of betrayal and lost greatness... an obsession with race and purity... a berserk hatred of impure outsiders and immigrants... a willingness to believe the most paranoid conspiracies about fifth columns and internal enemies ... the relentless scapegoating of (among others) minorities, foreigners, intellectuals, unions and Liberals ... the round-the-clock raving of demagogues -- are precisely the same toxic conditions which prevail within the Republican Party and the Conservative Movement today.

And, just as in Germany, all of it is being purposefully orchestrated and bankrolled by wealthy industrialists, propagandists, amoral opportunists, con men and various other psychopaths and scumbags.

All of which is plainly, terrifyingly obvious... anyone who isn't competing to lead the American Fascist Party's torch-lit parade back to the Dark Ages.

David Brooks Phones In Another Book Report

He does that.

A lot.

Here is this week's:
The Mental Virtues
Oh goodie!

Another lecture on virtue!

From David Brooks!

Because who better?
Even if you are alone in your office, you are thinking. Thinking well under a barrage of information may be a different sort of moral challenge than fighting well under a hail of bullets, but it’s a character challenge nonetheless.
Words fail me here, so let me illustrate what David Brooks alone in his office confronting a moral challenge looks like:

Mr. Brooks continues:
In their 2007 book, “Intellectual Virtues,” Robert C. Roberts of Baylor University and W. Jay Wood of Wheaton College list some of the cerebral virtues. We can all grade ourselves on how good we are at each of them.
And here we go...
First, there is love of learning...
So far, so good.  What's next?
Second, there is courage. 
Sure.  Who doesn't value courage?  But of course, this being David Fucking Brooks, only a specific, Centrist-y kind of courage will do:
...The reckless thinker takes a few pieces of information and leaps to some faraway conspiracy theory. The perfectionist, on the other hand, is unwilling to put anything out there except under ideal conditions for fear that she could be wrong...
And for any new readers interested in a truly embarrassing abundance of examples of a shamelessly "reckless thinker" leaping to "some faraway conspiracy theory",  just Google "David Brooks", Iraq and George Bush or click here. I guarantee that you will be shocked at how deep into the wingnut sewer Yale's favorite Professor of Humility used to happily dog-paddle for a dollar.
Third, there is firmness. 
Terrific!  But, once again, the only real "firmness" is David Brooks brand-name "firmness" equidistant between two straw men will suffice:
You don’t want to be a person who surrenders his beliefs at the slightest whiff of opposition. On the other hand, you don’t want to hold dogmatically to a belief against all evidence. The median point between flaccidity and rigidity is the virtue of firmness. 
Mr. Brooks continues --
Fourth, there is humility, which is not letting your own desire for status get in the way of accuracy. 
-- and I struggle mightily to keep my lunch down.
Fifth, there is autonomy. 
But, once again...
You don’t want to be a person who slavishly adopts whatever opinion your teacher or some author gives you. On the other hand...
And, finally.
Finally, there is generosity. This virtue starts with the willingness to share knowledge and give others credit. But it also means hearing others as they would like to be heard, looking for what each person has to teach and not looking to triumphantly pounce upon their errors.
Which ironically demonstrates the one virtue Mr, Brooks truly values above all others but never talks about -- the virtue of never having to listen to your critics or be held accountable for anything you say, do or write.  It frees Mr. Brooks from the obligation of ever reconciling his former career as a paid slanderer of Liberals and triumphant pouncer upon Liberal errors (which, it turned out in the fullness of time, were not errors at all but 100% accurate) with his current career as ass-stick containment unit and truckling Centrist scold.

And or course, what half-assed book report would be complete without an extra-credit end-quote you hope will bump your lazy, forgettable trash into passing-grade range:
Montaigne once wrote...
Finally, as hundreds many several one minor early 21st century wag once noted:
Like a lot of his columns, this one reeks strongly of Brooks obliquely writing about himself. Or about how he sees himself: a noble man who got caught up in an unsavory profession for the very best of reasons and now is trying to cut a different trail for himself (without actually changing or taking responsibility for anything.)
Which is why Mr. Brooks finishes off this 800-words-of-nothing with what I'm sure he fervently hopes will be the first line of his obituary --
 It’s possible to be heroic if you’re just sitting alone in your office.
 -- and will be positioned precisely in the middle of New York Times obit page.

The Evolution of Christian White

Once upon a time "Christian White" was a joke that a screenwriter tried to slip into a terrible script as an act of "Can you believe this crap?" subversion (emphasis added):
So I returned to New York to find that The Young Lawyers had barely escaped cancellation in the purge that blissfully rid us of The Immortal, Barefoot in the Park, The Most Deadly Game, The Silent Force, The Young Rebels, Tom Jones and Matt Lincoln.

But the price of being kept on the air is a high one.  It is total Agnew-ization.

No scripts dealing with drugs.  No scripts dealing with "youth".  No socially conscious scripts.  Lee J. Cobb comes into prominence.  Zalman King fades back quite a lot and a pure WASP attorney will be introduced to ease the identity crisis of the scuttlefish  (Steve Kandel, one of the more lunatic scriveners in Clown Town, when assigned the chore of writing the script that introduces the new characters, despising the idea, named him Christian White.  It went through three drafts before anyone got hip to Steve's sword in the spleen.)

-- Harlan Ellison, approx. February 1970, reprinted in The Other Glass Teat *
Four decades later, in the ever-darkening shadow of the Nixon's Southern Strategy, "Christian White" is now an overt statement of whiny dominionist paranoia by well-known "godbothering nuisance who once starred on a weirdly successful sitcom that ripped off everything it knew from Family Ties" (emphasis added):
[Kirk] Cameron said some of the claims that will be addressed in the film include: the notion that Christmas is really a church co-opting of winter solstice celebrations, that Jesus was not born on December 25, that Christmas trees are pagan and that consumerism is overshadowing the true reason for the season.

“It’s a scripted story about a guy named Christian White who represents the typical white Christian male and he’s got a bad case of religious bah humbugs,” Cameron said. “He is just deflating his wife’s entire Christmas party because he has come to believe that everything we’re doing at Christmas to celebrate is wrong.”

The movie includes reenactments of the original Christmas tree story, with portions and scripted scenes showing the nativity and the Council of Nicea, a pivotal event in the history of Christianity.

Cameron, who is also one of the film’s stars, told TheBlaze that he decided to make “Saving Christmas” to celebrate the spirit of the holiday season, while also pushing back against those who wish to “snuff out [the holiday's] holy root.”
And thus does entertainment history repeat itself, first as behind-the-scenes, Nixon-era dissent, and then as out-and-proud, anti-science, anti-history fundamentalist primal-scream.

I'm sure there's a lesson in there somewhere.

*Why my brain retains these little details from stuff I read decades ago, I have no idea.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Professional Left Podcast #247

Convergent deadlines and natural calamities beset our little hobbit hole this week. Fortunately, listener Scott chose this week to send us a terrific "Best of The Professional Left" recording he cut together just because he's awesome.  So enjoy!
-- driftglass 

Da' money goes here:

Because Every Day Is Anti-Labor Day

If you were looking for a refreshing holiday beverage that combines all the worst impulses of the Koch Brothers' fanatical neo-feudalism with all the hysterical Libruls!Are!Comin!!To!Kill!You! paranoia of the Koch Brothers, you couldn't do much better than this whiny manifesto on the horrors workers who stand up for their rights from Mark Mix, president of the Corporate Droit du Seigneur Legal Defense Foundation National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
It’s Labor Day, not Union Day

Most Americans realize Labor Day is about celebrating workers and their contribution to our free society, but that won’t stop union bosses from stealing the spotlight to push their own agenda...
Yes, unions want to fuck up poor Mr. Mix's Labor Day by dragging labor into it!

Doesn't waste much time getting right to the Airing of The Grievances, does he?

But not to worry; America's bright oligarchic future has not been completely destroyed by Union Thugs.  There are still things to celebrate.

Like, say, a certain "twice-elected goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to manage their midwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin" successfully implementing his paymaster's genius "Ha Ha!  Your fired for no damn reason or maybe I just don't like your uppity backsass." plan:
In Wisconsin, the state supreme court upheld in entirety Gov. Scott Walker’s public-sector unionism reforms, commonly known as “Act 10,” which grants Right to Work protections to most Wisconsin government employees.
State motto, 1848-2014:  "Forward!".
State motto, 2015-????:  "Go ahead and yell.  Ain't nobody can hear ya.")
Mr. Mix also has plenty to say about how run amok with power the peasants have gotten and how they are Very Rudely attempting to crash the corrupt political monopoly Mr. Mix's employers are buying for themselves --
For union officials, political activism takes precedence over protecting worker rights.

And why not? Big Labor’s $1.7 billion forced-dues funded political machine enables Big Labor to wield an immense amount of clout in Washington, D.C., and state capitals.
Which should come as no great surprise when you come to find the kind of company Mr. Mix keeps (from the Center For Media and Democracy):
National Right to Work's Deep Connections to the Koch Brothers and the John Birch Society

The NRTWC has deep connections within the national right-wing network led by the Koch brothers. Reed Larson, who led the NRTW groups for over three decades, hails from Wichita, Kansas, the hometown of Charles and David Koch. Larson became an early leader of the radical right-wing John Birch Society in Kansas, which Fred Koch (the father of Charles and David) helped found. Several other founders and early leaders of the NRTWC were members and leaders of the John Birch Society, specifically the Wichita chapter of which Fred Koch was an active member.

The groups remain tied to the Kochs. In 2012, the Kochs' Freedom Partners group funneled $1 million to the National Right to Work Committee, while the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation gave a $15,000 grant to the NRTWLDF, which has also received significant funding from the Koch-connected DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund. Today, at least three former Koch associates work as attorneys for the NRTWLDF.

In June 2010, Mark Mix, the current head of the NRTW groups, attended the Kochs' exclusive Aspen strategy meeting to give a presentation on how to mobilize conservatives for the 2010 election, along with representatives from Koch-backed groups such as the Center to Protect Patient Rights (now called American Encore) and Americans for Prosperity.
What people like Mr. Mix have going for them is a tiny cabal of single-minded patrons willing to spend a mountain of money to remake the world in their image.

And so far, it's working.


Arise Ye Prisoners of Regulations
Arise ye Wealthy of the Earth
For Justice has been Bought by Corporations
So come and get your money's worth!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

What is L.A.C.I.R.?

What is L.A.C.I.R.?

It is my own, dues-collecting cause for which -- if I can swing it -- you will be getting dunned by Jim Dean or Howard Dean or Adam Green.


Here is an example of what we at L.A.C.I.R. are trying to stamp out.

Dear Chris,

I know it feels good to pretend that you are somhow unburdening yourself to conservatives who will listen to you and take what you say seriously, but this "Open Letter To..." suffers from the obvious flaw that a) the "conservatives" you are trying to reach to do not watch your program and, b) the "conservatives" you are trying to reach are as imaginary as Ammit the Devourer.

So cut it out.

Unless you're don't listen to people me.

Which would be ironic, no?

Yours in Christ,


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

It's More of a Shelbyville Idea...

Today in local perfidyLyle Lanley Jeff Parsons
Judge Threatens Jeff Parsons With Criminal Contempt

A federal judge has threatened to hold former THR and Associates boss Jeff Parsons in criminal contempt of court if he doesn’t provide the documents needed to proceed with his case.

Parsons last appeared in court July 10th when he was ordered to produce documents related to THR and his current buy/sell/trade ventures. He owes former employees and vendors more than $12 million and declared bankruptcy in 2012.

Parsons, again, didn’t provide everything needed. He solicited an attorney and accountant to go through receipts and compile financial reports, but he didn’t provide transaction reports or invoices for any good, silver or other goods he bought at shows and then and sold to Steve Mileham, the man who owns Goldlink on MacArthur Blvd. in Springfield.

Parsons told attorney Doug Quivey, representing Parson’s former employees and vendors, that Mileham buys materials purchased at road shows and offers what’s called “advances” in exchange. Quivey, poring over documents, says Mileham has “advanced” Parsons nearly $2 million since he filed for bankruptcy in 2012.

Parsons didn’t provide transaction reports detailing how much, if any, of that money went into his business accounts...
And what was THR?

Basically it was the Springfield monorail...
The Roadshow is over
THR heads for bankruptcy
By Bruce Rushton

Help wanted billboards erected in Springfield promised six-figure salaries to folks who went to work for THR & Associates, a company formed in 2008 that almost overnight became a multimillion-dollar firm. With Parsons as its president, CEO and sole shareholder, THR set up buying events in hotels throughout the nation, luring customers through newspaper ads, then convincing them to sell coins, jewelry, watches, antiques and anything else of value, especially if it contained gold or silver.

The goal was to buy low, sell high, and THR did a lot of it. In 2010, the company had revenue of $125 million and Parsons reaped nearly $9 million in profits. Revenue last year was $211 million, with a net profit of almost $11 million, according to testimony in the pending divorce case of Parsons vs. Parsons, which has laid bare the inner workings of THR and the largesse of Jeffrey Parsons, who had finally hit it big. But not for long.

THR is headed for bankruptcy, and its bank accounts have been frozen by the Internal Revenue Service, according to recent testimony in the divorce case. The Illinois attorney general’s office has launched an investigation, and a federal criminal probe could be in the offing.

Between delinquent payroll taxes and unpaid personal income taxes, the state and federal governments are owed about $13 million by THR and Parsons, who resigned as the company’s chief executive officer on July 13, a Friday. He deposited his final paycheck in the account of his live-in girlfriend and mother of his infant child so that the IRS would not seize the money. He testified last week that his own bank account has a balance of $360.
No word on whether Mr. Parsons is using his "advances" to start up similar enterprises in Brockway, Ogdenville or North Haverbrook.

The Spleenwald Social Experiment Is Now Ended

While I will continue to drop a post about Mr. Greenwald whenever is suits me, the social experiment portion of our show is now over.

My thesis has always been that the Spleenwald Horde are mostly just reflex-driven meat, squatting on digital rocks ignoring every other issue on Earth and responding only when anyone throws the tiniest sliver of shade in the direction of Mr. Greenwald's moral perfection or in any way questions Mr. Greenwald's inerrant wisdom.

Then and only then do the Spleenwald Horde twitch into shoutycrackers action, dutifully ignoring the substance of any critique and instead rattling on like the last, tiny, crazy marble in a very large oil drum.

Having splendidly demonstrated the accuracy of my thesis to nine significant digits, they are once again disinvited from this blog.

But thanks for all the laughs!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

You Want Edgy?

Lose the waxworks and let a little truth shine in.

From the New York Times:
As for “Meet the Press,” Ms. Turness said she worked with Mr. Gregory to try to make changes, but “we weren’t able to build a new vision together in the end.”

Her new vision for “Meet the Press” includes adding a regular panel of journalists who will question guests, something of a return to the venerable show’s original format. “The show needs more edge,” she said. “It needs to be consequential. I think the show had become a talking shop that raked over the cold embers of what had gone on the previous week. The one-on-one conversation belongs to a decade ago. We need more of a coffeehouse conversation.”
You want edgy?

Put Liberals on teevee.  Real Liberals.

It's just that simple.

Sure, everyone has their own version of Ed Kilgore's list of people who should never, ever be allowed access to a microphone and camera every again.  And banning that herd of establishmentarian testicles cozies would be a very fine thing.

But a much finer thing would be a frank and open and even, yes, even edgy conversation about why those establishmentarian testicles cozies were allowed to come into being in the first place.  Why they have been invested with such enormous power to warp our national agenda.  And why, why, why the simple act of stating blindingly obvious truths about our politics has been effectively banned from these precincts by the very people whose job it is supposed to be to talk about hard truths.

You want edgy?

Put Digby on your panel.

Put Hal Sparks on your panel and let him rip.

Hell, put me on there.

And watch us go go go.

Also Too, There. Is. Still. No. Tea. Party.

“...they turned to prayer, beseeching
that the sin which had been committed
might be wholly blotted out.”
-- 2 Maccabees. 12:42
Ripped from the annals of "No One Could Have Predicted...", this from this Andrew Sullivan's Pot-'n-Popes-'n-Stuff blog (which has temporarily become his Pot-'n-Popes-'n-Libertarians-'n-Stuff blog since he turned it over to an entire floor of his dorm while he takes a month off to contemplate the meaning of man's existence in an indifferent universe. Or something.)

Anyway, even though this really (and hilariously) speaks for itself, I will probably risking gilding that lily and add my two bitcoin's worth at the end....
Libertarians In Name Only
AUG 26 2014 @ 1:17PM
by Dish Staff 
Tim Fernholz highlights new Pew data on libertarianism in America, which shows that only 11 percent self-describe as libertarian and understand what the term means:

The survey showed a fairly even split among Americans considering whether the regulation of businesses does more harm than good, or if aid for the poor helps or hinders, though a majority does think that corporations make too much profit. Libertarians, meanwhile, leaned strongly against any interference in business or help to the poor, though not as strongly as you might think: 41% of libertarians saw government regulation of business as necessary, and 38% supported aid to the poor.

Indeed, perhaps the most interesting finding is that self-described libertarians favor US involvement in world affairs more than the average citizen, despite their reputation for an isolationist lean. And, even more weirdly, 16% of libertarians said US citizens need to be willing to give up some privacy in exchange for greater security.
Kilgore thinks that “Pew has at the very least cast some massive doubt on all that ‘libertarian moment’ polling from Reason“:
These findings of the non-particularity of “libertarian” views, mind you, is after Pew has melted the category down from 17% of the public to 11%, since a lot of “libertarians” could not accurately distinguish “libertarian” from “communist” or—get this—“Unitarian.”
Allahpundit’s analysis:
What you’re seeing in the poll results, I think, is a bunch of doctrinaire libertarians having their brand diluted by a bunch of conservatives/ Republicans who are disgusted with those labels right now, for whatever reason, and are thus hoping to claim “libertarianism” for themselves. Do you support aggressive policing, a muscular foreign policy, and a social safety net but are disgusted with how big and intrusive the federal government’s gotten and how complacent the GOP has gotten about it? Congrats, you might be a “libertarian.” In fact, this reminds me of what David Frum said recently about the “libertarian moment”...
So, as usual, linky-love and compliments for all the usual suspects like the Washington Times, Hot Air, David Frum.

But heaven help you if, years ago, you starting writing post after post pointing that the sudden surge in self-identified "independents" and "Tea Partiers" and "libertarians" were obviously millions of Republican cowards fleeing the scene of their many, many, many crimes:
Most newly minted “independents” seem to be little more than Republicans who are fleeing the scene of their crime, but at the same time still desperately want believe in the inerrant wisdom of Rush Limbaugh. They are completely incapable of facing the horrifying reality that they have gotten every single major political opinion and decision of their adult lives completely wrong, so instead they double-down on their hatred of women and/or gays and/or brown people and/or Liberals, and blame them for the miserable fuckpit their leaders and their policies have made of their live and futures.

Like German soldiers after the fall of Berlin, they have stopped running away from the catastrophe they created only long enough to burn their uniforms.
Heaven help you if you were writing back in 2009 that one of the most important lessons of 9/11 which every single person in the Mainstream Media was conspicuously ignoring was that Conservatives were now completely dependent to getting cost-free rebranding do-overs from the media every time they committed another atrocity:
So, for example, when you hear the same people who fanatically supported President George W. Bush when he famously told Iraq war critics to fuck off --
"Well, we had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 election."
"...scrap the current grandiose plans and to start over."
or when you see the mobs on the Right being whipped by talk of secession or revolution or spilling the "blood of tyrants" into a nearly-pornographic frenzy, understand that what you are witnessing are the echoes of political decisions made in the wake of September 11, 2001.

Political decisions that trained the Right to believe, on a visceral level, that a sufficiently bloody and horrifying disruption to the life of the country can -- if properly exploited -- wash away their eight otherwise-unforgivable years of sin and restore "their country" to its proper, wingnut default setting.

That if the right sacrifices are made to the right Gods in just the right way, then they can be virgins again.
Heaven help you if, years ago, you chose to stand apart from the credulous Media Lemmings and point out that the only fucking reason this brazen scheme to escape brutal judgement for their multiple, bloody, Bush-era treacheries, hypocrisies and lies was not being laughed out of existence was that Conservatives had turned the media into their eager co-conspirators:
The thing is, I don't especially begrudge these Four Heist Men of the Teapocalypse their ludicrous little charade; Hell, if I'd spent the last decade happily sucking the dicks of the people who destroyed my country, I'd guess I'd be dressing up in pantyhose and jaunty little hats and pretending I'd been asleep since the Ford Administration too.

Phil Ponce, on the other hand, is a different story. Letting these clowns use the the public airwaves to put across their underhanded, one-sided scam is unforgivable, and letting himself be used as their sweat rag in the process is beyond embarrassing.

If Royko were alive, he'd be dangling Ponce by his ankle from a fifth story window right about now, making him conjugate the verb "muckrake".

In Latin.


Else how's that boy ever gonna learn!
There. Are. Four. Lights.

And. There. Is. Still.  No.  Tea. Party. 

And while nobody in Mr. Sullivan's circle is ever going to acknowledge that, once again, Liberals like me were right all along...and while the day will never come when I can afford to take a month off to think about whether the Universe is itself conscious ab ovo or if conscious is just one of the Universe's emergent properties (and if time is actually non-linear does that distinction even matter) at least I can sleep at night.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sunday Morning Comin' Down

Busy as this last week has been, I have not had the time to flop down in front of the Glass Teat and take the full and glorious measure of how the insular denizens of the swampy berg of Washington D.C. are smugly autofellating themselves during this Summer Break weekend.

But this one thing caught my eye...

On thing which is is so gloriously representative of the denialist "Both Sides" flapdoodle that has become the lingua franca of our political media that it is the beyond my poor power to parody simply because it comes out of the box already so full-on self-parodying that all you have to do is push the button and watch (after the ad):

One day your grandkids will have to stand in line at a holomuseum to hear authentic, frontier Centrist gibberish, like that my friends,

so enjoy it in its natural state while you can.

Of course, this is all the result of the gutlessness of those "Moderate Republicans, Undecideds, and Libertarians" about whom I wrote this little parable way back on the Year of Our Lord Aught Five, when I thought one day it might become necessary to explain the monstrous rise and toxic collapse of the Modern Republican Cult to very small children.

We will never be rid of Centrist con men because the underlying causes of them will continue multiplying like cholera bacteria until the GOP as we know it is banished to the Phantom Zone.  And that will never happen until Moderate Republican Steve is forced to admit that not only has Crazy Uncle Liberty been out of his fucking mind for years, but that Liberal Cousin Jennifer has been right about Crazy Uncle Liberty being out of his fucking mind all along.

And Moderate Republican Steve is nowhere near emotionally or intellectually strong enough to face the fact that he has been horribly wrong since forever.  And from the little acorn of his cowardice and intractable unwillingness to take any responsibility for the hellbeast he helped create, the mighty oak of reflexive Both Siderism.  Individually, Moderate Republican Steve may appear weak and stupid, but multiply him by millions and you create a massive marketplace for an entire weasel-word vocabulary of denialism, and (like opportunistic diseases picnicking on a ruined immune system) a farrago of vanity-funded Centrist pyramid schemes each trying to cash in on Steve's frantic desire to continue to pretend that what this country really needs is to get rid of  Crazy Uncle Liberty and Liberal Cousin Jennifer because of the horrible, horrible "extremes on both sides".

Vanity-funded Centrist pyramid schemes like this one!

Meanwhile, the dysfunction in Washington just kept getting worse.  I wrote The Centrist Manifesto when the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction process collapsed, as the two parties kowtowed to their most active and vocal members.
And Testimonials:
“The two extremes are tearing this nation apart with their stubborn rhetoric and lack of action. I refuse to just sit back and watch. Our country is worth fighting for!”

Phillip Slater, MD
And a Logo:

And everything!  (And you know it's not just some boiler-room, fly-by-night outfit when the graphic is named "logoplaceholder".)

You know, if I had been raised just a little more skeevy and glib, I could have gone into the Both Sider Long Con years ago and have enough squirreled away by now to retire in style.

Stupid Liberal.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Public and The Private

Glenn Greenwald makes an argument:
This week, the announcement by Twitter CEO Dick Costolo that the company would prohibit the posting of the James Foley beheading video and photos from it (and suspend the accounts of anyone who links to the video) met with overwhelming approval. What made that so significant, as The Guardian‘s James Ball noted today, was that “Twitter has promoted its free speech credentials aggressively since the network’s inception.” By contrast, Facebook has long actively regulated what its users are permitted to say and read; at the end of 2013, the company reversed its prior ruling and decided that posting of beheading videos would be allowed, but only if the user did not express support for the act.

Given the savagery of the Foley video, it’s easy in isolation to cheer for its banning on Twitter. But that’s always how censorship functions: it invariably starts with the suppression of viewpoints which are so widely hated that the emotional response they produce drowns out any consideration of the principle being endorsed.

It’s tempting to support criminalization of, say, racist views as long as one focuses on one’s contempt for those views and ignores the serious dangers of vesting the state with the general power to create lists of prohibited ideas...

Except as any averagely bright eight-year-old knows, Twitter is not The State.

And so the question is moot (Using the Jesse Jackson Jr. and OED alternate definitions: "2. N. Amer. (orig. Law). Of a case, issue, etc.: having no practical significance or relevance; abstract, academic. Now the usual sense in North America."):

A fact about which, attorney Glenn Greenwald is obviously aware...
It’s certainly true, as defenders of Twitter have already pointed out, that as a legal matter, private actors – as opposed to governments – always possess and frequently exercise the right to decide which opinions can be aired using their property. Generally speaking, the public/private dichotomy is central to any discussions of the legality or constitutionality of “censorship.”
..but for some reason he really wants to pick this fight anyway, so off he goes:
But as a prudential matter, the private/public dichotomy is not as clean when it comes to tech giants that now control previously unthinkable amounts of global communications. There are now close to 300 million active Twitter users in the world – roughly equivalent to the entire U.S. population – and those numbers continue to grow rapidly and dramatically. At the end of 2013, Facebook boasted of 1.23 billion active users: or 1 out of every 7 human beings on the planet. YouTube, owned by Google, recently said that “the number of unique users visiting the video-sharing website every month has reached 1 billion” and “nearly one out of every two people on the Internet visits YouTube.”

These are far more than just ordinary private companies from whose services you can easily abstain if you dislike their policies. Their sheer vastness makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to avoid them, particularly for certain work...

Except no matter how many different ways you cut it, Twitter is still not The State.

Neither is FaceBook.

Neither is YouTube.

Once upon a time I had a boss who required me to carry BlackBerry.  I didn't want to, but there you go  On that same job I worked every day behind a cast iron firewall which made it virtually impossible to access anything cool or interesting on the internet.  Which was a drag, but I found if I hustled I could grab lunch at a local hippie joint with wifi and still post to my blog if anything newsworthy was breaking in the middle of the day.

Before that I worked at a college where we rigged it so only the software we chose -- in the configuration we designated -- existed on all +300 computers in our department.  Yes, students paid tuition, but (as we would have to explain three times a day -- peaking at 17 times a day around midterms and finals -- to some person complaining about their "rights" being violated) they didn't own the fucking infrastructure of the school.  They shared it with several thousand other humans from two dozen countries who all had very different priorities and who were also all theoretically trying to get an education and a degree.  The same institution had rules about drinking and smoking on campus which, frankly, were written to accommodate the predilections of one senior administrator who like to smoke in his office and drink with pretty grad students.

Before that I worked at a place that considered having any game on your company-assigned laptop to be a firing offense. Until the boss got hooked on Tetris, at which point that rule loosened up considerably.

These days, I occasionally have to swing by the HyVee to buy muffins for a community meeting, but I clearly understand that should I decide to do my muffin shopping pants-free one day, they're sure as shit going to "ban my content" by asking me to leave.  This arbitrary policy (obviously created by the powerful Big Trousers lobby) makes it difficult if not impossible to do my work sans culottes, so the pants stay on.  

Currently I also "work" at this blog, and by the extremely broad "a pulse, a blog and a POV" definition of the term Mr. Greenwald favors, I am a "journalist".  And and every so often when I have occasion to dig through my archives I find that about 1/3 of all the YouTube videos I have ever posted to supplement your consumer experience have been sent to the digital cornfield to copyright violations or account cancellation or whatever.  And until today I have never considered that the imprint of the jackbooted foot of The Virtual State stomping on my throat.  

By the way, you know what of those previous jobs, that college, this blog, HyVee, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube all have in common?

None of them are The State.

None of them can declare war, or arrest me or in any other way compel me to do anything that I don't consent to do.

And as inconvenient or arbitrary or stupid as I may have found some of thier policies to be I understand that just as I am free not to use YouTube or FaceBook or Twitter or Instagram or Skype or NetScape or Mosaic or Archie or Gopher or Veronica or Jughead or any of the other amazing internet geegaws that have ever been, the private companies which created these toys and tools are free to do with them what they will.  They are amenities being provided virtually for free by private companies, who keep them at my fingertips because it is currently in their best corporate interest to do so, but who could just as easily zap them out of existence because they own these amenities and I don't.

Since this is so patently and obviously true, it leads me to wonder if perhaps Mr. Greenwald isn't doing this for some other reason entirely?  If perhaps, like David Sirota and Ferguson, Mr. Greenwald isn't particularly interested in ISIS...or James Foley...or Twitter per se, but is instead laying out this elaborate, ridiculous argument (and hinging much of the rational for advancing it on the comments of a 24-year-old with a failing basic cable teevee show "If you want these companies to suppress calls for violence, as Ronan Farrow advocated...") because of a deep-seated obsession with finding a way to hang his narrow agenda like a Christmas tree ornament onto every single fucking tragedy that makes it into the headlines?

Of course, I can't read Mr. Greenwald's mind.  Yet.

But I can read his words (and even add emphasis to them):
If you want these companies to suppress calls for violence, as Ronan Farrow advocated, does that apply to all calls for violence, or only certain kinds? Should MSNBC personalities be allowed to use Twitter to advocate U.S. drone-bombing in Yemen and Somalia and justify the killing of innocent teenagers, or use Facebook to call on their government to initiate wars of aggression? How about Israelis who use Facebook to demand “vengeance” for the killing of 3 Israeli teenagers, spewing anti-Arab bigotry as they do it: should that be suppressed under this “no calls for violence” standard?

A Fox News host this week opined that all Muslims are like ISIS and can only be dealt with through “a bullet to the head”: should she, or anyone linking to her endorsement of violence (arguably genocide), be banned from Twitter and Facebook? How about Bob Beckel’s call on Fox that Julian Assange be “assassinated”: would that be allowed under Ronan Farrow’s no-calls-for-violence standard?
Finally I would be remiss if I did not point out that Twitter and Facebook and YouTube and Glenn Greenwald all have at least one thing in common: nothing I say or do will affect any of them in the slightest.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Professional Left Podcast #246

“If time travel is possible, where are the tourists from the future?”
-- Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time

Da' money goes here:

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Your Weekend Reading

I'll bet you haven't visited Batocchio over at the Vagabond Scholar nearly as often as you'd like, and now maybe your feeling a little guilt, maybe worrying that the crossing-guard or ushers there might recognize you ask you a buncha embarrassing questions about where ya been, and why haven't you been around and so forth.

But nothing could be further from the truth.  Batocchio has always been one of nature's noblemen and kind to all, even the lapsed and the wayward.

And lemme tell you, now would be a very good time to head over there, grab a corner booth and settle in for a nice, seven-course meal of well-researched reading.

The appetizer is free --

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

You're Intolerant of My Intolerance!

Discussions about gay marriage and other LGBT rights, as well as the recent Hobby Lobby decision with its issues of religious belief, have occasionally featured an argument that amounts to 'you're intolerant of intolerance.' Sometimes that argument appears verbatim, or almost so. For instance:
"I should be able to express moral views on social issues, especially those that have been the underpinning of Western civilization for 2,000 years — without being slandered, accused of hate speech, and told from those who preach 'tolerance' that I need to either bend my beliefs to their moral standards or be silent when I'm in the public square."– Kirk Cameron in 2012

"But you're saying we need to tolerate the intolerant!" — I see that objection every time I write something critical of liberaldogmatism and bigotry.To which my stock response is: Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying — because that's what liberalism is, or should be, all about. Toleration is perfectly compatible with — indeed, it presupposes — disagreement. That's why it's called tolerance and not endorsement or affirmation.
– Damon Linker in 2014
Although such arguments are often sincere, I'd contend they don't survive close scrutiny. John Holbo recently wrote a good post responding to Linker, and pieces earlier in the year from Henry Farrelldjw and Scott Lemieux (one and two) also cover the subject nicely. (The Cameron link above goes to a solid rebuttal by John Aravosis.) Here's another crack at the issue myself (cribbing from some older pieces), on the off-chance a different framework helps. Basically, I'm suggesting that the 'you're intolerant of intolerance' argument stems from a semantic disconnect, ignoring power dynamics and failing to distinguish between beliefs about personal conduct and beliefs about how the overall system should work. There's also confusion about a tolerant system (legal rights) versus public manners (social and cultural norms).
For the rest of this well-laid table of delights, go here.

Right now.