Saturday, April 10, 2010

Bobby Jindal and the intellectual bankruptcy of the Party of No

Boo... freakin'... hoo.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal doesn't like it when Republicans are called the "Party of No":

Speaker Pelosi likes to call the Republicans the "Party of No." Some of us, we don't like the way that sounds. It hurts our feelings... Speaker Newt Gingrich said yesterday the Republicans need to be the "Party of Yes," and he is right.

It hurts their feelings? How old is this guy?


Now, that's amusing -- but what's also amusing is that in that very same speech to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference yesterday, just a moment later, he declared proudly that Republicans are "the party of Hell No when it comes to this health care!" As Think Progress notes (link above, with the video), "[t]he irony appeared to be lost on the crowd."

And the amusement continued: "We do have ideas," Jindal asserted. "Some of those ideas are even good ideas." Some of them, huh? And the rest? Thanks for clarifying, guv'nor.


The point is, I think, the Republicans are indeed the Party of No while the Democrats are in power. They've been given every opportunity to work with the Democrats on major issues, including health-care reform and climate change, the economic stimulus and the bank and auto bailouts, immigration and national security, but they've rejected cooperation and compromise at every turn, preferring, in opposition, to be obstructionist to the extreme.

When they're in power, though, they're certainly a Party of Yes, as Gingrich and others want them to be. Do they want tax cuts for the wealthy? Yes! Do they want to privatize Social Security? Yes! Do they want to go to war against Iran? Yes! Do they want America to torture! Yes, even if they call it something else.

You get the point. They're fine saying Yes to right-wing extremism.

I would actually go so far as to say that the Republicans are, at present, an intellectually bankrupt party, much like most of the conservative movement that supports them. They're a retrograde party that continues to promotes the failed policies of the past, a party that has learned nothing and that only seems to be getting worse.

They're still certainly capable of saying Yes, of course, but it's what they say Yes to that matters. And what they say Yes to is a recipe for disaster.

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Polish president, along with top political and military leaders, dies in plane crash

"This is a time of great national tragedy," [acting Polish President] Bronislaw Komorowski said. "At this time there are no political differences, left or right. This is a time of national mourning."

All 97 people aboard a Polish flight to Smolensk, in Russia, including President Lech Kaczynski, died today when the plane crashed on its approach:

A plane carrying the Polish president and dozens of the country's top political and military leaders to the site of the Soviet massacre of Polish officers in World War II crashed in western Russia on Saturday, killing everyone on board.

President Lech Kaczynski's plane tried to land in a thick fog, missing the runway and snagging treetops about half a mile from the airport in Smolensk, scattering chunks of flaming fuselage across a bare forest.

The crash came as a stunning blow to Poland, wiping out a large portion of the country's leadership in one fiery explosion.

It's still too early to know, but it seems that pilot error may have been to blame, with reports suggesting that the pilot ignored air-traffic-control advice to divert the plane to Moscow or Minsk because of the heavy fog around Smolensk.


Prime Minister Donald Tusk described the crash as "the most tragic event of the country's post-war history." In addition to the president, those who died include:

Aleksander Szczyglo, the head of the National Security Office; Jerzy Szmajdzinski, the deputy parliament speaker; Andrzej Kremer, the deputy foreign minister; and Gen. Franciszek Gagor, the army chief of staff, according to the party. The party also said that Slawomir Skrzypek, head of the National Bank of Poland, was killed.

"The entire top military brass, including the chief of defense and all the services, were on the plane," said Tomas Valasek, of the Center for European Reform.

"If that is true, then you're looking at a situation, in effect, of the decapitation of the military services."

On board were also the president's wife, historians, and, according to Wikipedia, "the deputy foreign minister and dignitaries in the government, vice-speakers and members of the upper and lower houses of the parliament, senior members of clergy of various denominations, and others. They were on their way to mark the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre," the Russian murder of 20,000 Polish prisoners of war.

Many of those on board were senior members of the conservative Law and Justice Party, Kaczynski's party, currently the country's main opposition party, second in terms of seats in both the Sejm and the Senate to Tusk's Komorowski's centrist Civic Platform.
"The political consequences will be long term and possibly will change the entire future landscape of Polish politics," said Jacek Wasilewski, professor at the Higher School of Social Psychology in Warsaw.

"The Polish state must function and will function," Tusk said. It will, yes, but today is certainly one of the very worst days in Poland's long history, and, politics aside, the country must take its time to mourn this tragic loss.


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‘Obamanomics’ is working

By Creature

"If Obama was a Republican, we would hear a never-ending drumbeat of news stories about markets voting in favor of the President." --Dan Greenhaus, economic strategist.

All those crying socialist should read BusinessWeek's new piece on Obama and the economy. I won't go so far as to say we're out of the woods, but credit must be given and barely any has been given so far.

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Friday, April 09, 2010

Conservative crazy

Here's Andrew Sullivan on Newt Gingrich's "seditious rant," as well as on the general craziness of the right (with its utterly ridiculous and completely wrong anti-Obama propaganda):

Yes, the right gets nuttier and nuttier. From Liz Cheney's favorite Arab (Pushtun Karzai) to Gingrich's latest attempt to portray a responsible center-left president as some kind of radical socialist, it's a nuthouse. But the nuthouse is not resisted by the establishment. Cheney and Gingrich are the establishment. But there is no daylight between their rants and the splutterings of Limbaugh, Beck and Palin. Listen to this madness:

"The most radical president in American history has now thrown down the gauntlet to the American people: 'I run a machine. I own Washington and there's nothing you can do about it,'" Gingrich said. He urged his fellow Republicans to stop what he called Obama's "secular, socialist machine."

Their hysteria feeds on itself, and with their media universe peddling this alternative reality (in Frum's words) and the establishment no different than the fringe, of course they are pledging to repeal everything and force a government shutdown if they gain majorities in the fall. Yes, a shutdown. They learn nothing.


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Believing is seeing.

By Capt. Fogg

"I'm not in politics, I'm in ratings. We're winning"

-Roger Ailes, Chairman, Fox Television Stations Group -

It's remarkable and a bit sad that media outlets like MSNBC or NPR or the New York Times are so easily dismissed by the very people their job it is to expose as charlatans, liars, thieves, hypocrites and enemies of Democracy. There are so many possibilities to disembowel the people who are in turn disemboweling our values and our history and our nationhood and the very stability of our country, but bundled into a package like bad loans and labeled as Liberally biased, the non-Fox media simply give in, and afraid to do what anyone who knows how to use Youtube can do: they ignore the lies and emulate the deceivers or turn to celebrity gossip.

But of course in a different way, it's just as sad to see people like Newt Gingrich and Sean Hannity shown as naked and pathetic as the newly clothed emperor by one of the only news programs with nothing to lose by telling the truth: The Daily Show. I had tears in my eyes Thursday night as the scrolling text of President Obama's Nuclear Position Report was followed by the Foxed up report clothed as a conversation between the very god of hypocrisy and America's own Rasputin. Using someone's own recorded words against him makes it very hard, in theory, to drown out the truth with the usual brass band of Obamahate or to simply continue to lie and deny with the usual brass balls. why sad? because it doesn't matter, because the people who want to believe won't willingly leave their fantasy faith and view the real, sad world and because there are a lot of them and because they're angry as hell that Democracy overturned their perceived entitlement and will to power. As with evolution deniers, no amount of proof is enough even to raise the terrible spectre of doubt. For reasonable people seeing is believing, for Teabaggers, Fox Folk and the vermin who write viral e-mails, it's the other way around.

Yes, indeed, according to the NPR, The United States pledges never to make or threaten a nuclear attack against a non-nuclear enemy save for the provision that a chemical or biological attack could exempt an enemy from that pledge, but within seconds we see Gingrich saying that we're endangered because a chemical or biological attack could not provoke a nuclear response. Within seconds we hear Hannity affirm "yes, that's what he said." Of course, it wasn't and they both knew it. It's always quite an experience to see someone look you in the face and lie when you have proof positive that's just what it is. One feels betrayed, embarrassed, angry: one never wants to trust or listen to that person again. But not if you need that lie. Not if your entire life, your career, your personality revolves around that lie.

Will MSNBC or CNN or the networks address the Fox crew's responsibility to report the truth? Would they risk running such dramatic proof that their competition is no more honest or reliable than the Legendary Iraqi Defense Minister? What will they say about Fox's assertions that our widely radical president will put us all in danger by reducing our huge stockpile of nukes, some over 40 years old, by a third, or by looking forward to a world without them? Will they, like Jon Stewart simply run clips of Ronald Reagan telling the world that he looks forward to a world without nuclear weapons and that we should reduce the count by one third as a first step? No, they won't. Reagan will remain right and Obama will, by being exactly the same be irrevocably wrong -- and a far left radical liberal trying to weaken our defenses. Truth is irrelevant.

According to Newt Gingrich, President Obama believes that words are a substitute for reality: he's referring to words the President never said, or words that the Hero Reagan also said. His smirking riff, only meant to perfume a pointless smear and to deflect notice that this is precisely what Newt is doing: knowingly lying about the President, creating a false substitute for reality and knowingly trying to enrage people against the elected government. As Roger Ailes said, they're about ratings.

Who in the "Liberal Media" is going to expose him as a seditious insurgent? Who on CNN is going to put together clips of McCain calling himself a Maverick and denying he ever called himself a Maverick? Clips of McCain telling us to avoid extremists like Jerry Falwell and then praising Jerry Falwell? McCain espousing views and then calling Obama an extremist for agreeing? Only an entertainment show, a fake news show. You won't often see such stunning journalism on a real news program or in a real paper or magazine, because it's quick, because it doesn't allow the concocted "balance" of dignifying a baseless lie as "another point of view," because you can't speculate and expatiate ad absurdum and flap your jaws hysterically about it all day and all night. That's not what journalism is any more. Truth isn't even what truth is any more and Journalism isn't journalism, it's entertainment, it's ratings and profit. It's a Roman circus and we're not the lions.

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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I see dead golfers

By J. Thomas Duffy

We did, what we thought would be our only Tiger Woods post yesterday, defending him against two incredibly Ignorant Dolts, and yet, this morning, we are compelled to do another.

Not about his over-hyped comeback.

If you had the television on yesterday, even for a few moments, and you could have had it set at, just about, any channel, then you undoubtedly saw the new Nike Ad, with Woods, deer-in-the-headlights-like in front of the camera, as his late father Earl, Lazarus-like, berates him, no doubt reminding Tiger of his drill-sargented-upbringing to be THE WORLD'S BEST GOLFER.

I know his last few films didn't do as well as his earlier work, but did M. Night Shyamalan whore himself out to Nike?

Creepy only begins to cover this.

You can view the video HERE - I don't want to give Nike any more PR than necessary (Also, you can check out Keith Olbermann, who ran some of the parody ads generated within hours of release of the actual ad)


And, the dialog for the ad;

Tiger, I am more prone to be inquisitive, to promote discussion. I want to find out what your thinking was. I want to find out what your feelings are, and did you learn anything?

It plays right into the extra-marital affairs of Woods, on the day he opens in The Masters.

Was the a wet kiss, from Nike, to take away some of the attention, the pressure?

Dave Zirin, over at The Nation, seems to hit the bullseye;

In the context of our enduring global fever-dream, a tacky ad in which Nike and Tiger conspire to exploit the memory of Earl Woods is hardly that big a deal--particularly since if Earl Woods were alive, he would have supported this exercise in grave robbing 100 percent. But the idea that Tiger and Nike would see the incredible turmoil that has engulfed Tiger's life as an opportunity to rebrand Tiger and sell us more swoosh-laden crap is simply sickening. Every single member of the golf media and every fan who has felt sympathy for his self-destructive plight should feel like a grade-A sucker. Every person impressed with his professed recommitment to the Buddhist faith and his family should be deeply offended that it was all just a springboard aimed at cashing in. And every golf fan and pro golfer should be furious that he's shellacked another layer of controversy onto the most prestigious tournament on the tour, the Masters at Augusta.


I really believed that in the wake of his Odyssey of scandal and humiliation, there would be a showdown inside Tiger's soul between the brand and the man. I couldn't have been more wrong. There is no man, only brand. If he wants to dehumanize himself on his own time then more power to him. But this ad dehumanizes all of us. One thing however is abundantly clear: If Tiger loses this weekend, Nike loses as well. Neither deserve to make the cut, on the course or otherwise. Tiger the brand has now wholly consumed Tiger the man.

All this means, is that some underage kid in Asia is going to have to work a Monty-Python-like schedule ("I had to get up in the morning at ten o'clock at night, half an hour before I went to bed ...") in some Nike Sweatshop, to produce the "Tiger Woods" line of crap.

Way to go there Tiger.

Did you, learn anything?

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

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Is it over yet?

By Capt. Fogg

Yonder stands your orphan with his gun
Crying like a fire in the sun
Look out the saints are comin' through
And it's all over now, Baby Blue.


At what point do I give up and admit it's all over? The anti-Obama hate cult permeates every waking hour of my day, from technical seminars between engineers about packet radio networks interrupted by someone handing out disreputable Republican figures showing what a spendthrift radical socialist Obama is, from e-mails and phone calls asking me to participate in tax protests from people who won't have to pay taxes at all this year to the constant snide comments about Obama not saluting to this or apologizing for that. There are e-mailed clips of Gingrich preaching about the "most radical president" e-mailed jokes about him firing "cattle guards" and just about every captious hoax you'll find at Fact or or The mad blood is pumping like it's 1861, and US Rte 1 as it runs through my county, sports shiny new billboards for gun shops and firearms training.

"But these are real numbers" said a friend I should have thought would question any estimates published by the RNC about what "Obamacare" will cost.

"Real from the same people who predicted the Iraq war would cost nothing?" I replied? He looked puzzled. One doesn't suggest any doubt concerning the Party of God in these parts. One doesn't mention that 47% of American families won't owe any Federal income tax this year to a sign waving teabagger or that Iraq has cost us as much as WWII and isn't nearly over yet, not unless you want to invite hate mail and stuff thrown on your lawn, put your job at risk and have no friends at all. Want to know how Dr. Mudd felt? Just suggest that George W. Bush had anything to do with the policies that allowed Enron to ruin so many people, precipitated the bubble and credit crunch, started the most expensive war we've ever had on false pretenses. I spent years being called a traitor for suggesting that what has come to pass would come to pass, but exoneration is going to have to wait for the second coming.

Local papers have become unreadable and dripping with foamy saliva in their raving about Obama's religious agenda, secular and Islamic and I suspect that like many papers today, the owners thereof are writing some of them to use the power of insane hate to boost circulation.

One doesn't mention that Fox News, the fair and balanced network that is run entirely by and for Republicans, doesn't employ a single Democrat and not only slants stories, it invents them and remains silent when their hoaxes are revealed by every other outlet on earth. The Acorn Hoax, the Climategate hoax, the "Two Planeloads of Democrat Lawyers descend on Wasilla" hoax. People think you're crazy, or worse yet a Liberal -- you know, one of those black clad bearded guys who carry bombs and hate America. No one here will even listen for fear of being branded a liberal and people who call themselves skeptics can't imagine the Republican version of anything might be biased. No one will accept that Obama was elected because of the failure of a long Republican administration and Republican controlled congress.

The fact is that Dwight Eisenhower took equal flack for implementing integration to the horror of people who called him a radical, FDR took worse for Social Security, Johnson for his war on poverty and support of civil rights legislation and of course Medicare. Jefferson was called a tax-and-spend radical, because in America you can't just be wrong, you have to be the Devil, even the irrefutable facts can be the devil or the work of his hand.

What's the use of opposing it? Could any amount of truth or blather have stopped the civil war or done away with the institution of Slavery? Can anyone save America from the metastatic madness?

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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Your moment of Rachel

By Creature

Once again, devastating. Coburn should take his ball and go home.

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Stuff to Read (4/8/10): porn stars, condoms, oysters, and health care

I'm fairly busy with other things this morning, but let me alert you to a few interesting articles over at Slate:

-- "That's a Wrap: The case for bringing condoms to adult films," by Kent Sepkowitz. I'm not sure the porn industry should be regulated like this, but I suppose it's important to humanize porn stars a bit, not merely to maintain them in our fantasies. And the reality is that people do learn a lot from porn and might benefit from seeing the "talent" wrapped up.

-- "Consider the Oyster: Why even strict vegans should feel comfortable eating oysters by the boatload," by Christopher Cox. Cox is a vegan. Personally, I describe myself as a flexitarian, insofar as I'm not an absolutist when it comes to food (even though I generally don't eat pork and red meat). And I love oysters, preferably raw and naked, preferably from Prince Edward Island. But while I eat them anyway, it's good to know that even a firm vegan can make such a strong case: oyster farming doesn't harm the environment, there's no real risk of overfarming, and oysters don't have central nervous systems.

-- "Unchanged Minds: A majority of Americans still believe the uninsured are doing just fine," by Timothy Noah. A majority of Americans, it seems, are, to put it nicely, deeply ignorant -- and, to put it less nicely, appallingly stupid. It's not really much of a majority, when you delve through the survey questions into the numbers, but there is still a great deal of insensitivity among the public, again to put it nicely.

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Thursday, April 08, 2010

Playground bully: Sarah Palin's America and the conservative attack on Obama's new nuclear weapons policy

You know, Sarah Palin really is incredibly stupid -- and an incredibly ignorant partisan mouthpiece who has clearly not a clue in the world what she's talking about. Appearing on Hannity's smearfest yesterday evening -- and you know that's a combo that scrapes the bottom of the mental barrel -- she launched into an attack on President Obama's new policy restricting the conditions for the use of nuclear weapons:

It's unbelievable. Unbelievable. No administration in America's history would, I think, ever have considered such a step that we just found out President Obama is supporting today. It's kinda like getting out there on a playground, a bunch of kids, getting ready to fight, and one of the kids saying, "Go ahead, punch me in the face and I'm not going to retaliate. Go ahead and do what you want to with me."

This sort of propagandistic misrepresentation hardly justifies a response, but let's humour ourselves anyway.

As I wrote the other day, Obama's decision reflects a genuinely civilized understanding of the world and of America's place in it. You see, it's conservatives who think the world is a Hobbesian playground full of moral toddlers in which all that matters is brute force and the imposition of brute force on others, the use and abuse of those who are weaker. In this world, what you want to do, apparently, is strut around with your weapons on full display, smacking down, if not totally annihilating, anyone who gets in your way. This, of course, is the conservative view not just of international relations but of capitalism as well. It's Hobbesian and Darwinian in reductio ad absurdum senses, an anti-morality of might makes right.

For his part, Obama isn't saying that the U.S. will never retaliate, never use force at all. This is Palin's lie, and a vicious one that conservatives are spreading. Indeed, it is ridiculous to suggest that Obama is a pacifist who would let himself get punched in the face. This is the man who has escalated the war in Afghanistan and who continues to direct the use of military force against terrorist targets. Moreover, his new policy allows for exceptions for rogue states like Iran and North Korea. And I suspect that if a terrorist organization, like al Qaeda, attacked the U.S., he would respond with overwhelming force. And if a state were behind the attack, he would launch a determined counter-attack that would severely cripple it.

Among other things, what conservatives like Palin don't get is nuance, the many shades of gray between their extremes of black and white. They also can't understand change, and so they remain stuck in a world that not just no longer exists but never existed the way they imagine. In this case, they remain stuck in the very depths of the Cold War, or more specifically of the Cold War of their delusional partisan imaginings, when what was important was how many nukes you had and whether you had a crazy plan to win a nuclear war. Remember, they never accepted MAD, mutual assured destruction. That was merely a deterrent (that proved successful). What they wanted was to rule the playground, and, to do that, to kick some ass.

What the likes of Sarah Palin and the far more intellectually formidable neocons are all about in military policy terms, with the bravery of being well out of range, is bloodthirsty warmongering. What they clearly want is an America that does the punching, that preemptively strikes and that, when struck, strikes back with thoughtless and unnecessarily disproportionate aggression, an America that does not enter into nuclear weapons reduction treaties with Russia.

This, to me, is not just uncivilized but profoundly un-American, if we consider America to be something other than a big bully on the world stage. It wasn't, under George W. Bush, but Obama has since changed course, preserving American might and defending American national security while also pursuing genuine engagement with the rest of the world and using tools other than brute force to advance America's interests. This will lead to a deeper and more sustained peace, as well as to a capacity to respond to threats, and to attacks, with the credibility and moral authority that comes with being a responsible world power.

This is all way beyond Sarah Palin, of course, as is the hope for, and possibility of, a more civilized world in which nuclear weapons are obsolete and right is no longer simply might. America still won't take any shit, to be sure, and Obama is anything but a pushover, but at least there is now wise and responsible leadership in the White House.


UPDATE: Great response from Obama: "I really have no response to that. The last I checked, Sarah Palin is not much of an expert on nuclear issues," he reminded ABC News. As for his Republican critics, "[w]hat I would say to them is, is that if the secretary of defense and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff are comfortable with it, I'm probably going to take my advice from them and not from Sarah Palin."

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Keep at it, Stormy Daniels!

For my initial take on Stormy and her possible Louisiana Senate bid, see my post from last February, "When in doubt, vote for the porn star.")

How great would it be for a porn star to knock off David "Phony Family Values" Vitter?)

(Photo from Politicology.)

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A duo of Ignorant Dolts score par for The Masters

By J. Thomas Duffy

Oh my!

Such piety today.

We've been behind on the monitoring of Ignorant Dolts lately, as, during the recent Healthcare Reform debacle, it was going off like a dump truck, stuck in reverse.

So, we just happen to turn the volume up a tiny bit this morning and, it as "BEEP ... BEEP... BEEP ... BEEP... BEEP ... BEEP ..."

Today starts the Master's Golf Tournament, so stepping up first to grab his Ignorant Dolt Crown and Sceptre, is, none, other, than the chairman of the Augusta National Golf Club, Billy Payne;

In an uncharacteristic bit of theater alien to the Augusta National culture, Payne, without prodding, singled out Tiger Woods in a harsh rebuke, saying the world’s top-ranked golfer did not live up to role model expectations and had “disappointed all of us, and more importantly, our kids and our grandkids.”

Reading from a statement, Payne added: “His future will never again be measured only by his performance against par, but measured by the sincerity of his effort to change. I hope he now realizes that every kid he passes on the course wants his swing, but would settle for his smile.”

Say What?

Unless there's a clause in the contract, that says you have to be clean-as-a-whistle to play the Masters (as opposed to having the skill), Mr. Billy Payne should just STFU!

And it is particularly odious of Payne to be going around throwing mud on anyone.

The Masters, the venerated Augusta National Golf Club, didn't have an African-American in their tournament until 1975.

And, a few this morning, have already pointed out the irony of Payne's Ignorant Doltness, as Augusta continues to ban allowing woman members.

Dave Brockington, over on Lawyers, Guns and Money;

Shorter NYT: the Chairman of the prestigious country club located in Georgia that somehow still doesn’t admit women in the year 2010 rebuked some guy for disrespecting women rather than being a role model for our children and grandchildren.

And, Sandy Levinson, over on Balkinization, rips Payne a new one;

This is touching--perhaps Mr. Payne's great-grandfather pleaded with Shoeless Joe Jackson to "say it isn't so"--but I confess to feeling that Mr. Payne's outrage might better be directed at many of his fellow Club members, described by the Times as "chief executives from many of the country’s biggest corporations and investment banks as well as business leaders worldwide." And, of course, every single one of his fellow members is male, since Augusta National is notorious for being a bastion of sexism. But Mr. Payne is apparently shocked and outraged that Mr. Woods, along with being possibly the greatest golfer of all time, was, off the golf course, fucking lots of women other than his wife. But there is, to put it mildly, no similar outrage directed at his fellow Club members, i.e., the heads of "the country's biggest corporations and investment banks," who have, for many years, not only have been totally oblivious to the insult of maintaining Augusta National as an all-male institution, but have also been fucking their employers (metaphorically, of course, though, one suspects, in at least some cases, quite literally) and, in the case of the investment bankers especially, fucking the entire American (and worldwide public) amd using their ill-gotten gains to pay whatever it costs to maintain one's membership at August National Golf Club.

Ahh, but the Ignorant Dolt stage is a bit crowded today, as Thomas Boswell, of the Washington Post, insisted he wasn't going to be denied entry to our Ignorant Dolt roster.

In his column today, he argues that Tiger Woods, for the fact of committing adultery, doesn't deserve to win the Masters.

AUGUSTA, GA. If Tiger Woods wins the Masters on Sunday after all the damage he's done to golf, I plan to rob a bank on Monday; maybe then I'll win a Pulitzer Prize.


We know that bad things happen to good people. We cope with it. But when great things happen to people who have acted badly, especially if the bonanza comes fast and arrives ringed with robes of glory, don't we have to draw the line? I'm forgiving, but my brain hasn't turned into pimento cheese. If Woods has a tap-in to win the Masters, I hope his conscience helps him yip it and lip it. Win any other week. But not here. Not now.


Still, a Woods win would be an awful fit among our great "comebacks" in sports. Such a victory would feel like vindication of oblivious self-centeredness. What a perverse lesson. On the bright side, it might kill the term "role model" for a generation.

Damage he's done to golf?

Unless Tiger was, in addition to dozens of mistresses, was running around to the golf courses of the country, and fucking the holes on the course, I don't see any damage.

If it wasn't for Tiger Woods, golf could very well be regulated to the Versus Network, or worse, on some other high number cable channel, squeezed in between blocks of infomercials.

It's the age-old canard of sports athletes having the burdensome job of having to be "role-models" on top of everything they do.

Babe Ruth ate hot dogs, drank beer, and hit the shit out of the ball.

Live with it.

I, personally, don't know anyone, family, friends, coworkers, their children, etc, that has every looked up to an athlete as a "role-model".

This role-model thing is meme of the media, as they huff-and-puff over it, all the while repetitiously writing about it, running it on a loop, all in the name of building ratings, selling ads and making money.

Scandals sell, and it wouldn't surprise me if the Masters gets it's highest-ever television ratings this year.

You want disappointment Payne, or damage Boswell?

Maybe, considering the attack on Woods, at the opening of this tournament, that he decides on a "Fuck You", and pulls out.

What story, then, will dominate - some nobody winning the tournament, or Tiger Woods?

Perhaps Boswell, you can share that pimento cheese out of your brain, with Payne, as the two of you cry into your beers at the 19th hole.

So, drop the pious bullshit, Mr. Payne, and Mr. Boswell, and get your sorry asses up here to pick up our Ignorant Dolt loot.

Bonus Riffs

Zandar: The Dumbest Game Ever Played

mistermix: Not Worthy

Top Ten Cloves: Possible Reasons Tiger Woods Is Coming Back To Golf In The Masters

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

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Know-nothing Rudy, media darling

Greg Sargent makes a great point about Giuliani and the media:

Someone needs to tell the bookers at the networks that the fact that Rudy Giuliani happened to get photographed walking through the smoke and dust on 9/11 does not give him any authority or credibility on foreign policy and national security issues.

Sargent has made the point before, as have many of us -- for example, see my June 2008 post, "The smears of Rudy Giuliani, 'a man with zero national security and foreign policy experience,'" which quotes Sargent.

But it bears repeating, because major media outlets like CNN and MSNBC continue to trot him out as a top Republican national security expert (with obvious personal and partisan agendas):

Again: Rudy has no basis whastoever for being granted authority or credibility on these issues. Unlike, say, John McCain, who is the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Rudy does not hold public office. His resume boasts no meaningful national security experience of any kind. His last foray into politics was two years ago, when he ran a comically inept presidential campaign. He last held public office nine years ago.

And yet the media can't get enough of him. Which says a lot, and nothing good, about the media.

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More on McDonnell and Confederate Virginia

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I blogged a couple of days ago about Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's reprehensible decision to declare April 2010 Confederate History Month in that state:

-- Slavery? Check.

-- Rebellion? Check.

-- A bitter, divisive legacy? Check.

-- The antithesis of progress, enlightenment, and America's purported ideals? Check.

Well, the story is gaining national attention, and rightly so, given that it sheds a great deal of light not just on McDonnell himself but on Republicans generally, and on Virginia Republicans in particular, as well as on all those conservatives who seem to sympathize with the Confederacy (and all that it was about).

McDonnell's proclamation asks Virginians to "understand the sacrifices of the Confederate leaders, soldiers and citizens during the period of the Civil War." This goes well beyond asking them to remember the fallen, which perhaps wouldn't have been quite so bad. As the chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, Kenneth Cooper Alexander, a Democrat, put it, the "proclamation was offensive and offered a disturbing revision of the Civil War and the brutal era that followed. Virginia has worked hard to move beyond the very things for which Governor McDonnell seems nostalgic."

McDonnell has since backtracked a bit, trying to rationalize his decision: "I felt just as I've issued dozens and dozens of other commemorations, that it was something that was worthy of doing so people can at least study and understand that period of Virginia history and how it impacts us today," he said on Tuesday. Sorry, but it won't work. The organization behind the proclamation is the Sons of Confederate Veterans, apologists of the Confederacy, not a reputable academic group with an interest in advancing the study of U.S. history. Indeed, it was that very organization that was behind fellow Republican Gov. George Allen's proclamation calling the Civil War "a four-year struggle for [Southern] independence and sovereign rights." 

The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates puts McDonnell's decision in its proper Republican context:

The GOP is, effectively, the party of willfully unlettered Utopians. It is the party of choice for those who believe global warming is a hoax, that humans roamed the earth with dinosaurs, and that homosexuals should work harder at not being gay.

That the party of unadulterated quackery also believes that Birth Of A Nation is more true to the Civil War than Battle Cry Of Freedom, is to be expected.


This is who they are -- the proud and ignorant. If you believe that if we still had segregation we wouldn't "have had all these problems," this is the movement for you. If you believe that your president is a Muslim sleeper agent, this is the movement for you. If you honor a flag raised explicitly to destroy this country then this is the movement for you. If you flirt with secession, even now, then this movement is for you. If you are a "Real American" with no demonstrable interest in "Real America" then, by God, this movement of alchemists and creationists, of anti-science and hair tonic, is for you.

McDonnell continues to backtrack, and to spin -- he has apologized for not mentioning slavery:

The abomination of slavery divided our nation, deprived people of their God-given inalienable rights, and led to the Civil War. Slavery was an evil, vicious and inhumane practice which degraded human beings to property, and it has left a stain on the soul of this state and nation.

Well, yes, of course. But he's still either a panderer to his right-wing base or a Confederate sympathizer, or both, and he can't just talk his way out of his proclamation. He deserves all the heat he's been taking. And the American people, it seems to me, should once again take a long, hard look at the Republican Party, and what really drives it.

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Heavens to Murgatroyd!

By J. Thomas Duffy

With, apparently, the new rules of Scrabble, you can use the proper name "Snagglepuss", which will net you a whopping 15-points (maybe more, if any of your tiles are on a double, or triple, score).

They be messin' with a lot of heads;

Beyonce on a triple-word score? Scrabble to upset purists with 'dumbing down' rule change

The decision, by games giant Mattel, will allow the celebrity, geographic and sports worlds to invade the most popular word game, leaving many a Scrabble fan bemused, or as the regular player may prefer, bumbazed.

For why memorise some of the 30,000 eight letter words in our rich and quirky English language when the names of pop stars such as Jay-Z or sportsmen like Zico may get you many more points


Mattel defends its decision to make the game easier by saying it will level the playing field between experienced players and novices.

But the announcement has caused outrage among regular players with accusations that the company is 'dumbing down' the game.

Keith Churcher, chairman of the Reading Scrabble Club, was dismayed.

He said: 'Players like myself have spent decades memorising words in the dictionary.

'To be trumped by someone with knowledge of the current top ten pop chart is not a welcome prospect.

'They're dumbing down a classic.'

Mary Elizabeth Williams, over at Salon;

I'll get the smelling salts ... Proper nouns? Why, that would be like letting the rook move diagonally in chess! Building a hotel before you've bought all the houses on Monopoly! Installing elevators in Chutes and Ladders! Playing quarters with dimes!

But wait, as Williams points out, there's a catch!

But not so fast. Writing in Slate, Stefan Fatsis, author of "Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players," told lexicon addicts across the land to call off their dogs. The poorly disseminated real story was that "Mattel, which owns the rights to Scrabble outside of North America, is introducing a game this summer called Scrabble Trickster. The game will include cards that allow players to spell words backward, use proper nouns, and steal letters from opponents." In other words -- it's just a spinoff. And American Scrabble, which is owned by Hasbro, isn't even affected.

As Fatsis explains;

So how did this latest games marketing gimmick turn into a global foofaraw? A combination of deceptive corporate shilling and media incompetence. The news of the game, I'm told, first appeared as four lines in a toy industry trade magazine. Then the British media started calling Mattel, and the company appears to have done nothing to disabuse gullible reporters of the idea that a Major Change is occurring. In the Daily Mail, a Mattel spokesman implied that the rules of the game had officially been changed. Mattel would still sell a Scrabble with the "old rules," but this new and improved game would help "level the playing field" between "experienced players with a vast vocabulary" and "players with a love of celebrity or football." Reporters didn't bother calling the Mattel executive in London who oversees competitive Scrabble play outside North America. In the United States and Canada, reporters mostly didn't even make the distinction between Mattel and Hasbro, the game's dueling corporate overlords.

Hmmm ...

Competing Scrabble owners?

Rather abstruse on why they would create this discombobulation, leaving all of us in quite the discomposed state.

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)


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What went wrong with the banks and how can we fix it?

By Carol Gee

This disturbing headline, "A Congressional Panel, Hobbled in Its Financial Inquiry," is via The New York Times.  Group theory experts would have an interesting challenge in figuring out what went wrong with this commission.  In contrast, the 9/11 Commission seemed to have a great deal more success with its widely read and effectively utilized report.  To quote from the Times:

In recent months, a top investigator resigned, frustrated by delays in assembling a staff. Behind closed doors the panel’s chairman and vice chairman have had heated disagreements over whether to make public preliminary findings or revelatory documents. . .

The people appointed to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission last July, six by Democrats and four by Republicans, say they hope to publish, by the Dec. 15 deadline, a volume much like the 9/11 Commission report, which was acclaimed for its narrative sweep and became a surprise best seller.

But that goal seems increasingly out of reach, given what the commissioners themselves acknowledge has been a haphazard approach and a lack of time and resources. Given the delays, the commission’s impact on policy could be modest; the House has already voted on a sweeping financial reform bill, and the Senate could vote on it by summer.
Chairman of the Banking Committee, Senator Chris Dodd will be retiring at the end of his term. As he leads this Congressional reform effort, he does not need to be distracted by reelection issues. Senator Dodd can comfortably push for regulation reforms that can truly protect the nation, and particularly vulnerable consumers, from another Great Recession. If Congress does not go far enough, the next banking greed bubble-and-burst episode could become the Great Depression-II.

My banking reform  suggestions include: 1) Establish an independent Financial Consumer protection agency. 2) Break up the biggest banks -- who are really investment banks, not banks who serve banking customers. 3) Regulate exotic derivatives.See original Democratic Strategist quote at Amplify.

My own initial take on this Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission story is that, as always, it comes down to the qualities of leadership that appointees and staff bring to the task. People associated with the 9/11 Commission were very outstanding. I did not get that same impression regarding the current commission.  To quote further from the NYT article referenced above:

. . . In an interview, the commission’s chairman, Phil Angelides, said the panel was struggling to satisfy a broad mandate to examine the role of 22 factors in bringing about the crisis. He pointed out that the panel had a budget of just $8 million, compared with the $38 million spent by a federal bankruptcy trustee who dissected the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

Even though the panel is backward-looking and will not issue formal recommendations, Mr. Angelides said he hoped its findings would be authoritative and useful for future policy makers.

But Bill Thomas, the Republican vice chairman of the panel and a former chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, acknowledged, “We are limited by time.”

. . . The commission’s executive director, J. Thomas Greene, was named in September but took several months to assemble a staff of 49, leading one investigator, Martin T. Biegelman, an expert on corporate fraud, to resign during the winter. Twelve staff members are on loan from agencies like the Federal Reserve. The commission struggled to hire researchers and investigators with expertise in areas like structured finance or accounting.

. . . Commissioners also said that Mr. Angelides and Mr. Thomas recently clashed over whether to release preliminary staff reports or some of the 500,000 pages of materials that had been gathered so far. When Mr. Angelides floated the idea of releasing some of the materials to reporters, Republicans threatened to look into the panel’s work if they took control of the House, a person briefed on the dispute said.

Lack of money cannot be used as an excuse for an overly ambitious congressional mandate, too much political bickering, lack of transparency and obviously poor organizing.  The FCI Commission has until the end of the year to finish its work.  The key to its success will be for members and staff to do the best they can from here on out with the marginal hand they were dealt.  This body's work is,  in a very different way -  of course, of comparable importance to the work of the 9/11 commission.  The Great Recession did great damage to our nation.  We need to know why it happened and how to prevent a recurrence, just as we did with the 9/11 attacks.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Smartest Republican of the Day: Tom Coburn

Wait... what? Tom Coburn? Is this bizarro reality? I despise Tom Coburn. He's one of the worst Republicans in the Senate, a partisan and ideological extremist.

But, well, credit where credit is due, I suppose. At a recent town hall meeting, the Oklahoma Republican a) defended Nancy Pelosi:

She is a nice lady... [boos and jeers]... Come on now. She is a nice... How many of y'all have met her? She's a nice person. She's a nice person... Let me give you a little lesson here. I hope you will listen to me. Just because somebody disagrees with you doesn't mean they're not a good person.

And b) criticized Fox News:

What we have to have is make sure we have a debate in this country so that you can see what's going on and make a determination yourself. [applause] So don't catch yourself being biased by Fox News that somebody is no good.

Wow. I mean, he's hardly a grammarian, and he's still way over on the right, but this was pretty caution-to-the-wind, and pretty darn admirable, for a Republican -- and especially for a hardened conservative like him.

Not that he'll be mistaken for a liberal anytime soon, nor even for a sensible human being, but still.

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Internet neutrality and the Courts

By Capt. Fogg

Marconi was still a young man when the need for government control of communications became all too obvious. Newsmen using the new wireless telegraph began to jam each others' transmissions accidentally and on purpose and battles were fought over frequency allocations. Someone had to step in with some rules to allow the technology to develop, to prevent it being used as a weapon in restraint of free trade and to make sure that those using the public airwaves would use it without disregard for the public interest.

I can almost hear throats clearing at those last two words, almost see lips forming words like collectivism, socialism, Communism, but without it, the guy with the most money has the podium and the guy who owns all the podiums: press, broadcast and now the Internet, might just as well be the government with all that power. The difference between a fair trial and murder; between a Hockey game and a viking raid (if there is a difference) is the rules, so save your breath. I don't want to hear it.

The FCC was formed for these reasons, but during the last administration, it's been almost exclusively concerned with promoting the interests of power companies who want to use the power lines to get into the Internet business, and sometimes to the serious harm of other users of the frequency spectrum. Whether or not this has changed under the Communist/Fascist Antichrist from Kenya seems to matter less than the current posture of the courts. The District of Columbia Federal Appeals Court decided yesterday in favor of Comcast and against the authority of the FCC in it's attempt to mandate "net neutrality."

The new administration has been in favor of equal treatment for all Internet users; in favor of a policy that would prevent Comcast, for instance from slowing down and restricting the content they don't like and making content they approve of faster and cheaper. Yes, yes, I know all about free market competition, but I'm talking about the real world here and that's a world where corporations collude rather than compete. It's a world where a small group can control information to the point where no one can compete successfully. As I said, the difference between boxing and assault and battery or even murder is the rules.

It's too soon to make scary assertions about how this will work out, but as restrictions on how much of all media outlets can be owned by one person, real or corporate have been loosened along with restrictions on how much information they can restrict in their own interest, it looks to me like we're once again shooting ourselves in the foot, slow motion style. Our obsessive fantasy of a 'no holds barred' marketplace leading to peace and order, prosperity and a well informed electorate is, along with our phobic horror of phrases like "public interest" may be making corporate demagoguery a more valid vision of the future.

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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By Creature

Work is keeping me from the Internets, but I have had a chance to Tweet and re-Tweet over on the Twitter. So feel free to follow if you need a fix.


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Quote of the Day: John McWhorter on Sarah Palin (and her all-American toddler-speak)

This, it seems to me, is spot on:

Palin is given to meandering phraseology of a kind suggesting someone more commenting on impressions as they enter and leave her head rather than constructing insights about them. Or at least, insights that go beyond the bare-bones essentials of human cognition -- an entity (i.e. something) and a predicate (i.e. something about it).


What truly distinguishes Palin's speech is its utter subjectivity: that is, she speaks very much from the inside of her head, as someone watching the issues from a considerable distance. The there fetish, for instance -- Palin frequently displaces statements with an appended "there," as in "We realize that more and more Americans are starting to see the light there..." But where? Why the distancing gesture? At another time, she referred to Condoleezza Rice trying to "forge that peace." That peace? You mean that peace way over there -- as opposed to the peace that you as Vice-President would have been responsible for forging? She's far, far away from that peace.


This reminds me of toddlers who speak from inside their own experience in a related way: they will come up to you and comment about something said by a neighbor you've never met, or recount to you the plot of an episode of a TV show they have no way of knowing you’ve ever heard of. Palin strings her words together as if she were doing it for herself -- meanings float by, and she translates them into syntax in whatever way works, regardless of how other people making public statements do it.


The modern American typically relates warmly to the use of English to the extent that it summons the oral -- "You betcha," "Yes we can!" -- while passing from indifference to discomfort to the extent that its use leans towards the stringent artifice of written language. As such, Sarah Palin can talk, basically, like a child and be lionized by a robust number of perfectly intelligent people as an avatar of American culture. And linguistically, let's face it: she is.

Ouch. It doesn't exactly say much for American culture -- and the American people -- that it's essentially personified, linguistically, by Sarah Palin.

But something has to explain her ongoing popularity, at least on the right -- which, let's face it, is child-like (and not in a good way, and I don't mean to insult children) -- and this at least partly does.

She's one of you, my American friends. Like it or not.

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Does Hamid Karzai have a drug problem?

Maybe so, says Peter Galbraith, former U.N. envoy to Afghanistan:

In an interview on MSNBC's "The Daily Rundown," Peter Galbraith described Karzai as "off-balance" and "emotional." Galbraith also called for President Barack Obama to vastly limit Karzai’s power to appoint officials within the war-torn country until he proves himself a reliable partner to the U.S.

"He's prone to tirades. He can be very emotional, act impulsively. In fact, some of the palace insiders say that he has a certain fondness for some of Afghanistan's most profitable exports," said Galbraith, in an apparent reference to opium or heroin.

When asked whether he meant Karzai has a substance abuse problem, Galbraith responded: "There are reports to that effect. But whatever the cause is, the reality is that he is -- he can be very emotional."

Well, it would explain, in part, his recent, well, instability, if I may put it nicely. (And, drugs or no drugs, he does seem to be immensely unreliable, and possibly not worth the investment. Is he just another would-be American puppet -- Iraq's Ahmed Chalabi comes instantly to mind, along with America's various favoured tyrants during the Cold War, many in Latin America -- who duplicitously goes his own way and undermines American interests?)

Laura Rozen has more.

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Freedom's just another word

By Capt. Fogg

Somehow I've never been able to understand why preventing enormous and hugely profitable insurance corporations from dropping you because you kid was born with a heart defect or not covering your leukemia treatments because you forgot to tell them you had acne in high school makes us no longer a free country -- or perhaps only a "mostly free" country according to the Heritage Foundation.

But more confusing and more difficult to reconcile than quantum mechanics and relativity is the idea that allowing warrantless wiretaps and other unconstitutional government abuses don't have the same effect. Seems that President Ford was comfortable with giving the FBI discretion on whether or not to seek a warrant for probable cause for wiretapping on the advice of his Attorney General William B. Saxbe. That's a long time before the Patriot act that cemented the "almost free" condition into law - a law that the Democrats haven't yet repudiated. Silly of me that this might have interfered with my freedom nearly as much as an extra 2% on what I might make over a net $375,000. Freedom's just another word for profit.

Is it the threat to monopolistic and feudalistic aberrations of free-market Capitalism that make us almost free or is it things like restrictions on civil rights? I think the answer is obvious. Freedom isn't at stake when Exxon-Mobil payed less in income tax last year than a minimum wage worker did, but the minimum wage itself is a threat to freedom and a harbinger of a Communist takeover. But don't ask me to explain. Ask some other millionaire from the kind of "think-tank" funded by the oil cartel.

Because that's exactly who is telling us what freedom means. That's who would rather you didn't think of it in terms of freedom from want, fear, privation - or the FBI rummaging through your life looking for anything they like. There's little profit in privacy -- in your privacy anyway. There is big profit in usury so our freedom hasn't suffered by finance companies that can charge 200% and ask for more, but it's damn near communist tyranny to ask Exxon to pay what my gardener pays.

No, Obama is a tyrant and he's made us less free, not for the things he's done or hasn't done to force responsibility on Wall Street, not for failing to undo constitutional infractions or abuses of executive power, not for actually give most of us a tax cut, but for giving some of the protection we've been asking for against financial ruin, against having to choose between feeding our kids or dying of a curable disease.

I'm glad we have people like the Heritage Foundation around to explain things like freedom to us. We might have gone on thinking that being able to vote, to use public facilities, to be served in restaurants and hotels, to buy property wherever we can afford it, to get a job if we're not white or protestant or male or young or to send our kids to school had something to do with being free -- all those things that such grand sounding patriotic spokesmen like the Heritage foundation assure us are nothing of the sort. Without them we might have forgotten how free we were years ago when we had slavery, segregation, race laws, male suffrage, restricted housing, poll taxes and lynching parties. I'm glad they continue to keep up the good fight.

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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