Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Fuckin Magnets--How Do They Work?

The Chronicle's resident right-wing climate denialist dimwit scores what she thinks is a great big gotcha:
A funny thing happened during Australian climate-change professor Chris Turney's venture to retrace a 1912 research expedition in Antarctica and gauge how climate change has affected the continent: Two weeks into a five-week excursion, Turney's good ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy got trapped in ice. It turns out, global warming notwithstanding, that there's so much ice down under that two ice-breaking vessels sent to rescue the research team cannot reach the Australasian Antarctic Expedition.
Hilarious, amirite?

What follows is a sort of greatest hits of climate-denialism. Unseasonable cold!
Years ago, global warming believers renamed the phenomenon "climate change" - probably because of pesky details like unusually cold weather undercutting the warming argument.
They can't even predict the weather!
Too bad the folks who are supposed to predict climate decades into the future are guided by scientists who could not manage to avoid ice floes during a five-week trip.
Quote from ideologically-aligned pseudo-expert!
"I'm sure some researchers can find a possible explanation where humans are causing both Arctic ice melting and Antarctic ice growth, but I'm skeptical of scientists who blame every change in nature on human activities. Nature routinely causes its own changes, without any help from us," quoth Spencer, himself a climate change contrarian.1
If I don't understand it, it can't be explained!
"Sea ice is disappearing due to climate change, but here ice is building up," the Australasian Antarctic Expedition acknowledges. It's a conundrum. If warming is melting ice in the North, why isn't it melting ice in the South?
And so on, in similar fashion.

Shockingly, it turns out that this happy little denialist talking point about Antarctic sea ice is only part of the story:
Antarctica is a continent with 98% of the land covered by ice, and is surrounded by ocean that has much of its surface covered by seasonal sea ice. Reporting on Antarctic ice often fails to recognise the fundamental difference between sea ice and land ice. Antarctic land ice is the ice which has accumulated over thousands of years on the Antarctica landmass through snowfall. This land ice therefore is actually stored ocean water that once evaporated and then fell as precipitation on the land. Antarctic sea ice is entirely different as it is ice which forms in salt water during the winter and almost entirely melts again in the summer.

Importantly, when land ice melts and flows into the oceans global sea levels rise on average; when sea ice melts sea levels do not change measurably but other parts of the climate system are affected, like increased absorbtion of solar energy by the darker oceans.
And while there's no definitive answer as to why Antarctic sea ice is increasing, it isn't incompatible with climate-change models:
It’s clear to Zhang and other experts who look at sea ice that the seeming paradox of Antarctic ice increasing while Arctic ice is decreasing is really no paradox at all. The Arctic is an ocean surrounded by land, while the Antarctic is land surrounded by ocean. In the Arctic, moreover, you’ve got sea ice decreasing in the summer; at the opposite pole, you’ve got sea ice increasing in the winter. It’s not just an apples-and-oranges comparison: it’s more like comparing apple pie with orange juice.

It does serve as a reminder, however, that while the planet is warming overall, largely due to human emissions of greenhouse gases, the complexity of the climate system guarantees that the changes to come won’t unfold in a completely straightforward way.
But hey, poor little Debra can't be bothered with a bunch of trivial detail. What matters is the soundbites this gives her and Fox and the rest of the denialists. Because catastrophic change that would kill millions and devastate entire nations is nothing compared to winning the spin cycle.

1Spencer, by the way, also happens to be an evolution "contrarian"; make of that what you will.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

So They've Reinvented the Trailer Park?

I don't mean to be a spoilsport, and I admire what they are doing, but this new "Tiny House" movement is all kinds of wrong headed.  Here's the gist of it: Madison Wisconsin, like the rest of the country, has a rapidly increasing homeless problem (up 47 percent in the last three years) which includes both single men and women and also families.  Occupy Madison has created a kind of temporary solution in these tiny homes--96 square feet, toilet, electric light, bed.  It doesn't say if they have kitchen facilities.  The cost per home is 3000 dollars which obviously compares favorably to the state paying hotels for emergency housing and may compare favorably to subsidized Section 8 housing if that housing is scarce or unreliable.  Right now the Tiny Homes are set up on trailers so they can be parked on the street and towed every 48 hours.  This gets around zoning issues but, of course, adds to the cost since the homeless person now needs to have a car capable of pulling the house or needs to be networked in with a community organization that will tow and re-settle them on a regular basis.  A potential long term goal may be to place 30 or so of these houselets into a planned community which would then, presumably, offer amenities like laundry, landscaping, common areas, cooking facilities.

From a long term perspective I'm not sure I think this is better than a properly run SRO, or some other kind of quasi public, subsidized, small housing for people.  For one thing these don't have kitchens or laundries attached.  So the occupant needs to satisfy these basic needs offsite.  They appear to be one room with a toilet--so they aren't a good fix for families who are homeless.  In addition, as far as I know from presentations I've been to for the homeless female population of my own city, an enormous portion of this population has substance abuse and mental health needs which need to be met.  They aren't all homeless merely because housing prices are out of sight around here. They are also homeless because they don't have the family and social networks that keep people couch surfing or living in a room in someone else's house.  Privacy is great but it can also create isolation. In fact one low threshold homeless shelter in my city has instituted a program to enable the women who do get apartments to come back to socialize with each other during some afternoons. They found that the isolation of being housed, after being on the streets, was very difficult for this population to take since they tended to lack family, jobs, and other social connectors.

I like the idea of some kind of mini co-housing model, in which people can share cooking, laundry, and workshop spaces while limiting their private spaces to these inexpensive houselets.  We already have high end co-housing here which enables people to downsize and conserve on space while sharing and co-owning areas, like a library or a big social space, that they only need once in a while.  Co-Housing and shared spaces are both cost effective and socially desirable--in the absence of affordable single family homes or apartments, that is.   But I wonder if this model of the stand alone (or pull alone) trailer bedroom is really a good solution for generic homelessness in many places? How is it different from recreating an privatized trailer-style living situation for vulnerable people? Its not even necessarily as good as a standard trailer, which have cooking facilities.  Also, it should go without saying that a stand alone house, which does not share walls, roof, utilities, hookups etc... with other units is not as ecologically conservative as a well designed apartment within an apartment building.

Cross posted at I Spy With My Little Eye

Friday, December 27, 2013

Full Frontal Assault The Only Way To Go

Despite the slowdown in blogging output due to the holiday stupor there are several important posts that people should read, if they get a chance. No, not one of the clickbaiters at Talking Points Memo, but here's a good one from Booman Tribune: Obamacare Won't Get Popular On Its Own.

I can't stress how true this is:

Before the Affordable Care Act became the law of the land, people had two main attitudes about their health insurance. They either hated it, or they didn't use it. This idea that there were a lot of people who liked their health insurance and wanted to keep it is largely a myth. At best, the vast majority of people were afraid of change, but that doesn't mean that they thought they had great insurance or enjoyed the process of trying to get their insurer to pay their bills. In general, people hate paying for insurance and experience hassles when they try to use it. So, once the Democrats decided to push everyone into for-profit insurance, they pretty much took ownership of something most people experience negatively. Add to this that people will always want a bigger subsidy than they're getting, a bad rollout of the exchanges, and a political opposition uniformly opposed to the bill and determined to highlight every flaw within it, and you have a recipe for a political drubbing. 

This is why Atrios has been saying, for a while, that love it or hate it the ACA means that the Democrats "own" everything, good or bad, that is now associated with health care.

Booman and I agree on the only correct response: mass assault on the Republican position.

The only way to make that the case is for Democrats to very thoroughly follow Ryan Cooper's advice and rally around the health care law in a relentless and single-minded way that can match the Republicans' opposition.
I have further advice on this front. The fact that formerly uninsured people are getting insurance is not a very compelling rejoinder for someone who is having a negative experience with their health insurer. What's compelling is a political party that constantly points to the benefits of the law, like annual caps, keeping your kids on your insurance, protections against having your insurance dropped, and limits on profit-taking. The way to promote this politically is to constantly talk about real people who would have been screwed without the reforms. Trot them out daily to talk about how their lives and livelihoods have been saved.
Secondly, the Dems should be introducing reforms that address areas where people are experiencing problems. These reforms won't pass, but they can form a platform of sorts that will partially inoculate the party from criticism. After all, fixing a problem is better than repealing the whole law and having a solution is more appealing than having none.

This may be counter intuitive for individual Democratic representatives who generally try to run highly individual, local, and often cowardly campaigns.  Especially given that the issues that are thrown at them on the campaign trail will be a mixture of fake anti Obamacare hysteria (as in the early Fox accounts of angry people who weren't eligible for the exchanges or hadn't checked them) or real confusion and distress.  If the Democrats as a party had the sense god gave a nematode they would be holding training sessions for Democrats running all over the country in saying "Yes, absolutely, let me look into that for you..." and having the Democrats as a party get out in front of the very real problems with the ACA by introducing and referencing their own fix-it bills at all times.  In fact I'd be even more forward--I'd counsel Democrats to go on the offensive every minute and demand to know why the Red States are preventing people from accessing Medicaid or the Exchanges and making the population of the country sicker and weaker and why the Republicans have introduced no realistic bills to fix the health care problems their own voters face.

But this can only work if it is a co-ordinated, full frontal, assault on the Republican position.  You can't expect this to be like that old joke "I was at a fight last night and a hockey game broke out."  The Democrats are like herding cats, always have been.  Someone is going to have to crack the whip to get them all pulling in the same direction.

UPS, FedEx, your late Christmas gifts, and the Grinch who stole functional government

UPS and FedEx have taken a justified drubbing in the press lately for failing to deliver Christmas packages in time for Christmas. Their excuse? Well, umm, there were more packages than they expected, and, err, they all came at the same time, and besides, the weather was bad. (Uh, UPS? That’s logistics.)

Both shipping companies deserve to have their ears boxed – not so much for their disgraceful delivery failures, as for false advertising.

For decades FedEx has told us to go to them “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.”

And UPS has cast itself as the “logistics” expert, first in a cloying jingle, now in a company slogan (“We love logistics”) both advertising lies delivering the implied promise of super competence.

But my beef with these two paragons of private enterprise is only secondary. I’m speaking up today for the United States Post Office, for the Constitution of the United States – and for the importance of the United States government being in and starting some businesses, rather then staying out of them.

A government post office
– and “original intent”

The founding fathers, from the very beginning, understood that some critical activities are too important to be left to private enterprise. Conducting war is one example. Can you imagine UPS and FedEx explaining to the American people, “Well of course the enemy has overrun and taken Florida. We had no idea there’d be so many of them, all coming at us at the same time.”

Two others examples of businesses that the founding fathers intended the government to be in are the maintenance and operation of a post office, and the construction of roads. You can find the provision for both in Section 8, Article 7 of the United States Constitution.

True, the United States Postal Service is a mess today. But for that you can thank the Republican crazies in Congress who can’t read (or at least who can’t read the Constitution) and who think that the government being in the mail delivery business is an abomination in the eyes of God and a violation of the original intent of our founders to put private enterprise in charge of absolutely everything.

Who's sabotaging the post office?
Kindly glance to the right.

You can't help thinking it's likely that the destructive “libertarian” right is deliberately trying to cripple and destroy the post office, either in obeisance to their crackpot theories that private enterprise does everything better, or in exchange for the legalized corruption of corporate campaign contributions by commercial delivery services.

Congress has crippled the USPS with a requirement to pre-fund pensions in a way that saddles the postal authorities with multi-billion dollar obligations that no private enterprise or other government department faces. And, since Congress gives not a nickel – not a nickel! – to this constitutionally mandated department of government, postal rates contantly get driven explosively higher.

Little wonder that so many people have opted to use the virtually free Internet for everything from utility bills to Christmas cards.

Meanwhile, if you sent your Christmas mail via the post office a few days in advance, the odds are powerful that your gift and cards got there. In fact they got there the next day, if you sent them by Priority Mail. If your Priority Mail pakage didn't arrive on time, you can enjoy a money-back guarantee. Try that with a non-governmental service like UPS or FedEx.

But there’s this odd thing about the USPS. Without dabbling in the mysto-magic of logistics, in somehow understands that mail gets very heavy shortly before Christmas (What a surprise!), and that meanwhile the weather in December starts to get bad in many parts of the country (Another surprise!) and plans accordingly. And remember, the USPS is operating with its hands tied behind its back by Congress.

Government, private enterprise,
and the Obamacare screwups

But…but…but what about the screwups in Obamacare? Well, the President and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services certainly screwed up royally on communicating the facts about that one, and ought to have their fannies whacked for constantly “adjusting” dates and deadlines for political purposes, which add to the confusion. But let’s trace the malfunction back to its original source.

Who did the website work? Why, private enterprise, in the form of a for-profit company called GCI Federal and its various subcontractors. And it turns out that like other private enterprises, GCI Federal has a significant history of screwing up what they do.

Oh, and let’s not forget who built our (now underfunded and crumbling) highway system, and our triumphs in space. Those were government programs. Yes, private contractors built the components for the moon shot. But they did so under NASA supervision and NASA, should you need reminding, is a government enterprise, not a private company.

The Congressional grinches may want to turn over the nation to private enterprise. God help us if they ever completely succeed. They do enough damage each day as it is.

As I’ve already said in this piece, most things are too important to be left to private entrepreneurs out to make a buck. Or a few billion buck. And those range from healthcare to playing Santa Claus with Christmas packages.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

“It’s not necessarily your friends who get you out of it” – a (grudging) appreciation of Al Goldstein, and his own grudging defense of the First Amendment.

If they ever give a Pulitzer Prize for best obituary of 2013, will somebody with the clout to get this done please nominate Andy Newman of The New York Times? His piece on Al Goldstein is a classic of how to tell the brutal and brutally entertaining truth, expressed as a high resolution word picture.

Goldstein was the inventor, editor and publisher of a vulgar pulp newspaper called Screw, one of the first to offer classified ads for sex services, as well as nude and ranchy photographs of people performing sex acts, and reviews of New York’s once-ubiquitous “massage parlors.”

I know, I know, all this is very un-Christmas-y. But so was Goldstein, whose unregistered trademarks included a middle finger raised in defiant bad taste. Its very seasonal inappropriateness is what makes this an appropriate memorial essay.

Two meetings and an
Accidental run-in

I met Al Goldstein three times, twice in a more-or-less professional capacity as a “Madmen” era advertising copywriter moonlighting as a journalist. The third meeting was an accident.

I despised the man.

But also, I liked him a lot.

That’s not quite as contradictory as it sounds. Goldstein was both the sort of person you love to hate, and the sort you hate to love, but do. What was loveable about him was his abjectly vulgar and often highly irascible authenticity. He was a man who eventually won a major victory against censorship. True to form, he censored nothing, least of all the language that spewed out of his own mouth.

While you couldn’t be absolutely sure that everything he told you was the truth, it was surely the truth as he happened to see it at the moment he spoke it. And sometimes, things he told you that seemed patently false turned out to be pretty much true after all. Here's a case in point.

Goldstein, Ed Koch, and a
disputed case of “begging”

Back in the 1970s,while working for an advertising agency, I moonlighted by writing articles for a couple of iffy little magazines devoted primarily to, uh, sex. But I wanted to do legitimate journalism, so the editor of an “adult” magazine sent me to interview Goldstein, a friend of hers, about Goldstein’s candidacy for mayor of New York. (Yes, he actually did that.)

Goldstein insisted he was a viable candidate. In fact, he boasted, New York’s beloved Mayor Ed Koch, then up for re-election, “called me up and begged me not to run against him.”

That sounded like utter nonsense. Goldstein’s candidacy had been widely regarded as a self-indulgent joke. And Koch was a very popular mayor. Nevertheless, Goldstein had given me a good quote and Ed Koch deserved an opportunity for rebuttal. I called Koch, expecting either no reply or a flat denial. I was wrong.

Koch returned my call and what he gave me, couched in a pro forma denial, was an admission that Goldstein was essentially speaking the truth.

I told Koch, “Goldstein says you called him and begged him not to run against you.”

“That’s not true,” Koch replied. “What I said to him was, ‘Al, I wish you wouldn’t run against me, because the people who are likely to vote for you are the same people who would otherwise vote for me.’

I nearly fell out of my chair at the ad agency.  Koch had almost as much trouble censoring himself as Goldstein.

My story was published under a pseudonym, so as not to offend either my blue chip advertising clients or my bosses at the blue chip ad agency where, at least according to my title, I was an officer. My position was too exalted to traffic with the likes of Goldstein or a slick-but-trashy sex magazine. Especially not when the article I wrote bore the title, “Al Goldstein Throws His Pants Into The Political Arena.”

The 20 megaton temper

It was during my interview with Goldstein concerning his mayoral candidacy that I learned, first-hand, what it was like to be a victim of his infamously explosive temper. I had been taping the conversation on a cassette recorder. (This was decades before digital technology.) Suddenly the cassette failed and began spewing a twisted tangle of tape. Goldstein instantly exploded.

“I don’t know why I waste my time with assholes like you with your cheap piece of shit tape recorder,” his rant began. He continued in similarly vituperative language. No need to reduplicate all of here. However, I ought to point out that it’s in considerable part thanks to Goldstein that we can reproduce language like this for public consumption at all, if we choose.

After a while, Goldstein threatened to throw me out of his office and stormed out of the room. I was packing up my things when suddenly he returned with a yellow legal pad, which he flung at my head, followed by a ball point pen, aimed like a missile.

“Here asshole, write it down!” he said to the reporter who was about to write a magazine profile of him.

“Something tells me, Toto,
we’re not in New York any more”

Another interview with Goldstein was for a story I wrote concerning his battle with the U.S. Government. Powerful forces were lined up against him, intent on putting him out of business, perhaps because he had run an article in his publication, Screw, suggesting that J. Edgar Hoover was gay (which, it turns out, he most probably was.)

The problem was, most juries would, by then, roll their eyes at the Government’s prosecution of pornographers. Or at least they would roll their eyes in New York, where Goldstein was committing his “crimes” of printing vulgar nude pictures with language to match, and running massage parlor and swinger ads.

So the Feds tried a cleverly oblique strategy. They got some postal inspectors in Topeka, Kansas, where Goldstein had never distributed his newsstand publication, to order copies of Screw by mail. When the requested porn arrived, the Feds charged Goldstein with pornography crimes, in conservative and pretty-much-fundamentalist Kansas. Goldstein was creeped out, as you might be, if you went to sleep in Manhattan and when you woke up the words going through your head were, “Something tells me we’re not in New York any more.”

But the Feds miscalculated. The expected guilty verdict was reversed on an appeal alleging government misconduct. A second trial – even in heavily-fundamentalist Kansas – resulted in a mistrial. The government forgot that conservative fundamentalism often goes hand-in-hand with a stubborn streak of libertarianism.

“Who are a bunch of people in Washington to tell me what I can and cannot read?” commented one Kansas jurist after the trial. It was another illustration of the old saw, relating to finding yourself in deep dung, that “it’s not necessarily your friends who get you out of it.”

Death by legal expenses

But Goldstein didn’t escape the Kansas porno rap cheaply. He complained to me that each time he went on trial in Kansas, not only was his business interrupted, but he had to live there, and pay to keep his topflight attorneys living there, week after week until the trial was over. The previous trial had cost him, I think I remember him telling me, $90,000.

That may not sound like a totally crippling expense for a prosperous little publishing business today, but when Goldstein told me this, I had recently purchased a nice suburban house for considerably less than his $90,000 legal fees. To give you an idea of how badly Goldstein got hit, the same house last sold in June 2006 for $1.6 million, according to Zillow. The Kansas case was the beginning of the slow financial unraveling of his porn empire.

My third encounter with Goldstein was by chance. It was some time in the 1980s. By then I had moved from the ‘burbs back to Manhattan. The woman to whom I was then married and I decided to spend a summer weekend in a rough approximation of the country. So we checked into the resort-style Woodliffe Lake Hilton in New Jersey, where we could loll around the swimming pool.

By coincidence, directly across the pool sat Fat Al Goldstein and whichever of his five consecutive wives he was married to at the time. She was a pouffy-haired bottle blonde, attractive in a no-class sort of way. She sat on a chaise lounge at the pool apron, balls of cotton inserted between her toes, adding pink polish to her toenails. Goldstein sat on an adjacent chaise. I waved to him and nodded. If he recognized me, he offered no acknowledgement whatsoever. 

A few minutes later, the couple broke into a loud, vituperative fight. It was a big pool, and I couldn’t make out the precise nature of their argument, but after a while, Al muttered a thunderous obscenity and stormed off, his big belly hanging over his paisley bathing suit.. The wife offered the poolside audience a huge and wildly theatrical palms-up shrug. Then she shook her head and returned to her toenails.

The point of all this?

The next general
in the war to save humanity
may be a serial nose-picker

Great victories for freedom are not necessarily won by nice people. Or by attractive people. Or by well-mannered people. Or even by superficially pleasant people.

If today you can watch a show with overt sexual references and unrestrained language, whether live on Broadway, at the movies, or on Cable TV, Al Goldstein is one of the people whose ghost you can thank. (The inventors of the birth control pill and the lawyers and judges who defended and decided in favor of “I Am Curious (Yellow),” are among the several others.

[Another side note: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis went to see the Curious (Yellow) movie when it opened legally in New York. Coming out of the theater, she decked one of the paparazzi who wanted a picture of Jackie exiting a porn flick. This soon inspired a rhyme in a New York Magazine contest: “Higgledy Piggledy/Jacqueline Kennedy/Flipped a photographer/Over her head/Changing his countenance/Melodramatically/ Curious (Yellow)/ To Furious (Red)”]

So say a grateful prayer for Al Goldstein. That fat, disgusting pig earned it.  But if there’s an afterlife and you run into his obnoxious soul, don’t expect him to thank you. More likely, he’ll flip you the bird, throw a sharp object or two at you, and loudly say something that, until he came along, used to be considered unprintable.


Take a moment. Take a deep breath. We will be here for all of you.  Right now I'm making Cream Scones with dried Cherries and getting ready to make a Pescatarian Christmas Eve Dinner.  In between I have to go out and hold the hands of some suffering new mothers in case they have had the freedom to sneak themelves and their squalling infants out of the house, past the grabby grandmothers and grandmother-in-laws, to get some emotional support.

Monday, December 23, 2013


I'm out of here till New Year's Day. Thank you for sticking with me all this time. Stop by while I'm gone -- your favorites from the relief crew are likely to be here.

And may all your Christmases (and Santas) be ...


On a day when The New York Times has a story criticizing the federal government's technology procurement process as outdated, and The Washington Post has a story pointing out that the firm principally responsible for the Obamacare website had corporate ties to a company responsible for a number of recent failed government tech projects, it's interesting to read this and realize that tech complacency in America is hardly limited to the public sector:
Weak U.S. card security made Target a juicy target

The U.S. is the juiciest target for hackers hunting credit card information....

That's in part because U.S. credit and debit cards rely on an easy-to-copy magnetic strip on the back of the card, which stores account information using the same technology as cassette tapes.

"We are using 20th century cards against 21st century hackers," says Mallory Duncan, general counsel at the National Retail Federation....

In most countries outside the U.S., people carry cards that use digital chips to hold account information. The chip generates a unique code every time it's used. That makes the cards more difficult for criminals to replicate. So difficult that they generally don't bother.

"The U.S. is the top victim location for card counterfeit attacks like this," says Jason Oxman, chief executive of the Electronic Transactions Association.
The right thinks that capitalism has miracle self-healing properties -- marketplace competition ensures that all problems will be solved, either by hungry competitors doing a better job or by established companies working harder and harder to stave off those competitors. But capitalism often doesn't work that way. When it came to the Obama website, the Post story says that bidding was limited to a few companies on a Bush-era list. The Times story says the government favors "multinational companies with large legal teams" over nimbler upstarts, and projects are run in ways that are old-fashioned and inflexible. Well, the credit-card industry also seems to be dominated by a handful of established companies that are too huge to have to worry about competition from upstarts. And credit card processing seems to be done the way it's done because it's always been done that way.

And if you think there's been a lot of finger-pointing and responsibility-shirking with regard to Healthcare.gov, well, the same goes for credit cards:
... Companies haven't enhanced security so far because it can be expensive. And while global credit and debit card fraud hit a record $11.27 billion last year, those costs accounted for just 5.2 cents of every $100 in transactions, according to the Nilson Report, which tracks global payments.

Another problem: retailers, banks and credit card companies each want someone else to foot most of the bill. Card companies want stores to pay to better protect their internal systems. Stores want cards companies to issue more sophisticated cards. Banks want to preserve the profits they get from older processing systems.
In both the private sector and government contracting, it's easy to make big bucks just by protecting your status as an established mega-player. The banks and credit card companies are established, fat, and happy: they've have been around forever, and they don't lose enough money from fraud to care very much about it. In contracting, please note that CGI, the main Healthcare.gov contractor, got to be a major player in government tech projects after it bought American Management Systems a now-troubled company founded in 1970 by former "whiz kids" who worked under Robert McNamara at the Defense Department in the Kennedy/Johnson years. You can't get much more established -- or Establishment -- than that.

A lot of aspects of America are aging, embedded, and sclerotic. Complacency is widespread, as is an "We've got ours, who cares about you" attitude. Government doesn't have a monopoly on this. And capitalism is not the cure-all.

There are threats of retaliation against British retailer Marks & Spencer for this new policy:
Furious M&S customers threatened to boycott the store last night for allowing Muslim checkout staff to refuse to serve customers who want to pay for alcohol or pork.

Managers at a London store told the workers they could ask any shoppers trying to buy the items to wait until a different till was available, it emerged yesterday.

One shopper said: 'I had one bottle of champagne, and the lady, who was wearing a headscarf, was very apologetic but said she could not serve me. She told me to wait until another member of staff was available....

Customer Matt Syson wrote: ... 'My family and I shall no longer purchase any goods from your company due to the implementation of this “one rule system” that creates further division and hatred within our communities.' ...
But wait: it's utterly wrong for people who are offended by this policy to retaliate in a way that threatens Marks & Spencer's livelihood, isn't it? Haven't we just spent the last few days being told by conservatives that that sort of retaliation is fascism, because people have absolute freedom to offend you, while you have no right to respond?

Weren't we told that suspending a millionaire TV actor who said insulting things about gay, black, and Japanese people is "totalitarian" and comparable to the worst Soviet abuses? Haven't we been informed that going on social media to mock a racist tweet about AIDS from Justine Sacco, a high-level public relations executive (who's since been fired), amounts to an "online assassination"?

So a boycott of Marks & Spencer would be just as horrible ... wouldn't it, right-wingers?

Whoops! Guess not. Jihad Watch is incensed at M&S, not at the boycotters. So are the Freepers and the Lucianners.
I would tell this company to pound sand.


Me, I'd never be a customer there again.


I hope they lose all their non-Muzzie customers
I actually oppose M&S's policy myself -- I think it's best to employ people, of whatever faith, who are willing to do all of what a job requires. I wouldn't hire a devout Catholic who categorically opposes divorce for a law practice that does a lot of divorce work. I've said in the past that Muslim cabdrivers who won't drive people who've been drinking perhaps should be in some other line of work.

As for a response, I think if you don't like M&S's policy, you're perfectly free to take your business elsewhere (many of M&S's competitors are not following suit) -- but I'm also not upset at how GLAAD and A&E and a lot of other critics have responded to Phil Robertson. And given that that public relations person's job is, y'know, public relations, I'm not upset that she faced consequences either.

I feel this way about retaliation I disagree with. I thought the Dixie Chicks boycott was vicious and wrong, but it was within wingers' rights to do it. Same for any boycott of A&E now by the right. If your work primarily involves dealing with the public -- as is the case for M&S, Justine Sacco, and both Pil Robertson and A&E -- that's a risk.

Maybe some of the outrage should be dialed down a bit. But it's not fascism. And it's definitely not fascism only when the other side does it.

Sunday, December 22, 2013


This Breitbart story is getting a fair amount of attention on the right:

On Thursday, a town hall meeting hosted by Al Sharpton and the National Action Network to address gun violence exploded into a revolt against "Chicago Machine" politics, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and the aldermen in City Hall, with panel and audience members calling to vote out their elected officials.
I wouldn't exactly say the meeting "exploded" or that there was any sort of "revolt." If you watch the video, you see a few people arguing that all the bums should be thrown out, or that black Chicagoans need their own tea party, neither of which necessarily means that the speaker wants new elected officials who are more conservative, or more Republican. These assertions are edited James O'Keefe style, so you never see the context of what particular kinds of elected officials these speakers want. The assertions are accompanied by some cheers and some boos. There's no "revolt."

And then there's one particular speaker, who dominates the Breitbart story, which is written by a correspondent who unashamedly goes by the name Rebel Pundit:
"This was a historic event," Paul McKinley of V.O.T.E. (Voices of the Ex-Offender) and former 2nd Congressional District GOP nominee to replace Jesse Jackson, Jr. told Breitbart News. "Not because of Al Sharpton coming to town," he continued. "This was first time since electing Mayor Harold Washington in the eighties that all of these grassroots groups and community organizers have come together under one roof to talk about the problems plaguing our community."

... McKinley told the room, "Stop blaming just anybody for the violence in the city of Chicago. Blame the right people, not just white people, but the right people. Because it’s not just white folks a part of this, but it is on the fifth floor. The fifth floor took your schools, the fifth floor just took your jobs that he said that he gave to the ex-offender... and every single alderman was a part of this criminal process."

McKinley called on President Obama to help the grassroots by discontinuing aid and government grants that go through Chicago's political machine to "name-brand-blue-ribbon-negro-organizations" such as the NAACP and Urban League. McKinley told Breitbart News those groups "are poverty pimps, and are part of the problem and not the solution."
That would be this Paul McKinley:
Republican voters are suggesting the 2nd Congressional District replace one felon with another after picking ex-convict Paul McKinley as the candidate to run for the seat recently ceded by former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.

While official results in the GOP special election will not be certified until next month, McKinley had a 23-vote lead over Eric Wallace, a multimedia company owner from Flossmoor, with all precincts reporting Wednesday.

McKinley, a convicted felon who served nearly 20 years in state prison for burglaries, armed robberies and aggravated battery, declared victory. Wallace, however, was not willing to concede, and he called the prospect of McKinley representing the GOP "an embarrassment."
McKinley--who has been convicted of 6 felony counts and served nearly 20 years behind bars for armed robberies, aggravated battery, and burglaries--refers to himself as an "ex-offender" who wants to get other ex-offenders to work.

McKinley was also arrested 11 times from 2003 to 2007, mostly for protesting. Records show he also owes $14,147 in federal taxes....

"He's not a Republican, obviously, and he doesn't represent the Republican Party," says GOP activist Chris Robling.

As one who's helped lead public and private conversations about rebuilding the GOP in Illinois, Chris Robling said he knows this much: former burglar and armed robber Paul McKinley is not the sort of new leader the party needs. In a series of campaign videos, McKinley said he cared little for Democrats or Republicans....
The latter story, by the way, is from Chicago's Fox affiliate.

Look, I don't want to argue that an ex-con can't turn his life around. I don't want to argue that it's wrong to criticize machine politics.

But a right-wing movement that spends much of its time arguing that black people are criminals unless proven otherwise -- Stop-and-frisk? Sure! Stalk and shoot Trayvon Martin? Yeah, he had it coming! -- apparently has no problem embracing a black man who actually does have a lengthy record of sometimes violent criminal behavior, if he says all the right things about Democrats. There's a touch of hypocrisy here.

I guess the message is that right-wingers don't really believe all black people are guilty until proven innocent. What they believe is that all black people are guilty until proven Republican.

Saturday, December 21, 2013


Around the anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting, I saw this cartoon from the immediate shooting aftermath on Twitter:

It's a reminder of the gun community's specific tunnel vision, but it's also a reminder of the overarching narcissism of the American right. Within days of the Sandy Hook deaths, we were expected to put aside our concerns for the victims (and future victims) and start worrying about whether we'd bruised the tender feelings of right-wing gun owners by daring to recommend a few speed bumps on their road to obtaining more and more guns. By means of threats, recall elections, scored votes, and the usual arsenal of hardball tactics, the gunners not only won the political battle but made it clear that Sandy Hook was all about them. It was about their desire to acquire weapons, not everyone else's safety. It was about keeping them safe from a strongly worded statement by Piers Morgan on CNN. All that needed to be the nation's #1 priority, not working to prevent the deaths of more schoolchildren.

And now we have a TV star who's equated homosexuality and bestiality, asserted that black people got along fine with whites in America before there was welfare, and blamed the Japanese involvement in World War II on the fact that the Japanese aren't Christian -- and who are the real victims? Right-wingers again. Phil Robertson, as I keep telling you, hasn't been fired, and Entertainment Weekly now confirms that A&E very much wants to keep him on the air:
A source close to the situation confirmed that when the network resumes airing new episodes of Duck Dynasty starting Jan. 15, footage featuring the Robertson patriarch will indeed remain intact. The network also hopes the media and fan furor will cool down over the holidays and that tensions over shooting future episodes can then be resolved.
And yet we're talking about the threat to Phil Robertson, not the crude attack on gays, blacks, Japanese people, and other non-Christians. The right has made this all about the victimization of right-wingers -- again.

The right does this all the time. A vigilante cop-wannabe shoots an unarmed black youth in Florida, and the real victims are right-wingers who cry "reverse racism" when they're criticozed for defending the shooter. Right-wingers are victimized by a Congress in which Democrats approve nominees using the majority they've earned in legitimate elections. Right-wingers tell us their goal is to "take our country back" -- as if the country belongs only to them, not to the duly registered voters who outvoted them. The word "our" in that phrase is like the shout of a bratty kid grabbing every toy in sight: "Mine!"

No interest outweighs the interests of the right. The right's interests dominate in all things. Ignore the right, and tantrums will be thrown.

Dig into the life of a right-wing idiot and you find ... more idiocy. You know about Ian Bayne, right? Republican congressional candidate in Illinois's 11th District? The guy who posted this on his campaign site?
Today, Ian Bayne called Phil Robertson, star of the A&E series "Duck Dynasty," the ‘Rosa Parks’ of our generation.

"In December 1955, Rosa Parks took a stand against an unjust societal persecution of black people, and in December 2013, Robertson took a stand against persecution of Christians," said Bayne....
Well, I'm sure it won't urprise you that his reaction on Facebook when the Obama campaign was pressing Mitt Romney to release more tax records was to go birther:

He's also on Twitter, where his very first tweet was this:

The link goes to a story that, yes, is appalling:
A woman encouraged her husband to have sex with a 12-year-old girl so that she would get pregnant and they could claim extra cash benefits.

Alicia Bouchard even sat and watched while her 26-year-old husband had sex with the underage girl at their Florida home.
However, the story goes on to tell us this:
According to an arrest warrant, the 41-year-old wanted the girl to fall pregnant so that she and her husband would have extra income from state benefits....

Mr Bouchard was arrested on sex abuse charges last October and has been held in jail ever since....

Bouchard was booked into jail on charges of being a principal to sexual battery, soliciting sexual activity with a child and principal to child abuse.

Her bond has been set at $70,000.
Yes, Bayne wrote this tweet after both had been arrested. In other words, his complaint was that there probably won't be a sufficiently concerted effort "to change the welfare laws" in order to criminalize behavior that's already illegal.

Yup, this sort of intellectual brilliance is jut what Congress needs.

Bonus brilliance: This self-assessment from Bayne's campaign site:
Ian Bayne's resume resembles that of a founding father more than a contemporary American professional.
The resume includes setting up a website to recruit Mitt Romney to run for governor of Massachusetts, which is just what you'd want to boast about if you were comparing yourself to the Founders.

Friday, December 20, 2013


Today The New York Times gave some op-ed column inches to Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, so she could attack all the evil Republicans who just allowed a budget to be passed. Here's Martin's lead paragraph:
THERE'S a political axiom that says if nobody is upset with what you're doing, you're not doing your job. We've seen this proved time and again in the liberal attacks on conservatives like Sarah Palin and Dr. Benjamin Carson, who provide principled examples to women and minorities and are savaged by the left for doing that job so well.
Amazing. Martin decides to illustrate a truism about "doing your job" -- and who are the first people who come to mind? Sarah Palin and Ben Carson. Tell me, Jenny Beth, what exactly are their jobs? Sarah Palin hasn't held a real job for more than four years, nor has she pursued one; Ben Carson had a real job, as a neurosurgeon, but he retired this year to become, in effect, the spokesperson for a right-wing talking point ("liberals are the real racists"), succeeding (among others) Alan Keyes, Michael Steele, and Herman Cain. To the extent that Palin and Carson have jobs right now, those jobs consist solely of yelling at people on Fox News. This is not a real job.

Basically, what Martin is saying is this: If you're not pissing people off, you're not doing your job -- if your job is pissing people off. (I think this is an example of the reflexive property.)

If Martin had cited Scott Walker, say, I'd have no complaints. I may not like the way Walker approaches the job of governor, but it is an actual job, and he has some sort of approach.

Now read what Martin writes about Republicans who also have actual jobs, and who -- for once -- recently did the jobs they were elected to do:
Consider how [Mitch McConnell] handled the vote on the [budget] bill. To defeat a filibuster, its supporters needed 60 senators to win cloture and move to a final vote. Instead of rallying his troops against the vote, Mr. McConnell allowed a handful of Republicans in battleground states -- who needed to be seen as supporting the bill -- to vote for cloture, while he and the rest railed against it, casting themselves in the role of budget hawks.

With cloture accomplished, a dozen Republicans were then free to vote against final passage if they need wiggle room when they're confronted on the campaign trail next fall by voters demanding action on government spending. Mr. McConnell and many Senate Republicans used the vote to manipulate the system, allowing them to cast themselves as deal makers or principled conservatives, depending on their audience.
Oh. So McConnell concluded that this was the best deal the GOP could get, given the fact that his party doesn't control the Senate. McConnell realized that the public actually wanted his caucus to pass something rather than block everything. And so McConnell found a way to finesse the politics, while actually accomplishing the task of keeping the government functioning. To Martin, this isn't "doing your job." This is "manipulat[ing] the system." (Funny, I thought that, in a non-dictatorship, legislative dealmaking was the system.)

Martin presumably would prefer that all Republicans in Congress be replaced by the likes of Sarah Palin and Ben Carson, who would yell a lot at liberals and, in a divided Congress, make sure that nothing ever got passed.

Y'know, just as the Framers intended.

The folks at Lucianne.com make an interesting point:

There's going to be a Duck Dynasty marathon? Why, yes:
Despite the suspension, A&E still has several hours of "Duck Dynasty" programming over the next week. For Thursday night, there is three hours of shows the network is airing. On Sunday Dec. 22, A&E will be airing the popular show from 5 p.m. until 4 a.m. the next morning. On Monday Dec. 23, episodes will air from 7 p.m. until 4 a.m. the next morning. On Christmas Eve, "Duck Dynasty" will be aired from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. And on Christmas Day, A&E will air "Duck Dynasty" episodes from 3:30 p.m. until 4 a.m. the next morning. All times are Eastern.
If you're a TV performer and a member of the union (AFTRA), it's my understanding that you get residuals for every re-airing of a show you appeared in. I assume this would apply to Phil Robertson.

When Paul Reubens (aka Pee-wee Herman) was arrested for masturbating in a porn theater in 1991, not long after Pee-wee's Playhouse had wrapped up its final season, CBS immediately pulled the last five reruns of the show from its schedule. So far, A&E isn't doing anything like that. So A&E clearly wants to find a way to keep the Duck folks generating money without alienating the people Robertson offended. A&E is covering its ass by putting Robertson on hiatus while hoping to keep minting that sweet, sweet Duck cash.

I'm not sure the Robertson clan will let that happen. An official family statement says that the rest of the family
cannot imagine the show going forward without our patriarch at the helm. We are in discussions with A&E to see what that means for the future of Duck Dynasty.
I'm sticking with my theory that this is bound up in the contract disagreements the Robertsons have had with A&E. Phil is challenging the suits. The suits slapped him down. The family is now challenging the suits. The outcome will seem to be all about this incident, but I don't believe that.


I regret I overlooked this assertion from Robertson in the GQ interview:
I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I'm with the blacks, because we're white trash. We're going across the field .... They're singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, 'I tell you what: These doggone white people' -- not a word! ... Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.
That will be lost to history, and our collective memory of this will be of That Time a God-Fearing Man Was Crucified Just for Having a Biblical View of Gays. Robertson should be on the hot seat just for saying this.


Oh, and I see that Camille Paglia is one more person who thinks A&E is a branch of the government:
"I speak with authority here, because I was openly gay before the 'Stonewall rebellion,' when it cost you something to be so. And I personally feel as a libertarian that people have the right to free thought and free speech," Paglia, a professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, said on Laura Ingraham's radio show Thursday....

"To express yourself in a magazine in an interview -- this is the level of punitive PC, utterly fascist, utterly Stalinist, OK, that my liberal colleagues in the Democratic Party and on college campuses have supported and promoted over the last several decades," Paglia said.
Yes -- remember Stalin's terror-famine, when he temporarily deprived 10 million Ukrainian farmers of their right to appear on national radio broadcasts? This is just like that.

I'm sure Laura Ingraham didn't bring up the fact that Paglia has also argued that it's Stalinist to exclude the North American Man-Boy Love Association from gay pride marches:

Though I should note that Paglia's peculiar viewpoint on gay people and NAMBLA is that NAMBLA belongs in gay pride parades because pedophilia is an inherent part of homosexuality (for men, at least). Oh, and she thinks it's appalling that gay people are squandering their fabulousness and transgressiveness by fighting for gay-inclusive curricula and seeking to become teachers and Scout leaders. Paglia thinks all that is just wrong, or at least she did at the time of her book Vamps & Tramps:

Gay people shouldn't be teachers or scout leaders? Maybe Paglia and Phil Robertson would agree or more than you'd think.


Paglia brings up "PC" on college campuses. Charlie Pierce is worried about a different threat to speech on campus and in the workplace:
What good is a Bill of Rights if it protects us (increasingly thinly) against government, but subcontracts the job of abridging those rights to every other institution that affects our lives and well-being? As it happens, I had disciplinary action taken against me at the last newspaper I worked for because of things I had written on the Esquire.com Politics blog prior to coming to work here full time. When I asked my immediate supervisor why this happened, he replied, "My primary obligation is to the company." (I looked down to make sure I wasn't wearing a nametag with the word Wal Mart on it.) ...
He goes on to write about a policy statement from the Kansas Board of Regents that forbids faculty and staff from engaging in "improper use of social media," which includes any communication that, "when made pursuant to (i.e. in furtherance of) the employee's official duties, is contrary to the best interest of the university."

Pierce writes:
Does your job own your civil liberties when you're off the clock? Does it own your thoughts, expressed freely, when you're home? Are we saying that the government can't abridge your constitutional rights, but that The Brand can? If you answer instantly, "yes," think again about what you're saying, and about the kind of country in which you want to live.
It's a tough question. I'm not sure where the line should be drawn. I'll say this, though: If you categorically state that every employee in every job has an absolute right to face no job consequences for speech engaged in off the clock, then you accept that these guys should have faced no consequences from their employer, the City of New York:
Two firefighters and a police officer went to trial this week to fight for the jobs they lost after they participated in a controversial skit during a 1998 Labor Day Parade in Broad Channel.

The three men, dressed in blackface and Afro wigs, rode on a float that satirized the dragging death of James Byrd, an African-American, in Texas, the previous summer. A sign on the side of the float read "Black To The Future: Broad Channel 2098." The three men also threw pieces of fried chicken and watermelon slices to the crowd.
I should point out that, on free speech grounds, Al Sharpton defended them. One federal judge, in 2003, overturned their firings, but another federal judge upheld them in 2006. Your call as to whether that was appropriate.

I'm not sure any of this is relevant to Phil Robertson's case, however. He agreed to be interviewed by GQ in furtherance of the interests of Brand Duck, which -- at least for now -- are inextricably linked to the interests of Brand A&E. He was a professional entertainer doing a publicity interview. He was on the job.

Thursday, December 19, 2013



UPDATE: Is this real or a fake? Betty Cracker wonders, and a debate ensues. I assumed it was real, but this makes me reconsider:
I don’t believe it's genuine because there's no bible verse cited.

Atrios says this, but I don't believe it:

I don't think it's going to be that simple. What's more likely is that right-wingers are going to start talking about gay rights the way they talk about black civil rights these days.

Surely you've noticed that the overwhelming majority of right-wingers now praise Martin Luther King to the skies and insist that the civil rights movement righted a great wrong. You've noticed wingers trying to make King one of their own and attacking the Democratic Party as a historically racist institution.

You've also noticed that right-wingers feel aggrieved anytime a non-white person points to a present-day racial injustice. They feel that pointing out a racial injustice is the worst possible act of racism -- racism against white people.

That's probably how right-wingers are going to talk about gay rights in the future. They'll agree in theory that rights must not be infringed; in practice, everything that goes gay people's way will be another example of reverse discrimination against heterosexuals. They'll agree on marriage and joint benefits and so on, but they'll scour the news for every possible example of what they already call "LGBT fascism."

Basically, the second part of this is true now: over here we have a local talk-radio guy on Fox News comparing Phil Robertson to Dr. King, over there we have right-wingers angrily recounting the rather-too-perfect story of a straight male gym teacher who says a lesbian boss at a Manhattan private school fired him for being heterosexual and married.

Atrios thinks, I guess, that the anti-gay grifters will just cash in and move on to something else. Not really. They'll stop trying to deprive gay people of equal citizenship and just concentrate on trying to persuade straight people that they're sexual Alan Bakkes -- the people who really deserve to have anti-discrimination laws protecting them. The war won't end -- not anytime soon.

If we're going to talk about Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty, let's start by remembering something: Martin Bashir actually lost his job at MSNBC. So did Alec Baldwin. A decade ago, Dan Rather really lost his job at CBS, and effectively lost his career with it.

Phil Robertson, a man for whom the right is crying a river of tears, actually hasn't lost his job, and isn't even being taken off the air:
A&E has placed Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson on indefinite hiatus following anti-gay remarks he made in a recent profile in GQ....

He'll likely appear in season four, which bows Jan. 15, since production is largely wrapped....
Oh. So if new episodes featuring Phil are already in the can and will begin airing next month, and filming for the season is nearly complete, how significant is this "hiatus"?

All the shouting right now is over one portion of Robertson's offensive remarks:
"It seems like, to me, a vagina -- as a man -- would be more desirable than a man's anus," Robertson says in the January issue of the men's magazine. "That's just me. I'm just thinking: There's more there! She's got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I'm saying? But hey, sin: It's not logical, my man. It's just not logical."

During a discussion about repentance and God, Robertson is asked what he finds sinful.

"Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there," he says. "Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men."

He goes on to paraphrase Corinthians: "Don't be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers -- they won't inherit the kingdom of God. Don't deceive yourself. It's not right."
That's what A&E focused on in its statement:
"Phil Robertson's remarks are not consistent with the values of our faith communities or the scientific findings of leading medical organizations," president Chad Griffin said in a statement. "We know that being gay is not a choice someone makes, and that to suggest otherwise can be incredibly harmful. We also know that Americans of faith follow the Golden Rule -- treating others with the respect and dignity you'd wish to be treated with. As a role model on a show that attracts millions of viewers, Phil Robertson has a responsibility to set a positive example for young Americans -- not shame and ridicule them because of who they are. The A+E Network should take immediate action to condemn Phil Robertson's remarks and make clear they don't support his views."
But let's not forget that Robertson also said this:
"All you have to do is look at any society where there is no Jesus. I'll give you four: Nazis, no Jesus. Look at their record. Uh, Shintos? They started this thing in Pearl Harbor. Any Jesus among them? None. Communists? None. Islamists? Zero. That's eighty years of ideologies that have popped up where no Jesus was allowed among those four groups. Just look at the records as far as murder goes among those four groups."
Even if you give Robertson the benefit of the doubt and credit him for distinguishing "Islamists" from other Muslims, there's that bit about the Japanese. Their religion made them go to war? Really? So why aren't they at war now? Are they any more Jesus-y today?

Right-wingers are certainly going to forget that Robertson also said this. They're always going to portray this as pro-gay fascism crushing the poor, persecuted Christians. But Robertson would have deserved to face a backlash just for calling all Japanese people (and, in effect, all non-Christians) murderers. I think something would have happened to him even if he hadn't gone after gay people.

(And "murder" is an interesting word to use there. Do you know what the murder rate per 100,000 population was in Jesus-loving America in 2012? It was 4.7. Know what it was in Japan? It was 0.4.)

Some are saying that Robertson's words were offensive, but the suspension/hiatus/whatever is too harsh a punishment. But I wonder if something else is going on here.

Last March it was reported that the Robertson were holding out for a big salary increase, a dispute with A&E that held up filming of season 4. The dispute was resolved, though apparently the schedule had to be reworked, and it seems as if Phil is still a bit out of sorts:
"Duck Dynasty" season four finale means the fans now wait for the next "Duck Dynasty" season to roll out, but is the show going to be renewed? ...

According to Reality TV Magazine on Nov. 1, season four might have seemed a bit too short for the fans. The fans aren't wrong, the season was shorter than normal for A&E's most popular show. "Duck Dynasty's" Jase addressed the short season recently on his Facebook page:
"Season 4 seemed a bit shorter than usual because...it was. However, we added another season to the filming cycle so actually there will be more total episodes when all is completed. The success of the show can be attributed to your support."
...Phil Robertson recently made a comment that he was "tired of taping the show" and that comment, along with no official announcement of another season as of yet from A&E, had folks wondering what the fate of TV’s favorite redneck family would be.

Miss Kay recently addressed Phil's comment saying that her husband is going to be just fine after "getting in some much needed hunting time." ...
I think A&E is responding to what Phil Robertson said, but I think this is also pushback in an ongoing salary fight, led by a star who's demanding a little more motivation, as it were, to keerp going with the show.

And he may be thinking either that he's a big enough deal now to say whatever the hell he wants and get plenty of offers even if he upsets his current bosses. Even before Duck Dynasty aired, the Robertsons built their duck-call business into a million-dollar enterprise. The show sells lots of books and a great deal of other merchandise, not to mention tickets to live appearances. Fox News seems to love the Robinsons. (Video of an interview with Phil appears at FoxNews.com with the headline ("Phil Robertson for President?") The Robinsons were hanging out with Sarah Palin even before this story broke. (Palin, naturally, is crying "censorship!" now.) So maybe Phil thinks he can find a new TV home where he can talk like this freely. And maybe he's right.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


The right is having a schadenfreude OD after reading this:
Seventy-two percent of Americans say big government is a greater threat to the U.S. in the future than is big business or big labor, a record high in the nearly 50-year history of this question. The prior high for big government was 65% in 1999 and 2000. Big government has always topped big business and big labor....

I assume the uptick is inspired by Obamacare more than by the NSA, though I'm sure the NSA is in there. The fact that Obamacare is big government collaborating with big business is rarely discussed in America -- certainly the various parts of Big Medicine would prefer that we never discuss it. They've left government to take all the blame for Obamacare's problems -- which appropriate for the execution, but not so appropriate for the conception. Obamacare was built the way it had to be built to get Big Medicine's support.

The survey results are disheartening, but what's really disheartening is the fact that big business has never taken the #1 slot in this poll. It didn't even happen after Big Finance unleashed a global financial Katrina that drowned much of the world in 2008 -- notice that teeny-tiny uptick in big business's negatives in 2009. And notice how brief the uptick was -- unlike the economic downturn.

The one time in the past 30 years that big government's number dipped below 50% was in 2002. Big business's number rose sharply, but still didn't even hit 40%:
The historical high choosing big business, 38%, came in 2002, after a series of corporate scandals rocked major corporations including Enron and Tyco. Also at that time, Americans may have been less willing to choose government given the rally in support for government institutions and officials after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Great -- the only time in decades that hating government was not a majority opinion in America was when we wanted government to hunt down and exterminate a significant portion of the globe's practitioners of one particular religion.

Let me just point out that the near-constant rise is anger at government since 1970 almost exactly corresponds with a period during which the median income has absolutely stagnated, a stagnation that has not been experienced by the rich. Is big government the problem? Maybe to the extent that government has agreed to shift the burden of taxation to the middle class, and away from rich people and wealthy corporations. That's a government-business partnership, too, if business saying "Jump!" and government responding "How high?" can truly be called a partnership. And once again, business escapes all the blame.

Republicans have no ideas and can't govern, but they are absolute masters at creating phony outrages out of thin air and throwing tantrums until we wipe their noses and apologize for hurting their fee-fees. Here's the latest, which I'm sure you already know about:
John Podesta, the former top Clinton administration aide who is joining the White House as a special adviser, apologized Wednesday for a comment in which he compared the Republican Party to a cult that assassinated a congressman.

A new Politico profile quotes Podesta as likening the GOP to "a cult worthy of Jonestown" — a reference to an ambush by cult members more than three decades ago that killed Rep. Leo J. Ryan (D-Calif.) and seriously injured a top aide, now-Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.)....
In that case, I think we're about four years overdue for an apology for this, from 2009:
Gov. Haley Barbour (R-Miss.), chairman of the Republican Governors Association, called the Democrats' health care reform proposal "catastrophic" Thursday and compared it to the poison ingested at the infamous Jonestown cult’s mass suicide in 1978....

"This is such bad policy for the United States, and it's going to be so bad for our health care system," the Mississippi governor said....

"I've been looking for Jim Jones and where's the Kool-Aid. This is awful, awful policy for our country...."
We're also three-plus years overdue for an apology from Fox News faux-Democrat Pat Caddell, who said the same thing on the eve of Obamacare's passage:
Former Democratic pollster Pat Caddell was on Fox News this afternoon when near the end of his interview he forcefully asserted that the health-care bill now passed is a “political Jonestown” for House Democrats and that Speaker Pelosi’s insistence on forcing them to vote yes is akin to mass suicide.

... my party is having a Kool-Aid party. I mean, we are having what I call the political equivalent of Jonestown going on here.
Find me an apology from either of guys after making these statements and I'll agree that Podesta had a reason to say he was sorry. Otherwise, it's yet another example of Republicans hijacking the news cycle to put Democrats on the defense, as a substitute for doing something constructive for the benefit of the country.

In a blog post published yesterday, Peggy Noonan attacks the Obama administration for incompetence -- not just for the botched Obamacare rollout, but because the president stood next to an unstable and seemingly dangerous fake interpreter at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela, which is apparently the administration's fault:
My worries came home with a certain freshness after the Mandela memorial, where the United States Secret Service allowed the president of the United States to stand for 19 minutes next to the famous sign-language interpreter who, it was quickly revealed, was not only a fraud but a schizophrenic con man who is now said to have been involved in two deaths. In fairness, the event was in another country and the Secret Service wasn't strictly in charge.
Um, yeah, there is that.
That said, it still looks like very basic negligence, as if no one is keeping enough of an eye on the Secret Service, no one's checking the quality of the advance or sending emails asking: "Hey, what do we know about the sign language guy -- any chance he's a mentally ill criminal?"
First of all, this was done on short notice. Second, if this reflects an extraordinary level of incompetence on the part of the Obama administration, then it also reflects an extraordinary level of incompetence on the part of the governments of Brazil, India, China, Namibia, and Cuba, because speakers at the memorial service included the head of state from each of these countries, or, in the case of China, the vice president. And let's not forget the large number of other heads of state who didn't speak but attended the service. That selfie with the prime ministers of Britain and Denmark? Maybe Britain and Denmark should have vetted the interpreter, too, before letting their leaders sit in the audience.

We're talking about Peggy Noonan, of course, so eventually we get fantasies of apocalypse:
I'm worried, finally, that lines of traditionally assumed competence are being dropped. The past few weeks I can't shake from my head this picture: The man with the football -- the military aide who carries the U.S. nuclear codes, and who travels with the president -- is carrying the wrong code. He's carrying last month's code, or the one from December 2012. And there's a crisis -- a series of dots on a radar screen traveling toward the continental U.S. -- and the president is alerted. He's in the holding room at a fundraiser out west. The man with the football is called in and he fumbles around in his briefcase and gets the code but wait, the date on the code is wrong. He scrambles, remembers there's a file on his phone, but the phone ran out on the plane and he thought he could recharge in the holding room but there's no electrical outlet. All eyes turn to him. "Wait -- wait. No -- uh -- I don't think that’s the code we use to launch against incoming from North Korea, I think that one takes out Paris!"

I have to say, I’ve never worried about this with any previous administration, ever.
Right. She worries about this because of a botched health care rollout and Crazy-Interpreter-Gate. She somehow didn't worry about this during the administration in which 3,000 people were murdered by terrorists on one day on U.S. soil.

In fact, 9/11 and its immediate aftermath made Noonan feel more secure in the president's leadership. Here she is on November 16, 2001:
In the early days of the current struggle he immediately understood the situation -- "We are at war" -- but did not immediately strike back. He seemed, at first, in the day after Sept. 11, to have been as shocked by history as Harry Truman -- the moon and the stars had fallen upon him. He was eight months into a new presidency, and now all the facts of the world changed. But he righted himself as Truman did, and he made his plans. There were no showy and meaningless kabooms with our missiles hitting aspirin factories in the desert. Instead Mr. Bush prepared, pushed, waited and struck -- and now the Taliban are on the run and Afghanistan is teetering on something that whatever it is will surely be better than what it had been. Al Qaeda is not done, but as Mr. Bush said again yesterday in his news conference with President Vladimir Putin, we will not rest until it is.

It was in that remarkable news conference that Mr. Bush displayed once again in public what is reported of him in private -- that he has an instinctive command in his private dealings, a way of appealing to his guests with a well-meaning warmth that is both ingenuous and ... yet another little weapon in the Bush armory, an armory whose job it is to provide him with what he needs to get what he wants. In this case and for some time now what he wants has been a personal bond with President Putin that both reflects and promotes a new and deep alliance between America and Russia....

Mr. Bush was at his best, and I realized there is a way you can tell that he is and knows he is in full command. He signals it by talking the way he talks; that is, he signals it through bad grammar, or if you will highly colloquial usage.

When Mr. Bush is uncomfortable or being formal he says, "The tax structure in Russia is exemplary in many ways." When Mr. Bush is in full command he says, as he did yesterday, "And by the way they got a flat tax in Russia." They got one indeed, and it's turnin' that country 'round big-time....

You also know when Mr. Bush is in full command when he's not afraid to let his merriness out. His natural verbal style is Texas wise-guy: asked by a student if he had any advice for her life he said, "Yeah, listen to your mother." This got a lot of laughter but then, to show respect for a child who asked an honest question, he turned serious, and what he said was moving. "Follow your dreams.... You never know where life's gonna take ya. I never sat and thought, 'Gosh, if I work hard I'll be president of the United States.' It wasn't in my vocabulary. But you never know. You never know. Trust the Lord."

Harry Truman couldn't have said it better himself.
So when Peggy Noonan expresses apocalyptic fear and tells you what aspects of the Obama administration worry her, just remember: these are the kinds of things that reassure her: bad grammar, sanctimony, "merriness," and a sense of judgment that deemed Vladimir Putin a natural ally.


Oh, and I'm the last person who should take anyone to task for blogging glitches, but the text of Noonan's post from yesterday appears twice in succession at the link, as if she copied it out of Word and pasted it in twice. We all make mistakes, but (a) this is The Wall Street Journal, where you'd think someone might notice the glitch, and (b) it's rather an embarrassing thing to do with a post titled "Incompetence."