Archive for the ‘bad behavior’ category

Schadenfreude: It’s What’s For Dinesh

January 23, 2014

Oh, the FSM smiled on me today:

Conservative author Dinesh D’Souza has been indicted on federal charges of violating campaign finance laws, the the U.S attorney in Manhattan announced on Thursday.

William_Hogarth_-_Soliciting_Votes_-_WGA11457

D’ Souza is accused of

“making illegal contributions to a United States Senate campaign in the names of others and causing false statements to be made to the Federal Election Commission in connection with those contributions.”

If I were a much better person than I am, I’d suppress the grin that seems to have pasted itself across my mug since I read that over at TPM.

Still smiling…

Image: William Hogarth, The Humours of an Election:  Soliciting Votes, 1754

Because People Should Have To Choose Between Eating and the ER

January 11, 2014

Via TPM, here’s why the unemployed must go without:

Just as a bipartisan deal was coming together, Senate negotiations on extending jobless benefits for 11 months mysteriously broke down Thursday over obscure procedural disagreements….

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was pushing hard to offer an amendment that pays for a revival of emergency jobless benefits by delaying Obamacare’s unpopular individual mandate for one year (which is projected to save money by reducing Obamacare subsidies and Medicaid outlays, as well as raise insurance premiums).

"You_are_lucky^_The_"War"_Bread_that_you_get_would_seem_like_Cake_to_the_children_of_Europe."_-_NARA_-_512535

Giving the benefit of the doubt to the Republicans (I know…wait for it), assuming that McConnell doesn’t actually take pleasure in the sufferings of others, what could lie behind tying unemployment benefits to an attempt to undermine delivering health care to millions?

The usual:

The move was aimed at whipping up fodder for GOP Senate candidates to attack Democrats in the November congressional elections, where the Republicans hope to take back the majority.

In the very best construction of GOP motives here, it could be that some of them actually think that the damage done by Democratic control of the Senate is so threatening to the Republic that some collateral damage — actually, the misery and perhaps even deaths of Americans, incurred through the ills of poverty or gaps in the health care system — is just the price to be paid.  The tree of liberty and all that.

Except the “patriots” sacrificed in this case are not volunteers for the cause; they’re pawns, objects and not agents, to be sacrificed to advance McConnell and his buddies towards power.

Factio Grandaeva Delenda Est.

Image: U.S. Food Administration. Educational Division. Advertising Section. You Are Lucky…c. 1917-1919.

Annals of Outreach Chapter (n)

August 8, 2013

Because nothing closes a gender gap like (electronically) slapping an uppity woman:

Egon_Schiele_-_Kneeling_Female_in_Orange-Red_Dress_-_Google_Art_Project

Users have one option: Slap her for speaking.

Although several women’s rights organizations have condemned the idea, an anti-Hillary super PAC has refused to remove “Slap Hillary” from their website, allowing individuals to virtually hit the former secretary of state with a click.

The Hillary Project posted the clickable graphic earlier this week in which an animated Hillary Clinton stands outside the White House, and users can click “speak” or “slap,” cueing a graphic hand to whack her across the face. (via TPM)

The CBS story notes that the game has been online for a while — since 2000, apparently — but I for one am pleased that the leadership of the Republican Party now has its chance to condemn both violence against women as a broad social pathology and the profound and sexist disrespect to an individual with Hilary Clinton’s distinguished record of public service.

Reince?

John?

Mitch?

With that chorus ringing in our ears, this edition of GOP outreach chronicles closes.

Image:  Egon Schiele, Kneeling Female in Orange-Red Dress1910

Annals of Post-Racial America, Ch. (n)

August 7, 2013

via TPM, here’s the latest from The Arizona Republic:

Obama foes at one point sang, “Bye Bye Black Sheep,” a derogatory reference to the president’s skin color, while protesters like Deanne Bartram raised a sign saying, “Impeach the Half-White Muslim!”

MoorishAmbassador_to_Elizabeth_I

Many on both sides wore red, white and blue and carried small flags.

“It just kind of happened naturally,” said Michael Pomales of how the opposing sides separated. Pomales, an 18-year-old Ahwatukee Foothills resident who graduated in the spring from Desert Vista High, said he decided to join the protesters side “to spread a little love” as the crowds began shouting at each other.

Pomales said his response to people yelling for Obama to go back from where he came from is simple: “He’s a great man. He cares about what I care about, education, jobs. He’s our president. He’s an American.”

Deanna Bartram, a 17-year-old University of Arizona student from Black Canyon City, lashed out at people who call her racist for not supporting Obama. She believes Obama supporters use the “race card” against her because they disagree with her political message.

“Obama is ruining American values. He is ruining the Constitution. He needs to go back to where he came from because obviously, he is a liar,” she said. “I am not racist. I am part Indian. Obama’s half Black, half White.”

“He’s 47 percent Negro,” shouted Ron Enderle, a 77-year-old Chandler resident who said that he and his son served as Marines and his grandson is currently serving in the Marines.

But it’s all good.  John Roberts has told us we live in a post-racial America, and John Roberts is an honorable man.

Image: Anonymous painter, Abd el-Ouahed ben Messaoud ben Mohammed Anoun, Moorish Ambassador to Queen Elizabeth I, 1600.

Fiscal Conservatives

June 4, 2013

via TPM, this:

The states that declined to expand Medicaid will lose out on a total of $8 billion in federal funds, have millions more residents uninsured, and spend about a billion dollars more on uncompensated care as compared to states that accept the expansion.

That’s the conclusion of a new study in Health Affairs by two RAND Corporation scholars, who model the impacts on the first 14 states that opted out of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, which was made optional by the Supreme Court.

In total, mathematician Carter Price and economist Christine Eibner find, the 14 states that rejected the expansion will wind up with 3.6 million more uninsured people, $8.4 billion less in federal funds, and up to $1 billion more in spending on uncompensated care in 2016.

But, but, but…FREEDOM!

I’ll add only this editorial aside:  the number that really counts there are the 3.6 million more uninsured.

Steen_Doctor_and_His_Patient

That’s a lot of human cost, suffering that should not happen.   That it comes at a significant dollar cost to the states that so choose to put their citizens in harm’s way is only icing on the cake.

Actually, I can’t resist one more bit of editorializing.  As I think about the in-your-face religiosity of a fair subset of those opposing Obamacare, I can’t help but think of what Albert Einstein said on being asked for his message to the German people in the second year of that conflict whose name should have retired the irony prize for all time, the “Great War”:

Honor your Master Jesus Christ not only in words and songs, but rather foremost by your deeds.

That is all.

Image:  Jan Steen, The Sick Woman, c. 1663-66

(PS:  I’m on the road with very sporadic internet for the next week+.  Given my highly sporadic approach to blogging, no one is likely to notice — but if you do, that’s why.)

Texas, Jake

May 22, 2013

How’s this for a catch 22:

A judge has ruled that a North Texas lesbian couple can’t live together because of a morality clause in one of the women’s divorce papers.

The clause is common in divorce cases in Texas and other states. It prevents a divorced parent from having a romantic partner spend the night while children are in the home. If the couple marries, they can get out from under the legal provision — but that is not an option for gay couples in Texas, where such marriages aren’t recognized.

This is another one of those laws in which both rich and poor are enjoined from sleeping under bridges:

[Texas District Court Judge] Roach said the clause doesn’t target same-sex couples, adding that the language is gender neutral.

“It’s a general provision for the benefit of the children,” the judge said.

Cassatt_Mary_Jules_Being_Dried_by_His_Mother_1900

And, of course, the husband’s attorney talks the same line — we’re only in it for the kids:

Paul Key said his client, Joshua Compton, wanted the clause enforced for his kids’ benefit.

“The fact that they can’t get married in Texas is a legislative issue,” Key said. “It’s not really our issue.”

Just remember:  the state can’t touch our guns (or require tornado shelters) because of freedom…but adults’ private decisions about whom to love must suffer the full brunt of state power.

Feh.

Image: Mary Cassat, Jules Being Dried by His Mother1900.

 

Political Correctness Wins Again ;)

May 10, 2013

I’ve a few things to get off my chest following the news that I got via Dave Weigel, that Dr. Jason Richwine, our favorite race(ist)/IQ/no-Latino-immigrants need apply scholar aca-hack, has “resigned” from the Heritage Foundation.  Richwine, recall, was the co-author of Heritage’s now roundly ridiculed immigration study released earlier this week.

George_Romney_-_Refugee_Group_-_Google_Art_Project

Weigel asked what Heritage knew and when they knew it about Richwine’s dissertation and public statements asserting his race-IQ connection.  Heritage declined to reply, but earlier in the week, Heritage vice president of communications Mike Gonzalez posted a disclaimer that read, in part, like this (via):

The dissertation was written while Dr. Richwine was a student at Harvard, supervised and approved by a committee of respected scholars. The Harvard paper is not a work product of The Heritage Foundation. Its findings do not reflect the positions of The Heritage Foundation…

It falls to Heritage to answer (to itself, perhaps?) the degree to which Richwine’s views were the reason he was hired…but as to whether they knew about them before they brought him on board?

There really are only two choices here.  Either they didn’t, and the folks that hire over there are so incompetent that it might be wise to remove all silverware more dangerous than spoons from the staff lunchroom.

Or they did…and to the limits of inference, they sure did know what was behind door number one.  Why do I say this?  Because of what Richwine tells us in the acknowledgements to his dissertation:

I am indebted to the American Enterprise Institute for the its generous support, without which this dissertation could not have been completed.  In particular, I must thank Henry Olsen, vice president of AEI’s National Research Initiative for bringing me to AEI and supporting my research. The substance of my work was positively influenced by many people, but no one was more influential than Charles Murray, whose detailed editing and relentless constructive criticism have made the final draft vastly superior to the first.  I could not have asked for a better primary advisor.

I take two things from that passage.  First, it reminds us of the degree to which AEI is a dog-whistling race shop — as Charles Murray himself confirms in his  reaction to Richwine’s firing decision to resign:

Thank God I was working for Chris DeMuth and AEI, not Jim DeMint and Heritage, when The Bell Curve was published. Integrity. Loyalty. Balls.

Second, in the real world, anyone who’s done any hiring knows that the person doing the intake finds out what the potential employee did in his last job(s).

Richwine may have been getting his degree through Harvard (and that’s a post for another day) but the attempt to hide behind that institutional affiliation is a text-book baffle-with-bullshit moment.  His diploma may read Harvard, but the work was, by his own admission, essentially part of the AEI pipeline advised intensively by one of AEI’s  best known members.

And here’s the thing: the Potemkin village of wingnut  DC policy shops is not exactly some humongous impersonal word factory.  It’s a village. If AEI has some hot shot graduate student breaking old ground on the inherent wonderfulness of white people, then the folks at Heritage had to have known about all that when the newly  elevated Herr Doktor comes calling for a job.

I mean, you can believe otherwise, and I can’t say for sure…but in my decade or so as a small businessman, I called the last couple of places would-be interns had worked for just to see what I might be getting into.  It strains waaaay past my willingness to suspend disbelief that name-brand purveyors of right wing propaganalysis wouldn’t have done at least as much.

So, is the Heritage Foundation a racist shop?  Maybe. Perhaps. Maybe not — there could be more economical explanations for the determined comforting of the comfortable that is the constant theme of the right-wing policy racket.  And wondering whether the whole place, or Jim DeMint, or even Jason Richwine — excuse me, Harvard Dr. Jason Richwine — is personally a bigot is on some level the wrong issue.

Rather, the proper question is what to do with an institution and a movement who can muster no better arguments, and no better arguers to advance their radical agenda?

At a minimum:  Scorn, ridicule and public humiliation is my prescription…repeat as necessary.

Oh — and serious mobiliation for 2014 and beyond.

Image: George Romney, Refugee Group, undated (before 1802).

GOPsters Fighting The War On Science Have Blood On Their Hands

December 21, 2012

First, consider this, from Nate Silver:

An American child grows up in a married household in the suburbs. What are the chances that his family keeps a gun in their home?

…the odds vary significantly based on the political identity of the child’s parents. If they identify as Democratic voters, the chances are only about one in four, or 25 percent, that they have a gun in their home. But the chances are more than twice that, almost 60 percent, if they are Republicans.Whether someone owns a gun is a more powerful predictor of a person’s political party than her gender, whether she identifies as gay or lesbian, whether she is Hispanic, whether she lives in the South or a number of other demographic characteristics.

Now take note of this piece by Alex Seitz-Wald, published in Salon back in July.  (h/t Maggie Koerth-Baker at BoingBoing)

Over the past two decades, the NRA has not only been able to stop gun control laws, but even debate on the subject. The Centers for Disease Control funds research into the causes of death in the United States, including firearms — or at least it used to. In 1996, after various studies funded by the agency found that guns can be dangerous, the gun lobby mobilized to punish the agency. First, Republicans tried to eliminate entirely the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, the bureau responsible for the research. When that failed, Rep. Jay Dickey, a Republican from Arkansas, successfully pushed through an amendment that stripped $2.6 million from the CDC’s budget (the amount it had spent on gun research in the previous year) and outlawed research on gun control with a provision that reads: “None of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.”

David Satcher, the then-director of the CDC, wrote an Op-Ed in the Washington Post in November of 1995 warning that the NRA’s “shotgun assault” on the CDC was dangerous both for public health and for our democracy:

“What ought to be of wider concern, is the second argument advanced by the NRA — that firearms research funded by the CDC is so biased against gun ownership that all such funding ought to cease. Here is a prescription for inaction on a major cause of death and disability. Here is a charge that not only casts doubt on the ability of scientists to conduct research involving controversial issues but also raises basic questions about the ability, fundamental to any democracy, to have honest, searching public discussions of such issues.”

Exactly so.

But hey, maybe the ban didn’t matter.  After all, it’s not “advocating” gun control to do simple epidemiology.  Right?

Dickey’s clause, which remains in effect today, has had a chilling effect on all scientific research into gun safety, as gun rights advocates view “advocacy” as any research that notices that guns are dangerous. Stephen Teret, who co-directs the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, told Salon: “They sent a message and the message was heard loud and clear. People [at the CDC], then and now, know that if they start going down that road, their budget is going to be vulnerable. And the way public agencies work, they know how this works and they’re not going to stick their necks out.”

In January, the New York Times reported that the CDC goes so far as to “ask researchers it finances to give it a heads-up anytime they are publishing studies that have anything to do with firearms. The agency, in turn, relays this information to the NRA as a courtesy.”

The anti-science commitment by the GOP is not a mistake.  It’s not a clash of world-views.  It’s not that faith sincerely experienced renders the conclusions of science irrelevant.  Rather, the GOP, at least at the level where power can be wielded, is all about the ability to assert authority regardless of knowledge that contradicts belief.

Ghent_Altarpiece_D_-_Popes_-_detail

We know how this song goes.  Anti-science is an old strand in human experience.  The determination to block independent assessments of reality you see here is the same thing the Church asserted when it confronted Galileo.    When  Galileo said, as he did in his famous letter to the Medici Grand Duchess Christina,  “I think that in discussions of physical problems we ought to begin not from the authority of scriptural passages, but from sense-experiences and necessary demonstrations…” Galileo, in all piety was making the claim that interpreters of the Bible must accomodate whatever it is that science demonstrates to be true about the world.  At the same time, he knew that the church, or elements within it could not risk acknowledging to the idea of autonomous expertise.*  Hence, Galileo told Christina, his antagonists

…make a shield of their hypocritical zeal for religion. They go about invoking the Bible, which they would have minister to their deceitful purposes. Contrary to the sense of the Bible and the intention of the holy Fathers, if I am not mistaken, they would extend such authorities until even in purely physical matters—where faith is not involved—they would have us altogether abandon reason and the evidence of our senses in favor of some biblical passage, though under the surface meaning of its words this passage may contain a different sense

As it was, so it is.

The Republican Party, taken over by extremists over a decades-long campaign (see the history laid out in the Mark Ames piece Anne Laurie linked to yesterday), has a broad resume when it comes to fighting science to avoid the necessity of confronting the basic facts of real life.  And it is this, to me, that makes the GOP not just wrong about almost everything, but unacceptably dangerous, a political force to be destroyed.

To return to the latest confrontation between the reality of gun violence, and the determination of the GOP not to know what it is inconvenient to understand:  legally enforced ignorance of the implications of the effectively unregulated presence of powerful weaponry throughout the country contributes to events like the Newtown massacre.

To anticipate an objection:  just as you can never tie a specific cigarette to a particular cancer, I cannot say that had we spent more effort really trying to analyze what happens when guns and the accessories that make them yet more deadly are so easily available we would have been able to stop that particular tragedy.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t discover epidemiological truths:  we know that smoking leads directly to an excess burden of cancer deaths among smokers.  You work out the rest…

The only hopeful thing I see is that the latest horrific events have forced more and more people to notice that the gun lobby and the worst wings of the worst political party I’ve ever seen in a half-century of living in America are one and the same.  Right now it’s important to press the case as hard as we can:  gun nuts aren’t defending freedom and long-established constitutional principles.  They’re preserving the profits of gun makers and serving the political ends of the party of the oligarchs.  We have a moment of advvantage in the fight against such forces.  If you take Silver’s argument seriously, the same demographics that propelled Obama to his second term put the gun lobby at risk.

But in the meantime, the suppression of knowledge about the actual human cost of gun ownership — to gun owners as well as the rest of us — is costing lives.  Those Republicans who block the pursuit of knowledge about what our weapons are doing to our country are complicit in the loss of lives by gun violence in the context of our artificially maintained ignorance.

*Which Galileo also knew many of them did not possess, writing, “Possibly because they are disturbed by the known truth of other propositions of mine which differ from those commonly held, and therefore mistrusting their defense so long as they confine themselves to the field of philosophy, these men have resolved to fabricate a shield for their fallacies out of the mantle of pretended religion and the authority of the Bible. These they apply, with little judgment, to the refutation of arguments that they do not understand and have not even listened to.”

Image: Jan van Eyck, Ghent Altarpiece, detail of Popes from the lower central panel, completed 1432.

Moral Compasses. Can I Haz Pleeze? (Paterno/PSU Edition)

July 15, 2012

This item in the Times yesterday caught my attention:

In January 2011, Joe Paterno learned prosecutors were investigating his longtime assistant coach Jerry Sandusky for sexually assaulting young boys….

That same month, Mr. Paterno, the football coach at Penn State, began negotiating with his superiors to amend his contract, with the timing something of a surprise because the contract was not set to expire until the end of 2012, according to university documents and people with knowledge of the discussions. By August, Mr. Paterno and the university’s president, both of whom were by then embroiled in the Sandusky investigation, had reached an agreement.

Mr. Paterno was to be paid $3 million at the end of the 2011 season if he agreed it would be his last. Interest-free loans totaling $350,000 that the university had made to Mr. Paterno over the years would be forgiven as part of the retirement package. He would also have the use of the university’s private plane and a luxury box at Beaver Stadium for him and his family to use over the next 25 years.

The university’s full board of trustees was kept in the dark about the arrangement until November, when Mr. Sandusky was arrested….

Anyone care to defend Paterno on this one?  PSU?  Best keep this in mind then:

The university’s full board of trustees was kept in the dark about the arrangement until November, when Mr. Sandusky was arrested and the contract arrangements, along with so much else at Penn State, were upended. Mr. Paterno was fired, two of the university’s top officials were indicted in connection with the scandal, and the trustees, who held Mr. Paterno’s financial fate in their hands, came under verbal assault from the coach’s angry supporters.

Board members who raised questions about whether the university ought to go forward with the payments were quickly shut down, according to two people with direct knowledge of the negotiations.

In the end, the board of trustees — bombarded with hate mail and threatened with a defamation lawsuit by Mr. Paterno’s family — gave the family virtually everything it wanted, with a package worth roughly $5.5 million. Documents show that the board even tossed in some extras that the family demanded, like the use of specialized hydrotherapy massage equipment for Mr. Paterno’s wife at the university’s Lasch Building, where Mr. Sandusky had molested a number of his victims.

I’m reading Chris Haye’s Twilight of the Elites just now — highly recommended btw, from a just over half way perspective — and one of his key points is that disintegration of a viable polity or society is driven in part by the discovery that those at the top play be utterly different rules than the rest of us.

Yup.

One more thing:  the claim routinely made by academics — and especially by the leaders of the Academy — is that in a complex and here-and-now society, universities teach and embody not just knowledge, but values — or rather, an approach to living that makes it possible to lead an ethical life, one of value. Obviously, everyone reading this can come up with examples in which such claims are honored only in the breach.  But still, that’s the point of the liberal arts, and have been claimed as such since the days of the trivium and quadrivium (and before).

That means to me that there really is a higher obligation here — just as there was and is for, say, the Catholic Church when confronted by the abomination of child rape.  The Church conspicuously failed in its duties to its own claims of virtue, and it continues to do so, which is one of the reasons why someone like me, not a member of the faith, so deeply resents any assertion of moral authority in politics by the princes of the church.

In that context Penn State/Paterno scandal only makes it easier to lump the universities in with every other failed institution in our society — at a time when the importance of knowledge and its interpretation/application to the great problems we face has never been greater.

Hence, it seems to me that Penn State needs demonstrate that it’s not just another Lehman/Boston Archdiocese.  How to do that?  I don’t really know — I haven’t thought hard, nor talked to people who really understand how institutional cultures change.  Suggestions?

Image:  Francisco de Goya, The Great He-Goat or Witches Sabbath, 1821-1823 (worth the click through for seeing it at a readable size.)

Federalism For Me And Not For Thee…Food Safety Dept.

July 14, 2012

As long as we’re talking about food….

Government by referendum is not a great way to run a railroad, IMHO.  Certainly, California voters have wandered down some deeply damaging alleys with the referendum process in that state.  (The referendum-induced 2/3rds majority required to raise taxes has been a stunning success, for example, if by success you mean rendering the world’s 8th largest economy largely ungovernable.

But there is no doubt that if you are into federalism and the return of power to the most local level possible, then it ought to be hard to find fault with the notion  that citizens of state ought to be able to decide that they want there food supply raised under certain regulatory conditions, and they want to ensure local standards of food safety.  So, who should object to this:

A California voter-approved law…requires that caged veal calves and breeding sows as well as laying hens should be able to stand up, lie down, turn around and freely extend their limbs.

The initiative was approved by 64 percent of California voters after animal rights activists released undercover videos of strangled, deformed and mummified hens in cages.

This isn’t even that controversial among at least some of the affected producers, according to reporting at SFGate.com:

The egg industry, in a landmark agreement with the Humane Society of the United States, has embraced the hen law and enlisted Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to enact it nationally so that all egg producers operate under the same rules.

Other states have similar laws, but all that may change (cue the usual suspects music) if the House GOP, fronted by poster child dangerous idiot Steve King (R-salmonella) have their way:

The latest salvo came in a midnight vote in the House Agriculture Committee on an amendment to deny states the ability to regulate any farm product, potentially overturning not just California’s farm laws but animal welfare, food safety and environmental laws related to any farm product in all 50 states. [King introduced the amendment]

Read that again:  “potentially overturning not just California’s farm laws but animal welfare, food safety and environmental laws related to any farm product in all 50 states.” [Emphasis added, obviously]

For just a taste of the implications, here’s a California egg farmer who supports the law:

Riebli, the Petaluma egg farmer, said that if King’s amendment survives, “California also has pesticide laws for fruits and vegetables. They’re gone. California has its own standards for fluid milk (requiring fortification with vitamin D). They’re gone.”

Who needs a race to the bottom when Congress can just teleport us to the floor of the Marianas Trench?

There’s a lot more to this issue — we’ve got a pigs vs. chickens battle going on; an argument over what states can regulate that has genuine complexity and so on.  But look at what the GOP is trying to do (to be fair, along with Democrats from some ag/agribusiness heavy states): deny the ability of any state to regulate the health and safety of the food it’s citizens consume.

John’s running tagline is basically right: anyone voting Republican now and for the foreseeable future is voting to turn the United States into  Somalia.

Discuss.

Image:  Gustave Klimpt, Garden With Roosters, 1917


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