Archive for the ‘Evil’ category

Worst People In The World

December 13, 2013

For the life of me, I can’t see why we shouldn’t invoke the UN convention on genocide against Big Tobacco:

Tobacco companies are pushing back against a worldwide rise in antismoking laws, using a little-noticed legal strategy to delay or block regulation. The industry is warning countries that their tobacco laws violate an expanding web of trade and investment treaties, raising the prospect of costly, prolonged legal battles, health advocates and officials said.

Alarmed about rising smoking rates among young women, Namibia, in southern Africa, passed a tobacco control law in 2010 but quickly found itself bombarded with stern warnings from the tobacco industry that the new statute violated the country’s obligations under trade treaties.

“We have bundles and bundles of letters from them,” said Namibia’s health minister, Dr. Richard Kamwi.

Three years later, the government, fearful of a punishingly expensive legal battle, has yet to carry out a single major provision of the law, like limiting advertising or placing large health warnings on cigarette packaging.

I’m a little emotional on this issue, as my mother died ten days before my scheduled wedding day, murdered by RJ Reynolds.

But at least when Mom started smoking in the late 1930s/early 1940s, the explicit tobacco-cancer connection was still obscure, with the first case-control studies clearly linking cigarettes to cancer emerging in 1948 (per Siddhartha Mukherjee’s first rate The Emperor of all Maladies.  See especially the chapter titled “The Emperor’s Nylon Stockings”).  Her death may reasonably be considered involuntary manslaughter.

Now, though, there is no way to work for a tobacco company and not know that what you do is sell poison, and that the ultimate effect of your product, used as is intended, is slaughter.

2_Andrea_di_Bartolo._Massacre_of_the_Innocents_1380s._Walters_Museum_of_Art.

Most people, I’d like to think, would take a long look in the mirror and decide that there are other ways to spend our three score and ten than making a living off the wholly preventable suffering and death of uncounted others.

But clearly those working for Big Tobacco somehow missed that day in school when the class talked about the golden rule — not to mention  just about any version of the minimum expectations for human moral behavior.  Which is why first world tobacco titans  now seek to compel cash-strapped nation-states to accept the sale of death as just another bit of misery those with power can enforce on those with less.*

Let me be clear:  the law may say otherwise, but forcing tobacco on countries trying to restrict its use seems to me to be murder, pure and simple.

Sure, the victims are unknown, and their deaths in many cases decades in the future.  But the link between cigarettes and fatal disease is clear.  The motive for the companies’ actions are clear.  The gain in exchange for decisions that will inevitably result in many, many deaths is right out there in dollars and cents.  One may argue the formal distinctions between degrees, or between murder and manslaughter, but for me, deaths that the killer has reason to expect will happen as a consequence of his or her own actions count as the worst of crimes.

Regulation is needed.  So are tumbrels.

*Props, btw, to Michael Bloomberg, who the NYT reports paid for Uruguay’s defense in a suit  brought by Phillip Morris at a point where the country would have had to drop its tobacco law for lack of funds to defend it.  But hoping that right-minded billionaires will answer the call is no substitute for policy, and no remedy for the utter moral depravity on display in this story.

Image: Andrea di Bartolo, Massacre of the Innocents,  1380s

Tyranny of the Gun/Night Thoughts Of A Parent On Tucking In His Child

December 14, 2012

What can I say?

How to express the sorrow I feel for the families and friends in mourning after the Newtown school murders?

As many of you know, I have a young son, twelve now.  Every day I walk him to his public school in a suburb of Boston.  As I write this paragraph, I’m just about to head home to take him to his martial arts club — the kind of ordinary thing parents do.  The notion that I could have hugged him at the school door at 8 a.m. and then at lunch received that unspeakable phone call?

I have no words.

Fra_Angelico_-_Massacre_of_the_Innocents_-_WGA00610

I’ve spent the afternoon trying to think of something other than the raw misery of the day.  The way my mind works, though, I couldn’t stop coming back to the same old question:  what to do about the damn guns.  I started by reading Fallows on this near-weekly exercise in American exceptionalism, and then I came across this essential Ezra Klein  piece, “Nine facts about guns and mass shootings.” 

The whole post is worth your attention, but here’s what is to my mind the money quote:

7. States with stricter gun control laws have fewer deaths from gun-related violence.

Last year, economist Richard Florida dove deep into the correlations between gun deaths and other kinds of social indicators. Some of what he found was, perhaps, unexpected: Higher populations, more stress, more immigrants, and more mental illness were not correlated with more deaths from gun violence. But one thing he found was, perhaps, perfectly predictable: States with tighter gun control laws appear to have fewer gun-related deaths. The disclaimer here is that correlation is not causation. But correlations can be suggestive:

“The map overlays the map of firearm deaths above with gun control restrictions by state,” explains Florida. “It highlights states which have one of three gun control restrictions in place – assault weapons’ bans, trigger locks, or safe storage requirements. Firearm deaths are significantly lower in states with stricter gun control legislation. Though the sample sizes are small, we find substantial negative correlations between firearm deaths and states that ban assault weapons (-.45), require trigger locks (-.42), and mandate safe storage requirements for guns (-.48).”

And yes, just in case there are any gotcha gun nuts reading this:  I’m aware that Connecticut with its relatively strong gun laws was the site of today’s tragedy.  That’s (part of) the problem — the most rigorous gun laws in this country are a shadow of what they are in other, less murder-stricken lands, and the state-by-state patchwork of laws combined with the interstate highway system means that even the strongest local protections are leaky as hell.

So, as I say, check out all that Ezra has to offer on all this; this is one of his good ones.

The only other thing I want to say right now is that I think it’s important to politicize the hell out of this event…but towards particular policy goals.
I’m not really ready to write coherently anything more than to note that it is intolerable — immoral, in my view — to simply accept as the cost of being American a gun culture that results in both the murder of children and a rate of death by gun that took about 30,000 lives in 2011, roughly two-thirds of them suicides. (PDF).  We’ve got to get to a better circumstance — and if that means taking out NRA candidates state assembly rep by rep — that’s a challenge we can talk through over the next little while

But for now…well I’ve been pecking at this between kinder-transport duty and dinner and dishes, and I’ve just come downstairs again from a longer-than-usual bedtime cuddle.

My son and I talked a bit about the shootings, and he took the news on board without really letting me know what he thinks about it.   He does that — he guards his counsel until he’s decided what his parents need to know.  But I wouldn’t be surprised if he knew why I squeezed him tonight harder than usual.

It sounds hollow as hell to say it, but fuck it — here goes:

Stay safe, everyone, and hold close those you love.

Image:  Fra Angelico, The Massacre of the  Innocentsbetween 1451 and 1452.

Alienating The Electorate, Nineteen Million Americans At A Time

December 5, 2012

Ladles and Jellyspoons!

As Anne Laurie has so ably documented, your modern GOP has once again managed to be both vicious and stupidly self-destructive.  This time, it’s their wisdom in the decision to piss on  some 19% of the American people — from a considerable height — in the process of  blocking ratification of the UN treaty on the rights of the disabled.*

The wickedness at the heart of the trumped up objections that led 38 Republican senators to tell our disabled brothers and sisters that they do not rate equal protection under the law is, I think, obvious.  It’s well documented, at any rate. (Link via Anne Laurie.)

So, yeah.  To channel my inner Dennis Green,** the Republicans are who we thought we were.

Evil.

Dumb (also too).

Fresh on the heels of repeated, reasonably high profile forays into insulting Obama voters, minority voters, Asian-Americans, Latino-Americans, and whoever they’ll figure out they hate next, it turns out there are a fair number of disabled folks in this country.

How many?

According to the US Census Bureau [pdf], as of 2010, 56.7 million Americans from the civilian, non-institutionalized population had a disability — that’s 18.7% of the US population.  Of those, 38.3 million, 12.6 percent, had a severe disability (as defined in Table 1 of the linked report).***  

Bringing it down to the sharp edge of what it takes to make it through the day,  “About 12.3 million people aged 6 and older (4.4%) needed assistance with one or more activities of daily living (ADLs) or instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs).  (See p. 9 of the linked report for definitions of those terms of art.)

That’s a lot of folks, no matter what level of disability you choose to emphasize.  They’ve all got families — and that’s a lot more people.  [Full disclosure -- this is an issue that has at times, though not now, impinged on my own family.] They have friends too…and you get the point.

Befoere stating the obvious about the wisdom of the GOP vote in light of these facts, let me drop in a bit of anecdotage.

A few Sundays ago, I was up in New Hampshire, knocking on doors to get out our vote.  I and my partner were nearing the end of our list, and, after a rough beginning — first stop at a house where the vehemence with which we were ordered off the property bordered on the “or I’ll get my gun” territory — we’d had mostly good quick conversations, the “yup, I’m voting for your guy” kind.

We had split up at that point, my colleague taking a couple of houses down the road while I walked up a little hill to an old house on one of those big New Hampshire yards that always look like they’re thinking about being a farm.  It was a gorgeous afternoon, and I saw one woman out doing yard work, so I didn’t bother with the door bell.

She was soft spoken, and little reserved, and she told me that she really didn’t do politics, that I needed to talk to her partner.  She very kindly walked me a little further up the hill and called out, and then almost a cliche of a tough old New Hampshire bird came rolling down on an ATV to talk to me — a small woman, well into middle age (look who’s talking, pilgrim!), lots of daylight on that face over the years, thick New Hampshire accent and an air of utter no-nonsense competence.  Reminded me a lot of the best sergeants I’ve met over the years.

She liked to talk as much as her partner craved quiet, and we had a great conversation, sharing our disdain and horror at the person and prospects of W. Mitt Romney.  She agreed to volunteer for the campaign and I gave her contact info, and then we got to trading greatest hits (the horse as tax deduction! “Our turn!”).  Then I mentioned the 47%, and we starting going over who actually lives inside that number — the old, I said, students…the disabled.

At that, the first women I’d met suddenly spoke up. She’d been standing off to one side the entire time (ten minutes or so, now), clearly defining herself as audience and not participant in our little GOP loathe-fest.  But now it was as if a valve blew.  She was, she said, herself disabled, couldn’t work.  Was it really true, she asked me, that Romney had said that about the 47%? That she herself was a taker?

Yup, I said.

That’s it, she said.  That makes me mad.

We talked a bit longer — really it was a grand way to spend twenty minutes on a stunning New England afternoon, revving each other up to take action on our own and our country’s behalf.  The sun was kind, the trees still had some color, and I was talking to two people who were not just going to vote, but do whatever they could to drive a stake through the vampires that both exsanguinate our politics and work to deny the possibility of American dreams for so many of our fellow citizens.

So though I think it both tragedy and travesty that 38 scumbags senators blew up the UN treaty, I take a residue of comfort in seeing the Grand Old Party reaffirm its commitment to alienate an ever greater majority of the American people.  The party cannot collapse too soon — but I suppose I could say we owe our friends in the minority a debt of thanks for doing so much on their own to advance that goal.

Factio Grandaeva Delenda Est

*That treaty would, by the way, be the international agreement that would enshrine one more example of American Exceptionalism (in the good sense), with the US actually playing the role of that shining city on a hill that offers a light to the nations, being as it is more or less the enshrinement in international law of the landmark protections and perspective of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

**Get him out of me. RIGHT NOW!

***those numbers are based on sampling, not derived from the total census, and the report records a 90% confidence level in the significance of the estimates — which isn’t great.  But the broad magnitudes are what matters here, not the decimal places. Tens of millions of folks with disability is the key take away for this argument.

Image:  El Greco, Christ healing the blind, c. 1567

 

 

Brutus Is An Honorable Men

August 13, 2012

I’m completely down with DennisG’s post below on the return (did it ever go away) of Romney/Republican racism.  The only signs of progress I can detect are  first,  as we have  seen a lot lately, the Romney team just isn’t that competent as racist scum — and the campaign’s attack on the changes in welfare rules the Obama administration has advanced at the request (inter alia) of GOP governors has been relatively easily countered.  No vicious virtuousity here — just imagine Lee Atwater sitting down and having lunch:  he would have been spitting out the Romney team’s metacarpals by 12:45.

And second, as DennisG rightly points out, it does seem that slowly, slowly, the Village is beginning to recognize the actual evil that lies within the choices the Romney campaign is making here.  One swallow does not make a spring and all that — but when, as Dennis notes, ur-Villager Dana Milbank chides Romney for overt racism.  Here’s a passage that is, frankly, more blunt than I’d thought I’d see this election season from this particular pen:

What makes Romney’s welfare gambit dispiriting is that, as a member of one of the most persecuted groups in American history, he knows more than most the dangers of fanning bigotry. Yet now he has injected into the campaign what has for decades been a standard device for race-baiting — a suspect move because welfare hadn’t been on the radar screen.

Good on you, Dana!  Romney=Race Baiter.  Simple, clear, true.

But then there’s this line:

This is my problem with Romney: He is a decent man, but he’s too weak to stand up to the minority on his own side who are not.

Crap.  Just a steaming pile of that which emerges from the south end of a north facing horse.*  How would you define a decent person?  For me, it’s pretty simple:  that would be someone who does decent things.**

That is to say:  I can’t know, and nor can MIllbank, the true nature of Romney’s heart.

I’m not privy to how he thinks and feels in the long dark teatime of his soul.  And it doesn’t matter.   Who cares if a slug believes himself to be St. Francis?  It’s what happens when he or she actually does stuff in the world that defines their moral valence.  In case you were wondering, the residue of my religious training leaves me an acts not grace kind of person; whether or not that floats your boat as a doctrine of your faith, it seems to me that it is the only possible stance from which to weigh civic life.  No amount of predestination can turn, say, Dick Cheney into a good man.

And so it is with Mitt:

With the welfare attack, he is encouraging them [the indecent minority***]. After releasing the ad claiming Obama would “just send you your welfare check,” Romney made the racial component official when his Republican National Committee hosted a conference call the next day with Gingrich, who, sure enough, reprised his food-stamp assault, telling reporters that “an honest discussion about dependency doesn’t mean you’re a racist.” But what about a dishonest discussion?

Thursday, the RNC hosted a call with Santorum, who did everything but revive the “welfare queen” attack of the 1980s.

“What the president wants to do is turn back the clock and do what he has done with every single other entitlement program in this country, which is increase the number of people on it, increase dependency,” Santorum charged.

To be fair to the He Iz Lerning Milbank, by the end of his column he does seem to get that when someone makes the same choice over and over again, eventually, you have to realize that it is what it is:

The week before launching his welfare attack, Romney told a group of donors in Jerusalem that “culture makes all the difference” in the “dramatic, stark” disparity between Israeli wealth and Palestinian poverty.

Saeb Erekat, an adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, called the statement “racist.”

Romney may not have meant it to be — but, as Santorum likes to say, this is a pattern.

Again, good on Milbank here for this save after the stumble above.  That’s as close as I think it possible for a headliner at Kaplan Daily to out-and-out say that Romney is so desperate for power that he’s perfectly OK with trading on hate to get there.

But it is really, really time to stop giving Mitt — or Santorum, or Gingrich, or anyone on the GOP side who does not explicitly condemn this nonsense (Paul Ryan….I’m looking at you) — the benefit of the doubt.

You use bigotry as a campaign tactic?  Then you’re a hater…and not to be trusted anywhere near the levers of government.

Factio Grandaeva Delenda Est.

Bonus soundtrack:

watch?v=snSM7qJiqOs

*Horse HoHos as we used to refer to the stuff as kids.  Just thought I’d share that with you.

**We are all human, and hence fallible, so this isn’t a sainthood standard:  good folks will act in a range of ways, not all of them exemplary.  The issues are what do they strive to do as a default impulse to action…and much more importantly, on balance, how their actions tote up.

***How does Milbank know that those to whom Romney panders are the minority in the Republican party? Could be, I guess — but given the decades-long series of choices to anchor the party in white Southern resentment, I’d say that’s an assumption not in evidence.  Were I Milbank’s editor I would have corrected that line to Romney’s “too weak to stand up to those in his party who are.”  This is a quibble — except it’s not.  One of the most damaging tropes in elite journalism these days is the lazy and/or unconscious weave of “knowledge” that is in fact unknown into the fabric of a piece.  Once assumed, it requires no interrogation by the writer…and bullshit takes on just that little bit of added authority by having become a “fact” within some MSM journal of record.

Image:  Michiel Jansz. van MIerevelt, Anatomy Lesson of  Dr. Willem van der Meer1617

 

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.)

This is Why the Kristols and their Herd of Rampaging Ilk Haz a Sad

March 15, 2012

ABL and John have already hit this one hard, but, having dealt with the mouth puke that comes from reading the source text “outing” Sandra Fluke’s boyfriend as (horrors!) a Jew, I’m feeling the need to add my $0.02.

It’s probably not worth bothering with the historical idiocy used to underpin that source’s overt anti-Semitism, (no link to the asshole, but check out Tbogg for both righteous smackdowns and the connection if you want it).  But given the time I spent getting to know that notorious Jewish Socialist nutbag and traitor to all that is good and just in the world, Albert Einstein, I can’t pass without comment this one line:

New Bedford, MA, where Raphael Mutterperl ran the family’s manufacturing arm, was a hotbed of  Marxist trade-unionism in early 20th century America. Why? It was easy to “sell” radical trade-unionism to a whole people group who were brought up in the lap of Weimar Marxian ideology, because New Bedford had many new eastern-European Jewish immigrants living there at the time, including, of course, the Mutterperl family.

There truly aren’t enough integers to count the stupid in those two sentences, but just to offer one more of my futile nods to what we laughingly call “reality,” I’d like to point out that the Weimar Republic was, of course, an explicitly anti-Marxist political construction (see, e.g. the the decisions taken by the SPD government during the January Uprising, a of January 1919.

Hint: when the German Communist Party’s campaign to destabilize the the Social Democrat-led government turned into an insurrection, that government called for help from the old Kaiserene military elite, and deployed Freikorps, unofficial units of former soldiers led by right-wing officers, to crush the insurgency.)  The sense (sic!) of the phrase “Weimar Marxian ideology” is roughly analogous to this: “Pentacostal Islamic theology.”

Moran!

And then there’s the bizarre take on New Bedford as a hotbed of Weimar (read Jewish) degeneracy.*   I actually checked out this fine young idiot’s link, which led me to a truly anodyne pamphlet on New Bedford’s Jewish history.  There, using the man’s own source, I discovered that any German Jews in New Bedford in the early 20th century were mostly descendents of migrant peddlars who arrived in town in the mid-19th century — hardly a likely well spring for “radical trade-unionism” born amongst Berlin Reds in the 1920s.

Eastern European Jews started showing up after about 1875 — but they could no more be Weimar fifth columnists than their predecessors and, what’s more…

…Oh, hell.  Why bother.  You get the idea.  The actual facts about the American immigrant experience hardly matters, not when your eyeballs fill with blood and your eardrums throb and all you can see or hear is Jew, jeW, jEw, JeW, jEW, JEw, JEW.

It is a necessary condition in the formation of this style of antisemitism that bone ignorance be combined with utter certainty, so it’s no surprise that our little friend proves such a putz.**

That he should be shamed, ridiculed, and embarassed to within an inch of his capacity to scribble in crayon is fine by me, but what really struck me on reading his attempt to combine word strings into something that reads roughly like English was that here we have the real answer to the question that sometimes pops up in neo-con Jewish circles:  why won’t their co-religionists join them in voting Republican?

I’ll give y’all a hint:  It’s not because — or not simply because — we think Republican policies violate the injuction to tikkun olam — to heal the world.  Nor that the claims of both tzedek and tzedakah, justice and charity, are ones that the contemporary GOP denies at every turn.  Nor even the argument that reflexive support of the worst impulses in Israel is the surest way to do Israel great harm over time.

No, at least in part, and on some level of deeply sensed distrust,  it is because I and lots of both secular American Jews and deeply devout ones know that when you scratch enough of those with whom our co-religionists would have us ally, you get this kind of dreck.

Put it another way:  listening to a party whose dog whistles against our first African American President have become as audible as air raid sirens, it’s not that hard to remember the rest of the package bundled with such loathesomeness.

There are a lot of reasons to support Barack Obama in the coming weeks and months.  One big one is that you have to remember that the folks putting the hate on what an African American in the White House symbolizes have lots more rage  to go round.  That this lesson gets daily reinforcement helps make this election season at once so fascinating and so repulsive.  For today’s reminder, and for that service only,  I am grateful to the imbecile who decided that the Jewishness of Sandra Fluke’s partner is such a profound mark of shame.

Oh:  and f**k you with a rusty pitchfork, you spawn of history’s sewer.  Also too.

*That’s what I think really lodged in this unfortunate writer’s excuse for a brain: Weimar, we know, is associated with not just Jews, but gay Berlin (oh! That Isherwood fellow again) terrifyingly non-uplifting art (who is this George Grosz and why can’t he paint nice pictures of flowers and birds?) too much sex and who knows what else besides. Anything with that much going on is a priori evil, and given that Marxism is wretched to the root as well, then what the hell….

**And no, I’m not referring to the traditional Amish Christmas nativity scenes.  Why do you ask?

Image: Unknown photographer,  Karl Liebknecht delivering the funeral oration for Spartacist comrades, late 1918 or early 1919.

Rembrandt van Rijn, Portrait of an Old Jew, 1654.

 

You Just Can’t Make This Racist Sh*t Up: Fox News Owes Everybody a Great Big Honking Act of Contrition

December 23, 2011

Via TPM, and courtesy (sic!) of  rightist media flack Brent Bozell and Fox News, this gem:

“How long do you think Sean Hannity’s show would last if four times in one sentence, he made a comment about, say, the President of the United States, and said that he looked like a skinny, ghetto crackhead?” Bozell wondered. “Which, by the way, you might want to say that Barack Obama does.”

You also might want to suck down a Clorox shooter, with a Sterno chaser at its back.  The choice to do so would be less stupid.

Bozell might say he was provoked by Chris Matthews’ claim that everyone’s favorite amphibian gum disease “looks like a car bomber.”  Which is, in fact, a stupid thing to say on many levels, but does at least bear some connection to the very broadly shared view of the Newtster as a bomb thrower.  (See e.g. Bush I, and, by pretty direct implication, everyone’s favorite cyborg, Mitt Romney.)

But Bozell, were he to press such a “both sides do it” bit of weak sauce, would, of course, be (deliberately?) missing the real difference here.  Calling Gingrich a man of violence assigns to him a specific crime.  He has agency, individual choice, responsibility.  Dude blows sh%t up.

Describing the President of the United States as a “ghetto crackhead”* falls into different order of rhetorical abuse.  Bozell is saying that the President of the United States is defined by qualities, more or less immutable aspects of self and personality.  “Ghetto crackheads” are (if one were to channel the disastrous Brooks) lost to the culture of their desolate place, and have abandoned agency to their drug.  Such a person is inherently lesser than the non-addict, the non-cultural-determined poor.  Morally, intellectually, there’s no way anyone matching the image in Bozell’s oddly torqued frontal lobes — all that skinny (black, black, blackity black) ghettoness with a monkey on its back — could possibly rise to the fully human capacity for thought and action that a properly brought up (white, white, whiter-than-white male) bomb thrower automatically acquires.

Which is to say that Bozell is a racist f**k not even trying to use the dog whistle anymore.  He’s just flat out calling the President of the United States a drug-fiend slimeball (and did I mention, a black — oh no…please excuse me…a “ghetto” one?). He’s the kind of person a civilized society shuns; that he has such a bold megaphone tells you a great deal, not just about him, but about those who enable (endorse) the dissemination of those views.

Which is to say, if Fox News wants this as their brand, let’s make sure we don’t let them forget it.

Oh — and Main Stream Media:  would you please, pretty please, sugar on top do me a favor?

Could you just this once ask each of the major GOP candidates whether they condemn these remarks, and the network broadcasting them?  You could even ask if they think Fox owes Obama (and America) an apology.

Kthnxbai

*I’ll give him the skinny, I guess.

Image: Canadian War Bonds poster,  “Je fabrique des bombes et j’achète des obligations – Achetez des obligations de la victoire.” (English:  I’m making bombs and I’m buying bonds. Buy Victory Bonds!” before 1945.

 

The Apostasy of Jennifer Rubin

November 9, 2011

Jennifer Rubin is one of those people one simply doesn’t need to read.  Not, or not simply because she’s never right; but rather because, almost always, she is boringly, predictably wrong –  in prose that saps one’s will to live, strung together into simulations of argument that one could lay out in advance  like squares for hopscotch.

But every now and then she rouses herself from her mission — the ongoing erosion of what remains of The Washington Post’s reasons to exist — to achieve true grotesquerie.

So it goes in the affair TBogg has already chronicled, in which Rubin retweeted this message of sweetness and light; the link there leads to a blog post that Der Stürmer would have been pleased to publish (Proper names changed, of course, though the message would have stayed the same.)

Nothing to see here, really — Rubin is simply one of many shills for the peculiar notion that to love Israel obligates one to revere every last folly and viciousness of its worst elements. That she would endorse/direct readers to a steaming heap of murderous racism seems merely to be part of her brief as she sees it.

TBogg focuses on the Post’s blithe defense of the whole affair, with its ombudsman trotting the old “it’s just an opinion” fig leaf.  (Does the Post require its ombudspeople to undergo chemical sterilization, or do they just recommend it?)  For me, I’m going to trot a bit of stuff I don’t usually draw upon, science writer that I am.

That is — atheist though I  also am, I’m one of the commitedly Jewish variety, and I’m not going to let Rubin’s “opinion” pass as anything like an acceptable statement from within the tradition.  I recall what my rabbi and friend pointed out to me one time when we were discussing the Palestinian-Israeli struggle.  He opened the Tanakh, found Isiah, chapter 19, and he read out these verses:

19:24 In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land: 19:25 Whom the LORD of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance.

In the context of our conversation, the exegisis is, I think, pretty damn obvious.  That Rabbi — Ben-Zion Gold, for those of you who may have encountered him — survived the Holocaust, the only member of his family to do so.  He knows from hatred, and the way verbal violence — the rhetoric that describes the subhuman, vicious other — leads to physical destruction, murder in the land.

Rubin’s Ombudsman, and her editors at the Post, may give her a pass. They shouldn’t.  This stuff kills, or at least makes such disasters that much more likely.

But whatever (lack of) consequences Rubin may face in her professional setting, it seems to me that if she is going to purport to speak for anything remotely resembling Jews or Judaism, she has a lot of ‘splainin, or rather learning to do that I strongly doubt will ever take place.  And as for the Post …  I channel my inner Brad Delong:  Why, oh why can’t we have a better press corps.

Image:  Leonardo da Vinci, Study of five grotesque heads, c. 1494

Won’t Get Fooled Again…and Again.

August 3, 2011

As readers of this blog know all too well, the debt ceiling “cuts” just passed are, for the most part, much less than meets the eye, particularly in the immediate future.  But, of course, the debt isn’t the issue and never was.*

No. Not even in a little bit.

Rather, all of the last month or so was a set up for this:

Thousands of Tea Party movement activists are expected to descend this month on town hall meetings across key battleground states as part of an intensifying campaign ahead of the 2012 presidential and congressional elections.

Their priority is a plan to slash Medicare costs proposed by House of Representatives Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, which could gain momentum now that a debt-limit deal between President Barack Obama and Congress has made potential Medicare cuts a centerpiece of the deficit debate.

A new congressional committee charged with finding $1.5 trillion in spending cuts by November 23 is expected to focus on Medicare, and the program would see automatic cuts if the committee failed to reach agreement, or if Congress did not approve its recommendations by December 23. Market values of companies that depend on Medicare spending fell more than 10 percent in a sell-off on Wall Street after the agreement.

“The August town halls are going to be, potentially, a referendum on Democrats who don’t care and Republicans who’ve dared to offer real policy solutions, particularly on things like entitlements,” said Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks, the small-government advocacy group organizing the initiative.

Freedom works is, of course, this grass-roots organization.

Which means that one can readily translate the phrase, “real policy solutions” as “transfer payments from most of America to the richest few.”

But of course, these are the serious people in this discussion.  Just ask them:

“The Ryan plan is the only one out there so far, and what we need is an adult conversation with all politicians talking about the real issues,” [said Kibbe]

Yeah:  like those adult conversations that attended the discussion of health care last time around.

Also, note the big lie at the heart of this claim:  (a) that the Ryan is a “policy solution” despite the fact that it neither saves any real money on either the budget nor in health care spending society-wide  (as opposed to federal spending on health care);  (b) that it is the only plan out there; and (c) that it has anything to do with fiscal prudence.

Not exactly, as Jon Chait writes at the link above,

…this more modest deficit reduction would mask a very large redistribution of wealth–and not the kind Republicans always accuse Democrats of trying. The tax cuts, which include reductions in the top rate, would overwhelmingly benefit the rich. The spending cuts, which include a huge reduction in Medicaid spending, would primarily affect the poor.

So calling the House Republican plan a deficit reduction scheme is a very misleading description of its likely effect for the first decade. You’re better off calling it a regressive redistribution plan that happens, as a side effect, to reduce deficits by a small amount. Or you can just call it “flimflam,” like Paul Krugman did.

And, of course, that’s what has always been the goal:  to repeal the New Deal, and transfer to the kind of folks funding Greedhead Freedom Works all the wealth thus no longer wasted on the undeserving poor, the middle class, and, hell, just about everybody.

So: our job is to show up, and shout — in person, in letters to the editor, and in communication to our representatives, relevant committee chairs and the White House:  no tax cuts in any deal.  Tax reform as a 1-1 or better fix for the deficit reduction to which we are now, sadly and prematurely, committee;  and touch neither Medicare/Medicaid nor Social Security.

We need to say it over and over again:  cost controls as part of a Medicare reform package are fine (as Krugman himself argued for in the first round of Ryan nonsense).  Amazingly, that’s just what happens to be one of the major ideas within the one truly serious policy plan out there on this subject, the health care reform package already passed.  It’s why IPAB exists, for one thing, and it’s why, as David Leonhardt pointed out, President Obama and his allies constructed a health care approach that turns on taxation of the rich to cover the cost of a program vital to the middle class and the poor.**

I urge everyone who has raced to conclude that Obama is no better than the GOP alternatives to go back to that Leonhardt piece and remember why that’s simply bullsh*t.

Obama, for all his errors and his damnably frustrating inability to make the bully pulpit ring, believes in the New Deal.  He grasps the importance of economic equity not simply as a matter of justice, but as a hard pragmatic necessity if we are to create a sustainably wealthy society.  He has defended the importance of government and governance in the maintenance of truly civil society.  Your modern GOP does not accept any of that.

I remember trying and failing to talk Naderite friends out of their “the two parties are the same” nonsense in 2000.  We cannot survive doing that to ourselves in 2012.  And, just to get started, this summer we’ve got to shout down those who shout to sell out our parents, our children, our communities and ourselves to fund the mansions of the rootless rich.

*except for the truly credulous.

**BTW — one of the best pieces of media news of the last several years is that Leonhardt will take over the Washington bureau of The New York Times as of this fall.  He’s in the Village but not of it, and if he leads the Washington coverage of the Times as well as he’s performed on his own economic beat, that’s a very good thing.

Image Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Schlemihls [A Loser] in the loneliness of the room, before 1938

Mitch Daniels Murder Watch — an update.

June 21, 2011

Last month I wrote about the consequences of Governor Mitch Daniels decision to push for defunding Planned Parenthood in Indiana.

In it, I did a back-of-the-envelope calculation of cancer deaths that would result from the loss of just one of the services Planned Parenthood provides to Hoosier women, the administration of 500 Pap tests per week.  That led to a rough estimate that the withdrawal of that service (without replacement) would produce three to four unnecessary deaths per year:  women cut down just as surely — but with much more suffering — as if Mitch Daniels and his allies had shot them in the face.

Well, we’re getting there folks.  The Indiana Star reports that Planned Parenthood will cease to provide Medicaid services as of today; those among most in need will suffer:

“Our 9,300 Medicaid patients, including those who had appointments Tuesday, are going to see their care disrupted,” said Betty Cockrum, president of Planned Parenthood of Indiana.

The state of Indiana is also likely to see a rise in the number of cases of sexually transmitted diseases, as…

…the new law also strips Planned Parenthood of roughly $150,000 in funding for prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, money that paid for three intervention specialists — health workers who track down the partners of someone who tests positive for an STD and ensure they are tested and treated. Two of those specialists, who were based in Muncie, have been laid off, and a third, in Lafayette, is now employed in a different capacity.

That leaves Planned Parenthood with a single specialist, in Lafayette.

Wear a condom or demand one be worn if you’re planning to make a bit of whoopie on your next opportunity in Indiana, I guess…but hell, I don’t even have the heart for snark any more.

Next up:  regular Wednesday closings for all PP clinics in the state, and, if a judge doesn’t block the implementation of the Indiana law, eight out of twenty eight of those facilities will shut their doors for good.

People are going to get sick, some of them will die as a result, and all because Mitch Daniels and your modern Republican party has decided that the abortion litmus test now demands that tax payer dollars can’t even be told that there are other dollars out there that might pay for something no federal ducat would dream of being exchanged for.

Those Republicans, predictably, conclude that the deaths — the murder — of Hoosiers severed from access to even basic health care is actually the fault of those who are being stopped from providing that care:

Sue Swayze, legislative director for Indiana Right to Life Anti-Women’s-Autonomy, said that with Monday’s reduction in services, Planned Parenthood has “made it clear what their priority is.”

“They wouldn’t stop providing abortions even in the interim to keep the women’s health services,” she said.

State Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, who authored the defunding language, echoed that criticism in legislative debate in April.

“If (Planned Parenthood) wants to receive taxpayer money,” he said, “they can simply stop practicing abortion.”

The shorter: cease providing a legal service with private money, or we’ll kill some women.

Anti-choicers don’t like being accused of valuing life only until it leaves the womb, but that’s too bad:  this is where you see exactly that (im)moral choice being made.

I don’t have words to express my contempt for these people.  Murders are being committed before our eyes, and that we will never know who the victims were only makes it worse.

Images:Paul Cezanne, The Murder, 1870

Paul Gauguin, The Spirit of the Dead Keeps Watch, 1892.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,716 other followers