Today’s Republicans: Traitors Or Psychopaths?

Posted March 22, 2015 by Tom
Categories: Conservatives, Republican knavery, words mattter

Tags: , ,

On the treason side, I give you Steven King, who is, of course, of interest to any GOP presidential aspirant as a major figure (FSM save the Republic!) in first-in-the-nation-caucus-state Iowa:

“…here is what [one] thing that I don’t understand, I don’t understand how Jews in America can be Democrats first and Jewish second and support Israel along the line of just following their president…”

Speaking as a Jewish-American who thinks Netanyahu is a corrupt, power-for-power’s sake bigoted hack whose policies are a clear and present danger to Israel, let me first say to Representative King:

Fuck you.

With that reasoned and considered reply out of the way, let’s parse this.

“I don’t understand”

Considering the speaker, that clause doesn’t narrow it down very much.

“how Jews in America”

Not, notice, “American Jews.”  This line is the tell, the crack that lets you see into what smells to me like a very familiar trope of anti-Semitism.  I don’t want to be paranoid, but King’s plain text tells you he sees within America a group defined by an affiliation, an bond of connection to a country or a cause that is not native to their home.  We are Jews sojourning in America, and it may come to pass (how appropriate for the season!) that there will arise in Washington a King who knows not Moses.  Or so this false prophet suggests.

“Democrats first and Jewish second.”

First,carnally know you again, King.  I for one, am a Democrat at least in part because of my Jewish education.  Specifically, Isaiah 58 v. 1-12.  I may have lost any belief in a sky god — but tikkun olam* and that strand of the Jewish tradition remains a touchstone.

But more seriously, look at what King does here: he assumes a reflexive Jewish duty of allegiance to a political movement in Israel he conflates with Israel as a whole (not as bad an error I as I would wish right now, alas), which cannot be met as a member of the Democratic party.

“along the line of just following their president…”

Well, intercourse you some more, Congressman, sideways, with an oxidized farm implement.  Barack Hussein Obama is America’s president.  Yours too.  Suck on it.

Diving a little deeper, what strikes me is the combination of hostility to Jews — American Jews — and the smell of treachery.  We U.S. born and bound remnants of the Kingdom of Judea are failing Rep. King.  We are unsatisfactory to him in the failure of our allegiance to a foreign power.  He here explicitly advocates Jews in America form a fifth column for Israel.  Failing to do so, we are to him twice the “other” — Democrats and the wrong kind of Jewish.

Budapest_kunst_0043

To which I say:  beware of the demagogue who starts to define you out of commonwealth.  The next steps…we’ve seen them before.

But even more, what do I see in King himself?

Treason is a nasty word.  But there are clear US interests at stake in controlling any Iranian ambition for a bomb. Conspiring with a  foreign leader to undermine US government efforts to that end?….

Next up: psychopathy, in the form of erstwhile blog favorite Paul Ryan.  Here is his view on the appropriate state response if the Supreme Court were to gut subsidies on Healthcare.gov:

“If people blink and if people say this political pressure is too great, I’m just going to sign up for a state-based exchange and put my constituents in Obamacare, then this opportunity will slip through your fingers,” Ryan said, per the Journal.

That would be the opportunity to wait for Congress to enact a “reform” that would (on the evidence of the latest GOP budget fraud) gut Medicaid, erode Medicare, and leave millions of Americans (twenty million or more, as of this writing) without the health insurance they so recently gained.

In other words, the opportunity Ryan wants state governments to seize is to allow their citizens in great numbers to face the inevitable reality of illness and accident without a net.

Pure psychopathy.  I’d use the word “evil” but I wouldn’t want to be accused of being shrill.

Beyond labels (see what I did there?) this is the message I take from the juxtaposition of Messrs. King and Ryan.  This is the Republican party. These aren’t fringe players. They’re leaders, major shapers of policy, rhetoric and belief for just about half of the country, and much more than half of those with money enough to move power.  And they are freaking crazy.

We have nothing but work to do between now and 2016.  Not just the United States but the world can’t take the punishment of these guys holding all three branches of the government in Washington.

One last thing:  to the question at the head of this post.  To channel the wisdom of Reb Chevy Chase, they’re both.

*F**k you WordPress autocorrects olam to loam, just so you know.

Image:  Rembrandt van Rijn, The Old Rabbi1642.

Smart Linebacker Wants To Stay Smart

Posted March 17, 2015 by Tom
Categories: Sports

Tags: ,

Via ESPN:

BERKELEY, Calif. — San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland, one of the NFL’s top rookies this past season, told “Outside the Lines” on Monday that he is retiring because of concerns about the long-term effects of repetitive head trauma.

Borland, 24, said he notified the 49ers on Friday. He said he made his decision after consulting with family members, concussion researchers, friends and current and former teammates, as well as studying what is known about the relationship between football and neurodegenerative disease.

“I just honestly want to do what’s best for my health,” Borland told “Outside the Lines.” “From what I’ve researched and what I’ve experienced, I don’t think it’s worth the risk.”

Gustave_Courbet_-_Wrestlers

 

Borland’s rookie year in 2014 was pretty damn good.  He gained time when star ‘backer Patrick Willis went down with an injury six games into the season.  Thrown into the fray in a much-depleted defense, his stats were impressive:

107 tackles and a sack in 14 games, eight of them starts. He was the NFC’s defensive player of the week for his performance against the New York Giantsin Week 11. He led the 49ers with 13 tackles in that game and became the team’s first rookie linebacker with two interceptions in one game. He received one vote for NFL defensive rookie of the year.

He’s on a rookie contract, so the money he’s giving up right now isn’t stratospheric:  “only” $540,000 this year.  That’s saying goodbye to 10.5 times the US median income to keep his head on straight — and, of course, he’s forgoing however much might have come down the road.

This isn’t the beginning of the end for football.  To channel my inner Winnie, it isn’t even the end of the beginning.  But it is telling.

Beyond or before that, tip the hat to a young man with a strong sense of priorities and the intestinal fortitude to act on them.

Gustave Courbet, Wrestlers1853

Posted March 17, 2015 by Tom
Categories: Class Warfare, Evil, quis custodiet ipsos custodes

Tags:

Via The New York Times an essential article on the ways Big Finance screws serving troops — and the rest of us:

Charles Beard, a sergeant in the Army National Guard, says he was on duty in the Iraqi city of Tikrit when men came to his California home to repossess the family car. Unless his wife handed over the keys, she would go to jail, they said.

The men took the car, even though federal law requires lenders to obtain court orders before seizing the vehicles of active duty service members.

Sergeant Beard had no redress in court: His lawsuit against the auto lender was thrown out because of a clause in his contract that forced any dispute into mandatory arbitration, a private system for resolving complaints where the courtroom rules of evidence do not apply. In the cloistered legal universe of mandatory arbitration, the companies sometimes pick the arbiters, and the results, which cannot be appealed, are almost never made public….

The kicker in that already insufferable situation:

Over the years, Congress has given service members a number of protections — some dating to the Civil War — from repossessions and foreclosures.

Efforts to maintain that special status for service members has run into resistance from the financial industry, including many of the same banks that promote the work they do for veterans. While using mandatory arbitration, some companies repeatedly violate the federal protections, leaving troops and their families vulnerable to predatory lending, the military lawyers and government officials say….

…The Government Accountability Office, for example, found in 2012 that financial institutions had failed to abide by the law more than 15,000 times.

V0017699 A fortune-teller reading the palm of a soldier. Oil painting

Efforts in Congress to block financial companies’ efforts to weaken any vestige of legal protection met the subterranean death favored by the scumsuckers for whom light is poison:

Last year, a bipartisan bill that would have allowed service members to opt out of arbitration and file a lawsuit met with opposition from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Wall Street’s major trade group, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, or Sifma.

“While we remain very supportive of the troops, we see no empirical or other evidence that service members are being harmed by or require relief from arbitration clauses,” Kevin Carroll, a managing director and associate general counsel at Sifma, said in a statement.

Here’s what they mean by “support.”

In lobbying against the bill, several financial industry groups and a large phone company visited with the staff of Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who sponsored the legislation along with Senator Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat.

The trade groups told Mr. Graham’s office that they were already working to make their arbitration procedure more accommodating to service members, according to a person briefed on those discussions who would speak only on the condition of anonymity.

“The message was, ‘Let us fix this internally,’ ” the person said. “Don’t upset the apple cart with a new law.”

Whether or not that line was believed, the result was as desired:

The bill never made it out of committee last year, though Mr. Graham plans to reintroduce it this year.

Committees:  where money talks so effectively — and almost silently.

This at once an infuriating abuse of people doing what their political leaders have tasked them to do, at risk to themselves and costs to their families — and a sign of how bad the system is rigged against all of us.  Realize this:  serving troops at least have some legal protection that, however abused can still be invoked.  Everyone else:  suck it up, face mandatory arbitration, and say “Thank you, sir, may I have another” everytime we have to bend over and take one for the greater good of modern American financial capitalism.

Also: kudos to Senators Graham and Reed for making an attempt.  But let’s be clear:  Republicans — the party that claims the flag and the troops as their personal property — control both houses of Congress and have unfettered control of the agenda there.  So this is a test:  if they can’t fix this — now — then it’s incumbent on those of us on the other side to hang their betrayal of the troops around every member.

Image:  Pietro Muttoni called della Vecchia, A fortune-teller reading the palm of a soldier, before 1678.  I can’t help but thinking the fortune teller is telling the soldier that he sees the future, and the his client is f**ked.

You Can Thank Me Later

Posted March 7, 2015 by Tom
Categories: good books, good writing

Tags: ,

Nothing but unicorns and rainbows in this post.

Every now and then, rarely, a book comes along that makes you want to grab strangers on the street and hold them by their shirtfronts until they promise — pinky swear, no mental reservations allowed — that they will get and read that irreplaceable book as soon as you let them get go.

I’m a few pages into that book.  So I’m doing all that to you, grabbing hold as firmly as I can, to the limit our intertubes allow.

The work is Helen MacDonald’s H is for Hawk.*  It is a work of intensely observed natural history, if that’s the way you take it.  From another angle, it’s a memoir of grief.  From any point of view, it’s a work of art.  MacDonald’s prose is simply beautiful: resonant on the sentence level, unbelievably sharp — you’ll cut yourself on her images — and even in the slow entry I’ve allowed myself so far,** possessed of an accumulating beauty that reminds me of something I too easily forget, why it is I love the practice of words.

For a proper learned review, a lovely piece of writing in itself, see Kathryn Schulz’s elegant review at The New Yorker.  Here’s a taste:

Macdonald’s story has a different ending. One day, crouching over a rabbit she has just killed, feeling like “an executioner after a thousand deaths,” she comes to see that she has been travelling with her hawk not further from grief but further from life. Scared by her own numbness and darkness, she begins to seek help: from loving relatives, attentive friends, modern psychopharmacology—all the advantages she had that White did not. Slowly, her grief starts to lift. As it does, she finds that she disagrees with Merlyn and Muir. “The wild is not a panacea for the human soul,” she writes. “Too much in the air can corrode it to nothing.” All along, she had wanted to be her hawk: fierce, solitary, inhuman. Instead, she now realizes, “I was the figure standing underneath the tree at nightfall, collar upturned against the damp, waiting patiently for the hawk to return.” Her father, she knows, will never rejoin the human world. But she can. Like a figure in a myth who followed a hawk to the land of the dead, Macdonald turns around and comes home.

Simone_Martini_038

For my part, I’ll just tease you with the first paragraph of the book.  It’s a soft open:

Forty-five minutes north-east of Cambridge is a landscape I’ve come to love very much indeed.  It’s where wet fen gives way to parched sand.  It’s a land of twisted pine trees, burned out cars, shotgun-peppered road signs and US Air Force bases.  There are ghosts here:  houses crumble inside numbered blocks of pine forestry.  There are spaces built for aid-delivered nukes inside grassy tumuli behind twelve-foot fences, tattoo parlours and US Air Force golf courses.  In spring, it’s a riot of noise:  constnt plane traffic, gas guns over pea fields, woodlarks and jet engines.  It’s called the Brecklands — the broken lands — and it’s where I ended up that morning, seven years ago, in early spring, on a trip I hadn’t planned at all. At five in the morning I’d been staring at a square of streetlight on the ceiling, listening to a couple of late party-leavers chatting on the pavement outside.  I felt odd: overtired, overwrought, unpleasantly like my brain had been removed and my skull stuffed with smoething like microwaved aluminium foil, dinted, charred and shorting with sparks.  Nnnngh. Must get out, I thought, throwing back the covers. Out! I pulled on jeans, boots and a jumper, scalded my mouth with burned coffee, and it was only my frozen ancient Volkswagen and I were halfway down the A14 that I worked out where I was going, and why.  Out there, beyond the foggy windscreen and white lines, was the forest.  The broken forest.  That’s where I was headed. To see goshawks.

A soft open indeed.  Action, of a sort, but (as yet) not terribly consequential.  A character, with whom we haven’t had the chance to form a bond of sympathy.  Lists.

And yet, as I read these few lines again, I’m sitting here gobsmacked, full of professional admiration, taking notes.  So much good writing, so much promise, in what, told baldly, is an utterly unpromising scene.  (I couldn’t sleep so I got in my car to look for some birds in a nasty bit of wasteland.)

What I’m feeling on this read is the rhythm.  MacDonald’s a published poet, among other things, and she writes prose that recalls that discipline, with word-by-word attention to sound and beat, to build into a play of sentences that imposes a kind of music on top of sense.  As I’ve dived further into the book I forget, sometimes, to pay attention to that kind of fine-grained technique.  Instead, I’m being carried along by who she is and why she’s doing what she’s doing.  As Schulz says, this is a “wondrously atypical book.”  It delivers its goods polyphonically; there’s always another level to experience.

I’ll stop there, but I hope you won’t.  I’m grabbing you, folks.  I’m pulling hard on your lapels.  I’m leaning in.  I’ll speak slowly, so there’s no chance of a failure to communicate.

Buy this book.  Read it.

You can thank me later.

*Amazon link for reference purposes.  If you can support your local bookshop, it’s the policy of this blogger to encourage you to do so.

**I’ve had to stop myself from dropping everything — sleep included — and racing too fast through this one.  It really is that good.

Image:  Simone Martini, St. Martin of Tours, 1322-1326

 

You Know You’re Bugf**k When…

Posted February 28, 2015 by Tom
Categories: Conservatives, Religious follies, Republican follies

Tags:

Bill O’Reilly is the sane one in the room.

Ladles and Jellyspoons, I present you with the comic stylings [via TPM] of self-made son and purveyor of a gospel that is good news only  in his fevered brain…

Put your hands together for our own, all American Franklin Graham!

“One of the problems we have in the West is that our governments, especially in Washington, has been infiltrated by Muslims who are advising the White House, who I think are part of the problem,” Graham said. “And we see this also in Western Europe. They have gotten into the halls of power.”

Oh Noes! We’re doomed until a good Christian Soldier may come to save the day!

Giovanni_Battista_Tiepolo_-_St_James_the_Greater_Conquering_the_Moors_-_WGA22297

Uhhh. Wrongo on so many axes-o, Frankie boy.  So much so, in fact, that Bill O’Reilly, veteran of so many battles fought within his own mind, could not help but do that Village media rarity, and ask a follow up:

O’Reilly pushed back, asking for Graham to name a Muslim adviser to President Obama.

Franklin replied with equal measures of Joe McCarthy and Mole MacCaroney*:

“I do know that they are there. I’ve been told this by a number of people,” Graham responded. “I’m not saying that they’re sitting next to the President, whispering into his ear. But they are in the halls.”

Channelling my inner Abe:  hurts too much to laugh and I’m too big to cry.

BTW:  just to point out the obvious, being saner than Franklin Graham does not make Bill Legend In His Own Memoirs O’Reilly actually on the beam.  The question that prompted Franklin’s first reply was why the west hadn’t united to defeat ISIS — which is, as we say in the halls of reason, a question marred by assumptions not in evidence.

And with that, my fine feathered friends (and the non-avian amongst us), I give you Modern American Conservatism.

 

*Not that its all that easy to distinguish between those two, by Walt Kelly’s design, of course.

Image: Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, St. James the Greater Conquering the Moors, betw. 1749 and 1750.  Truly horrible work, IMHO, (sorry), but so apposite.

 

 

Ceci N’est Pas Un Chien

Posted February 15, 2015 by Tom
Categories: random humor, weather

Tags: ,

I simply love this:

Dog lower third

Nothing like Auntie Beeb making sure we have all the news we can use.

I do not love this:

2-15-snow view

For comparison sake, here’s Tuesday’s shot (posted yesterday):

Big snow backyars

This is getting ridiculous.  I’ve spent the morning looking at stuff like this, just to remind me that the at least an idea of beach exists:

Bird crop

 

Yup.  I’m reduced to wader-porn. (That was taken at Reid State Park on Georgetown Island in Maine, for those that hang in that part of the world.)

Oh Dear FSM Make It Stop, redux.

Snowpocalypse Now

Posted February 14, 2015 by Tom
Categories: Cats, weather

Tags:

This was the view from my back door sometime in early January:

DSCF1445

As you can see, the first faint flakes of snow are visible streaking across the frame.

Here’s the same view as of last Tuesday:

Big snow backyars

We’ve got as much as two feet more coming tonight and tomorrow according to a true Valentine’s Day gift of a storm bulletin from the National Weather Service:

The result will be an intense nor’easter with heavy snow and blizzard conditions for eastern New England by Sunday morning, with one to two feet of snow likely along with wind gusts in excess of 50 mph! This same storm will usher in a truly arctic airmass behind it, with some of the coldest weather of the season for parts of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast U.S. by Sunday. High temperatures are expected to be 20 to 35 degrees below normal by February standards, with afternoon readings in the single digits and teens, and 20s extending well into Virginia and North Carolina. The strong winds will combine with these frigid temperatures to produce brutal subzero wind chills.

Thanks Obama.

I console myself with the contemplation of psychokitty Tikka:

Psycho cat

I  am so not getting that iPad back…

I call this one “At Leest I Haz Mah Diggnahtee!”:

dignitee

And one last one, where he’s just looking kind of sweet (uncharacteristically so, but then we all have our weak moments):

Tikka staring

You may think of this as the  Oh God Make It Stop thread.


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