Archive for the ‘Evil’ category

What Ailes The Republican Party?

July 19, 2016

I’ve been thinking about Gretchen Carlson’s sexual harassment lawsuit against that omphalos of evil, Roger Ailes, since it dropped.  You all know the essence:

In a suit filed Wednesday in superior court in Bergen County, N.J., Carlson alleges that Ailes “unlawfully retaliated” against her and “sabotaged her career after she refused his sexual advances and complained about severe and pervasive sexual harassment.”

“I think you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago and then you’d be good and better and I’d be good and better,” the complaint says Ailes told Carlson last September when she complained to him. He allegedly added, “Sometimes problems are easier to solve that way.”

Even in that first story, there was plenty of evidence that Ailes is a serial harasser, a man for whom the women in his employ are objects to be manipulated (in the root sense of that word) at his pleasure:

While an executive at NBC, Ailes was accused of making sexually suggestive comments to various female underlings, according to a 2014 biography of Ailes, “The Loudest Voice in the Room.” A young woman named Randi Harrison said Ailes offered to her increase her salary by $100 a week if she would have sex with him, according to the book. A producer named Shelly Ross said Ailes posed “romantically suggestive questions and made flirtatious comments about her appearance.” Ross said she told him, “This is making me uncomfortable.”

Over the next several days, many more women have come forward to add their accounts:

In recent days, more than a dozen women have contacted Carlson’s New Jersey–based attorney, Nancy Erika Smith, and made detailed allegations of sexual harassment by Ailes over a 25-year period, dating back to the 1960s, when he was a producer on The Mike Douglas Show. “These are women who have never told these stories until now,” Smith told me. “Some are in a lot of pain.” Taken together, these stories portray Ailes as a boss who spoke openly of expecting women to perform sexual favors in exchange for job opportunities…

Vouet,_Simon_-_Lucretia_And_Tarquin

Read the whole piece at that link for some heart breaking memories.

If Ailes is really gone, the nail in the coffin may have been hammered by the Fox News megastar,  Megyn Kelly:

According to two sources briefed on parent company 21st Century Fox’s outside probe of the Fox News executive, led by New York–based law firm Paul, Weiss, Kelly has told investigators that Ailes made unwanted sexual advances toward her about ten years ago when she was a young correspondent at Fox. Kelly, according to the sources, has described her harassment by Ailes in detail.

New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman has been doing seriously good work on this story, which makes this nugget from his Kelly post so interesting:

According to two sources, Monday afternoon lawyers for 21st Century Fox gave Ailes a deadline of August 1 to resign or face being fired for cause.

So, good.  It looks like a truly monstrous figure is on his way out.

I’m as thrilled as anyone at that likely outcome, for all that Ailes’ well-padded crash ($40,000,000 buys a lot of whisky to cry into) is coming decades late.  But there’s a larger story that isn’t getting enough attention.

That is:  Roger Ailes isn’t just a network boss who has managed to deliver ratings to his owner.  He has been perhaps the single most important figure in the forging of today’s Republican party.  His Fox News has set the agenda, constructed the alternate reality, shattered the norms, and altered much for the worse what it means to be a Republican leader or voter.

He’s the architect and engineer of the hate-based, race-focused, anti-science, know-nothing tendency in American politics.  His triumph, his conquest of so much of American government at every level, has reached its apotheosis in the home-video version of Triumph of the Will we’re all seeing in Cleveland this week.  And he is a person who has, throughout his entire working life it seems, defined women as toys to be played with or broken at his whim.

I do not suggest that the Republican party, even in its current desperately debased state, is filled with people who would do as Ailes is alleged to have done.  But Ailes’ signal success has been in shaping how the party thinks, how its members and leaders think the world works.  And that influence is shot through with a sense of whose views count and whose don’t.  In Ailes life, half the world doesn’t rise to the level of agent, of people whose existence demands respect.

The fish rots at the head.

Image:  Simon Vouet, The Rape of Lucretia, 17th century. (Not my favorite of this subject. Rubens’ is great, and I’m a sucker for Tintoretto’s pearls.  But I wanted to keep the post SFW, so Vouet will do.)

Stupid/Evil Venn Diagram

July 17, 2016

Not sure how complete the overlap would be on this one, but if we took a solar eclipse as our diagram generator, I’m pretty sure you’d see a corona around this guy:*

The shooting in Baton Rouge took place as protesters and Republicans were arriving in Cleveland for the party’s national convention. Steve Thacker, 57, of Westlake, Ohio, stood in Cleveland’s Public Square on Sunday holding a semiautomatic AR-15-style assault rifle as news broke that several officers had been killed in Baton Rouge.

After the shooting in Dallas, Stephen Loomis, the president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, urged people not to take their guns anywhere near Cleveland’s downtown during the convention because officers were already in a “heightened state.”

When asked about Mr. Loomis’s comments and the Baton Rouge shooting, Mr. Thacker said despite the shooting, he wanted to make a statement and show that people can continue to openly carry their weapons.

“I pose no threat to anyone. I’m an American citizen. I’ve never been in trouble for anything,” Mr. Thacker, an information technology engineer, said. “This is my time to come out and put my two cents worth in, albeit that it is a very strong statement.”

Schuttersstuk_Ferdinand_Bol

Dear Mr. Thacker,

Let me see if I can explain this in words which even an information technology engineer can understand.

Just because you say you are not a threat doesn’t make it so.  To everyone but you, you are a guy with a tool for mass murder standing in the street for no apparent reason…which makes you, as seen from outside the eternal sunshine of the inside of your head, a threat to every person in your line of sight.  That you think you are a good person puts you alongside just about every self-justifiying shooter.

We do know is that the best possible gloss on your actions is that you’re a bully. Guns are tools of intimidation as well as physical violence. That you would show up heavily armed in public spaces suggests you think it’s part of civic life to scare your neighbors.  There’s a word for people like that, or rather many, of which the most mild is “asshole.”

And, forgive me for being so blunt, but you’re not just an asshole.  You’re an imbecile too.  Guns are, of course, both weapons and target designators.Anything goes wrong during the convention  — anything — and you’re a man with a gun in a chaotic situation.  How is the federal sniper on the rooftop to know who you might be aiming at?  Dumb is as dumb does.

Here’s the kindest advice I can muster: go home.  Put your freedom-wand penis-extension away.  With rights come responsibilities, and one of the most often ignored is the duty not to be a putz.

Try it.

*Yeah, that’s a ridiculously tortured metaphor, but it’s that kind of day.

Image: Ferdinand Bol, Archer Unit, militia led by Colonel Govert Suys, 1653

Evil Infests Augusta

April 21, 2016

John Brunner said it exactly right in The Shockwave Rider:  “If there is such a phenomenon as absolute evil it consists in treating another human being as a thing.”

With that in mind, let me give you the latest from Maine’s governor, the utterly odious Paul LePage:

Gov. Paul LePage vetoed a bill Wednesday that would allow pharmacists to dispense an anti-overdose drug without a prescription, saying that allowing addicts to keep naloxone on hand “serves only to perpetuate the cycle of addiction.” [via Kerry Eleved at GOS]

That’s nonsense on its own terms, as the deeply valuable Maia Szalavitz — herself a former addict — has argued over and over again:

As with needle exchange, opposition to Naloxone distribution has mainly come from those who fear that reducing drug-related harm will lead to increased drug use.   Fortunately, also similarly to the data on needle exchange, the research doesn’t find this occurring.

But don’t let any actual experience bother you, LePage!

“Naloxone does not truly save lives; it merely extends them until the next overdose,” LePage wrote, repeating a contention that has caused controversy before. “Creating a situation where an addict has a heroin needle in one hand and a shot of naloxone in the other produces a sense of normalcy and security around heroin use that serves only to perpetuate the cycle of addiction.”

It’s a strong word to use, I know.  But this is evil.

Rembrandt_Harmensz._van_Rijn_-_Christ_with_the_Sick_around_Him,_Receiving_Little_Children_(The_'Hundred_Guilder_Print')_-_Google_Art_Project

In LePage’s telling the addict isn’t a person.  He or she is rather just the worthless meat sack that locally reverses entropy between one overdose and the next.  He’s rather let those suffering an overdose die than live because, as he frames it here, the state of addiction robs the user of all other human attributes.

This is how a monster thinks.

I won’t say that this is the view that infects all of your modern Republican party, because on this issue it’s not.  But it remains a perfectly mainstream one — one that kills.

If you needed any more reason to go all yellow-dog Democrat on every line of your ballot, Governor (sic!) Paul LePage is exhibit (n)*

Last, to help wash the taste of tiny-minded misery out of your mouth, here’s Szalavitz again:

…one of the biggest misunderstandings we have about addiction is that tough love—is that being kind will fail and tough love will work. What really helps and why harm reduction, which is this idea that we will meet you where you’re at and we’ll help you whether you’re ready to stop or not—why that works is because when you have addiction, you tend to be very marginalized, self-hating. You might be homeless. You feel like a criminal. Nobody has any respect for you. And when somebody just hands you a clean needle or gives you access to naloxone and says, “I believe you deserve to live, regardless of whether you do what I want,” that’s a really powerful message of kindness.

And here a plug (full disclosure: she’s a friend) — here’s Maia’s new book on addiction.

*Where n is an arbitrary large number.

Image: Rembrandt van Rijn, Christ Preaching (The Hundred Guilder Print) c. 1649.

Gas Up Your Tumbrels

December 22, 2015

I think that this has already been discussed in a comment thread or two, but today (a) The New York Times reminded us that it can do essential, truly top-notch journalism and (b) exposed truly grotesque practices within a “justice” system that offers scant justice to anyone that doesn’t sport “Inc.” as a last name:

Encore and rival debt buyers are using the courts to sue consumers and collect debt, then preventing those same consumers from using the courts to challenge the companies’ tactics. Consumer lawyers said this strategy was the legal equivalent of debt collectors having their cake and eating it, too.

The use of arbitration by the companies is the latest frontier in a legal strategy orchestrated by corporations in recent years. By insertingarbitration clauses into the fine print of consumer contracts, they have found a way to block access to the courts and ban class-action lawsuits, the only realistic way to bring a case against a deep-pocketed corporation.

Their strategy traces to a pair of Supreme Court decisions in 2011 and 2013 that enshrined the use of class-action bans in arbitration clauses.

The result, The New York Times found in an investigation last month, is that banks, car dealers, online retailers, cellphone service providers and scores of other companies have insulated themselves from challenges to illegal or deceptive business practices. Once a class action was dismantled, court and arbitration records showed, few if any of the individual plaintiffs pursued arbitration.

Bottom feeders buy old debt.  They sue to collect.  Doesn’t matter if the debt is too old legally to collect.  Doesn’t matter if the sharks don’t have proper documentation. Doesn’t matter if they string up little old ladies by their big toes.  (Hyperbole alert).

Rembrandt_Christ_Driving_the_Money_Changers_from_the_Temple (1)

Crappy judges at the trial court level, insulated — guided — by crappy justices with robes, lifetime appointments, and no moral compasses whatsoever, make sure the Man gets his cash:

In the cases that The Times examined, judges routinely sided with debt collectors on forcing the disputes into arbitration.

In Mr. Cain’s case, Midland Funding, the unit of Encore Capital, persevered despite originally lacking a copy of a Citibank arbitration agreement they said he signed in 2003. Instead, the debt collector presented as evidence a Citibank contract that one of Encore’s lawyers signed when he opened an account.

In Mississippi, Midland Funding won a court judgment to compel Wanda Thompson to pay more than $4,700 on a debt that was too old to be collected under state law, court records show.

When Ms. Thompson filed a class-action suit on behalf of other state residents, Encore invoked an arbitration clause to have the lawsuit dismissed. Ms. Thompson’s lawyers argued that the company had clearly chosen court over arbitration when it sued her to collect the debt. By going to court, the lawyers said, Encore waived its right to compel arbitration.

Unpersuaded, the judge ruled that Encore’s lawsuit to collect the debt was separate from Ms. Thompson’s case accusing the company of violating the law.

I can’t put into words my revulsion for the people who steal from the weakest in our system, except to note that my loathing of those who enable these pen-armed robbers is far greater.  The GOP  hopes most people will be too scared of Syrians, gun-grabbers, and the Kenyan in the White House to notice who’s doing what to whom.  There’s an opening here for our side — and an obligation to take it.

Image:  Rembrandt van Rijn, Christ driving the money changers from the temple, 1626.

“These New Assets”

August 19, 2015

You would think that if anything were beyond the pale, even for today’s GOP and its conservative base, it would be chattel slavery.

Seriously.  If there were any thought that ought to be simply unthinkable in twenty first century, America, it would be that it is not simply illegal but actually evil to turn another human being into property.  I seem to recall there was something of a disturbance that ended 150 years ago on this matter, and it did not end well for those who lived on stolen labor.

But it turns out that my failure to imagine a comeback for slavery merely reveals my inability to keep up with an American right that seems determined to abandon the last thread of sanity.  From Media Matters via Charles Johnson at LGF, meet actual Iowa conservative talk radio host Jan Michelson:

I would just say this: … ’30 to 60 days from now anyone who is in the state of Iowa that who is not here legally and who cannot demonstrate their legal status to the satisfaction of the local and state authorities here in the State of Iowa, become property of the State of Iowa.’ So if you are here without our permission, and we have given you two months to leave, and you’re still here, and we find that you’re still here after we we’ve given you the deadline to leave, then you become property of the State of Iowa. And we have a job for you. And we start using compelled labor, the people who are here illegally would therefore be owned by the state and become an asset of the state rather than a liability and we start inventing jobs for them to do.

Damiano_Mascagni_Joseph_Sold_Into_Slavery_by_His_Brothers

This was not a slip of the tongue:

CALLER: Well I think everybody would believe it sounds like slavery?

MICKELSON: Well, what’s wrong with slavery?

MICKELSON: No this is pretty simple, actually this is very simple, what my solution is moral and it’s legal. And I can’t think – and it’s also politically doable.

CALLER: So are you going to house all these people who have chosen to be indentured?

MICKELSON: Yes, yes, absolutely in a minimal fashion. We would take a lesson from Sheriff [Joe] Arpaio down in Arizona. Put up a tent village, we feed and water these new assets, we give them minimal shelter, minimal nutrition, and offer them the opportunity to work for the benefit of the taxpayers of the state of Iowa. All they have to do to avoid servitude is to leave.

….

MICKELSON: You think I’m just pulling your leg. I am not….

Ladles and Jellyspoons:  your modern Republican party.  Somewhere, Abraham Lincoln is weeping.

Image: Damiano Mascagni, Joseph sold into slavery by his brothers1602.

March 17, 2015

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.

Nous Sommes Tous Charlie

January 7, 2015

By now I’m assuming everyone’s heard about the dreadful attack on the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebo:

Masked gunmen burst into the Paris offices of a French satirical newspaper on Wednesday and killed 12 people, including top journalists and two police officers, before fleeing in a car. The gunmen were still at large at dusk, as an extensive police dragnet spread across a traumatized city.

Among the dead were four prominent cartoonists who have repeatedly lampooned Islamic terrorists and the Prophet Muhammad, leading to speculation that the attack on the newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, was the work of Islamic militants acting alone or in concert with extremist groups.

The gunmen — reports suggest there were three — are still at large, and, according to Times coverage, it remains unknown what group, if any, organized the attack.

Salman Rushdie knows something about words and art and the threat of deadly violence aimed at suppressing it.  He’s one of many who have responded to the attack.  The statement was apparently up at PEN’s site, but that’s down now, and (via a Neil Gaiman tweet) I found it at the Wall St. Journal.  Here it is:

“Religion, a mediaeval form of unreason, when combined with modern weaponry becomes a real threat to our freedoms. This religious totalitarianism has caused a deadly mutation in the heart of Islam and we see the tragic consequences in Paris today. I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity. ‘Respect for religion’ has become a code phrase meaning ‘fear of religion.’ Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.”  –Salman Rushdie

Bad times, sad times.  My thoughts and deepest sympathy to all the families and friends of the murdered.


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