Sunday, January 31, 2010

Pitch in

Click image for full Matt Davies/Journal News cartoon.

Don't get stuck by the pitchfork...


And, in my other pocket...

Click image for full Jim Morin/Miami Herald cartoon.


Click image for full Adam Zyglis/Buffalo News cartoon.

Friday, January 29, 2010

No thumbnails to pull out of a corporation

Ted Rall
Universal Press Syndicate
Jan 29, 2010

The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC) is providing thumbnails. Let's see how it works.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Politics is about disagreement. Sure, it's about settling disagreements, but it starts with diverging opinions and, when it works, ends with a direction.

Last night, President Barack Obama disagreed with the Supreme Court's recent (and horrible) decision on corporate propaganda. This decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission continued to drive through the heart of our democracy the conservative majority's stake of an axiom that corporate money equals free speech. Obama was pointed but polite:

With all due deference to separation of powers, last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests, including foreign corporations, to spend without limit in our elections.

I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests or, worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people. And I urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps correct some of these problems.

Yet CNN, especially the useless Paul Steinhauser, is raising its eyebrows over Obama disagreeing with the Supremes right there in front of them. Cripes, fellows, go ahead and wet your pants if you're that timorous.

Then, just to be balanced, Steinhauser tut-tuts at Samuel Alito's reaction. Watch the video. All Alito does is mouth (no, not mouth off), "That's not true." CNN implies that Alito is not allowed to visibly disagree with the President.

That is not the country I live in. Honest, polite disagreement is not a threat. The pretense of unanimity is a threat. There's a big difference between SOTU and STFU.

Steinhauser even raises the spectre of Joe Wilson's notorious intemperate outburst. Ah, now we're getting to the truth. CNN thinks it knows how to cover the story so that it need never - ever - worry about distinguishing truth from fiction, right from wrong, or Constitutional from bullshit.

A story about etiquette requires no journalism, just a lot of spouting. Orrin Hatch of course obliges:
I think [Alito] showed quite a bit of judicial restraint.
Of course, CNN let Hatch's testable assertion go unchallenged:
President Obama last night wildly mischaracterized the Supreme Court's decision.
Our media are not interested in calling bullshit. They're interested in selling bullshit.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Liberal media

The New York Times bends so far over backward to spin these wingnut wannabe junior Watergaters as "activists" that they could kiss their own asses if they just had Linda Blair's neck. To hear the alleged journalists at the Times tell it, these guys are just journalists gone slightly awry:

At least three of the men charged in the episode have backgrounds in campus journalism.


Mr. O’Keefe has long espoused a form of journalism that draws attention to itself.
Just pretexting their way into a Senator's phone system! What a bunch of cards! They just needed more attention. At least they weren't stinking bloggers!

All of the people the Times quotes in response are conservatives:
  • Michelle Malkin
  • Glenn Beck
  • the so-called Leadership Institute
  • a blogger at the Corner
  • and one of O'Keefe's old fellow cub distorters from Rutgers
There is no excuse for an article this slanted. Even Fox would have leavened it with something it pretended was a liberal point of view. Reporters Campbell Robertson and Liz Robbins need to be on the police beat at the Post. The New York Post.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Scott Brown and abortion

Scott Brown pretends to be pro-choice, but that's a lie from him just as it was from Mitt Romney in 2002. Otherwise, Fr. Frank Pavone and the Massachusetts Citizens for Life wouldn't have both been calling on his behalf. I know they called because I received their calls myself.

Brown claims:

While this decision should ultimately be made by the woman in consultation with her doctor, I believe we need to reduce the number of abortions in America. I believe government has the responsibility to regulate in this area and I support parental consent and notification requirements and I oppose partial birth abortion. I also believe there are people of good will on both sides of the issue and we ought to work together to support and promote adoption as an alternative to abortion.
The anti-abortion activists don't care what he claims to think or even what he thinks. They only care what he'll do about judicial nominations. I sense filibusters in the offing with Brown in tow, though he'll claim that he opposes obviously centrist Democratic nominees because they're radical activists. Yeah, bullshit.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Lessons from the Coakley campaign

First, a disclaimer: I wasn't an insider in Martha Coakley's ill-fated campaign. I wasn't even a well-placed outsider. I supported Michael Capuano in the primary, mostly as a voter, and then I did a little volunteering for Coakley at the tail end of the general election. I am not a big shot, and this is merely my educated speculation.

Everyone thought this was going to be a base turnout election. I made that mistake, and it appears that Coakley's campaign did too. Their tactics were pitched at voters who know what they want; both their media ads and their direct mail - between them, practically all of the campaign - told the Democratic base not to elect a scurvy Bushist Republican.

Non-base voters are the muddled middle that the two major parties typically squeeze at the end of a general election. This middle isn't so much moderate as clueless. It's composed of people who don't pay much attention, don't ferret out actual facts from obvious bullshit when they do hear something that sounds relevant, and can't make up their minds in any lasting way about politics. About them, Abe Lincoln said, "God must have loved the common people; he made so many of them." Most of them are middle class, working class, or poor. And someone famous - apparently Josh Billings instead of Mark Twain or Will Rogers, who often get credit - said something like, "The trouble ain't that people don't know enough; it's all they know that just ain't so."

Base voters are ideological voters. You're not going to lose them to the other candidate. You're at risk for losing them to apathy. Coakley was really at risk of losing them to the temptations of the sofa or the coffeehouse on a cold January day without enough motivating daylight. To win, she apparently thought, she needed to get her ones and twos off their duffs and to the polls. I don't blame her from thinking that; I did too.

How do you deal with a strategy whose assumptions prove false? You have to keep taking data, and Coakley didn't. Contrary to post mortem claims, they had money to keep polling. They just chose to spend it on media.

After you've taken data, you have to be prepared and willing to change strategy. That's hard and messy, and people who still believe in the old strategy get bruised egos. So what.

More important than just polling the horse race, you have to poll who's going to show up. Sure, everyone models their view of the likely voters. Something happened in this election that obsoleted those models, and a nimble campaign would have been able to adjust from turning out the base to the real fight this turned into. The problem for Coakley was that the persuasion universe turned out to be much larger than she anticipated.

Coakley tried to improvise an effective field operation. Her campaign failed. In my area, her organizer simply wasn't up to the task, and he was a terrible listener, besides. It's not that unusual in the trenches to meet a twenty-something who thinks he knows your territory better than you do, but it really hurts when you're improvising.

Nearby, a friend reported that the campaign repeatedly failed to return his calls seeking to volunteer. I was able to help him help them, but most people don't have a friend who's tapped into the activist networks and email lists.

It turned out that all those hokey visibility events, where average people stand on street corners with signs waving to motorists, matter. They may not win any votes, but they keep votes from hemorrhaging away when the momentum shifts. They put a human face on the campaign, which otherwise is slick ads and disembodied and increasingly annoying voices on the phone. I previously wasn't sure of the worth of visibility events, but now I am. Standouts keep leaners from shifting. Coakley didn't do standouts.

The same logic works for lawn signs. Neighbors influence each other. Coakley never effectively delivered lawn signs and didn't seek locations.

As a bonus, signs and visibilities are cheap and easily delegated.

On the up side, saturation phone calls and ads did drive turnout. Whether they drove positive votes is another question. Both campaigns used them intensively. Both would again.

It's hard to research races that are close enough to matter. I'd like to know when phoning reaches the point of diminishing returns. My ear tells me it was the Saturday before the election, but it would take a very brave campaign to turn off its GOTV phone banks that early, even in a few test precincts.

And, of course, no matter what your lead in the polls, you can't take any time off the campaign. OK, Christmas day. Maybe.

Never out of date

Even though in 1996 Bill Clinton triangulated drastic welfare reform to the delight of Republicans, attacks on shiftless lazy leeches stray dawgs are far too appealing to Republicans and their ignoramus constituents to ever let go of them.

And damn if America doesn't spend trillions of dollars a year on foreign aid when we can't even pay our own bills at home...

There are people who believe both these canards.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Family of man

Forty-some years after the integration of American schools, the same racist dynamic can still play out. Only this time, African-American teenagers have beaten minority Asians.

When whites attacked blacks in Little Rock and Memphis and Boston, that was a hate crime (even though the legal definition didn't exist then). When blacks (or anyone, for that matter) orchestrate attacks on Chinese and Vietnamese in Philadelphia, it's a hate crime again.

Time and again, when an out group gets in, it forgets the moral lessons of its own oppression and learns only the tribal lesson that the in group can oppress the out group. The ugliness is part of who we are. But just part of us.

Just glad to see me

Click image to see full Matt Davies/Journal News cartoon.

Corporate orgasm

Click image for full Nate Beeler/Washington Examiner cartoon.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


The slaying of Dr. George Tiller was an act of political terrorism, intended to strike fear into doctors willing to perform abortions. Why hasn't Scott Roeder been charged under federal terrorism statutes?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Pity the poor corporation

The Supremes say 5-4 that there's nowhere near enough corporate ownership of government:

[Justice Anthony] Kennedy’s majority opinion said the flow of information to citizens should not be restricted.
If by information you mean disinfotainment...

Never mind how much actual legislation is written by corporate lobbyists. The late health care bill? Now that the Republicans hold 41 Senate seats, there are going to be some lobbyists looking to keep some of its corporate welfare. In a bill with none of those pesky provisions that actually help people.

Never mind that corporations always find a dodge or a loophole or an astroturf group to launder their political money. Just ask Newt Gingrich and Tom Delay, each in his own way an apostle of creative financing of reactionary politics. Just think back, oh, a few days, to the thinly disguised insurance companies calling on behalf of Scott Brown.

Never mind that we already have two pro-corporate political parties, not even counting the libertarians, who, with all the enjoyable things in the world, get most aroused by business. Mildly, the way the Democrats do everything, they favor corporations: Some of my best friends are corporations. Corporations are such nice legal persons, and they contribute to my campaign fund! In character as well, Republicans back corporations wildly as the pinnacle of human perfection. Do Dems like corporations? Then Republicans love corporations infinity times infinity. No tag-backs! (Whatever...) An incorporated church? Ahh, they came in their pants a little.

Never mind that the Supremes, in their infinite ... whoredom, left intact contribution limits from actual living people on the logic of this breathtaking piece of self-service colonoscopy:
[T]he justices adhered to previous rulings that there is a more significant “quid pro quo’’ attached to such direct contribution to a candi date [sic]...
Can I pause just a minute to state the clear fact that would be obvious to anyone with two brain cells to rub together? Every single corporate political act EVER was intended to elicit a self-interested result. At least a few contributions from breathing people don't want anything beyond the best effort and good conscience of the recipient.

Never mind that we taxpayers have bailed out banks and other corporations and continued to pay corporate titans obscene salaries, and contrariwise that we've left underwater mortgage-payers and huge numbers of the unemployed with stale, moldy bread crusts (and they should feel lucky to have those, dammit!).

Never mind that corporate disinfotainment is already pandemic. These people are well-practiced at lying. They know how to dress propaganda up in pretty words and pictures. They make some good products, but when they make dreck they'll still sell it to us, soft or hard, whatever it takes.

With apologies to Rousseau, men are born free, but they are everywhere in corporations.

Still, in the end, the only thing that can possibly save us - don't hold your breath - is for American to turn their bullshit detectors waaay up high and stop being such moronic credulous chumps.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thank god it wasn't a Christian prayer

To those who aren't very cosmopolitan, Judeo-Christian is really Judeo-Christian. Orthodox? Isn't that something to do with Greeks? Hey, doesn't that patriarch look like Ayatollah Khomeini? Aaaieee!

A Republican wins, and we're back to living in fear! I'm kidding, but I really wish I knew this was a coincidence and not a symptom of America's reversion to reflexive panic.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Last call

Today, while working from home in the morning, I got yet another political robo-call. It came from the Massachusetts Citizens for Life, who quoted Pat Buchanan and declared how important it is to kill the health bill.

Then they got to their specific agenda: They wanted me to call Massachusetts Sec. of State Bill Galvin to get Scott Brown's win certified early.

I wonder, did that call make anyone as furious as the calls yesterday?

Housekeeping the anger

One thing that angry Republicans in Massachusetts should consider: When they were up in arms over the fact that the Democratic legislature and the governor changed the Senatorial succession law to allow an interim appointment by the governor, the Dems could easily have returned to the status quo before the previous change, which was meant to take a lasting appointment to fill John Kerry's seat out of Mitt Romney's hands.

That would have been bald partisanship (as well as undemocratic). But the Democrats didn't do that. Out of principle.

Tom Delay would never have been so democratic. Republicans should mull that over.

Land of opportunity

America, where every plutocrat can rework his (or her!) image to wear a flannel shirt, drive a good ol' pickup truck, and act real folksy - while the cameras are on, anyway.

The newsreader on WUMB this morning related Scott Brown's claim that the people of Massachusetts voted to end partisan gridlock in Washington. Huh!?

If so, they bought a pig in a poke, which wouldn't be surprising given their eagerness to buy into the obvious bullshit of political image-making. What they're going to get for their well-earned and better-fanned outrage is sand in the gears. And those gears weren't working very well already.

Win some, lose some

The dog still has to be walked, the driveway still has to be shovelled, the dishwasher still has to be loaded. And it is a beautiful night outside.

Most voters don't vote ideology. They vote for change when they hurt, and they vote for safety when they're afraid. Right now, they hurt.

Never mind who made them hurt. They don't analyze. Martha Coakley didn't give voters much to vote for, and they forgot the last time a handsome Republican fooled them into thinking he would keep their interests close.

And, sure enough, there at Scott Brown's victory party: Mitt Romney. The people of Massachusetts will soon start to learn for better or for worse about Brown's sincerity. I expect the worst.

Meanwhile, Brown captured a mandate. Killing the current health care bill - if he can get sworn in time - may actually do the Democrats a favor. It's not a very good bill.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hating the phone

People hate political phone calls, especially in a competitive environment. The two hours that political calling might in an extreme case take out of their lives in any single election season is too big a price to pay for self-government. Watch the season opener of 24? Sure. Take thirty 4-minute phone calls? What an outrage!

People will tell you they don't like your call because they might be on the line when a call comes in to RSVP for a child's birthday party, but that's really just a lame excuse. Political calls seldom last more than a few minutes, and the very same people are often more than willing to give you down the road for calling them, and it can take a while to get all their frustrations off their chest.

Still, the truth is that people hate political calling. There is no doubt whatsoever that some voters will go to the polls for a spite vote against whoever's campaign called them the most. They will of course blame a campaign's allies (SEIU, OFA, DNC for Coakley; RNC and a host of dressed up health insurance companies for Brown), who can't legally coordinate their calling.

Campaigns need to figure out:

  • how to eliminate duplication of calls - autodialers don't yet work any better for political calls than they do for selling timeshares
  • when to stop calling because they've gone past even diminishing returns to the point at which they're actively alienating supporters
  • how to bypass the phone altogether for channels that people will accept - no, mass media ads are not the answer; they're only a little better
Research needs to be done on different phoning strategies, but that requires a much more sophisticated operation than what now exists on the Democratic side. We need to pick well-modelled bellwether precincts and treat them differently to see which strategy gets the best results in turnout and margin of victory.

I've long thought that we need to push our organizing back down to the street level, back to old methods that rely on delivering the message through neighbors. It's a lot harder to tell someone you know to go to hell (well, not for one of my neighbors) than some stranger on the phone.

In the end, though, the phones and the saturation of media ads worked. We don't know here just before 7:00 p.m. whether they worked to increase either candidate's share of the vote, but we already know that they drove turnout to huge levels for a special election with only one race on the ballot on a snowy January day.

Immutable law

If there's a political item that's especially trivial, CNN will repeatedly float it to the top of their political ticker. Especially if that item features a Republican.

Glimmer of hope

CNN reports:

"Turnout has been pretty good," said Brian McNiff, a spokesman for the office.

The noon report from Boston showed 55,309 voting so far - a number that is just 3,000 under the turnout for the 2006 midterm election.
Since the 2006 mid-term was also a gubernatorial election and thus relatively high-turnout, this number suggests hope for Martha Coakley. Maybe all those annoying phone calls from both sides (oh, and from insurance companies for Brown) did their job of driving less-than-impassioned Democrats to the polls.

It's especially hopeful that turnout is coming from Boston, where Coakley has to have a large majority. Turnout is also large in the small exurb I live in, where Brown will definitely win.

Bullshit on bipartisanship

Steve Benen nails it:

Look, much of the political landscape has changed over the last year, but if there's one thing that's been consistent throughout, it's that congressional Republicans aren't interested in working with Democrats on bipartisan policy solutions. Boehner, McConnell, Cantor, & Co. have a list of priorities -- destroy the Obama presidency, block the legislative process by any means necessary, undermine confidence in American leaders and institutions, rally the right-wing base -- but "getting things done" isn't on it.
What is it about Washington Democrats that makes them lose the will to fight their, ah, adversaries?

(h/t Atrios)

Analogy nostalgia

Some people my age can wax nostalgic for the analogy questions that used to be such a large part of the SAT verbal. Sick - and I don't mean that not in current slang. But those analogies helped us get into college, so they must have been important.

A Scott Brown robo-call a few minutes ago made me think of those long ago questions. He said he was calling about the election, that he doesn't like these calls, and that he doesn't "like the lies and misrepresentations."

I set up the question like this:

"I don't like political calls" : "I make political calls" :: "I don't like lies and misrepresentations" : ________

  1. "I'm an independent voice."
  2. "I want to change partisanship in Washington."
  3. "Martha Coakley went negative first, and I'm pure as the driven snow."
  4. "I lie and misrepresent."
Easy question...

ED in Massachusetts

We Democrats need some voter Viagra to get turnout up this Election Day. Instead, we have snow. Conventional wisdom suggests - and history confirms - that low turnout is good for Republicans and that bad weather is bad for turnout.

Martha Coakley managed to stop the bleeding over the last week. The real question is whether she stopped it in time. The snow bodes ill for her, but we'll see just how effective her field operation has been over the past few days.

I know this: When you're phoning people who think Ted Kennedy opposed the health care bills now before Congress and who are still inchoately incensed about welfare, you're scraping the bottom of the barrel. So maybe we did reach everyone we could possibly reach.

I was optimistic yesterday. Today? Not so much... But like everyone, I'm just making a wild-ass guess, like Nate Silver, although his models put the odds 3:1 in Scott Brown's favor.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The meaning of race for me

I grew up white and male in the South. In my early years, I was a Methodist. I'm not gay. In other words, demographically, I'm a natural conservative and Republican.

What made me a liberal?


I didn't live in Memphis on April 4, 1968, but I did live there as a child in the early 1960s and again in the early 1970s. It was a place where equal rights for black people were very much in doubt. "I am a man" in 1968 was completely on point as a social and political statement.

I did experience my parents distraught and appalled by the vicious and often fatal attacks of white racists on black people and on civil rights activists. How could Philadelphis, Mississippi, fail so completely to live up to its name!

Their liberalism on race was in turn rooted in their experience. My father in 1965 advocated integration of the Memphis City Schools. The federal courts would do it soon enough, he realized, but no politician would move to desegregation in a way that might be voluntary and more successful. My mother recalled the surrogate mother she had had in a domestic who had loved her and been loved in return. Her father had been instrumental in the early integration of one traditionally white state college in the South, only two generations up from a slave-owner (though my great-great-grandfather had freed his inherited slaves in the 1850s before the Civil War).

This history was dramatically different from the norm in my all-white neighborhood. It showed me that I could think differently from those around me, that I could look beyond the Jim Crow consensus, toward justice and my common humanity with all people and pointedly with black people, who then lived subservient all around me. This was my escape from the dull and static conformity of conservatism.

Today I honor Martin Luther King, Jr., for his huge part in delivering this legacy, a gift that is mine and his together.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Balls and Republican beefcake

Scott Brown is covering his balls here. Literally.

If Democrats had balls, literally or otherwise, they would have made sure this was all over the media. Republicans, if on the other side of this question, would be utterly sleepless from the gleeful and not-so-easily-hidden wood they would get from such a delightful opportunity.

Nude model for Senate. What a gift! If only Democrats would take it. Probably too late now.

Click image for full spread on Cosmopolitan. No kidding.

Update (1/19): I missed a rare opportunity with my title: I should have gone with "Naked in Massachusetts", the long-ago satire of Ed King's slogan "Make it in Massachusetts".

Update (10/8/11): Now that Scott Brown's wrist covering his package is back in the news, this post is getting traffic again. C'mon, leave a comment!

Right right right

Rights in the political arena...

Click image for full Jim Morin/Miami Herald cartoon.

Sic 'em

Click image for full Mike Keefe/Denver Post cartoon.

Optimizing the up-do

Click image for full Clay Bennett/Chattanooga Times Free Press cartoon.

Republican justice

This sounds a lot like the Scott Brown supporter I spoke to yesterday when making phone calls for Martha Coakley:

Criminals should not be tried. The trial of a criminal is against human rights. Human rights demand that we should have killed them in the first place when it became known that they were criminals.
Come to think of it, it sounds a lot like many Republicans in response to the penis bomber.

Actual source in comments.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Going negative

Scott Brown is right to claim that Martha Coakley has gone negative on him. She's put out ads and direct mail pieces that identify him as an orthodox right-wing Republican. How much more negative can you get than that!

But he's lying when he claims, playground style, that - waaah! - she started it. He has been running negative ads on-line for a long time now. One of them criticizes Coakley for taking money from Washington, when large chunks of his campaign funding are coming from all the usual suspects on the right and particularly from the Washington Republican establishment.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Corporatism run amok

Once the business of America was business. If you had to pin it down to one company, that company was General Motors. No more. GM is broke. Manufacturing is passé.

The business of America is now the Wall Street shell game, and the exemplar company is Goldman Sachs. Who needs the percentage gains of factory automation when you can have the multipliers of leverage?

The bankers are so determined to profit at our expense that they refuse to admit their preponderant responsibility for the financial crisis that we taxpayers have promised to pay their way out of:

[T]he bankers’ testimony showed a stunning failure, even now, to grasp the nature and extent of the current crisis. And that’s important: It tells us that as Congress and the administration try to reform the financial system, they should ignore advice coming from the supposed wise men of Wall Street, who have no wisdom to offer.
I'd go even further than Krugman in critiquing the organization of our economy: We need to drastically lower the rewards available from Wall Street. The financial titans' role in arbitraging all enterprises to the same level of profitability can be slower and less complex without harming the real economy. That would make it more understandable, more predictable, and safer for the rest of us, whom they unconscionably stick with the exorbitant bill for their never-ending high life. It would also push bright and creative people into fields that actually build real economic growth.

We've lived off our post-WWII assets as long as we can. It wasn't good to fund consumption out of capital, but we did it - with the consequences now all around us.

We need to kill Wall Street as it exists today.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The immorality of god

Christians have a problem. They're not alone in this problem. Jews have it. Muslims have it. (Even Buddhists have it, though they have a novel solution.)

The god of the Abrahamic religions is supposed to be all-knowing, all-powerful, and filled with compassion and good will toward people. Yet the world has terrible earthquakes (and tsunamis and hurricanes and ...) that fail to divide the blessed from the wicked, that instead kill and maim and orphan indiscriminately. This is the problem of evil.

The upshot is that, at best, you can pick two. God must be ignorant of some things, or must have limited power, or must be at best neglectful. Otherwise, the world is inexplicable.

Professional Christians such as Pat Robertson and, sadly, many of the credulous in their flocks, have chosen. Robertson opts for an unjust, immoral god. He says that the Haitians brought their current plight on themselves by making a pact with the devil 200 years ago, when not a soul now living (or dying or mourning) was yet born. Robertson is content with a god who visits punishments on the innocent descendants of the wicked - or really, the allegedly wicked, since there's no bullshit an ugly preacher like Robertson won't make up to suit his disgusting purpose.

In the Middle Ages, some theologians tried to excuse god's failings by making the breathtakingly bold argument that this is the best of all possible worlds. Let's just say they weren't making this argument to the peasants, who - a la Monty Python - had lots of shit on them. They were choosing to portray god as omnipotent as possible, but not quite so omnipotent as to be able to overcome reality. At best, this was just a clever intellectual dodge. If he could make heaven beyond the firmament of stars, why couldn't he make heaven on earth? Did those well-kept theologians imagine god saying to impertinent skeptics like me, "Because I said so!"? Then of course striking me dead...

The Middle Ages were slow to change, which made these laughable arguments an iota less implausible. But the ebb and flow of evil and good across later eras made it even more risible to claim that the mess of ordinary life in front of our eyes might be optimal.

As a friend's divinity school professor asked, "How do you believe in god in the face of the Holocaust?" Indeed, what god who held the three big omnis (omnipotence, omniscience, and omnibenevolence) could permit the Zyklon showers, the mass murder of families, the casual starvation, and the steady operation of the ovens with their ash of industrial ordinariness? No god that I could ever distinguish from Satan, if I were so childlike as to need to personify evil.

The Founders of the American republic, now under siege from the witless and contrived belief of fundamentalists, knew injustice. In the Constitution, Article III, section 3, they said:

The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.
The myth of the fall from grace in Eden is a bill of attainder that works corruption of blood. Robertson's blame for the Haitians is too. Sadly, I find good friends from my childhood saying that all illness is a result of sin. They too are choosing an unjust god. Even if they are not so mean as to blame the illness (autism in this case) on some sin of the afflicted, they are willing to countenance and worship a god who would punish a fresh new child for the sins of Adam and Eve.

It is immoral to visit the sins of the fathers on their children. So, is your god a just god? Or just another old son of bitch in the image of Pat Robertson?

Update (1/14): Yep, bullshit.

Monday, January 11, 2010

I really tried

I tried to watch the debate between Martha Coakley (D-Careful) and Scott Brown (R-Handsome) in the Massachusetts special election for the seat once held by Ted Kennedy. I really tried. But I just can't listen to the same old same old tax cut crap from another Republican.

The Republican platform:

  • Bad economy? Cut taxes.
  • Good economy? Cut taxes.
  • Middling economy? Cut taxes.
  • Hangnail? Cut ... taxes.
When anyone poses a single remedy as solution to every situation, what they really want is the supposed remedy, not to address the problem.

Why is it that Democrats don't just laugh at every Republican who offers this sugary panacea and then run down the list with joyous ridicule?

Conservative cred

You have to wonder about a news reporter who writes a story about Scott Brown's conservatism, on exhibit on "Hannity & Colmes", when Alan Colmes has been gone for months.

Why we listen to Rudy

In the aftermath of Rudy Giuliani's straight-faced claim that there were no terrorist attacks (none!) during Duhbya and Darth's excellent adventure, Joe Conason asks why we listen to such a fact-free buffoon. Giuliani has someone managed to slide over, not just the shoe bomber and the anthrax attacks and the many attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan; he has managed conveniently to forget 9/11 itself, the one news item that pushed him onto the national stage after his career had effectively ended in widely shared disdain for his ugly personality and for every one of his municipal policies except for community policing.

But it's not just Rudy who should have no claim on our credence. Dana Perino had made the same claim. Mary Matalin had, too. Among others.

The reason this goes is that slow-learning Democrats have failed to assert every damn day that there's nothing a Republican says that you can trust. The media are not going to hold these guys accountable for even being in the ballpark of accuracy. The right browbeat them out of their ref job years ago, to the point that they only call penalties on Democrats - or offsetting pox-on-both-their-houses fouls.

This can be funny, but it's also dangerous. A culture that cannot even grapple with what's true and what's false is doomed.

Yet, all these Republicans will be back on TV spouting lies just as soon as some producer's Rolodex needs them...

The other shoe

Scott Roeder killed abortion provider Dr. George Tiller. No allegedly about it:

Mr. Roeder has admitted to the shooting in jailhouse interviews and, as recently as last week, in a 104-page legal memorandum he filed himself to the judge.
Now he wants a platform for his anti-abortion politics as he claims he was justified in shooting Tiller down in church. (How's that different from what the right is so concerned about in terrorist trials?)

Imagine if Roeder succeeds in his defense and is found guilty only of voluntary manslaughter in the killing of Dr. George Tiller. Wouldn't he then become a target for an abortion rights extremist willing to do a stretch for manslaughter? How many would have to die before the courts saw the error of allowing such a defense in cases with premeditation?

Oh, right, no way an abortion rights extremist would get equal treatment.

Told ya

Sarah Palin and Fox to wed. No word on when to expect offspring, though past experience suggests it won't take nine (more) months. I had this called in July!

Update: Celebrity news is exactly where Palin belongs. Next to Paris Hilton. But, look out, Kim Kardashian would outshine Caribou Barbie.

Click image for Creative Commons ShareAlike license for use of the image.

Inherited money is the natural constituency of the Republicans. Sarah Palin exists to bridge the gap to the thoughtless segment of male voters. Too bad Kardashian's father defended O.J., or she'd be even better!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Thought experiment

Click image for full Bruce Plante/Tulsa World cartoon.

Sixth circle

Hope springs eternal - for spring, anyway.

Click image for full John Branch/San Antonio Express-News cartoon.

No shame among the affluent

Scott Brown is running a commercial that features this line straight out of the candidate's mouth:

I love this ole pick-up truck. It's brought me closer to the people of this state.
It reminds me of Lamar Alexander's plaid shirt. He had a pick-up, too. That's just how stupid Republican strategists and candidates think people are. I hope they're wrong this time.

Update (1/11): Fixed quote.

Saturday, January 9, 2010


I've been trying to figure out what would motivate Paul Loscocco to sign on as Tim Cahill's running mate, but that's too big a bite. I was surprised when he bowed out of the Massachusetts House in 2008; how am I going to figure out this much bigger question off the top of my head!

First thing, Paul (yes, I know him) has burned his bridges to the Republican Party. They won't take him back. On the other hand, after his switch to support for gay marriage (effectively, anyway, though all he actually did was to help keep it from danger of being legislatively overturned), he wasn't going to be a national Republican - ever. (I've seen rumors that his split from Mitt Romney to John McCain meant he had a Cabinet position lined up, but even considering that McCain picked Sarah Palin, that's nonsense.)

Of course, in Massachusetts, there's hardly any Republican Party to leave - except for the ambitious refugees who have taken shelter in the conservative wing of the Democratic Party here. Maybe Paul thought he had nothing much to lose, other than his chains to the extremes of the national party.

Tim Cahill was one of those conservative Democrats before he jumped ship. I didn't hold his ideology against him, but even when he was a Dem, I never trusted him. What he does have that Loscocco may have found attractive is a statewide network of supporters. I just don't see that network as portable to Paul even should this ticket beat the extreme odds and squeak by in a three- or four-way race.

Do Cahill and Loscocco actually think they can win? It's hard to see how they can compete with Charlie Baker and Deval Patrick organizationally or financially, and neither Cahill nor Loscocco has the overwhelming charisma that would make this more credible.

Still, to win an election this way requires a leap of faith, rather than dues-paying and an attempt at inevitability. Their chances are slim to none. Baker has to stumble really badly for Cahill to get to second place. Patrick has already stumbled in office, though his notices are much worse than his actual performance in trying times.

Maybe this seemingly quixotic candidacy is simply Paul's up-or-out test. If he wins, he's a broker of the center. If he loses, he can get on with making enough money to send his kids to college (which was how I explained his getting out in 2008), and he still might be viewed as an independent appointee to boards and commissions.

Here's a very sketchy scenario in which they could win:

  • Christy Mihos damages Charlie Baker in the Republican primary and - if Charlie, despite his intelligence and accomplishments, is as bad a campaigner as he might be - maybe even beats him.
  • Unemployment stays bad, bad, bad, and Deval is not actually at his nadir now. (I've been hoping for better news to start Deval's recovery.)
  • Cahill keeps his self-esteem from becoming too visible and off-putting.
They still need an issue to hammer at in order to get people to take a chance on them. The current popular dissatisfaction is not enough.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Eating their young

Doesn't Michael Steele know by now that the Republican Party doesn't value a rational assessment of the future? Nope, the craaazier, the better.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Underpants of mass hysteria

Click image for full Tom Tomorrow/Salon cartoon.

Newsworthy as stale bread

There is no reason whatsoever to report on what Liz Cheney has to say about anything. None. It's not newsworthy. It's not surprising. She has no authority or expertise.

Al Gore's son drove his Prius 100 mph. Why doesn't CNN ask his opinion on global warming?

Instead, they're happy to thrust the wingnut propaganda. Easier to lightly massage a Republican press release than to report any messy, hard-to-gather news.

Liberal media? Don't try to bullshit me.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Hollow wealth

Who's creating wealth in America? Bob Lewis writes:

The Anchor Steam brewery creates wealth. Chase does not.

Here’s what’s disturbing: The private sector, for quite a long time, has been a minor contributor to the underlying drivers of wealth. Our preference for free markets notwithstanding, over the past couple of decades the federal government has done more to create the foundations of wealth than private industry, and it’s hard to find any modern foundation of wealth that hasn’t depended heavily on government-funded innovation.

Yet the creative financiers are the people our economy - and our government bailouts - reward.

I do think that Lewis overstates his case a little, but his main point - that almost our entire wealth-creating economy is based on a foundation of public rather than private investments - is right on the mark.

(By the way, be sure to follow Lewis's link to "A Decade of Zeroes".)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

What fourth amendment?

The Transportation Security Administration has surrendered its foolish diktat that peeing within an hour of landing is a security threat, but another of its other responses to the controversy is equally stupid and more disturbing. They've tried to suppress news of the policy:

The subpoenas demand presentation of “all documents, emails, and/or faxsimile transmissions (sic) in your control possession or control concerning your receipt of TSA Security Directive 1544-09-06 dated December 25, 2009.” They are signed by Dan Kuntz, senior counsel for civil enforcement at TSA.
Under the Constitution, a warrant issued by a judge should be required for any seizure of property. Yeah, we were way past that even before the so-called PATRIOT Act. Now, the Fourth Amendment is gone.

Motorman's friend

A three-ounce shampoo bottle is not going to be enough to substitute for an airplane bathroom. How tight is a Ziploc bag? My advice: Skip the slide-locks, and double-bag. Women, you'll need a funnel, too.

(Fortunately, by now, the TSA has given up on this additional stupid idea.)

RIP 2009

Click image for full Tom Briscoe cartoon.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Conservative media bias

The big media imply every day that Republicans are responsible with the budget and that Democrats aren't, when in fact the opposite is true.

Mama warned you

"What if you were hit by a bus and had to be taken to the hospital airport!"

Click image for full Ted Rall/Universal Press cartoon.

Burying the lead

Kudos to Chief Justice John Roberts for setting a laconic example that Karl Rove should take to heart:

"Many of those needs remain to be addressed," said Roberts. "This year, however, when the political branches are faced with so many difficult issues, and when so many of our fellow citizens have been touched by hardship, the public might welcome a year-end report limited to what is essential: The courts are operating soundly."
But CNN buries this important story:
The slow pace [of Federal judicial confirmations] can be traced to the Republican minority in the Senate, which has successfully blocked floor votes for a number of pending judicial nominations. Such vacancies in the long run can create backlogs in hearing cases, and strain financial and manpower resources.
Harry Reid is a poor politician for failing to make the Republicans pay a public price for their incessant obstructionism.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Thirty years class war

The mainly Bushist record of going oh for the aughts in job creation is the result of thirty years of Washington consensus that the investment class's financial interests are far more important than even the middle class's employment. Our elite leaders didn't set out to stop job creation. They just didn't care enough to make policy that put it ahead of rewarding the creation of fraudulent investment vehicles.

Opposite of progress

Click image for full Jim Morin/Miami Herald cartoon.

Feverish stupidity

Lots of editorial cartoons, left and right, are unfunny. Humor is hard to achieve every day. But this one from conservative Stephen Rustad is particularly stupid.

Imagine who must be in your audience to find Barack Obama as Hugo Chávez's puppet credible even as over-the-top exaggeration. Loons and dim bulbs of hate radio who don't actually know anything...

Who are the real puppets?

American conservatives have a huge apparatus whose purpose is to tell lies to the stupid. Those lies keep them stupid and easily exploited, but their appetite for bullshit is so unquenchable that they prefer their ignorance.

If you don't think this institutionalized ignorance is an existential problem for our democracy, take a closer look at what's still happening around us.

C'mon baby

Click image for full John Branch/San Antonio Express-News cartoon.

Turd blossoming

New year, no change.

Despite Karl Rove's utter and total lack of any credibility whatsoever on any topics other than rank hypocrisy and political hardball, America's media continue to spread his propaganda. It's no surprise that the Wall Street Journal editorial page would print him. It should no longer be a surprise that CNN is happy to go along for the ride.

This is at least the third iteration of CNN's item thrusting forward Rove's concern-trolling of New Year's resolutions for President Barack Obama. The original had lots of negative comments, including one from me, pointing out Rove's arrant bullshit. CNN floated it back to the top of their political ticker by reposting it yesterday. This morning, they floated it up again, like a turd blossoming up from a failed flush, sans the hygienic responses of their readers.

Even though this happens often, wingnuts - and even ordinary conservatives - continue to flay CNN with all sorts of epithets. "Clinton News Network." "Communist News Network." Doing this shows them to be - not just dissenting or even wrong - but willfully stupid to the point of insanity.

The article of faith for conservatives that the media is filled with liberal conspirators who are aligned against them is just that, an article of faith. Like many of the other things they believe, it is not based on reality.

It's still true that liberals are the reality-based community. 2010 will be another year I'll be here pointing out the constant bullshit of conservatives. It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it, and most of the Washington Democrats don't seem to have the stomach for it.