Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Thomas Friedman is (opposed to de-) legit (-imizing

You guys know I'm not really cherry-picking these right? I don't have time to slog through numerous well-written articles by reasonable liberals, only to find the ones that are completely unhinged. Keep that in mind when you read this.

Where Did ‘We’ Go?

To the land of scare quotes, apparently.

I hate to write about this,
So, why bother?
but I have actually been to this play before and it is really disturbing.
Moreso than Cats?

I was in Israel interviewing Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin just before he was assassinated in 1995.
Buckle your seat belts people. This isn't your run of the mill name-drop.

I remember the ugly mood in Israel then — a mood in which extreme right-wing settlers and politicians were doing all they could to delegitimize Rabin, who was committed to trading land for peace as part of the Oslo accords.
Of course, in retrospect, the "extreme right-wing settlers" were pretty much on the ball. But we're not debating Israeli concessions, are we?

They questioned his authority. They accused him of treason. They created pictures depicting him as a Nazi SS officer, and they shouted death threats at rallies. His political opponents winked at it all.

You know where he's going with this. He knows you know where he's going with this. Why doesn't he just go already?

And in so doing they created a poisonous political environment that was interpreted by

Use of the passive voice is one way to make an untenable argument more palatable.

one right-wing Jewish nationalist as a license to kill Rabin — he must have heard, “God will be on your side” — and so he did.

Told you so. Incidentally, Friedman is presuming ignorance on our part. Yigal Amir (Rabin's assassin) himself organized protests, and his plan to assassinate Rabin had been hatched years prior. In fact, two previous attempts had failed. The Israeli secret service was aware of Amir's plans (which: problematic but irrelevant here), so it is not like some random loner heard the voice of God in unrelated protests and decided to do some killing.

Others have already remarked on this analogy,

So why are you writing this?

but I want to add my voice because the parallels to Israel then and America today turn my stomach:
I bet they do.

I have no problem with any of the substantive criticism of President Obama from the right or left.
Substantive criticism = criticism with which Thomas Friedman agrees. Anything less would be uncivilized.

Criticism from the far right has begun tipping over into delegitimation and creating the same kind of climate here that existed in Israel on the eve of the Rabin assassination.

Correlation is not causation, and deligitimation is not assassination.

What kind of madness is it that someone would create a poll on Facebook asking respondents, “Should Obama be killed?”

Pretty much run-of-the-mill madness.

The choices were: “No, Maybe, Yes, and Yes if he cuts my health care.” The Secret Service is now investigating.
Sounds like they're taking care of the problem. I've heard many a liberal friend wax philosophical on the merits of killing George W. People don't always think before they communicate. To which, why are you writing this article again?

I hope they put the jerk in jail and throw away the key because this is exactly what was being done to Rabin.

Rabin was the subject of a Facebook poll? What does the word "exactly" mean to Friedman?

Our leaders, even the president, can no longer utter the word “we” with a straight face. There is no more “we” in American politics at a time when “we” have these huge problems — the deficit, the recession, health care, climate change and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — that “we” can only manage, let alone fix, if there is a collective “we” at work.

It's a bit weird to bristle at being labeled a fascist, and in the same piece tout the empirical wisdom of collective action. That said, Friedman only began caring about "we" in January of this year. That makes him a hack, not a fascist.

Sometimes I wonder whether George H.W. Bush, president “41,” will be remembered as our last “legitimate” president.
There is no way in hell Friedman has ever wondered this.

The right impeached Bill Clinton and hounded him from Day 1 with the bogus Whitewater “scandal.” George W. Bush was elected under a cloud because of the Florida voting mess, and his critics on the left never let him forget it.

Cloud = bogus.

And Mr. Obama is now having his legitimacy attacked by a concerted campaign from the right fringe.
Incidentally, is there some set of talking points somewhere calling for use of the word "legitimacy"? All I hear is about how right-wing goons are attacking Obama's legitimacy. What does that mean? What is illegitimacy in this context?

They are using everything from smears that he is a closet “socialist”
So calling someone a socialist is delegitimizing? Also, why is the term in scare quotes, as though socialism isn't a real ideology to which many continue to adhere?

to calling him a “liar”...
If calling the president a liar is deligitimizing, we have never had a legitimate president.

And these attacks are not just coming from the fringe. Now they come from Lou Dobbs on CNN and from members of the House of Representatives.

Maybe this is because some of these attacks are, arguably, kinda true. Maybe he is more of a socialist than he is letting on, and is doing a bit of lying to sell his agenda as a bit more moderate than it actually is? Whether or not this is the case, arguing as much IS NOT TANTAMOUNT TO KILLING A SITTING PRESIDENT.

Again, hack away at the man’s policies and even his character all you want.
I cannot come up with a more prototypical example of hacking away at a man's character than calling him a liar. If this were Family Feud, and the survey question was "ways people hack at a man's character", accusing him of lying would score like 56, followed by accusing him of having an affair (23) and engaging in shady land deals (9), and openly mocking his VP (4).

I know politics is a tough business.

Right. Explains pretty much everything here. Obama's opponents are playing hardball and calling him a liar. You do not think he is a liar. Politics is tough. The end. Stop writing. Do it. Do it now.

We can’t go 24 years without a legitimate president — not without being swamped by the problems that we will end up postponing because we can’t address them rationally.
So drop Obama in 2012. By which I mean vote for someone else. If I encourage someone to vote for a candidate other than Barack Obama, am I obliquely arguing for his assassination, viz. deligitimizing? Discuss... I'll be eating nachos.

The American political system was, as the saying goes, “designed by geniuses so it could be run by idiots.”
Not really.

But a cocktail of political and technological trends have converged in the last decade that are making it possible for the idiots of all political stripes to overwhelm and paralyze the genius of our system.
Paralysis IS the genius of our sytem, you idiot.

Those factors are: the wild excess of money in politics;

the gerrymandering of political districts,
Hear, hear.
making them permanently Republican or Democratic and erasing the political middle;
Inherently false. If you create districts solely representing the far right or far left, you also, in the process, create districts that are distinctly centrist. Those centrist districts, then, hold tremendous sway over both houses of congress, thereby elevating the power of centrism.

a 24/7 cable news cycle that makes all politics a daily battle of tactics
Which is exactly what Friedman is doing in this piece. Maybe that's why he hates it so much.

that overwhelm strategic thinking; and a blogosphere that at its best enriches our debates, adding new checks on the establishment, and at its worst coarsens our debates to a whole new level, giving a new power to anonymous slanderers to send lies around the world.
A job once reserved solely for the New York Times.

Finally, on top of it all, we now have a permanent presidential campaign that encourages all partisanship, all the time among our leading politicians.

That's not "on top of" so much as it is "a function of". What does this have to do with assassinations? Why is he still writing?

I would argue that together these changes add up to a difference of degree that is a difference in kind — a different kind of American political scene that makes me wonder whether we can seriously discuss serious issues any longer and make decisions on the basis of the national interest.

I would argue that no reasonable person can make heads or tails of this sentence. It takes a certain kind of smug to write something so convoluted, much less send it to print. Yikes.

We can’t change this overnight, but what we can change, and must change, is people crossing the line between criticizing the president and tacitly encouraging the unthinkable and the unforgivable.

Which works out really well for whatever argument Friedman is making here, since one cannot prove that they are not tacitly encouraging anything. For all I know, he's tacitly encouraging sea monkeys to rise against their dolphin masters with this piece. He's not, but no more than conservative protesters are encouraging assassination.

I would tacitly encourage the New York Times to read this junk in light of the present value of its stock, and see if their might not be some sort of correlation. Deligitimizing indeed.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mark Morford Thinks I'm and Idiot

I cannot abide. This guy is a terrible writer, and not a thinker by any definition of the term.

There are three basic ways to talk to complete idiots.

I suppose.

The first is to assail them with facts, truths, scientific data, the commonsensical obviousness of it all.

That's not really a "way" to talk to someone, idiot or otherwise. This refers to the content of your message. Ideally, your content should be factual, regardless of tactic, eh?

You do this in the very reasonable expectation that it will nudge them away from the ledge of their more ridiculous and paranoid misconceptions because, well, they're facts, after all, and who can dispute those?

Misconceptions cannot, by definition, be "paranoid". Am I allowed to point out category errors while Morford points out "facts"? Is this an appropriate way for "idiots" to respond to their intellectual superiors?

Why, idiots can, that's who. It is exactly this sort of logical, levelheaded appeal to reason and mental acuity that's doomed to fail, simply because in the idiotosphere, facts are lies and truth is always dubious, whereas hysteria and alarmism resulting in mysterious undercarriage rashes are the only things to be relied upon.

Undercarriage rashes? Is this a reference to STDs? Dude, we in the "idiotosphere" don't typically spend our time worrying about that stuff. How about using a more familiar anecdote to describe our hysteria. Football comparisons are good. Googling "football wiki" will give you the basic background. The men wear form-fitting clothing. You'll dig it.


Yes please.


Scarcely necessary to innumerate, therefore.

You may, for instance, attempt to explain evolution to an extreme fundamentalist Christian.

You might explain to your editor why it's necessary to dredge up this old chestnut when you're 90 minutes from deadline and hungover. He just won't listen. Idiot. Write the column anyway.

You may offer up carbon dating, the fossil record, glaciers, any one of 10,000 irrefutable proofs.

Carbon dating is an "irrefutable proof"? Does Mark know what a "proof" is, or what irrefutability is? Or what carbon dating is?

You may even dare to talk about the Bible as the clever, completely manufactured, man-made piece of heavily politicized, massively edited, literary myth-making it so very much is, using all sorts of sound academic evidence and historical record.

Someone should massively edit this sentence. I mean, there are some pretty serious biblical scholars among us idiots. Do you really want to get in a shootout with this kinda sloppy writing? Of course you don't. That's why you write crappy opinion pieces in SF and get invited to cocktail parties by people who don't realize how utterly banal and unexceptional they are.

You are, of course, insane beyond belief to try this, but sometimes you just can't help it.

Whereas Mark, apparently, can help it just fine.

To the educated mind,

To the educated mind, it seems trifling to begin a paragraph with "To the educated mind."

it seems inconceivable that millions of people will choose rabid ignorance and childish fantasy over, say, a polar bear.

Really? A polar bear is preferable to the entirety of childish fantasy, as a concept? That's not what Mark meant, but that's what he wrote. Cause, you know, he's so smart he doesn't need to convey his point with any measure of clarity.

Permafrost. Rocks. Nag Hammadi.

When talking to an idiot, it is best to shout nouns at them.

Faced with this mountain of factual obviousness, the bewildered fundamentalist will merely leap back

In fairness, no Christian has ever seriously considered the question of rocks. A conundrum of this magnitude is beyond our ken. He's got us there.

as if you just jabbed him with a flaming homosexual cattle prod,

Mark Morford in a nutshell.

and then fall into a swoon about how neat it is that angels can fly.

It is pretty neat. They're everywhere and speak to us in puppy smiles and unicorn dreams. So you can keep your permafrost, Mr. Obviousness.

But it's not just the fundamentalists.

What, the angels thing? Correct. Almost everyone believes in angels, rendering irrelevant the above flight of rhetorical (non-)fancy.

This Rule of Idiocy also explains why, when you show certain jumpy, conservative Americans the irrefutable facts about, say, skyrocketing health care costs that are draining their bank accounts,

They will note that the present health care plan will do precisely nothing to alleviate those costs. That, Mark, is the argument. It's an irrefutable fact, even. Or is the Congressional Budget Office loaded with angel-believing idiots.

and then show how Obama's rather modest overhaul is meant to save members of all ages and genders and party affiliations a significant amount of money

So, what we idiots are supposed to do is ignore the facts, and look at the intentions. It doesn't matter whether Obama's modest overhaul cuts costs. All that matters is that he intends to do so. Obama can do it because he's Obama and you love him. That sounds a bit, I dunno, religious, eh Mark?

while providing basic insurance for their family, they, too, will scream and kick like a child made to eat a single bite of broccoli.

Again, like the STD thing, this isn't really in the idiotowheelhouse. Our kids eat their broccoli. We spank them if they don't, and send them to bed with their Rush Limbaugh stuffed animal. Use another example.

Remember, facts do not matter.

Apparently not.

The actual Obama plan itself does not matter.

Since, actually, there is no actual Obama plan.

Fear of change, fear of the "Other," fear of the scary black socialist president,

Oh good, the race card. Never saw that coming.

fear that yet another important shift is taking place that they cannot understand and which therefore makes them thrash around like a trapped animal?

Trapped animal is much better than the broccoli thing. Immediately after forcing our kids to eat broccoli, we teach them to hunt game, so they never have to eat broccoli again.

This is all that matters.

What is all that matters? My kingdom for an antecedent.

This is why, even when you whip out, say, a fresh article by the goodly old Washington Post

Not this one, though. We idiots don't approve of that kind of thing.

-- not exactly a bastion of lopsided liberalthink --

It is precisely a bastion of lopsided liberalthink.

Go ahead, try it. Or better yet, don't.

We've already read it, after all. We have the internets in the idiotosphere, thanks to rural electrification.

Option two is to try to speak their language, dumb yourself down, engage on the idiot's level as you try to figure out how their minds work
Using lots of commas, for example, in lieu of periods.

-- or more accurately, don't work --
This is pretty sophisticated, so I wanted to explain Mark's joke to my readers (most of whom are obviously idiots). Above, Mark evoked the colloquial use of "work" to abstractly define our thought process. Here, in a brilliant turn of phrase, he is recasting "work" in the literal sense. Literally, our brains don't work, and so you see how he has demeaned us with his flaming gay cattle prod of wit.

This is, as you already sense, a dangerous trap, pure intellectual quicksand. It almost never works, and just makes you feel gross and slimy.
Quicksand never works? That's how this is written. Again, I know what he means, but is his meaning really worth a response? This is a verbose way of saying conservatives are dumb. He made that argument with his (again, brilliant) "work" scenario.

Nevertheless, plenty of shrewd political strategists believe that the best way for Obama and the Dems to get their message across regarding everything from health care reform to new environmental regulation, would be to steal a page from the Glenn Beck/Karl Rove/sociopath's playbook, and start getting stupid.

Who believes this? How do they articulate this belief?

It's all about the bogus catchphrases, the sound bites, the emotional punches-to-the-gut.

Some shrewd political strategists suggest the use of catch phrases, a stylistic convention that was only introduced to political discourse in April of this year.

Death panels! Rationing! Fetus farms! Puppy shredders!

Rick Santorum earned a PETA endorsement for opposing puppy farms. Neither here nor there. Moving on.
Commie medicine! Gay apocalypse! Forced vaccinations!

We already have de facto forced vaccinations. Is it ridiculous to speculate that we will have what we presently have?

Exposed nipples during prime-time!

A Janet Jackson joke. That's keeping it current.

Let one of these inane, completely wrong but oh-so-haunting verbal ticks bite into the below-average American brainstem, and watch your cause bleed all over the headlines.

The brain stem regulates involuntary functions, such as breathing and heartbeat. Is Mark Morford suggesting conservatives are below average w/r/t brain stem functionality? Are we poor at regulating internal temperature? Did anything in Mark's illustrious understand the physiology of the brain stem?

The big snag here is that the Dems, unlike the Republican Party, aren't really beholden to a radical, mal-educated base of fundamentalist crazies to keep them afloat.
Present authorship excluded.

Truly, the political success of the liberal agenda does not depend on the irrational, Bible-crazed "value voter" who's terrified of gays, believes astronomy is a hoax and thinks Jesus spoke perfect English and really liked giving hugs.

Quick comment. If any side is guilty of labeling Jesus as a treacly hug-giver, it is the left. I mean, wouldn't you agree?

In other words, there really is little point in the liberals adopting this strategy, save for the fact that the major media eats it up and it might serve to counterbalance some of the more ridiculous conservative catchphrases.
Liberals cannot demonstrate success using catchphrases. No they can't!

What's more, it could also give the whiny, bickering Dems something slightly cohesive to rally around -- because the truth is, the Democratic Party isn't all that bright, either.

I emphatically agree on this count.

And now we come to option three, easily the finest and most successful approach of all. Alas, it also remains the most difficult to pull off. No one is exactly sure why.
I haven't read it yet, but I can tell you the reason it won't work is that it ignores political reality.

The absolute best way to speak to complete idiots is, of course, not to speak to them at all.

This ignores political reality.

That is, you work around them, ignore them completely, disregard the rants and the spittle and the misspelled protest signs and the fervent prayers for apocalypse on Fox News.

And then the idiots get together and vote you out of office. We are able to find the voting booths by dressing up has crazy homeless people until an Acorn representative spots us and gives us a ride. That's why the exit polling data is skewed. But hey, free whiskey!

Complete refusal to take the fringe nutballs even the slightest bit seriously is the only way to make true progress.
Have fun with that.

This also happens to be the invaluable advice of one Frank Schaeffer, noted author and a former fundamentalist nutball himself, who made a simply superb appearance on Rachel Maddow's show recently, wherein he offered up one of the most articulate, fantastic takedowns of the fundamentalist idiot's mindset in recent history. It's a must-watch. Do it. Do it now.
Advice to TPWK readers. Don't do it, now or in the future. Schaeffer's a dud.

Now, you may argue that, while Schaeffer may be dead right and also rather deserving of being quoted far and wide, it's also true that calling people stupid is no way to advance the debate,

Which, how could it be?

and is itself rather childish and stupid. And you'd be absolutely right.

So what have we learned, Mark?

When you ignore the idiots completely, you are not calling them anything at all.
Correct. And, as an added benefit, you are not calling them idiots.

You are not trying to advance any sort of argument, because there is no debate taking place.

That explains this piece.

You are simply bypassing the giant pothole of ignorance entirely.
No, not necessarily.

You are not kowtowing to the least educated of your voting bloc, like the GOP is so desparetely [sic] fond of doing.

First of all, the word Mark is looking for is "notoriously." Second, he incorrectly spelled his incorrectly used term. Third, he misused the term "bloc". All of this in the process of citing my lack of education.

I'm done.

Monday, September 28, 2009

How could I not?

I mean, really...

Background: Roman Polanski raped a child. He admitted to having done so, and fled the country before sentencing. Moving on...

Of all nations, why was it Switzerland -- the country that traditionally guarded the secret bank accounts of international criminals and corrupt dictators -- that finally decided to arrest Roman Polanski?

Who cares? Also, since when is a question a thesis statement?

There must be some deeper story here, because by any reckoning the decision was bizarre

By any reckoning? Seriously, there is NO non-bizarre reckoning by which one could discern it would be a good thing to arrest a confessed child rapist?

though not nearly as bizarre as the fact that a U.S. judge wants to keep pursuing this case after so many decades.

Completely bizarre, this whole idea that one should eventually go to prison for crimes, and that a judge would have any role in his pursuit.

Here are some of the facts: Polanski's crime -- statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl

Kind of a biggie.

The girl, now 45,

Note to woman who were raped in the 1970s... Get over yourselves. You are so old now.

has said more than once that she forgives him,

Unlike you lousy 1970s rape victims. Get on the boat, Mrs. Victimy McVictimstatus.

that she can live with the memory,

After all, you lived this long with your memory... Your very existence is proof that your rapist is innocent. This reasoning is not completely insane, somehow, I assure you.

that she does not want him to be put back in court or in jail, and that a new trial will hurt her husband and children.

And, by the way, don't you dare have the temerity to bring it up, all these decades later. Think about your family. Do you want to embarrass them by having some guy who raped you sent to prison.

There is evidence of judicial misconduct in the original trial.

Which isn't relevant considering the facts of the case are not in dispute.

There is evidence that Polanski did not know her real age.
After all, 1970s rape victims, you pretty much brought it on yourself, what with the makeup and all.

Also, I should point out that there is not such evidence. Applebaum just made this up.

Polanski, who panicked and fled the U.S. during that trial

Having raped a child and having confessed to the act.

has been pursued by this case for 30 years, during which time he has never returned to America,

You see? He didn't even want to be arrested! Let's just leave him alone.

He did commit a crime,

Gotta love the indefinite article.

but he has paid for the crime in many, many ways:

He couldn't even attend the Oscars. Poor sap.

In notoriety, in lawyers' fees, in professional stigma.

None of which constitutes a prison sentence, but whatever... I mean, the dude directs movies people.

He could not return to Los Angeles to receive his recent Oscar.

Wow, I was just kidding about the Oscar thing. Like, honest to God, I am parsing this as I go along, and I honestly did not think the author would cite the inability to attend the Academy Awards as a parcel of a suitable punishment for the offense of child rape.

He can be blamed,

He sure can...

it is true, for his original, panicky decision to flee.

But certainly not for having raped a child. Which, again, he totally did.

But for this decision I see mitigating circumstances, not least an understandable fear of irrational punishment.

What constitutes "irrational" punishment in this case? If it were my kid, I'd be compelled to jaunt to Europe and go "irrational" on his ass.

Polanski's mother died in Auschwitz.

Having not raped a single child.

His father survived Mauthausen.

Ditto. Incidentally, could an Israelite, fed up by anger at denials of the Holocaust, kill an Iranian and get of scot free, in Applebaum's world? Just curious. Well, no I am not. The answer is "no".

He himself survived the Krakow ghetto, and later emigrated from communist Poland.

After which he raped another human being.

His pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, was murdered in 1969 by the followers of Charles Manson, though for a time Polanski himself was a suspect.

Which, in retrospect, doesn't seem all that unreasonable, given his confessed behavior thereafter.

I am certain there are many who will harrumph that, following this arrest, justice was done at last.

Listen lady, my dad is in jail in spite of having not done what Polanski is accused of having done. That dude (Polanski) is wasting our time and corroding our sense of justice. If that is "harrumphing", label me the king of harrumph.

But Polanski is 76.

Good point. He should also be charged with evading arrest for several decades.

To put him on trial or keep him in jail does not serve society in general or his victim in particular.

Hypocrisy (viz. differing standards for famous people) serves society in general? If Polanski hadn't directed films, he'd be rotting in prison, or dead.

Nor does it prove the doggedness and earnestness of the American legal system.


If he weren't famous, I bet no one would bother with him at all.

Because he'd be in prison, having raped a child.

Anne Applebaum is a Washington Post contributer. Full disclosure: Applebaum's husband is the foreign minister for Poland, and has long sought Polanski's release.

That wasn't in there, but I thought I'd pretend, for a moment, that the Washington Post had a shred of journalistic integrity.

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Monday Musings - Rainy Day Edition

The old snoring man was found by his grandson, lying in a pool of his own blood. Cursed raining and pouring. Let's muse.

In response to criticisms that they ignored the ACORN story, the New York Times offers this:

Jill Abramson, the managing editor for news, agreed with me that the paper was “slow off the mark,” and blamed “insufficient tuned-in-ness to the issues that are dominating Fox News and talk radio.” She and Bill Keller, the executive editor, said last week that they would now assign an editor to monitor opinion media and brief them frequently on bubbling controversies.

Alternately, they could hire journalists whose job it is to discover and report news on their very own. And, seriously, nobody at the NYT's political desk visits Real Clear Politics?

Even more alternately, the NYT could just confess what any reasonable would conclude, which is that it has a political agenda, and will use its pages to advance that agenda. Doing so would not preclude the from its usual business of producing error-ridden obits and plagiarizing.


Barack Obama wants our kids to go to school for a longer period of time. Allegedly, this is to help our children compete with children abroad.

This initiative (or distraction, or whatever it is) plays off the myth that foreign students (Asians in particular), spend all of their time in school. It is also utter nonsense, and Obama knows this. The real goal is to make it more difficult for private, parochial, and home-based schools to function.

This is priority number one for an educational bureaucracy which, to date, has yet to show even the slightest inclination toward giving two figs about how our students compare to those in Japan.


I should note (as does the article) that studies do indicate more time spent on hard subjects (math in particular) improves cognitive function. Perhaps our schools would do well to focus on this, instead of, you know.


So Iran is teaching Venezuela how to detect uranium. Fortunately for us, we have a president who likes press conferences, so everything will probably work out. Maybe he can give a speech, encouraging the Iranians to extend their schoolday.


If I were an elected Democrat, defending the president against charges that he is a socialist, I wouldn't be all that thrilled at the prospect of a Michael Moore anti-capitalism movie right about now. At least Moore had the good sense not to release it in an election year.


Speaking of terrible movies, Sunshine Cleaners is one. A cheap coalition of idiosyncracy, quirky indie-flick memes, and unearned payoffs.

One scene as synopsis: The lead female character (Amy Adams), a single mom who is having an affair (natch) goes to buy a van. Her son notices a CB radio in the van, and inquires. The van salesman explains that if you hit a button, your voice goes up to heaven.

You think you know where this is going. The son later uses the CB radio to ask God questions. Yep, but in case you didn't get it the first time, we get another scene with Adams using the radio to talk to her dead mother. Awful. Just awful. I hated this movie.


Now that I'm back in town, I can eat at restaurants. To that end, I could take or leave the Girvan Grille. Located at a golf course in Brooklyn Park, it evokes the clubby feel of a hotel restaurant. The menu is unfocused, and my curry shrimp lacked kick, though I did quite like the chili. It's a small step above Houlihans, so if you are in the area, it won't hurt.


Alright, that's all. Stop looking at me.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

It's Easy Being Green, but It Takes Gall to be Paul

I don't even need to read all of this to know it's going to be stupid. Next week TPWK will go back to it's normally scheduled programming (intermittent posts with ironic pictures of squirrels). For now, let's take on everyone's favorite prize-winning hack.

Title: It’s Easy Being Green

See what I mean, people? The title of this piece is a hackneyed Kermit the Frog reference. Your New York Times, ladies and gentlemen.

So, have you enjoyed the debate over health care reform?


Have you been impressed by the civility of the discussion and the intellectual honesty of reform opponents?


If so, you’ll love the next big debate: the fight over climate change.

I'm revving up for a dose of intellectual honesty right now, which I will receive when I read an entirely different editorial.

The House has already passed a fairly strong cap-and-trade climate bill, the Waxman-Markey act, which if it becomes law would eventually lead to sharp reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr. Intellectually honest is also going to mention the economic costs, what with him being an economist and all, right?

But on climate change, as on health care, the sticking point will be the Senate. And the usual suspects are doing their best to prevent action.

And, if this bill passes, there will be quite a few more suspects elected to office in 2010. Oh, and it's not as though Krugman is going to break the mold here.

Some of them still claim that there’s no such thing as global warming, or at least that the evidence isn’t yet conclusive.

And the usual suspects will find it sufficient simply to discredit this lone argument when advancing a bill that will cost trillions of dollars and do next to nothing to impact global warming.

But that argument is wearing thin — as thin as the Arctic pack ice,

He's here all week folks.

which has now diminished to the point that shipping companies are opening up new routes through the formerly impassable seas north of Siberia.

Sounds good.

So the main argument against climate action probably won’t be the claim that global warming is a myth.

Good thing you devoted half your column to it, then.

It will, instead, be the argument that doing anything to limit global warming would destroy the economy.

That's because doing "anything" actually means doing "something", and that "something" is a stupid cap and trade bill that will cost trillions of dollars.

As the blog Climate Progress puts it,

Yeah, let's let a left wing blog speak for conservatives. That's fair.

opponents of climate change legislation “keep raising their estimated cost of the clean energy and global warming pollution reduction programs like some out of control auctioneer.”

Reason: The proposed fixes get more expensive. Like the Cap and Trade proposal, which will cost trillions.

It’s important, then, to understand that claims of immense economic damage from climate legislation are as bogus, in their own way, as climate-change denial.

The way in which they are bogus is to be not particularly bogus at all.

Saving the planet won’t come free (although the early stages of conservation actually might). But it won’t cost all that much either. How do we know this?

By considering the argument obliquely and pretending to have made a comprehensive case against it? Cause, that's what you're going to do in 3... 2... 1...

First, the evidence suggests that we’re wasting a lot of energy right now.

Blastoff. He has a point, though. Just yesterday I poured gasoline on my ferns just to watch them die. In retrospect, I suppose I didn't HAVE to do that.

That is, we’re burning large amounts of coal, oil and gas in ways that don’t actually enhance our standard of living — a phenomenon known in the research literature as the “energy-efficiency gap.”

Is Krugman going to augment this assertion with anything other than the fact that "the literature" has a name for it?

The existence of this gap suggests that policies promoting energy conservation could, up to a point, actually make consumers richer.

So, no, we're not going to see any evidence. Well, then allow me to rebut his assertion with logic. If the price of resources has failed to assuage "wastful" energy usage, then there is no compelling reason to think increased prices will do so, at least not in the long term.

Earlier this month, the Congressional Budget Office released an analysis of the effects of Waxman-Markey, concluding that in 2020 the bill would cost the average family only $160 a year, or 0.2 percent of income.

Horsefeathers. The CBO estimates that tax credits in the amount of $161 for a single person and $359 for a family of five will be distributed to the bottom 20% of wage earners, and that this number will rise by 75%, to $280-$630, in 2019.

This amount is meant to offset the lost purchasing power of the BOTTOM 20%. The average family has 3.14 people, so let's say that represents the median expenditure. The average middle class family makes about twice what a 20th percentile family makes. By my estimate, that would put the average cost per family at $900 per year.

Maybe Republicans wouldn't call Democrats liars if they didn't, you know, lie. It's also worth noting that the CBO estimates that this bill will reduce carbon emissions by all of 2%. That's $900, per family, for a 2% change.

By 2050, when the emissions limit would be much tighter, the burden would rise to 1.2 percent of income.

This proportionally correct. In other words, Krugman is right that the bill will cost six times as much in 2050 as it does in 2020, which, per above, is $5,400 per family.

But the budget office also predicts that real G.D.P. will be about two-and-a-half times larger in 2050 than it is today, so that G.D.P. per person will rise by about 80 percent.

In real dollars, then, we are looking (optimistically) at $2,200 per family to (realistically) $3,000 per family.

The cost of climate protection would barely make a dent in that growth.
Because Paul says so.

And all of this, of course, ignores the benefits of limiting global warming.
Which this bill will not do to any discernible degree (pun intended).

So where do the apocalyptic warnings about the cost of climate-change policy come from?


Are the opponents of cap-and-trade relying on different studies that reach fundamentally different conclusions? No, not really.
We're just accurately reporting what the data says, rather than taking one piece of data, and applying it to a fundamentally different demographic, and pretending that cherry picked demographic is representative of the whole. Shame on us.

It’s true that last spring the Heritage Foundation put out a report claiming that Waxman-Markey would lead to huge job losses, but the study seems to have been so obviously absurd that I’ve hardly seen anyone cite it.

The "literature" doesn't even have a term for it, so it can't be true.

Instead, the campaign against saving the planet rests mainly on lies.

Paul has tipped his toe in the data, and found it to be a bit cold. Cue Glenn Beck reference in 3... 2... 1...

Thus, last week Glenn Beck — who seems to be challenging Rush Limbaugh for the role of de facto leader of the G.O.P. —
That's some compelling analysis there, champ.

informed his audience of a “buried” Obama administration study showing that Waxman-Markey would actually cost the average family $1,787 per year. Needless to say, no such study exists.
Except for the CBO thing.

But we shouldn’t be too hard on Mr. Beck. Similar — and similarly false — claims about the cost of Waxman-Markey have been circulated by many supposed experts.

Paul Krugman = Supposed Expert
A year ago I would have been shocked by this behavior.
Instead of being shocked, maybe our Nobel economist would like to take the time to explain how a $900 billion bill can cost $160 per year, per family. I mean, God forbid we'd ask him to do the hard work of fisking a press release before regurgitating it. That's what they pay bloggers for.

But as we’ve already seen in the health care debate, the polarization of our political discourse has forced self-proclaimed “centrists” to choose sides —
What does this have to do with anything?

and many of them have apparently decided that partisan opposition to President Obama trumps any concerns about intellectual honesty.

Can't... Type... Fists... Curling into... Ball... At... Hypocrisy... Rage... Building...

So here’s the bottom line:
Yes, Paul. You've offered so much detailed, factual analysis here, and have made such a comprehensive case, that it is imperative, for us naifs I mean, for you to distill its essence.

The claim that climate legislation will kill the economy deserves the same disdain as the claim that global warming is a hoax.

Oh, you're summarizing by repeating the same assertion you made over and over in your op-ed.

The truth about the economics of climate change is that it’s relatively easy being green.

Just as long as you're full of brown.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Waxing Esoteric on the Environment

Brian McLaren offers a theological case for creation care. As you might guess, it’s embarrassing. It's also an indication that the Dems are asking their flacks to Jesus it up on the environment, so I'm guessing we're going to see another push on cap and trade. Anyway, here's Brian.

What could be more joyful than rediscovering our God-given role as caretakers, stewards, and lovers of creation?

Off the top of my head: raising children, getting married, having sex, driving an Infinity, watching basketball, eating foie gras, singing, dancing, and playing guitar hero.

What could be more sad and tragic than missing that dimension of life — linking the human parts of God’s creation with the rest?

Off the top of my head: cancer, starvation, murder, rape, holocausts, the Detroit Lions, the inexplicable existence of Embers restaurants.

Here are seven first steps that I recommend to all of us who want to re-enter our primal (and deeply fulfilling) role as caretakers of God’s beautiful world.

Which definition of “primal” is McLaren using here? Does he use it to mean primitive? Nothing primitive is deeply fulfilling. Does he use it to mean “most important”? That’s just ridiculous.

1. Develop a theology of creation. Sadly, many of us have a gospel of evacuation and abandonment, leaving behind creation to be destroyed so our souls can be beamed up to heaven as soon as possible.

Vintage McLaren. Take a ludicrously untenable theological position, and attribute it to “many of us”. “Many” could mean 5, or 23.

(2) How sad if we worship God within a construction of human doctrines and within man-made walls and ceilings … and never worship God within a forest of trees or under a canopy of stars or with a choir of singing birds, crickets, and tree frogs!

Are human doctrines (whatever the hell that means) allowed in the forests? What about a copy of Everything Must Change?

3. Learn the threats to creation. They are many, and they are complex, and they are interwoven and mutually reinforcing. And we are complicit in nearly all of them.

In other words, learn that other people (but not you, and certainly not McLaren) are the threat to creation.

4. Adjust your lifestyle to creation.

By traveling around the world in jets, printing lots of books, living in a large suburban house, but also using fluorescent light bulbs and recycling. God prefers meaningful symbolic gestures to real, life changing action.

In the Genesis story, part of Adam and Eve “wanting to be like gods” must surely involve wanting to transcend our God-given role as creatures in an environment.

Nope. It surely involves knowing good and evil. I know this because the Bible says so explicitly. That’s the nice thing about scripture. It is made up of words that address various topics, thereby allowing us to discern answers to spiritual questions. We don’t have to make it up as we go along.

We are as connected to habitats of soil, water, air, grass, and trees as are gazelles and lions, dragonflies and mockingbirds.

The Bible says the opposite. In fact, just about any religion teaches the opposite.

We have been living in a fantasy world for centuries, forgetting that we are woven in a fabric of creation …

Silly us.

Doing so will be a lifelong task. It will involve personal action (changing light bulbs, recycling, composting, driving less and driving wiser, applying new technologies, etc.),

And you thought I was kidding about the light bulb thing.

5. Choose a part of creation in which to specialize.

Light bulbs, for example.

God loves birds … you can join God. God loves flowers and deserts and wetlands and sea turtles … you can join God.

Wait, God loves deserts? I don’t think God loves deserts. That’s why he put snakes and scorpions there.

God knows the potential of wind and hydrogen and solar energy to help us live more wisely — you can join God.

God has a peculiar way of showing this, what with the easy accessibility of tons and tons of oil, which can be mined and refined using elementary technologies.

We can’t all know everything,

And if we did, it wouldn’t matter, because everything must change.

6. Start with your environmental address. A zip code is just so mail can find you. Your real address is a watershed … a place on the planet where you consume, pollute, garden, tend, and care.

Like, dude, the government tries to define you, man, with your addresses and zip codes. That just what the man uses to control you, so they can find you and tell you what to think. Man, !@#$ zip codes!

We all have to care for the whole planet, but we each must care especially for our own ecological neighborhood. Here’s a place to start learning

Ugh. I thought this watershed nonsense was just some stupid emergent idea. Alas, my tax dollars are paying for it. This is why I vote Republican, people.

Ironically, the first thing the EPA asks for in order to find my watershed is my, um, zip code. Let’s see, according to the EPA, my watershed is the “Twin Cities”. That was worth my time.

7. Advocate for creation everywhere.

Not if I want to have the best watershed. Take care of your own damn watershed.

Birds don’t get to vote. Neither do streams or salamanders.

The injustice of it all.

Corporations are given legal status and protection, but most forests aren’t (maybe they should be?).

They are.

If birds and soil and trees and wind are going to be given a voice in life-and-death decisions made by humans, people like you and me are going to have to add-our-voice (advocate) on their behalf.

If the bird chirping outside my window could talk, he would be saying “I want sex! I want sex now! I demand sex! Some other bird have sex with me! Any bird. I need sex! Sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex!

That voice will speak in voting, but also in church, and in the office and classroom, and around the dinner table.

Awesome, I hope my church is ready. I am going to get this bird laid.

We can’t just speak with a kind of guilt-inducing duty; we must also speak with love.

Or condescension. Whatever works.

Because we love the spring peepers and spotted salamanders, we must speak up when another shopping mall is going to bury another vernal pool.

Because people prefer spring peepers and spotted salamanders to having a job and a place to buy groceries, so this will be a pretty effective argument.

And these things are not simply a duty, but a true joy.

The title of McLaren's next book should be Joyful Demagoguery.

The threats and urgency of the moment can be truly overwhelming, but the Spirit of creation that hovered over the surface of the waters in Genesis 1 is still alive, stirring hearts to rediscover a truly human way of living in God’s beautiful green world.

McLaren performs a bit of rhetorical jujitsu to square his (competing) liberal positions. I love how the people who ostensibly care the most about God’s creation cannot bring themselves to concede that it is, in fact, a creation.

Also, his article doesn’t say anything, and so is a waste of electricity. How many salamanders have to die before McLaren gives up being a hack?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Kathy Clay-Little Wishes She Knew Little (And Gets Her Wish)

To my Republican readers: We are still racists. According to this clown, at least.

Right-wingers won. Tens of thousands of school children who could ill afford to lose, lost. Bullying and braying their way through the right-wing radio, the internet and cable television, right wingers succeeded in influencing practically every school district in the San Antonio area not to air President Barack Obama’s speech to the nation’s school children.

Instead, these poor students had to learn from their stupid teachers. Who wants that?

Their argument that the speech was designed to indoctrinate school children with the president’s “liberal agenda” did not hold water,

Neither does your argument that students who cannot afford to lose somehow lost something. Really, it was a banal speech on the importance of working hard. It was INTENDED to indoctrinate school children, but that portion was dropped amidst much bullying.

but area school superintendents caved, most opting to post their speech on their websites.

To which nobody has access.

Consequently, students who would benefit most from learning from the president’s empowering words on attaining success were also the most likely to not to [sic] be exposed.

Instead, they learned about meaningless crap like triangles.

An honest assessment of those protesting the president speaking to students will almost surely find a great divide between them and the families of this city when it comes to home access to computers.

Which is irrelevant, since nobody was really interested in the speech anyway.

The same goes for the drop-out rate.

Which will remain unimpacted by Obama's speech.

Black and brown students especially needed to hear Obama’s message, one that could put them on the road that, for many of them, has been less traveled.

Or, they could have skipped class, which is probably what they did anyway.

As politically incorrect as it is to admit, the reality is that this country is still divided between them and us, and just as the ‘thems’ put their political interests first, those who are ‘us’ must put their children’s future success first.

Actually, this statement pretty much reflects the essence of political correctness.

In times like these, one wishes that one knew less about people like the South Carolina congressman who shouted “You lie!’ [sic] as Obama made a speech to Congress, the first time that most Americans have seen such a blatant disrespect of any president and the presidency.

Excepting those times when presidents were, you know, SHOT.

The relatively obscure Joe Wilson’s intemperate outburst made him the right-wing talking heads’ darling of the moment and enriched his campaign coffers by over $1 million in a single weekend.

He was nobody's darling of the moment. Kathy is making stuff up.

While it would be a stretch to label Wilson’s outburst as hate speech,

Good. Reasonable. Sensible.

it would not be unfair to label the comment as a sinister effort on the part of some right-wing conservatives to wrap themselves in the American flag and lay the groundwork for the kind of hate that killed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy to fester.

Unhinged. Ignorant. Crazy.

I would not expect Kathy to know this, but JFK and RFK were shot by left-wing extremists. Also, laying the sinister groundwork for assassination is more fair than labeling something as hate speech? Also, if you are in the business of laying sinister groundwork, why do you immediately apologize to the president after calling him a liar? Also, why is someone who thinks like this allowed to opine in a major daily?

Wilson’s colleague in the House of Representatives, South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn aptly characterized the outburst as an effort to “deligitimize” Obama’s presidency.

So what?

If the presidency is ultimately deligitimized and Obama comes to fatal harm, a certain segment of America will Twitter at his funeral and feel good about it.

Yes, Republicans are all hoping the president will die simply so we can have the opportunity to Twitter his funeral. This is a nuanced perspective. Good analysis, Kathy.

New York Times columnist Maureed [sic] Dowd underscored Clyburn’s point, noting, “Some people just can’t believe a black man is president and will never accept it.”

That really didn't have anything to do with Clyburn's point.

Despite attempts by Wilson admirers to dismiss Clyburn and Dowd’s observations as liberal grousing,

Which it is. By the way, Kathy hasn't mentioned the confederate flag thing...

knowing that Wilson led a fight less than 10 years ago to fly the Confederate flag over his state’s Capitol building and held membership in a group called Sons of the Confederate veterans,

Ah, there it is. Rep. Clyburn voted to continue federally funding ACORN after the organization was caught offering advice to an undercover reporter who wanted a solution for underage Ecuadorian prostitutes... And that was last week. See? Black people have bad ideas, too.

says something about Wilson that Americans who want to believe we’ve turned a corner wish they didn’t know.

There is a lot that Kathy wishes she didn't know. Maybe that explains why she doesn't seem to know anything.

Kathy Clay-Little is publisher of African American Reflections.

Indeed she is. For more on what Kathy wished she didn't know, read this. Yikes.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Monday Musings

Back from Michigan Sprinklejoys. Time for angry musingslaps.

A latent observation on the Kanye West thing: Kanye's earlier albums professed his Christian faith. Kanye was even so bold as to lament the fact that we can talk about anything other then Jesus on the airwaves.

Much is made of Christians who are an embarrassment to their fellow believers. Pat Robertson is a favorite target, and rightly so, but so are politicians, rock stars, and other people who just happen to have strong opinions about the bible (John Piper, for example) or fall off the wagon, so to speak (Creed). They are dismissed as arrogant, self-serving, hypocritical etc...

So why doesn't this apply to Kanye West, who famously excoriated President Bush for, well, whatever it was that makes Kanye mad? Isn't he an embarrassment to Christians? Shouldn't we blush when his name is brought up? Why not?


For the record, we should not, nor should we feel in any way accountable for the actions of Pat Robertson. But I'm just sayin'...


Anyone wondering where all the stimulus money should take a stab at driving through Illinois. Traffic is at a standstill, and those creepy "putting Americans to work" signs abound. Barack has done well by the people of his state... On our dime.

Extra stupid: The signs refer to the full name of the stimulus bill: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. That requires a pretty large sign. A private company would have used short hand to cut down on costs, or eschewed unnecessary signage altogether.


Jim Wallis follows up a stupid article with a tacky one. Glenn Beck, whom Wallis obviously despises, has a daughter with cerebral palsy. Beck has also made the case the a federal bureaucracy would deem his daughter unfit to continue to receive health care.

Instead of taking on the merits of this argument, Wallis dismisses them out right, and urges Huffington Post readers to pray for Glenn Beck... Oh, and to call him and tell him to choose hope over fear.


Also, anyone whose demeanor toward federal government is one of hope rather than fear understands neither history nor our constitution. I won't even bring the Bible into this (Wallis never does). What's the word the kids use these days? Fantard? Wallis is an Obama fantard.


A tour of Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan is enough to make me thankful for Tim Pawlenty the way visiting a third world nation makes you thankful for bread.


How about them Lions?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Jim Wallis - In All Honesty

You know what? When you're on the road, and you haven't blogged in 48 hours, sometimes it's nice to have an old standby to kick around. Someone so reliably inane and demagogic that they provide instant material for phoners-in such as myself.

In other words, thank God for Jim Wallis, the Pat Robertson of the left. Oh, his piece about racism. Again. Seriously. Enjoy.

Title: What?! Racism Still in America?

I cannot respect people who use a quotation mark and exclamation point in succession for the purpose of emphasizing sarcasm.

Here we go again.

I was thinking the same thing.

Some people raise the issue of race (this time about the ways others are talking about or treating the first black U.S. president) and the media goes crazy.

You know, columnists these days are really defining downward the term "crazy". Many outlets covered, and even opined, in response to a former president labeling those in opposition to the current president as racist. This is a crazy thing to do? Really?

Also, why is that parenthetical a parenthetical? You can put the crux of your sentence in parenthesis.

“What racism?” many of the pundits cry. “Didn’t we just elect this black guy president?” (Implying “Doesn’t that prove that racism is over in America?”)

Demagoguery 101: Always hate on pundits. Pundits are the worst people on Earth. Pundits break into our childrens' rooms at night to give them autism. Pundits suck.

Also, Jim Wallis has gleaned an implied meaning from a quote he made up himself. Now that's what I call a straw man.

So let’s all just take a breath here, as we always need to do when talking about race in the U.S.

Except when we level the initial charge of racism. By all means, throw caution to the !@#$ing wind when doing that.

A few simple points:

What follows is are neither simple nor "points".

That a still majority white U.S. would elect a black man as head of state was stunning to many — and, I must admit, to me.

We were in a position as a country to do so decades ago. That Wallis is stunned says something about his assumptions.

Frankly, it made me think that the country was better than I thought it was.

This reminds me of the Simpson's flashback episode where Artie Ziff condescendingly congratulates the class on electing their intellectual superior as prom king. "Good for you".

Second, the majority of Americans, and even of white Americans — whether they voted for Obama or not — seemed to feel proud and positive that the nation had finally reached this amazing milestone.

Wallis' second point is that he really has no point.

The new president’s approval rating climbed up to 70% in the week after the inauguration, which obviously meant that even some of those who voted against him were impressed by how he was handling his job at the outset.

No, it obviously did not mean that. It obviously meant that, as it has been with every president, the populace was giving him a chance to sink or swim. He sank.

To disagree with a black president on policy questions does not mean that you are racist.

Great, thanks for playing.

But fourth — and importantly — there was, and is still, a hard core of racially-motivated white people in this nation who did vote against Obama because he is black, and who virulently oppose him as president because he is black. And that racist core of angry white Americans resides on the extreme political right of U.S. politics.

This is a canard. "Hard core racially-motivated white people" vote across the spectrum. By and large, they tend to be populists. There are lots of racist union employees, I assure you, and plenty of racists voted FOR Obama because it was in their (near-sighted, ignorant) best interests to do so.

The Far Right in America have never supported racial equality.
Here's the part of Wallis' spiel where he expands the definition of "far right" (no need for caps) to include as many Republicans as possible. Civil Rights act time...

Their political representatives voted against both the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965, and most have never repented for it.

A) It wasn't a sin to oppose either.

B) Most pols have capitulated on the issue. Most notably Goldwater. Also Nixon. Many more. Wallis is making things up.

And, let’s be honest,

Why start now?

the loudest voices of right-wing talk radio and cable television appeal directly to that core with subtle and not-so-subtle racial messages, as has the right wing of the Republican Party for many years.

A bold claim. Let's hear some examples, starting with the "not-so-subtle" racial messages. What were they?

If you were paying attention,

Which, if the examples were not subtle, should not have been necessary.

you could see signs of that underlying racism at the most heated town meetings this summer.

What were those signs? Again, you mentioned not-so-subtle ones. How about some concrete...

Of course, not everybody who attended, or even was mad about health care or the government at those meetings, is a racist — most of those people weren’t, but some of them clearly are.

And this is clear because of the following examples...

There were blatant signs of racism at some of the town meetings and, indeed, many signs that carried overtly racial messages.

Which ones? How about 3-5 examples of not-so-subtle signs that clearly reflected racial animus. You know what? Let's start with one. Give us one example.

I see those racial subtexts in the intensity of the attacks on Obama — not in the disagreements per se, but in the viciousness of the rhetoric.

Okay, we're moving past the signs. That's cool. It's not really about signs anyway. Let's delve into some of the more obvious examples of vicious racial rhetoric. I don't know how subtext can be not-so-subtle, by definition, but whatev...

Racism is often about disrespect, and many African-American citizens are now feeling that the black president in the White House is being disrespected.

You see what Wallis did here? Because "many" African-American citizens feel that the black president has been disrespected, and because racism is "often" about disrespect, it is therefore valid to attach racial overtones to any and all criticisms of our president. That's why they call them weasel words, folks.

I also see it in supporters of the new “birthers” movement, who try to stir up doubts about Obama’s citizenship.

I could thus far summarize Wallis' piece as follows:

Republicans are racists. They are racist in different ways. How they talk and act, for example. For example, birthers, who are so racist that I don't even need to explain myself.

I see it in the furor over the president speaking to the nation’s schoolchildren about studying and working hard.

He sees racism in clothing choices. Why do Republicans wear khakis? He sees racism in how white people hunt deer. Also in the way they brush their teeth, eat, drive their automobiles, change their children's diapers, purchase electronics, complete their homework, burp and dust their coffee tables.

And, agree with me or not,

I emphatically do not.

I saw it in the disrespect shown toward a black president by a white Congressman from the South,

And dissent from the South is particularly racist. Cause, you know, the South. Racist. They burp racist in the South.

whose less than enthusiastic apologies have now turned him into a fund-raising martyr,

Demagoguery 202: Throw a lot of buzzwords into a sentence that isn't actually a sentence. What Wallis means is that Joe Wilson's apologies were, in his eyes, unenthusiastic, and that he has been perceived as a sort of martyr, thereby yielding fundraising dollars.

cheered on by a defiant rebel yell against the man (or is it “boy”?) in the White House.

Wallis was so excited to accuse others of calling Obama a "boy" that he completely forgot to include a subject for his verb. Who was cheered on by a rebel yell? Wilson? But then, who was doing the cheering? Wallis is throwing gasoline on a word salad. He seems to have set himself on fire.

We have all witnessed or experienced situations where someone has “played the race card” in inappropriate or unfair ways.

I humbly submit exhibit A.

And racism is not the cause or explanation of every social problem.

Demagoguery 303: After making a blanket assessment of something, claim that you are not, in fact, making a blanket assessment. Then resume making blanket assessments.

Nor are legitimately different points of view obvious signs of racism.

Additional meaningless qualifier.

Does Wallis know that he accused Obama's opposition of referring to him as a "boy"? Doesn't that deserve, if not an explanation, a sentence written in English? Shouldn't you be careful when you put something like on the internet? Isn't that part and parcel of the whole "take a deep breath" thing?

President Obama has not played the race card,

He has his shills do it for him.

But let’s be honest.

Oh, we're doing the honesty thing again. I smell an unsubstantiated claim coming...

We all know racism still exists in the U.S. today.

Refreshing honesty. Thanks Jim. Now back to the bullshit...

We know there is a hard core of our white fellow citizens who simply will not accept their black or brown brothers and sisters — especially one in the White House.

Wallis already made this last point in his first concluding paragraph, which, really, should have been the only concluding paragraph.
So while we should not call every disagreement an issue of racism, it is time to call out the racism that indeed does still exist

Or, alternately, merely repeat the fact that it does exist, and hope that its very existence allows you to compensate for failing to frame your argument. Or make one at all. Also, pretty much every disagreement is racist.

— that wounds our soul as a nation, and that obstructs the promise of the United States.

If I were half as angry of a Republican as folks like Wallis have made me out to be, my fist would be having an Eschaton type conflict with my computer screen.

Let's be honest. This dude gets paid six figures to call me a racist. That may not wound our soul as a nation, but it doesn't lend any credibility to the notion that Wallis is some sort of post-partisan idealist.

My advice to Obama. Tell your race defenders to step down. You'll need that race card in 2012. I mean, be honest.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Twitter Ruins Everything

Guest contributor and author James Othmer has some bad advice for Barack Obama. The politics are stupid, but his demeanor toward social media is spectacularly odd.

Don’t Tweet About Health Care

My first response was to get a Twitter account just to piss off the Times, then I realized he's talking to Obama.

PRESIDENT OBAMA’s 47-minute televised address last week, while controversial,

Controversial? On what planet was it controversial? Had it not been for Joe Wilson's redneck whiff (this is my new favorite phrase), it would have been utterly mundane.

may have been his most effective appeal yet for his health care reforms.

You mean it may have been more effective than the meandering attack on otolaryngologists that concluded by calling a cop "stupid" for no reason?

This is largely because he turned to the supposedly dying medium of prime-time television to accomplish what 21st-century social- media branding platforms could not.

A) Prime-time television is not dying, and no serious person thinks it is.
B) YouTube

Times Topics: Twitter

That's helpful. Thank you, web editor for providing this interactive experience.

The president’s old friends, Twitter and Facebook, helped him get elected and then betrayed him.

Fair enough, though aides have been telling him for months that he can just ignore all the superpokes from supporters.

Social media help stir up excitement for “change we can believe in.” They are a much less effective tool for articulating the extraordinarily complicated details of health care reform.

A) Obama's 47 minute speech did nothing of the sort.
B) Blogs

Mr. Obama still uses Twitter to articulate his health care goals. Recent tweets include “Know this: I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it’s better politics to kill this plan than improve it” and “I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits — either now or in the future. Period.”

Those are talking points from his speech. I cannot think of a single medium, hypothetical or otherwise, better equipped to easily disseminate a single talking point.

Still, there’s no way these sound bytes can truly battle the countless opposition messages in circulation. Twitter, after all, bleeds both blue and red.

Unlike the New York Times.

The same is true of the Internet in general.

Great observation. Can't wait to read the book.

Video clips from raucous town hall meetings across America demonstrate that YouTube, which played such a prominent role in building Brand Obama (who can forget the “Yes We Can” celebrity video?),

I had completely forgotten the "Yes We Can" celebrity video. Completely. Forgotten.

is just as capable of undermining the president’s health care plan and approval ratings.

Yep. So it's important to be active and engage social networking sites. That is the ONLY intelligent takeaway based on the arguments presented here. Any other advice would be moronic.

In his televised address, Mr. Obama was disturbed by one heckling congressman. On the Web, he has been shouted down and second-guessed by millions of voices.

For the first time in history, millions are using communications media to second-guess a sitting president. This has literally never happened.

Many states have active Republican Twitter pages.

They also have Republican party headquarters. In fact, Obama should do his able best to avoid states.

These can be used to announce rallies against the Obama health care plan,

If James were narrating instead of writing, I think he would switch to 1950s optimistic film-strip guy voice. "Jimmy has found out that typing is a useful skill! He can do his homework in half the time! Apply for a job at the Five and Dime! Impress his favorite gal with a poem! Uh-oh, looks like Jimmy's found a secretary to do his typing for him!"

parse the president’s speeches for inaccuracies

Or parse NYT op-eds for ridiculous ideas.

or link to articles that support their cause.

Which is just awful.

The right has been very effective in using new media to stir up emotions.

Apparently, parsing is an emotionally driven activity.

The left has found the same media to be much less effective for articulating big ideas.

Should I bother asking for data to support this claim? Also, will someone, anyone, concede that this health care plan is floundering, at least in part, because the public doesn't like it very much?

That’s why there’s still no better way to engage captive hearts, minds and eyeballs than with an appearance on prime-time TV.

Which he just did.

Here’s hoping that the next time Mr. Obama needs to deliver a complex idea, he’ll once again use more than 140 characters at a time.

This guy is literally advising Barack Obama to schedule ANOTHER prime time speech, rather than utilize social media.

James P. Othmer, a former advertising executive,

Wait, what? This guy was in advertising? How did that go down?

Client: We were thinking about buying some spots on radio.

James: No. I wouldn't do that. People say all kinds of things on the radio.

Client: What about print?

James: No dice. I recommend you go out there and adveritise with this.

Client: This is a bullhorn.

James: Exactly.

Client: Is this meant symbolically?

James: No. Here, I got you this box to stand on.

Monday, September 14, 2009

GOP Stampeded by Passive Stan

Stanley Crouch is no slouch. He is a jazz critic, novelist and editor of some repute. He is also, apparently, quite fond of the passive voice, and equally fond of strained analogies and convoluted metaphors. In short, this article sucks.

The title of this piece is Obama's speeches are the stampede the GOP needs. I can't quite parse the meaning of this title. Obama's speeches are a stampede? Why does the GOP need a stampede? This is weird. Let's dig in.

Last week Barack Obama gave two speeches, one to American children, the other to the nation about health care reform. The way they were reacted to by the Republican opposition, elected or not, said a lot about Obama himself and about the sorry state of intellectual integrity among Republicans.

Not much intellectual integrity is had by Republicans. Also, what does the qualifier "elected or not" add to this sentence that merits the extra commas. I await Stan's defense of his position that Republicans lack intellectual integrity.

Before his speech to American children was given,

by someone, who, incidentally, was him.

a wildfire went up among the inmates whom the Republicans have allowed to take over the asylum because of their appeal among "the base."

So, a wildfire "went up" among inmates? That's some curious phrasing. Also, who are the inmates in this equation, and what is the asylum? Is the party the asylum, and talk radio the inmates? Who appeals to the base? The inmates or Republicans. I'm going to re-word this sentence into English, gratis.

Even before Obama delivered his speech to schoolchildren nationwide, the inmates, left in charge of the asylum by a Republican establishment hoping to curry favor with its base, started a wildfire of protest.

Whew! Now that looks a whole lot better.

According to conservative pundits Michelle Malkin, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, as well as Michele Bachmann, elected to Congress from Minnesota,

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) would suffice. Have politics been written about regularly by this guy?

Making noise is what they consider important.

Which, in the case of Rush and Hannity, stands to reason, given that they work IN RADIO.

Their purported fears were proven groundless because there is ample footage of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush speaking when they were President to our kids.

Their "purported" fears? Stan just got done telling us these people are insane. Now they are cool-handed cynics, manufacturing controversy? For the record, the Obama administration pulled the plug on that kooky curriculum guide. Looks like Michele Bachmann wasn't the only one purporting.

Newt Gingrich tried to no avail to get the inmates to quiet down and go back to their wards, their cells or the walls to which they were once chained.

Okay, so the inmates, I guess, are the listeners and followers of Limbaugh et al... The asylum is where they live when not protesting the administration, and Newt Gingrich is Nurse Ratchet, sitting there with her lithium while Joe Wilson takes everyone on a river cruise.

They did not go back. They did not apologize for sinking down into the hysteria rule book written by Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

You mean, Joseph McCarthy, elected to the Senate from Wisconsin. Good point. This event is entirely analogous to McCarthyism. No further explanation needed.

The inmates merely waited for the health care reform speech.

I thought the inmates were starting wildfires. Now, it turns out they were just waiting?

Republican Rep. Joe Wilson, of South Carolina, where the Civil War started,

Thereby discrediting a political party (to which it was in opposition) 150 years after the fact. South Carolina is also a state that supported FDR to the tune of 98 percent of its electorate.

screamed in frustration at Obama during his speech and the redneck whiff floated us back to the civil rights era when those with hot pink necks were powerful senators and congressmen from the South.

Exactly what I was thinking, or, rather, what I would have been thinking if my thoughts were completely incoherent. Republicans don't have intellectual integrity, just "redneck whiff", whatever that is.

When the Democrats became too liberal, those Democrats became Republicans and have remained that way ever since.

There is no way in hell Stan knows South Carolina's electoral history, but he's still right. The Democrats leftward lurch on social issues cost them states like South Carolina, which overwhelmingly supported Carter in 1976, and nearly did so in 1980 (which is saying something). What this has to do with redneck whiff, I have no idea.

After all of the freelance advice throughout the summer about the President toughening up and needing to put his foot in the backside of the elephants, Obama laid all down with ease and great power.

Is that a compliment, in America, to say that a president exhibits great power? It shouldn't be. Also, this is just a terrible sentence.

He made it absolutely clear that he is nobody's cream puff and winning this one from him will be no more pleasurable than repeatedly slapping a cactus.

I dunno. Slapping Hillary Clinton felt pretty good in 1994. Is there anyone more like a cactus than Hillary?

He has all of the cards and all of the information necessary to expose the Republicans for the mercenaries that they are, and said as much.

So, the inmates have mercenaries at their disposal? What information does Obama have to expose their mercenary status? What does this have to do with cards?

Yet he did it all with what he has become known for - his coolness, his massive calm and his collectedness.

One of my pet peeves is the use a hyphen when a writer simply doesn't know what punctuation to use. "Massive calm" sounds like the name of a death metal band. Wouldn't it suffice to say he's "cool, calm and collected"?

However it goes, it will be his way or some portion of the highway.

Get me to an on-ramp.

Barack Obama is not someone to be messed with or lied about when the issue is this important.

And yet he will be messed with by others. In the active voice, even.

Until they raise a better team and one with some intellectual integrity, the Republicans will remain overmatched.

Editors note to Stan. Take the unnecessary hyphen you used in lieu of a colon, and place it between "over" and "matched".

Wait, we're done? But, why is the title... What was the point of... WHY WAS THIS WRITTEN?

Damn you, passive Stan. Damn youuuuuu!

Obama came into town! Now everything is better! Unemployment is down! No homelessness! Theaters refusing to show All About Steve! Let's muse...


I have to say, I don't understand what compels a person to go see a president speak. If it were an Abraham Lincoln or a Teddy Roosevelt, yeah, maybe. But I remember going to see G.W. Bush at a fundraiser and thinking "he looks exactly like he does on TV".

What's the point? Sporting events are fun because the outcome is in question. Debates are fun because they are an exchange of ideas. Performances are fun because performers are performing.

Perhaps its the sheer observation of power. To be in the presence of an individual whose decisions are so impacting. The hope that, by being in attendance, you are part of the impact?


Speaking of... Went to Farmers Market on Saturday morning. It was lovely. No community organizers shoving petitions in my face. No SW Minneapolis bastard people clogging the aisles, asking the produce resellers which part of Minnesota their bananas came from. No $400 strollers marauding over my toes.


New Rock TV!

Much has already been made of Kanye West's Video Music Awards outburst, and the VMA's are about as culturally relevant as season two of Major Dad, but I should note that West interrupted an acceptance speech to tout this as the best video "of all time". What??? A B&W video with a bunch of out-of-sync dancing is better than, say, the video for Fake Plastic Trees? Really?

I mean, if it needs to be done by a black artist in order to be great, I remember some 80's pop star made some pretty interesting videos. Michael summin'erather... I'm sure he could find it on Google.

Paid a visit to Joy's Pattaya, the latest in a seeming revolving door of Thai restaurants at 76th and Lyndale in Richfield. We split the sausage appetizer, wrapped in crispy tofu skin, which was awesome, as well as a more than adequate pad see ew. The menu isn't breaking any new ground, and $12.50 for papaya salad is absurd, but if you're on the south side, you could do MUCH worse.


Congratulations to Brett Favre who ran for 180 yards and had three touchdowns in yesterday's Vikings win. He also passed for 110 yards and played excellent defense down the stretch. Also, Favre.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Brian McLaren Wonders, it Seems

Brian McLaren's life and work scarcely merits a response. This piece certainly doesn't. He's getting one anyway. Happy Ramadan, Brian. This one's for you.

A Plea for a New Generation of Republican Leadership
by Brian McLaren 09-08-2009

One that agrees with Brian McLaren, preferably.

I believe our nation works best with robust and civic dialogue and civil debate.

Keep this in mind as you read the rest this. McLaren confuses veiled insult for civility, and verbosity for robustness.

For mature societal conversations to take place, at least two mature parties are required, and looking back over this summer, a second party is hard to find.

Memo to Brian McLaren. I will debate you any time, any place. You name it, I will be there, civil to the nines. I won't even cuss. Pretty sure guys like Doug Wilson would take you up on that offer two, but that would be like a canary running into a buzz-saw. I shutter to imagine how you'd do against Thomas Sowell or Ben Stein or Newt Gingrich or...

But people who shout “Hitler, Nazi, socialist” don’t constitute a worthy loyal opposition.

They did when they were opposing Bush. But that went down the old Po-Mo memory hole, didn't it?

Nor do the birthers (who don’t stray too far from the fictional portrait of the afterbirthers described satirically here).

McLaren builds his case by citing The Onion.

Nor do the nostalgics, who seem to keep waking up in the 1980s year after year, quoting Ronald Reagan.

These people do not exist.

[Regarding the nostaligics, one can't help but recall God's words to Joshua (Joshua 1:2): "Moses my servant is dead."

At which point the Jews forgot all about Moses.

Many Republicans, it seems,

People who couch their accusations behind the phrase "it seems" are cowards. McLaren can't write 200 words without doing so.

are like Joshua and need to be told it's time to move on and discover their own voice,

Actually, Joshua was told to obey the law God gave him. McLaren is employing spectacularly poor analogy here.

to think their own thoughts, to face today's challenges, to start leading constructively and not just repeating old slogans


-- always revering the memory of their late-20th-century Moses,

In McLaren's world, Moses is merely a historical footnote.

of course, but moving on to face today's problems just as their oft-sung hero sought to face those of his day.]

This is just embarrassing.

It seemed hard for the situation to deteriorate below gun-toting protestors at town hall meetings and Hitler-mustached posters, but we managed to hit a new even-lower low in recent days in the refusal of some parents and school districts to allow schoolchildren to listen to the presidential back-to-school address.

And McLaren finally gets to the talking points.

Journalist-author Thomas Friedman had it right on “Meet the Press” Sunday, as did Education Secretary Ame Duncan on “Face the Nation”: that reaction is just plain “stupid” and “silly.”

So, McLaren, in the midst of all his wondering and thinking and book promoting, is fumbling for exactly the right words to describe the reaction, when he turns on his TV to find journalist-author Thomas Friedman saying it's "stupid", and has an "a ha!" moment. In other words, all these quotes really do is say "two journalists agree with me."

How many Republican leaders will stand with them?

McLaren asks questions that only Google can answer. (The answer? Pretty much all of them.)

Where does this bizarre behavior come from?

That weird curriculum guide his administration cooked up. Remember? It was in the news.

True, there’s a strain of extremism that runs through American politics on the left and right, and the Internet, late-night radio, and cable TV help keep it alive.

A salient point. McLaren here is calling for both sides to engage in constructive dialogue, and move beyond the heated rhetoric of the shot show format, I'm glad we're on the same...

But there’s more to this, I think. I’m convinced that there is some degree of white fear and resentment behind at least some of this reaction: fear and resentment of an African-American president,

Oh, for !!@#'$ sake.

mingled with xenophobia regarding brown-skinned immigrants, undergirded by fear of a future where there is no more racial majority status for white people.

He thinks this is the case. He'll let you know when he's done the research to verify this. At that point, he will actually substantiate this irresponsible charge.

There is also, I suspect, a good amount of modernist fear of postmodernity mixed in.

McLaren suspects this. In reality, this is on nobody's radar screen. At all.

And where Christianity becomes a tribal religion rather than a reconciling faith — the exclusive and combative religion of rural non-coastal folks, for example, or Southern folks, or socially conservative folks, or folks who hold a certain economic ideology — there is probably some old-fashioned religious supremacy at play too: the “Our God is better than your god, so we should be in power” syndrome.

There's probably some of that, it seems, McLaren thinks, maybe.

I keep wondering

Right, he's also wondering. Aloud. In blog form. Just havin' a think, where everyone can read it and he can influence opinion.

— don’t more Republicans themselves see the danger of an increasingly reactionary Republican party becoming in the 21st century what anti-civil-rights/pro-segregationists and McCarthyites were in the 20th,

Not really, no. Reason: We don't oppose civil rights, don't support segregation, and don't support alcoholic commie witch hunters (who also happen to be liberals).

or what the pro-slavery/anti-abolition movements were in the 19th — conserving an unjust status quo that deserved to be left behind?

McLaren has substituted "conserving" for "preserving", a rhetorical reference to conservatism. That's clever, Brian. I see what you did there.

Out of love for their party

If Brian actually knew any conservatives, which, considering he said he hadn't met anyone who voted for McCain, is unlikely, he would know that conservatives do not act "out of love for their party". The insinuation is insulting and condescending.

Just in case you are wondering why I have no respect for this dude...

and the good things it could potentially stand for in 2012 and beyond, don’t they want to step forward now and be counted?

I think the party can do plenty of good. Nobody has demonstrated to me why I should support the liberal agenda McLaren supports. I have no evidence that McLaren understands the Democratic party platform beyond its rudiments and talking points. If he did, he wouldn't have to resort to calling me a racist, I think, it would seem, probably.

Even if all President Obama stands for were as dastardly as the shouters, birthers, and nostalgics insinuate, can’t some perceptive Republicans see the need to do what President Obama did to win the election

This is a strange argument. McLaren is suggesting that, even if Obama is a fascist, we should support him because he needed to inspire hope in order to win the election. This is exactly the sort of argument, coming from the left, that terrifies the right.

Fear is indeed a powerful short-term motivator (and fundraiser),

Obama shattered fundraising records.

as is revenge, but it uses an inflating currency (and where do you go after flashing the Hitler/Nazi/fascist credit card?).

This is a ham-handed and unnecessary analogy. The inherent problem with evoking Hitler to caricature the opposition has been demonstrated much more succinctly, and even has a name, reductio ad Hitlerum.

An unregulated fear-based politics will eventually crash just as an unregulated bubble-based economy will, but like a crashing economy, it can cause a huge amount of damage on its way down.

Um, what?

Thankfully, George Will

Here is what Dailykos, one of the blogs McLaren considers to contribute to robust dialogue, has to say about George Will.

"George Will is a scumbag... The chief outstanding question in my head is as follows: Where the flying FUCK have you been, George "The 'F' Stands For Fucker" Will?"

That's pretty racist, if you ask me.

Perhaps people like Will and Peggy Noonan

Noonan? Per Dailykos, the "bitch" who escaped from the nuthouse.

represent the rise of a constructive conversation partner in the civic conversation. But they’re writers; where are the politicians?

Not referenced in the Democratic press releases your interns read to you. Does Brian McLaren honestly think the John McCain isn't even a constructive conversation partner? Really?

Because if the best leaders the Republicans can offer the nation and the world in the next decade are the likes of … well, I won’t mention names …

I am not a fan of the "I won't mention names" rhetorical device. It's hackneyed. It adds nothing to the content of the piece. Also, he is referring to Sarah Palin, so why not just say it?

I believe, hope, and pray that Republicans can do better for their party, for America as a whole, and for the world.

We don't care what you think, Brian. It seems you are an ignorant shill who continues to whore his faith for the Democratic party. You're also a terrible writer. Probably.