Sunday Morning Video: The Lost World Of Communism

I watched part of a really bad documentary about the late Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausecu on Netflix the other day. It was all raw video with no point of view whatsoever. It led me, however, to discover this three part BBC Two series. The only cavil I have with it is that there aren’t episodes dealing with Poland and Hungary. Otherwise it’s superb. I’ve put the episode title above the video, which only lists the country name.

A Socialist Paradise

The Kingdom Of Forgetting

Socialism In One Family

Saturday Odds & Sods: Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)

Sideshow banner by Fred G. Johnson.

Sideshow banner by Fred G. Johnson.

Summertime, when the living is sweaty. The NOLA heatwave continues and I’m not hearing much from those folks who claim they can live here without air-conditioning like in the good old days. The local good old days contingent is busy freaking out about the debate over Confederate monuments. They’re acting as if the plan is to replace Lee with Spoons Butler. I’m inclined to think that their brains are baked from overexposure to the blazing sun. In any event, the Lee statue’s life expectancy is even shorter than that of a pre-AC New Orleanian, which was 10 years below the national average. The heat goes on and so do I.

This week’s theme song comes from the fertile (febrile?) minds of David Byrne and Talking Heads at their peak. The refrain “take a look at these hands” embedded itself in my consciousness from the instant I first heard Remain In Light. The heat goes on and so do I is the refrain for this week’s post. I’m feeling a bit surrealistic so I should just say hello Dali and get on with the theme song already:

Guess I was born under punches myself or am I just punchy? We’ll try and figure that out after the break. Now where did I put my Surrealistic Pillow?

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Friday Guest-Animal Blogging

I’m doing some work for my local humane society, and one of the perks is sharing my office with this little fella:


His name is Rocky, and that is Bullwinkle, the stuffed moose not much larger than him that he cuddles when not beating its ass.


ps. Sorry I’ve been even more absent than usual of late. This is the busiest month of the year for me at work and I fall into bed at night so tired I don’t even remember to crawl under the sheets. I’ll be back in full force soon, promise. (None of you even noticed I wasn’t around much, did you?)

An open letter to Scott Walker

Dear Governor Walker,

Congratulations on finally declaring your candidacy for president, which was perhaps the world’s worst kept secret. It’s been pretty clear that, unless you had plans to complete a hostile takeover of Des Moines, you were spending a lot of time in Iowa to start the process of becoming “The Most Powerful Man In The World.” It’s also pretty clear that this is the start of your breakup with the state of Wisconsin. As Dan Bice’s recent story noted, you’re probably on your path to Palin-dom as a political outsider/defender of the faith for Fox News or the chicken-dinner circuit, if this whole presidential thing doesn’t pan out. It’s not us, you’ll tell the good people of Wisconsin, it’s you. It’s a chance to showcase what you have built here for the state, even as you discard it as a “been-there, done-that” event of your life.

Since you’re probably done with Wisconsin, I’d like to ask a question:

Can I have my state back now? I mean, the one I used to have?

Wisconsin was one of the few purple states out there, one in which you had dissent among parties and arguments among family members, but there was always a sense of basic human decency. When Gov. Tommy Thompson tried to take money from the teachers’ pension fund, the courts made him put it back. In doing so, the admonition was enough to let people know that some things were not to be done. When he pushed Welfare-to-Work, some people cheered on the idea of keeping those lazy Welfare Queens hustling for their cash, but others looked into how realistic it was to raise a family with the jobs available to people. Even when Jim Doyle tried to putz around with the tobacco settlement or force furloughs down the throats of state workers, no one really saw this as a great thing. It was just what we had to deal with and the pride of Wisconsin allowed us to grit our teeth and say, “We’re all in this together.”

You changed all of that. You took the purple and separated the red and blue into separate bottles. You created an “us vs. them” scenario on multiple fronts, as you “divided and conquered” those who would oppose you. You led the party that gerrymandered the voting districts so badly that the state is now being sued over this. You made people who once got along, even grudgingly, and made them see the other as an “other.”

Nothing better typified this than your most popular bumper stickers and signs: “I stand with Scott Walker.” For people who embraced this, it was less about slapping a sticker on a truck and more about placing a chip on a shoulder. It drew on the worst of our war-like rhetoric: Are you with us or are you with “them?” This gave people an identity and a feeling of power, even though you’d probably back them over with your campaign bus if it meant another step up the political ladder. Trying to get these people to see this is like trying to get “gun guys” to see that more restrictive laws were better for them if they were, as they always claimed to be, “responsible gun owners.”

Understand, Mr. Walker, this isn’t a Democrat/Republican thing. This isn’t a public-worker/hard-working-taxpayer thing. This isn’t a “I have a Ph.D./you have a walnut for a brain” thing. This is about my state, the one I thought I came home to nearly a decade ago.

In the two other states in which I lived and worked, Democrats and Republicans were constantly at each other. I was in Missouri when people so hated John Ashcroft that they elected a dead guy to the U.S. Senate. I lived in Indiana, a state so conservative that I rarely saw a political ad for the presidential elections. The Democrats were basically going to cede the state to Republicans before a single ballot was cast.

The divides there were more on a local level: The “townies” weren’t thrilled about the “college kids” taking over their local bars or having nicer things than they did. The “college kids” figured they could go out on a date and collectively have more teeth and IQ points than the rest of the diner combined. Still, the kids knew that if it weren’t for the people who lived there, they’d not have a university and the town people knew the university was a major economic driver for the area.

Only now in Wisconsin have I seen this kind of vitriol on a statewide level. It is the reason why, although I spent nine years in college and another 15 in academia, that when people ask me what I do, I tell them, “Oh. I work at the U.” I hope they assume I’m a janitor or something. In other cases, I just tell them that I enjoy refinishing furniture or try to get on to a more comfortable topic. When my dad is bragging to people at a baseball card show or something that “My son is a professor at the U,” I do my best to redirect or deflect the conversation to something safer.

I fear the rage, the disgust or the “hmmph” I’ll get for being “a college professor.”

You have helped galvanize that and direct that rage and you haven’t done so for the benefit of a better state, but rather for your own personal gains. You spoke to the echo chamber until it echoed back what you needed to move on with your life.

Please understand, governor, I’m not threatening to leave this state. I’m trying even harder to get kids to come to my little state-run school. I’m calling former colleagues and trying to get them to apply for jobs here, which is a lot like trying to convince someone to submit to a blowjob from a piranha.

I don’t condone or agree with Sara Goldrick-Rab’s recent Twitter fiasco, because it obscures the real issues. No one is like Hitler, probably not even Hitler himself at this point, given how we tend to attribute anything we don’t like from politicians to umpires as being Hitler-like. I also hate the idea of people saying, “I’m taking my ball and going home.” She’s a brilliant scholar, but she’s coming through to the outside world as a cross between a huffy academic and a screaming cat lady. I feel her anger and I feel her pain, but a 140-character battle of wits with the Internet isn’t the answer.

Understand instead that unlike you, I’ve lived elsewhere. I’ve gone other places and done other things for reasons beyond getting a passport stamp or a false-front understanding of the complexities of international negotiations. I also know that while you apparently want out, I want to stay here.

A few times during your tenure, I’ve been offered jobs in places that were run better, that had more money, that gave me more freedom and that didn’t have a governor who saw me as the enemy. (That last one isn’t entirely true, as I did get an offer from LSU as well…) I’ve thought long and hard about grabbing that lifeboat, setting sail and never looking back. It seems like it would be so easy, but I turned down each one.

The reason is simple. This is my home. It’s where my parents live. It’s where my grandparents are buried. It’s where I learned the value of getting along with people who aren’t like you and where I teach some of the best kids in the world. It’s where so many of my values (shut up and do the work; don’t whine about shitty outcomes; improvise, adapt, overcome; work harder and you can overcome any problem) are exemplified in almost every kid who sits in my class. They come from the families of people you have convinced that I am a lazy Satanist who masturbates to Karl Marx and works 21.8 minutes out of every week. They see me work hard and watch as I force them work hard. They become better. They become inspired. They become grateful. It is in that generation I see hope.

I finally found a home with a workshop and a car for the summer. I finally have a friend who stops by to check in on my wood projects and with whom I drink beer in his garage. I have kids who take classes because I teach them, not because they have to.

I have a life and for the first time in a long time, I don’t have wanderlust.

You don’t get to take that away from me. I won’t let you.

So please, sir, enjoy your run through the primary. Battle it out with the intellectual giants in your party like Donald Trump for the right to face Hillary or Bernie in the second round. Continue to burnish your reputation by telling the story of how you brandished a musket and fended off 1.4 million protestors who were attempting to gut your wife like a deer. I wish you well.

Just give me back what I once had on your way out the door. Sure, it’s a lot worse for wear, but now that you’re essentially gone, maybe we can start fixing it.

Best of luck,


Friday Guest Catblogging: The Lost Dennie Pictures

Dennie is, of course, the Krewe du Vieux den cat. These pictures weren’t exactly lost but they were in google glasshole limbo for a few months. Here she is in all her torti glory:



Maybe Sandra Bland Should Have Worn a Baseball Jersey

She supposedly assaulted an officer, and got slammed to the ground and died in police custody:

These people lit their city on fire, and nobody touched them:


Knee Jerk Nuke Jerks


Ernest Moniz and John Kerry have negotiated a deal that’s as good as their hair.

The Republican freak out over the Obama-Kerry-Moniz nuclear agreement with Iran is in full fury. They don’t know what they’re for but they’re against anything proposed by this administration.  It’s called a knee jerk reaction hence the post title. The knee jerk nuke jerks have a beef with the proposal. They are convinced that doing what we’ve been doing for years will suddenly work as if by magic. It’s very much like their reaction to recent changes in Cuba policy. Give the sanctions a chance to work say Marco Rubio, man of the future, and his ilk. And they call President Obama naive…

The alternative to this agreement is the status quo and eventual war with Iran.  That would grant Little Lindsey and Senator Walnuts’ wish:

I’m also not crazy about continuing to sub-contract our foreign policy to the Saudis and Bibi. The Israeli’s are, in part, seeking to maintain their nuclear monopoly in the region.  Slate’s Fred Kaplan nails the real reason the Saudi Arabian and Israeli governments oppose the deal:

The most diehard opponents—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Saudi King Salman, and a boatload of neocons led by the perennial naysayer John Bolton—issued their fusillades against the accord (“an historic mistake,” “diplomatic Waterloo,” to say nothing of the standard charges of “appeasement” from those with no understanding of history) long before they could possibly have browsed its 159 pages of legalese and technical annexes.

What worries these critics most is not that Iran might enrich its uranium into an A-bomb. (If that were the case, why would they so virulently oppose a deal that put off this prospect by more than a decade?) No, what worries them much more deeply is that Iran might rejoin the community of nations, possibly even as a diplomatic (and eventually trading) partner of the United States and Europe.


What Netanyahu and King Salman want Obama to do is to wage war against Iran—or, more to the point, to fight their wars against Iran for them. That is why they so virulently oppose U.S. diplomacy with Iran—because the more we talk with Iran’s leaders, the less likely we are to go to war with them. Their view is the opposite of Winston Churchill’s: They believe to war-war is better than to jaw-jaw.

Bingo. This nails the reason for King Salman’s Rushdie to judgment. Bibi, of course, has been blatantly and defiantly wrong about Iran for 25 years. As to the so-called GOP tough guys aka the knee jerk nuke jerks, when they came into office in 2001, the Bushies reversed President Clinton’s policy of engagement with North Korea. They hit that member of the “axis of evil” with more sanctions and empty threats of violence. The result was that North Korea now has nuclear weapons. Way to go, Bush-Cheney gang. The GOP’s manly men have also conveniently forgotten that the Beavis-Duce administration negotiated a nuclear deal with Libya before Gadhaffi’s sand nap. I guess the knee jerk nuke jerks mistrust Obama because he knows how to pronounce nuclear or some such shit…

The nuttiest thing about the knee jerk nuke jerk’s response is its premise. They believe that the Iranians are suicidal and would go out of their way to violate the agreement thereby triggering the chance of war. That’s as wackadoodle as past malaka of the week Tom Cotton’s letter to the Ayatollahs a while back. They somehow think all the US has to do is to dictate conditions and Iran will surrender. In short, they’re out of their frickin’ cotton pickin’ minds. The Obama-Kerry policy of engagement with Iran *could* result in the sort of country that most Persians want. If nothing else, it deters them from getting nukes for at least 10-15 years.

There’s a lot of instant expertise on nuclear matters flying around the internet. I may be married to a scientist but, in the great tradition of Speaker Boner, I’m not one myself. Unlike most deal opponents, I don’t pretend to understand the details. The reaction from nuclear experts and the scientific  community seems to be positive thus far:

Jeffrey Lewis was so eager to read the Iran nuclear deal that he woke up at 3:30 am California time to pore through all 150-plus pages of the text. Lewis is a nukes super nerd: He’s the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, and also runs an excellent arms control blog networkand arms control podcast and has a regular arms control column in Foreign Policy. He is the person to talk to on this.

When Lewis and I first spoke, in early 2015, he was skeptical, as a lot of arms control analysts were. He was skeptical that the US, world powers, and Iran would ever reach a nuclear deal. And he was skeptical that if they did reach a deal, it would be good enough. But when the negotiators released the “framework” in April, describing the broad strokes, Lewis came away impressed and happily surprised — but with some caveats and some unanswered questions.

I called up Lewis to see what he thought of the final deal. His assessment was very positive: Asked to grade the deal, he said, “I would give it an A.”

The knee jerk nuke jerk response is obvious: what the hell do they know? Many of them are scientists like that damn hippie Moniz. We don’t trust them because they’re on university faculties and read books without pictures in them. I suspect at least a few of the knee jerk nuke jerks wouldn’t trust Jeffrey Lewis, who was quoted above, because he has the same name as the Bravolebrity and star of Flipping OutI wonder if he has a sassy, mouthy equivalent to Zoila in his lab?

Zoila & Jeff

Now that I’ve gone off on another digressive tangent, back to the knee jerk nuke jerks. Their opposition to the pact is based on fear. The irony is that they’re more afraid of giving peace a chance than of going to war including brogressive hero, Senator Aqua Buddha. This is insanity. It’s time to stop the madness and give peace a chance:

Tinfoil Hat Time

From Album 5

Maybe it’s just me, but whenever I hear the term Jade Helm, I think of old Jesse. Sure, he has an “s” at the end of his name, but close enough, and besides, I doubt consistent spelling is much of a priority among his kind of people…who happen to occupy not only large swaths of territory where the Jade Helm exercise is planned, but also plenty of political offices in the Gret Stet of Texas, where the only thing they hate worse than libruls is…the military?

To be fair, I’d probably not much like having to detour around areas cordoned off by tanks, personnel carriers, and so on, but…they’re the ones who insist “small government” is synonymous with big military. And no, the government is not conspiring to steal the local Wal-Marts and Sam’s Clubs…likely the opposite, since I doubt they’ll be setting up any meaningful PX(s) in the training areas. So, hope they enjoy a small taste of the kind of “freedom” that comes with a sustained military presence…sort of a small scale version of what they insist is good for “those people” over there…

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Night Walker

Because of all the inane chatter about the Jade Helm military exercises, I did a search for Matt Helm covers. It was a popular spy thriller series by Donald Hamilton that became a hit movie series starring-of all people-Dean Martin. That’s right, ring-a-ding-ding-ding Dino as a spook. The Matt Helm covers were nothing special but these Night Walker covers caught my eye:


Malaka Of The Week: David Frum

Former Bush speechwriter turned neo-conservative, chickenhawk, wingnut columnist David Frum is overqualified for this humble weekly honor. He’s a very strong candidate for the malakatude hall of fame, which should have an entire wing devoted to the Bush/Cheney gang. David Frum routinely writes, says, and tweets stupid and untrue things so there’s a wealth of material to choose from. His recent gratuitous and mendacious comments about Serena Williams take the cake and that is why David Frum is malaka of the week.

It started on the Tweeter Tube.  The tweets were deleted but Frummy remained unapologetic in the Beavis-Duce administration style:

Serena Williams’ victory at Wimbledon, her fourth Grand Slam in a row, was a singular athletic achievement. Williams’ victory was her twenty-first Grand Slam victory overall and strengthened her claim as the greatest female tennis players of all time — and one of the greatest athletes ever in any sport. It was celebrated by millions around the world.

David Frum had a different reaction.

Frum, a former adviser to George W. Bush who is now the Senior Editor of The Atlantic, strongly suggested that Williams was on steroids based on her physical appearance:

[Blogger’s note: To see screenshots of the expletive deleted tweets, click the link above.]

Frum expanded on his suspicions in a series of tweets he later deleted, claiming they were intended to be “a private Twitter conversation with a friend.” In his deleted tweets, Frum compared Serena to admitted dopers in other sports like Mark McGwire and Lance Armstrong.

Yo, Frummy. Twitter is a public forum. Unless you’re direct messaging, ain’t nothing private on the Tweeter Tube. You just got caught with your wingnut wingtip in your mouth.

Daniel Koffler, a medical student and competitive power lifter who has worked as a Certified Strength And Conditioning Specialist, says there’s no reason to suspect Williams based on her physical appearance. “Women can, and very frequently do, achieve levels of muscular size and strength not just equal to but greater than Serena Williams’ without using steroids,” Koffler told ThinkProgress.

Koffler said it impossible to tell with certainty whether someone has used steriods based on their physical appearance. But, according Koffler’s, Williams’ physique creates “no rational basis for heightened suspicion.”

In an email to ThinkProgress, Frum declined to elaborate on why he suggested that Serena’s accomplishments were tainted with steroid use.

Williams is one of the most frequently drug tested players in men’s or women’s tennis. In 2014 alone, she was tested four to six times during competition and more than seven times outside of competition. (Tests outside of competition are considered the most important to catching illegal doping.) Williams has never been implicated in the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs.


UPDATE JUL 13, 2015 10:51 AM

Frum appeared on Roland Martin’s show on TV One on Monday morning to defend his tweets. Frum largely attempted to shift the topic to a general discussion of steroid use in tennis. He did, however, assert there was reason to suspect Serena Williams in particular. Frum suggested that during a two year period from 2010 to 2011, Serena Williams was not drug tested at all. During that time period, Williams was tested for drugs at least eight times, according to an official International Tennis Federation report. In an email, Frum said he was referencing “out of competition” testing. That claim is true, although professional tennis conducted only a handful of “out of competition” blood tests during those years. Over the last 3 years, Serena has been subjected to at least 12 “out of competition” blood tests.

There you have it in a wingnut shell: Frum doesn’t know anything and made shit up to support his insupportable allegations. Sounds depressingly like his defense of the Iraq War and the WMDs that were never found despite the grand claims of the Bushies.

I’m not a big tennis fan but Serena Williams is a great athlete and a great champion. Her accomplishments have been minimized because of her gender and race. Being a former GOP hack, Frum knows how to use code words instead of being blatantly racist and sexist but we know what he’s driving at.

The other element of Frum’s malakatude is a guy thing: he goes on about “body image issues” as a code for juicing. There are far too many men who judge all women on the basis of whether they find them attractive. It doesn’t matter if Malaka Frum and his micro-penis thinks Serena is hot or not. He may think so but it doesn’t mean shit to a tree.  I’m sure he thinks Maria Sharapova is hot but she lost to Serena in the Wimbledon semi-finals for the 17th consecutive time. Oops.

I realize that in the context of Frum’s long and errant career as a GOP hack and  minor league pundit, this attack on Serena Williams doesn’t amount to much. It’s a misdemeanor in a lifetime of felonious lies and distortions. It does, however, bug the living shit out of me. Anytime someone doesn’t like an athlete, they accuse them of  juicing as a way of minimizing their achievements. Serena Williams is a great champion. David Frum is a pissant, and that is why he’s malaka of the week.

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Headline Of The Day: Space Edition

I just spent way too much time trying to embed the image the WaPo has on this blog post by Rachel Feltman but it was not to be. It’s still a great headline and I’m pretty sure that it’s intentionally humorous. Ms. Feltman is a funny science chick.

Uranus might be full of surprises

Guess I should have said that it was tongue in cheek.

I finally figured it out via the strange magic of the Tweeter Tube.

My life is  complete. I’ll just bugger off now.

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Charlie Parker With Strings

We’re having a heat wave, a tropical heat wave this week, which has me feeling like a lazy lima bean. So, I decided to use a Telegraph article about Verve Record LP covers as the basis for this week’s  post. Verve was, of course, the legendary Jazz label founded by Norman Granz. He brought Jazz into the mainstream of American music. He even tried mainstreaming the Bird with mixed results.

Here’s how the Telegraph article described Charlie Parker with Strings:

Charlie Parker with Strings was a 1950 Verve Records album with artwork by David Stone Martin (1913–1992). Martin, who drew using a crowquill pen, illustrated more than 400 albums and his work is represented in the Museum of Modern Art and the Smithsonian Institution. On this album Parker worked with a Small classical string section (as well as a jazz rhythm section) and recorded songs by Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart and George and Ira Gershwin. The album was admitted to the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1988.

Here’s the cover:


More Birding after the break.

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Gospel of Athenae 1:1-15: Fuck This Guy


Behold, a massive jerkoff sits at the controls of the North Mississippi Daily Journal:

I don’t write a column often, but as publisher and CEO of the Journal there are times when I feel a responsibility to share my thoughts on a subject and ensure our company is not misunderstood based on our job to report the news and share both sides of a story. I’ll also preface the following thoughts by saying if you don’t believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God and the source of authority that trumps all others, you’re not likely to agree with the rest of this column.

So you don’t want your company to be misunderstood as a news organization.


Last week the U.S. Supreme Court gave federal recognition to same sex marriages making it the law of the land. Our governmental authorities, like all of us, are not perfect, and they don’t always follow God’s plans. However, inasmuch as their decisions and authority is not contradicting God’s Word, we must obey according to Romans 13:1-7. On those occasions when government leaders make decisions that are contrary to God’s Word and expect us to do things contrary to God’s will, we must obey and honor God instead as Peter and the apostles did in Acts 5:29.

Does God send a memo as to which laws contradict Him and which don’t? What font does He use? I think He uses Comic Sans just to fuck with people.

Regardless of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, marriage is still what God said it is in Genesis 2:24, the union of one man and one woman for life. While this decision will require states to issue “marriage” licenses to same-sex couples, this does not make it acceptable to God.

As yet the Lazy Sumbitch has not made His dissatisfaction known.

It’s not like He lacks the budget, either. One or two forecasts calling for frogs raining down from the sky and I think we’d all crack His code. Therefore we can all assume He either a) has bigger shit to worry about or b) actively approves of all these gay couples getting hitched in His holy name.

God’s position is consistent and will not change regardless of how any judge rules. The Bible makes it abundantly clear that this is an unacceptable lifestyle before our Almighty God, and the more we condone and embrace it, the more we become a nation that is forgetting God and the principles upon which this great nation was founded.

Which begs this most critical question: So fucking what?

When this country was founded I was the property of my husband and my next door neighbor was three-fifths of a person. All of that was completely acceptable to Almighty God and the principles on which our nation was founded, so you’ll pardon me if I don’t mourn their passing.

Our response and reaction to this decision by the Supreme Court doesn’t need to be one of hate, but rather one of love, including those who experience same-sex attraction, without comprising our beliefs and while maintaining strong convictions on the Bible’s teachings.

Nothing says love like quoting Leviticus and refusing to publish people’s wedding announcements: 

I also questioned Foster in the email about something he did not directly disclose in his anti-gay marriage column: He has directed advertising and sales staff at the Daily Journal to refuse to accept for publication announcements of same-sex marriages. As of now, anyone in Northeast Mississippi who wants to see publication of wedding announcements of marriages of same-sex couples must turn to another news organization.

Or to a company that is not going to be misunderstood as one under any circumstances.


It Begins to Look Needy: Trump and the Self-Perpetuating Narrative

He’s newsworthy because he’s newsworthy because he’s newsworthy: 

But few things are more self-perpetuating than coverage. Acknowledging the excess, Bruni began his Wednesday column by allowing that “I keep reading that Donald Trump is wrecking the Republican Party.” He keeps reading it because every writer in America with an ounce of self-importance thinks it’s up to him or her to personally deliver this news. Bruni’s advice to the GOP is to exploit the obsession. “If they had any guts, they could use him,” said Bruni of Trump’s Republican rivals. “They could piggyback on the outsize attention that he receives, answering his unhinged tweets and idiotic utterances with something sane and smart, knowing that it, too, would get prominent notice.”

Let’s unpack this sentence. Trump is getting “outsize attention”—that is, way too much. He’s getting it, as Bruni doesn’t acknowledge but doesn’t need to, from us, the media. And it’s going to continue because—well, because we just can’t help ourselves. So take advantage of us! Since everything Trump says is news, everything said about Trump is also news, and any candidate who has a lot to say about Trump will get “prominent notice.” If you have a lot to say about war, the economy, or public health don’t expect us to pay any particular attention. But preface these views with, “Contrary to what the buffoon with the comb-over is preaching . . . ” and watch us pick up our pencils!

I personally think Trump deserves coverage because of his standing in the polls, not because of his “colorful” character or his habit of saying mean things loudly. But he deserves coverage the way every candidate does, then, not this “look at the freak show we can’t say is a freak show or stop covering even though it so badly does not need to be covered!” horseshit.

You wanna cover something? Then cover it. But don’t tell me in the middle of covering it how awful it is to cover it. Have some pride.


To Kill A Legend

Many writers have only one great book in them-Joseph Heller and Catch-22 immediately comes to mind-but only a few have the self-awareness to publish just that one great book. Harper Lee was one of that number until the “re-discovery” of Go Set A Watchman, which is being published tomorrow. I am neither a fanatical Lee devotee nor one of those people who say that To Kill A Mockingbird perpetuates the white savior complex. I like the book, but haven’t re-read it in many years. I’ve seen the film multiple times and believe that much of the cult of Atticus Finch comes from Gregory Peck’s brilliant  performance in the movie. In many ways, Peck embued Atticus with his own best qualities as a kindly, progressive, honorable, and thoroughly decent man. Hence, the myth of Atticus Finch.

I was originally skeptical about the publication of Ms. Lee’s new/old book. I thought it could even be a fake. It obviously is not. But I knew there had to be a reason why the manuscript had not seen the light of day. I think we’ve learned what it is. Go Set A Watchman was written *before* Mockingbird, which sprang to life because Lee’s editor saw more potential in the author’s childhood and the Atticus defends a black man sub-plot than in the book as a whole.

The reason *why* the new/old book is proving to be so controversial is summed up in this pre-publication article:

Harper Lee’s unexpected new novel offers an unexpected and startling take on an American literary saint, Atticus Finch.

“Go Set a Watchman” is set in the 1950s, 20 years after Lee’s celebrated “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and finds Atticus hostile to the growing civil rights movement. In one particularly dramatic encounter with his now-adult daughter, Scout, the upright Alabama lawyer who famously defended a black man in “Mockingbird” condemns the NAACP as opportunists and troublemakers and labels blacks as too “backward” to “share fully in the responsibilities of citizenship.”

“Would you want your state governments run by people who don’t know how to run ’em”? argues the man portrayed by Oscar-winner Gregory Peck in the 1962 film adaptation of “Mockingbird.”

“They’ve made terrific progress in adapting themselves to white ways, but they’re far from it yet.”

As a white male who has lived in the Deep South for half of my life, none of this surprises me. I know many older white folks who are politically liberal but still hold some racist views and don’t consider black folks to be their social equals. This includes people who have voted twice for Barack Obama. I am not making this up. It’s not just Confederate battle flag waving white conservatives.

I don’t usually expend much compassion on fictional characters but I feel sorry for Atticus Finch. I never saw the character as a “saint” but as a principled man taking a stand against small town intolerance and ingrained stupidity. Unfortunately, others saw him as a secular saint. There’s an article in Slate about the reactions of people who named their children after a fictional character they admired. I find this to be somewhat culturally bizarre, the Greek custom is to name one’s children after relatives, which has led to many Nicholases, Annas, and Peters in my extended family. Call me old school but I think the best names come from loved ones and not from a listicle of trendy names.

Back to Harper Lee and white Southern liberals of the 1950’s. As hard as it is for people in 2015 to wrap their minds around, there used to be such a thing as liberal white segregationists. For example, Earl Long didn’t believe in social equality BUT he believed black folks deserved decent treatment and eventual political equality. Uncle Earl was briefly confined to a loony bin for saying these things in public. He was wrong but still a helluva lot better than the Thurmonds, Eastlands, and their ilk.

We all know that Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson used the N-word in private. Does that destroy their stellar public records on Civil Rights issues? Not one bit. Truman desegregated the armed forces and ran on a platform containing the first strong Civil Rights plank in the history of the Democratic party. As for LBJ, he was THE civil rights President. The language he used behind closed doors is much less important than his public record. Deeds are more important than words.

Do I condone lingering racist beliefs and language? Hell no, but the fictional Atticus Finch’s racism in the  new/old book needs to be put in the context of the man and his times. He  took a courageous stand years before, but had a hard time adjusting to changing times. That makes him a fully realized character instead of a plaster saint. I have a pre-publication hunch that Atticus  doesn’t run around town saying ugly, bigoted things to black folks. People are complicated, y’all, even the fictional ones.

I couldn’t resist using a semi-inflammatory post title because it scans well . Plus, it will get people’s attention better than, say, Nuanced Thoughts About Atticus Finch and Southern Liberalism. Besides, what’s a little hyperbole among friends?

Finally, I’ve read the first chapter of Go Set A Watchman online at the Guardian. I thought it was pretty good but I’m not planning on camping out at Barnes & Noble or even Octavia Books to buy a copy. I think it would be best for people to read the entire book rather than jumping to conclusions about its contents. Of course, we live in the era of extreme conclusion jumping, so I don’t expect my advice to be heeded. It’s why I rarely offer unsolicited advice even when I know I’m right. So it goes.

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Bloomin’ Good News

Toons for our Timesjpg

Cartoonist, political satirist, and curator of Binkley’s closet of horrors, Berkeley Breathed, has announced Bloom County’s return to the funny papers. I have a funny feeling that the billionaire blowhard’s candidacy might have something to do with it. Trump looks as if he’s wearing one of Bill the Cat’s hairballs on his head, after all.

This post is an excuse to post one of my favorite Bloom County strips. It requires a set-up. For many years, quite by accident, I lived near the domiciles of religious cults. In San Francisco, I lived on Bush Street a few doors down from the Moonies. I even saw deprogrammers snatch some Moonie chick on the street. In Washington DC, I lived near the Hare Kishnas whom I’ve always called by a different name after seeing this strip:


Hairy Fishnuts is perfection and that’s what I’ve called these annoying folks ever since. The good news is that in New Orleans, I have never lived near the Moonies or Hairy Fishnuts.  But when I had my shop on Jackson Square, I had to deal with an obnoxious guy who cornered tourists and tried to sell them stupid caps. He was a Hairy Fishnut with, uh, hair who dressed in civvies, but never told anyone that their money was going to his cult. After Katrina and the Federal Flood, he told them an even bigger lie: that the money was going to recovery-related causes. We had many run-ins until I told him, “If you take your bullshit somewhere else, I won’t tell your victims where their money is going.” After some  yelling and screaming, he finally relented. A minor victory against the forces of malakatude

Today on Tommy T’s Obsession with the Freeperati – bitchin’ pieces edition

Good morning gentle people – well, let’s get this over with…

Donald Trump is in First Place in GOP Primary Poll
Vox News ^

Posted on 7/9/2015, 8:09:00 PM by Din Maker

Donald Trump has been inching upward in the polls lately, and now we finally have one from The Economist and YouGov showing him in a clear first place.


“Trump supporters may be making more of a statement than voting for someone they consider a contender,” Kathy Frankovic writes at YouGov. “Just one in five of Trump’s supporters think Trump will win the nomination.” Other tidbits Frankovic points out are that Trump’s supporters tend to back the Tea Party and to identify as “very conservative,” and are less likely to be college-educated.

The new poll is probably a bit dispiriting for Jeb Bush, though. He had gotten a small bump to first place in three national polls conducted after his June announcement, and his team clearly hoped this would finally let him break away from the rest of the large field. Now, though, he’s down at 11 points, tied for second with Rand Paul. This new poll could be an outlier, or it could be the first sign that Jeb’s announcement bounce has worn off. (Bush’s fantastic fundraising news should help with any disappointment he feels, though)

But Trump’s 15 percent is not a particularly impressive performance in a crowded field — Bush, Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, and Mike Huckabee have all hit or passed that number in at least one poll. Also, Trump hasn’t yet led any polls in Iowa or New Hampshire, which are generally more important than national polls. Still, it’s national polls that are being used to determine which candidates qualify for the first GOP debate, and Trump clearly makes that cut at this point.

But the big question about whether Trump will show up on stage in Cleveland on August 6 isn’t about his polling — it’s about whether he’ll actually turn in the required financial disclosures to the FEC. As Slate’s Josh Voorhees writes, many are skeptical that Trump would publicly disclose so many details of his “business empire.” It’s up to Trump to prove them wrong.


For all you FReepers who say if a RINO is nominated you will stay home or vote Third Party, here’s your Third Party guy.
1 posted on 7/9/2015, 8:09:00 PM by Din Maker
To: Din Maker

Tired of Political Correctness and the Cultural Marxists, so for now I’m going with Trump, no apologies.

3 posted on 7/9/2015, 8:12:01 PM by junta (“Peace is a racket”, testimony from crime boss Barrack Hussein Obama.)

To: Din Maker

Other tidbits Frankovic points out are that Trump’s supporters tend to back the Tea Party and to identify as “very conservative,” and are less likely to be college-educated.

I think we were just disrespected

12 posted on 7/9/2015, 8:16:58 PM by Chauncey Uppercrust (BLUE LIVES MATTER)

Of course, there’s always gotta be a killjoy :
To: Rome2000

Any third party that isn’t Communist pretty much guarantees a Dem win.
As Trump himself said the other day, without Ross Perot, nobody today would remember who the Clintons are.

45 posted on 7/9/2015, 8:42:51 PM by nascarnation (Impeach, convict, deport)

Amid all the usual Trumpaholic hoo-haw, one Freeper feels a chilly wind:
To: Godebert

Yes, we’re pretty much screwed.

or in abbreviated terms


But do you really want to see 8 years of Hillary and Huma on tv every day?

54 posted on 7/9/2015, 8:54:28 PM by nascarnation (Impeach, convict, deport)

More assorted stuff after the comb-over…

Continue reading

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‘A Matter of Perspective’

It’s as if nothing created poverty, and no one benefitted from it: 

But the troubles in the Deep South go well beyond race to include frayed state finances, which have eroded the safety net for the poor, as well as public school underfunding, which leaves those who can afford it scrambling to private schools. And it extends to a growing technological divide that has left significant rural areas without access to the digital world; a rise in single-parenthood, which is a major indicator for generation-to-generation poverty; and the decline of rural job opportunities in states that have long relied on agriculture rather than on urban hubs.

What went wrong in Tunica is a matter of perspective. For many African Americans — and the county’s current officials — it was a story of a largely white political leadership that did not grasp the depths of poverty facing many black residents and did not choose to use the casino revenues that flowed into the county in an equitable way. So instead of funding skills training and providing programs for the vulnerable, they poured money into a riverfront wedding hall, an Olympic-size indoor swimming pool and a golf course designed by a former PGA Tour pro — all while implementing a massive tax cut that primarily benefited the wealthy.

“It is a success story for those in the right social circle,” said Engle-Harris, who is black, echoing the perspectives of many African Americans interviewed here.

To the political leadership that developed the casino plans and spent that money, however, the story is one of good intentions gone awry, an attempt to boost an industry that could potentially create jobs in a corner of the country that never had much of an economy or hope for the future.

Whatever the intentions, the results have left Tunica, and more specifically some of its residents, in an economically dangerous place.

All instances of the passive voice, because poverty is not something man-made but something which falls from the heavens upon people who just happen to deserve it in the eyes of Republican politicians, bolded.

No one did this. Politicians did not make decisions (or if they did, their decisions are “a matter of perspective”) and people did not express intentions one way or another. It all just happened, and really, who can know what the point was?

One of Tunica’s most controversial moves came at the beginning of the boom, when the new casinos hugging the Mississippi River rapidly started to generate millions of dollars. Just as quickly, the county moved to slash property taxes to the lowest level of any county in the state, which county officials said was an overture to businesses and investors.

Wait. I think I’m getting something.


Scott Walker’s Lex Luthor Party

One thing we have to do immediately is prosecute whistleblowers: 

The state budget passed this week by the Legislature repeals a law that encourages whistle-blowers with evidence of Medicaid fraud to come forward.

Wisconsin has recovered millions of dollars from lawsuits initiated by whistle-blowers since the law was enacted in 2007.

The repeal of the law — no more than a few words and a reference to a section in the state statute — was included in an omnibus motion on Medicaid by the Joint Finance Committee and drew little attention.

There were no hearings or even public discussion by the committee.

Funny, I thought the GOP was all about rooting out fraud in expensive federal programs OH WAIT:

In the largest and most promising lawsuits, the federal government frequently intervenes and takes over the litigation.

The federal False Claims Act has resulted in settlements with pharmaceutical and other health care companies that have totaled billions of dollars.

This isn’t the GOPSexy kind of fraud, where a poor woman lies about her benefits to bilk the state out of $250. This is the kind of fraud their friends do!

Cross represented a whistle-blower in a lawsuit that recently led to a $31.5 million settlement with PharMerica, which provides pharmacy services to nursing homes and other institutional customers as well as other services in 45 states.

The lawsuit alleged the company illegally dispensed drugs, such as OxyContin and fentanyl, without valid prescriptions, and falsely billed the government for them.

Cross also represented a nurse in a lawsuit against Odyssey Healthcare Inc., one of the country’s largest providers of hospice care and now part of Gentiva Health Services, that led to a $25 million settlement.

In another recent whistle-blower lawsuit, Extendicare Health Services Inc., a nursing-home chain based in Milwaukee at the time, and a subsidiary agreed to pay $38 million to the federal government and eight states, including Wisconsin, to settle allegations that it improperly billed Medicare and Medicaid.

It is excellent that we are no longer protecting people who want to help stop that kind of thing.

BONUS Wisconsin stupidity: Don’t drink and legislate.


NPR, You Are Supposed to be Better Than This

Come the fuck on:

I suppose calling it “honestly, we have no earthly idea why we even bother, we could be making so much more money at Dad’s law firm” would have been too on the nose.



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