... get to see how life without government works. No veterans benefits. No NIH grant money. No help for cancer research studies. No food inspections. No vaccinations. The idea is to prove their case that government doesn't work by making sure it doesn't work. Good luck with all that.
... I feel like I'm looking at a guy who's gone blind from too much sex.
Wednesday's historic Supreme Court decision invalidating the key part of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, has likely set the stage for a series of arguments in the state houses over the issue. The majority opinion in the United States v. Windsor, written by Anthony Kennedy, essentially says that the Defense of Marriage Act for no good reason allowed the federal government to stick its nose into a state issue, the affairs of family, to single out one group and injure a class of people that one of those states, New York in this case, sought to protect. As he put it:
"DOMA’s avowed purpose and practical effect are to impose a disadvantage, a separate status, and so a stigma upon all who enter into same-sex marriages made lawful by the unquestioned authority of the States."
Look at the decision on California's gay marriage ban handed down the same day. In that ruling the court decided not to take up an appeal on California's law, but this was an issue of standing, not the constitutionality of criminalizing gay nuptials. The state of California had refused to defend the law any longer, and the gay marriage opponents who appealed had no direct stake in that appeal, so legally the Supreme Court didn't have to argue the substance before it simply passed the hot potato right into the garbage. (The majority opinion in that vote offered an interesting Red Rover game in which Roberts stood alongside justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan against Sam Alito and Sonia Sotomayor, crews as motley as one could imagine.) The decision in Windsor also found an executive branch--Barack Obama's--unwilling to fight for the DOMA, so a party directed by Congress had to get involved.
Of course, the standing issue is important to this argument for myriad reasons. Standing means that a plaintiff must have been directly harmed or have some connection to the harm caused by a law. In the case of gay marriage opponents, that applies ... um ... never. As I've joked here before, gay marriage does no harm whatsoever to straight people other than directly offend what must be their smutty imaginations. That fallacy was again voiced relentlessly today as religious conservatives again said that allowing gays to freely marry somehow deprived them of freedom. I guess because the act contradicts what they believe, it is a form of mind control. I'm stretching there, but it's hard to make sense out of such a brutally senseless argument.
But as glib as I'd like to be that questionable legal representation produced a happy effect, Emily Bazelon at Slate, among others, asks a fair question: Is it right that the will of California voters was subverted in this case because their state government refused to fight for a law they passed? Would our joy at seeing gay haters' asses handed to them on an issue of standing be so funny if this were, say, a water pollution issue that our state refused to fight?
But I don't wish to be ambiguous. I'm happy for the decision today, that five of the Supreme Court justices called the Defense of Marriage Act what it was--malice against a group of people. A law that disapproved of a class of people one state, New York, was trying to invest with some status and integrity.
You can, of course, read Justice Antonin Scalia's whining dissent, filigreed with such thumb-sucking lines inveighing against the "black-robed supremacy" of a court gone out of control. It is more tired rhetoric about judicial activism, something Scalia, whose willingness to become activist in defense of conservative causes, ought to be too embarrassed to keep saying out loud by now. Then there are predictable screeds by National Review editors who try to subvert the logic of tolerance by saying gay marriage proponents are somehow full of contempt. See what pretzel logic man Rich Lowry did there? I'm not the one hating the people I hate. It must be something they are doing. The people I hate must be causing it somehow.
That attitude was institutionalized by the DOMA. That attitude spawned a law of the land. That attitude was why the law came crashing down under its own weight.
... a lot of personal information if I want to sign a petition asking the government to stop collecting my personal information. Thanks to a despondent government contractor, we now know that the NSA has been collecting phone records from telecom carriers to find out whom we've been calling, if not the actual content of our calls. The Patriot Act, which gave the government this expanded power, once again seems to have, like the One Ring of Sauron, a limitless capacity to corrupt those who wield it. Conservatives who defended that odious law will rightly be enraged to find out what it actually does, which is OK, as long as they are also willing to share some of the shame for it.
We are now faced with imprisoning two government whistle-blowers, Pfc Bradley Manning, and CIA technical assistant Edward Snowden, for bringing abuses to light. But Snowden, now hiding out in a Hong Kong hotel room, was more careful with his leaks than Manning, whose data could have compromised troops and intelligence assets, and whose carelessness might reasonably invite questions of sabotage (even if the answer is also likely no). Snowden's act ought to be considered legally and morally distinct in that his leaks were selective and focused on the biggest abuses, which earns him more comparisons with Pentagon Papers leaker and hero Daniel Ellsberg.
After suffering several false comparisons with Richard Nixon for the so far banal IRS-Tea Party scandal (Nixon directly used the IRS as a brickbat and ran a ring of thieves out of his office, y'all), Barack Obama has now finally invited a direct comparison with his predecessor--a Daniel Ellsberg all his own, and a rallying figure for protesting government overreach.
I know Edward Snowden is not in custody yet, but what the hell: Free Edward Snowden!
--*The death toll is either in the hundreds or in the low tens. --*At least two bombs went off, though we can't discount that one of the building echoes might have been a third or a fourth bombing.
--*Several Saudi nationals were taken into custody.
--*These Saudi nationals were then booked, tried, convicted and hanged after a speedy jury trial by day's end.
--*The chief suspect is Mohamed Atta.
--*Marathons were invented by the Egyptians.
--*Boston is located in the great state of New Hampshire.
--*Every foreigner who fled the scene of the blast is a suspect. Only foreigners who ran toward the blast are in the clear.
--*Abe Vigoda is dead.
--*It wasn't a bombing, it was just a fallen scaffolding.
--*It wasn't really tax day, since you can always file an extension.
--*The Boston police cannot determine at this time if they have arrested a suspect.
--*The Boston police have been holding a mysterious man in an iron mask for 34 years who is thought to be President Obama's twin brother, the man who can prove Obama was born in Kenya.
--*A conflagration later reported at the JFK Library was reported, but it was uncertain whether the event was a mechanical fire, an explosion, or just readers' passion for books.
--*The New York Post's source is a woman named Lennay Kekua and The New York Post deeply loves her and believes she is The New York Post's soul mate.
--*Mahmoud Ahmadinejad likely factors into this story somewhere; The New York Post is just trying to find the right paragraph to stick him in.
--*Test X180 with fenugreek extract and ginseng will improve your performance on and off the field.
--*According to Boston police, Ronald Reagan's sunny optimism allowed America to feel good about itself again.
I spent a lot of this week troubled by the bombing of the Boston Marathon. The only relief for me was that this, like the Newton massacre, was something I didn't have to explain to my very young son yet. But eventually I'll have to. I'll have to explain to him how people hate and use violence to achieve political ends, that they are capable of extreme thinking they can't give voice to and must demonstrate with force what they can't do at the ballot box. Writers and artists sometimes don't give themselves enough credit for their existential advantages--the fact that they have a means to express themselves. A voice to shape their environment, even if it is to an infinitesimal degree. Even if it's through a painting in a garage that nobody sees, or a piece of music unpublished or a poorly traveled blog. But the crippled, politically disenfranchised soul who can bomb a peaceful sporting event using pressure cookers filled with nails is the sort who makes violence an expression of what he's otherwise impotent to say.
We all have extreme beliefs. But we have to absorb other people's realities. We have to embrace freedom. We also have to recognize when freedom becomes tyrannous in and of itself--an infinitely regressing obsession with perceiving barriers. No matter who this person was, he or she has a perception problem and perceives that he is in some way not free. Some people walk down the street with endless freedoms and still see nothing but a jail.
I can't yet tell my son that it's statistically very unlikely that he'll ever be hurt in a tragedy like this. Or that terrorists are rarely that successful and that people tend to react disproportionately to rare events because of fear and make irrational future decisions prompted by statistical outliers. (The Atlantic has a good article on this.) I remember after 9/11--there was a lot of argument that New York, having been attacked, would immediately be attacked again. Specifically, by nukes. That fear even roused the sage Warren Buffett to decry imminent nuclear strikes on D.C. and the Big Apple, which made people take notice of course, even though he's a investor, not Nostradamus, and, if you know anything about his investing philosophy, it has nothing to do with predicting trends. In fact, his prediction was an anomaly for his philosophical and financial temperament. I told a friend frightened by Buffett's prediction that the 9/11 attacks actually proved just how desperate our enemies were. It showed, demonstratively, that they had no nukes. Nor bombs. Nor guns. They had to come up with an almost impossible plot, one that could have been frustrated at several points (and partly was over the skies of Pennsylvania). If the entire plot had been foiled ahead of time, let's be honest, many of us would have derided it as hopelessly cartoonish.
Of course it wasn't foiled. But that doesn't mean it wasn't rare. According to some psychologists, my child is only going to be as anxious as I am about this and the horrible other news that has come down this week in Congress and West, Texas; these days, every attack, explosion and school shooting makes me anxious. I can't yet impart to my son the wisdom of statistics. Instead I have to absorb the wisdom of forbearance and tolerance and critical thinking and feel confident enough about my world that I can make my confidence his.
Dear Beauty is Imperfection Reader, I wrote this article three days after the shooting at Newtown, Conn., but never posted it. At first I wanted to be respectful. Then I wanted to perfect the article, but I never did before going on vacation to see my family (some of whom would likely strongly disagree with the piece). It's still something worth posting, though, since the backlash by gun rights advocates has begun and I believe to be silent in the face of people who are dangerously mistaken is to be partly to blame for this tragedy.
Dec. 17, 2012:
I keep hearing this week that now is the time to discuss gun control. No. The time was years ago. Before the Virginia Tech shooting, before the Aurora, Colorado theater shooting, maybe even before the Columbine massacre. Gun love in the U.S. has been a sickness for a lot longer than two days. The recent taking of 27 lives in Connecticut, 20 of those elementary school children's, in the second-most deadly mass shooting in history reminds us that it's too late to have the discussion.
There are those who still don't want to have the discussion, of course. They will say that people who point out this public health threat are "politicizing" the issue. In other words, be silent or else. Do not criticize the people who are responsible--those who defended the sickness and those who were silent as it continued. And that's the problem. To be silent is an abdication. It is to watch somebody being attacked and to do nothing.
After every massacre, we've had to listen to every false comparison, misapplication of logic, ignorance of basic statistics and misleading twisting of numbers. We've all had to conveniently ignore the fact that some of the nation's worst mass shooting deaths occurred after an assault weapons ban in the 90s was allowed to expire. We are not allowed to say that closed loopholes might have stopped the Columbine killers. We are not allowed to say that the Second Amendment allows 30 round magazine clips about as well as it allows enriched uranium. We are not allowed to discuss the fact that the REAL studies show that gun proliferation equals more gun violence and never the other way around. We are not allowed to call libertarians who defend rampant gun ownership what they are: hypocrites blasting one idealism while actually hawking another, a world of pure theory. We are not allowed to even study gun violence in this country anymore. Not because the other side has overpowering arguments but because our facts are an insult to a pervasive American value system. And if values can't live in sunlight, they don't deserve to live.
Now it's time to take the arguments apart, like wings off a fly. It's too late to discuss gun control and now it's time to tell the gun fans how they are wrong on practically everything, including their home pea shooters. They gave up their chance to be rational a long time ago. They have lost their chance to show that responsibility wins out. They have shown too often a willingness to lie and use sub-freshman rhetoric. Not that they need it. Their lobby has used its money to buy congressmen and make sure our children are unsafe.
There will be those who say that mine is an emotional reaction: that the deaths of children might be causing me, a parent, to be irrational in the face of happy statistics: that mass shooting deaths are actually statistically down. That household gun ownership is actually down. I will turn around the bad logic: We people who have always been knowledgeable about the still awfully large high gun death rates in the country, the bloody, bloody statistics and the success of gun ban programs elsewhere, have been forced into silence because the gun lovers were ... emotional. They love guns. They think their guns are protecting them from criminals when it is true mostly in exceptions and outliers. Repeatedly, fair-minded statistics show them that they are far more likely to kill themselves or innocent people than defend themselves against criminals with a gun. If you need any more proof that the emotional problems are theirs, you need look only at the arguments: the rage, the insipid rhetoric, the regular statistic manipulation and the pictures of eagles. I dare say that the once-endangered eagle has had his revenge mostly by his presence in ubiquitous NRA Internet memes.
We can start with some of the more obvious fallacies I heard last Friday, as details about Sandy Hook and the rampage there were still unfolding. Earlier the same day, a maniac had rampaged in China, wounding 20 children with a knife. This was immediately seized on by gun rights activists, who said that terrible tragedies happen regardless of guns and we would have to extend the logic to knives. Oh! Snap! Right? Actually, such writers didn't realize as they were putting fingers to keyboard that they were also putting their faces into a fan: the deaths of 20 children had not happened in China because there was no gun on hand.
But such people share kidneys with another type of plaintiff--he who claims guns are inanimate objects, and thus it is ridiculous to ban them. I have never been quite sure what the aim of this argument is except to mute opponents with its brazen silliness. Grenades are objects. Cocaine is an object. The centrifuges we denied Saddam Hussein were objects. That this particular object, a gun, is something you would not give loaded to a toddler, that this object is something that can turn a disagreement into a bloodbath, that this object can help grease the skids for a racist turning into a murderer (something that has happened in Florida from time to time), is the easiest way of thousands to counter the insipid statement. But logic is disallowed by those for whom make an ecclesiastical judgment that violence starts and ends in the human vessel. Putting aside a few extreme libertarians, I would be willing to bet that a fair number of these same people have supported the banning of PCP, a drug that causes schizophrenic symptoms. Or supported banning uranium for Iran. If so, their arguments are dead.
Guns amplify violence in ways knives don't. A woman who is domestically abused is three times as likely to die if there's a gun in the house. A person is much more likely to shoot an innocent bystander or shoot the wall than stop a mad gunman in progress (the person who always has two advantages, including the element of surprise).
People are more likely to be killed by a gun if there is a gun in their house. And when weapons are banned, again, there is a direct decrease in violent crime--facts supported by empirical evidence in other countries. These are facts. They are not subverted or rendered irrelevant by knife deaths. Or bomb deaths. They are also not easily violated with fuzzy math. I was recently unfriended by somebody on Facebook; after I proferred the statistic about domestic violence, he said glibly that it didn't hold up because that would mean five guns made murders 15 times more likely. I simply reminded him that only the one gun was needed for the math to work, and suggested that he was trying to flip a 15 pennies instead of one trying to change the unhappy fact that penny flipping will always give you a 50-50 heads-tails ratio. He could not argue. He unfriended. A nice illustration of how the fight or flight gland works in the gun lobby.
Of course, you are much more likely to confront violence in your life when it comes from somebody you know, not strangers. That means the people who know you can also use your defense against you. David Frum (a Republican) tries to cut up some of the vigilante hero numbers here and point out how silly they are. For such efforts, he's lately been made a punching bag. Such is the fate of the intellectually curious person, who has no place in the world of pure theory that defines gun rights activists.
The other statistics gun activists like to point out are either misapplied logic or outright lies. In the former case, they'll say you're also very likely to die in an auto death, and thus cars would also have to be outlawed, as if the prevalence of one gruesome statistic somehow erases another. In the latter case, you often hear fabrications like the fact that baseball bats kill more people than guns. That's a lie. A gun lobbyist's lie.
When the math fails the gun zealot, then comes the rhetoric. Guns offer power to the people, says the bespectacled theorist, and protect them against the tyranny of oppressors. (Read: the government.) This pure theory has been used to defend assault weapons, since a person must have something strong enough to defend himself against a very well armed government. This was the addle-pated argument of a woman on Piers Morgan who not only lied by saying the principle was written in the Constitution, but also lied by saying it was next to the word "musket," which also wasn't in the Constitution.
But I'll vet her underlying idea in a simple declarative sentence: We must all have targets on our children's' backs to unshackle the one individual who thinks he can make a run against the U.S. Army. Sound stupid? It is. But it's EXACTLY what the poor woman said. I might take the extra step now to remind such a person that it is the very opposite of patriotism to make the government your main foe and makes you automatically a member of the Weather Underground and a fellow traveler with Bill Ayers. If Republicans continue to push this argument, they all owe Ayers an apology, since he was carrying out his attacks on empty buildings at a time when the government was flagrantly assassinating domestic political opponents.
The NRA argument is that those who would give up liberty for security deserve neither. Thanks for a platitude. Here's a counterargument: We are told perforce we must give up our own and our children's safety for your false sense of security (from guns that statistics agree are not helping you) and a false sense of liberty (against a country that is not attacking you unless you provoke it into sending an army you can't possibly defeat). In other words, your gun is mainly a vainglorious, empty symbol of your freedom until you use it to deny freedom to somebody else. Gun brandishers insist they can help during a shooting. That, too, is shown to be untrue, both in statistics and anecdotes (Gabby Giffords was in the presence of at least two gun holders when she and 9 others were shot in early 2011. The only fortunate news that day was that the gun carriers did not shoot each other--though it came damn close to happening. The person who tackled Jared Lee Loughner was unarmed.) Nor could gun carriers have likely made quick decisions in the dark theater in Aurora, Colo. last summer. Nor would giving guns to every kid in that Newton, Conn. classroom made any difference whatsoever. The reason is simple: shooters always have the element of surprise. NRA fans say banning guns won't stop a determined shooter, but having guns on hand will not stop a determined shooter either except mostly in fantasy. Yet there's a much better chance of a determined shooter not committing a crime in the first place if the guns are removed from the scene. The only way to surprise a mad shooter is to deny him his gun in the first place.
Australia showed us that. Britain showed us, too. (Just stats.)
The contrarians say it's too late to discuss gun control because there are too many guns. So the response of a paralyzed intelligentsia is a shrug. "Guns are here to stay, there are too many to regulate." So this is what we do for the victims of Newtown--the children of Newtown: We shrug at them. We let them know that we, the species that unraveled the genome and split the atom and landed on the moon, can do nothing about a plague of violence because we are unwilling to correct a bullying minority of people who broadly misread the Constitution, who use false statistics, who make Supreme Court decisions based on false statistics and who make us unsafe to give themselves a false sense of safety.
Yes, it's difficult to tell 80 million people they are wrong.
But they're wrong.
A short note, because I don't enjoy Schadenfreude as much as I used to: The backlash has already started, and instead of the soul-searching you might expect from a defeated party, Wednesday saw a lot of GOP wags and conservative Web sites positively refusing to come to grips with what happened to them on election night and refusing to blame the proper parties: themselves. For the past four years, in the middle of a recession with high unemployment, the party had avoided analyzing a flawed deregulation policy and instead rushed to denounce the masses of resulting unemployed people as "takers." It was a classic "blame the victim" mentality, a textbook example of psychological transference on display in a user friendly, Museum of Natural History-style diorama form. A sick strategy embraced not only by the fringe elements but by the party's very presidential candidate. Wasn't this the crew that used to say they were on the side of crime victims?
Here's a page you might want to check out: "Republican Tears." Here you'll find out that gays, brown-skinned people wanting handouts and oversexed females took over the country last night so that the American taxpaxer could fund their nonstop government cheese eating and fucking. (You'll also see, if you watch one telling video, how Karl Rove forced Fox News to hold off calling an Obama victory when everybody else had. There's no big conspiracy theory about why: He had personally put millions of donor dollars at stake.)
You might say I'm wrong to overlook good-hearted conservatives by posting the Republican Tears link, and the comments by what is apparently the most extreme element of Republican ideology, tossed in with a few pictures of crying white women. ( Incidentally, I have seen a preponderance of crying white women in the election news photos, even though women overwhelmingly broke for Obama. It looks like somebody's trying to skew the grief incorrectly. What gives?) But anyhow this Web site isn't a portrait. It's a mirror. It's Republican sentiment taken at face value. Everywhere from Fox News to the vile RedState.com, conservatives are making extremism their identity: The new paradigm after a Wall Street financial collapse caused by complicated debt instruments is to blame welfare mothers and immigrants. This transparent, obvious, age-old smear tactic has somehow become our main talking point in the last few months. It's as wrong as the kneejerk patriotism argument was during the Iraq War. Wrong, wrong, totally wrong. If you have ever said "takers versus makers" during this election, you are part of the problem.
And I hate to say that by "welfare mothers and immigrants" that it's a not-so-subtle code for black people. You be the judge. The site Jezebel has been collecting all the uses of the word "nigger" used by angry Republicans on Twitter since Tuesday's Obama victory.
Again, this kind of argument enrages fair-minded conservatives who insist that their real concern about American debt is short-circuited by horrible liberals playing the race card. I am only a tiny bit impressed by this argument. It's true, if that kind of argument were really happening. (Specifically, that argument never really happens.) Nevertheless, good-hearted conservatives, you must take note: if you are not racists, the racists are hiding among you. They are using you as human shields to avoid being called out. Their birther, immigrant (and even socialism) rhetoric is a very thin disguise, and if you play into such phony arguments, your supposed good-heartedness is being used against you as a tool of somebody else's will. There was no honest debate about our recession. The conversations had all turned stupid. It was the Republicans' fault. That's why they lost the election. Go to RedState.com (and especially read the comment section of this story) to see if anybody is learning that lesson for 2016.
6 a.m.: Polls open after the five minutes of early voting time in Ohio. Noon: Lines form around the block in areas hit by Hurricane Sandy and wherever skin happens to be black.
8 p.m. Rep. Todd Akin loses to Claire McCaskill in Missouri, which goes to show, if you bring up the sensitive topic of rape, make sure you know which kind of rape you're talking about, the good kind or the bad kind.
11 p.m. Fox News pundits say that Obama must take a conciliatory tone with his enemies. The first thing to do would be to compromise with birthers, however that might work out.
11:01 Donald Trump reacts to the news of Obama's victory with what appears to be Twitter's first recorded mid-Tweet aneurism or else a garden variety shit hemorrhage.
11 p.m. Miami Dade is tired and wants to go to bed, and doesn't want to count anymore. Florida already knows what you think about it and its election problems and so has nothing to prove to you and you can wait for months to find out who won in Florida for all Florida cares.
12:30 a.m. Fox News pundits say that America has shown, by electing Barack Obama, that they want politicians to reach across the aisle. Like when Chris Christie hugged Obama after Hurricane Sandy. But actually, Christie is toast for doing that.
1:00 a.m. Romney concedes the race. Fox News says it's too close to call.
1:04 a.m. We learn that Ann Romney encouraged Mitt to run in this brutalizing, expensive race. Naturally she's trying to get even with him for making her whelp all those Mormon babies.
1:06 a.m. Ed Rollins says that Bill Clinton left office in disgrace. He's not sure what for. Was that the Iran Contra thing? Twelve years was a long time ago.
1:41 a.m. Barack Obama, in his victory speech, vows to help the nation's unemployed, starting with millions of dollars of bailouts to the interests of people like Mitt Romney.
1:50 a.m. Barack Obama has to seize the moment in his victory speech and lay out an agenda and vision for the next four years. But he will likely be spending that time explaining that he is not an immigrant, antichrist, communist, Muslim, zombie, sith lord or clone.
First of all, I want to apologize for not posting more about Hurricane Sandy. My family was spared the blackouts, flooding and buffeting winds suffered by my fellow New Yorkers in Lower Manhattan, and I didn't know what I could add by talking about how my bourgeois life was only marginally disrupted. (We had no daycare for a few days, and since we were sufficiently gridded, my wife and I had to take up the slack of our work colleagues without electricity.) I have pictures of downed trees on the Upper East Side, but the havoc wreaked on other places such as the New Jersey Shore and the Rockaways make my tiny slice of hell seem far too miniscule. It occurred to me lately that I could still be of help by linking people to the various volunteer organizations. I probably esteemed my blog too little to think I could help, but I realize every link inspires somebody.
I gave socks, blankets and water to this organization: https://www.wepay.com/donations/in-good-company-hospitality-relief-fund. You can also give through Occupy Sandy. (https://www.wepay.com/donations/occupy-sandy-cleanup-volunteers). Here is another Occupy Sandy page where you can donate or volunteer to help those whose lives have been upended by the storm, whose houses were mauled and who are still going without heat and water as the temperature drops.
The other thing I'm thinking about today, of course, is the election. I was hoping that we were not going to have a close race. That was not simply because I am arrogant about my candidate's superiority, but because America has remained polarized. When the political center dissolves, it removes an important counterbalance to rigid ideology and partisanship for its own sake, to partisans acting according to the rules of game theory (when they believe everything their side tells them and reject the other side, even when the other side says things that are manifestly true).
There are a lot of last-minute articles hitting the Web that can make you sick if you're a Barack Obama supporter: in the key state of Ohio, a Republican secretary of state, Jon Husted, has made a last-minute change in the voting rules for provisional ballots that could disenfranchise likely Obama voters and maybe even swing this swing state, this after already shortening early voting hours to make sure that the poll sites were crowded, uncomfortable and foreboding. He's also installed mysterious new software patches for voting tabulation machines very late in the race.
Meanwhile, a story about the once-distressed auto parts maker Delphi Automotive by Greg Palast in The Nation suggests that Mitt Romney was likely reaping millions off the auto bailout (through a key distressed debt investment) at the same time he criticized the rescue, making cold-hearted comments to the Republican faithful that HE would have let Detroit die without help--rot for its sins of bad management and union hegemony.
All of which Republicans might respond to with a blithe: "So what?" Who cares if Ohio wants to make it tougher for footloose voters and penalize them for their own ballot goofs (even if that particular strategy runs contrary to Ohio law). Isn't voter fraud a real concern? Aren't we talking about a bunch of "homeless illiterate winos"? (My friend's phrase.) But given that some reports say some 40,000 provisional ballots were tossed out in Ohio in 2008, I'd say that's a lot of winos, even for Ohio, and if it's true, the state is long overdue for its own Burning Man festival.
They might even say, "So what" to the news about Romney's investment. After all, doesn't it prove he's still a nimble businessman? Mitt made all the money. But it was Barack Obama who gave it away. If Obama is so great why did he not make sure Delphi wouldn't send jobs to China, gut pensions and basically enrich the vultures who took it over. ...
And while we're at it, they ask, why am I touting Barack Obama in the first place, a man who has kept intact the most loathsome aspects of George Bush's foreign policy, including a beefed up droning program that can now target American citizens, and foreign civilians, including women and children? How could I support this man? Don't I have a child?
And they would be right to ask. In many ways, Barack Obama has let me down. But I'm also old enough to know that that's part of a politician's job. I have to shrug and insist that Barack Obama's droning program is not actually targeted at civilians, but at people actually planning bombings and issuing hits on Americans from safe within the bosom of factious countries like Pakistan. I find the outcome loathsome, but not the intent. And Mitt Romney would not change this. In fact, I am sure that Romney, as a foreign policy neophyte, would come under the sway of the same neocons who gave us the Iraq War and make Iran his main issue.
The political process has never been about making infantile demands that a candidate go out and get you what you want. It's about asking that your views are represented and, when the candidate is narrowed to a choice of two from 300 million, it's then up to you, the voter to do some work: reconcile your own beliefs, some of which are likely unrealistic and extreme, to those of the body politic. The world can't be the way you idealize it. If it could be, and you could dictate its terms constantly, you would turn into Adolph Hitler more quickly than you realize, even if you started out as a hippie Rousseauian. Remember what Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips said: "You cannot know yourself and what you'd really do with all your power." It's important to politics, ethics and the world that you, voter, not get everything you want.
Some of my liberal friends take solace in what Barack Obama has done. He got a famously difficult health care law passed that removed health insurers' ability to turn away those with pre-existing conditions. He helped save the auto industry. He finally took care of Osama bin Laden, picking up a massive political obligation abandoned by his feckless predecessor. He also went against the tide of loony right and left to save the financial services industry. Sure, it gave ammunition to all naysayers that he made the rich richer with your tax money and rewarded risky Wall Street behavior with your cash. This is true. It's also true, as far as it goes, to say John Lennon was a criminal, because if you are given to insanely insular, black and white thinking, that's a true statement. What Michael Moore, Glenn Beck, Mitt Romney and nobody else will say out loud, because it's uncool, is that a failed banking system would have plunged our country into a nightmare of depression, privation, mass unemployment and crime. This is not an opinion. It is fact. The economic meltdown was a systemic failure where risk was passed around and shared promiscuously by everybody, and the malaise, had it not been stopped, would have ravaged all parts of the body the way septic shock works in a human body, shutting down organs one by one. This chaos would have disproportionately ravaged the poor, not the rich. The Occupy Wall Street Cassandras want to know why Wall Street didn't suffer in the recession. As I've said before, they ignore the fact that there used to be bank called Lehman Brothers that was allowed to die by George Bush and company because of that very same idealism the downtown lefties claim as their own: The bankers must fail. Yet Lehman's collapse alone caused much of the panic in the markets, the collapse of stock prices, the wiping out of value, and the eventual decimation of jobs.
By March of 2009, the stock market had bounced back and the recession eventually ended. That left unemployment to tackle. Again, there is something that nobody in the press will say, and the candidates won't try to articulate, maybe because it sounds too clinical or patronizing. But employment is a lagging indicator. I'll say that again, because nobody understands it. In the process that is recovery, freight orders pick up first. Small companies take the lead before larger ones do. Companies clean house to boost their stock prices, laying everyone off. When they boost share price, they spend capital first on technology, and when orders come back, they start looking for staff again. For the past 30 years, they have sent much of this staffing need overseas at first. They have a global labor force to choose from now that is much cheaper than the U.S. worker because for years this labor force was locked behind logistical barriers and iron curtains. When things pick up, jobs in America come back online.
This process has become slower in the last 30 years as more work goes overseas. And guess what: There is nothing a Barack Obama or a Mitt Romney can do about it--except hire more government employees, which there is no political will for. When Barack Obama's enemies gripe that he can't blame George Bush for his problems anymore, you need give only one answer: "Yes he can, because our high unemployment is still the result of somebody else's recession and its lagging indicator unemployment. Again, that is not opinion. It is fact. For Barack Obama to make a dent directly would have been to do the thing nobody would let him do: expand government. A lot.
Then there is the other complaint. He should have cut taxes. I'll stop with that argument here, because he did. What he didn't cut he kept insanely low. None of you noticed and didn't read. You don't deserve any more time on this subject.
I guess when I pull the lever for Obama, it will not be as much for the man this time as I'm voting for the closest thing we have to rationality. I do not believe Mitt Romney is as uninformed, unsophisticated, or irrational as a lot of Republicans. I do not think, if he becomes president-elect tonight, that we'll have on our hands somebody quite as embarrassing or incompetent as George Bush and Sarah Palin. I believe, though, that he has, whether he likes it or not, become the standard bearer for the worst of American thinking. Neither Mitt Romney nor Barack Obama is going to stop droning. Neither one is going to send anybody in the Wall Street scandal to jail. But the bad ideas and intentions still accrue to Romney's side of the fence. The idea that Clinton era tax rates are now the devious plot of a socialist "anti-Colonialist," the idea that global warming reports are a liberal plot, the idea that the only acceptable big government is an overbuilt military, the idea that schizophrenics must have guns to protect everybody's Second Amendment rights, the idea that rapists must be allowed to see their sperm fructify a victim's egg, the idea that cheap gasoline is somehow a natural right of Americans, the idea that higher taxes harm the rich at all--this is all garbage thinking that has to be cleaned out almost daily by the process of confrontation, dialectic and due diligence. People who think are constantly bombarded by those who have faith. I'm talking about faith of all sorts, whether it's that there is a sky god watching over you personally or that a democracy is a self-cleaning oven and that a free market solves every problem by itself. These faiths are always carrion to proof and reason, but the faithful smile knowing that their faith, a priori faith, will never ever have to prove itself. It is both subject and predicate of a meaningless sentence.
If I concede that presidents actually do very little--that they rarely push buttons and that policies then pop out like Pop-Tarts, if I notice instead that they try to ride waves of idealism or discontent through the force of their charisma and personalities, then I feel pretty safe with this statement: Mitt Romney is a horrible presidential candidate. He's thoughtless in his statements, tone deaf. He doesn't know when to pick his battles. He doesn't know the difference between sang froid and heartlessness, at least not when it comes to speaking to a large audience. He doesn't know when to appear statesmanlike and when to pick a fight. All politicians lie. When Mitt Romney does it, somehow it seems even more opportunistic, crass, dirty and ham-fisted. He may or may not be a man of religious conviction, but one tends to notice not the trail of missionaries he's left in his wake but all the people he's fired. He brags about it, after all.
So I will, with a bit of a grudge, be voting for Barack Obama again. In tough times, when the arguments are stupid and miss the point, again, it's nice to have a competent politician around.
Update: I did vote today, but it took a long time. The lines were full of voters from the areas ravaged by Hurricane Sandy. I also noticed that my election district had changed, which meant I wasted 20 minutes or so in the wrong line. If you are in doubt about where you are voting in New York, you can check out this site.
--*If you apologize to an old lady for running her over with a car, you are apologizing for American values. --*If you're going to do the necessary job of cutting military spending, it's better to do it from the labyrinthine offices of a giant bicameral building where nobody can see you, so you can blame the person who signed your cuts. That's much better than sitting in such an easily recognizable big "white house" which will attract attention and scorn.
--*Joe Biden did not support the Iraq War. We invite you to go to the Congressional Record and unlearn that now.
--*Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan agrees with the Obama administration's policy of sending no troops to Syria. But it is indefensible that in doing so, Obama has not yet called the French-controlled U.N. a bunch of cheese-eating surrender monkeys.
--*Paul Ryan wants to cut loopholes for the rich. By "loophole," he's using the Webster's definition--a small opening through which a firearm can be fired, most likely at the poor people coming to steal the rich person's food.
--*Paul Ryan does not believe you can separate religion from politics, a point of view that places him squarely in the tradition of other Ottoman sultans.
--*We learned from Paul Ryan that unemployment continues to go up and Lindsay Lohan is currently dating Samantha Ronson.
--*Paul Ryan says that Barack Obama's intelligence failures on Sept. 11 were indefensible. He will not clarify which September 11.
--*Joe Biden's continued laughing is highly distracting to many viewers, who insist it was disrespectful right at the point they were just getting mesmerized into non-critical thinking.
--*Moderator Martha Raddatz kept the candidates' feet to the fire, especially when she called upon them to bravely make obeisance to a sky god.
--*Iran is a rogue nation and theocracy on the verge of gaining nuclear weapons. Obama has tried to introduce sanctions, but according to Ryan, that's not fast enough. The sanctions must be faster than a centrifuge, Ryan says. We're talking 1065 hertz!
--*Obama might have been introducing worms and using other covert methods to sabotage Iran's nuclear program and cripple it, but according to Ryan, the Obama administration has no credibility with the Iranians. When asked to define credibility, Ryan says it is not about bombing or threatening invasion or killing scientists ... no "credibility" is just too difficult to explain and he will fill in the details later when he is vice president.
--*We've had 8% unemployment since January 2009. Most economists would see that as a lagging indicator of a credit-spurred recession. But that's a long sentence. "Obamacare" is much shorter and easier to say.
--*Actually now unemployment is 7.8%, which just doesn't have as much polemical magic as August's figures did. Shit.
--*We learned that when the going gets tough, Joe Biden can come out and give the fight of Barack Obama's life.
--*Paul Ryan plans to cut the same amount of Medicare as the Obama administration. But at least it won't be rationed. It will just be gone. And you can take that to the bank.
--*Reviewers were relieved that, in this post-racial world, two filthy Irishmen can now have a spirited argument in public.
--*Mitt Romney's economic plan assumes that even people like Donald Trump are small businessmen. But Trump is actually very tall. --*If beloved Sesame Street character Big Bird wants to keep his job, he's going to have redevelop his skill set, moving from education into customer service at Dell Computers. I'm sorry, did I say Big Bird? I meant all teachers.
--*Mitt Romney believes we have a trickle down government, and that it instead ought to come in a more convenient spray bottle.
--*When it comes to government helping the economy, Barack Obama has one word: railroads.
--*Mitt Romney's health care plan would continue to help people with pre-existing conditions if Mitt Romney's fingers are crossed.
--*The word "rationing" is so exciting to the basal ganglia of Main Street Republicans, that they need not even think about what it means. Thank you, George Will.
--*Today's episode of Sesame Street was sponsored by the letter "C" ... for China.
--*People in public regularly grab Mitt Romney by the arm without fear of reprisal.
--*Mitt Romney is going to crack down on China. Also, he's going to crack down on Mount Everest and the San Andreas Fault.
--*Barack Obama wants to help small businesses, especially by making them feel special with avalanches of 1099s mailed right to their doors every time somebody buys a hammer from them.
--*Big Bird owes his job to China. Which is kind of a funny thing to bring up, since every U.S. president since Ronald Reagan also owes his job to China.
--*Mitt Romney hates it when the government mistreats small businesses, especially since that's big business's job.
--*The free market needs to be free. Also, we have to stop corporations from sending jobs overseas. If you think you can work out that contradiction in terms, then why don't YOU be president, you know-it-alls.
--*Mitt Romney doesn't care about 47% of Americans. No, actually we did not learn that last night, because Obama was too nice to bring it up. It was his wedding anniversary, after all, and he was probably not feeling mean spirited.
--*Haters don't make good presidents. They do, however, make excellent constituents.
--*Barack Obama has taken money away from seniors and Paul Ryan has never done such a thing. There is nothing written anywhere, nothing with Paul Ryan's name on it, nothing that says "Budget" by Paul Ryan that says something like he's taking money away from seniors. Not one bit of black ink anywhere.
--*Wealthy people will do fine no matter who is president, says Mitt Romney. They will also do fine no matter what the tax rate is. Or what the health care bill says. They will also be fine if the earth's water runs out, if a giant asteroid hits the planet, if the U.S. sells Florida to Spain, if soylent green is made out of people. ... I'm sorry, why are we not raising taxes on the rich again?
--*The GOP has apparently made a small tactical shift by not running a drooling moron for high office.
Political pundits took to the airwaves with awestruck reverence Tuesday as Mitt Romney shrewdly drew fire away from incendiary comments he made about the United States' response to attacks in Libya with a brand new gaffe saying he didn't care about 47% of Americans. "This is a game changer," said journalist Carl Bernstein. "Last week, everybody was talking about Mitt Romney's heartless, misleading comments about America's response to the riots in Northern Africa. Today, they are again talking about his waging of class warfare against those who take the earned income credit, including seniors. I'm humbled by his cagey political instincts."
Romney was caught on tape at a fund-raiser for wealthy donors insisting that 47% of Americans don't pay income tax, therefore they would likely be in the tank for Barack Obama on election day, and he has no hope of winning their vote. He called them government dependents, falsely suggested they pay no federal taxes and furthermore said they were enfeebled and unwilling to help themselves.
His brilliant tactical move of calling half of America moochers set off a media firestorm, as pundits, bloggers and reporters across the country quickly noted how quickly he had defused the unforgivable Libya gaffe.
"This is a Machiavellian maneuver of such cutting skill that one's hair turns curly," said Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
The week before, Romney had suggested that the United States had shamefully apologized to Islamic extremists for attacking U.S. embassies and personnel. He had, however, distorted the timeline of the diplomatic comments. The comments were meant to assuage Egyptian protestors angered about an anti-Islamic film produced in the United States. They were issued before the attacks, not after. Romney's gaffe led to an outpouring of outrage that he had politicized an attack on American diplomats for short term political gain.
But as of Tuesday, this anger was largely forgotten as Americans had stopped talking about his international inexperience and turned back to his class chauvinism and heartlessness.
"Mitt Romney knows how to change a conversation," said his running mate, Paul Ryan. "Just when you think you've got him pegged as a neophyte on the world stage, he'll remind you that he's also out of touch economically."
Breitbart.com issued a philippic against the mainstream media for not reporting more about Romney's tactical brilliance, not only his suggestion that half of America has not paid income tax under the Republican-championed earned income tax credit amid recession, but that he was further able to downgrade this cohort into a bunch of lazy welfare mothers in one fastidious rhetorical flourish.
"One day he's suggesting that Obama, who has been droning Al Qaeda operatives five times as much as George Bush, is somehow appeasing Islamic extremists. The next day, he's excoriating half of American for being on the dole, including millions who are presumably working. If that's not politicking worthy of Abraham Lincoln, FDR, Ronald Reagan and Seneca, I'll show my bare ass in Macy's window," wrote Breitbart columnist Ed Lee.
President Obama's White House chief of staff Jack Lew concurred.
"A lot of us thought that Mitt Romney's comments about Libya were unforgivable," said Lew. "But this week, we can barely remember them because all our mouths are open fly-catcher-wise at Mitt's brazen admission he thinks half of Americans are feeble welfare moms watching TV in a basement all day. All I can say is that it was a master stroke. Well-played!"
A new Yahoo story today shows that gun sales have spiked after last week's shooting massacre in an Aurora, Colo. movie theater. I'm sure I don't have to state the obvious ... well, yes I do. Lots of gun nuts out have over the past couple of years scrounged up the counterintuitive argument that massacres like these could be prevented if more people were armed. That means, if tons of guns were dropped in a crime-ridden inner-city area like Detroit, crime rates would drop. It would mean that if guns were airlifted to a war zone like Syria and dropped down to both sides, violence would stop.
We've already been through this obscenely stupid argument before. When Gabrielle Giffords was shot, along with several others, in a Tucson, Ariz. parking lot early last year, one of the people to rush to the scene was the armed Joe Zamudio. He came with his gun drawn to the scene with the safety off and caught sight of a man with another gun. This was not the shooter. But Zamudio didn't figure that out immediately and pushed the man up against the wall. Luckily he had the presence of mind not to shoot, but things could have spun out of control. He also knew, according to Slate, that if he pulled his gun out he might be confused as the shooter.
Common sense tells us that when everybody is armed, situations easily defused could turn into life and death emergencies. People who feel threatened are oftentimes mistaken, or even if they aren't, they aren't likely to judge whether they are really in mortal danger. Guns give people a false sense of power, when the power they won't really ever have--unless they are criminals--is that of surprise. And that is always left to a hostile person with a weapon. For this person, the right wing is willing to fight tooth and nail, because a schizophrenic's access to firepower as a key assumption of their own liberty, a supposed bedrock of their own Rousseauian natural rights.
This is one of those diminishing return arguments--it goes nowhere, but gun fanatics will argue it because they know you are too afraid to fight it to its dead end--nonsense.
The more untenable their arguments, and the more grisly statistics about gun deaths give them the lie, gun rights advocates grow more ruddy faced and extreme about their conviction and engage in the most childish forms of projection: It's not guns that are bad. It's got to be anything else. Everything else.
What are we blaming the Aurora, Colo. theater shooting on, other than lax gun laws: --*The Batman movie
--*Tough Ph.D. programs
--*Lax prescription drug laws
--*The right to peaceably assemble
--*Red hair dye
--*People's lack of access to full body armor
--*Too-long movie ads
--*Liberals. Because just saying that word makes certain neanderthals pee blood.
--*Government control of our grammar structure
--*Government control of Social Security
--*Government control of the post office
--*Government control of reserve currency
--*Yo Gabba Gabba went off the air
--*The health care bill
--*Hillary Clinton killed Vince Foster, I tell you
--*Mexican immigrants taking all the jobs
--*Anything other than guns because we have a Second Amendment people and that means if you restrict schizophrenics from acquiring assault rifles, you're limiting my personal freedom.
... Or maybe we can take the "quotes" off Obamacare now, a sneering portmanteau word used almost exclusively by detractors of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Now that the law has been upheld by the Supreme Court, perhaps the pejorative meaning will someday disappear, and posterity will be kinder to the word, a herald of a time when millions of people got health care insurance, and it will cease to be used as a horrible shibboleth by a certain kind of American breed who insist that suffering is the mandatory price of freedom. At the very least, this morning, we have avoided the distasteful sight of watching a small number of partisans carry on in front of the world and actually cheer for the vulnerability and frailty of their fellow countrymen. "Let 'em die," as Republican conventioneers like to yell at the uninsured, ought to be the standard for sneers, not "Obamacare."
Saw this article today in the New York Times about the debate over putting labels on genetically modified food. Of course, this is one of those topics that immediate rips open fierce debate, like the vaccine-autism debate or the Laffer curve or Tom Cruise's sexuality. In all those cases, the ferocity mainly seems to accrue to the minority that can't seem to make it's point without the conviction of the fire it breathes. I personally am not frightened of genetically modified food, and look askance at the alarmists who shun GMO on principle. One day we might find out it's harmful. Just like we might find out there are lots of all natural things, like tobacco, that are harmful. But dismissing genetically engineered foods out of hand smacks of back-to-nature idealism. Nature sometimes knows best--say, when an injured brain heals itself. Sometimes it doesn't, say when lots of women without access to advanced medical care die in childbirth or when uncircumcised males pass more venereal disease than their snipped freres. Food activists have made great strides in uncovering some of our dirtiest food secrets--including the way tastes and smells are manufactured in labs and the way our increasing drift toward protein in our diets could augur environmental and economic upheaval. What they haven't done is convince everybody that the concept of "Frankenfood" is in itself somehow evil if it had no adverse effects and and actually nourished an overpopulated planet, a world in which water and arable land are going to become scarcer and which could probably use a helpful nudge from human ingenuity in the form of technology. People who automatically fear an assault on the integrity of nature are in essence hawking religion. They mix up caloric intake with karma.
Having said that, one questions the reasoning of multinationals lining up against GMO labels on food. This is an argument of a different abstraction, and you don't have to hate genetically modified food to think labeling is a good idea. Transparency being the watchword of our age, why would such companies fear honesty? If it was important to put warning labels on rap music, once upon a time, because of the unproven harm it could do to children, wouldn't it be a no-brainer to label something that's actually going into our bodies? Isn't that a choice consumers ought to be allowed to make? If organic food and genetically modified food stood side by side, that's a marketplace of ideas, not just food.
It also is distasteful that a decision against labeling could be unduly influenced by 8,000 pound biotech companies like Monsanto, who even profit motivated investors sometimes shun for its anti-competitive practices and bad corporate citizenship.
I think genetically modified food is OK, but if I didn't, I'd demand the right to know when I'm buying it. Even our investments, our children's toys and our drugs these days come with all sorts of disclaimers. Whether you think it's necessary to be inside everything or not, GMO labeling sits well inside the pale of a public's need to know. This wouldn't be an issue at all if there weren't powerful companies arrayed against public interest and (my old saw) a weak political establishment steered by anti-government hysterics woefully bereft of its power capital to do anything good for anybody.
Here's a titter: Bill Kristol, the one-man juggernaut pushing a lot of neo-conservative policy over the last 20 years, says conservatives ought to be pushing to break up the banks "some." "If they are too big to fail, make them less big." That's not big government, he says "That's classic anti-trust." It must be a difficult time for neoconservatives (also, in Kristol's case, known as minicons, as second-generation neocon progeny). Their disastrous war in Iraq has left a lot of them on the sidelines after it swamped the Republican Party. Kristol, who helped invent a lot of the nastier forms of politicking to push an aggressive foreign policy agenda, has now found himself in a weird position of trying to offer counsel to a backlash of anti-government hysterics when neoconservatives, at their core, believe in government and think it can be the tool of idealism conservative style.
To watch him try to play elder statesman after a life of being a partisan hack (albeit a brilliant one) is kind of sad. He knows he has to speak politely to Tea Party crazies but also offer reasoned analysis of Barack Obama's successes to sound like a venerable analyst. So it hurts to watch him manicure his sentences to fit in the ears of so many tiny heads. He extols small government in this video but also says that legislation to limit huge Wall Street excess is OK and reasonable. Guess what? You can't have it both ways. Government gets big only because life is complicated, and we need decent government watchdogs on Wall Street, not the current array of lap dogs. That means resources. Which means taxes. To say that financial legislation is just words on paper curbing excess and nothing more is disingenuous to say the least.
I give him this. He is much more subtle at trying to say two contradictory things in one sentence, unlike Ron Paul, who tries to do the same thing and often leaves you reaching for aspirin.
Kristol should just stand up, be a man, and admit what some former conservative colleagues are: that Reaganite deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy have failed to make life better for the majority of people, which is what Kristol, the liberator of the Iraqis, has always said he stands for.
You expect amazing stupidity from conspiracy theorists, who use bullying tactics to get you to believe that they are smarter than you and tell you that you're programmed if you don't let them program you. But rarely do they push news organizations into such amazing blunders. At least a couple of different online news sites, the Mirror and the Daily Mail Online, are reporting today that Osama Bin Laden was not, after all, dumped in the Indian Ocean after his ignominious end at the hands of Navy SEALs last May. Instead, according to internal e-mails stolen from Austin, Texas security firm Stratfor by hackers, bin Laden's body was taken to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Bethesda, Maryland for examination and cremation. Stratfor, which does security work for the United States government, is called by detractors the shadow CIA. The firm supposedly has extensive knowledge about U.S. internal security and handles accounts for some of the largest U.S. corporations doing business overseas and thus stands at the nexus of commerce and power, say its foes.
According to the e-mails, which appeared on Wikileaks.org, a Stratfor executive named Fred Burton posted in an e-mail subject line, "Body bound for Dover, DE on CIA Plane" when referring to bin Laden's corpse, which would then be sent onward to Bethesda. That e-mail came at 5:51:12 on May 5, 2011. This elicits the response from George Friedman, the company's president, that the sea burial was an unlikely account. It sounded to him like the disposition of Adolf Eichmann's body:
"Eichmann was seen alive for many months on trial before being sentenced to death and executed. No one wanted a monument to him so they cremated him. But i dont know anyone who claimed he wasnt eicjhman [sic]. No comparison with suddenly burying him at sea without any chance to view him, which i doubt happened." The FBI wouldn't let that happen, he opines.
The Mail goes on to show pictures of the supposed aircraft carrier next to the supposed pathology institute, and top if off with a nice post-prandial sorbet: a sidebar explaining who Adolf Eichmann was.
Problem is, a later Stratfor cable the news organizations didn't bother to read says, "Never mind."
I first read this story after seeing a thread on The New York Times Web site about a bunch of hackers being arrested who were vaguely linked to the same large Anonymous movement that has targeted firms like Stratfor. One commenter said that the Bin Laden cremation story had appeared all around the world "except in America, due to the heavily censored government/corporate media." There's no telling why the Times would gain from burying this story, since the paper has regularly published Wikileaks material. Supposedly the Times, Dow Chemical, Stratfor and Barack Obama are now all in cahoots.
Smart readers probably already knew the story was a hoax when they read Friedman only "doubted" that the bin Laden burial at sea was true. That means the alternative Bethesda cremation story was simply conjecture by the Stratfor guys, a bunch of armchair analysts obviously outside the loop or still gathering information. But if that wasn't enough to convince conspiracy theorists or gullible newspaper reporters hot for copy, then certainly this memo should have been:
"Down & dirty done, He already sleeps with the fish...." ** Fred's Note: Although I don't really give a rats ass, it seems to me that by dropping the corpse in the ocean, the body will come back to haunt us....gotta be violating some sort of obscure heathen religious rule that will inflame islam? I was sleeping thru that class at Langley."
The time code on this: 15:11:03, May 5, 2011. Well after the first two e-mails.
So, Stratfor concedes in the later memo, Osama bin Laden, was indeed thrown into the sea. How did they know? They probably heard it on the god damn news.
You can debate all day whether it was important for hackers to target Stratfor, which seems to have as many conspiracy theories about Julian Assange as he does about them. Reading the links is sometimes less like reading John Le Carre and more like listening to "Dueling Banjos." When you read through Stratfor e-mails, you hear a mix of braggadocio and paranoia that is likely the proper cocktail of people who work in the spook business, but what you don't hear are the voices of powerful people who control our daily lives. Sometimes they seem just as out of the loop as anybody ("Look here! Everything we need to know about our hacker enemies I found in this issue of Wired!") The hackers who broke into the company regard it schizophrenically as an evil perpetrator of black ops standing at the nexus of power but then disdainfully as a company too drag ass to even protect its own computers from attack.
I wrote extensively about Assange last year, noting that even though information is always a good thing, his motivations are nutty. Of course, why should I care about that if the leaks are substantial? Well, in this case, much of the information was stolen by people who also stole credit card information from companies, assuming all companies are part of the complex. It so happens I write about finance, and perhaps part of my paycheck comes from advertising money doled out by a hated industry. Does that make me part of the complex? Does that make my credit card worth stealing?
I only worry about that because conspiracy theorists lump everybody into plots, damning innocent and guilty alike, and what's more, especially in this case, THEY DON'T KNOW HOW TO READ OR TELL TIME. And yet their conviction is such that they will not be moved, they bully dumb reporters into stories like these, and finally, their extremism promotes criminality. If what they find in their hacking promotes the greater good, like the Pentagon Papers, I'm ready to defend them. And Stratfor seems to be full of nutty right wing conspiracy theorists itself. But there's the rub. Conspiracy theorists are usually notable only by their infantile feelings of helplessness and their need to be in the know. And often, on both sides of the debate, they can impress us only in being smug, self-satisfied and wrong. In this case, the firm's detractors seem as unlikable as the firm they invaded.
Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum's last name, as well all know, has also become sexual slang denoting a mix of lube and fecal matter (after columnist and activist Dan Savage started a contest several years back to give Santorum's name a new meaning). The slang word has taken on a life of its own on the Internet, and even topped the actual Santorum in Google searches for a long time. Santorum as sex substance has led to a field day of accidental double entendres. One of the most interesting is "Santorum Comes From Behind In Alabama Three-Way" and "Santorum Surges" and "Santorum Trails Romney." What kind of headlines could we expect for the next four years if Santorum were actually to become president?
--*Santorum Flies Across the Country
--*Congress Fights Santorum
--*Santorum Bill Races Through Senate
--*Santorum Rushes to Hurricane Site
--*Santorum Rushes Into Iran
--*Santorum Bombs Iran
--*Santorum At Center of Oil Spill Controversy
--*Santorum Gushes Over Children
--*Santorum Pushes Natural Gas Fracking
--*Santorum On Madoff
--*Santorum on Obama
--*Santorum on George Bush
--*Santorum on Santorum
--*Santorum Demands More Oversight
--*Santorum Vowed To Faithfully Discharge Duties
--*Santorum Regulation Called Too Tight
--*Santorum Loosens Restrictions
--*Congress Looks Closely at Santorum Paper Trail
--*Santorum Demands Putin Out
--*Santorum Care Will Employ A Thousand New Nurses
--*Santorum Requires Stopgap Measure
--*Santorum Fails Cloture Motion
--*Vote Pushes Backstop For Santorum