Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Quote of the day

"The convention, except three or four persons, thought prayers unnecessary." - Ben Franklin, in handwritten note to his Constitutional Convention speech prayer proposal

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A word about Wool

Two months ago, while checking the Kindle Daily Deal, I came across the Wool Omnibus for the first time. Having not heard of the author, nor the five book series before, I was weary of spending two dollars on it, yet found myself intrigued by the description of this sci-fi series

The first Wool story was released as a standalone short in July of 2011. Due to reviewer demand, the rest of the story was released over the next six months. My thanks go out to those reviewers who clamored for more. Without you, none of this would exist. Your demand created this as much as I did.

This is the story of mankind clawing for survival, of mankind on the edge. The world outside has grown unkind, the view of it limited, talk of it forbidden. But there are always those who hope, who dream. These are the dangerous people, the residents who infect others with their optimism. Their punishment is simple. They are given the very thing they profess to want: They are allowed outside.
After a few minutes of internet browsing I learned that the author, Hugh Howey, self-published these books and that their sales were driven primarily by word-of-mouth. I was further impressed by the virtually universal rave reviews of the book from readers and that in less than a year the film rights were secured by 20th Century Fox, with Ridley Scott having expressed interest in making the film.

So I bought it and began reading. And I was hooked. Over the next two days I spent every free moment I had reading the omnibus.

The story begins with mankind living in an underground silo where the only punishment for those who wish to go outside is to be allowed to go outside. No one seems to know exactly why mankind is living in an underground silo. I won't say much more than that about the plot as I do not wish to spoil the experience in the slightest. But I believe that if you read to the end of the first short story, you will be compelled to read the rest of the series.

Speaking more generally about the writing, the sort of sci-fi world that Howey has created reminds me of the work of Asimov; and reading this self-published, serialized and word-of-mouth promoted work gave me the sort of pleasure that I imagine the early fans of pulp science fiction magazine derived from the sense discovering and being a part of the start of new careers and great works.

After finishing the omnibus I immediately purchased First Shift - Legacy, the first book in a trilogy of Wool prequels. I swallowed that in a few days and then eagerly awaited the publication of the second prequel, Second Shift - Order, which I got the day it became available. As you can probably guess, I am long since finished with that one and am now waiting in anticipation of the third book, which Howey expects to hopefully have out by the start of February. And then it will be onto Wool 9 (which is 14% done, according to Howey's website as of December 16).

I highly recommend giving these works a shot: and for those who do not wish to spend 6 dollars on a work from a little known author, then I would note that the original Wool 1 can be read for free.

 I dare you to try it and see if you can resist the urge to continue reading further.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Quote of the day

"She almost spoke like a super villain, like Dr Doom." - Ken Levine, commenting on the certainty with which Ayn Rand held her beliefs

Levine is the designer of Bioshock, a critically acclaimed video game that takes place in an Objectivist dystopia inspired by Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged. He has stated that the game is "a cautionary tale about wholesale, unquestioning belief in something."

Thursday, November 15, 2012

"War on terror"

If this is how you fight "terror," then perhaps one need look for another path.


While Israeli officials are quick to rattle off the numbers of projectiles fired from Gaza, rarely do they tell you what they fire into Gaza, what the effects of this fire is and what the fallout from it is.

For example, in 2011, the projectiles fired by the Israeli military into Gaza have been responsible for the death of 108 Palestinians, of which 15 where women or children, and the injury of 468 Palestinians, of which 143 where women or children. The methods by which these causalities were inflicted by Israeli projectiles breaks down as follows: 57 percent, or 310, were caused by Israeli aircraft missile fire; 28 percent, or 150, where from Israeli live ammunition; 11 percent, or 59, were from Israeli tank shells; while another 3 percent, or 18, were from Israeli mortar fire.

Through September 2012, Israeli weaponry caused 55 Palestinian deaths and 257 injuries. Among these 312 casualties, 61, or roughly 20 percent, were children and 28 were female. 209 of these casualties came as a result of Israeli Air Force missiles, 69 from live ammunition fire, and 18 from tank shells. It is important to note that these figures do not represent a totality of Israeli projectiles fired into Gaza but rather only Israeli projectiles fired into Gaza which cause casualties. The total number of Israeli projectiles fired into Gaza is bound to be significantly larger.

For context, consider this: more Palestinians were killed in Gaza yesterday than Israelis have been killed by projectile fire from Gaza in the past three years.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Excerpt of the day

From The Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum

"What do you know?"

"Well, that is hard to tell," replied Jack. "For although I feel that I know a tremendous lot, I am not yet aware how much there is in the world to find out about. It will take me a little time to discover whether I am very wise or very foolish."

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Quote of the day

"Based on what is known, what is most disturbing about the whole Petraeus scandal is not the sexual activities that it revealed, but the wildly out-of-control government surveillance powers which enabled these revelations. What requires investigation here is not Petraeus and Allen and their various sexual partners but the FBI and the whole sprawling, unaccountable surveillance system that has been built." - Glenn Greenwald

Monday, November 12, 2012

Quote of the day

"A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer lives are based on the labors of other people, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving." - Albert Einstein, The Quotable Einstein

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Quote of the day

"Modern Republicans are devotees of faith-based analysis on every front." - Paul Krugman

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

A lost opportunity

As Dean Baker says

It is remarkable that the Democrats have not been harsher in holding Romney in contempt for his comments [making fun of efforts to mitigate global warming] in these final days leading up to the election. Imagine if the shoe were on the other foot.

Imagine a world where we had not seen the Sept. 11 attacks and a Democratic challenger to President Bush's reelection in 2004 had mocked the money that Bush had spent on defenses against terrorism. If the country had then been hit by a terrorist attack in the week before the election would the Republicans be shy about going after their challenger's bad sense of humor?
But instead both parties quietly agreed not to make an issue out of the biggest issue facing mankind.

Monday, October 29, 2012

A satirical take on the War on Terror (among other things)

An author, Mr. J.M. Porup, sent me an e-mail alerting I that he has a new book out - The United States of Air: A Satire that Mocks the War on Terror - which will be free until November 5. [I just purchased my free Kindle copy as I type this.] He described it as a "a vicious satiric smackdown of the War on Terror, War on Drugs, NSA spying, and above all American hypocrisy" inspired by the sort of civil liberties infringements that Glenn Greenwald blogs about regularly.

An interview with the author can be read, here.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Update for the New American Newspeak Dictionary

Today's update to the New American Newspeak Dictionary is:

Disposition matrix: a secret process of deliberation to sort who the president wants to secretly kill, secretly rendition, or secretly put in prison indefinitely without charges.

Via the Washington Post (h/t Glenn Greenwald)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What he said

If I had written a post today, I would have wished it to be this one.

The reality is that people who work themselves into a lather over deficits while ignoring the very real problem of climate change don't care a whit about the fate of future generations. They're simply demagoguing a largely soluble non-issue to create an excuse for handing social insurance programs over to Wall Street, and for shredding what little is left of discretionary spending in order to ensure a cheap, desperate labor force with low tax rates for the wealthy.
It really is sad that between tepid, no-backbone Democrats and lunatic Republicans we've gone so far backwards on this issue.

For the first time since 1988, presidential candidates did not mention the issue of climate change during debates.

Even as the world has seen 331 consecutive months with global temperatures over the 20th century average, even as extreme weather gets more intense and expensive, even as the Arctic sees unprecedented melt of sea ice, and even as scientists issue dire warnings about an approaching climate “tipping point,” the issue got no mention at all within three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate.
If you wish to familiarize yourself with the villains and fools who through a combination of greed, ideologically motivated ignorance, and intellectual dishonesty are determined to doom future generations to a planet less livable with less diversity of life, the Frontline episode "Climate of Doubt" is an excellent starting point.

(The biggest villian, to me, in that program is liar-for-hire Fred Singer, who looks the interviewer in the face and lies with a smirk. Over decades now he has been on the wrong side of the science of global warming, second hand cigarette smoke, Ozone layer depletion and cancer, and acid rain while he was taking money from institutions which profited from the deleterious effects their product had on the public and environment.)

If we didn't live in a Kabuki democracy in which a narrow set of issues is marginally debated by our political duopoly, the issue of climate change would have gotten national attention. But instead of allowing third party candidates have their voices heard, they are arrested and put in shackles.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

What upsets Kirsten Powers (D-Fox News)

Kirsten Powers gets upset when a Democratic presidential campaign points out its Republican opposition is lying.

She seems less upset to provide legitimacy to the pretense that Fox News is objective ("fair and balanced") when in reality it is a network dedicated to conservative movement lies, propaganda, and conspiracy theory.

Update: From the Daily Howler: "The other side keeps saying things which are false. We refuse to say what is true. Result? That script will work again in 08. It will work due to people like Powers."

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Obama administration Words vs. Actions: transparency edition

The Words:

"I will also hold myself as president to a new standard of openness.... Let me say it as simply as I can: Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency." - Barack Obama, Welcoming speech to Senior staff (Jan. 2009)

"This administration has been the most transparent ever." - White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew

The Actions:

"The Obama administration has charged more people (six) under the Espionage Act for the alleged mishandling of classified information than all past presidencies combined." - Peter Van Buren

"As a candidate for President, Obama criticized the Bush administration for using the state secrets privilege more than any previous administration to shut down lawsuits alleging government misconduct. But in every state secrets case that it inherited from the Bush administration, Obama’s Justice Department has continued to assert the privilege. Can you explain why Obama now supports using the privilege in the very cases in which he ostensibly opposed its use previously?" - Elizabeth Goitein

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Pop fiction I like

A regular reader may recall that I am no fan of popular fiction. In the post just linked I might have been remiss in failing to note that it isn't just that I categorically dislike popular fiction or believe that it can not be enjoyed (though I do abhor most of it) but that it frustrates me that people mistake such work for real (i.e. great) literature. So I thought I might take a moment to spotlight some pop fiction that I did enjoy.

Namely: Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy. While I am aware that this isn't on the level of Dostoevsky or Dickens I did find all three of these books thoroughly enjoyable, for several reasons. First of all, in all three books I could identify with the politics of the author and his fixation on right wing extremism. The second and third books in the series deal with what would be my political fantasy: having a government that violates civil liberties in the name of national security be held to account.

Secondly, as a lifelong fan of the medium of comic books, I appreciated the way that the main character of the series comes across as a super-heroine, with abilities that far surpass that of a normal human being. (This is more apparent in the second and third books.)

And perhaps it has something to do with the genre, because the next most pop fiction success that I can think of that I've enjoyed has been the work of James Ellroy, also a writer of detective fiction (think film noir.)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Quote of the day

"Political passions, aroused everywhere, demand their victims." - Albert Einstein, The Quotable Einstein

Thursday, September 20, 2012

More discount book buys

Went back to the book sale today and picked up:

Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind American's Energy Future (hc) by Jeff Goodel - $1.

The Quotable Einstein (hc) edited by Alice Calaprice - $1.

Soldiers of Reason: The RAND Corporation and the Rise of the American Empire (hc) by Alex Abella - $1.

On the Shoulders of Giants (hc) edited by Stephen Hawking - $1.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Latest discount book buys

Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know - And Doesn't (hc) by Steven Prothero for $1.

Isaac Newton (hc) by James Gleick for $1.

I've already read Religious Literacy before (having checked it out at the library) but will be glad to have it in my collection as a religious primer.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Unspoken class warfare

Although you can turn on Fox News, AM radio or generally listen to Republicans and hear that "class warfare" is being waged by Democrats against the wealthy (in what would have to be the most poorly waged war in human history), I would contend that what constitutes a more real class warfare in America would be the tacit assumptions made by our plutocratic class.

For instance: Corey Robin became fairly livid when Terry Moran of ABC News asked the striking teachers union in Chicago if they "realize how much damage they are doing to their profession." This angered Robin for two basic reasons: (1) the figures Moran used to suggest how greedy the teachers are being are false, and (2) Moran is saying that the teachers make plenty while Moran himself makes much more money, so, in other words, "is what [he] does more valuable than what a teacher does?"

Robin also noted that Moran, who lectured the teachers about the decadence of their salaries, can earn their annual income by giving two speeches.

And there is the hidden assumption: that this is as it should be. That someone like Moran should make so much and that teachers who make so comparatively little are the greedy ones who must selflessly sacrifice for the good of the economy and others (it should be recognized that the teachers aren't simply striking for higher wages.) That someone like Moran, who works in a profession which is populated by persons who were given their cushy jobs by virtue of their aristocratic birth (Megan McCain, Chelsea Clinton, Jenna Bush-Hager, Liz Cheney, Luke Russert, Jonah Goldberg, etc.) and which by its failure to critically examine the claims of government officials helped to launch a war in Iraq which will cost taxpayers trillions (but has been quite lucrative for select individuals and corporations) should scold teachers about how much damage they are doing to their profession when they attempt to stand up to the plutocratic interests that are trying to make their lives worse while further enriching themselves.

And getting back to the belief that Democrats are waging class warfare against the rich, let's take a moment and consider who is leading the charge against the union in Chicago: former Obama administration Chief-of-Staff Rahm Emanuel, who, according to Rick Pearlstein, received 12 million dollars from charter school advocates during his 2011 mayoral campaign.

Update: See also Charles Pierce on the strike.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Quote of the day

"[S]upply-side economics: the theory that you actually bring in more revenue by bringing in less" - Bill Maher

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Nothing to see here

While the types of persons who get on Fox News, AM radio and conservative print find any given cold day in any given location evidence that global warming is a ridiculous hoax, my community is now having to concern itself with West Nile virus.

Which those communist One World government conspirators known as climatologists have been suggesting will be a consequence of global warming.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there have been over 1100 reported cases of West Nile virus disease in the US this year, including 42 deaths. If these numbers seem high, they are – in fact, it’s the highest number of reported cases since West Nile was first detected in the US in 1999, and West Nile season has just begun. Given that the peak of West Nile epidemics generally occurs in mid August, and it takes a few weeks for people to fall ill, the CDC expects that number to rise dramatically. But why now?

Though the CDC doesn’t have an official response to that question, the director of the CDC’s Vector-Borne Infectious Disease Division said that ‘unusually warm weather’ may be to blame. So far, 2012 is the hottest year on record in the United States according to the National Climatic Data Center, with record-breaking temperatures and drought a national norm. It’s likely no coincidence that some of the states hit hardest by West Nile are also feeling the brunt of the heat. More than half of cases have been reported from Texas alone, where the scorching heat has left only 12% of the state drought-free. Fifteen heat records were broken in Texas just last week on August 13th.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Something you will never hear from today's demented GOP

"[W]e cannot afford to reduce taxes, reduce income, until we have in sight a program of expenditures that shows that the factors of income and of outgo will be balanced." - Dwight D. Eisenhower

Via Corey Robin's essay on the evolution of Republicans from a party of austerity to one of magical underpants gnomes (i.e. step 1: cut taxes, step 2: ???, step 3: profit).

Thursday, August 23, 2012

American "justice"

Behold the severe punishment and shame that befalls elite American political figures after they participate in a torture regime and a fraudulently sold war resulting in the death of hundreds of thousands.

Perhaps it's not quite as groundbreaking as being the country's first female national security adviser or first female African-American secretary of state, but Condoleezza Rice broke another barrier Monday with a golf club.

The formerly men-only Augusta National Golf Club -- a golfing mecca├»»¿ where the annual Masters Tournament has been played in Georgia since 1934 -- announced that Rice and Darla Moore, a female pioneer in banking, would be the first women admitted to its exclusive membership of about 300 captains of industry and government.

A year after telling Golf Digest that she didn't feel Augusta had an obligation to admit women, Rice, 57, now a Stanford business professor and a Hoover Institution senior fellow, said in a statement Monday that she looks forward "to playing golf, renewing friendships and forming new ones through this very special opportunity."
Obviously, future torturers and war criminals will be discouraged from their actions by the severe plight of figures like Rice.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

On Paul Ryan

"His entire life, and the history of his entire family, makes a lie out of everything the man has said in his political career, and a sham out of every policy position he purports to hold." - Charles Pierce

Quote of the day

"The Devil is not the Prince of Matter; the Devil is the arrogance of the spirit, faith without smile, truth that is never seized by doubt." - Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Quote of the day

"The American Right has an amazing ability to lionize leaders whose lives are the precise antithesis of the political values that define their image." - Glenn Greenwald, commenting on Paul Ryan

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Excerpt of the day

From The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

Until then I had thought each book spoke of the things, human or divine, that lie outside books. Now I realized that not infrequently books speak of books: it is as if they spoke among themselves. In the light of this reflection, the library seemed all the more disturbing to me. It was then the place of a long, centuries-old murmuring, an imperceptible dialogue between one parchment and another, a living thing, a receptacle of powers not to be ruled by a human mind, a treasure of secrets emanated by many minds, surviving the death of those who had produced them or had been their conveyors.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

On Hunter Thompson

From Matt Taibbi's 40th anniversary tribute to Hunter Thompson's Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72

Both now and in Thompson’s day, most of the press figures we lionize as great pundits and commentators seem to think it’s proper to mute our expectations for public figures. We’re constantly told that politicians should be given credit for being “realistic” (in the mouths of people like David Brooks, “realistic” is really code for “being willing to sell out your constituents in order to get elected”) and that demanding “purity” from our leaders is somehow immature (Hillary had to vote for the Iraq war; otherwise she would have ruined her presidential chances!).

To me, the reason so many pundits and politicians take this stance is because the alternative is so painful: If you cling to hope and belief, the distance between the ideal and the corrupt reality is so great, it’s just too much for most normal people to handle. So they make peace with the lie, rather than drive themselves crazy worrying about how insanely horrible and ridiculous things really are.

But Thompson never made that calculation. He never stooped to trying to sell us on stupidities about “electability” and “realism,” or the pitfalls of “purity.” Instead, he stared right into the flaming-hot sun of shameless lies and cynical horseshit that is our politics, and he described exactly what he saw—probably at serious cost to his own mental health, but the benefit to us was Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Quote of the day

"[W]e cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home." - Edward R. Murrow, See It Now (March 9, 1954 broadcast)

Thursday, August 02, 2012

On presidential killing of citizens

From Steve Coll at The New Yorker's Daily Comment blog

With those words [of determination to assassinate US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki] attributed to Obama, Klaidman has reported what would appear to be the first instance in American history of a sitting President speaking of his intent to kill a particular U.S. citizen without that citizen having been charged formally with a crime or convicted at trial.

The due-process clause of the Fifth Amendment prohibits “any person” from being deprived of “life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” Obama authorized the termination of Awlaki’s life after he concluded that the boastful, mass-murder-plotting cleric had, in effect, forfeited constitutional protection by waging war against the United States and actively planning to kill Americans. Obama also believed that the Administration’s secret process establishing Awlaki’s guilt provided adequate safeguards against mistake or abuse—all in all, enough “due process of law” to take his life.

Awlaki was certainly a murderous character; his YouTube videos alone would likely convict him at a jury trial. Yet the case of Awlaki’s killing by drone strike is to the due-process clause what the proposed march of neo-Nazis through a community that included many Holocaust survivors in Skokie, Illinois, was to the First Amendment when that case arose, in 1977. It is an instance where the most onerous facts imaginable should lead to the durable affirmation of constitutional principle, as Skokie did. Instead, President Obama and his advisers have opened the door to violent action against American citizens by future Presidents when the facts may be much less compelling.

Saturday, July 28, 2012


It really is depressing hearing public sector workers with job benefits resulting from a union in my community explain that Fox News demonstrated how liberal it is getting by its firing Glenn Beck (you know, Glenn Beck, renowned champion of unions) for truth telling. And that Glenn Beck should be president.

Never mind that Beck is transparently stupid and possibly mentally unbalanced - what is disheartening is how he manages to find fans in people whose lives would be measurably worse if Beck's political views were put into to practice.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Quote of the day

"I remain convinced that American conservative thought is now not a philosophy but, rather, a book of spells, a series of conjuring words that have meaning only to the initiates." - Charles Pierce, commenting on the vacuousness of S.E. Cupp

Friday, July 20, 2012

Why do people persist in treating Rush Limbaugh as if he isn't a dishonest fool?

Several days ago Rush Limbaugh uncovered another liberal conspiracy (transcript via Media Matters, bold emphasis mine)

RUSH LIMBAUGH: Have you heard, this new movie, the Batman movie -- what is it, the Dark Knight Lights Up or something? Whatever the name of it is. That's right, Dark Knight Rises, Lights Up, same thing. Do you know the name of the villain in this movie? Bane. The villain in the Dark Knight Rises is named Bane. B-A-N-E. What is the name of the venture capital firm that Romney ran, and around which there's now this make-believe controversy? Bain. The movie has been in the works for a long time, the release date's been known, summer 2012 for a long time. Do you think that it is accidental, that the name of the really vicious, fire-breathing, four-eyed, whatever-it-is villain in this movie is named Bane?


LIMBAUGH: Anyway, so this evil villain in the new Batman movie is named Bane. And there's now discussion out there as to whether or not this was purposeful, and whether or not it will influence voters. It's going to have a lot of people. This movie, the audience is going to be huge, lot of people are going to see the movie. And it's a lot of brain-dead people, entertainment, the pop culture crowd. And they're going to hear "Bane" in the movie, and they are going to associate Bain. And the thought is that when they start paying attention to the campaign later in the year, and Obama and the Democrats keep talking about Bain, not Bain Capital, but Bain, Romney and Bain, that these people will think back to the Batman movie --"Oh yeah, I know who that is." There are some people who think it will work. There are some people think it will work. Others think -- "You're really underestimating the American people who think that will work."
Limbaugh concluded by saying that, "I'm just telling you this is the kind of stuff the Obama team is lining up."

Ok, this is moronic on multiple levels. First, please note the juvenile attempt to demean the film by pretending he doesn't know what the proper name of it is ("Dark Knight Lights Up or something?"); the sort of put-down you might expect to hear from some adolescent middle school student, but not the favorite adult voice of a political movement.

Secondly, please note that, as is routinely the case, Limbaugh is ignorant about the subject matter he is pontificating about. Bane, the comic villain, was created in 1993 by conservative writer Chuck Dixon who considers him to be "an Occupy Wall Street type." Although Bane is not as iconic a Batman nemesis as the likes of the Penguin, Riddler, or Joker (neither was Ra's al Ghul from the first film) he is perhaps the most significant Batman villain of recent times in that he is the only one to have literally broken the Batman and ended his career. Director Christopher Nolan, drawing on the darker and better elements of  the Batman books, would find in the Bane-unleashes-havoc-on-Gotham storyline a very obvious way to bookend his Batman trilogy.

Again, you have the juvenile attempt to demean the character by describing him as a "fire-breathing, four-eyed, whatever-it-is villain." Limbaugh proudly wears his ignorance on his sleeve. He doesn't know who or what Bane is (Bane in the film doesn't wear a mask with eye-slits as he does in the comic, so where in the world does the "four-eyed" insult come from?).

And lastly, the parts I've bolded where Limbaugh clearly asks his audience to consider that Bane was chosen deliberately so that the Obama campaign team could negatively associate the movie villain with Mitt Romney's history at Bain Capital. Right, so several years ago, when Nolan and producers, and Warner Brothers were deciding what villain to use in the film, they knew that Mitt Romney would win the Republican presidential nomination and would make Bain Capital a centerpiece of his campaign, so they chose a villain who has nothing to do with venture capitalism so that the Obama campaign would be able to compare Bain Capital to the Batman villain Bane because the names are homophones. As one commenter I saw on the internet noted (I can't recall where), Limbaugh might next accuse the dictionary of being a liberal conspiracy planned in advance, since it defines "bane" to be something that destroys or brings harm and misery.

But as ridiculous as this all is, it's not where Limbaugh hits bottom. No. He hits bottom when after he was called on his idiocy, he denied saying what he said.

Everybody’s out there running around saying I got this giant conspiracy theory that the Batman people, the creators, the comic book creators, created this thing to campaign against Romney. I never said that. I didn’t say there was a conspiracy. I said the Democrats were going to use it, which they are.
Rush Limbaugh asked his audience, rhetorically, if they thought it was an accident that the character was named Bane and that the movie's release date had been scheduled for summer 2012. When commenters pointed out Limbaugh's ignorance by noting that the character was created and named in 1993, he lies and asserts that  he was only saying that "Democrats were going to use it." But Limbuagh, pathologically dishonest idiot that he is, can't even keep that lie coherent within a single broadcast, as later in the transcript he says

I was talking about Hollywood, the people who market the movie, who determine when it's gonna be released. So you've got the villain named Bane. We know that Obama is doing everything he can to discredit Bain.
And this is the same level of maturity and dishonesty and ignorance and incoherence that Limbaugh brings to bear on virtually every single subject that he talks about. As when he maliciously attacked Sandra Fluke, lied about her testimony and demonstrated a complete ignorance of how birth control works.

Monday, July 16, 2012

A deficit of moral imagination

On the same day that I inadvertently quoted Percy Bysshe Shelley for the second time expressing his belief that moral behavior requires an ability to imagine oneself in the place of another, Glenn Greenwald wrote a blog post that demonstrates this point quite succinctly.

[Morning Joe] devoted a six-minute segment to Esquire‘s Tom Junod, who — as I noted earlier today — has just published a worthwhile and heartfelt article entitled “The Lethal Presidency of Barack Obama,” which examines in depth the multiple ways the President has seized the power to kill; in one section, Junod reports on the U.S. killing of 16-year-old Abdulrahman Awlaki in Yemen, and Esquire has published that section separately under this headline: “Obama’s Administration Killed a 16-Year-Old American and Didn’t Say Anything About It. This Is Justice?” In the Morning Joe segment, Junod repeatedly documented the numerous innocent Muslims — including children — that are continuously killed by Obama’s attacks, such as the 16-year-old Denver-born son of the Islamic preacher, a mere two weeks after his father was killed.

You just have to watch the reaction of [Harold] Ford, neocon Dan Senor, and Mike Barnacle to appreciate the soulless rot that leads people so cavalierly to defend and dismiss the continuous killing of innocent Muslims by the U.S. But it’s Ford’s smirking, self-satisfied, effete ignorance — from a warmonger whose delicately manicured hands have never been and will never be near any of the carnage he reflexively defends — that is particularly nauseating. Like most mindless defenders of U.S. violence, Ford just repeatedly utters the word “Terrorist” over and over like a hypnotic mantra.

Even after Junod describes the heinous death of the indisputably innocent American teeanger, Ford just smirks and pronounces that it’s better to Kill The Terrorists than to capture them.
It really is remarkable watching that clip, as everyone except Junod seems incapable or unwilling to acknowledge and recognize that a 16 year old American citizen accused of no crime was killed by his own government without any explanation.

As a nation, we lack the moral imagination to confront such deaths, it appears.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Quote of the day

"The great secret of morals is love; or a going out of our nature, and an identification of ourselves with the beautiful which exists in thought, action, or person, not our own. A man, to be greatly good, must imagine intensely and comprehensively; he must put himself in the place of another and of many others; the pains and pleasure of his species must become his own. The great instrument of moral good is the imagination..." - Percy Bysshe Shelley, "A Defense of Poetry"

Update: Just remembered that I have already quoted this before. I'm also partial to Robert Green Ingersoll's expression of a nearly identical sentiment.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

I watched Dr. Oz today (briefly)

Today I watched a segment of the Dr. Oz show.

It was about energy drinks (coffee, Red Bull and 5 Hour types, etc.) and how they aren't really miracle producers of energy, that in moderation now and then they're fine, but the high levels of sugar and excessive doses of caffeine are something to be avoided; that B vitamins aren't going to do anything for you unless you're deficient. And so forth.

This was more or less sensible advice. And then Dr. Oz and guest purported to let the audience know about some real "Miracle energy drinks." Which is where the show veered into quackery. The three miracle drinks offered were: Yerba Mate, a protein shake with powdered glutamine added, and ice water with lemon/pineapple/mint.

Look: Drinking flavored water is nice way to stay hydrated, but there is obviously nothing about it is a miracle energy source. In fact, it's not an energy source at all, given water has no calories. However, being dehydrated can effect your metabolism, so the advise to drink a pitcher of water a day is the most sensible thing that the show told the audience. Dr. Oz should have stopped there.

The "energy" from energy drinks is really referring to the stimulant effect of (primarily) caffeine. Which is what is so ridiculous about Yerba Mate being listed, given that it's a caffeine tea-like sort of drink - it would have easily fit in with the energy drinks given at the start of the segment.

Then there's the protein shake with glutamine. This is a nice way to get Dr. Oz's audience to waste their money. First of all, the recipe given for the shake has coffee in it - that is to say, a drink offered as an alternative to coffee has coffee in it. Then there is the glutamine, which the guest said that people really need to be getting _____ amount a day of (I forget the exact amount she said, it's irrelevant.) Unless you're a severe burn victim or have some kind of catastrophic injury/illness there is no reason to supplement with glutamine, something virtually anyone (asides from the malnourished) is going to get plenty of in their diet. Never mind that it will have nothing to do with energy anymore than any other amino acid that can be converted into glucose.

Which gets us to protein and strawberries (included in the recipe): you may as well call a chicken sandwich an energy meal. There's nothing "miracle" about it just because you get some protein and carbohydrates in liquid form. It can be tasty and convenient, certainly healthier than drinking a milk shake, but not a miracle.

Checking skeptical medical blogger Orac's website, I see that my initial impression of Dr. Oz is merited.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Hume, on the prospect of death

Towards the end of The Philosophers' Quarrel - a book about the brief friendship and subsequent falling-out between luminary 18th century philosophers David Hume and Jean-Jaques Rousseau - the authors Robert Zaretsky and John Scott relate an exchange between a dying Hume and the visiting James Boswell, who had come to see if the great skeptic had changed his views on religion and an afterlife, being so close to death.

After finding that Hume had not changed his views, Boswell exclaimed, "Does the thought of annihilation never give you any uneasiness?", to which Hume replied, "Not at all, Mr. Boswell. No more than the thought that I had not been."

In this we hear Hume echoing the sentiment of the ancient Greek materialist philosopher Epicurus:

Become accustomed to the belief that death is nothing to us. For all good and evil consists in sensation, but death is deprivation of sensation. And therefore a right understanding that death is nothing to us makes the mortality of life enjoyable, not because it adds to it an infinite span of time, but because it takes away the craving for immortality. For there is nothing terrible in life for the man who has truly comprehended that there is nothing terrible in not living. So that the man speaks but idly who says that he fears death not because it will be painful when it comes, but because it is painful in anticipation. For that which gives no trouble when it comes, is but an empty pain in anticipation. So death, the most terrifying of ills, is nothing to us, since so long as we exist, death is not with us; but when death comes, then we do not exist. It does not then concern either the living or the dead, since for the former it is not, and the latter are no more.
The account of Boswell's interview of Hume can be read in fuller detail in the article that Zaretsky wrote comparing the dignified manner in which Hume and Christopher Hitchens confronted dying. (The article is essentially the same material that appears in the book, minus the portion relating to Hitchens.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sherlock Holmes on execution because of circumstantial evidence

From "The Adventure of the Boscombe Valley Mystery" by Arthur Conan Doyle

I shook my head. "Many men have been hanged on far slighter evidence," I remarked.

"So they have. And many have been wrongfully hanged."

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Baleful quote of the day

"Gitmo detainees have now lost virtually every avenue—other than dying in detention—for leaving the detention camp." - Adam Serwer

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Dewey on the corrosive effects of fear and hatred

Via Jeffrey Feldman in Outright Barbarous: How the Violent Language of the Right Poisons American Democracy:

"Intolerance, abuse, calling of names because of differences of opinion about religion or politics or business, as well as because of differences of race, color, wealth or degree of culture are treason to the democratic way of life. For everything which bars freedom and fullness of communication sets up barriers that divide human beings into sets and cliques, into antagonistic sects and factions, and thereby undermines the democratic way of life. Merely legal guarantees of civil liberties of free belief, free expression, free assembly are of little avail if in daily freedom of communication, the give and take of ideas, facts, experiences, is choked by mutual suspicion, by abuse, by fear and hatred. These things destroy the essential condition of the democratic way of living even more effectually than open coercion." - John Dewey, "Creative Democracy - The Task Before Us"

This is an excellent quote to keep in mind while reading Arthur Goldwag's The New Hate: A History of Fear and Loathing on the Populist Right, for, as Goldwag succinctly put it himself, "the New Hate poisons our political discourse and divides us even more than we are already."

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Something you may not have known about Marilyn Monroe

I just finished Myra MacPherson's I.F. Stone biography All Governments Lie (which was excellent; highly recommended for anyone interested in the life story of one of the 20th century's most important and pioneering journalists) and found the following tidbit from the book quite fascinating: Marilyn Monroe, who knew I.F. Stone through her husband playwright Arthur Miller, sent a subscription of Stone's independent newsletter the Weekly to every House member.*

I think that was a quite admirable act, on Monroe's part. (Stone was a fierce critic of McCarthyism, a problem Miller was himself familiar with.)

*DD Guttenplan, author of another Stone bio, says that it was a subscription for every member of Congress; and  Peter Osnos, editor of a collected edition of Stone articles, is also credited with saying it was for every member.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Schoolhouse Rock, post 9/11

This This Modern World strip by Tom Tomorrow has to be my all-time favorite one, as it so simply depicts the perverted conception of "justice" that has become normalized for a generation of Americans coming of age after September 11, 2011.

Friday, June 01, 2012

What you won't be hearing on Fox News

Fox News routinely pushes the myth that a large percentage of poor people pay no taxes (because they are exempt from federal income tax) and therefore need to have their taxes raised.

Here is something you will never hear from the Fox News voices who, in the name of opposing "class warfare," want to reduce the tax burden of the wealthy and increase it for the poor.

A recent IRS report showed that 20,752 households that reported earning more than $200,000 in 2009 paid no federal income taxes. About 1,500 of those tax-free Americans were millionaires.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Baleful quote of the day

From Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Obama administration considers any military-age male in the vicinity of a bombing to be a combatant. That is an amazing standard that shares an ugly synergy with the sort of broad-swath logic that we see employed in Stop and Frisk, with NYPD national spy network, with the killer of Trayvon Martin.

Policy is informed by the morality of a country. I think the repercussions of this unending era of death by silver bird will be profound.
For more background on this truly vile, reprehensible and heinous policy of defining "militant" to include any of-age males killed by a drone strike, see Glenn Greenwald (here and here).

I can't help but recall something Noam Chomsky wrote in response to Israel's attacks in Gaza a few years back

The claim that "our side" never targets civilians is familiar doctrine among those who monopolize the means of violence. And there is some truth to it. We do not generally try to kill particular civilians. Rather, we carry out murderous actions that we know will slaughter many civilians, but without specific intent to kill particular ones. In law, the routine practices might fall under the category of depraved indifference, but that is not an adequate designation for standard imperial practice and doctrine. It is more similar to walking down a street knowing that we might kill ants, but without intent to do so, because they rank so low that it just doesn't matter.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Quote of the day

"One of the most horrible features of war is that all the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting." - George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia

Via Lawyers, Guns, and Money

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Quote of the day

"Was the United States founded as a Christian nation, meaning that the framers of the Constitution established a government whose laws would not only reflect but also enforce the rules of a particular brand of Christianity? No, period." - Susan Jacoby, "The Christian Nation Fiction, Then and Now"

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Quote of the day

"I do not hold the liberties I enjoy as an American in so little esteem that I am prepared to run from them like a rabbit." - I.F. Stone

Via All Governments Lie: The Life and Times of Rebel Journalist I.F. Stone by Myra MacPherson

Monday, May 21, 2012

Quote of the day

"One has to wonder at the size of the egos of ... people who would readily put their own ideological opinions above the constitutional guarantees of an entire nation." - Massimo Pigliucci, Nonsense on Stilts

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Today's discount book buy

Foundation and Earth (hc) by Isaac Asimov for one dollar.

I've already read this, but am happy to have a copy by making a contribution to a library; something I believe would have pleased Asimov.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Quote of the day

"I suspect that the world would not benefit from more cruelty and less kindness." - Alonzo Fyfe, commenting on the pro-torture argument of Sam Harris

Monday, May 14, 2012

Quote of the day

"To me, bombastic odes to traditional maternity have a sinister ring, especially when they come from people who want to curtail women’s rights." - Michelle Goldberg

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Quote of the day

"[Lenin], your concrete actions are completely unworthy of the ideas you pretend to hold ... you have no right to soil the ideas you defend by shameful methods." - Kropotkin, letter (1920)

Via "All Governments Lie" by Myra MacPherson

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Quote of the day

"[E]verything we know of Hitler suggests that, once finished with the Jews, he would have targeted for elimination, one way or another, those whose loyalty to Jesus competed with loyalty to the Third Reich. But the absolute priority given to Jews in Hitler's scheme; their place as the extreme negative in volk mythology, standing against everything the Third Reich was meant to be; their place, therefore, as the embodiment of an evil to be elimatinated at all costs - all of this built upon the Jew hatred ... that has been an unbroken thread of Christian history, not just since the Crusades, but beyond Constantine, almost back to the time of the crucifixion itself." - James Carroll, Constantine's Sword: The Church and the Jews -- A History

Monday, April 23, 2012

Quote of the day

'The Master said, "Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous."' - The Analects of Confucius

Monday, April 16, 2012

Quote of the day

"Your job description as a journalist is to question and scrutinize critically - never to repeat claims uncritically, no matter how highly placed the sources in the bureaucracy. Don't ever forget that." - Stieg Larsson, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Quote of the day

"That such a man wrote has truly augmented the joy of living on this earth." - Friedrich Nietzsche, praising Montaigne

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Living in fear

In the home of the brave, where the Bill of Rights supposedly guarantees inviolable rights that the government can not abrogate, the national security state continues to eat those very liberties.

In sum, Poitras produces some of the best, bravest and most important filmmaking and journalism of the past decade, often exposing truths that are adverse to U.S. government policy, concerning the most sensitive and consequential matters (a 2004 film she produced for PBS on gentrification of an Ohio town won the Peabody Award and was nominated for an Emmy).

But Poitras’ work has been hampered, and continues to be hampered, by the constant harassment, invasive searches, and intimidation tactics to which she is routinely subjected whenever she re-enters her own country. Since the 2006 release of “My Country, My Country,” Poitras has left and re-entered the U.S. roughly 40 times. Virtually every time during that six-year-period that she has returned to the U.S., her plane has been met by DHS agents who stand at the airplane door or tarmac and inspect the passports of every de-planing passenger until they find her (on the handful of occasions where they did not meet her at the plane, agents were called when she arrived at immigration). Each time, they detain her, and then interrogate her at length about where she went and with whom she met or spoke.
Yes, I am so very proud to live in such a "brave" country.

Terrorists flew planes into building in 2001, and the fear of that is used in 2012 to justify the oppressive harassment of citizens and violation of rights that those terrorists themselves would never be able to take from us.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Previous Doubter book-of-the-year on sale

Inaugural Daily Doubter Book of the Year Doubt: A History by Jennifer Michael Hecht is currently available for $2 in Kindle edition (h/t Mark Vuletic).

Not only is this a great, magisterial book (it inspired the title of this blog) but it's also a great value, as that's a lot of book (over 500 pages) for two dollars.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Quote of the day

"There's always someone willing to believe malicious rumours." - Stieg Larsson, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Bill O'Reilly: man of Christian principle

Given that Bill O'Reilly has previously said that there is "no difference between what [Arianna] Huffington and Nazis do" and that Daily Kos is a hate site no different that the KKK because of distasteful comments left in response to posts on those sites I expect that he will soon be resigning from Fox News, only after passionately denouncing the organization on-air as a hate network no different than Nazis and the KKK, as a result of these hateful and racist comments that were left in response to an article at Fox News about Trayvon Martin.

I am sure this will happen, because if there is one thing I have learned after years of watching Bill O'Reilly's program, it is that he is a man of integrity and intellectual honesty; a good Christian "T-warrior" who leads by example.

"And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye." - Matthew 7:1-5

Quote of the day

"[Ayn Rand's] acolytes, not fully comprehending the nature of her dogma, blithely accepted her vision of an American Gulag archipelago. Then they used it to rationalize another kind of oppression: the economic subjugation of the poor by large corporations." - Gary Weiss, Ayn Rand Nation

Thursday, March 15, 2012

It did what?

Flipped on the Glenn Beck radio show today be be greeted by Beck telling me that "the progressive movement killed my country." After a few minutes of rambling about progressives and the 1oo year path of destruction that they wrought Beck said that he's rectified their damage on a personal level by educating himself about American history.

I went through a full public education and never heard of who Robert Green Ingersoll is, nor did I know of Thomas Paine's Age of Reason, so I guess that was part of the progressive plan to install One World totalitarian tyranny, too.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Excerpt of the day

From Ayn Rand Nation: The Hidden Struggle for America's Soul by Gary Weiss

In 1975, Stanley Marcus, chairman of Neiman Marcus in Dallas, decried corporate obstruction of social legislation. "Who among the business community today," he asked, "would seriously propose that Congress repeal our child-labor laws - or the Sherman Antitrust Act? The Federal Reserve Act, the Securities Exchange Act? Or workmen's compensation? Or Social Security? Or minimum wage? Or Medicare? Or civil rights legislation?

"All of us today" he said, "recognize that such legislation is an integral part of our system; that it has made us stronger."

That may have been true in 1975, but not today. The credit, or blame, lies squarely with Ayn Rand.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Baleful quote of the day

'[Attorney General Eric] Holder was referring specifically to Executive Order 13222, issued by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, which says, “No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.” But as with so much U.S. national-security legislation, this order turns out to be far less than meets the eye. Simplified, the present law of EO 13222 could be summarized this way: “No one shall be assassinated—unless the president authorizes it, in which case we will refrain from calling it an assassination.”' - Scott Horton

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Quote of the day

"This idea - writing about oneself to create a mirror in which other people recognize their own humanity - has not existed forever. It had to be invented. And, unlike many cultural inventions, it can be traced to a single person: Michael Eyquem de Montaigne, a nobleman, government official, and winegrower who lived in the Perigord area of southwestern France from 1533 to 1592." - Sarah Bakewell, How to Live or: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer

I can say to anyone that obtains a copy of Bakewell's Montaigne biography: reader, you have here a great book.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Quote of the day

"Our current wingnuts are truly some of the dumbest fucking people on the planet." - John Cole

It truly is bewildering the level of stupidity and ignorance that Rush Limbaugh and apologists have displayed in service of misogyny.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

This is the intellectual leader - and exemplar of the rot - of the conservative movement

Last week House Republicans held a hearing on contraception as it relates to President Obama's health care plan that featured an all-male panel. House Democrats responded with a hearing of their own, featuring a female Georgetown law student who was not allowed to testify in the Republican hearing. NPR described her testimony thus

"Without insurance coverage, contraception, as you know, can cost a woman over $3,000 during law school," she said. "For a lot of students who, like me, are on public interest scholarships, that's practically an entire summer's salary."

And the policy has hurt not just those who want the pill to prevent pregnancy, she said. One friend — a lesbian — needed oral contraception to control ovarian cysts.

But while the Georgetown plan includes a medical exception, her friend never got the medication. "Despite verification of her illness from her doctor, her claim was denied repeatedly on the assumption that she really wanted birth control to prevent pregnancy," she said.

She eventually stopped taking the medication when it became too expensive, grew a cyst "the size of a tennis ball," and "had to have surgery to remove her entire ovary as a result," Fluke testified.

And when others ask what she expected when she chose to attend a Jesuit university, Fluke replied that she and her fellow women law students:

"[R]efused to pick between a quality education and our health, and we resent that in the 21st century anyone thinks it's acceptable to ask us to make this choice simply because we are women."
Here is what Rush Limbaugh, the radio demagogue that Republican officials bow down before, had to say in response.

What does it say about the college coed Susan Fluke [sic], who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex? What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex.

She's having so much sex she can't afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex.
Right. Isn't that exactly what you heard when you saw her testimony? That she's a whore who expects the US taxpayer to pay her for sex? - not that she's suggesting that access to contraception is an important means to providing equal career/educational opportunity for women and also protecting their health.

Rush Limbaugh is a terrible, horrible human being who traffics in incoherent, hate-filled rants like these, that only can sway his audience because they appeal to prejudices that short-circuit rational thought.

And what really disgusts me is people like Brian Williams who think that they can demonstrate what good journalists they are by pretending that Limbaugh is something other than the hate-filled idiot that he is.

As an aside: It's stuff like this that has had me place Corey Robin's The Reactionary Mind towards the top of my list of books to read. (See here for a typically interesting example of Robin's work on the subject.)

Post Script: I almost forgot: The Rush Limbaugh with the nerve to call a female law student who testified about the difficulty of affording both education and contraception a "slut" is this same Rush Limbaugh

Rush Limbaugh was traveling with four other men--including the producers of the hit show '24'--when he was detained over a mislabeled bottle of Viagra found in his luggage during a Customs search. A Department of Homeland security passenger manifest shows that Limbaugh and his four buddies flew from the Dominican Republic on a Gulfstream IV jet owned by Premiere Radio Networks, which syndicates his radio program. Limbaugh returned to Palm Beach, Florida on June 26 with Joel Surnow, '24''s co-creator and executive producer and Howard Gordon, another of the Fox hit's executive producers (Hollywood agent Jeffrey Benson was also part of the Limbaugh quintet). With all those guys in tow, it is unclear what Limbaugh needed with those 29 100mg Viagra pills.
Yes, what would he be doing with Viagra pills in a location notorious for sexual tourism.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

JFK should have promised to follow orders from the Vatican

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum has stated that his initial reaction to JFK's famous speech assuring a largely Protestant America that Kennedy, as a Catholic, would not put his religious views and the dictates of the Catholic Church hierarchy above his duties and responsibilities as America's chief constitutional officer is that he "almost threw up."

Perhaps this judge who threw out an harassment charge against a Muslim who attacked an atheist for dressing up like Muhammed on the grounds that the atheist's actions are not protected by the First Amendment would agree with Santorum. I am sure that Afghan president Hamid Karzai who has called for a trial against those who burned copies of the Koran would agree; it goes without saying that the violent protestors would, too.*

*Although one should note that the protests likely have other roots, as well.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

What George Washington might have to say about Koran burning

Rioting and violence has broken out in response to reports that Korans were recently disposed of by burning in Afghanistan by NATO troops. President Obama has apologized to Afghan President Hamid Karza, for which I expect he will receive criticism from the sorts of individuals who believe that America should never apologize for anything - and who have already created a false narrative around the fictitious notion that that is all that President Obama does.

I would further suspect that there will be overlap between those who are critical of an apology for Koran burning and those who think that US marines urinating on corpses is a laudatory act.

The following passage from The New Hate: Fear and Loathing on the Populist Right, by Arthur Goldwag, seems particularly relevant, in light of these events

On November 5, 1775, General Washington issued orders forbidding soldiers in the Continental army to observe that "ridiculous and childish custom of burning the Effigy of the Pope" - an act that could only insult and alienate the ex-colonies' potential allies in Franco-phone Canada. "At such a juncture, and in such Circumstances, to be insulting their Religion, is so monstrous, as not to be suffered or excused," he expostulated."

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Book watch: Enemies

Tim Weiner has written a history of the FBI - FBI - Enemies: A History of the FBI - based upon his access to FBI documents as a follow up to his history of the CIA.

Civil libertarians will want to read this book.


I'm not sure how it escaped my attention, but it wasn't until a few weeks ago that I realized that Michael Sandel's Harvard introductory philosophy "Justice" course lectures are freely available for online viewing and via iTunes U.

Having so far watched 7 of the 12 hour long lectures (each broken into two parts) I can not highly enough recommend these lecture to anyone interested in philosophy or, more precisely, anyone who wishes to be interested in philosophy. Sandel manages to bring philosophy to life by presenting concise and easily understood (but not dumbed down) descriptions of philosophical ideas and then demonstrating with thought experiments and examples how they relate to the real world and our everyday lives.

The course has also been converted by Sandel into a book - Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? - which I have added to my exponentially expanding to-read book queue.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Latest discount book buys

Inventing America: Jefferson's Declaration of Independence (hc) by Garry Wills for 4 dollars.

An American Album: One Hundred and Fifty Years of Harper's Magazine (hc) edited by Lewis Lapham for 10 dollars and fifty cents.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Quote of the day

"Who the [expletive] is Saul Alinsky?" - Bill Maher

See also the Media Matters comparison of Saul Alinsky and the bogeyman "Saul Alinsky" who only exists in the imaginations of movement conservative media figures.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Trivia of the day

Question: How many times has The Daily Doubter been cited in print?

Answer: Twice.

Once in Zay Smith's Quick Takes column for the Chicago Sun-Times and a second time in The New Hate: A History of Fear and Loathing on the Populist Right by Arthur Goldwag which was released today. (The email quoted in this post is the one that made it into the book.)

To give one a flavor of the book, a great excerpt of The New Hate can be read at the Atlantic.

Possibly my favorite line in a book review ever

David Frum has written a critical response to the latest effort of David Brooks to promote the work of Charles Murray.

Murray is baffled that a collapse in the pay and conditions of work should have led to a decline in a workforce's commitment to the labor market.

His book wants to lead readers to the conclusion that the white working class has suffered a moral collapse attributable to vaguely hinted at cultural forces. Yet he never specifies what those cultural forces might be, and he presents no evidence at all for a link between those forces and the moral collapse he sees.

In an interview with the New York Times, Murray is more specific—but no more precise—in his analysis:

The ’60s were a disaster in terms of social policy. The elites put in place a whole set of reforms which I think fundamentally changed the signals and the incentives facing low-income people and encouraged a variety of trends that soon became self-reinforcing.
The '60s. Of course. But which reforms are the ones that Murray has in mind? He does not say, and I think I can understand why he does not say: because once you spell out the implied case here, it collapses of its own obvious ludicrousness.

Let me try my hand:

You are a white man aged 30 without a college degree. Your grandfather returned from World War II, got a cheap mortgage courtesy of the GI bill, married his sweetheart and went to work in a factory job that paid him something like $50,000 in today's money plus health benefits and pension. Your father started at that same factory in 1972. He was laid off in 1981, and has never had anything like as good a job ever since. He's working now at a big-box store, making $40,000 a year, and waiting for his Medicare to kick in.

Now look at you. Yes, unemployment is high right now. But if you keep pounding the pavements, you'll eventually find a job that pays $28,000 a year. That's not poverty! Yet you seem to waste a lot of time playing video games, watching porn, and sleeping in. You aren't married, and you don't go to church. I blame Frances Fox Piven.
That last line perfectly captures how absurd this focusing on Piven or Alinsky or ACORN as the root of all evil in America has been.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Quote of the day

"Reason is to the philosopher what grace is to the Christian." - Diderot, The Encyplopedie

Monday, January 30, 2012

Allen West's eliminationist message

Via Hullabaloo

This is a battlefield that we must stand upon and we need to let president Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and my dear friend, the chairman of the Democrat National Committee, we need to let them know that Florida ain't on the table. Take your message of equality of achievement, take your message of economic dependency, and take your message of enslaving the entrepreneurial will and spirit of the American people somewhere else. You can take it to Europe, you can take it to the bottom of the sea, you can take it to the North Pole, but get the hell out of the United States of America.
What really demonstrates just how demented the Republican party has become is that this belief in how un-American the Obama administration and Democrats is is a reaction to a Democratic party which has implemented what a few decades ago were Republican ideas (e.g. a health care plan which was previously advocated by the conservative Heritage Foundation.)

Don't mess with the Muppets

Via Media Matters

Friday, January 27, 2012


A couple of days ago the manager of one of the local tv news stations gave an editorial (he's the only one who ever gives editorials, almost always some rant derivative from the bowels of AM radio) excusing marines urinating on dead corpses, saying that they deserve a slap on the wrist at best and that everyone who hasn't fought in a war needs to shut up about it.

It really pains me that this is what is being broadcast to my community as news - and I just haven't felt like blogging much lately.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Excerpt of the day

From Death of the Liberal Class by Chris Hedges

"The opponents of the New Deal, backed and funded by the business elite, announced that President Roosevelt had permitted communists to infiltrate the government and government-funded programs, such as the Federal Theatre Project. And that project was the first target of the Dies Committee, led by Texas Democrat Martin Dies. The theatre project was denounced in a series of hearings in August and November 1938. The Dies committee eventually became HUAC. [Hallie] Flanagan [head of the Federal Theatre Project] was asked about an article she had written titled "A Theatre is Born," in which she described the enthusiasm of the federal theaters as having "a certain Marlowesque madness."

"You are quoting from this Marlowe," observed Alabama representative Joseph Starnes from the committee. "Is he a Communist?"

The room rocked with laughter, but I did not laugh," Flanagan remembered. "Eight thousand people might lose their jobs because a Congressional Committee had so prejudged us that even the classics were 'communistic.' I said, 'I was quoting from Christopher Marlowe.'"

"Tell us who this Marlowe is, so we can get the proper references, because that is all we want to do," Starnes said.

"Put in the record that he was the greatest dramatist in the period of Shakespeare, immediately preceding Shakespeare," Flanagan answered.

By 1939 the theatre project was killed.