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