Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Breaking news from "In the Loop": "No, Secret Service agents don’t think jokes at their expense are funny"


by Ken

Why, who'd-a thunk it? As the Washington Post's Colby Itkowitz sums up her "In the Loop" report (which ran under the head I've put in the title of this post): "Seems even the toughest guys have a sensitive side."

"The Secret Service has received a lot of bad press lately," Colby begins that report. "And they apparently have a pretty thin skin about it."
At the annual Gridiron Club dinner earlier this month, an elite affair bringing together Washington journalists and the politicians they cover, no one was spared from ridicule — including Secret Service agents, recently exposed by our colleague Carol Leonnig for possibly driving drunk onto the White House complex, the latest in a string of embarrassing incidents.

The agents in attendance were not amused.

In a letter obtained by the Loop to Gridiron President Clarence Page, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune, the trade association that represents the Secret Service let known its displeasure.

The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association “understands a good joke,” wrote Jon Adler, the group’s president. “But the jokes concerning the Secret Service’s recent issues came off lowbrow and unappreciated by our Members working at the dinner.”

He took specific umbrage to Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe asking if there were any Secret Service officers “sober enough to drive me home.” Adler said McAuliffe should think about that comment the next time he visits the White House and sees agents putting “their lives on the line to protect and serve the President and the American people.”

In addition to politician standup routines, reporters perform skits complete with parody songs. The letter did not reference the Secret Service number “We’re Not Watching You,” to the tune of the Police’s “Every Breath You Take.” There was a mock White House fence with a big ‘Welcome’ sign, male reporters dressed as Colombian prostitutes and a drone flying above.

Adler chided reporters in attendance — who “make a living off of news stories about the Secret Service and other federal agencies” — for lacking good sense.

“But apparently, good sense didn’t exist at the dinner that night making the entire event, as advertised, a complete joke,” he wrote.

Page responded, also in a letter obtained by the Loop, apologizing for “any hard feelings it caused,” but that the jokes about the Secret Service were all in good fun.

“We poke fun at newsmakers and newsgatherers, but always, as our motto says, in a manner that will ‘singe, not burn’,” Page wrote. He closed the letter by thanking  the agents for their service.
Good answer, Gridiron President Clarence P! "Singe, not burn" -- okay! From Colby's account, the Gridiron comedy material did seem designed to singe.

You don't suppose, though, that Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association President Jon Adler hasn't heard about the pile-up of incidents of Secret Service agents doing something other than putting "their lives on the line to protect and serve the President and the American people"? Some of those incidents admittedly have a certain crudely comical side, but on the whole the news being made by the Secret Service in recent years is, really and truly, not all that humorous either.


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Of course right-wingers and the infotainment noozemedia lie about state "religious freedom" laws -- it's what they do!


Dylan Petrohilos/ThinkProgress

by Ken

Ah, it's what makes America . . . er, what it is. It's the great collaboration between right-wing crackpots and liars on the one hand and aiding-and-abetting infotainment noozemedia snooze-cruisers on the other. And the Grand Coalition for Ignorance and Obfuscation glistened in the darkness of its defense of Indiana's Right to Discriminate law.

So that, for example, a debased life form calling itself "John McCormack" could write Sunday on the Weekly Standard blog a piece headlined "Indiana Governor: This Is the Same Religious Freedom Law Obama Voted for in Illinois," with the deck "White House doesn't dispute it," passing along the claim by Indiana's lying-scumbag governor "that Barack Obama had voted for the same law as an Illinois state senator."

Now it's possible that Indiana's lying-scumbag governor truly didn't know that he was lying. In which case I expect that in a matter of days if not hours he'll be announcing his resignation on grounds of mental incompetence. I think it far likelier that he knows he's lying through his teeth (see Howie's post yesterday, "Mike Pence -- Pandering To The Worst Of The Republican Party Base"), leaving the only question whether the debased life form calling itself "John McCormack" knows he's lying.

Here's why I think Indiana's lying-scumbag governor has to know that he was lying: because he was there and presumably at least occasionally awake the whole time the Indiana legislature was putting its Right to Discriminate law together. How can he possibly not know how and why the law took the form it did? Which, by the way, is significantly different from Illinois's RFRA. And unless Indiana's lying-scumbag governor truly is mentally incompetent, there's no way he can possibly not know it. He knows all the players who made Indiana's law different, and I don't believe he doesn't know why they did it.

Yesterday ThinkProgress's Judd Legum tried to inject some sanity into this propaganda orgy with a post called "The Big Lie The Media Tells About Indiana’s New ‘Religious Freedom’ Law," which begins:
On Friday, the Washington Post published an article titled “19 states that have ‘religious freedom’ laws like Indiana’s that no one is boycotting.” The article snarks about organizations like the NCAA that have protested Indiana’s law, noting “the NCAA didn’t say it was concerned over how athletes and employees would be affected by Kentucky’s RFRA when games were played there last week.” The piece concludes “Indiana might be treated as if it’s the only state with a bill like this, but it’s not.” The piece has been shared over 75,000 times on Facebook.

The Washington Post article largely mirrors the argument advanced by Indiana Governor Mike Pence. Appearing on ABC’s This Week, Pence claimed “Then state-Sen. Barack Obama voted for [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act]. The very same language.”

The same argument is parroted on Fox News and elsewhere.

It’s not true.

The Indiana law differs substantially from the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed by President Clinton in 1993, and all other state RFRAs.


Nothing we're going to say here is meant as a defense for the stupid and unnecessary RFRA laws passed in the doody-brained states that have passed them. Still, with only one partial exception, those other state laws aren't like the one crafted by Indiana's hate-mongering religionists; other states' hate-mongering religionists either understood that they couldn't cross the lines now crossed by Indiana, or they were made to understand.

And while the federal RFRA, which remember dates back to 1993, has a totally different legislative history -- it was not designed to coddle mentally degenerate Christians suffering from the delusion that someone has interfered with their religious liberty. We'll come back to that. For now let's go back to Judd Legum, on the difference between Indiana's RFRA and the other states'.
There are several important differences in the Indiana bill but the most striking is Section 9. Under that section, a “person” (which under the law includes not only an individual but also any organization, partnership, LLC, corporation, company, firm, church, religious society, or other entity) whose “exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened” can use the law as “a claim or defense… regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding.”

Every other Religious Freedom Restoration Act applies to disputes between a person or entity and a government. Indiana’s is the only law that explicitly applies to disputes between private citizens.* This means it could be used as a cudgel by corporations to justify discrimination against individuals that might otherwise be protected under law. Indiana trial lawyer Matt Anderson, discussing this difference, writes that the Indiana law is “more broadly written than its federal and state predecessors” and opens up “the path of least resistance among its species to have a court adjudicate it in a manner that could ultimately be used to discriminate…”

This is not a trivial distinction. Arizona enacted an RFRA that applied to actions involving the government in 2012. When the state legislature tried to expand it to purely private disputes in 2014, nationwide protests erupted and Jan Brewer, Arizona’s Republican governor, vetoed the measure.

[*The footnote says: "Texas’ RFRA, enacted in 1999, contains similar — but not identical — language. The Texas law, however, also specificly exempts civil rights protections from the scope of the law."]
My goodness, the Arizona uproar that ended in Governor Brewer's painful veto was barely more than a year ago. Is it really possible that all the right-wing liars claiming that Indiana is being singled out have already forgotten what happened in Arizona? I guess it is, and maybe it's not surprising when you consider that right-wing liars don't really have "memory" as such -- mostly they pick up their lies on the fly from friendly propaganda manipulators.

So let's remember all together. It was February 26, 2014, and the headline read: "Arizona gov. vetoes controversial 'religious freedom' bill":
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer on Wednesday vetoed a Republican bill that set off a national debate over gay rights, religion and discrimination and subjected her state to blistering criticism from major corporations and political leaders from both parties.

The bill, backed by Republicans in the Arizona Legislature, was designed to give added protection from lawsuits to people who assert their religious beliefs in refusing service to gays. But opponents called it an open attack on Arizona's LGBT community.

The bill thrust Arizona into the national spotlight last week after both chambers of the state Legislature approved it. As the days passed, more and more groups, politicians and average citizens weighed in against Senate Bill 1062. Many took to social media to criticize the bill.
Prominent Phoenix business groups said it would be another black eye for the state and warned that businesses looking to expand into Arizona might not do so if the bill became law.
Companies such as Apple and American Airlines and politicians including Arizona's senior GOP senator, John McCain, were among those who urged Brewer to veto the legislation.

The governor was under intense pressure to veto the bill, including from three Republicans who had voted for it last week. They said in a letter to Brewer that while the intent of their vote "was to create a shield for all citizens' religious liberties, the bill has been mischaracterized by its opponents as a sword for religious intolerance."

SB 1062 would allow people to use their religious beliefs as a defense against claims of discrimination. Backers cite a New Mexico Supreme Court decision that allowed a gay couple to sue a photographer who refused to document their wedding, even though the law that allowed that suit doesn't exist in Arizona. . . .


Back to Judd Legum:
Thirty law professors who are experts in religious freedom wrote in February that the Indiana law does not “mirror the language of the federal RFRA” and “will… create confusion, conflict, and a wave of litigation that will threaten the clarity of religious liberty rights in Indiana while undermining the state’s ability to enforce other compelling interests. This confusion and conflict will increasingly take the form of private actors, such as employers, landlords, small business owners, or corporations, taking the law into their own hands and acting in ways that violate generally applicable laws on the grounds that they have a religious justification for doing so. Members of the public will then be asked to bear the cost of their employer’s, their landlord’s, their local shopkeeper’s, or a police officer’s private religious beliefs.”

Various federal courts have differing interpretations of the scope of the federal RFRA. The Indiana law explicitly resolves all those disputes in one direction — and then goes even further.

This is evident in Section 5 of the Indiana law which provides protections to religious practices “whether or not compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief.” So entities can seek to justify discriminatory practices based on religious practices that are fringe to their belief system.

Beyond the differences between the Indiana law and other states, many of the other states that have a RFRA also have a law that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. Indiana does not have one.
You'll recall that whenever the Indiana troglodytes who concoted their Right to Discriminate law claim that the law does no such thing, and they're invited to prove it by legislatively protecting the rights we all know they mean to deny, they've responded with shock and derision -- until just yesterday, that is, when in all seriousness the people who created the problem announced that they'll "clarify" the law, and all the problems will go away -- the principal problem being, of course, that to their astonishment, notwithstanding the Arizona convulsions, that there was actually some measure of public outrage over what they set out to do and by golly did. For sure, these are just the people I would trust to "clarify" their clear original intent out of existence.

The disingenuousness of the response to that apparently surprising response is pretty staggering. Washington Post "Fact Checker" Glenn Kessler, for example, awarded Governor Pence a mere single Pinocchio for his Sunday TV performance -- and he got that for not being prepared with smoother evasions, considering how clear it was that he was going to be asked the very questions he fumbled. Not just Glenn but other learned commentators have pronounced that the governor didn't actually say anything, or not much, that was strictly speaking, you know, untrue -- except that anyone with any knowledge of the sequence of events in Indiana, and with a working brain, knows that pretty much every word out of his mouth was intended to be a lie, since he knew perfectly well it was all bullshit.

Similarly, learned commentators insist that the uproar over Indiana's modest stand for religious liberty is way overblown, that it may have hardly any effect -- again pretending we don't know the effect the legislators clearly intended. And pretending we don't know the discriminatory effects other state RFRA laws and the federal law itself have had which not only weren't intended by the original legislators but flatly contradicted the known intent -- about which more in a moment.

Of course, to the extent that Indiana has demonstrated success in busting across the line that Arizona couldn't, has other states are already hard at work slithering across the line too. It looks like we're facing an epidemic of copycat laws -- copycats of the law that the liars and loons pretend is just like the previous 19 state laws.


Judd reminds us that the original RFRA wasn't a sop to degenerate Christians suffering delusions of persecution -- at, presumably, the tyrannical hands of America's perennially bullying Christian majority. The original federal RFRA was born in a different political world. And even a decade ago, when Illinois passed its law (the one that State Sen. Barack Obama voted for), "such laws were thought," as Indiana University Law Professor Steve Sanders has written for the American Constitution Society blog, "to be about about benign and relatively uncontroversial matters, such as allowing Muslim jail inmates to wear closely trimmed beards, or assuring that churches could feed homeless people in public parks."

Judd Legum refers us back to that letter from the "thirty law professors who are experts in religious freedom" who wrote that letter in February, which includes this:
[A]dvocates who favor the proposed state RFRA have argued that the proposals, at their core, mirror the federal RFRA, and that the federal law, in place since 1993, was supported by a wide coalition of Republicans and Democrats – and indeed, was signed by President Bill Clinton. It is argued that given this bipartisan support for the federal RFRA in 1993, the proposed state RFRAs, mirroring the text of federal law, should also receive bipartisan support. However, this parallel between support for the federal RFRA and the proposed state RFRA is misplaced. In fact, many members of the bipartisan coalition that supported the passage of the federal RFRA in 1993 now hold the view that the law has been interpreted and applied in ways they did not expect at the time they lent their endorsement to the law. As a result, the legislators who voted on RFRA have distanced themselves from their initial backing of the legislation.
A footnote notes: "Nineteen members of Congress who voted for the passage of the law in 1993 have now withdrawn their support for the federal RFRA given that it has been interpreted by the courts in ways that were not intended by the Congress at the time of the law’s passage." And if this rings a bell, recall that a wildly fanciful new interpretation of the federal RFRA was crucial to the Supreme Court's crackpot Hobby Lobby ruling.


And you've got the "big lie" of Judd Legum's post title. Fortunately, we're Americans and we like everything big -- and our lies perhaps biggest of all.

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Is Someone Friendly to AIPAC Trying to Paint Donna Edwards as Anti-Jewish?


Rep. Chris Van Hollen defending Simpson-Bowles as a "balanced approach" at the Pete Peterson Fiscal "Summit"

by Gaius Publius

If you've been following Democratic politics lately, you know that Party leadership–favorite Rep. Chris Van Hollen is running for the open Maryland Senate seat against progressive favorite Rep. Donna Edwards.

As noted, Van Hollen has the leadership of the Party on his side, having been endorsed by Harry Reid and sorta-endorsed by Nancy Pelosi. He also has his personal history not on his side, having been a headliner for Pete Peterson's "Summit" to reduce Social Security in the name of "fiscal responsibility" and also an advocate for the deadly Simpson-Bowles budget plan.

Donna Edwards, on the other hand, has never advocated for reducing Social Security, and endorses plans to expand it. Van Hollen, recognizing that this issue is against him, has switched sides, though perhaps not entirely. At least on the issues, the "centrist" Van Hollen is playing catch-up.

Suddenly we find a set of stories like the two below, both of which suggest that Donna Edwards may be vulnerable to ... the Jewish vote, a vote which can only come from 4% of the population of Maryland. Note that African-Americans account for at least 30% of the population.

Does something look wrong with the point these articles make? If so, let's try to find out what. First, from The Guardian (I've emphasized the points that will be commented):
Maryland Senate race: Israel divides liberal Van Hollen and Edwards
House Democrats Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards have support from progressive groups, but Edwards’ votes on Iran and Israel could sink her

Van Hollen’s views on the Middle East peace process between Israel and the Palestinians are rather mainstream. A former staffer on the Senate foreign relations committee, Van Hollen has long been viewed warmly by Jewish Democrats in Maryland. He was described to the Guardian as “a classic progressive Democrat who was not in lock step with AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Committee] but very much within their space”. ...

[T]wo Democratic members of Congress from suburban Washington, Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards, have announced their candidacy. Both have very liberal records and are well liked by progressive groups. However, there is one distinct policy difference between the two of them: their views on US policy in the Middle East. And this difference could doom Edwards on election day.

In contrast, Edwards has long been close to J Street, the leftwing Jewish group which takes a very dovish view of the peace process, and has long voted against efforts to toughen sanctions on Iran and its nuclear programme. In 2013, she was one of only 20 members of Congress to vote against the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act, a bipartisan bill which contained measures to strengthen sanctions.

She also was one of 21 members to vote present on a 2009 resolution that recognized Israel’s right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza. The resolution, co-sponsored by Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner, passed by a margin of 390-5.
So, to total up the "spin" — yes, this reads like spin:
  • Both are cast by the writer as "liberal," despite Van Hollen's long-term wedding and recent divorce from the New Dem darling, Simpson-Bowles budget recommendations. 
  • Van Hollen is "not in lockstep" with AIPAC (very moderate of him, considering their recent self-tarrings) but still "very much within their space" (they like him), while Edwards has "long been close" to J Street, the "leftwing" Jewish group. Message: They're both "liberal" but Edwards is also "leftwing."
  •  Donna Edwards didn't vote Yes to a resolution recognizing Israel's right to "defend itself against attacks from Gaza" — perhaps her real crime, as we'll soon see.
  • All of this straying from AIPAC political orthodoxy could "sink" Edwards, "doom" her, in a 4% Jewish but 30% African-American state. Edwards is African-American.
If this doesn't look like a hit piece and not news, I don't know what does. A writer of a news piece — even if he was pitched this by a pro-AIPAC public relations peddler, would have noted for the readers the population discrepancy and avoided the "sink her" and "doom her" language — which makes no logical sense.

I'll say this more plainly. If the writer was pitched this story and its illogical conclusion, he printed both uncritically. It appears that his goal was not to inform, but to sell. The writer, by the way, is Ben Jacobs, reporting from Washington.

And Just One Day Earlier, This "News"...

The day before the piece above came out, the following analysis (or "analysis") appeared in the Baltimore Jewish Times. Start with just the headline:
Vastly Different Candidates
Can you see already where this is going? "Vastly"?
As politicians throughout the state contemplate the wisdom of mounting a bare-knuckle Senate campaign, only Reps. Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards have officially declared their candidacies for the seat being vacated by outgoing Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski. But while both are longtime Democrats, they could not be more different in how they are perceived by voters, both in terms of their relationship to Maryland’s Jewish community and in their support for Israel.
Pause for a moment. Is that a true statement, the one I've bolded? Keep your eye on the word "voters."
On Israel, observers say the candidates hold vastly different records.

“Looking at their pro-Israel record closely over the years, there’s a huge contrast between Van Hollen’s excellent record and Edwards’ very poor record,” said Morris Amitay, a former executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). “There were times when you had 350 co-sponsors and she wasn’t one, or good letters where 317 members signed and she did not.”

Edwards, who represents the 4th Congressional District in Prince George’s County, has received campaign contributions in her previous congressional races from J Street PAC, the political funding arm of the left-leaning pro-Israel organization.
Jewish Americans as a group tend to be "left-leaning." J Street is pro-peace; big difference, and perhaps a tell in both of these articles.

But go back to the beginning of the article. In the space of three sentences, we go from how they are perceived by "voters" (the lede), to how they are perceived by "observers," to how they are perceived by a former Executive Director of AIPAC. That's quite a leap, from "voters" (and no polling data) to one named guy. Now move to the sentence about how Edwards' views "may be outside of the mainstream Jewish community’s pro-Israel outlook." Which views? It doesn't matter. Whether they are or are not outside the Jewish mainstream is supported, not by polling, but by the word "maybe," by the author's own speculation. She could be "maybe"–speculating on Edwards views about building a space station and find them different from Van Hollen's.

Where did the writer's "speculation" come from? There's only one real source for Edwards' supposed anti-Israel views in this piece — a man formerly associated with AIPAC.

Is Someone Associated with AIPAC Trying to "Sink" Donna Edwards?

The spin, the AIPAC sourcing and praise, the making of this small difference into something "vast" on the part of both writers — and the fact that both articles appeared within a day of each other — these have all the earmarks of an AIPAC-inspired op, a "hit" if you will. If so, what could be the goal? Not just to swing the Jewish vote against Edwards. Even if she loses all of that vote — and she won't; many Jews are leery of AIPAC (and Netanyahu's Likud) — it can't hurt her overall vote totals.

Considering how overblown the claim, that Edwards could be "doomed" by her Israel policies, this has to be a hit on her candidacy itself — as "vastly different candidates" — an attempt to influence non-Jewish voters as well (note all the "left"-bashing). If I'm right, consider who may be organizing that hit. If you guessed, someone who wants the pro-AIPAC Van Hollen to enter the Senate instead of the "peace-loving" pro–J Street Edwards, you'll have made the most likely assumption.

Will this spin matter in the long run? Likely not, though you never know. African-Americans still make up 30% of the state, and Van Hollen is still tarred with Simpson-Bowles, something Edwards is doing a good job of reminding people of. (Look for "no if's, and's, but's, or willing-to-consider's" in the video below. That's a Van Hollen reference, and that is what this race is ultimately about.)

But we've been going meta on the media lately — showing you that not all "news" is news, but spin from a friend doing a friend a little favor. This one almost jumped out, so I thought I'd share.


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Beltway Dems Coalescing Around Tammy Duckworth For The Illinois Senate Seat


Blue America has a page devoted to progressives running for the U.S. Senate in 2016. There aren't many candidates so far; we're looking forward to adding Russ Feingold (D-WI) soon. But we know our endorsement list isn't going to get too long. You've probably read how CitiGroup and other Wall Street banksters have been threatening the DSCC because they claim progressives like Elizabeth Warren are gaining too much influence. The move this week to put Wall Street whore Chuck Schumer into the top Democratic leadership job is meant as a peace-offering to the banksters. But the Beltway Democratic Establishment had already been going out of its way to recruit mediocre and conservative candidates to appease the Wall Street predators. Tragically, the political leaders who will stand firm for the legitimate aspirations of America's working families, not for the monied special interests, aren't ones favored by the DSCC.

Few DSCC recruits are as overtly bad as Florida New Dem Patrick Murphy but uninspiring careerists as candidates will likely keep Blue America out of hot contests in New Hampshire, Ohio, California and North Carolina. And Illinois. Yesterday Tammy Duckworth announced she's challenging vulnerable wishy-washy Republican incumbent Mark Kirk. The two other potential candidates the DSCC was looking at-- Blue Dog Cheri Bustos and New Dem Bill Foster-- are even worse than she is. But that doesn't make her any good. Here are their Progressive Punch lifetime crucial vote scores:
Tammy Duckworth- 65.11
Bill Foster- 56.00
Cheri Bustos- 44.03
The best Member of the Illinois congressional delegation to challenge Kirk would be Jan Schakowsky, whose 96.61 score is the 4th best in the whole House. The DSCC, predictably, did not show any interest in recruiting her. New-comer Robin Kelly is also considering a run. Her score is 87.34 but few consider her a viable candidate at this point. The Establishment seems to be coalescing around Duckworth as the Democrat with the best chance to beat Kirk.
Duckworth is an Army veteran who lost both her legs and sustained damage to her arm when a helicopter she was co-piloting in Iraq was shot down. Kirk is also a veteran and is disabled from a stroke he suffered in January 2012.

...Sen. Richard J. Durbin, who has been a champion for Duckworth, told CQ Roll Call in January he thinks Democrats will work to avoid a messy nomination process... [T]he electorate is expected to be much more favorable for Democrats in 2016. President Barack Obama carried his home state by double-digit margins in 2008 and 2012. Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is expected to announce a presidential bid within weeks, could see similar support and boost down-ballot Democrats.
Despite an inspiring personal story, Duckworth is a run-of-the-mill politician, an ally of Rahm Emanuel's, who is likely to vote with the party leadership and not make waves in the caucus. She's no Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders or Sherrod Brown-- which is why you won't find her on this page despite being a better choice than Mark Kirk.

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Monday, March 30, 2015

Catching up with the great Lee Camp


by Ken

I feel bad about not keeping readers up to date with the doings of the great Lee Camp, the incredibly agile-minded, perpetually outraged, and fearlessly funny writer and comic. (I have to say "writer and comic," because as I've mentioned, you could read something Lee has written and think him a brilliantly incisive, poised stylist -- a wonderfully different effect from what we get when he performs his material.) The fact is, I haven't been keeping up so well myself.

I've known from Lee's regular e-mails that he's become involved in some kind of regular telecast called Redacted Tonight, airing Fridays at 8pm on RT America, but I'm just not much of a computer watcher, YouTube or otherwise, and I confess that I've never seen it. (Honestly, I don't know what RT America is.) I see the show is also available on both YouTube and Hulu.

So I thought you might be as interested as I am in finding out what Redacted Tonight is all about, and it so happens that Lee has just sent out a link for an appearance that he and two of his partners on the show, John F. O'Donnell and Abby Feldman, just made on Larry King's PoliticKing and explained the whole thing. (Huh, wait! Larry King has a show of some sort? Have I fallen asleep like Ichabod Crane but traveled backwards in time? I guess this means Larry is still alive and ambulatory?)

Then, if you're curious, here's an online posting of Redacted #41, apparently the March 20th episode.

Meanwhile, don't forget Lee's website, leecamp.net, where you can no doubt get some help figuring all of this out as well as tracking Lee's doings -- past, present, and future!

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Scott Walker-- Serial Flip-Flopper


by Zach Wisniewski

Throughout his career in politics-- a career that has spanned virtually his entire adult life-- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has tried to portray himself as a man of principles who can't and won't be intimidated by standing up for what he believes. In fact, Gov. Walker is so desperate to convince folks outside Wisconsin that's he's got the mettle necessary to be president of the United States that he titled his ghostwritten memoir Unintimidated: A Governor's Story and a Nation's Challenge. However, while Scott Walker wants us all to believe he's an unintimidated leader with steel in his spine, the fact is he's a political opportunist who's had almost as accomplished a career as a flip-flopper as former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

Recent revelations showing that Gov. Walker has completely changed his position on immigration reform were certainly newsworthy, but it's absolutely not the first time he has flip-flopped a position when it suited his political ambitions. As noted in Todd Milewski's report for Madison's Cap Times, Gov. Walker is now opposed to the same amnesty programs he supported just two years ago when he supported a path to legal citizenship for undocumented immigrants already living in the United States. Here he is admitting his flip-flop to Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace during a recent appearance on that show.
Wallace: But it's a little bit slippery here. Back when you were the Milwaukee County Executive, you actually supported the Kennedy-McCain comprehensive immigration plan. Are you basically saying that as part of a comprehensive plan, tough enforcement, E-Verify, the 11 million people already here pay penalty, they get citizenship?
Walker: No, I'm not talking about amnesty. And the reason for that is, over time...
Wallace: But you said you supported it.
Walker: And my view has changed. I'm flat-out saying it. Candidates can say that. Sometimes they don't. I'm saying my view has...
Wallace: So you've changed from 2013?
Walker: Absolutely.
While Gov. Walker's flip-flop on immigration reform is the most recent example of his willingness to change his beliefs to further his political ambitions, it's certainly not the only example. In fact, Scott Walker has made a career out of changing his beliefs when it benefits his political ambitions most.

With that in mind, let's take a look at just a few of Scott Walker's most blatant flip-flops during his career as a politician.

Scott Walker's Flip-Flop on Contributions From the Gaming Industry

As reported by Josh Israel of ThinkProgress, back in 1999, then-State Representative Scott Walker issued a press release calling for a ban on political contributions by gambling interests, who Walker felt held too much sway over the election of Democratic governors in other states. Here's an excerpt from Walker's press release.

We have witnessed problems with gambling contributions at the federal level and in other states, Walker told his colleagues at a September committee hearing on the 1999 version of the bill. With gambling interests seeking to expand all across Wisconsin, he urged, "We must act now before problems evolve in this state. Our measure will act as a protection against corruption here in Wisconsin."
Fast-forward just 13 years and Gov. Scott Walker seemed to have no problem accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars from billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who donated $250,000 to Gov. Walker's recall campaign. What's more, Adelson made a $650,000 gift to the Republican Party of Wisconsin. While Sheldon Adelson is by far the largest gaming-related donor to Scott Walker's campaign, he's not alone. As the ThinkProgress report noted, Gov. Walker has taken thousands of dollars from other individuals and groups with ties to the gaming industry.
A ThinkProgress review of Walker's other donors found he also received $9,000 from the Forest County Potawatomi Community (a Native American tribe that operates a Milwaukee casino). Walker got $5,000 from Wild Rose Entertainment chairman Gerald M. Kirke and $3,000 from vice chairman Michael J. Richards (their company operates two casinos in Iowa). And Peter M. Carlino, chairman of Penn National Gaming, also contributed $1,000 to Walker in 2012.
In January, Walker rejected a proposed Menominee tribal casino, in a move that reportedly benefited the Potawatomi tribe.

Scott Walker's Flip-Flop on Outsourcing of Jobs to Foreign Countries 

During the 2012 presidential campaign Gov. Walker shared his thoughts about what he thought of President Barack Obama's attacks on his GOP challenger, Mitt Romney, over the issue of outsourcing. At the time, Gov. Walker was unambiguous that he felt President Obama was attacking Romney on outsourcing to distract voters from President Obama's poor job performance, saying, "The president's team desperately does not want to run on his record, so they are desperately trying to have it about anything other than his record." However, during his own 2014 gubernatorial campaign against Democratic challenger Mary Burke, Gov. Walker's campaign ran a number of ads attacking Mary Burke for supposedly profiting from outsourcing done by Trek. There's a certain amount of irony in Gov. Walker's attacks on Mary Burke for outsourcing, given that Gov. Walker's own job creation agency gave millions in tax dollars to companies that sent Wisconsin jobs to foreign countries.

Scott Walker's Flip-Flop on Federal Stimulus Dollars 

In 2009, then-Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker said "Thanks but no thanks" to any federal economic stimulus money for county projects, saying the only federal economic stimuli he endorsed were tax cuts. However, just two short years later, then-Gov. Walker asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to designate four Wisconsin counties as disaster areas due to crop losses caused in part by unseasonably cold, wet weather. While it's a fair point to note that federal stimulus dollars aren't exactly the same thing as federal disaster relief dollars, I'd argue that the federal stimulus dollars Scott Walker refused for Milwaukee County were absolutely a federal response to a disaster, albeit a nontraditional disaster, in the form of the "great recession" that began under Republican President George W. Bush. Scott Walker's refusal in 2009 to take federal stimulus dollars on behalf of the citizens of Milwaukee County was likely due to his desire to further bolster his conservative credentials to augment his chances heading into the 2010 gubernatorial race here in Wisconsin at the expense of the Milwaukee County citizens he was elected to represent.

These are but four examples of how Scott Walker has completely reversed his stated beliefs when it benefits him or his political ambitions, but there are many more flip-flops and reversals to be found littered throughout his career as a politician. In the interest of keeping this post to a manageable length, I've decided to break his flip-flops into a series of posts, so there will absolutely be more to come in the very near future. Until then, enjoy!


with "Is Scott Walker The Principled Leader Republican Voters Hope To Contrast With Clinton?"

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What ISIS Really Wants​


ISIS flag (source and analysis)

by Gaius Publius

I found the following piece, by Graeme Wood writing at The Atlantic, a compelling and riveting read. First, it attempts to answer the question: What is ISIS, really? Second, it sounds an alarm — that misunderstanding ISIS has accounted for, and will account for, major American policy and strategic mistakes. As you'll read below, the author says (my emphasis):
“We have not defeated the [ISIS] idea,” [the U.S. Special Operations commander in the Middle East] said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
Bottom line: ISIS is a religious group, very unlike al-Qaeda, and very much interested in conquered territory. Also, very seventh-century. Below is the piece's introduction. Do click through for the rest. Even if you don't end up agreeing with all the points made, the article is meticulously researched and you'll learn much, including how to watch this Middle East news as it unfolds. Graeme Wood did extensive in-region interviews for this article.

Four points to note before I present the piece itself:
  • For ISIS adherents, all Shiites and all Muslim heads of state are "apostates" to Islam, not just "sinners," and thus must be marked for death. He who refuses to kill them is himself a "sinner."
  • Executions for apostasy happen "more or less continually, and mass executions every few weeks" in ISIS-held territory.
  • ISIS adherents, like many Christian fundamentalists, are trying to bring about the Apocalypse.
  • The way ISIS's interpretation of Sharia constrains and controls its war planning is not well understood in the West, but it offers crucial advantages to those who do understand it.
As the piece says, in a part not quoted below, "Following takfiri doctrine [which deals with proper treatment of apostates], the Islamic State is committed to purifying the world by killing vast numbers of people." Now the article:
What ISIS Really Wants

The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it. 

What is the Islamic State?

Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.

The group seized Mosul, Iraq, last June, and already rules an area larger than the United Kingdom. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been its leader since May 2010, but until last summer, his most recent known appearance on film was a grainy mug shot from a stay in U.S. captivity at Camp Bucca during the occupation of Iraq. Then, on July 5 of last year, he stepped into the pulpit of the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, to deliver a Ramadan sermon as the first caliph in generations—upgrading his resolution from grainy to high-definition, and his position from hunted guerrilla to commander of all Muslims. The inflow of jihadists that followed, from around the world, was unprecedented in its pace and volume, and is continuing.

Our ignorance of the Islamic State is in some ways understandable: It is a hermit kingdom; few have gone there and returned. Baghdadi has spoken on camera only once. But his address, and the Islamic State’s countless other propaganda videos and encyclicals, are online, and the caliphate’s supporters have toiled mightily to make their project knowable. We can gather that their state rejects peace as a matter of principle; that it hungers for genocide; that its religious views make it constitutionally incapable of certain types of change, even if that change might ensure its survival; and that it considers itself a harbinger of—and headline player in—the imminent end of the world.

The Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), follows a distinctive variety of Islam whose beliefs about the path to the Day of Judgment matter to its strategy, and can help the West know its enemy and predict its behavior. Its rise to power is less like the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (a group whose leaders the Islamic State considers apostates) than like the realization of a dystopian alternate reality in which David Koresh or Jim Jones survived to wield absolute power over not just a few hundred people, but some 8 million.

We have misunderstood the nature of the Islamic State in at least two ways. First, we tend to see jihadism as monolithic, and to apply the logic of al‑Qaeda to an organization that has decisively eclipsed it. The Islamic State supporters I spoke with still refer to Osama bin Laden as “Sheikh Osama,” a title of honor. But jihadism has evolved since al-Qaeda’s heyday, from about 1998 to 2003, and many jihadists disdain the group’s priorities and current leadership.

Bin Laden viewed his terrorism as a prologue to a caliphate he did not expect to see in his lifetime. His organization was flexible, operating as a geographically diffuse network of autonomous cells. The Islamic State, by contrast, requires territory to remain legitimate, and a top-down structure to rule it. (Its bureaucracy is divided into civil and military arms, and its territory into provinces.)

We are misled in a second way, by a well-intentioned but dishonest campaign to deny the Islamic State’s medieval religious nature. Peter Bergen, who produced the first interview with bin Laden in 1997, titled his first book Holy War, Inc. in part to acknowledge bin Laden as a creature of the modern secular world. Bin Laden corporatized terror and franchised it out. He requested specific political concessions, such as the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Saudi Arabia. His foot soldiers navigated the modern world confidently. On Mohamed Atta’s last full day of life, he shopped at Walmart and ate dinner at Pizza Hut.

There is a temptation to rehearse this observation—that jihadists are modern secular people, with modern political concerns, wearing medieval religious disguise—and make it fit the Islamic State. In fact, much of what the group does looks nonsensical except in light of a sincere, carefully considered commitment to returning civilization to a seventh-century legal environment, and ultimately to bringing about the apocalypse.

The most-articulate spokesmen for that position are the Islamic State’s officials and supporters themselves. They refer derisively to “moderns.” In conversation, they insist that they will not—cannot—waver from governing precepts that were embedded in Islam by the Prophet Muhammad and his earliest followers. They often speak in codes and allusions that sound odd or old-fashioned to non-Muslims, but refer to specific traditions and texts of early Islam.

To take one example: In September, Sheikh Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, the Islamic State’s chief spokesman, called on Muslims in Western countries such as France and Canada to find an infidel and “smash his head with a rock,” poison him, run him over with a car, or “destroy his crops.” To Western ears, the biblical-sounding punishments—the stoning and crop destruction—juxtaposed strangely with his more modern-sounding call to vehicular homicide. (As if to show that he could terrorize by imagery alone, Adnani also referred to Secretary of State John Kerry as an “uncircumcised geezer.”)

But Adnani was not merely talking trash. His speech was laced with theological and legal discussion, and his exhortation to attack crops directly echoed orders from Muhammad to leave well water and crops alone—unless the armies of Islam were in a defensive position, in which case Muslims in the lands of kuffar, or infidels, should be unmerciful, and poison away.

The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.

Virtually every major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it calls, in its press and pronouncements, and on its billboards, license plates, stationery, and coins, “the Prophetic methodology,” which means following the prophecy and example of Muhammad, in punctilious detail. Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it. We’ll need to get acquainted with the Islamic State’s intellectual genealogy if we are to react in a way that will not strengthen it, but instead help it self-immolate in its own excessive zeal.
There follow a number of sections discussing the nature of the religious devotion of the ISIS fighters, their belief in the imminent Apocalypse, and how adherence to strict seventh-century Islam constrains the way ISIS can conduct its war.

About ISIS as a religious movement, the author quotes Princeton scholar Bernard Haykel and notes:
All Muslims acknowledge that Muhammad’s earliest conquests were not tidy affairs, and that the laws of war passed down in the Koran and in the narrations of the Prophet’s rule were calibrated to fit a turbulent and violent time. In Haykel’s estimation, the fighters of the Islamic State are authentic throwbacks to early Islam and are faithfully reproducing its norms of war.
There's a lot of "blood and guts" in many early versions of modern religions, including the Christian and the Hebrew Bibles. It needs to be said that ISIS fighters are taking that aspect of their religion literally, in the sense that they're following the whole of the early how-we-fight-pagans prescriptions. It also needs to be said that almost all of the world's Muslims don't take that aspect of their religions literally:
Leaders of the Islamic State have taken emulation of Muhammad as strict duty, and have revived traditions that have been dormant for hundreds of years. “What’s striking about them is not just the literalism, but also the seriousness with which they read these texts,” Haykel said. “There is an assiduous, obsessive seriousness that Muslims don’t normally have.”
This includes adherence to slavery, a worldwide custom in the ancient and early medieval world:
“We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women,” Adnani, the [ISIS] spokesman, promised in one of his periodic valentines to the West. “If we do not reach that time, then our children and grandchildren will reach it, and they will sell your sons as slaves at the slave market.”
He means that literally, and U.S. policy-makers should understand that he does. In the section called "The Fight," the writer says:
The ideological purity of the Islamic State has one compensating virtue: it allows us to predict some of the group’s actions. Osama bin Laden was seldom predictable. He ended his first television interview cryptically. CNN’s Peter Arnett asked him, “What are your future plans?” Bin Laden replied, “You’ll see them and hear about them in the media, God willing.” By contrast, the Islamic State boasts openly about its plans—not all of them, but enough so that by listening carefully, we can deduce how it intends to govern and expand. ...
It’s hard to overstate how hamstrung the Islamic State [and its ability to wage war] will be by its radicalism.
I'll let you read why. The section on Apocalypse makes fascinating reading as well. If you're inclined to expand your understanding of this group, I urge you to take a long look at this fascinating article.


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Mike Pence-- Pandering To The Worst Of The Republican Party Base


C.S. Lewis, probably best known for The Chronicles of Narnia, died on November 22, 1963, the same day Aldous Huxley died and the same day JFK was assassinated. When Lewis passed away, Mike Pence, who went on ABC's This Week to insist he isn't a bigot, was just 4 years old. Perhaps when he was 4, he wasn't a bigot. But he has been for his entire public career. Lewis could well have been referencing the future Mr. Pence when he wrote
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for there good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good, will torment us without end.
When Pence was the most extreme right-wing member of the House Republican leadership, he ratted out Boehner for having had an affair with Beltway lobbyist Lisbeth Lyons but lost the ensuing power struggle and retired from Congress. Now he's governor of Indiana. He doesn't win in places like Bloomington, Gary and Indianapolis-- and when he runs for president eventually, he knows those aren't the kinds of places where his support will be coming from.

The corporate media seems to be trying to define him as "mainstream," but he was on with George Stephanopoulos to defend the viciously homophobic, widely condemned "religious liberty" law he signed last week. "This is not about discrimination," he blathered. "This is about empowering people to confront government overreach." Sure it is! Jennifer Pizer, Senior Councel for Lambda Legal patiently explained-- though not to George Stephanouplos' audience-- just how ugly and bigoted Pence's new law is.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence rushed today to sign SB 101, the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)”-- so-called, though it’s not restoring religious rights; it’s expanding them.

In his signing statement, Gov. Pence gave Hoosiers a misleading picture of how dangerous this new law is. Passed by the Indiana Senate in February, and the Indiana House of Representatives just days ago, one has to wonder: What’s the rush?

The truth is, Indiana’s RFRA is designed to allow and in some respects, invites people to disregard laws that should apply to everyone conducting a business-- laws to prevent people from harming each other in the name of religion.

At Lambda Legal, our top concern is religiously motivated discrimination against people already vulnerable to exclusion and mistreatment, especially the LGBT community.

Gov. Pence, in his signing statement, said, "This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way in Indiana, I would have vetoed it. In fact, it does not even apply to disputes between private parties unless government action is involved."

He’s wrong, or disingenuous, on both points. If this new law does not seek to facilitate discrimination, why did legislators pressing for its passage say it’s “needed” to allow businesses to turn away same-sex couples? And why did a majority of Indiana legislators then reject amendments offered to specify that these enhanced religious rights cannot be used to excuse discrimination? 

Further, about disputes between private parties, the law says explicitly, “A person whose exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened, by a violation of this chapter may assert the violation or impending violation as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding, regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding.” This language was included to allow private parties to object to following a law that otherwise would apply to them, and to assert these expanded religious rights in a dispute with another private party.

A stark problem for LGBT Hoosiers is that unlike in other states, Indiana law does not include sexual orientation and gender identity within the state’s nondiscrimination framework.

When antigay lawmakers say laws like this are “needed,” and they point to cases from other states where we successfully resisted use of religion to defend discrimination, they don’t acknowledge that a statewide nondiscrimination law was on the books in those places. Currently, less than half the states have such laws.

A dozen Indiana municipalities do have nondiscrimination protections in place... Gov. Pence and the law’s supporters say it doesn’t dictate the outcome of conflicts, and that LGBT people will still be able to argue about their needs in court. But this is precisely why we are so concerned. Most people lack the desire, let alone the resources, to litigate when refused service, when rejected and turned away, when publicly humiliated just for who they are. They don’t run to court; instead, they simply absorb the hurtful, demeaning message of being unwelcome, and they go elsewhere.

It is no secret that many of those pressing so intensely to enact laws of this type are doing so in negative response to same-sex couples being newly able to marry (as they can in Indiana thanks to litigation of which Lambda Legal is very proud).

When the politically endorsed message is that religious reasons for conduct should be elevated above other shared civic values and interests, that message encourages the exclusions, the hostile rhetoric, and the social stigma that enact a terrible toll on the health of LGBT people.

As Indiana business leaders, Republican mayors and others said when urging Gov. Pence to pause and consider before signing, this new law takes Indiana in the wrong direction. Now, while Lambda Legal stands by to do our best to help those turned away from businesses, refused jobs, housing or medical care, protest campaigns are emerging by Athlete Ally (#final4fairness), convention planners and religious groups. The economic and legal consequences for Indiana will unfold with time.

But two things are certain. This confusing, needless law will bring an increase in discord, discrimination and litigation. And, it would have been far, far better for the good people of Indiana if Gov. Pence had opened his eyes wider to the needs of his state, and vetoed rather than embracing this bill.
And, when you've lost Angie's List...

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Sunday, March 29, 2015

You probably think this picture is a mistake. That's how much you know. It's hip contemporary design! (With a brief "Godfather" "explanatory update")


You're probably figuring that the person who cropped this photo for publication was either thinking about something else at the time, or maybe drunk, or just plain stupid. Well, surprise! Apparently this is "contemporary design." (I know I shouldn't have centered it here, but old habits die hard.)

by Ken

Awhile ago, as some of you may remember, I got myself enmeshed in a profiile of defrocked Russian plutocrat Mikhail Khodorkovsky, by Julia Ioffe, which appeared in the January 12 New Yorker. Accompanying that profile was the above, er, photo. Maybe I should say "image," since I have to wonder whether it qualifies any longer as a photo.

Okay, I get what's going on here. This is new and hot. It's artistic, creative. Images that are centered or symmetrical -- feh! How old-fashioned! Why, it's as if the person publishing the photo thought he had something more important to do than to, you know, show the reader something -- like dazzling, or more likely hornswoggling, the poor bugger.

I don't mean to single out The New Yorker, because now that I've crawled out of my tightly constrained little media world, I see that I had somehow missed this trend. Now I see that it's all over. (Let's make it clear: I do mean to ridicule and despise the perpetrators at The New Yorker. Just because they're hardly the worst offenders doesn't mean they shouldn't be humiliated and fired -- and also the people who hired them. And oh yes, it's nothing personal, it's just business. [EXPLANATORY UPDATE: As some of you may recall, on Saturday I was scheduled to see a day-night double-header of Godfather I and II. Well, as you can see, I did -- and what a grand day it was!])

In case you haven't seen much of it yourself, it started with eccentric cropping of photos, losing most everything from mid-forehead up and from about bottom chin down. Then it leapt to positioning of images such that the nominal subject of a photo an image is scooted way the hell off to one side, or top or bottom, or corner, in addition to being bizarrely cropped so as to render the nominal subject more or less beyond recognition. And this is supposed to be chic, with it, hip as hell. Oh jeez!

In many years in and around publishing I've known a heap of art editors, art directors, graphic designers, or whatever they're calling themselves now. Some of them were brilliant, and I learned an unbelievable amount from them about how the eye "works" a page and how visual elements can serve and enhance that. They also produced a lot of damned fine pages. Interestingly, they were also the ones who cared most about what the editors involved were looking for in the design, what we were hoping to communicate. They were awesome.

Many more of those so-called designers, alas, were pompous hacks, producing more and more elaborate design garbage as the software enhanced their physical, but not artistic, capabilities. I saw "design," or just plain "graphics," take over magazines and even newspapers. I guess it has something to do with the prevailing assumption that so-called readers don't read, or apparently even attempt to receive information. They just look randomly and blindly.

Still, I was surprised by this new wave of graphic imbecility. Me, when I insert a picture or other graphics in these posts, it's 'cause I hope I have something to show you, and maybe to make the space look a little nicer. Nevertheless, here I thought I was beyond being surprised by crap like this. Well, surprise!

I don't suppose there's any point in asking if somebody can make this stop.


Take that, Mikhail, and that! You arty boy!


Garry Wills, contemplating Pope Francis and his critics, says there are "two forms of Christianity now on offer" -- and it's up to Catholics to choose


A homeless man uses an umbrella to shield himself from the water from the system installed by San Francisco's Cardinal Sal "The Faucet" Cordileone to drench riffraff trying to sleep under the overhang of St. Mary's Cathedral -- in Jesus's name, of course.

"I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars. You have to heal the wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds."

by Ken

By the above standard, the pope should have a place toward the top of the list for the rampaging American so-called Christians who are waging a war of terror against, well, anyone who doesn't agree with them, to preserve their God-given right to do unto anyone they fucking well please. (Hey, man, Jesus did say something about doing unto others, didn't he?) You know, the kind of people Indiana Gov. Mike Pence says are afraid they're being picked on, and so need Right to Discriminate laws to be able to stick it to their goddamn prevert enemies.

In the depths of their delusions and just plain prevarications, and considering the threat they pose to decent folk, aren't these people among the world's most grievously wounded, mentally and morally?

In a new NYRB blogpost, "The Pope Is a Christian!," Garry Wills tells us about a man who asked him, at a recent talk he gave about the pope, "Why do more non-Catholics like the pope than Catholics do?" In fact, Wills says,
A Pew poll two months ago found that 90 percent of Catholics like what the pope is doing—and the number is even higher (95 percent) among the most observant, Mass attending Catholics. The percentage of non-Catholics who view the pope favorably does not get above the 70s.
"Yet the question was understandable," he says. Because the Catholic naysayers are really noisy, and "extremists get more press coverage than blander types."
[S]ome Catholic bloggers have suggested that the pope is not truly Catholic. They are right to be in a panic. They are not used to having a pope who is a Christian. They call Francis a radical because he deplores the sequestration of great wealth for a rich few and deprivation of the many poor. But Francis is a moderate. Jesus was the radical.


At least they really don't like real talk about Jesus, which is to say talk about what he actually believed, taught, and did. The Jesus they like to talk about, or maybe pay lip service to, is more of a mental and moral defective created in their own image. It's not as if they lack role models.

So are we ready for Jesus the radical?
“How hard it will be for the wealthy man to enter the kingdom of God….It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for the rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:23,26). In the Gospel of Luke (16:19-31), when the rich man (Dives) calls for succor from hell, Abraham, holding the poor man (Lazarus) in his bosom, answers: “All the good things fell to you while you were alive, and all the bad to Lazarus; now he has his consolation here, and it is you who are in agony.”
Not only rich people, but not-so-rich people who identify with the rich people and in their own way fund the churches that demand the right to do unto others, never enjoy hearing about that camel trying to pass through the eye of a needle being a better bet than that rich man entering the kingdom of God.

Jesus must have been misquoted. Or maybe quoted out of context.

"Some right wing Catholics," Wills says, "would haul Dives up and enshrine him in the one percent of rich men who trickle wealth down on the rest of us."
They are also descendants of those Pharisees who tried to keep people away from Jesus because “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:1-2). The modern Pharisees try to refuse the Eucharist to politicians who do not meet their doctrinal tests. Pope Francis’s response to this patrolling of the communion line is in his major statement so far, The Joy of the Gospel (No. 47):
The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.
And just to make it worse, there's that damned Jesus mouthing off for a change, saying, "It is not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick; I did not come to invite virtuous people, but sinners."

At which point you'd think those right-wing Catholics would have the practical sense to wave their arms and shout, "Ooh, ooh, sinners! Pick us!"


We've already seen Pope Francis's "battle" image, wherein he "see[s] the church as a field hospital after battle." "Some 'traditional' Catholics," says Wills, "also see the church as a battlefield; but they go out after battle to shoot the wounded."
Cardinal Sal "The Faucet"
They are typified by hierarchs like Cardinal Raymond Burke, who says Catholics who remarry outside the church are like murderers, living defiantly in public sin. Or like Cardinal Salvatore Cordileone, who issued a guide for teachers in the Catholic schools of San Francisco, requiring them to oppose—in the classroom and in their private lives—abortion, contraception, artificial insemination, same sex marriage, adultery, fornication, masturbation, and pornography. He also installed a water system in the overhang at Saint Mary’s Cathedral to soak homeless people who were trying to sleep there. Every hour or half hour, for 75 seconds, the pipes would gush down on those below and flush them away like human refuse.
I bet Jesus would just laugh, and laugh, and laugh some more. Pope Francis, not so much. "Contrast that," says Wills, "with the reaction of Pope Francis when he found that homeless people were sleeping at the entrance to the Vatican piazza."
Pope Francis
He sent bedrolls out to them, set up showers for them to use in the morning, and sent four hundred more bed rolls to be distributed to the homeless around Rome. The difference between flushing people away and comforting them recalls one of the pope’s favorite parables, that of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). A man wounded almost to death lies by the road. A Temple priest and a member of the priestly (Levite) tribe pass him by so as not to be polluted by a corpse. But a Samaritan (whom Jews thought of as an outcast) rescued the man and paid for his healing. The pope also loves the story of the prodigal son, who wastes his patrimony but is welcomed back by his father, though the prodigal’s elder brother resents this treatment of a sinner.


"It may be more fitting," Wills suggests, to think of the "Catholic right" as "the defenders of Dives, or the Pharisees who do not want people to eat with Jesus, or the flushers of the homeless, or the priestly Levites, or the prodigal’s elder brother," and "their opposites" as "the lovers of Lazarus, or the sinners who eat with Jesus, or the bedroll people, or the 'outcast' Samaritan, or the prodigal's father."

"These are the two forms of Christianity now on offer," he concludes. "Let Catholics make their choice."

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Sunday Classics snapshots: Count Almaviva goes a-wooing, then and now


Urged on by Figaro (Ross Benoliel), "Lindoro" (Luigi Boccia as Count Almaviva) identifies himself to Rosina (Stephanie Lauricella), with Enrico Granafei playing the guitar and Jason Tramm conducting, at New Jersey State Opera, June 2012. (For English text, see below.)

by Ken

I'd like to think we established the premise well enough in last week's "snapshots" post, "Rosina I and Rosina II," where we heard aural snapshots of young Rosina first as the spitfire being wooed by the supposed poor student Lindoro in the opera Rossini fashioned from the popular Beaumarchais play The Barber of Seville, and then, a mere three years later, as the desolate, pretty much emotionally abandoned Countess Almaviva in the opera Mozart fashioned from Beaumarchais's equally popular sequel, The Marriage of Figaro.


Read more »

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Does Patrick Murphy's Voting Record Make It Impossible For Him To Win A Statewide Democratic Primary?


Patrick Murphy has a penchant for switching positions, parties, beliefs, values... everything

Patrick Murphy represents a swingy district-- the 18th district (all of Martin and St. Lucie counties and a chunk of northern Palm Beach County. Obama beat McCain there in 2008, 51% to 48% but lost to Romney in 2012, 52-48%. Obama won the state of Florida-- albeit narrowly-- in both elections. There are plenty of areas in the state where Obama is as desisted and reviled as he is in any of the worst and most disloyal, bigoted parts of the Old Confederacy. In 2012 Obama was able to cobble together a statewide win with victories in the big counties: 62% in Miami-Dade, 62% in Osceola, 61% in Leon, 67% in Broward, 53% in Hillsborough, 59% in Orange, 58% in Palm Beach, 52% in Pinellas, and 54% in Murphy's St. Lucie County. But Obama is absolutely hated in the reddest and most backward parts of the state. Look at these 2012 county totals in the half dozen worst-performing Florida counties for Obama:
Holmes- 15%
Baker- 20%
Lafayette- 20%
Walton- 23%
Santa Rosa- 23%
Okaloosa- 25%
They're all small counties, mostly in the rural panhandle, with tiny populations that elect very right-wing and very ignorant Republicans. Obama hatred runs high in those counties and another half dozen just like them. But those are counties where statewide elections are NOT won and lost. Only just over 8,000 voters went to the polls in Holmes County, quite a few less than the nearly 900,000 who voted in Miami-Dade or the over 700,000 who voted in Broward.

And yet, ironically, Patrick Murphy's statewide strategy-- he wants to win the Democratic nomination to run for the Senate seat Marco Rubio is presumably giving up-- seems to be to cater to these anti-Obama voters. In terms of backing Boehner's agenda, Murphy has the 4th worst voting record among House Democrats this session. His ProgressivePunch Crucial Vote score is abysmal: 31.25, the same as conservative Republican Walter Jones'! He's best know for being a lock-step shill for Wall Street and working with the GOP to give predatory banksters a free hand to game the financial system again. But he's also on board with the Republicans whenever Boehner wants to be able to run to the press and tell them the extreme right legislation his party passes in the House has "bipartisan" support. Murphy is, more often than not, that "bipartisan" support.

Last year, the House passed a Resolution condemning-- that was the word they used-- President Obama for trading 5 Taliban hostages for an American prisoner of war, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. The shockingly partisan resolution passed 249-163. Every single Republican voted for it, of course. But so did 22 of the least courageous, sniveling worms who call themselves Democrats-- like Murphy.
The vote castigating Obama came at a crucial moment for the administration as it sought to rally international and congressional support for steps to combat the rising threat of Islamic state militants in Iraq and Syria. The debate and vote coincided with a White House meeting in which the president was to discuss his strategy with House and Senate leaders. It also came on the eve of Obama’s address to the nation.

“What poor timing for a resolution,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas.

Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., suggested that the House vote on the measure less than two months before the election was simply an effort to appease core Republican voters.
There were no African-American Democrats who voted to condemn the president and I found it a little ironic that Florida Congressman Alcee Hastings, recognizing what was behind that vote, decided to endorse Murphy this week. I think African-American voters in Florida will be less likely to overlook Murphy's decision to join the Republican decision condemning Obama. Maybe he thinks he can make up for it in Holmes County. Democrats have an alternative. Alan Grayson is mulling a run for that Senate seat and Blue America is asking for you to help us draft him into the race.

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