Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Annals Of Pearl-Clutching

This ad was too controversial for the NBC affiliate in Chattanooga.

Via Buzzfeed:

“It’s just a very controversial and personal issue, and we just choose to not air a commercial on either side of that debate,” Tom Tolar, the president and general manager of Chattanooga-based WRCB, told BuzzFeed News in a phone interview.

The ad crossed the station’s lines, he explained, because “people probably have really strong opinions on one side or other of the debate. It’s just an emotional debate for many people.”

And that’s the reason not to talk about it AT ALL.

Aunt Pittypat Still 06-01-15Oh Melly, pass me the smelling salts.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Remember Ebola?

It seems like only a month ago that the entire nation was freaking out about Ebola; schools were shutting down because a teacher had visited Tanzania, which is as far from the countries in Africa that actually had the disease as Seattle is from Miami, and enterprising grifters were selling Ebola emergency kits on the internet.

Then this happened.

After 19 days of treatment, Dr. Craig Spencer no longer has the Ebola virus and will be discharged from the hospital Tuesday, according to The New York Times. The number of Ebola cases in the United States now stands at zero.

Ebola is still sickening and killing people in Sierra Leone and Liberia, but the aid the U.S. has sent and will be sending is controlling it.  But it was never a serious threat here.  You wouldn’t know that from the banshee-inspired coverage on cable news in search of ratings and Republicans in search of something else to blame on President Obama.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Frankly Speaking

Last week Thomas Frank wrote a piece in Salon in which he went all in on calling Barack Obama a weak and gutless leader and labeling his presidency an abject failure.  The Hope and Change president promised so much and delivered so little, he didn’t stand up to the crazy Republicans when he could have and should have, and worst of all, there’s no pony with rainbow ribbons and no sprinkles on the ice cream.

Why, the visitors to his library will wonder, did the president do so little about rising inequality, the subject on which he gave so many rousing speeches? Why did he do nothing, or next to nothing, about the crazy high price of a college education, the Great Good Thing that he has said, time and again, determines our personal as well as national success? Why didn’t he propose a proper healthcare program instead of the confusing jumble we got? Why not a proper stimulus package? Why didn’t he break up the banks? Or the agribusiness giants, for that matter?

Because, to quote Elliot in E.T., this is reality.  Governing in a democracy means working with other people, people who for some reason or another — I’ll let you fill in the blanks — have no interest in a president succeeding; people who in fact were plotting against his every move before the president had spent his first night in the White House.  Add to that a well-oiled and well-funded noise machine of unprecedented lung power and a TV network that can take the smallest thing and turn it into a 24-hour breaking news blitz, and getting things done becomes a bit of a challenge.

But to Mr. Frank’s charges of failure after failure, let’s think about the ones he’s listed:  How does a president persuade a college or university to lower their tuition and make it affordable?  Someone’s gotta pay for it; it’s not like the alumni are going to pick up everything else after football.  What about healthcare?  Well, the “proper” way would have been a single payer plan with the government picking up the tab and raising taxes, much in the way a number of industrialized nations and Canadian provinces do it: Medicare for all.  Yeah, try and pass that; I dare you.

The same could be said about the rest of Mr. Frank’s laments: the stimulus package that was passed was done in the first moments of the Obama presidency and while we were still under the weight of the crapfest left by the previous administration.  What we got would not have passed three months later, and certainly not through a Senate that was barely under the control of the Democrats.  Break up the big banks and agribusiness?  Sure, if you don’t think anyone with any influence or money will object, go ahead.

We expect to hear this kind of whining and pearl-clutching from the Republicans; they’ve mastered the art of crocodile tears and fear-mongering even when they’re in control.  In the last thirty years they have done a fine job of making the case that no one else but a true American conservative should be running the country and then providing us with laboratory-grade examples of exactly why they shouldn’t.

The biggest failure of the Obama presidency isn’t in what it didn’t accomplish or the “tepid” answers it gave to the problems at hand.  It’s that Barack Obama believed — and probably still does — that he was facing opposition from a political party that shared his basic goal of running the country and making it better for all the citizens, not just the ones who voted for him or contributed to his campaign.  He didn’t realize that their sole purpose in life was his personal destruction.  But if a genius like Thomas Frank can’t figure that out, how could anyone else?

Monday, March 10, 2014

They’ll Let Anybody In Here

President and Mrs. Obama spent this past weekend at the exclusive Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo.  Oh my, were the pearls clutched.

Meanwhile, says the Key West Citizen, “some members of the solidly Republican enclave have expressed outrage about the pending visit.”

The newspaper quotes an email from residents Joe and Fran Murphy who say that Obama “has done nothing but degrade and punish the ‘one percent’ of Americans who have done the most for this country.”

“To have a man here who hates us, who has divided America along racial lines, hates people who have been successful in life by hard work and determination is an affront to the membership,” the email to Ocean Reef Club board members continues. “He despises what we have achieved, and would love to have the government open our gates to whomever would like to come into our lovely conservative community.”

Shorter version: “How dare they allow colored people in here!”

To be fair, they do allow people of color into the Ocean Reef Club.  They wear white coats, serve drinks, and change the towels at the pool.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Why Would Anyone Think That?

Cardinal Timothy Dolan is shocked and saddened that anyone would ever think that the Catholic Church might be anti-gay.

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan said on Friday that the Roman Catholic Church was being “caricatured as being anti-gay,” even as he lamented the continued expansion of same-sex marriage in the United States and vowed to keep fighting it.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Cardinal Dolan and his clan have fought every advance for gay rights while allowing pedophiles to run rampant through the church and doing everything they possibly can to shield them from the reach of the law and the victims, all the while letting the world think that being gay and being a pedophile are the same thing.  And until they denounce hate mongers in the church like Bill Donohue, they’re going to have to live with it.

That’s not a caricature; it’s the brutal truth.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Spare Us the Drama

Josh Marshall on the pearl-clutching over spying on foreign leaders:

Churning through countless domestic phone calls is one thing – that has very real constitutional implications. It may be a similar thing with doing that in Spain or other countries in Europe and the Middle East, though the constitutional questions are very different. But please, please spare me the shock and surprise that the US spies on foreign leaders, even allies, even close allies. These countries spy on our leaders too. The only real exception is within the special club of the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand where, for a variety of historical reasons, a pretty different set of rules and integration apply.

Now, as a domestic political matter, I totally understand why these European leaders are freaked. It’s a big problem for them domestically when it’s laid out so baldly in front of everyone. Beyond national security issues, this will likely take a real economic toll on the US. So I’m not surprised at the reaction. I don’t begrudge it. But the tenor of the reporting in the US is frankly bizarre, either totally tendentious or wildly naive.

Not only that, five will get you ten that those countries do their level best to spy on us and wouldn’t miss a chance to tap the phone in the Oval Office or even hack the Twitter account of President Obama.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Kids These Days

Teenagers do stupid things, but when you’re the son of a United States senator, people notice.

Sen. Jeff Flake’s (R-AZ) high school aged son, Tanner, repeatedly published racial, homophobic and anti-Semitic slurs on his personal Twitter account, Buzzfeed reported on Wednesday.

On his Twitter account earlier this year, which has since been locked, Tanner threatened the “faggot” who stole his bike, writing I “will find you, and…will beat the crap out of you.” He also called someone a “Jew” for stealing people’s ideas and went by the name “n1ggerkiller” in an online game, which he posted screenshots of on his Twitter account.

In a statement to Buzzfeed, Sen. Flake said he was “disappointed” in his son’s words and apologized for the “insensitivity.”

Perhaps one of the reasons the lad posted things like that is because his dad thinks that’s being “insensitive” as opposed to being taught that crap like that earns you electronic banishment until your student loans are paid off.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Shocked, Shocked

David Simon, a former police reporter and creator of TV’s The Wire, on the news that our phone and internet data is being shared.

Is it just me or does the entire news media — as well as all the agitators and self-righteous bloviators on both sides of the aisle — not understand even the rudiments of electronic intercepts and the manner in which law enforcement actually uses such intercepts? It would seem so.

Because the national eruption over the rather inevitable and understandable collection of all raw data involving telephonic and internet traffic by Americans would suggest that much of our political commentariat, many of our news gatherers and a lot of average folk are entirely without a clue.

You would think that the government was listening in to the secrets of 200 million Americans from the reaction and the hyperbole being tossed about. And you would think that rather than a legal court order which is an inevitable consequence of legislation that we drafted and passed, something illegal had been discovered to the government’s shame.

Nope. Nothing of the kind. Though apparently, the U.K.’s Guardian, which broke this faux-scandal, is unrelenting in its desire to scale the heights of self-congratulatory hyperbole. Consider this from Glenn Greenwald, the author of the piece: “What this court order does that makes it so striking is that it’s not directed at any individual…it’s collecting the phone records of every single customer of Verizon business and finding out every single call they’ve made…it’s indiscriminate and it’s sweeping.”

Having labored as a police reporter in the days before the Patriot Act, I can assure all there has always been a stage before the wiretap, a preliminary process involving the capture, retention and analysis of raw data. It has been so for decades now in this country. The only thing new here, from a legal standpoint, is the scale on which the FBI and NSA are apparently attempting to cull anti-terrorism leads from that data. But the legal and moral principles? Same old stuff.

[…]

Yes, I can hear the panicked libertarians and liberals and Obama-haters wailing in rare unison: But what about all the innocent Americans caught up in this voracious, overreaching dragnet? To which the answer is obvious if you think about the scale of this: What dragnet?

Your son’s devotional calls to 1-800-BEATOFF? Your daughter’s call from the STD clinic? Your brother-in-law calling you from his office at Goldman with that whispered insider-tip on that biomed stock? Is that what you’re worried about?

Take a deep breath and think:

When the government grabs the raw data from hundreds or thousands of phone calls, they’re probably going to examine those calls. They’re going to look to establish a pattern of behavior to justify more investigation and ultimately, if they can, elevate their surveillance to actual monitoring of conversations. Sure enough.

When the government grabs every single fucking telephone call made from the United States over a period of months and years, it is not a prelude to monitoring anything in particular. Why not? Because that is tens of billions of phone calls and for the love of god, how many agents do you think the FBI has? How many computer-runs do you think the NSA can do? When the government asks for something, it is notable to wonder what they are seeking and for what purpose. When they ask for everything, it is not for specific snooping or violations of civil rights, but rather a data base that is being maintained as an investigative tool.

There are reasons to object to governmental overreach in the name of law enforcement and anti-terrorism. And it is certainly problematic that our national security apparatus demands a judicial review of our law enforcement activity behind closed doors, but again, FISA is a basic improvement on the preceding vacuum it replaced. Certainly — and I find myself in rare agreement with the Rand Pauls of the world on this one — we might be more incensed at the notion of an American executive branch firing missles at U.S. citizens and killing them without the benefit of even an in absentia legal proceeding. Or ashamed at a racially-targeted sentencing guideline that subjects rock cocaine users to seventeen times the penalty of powdered-cocaine users? Or aghast at a civil forfeiture logic that allows government to seize private property and then requires citizens to prove a negative — that it was not purchased with money from ill-gotten gains.

[…]

Frankly, I’m a bit amazed that the NSA and FBI have their shit together enough to be consistently doing what they should be doing with the vast big-data stream of electronic communication. For us, now — years into this war-footing and this legal dynamic — to loudly proclaim our indignation at the maintenance of an essential and comprehensive investigative database while at the same time insisting on a proactive response to the inevitable attempts at terrorism is as childish as it is obtuse. We want cake, we want to eat it, and we want to stay skinny and never puke up a thing. Of course we do.

When the Guardian, or the Washington Post or the New York Times editorial board — which displayed an astonishing ignorance of the realities of modern electronic surveillance in its quick, shallow wade into this non-controversy — are able to cite the misuse of the data for reasons other than the interception of terrorist communication, or to show that Americans actually had their communications monitored without sufficient probable cause and judicial review and approval of that monitoring, then we will have ourselves a nice, workable scandal. It can certainly happen, and given that the tension between national security and privacy is certain and constant, it probably will happen at points. And in fairness, having the FISA courts rulings so hidden from citizen review, makes even the discovery of such misuse problematic. The internal review of that court’s rulings needs to be somehow aggressive and independent, while still preserving national security secrets. That’s very tricky.

But this? Please. This is bullshit.

One thing I’ve always wanted to ask the conspiracy theorists and tin-foil hat brigade: Do you really think you’re so important that the government really wants to listen in on your phone calls?