Allen West: Not so much a congressman as a
satirical representation of a congressman.
Rep. Allen West (R-FL), well known around these parts as being one of the nation's most aggressively stupid congressmen, went to the White House Correspondents Dinner this weekend?but only so he could get instructions on how to get away from there, of course. Because it's evil and sinful, as West grumbled afterwards on Facebook, the only outlet that is truly a match for his special kind of wisdom.
"While the President laughs and dines, our Constitutional Republic is eroding and my countrymen are suffering. In this election year, it is sad to think that some of those who were sitting in that ballroom Saturday night laughing and living it up, are helping to perpetuate the manipulation and deception of our country," West wrote.Yes, yes. The country is going down the crapper, and only Allen West has figured out that it's because the president makes jokes at Mitt Romney's expense during the media's annual running of the bullpoop. Perhaps there were too few jokes about not finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq (always a favorite of mine; every good joke needs a body count behind it). Perhaps it was Jimmy Kimmel making a cruel joke about West, right in front of him, offending West's deeply held belief that you should only insult someone when you are far away from them and don't think you're being filmed. Perhaps the dinner rolls were all secret Marxists. Now, one would think that West would not have attended at all, since he was offended by the whole concept, but there's always the distinct possibility that Allen West just did not know what the White House Correspondents Dinner was when he showed up for it. My goodness, there is joking here? And a dinner?
Having said that, let us all agree that any event that sees Fox News personalities hanging out with Kardashians, or that requests Rick Effing Santorum formulate a thought or two about Lindsay Effing Lohan after posing for a photograph with her, is a curse upon this planet and all who inhabit it. For some reason the journalists of Washington think it would be a lovely hoot each year to hang around with inexplicable celebrities and have the current president and/or other targets of their deep and very serious reporting or punditizing perform a few little skits for them; the rest of us largely fail to see the point, but that is because we are not Washington journalists, and possibly because most of us are not dead inside. Most of us can't deduce why the White House press corps does any given thing on any given day to begin with, even without the obvious influence of alcohol, so this particular gala has always been a baffling exercise.
It is a pity, though. This was Allen West's one chance to discuss his ideas of governance with a group of his truest peers, and he seems to have blown it. Surely, Interchangeable Kardashian Presence would have been fascinated by his ideas on who in Congress is or is not a member of the Communist Party. Lohan might have been eager to hear how black Americans become unrecognizable menaces when donning hoodies, or how the aforementioned Communists are actually Nazis. Talk about the networking opportunities!
But no, he has to be a grump about it. What a missed opportunity.
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Dan Savage, creator of the It Gets Better Project, gave a talk about anti-gay bullying at a conference for high school journalists a couple of weeks ago, which after just being upped to YouTube has caused an uproar through the usual channels as an attack on the Bible, this time by "rightist rag" Citizen Link, a James Dobson outlet.
Towleroad details the manufactured outrage, where some High School journalism students were so offended by Savage they walked out.
A great brouhaha is stirring in the nation's conservative publications over comments Dan Savage made two weeks ago while addressing the JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism Convention. The convention was entitled "Journalism On The Edge," which you'd think would prep participants for a certain amount of edginess in the presentations. Alas, the audience was not prepared for edginess. Savage's subject was to be bullying, and he got right to the point:
The Bible. We?ll just talk about the Bible for a second. People often point out that they can?t help it ? they can?t help with the anti-gay bullying, because it says right there in Leviticus, it says right there in Timothy, it says right there in Romans, that being gay is wrong.
We can learn to ignore the bullshit in the Bible about gay people. The same way, the same way we have learned to ignore the bullshit in the Bible about shellfish, about slavery, about dinner, about farming, about menstruation, about virginity, about masturbation. We ignore bullshit in the Bible about all sorts of things.
Savage's full remarks below the fold, about 3 minutes of his nearly 90 minute presentation.
Naturally such an "affront" couldn't be taken lying down, so this outrage made it's way to Dobson, Fox News, Drudge, Breitbart, Glenn Beck, etc. Here's what Dobson's site Citizen Link had to say about it:
A 17-year-old from California who was attending with half a dozen other students from her high school yearbook staff, was one of several students to walk out in the middle of Savage?s speech.
?The first thing he told the audience was, ?I hope you?re all using birth control!? ? she recalled. Then ?he said there are people using the Bible as an excuse for gay bullying, because it says in Leviticus and Romans that being gay is wrong. Right after that, he said we can ignore all the ?B.S.? in the Bible.
?I was thinking, ?This is not going a good direction at all,? Then he started going off about the Bible. He said somehow the Bible was pro-slavery. I?m really shy. I?m not really someone to, like, stir up anything. But all of a sudden I just blurted out, ?That?s bull!? ?
As she and several other students walked out of the auditorium, Savage noticed them leaving and called them ?pansies.?
Finally, it's not hard to see why this kind of story getting wide play by the usual suspects. Nor is it hard to disagree with this assessment, also by Towleroad:
The story has now been picked up by FOX News Radio, under the headline "Anti-Bullying Speaker Curses Christian Teens." Today, that article was one of the top links at Drudge Report, which suggests the story will get bigger very soon.
It's too bad the Christian kids left the hall. They're supposed to be journalists, and we in the journalism biz must often dirty our ears with others' distasteful utterances. While Savage might have profitably avoided the use of profanities (which, when used to describe allegedly sacred documents, tend to make believers less than receptive to whatever might come next), what he said was materially true, and good journalism students of any creed ought to know it.
UPDATE: Savage later apologized via his blog for the name-calling, regretting the use of "pansy-assed" to describe the students walkout:
I would like to apologize for describing that walk out as a pansy-assed move. I wasn't calling the handful of students who left pansies (2800+ students, most of them Christian, stayed and listened), just the walk-out itself. But that's a distinction without a difference?kinda like when religious conservatives tells their gay friends that they "love the sinner, hate the sin." They're often shocked when their gay friends get upset because, hey, they were making a distinction between the person (lovable!) and the person's actions (not so much!). But gay people feel insulted by "love the sinner, hate the sin" because it is insulting. Likewise, my use of "pansy-assed" was insulting, it was name-calling, and it was wrong. And I apologize for saying it.
The Bible. We'll just talk about the Bible for a second. People often point out that they can't help it -- they can't help with the anti-gay bullying, because it says right there in Leviticus, it says right there in Timothy, it says right there in Romans, that being gay is wrong.
We can learn to ignore the bullshit in the Bible about gay people. The same way, the same way we have learned to ignore the bullshit in the Bible about shellfish, about slavery, about dinner, about farming, about menstruation, about virginity, about masturbation. We ignore bullshit in the Bible about all sorts of things. The Bible is a radically pro-slavery document. Slave owners waved Bibles over their heads during the Civil War and justified it. The shortest book in the New Testament is a letter from Paul to a Christian slave owner about owning his Christian slave. And Paul doesn't say "Christians don't own people." Paul talks about how Christians own people.
We ignore what the Bible says about slavery, because the Bible got slavery wrong. Tim -- uh, Sam Harris, in A Letter To A Christian Nation, points out that the Bible got the easiest moral question that humanity has ever faced wrong. Slavery. What're the odds that the Bible got something as complicated as human sexuality wrong? One hundred percent.The Bible says that if your daughter's not a virgin on her wedding night -- if a woman isn't a virgin on her wedding night, she shall be dragged to her father's doorstep and stoned to death. Callista Gingrich lives. And there is no effort to amend state constitutions to make it legal to stone women to death on their wedding night if they're not virgins. At least not yet. We don't know where the GOP is going these days.
People are dying because people can't clear this one last hurdle. They can't get past this one last thing in the Bible about homosexuality.
Um, one other thing I wanna talk about is -- [chuckles] -- so, you can tell the Bible guys in the hall that they can come back now, because I'm done beating up the Bible. It's funny, as someone who's on the receiving end of beatings that are justified by the Bible, how pansy-assed some people react when you push back.
I apologize if I hurt anyone's feelings. But. I have a right to defend myself. And to point out the hypocrisy of people who justify anti-gay bigotry by pointing to the Bible, and insisting we must live by the code of Leviticus on this one issue and no other.
It's shouldn't be news to anyone that when lots of people are unemployed, it's tough getting a raise or getting a job that pays as well as a previous one before the lay-offs happened. After all, there was a guy a century and a half ago who talked rather extensively about the negative impact of the "reserve army of the unemployed." Negative, that is, for workers. For employers, a large reservoir of out-of-work people instills fear in those who still have a job: Don't ask for more money, do whatever the boss says even if it's wrong or unfair, don't talk about starting a union and do put up with all kinds of impositions nobody should put up with because there is always a hungry guy ready to take your place if you get too uppity.
Despite the official end of the recession, the situation for workers remains tough. At last count, there was an average of 3.7 job-seekers for every job opening and some 25 million Americans were unemployed or underemployed. That's the acute problem. But one of the chronic problems underlying it is the tremendous number of workers who earn low wages who have seen their benefits ever more reduced over the past couple decades and who have no collective bargaining power with which to change these two facts of life. Those low wages aren't just low; their buying power is less than it was four-and-a-half decades ago.
At the Economic Policy Institute, Rebecca Thiess has analyzed the future of work and come to a number of both obvious and not so obvious conclusions. In a nutshell, she says, government policy directed toward creating access to good jobs for low-wage workers will accomplish more if it isn't focused so much on raising educational levels or upgraded job skills and more on doing something about the buying power of the minimum wage, loss of health and retirement benefits, and the loss of workers' bargaining power.
Contrary to the conventional wisdom, her analysis showed that:
...the education and training levels projected to be necessary for the labor force of 2020 shows that jobs will not require a significantly greater level of education or training than workers currently possess. Therefore, a simple increase in the share of workers with a college degree will not ensure that tomorrow?s economy generates better and more equitable outcomes than today?s economy.Fact is, the workforce currently contains a much larger share of workers with at least a college degree than the projections indicate are needed for 2020.
What will produce more equitable outcomes?
Workers of the future, particularly low-wage workers, will only experience rising living standards if the policy status quo is replaced by more-progressive tax and transfer policies, increases in the real value of the minimum wage, a reversal of falling unionization rates, an expansion (and definitely not a retrenchment) of publicly financed social insurance programs, and, crucially, a real commitment to full employment.Yes, a real commitment to full employment. Improving the wage situation depends on improving the job situation. The government can and should provide an assist. A first step ought to be raising the minimum wage to at least parity with its 1968 buying power. As my colleague Laura Clawson pointed out here last week, the United States is a low-wage nation when compared with other developed countries:
The growing prevalence of low-wage work in the United States contributes to income inequality from the bottom, just as the increasing wealth of the top 1 percent, and especially the top 0.1 percent, adds to inequality from the top. The middle is a shrinking place, and you can bet that, without a major shift of economic and political direction, its future is not only to shrink but to be be squeezed downward.Policies can change that, just as it has in those other developed countries. But first there must be the will to propose such policies, and then the willingness to fight without retreat against those who benefit from the current situation.
Unfortunately, it’s all too easy find naked greed and just plain stupidity in America’s boardrooms. It’s committed by the untouchables of the upper classes while being paid handsomely for their avarice. Clueless and dangerous are far too mild to describe these crapweasels.
In a target-rich environment filled with the likes of BP and all the bailed out banks setting up shop faster than Starbucks stores in Manhattan, let’s pick perennial California magnificent malfeasant assopoly Pacific Gas and Electric for today’s lesson.
PG&E is no stranger to bashing actual breathing humans with the exhalted power that springs from corporate personhood. Erin Brockovich went to war with them. They forced electronic meters onto customers despite claims the infernal things didn’t work. They did it by coming onto your property to do the work without permission or even notice. Where the hell are the howls of tyranny now that it’s a pretty logo doing it rather than the ignorati of Capitol Hill?
PG&E’s latest shakedown – well, the largest of their burgeoning list anyway – is the ongoing fight over a deadly Sept. 2010 explosion in San Bruno California. After destroying or damaging hundreds of homes and killing several residents PG&E issued feel-good messages telling everyone they would make everything right again. However, it wasn’t clear just how you make the dead “right again”. Clearly, the messages were ghost written by the PR hacks at BP.
Within hours the company began making everything right by offering residents low-ball settlements. As investigation after investigation showed the company had no idea where pipes were or how serviceable they were. They missed court-ordered deadline after deadline for turning over important documents. After more than a year, they finally copped to not even knowing where all the paperwork was or even if it had ever existed.
They promised customers again to make it better by testing other parts of the same line along with other pipelines across the state. There were cracks a few blocks away and pipelines exploded elsewhere in a deadly game of Whack-a-Conflagration across the Golden State. Even they admitted that it was (or is, because they are still testing and blowing stuff up) an embarrassing show of ineptitude. But they had a plan…impose huge rate increases on customers to pay for the overhauls, later struck down by the court.
Oh, did I mention they already received several million dollars specifically earmarked for repairs the year before for repairs they never made? Surprise! The money went to large compensation packages for the corporate swells and big bonuses for investors.
Color me shocked.
Regulators weren’t much better. They had essentially allowed PG&E to self-regulate themselves for decades, despite a long history of cock-ups, over-charging, and deceptive practices. They eventually fined the company a token amount and a judge kicked it back, calling it ridiculously low for the magnitude of the crimes. The company and their cozy regulators tacked on another few million. The court is still weighing just how absurd this fine will be.
And yet, there are still whiners for poor, beleaguered companies that can’t compete because of oppressive regulation.
It’s nigh onto two years. Several people lost their homes through PG&E-induced default. There is still a big hole in the street which the PG&E CEO probably wants to make into a private swimming pool. The dead are still dead. And, the town is still at odds with the company, regulators, and even itself.
While I’m no great believer in Castroism, I find myself sorely tempted to support having the outlaws nationalized. I couldn’t get a worse deal for their marginal service. They’d be stripped of the over-expensive board. And plenty of “excess employees” and their promised benefits would disappear in the “cleansing” fire of an exploding pipeline. You know, just like rank-and-file government, private, and unionized employees are having inflicted on them.
You would have to fight a titanic battle to screw their response up any more. They make “Helluva job Brownie” look like, well, Brownie doing a helluva job. The company is compounding this crapitude by demanding more ratepayer money to retain the board for their “expertise”. They are in the process of “making things right” by declaring the “right” complete as they get the hell out of the California Afghanistan they created in the picturesque San Bruno hills.
Open your wallets and turn off the gas, PG&E is on the lookout for their next display of stellar corporate personhood and you just might be it.
WE ARE ADDICTED TO GRILLING, especially shish kabobs, with grilled vegetables on skewers a particular obsession. This weekend we splurged on shrimp from Whole Foods, giving them a nod via our wallet for being one of the first to ban “red” fish, which they announced on Earth Day this year. The designation is for fish “that are considered either overfished or fished in a manner that impacts other species or damages marine ecosystems.” These things matter to us.
Roasted Jalapeno, Tomato & Shrimp Garlic Linguini was on the menu, served with Pinot Grigrio, which is a light, crisp white wine out of Italy. It was a gastronomical success, with the roasted plum tomatoes acting as the dressing for the linguini. If you’re considering making marinara any time soon, I’d suggest roasting your tomatoes for the sauce.
You’ve really got to watch the amount of roasted jalapenos you dice and include, the seeds the siren, because they add a foundation of heat that water won’t cool. However, you can just as easily leave them out or substitute red pepper flakes. I roasted the jalapenos separately, because we keep them around for a lot of other dishes.
The oil I prefer for grilling is canola, as it has no taste, but more importantly has a high heat threshold that’s a must to protect gourmet delicacies. There are obviously other choices.
On stiff skewers, alternate halved plum tomatoes and shrimp, with peeled cloves of garlic interspersed throughout. We use garlic generously, but you won’t recognize it once it’s grilled, which reduces the pungent sharpness to a very mild smoky flavor. One note: Next time I’m going to skewer the shrimp separately, because I prefer strong grill marks. Cooking time depends on the grill, but you’re looking at under 7 minutes, regardless of method. Watch the tomatoes, because they’ll fall apart quickly if overcooked and the juice is needed for the pasta.
Pasta to me is a sheer indulgence, because I’m a gym and fitness rat who watches calories diligently. If I’m having pasta it’s a rare treat and is my preference over rice, which I just don’t eat. One of the very best pastas on the market is Whole Foods organic from Italy, which also isn’t expensive. I’ve tried most of the boxed pastas and it’s flawless, as long as you don’t overcook it, which is the rule for all pasta.
Before the pasta is done, in a large skillet on the lowest level you’ve got available, pour in some olive oil and the diced jalapenos. After the pasta is finished, take it from water to the warm olive oil and jalapeno mixture, making sure to coat the pasta completely. I always put pasta in warm olive oil or whatever sauce I’ve prepared after it’s finished boiling. The sauce permeates the warm noodles, which is as important as the salt you put in the water before boiling. From there the mixture goes into your serving dish.
From the skewers, only the roasted garlic requires any further attention. You can dice, press or smash the roast garlic, adding it to the pasta and tossing it, along with the tomatoes and shrimp. I also grate Parmesan cheese as a finisher.
Crisp Pinot Griogio to toast and you’ve got a yummy grilled dish that’s also healthy, not to mention eco-friendly.
What did you grill this weekend? …and if you didn’t grill anything, get on it!
Noble Peace Prize nominee Gene Sharp is a kindly, orchid-growing octogenarian who literally wrote the book on non-violent overthrow of dictatorships. Jailed for nine months in 1953 for protesting the Korean War draft, Sharp went on to write The Politics[...]
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There was a time when it was hard NOT to conclude that the GOP was on the verge of claiming a Senate majority after the 2012 elections. The Democrats, with that huge class of 2006 coming around for their inaugural reelection bids, were defending more than twice as many seats as the Republicans. Even Democratic politicos for whom optimism is practically a job prerequisite were describing the prospects of a continued majority as "tough."
But things have changed fairly substantially in the past couple of months. A sure GOP hold in Maine seems to have fallen by the wayside, unless the GOP can bargain with Angus King and get him to join their caucus. As we have catalogued here for weeks, Indiana Republicans are on the verge of replacing a 100 percent chance of reelection with a conservative firebrand whose prospects are about 50/50. And now, a combination of a better-than-average Democratic candidate and a weaker-than-expected GOP candidate has made an unthinkable Democratic hold of their open seat in North Dakota eminently plausible.
Here are the numbers, including the first new numbers in North Dakota in quite a while:
PRESIDENTIAL GENERAL ELECTION POLLING:
NATIONAL (Gallup Tracking): Romney d. Obama (47-46)DOWNBALLOT POLLING:
NATIONAL (Rasmussen Tracking): Romney d. Obama (47-45)
NORTH DAKOTA (DFM Research for the ND Democratic Party): Romney d. Obama (51-32)
KY-06 (Public Opinion Strategies for Barr): Rep. Ben Chandler (D) 49, Andy Barr (R) 42Some thoughts, as always, just past the jump.
NC-GOV?D (PPP): Walter Dalton 36, Bob Etheridge 26, Bill Faison 5, Bruce Blackmon 3, Gardenia Henley 3, Gary Dunn 2
ND-SEN (DFM Research for the ND Democratic Party): Heidi Heitkamp (D) 49, Rick Berg (R) 44
I have such a difficult time with all the misinformation and propaganda surrounding Iran and any nuclear program that they may or may not be developing. It's impossible for an intellectually honest discussion to happen. And even when we have positive developments, members of the news corps are still fear mongering the great Iranian nuclear bogeyman:
Last Saturday?the same day the United States and Iran were having "constructive and useful" discussions on Iran's nuclear program in Istanbul, according to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton -- the New York Times published a piece titled, "Seeking Nuclear Insight in Fog of the Ayatollah's Utterances," over the byline of James Risen.
That piece contained the following paragraph:
Complicating matters further, some analysts say that Ayatollah Khamenei's denial of Iranian nuclear ambitions has to be seen as part of a Shiite historical concept called taqiyya, or religious dissembling. For centuries an oppressed minority within Islam, Shiites learned to conceal their sectarian identity to survive, and so there is a precedent for lying to protect the Shiite community.
No "analyst" at all was specifically cited in support of this argument anywhere in the article. It should be obvious that when the United States has threatened war against a country, it treads in the precincts of racist war propaganda for a news article about that country to essentially say, "Because of their religion, their leaders aren't like our leaders?they lie," without substantiating that claim at all or presenting balanced views of experts on the topic.
In his blog Informed Comment, Middle East scholar Juan Cole notes that taqiyya has been "widely misrepresented by Muslim-haters and does not apply in Khamenei's case." Cole explains that, historically, taqiyya was not a license to lie about anything, but permission to conceal one's religious identity in the face of life-threatening sectarian prejudice. He also notes that, in the twentieth century, the tide of Shiite legal opinion ran against taqiyya; and that Imam Khomeini, who led the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, demanded that taqiyya be abandoned. Cole concludes by saying that the taqiyya argument is "just some weird form of Islamophobia."
Oh, for crying out loud. If lying makes a nation unfit for diplomacy, where does the U.S. stand? Of course national leaders lie. Nation, meet George W. Bush. But to insinuate that there is something inherently deceptive about Islam that makes anything uttered by Iranian mullahs suspect is just straight bigotry. Look at Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor in the video above. How many times has that now admittedly false meme been used to justify hostility and aggression towards Iran? How many American politicians have invoked it?
What message do we think we're sending Iran? Certainly not one desiring of peace.
I'll confess. I'm not a huge fan of exchange-traded funds (ETFs). I can fully appreciate what they offer, but there's just not enough upside with them most of the time.
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