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Safety/Irony Alert. CNBC (December 25): Your new home security system may be an open invitation to hackers to make you, and perhaps many others, unsafe.” -- CW

Click on the picture to see larger image.... Low Society News. AP: "... Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump were among the guests as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (mih-NOO’-shin’s) married a Scottish actress. Mnuchin exchanged vows Saturday night with Louise Linton at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington. Mrs. Trump wore a pink blush dress" CW: which, if you follow Reality Chex, you will know was enhanced by some really costly baubles that remind the bride of Grace Kelly or happy times or something.

New Yorker: "In a paper in the journal Nature, an international team of researchers announced that they have pushed back the date of the earliest human remains to three hundred thousand years ago. And the specimens in question were found not in East Africa, which has become synonymous with a sort of paleoanthropological Garden of Eden, but clear on the other side of the continent — and the Sahara — in Morocco." -- CW ...

Washington Post: "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus took a final, bittersweet bow Sunday, staging its last three shows [in Uniondale, N.Y.,] after 146 years of entertaining American audiences with gravity-defying trapeze stunts, comically clumsy clowns and trained tigers." -- CW 

Guardian: "Pippa Middleton [sister of Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge --] has married James Matthews in what has been called the society wedding of the year, in front of royalty, family and friends." -- CW

Washington Post: "Two months before Monday’s [May 8] announcement that Sinclair Broadcast Group would pay $3.9 billion for Tribune Media and add to its dominance as the nation’s largest owner of local TV stations, a top executive at Sinclair beamed a short commentary piece to many of the company’s 173 stations.In the segment, which looks like it belongs in a newscast, Sinclair vice president for news Scott Livingston stands before a wall of video monitors and warns that 'some members of the national media are using their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control exactly what people think.' He accuses the national media of publishing 'fake news stories' — a direct echo of President Trump’s frequent complaint — and then asks viewers to visit the station’s website to share 'content concerns.' The piece was a 'must-run,' meaning news directors and station managers from Baltimore to Seattle had to find room for it.... While partisan coverage is a familiar staple of cable networks — Fox News on the right, MSNBC on the left — it remains mostly unheard of in broadcast TV, where it has generally been accepted that public airwaves should be used in the difficult-to-define public interest.” -- CW 

CNN: "21st Century Fox and the private equity firm Blackstone are in talks to launch a bid for Tribune Media, one of the nation's largest television broadcasting companies, a source with knowledge of the matter said Sunday. The deal currently under discussion would see Blackstone and Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox forming a joint venture. Blackstone would provide the cash for the acquisition while Fox would add all its owned-and-operated television stations to the joint venture." -- CW 

New York Times: "Prehistoric humans — perhaps Neanderthals or another lost species — occupied what is now California some 130,000 years ago, a team of scientists reported on Wednesday. The bold and fiercely disputed claim, published in the journal Nature, is based on a study of mastodon bones discovered near San Diego. If the scientists are right, they would significantly alter our understanding of how humans spread around the planet." -- CW 

If you're curious as to how realistic the New York City apartments of TV sitcom characters are -- in terms of what the characters could reasonably afford -- the Washington Post checks out several of the hovels & dream rentals of a number of shows. Kinda fun. CW: My husband & I (he paid the rent) had a fairly spacious two-bedroom with a galley kitchen (dishwasher included!) & dining room plus teensy closets on Washington Square in the 1980s & '90s. NYU owned the building & helped considerably with the rent.

Politico: "Comedian Hasan Minhaj will be this year's entertainer for the White House Correspondents' Dinner later this month, the association's president announced on Tuesday. Minhaj is a stand up comedian and senior correspondent on 'The Daily Show,' where he has performed caustic bits on ... Donald Trump, liberals and others in between. Minhaj has Washington experience already, having performed as host of last year's Radio and Television Correspondents' Association Dinner." -- CW 

AFP: "After months of uncertainty and controversy, Bob Dylan finally accepted the 2016 Nobel Prize in literature at a jovial, champagne-laced ceremony on Saturday, [April 1,] the Swedish Academy announced. The academy, which awards the coveted prize, ended prolonged speculation as to whether the 75-year-old troubadour would use a concert stopover in Stockholm to accept the gold medal and diploma awarded to him back in October." -- CW 

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Monday
Apr062015

The Commentariat -- April 7, 2015

"Surrender at Appomattox," by Thomas Lovell.... ** Brian Beutler: "... April 9 is the 150th anniversary of the Union’s victory in the Civil War.... And to mark the occasion, the federal government should make two modest changes: It should make April 9 a federal holiday; and it should commit to disavowing or renaming monuments to the Confederacy, and its leaders, that receive direct federal support." ...

... CW: I'm sure everyone will jump on this idea. Let's ask Jefferson Beauregard Sessions about it, for starters. Also, I never knew who Edmund Pettus was. So I looked him up: "He served as a Confederate general during the American Civil War.... After the war he was a Grand Dragon of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan and a Democratic U.S. Senator.... [He was] an enthusiastic champion of the Confederate cause and of slavery...." ...

... Steve M.: "Yeah, that's all we need: another reason for right-wingers to feel put upon.... In the real America, Southern whites have persuaded themselves that the flag of the Confederacy is about 'heritage' rather than slavery or treason, and the defense of 'heritage' in the modern world is part of a noble resistance to anti-white racism, which manifests itself in affirmative action and excessive social spending on Those People."

Sarah Bailey of the Washington Post: "President Obama teased his critics in his Easter remarks as religious leaders gathered at the White House for a prayer breakfast Tuesday. Obama noted the biblical call that Christians are called to love each other. But he said he sometimes hears 'less-than-loving expressions by Christians.' He added, 'but that's a topic for another day,' to applause and some jeering and laughter, 'I was about to veer off. I'm pulling it back.'"

When Crazy No Longer Pays. Dana Milbank: "Climate-change deniers are in retreat.... They're resorting to more defensible arguments that don't make them sound like flat-earthers.... For politicians and climate-denial groups, the elixir of life is money. Now that corporations are becoming reluctant to bankroll crazy theories, the surrender of climate-change deniers will follow."

Timothy Cama of the Hill: "The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Monday sent to the White House its controversial regulation to redefine the extent of its authority over water pollution control."

Trevor Potter & Meredith McGehee of the Campaign Legal Center, in Politico Magazine: "Before [Aaron] Schock [R-Illinois] becomes a footnote in history, it's worth reflecting on how he represents everything wrong with the way Congress raises money.... The rise and fall of Schock embodies the reality of the current campaign finance system. Members are now valued by the Leadership and fellow Members because of their fundraising prowess, not their legislating abilities.... The true scandal is that he was doing what all 'successful' Members of Congress now do -- ignoring Congressional grunt work and instead raising money." Potter & McGehee suggests some at-least partial solutions -- which aren't going to happen. Because $$$.

Alan Yuhas of the Guardian: "Edward Snowden avoided saying whether he had read every NSA document he handed over to journalists in an interview with comedian John Oliver on Sunday, as the HBO host posed uncomfortable questions to the NSA whistleblower in Moscow." ...

... Alan Yuhas: "The New York parks department on Monday removed a large bust of Edward Snowden that was installed in a Brooklyn park, shortly after covering it up with a tarp and thwarting the artists' stated intent 'to highlight those who sacrifice their safety in the fight against modern-day tyrannies'. The Snowden bust still stood at Fort Greene Park's Prison Ship Martyrs monument, atop a single Doric column."

Burgess Everett of Politico: "Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer ... is strongly endorsing passage of a law opposed by President Barack Obama that would give Congress an avenue to reject the White House-brokered framework [on Iranian nuclear capabilities] unveiled last week." ...

... Eyder Peralta of NPR: "On Friday, Netanyahu insisted that any final agreement with Iran had to include 'clear and unambiguous Iranian commitment of Israel's right to exist.' In his interview with [NPR's] Steve [Inskeep], Obama dismissed Netanyahu's demand. 'The notion that we would condition Iran not getting nuclear weapons in a verifiable deal on Iran recognizing Israel is really akin to saying that we won't sign a deal unless the nature of the Iranian regime completely transforms,' Obama said. 'And that is, I think, a fundamental misjudgment.'" With audio. ...

... Peter Beinart of the Atlantic on what's wrong with Netanyahu's arguments. "... if America follows Netanyahu's advice, Iran's isolation will ease and America's will grow. Perhaps it's no surprise that a leader whose policies have so isolated his own country from the world is urging the United States down a similar path." ...

... Isabel Kershner of the New York Times: "Whereas Israel's public diplomacy has so far focused on what many have said was an unrealistic demand for the complete dismantlement of Iran's potentially military nuclear infrastructure, Yuval Steinitz, Israel's minister of intelligence and strategic affairs, presented a list of desired modifications for the final agreement due to be concluded by June 30, that he said would make it 'more reasonable.'" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Amanda Holpuch & Lauren Gambino of the Guardian: "The University of Virginia fraternity chapter at the center of Rolling Stone magazine's retracted article A Rape on Campus said on Monday that it planned to sue the magazine for what it called 'reckless' reporting that hurt its reputation." ...

... Brian Stelter of CNN: "No one at Rolling Stone magazine is going to be fired: How can that be?"

I don't trust the press. I think I trust Iran more than I trust the American press. I don't want the American press interpreting this for me. -- Bill O'Reilly, one of the nation's few honest journos

Presidential Race

NEW. Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky declared himself a candidate for the Republican nomination for president on Tuesday, aiming to upset the political order in Washington and disprove those in his own party who doubt that a fiercely libertarian conservative can be a serious contender." ...

... Jonathan Easley of the Hill: "Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) will become the second major GOP presidential candidate to officially launch a White House bid on Tuesday.... He intends to focus heavily on young voters and minority outreach, and will make the pitch to Republican primary voters that his efforts to expand the party make him the candidate with the best chance to defeat Hillary Clinton in the general election." ...

... Jeremy Peters: "On Tuesday, when Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky is expected to announce his candidacy for the 2016 Republican nomination at a rally here, his father, Ron, the former Texas congressman, will have a silent role. The elder Mr. Paul, who is known for eagerly commenting on the crisis of the moment, has been much quieter lately. Last week, he was declining all interview requests." ...

... Josh Rogin of Bloomberg: "In the first salvo of the 2016 Republican ad wars, a conservative group is about to unleash a seven-figure ad campaign targeting Senator Rand Paul for being out of step with the party on Iran, just as he launches his presidential campaign. The Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America, a 501(c)(4) group led by veteran Republican operative Rick Reed, will go live with its campaign against Paul on Tuesday, while the senator is in Louisville, Kentucky, announcing his presidential candidacy.... Reed ... was the architect of the 2004 'Swiftboat Veterans for Truth' campaign that attacked John Kerry's national-security record and credentials."

Robert Samuels of the Washington Post: "... Jeb Bush boasts that an executive order he signed that ended race-based college admissions in Florida upheld conservative principles while helping minorities.... But[, as predicted,] at Florida's two premier universities, black enrollment is shrinking.... Bush ... is the only governor who has signed an order ending affirmative action.... The growth in minority enrollment that Bush now points to is primarily a result of the state's booming Hispanic population.... As the number of black students dwindles, a sense of isolation has grown among them, particularly during episodes of perceived prejudice." ...

... Juanito! Ed Kilgore: "... when Poppy caused a brief flurry of controversy by referring to Jeb's kids as 'the little brown ones,' it probably didn't occur to him that Jeb might come to think of himself as a 'little brown one' by association -- or perhaps by the projection of a pol hungry for votes. Any way you slice the cantaloupe, though, you have to wonder how this news went over with Steve King." ...

... As Unwashed remarked in yesterdays Comments, "Just to be safe, we might want to get out the tape measure to check the circumference of [Jeb's] calves to make sure he didn't sneak across the border carrying a couple bales of contraband." ...

... A Family Rejects It's Northeastern WASPy Heritage. David Frum of the Atlantic: "Just as George H.W. Bush turned his back on the Northeastern Republicanism of Prescott Bush by traveling to Texas and throwing his lot in with Goldwater conservatism; just as New Haven-born George W. Bush defined himself as the Texas-most of the Texans; so Jeb says he is not a WASP, but a bicultural man, raising a bicultural family. He emancipated himself from one identity by adopting another."

Patrick Healy of the New York Times: "Expressing reverence for [Ronald] Reagan has been almost a requirement for Republican presidential candidates since 1988, but [Scott] Walker has taken to it like an apostle to his creed. As he prepares a White House run, and envisions competing against candidates named Bush and Clinton, Mr. Walker is going to great lengths to claim the Reagan legacy all for himself."

Obama to Walker: "You're an Ignoramus." Domenicao Montanaro of NPR: President "Obama scoffed at Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's suggestion that he would, on Day 1, revoke any nuclear agreement with Iran if he is elected president. 'It would be a foolish approach to take,' Obama said in an interview with NPR's Steve Inskeep, 'and perhaps Mr. Walker -- after he's taken some time to bone up on foreign policy -- will feel the same way.'" ...

... Greg Sargent: "Walker’s attack [on the Iran deal] is a reminder that Republicans continue to frame their opposition to any Iran deal in narrow terms -- I pledge to stick it to Obama and undo his capitulation to Iran on Day One!!! -- when in fact the talks also involve major allies, meaning all sorts of consequences could result from blowing up an international deal to which they are parties. Obama's response did hint at the general idea that recklessly undermining our agreements with other countries would 'embolden our enemies.'"

Josh Rogin of Bloomberg: "Texas Governor Rick Perry hasn't yet said whether he's running for president, yet he will announce Monday that if he wins the White House he intends to trash President Barack Obama's nuclear agreement with Iran as one of his first official acts." ...

... As digby asked the other day, "Am I the only one who finds it just a little bit odd that the American officials loudly claiming Iran cannot be trusted to fulfill any deal are simultaneously pledging that they will not fulfill any deal? Is it possible they have such little self-awareness?" ...

... CW: Sorry, digby, but "Rick Perry" and "self-awareness" only appear in the same sentence when someone is pointing out he has none. ...

In hope we entrust to the merciful Lord the framework recently agreed to in Lausanne, that it may be a definitive step toward a more secure and fraternal world.... From the risen Lord we ask the grace not to succumb to the pride which fuels violence and war, but to have the humble courage of pardon and peace. -- Pope Francis, in his Easter Message ...

... An Easter Message from Pope Francis to Scott Walker, Rick Perry, Ted Cruz, et. al.: David Knowles of Bloomberg: "Pope Francis wants to give peace with Iran a chance. Delivering his Easter message from St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Sunday, the pope gave his backing to the nuclear deal reached between Iran, the United States, China, Russia, France, the United Kingdom and Germany. 'In hope we entrust to the merciful Lord the framework recently agreed to in Lausanne, that it may be a definitive step toward a more secure and fraternal world,' the pope told the throngs of followers gathered in the rain." ...

... Ed Kilgore: "Every day, you figure the odds go up that some conservative politician like Rick Santorum or Bobby Jindal is going to come right out and claim to be more Catholic than the Pope."

The Gospel According to Ted -- Does Not Run Thru the Supreme Court. Todd Gillman of the Dallas Morning News: "On his first Iowa stop as a presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz warned Wednesday that a Supreme Court ruling to legalize gay marriage nationwide would be 'fundamentally illegitimate.'... 'Because of their partisan desire to mandate gay marriage everywhere in this country, they also want to persecute anyone who has a good faith religious belief that marriage is a holy sacrament, the union of one man and one woman and ordained as a covenant by God,' he said.... He reiterated his vow to press for a constitutional amendment that would clarify the power of state legislatures to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. If the high court does legalize gay marriage nationwide, he added, he would prod Congress to strip federal courts of jurisdiction over the issue, a rarely invoked legislative tool." Via Charles Pierce. ...

Andy Borowitz: "The Republican Presidential candidate Ted Cruz's constant references to Jesus Christ in his speeches and campaign ads are sparking a strong interest in atheism among millions of Americans, atheist leaders report."

... If you are trying to think up some sly, disingenuous ways to justify bigotry, among the fellows who are glad to oblige are Rick Santorum, who thinks he should be POTUS, & Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who thinks he should be pope. Charles Pierce reports. CW: For starters, all these old boys should take a look at the Good News in the Good Book (see my Sunday post), & quit making up shit. Next, they really need to get over their weird obsession with other people's sex lives & wedding plans. (See also "Daily Show" clip below.)

AND 90-percent-presidential-candidate Carly Fiorina blames liberals for the California drought.

Senate Race

Dan Nowicki of the Arizona Republic: "Veteran U.S. Sen. John McCain will announce Tuesday that he will seek a sixth term in 2016. McCain, R-Ariz., plans to officially declare his bid for re-election during a speech before the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry at the Arizona Biltmore resort in central Phoenix." McCain will turn 80 in 2016.

Gubernatorial Race

Seema Mehta of the Los Angeles Times: Gavin Newsom, California's leutenant governor, who is running for governor, Newsom, a Democrat, is the highest-ranking state official to support legalization [of recreational marijuana]. If an expected 2016 ballot measure to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana includes safeguards that he views as crucial, Newsom will endorse it and effectively be the public face of the effort."

Beyond the Beltway

Nik DeCosta-Klipa of the Boston Globe: "On the same day closing arguments were heard in Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's trial for the Boston Marathon bombings, Massachusetts Catholic leaders reaffirmed their opposition to the death penalty. The Massachusetts Catholic Conference released a statement Monday afternoon, signed by local bishops, including Cardinal Seán O'Malley."

Republican Men Should Not Be Allowed out at Night

The Man in the Orange Jumpsuit was once the head of the South Carolina GOP.WIS TV, Columbia, South Carolina: "The former executive director of the South Carolina Republican Party was arrested Monday on a criminal domestic violence charge. James John Todd Kincannon, 33, was booked into the Lexington County Detention Center Monday evening....

Just Another GOP Mugshot.... Michael Brindley of New Hampshire Public Radio: "Senator Kelly Ayotte says she has accepted the resignation of her state director, after he was arrested Friday, charged with solicitation of prostitution. Nashua police say David Wihby was one of 10 men arrested as part of a special sting operation last week at two city hotels." Thanks to Akhilleus for the link.

Mike Weisser in the Huffington Post: "This past week Kansas became the sixth state to align itself with something called the Constitutional Carry Movement which interprets the 2nd Amendment to mean that anyone can carry a concealed weapon without having to undergo any kind of licensing requirement at all.... The [Supreme Court's] 2008 Heller decision ... explicitly defined the 2nd Amendment as granting Americans the right to keep a gun in their homes.

Sunday
Apr052015

The Commentariat -- April 6, 2015

Afternoon News

Isabel Kershner of the New York Times: "Whereas Israel's public diplomacy has so far focused on what many have said was an unrealistic demand for the complete dismantlement of Iran's potentially military nuclear infrastructure, Yuval Steinitz, Israel's minister of intelligence and strategic affairs, presented a list of desired modifications for the final agreement due to be concluded by June 30, that he said would make it 'more reasonable.'"

*****

Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "President Obama made a detailed case Sunday for a new framework agreement on Iran's nuclear program, calling it a 'once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see whether or not we can at least take the nuclear issue off the table' and potentially bring regional stability to the Middle East. Obama's comments were part of a major sales pitch launched by the administration Sunday in an effort to marshal public support for the tentative pact, even as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and congressional Republicans took to the airwaves to blast the accord. ...

... The New York Times interview is here. With video clips. (See also Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. below.) ...

... Tom McCarthy of the Guardian: "Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday stepped up his attack on a nascent deal to curb Iran's nuclear program, calling the framework agreement announced in Switzerland last week 'a very bad deal'. The framework did not do enough to dismantle Iran's nuclear infrastructure, Netanyahu said, and world powers were making a mistake by offering Iran a path to sanctions relief without demanding more in return." ...

... David Atkins in the Washington Monthly: "As Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu continues to decry the landmark deal between the U.S. and Iran, more evidence is emerging that Israel's current leadership is alienating Americans in droves: '... Only 54% of Americans polled said that Israel is their country's ally, a decline from 68% in 2014 and 74% in 2012.'" ...

... Sandy Berger, former National Security Advisor to Bill Clinton, in Politico Magazine: "This is a good deal. We should not be distracted by talk of a better one. Enacting new, tough sanctions in an effort to force Iran toward a 'better' deal would mystify and alarm the rest of the world, isolating and weakening us. Such sanctions would crumble under their own weight -- amounting to, as Shakespeare said, 'sound and fury, signifying nothing.'"

Mike Barnicle in the Daily Beast: "Why do so many Republicans seem so angry all the time at so much around us? The fury of some like Ted Cruz is understandable. It's fueled by his massive ego and outsized ambition along with his personal belief that he is so smart and the rest of us are so pedestrian that he can manipulate opinion to win the Republican nomination for president with the support of the mentally ill wing of his party." Barnicle devotes much of his post to ragging on John Bolton, who never conceived a war he didn't like, although he never had any intention of actually serving in the military. Because hippies or something.

Eric Lipton of the New York Times on how Comcast pays the influential to influence the FCC. This is precious: "David L. Cohen, Comcast's executive vice president who oversees the company's sprawling lobbying and public relations program, said in an interview on Friday that he was proud of the job the company had done in campaigning for the deal.... He did not dispute that many of the voices supporting the deal received donations from Comcast. But he said he was offended by the suggestion that their endorsements had been made in return for the financial help." ...

... Another example of why Bob Menendez's favors-for-friends program fails to horrify me.

Paul Campos, in a New York Times op-ed, on the real reasons for the huge rise in the cost of a college education: while the conventional wisdom puts the onus on cuts in state funding: "In fact, public investment in higher education in America is vastly larger today, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than it was during the supposed golden age of public funding in the 1960s." (Because the number of students has exploded, per-capita public investment is down somewhat.) And it isn't highly-paid professors, either; "... the average salaries of the people who do the teaching in American higher education are actually quite a bit lower than they were in 1970." Campos puts much of the blame on vastly-growing administrations & overpaid administrators.

Paul Krugman: "Elections and politics.... The evidence suggests that the politically smart thing might well be to impose a pointless depression on your country for much of your time in office, solely to leave room for a roaring recovery just before voters go to the polls. Actually, that's a pretty good description of what the current British government has done, although it's not clear that it was deliberate."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

You get one guess & one guess only as to the identity of President Obama's New York Times "interviewer." Here's the lede, which should constitute the only clue you'll need:

In September 1996, I visited Iran. One of my most enduring memories of that trip was that in my hotel lobby there was a sign above the door proclaiming 'Down With USA.' But it wasn't a banner or graffiti. It was tiled and plastered into the wall. I thought to myself: 'Wow -- that's tiled in there! That won't come out easily.'

... Your answer here: Tom Friedman, because everything Tom Friedman writes is about Tom Friedman -- even an interview of the POTUS

... Ah, I knew you'd get it right. Here's the full video. Sorry, Mr. President, I couldn't watch:

Paul Farhi & Rees Shapiro of the Washington Post: "A months-long investigation into a flawed Rolling Stone magazine article about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia has concluded that the story reflected failures at virtually every level, from reporting to editing to fact-checking. In a 12,000-word report that reads like a reportorial autopsy, a three-person team at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism called the November article 'a story of journalistic failure that was avoidable.... The magazine set aside or rationalized as unnecessary essential practices of reporting' that would likely have exposed the story as dubious." ...

... Sheila Coronel, Steve Coll & Derek Kravitz write the Columbia U. Graduate School of Journalism report, published in Rolling Stone: "'A Rape on Campus' -- What Went Wrong." ...

... Here are statements, via the New York Times, by Sabrina Erdely, the author of the Rolling Stone story, & by Theresa Sullivan, president of the University of Virginia, Charlottesville.

NEW. Anchorman! Frank Rich: "For all the histrionics, [the Brian Williams] incident of media blood sport was much ado about not so much. The network-news anchor as an omnipotent national authority figure is such a hollow anachronism in 21st-century America that almost nothing was at stake. NBC's train wreck played out as corporate and celebrity farce rather than as a human or cultural tragedy because it doesn't actually matter who puts on the bespoke suit and reads the news from behind a desk."

Presidential Race

The Former Most Interesting Man in Politics. Karen Tumulty & Robert Costa of the Washington Post: "When the presidential buzz began building around Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) a couple of years ago, the expectation was that his libertarian ideas could make him the most unusual and intriguing voice among the major contenders in the 2016 field. But now, as he prepares to make his formal announcement Tuesday, Paul is a candidate who has turned fuzzy, having trimmed his positions and rhetoric so much that it's unclear what kind of Republican he will present himself as...."

Alan Rappeport of the New York Times: Jeb "Bush ... was born in Texas and hails from one of America's most prominent political dynasties. But on at least one occasion, it appears he got carried away with his appeal to Spanish-speaking voters and claimed he actually was Hispanic. In a 2009 voter-registration application, obtained from the Miami-Dade County Elections Department, Mr. Bush marked Hispanic in the field labeled 'race/ethnicity.'" Here's the form. ...

... Jessica Roy: "When contacted by the Times, Bush's spokesperson had no idea why he'd listed himself as Hispanic, which is probably the first honest response ever elicited from a spokesperson."

NEW. Jason Zengerle of New York writes what is billed as "a sober assessment" of Hilliary Clinton's chance to be our next POTUS.

Jonathan Topaz of Politico: "Gary Hart has serious reservations about a Hillary Clinton candidacy. The prospect of a billion-dollar Clinton campaign 'ought to frighten every American,' he said in an interview with Politico, and Democrats would be better served by a competitive primary that forced her to speak in more depth about the issues.... The post-Citizens United campaign finance environment has sullied the presidential process, he said, benefiting establishment politicians who cater to financial backers."

Beyond the Beltway

Kansas Legislators Think up New Ways to Harm Poor Families. Arthur Delaney of the Huffington Post: "Kansas welfare recipients will be unable to get more than $25 per day in benefits under a new law sent this week to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback's desk by the state legislature. The bill also prohibits welfare recipients from spending their benefits at certain types of businesses, including liquor stores, fortune tellers, swimming pools and cruise ships.... 'This provision makes it nearly impossible for a recipient who does not have a checking account to pay rent,' Liz Schott of the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said in an email. 'Moreover, it actually takes money from the pockets of poor families since they will need to pay 85 cents for each additional withdrawal after the first one in a month, and often more with ATM transaction fees.'"

Brandon Rittiman of KUSA Denver: "The [Colorado] Department of Regulatory Agencies determined that a Denver bakery did nothing wrong when it refused to write anti-gay words on a cake. In the ruling released Friday, the Colorado Civil Rights Division rejected the argument that Azucar Bakery discriminated against the customer's religion when it refused the order in March 2014. The state ruled that the cake shop had every right not to make the cakes on the grounds that the message on the cakes would be 'derogatory.'"

News Ledes

Guardian: "Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's fate now moves to the hands of a jury, after a vehement and emotionally charged closing statement from the prosecutor in the Boston bombing trial on Monday."

New York Times: "The Rev. Gardner C. Taylor, a grandson of slaves who took over a Baptist pulpit in Brooklyn in 1948, when overt racism defined much of American life, and became an influential voice for civil rights and one of the nation's most eloquent churchmen, died on Sunday in Durham, N.C. He was 96."

Saturday
Apr042015

An Easter Message to the Scripturally-Challenged

 

Marriage is between one man and one woman. – Jesus, in some mysterious, unspecified scriptural passage, because …

 

The biblical texts do not support the frequent claim that marriage between one man and one woman is the only type of marriage deemed acceptable by the Bible’s authors. – Robert R. Cargill, Hector Avalos & Kenneth Atkinson, biblical scholars

First, we should all understand that the New Testament gospels are works of fiction, written decades after the period during which Jesus was supposed to have lived. There is no historical record or contemporaneous account of Jesus, and there is no particular reason to think he was an actual person living in the early part of the first century C.E. The fabulous Jesus is based on numerous models – real and fictional – so it is not possible to know what “Jesus said” about anything.

One of the aims of the gospel writers was to provide “rules to live by” for diaspora Jews whom the Romans had driven from Palestine and for other followers of an emerging faith. Thus, the authors of all three synoptic gospels – Mark, Matthew and Luke – have Jesus discuss divorce, which for centuries had been a contentious issue among Jews, with some accepting divorce rather readily – thanks especially to Roman influence – and others finding it unacceptable, except in cases of a wife's infidelity.

Although the gospel writers themselves did not perfectly agree, the remarks regarding divorce which Matthew attributed to Jesus are the most commonly cited:

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, 'Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?'

'Haven’t you read,' he replied, 'that at the beginning the Creator “made them male and female,” [Genesis 1:27] and said, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh” [Genesis 2:24]? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no man put asunder.'

'Why then,' they asked, 'did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?'

Jesus replied, 'Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for [her] sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.' [Matthew 19:3-9]

Of course, many of today's Christians ignore this particular pronouncement of Jesus. But even in the first century, wealthy Jewish men were polygamous, and Jesus does not condemn the practice here or elsewhere.

Women were chattel, and the primary purpose of marriage was not God-sanctioned true love but the conveyance of property from one generation to the next. Although Jewish men commonly took only one wife because they could not afford to maintain more, there was no taboo against their having sexual relationships with concubines or other women. A wife, on the other hand, had to remain faithful to her husband to ensure that the husband's property passed to his natural sons and not to the sons of the wife's lover. That is why Matthew permits divorce in the case of a wife's “sexual immorality.” When Matthew says, “... let no man put asunder,” he means “man.” Just as one of the Old Testament commandments prohibits the coveting of a neighbor's wife, the New Testament prohibits the taking of another man's wife. What is “immoral” about such an affair is not the sex part but the possibility a man will impregnate the wife of another man & allow his own son to inherit the other man's property.

I would add that Matthew's rule was a liberal one. Divorced women were considered “throwaways,” and unless the divorced woman's family agreed to take her back or support her, she was destined to become a beggar or a prostitute. The majority of divorced women died destitute – and young. By prohibiting men from casting off their wives, which Matthew characterizes as “hardhearted,” Matthew's Jesus was speaking up for women's rights in a culture where women had few legal rights.

That said, here is where Matthew gets interesting. And just how interesting Christian fundamentalists don't want to know. In Matthew 19:10, the disciples say to Jesus, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”

Jesus replied, 'Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others — and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.' [Matthew 19:11-12]

 

The term “eunuchs” here refers not only to castrati – “eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others" – but also to celibate men – “those who choose to live like eunuchs” – and, first and foremost, to gay men – “eunuchs who were born that way.”

 

(Matthew doesn't mention lesbians, but I suspect that is because even educated Jewish men of the time were fairly ignorant of women's sexuality.)

 

The Jesus of the gospels does not describe marriage as being “between one man and one woman.” And, in Matthew's story, Jesus affirms that male homosexuality is natural: some men, he says, are “born that way.” Nowhere in the New Testament is there a prohibition against same-sex marriage. In a same-sex union, there would be no natural heirs, so there was no need to define a set of rules for such a marriage.

 

There is no reason we should cement our morals in a first-century timewarp. But those who prefer this pretense – at least when they find it convenient – should at least know what the text they pretend to cite actually says. It does not say what they claim it says.

Saturday
Apr042015

A Message from Barbarossa

Hello. it's Bob Hicks aka Barbarossa (with Marie's kind permission) back for another round of fundraising for the fight against ALS. I wouldn't ask again were it not for the fact that I still have ALS and there's still no cure and still nobody knows what causes ALS.  Through the kind generosity of RC'ers, I raised over $1500 toward my final total of around $3200 in 2014. Doing what I can keeps me going.


To contribute, follow this link.