The Ledes

Friday, May 29, 2015.

Washington Post: "The U.S. economy shrank at an annualized pace of 0.7 percent in the first three months of the year, according to government data released Friday morning, a tumble for a recovering nation that until recently seemed poised for takeoff. The contraction, the country’s third in the aftermath of the Great Recession, provides a troubling picture of an economy that many figured would get a lift from cheap oil, rapid hiring and growing consumer confidence. Instead, consumers have proved cautious, and oil companies have frozen investment — all while a nasty winter caused havoc for transportation and construction and a strong dollar widened the trade deficit."

The Wires

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post (May 22): "A salmonella outbreak that’s probably linked to raw tuna from sushi has sickened at least 53 people across nine states — the majority in Southern California, health authorities said."

White House Live Video
May 29

1:00 pm ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

***********************************************

 

New York Times: "Charter Communications is near a deal to buy Time Warner Cable for about $55 billion, people with direct knowledge of the talks said on Monday, a takeover that would create a new powerhouse in the rapidly consolidating American cable industry.... The potential acquisition of Time Warner Cable completes a lengthy quest by Charter and its main backer, the billionaire John C. Malone, to break into the top tier of the American broadband industry. If completed, the transaction would be the latest in a series of mergers remaking the market for broadband Internet and cable television in the United States." ...

     ... Update: "Charter Communications agreed on Tuesday to buy its much larger rival Time Warner Cable for $56.7 billion in a deal that would transform the company into one of America’s largest cable and broadband operators."

Washington Post: "One of the earliest known copies of the Ten Commandments was written in soot on a strip of goatskin found among the trove of biblical material known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, widely considered to be one of the great archaeological finds of the 20th century. Penned on parchment by an unknown scribe more than 2,000 years ago, the scroll fragment is ... so fragile that its custodians rarely permit it to be moved from the secure vault where it rests in complete darkness. But for 14 days over the next seven months, the Ten Commandments scroll, known to scholars as 4Q41, will make a rare public appearance at the Israel Museum as part of a new exhibit called 'A Brief History of Humankind,' a show based on the international best-selling book by Israeli polymath Yuval Noah Harari."

Erik Loomis of LG&M: "It looks like Maggie Gyllenhaal has had her Last Fuckable Day at the ripe old age of 37:

... Sharon Waxman of the Wrap: "Every time we think things are getting better for women in Hollywood, something comes along to remind us — naaah. Maggie Gyllenhaal ... revealed that she was recently turned down for a role in a movie because she was too old to play the love interest for a 55-year-old man."

Emily Nussbaum of the New Yorker: "Now that [David] Letterman’s a flinty codger, an establishment figure, it’s become difficult to recall just how revolutionary his style of meta-comedy once felt. But back when I was sixteen, trapped in the snoozy early eighties and desperate for something rude and wild, Letterman seemed like an anarchist."

     ... Here's the Realtor.com page for the property.

AP: "The suburban New York home where F Scott Fitzgerald is believed to have written The Great Gatsby is for sale. A spokeswoman for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage said on Wednesday that the asking price for the manor home on Long Island was just over US$3.8m (A$4.8m).... The home is in the village of Great Neck Estates, about 20 miles (32km) from Manhattan.

After years of signing "-BO" at the end of @BarackObama to signal the tweets he crafted himself from an account operated by the Organizing for Action staff, the President now has his very own handle @POTUS, tweeting for the first time: 'Hello, Twitter! It's Barack. Really! Six years in, they're finally giving me my own account.'... Per a statement from the White House, the @POTUS handle 'will serve as a new way for President Obama to engage directly with the American people, with tweets coming exclusively from him.'"

The $5MM Ankle. New York Post: "Shakedown artist Al Sharpton’s eldest child wants $5 million from city taxpayers after she fell in the street and sprained her ankle, court rec­ords show. Dominique Sharpton, 28, says she was 'severely injured, bruised and wounded' when she stumbled over uneven pavement at the corner of Broome Street and Broadway downtown last year, according to a lawsuit."

My friend Jan C. sent me a list of actual complaints made by dissatisfied travelers who had gone on excursions organized by the British Thomas Cook Vacations. An example: "It took us nine hours to fly home from Jamaica to England. It took the Americans only three hours to get home. This seems unfair."

New York Times: "The most striking geographical pattern on marriage, as with so many other issues today, is the partisan divide. Spending childhood nearly anywhere in blue America — especially liberal bastions like New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and Washington — makes people about 10 percentage points less likely to marry relative to the rest of the country. And no place encourages marriage quite like the conservative Mountain West, especially the heavily Mormon areas of Utah, southern Idaho and parts of Colorado." ...

Matt Seitz in New York notes that the pilot for "Mad Men" repeatedly points to the series' conclusion. ...

Gabriel Sherman of New York: "Tomorrow morning [Wednesday, May 13], in what marks a tectonic shift in the publishing industry, the New York Times is expected to officially begin a long-awaited partnership with Facebook to publish articles directly to the social media giant.... According to people familiar with the negotiations, the Times will begin publishing select articles directly into Facebook's news feed. Buzzfeed, NBC News and NatGeo are said to be also joining the roll out, among others. The deal raises all sorts of knotty questions for the Times." ...

... New York Times Update: "— Facebook’s long-rumored plan to directly host articles from news organizations will start on Wednesday, concluding months of delicate negotiations between the Internet giant and publishers that covet its huge audience but fear its growing power. Nine media companies, including NBC News and The New York Times, have agreed to the deal, despite concerns that their participation could eventually undermine their own businesses. The program will begin with a few articles but is expected to expand quickly.... Most important for impatient smartphone users, the company says, the so-called instant articles will load up to 10 times faster than they normally would since readers stay on Facebook rather than follow a link to another site." ...

.... Here's Facebook's announcement.

Nell Scovell in New York: Dave Letterman' former writers reminisce about jokes they wrote & pitched but which Letterman rejected. Letterman comments.

Vermeil placecard holders, a favorite "souvenir" of White House guests.... Washington Post: Petty thieves show up at White House state dinner -- all the time. Many guests at state dinners & other functions just can't resist taking home mementos, some of them pricey. "While the chief usher’s office monitors exactly what goes out with each place setting when the first family entertains, there is no formal accounting of how much taxpayers must pay each year to replace items that are gone by the end of the night."

Washington Post: The law finally catches up with Frank Freshwater, who escaped from prison in 1959.

Washington Post: Tesla plans to market a home battery system that draws power from solar panels or the power grid to use during outages. It holds up to 10 kw-hours, about 1/3 of what it takes to power an average home for a day. Tesla plans to make the system avalable by the end of this summer.

Conan O'Brien in Entertainment Weekly: "Not one single writer/performer in the last 35 years has had Dave [Letterman]’s seismic impact on comedy.... In today’s’ world of 30 late night programs, it’s tempting now to take Dave for granted. Do not. Dave was a true revolution.... Like all revolutions, it was such a seismic shift that it was disorienting and a bit messy at first, and it has taken us time to realize the sheer magnitude of the shift."

White House: "For a new state china service, First Lady Michelle Obama wanted it to have modern elements, but also for it to be practical, in the sense that it would be complementary to the preceding historic state services. The Obama State China Service consists of eleven-piece place settings for 320":

Timothy Simon of "Veep" gets ready to attend the White House Correspondents Dinner, which is Saturday, April 25:

... Cecily Strong of “Saturday Night Live will headline the event.

Washington Post: "The quote on the stamp originated with [Joan Walsh] Anglund.... 'Yes, that’s my quote,' Anglund said Monday night from her Connecticut home. It appears on page 15 of her book of poems 'A Cup of Sun,' published in 1967. Only the pronouns and punctuation are changed, from 'he' in Anglund’s original to 'it' on the stamp." CW: These are forever stamps. Maybe you should rush to the Post Office & buy a pane.

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Sunday
Aug052012

The Commentariat -- August 6, 2012

CW: my DSL (& my land line) is down, so I am relegated to McDonalds again, which means I'm working only Mickey D. hours. Update: At 1 pm ET, my DSL is still down, but I must leave this place! I'll be back this evening.

CW: With a caveat on his WikiLeaks slam -- and here too he may not be entirely wrong -- Bill Keller has an interesting column this week on government leaks to reporters. As usual, Keller is insufferably smug, but -- to my surprise -- I agree with most of his column. If better-informed writers disagree, I'll be sure to post their critiques.

New York Times Editors: "Senate Republicans regularly promote themselves as the true custodians of national security. This claim seemed particularly hollow last week when they helped block a new measure aimed at protecting America's vulnerable computer networks from attack by, among others, potentially hostile foreign governments.... The cost of inaction is already high.... The Obama administration, including senior military leaders, lobbied hard for the bill, which was three years in the making and the product of a bipartisan effort. In the end, their common sense pleadings could not compete with the Chamber of Commerce, which has funneled millions of dollars to Republican political campaigns."

Fiscal Cliffitis. Nelson Schwartz of the New York Times: "A rising number of manufacturers are canceling new investments and putting off new hires because they fear paralysis in Washington will force hundreds of billions in tax increases and budget cuts in January, undermining economic growth in the coming months."

Azam Ahmed & Ben Protess of the New York Times: "Major banks, which often band together when facing government scrutiny, are now turning on one another as an international investigation into the manipulation of interest rates gains momentum. With billions of dollars and their reputations on the line, financial institutions have been spreading the blame in recent meetings with authorities.... While acknowledging their own wrongdoing, institutions are pointing out actions at other banks that they believe are worse -- and in some cases, extend to top executives." CW: so much for honor among thieves.

Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "In courthouses across the country, lawsuits are challenging state laws that dictate who may vote, when they may vote and whether their ballot will be counted once they have voted. There is a special urgency in the presidential election's swing states. Lawyers in Colorado are poised to challenge the secretary of state's proposed purge of noncitizens from voter rolls. A half-dozen suits are aimed at Florida's raft of voting changes. A Pennsylvania judge is deciding whether a voter ID law there violates the state constitution. In Ohio, the Obama campaign has filed suit against a law passed by the state's Republican leadership to shorten the early-voting period. And [a] separate issue ... was whether Ohio must count provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct when the mistake was the fault of a poll worker rather than the voter." ...

... Prof. Richard Hasen in a New York Times "Campaign Stops" post: "I have not found a single election over the last few decades in which impersonation fraud had the slightest chance of changing an election outcome -- unlike absentee-ballot fraud, which changes election outcomes regularly. (Let's face it: impersonation fraud is an exceedingly dumb way to try to steal an election.) ... Pennsylvania is a symptom of a partisan system gone wild.... Unlike impersonation fraud, noncitizen voting cannot be dismissed as a Republican fantasy.... Partisan attempts at manipulation of election rules have become more entrenched and sophisticated."

Jason Felch & Kim Christensen of the Los Angeles Times: "For nearly a century, the Boy Scouts of America has relied on a confidential blacklist known as the 'perversion files' as a crucial line of defense against sexual predators.... A Los Angeles Times review of more than 1,200 files dating from 1970 to 1991 found more than 125 cases across the country in which men allegedly continued to molest Scouts after the organization was first presented with detailed allegations of abusive behavior. Predators slipped back into the program by falsifying personal information or skirting the registration process. Others were able to jump from troop to troop around the country...." CW: excuse me for not being surprised.

Reformed Reagan-Bush staff economist Bruce Bartlett of the New York Times: "Republicans are adamant that taxes on the ultra-wealthy must not rise to the level they were at during the Clinton administration, as President Obama favors, lest economic devastation result. But they have a problem -- the 1990s were the most prosperous era in recent history. This requires Republicans to try to rewrite the economic history of that decade.... But it is clear from the experience of the 1990s that they can play a very big role in reducing the budget deficit and are not necessarily a drag on growth. And the obvious experience of the 2000s is that tax cuts increase the deficit and don't necessarily do anything for growth. Those arguing otherwise need to make a much better case than they have so far."

Stephen Ohlemacher of the AP: "People retiring today are part of the first generation of workers who have paid more in Social Security taxes during their careers than they will receive in benefits after they retire. It's a historic shift that will only get worse for future retirees, according to an analysis by The Associated Press."

More Climate Change Fallout. Grant Schulte of the AP: "Thousands of fish are dying in the Midwest as the hot, dry summer dries up rivers and causes water temperatures to climb in some spots to nearly 100 degrees." CW: wonder if the fishers of fishes are attributing dead fish to God's will, too. ...

... A Cultural Climate Change Fallout. Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "More quickly than any other place in the United States, the Alaskan Arctic is being transformed by global warming. The impacts of climate change are threatening a way of life. The dilemma for the federal government -- and state and local officials -- is whether to try to preserve, if it is even possible, the heritage of the Inuit villages, their ice cellars, sod ancestral homes and cemeteries ringed with spires of whalebones. Or spend the hundreds of millions of dollars it would cost to move even one village."

Donovan Slack of Politico: "Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor suggests that declining public approval of the court dates back to the controversial Bush v. Gore decision, which decided the 2000 presidential race." CW: but don't think this was an intellectual breakthrough moment for O'Connor. She also "demurred on taking responsibility. 'I don't see how you can say anybody was the deciding vote,' she said. 'They all counted.' O'Connor said she has no regrets about her vote." Not. My. Fault. ...

... Digby adds context:

Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, attending a Washington, DC, party and watching the news networks predict Florida, and thusly the presidency, for Democrat Al Gore, says aloud, 'This is terrible.' Her husband explains that she is considering retiring from the Court, but will only do so if George W. Bush, a fellow Republican, is in office to appoint her successor. -- Jake Tapper (3/2001)

At a November 29 dinner attended by clerks from several justices, a clerk for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor tells the group that O'Connor is determined to overturn the Florida Supreme Court's decision to go ahead with manual recounts of election ballots (see 3:00 p.m., November 16, 2000). One clerk recalls the O'Connor clerk saying, 'she thought the Florida court was trying to steal the election and that they had to stop it.' O'Connor has the reputation of deciding an issue on her 'gut,' then finding legal justifications for supporting her decision. Unbeknownst to anyone outside the Court, O'Connor has already made up her mind. -- Vanity Fair (10/2004)

Joe Hagan profiles Maricopa County, Arizona''s brutal Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Rolling Stone. Notably, the voters keep re-electing him & Fox "News" keep inviting him back on the air.

Presidential Race

Tom Hamburger & Peter Wallsten of the Washington Post: "David Plouffe, a senior White House adviser who was President Obama's 2008 campaign manager, accepted a $100,000 speaking fee in 2010 from an affiliate of a company doing business with Iran's government. A subsidiary of MTN Group, a South Africa-based telecommunications company, paid Plouffe for two speeches he made in Nigeria in December 2010, about a month before he joined the White House staff.... At the time of Plouffe's speeches, MTN had been in a widely reported partnership for five years with a state-owned Iranian telecommunications firm. There were no legal or ethical restrictions on Plouffe being paid to speak to the MTN subsidiary.... In recent weeks, Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney has accused the administration of being soft on Iran." ...

     ... Glenn Greenwald: "The reason the Post sees this as some sort of a scandal and the reason it will resonate – namely: the money Plouffe received is tainted by virtue of a connection to the Evil Persian Regime — is frivolous and cynical, just part of the ongoing Washington fear-mongering orgy over Iran." But, speaking of "dirty money" (see links re: Sheldon Adelson below) read the whole post.

Julie Pace of the AP: "President Barack Obama, emboldened by the Supreme Court's affirmation of his health care overhaul, is now embracing the law while campaigning for re-election, just as Republican rival Mitt Romney steps back from it. Obama sees a second chance to sell voters on the issue despite deep skepticism about it from many people. Romney is avoiding answering hard questions about how he would tackle health care, and thus missing the chance to energize voters who oppose the law." CW: about time, Barry.

Reality Check. Glenn Greenwald: "Here we have the political campaign of the same President who, in another moment of trailblazing, has waged an unprecedented war on whistleblowers, and whose top aides secretly met at coffee houses with industry lobbyists to draft bills so as to evade disclosure and record preservation requirements, marching, apparently with a straight face, behind the banner of transparency to demand disclosure of his opponent's tax returns."

Rick Klein of ABC News: "The nation has met Barack Obama's Mitt Romney. If it's going to meet Romney's version of himself, it will happen this month, or not at all. It was supposed to start last month, with picked-up ad spending and a foreign trip built around a choreographed Olympic moment. But the foreign trip fell flat amid distractions at every stop, and Democrats continued to break through with their assault on Romney's transparency and business record."

The Italian Job. Jesse Drucker, et al., of Bloomberg News: "Bain Capital, under Romney as chief executive officer, made about $1 billion in a leveraged buyout 12 years ago that remains controversial in Italy to this day. Bain was part of a group that bought a telephone-directory company from the Italian government and then sold it about two years later, at the peak of the technology bubble, for about 25 times what it paid. Bain funneled profits through subsidiaries in Luxembourg, a common corporate strategy for avoiding income taxes in other European countries.... Romney himself probably earned more than $50 million, and possibly as much as $60 million" while avoiding taxes.

Inventing Controversy. Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post: "A pro-Israel group last week began running ads knocking President Obama for failing to visit Israel.... Then, on Sunday, the Romney campaign echoed this charge with its own ad also calling attention to Obama not visiting Israel as president. Obama visited Israel in 2008, as a presidential candidate, but thus far has not visited the Jewish state during his presidential term.... Only four of the last 11 presidents visited Israel during their presidency, and two -- Nixon and George W. Bush -- waited until their second term to make their first trip. In both cases, they visited in the last year of their presidencies.... Only Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, then, visited Israel in their first term. And of the last four presidents, two never visited Israel...."

Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "Mitt Romney raised $101.3 million in the month of July, his campaign said Monday, marking the second straight month in which the GOP presidential candidate has pulled in nine figures." ...

     ... Update. Michael Shear & Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times: "The president's campaign announced on Twitter on Monday morning that his July fund-raising topped out at about $75 million. 'Every bit helps,' the campaign tweeted, noting that 98 percent of the contributions were under $250. Mr. Obama's advisers have all but conceded the money race to Mr. Romney."

Maggie Haberman of Politico: "The Paul Ryan-for-VP chatter has heated up in the past two days, thanks in part to him updating his Federal Election Commission filings for his PAC, suddenly canceling a planned appearance at an anti-Obamacare rally and winning praise from Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal as the best pick." ...

... Ed Rendell, former Pennsylvania governor & DNC chair, has his own GOP veep pick:

Screw the Dual Mandate. Kevin Bohn of CNN: "... Mitt Romney said Saturday that he does not support the Federal Reserve enacting a new stimulus program to boost the economy, telling CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger that a previous effort by the nation's central bank did not have a major impact." With video. ...

... A More Honest Assessment. Grace Wyler of Business Insider: "Romney's comments echo those of many of his fellow Republicans, who have raised concerns that any additional stimulus between now and the election would boost the markets, and improve President Barack Obama's chances for re-election.... Romney did tell CNN that he thinks "now is the time for something dramatic," but did not specify what that action should be." CW: he wouldn't, would he?

Dirty Harry. Priebus Keeps It Classy. George Stephanopoulos of ABC News: "Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus called Sen. Harry Reid a 'dirty liar'." this morning on 'This Week' for accusing presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney of not paying taxes. ...

... Charles Mahtesian of Politico: Priebus's comment & a similar one by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are indications Reid's own finances will be a GOP target. ...

... Steve Kornacki: "Whatever you think of Reid’s tactics, this really is the definition of taking one for the team."

Dirty Money. Andre Tartar of New York magazine: "Billionaire Romney-backer Sheldon Adelson's Las Vegas casino company, Las Vegas Sands Corp., is at the center of a year-long money laundering investigation, The Wall Street Journal reports." ...

Thomas Edsall in the New York Times: "... what was this ever-so-guarded, moralistic ('I want to clean up the moral pollution on TV and the Internet') politician doing at a $50,000-a-couple fundraiser in Jerusalem with Sheldon G. Adelson -- proprietor of one of the largest, if not the largest, gambling and casino operations in the world -- seated in the honored position at his side? Adelson and his company are under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice on allegations of foreign bribery. In addition, the United States Attorney's office in Los Angeles is investigating whether Adelson's Las Vegas Sands Corp. failed to alert authorities to millions of dollars transferred to casinos in violation of money-laundering laws.... At a minimum, Romney could tell us how he reconciles the values he says he stands for with the basis on which Adelson's fortune is built." Edsall reviews some of Adelson's legal difficulties.

Congressional Races

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "As the three Republican candidates [for Missouri's U.S. Senate nomination] battled it out, [Sen. Claire] McCaskill (ConservaD) has had to buckle down as well. Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, David and Charles Koch's Americans For Prosperity, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the 60 Plus Association have dumped as much as $15 million into the state since July 2011 to [oppose McCaskill].... The sustained campaign could become a textbook for future efforts in a new era of anything-goes campaign financing, both Ms. McCaskill and her opponents say. Most of the spending is coming from tax-exempt 501(c)(4) organizations like Crossroads GPS, which may accept large corporate and individual donations without disclosing donors' identities."

Elizabeth Warren, in a Politico opinion piece: "Washington politicians line up 10-deep to claim they support small businesses, but they avoid talking about a harsh reality: The system is rigged against small business. These owners can't afford armies of lobbyists in D.C., but the big corporations can. It's those armies of lobbyists that create the loopholes and special breaks that let big corporations off the hook for paying taxes. While small businesses are left to pay the bills.... If a business makes it big, the reward shouldn't be the ability to rig the system to stop the next guy."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Thwarting controls against money laundering, [British bank] Standard Chartered Bank enabled Iranian banks and corporations to hide roughly 60,000 transactions worth at least $250 billion within the bank, New York state's banking regulator charged Monday."

ABC News: "The gunman who opened fire in a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., and killed six people has been identified as Army veteran Wade Michael Page. Page, 40, opened fire outside the temple before entering around 10:30 a.m. Sunday morning and killed six people. He served in the Army from April 1992 through October 1998. Though police have not given any details on the motive of the shooter, but Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms Special Agent Thomas Ahern said Page had tattoos that suggested he had ties to white supremacists."

New York Times: "In a flawless, triumphant technological tour de force, a plutonium-powered rover the size of a small car was lowered at the end of 25-foot-long cables from a hovering rocket stage onto Mars early on Monday morning." NASA's Website is here, with links to numerous stories & pix on Curiosity.

New York Times: "President Bashar al-Assad fired his prime minister on Monday, Syria's official media reported, as activists countered that he defected to neighboring Jordan in what seemed a further indication of disarray among loyalists following a series of high-level defections and a rebel bomb attack last month that killed four of the Syrian leader's closest security aides." ...

     ... Al Jazeera Update: "Riad Farid Hijab, the Syrian prime minister, has joined the opposition, he has announced, after state television reported that he was sacked this morning. The former prime minister arrived in Jordan after being smuggled across the border, Jordanian authorities confirmed to Al Jazeera on Monday."

Reader Comments (8)

The Romney problem is solved. A study presented at the meeting of the American Psychological Association shows that lies can damage your health.

August 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Schwalb

Thanks for keeping on keeping on, Marie. It is truly appreciated.

August 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJack Mahoney

@Jack Mahoney. Amen! Marie, we really appreciate you; BTW, great column on Douthat in NYTEx

August 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria D.

Re: Marie! Like Jack and Victoria D I say thanks. The absence of Akilleus is explainable; he is racing across the terrain of Mars in a plutonium-powered dune buggy. Nice going, Ak, another planet sullied!

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJJG

@JJG et al.: as luck would have it, one of my sources and I have discovered Akhilleus' undisclosed location, which turns out not to be Mars. I hope he'll be back to contributing at Reality Chex soon.

August 6, 2012 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

JJG,

Mars is the coolest! To quote Ray Bradbury, "Mars is heaven." I was hoping I might run into the old boy up there. I didn't encounter any of his unsociable telepaths but I think I recall a line in The Martian Chronicles in which he prophesies his eventual relocation to the red planet.

I was also hoping that one of Bradbury's other Mars based stories had some factual basis to it, the one that describes authors from the planet Earth appearing on the Martian surface after their death. Sure enough, I met Mark Twain. We had mint juleps in a small tavern on the edge of a crater and traded witticisms between sips. He was complaining about the fussy decorations recently installed by Edith Wharton. Edgar Allen Poe held court in a corner booth frightening a small crowd with tales of a Romney victory, and a muttering, bitter, wheezy old woman was scrubbing the floors. It was Ayn Rand.

"She tried to convince us that she created Mars and should be made Queen" smirked Twain. "A little humility will do her good. Anyway, she does nothing but mooch" he observed.

Ain't Mars grand?

So my Martian vacation was fun. Nice to see NASA get its mojo back, although I'm sure we'll be treated to some sniffing right-winger lecturing us all about how that money would be better off here on Earth in the hands of decent, freedom loving organizations. Like the NRA.

But now that I'm back on the planet earth I can tell you that the view from 35 million miles is deceiving. Like those pictures of the blue planet rising over the moon sent back a generation ago, our little world looks beautiful and peaceful from space. No borders are visible, no hatred, no gun killings, no racism, no clutching, soul-killing greed, no denial of the kind of science that put us into space, no stinking hypocrisy, no religious intolerance, no fear mongering, no wars, no bellicose sabre rattling by those too cowardly to pick up the sword when it was their turn, no questioning of the honor or patriotism of those you disagree with (no patriotism at all, in fact). In short, no conservative extremism. In fact, no Republicans of any sort.

But now, back in the world, I see that we awaken to bad news from Wisconsin that highlights at least two prominent features of America as forged by the New Republican Party: gun massacres and racism. I suppose I should qualify the racism part in the latest mass killing sans additional information, but it seems reasonable. Even if it played no part in these murders racism IS an essential building block of the New Republican Party.

I see that the FBI are wondering if a terrorist organization might be involved. Have they considered the NRA? Surely one of, if not the most proficient and ruthless domestic terrorist enterprises in our history. Makes the KKK look like bratty kids who painted the school toilet seats with contact cement.

Well, keep on keepin' on, right-wingers. Worse comes to worst, we can all relocate to Mars (there's a very interesting tavern there). They've even got the beginnings of a transportation system. Might as well enjoy it until the Republicans get there. When that happens they'll no doubt impose a "rich and white only" regulation. And Ayn Rand will be promoted to Tavern Owner/Esteemed Entrepreneur.

Can't wait to hear what Twain will say about that.

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Welcome back. Glad your Mars excursion was exciting. Did Ayn Rand have on her Boot Straps?

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanet

Janet,

Yes. She was trying to convince all the other residents to pull her up by them. Just like she did when she was alive on this planet with the understanding that they were to say that she did it all by her little self.

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterakhilleus
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