Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week’s address, the President reflected on the significant progress made by this country in 2014, and in the nearly six years since he took office":

The Ledes

Saturday, December 20, 2014.

New York Times: "The United States transferred four detainees from the Guantánamo Bay prison to Afghanistan late Friday, the Defense Department announced Saturday, fulfilling a request from the new Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, in what officials here characterized as a show of good will between the United States and the government in Kabul.The four men are not likely to be subjected to further detainment in Afghanistan, an Obama administration official said."

New York Times: "In an apparent targeted killing, two police officers were shot in their patrol car in Brooklyn on Saturday afternoon by a man who later fatally shot himself in head, police officials said."

Reuters: "Dozens of protesters were arrested on Friday in Milwaukee when they blocked rush-hour traffic on a major highway to protest the killing of an unarmed black man who was fatally shot by a white police officer this year. The Milwaukee County Sheriff's Department took at least 73 adults and one minor into custody during the protest that blocked Interstate 43, which runs through the city, according to the department's Twitter feed."

The Wires

The Ledes

Friday, December 19, 2014.

Los Angeles Times: "Lowell Steward, a member of the Tuskegee Airmen who flew more than 100 missions during World War II, died Wednesday, according to Ron Brewington, former national public relations officer for the Tuskegee Airmen. Steward was 95."

NBC News: "The Army has concluded its lengthy investigation into the disappearance of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl in eastern Afghanistan and must now decide whether Bergdahl should face criminal charges. Bergdahl reportedly walked away from his base into the hands of the Taliban and was held hostage for five years. Based on the investigation, the Army must now decide whether Bergdahl should be charged with desertion or a lesser charge of being 'absent without leave,' AWOL."

New York Times: "The Pakistani military said on Friday that it had killed 62 militants in clashes near the border with Afghanistan, stepping up operations against insurgents after the Pakistani Taliban carried out an attack at a school that left 148 students and staff members dead."

New York Times: "Mandy Rice-Davies, a nightclub dancer and model who achieved notoriety in 1963 in one of Britain’s most spectacular Cold War sex scandals, died on Thursday after a short battle with cancer, her publicist said on Friday. She was 70."

Denver Post: "James Holmes, the man who killed 12 people inside an Aurora movie theater two years ago, is 'a human being gripped by a severe mental illness,' his parents write in a letter that pleads for him to be spared from execution.'" The letter is here.

Public Service Announcement

Surprise! December 19: Dr. Oz is a quack.

Washington Post, November 21: Learn how to use your thermostat & save $$$.

New York Times, November 17: "For the first time since statins have been regularly used, a large study has found that another type of cholesterol-lowering drug can protect people from heart attacks and strokes."

White House Live Video
December 19

1:30 pm ET: President Obama holds a press briefing

If you don't see the livefeed here, go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.


A former resident of Somerville, Massachusetts, calls into outgoing Gov. Deval Patrick's last regular monthly radio call-in show:

Sixteen times Stephen Colbert broke character on his show. With videos. ...

... Winger John Hinderaker of Powerline has never seen Colbert's show, but he's pretty sure it was an hour-long ad for the Democratic party. "I am not in favor of restricting anyone’s right to free speech, but if federal law is going to bar a businessman from contributing enough to buy more than a minimal amount of television time on behalf of his party or his candidates, why shouldn’t Stephen Colbert and Comedy Central be prohibited from airing millions of dollars worth of pro-Democratic Party propaganda?" CW: Evidently, Hinderaker has not heard of Fox "News."

Los Angeles Times: "A hashtag about asking police officers questions for a CNN panel turned extremely negative almost as soon as it was posted Tuesday. #AskACop was meant to be used by viewers who wanted to tweet questions to officers for the town hall segment "Cops Under Fire,” hosted by Don Lemon. There was an overwhelming response -- most of which were criticisms toward police." CW: Apparently CNN had no idea people were pissed at the police.

Bill Carter of the New York Times: "For nine years, Stephen Colbert has relentlessly maintained his pompous, deeply ridiculous but consistently appealing conservative blowhard character on his late-night show, 'The Colbert Report' — so much so that when he puts the character to rest for good on Thursday night, he may have to resort to comicide. The Grim Reaper is his last guest."

New York Times: "Life on Mars? Today? The notion may not be so far-fetched after all. A year after reporting that NASA’s Curiosity rover had found no evidence of methane gas on Mars, all but dashing hopes that organisms might be living there now, scientists reversed themselves on Tuesday. Curiosity has now recorded a burst of methane that lasted at least two months. For now, scientists have just two possible explanations for the methane. One is that it is the waste product of certain living microbes.... It could have been created by a geological process known as serpentinization, which requires both heat and liquid water. Or it could be a product of life in the form of microbes known as methanogens, which release methane as a waste product.... The scientists also reported that for the first time, they had confirmed the presence of carbon-based organic molecules in a rock sample. The so-called organics are not direct signs of life, past or present, but they lend weight to the possibility that Mars had the ingredients required for life, and may even still have them."

"Oh, God, It's Mom." Kelly Faircloth of Jezebel: "Oh my Lord, shut it down, here is the greatest moment in the history of C-SPAN: A (very Southern) mama called into one of their shows to yell at the guests. Not because she disagrees, but because the guests are brothers and both her sons and she is sick and tired of their shit":

Escape from Alcatraz. Live Science: "... on the night of June 11, 1962, three inmates left Alcatraz in one of the most mysterious prison breaks in American history. John Anglin, his brother Clarence Anglin and Frank Morris tucked dummy heads into their bed sheets and snuck into an unused utility corridor through holes they had crudely drilled through their cells. Then, from the prison roof, they shimmied down the bakery smoke stack and climbed over the fence. From the northeast shore of the island, they floated away from the prison on a small raft made from more than 50 stolen raincoats that were inflated with a musical instrument that was converted into a pump. Even the FBI still calls the plan 'ingenious' on its website. After a 17-year investigation, federal authorities concluded that the men most likely drowned during the escape...."

... BUT ...

... The linked story above has a better video, but it's not embeddable.

Rolling Stone: "David Letterman will retire from late-night television on Wednesday, May 20th. The Late Show host's production company Worldwide Pants announced the news, according to Deadline, with CBS Corp. President and CEO Leslie Moonves praising Letterman’s 'remarkable legacy of achievement and creative brilliance [which] will never be forgotten.'"

Washington Post: "New information from NASA's Curiosity Rover suggests that Mars may once have had large, long-lasting lakes above ground. That would challenge the more popular theory that water on the planet was only underground, or only appeared in a few areas for a short amount of time. The key to this latest theory is Mount Sharp, which stands 3 miles tall and sits in the red planet's Gale Crater. But Mount Sharp is a curious formation: The layered mountain is made of different kinds of sediment. Some layers were probably deposited by a surrounding lake bed, and other seem more likely to be the result of river or wind deposits." CW: Yeah, there was probably once a really well-developed life on Mars with flora & fauna & -- eventually -- little green men who didn't believe in climate change.

New York Times: "After weeks of planning, New York City welcomed the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on Sunday for a three-day visit, greeting Prince William and his wife, Catherine, with the blend of enthusiasm, sarcasm and bemusing antagonism that tends to tail the urban celebrity tourist."

The Wrap: "Longtime CNN political anchor Candy Crowley is leaving the network."

December 6: Max Fisher of Vox: So two white guys -- guys who will have no trouble finding other jobs -- get fired, & half the New Republic staff walks out in protest. Where was the outrage when Marty Peretz was editor & writing racist screeds? The contrasting reactions speak "to a larger problem of how we think about racism in American society and particularly in the elite media institutions that have badly lagged in employing people of color." ...

... Scott Lemieux in LG&M: "For all its sins [of the past], I don’t see how turning the magazine into another traffic-chaser under the aegis of a CEO who speaks Meaningless Buzzword and apparently lacks the attention span to read more than 500 words at a time is a good thing." ...

... Charles Pierce: "... contra Chait, and even though the magazine unquestionably has regained a lot of its lost quality, especially in its actual reporting, I think the notion that The New Republic is 'an essential foundation of American progressive thought' is a ship that sailed a long time ago." ...

... Zandar in Balloon Juice: " The number of damns I give about TNR as a going concern at this point equals approximately the number of black voices writing for the magazine, which is to say zero, but YMMV."

... December 4 & 5: Dylan Byers of Politico: "Franklin Foer and Leon Wieseltier, the top two editors at The New Republic, quit on Thursday amid a shakeup that will relocate the Washington-based magazine to New York City, sources there told Politico on Thursday. Gabriel Snyder, a Bloomberg Media editor who previously served at The Atlantic Wire, has been tapped to replace Foer as editor. The magazine will also reduce its print schedule to 10 issues a year, down from 20." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "More than two dozen members of the staff of The New Republic, including several contributing editors, resigned on Friday morning, angered by an abrupt change of editors and what they saw as a series of management missteps. The resignations include the senior editors Alec MacGillis, Julia Ioffe and Isaac Chotiner, and the contributing editors Sean Wilentz and William Deresiewicz, according to several staff members who are leaving. A list compiling the names of those resigning was obtained by The New York Times." ...

     ... AND more from Jessica Roy of New York. ...

... Jonathan Chait: The New Republic has lost its way. ...

... Ezra Klein: "It's a bit early, I think, to write The New Republic's eulogy. Gabriel Snyder, the magazine's new editor, is a smart and web-savvy guy." ...

... Leah Finnegan of Gawker: "Indeed, an entire magazine is now doomed to fail because a white man has been fired and — gasp — an internet-savvy white man has been brought in to replace him! In TNR's 100-year history, I never would have imagined such a triage of injustice. It's clear that the new leadership of the magazine—with all their greasy Facebook money—is dead set on ruining a (historically racist) publication no one ever read in the first place, and was on the slow road to Irrelevance City. What will Chris Hughes do next? Perhaps the publication might even become interesting. Scream!"

Charles Pierce is completely taken with Ed Snowden. He's brave, credible & intelligent, blah-blah, & the film "Citizenfour" is bee-youtiful. For an antidote to starry-eyed Charles, see this review by Fred Kaplan of Slate.

This is quite cool:


Washington Post: "Scientists are 99.999 percent sure, in their most conservative estimate, that remains found in 2012 really do belong to King Richard III. These results, published Tuesday in Nature Communications, put a 529-year-old cold case to rest -- all thanks to some intense genetic detective work." CW: Let's hope one of the expert detectives wasn't Shaun Parcells. You may weigh in, Dr. Schwalb. ...

Welcome to Gramercy Park! -- "one of the most forbidden places in Manhattan." New York Times: Woody Allen couldn't get in to film, Robert De Niro couldn't get in, but Shawn Christopher, who was honeymooning in Manhattan, borrowed a key and "took three 360-degree panoramas using Photo Sphere, a Google app, and then uploaded them to the company’s ubiquitous Maps site. He had gotten into the park using another of his favorite technologies, Airbnb, where the room he rented included not only fresh linens and Wi-Fi but also one of the 383 coveted keys to the park. Mr. Christopher was unaware at the time that guests had to be accompanied by key holders on their visits and that commercial photography was prohibited." So take an insider's view of the park.

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The Commentariat -- July 25, 2012

Fed Thinks about Thinking about Doing Something. Binyamin Appelbaum of the New York Times: "A growing number of officials have concluded that the Federal Reserve needs to expand its stimulus campaign unless the economy soon shows signs of improvement." ...

... Ezra Klein: for one thing, the Fed could "begin buying huge numbers of mortgage-backed securities with the simple intention of bringing the interest rate on a 30-year mortgage down to about 2.5 percent and holding it there for one year, and one year only. The message would be clear: If you have any intention of ever buying a house, the next 12 months is the time to do it."

... Fire Tim Geithner. Jia Lynn Yang & Danielle Douglas of the Washington Post: "Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner has said that he sounded the alarm four years ago to regulators about problems with the benchmark interest rate known as Libor. But Geithner, who was then head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, did not communicate in key meetings with top regulators that British bank Barclays had admitted to Fed staffers that it was rigging Libor, according to people familiar with the matter. Instead, regulators at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Justice Department worked largely without the Fed’s help to build a case against Barclays. That work has culminated in a massive scandal rocking the banking industry on both sides of the Atlantic." ...

... CNBC: "Former Citigroup Chairman & CEO Sanford I. Weill, the man who invented the financial supermarket, called for the breakup of big banks in an interview on CNBC Wednesday.... He essentially called for the return of the Glass-Steagall Act, which imposed banking reforms that split banks from other financial institutions such as insurance companies."

Robert Pear of the New York Times: "The Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday that the Supreme Court decision on President Obama's health care overhaul would probably lead to an increase in the number of uninsured and a modest reduction in the cost to the federal government when compared with estimates before the court ruling. Of the 33 million people who had been expected to gain coverage under the law, 3 million fewer are now predicted to get insurance, the budget office said...." ...

... Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic, once again: "The [Affordable Care Act], when fully implemented, will dramatically reduce the number of Americans without health insurance. It will also reduce the deficit. This last part remains a big deal, if only because so many conservatives -- and, yes, so many members of the public -- refuse to believe it. Over and over again, you hear people saying that Obamacare will run up the deficit. The CBO, which is our most reliable guide on such matters, begs to differ."

Charles Lane of the Washington Post: Europeans tut-tut about the U.S.'s lax gun laws, but "All told, European Union members shipped just under a million handguns to the United States in 2010. Their domestic markets may be limited by gun control, but Europe's small-arms makers can still get rich, and create jobs, thanks to the Second Amendment." Among those are the Glock, the Walther P22 & the Sig Sauer P232, mass-murders' weapons of choice.

New York Times Editors on companies in the business of background-checking: "The federal government clearly needs to step in. It should require companies to be federally registered, outline standards for accuracy, make sure that job applicants have a reasonable time to respond to erroneous reports and seek monetary and other penalties from companies that flout the law."

Rod Nordland of the New York Times: "... Al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists are doing their best to hijack the Syrian revolution, with a growing although still limited success that has American intelligence officials publicly concerned, and Iraqi officials next door openly alarmed. While leaders of the Syrian political and military opposition continue to deny any role for the extremists, Al Qaeda has helped to change the nature of the conflict, injecting the weapon it perfected in Iraq -- suicide bombings — into the battle against President Bashar al-Assad with growing frequency."

Stupid Voter Tricks. Larry Bartels in the Monkey Cage: the hot, dry summer could hurt President Obama at the polls because voters punish the party in power when the weather is bad. CW: Bartels is right. I've been more worried about the weather's effect on the election than on the price of corn.

Another Illegitimate GOP Presidency. Harold Meyerson: "If voter suppression goes forward and Romney narrowly prevails, consider the consequences. An overwhelmingly and increasingly white Republican Party, based in the South, will owe its power to discrimination against black and Latino voters, much like the old segregationist Dixiecrats. It's not that Republicans haven't run voter suppression operations before, but they've been under-the-table dirty tricks, such as calling minority voters with misinformation about polling-place locations and hours. By contrast, this year's suppression would be the intended outcome of laws that Republicans publicly supported, just as the denial of the franchise to Southern blacks before 1965 was the intended result of laws such as poll taxes."

Kate Nocera of Politico: "It’s not exactly the Ron Paul revolution in full. But on Wednesday afternoon, a small piece of his grand vision will hit prime time, when a great majority of the House will vote to pass his Audit the Fed bill. To understand how remarkable this moment is -- coming near the end of Paul's congressional career -- consider this: When Paul first introduced his bill a decade ago, it was written off as another piece of his far-flung libertarian worldview."

Just Wow! ("a surprising move since the seat could be in play for Republicans.") --

Presidential Race

Horserace. Mark Murray of NBC News: "In the presidential horserace, Obama leads Romney by six percentage points among registered voters, 49 percent to 43 percent. That's a slight change -- within the margin of error – from last month’s poll, which showed Obama ahead by three points, 47 percent to 44 percent." But both men's negatives are up. "Romney would be the first GOP presumptive presidential nominee since 1996 to head into his nominating convention with a net-negative favorable/unfavorable score." ...

... Nate Silver: "... as of Tuesday afternoon, President Obama's lead in the RealClearPolitics average of national polls was 1.3 percentage points over Mitt Romney. But Mr. Obama led by a mean of 3.5 points in the RealClearPolitics averages for the 10 states (Ohio, Virginia, Florida, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, Michigan, New Hampshire and Wisconsin) that are most likely to determine the election outcome."

     ... Rachel Weiner of the Washington Post: "President Obama is pushing back on ... Mitt Romney's 'You didn't build that' attacks in a new ad. It's a sign that the White House is worried that the quote, while taken out of context, is doing the president real damage." ...

... Adam Serwer or Mother Jones: "The problem [with Romney's 'you didn't build that' meme] is that the real-world examples Romney keeps seizing on include people who got help from the government. As ABC News' Jake Tapper reported Monday, the star of a recent Romney ad hitting Obama over 'you didn't build that' had received millions in government loans and contracts. Romney stopped in Costa Mesa, California Monday to meet with a 'roundtable' of small business leaders, held in front of a sign that says 'We did build it!' Naturally, it turned out that at least two of the companies represented ... had received hundreds of thousands of dollars in government contracts." Ditto at a Boston Romney event."

Secret Mitt, Con'd. Maureen Dowd: "Mitt's casting a shadowy silhouette, hiding his fortune in foreign tax havens, hiding tax returns, destroying and hiding records as head of the Olympics and as governor, hiding a specific sense of where he would take the country."

New York Times Editors: "Mitt Romney [had a chance] to show that he could be a better international leader than President Obama, who has already proved himself in that field. He fell far short." ...

... Michael Crowley of Time: "Mitt Romney has a commander-in-chief problem." ...

... Daniel Drezner of Foreign Policy: "After the [Romney VFW] speech, Chuck Todd tweeted that 'The Romney VFW speech felt like it was aimed at GOP voters, not swing voters.' I'd agree. Foreign policy doesn't matter that much to swing voters, but rhetoric like this is a great way to appeal to and energize the base. If Romney were to actually follow through on this speech, then the consequences would range from insignificant to quite serious. But it could be that Romney simply doesn't care about foreign policy all that much, and is using these kind of speeches strictly as a tool to cater to key political constituencies."

... Heather Hurlburt of Democracy Arsenal pulls five big lies from Mitt's VFW speech. Via Greg Sargent.

We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he [Romney] feels that the special relationship is special. The White House didn't fully appreciate the shared history we have. -- Romney Adviser. CW Translation: he's black.

... Same batch of advisers, still on the same topic: "The advisers, who 'spoke on the condition of anonymity because Mr Romney's campaign requested that they not criticise the President to foreign media,' were unable to provide the Telegraph with 'detailed examples of how policy towards Britain would differ under Romney,' other than restoring the bust of Winston Churchill to the Oval Office." CW: Excellent foreign policy initiative, and a reminder that Obama replaced the Churchill bust with a bust of Abraham Lincoln -- associated with freeing American slaves (wow, they were black, too!). So, um, would Romney ditch the bust of Lincoln, the first Republican president, & replace it with a representation of a "foreigner" (okay, Churchill's mother was American, but still)?? ...

... AND as Judd Legum of Think Progress reminds us, "The comments were the latest attack by the Romney campaign on Obama's multi-cultural heritage. Last week, Romney campaign co-chair John Sununu said Obama didn’t understand the 'American system' because he 'spent his early years in Hawaii smoking something, spent the next set of years in Indonesia.' Sununu also said Obama needed to 'learn how to be an American.' (Sununu later apologized for that remark.) Later that day Romney called Obama's policies 'extraordinarily foreign.'" CW: clearly, Team Romney has decided that racism is a winning campaign tactic, & they are keeping at it.

Go for the Gold, Mitt. Priorities USA has a new anti-Romney ad that will run in swing states. It's Olympics-oriented, and it's funny:

Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times: "A Republican group backed by the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson is starting a new effort in battleground states to win over Jewish voters who could be persuaded to turn away from President Obama and support Mitt Romney. The group, the Republican Jewish Coalition, plans to begin a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign in the coming weeks called 'My Buyer's Remorse,' targeting voters in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, aides said. The campaign uses testimonials from people who say they regret supporting Mr. Obama because of his economic policies and his posture toward Israel...."

Wells Tower's GQ piece is mostly about a journalist's life on the road with Mitt. It's inconsequential really, but an enjoyable read. "I'm thinking how emotionally fatiguing it would be to spend all day, every day telling America it can be rescued by rich men and hymns and keeping secret for the quiet room his real worries for the land he wants to govern. Secrets are exhausting."

Right Wing World

Kevin Drum of Mother Jones: "The mountain of idiocy building up around 'you didn't build that' has just about reached wrist-slitting proportions, both because of the sheer rapturous levels of dishonesty surrounding the quote itself and because of the ensuing, more intellectually-minded dishonesty that's now dedicated to proving that the government has never done anything for anybody -- not no how, not no way. The latest is Gordon Crovitz, who has decided to see if he can con the Wall Street Journal's readership into believing that government research dollars had virtually nothing to do with the invention of the internet."

CW: I haven't followed the Mike Huckabee Chick-fil-A to-do, but Dana Milbank has the particulars. Well, I don't eat at Chick-fil-A anyway, and Huckabee -- along with Chick-fil-A's president Dan Cathy -- have provided me with a few more good reasons to stay away.

Local News

Stupid Democrat Tricks. Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: "State Sen. Tim Cullen quit the Senate Democratic caucus Tuesday, saying Senate Democratic leader Mark Miller had snubbed him by refusing to give him a meaningful committee chairmanship.... The flap comes just a week after Democrats took control of the Senate after winning a recall election last month in Racine County. Miller then ascended to majority leader and restructured the committees."

News Ledes

Politico: "Timothy Geithner came under fire Wednesday from lawmakers who wanted to know what he did to head off the now-emerging Libor manipulation scandal when he was president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank in 2008 -- when red flags were first going up. Appearing before the House Financial Services Committee to present the Financial Stability Oversight Council's annual economic report, Geithner told members of the panel that he had taken the 'fully appropriate' actions by alerting regulators in both the U.S. and the U.K." Uh-huh.

Washington Post: "Greenland's surface ice cover experienced a broader thaw during a three-day period this month than in nearly four decades of satellite record-keeping.... About half of the surface of Greenland's ice sheet melts on average each summer. But between July 11 and 13, roughly 97 percent of the the sheet -- from its coastal edges to its 2-mile-thick center -- experienced some thawing."

AP: "Britain is suffering a far deeper recession than thought, official figures showed Wednesday in a development that is likely to increase the pressure on the government to ease up on its tough austerity approach."

Washington Post: "Japan posted its biggest first-half trade deficit on record, according to government figures released Wednesday, highlighting the economic consequences as this nuclear-averse country imports fossil fuels to meet its energy needs."

Reuters: "Protesters broke windows of least a half-dozen storefronts in Anaheim on Tuesday and five people were arrested in the second major clash between police and demonstrators since an officer shot dead an apparently unarmed man. Tom Tait, mayor of the southern California city, had called on Monday for a state and federal review of the shooting of the man, a suspected gang member."

Guardian: "Ghana's president, John Evans Atta Mills, has died suddenly, aged 68."

AP: "North Korea state TV is reporting for the first time that leader Kim Jong Un is married."

Reader Comments (16)

I just shared this on Krugman's blog, but I thought I'd reproduce it here, among my favorite people:

I have a very small business that I built from the ground up. The investment capital was the money in my pocket (which was so very little that I considered giving up my rented house to live in my car in the early days of the business), and the sweat equity was all my own.

Ten years later, my business is still not big, but I do employ twelve people part-time and we offer our services all over Maine. As far as I know, I have never been the beneficiary of any tax legislation or received any subsidies.

That being said, I have no idea why building one's own business should make one mean toward others who do not have the wherewithal to do so themselves. I support social services that provide for those who are trapped by poverty, and I support services (and the under-appreciated people who provide them) to those who would lift themselves out of poverty.

I believe that most of today's Democrats have become GHB RINOs and that very few, including Bernie Sanders (who, ironically, ...), represent the ideals of fairness toward which I aspire.

I believe that for our society to function correctly, we need working roads and bridges. I believe that we need health research that is untainted by association with drug companies, education that is untainted by association with primitive mythologies, and even space exploration, which helps us understand that no one will rescue us if we trash our planet.

I am a job creator, albeit a very minor one. Strange Romney didn't ask me to testify.

July 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJack Mahoney

@ Jack Mahoney: And you're why I like Reality Chex. It's not only the easy access to far more information and entertainment than I could or would ferret out on my own that Marie provides, it's the high level of commentary and the sense of genuinely fine people, like you, people one would like to meet and know, who produce it. Thanks.

I would add only two thoughts. As social beings, we humans do NOTHING by ourselves. We are not bred alone, we do not grow up alone, we do not learn alone and even hermits do not live entirely alone. Tarzan, remember had furry friends.

The extreme Republican meme, ala Ayn Rand, is that there is no society, only individuals. It's dumb, but that's what many on the Right seem to think, I believe for three reasons. One, because as I said, it's dumb, it's an easy notion to sell to the simple minded; two, because it feeds the ego of the financially successful who think all the important things in life are inside their own skin; and three, as long as the majority thinks of themselves as individuals, never banding together for strength, they will remains isolated and weak, never any match for the rich and powerful. Divide and conquer, as the current cliche has it, on steroids.

In short, it's not just the roads and bridges, the teachers, the fire departments, all traditional government services at issue in the current Romney--Obama debate. Present day Republicans don't just want to pretend government has no useful social function; they deny sociology itself.

They do not believe that much of human reality is socially constructed. Ironically but predictably they don't grasp that essential truth even as they withdraw from a world they don't like and construct an increasingly hallucinatory reality of their own, that gated haven for rich white folks who pay no taxes at all.

The second thought is no so esoteric. It's about guns. In the midst of all the breast-beating about weapons that ritualistically follows the latest mass murder, let us not forget that we ourselves export hundreds of millions of dollars, perhaps billions of dollars of weaponry each year to countries itching to kill many many more than we blow away internally each year. If our own gun laws, bad as they are, a mild case of the flu, the international weapons trade is pancreatic cancer. Unfortunately, like too many cancers, it's good for business.

July 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

My latest election bumper sticker:

Mitt Romney: draft dodger, tax dodger, truth dodger!

July 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCalyban

If Romney wins and Churchill's bust is brought back, it will be a symbol of relevant character: A large anthology could be compiled of the contemptuous things said about Winston from the 1900s to the 1940s, by colleagues and friends as well as enemies; at times contempt shaded into hatred. One of my favorites was the verdict of Sir Basil Bartlett, "the actor baronet" to the popular newspapers––and a very astute observer. "Winston Churchill is making inflammatory speeches again," he wrote in his dairy in May 1936, months before the abdication fiasco, and went on with this:

"He is a curious character. A sort of Mary Queen of Scots of modern politics. He is bound to emerge historically as a romantic and glamorous figure, but he is surrounded by corpses. No one who ever served him or been in any way connected to his career, has ever survived to tell the story."

Somehow that rings some bells, doncha think?

July 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

@Jack Mahoney. Yeah but. Your business has received numerous government contracts, and those contracts have enhanced your reputation, earning you private clients, too. When you and your clients meet, you-all get to the meeting via government-built roads & bridges, as you point out. When you buy pencils for your business, they weren't made by the neighbor across the field; they were made someplace else & came to you on government-built infrastructure. Safety and fire officers help keep your business safe. If some of your business is conducted online, well, Al Gore had a hand in that. If privately-run utilities and services more-or-less work and more-or-less provide the services & products advertised, that's partly because some government regulators require them to function properly & keep their thumbs off the scales. So when you flip the switch & the lights go on & when you buy a ream of paper that has 500 sheets instead of 493, you can thank government. If your bank goes belly-up, the rest of us will bail it out -- again. If Kinkos screws you, you can sue them in a government court.

You're as smart as you are because of who you are, but in some way, at some time, the government contributed to your education even if you went to private schools.

Mind you, I don't see anything wrong with most of that (a few caveats on the bank & crappy court system parts). I'm just sayin'. We benefit from government programs more than most of us realize. We only notice the government when it doesn't work or when it works against us, which is of course way too often. It isn't just the direct help that Mitt's "independent small businessmen against government" received. It's all the indirect aid, too.


July 25, 2012 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

FOR KATE–– who has had it up to here, I offer a similar feeling during the Bush years when my fomenting prevented me from composing:


Total silence for almost a year—
she’s simply left—disappeared.
Searching through debris I find
nary a trace—only a whiff of ennui.

Fed up to here with the world’s wars,
atrocities & incompetence
I suppose.

Have some brewed tea, I say,
it might give you a lift.
Then a whisper—faint, but decisive:

I have nothing left
to give.


Sometimes we just need to take a breather, walk away, play somewhere else and before you know it you're back in the fray because that's who you are––you just can't help it.

July 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

Marie, I was trying to be a bit metaphorical, saying that even if it were true that I built the whole thing out of my own sweat and clothespins and duct tape, I would still understand that we're all in this together. I'm sorry if I gave a different impression. I understand that a big reason the air I breathe isn't dirtier is because government, love it or hate it, usually stands up for me. Except maybe lately in Maine and Ohio and Wisconsin and Michigan and Florida and Texas.

July 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJack Mahoney

Charles Fried, a law professor at Harvard, opens his 1978 book “Right and Wrong” with these words: “A good man does not lie. It is this intuition which brings lying so naturally within the domain of things categorically wrong”. Fried, you may recall, served as Solicitor General under Reagan so he’s no card carrying liberal. But he also has written a book ripping Bush for his predilection to torture other human beings. As a moralist he has always struck me as being as near a Kantian as you’ll find today. Kant’s moral theory is girded by his concept of deontology, the idea of duty. To Kant, there is never an excuse to lie. It is a moral imperative. It is the definition of Kant's Categorical Imperative, a matter of moral duty.

That same year, 1978, Sissela Bok, who specializes in moral and ethical philosophy, wrote a book on Lying in which she examines the damage liars can cause in both public and private settings. The biggest damage, however, is in the public domain.

For Bok, a lie is a statement, known by the liar to be false and made with the express intent of deceiving the listener(s) in order to achieve some advantage or gain for the liar.

She was talking about Mitt Romney.

Bok’s analysis is complex but let me boil it down, especially the part concerned with lying to the public. Bok posits that a system of veracity, entered into and enjoyed by all members of a society has numerous benefits for all. The most important is our ability to assume a certain level of trust. Why this is so important is demonstrated by a simple thought experiment. Consider a society in which everyone lied or could lie with impunity. No one could trust anything or anybody. Without being able to confirm, first hand, the veracity of any statement, no useful knowledge would be available. The society would quickly disintegrate. No contracts could be trusted, no books could be believed, everything one heard or read would have to be questioned.

But living in a world where truth is valued and members of a society try to tell the truth as a matter of course makes that world a much more habitable place. Being able to assume a level of trust in what you read and hear makes so many things possible. Certainly there are exceptions, but for the most part, if you read that the sun is 93 million miles from the Earth, you don’t have get out a tape measure and see for yourself. If someone tells you that Abraham Lincoln was president during the Civil War, you don’t have to wonder if you’re being had.

This is a perfect world for the liar. In a world where no one trusts anything, the liar is just one of many whose lies don’t necessarily accrue any benefit to him or her. But in a world where trust is the norm, a willful, scheming liar can make reap enormous personal benefits for himself at the expense of everyone else. What allows this person to lie so skillfully and willingly? Simple. In Bok’s analysis, members of the society who place a premium on veracity, on telling the truth, don’t think that they are more deserving than everyone else. They see themselves as members of the group, not as someone special for whom rules do not apply. You see where this is going.

Romney has ALWAYS considered himself special, always above the law, too good for the rules of normal, average people. So willful lies allow him to take something which is not deserved and do it in the most cynical and mendacious manner: the trust of others. He hasn’t earned it but he gets it anyway, because, he believes himself to be better than everyone else and hence above silly moral imperatives like telling the truth. That truth telling stuff is for "you people." not for the likes of Willard. Morality is what he says it is.This is how he can so easily burn successful businesses to the ground, fire the employees, take their pensions and fill his pockets with their futures while leaving them in the dirt. This is how he can lie so easily on a regular basis.

Still, one might wonder how such a self-proclaimed religious man—a bishop in his church—can lie so easily, free from concerns of morality or ethics or religious sanctions against lying from the almighty. Wonder no more. It appears that the Mormon faith has a very clever trick for dealing with those it considers outsiders or who would stand in their way or might impede their progress or question their methods. It’s a little technique called (I kid you not) “Lying for the Lord.” According to LSD elder Boyd Packer, the current President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the same position once held by Brigham Young, “Some things that are true are not very useful.” So, when confronted with uncomfortable truths about the church or the faith the answer is simple.


LSD missionaries, according to a number of personal recollections, when faced with difficult questions about some of the odder aspects of their faith are trained to dissemble, misdirect, anything but tell the truth, to Lie for the Lord. Willard was an apt pupil it seems.

So Romney has two reasons for lying like he does. He views himself as special and not bound by any commonly accepted understanding of morality or the ethical treatment of others, AND God told him he could. According to Charles Fried’s definition of a good man, Romney is a flop. But does he care?

It must be grand to be so special.

July 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus


I’ve never heard that quote about Churchill but at various times during his career he was indeed a polarizing figure who attracted both praise and contempt. One thing I will give the old boy is his way with words. His speeches may have been inflammatory but they were bits of genius at times. One reason Romney is no Winston Churchill. Another is that Churchill for all his self promotion and cantankerous ways retained a sense of perspective about himself. Clement Atlee, a sometime colleague but most often opponent of the war-time prime minister noted that Churchill was a very fortunate man, and one of the things that tempered his more abrasive side was the fact that he, Churchill, never failed to say so. That’s something you’ll never hear cross Romney’s lying lips.

Everything he has he got on his own. Luck, family, connections, insider information, had nothing to do with it.

Churchill also had the common touch, something unusual for a guy from the ranks of the nobles. A story about one of his most famous moments that still makes the rounds claims that Churchill followed the “We shall fight them on the beaches…” speech with “we’ll throw bottles at the bastards if that's all we have left.” This coda was apparently clipped by a quick fingered BBC engineer. Still, the fact that the story, apocryphal or not, has legs is an indication that Churchill, a complicated man, could actually have said such a thing. Romney? Not so much. In fact, Romney trips over words almost as frequently as Bush. Yesterday when trying to rip Obama for making political hay over the Bin Laden killing, he murdered what could have been a good line by pronouncing “word” as “whorl”. Duh.

None of this suffices, however, to obscure Churchill’s dark side. Will we ever know the real story behind the bombing raid on Coventry? Did Churchill really allow Brits to perish when he knew beforehand that the raid was coming? There’s his complicit involvement in the fire bombings of Dresden as well. No wonder George W. Bush had that bust of Churchill in the Oval Office. But it’s likely that Bush, like Romney, knew only snippets of Churchill’s life, preferring to focus on the self-promoting blustering bomb dropper.

Simple ideas are so much more appealing to the right. Complexity is just too exhausting. One more reason Romney wouldn’t care that he was replacing a bust of Lincoln with that of a foreign politician. Oh yeah, the other is likely racism. Didn’t Lincoln free the slaves? Damn! Was he crazy? Didn’t he realize that rich people need servants? Even better if you can chain them up and don't have to pay them. What was he thinking? The idea!

July 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

The New Yorker, the talk of the town, column has two old quotes that I don't want weaders to miss.
Adlai Stevenson said of Eisenhower's supporters,"If they will stop telling lies about the Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them ."
In 1994 Romney ran against Kennedy for the Senate." I am pro choice" the Senator said. "my opponent is multiple choice".
Some things never change, the Republicans are still lying and Mitt is still "multiple choice".

July 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarlyle

Re: accepting exceptional exceptions. I liked your comment, Jack Mahoney. I am without a doubt the world's worse businessman but I admire the guys and gals that have the heart and mind for running a small business. I like them even better if they are honest business people. I think Marie was reminding us that the knee bone is connected to the thigh bone and of course the thigh bone is connected to the hip bone etc. I thought you conveyed that yourself but I read at a congressman's level so what the hey. I've worked for honest contractors and I've walked away from guys who would put their mother in leaky coffins.
Some where in distant past I thought I remember a prof stressing that a governments job is to provide a secure marketplace for the fair exchange of goods and ideas. We've fallen away from that ideal in my opinion.
Re: Lay my body down; P.D. sometimes I just want to quit and cry and die but I refuse to give in to the fuckers.

July 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJJG

I only wish they were "LSD" missionaries. People all over the world would be having more fun with the latter day saints if they had been spreading the word through chemicals.

July 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria

@Akhilleus. Wonderful riff on lying and the Romneybot. Truth-telling does, indeed, undergird trust and trust's absence in our present society has much to do with mendacity's prevalence.

You have one explanation: groups that consider themselves special, somehow apart from, better than, in conflict with others can more easily justify lying, but I would go farther and look at the elements of the way we live that keep us apart. I mentioned one earlier, the emphasis on the individual, which is tied to our notions of a primitive capitalism that pits every one of us against everyone else. When one is always trying to gain advantage and competition is seen as more advantageous, more socially useful, than cooperation, our economic organization alone builds high walls between us and makes us strangers to one another.

Next, I'd mention our sheer numbers and mobility. Outside our immediate families, we seldom know anyone very well. Certainly we are not directly dependent on them or they on us. Handshakes mean little because we are removed socially and geographically from those we do business with and when that is not the case, we can always avoid further contact with those whose trust we abuse. Hence there is no social, yet alone legal, cost for lying. Corporate bosses do not know us, politicians have little direct contact with their constituents; we don't even know our doctors very well. Because there is little personal, direct contact with the people who supply our needs, our intercourse with them is mediated by long supply lines, bureaucracies and legalistic, abstract contracts, both figurative and literal, that often disappoint. We have warranties galore but little that we can trust.

I would not blame Republicans for all the lies we hear, but I would suggest the Right's view of the world, that is one of individuals and small, isolated groups in constant competition with one another (to the victor go the spoils), does make lying easier to justify and more common.

What I do not understand is why, when all the polls tell us that everyone knows trust is on a permanent? leave of absence, anyone believes anything that someone who has been caught lying publicly time and again (like the Romneybot) says.

July 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes


Ha! Great idea. In fact it does seem that many current GOPers have discovered one of Timothy Leary's old stashes. They've been demonstrating the effects of increasingly altered states. Too bad Leary's not still around. He'd have made a hell of a VP for Romney...take some of the starch out of his campaign. Hey. He was a Harvard too guy wasn't he?

July 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus


Excellent points. I think your suggestion that an over-emphasis on the power of the individual and the role of unbridled competition leads to a curt dismissal of the importance of collective action and social connections deserves more careful consideration.

Here again I would raise the problem, for the right, of an appreciation of complexity, pluralistic societies, and an ability to accept and negotiate the resultant paradoxes of the modern world. Instead we get pre-approved ideological formulas of the sort that, when
flagged words like "collective" or "co-operation" appear in the crosshairs the Ideology Genie whispers "SOCIALISM" into their cauliflower ears.

Progress stymied. Mission Accomplished.

July 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Ken Winkes: "I would go farther and look at the elements of the way we live that keep us apart. I mentioned one earlier, the emphasis on the individual, which is tied to our notions of a primitive capitalism that pits every one of us against everyone else. When one is always trying to gain advantage and competition is seen as more advantageous, more socially useful, than cooperation, our economic organization alone builds high walls between us and makes us strangers to one another."

You forgot to mention television. I'm old enough to remember when there WAS no television, and people congregated for lots of reasons, and got to know one another and trust one another. Schools, churches (not necessarily religion), dances, plays, etc. were social occasions for everyone. And doesn't TV emphasize competition and the individual?

I'm always surprised that no-one ever seems to realize what TV has done to our society.

July 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBonnie
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