12/30/11

Fighting the Good Fight

By Norman Lear
December 30, 2011

I was recently shown a picture from one of the Occupy protests taking place across the country. It featured a young woman surrounded by police. She was the only protester in the picture, but she didn't seem intimidated. All by herself, up against the police barricade, she held a handwritten sign saying simply "I am a born again American."
I've never met this woman, but I think I know exactly what she's feeling.

I had my first "born again American" moment 30 years ago, when I was moved to outrage and action by a group of hate-preaching televangelists who were trying to claim sole ownership of patriotism, faith and flag for the far right. One of them asked his viewing congregation to pray for the removal of a Supreme Court justice.

I did what I knew how to do and produced a 60-second TV spot. It featured a factory worker whose family members, all Christians, held an array of political beliefs. He didn't believe that anyone, not even a minister, had a right to judge whether people were good or bad Christians based on their political views. "That's not the American way," he wound up saying. I ran it on local TV, and it was picked up by the networks. People For the American Way grew out of the overwhelming response to that ad.

One of the most encouraging things to happen in 2011 was the birth of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which is giving the entire country the chance for a "born again American" moment. In calling attention to the country's widening chasm between rich and poor, the Occupiers have unleashed decades of pent-up patriotic outrage against the systematic violation of our nation's core principles by the "say good-bye to the middle class" alliance of the neocons, theocons and corporate America.

To those many millions of Americans whose guts tell them the Occupy movement is on to something but aren't the sort to camp out or protest in the street, I say find another way to let your voice be heard in the new year. Work with others who share your passion for equal opportunity and equal justice for all Americans, and find ways to channel outrage into productive action. I'm betting you'll find, as I have over my nearly four score plus 10, that you'll form some of the most rewarding relationships and have some of the most meaningful experiences of your life.

I have been lucky in many ways. I was raised by my immigrant grandfather to treasure the freedom and opportunities America offers. I also learned early to fear the power of demagogues with megaphones, as an 11-year-old listening to the anti-Semitic ravings and attacks on President Franklin D. Roosevelt from radio priest Father Coughlin, the spiritual godfather of those who poison our airwaves and online forums today. By the time I was a teenager, I knew that the values of individual and religious liberty were worth fighting for, which is why I dropped out of college to enlist in the war against Hitler.

Since then I have repeatedly seen Americans get off their couches to hold this country accountable to its stated values. They did it to fight for civil rights and the dismantling of the legal apartheid of Jim Crow; for the women's movement; for equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. They have rallied to ensure that immigrants are treated with dignity and justice. All these efforts to overcome bigotry and institutionalized prejudice are still works in progress, but I am awed by the progress we have made.

Generations of Americans have worked to create a nation in which individual liberty can thrive alongside commitment to the principle that all members of a community should have the opportunity to pursue their dreams and build a decent life for themselves and their families. In recent decades, that dream has been betrayed.

The religious right leaders who got me engaged in politics often portray such things as free expression and equal protection for all Americans no matter their race, religion or sexual orientation as anti-Christian and un-American, as symptoms of cultural decline. I couldn't disagree more. What strikes me as un-American are the greed, deception and systematic corruption that have infected politics, business and so much of our culture in recent years. Some of those with power and privilege have worked to create a system that continually reinforces that privilege and power, leaving ever-increasing numbers of Americans without reasonable hope for the kind of life their parents worked to give them.

Many Americans are in despair, and it has left them open to demagoguery and political manipulation. Blame gays, liberals, unions, immigrants or feminists for your family's struggles, for shrinking economic opportunity, for foreclosures and disappearing wages and benefits. Blame secularists or Muslims, or both, for the sense that our values have gone haywire.

A year out from the 2012 election, I am already tired of those who use the phrase "American exceptionalism" to reassert the far-right's claim that God, the Founding Fathers and any decent freedom-loving American must share their reactionary political agenda. I embrace the idea too that our nation should be a "shining city on a hill." We are the spiritual heirs to those Americans who struggled to end slavery and segregation, to end child labor and win safe conditions and living wages for workers, to enable every American to enrich his or her community and country by finding a place and a way to flourish in the world. We must make ourselves worthy of that legacy.

Call it the American dream, the American promise or the American way. Whatever term you use, it is imperiled, and worth fighting for. It is that basic, deeply patriotic emotion that I believe is finding expression — bottom-up, small-d democratic expression — in the Occupy movement. We can, and I would say must, fully embrace both love of country and outrage at attempts to despoil it. What better cause? What better time?

Television writer and producer Norman Lear founded People for the American Way.

12/27/11

Mary Figures It Out

12/21/11

The Hobbit Trailer

12/19/11

Scrooge

12/15/11

Christopher Hitchens 1949-2011



Christopher Hitchens, the engaging and enraging British-American author and essayist whose polemical writings on religion, politics, war and other provocations established him as one of his generation's most robust public intellectuals, has died. He was 62.

Hitchens died Thursday night at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, said his literary agent, Steve Wasserman.

Hitchens was diagnosed with advanced esophageal cancer in June 2010, when his memoir, "Hitch-22," hit the bestseller lists. He wrote and spoke unflinchingly of his grim prognosis and acknowledged that years of heavy smoking and drinking had placed him at high risk for the aggressive disease.

His openness about having cancer elicited thousands of letters and e-mails to Vanity Fair, where he was a longtime contributor. Many of the well-wishers offered prayers for the famously atheistic author, who had made his case against religion in the 2007 book "God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything." He maintained that his illness had not changed his mind about religion and, borrowing from Shakespeare, asked believers not to bother "deaf heaven" with their "bootless cries."

Erudition, a roguish sense of humor and passion for intellectual combat were hallmarks of his writing, which was prolific. In addition to Vanity Fair, he was a columnist for the online magazine Slate and contributor to Harper's, the Atlantic and a number of British publications. He wrote two dozen books, including highly regarded biographies of George Orwell, Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine, and co-wrote or edited at least eight others.

A swashbuckling opinionator, he loved few things better than a good argument — and he knew how to pick one. Once described by the New Yorker as "looking like someone who, with as much dignity as possible, has smoothed his hair and straightened his collar after knocking the helmet off a policeman," he tarred Bill Clinton as a rapist, Mother Teresa as a fraud and Henry Kissinger as a war criminal. He argued in Vanity Fair that women were less funny than men, which stoked the wrath of female comics. "I am programmed by the practice of a lifetime to take," he wrote, "a contrary position."

In his personal life he was no less the "rapscallion iconoclast," as historian Douglas Brinkley once described him. He left his pregnant first wife for another woman. He swore an affidavit during the Monica Lewinsky scandal that put his friend, Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal, at risk of a perjury charge. Over the years he fell out of friendship with a long list of notables, including novelists Gore Vidal and Saul Bellow, who dismissed Hitchens as a "Fourth Estate playboy thriving on agitation."

After the terrorist strikes of Sept. 11, 2001, he truly became the scourge of the left. Repulsed by what he saw as the left's desire to blame American foreign policy for the attacks, he championed the Bush administration's war on terrorism and resigned his longtime post as Washington columnist for the liberal Nation magazine. His polarizing views brought sarcasm from former allies, one of whom described Hitchens' shift as "the first-ever metamorphosis from a butterfly back into a slug."

"During all this I never quite lost the surreal sense that I had become in some way a pro-government dissident," Hitchens wrote, "and that of all the paradoxes of my little life this might have to register as the most acute one."

Writer Martin Amis said the controversy merely illuminated his friend's "autocontrarian" nature. Hitchens "sees, not only the most difficult position, but the most difficult position for Christopher Hitchens," Amis wrote in the London Guardian in 2011. "Christopher is one of nature's rebels. By which I mean that he has no automatic respect for anybody or anything."

He was born Christopher Eric Hitchens in Portsmouth, England, on April 13, 1949. The elder of two sons, he had a cool relationship with his father, Ernest, a commander in the British Royal Navy, but a warmer one with his mother, Yvonne. She taught him to love books and was determined that he would be the first Hitchens to attend college. "If there is going to be an upper class in this country," Hitchens overheard her telling his father, "then Christopher is going to be in it."

His parents saved enough money to send him to Leys, a boarding school in Cambridge, and then to Balliol College, Oxford, where he studied philosophy, politics and economics and bloomed as a political campaigner. He joined the International Socialists, a faction of the anti-Stalinist left, and charged into the anti-Vietnam War movement. A skillful debater, he discovered that "if you can give a decent speech in public or cut any kind of figure on the podium, then you need never dine or sleep alone." British literary critic Terry Eagleton, who had been a socialist comrade at Oxford, said Hitchens was so nakedly ambitious that he "made Uriah Heep look like Little Nell."

In 1969, Hitchens began writing book reviews for the left-leaning London weekly New Statesman, where he forged important friendships with writers Martin Amis, James Fenton and Ian McEwan. In 1970 he graduated with honors from Balliol and won a grant to travel across the U.S., which left him smitten by his "New World." He returned to England, where he burnished his journalism credentials writing for mainstream and leftist publications. One of his assignments was a New Statesman profile of Margaret Thatcher in which he riled the future prime minister's Conservative Party supporters by calling her sexy. In a subsequent encounter at a party, Thatcher called him a "naughty boy" and swatted his behind.

In 1973, when he was 24 and living in London, his mother committed suicide with her lover, a defrocked vicar, during a trip to Greece.

Years later, he discovered one of her secrets: She was Jewish, which made him Jewish. "My initial reaction, apart from pleasure and interest, was the faint but definite feeling that I had somehow known all along," he wrote in a 1988 essay, "On Not Knowing the Half of It." But he remained anti-religion and anti-Zionist.

With London as his base, Hitchens spent the 1970s covering revolutions and human rights: nail bombers in Belfast, anti-fascists in Portugal, persecuted leftist journalist Jacobo Timerman in Argentina.

While on assignment in Cyprus in 1977, he met Eleni Meleagrou and married her in 1981. He left her when she was expecting their second child and in 1991 married Carol Blue, a freelance journalist.

In addition to Blue, he is survived by their daughter, Antonia; two children from his first marriage, Alexander and Sophia; and a brother, Peter, a conservative columnist for the British paper Daily Mail.

Some Hitchens watchers trace his disillusionment with the left to 1992, when he called for military intervention in Bosnia, but Hitchens said it began later, during the Clinton era. The rupture was complete after the 9/11 strikes in New York and Washington, when Hitchens drew a line between himself and other leading liberals, such as Noam Chomsky.

He was contemptuous of Chomsky and others who argued that American imperialism, by turning much of the world against the U.S., had drawn the terrorists here.

"I can only hint at how much I despise a left that thinks of Osama bin Laden as a slightly misguided anti-imperialist," Hitchens wrote later. "Instead of internationalism, we find among the left now a sort of affectless, neutralist, smirking isolationism" and "a masochistic refusal to admit that our own civil society has any merit."
In September 2002 Hitchens wrote his last column for the Nation, which he said had become "the voice and the echo chamber of those who truly believe that John Ashcroft is a greater menace" than bin Laden, and organized intellectuals and activists to campaign against Saddam Hussein's rule. He was criticized just as harshly by his former allies, such as New Left Review editor Tariq Ali, who wrote that the Hitchens he knew disappeared in the 9/11 inferno, leaving a "vile replica" in his place.

In 2007, on his 58th birthday, Hitchens enjoyed a moment of high patriotism and irony: The onetime Trotskyite took the oath of U.S. citizenship in a private ceremony at the Jefferson Memorial, conducted by George W. Bush's homeland security chief, Michael Chertoff.

What Hitchens once said of Vidal was also abundantly true of himself: He possessed "the rare gift of being amusing about serious things as well as serious about amusing ones." In Vanity Fair, which he joined in 1992, he wrote of his personal encounters with waterboarding and Brazilian bikini waxes with self-deprecating humor and cerebral detachment.

Both qualities informed his writing on his bleakest subject: his cancer.

"I have more than once in my time woken up feeling like death," he wrote in Vanity Fair last September, shortly after learning he had esophageal cancer that had spread to his lungs and lymph nodes. "But nothing prepared me for the early morning last June when I came to consciousness feeling as if I were actually shackled to my own corpse." Noting that his father had died of the same type of cancer, he added, "In whatever kind of a 'race' life may be, I have very abruptly become a finalist." His cancer was classified Stage 4 and he readily conceded that "there is no Stage 5."

His illness caused him to cancel the publicity tour for "Hitch-22," which opens, eerily, with a rumination on death prompted by his recollection of an incident years ago when he was referred to as "the late Christopher Hitchens." In this prologue, he rejects fatalism and declares "I personally want to 'do' death in the active and not the passive, and to be there to look it in the eye and be doing something when it comes for me."

He aggressively sought treatment, which included genetic testing to determine which chemotherapy drug might be most effective on his cancer. He was encouraged to try the experimental approach by his friend, Dr. Francis Collins, the eminent geneticist and born-again Christian with whom he had debated the existence of God.

He also kept up a frenetic pace of writing and, until recently, public speaking. In one of his most publicized appearances after being diagnosed with cancer, he faced Tony Blair, the former British prime minister and recent convert to Catholicism, in a sold-out Toronto debate on whether religion was a force for good in the world.

Despite his obvious frailty, Hitchens was in top form, provoking wide laughter when he compared God to "a celestial dictatorship, a kind of divine North Korea."

At the debate's end, the audience of 2,700 voted him the winner.

12/12/11

Findings (Harper's Magazine Jan. 2012)

Power without status is the most corrupting.

Those who feel powerless attempt to gain prestige by eating larger portions.

Lonely consumers prefer unpopular products.

Agreeable people have lower credit scores.

Undeserved self-praise may induce depression.

People who wear less clothing are seen as less competent and moral but more sensitive.

Philadelphian teenagers who want to lose weight also tend to drink too much soda, whereas Bostonian teenagers who drink too much soda are likelier to carry guns.

Babies understand the thought processes of others around ten months and begin to behave fairly around fifteen months.

Psychologists found that high blood pressure reduces the ability to perceive anger,fearfulness, happiness, and sadness in facial expressions. "it's like living in a world of email," explained the lead researcher, "without smiley faces..."

12/11/11

Sugar Plum Fairy



Chapel of the Flowers, Las Vegas. Dec. 11, 1994

12/4/11

Another September 11 By Ariel Dorfman

The Nation

Epitaph for Another September 11
Ariel Dorfman

That September 11, that lethal Tuesday morning, I awoke with dread to the sound of planes flying above my house. When, an hour later, I saw smoke billowing from the center of the city, I knew that life had changed for me, for my country, forever.

It was September 11, 1973, and the country was Chile and the armed forces had just bombed the presidential palace in Santiago as the first stage of a coup against the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende. By the end of the day, Allende was dead and the land where we had sought a peaceful revolution had been turned into a slaughterhouse. It would be almost two decades, most of which I spent in exile, before we defeated the dictatorship and recovered our freedom.

Twenty-eight years after that fateful day in 1973, on another September 11, also a Tuesday morning, it was the turn of another city that was equally mine to be attacked from on high, it was another sort of terror that rained down, but again my heart filled with dread, again I confirmed that nothing would ever be the same, not for me, not for the world. It was not the history of one homeland that would be affected, not one people who would endure the consequences of fury and hatred, but the entire planet.

For the past ten years, I have puzzled about this juxtaposition of dates; I cannot get it out of my head that there is some sort of meaning hidden behind or inside the coincidence. It is possible that my obsession is the result of having been a resident of both countries at the precise time of each onslaught, of the circumstance that those two assaulted cities constitute the twin cornerstones of my hybrid identity. Because I grew up as a child learning English in New York and spent my adolescence and young adulthood falling in love with Spanish in Santiago, because I am as much American as I am Latin American, I can’t help taking the parallel destruction of the innocent lives of my compatriots personally, hoping that lessons may arise out of the pain and smoldering confusion.

Chile and the United States offer, in effect, contrasting models of how to react to a collective trauma.

Every nation that has been subjected to great harm is faced with a fundamental series of questions that probe its deepest values. How to pursue justice for the dead and reparation for the living? Can the balance of a broken world be restored by giving in to the understandable thirst for revenge against our enemies? Are we not in danger of becoming like them, in danger of turning into their perverse shadow—do we not risk being governed by our rage?

If 9/11 can be understood as a test, it seems to me, alas, that the United States failed it. The fear generated by a small band of terrorists led to a series of devastating actions that far exceeded the damage occasioned by the original ordeal. Two unnecessary wars that have not yet ended, a colossal waste of resources that could have been used to save our environment and educate our children, hundreds of thousands dead and mutilated, millions displaced, a disgraceful erosion of civil rights in America and the use of torture and rendition abroad that ended up giving carte blanche to other regimes to flout human rights. And, last but not least, the bolstering of an already bloated national security state that thrives on a culture of mendacity, spying and trepidation.

Chile also could have responded to violence with more violence. If ever there was a justification for taking up arms against a tyrannical overlord, our struggle met every criteria. And yet the Chilean people and the leaders of the resistance—with a few sad exceptions—decided to oust General Pinochet through active nonviolence, taking over the country that had been stolen from us, inch by inch, organization by organization, until we ultimately bested him in a plebiscite that he should have won but could not. The result has not been perfect. The dictatorship continues to contaminate Chilean society several decades after it lost power. But all in all, as an example of how to create a lasting peace out of loss and untold suffering, Chile has shown a determination to make sure that there will never again be another September 11 of death and destruction.

What is magical about that decision to fight malevolence through peaceful means is that Chileans were echoing unawares another September 11, back in 1906 in Johannesburg, when Mohandas Gandhi persuaded several thousand of his fellow Indians in the Empire Theatre to vow nonviolent resistance to an unjust and discriminatory pre-apartheid ordinance. That strategy of Satyagraha would, in time, lead to India’s independence and to many other attempts at achieving peace and justice around the world, including America’s civil rights movement.

One hundred and five years after the Mahatma’s memorable call to imagine a way out of the trap of rage, thirty-eight years after those planes woke me in the morning to tell me that I would never again be able to escape terror, ten years after the New York of my childhood dreams was decimated by fire, I would hope that the right epitaph for all those September 11s would be the everlasting words of Gandhi: “Violence will prevail over violence, only when someone can prove to me that darkness can be dispelled by darkness.”
August 30, 2011

11/29/11

Sweet Judy 1943-2011

11/26/11

Harper's Index

Percentage decrease in the median U.S. household income during the “Great Recession” : 3.2

During the subsequent “recovery” : 6.7

Portion of income growth since the end of the recession that has gone to corporate profits : 9/10

Minimum number of pigs stolen in Minnesota this September : 744

Amount the Emergency Homeowners’ Loan Program returned to the Treasury after its allocation deadline passed : $568,000,000

Minimum amount the U.S. government overpaid for federal services in 2010 : $26,000,000,000

Percentage by which the average contracted project costs the government more than the equivalent government-run project : 83

Estimated percentage of U.S. public schools that will fail this year under the standards set by No Child Left Behind : 82

Chance that a school has lowered its proficiency standards to inflate test scores since 2005 : 1 in 2

Price the Berkeley College Republicans charged white men for baked goods at their September “Increase Diversity Bake Sale” : $2

Price they charged black men : $0.75

Date on which Governor Rick Scott said that Florida doesn’t need “more anthropologists” : 10/10/2011

Date on which Scott’s daughter received her anthropology degree : 1/11/2008

Rank of the U.S. Congress among world legislatures for gender parity : 89

Portion of U.S. mothers who read People magazine : 1/3

Percentage of Americans who say news organizations “hurt democracy” : 42

Chance that an American between 18 and 24 has read a book in the past year that wasn’t required for school or work : 1 in 2

Portion of the “Millennial Generation” that is “absolutely certain” God exists : 2/3

Rank of non-denominational Christianity among the fastest-growing religions in America during the past two decades : 2

Rank of “none” : 1

Number of Bibles that have been to the moon : 100

Number of messages in bottles sent out by one resident of Prince Edward Island since 1996 : 5,230

Number of responses he has received : 3,201

U.S. patent number assigned to a device for building the perfect snowman : 8,011,991

Number of codes in the current nationwide system for describing medical services on insurance bills : 17,849

Number in the new federally mandated system : 141,058

Code number for “crushed by alligator, initial encounter” : W5803XA

For “crushed by alligator, subsequent encounter” : W5803XS

Odds a West Virginia driver collided with a deer in the past year : 1 in 53

Date on which Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, unveiled a sculpture commemorating the Beatles’ 1964 visit there : 9/18/2011

Hours that the Beatles spent in the town : 1

Date on which the Chinese city of Chaohu was “canceled” by government decree : 8/22/2011

Percentage of Icelanders who believe that the existence of elves is “probable” or “certain” : 25

Number of Italian earthquake experts currently on trial for manslaughter for downplaying the risk of a 2009 earthquake : 7

Percentage of the vote received by the Pirate Party in Berlin’s September municipal elections : 8.9

Number of sex dolls distributed to SS soldiers by Heinrich Himmler, according to a book released this September : 50

Number of Afghan army battalions currently able to fight without coalition support : 0

Number of “major threats” the Transportation Security Administration has detected in the decade since its creation : 0

Portion of adults under thirty who think Hollywood is a threat to their values : 1/3

Minimum number of times Newt Gingrich has seen The Hangover : 7

11/22/11

The Night Watcher (Charlayne Woodard)



The Kirk Douglas Theatre Culver City

Charlayne Woodard’s manner is so disarmingly anecdotal in her effervescent solo show, “The Night Watcher,” that it takes a moment to realize that this isn’t our best girlfriend sharing confidences from the stage of the Kirk Douglas Theatre but a performer whose luminous talent exceeds her limited stardom.

She begins with a tale involving another gifted African American actress, the more famous Alfre Woodard (no relation), who called her up out of the blue to get Woodard and her husband to consider adopting a mixed-race baby that was about to be delivered at a Los Angeles hospital. This would seem to be an unusual thing to urge on a colleague, but it seems that many people have had a similar desire to put Woodard’s nurturing skills to good use.

“The Night Watcher” can be seen as one woman’s defense of remaining childless. But it’s really about the many ways in which maternal love can be shown in a world badly in need of more guiding hands. Given a tastefully simple production by veteran director Daniel Sullivan on a stage with a simple chair and just the right number of suggestive background projections, this modest offering touched me with its generosity, gentle humor and grace.


The night watcher 2Wrestling with her ambivalence, Woodard fears that she wouldn’t live up to the model of the “warrior mother” who raised her. Whatever she sets out to do, she wants to do with all her heart, and the demands of motherhood fill her with doubts. The oldest of five children, she had ample opportunity to mind her siblings. Now that she has become a successful “blue-collar actor,” she has grown fond of her domestic peace and freedom, the lazy Sundays with her husband reading the L.A. Times with their Maltese terrier snuggled between them.

But when godmotherly duty calls, she answers. Her fragmentary stories, briskly arranged over two acts, depict her stepping “into the gap” of foundering young lives. There is one goddaughter from an affluent family in Brentwood who gets pregnant at 14 and comes to her behind her parents’ back for advice. An 11-year-old niece, an adopted mixed-race girl with a snarling attitude, tests her patience with remarks that range from bratty to outright racist. A child who was horribly abused by her mother begins to envy Woodard’s pampered dog. One 15-year-old, the daughter of Woodard’s late friend, reveals that she has difficulty reading but no difficulty in attracting much older men. A nephew running into trouble with the law is at a dangerous crossroads.

Woodard’s interventions are sometimes successful, sometimes inconclusive and sometimes an apparent flop. She is rebuffed by parents who resent her dilettantish concern. Most problems can’t be fixed by weekly phone calls or checks for karate school or heartfelt pep talks. Time, constancy and regular sacrifice have no substitutes.

But Woodard brings other qualities to the table, such as a solidarity with youthful struggle, a playfulness born out of pleasure and empathy and a memory of the “aunties” who made an incalculable difference in her life. Woodard’s young charges are proud that she appeared on the TV series “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” (though confused why she lives in an apartment and not a mansion). But her flickering fame isn’t as influential as the example she sets of someone true to herself rather than others’ expectations.

Adults in the audience will be as drawn to Woodard as her community of kids. The radiant levity of her stage deportment, the blithe way she slides into accents and adopts signature traits and the strains of songs that joyfully burst from her keep us delighted even when certain segments cry out for more tightening. And anchoring it all is our grounded host with the cultivated voice, the one who has appeared in Shakespeare, Suzan-Lori Parks, countless television shows as well as her own solo plays. Woodard the artist. It is this presence that gives “The Night Watcher” its moral weight and assures us that while we are in her company we are in the safest of hands.
— Charles McNulty
Los Angeles Times


11/20/11

Charlayne Woodard

11/17/11

Cleveland Browns Fan Rant

11/10/11

Time Displacement

Penn State and Joe Paterno (L.A. Times)

BILL PLASCHKE

This should be the end of Paterno State

It's a tragedy, but it's not a coincidence that abuses occur when football program is allowed free rein.

As university presidents throughout the country view the steaming pile of rubble that was once college football's greatest coach and its most admired program, they should understand one thing.
None of this is a coincidence.
It is no coincidence that the most heinous scandal in the history of college sports happened at Penn State University.
It is no coincidence that an alleged child molester was allowed to roam the Penn State University grounds unchecked for nearly a decade with the knowledge of everyone from the school president to the football coach.
It is no coincidence that an alleged sexual assault of a 10-year-old boy in the showers of the school's football locker room was never reported to police by anyone at Penn State University.
It is no coincidence, because for 46 years it was not really Penn State University, it was Paterno State University. It was a school that sold its soul to football coach Joe Paterno for the sake of riches and recognition, a school that found its identity in his plain uniforms and lived its life by his corny pep talks.
Paterno was allowed to play God, and so his longtime assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was allowed to do whatever he wanted, wherever he wanted, even if it included alleged sexual abuse of eight boys over a 15-year period.
Penn State created Joe Paterno, worshiped Joe Paterno, and stunningly required four long days to finally throw the phony out into the street Wednesday when public furor forced the school's board of trustees to fire him for not reporting Sandusky to police.
What took them so long? It was the same sick fear of Paterno's power that created this nightmare in the first place.
Penn State and Paterno got everything they deserved for failing to live up to the words uttered by board vice chairman John Surma, a truth acknowledged 46 years too late.
"The university is much larger than its athletic teams,'' said Surma, as if that was something that actually needed to be said.
The shame on the 84-year-old Paterno will last the rest of his life. His two national championships and Division 1 record 409 victories will pale in comparison to the number, apparently growing, of allegedly assaulted children.
The dishonor to the university will last for years. Who on earth wouldn't think twice before sending their child to a place where the priorities are so whacked that the football team was allowed to hide an alleged child molester as long as they won football games?
The question now is, how long will the scandal rumble the foundations of similar athletic kingdoms created by other schools around the country? There are other Penn States out there. Are they listening? Will they learn?
Will this affect the transparency and accessibility of those giant athletic departments whose buildings are locked and closed to everyone who does not have the proper key card or fingerprint?
Will this change the way administrators so tightly embrace the athletic money machines that they create a sense of entitlement among 18-year-olds who break NCAA rules because they think rules don't apply?
Amid a college football season filled with cries from angry athletes demanding to be paid, will people look at the Penn State crisis and realize that a player payroll would only make the athletic department walls taller and thicker?
The Penn State issues which led to this cover-up are not new ones.
Several decades ago, former Oklahoma University president George Lynn Cross once told the Oklahoma senate, "I want a university the football team can be proud of."
Just last summer, when asked if he was going to fire Ohio State's football coach Jim Tressel, the school's president Gordon Gee said, "I hope he doesn't fire me."
This attitude always sounded funny, but it's always been real, and how sad that it took the violation of children to make the sports world understand.
Even at the end, Paterno didn't understand, as evidenced by his final pathetic call as a head coach. Early Wednesday, he announced he was retiring at the end of the season, noting in his statement that he didn't want the school's board of trustees to worry further about him.
Yeah, right. He was just trying to squeeze two or three more moments of glory as his castle was collapsing around him.
And of course he thought it would work. This is the same Paterno who basically threw university president Graham Spanier and athletic director Tim Curley out of his home several years ago when they tepidly approached him with the idea of resigning.
But this time, finally, thankfully, the power sweep didn't work. The trustees didn't fall for it. On Wednesday evening Paterno was gone, and how fitting that both Spanier and Curley have also been kicked to the curb.
In a final show of misguided loyalty Wednesday night, some Penn State students surrounded Paterno's home and cried for him.
Save your tears for the victims while working up a cheer for the fall of one of the most oppressive college sports dictatorships in America.
Paterno State University is gone. May it rest in pieces.







11/4/11

10/27/11

10/22/11

Harper's Index

Number of the 100 highest-paid American CEOs who earned more than their employers paid in taxes last year : 25

Date on which the Lake Erie Correctional Institution became the first U.S. state prison sold to a private company : 8/31/2011

Amount the Corrections Corporation of America paid the State of Ohio for the prison : $72,700,000

Percentage of U.S. Postal Service expenses that go to labor costs : 89
Of FedEx and UPS expenses, respectively : 41, 48

Percentage of Americans who disapprove of a deficit-reduction plan with no tax increases : 60

Amount of the 2009 stimulus package that the federal government has yet to spend : $127,000,000,000

Estimated annual cost to the U.S. economy of worker “disengagement” : $400,000,000,000

Estimated annual cost of rust and other corrosion to the Defense Department each year : $23,000,000,000

Estimated percentage of Americans aged 17 to 24 who are ineligible to join the military : 75

Respective rank of obesity, drug and alcohol problems, and low “aptitude” among the most common reasons for ineligibility : 1, 2, 3

Date on which WikiLeaks announced “pre-litigation action” against the Guardian newspaper for leaking information : 9/1/2011

Number of chopsticks made each day by Georgia Chopsticks in Americus, Georgia, for use in China : 2,100,000

Percentage increase in the number of Chinese students applying to U.S. graduate schools this year : 21

Portion of unemployed people in the United States who are covered by primary unemployment insurance : 1/4

Percentage change since 2001 in applications for Social Security disability benefits : +50

Number of Americans currently receiving them : 13,600,000

Year by which the program will be unable to pay benefits, according to congressional estimates : 2018

Chances that a U.S. corporation is considering ending health benefits when federal insurance exchanges begin : 3 in 10

Percentage of all oxycodone sold to doctors in the U.S. last year that went to Florida : 89

Date on which Florida began requiring potential welfare recipients to pass a drug test before receiving benefits : 7/1/2011

Percentage who have failed the test : 2.5

Estimated amount this will save the state over the next year in denied benefits : $98,000

Amount that Rick Perry has received in federal farm subsidies : $72,687

Number of the top 50 donors to Perry’s gubernatorial campaigns who received an appointment to a state post : 22

Percentage increase in the sales of luxury goods within the United States in the past year : 7.3

Number of “designer vagina” operations paid for by the British National Health Service last year : 2,000

Percentage of women seeking the procedure who were deemed to have “normal” genitalia in a 2010 study : 100

Minutes of television that the average British dog watches each day : 50

Number of times the average British man will fall in love, according to an August study : 3

Number of times the average British woman will : 1
Percentage change in the gap between the wages of U.S. men and women since 1998 : +9

Amount by which a typical good-looking U.S. worker will out-earn a typical ugly one over a lifetime : $230,000

Estimated amount that discrimination against the ugly costs America each year : $20,000,000,000

Percentage of cell phone owners who admit they have pretended to be on the phone to avoid talking to someone in person : 13

Percentage of female scientists who say they have fewer children than they wanted because of their careers : 45

Percentage of male scientists who do : 25

Date on which Joe Walsh (R., Ill.) said Washington can’t put “one more dollar of debt upon the backs of my kids” : 7/13/2011

Amount that Walsh currently owes in back child support : $98,422

Last year in which the U.S. government did not “do everything wrong,” according to Ron Paul : 1987 (or possibly 1988)

Figures cited are the latest available as of September 2011.

10/21/11

10/15/11

Bill Maher 10/15/11

Occupy the Tundra



She is standing alone with her dogs with an early frost on the grass, staking her claim as part of the 99%. "Occupy the Tundra," says the sign she holds, hand-lettered on an old piece of cardboard.

Thousands of Americans are occupying Wall Street and various plazas, parks and squares across America. Diane McEachern has made sure that Bethel, Alaska -- a town of 6,400 way out in western Alaska -- is among them.

The picture she posted on the Occupy Wall Street Facebook page of herself in a musk-ox neck warmer, standing in the grass with her dogs in silent protest of corporate greed, has become the rural equivalent of a million-man march. The photo has been shared by thousands of people around the world.

"I am a woman. The dogs are rescues. The tundra is outside of Bethel, Alaska. The day is chill. The sentiment is solid. Find your spot. Occupy it. Even if it is only your own mind," she wrote as a caption.

McEachern, an assistant professor in the rural human service program at the University of Alaska's Kuskokwim Campus, said she was following the Wall Street protests and wondering how they might be brought home to a town with one main street and no roads out.

"When I saw that it was growing and there was Occupying Portland and Occupying New Hampshire, I thought, for goodness' sake, what can I occupy? How can I get on this?" McEachern said in an interview with The Times. "And I thought, well, what's my context? What's important to me?"

The foreclosure crisis may not have hit bush Alaska in a huge way, but people in Bethel are paying $6.87 a gallon for gasoline, she said. Stove oil prices for heating homes are equally unaffordable. Cuts in social services to rural villages are pending.

"And right now, they're proposing here the largest gold mine in human history, the Pebble Mine, that's going to do catastrophic damage to the environment and the native community, in the premier wild salmon habitat in the world," she said. "So I'm not well-versed on the larger economic system, but I can relate to the idea of corporate wealth being lopsidedly in the hands of so few, when so many are struggling."

McEachern said she initially took the photo as a lark, inviting a friend to snap her picture with her dogs so she could post it on her own Facebook page. When she decided to post it on Occupy Wall Street's page as well, the image unexpectedly took off.

More than 4,100 people have shared it on their own Facebook pages; nearly 8,000 others have "liked" it. "If I found my way to the tundra, I would give you a hug for how awesome you are!" one person wrote. "Thank you for keeping your lonely vigil!" said another.

"I didn't think anything was going to explode like this," McEachern said. "I didn't really quite get a clue until I opened my Facebook one morning, and there's over 200 friend requests. I've got to tell you, I'm likeable, but not that likeable," she added.

"I think it may be the little dog with the piercing blue eyes, because there are so many comments about that dog piercing their soul," she added, referring to her dog Seabiscuit, one of three resolute-looking canines in the photo. "Either that, or we need to do an exorcism."

In response to the flood of comments, McEachern recently replied, announcing plans to go out on a tundra protest again on Saturday. She took the opportunity to answer queries, some from supporters, some who hadn't had anything nice to say.

"For those who ask about the [permanent fund dividend] that all Alaskans receive [based on oil revenues], I got mine and donated it to Greenpeace on behalf of Glenn Beck," she wrote. "To the suggestion I set myself on fire ...I AM on fire!"

Michael Moore with Lawrence O'Donnell

10/9/11

10/6/11

Michele Bachmann

Simple Gifts

10/5/11

The NewYorker

9/29/11

Obama: A Disaster For Civil Liberties

He may prove the most disastrous president in our history in terms of civil liberties.

By Jonathan Turley
September 29, 2011

With the 2012 presidential election before us, the country is again caught up in debating national security issues, our ongoing wars and the threat of terrorism. There is one related subject, however, that is rarely mentioned: civil liberties.

Protecting individual rights and liberties — apart from the right to be tax-free — seems barely relevant to candidates or voters. One man is primarily responsible for the disappearance of civil liberties from the national debate, and he is Barack Obama. While many are reluctant to admit it, Obama has proved a disaster not just for specific civil liberties but the civil liberties cause in the United States.

Civil libertarians have long had a dysfunctional relationship with the Democratic Party, which treats them as a captive voting bloc with nowhere else to turn in elections. Not even this history, however, prepared civil libertarians for Obama. After the George W. Bush years, they were ready to fight to regain ground lost after Sept. 11. Historically, this country has tended to correct periods of heightened police powers with a pendulum swing back toward greater individual rights. Many were questioning the extreme measures taken by the Bush administration, especially after the disclosure of abuses and illegalities. Candidate Obama capitalized on this swing and portrayed himself as the champion of civil liberties.

However, President Obama not only retained the controversial Bush policies, he expanded on them. The earliest, and most startling, move came quickly. Soon after his election, various military and political figures reported that Obama reportedly promised Bush officials in private that no one would be investigated or prosecuted for torture. In his first year, Obama made good on that promise, announcing that no CIA employee would be prosecuted for torture. Later, his administration refused to prosecute any of the Bush officials responsible for ordering or justifying the program and embraced the "just following orders" defense for other officials, the very defense rejected by the United States at the Nuremberg trials after World War II.

Obama failed to close Guantanamo Bay as promised. He continued warrantless surveillance and military tribunals that denied defendants basic rights. He asserted the right to kill U.S. citizens he views as terrorists. His administration has fought to block dozens of public-interest lawsuits challenging privacy violations and presidential abuses.

But perhaps the biggest blow to civil liberties is what he has done to the movement itself. It has quieted to a whisper, muted by the power of Obama's personality and his symbolic importance as the first black president as well as the liberal who replaced Bush. Indeed, only a few days after he took office, the Nobel committee awarded him the Nobel Peace Prize without his having a single accomplishment to his credit beyond being elected. Many Democrats were, and remain, enraptured.

It's almost a classic case of the Stockholm syndrome, in which a hostage bonds with his captor despite the obvious threat to his existence. Even though many Democrats admit in private that they are shocked by Obama's position on civil liberties, they are incapable of opposing him. Some insist that they are simply motivated by realism: A Republican would be worse. However, realism alone cannot explain the utter absence of a push for an alternative Democratic candidate or organized opposition to Obama's policies on civil liberties in Congress during his term. It looks more like a cult of personality. Obama's policies have become secondary to his persona.

Ironically, had Obama been defeated in 2008, it is likely that an alliance for civil liberties might have coalesced and effectively fought the government's burgeoning police powers. A Gallup poll released this week shows 49% of Americans, a record since the poll began asking this question in 2003, believe that "the federal government poses an immediate threat to individuals' rights and freedoms." Yet the Obama administration long ago made a cynical calculation that it already had such voters in the bag and tacked to the right on this issue to show Obama was not "soft" on terror. He assumed that, yet again, civil libertarians might grumble and gripe but, come election day, they would not dare stay home.

This calculation may be wrong. Obama may have flown by the fail-safe line, especially when it comes to waterboarding. For many civil libertarians, it will be virtually impossible to vote for someone who has flagrantly ignored the Convention Against Torture or its underlying Nuremberg Principles. As Obama and Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. have admitted, waterboarding is clearly torture and has been long defined as such by both international and U.S. courts. It is not only a crime but a war crime. By blocking the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for torture, Obama violated international law and reinforced other countries in refusing investigation of their own alleged war crimes. The administration magnified the damage by blocking efforts of other countries like Spain from investigating our alleged war crimes. In this process, his administration shredded principles on the accountability of government officials and lawyers facilitating war crimes and further destroyed the credibility of the U.S. in objecting to civil liberties abuses abroad.

In time, the election of Barack Obama may stand as one of the single most devastating events in our history for civil liberties. Now the president has begun campaigning for a second term. He will again be selling himself more than his policies, but he is likely to find many civil libertarians who simply are not buying.

Jonathan Turley is a professor of law at George Washington University.

Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times

9/25/11

Freddie Mercury?

9/21/11

Harper's Index

Percentage of the current U.S. debt that was accumulated during Republican presidential terms : 71

Portion of debt-ceiling elevations since 1960 that have been signed into law by Republican presidents : 2/3

Percentage of profits American corporations paid in taxes in 1961 : 40.6

Today : 10.5

Portion of the increase in U.S. corporate profit margins since 2001 that has come from depressed wages : 3/4

Percentage of Americans who say they did not have money to buy food at all times last year : 18.2

Percentage change in the median household wealth of white families since 2005 : –16

Of Hispanic families : –66

Number of minors sent back to Mexico by U.S. immigration authorities in 2010 : 20,438

Percentage who were sent unaccompanied by an adult : 57

Percentage of the world’s population that could fit in Texas by living with the population density of New York City : 100

Estimated value of government subsidies that will go to the oil and gas industries between now and 2015 : $78,155,000,000

Average amount the tooth fairy left for a tooth in 2010, according to a survey by Visa : $3

Average so far in 2011 : $2.60

Price for an iPad case made out of Bernie Madoff’s Polo Ralph Lauren blue chinos : $350

Percentage of millionaires who said in a July survey that they are concerned about global unrest : 94

Percentage of Egyptians who say they want the new government to amend or abandon the Camp David accords : 70

Estimated number of Syrians killed during pro-democracy protests since March : 1,700

Number of people killed in Ecuador since July by bootleg liquor : 35

Portion of the Indian Ocean that is underexplored by scientists because of pirates : 1/4

Amount an unemployed Utah man is charging for the opportunity to hunt and kill him : $10,000

Portion of non-interest federal spending that is dedicated to programs for the elderly : 1/3

Chance that a person will remember something if he thinks he can look it up later : 1 in 5

If he thinks he cannot : 1 in 3

Percentage of U.S. college grades that are A’s : 43

Portion of America’s college students who attend for-profit schools : 1/10 (see page 51)

Portion of federal financial aid that goes to such schools : 1/4

Portion of college students who believe alcohol improves their ability to tell jokes : 3/4

Who believe it improves their sexual encounters : 1/3

Percent increase in armed robberies at pharmacies since 2006 : 81

Chance that an American fast-food customer uses posted calorie information to make food-buying decisions : 1 in 6

Number of states in which less than 20 percent of adults are obese : 0

Percentage of private-sector workers who believe that public-sector workers receive better benefits : 60

Percentage of public-sector workers who believe this : 44

Percentage of Americans who believe China has passed or will pass the United States as the world’s leading superpower : 46

Percentage of Chinese who do : 63
Of French : 72

Percentage of Americans who say they would vote for a well-qualified homosexual candidate for president : 67

For a well-qualified atheist : 49

Percentage of Americans in a July poll who said they approve of God’s job performance : 52

Figures cited are the latest available as of August 2011. Sources are listed on page 68.

October 2011

9/16/11

9/15/11

Walk On By (Diana Krall)

Harry Shearer

A Thousand Cuts

9/12/11

Paul Simon at Ground Zero

9/11/11

Memorial

9/10/11

Grief and Empathy in New York City

This article was originally published on September 30, 2001


On September 25, exactly two weeks after the World Trade Center attacks, my aunt Judi died of breast cancer in her home in Milburn, New Jersey. Unlike the thousands who unknowingly went to work on Tuesday the 11th, my aunt knew that the end was near. After doctors discovered that the cancer had spread to her liver, she underwent five weeks of emergency chemo. It didn't work. When I got the news that she would be going home to die, I knew that I would be going home to New York to grieve.

As soon as I walked into Midway, and witnessed the barely muted chaos of the new 'security measures,' I realized that there would be no way to separate my family's loss from the country's loss. Three thousand New Yorkers died in the World Trade Center. My aunt's death suddenly, strangely seemed like one voice in a chorus of despair. Time and again during the weekend -- over lunch, at the wake, in the parking lot outside the church -- talk bounced back and forth between the impossible tragedy of my aunt's death at 40, and the impossible tragedy of September 11th. There were flags everywhere in New York, from bodegas to buses to adult video stores, so it wasn't terribly surprising to file into the pews only to be met with a comically large flag draped across the balcony. As much as we would claim the disaster in lower New York as our own, attach our own grief to this greater grief, this flag seemed to signal the converse. Our grief would be claimed by America. When I picture the funeral in my head, I see mostly the flag. As we drove away from the church, my mother leaned in and solemnly informed me that we had had to leave promptly so they could start the second funeral of the day-a local resident who had worked in the Twin Towers. When minutes later, I saw a funeral procession of equal length enter the other of the cemetery's two gates, I knew instinctually why they were there.

With the deluge of commentary and punditry that has accompanied the events of September 11th, it scarcely needs to be repeated that our lives will never be the same. But that weekend, it also seemed possible that death may never be the same. As the hours dragged on, and the mourning showed no signs of letting up, it somehow seemed like that death had been the most radically altered thing of all.

While my uncle and parents went to the first night of the wake, my brother and I stayed at my uncle's house to watch over my cousins. Tommy is seven, and Danny, my godchild, is nearly three. In the past week they had not only lost a singularly devoted mother, but had, by some cosmic accident, become members in a class of over 10,000 children whose parental units had been sliced in half, or destroyed altogether. As I tucked Danny into bed he looked up at me and asked "Where mommy bed go?" I tried to explain it had been taken to a special place. "Where!?!" "Right around here." "WHERE!?!" I had no answer and some part of him knew that there was never going to be a satisfactory answer. Where did mommy's bed go? Where did the towers go? We cannot say. We tend to conceive of loss spiritually: the absence of a person's personality, their essence gone - but loss is always, at its base, physical. A person's cells and atoms are taken away from us. They cease to have a place. Just as the World Trade Center ceased to be a place.

My aunt Diana lives in Greenwich Village. We talked about lower New York at the wake and she said that the stench (what Dianne Sawyer referred to as 'acrid') was still unbearable. "New York is depressed," she said wistfully. Not New Yorkers, New York. It is always tempting to conceive of the city as an organism; it has nearly all of the features of a conscious being, a complexity that rivals our own neural networks. And now this organism was suffering. One needed only look up to the skyline to understand this suffering. The Empire State building, a powerful limb that once proudly grabbed the sky, now appeared a delicate and slender neck shirking towards a guillotine just slightly out of view.

I asked my friend if he thought New York was depressed. "Definitely" he said "The other day I saw this woman almost get hit by a cab. Some guy yelled ''Watch yourself, Ma'am!' and she stepped back and the cab screeched to a halt and everyone stopped and stared at her blankly. You just knew no one could have borne to watch this woman get hit by a cab." On the day of the attacks Mayor Giuliani was asked how many causalities there were. "More than any of us will be able to bear," he responded gravely. More than we can bear. What is more than we can bear? Can my uncle and cousins bear the loss of a wife and mother? Can a city bear the loss of hundreds of its firefighters? Those words of Giuliani's, lauded for their eloquence, are empty. We now know what the losses are, and both my uncle and New York know that they must be borne. But how? How to bear it?

In the past several weeks I, like countless other New Yorkers and Americans, have found solace in the epic acts of heroism displayed by the firefighters, police officers, and rescue workers who have risked their lives to save others. My aunt's neighbors displayed a quieter, more quotidian heroism in her final weeks, setting up a cooking schedule so that a fresh dinner would always be delivered, taking turns watching the kids, and even lending my uncle a new coffee pot when his broke.

Standing outside the house and gazing at the orderly lines of trees, circled with pink ribbons, I realized that people are overwhelmingly thoughtful and altruistic towards fellow members of their 'community'. Cruelty and indifference are nearly always directed towards those who lie outside the community. The trick is figuring out where exactly the boundaries of the community should lie. What has been so magical about the American response to the WTC attacks is the rapidity with which the entire country has become a coherent community. The morning that those planes hit the towers, the vast majority of the over 300 million Americans felt rough visceral anguish, a kind of anguish that we usually reserve for those we know. We found ourselves shedding tears for those who, hours earlier had been strangers. Now they were neighbors. At their best, this is what the ubiquitous American flags represent: a nation and community that are now coterminous, an enlargement of our empathic abilities that is nothing short of miraculous.

But the grief that Americans feel for other Americans, the care and support we extend towards the victims' families all take place within the physical and metaphorical borders of a global empire that is too often unconcerned with the grief of hundreds of thousands of other 'victims' families' who live and die outside of our community. How many Americans even know that our country murdered a civilian in Sudan in 1998? On August 20th, 1998 there was some Sudanese father who woke up, kissed his family goodbye and went to work at a pharmaceutical company, only to be blown to smithereens by an American cruise missile. The fact that we did not explicitly intend to kill this man does not mitigate the pain his family must have felt, nor the does it mitigate the lack of emotion that it stirred in me when I heard the news. As heartening as the flag as a symbol can be, we are required to ask ourselves why our community should stop at the border? Why can't we muster tears for those who die tragic and painful deaths in remote places? How can we grieve for everyone?

A founding principle of the liberal philosophy to which most of the Western world subscribes is a belief in the universal equality of all people, regardless of contingent affiliations like religion, nation, and ethnicity. A community of all humankind. The problem, of course is that the more you expand the boundaries of the community, the less membership in the community actually means. I am very proud to be a New Yorker, and many are proud to be Americans; but few, if any are proud to be human beings. In fact, multi-national corporations and multi-national religions, such as Islam, provide the broadest level of community membership that retains any real significance in the contemporary globalized world.

Community itself is defined negatively as often as it is defined positively. A community requires both an inside and an outside, so to speak of a universal community is to speak of a chimera. But being in New York last weekend I saw that there is such a thing as a community of mourners. Loss, no matter the cause, can unite the bereaved. And in a world in which death and tragedy are too-readily available, perhaps this can oddly function as the content for a global community.

There will always be, at any given moment, a fellow human being dying a death that is worthy of mourning. It is an uncomfortable psychological fact that we cannot mourn for everyone, that is obvious, but the aftermath of the WTC suggests that our empathic abilities are greater than we might have thought; our community, the global village, is more vast than we could have imagined. We have shown that we are able to empathize on the same visceral level with people from New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, and we have seen the footage of mourners in Germany, England and elsewhere. So maybe the limit to our ability to feel the suffering of others is not as circumscribed as we may hope it is. Maybe we can shed tears for a mother who died today in Kabul, or in Hebron or in Baghdad.

If there was ever a community with the ambition to be a community of the world, it was New York City. On my final subway ride of the weekend I boarded a packed car with a middle-aged gentleman wielding a clarinet, pushing a shopping cart loaded with a stereo. He began to play -- first 'God Bless America' (the stereo blasted an arrangement while he played the solo melody). Next came 'New York, New York.' After he finished his second song, a woman leaned towards him and said "How often do you do this?" The man replied, with great difficulty, "I don't speak English." Everyone on the car applauded.

Christopher Hayes is the Washington, D.C. Editor of The Nation and a contributor to MSNBC.

9/9/11

102 Things Not To Do If You Hate Taxes

So, you’re a Republican that hates taxes? Well, since you do not like taxes or government, please kindly do the following.

1. Do not use Medicare.
2. Do not use Social Security
3. Do not become a member of the US military, who are paid with tax dollars.
4. Do not ask the National Guard to help you after a disaster.
5. Do not call 911 when you get hurt.
6. Do not call the police to stop intruders in your home.
7. Do not summon the fire department to save your burning home.
8. Do not drive on any paved road, highway, and interstate or drive on any bridge.
9. Do not use public restrooms.
10. Do not send your kids to public schools.
11. Do not put your trash out for city garbage collectors.
12. Do not live in areas with clean air.
13. Do not drink clean water.
14. Do not visit National Parks.
15. Do not visit public museums, zoos, and monuments.
16. Do not eat or use FDA inspected food and medicines.
17. Do not bring your kids to public playgrounds.
18. Do not walk or run on sidewalks.
19. Do not use public recreational facilities such as basketball and tennis courts.
20. Do not seek shelter facilities or food in soup kitchens when you are homeless and hungry.
21. Do not apply for educational or job training assistance when you lose your job.
22. Do not apply for food stamps when you can’t feed your children.
23. Do not use the judiciary system for any reason.
24. Do not ask for an attorney when you are arrested and do not ask for one to be assigned to you by the court.
25. Do not apply for any Pell Grants.
26. Do not use cures that were discovered by labs using federal dollars.
27. Do not fly on federally regulated airplanes.
28. Do not use any product that can trace its development back to NASA.
29. Do not watch the weather provided by the National Weather Service.
30. Do not listen to severe weather warnings from the National Weather Service.
31. Do not listen to tsunami, hurricane, or earthquake alert systems.
32. Do not apply for federal housing.
33. Do not use the internet, which was developed by the military.
34. Do not swim in clean rivers.
35. Do not allow your child to eat school lunches or breakfasts.
36. Do not ask for FEMA assistance when everything you own gets wiped out by disaster.
37. Do not ask the military to defend your life and home in the event of a foreign invasion.
38. Do not use your cell phone or home telephone.
39. Do not buy firearms that wouldn’t have been developed without the support of the US Government and military. That includes most of them.
40. Do not eat USDA inspected produce and meat.
41. Do not apply for government grants to start your own business.
42. Do not apply to win a government contract.
43. Do not buy any vehicle that has been inspected by government safety agencies.
44. Do not buy any product that is protected from poisons, toxins, etc…by the Consumer Protection Agency.
45. Do not save your money in a bank that is FDIC insured.
46. Do not use Veterans benefits or military health care.
47. Do not use the G.I. Bill to go to college.
48. Do not apply for unemployment benefits.
49. Do not use any electricity from companies regulated by the Department of Energy.
50. Do not live in homes that are built to code.
51. Do not run for public office. Politicians are paid with taxpayer dollars.
52. Do not ask for help from the FBI, S.W.A.T, the bomb squad, Homeland Security, State troopers, etc…
53. Do not apply for any government job whatsoever as all state and federal employees are paid with tax dollars.
54. Do not use public libraries.
55. Do not use the US Postal Service.
56. Do not visit the National Archives.
57. Do not visit Presidential Libraries.
58. Do not use airports that are secured by the federal government.
59. Do not apply for loans from any bank that is FDIC insured.
60. Do not ask the government to help you clean up after a tornado.
61. Do not ask the Department of Agriculture to provide a subsidy to help you run your farm.
62. Do not take walks in National Forests.
63. Do not ask for taxpayer dollars for your oil company.
64. Do not ask the federal government to bail your company out during recessions.
65. Do not seek medical care from places that use federal dollars.
66. Do not use Medicaid.
67. Do not use WIC.
68. Do not use electricity generated by Hoover Dam.
69. Do not use electricity or any service provided by the Tennessee Valley Authority.
70. Do not ask the Army Corps of Engineers to rebuild levees when they break.
71. Do not let the Coast Guard save you from drowning when your boat capsizes at sea.
72. Do not ask the government to help evacuate you when all hell breaks loose in the country you are in.
73. Do not visit historic landmarks.
74. Do not visit fisheries.
75. Do not expect to see animals that are federally protected because of the Endangered Species List.
76. Do not expect plows to clear roads of snow and ice so your kids can go to school and so you can get to work.
77. Do not hunt or camp on federal land.
78. Do not work anywhere that has a safe workplace because of government regulations.
79. Do not use public transportation.
80. Do not drink water from public water fountains.
81. Do not whine when someone copies your work and sells it as their own. Government enforces copyright laws.
82. Do not expect to own your home, car, or boat. Government organizes and keeps all titles.
83. Do not expect convicted felons to remain off the streets.
84. Do not eat in restaurants that are regulated by food quality and safety standards.
85. Do not seek help from the US Embassy if you need assistance in a foreign nation.
86. Do not apply for a passport to travel outside of the United States.
87. Do not apply for a patent when you invent something.
88. Do not adopt a child through your local, state, or federal governments.
89.Do not use elevators that have been inspected by federal or state safety regulators.
90. Do not use any resource that was discovered by the USGS.
91. Do not ask for energy assistance from the government.
92. Do not move to any other developed nation, because the taxes are much higher.
93. Do not go to a beach that is kept clean by the state.
94. Do not use money printed by the US Treasury.
95. Do not complain when millions more illegal immigrants cross the border because there are no more border patrol agents.
96. Do not attend a state university.
97. Do not see any doctor that is licensed through the state.
98. Do not use any water from municipal water systems.
99. Do not complain when diseases and viruses, that were once fought around the globe by the US government and CDC, reach your house.
100. Do not work for any company that is required to pay its workers a livable wage, provide them sick days, vacation days, and benefits.
101. Do not expect to be able to vote on election days. Government provides voting booths, election day officials, and voting machines which are paid for with taxes.
102. Do not ride trains. The railroad was built with government financial assistance.

The fact is, we pay for the lifestyle we expect. Without taxes, our lifestyles would be totally different and much harder. America would be a third world country. The less we pay, the less we get in return. Americans pay less taxes today since 1958 and is ranked 32nd out of 34 of the top tax paying countries. Chile and Mexico are 33rd and 34th. The Republicans are lying when they say that we pay the highest taxes in the world and are only attacking taxes to reward corporations and the wealthy and to weaken our infrastructure and way of life. So next time you object to paying taxes or fight to abolish taxes for corporations and the wealthy, keep this quote in mind…

“I like to pay taxes. With them, I buy civilization.” ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Courtesy of Addicting Info (http://www.addictinginfo.org)

9/7/11

Dog Tease

9/3/11

9/1/11

Uncle Phil

Why We Protest War

By Matthew Schofield | McClatchy Newspapers

A U.S. diplomatic cable made public by WikiLeaks provides evidence that U.S. troops executed at least 10 Iraqi civilians, including a woman in her 70s and a 5-month-old infant, then called in an airstrike to destroy the evidence, during a controversial 2006 incident in the central Iraqi town of Ishaqi.

The unclassified cable, which was posted on WikiLeaks' website last week, contained questions from a United Nations investigator about the incident, which had angered local Iraqi officials, who demanded some kind of action from their government. U.S. officials denied at the time that anything inappropriate had occurred.

But Philip Alston, the U.N.'s special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said in a communication to American officials dated 12 days after the March 15, 2006, incident that autopsies performed in the Iraqi city of Tikrit showed that all the dead had been handcuffed and shot in the head. Among the dead were four women and five children. The children were all 5 years old or younger.

Reached by email Wednesday, Alston said that as of 2010 — the most recent data he had — U.S. officials hadn't responded to his request for information and that Iraq's government also hadn't been forthcoming. He said the lack of response from the United States "was the case with most of the letters to the U.S. in the 2006-2007 period," when fighting in Iraq peaked.

Alston said he could provide no further information on the incident. "The tragedy," he said, "is that this elaborate system of communications is in place but the (U.N.) Human Rights Council does nothing to follow up when states ignore issues raised with them."

The Pentagon didn't respond to a request for comment. At the time, American military officials in Iraq said the accounts of townspeople who witnessed the events were highly unlikely to be true, and they later said the incident didn't warrant further investigation. Military officials also refused to reveal which units might have been involved in the incident.

Iraq was fast descending into chaos in early 2006. An explosion that ripped through the Golden Dome Mosque that February had set off an orgy of violence between rival Sunni and Shiite Muslims, and Sunni insurgents, many aligned with al Qaida in Iraq, controlled large tracts of the countryside.

Ishaqi, about 80 miles northwest of Baghdad, not far from Saddam Hussein's hometown, Tikrit, was considered so dangerous at the time that U.S. military officials had classified all roads in the area as "black," meaning they were likely to be booby-trapped with roadside bombs.

The Ishaqi incident was unusual because it was brought to the world's attention by the Joint Coordination Center in Tikrit, a regional security center set up with American military assistance and staffed by U.S.-trained Iraqi police officers.

The original incident report was signed by an Iraqi police colonel and made even more noteworthy because U.S.-trained Iraqi police, including Brig. Gen. Issa al Juboori, who led the coordination center, were willing to speak about the investigation on the record even though it was critical of American forces.

Throughout the early investigation, U.S. military spokesmen said that an al Qaida in Iraq suspect had been seized from a first-floor room after a fierce fight that had left the house he was hiding in a pile of rubble.

But the diplomatic cable provides a different sequence of events and lends credence to townspeople's claims that American forces destroyed the house after its residents had been shot.

Alston initially posed his questions to the U.S. Embassy in Geneva, which passed them to Washington in the cable.

According to Alston's version of events, American troops approached a house in Ishaqi, which Alston refers to as "Al-Iss Haqi," that belonged to Faiz Harrat Al-Majma'ee, whom Alston identified as a farmer. The U.S. troops were met with gunfire, Alston said, that lasted about 25 minutes.

After the firefight ended, Alston wrote, the "troops entered the house, handcuffed all residents and executed all of them. After the initial MNF intervention, a U.S. air raid ensued that destroyed the house." The initials refer to the official name of the military coalition, the Multi-National Force.

Alston said "Iraqi TV stations broadcast from the scene and showed bodies of the victims (i.e. five children and four women) in the morgue of Tikrit. Autopsies carries (sic) out at the Tikrit Hospital's morgue revealed that all corpses were shot in the head and handcuffed."

The cable makes no mention any of the alleged shooting suspects being found or arrested at or near the house.

The cable closely tracks what neighbors told reporters for Knight Ridder at the time. (McClatchy purchased Knight Ridder in spring 2006.) Those neighbors said the U.S. troops had approached the house at 2:30 a.m. and a firefight ensued. In addition to exchanging gunfire with someone in the house, the American troops were supported by helicopter gunships, which fired on the house.

The cable also backs the original report from the Joint Coordination Center, which said U.S. forces entered the house while it was still standing. That first report noted: "The American forces gathered the family members in one room and executed 11 persons, including five children, four women and two men. Then they bombed the house, burned three vehicles and killed their animals."

The report was signed by Col. Fadhil Muhammed Khalaf, who was described in the document as the assistant chief of the Joint Coordination Center.

The cable also backs up the claims of the doctor who performed the autopsies, who told Knight Ridder "that all the victims had bullet shots in the head and all bodies were handcuffed."

The cable notes that "at least 10 persons, namely Mr. Faiz Hratt Khalaf, (aged 28), his wife Sumay'ya Abdul Razzaq Khuther (aged 24), their three children Hawra'a (aged 5) Aisha (aged 3) and Husam (5 months old), Faiz's mother Ms. Turkiya Majeed Ali (aged 74), Faiz's sister (name unknown), Faiz's nieces Asma'a Yousif Ma'arouf (aged 5 years old), and Usama Yousif Ma'arouf (aged 3 years), and a visiting relative Ms. Iqtisad Hameed Mehdi (aged 23) were killed during the raid."




This cell phone photo was shot by a resident of Ishaqi on March 15, 2006, of bodies Iraqi police said were of children executed by U.S. troops after a night raid there. A State Department cable obtained by WikiLeaks quotes the U.N. investigator of extrajudicial killings as saying an autopsy showed the residents of the house had been handcuffed and shot in the head, including children under the age of 5. McClatchy obtained the photo from a resident when the incident occurred. |


8/31/11

Don't Ask (Wouter Hamel)

The Fraud Giuliani

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

8/26/11

Proschai (Artie Shaw)

8/24/11

The NewYorker


8/22/11

Shade Illusion

8/21/11

And I Love Her (Pat Metheny)


"The Beatles were huge for me. Without them, I don't know if I even would have become a musician or a guitar player. When their hits started coming out, I was 8 and 9 years old and it had a tremendous impact on me. I saw the movie "A Hard Day's Night" multiple times when it came out and I always loved that song. It is kind of impossible to imagine doing a record like this without including at least one Beatles song." - Pat Metheny


8/19/11

Harper's Index


8/17/11

Denis Leary MTV Spot '92

Pesci and Rickles

8/16/11

Long Ago and Faraway