Recent readz.

library4The $9 Billion Witness: Meet JPMorgan Chase’s Worst Nightmare. Taibbi, M., Rolling Stone (Nov. 2014). [Important reading, especially for anyone who mistakenly believes the U.S. is a democracy operating under the rule of law. -Ed.]

Top 10 Jesus Pranks. JUST FOR LAUGHS GAGS via youtube. [h/t SJ] [OMFG LOL. -Ed.]

Forget the 1%. It is the 0.01% who are really getting ahead in America. The Economist (Nov. 2014). (“Rising wealth inequality could presage the return of an 18th century inheritance society, in which marrying an heir is a surer route to riches than starting a company.”)

Nigel Farage’s new friend in Europe: ‘When women say no, they don’t always mean it’. Graham-Harrison, E., The Guardian (Nov. 2014). [I swear this article reads like an Onion satire, and this Janusz Korwin-Mikke d00d comes off like a comic book supervillain—and yet people vote for him. He says there is no proof Hitler knew about the Holocaust, and that Mussolini was trying to protect Jews; also FYI “the attitudes of men are passed to women by way of the semen which penetrates the tissue”; and he wants to convert part of the EU headquarters into a giant brothel. WHAT. He might actually be onto something legit about abolishing democracy, though, since it gives power to people like him. -Ed.]

Life Size Tyrannosaurus SkeletonHammacher Schlemmer (Nov. 2014). [Grab this year’s hottest holiday gift for each of your friends and family for the low, low price of $100,000! Treat yourself to one, too. -Ed.]

trex
CHAPPIE – Official Movie Trailer. Sony Pictures Entertainment via youtube (in theaters March 2015). [OMG OMG OMG I LOOOOOVED Neill Blomkamp’s District 9 and Elysium—plus there is no such thing as “enough Sharlto Copley.” -Ed.]

Even if you believe women “should” like cat-calling, that’s no excuse to do it. Marcotte, A., Raw Story (Nov 2014). (“My boyfriend doesn’t like eggs. My mom doesn’t like punk rock. These are things I like. Do I react to this difference of opinion by constantly shoving eggs in his face or blaring punk rock at her while saying, ‘You SHOULD like it and I’m going to KEEP DOING IT until you learn to like it!’ No, that would make me an asshole. So even if you think women should like being hollered at all fucking day—and again, I recommend having someone text you banalities 100 times a day to make sure you really think that it’s so wonderful getting all this attention before you open your fool mouth again on the subject—women told you they don’t like it. Persisting is clearly just an effort to hurt and punish them for not giving you what you want.”)

Separating Church and State Still an Issue in the US. Bader, E.J., Truthout (Nov. 2014). [h/t SJ] [Christ. This is just what we need: theocracies. Dear Lard, won’t someone think of the children? -Ed.]

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For the Quote collection, a new acquisition from the late, great Carl Sagan, whose birthday is today:

“If some good evidence for life after death were announced, I’d be eager to examine it; but it would have to be real scientific data, not mere anecdote. As with the face on Mars and alien abductions, better the hard truth, I say, than the comforting fantasy. And in the final tolling it often turns out that the facts are more comforting than the fantasy.”
Please join the Palace’s Carl Sagan Day celebration in The Bar today, where we will be serving Pale Blue Martinis.
bluemartini-with-twist-david-thompsonPHOTO: Blue Martini with Twist, David Thompson.
The Carl Sagan Pale Blue Martini:
Grey Goose vodka, Blue Curacao, fresh lime juice, twist.
Cheers for a man who inspired so many people to pursue science, skepticism and critical thinking. Our pale blue dot is a better world for having had him on it.

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PLZ NOTE: Acquisition of links and/or bon mots for the Palace Library does not imply the Palace’s 100% agreement with or endorsement of any content, organization or individual.

Reads.

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Federal appeals court rules in favor of gay marriage ban. Sewell, D., ABC-TV Eyewitness News (Nov. 2014).

Americans Are Working So Hard It’s Actually Killing People. Kaplan, E., The Nation (Oct. 2014). (“businesses are not hiring new workers; they’re just expecting the old workers to work more, and spitting them out after they get injured.”)

Despite Election Losses, Obama Still Sees Hope For Bipartisanship. McMorris-Santoro, E., BuzzFeed (Nov. 2014). (Dear Lard, we are soooo fucked. -Ed.)

Could a common blood pressure drug completely reverse diabetes? Medical News Today (Nov. 2014).

Why Feminism Needs Men. Solnit, R., The Nation (Nov. 2014).  [h/t SJ]

The 5 Most Important Things They Never Taught You in Sex Ed. Thomas, M., Cracked (Nov. 2014).

Bats Make Calls to Jam Rivals’ Sonar—First Time Ever Found. Arnold, C., National Geographic (Nov. 2014).

Adam Savage on #Gamergate and Harassment of Women Online. Watson, R., Skepchick (Nov. 2014). [with VIDEO.]

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PLZ NOTE: Acquisition of links and/or bon mots for the Palace Library does not imply the Palace’s 100% agreement with or endorsement of any content, organization or individual.

A November joke.

On the way home from his successful fund-raising meeting, a powerful US Senator drives his car into a tree and dies. His soul arrives at the Pearly Gates, and is met by St. Peter. “Welcome to heaven,” says St. Peter. “Before you settle in, we have a special protocol for a person of your stature, to make sure that you are given appropriate accommodations.“

“No problem, says the Senator. “Just let me in and we’ll work it out.”

“Actually,” St. Pete says, “our process requires that you spend one day in hell and one in heaven. Then you can choose where to spend eternity.”

“Not necessary. No need to waste my time. I’ve made up my mind. I want to be in heaven,” says the Senator.

“I’m sorry, but those are our rules, and there can be no exception,” says St. Peter, who escorts the Senator to the elevator and hits the “Down” button.

The Senator gets anxious as the elevator wooshes waaaay dooooown.

The elevator stops abruptly, the doors open, and the Senator steps out into the middle of a lush resort. The sun is shining, there’s a beautiful beach, tennis courts, golf courses, yoga studios. At the main lounge, he finds all of his old friends and colleagues who greet him enthusiastically—everyone as healthy and charming as the day he met them. Also present is the devil, who turns out to be a very friendly guy, and who welcomes the Senator warmly. The Senator passes the day with the lot of them, frolicking in the sun and surf, and in the evening he joins his companions in a gourmet dinner, followed by drinks and dancing.

Before he realizes it, the day has passed, and he finds himself in the elevator, going up, up, up. When it stops, the door opens, and St. Peter greets him, saying: “Now it’s time to visit heaven.” So the Senator passes the next 24 hours with a small group of contented souls, going from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing his favorite Beatles’ songs.

He has a good enough time, which passes quickly, and before he realizes it, another day has gone by, and St. Peter returns.

“Well, then, Senator you’ve now spent a day in hell and another in heaven. Choose your eternity.”

The Senator thinks for a minute, then answers: “Well, I never thought I would say this, but, although heaven has been delightful, I think I would rather be in hell.”

So St. Peter puts him in the elevator and he goes back down to hell.

Now, when the elevator opens, the Senator is in the middle of a barren land covered with waste and garbage, reeking of the foulest odors. He sees all his friends, covered in shredded rags, scrounging in the muck for offal. The devil himself comes over to him, puts his arm around his shoulders, and says: “Welcome to eternity.”

“I don’t understand,” stammers the Senator. “Yesterday I was here and there was a beautiful beach, and beautiful people, and great food, and fun and dancing. Now there’s just a horrid wasteland full of miserable, tortured souls. The devil smiles at him and says: “Yesterday we were campaigning. Today, you voted.”

[via Greanvillle Post]

‘Swut I been sayin.

Conservative Bruce Bartlett has a recent piece in the conservative magazine The American Conservative:

Obama Is a Republican
He’s the heir to Richard Nixon, not Saul Alinsky.

Longtime Loyal Readers™ will hardly be astounded by the headline, which at this point should be a self-evident fact. It’s the source that makes it worthy of attention. Bruce Bartlett served as a domestic policy adviser to Ronald Reagan and as a Treasury official under George H. W. Bush as a champion of “trickle-down economics“—or, as I like to call it “piss all over the 99% economics”—the dismal legacy of which is with us today in the form of record poverty, soaring inequality, rotting infrastructure and, not coincidentally, unprecedented power and profits for America’s Owners. For conservatives, of course, this is a right and just state of affairs. And Bruce Bartlett makes a pretty airtight case that Obama is one of his tribe.

I was going to quote Bartlett at some length here, but fuck it. You should just go read the whole thing. If you can stomach it.

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One more thing we feel we should note. We debuted this snazzy, slick, state-of-the-art graphic in July of 2011:

obamarepublicanFort the image accompanying the Bartlett article, The American Conservative has seen fit to create an obvious rip-off of our copyrighted intellectual property—and with no attribution! Worse, they apparently hired some hack who clearly knows nothing about snazzy, slick, state-of-the-art graphics to produce it:

obamaelephantThis is an outrage, people. Write your congresscritters today.

Conservatism kills.

A new video by some outfit called the Agenda Project Action Fund entitled Republican Cuts Kill is the kind of thing we’d like to see a lot more of. It takes the silly Ebola paranoia emanating from the right-wing cesspools of The Greatest Country EVAR and turns it on its head:

Of course as Loyal Readers™ well know, Republicans are hardly the entirety of the problem: conservative Democrats, including the Cutter-in-Chief, are equally worthy targets. Conservatism kills, regardless of who enacts conservative policies.

Relatedly:

ebolaGOP

“So far every case of Ebola in this country got it by helping people. So relax, Republicans, you’re in the clear.” -@TinaDupuy

I don’t know who this Tina Dupuy person is—but I like her style.

BREAKING: Influx of involuntary organ donors from Louisiana.

abattoir2Extraction teams standing by.

A piece by Alana Semuels and Maria L. La Ganga in the LA Times this weekend documents the coat hanger lobby’s template in Louisiana, the same state-level strategy it has been using to successfully shutter abortion clinics across the nation, most recently and devastatingly in Texas. While the article will likely offer nothing new to Loyal Readers™ here, it does offer up a fresh slate of involuntary organ donors, i.e. those would happily force others to donate lifesaving organs without their consent. Since they feel so very strongly about this principle, it is of course only right and fair that they live (or die) by it. Just think of all the lives we will be saving by extracting a kidney and maybe some skin grafts from each of these principled Americans:

  1. Charmaine Yoest, president, Americans United for Life
    Qualification: says of the successful state-level strategy of forced childbirth, “There wasn’t much opportunity on the federal level, so pro-life [sic] Americans said, ‘We are going to make a statement with the government that’s nearest and closest to us.’”
  2. Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana, Republican.
    Qualification: “has been so consistent in his opposition to abortion that the state is celebrated as the most ‘pro-life’ in the country by Americans United for Life.”
  3. Bill Shanks, anti-abortion protester and member of fundamentalist Christian group Operation Save America.
    Qualification: “This is like a victory celebration. Last time we came here, there were 10 free-standing abortion clinics. One by one, they’ve crumbled.”
  4. Benjamin Clapper, executive director, Louisiana Right to Life Federation.
    Qualification: well, he is the executive director of the Louisiana Right to Life [sic] Federation…
  5. Gene Mills, Christian pastor and head of the Louisiana Family Misogyny Forum (founded by fellow involuntary organ donor Tony Perkins).
    Qualification: publishes antiabortion scorecards on Louisiana legislators, distributes them to churches and encourages pastors to unconstitutionally speak out about elected officials in violation of their tax-exempt status: “We want to let [pastors] know that it is not the government’s right to limit your free speech even when you stand on the pulpit.”
  6. Katrina Jackson, Louisiana State Representative, Democrat.
    Qualification: Sponsor of Louisiana’s TRAP law requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals: “I look forward to the day abortion is not legal in this country.”
  7. Warniesha Berry, garden variety asshole.
    Qualification: “if you close them down and there is no possible way to get an abortion, you’re going to think twice about having unprotected sex.” Hahaha nope.

Everyone, and that includes our new involuntary organ donors from Louisiana, knows these things:

coathangerAll of those who find themselves today unwilling participants in our groundbreaking involuntary organ donation program are well aware of these facts: these are features, not bugs, in their ideology and the laws spawned from it. Unlike our donors, we take no pleasure in enslaving and violently harming people. We do, however, take some small measure of satisfaction when justice is served fairly and equally to all people. Pregnant or not.

Welcome to the Abattoir, shitweasels.

Can liberalism be saved from Sam Harris?

Ooh, look, everybody. It’s Sam Harris saying some shit with no idea what he’s talking about. (Again.) In a post on his blog entitled Can Liberalism Be Saved From Itself? written in response to some altercation with Ben Affleck on the insufferable Bill Maher’s show, Harris is as determined as ever to blame the supposedly unique evils of Islam for jihadist terrorism. As it turns out of course, there are people (not named Sam Harris) who actually know a great deal about Islamic radicalization and terrorism, including:
  • The U.S. Defense Science Board Task Force;
  • MI5’s behavioral science unit;
  • forensic psychiatrist and former CIA officer Marc Sageman;
  • political scientist Robert Pape;
  • international relations scholar Rik Coolsaet;
  • Islamism expert Olivier Roy; and
  • anthropologist Scott Atran.

You see, these people—or experts, as the scientifically literate like to call them—have all “studied the lives and backgrounds of hundreds of gun-toting, bomb-throwing jihadists and they all agree that Islam isn’t to blame for the behaviour of such men.” (Yes, unfortunately, they’re almost exclusively men.)

I am not inclined to do a truly thorough fisking of Harris’s latest piece, partly because it is unworthy of my attention. Or anyone’s attention, really, because just like his fellow Horsedouche Richard Dawkins, he can never, ever be wrong about anything. More importantly, his writings are far too tedious—just achingly, agonizingly annoying—to render such an exercise any fun at all. Life is short, people. Today I have other priorities way more entertaining (like taking my recycling to the trash chute down the hall). But for my beloved Loyal Readers™, I will magnanimously take on one paragraph, as I think it reveals quite enough:

As I tried to make clear on Maher’s show, what we need is honest talk about the link between belief and behavior.

No, dear. What we need is honest and informed talk. What this means, of course, is that we can safely dismiss the opinions of people like Sam Harris who bravely ignore demonstrable facts and informed opinions. (Seriously, does this d00d get his information from frothing-at-the-mouth, wild-eyed “experts” on Fox News?)

And no one is suffering the consequences of what Muslim “extremists” believe more than other Muslims are.

This is true—a fact which should lead those concerned with the well-being of people in the Muslim world to investigate the actual causes of extremism, particularly the psychological, economic, cultural and structural factors that spawn it. To that end, in 2004 then-Shitweasel of Defense Donald Rumsfeld commissioned a report (pdf) from the Defense Science Board Task Force, which concluded (among other things):

American direct intervention in the Muslim World has paradoxically elevated the stature of and support for radical Islamists, while diminishing support for the United States to single-digits in some Arab societies. (p. 40.)

The report goes on to describe a litany of intersectional factors that support that conclusion in great detail, some of which are specifically relevant to Harris’s claims here (see below), and all of which refute his entire thesis. Just read page 40 of the report to halfway down 41, and you too can have the same understanding that the George W. Bush-era U.S. Defense Department did. This alone will immediately make you more knowledgeable on the subject than Sam Harris, who goes on to say:

The civil war between Sunni and Shia, the murder of apostates, the oppression of women—these evils have nothing to do with U.S. bombs or Israeli settlements.

From the same report:

Muslims do not “hate our freedom,” but rather, they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the longstanding, even increasing support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, and the Gulf states. (p. 40) [emphasis added.]

NOTE: unlike most Americans, the majority of people of the Muslim world are under no illusions about exactly what the U.S. has been doing in the region—including supplying “friendly” tyrannical regimes with U.S. made weaponry. Unsurprisingly, the report continues:

American actions and the flow of events have elevated the authority of the Jihadi insurgents and tended to ratify their legitimacy among Muslims…What was a marginal network is now an Ummah-wide movement of fighting groups. (p. 40) [emphasis added.]

Harris continues:

Yes, the war in Iraq was a catastrophe—just as Affleck and Kristof suggest. But take a moment to appreciate how bleak it is to admit that the world would be better off if we had left Saddam Hussein in power.

Perhaps Sam Harris might take a moment to appreciate how bleak it is to admit that the world would be better off if the U.S. had not put and kept Saddam Hussein in power and armed his regime for so long? I’ma just state the bloody fucking obvious here: any thought that begins with “Yes, the war in Iraq was a catastrophe” followed by the conjunction “but” can be rejected out of hand. There is no silver lining there (unless you are an oil company). And especially not for Sam Harris to use the tragedy of possibly the most strategic military blunder the U.S. has ever made to slam the evil Muslims, as opposed to, oh I dunno, say, decades of U.S. foreign policy in the region.

Next, Harris says about our longtime ally Saddam Hussein:

Here was one of the most evil men who ever lived, holding an entire country hostage.

Yes. Over just ten years under Saddam’s regime:

  • Iraqi civilian death counts range from 250,000 to over one million, based on the most reliable estimates.
  • almost two million Iraqis—some 10% of the population—became refugees from their country (arguably the largest refugee crisis in Middle Eastern history).
  • five million were “internally displaced”—read: rendered homeless.
  • infrastructure and social fabric of Iraqi society was completely demolished, unleashing sectarian violence the likes of which Iraq had never before seen.
  • Unsurprisingly, chronic psychological trauma and post-traumatic disorders are widespread.

Oh wait, no. Those are the consequences of the U.S. invasion and occupation, which astute readers may recall were sold to the U.S. public with deliberate lies by the Bush administration, with an able assist from their servants in the media.

That Saddam sure was evil, though. The evilest, like, EVAR.

Finally, Harris says this:

And yet his tyranny was also preventing a religious war between Shia and Sunni, the massacre of Christians, and other sectarian horrors. To say that we should have left Saddam Hussein alone says some very depressing things about the Muslim world.

Why, it’s almost as it Harris has no concept of history, let alone the known causes of radicalization and terrorism—by Muslims or otherwise. He is also apparently under the bizarre impression that either (a) leaving Saddam Hussein “alone,” or (b) destroying the entire country and the lives of millions of innocent people, were the only two paths available to the richest, most militarily advanced country in the world—ever. That speaks for itself.

Glancing at my feeds, I see that others have already taken on more of his latest rant, in which they will have found many more examples of his historical and scientific ignorance, petty histrionics and easily demolished factual inaccuracies. (For a takedown of Ben Affleck’s part in this clusterfuck, and without endorsing all of it, see here.)

If I seem rather irritated by this story, well, that’s because I am. I am disinterested beyond words in any panel discussion about Islam and terrorism between three wealthy, Western, white d00ds—with zero connection to Muslim communities, with not even a minimal grasp of the extensive scholarship on the subject of radicalization and terrorism—having a dick-measuring contest on national TV. Anyone paying them the slightest bit of attention on this subject really ought to ask themselves: why? Now if you will excuse me, after the tedious simplicity of debunking Sam Harris’s pet hobbyhorse, I am excitedly looking forward to inspecting my bellybutton for lint.

I will leave you with one question: Can liberalism be saved from Sam Harris?

Hahaha! I kid, I kid! Thanks almost entirely to Democrats (e.g. the Clintons, Barack Obama, Steve Israel, Steny Hoyer, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, etc.), the “liberal” media, and of course “liberals” like Sam Harris, liberalism in the U.S. has been dead for a very long time.

Have a nice day.

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* For those who may be interested in honest and informed talk on the subject of Islamic radicalization, jihadist movements and Muslim terrorism, please see:

Recent reading.

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A First: Uterus Transplant Gives Parents A Healthy Baby. Chappell, B., NPR (Oct. 2014). [This is awesome news! We need to start implanting uteri into anti-choice men a.s.a.p., people. Free abortion clinics will suddenly become as ubiquitous as Starbucks! -Ed.]

A New Nuclear Arms Race: Why Peace Activists Must Wage an Open Battle Against the Democratic Party. Tucker, S., Truthdig (Oct. 2014).

Former SC GOP director: Execute anyone who comes into contact with Ebola — ‘it’s just math’. Kaufman, S., Raw Story (Oct. 2014). (Also: “The people of Africa are to blame for why it’s so shitty. They could stop eating each other and learn calculus at any time.” “We should put Wendy Davis’ vagina in charge of the Ebola outbreak. It will kill all of them without mercy and go to Nordstrom’s afterwards.” Well, he seems nice. Also: I’d like a vagina with these superpowers now plz. Because OMG Nordstrom’s! HELLO? -Ed.)

A Look Inside the Fake Abortion Clinics That Are Greatly Outnumbering Real Ones. Figueroa, A., AlterNet (Oct. 2014). (“Your tax dollars are funding religiously affiliated, medically inaccurate centers focused on preventing women from accessing abortion services.”)

An Orangutan Learns to Fish. Jabr, F., The New Yorker (Oct. 2014).

Indiana trooper pulled over woman to ask if she’d accepted Jesus Christ as her savior: lawsuit. Gettys, T., Raw Story (Oct. 2014). (“Indiana State Police said there was no specific policy against troopers handing out religious materials.”)

Louisiana Parish Claims Incarcerated 14-Year-Old Consented to be Raped by a Corrections Officer. McDonough, K., AlterNet (Oct. 2014). (“These girls in the detention center are not Little Miss Muffin,” remarked one official.)

Cops Pulled Gun, Tasered Passenger During Traffic Stop: Suit. Lutz, BJ. et al., NBC Chicago (Oct. 2014). (VIDEO -may start playing automatically at the link).

2013 World Happiness Report. Helliwell, J. et al, eds. (pdf).

Right-Wingers In NC Public Schools Indoctrinating Children With Bible Classes. Anonymous, Crooks & Liars (Oct. 2014).

Why Aren’t Women Advancing At Work? Ask a Transgender Person. Nordell, J., New Republic (Aug. 2014) (“Having experienced the workplace from both perspectives, they hold the key to its biases.” Very interesting. -Ed.)

Ayn Rand’s Continued Influence Adds a Bizarre Twist to Conservative Politics. McMurry, E., AlterNet (Oct. 2014). (“Despite her clearly psychopathic theories and actions, she is still celebrated by leading right-wingers.”)

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POSTED NOTICE: Acquisition of links for the Palace Library does not imply the Palace’s 100% agreement with or endorsement of any content, organization or individual.

Recent reads.

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The Last Gasp of Climate Change Liberals. Hedges, C., Truthdig (Aug. 2014). [h/t SJ]

Errors and Emissions: Could Fighting Global Warming Be Cheap and Free? Krugman, P., The New York Times (Sep. 2014).

The Coming Climate Revolt. Hedges, C., Truthdig (Sep. 2014).

A Guide for Men with Good Intentions. xenologer,  Dissent of a Woman (Aug. 2012).

White Fragility. DiAngelo, R., International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, Vol 3 (3) (2011). (pdf)

The racial divide in America’s gun deaths. Ferdman, R.A., The Washington Post (Sep. 2014).

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NOTE: The acquisition of links for the Library does not imply the Palace’s 100% agreement with or endorsement of any content, organization, source or individual.

America’s Owners accelerate ownership of Congress.

WaPo reports on the uptick in wealthy donor contributions to candidates and PACs since the Supreme Court Injustices did away with individual limits in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission:

Together, 310 donors gave a combined $11.6 million more by this summer than would have been allowed before the ruling. Their contributions favored Republican candidates and committees over Democratic ones by 2 to 1.

Uh-oh! You know what that means: we “leftee” gazillionairez can haz moar konservativ demacratz nao plz.

“I would think everybody would be for more money in politics like I am, because we’re just spreading speech” -Shaun McCutcheon, the chief executive of an Alabama electrical engineering firm who brought the Supreme Court case.

Sure! Everybody! Well, except perhaps the vast majority of Americans who have no fucking money to buy congresscritters—and who, by Mr. McCutcheon’s and the Supreme Court’s “money is speech” decree, are for all intents and purposes silenced.

wealthdistributionpiechart14Have a nice day.