Thursday funnies.

Voter ID Supporter Asa Hutchison Forgets To Bring His ID To The Polls – See more at: http://www.opposingviews.com/i/politics/voter-id-supporter-asa-hutchison-forgets-bring-his-id-polls#sthash.obouSX0D.dpuf

Who needs comedians when you can just read headlines?

Voter ID Supporter Asa Hutchison Forgets To Bring His ID To The Polls – See more at: http://www.opposingviews.com/i/politics/voter-id-supporter-asa-hutchison-forgets-bring-his-id-polls#sthash.obouSX0D.dpuf

Voter ID Supporter Asa Hutchison Forgets To Bring His ID To The Polls.

But it was all good, see, because he sent a staffer to go get his ID so he could vote. You know, like everyone can. It’s really nothing more than a minor inconvenience, people: you just send your staff to go pick up your ID! Duh. And as we all know, voter ID laws are absolutely necessary to address the huge problem of voter fraud that is ruining our great democracy.

The House Science Committee Has Held More Hearings on Aliens Than on Climate Change.

Those would be space aliens.

China sees US hypocrisy in snooping on foreign firms:
NSA admits that local laws are no obstacle.

Here is Attorney General Eric Holder announcing the U.S. indictments of Chinese officials on espionage charges:

“Success in the global marketplace should be based solely on a company’s ability to innovate and compete, not on a sponsor government’s ability to spy and steal business secrets,” [Attorney General Eric] Holder said, emphasizing that U.S. surveillance and spying is not used for commercial purposes.

Hahaha. Sure.

China’s State Internet Information Office likened the U.S. actions to “a thief yelling ‘Catch the thief.’”

Hugh Jackman dressed as Wolverine for Halloween, and nobody noticed.

Mr. Jackman lives in my neighborhood. I sometimes run into him at brunch. He is warm and polite in person, and will totally move his stuff off that bar stool next to him and let me sit there if I ask him. If I saw someone dressed as Wolverine in my neighborhood, I would naturally assume it was indeed Hugh Jackman, approach him, and then say something to embarrass myself like “OMG! Remember me from that time I asked if you needed that bar stool and you said no and totally moved your stuff?”

Louie Gohmert (R-TX): 3-year-old immigrants don’t deserve legal status if they can’t pay taxes.

What.

Goat in a wheelchair: Frostie the snow goat walking thanks to Edgar’s Mission.

Now there’s something you don’t see every day. [WARNING: lethal levels of cute.]

Bacteria live even in healthy placentas, says study.

Good to know. [WARNING: picture of a placenta.]

Jennifer Lawrence: Miley Cyrus told me to ‘get it together’ after I vomited in front of her at Oscars after-party

Oh man, I hate when that shit happens. I’m always like, Miley, mind your own fucking business, okay? I’m trying to puke in peace on Madonna’s porch.

Superbug threat as grave as climate change, say scientists.
Superbugs resistant to drugs pose a serious worldwide threat and demand a response on the same scale as efforts to combat climate change, infectious disease specialists said on Thursday
.

A response on the same scale as efforts to combat climate change, huh? So… basically, not taking any meaningful action whatsoever? Well that seems eminently doable.

Wait, I take it back. Here’s a comedian as good as these headlines. Enjoy.

Sad, sad day for Alan Grayson fans.

[TRIGGER WARNING: discussion of allegations of domestic violence.]

Before I start drinking today because I am not yet able to process—much less coherently write about—the news of Congressman Alan Grayson being accused of violently assaulting his wife (the couple recently separated), I just want to download some thoughts here. 

All the facts are not in yet. But regardless of the truth or falsity of these serious allegations, this is a sad, sad day for Alan Grayson fans. And a very good day for shitweasels like Fox “News” and Nicholas Ruiz III.

I had not previously known that the congressman and his wife separated in January, or if I was aware it did not register: frankly it’s none of anyone’s concern but his and his family’s. With all the gossipy conjecture and repulsive panty sniffing swirling around the story, however, I am sorry to say that my own mind apparently could not help but spin a few wild and wildly irresponsible conjectures of its own: namely, that if there were an affair or sexual indiscretion at the root of the Graysons’ breakup, it was a deliberate setup—not by Republicans, but by the DCCC.

This would have no bearing on the domestic violence allegations, of course. Just contemplating all of this has left me as triggered as I am heartbroken.

Everyone in the entire Grayson universe—Ms. Grayson, the couple’s children, extended family, close friends, and the congressman himself—has our deepest sympathies at this difficult time. Family breakups are gut-wrenching and horrendous, regardless of the circumstances surrounding them. To endure any of this under the searing spotlight of a 24/7 media shitstorm… well, if you’re looking for me I’ll be at the bar sobbing into my drink.

Chris Hedges is making sense.

Sometimes the author, journalist and activist Chris Hedges makes no sense. Sometimes he is…I’m sorry, there’s just no better way to put this: unhinged. Other people have responded appropriately on those occasions so I need not bother to do so here, except to note that it is a confounding exercise to juxtapose the author of those screeds with the writer who can so skeptically and eloquently demolish the dogma pervading our national discourse to write this. But when he is making sense, the truth is that Chris Hedges is impressive as hell. In a 7-part series for Reality Asserts Itself, a new show for The Real News.com, Paul Jay interviews Hedges in-depth. It is well worth watching.

What comes across immediately is that he’s really bright. I also came away with a better understanding of the hold that religious ideas seem to have on him. He’s a genuinely compassionate person (if occasionally a bit sanctimonious), and during his formative years his father, an outspoken Christian minister and activist, engaged in some extraordinary social justice work. Perhaps the idea that morality is grounded in the so-called “spiritual” realm was modeled for him so powerfully that it fused to his self-identity as a moral person. Who knows. But at least he doesn’t rail on us nasty atheists in this interview.

Here are few choice quotes I transcribed from Part 4:

Appealing to the better nature of the Democratic Party I can assure you is not going to work.

I’ve covered totalitarian states all over the world, and they all have elections.

The point is to build organizations that make the power elite frightened of us.

It’s just a game. Because whether it’s Bush or whether it’s Obama, Goldman Sachs wins. Always. There is no way to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs.

Speak it, brother Chris.

The interview ends with his response to a viewer question:

Q. Congress seems a wholly owned subsidiary of the multinationals. Obama is pimping for GE in Africa. The Koch brothers have made a downpayment on the Supreme Court. Money will control the next federal election, and most of the state elections. Is there any scenario you see that will return this government to the people?

A. Mass protests that begin to scare the hell out of these people, and begin to disrupt systems that they care about. That really is the only solution.

I think they’re very fragile. I think internally they know how corrupt they are—which is why they passed the NDAA, because they want to be able to put the military on the streets. Because I think ultimately they don’t trust the police to protect them. And those are the sentiments of a dying elite.

So I think when we begin to organize against all the formal structures of power, I think that they may crumble as the Stasi state in East Germany, which, when I was in East Germany, appeared monolithic. [It] fell in about a week. And it fell in a week because Erich Honecker, the dictator for 19 years, sent an elite paratrooper division down to Leipzig to fire on 70,000 demonstrators, and they refused to do it… In the same way that the Tzar sent the Cossacks in to crush the Petrograd bread riots, and they fraternized with the crowd. Both Honecker and the Tzar only lasted another week in power. Once the foot soldiers of the elite will not protect the elite, they’re done.

And that’s why we have to be nonviolent. Because ultimately what we are doing is trying to create a paralysis within systems of power, whereby we speak truth, we appeal to conscience, we expose corruption, fraud, lies by those in power, so that when those forces are called into the street to stop us, they refuse to do so. That’s how all revolutions happen. And that’s really in the end what I’m calling for. I’m calling for the overthrow of this system. Let me say that again for Homeland Security: that’s what I’m doing. And I’m calling for it through nonviolent means, through mass protests. Because as a father of four children, I know that if we don’t stop these forces, they will kill us. They will destroy the ecosystem on which the human species and my children will depend for their life. And that is really the stakes that lie before us, and why there is an imperative for all of us to take risks. I don’t like going to jail, as I have. Going to jail is more time than I care to donate to my government. But it really is the only option left. Because if we fail at this, then it’s not just this particular civilization that will be extinguished, but human habitation.

*applause*

I hope Chris Hedges gives more interviews. It’s a format that really does him justice.

Here is Part 1:

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Rock Star Blogger Breaks NSA Story, Hilarity Ensues.

[UPDATED below.]

Longtime Loyal Readers™ will surely recall vividly that thrilling occasion back in 2010 wherein we met one of our most admired heroes, blogger and author Glenn Greenwald (although readers will hopefully not recall the embarrassing spectacle we made of ourselves when we did). We are pleased to note that in intervening years since Mr. Greenwald won the highly coveted Perry Street Palace Major Award for Rock Star Blogger of the Day™, he has published another book, moved from Salon.com to a more influential platform at The Guardian, been targeted in a nefarious plot by America’s Owners and their loyal servants in the U.S. Department of Justice for the crime of writing blog posts in support of Wikileaks, and broken an extraordinary story just this week about government spying on Americans — which story is presently splashed across the front pages of newspapers such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and probably countless other publications that we never read. (I know what you’re thinking, and yes: we humbly accept full credit for all of Mr. Greenwald’s journalistic accomplishments over the past few years, and are just so pleased that by bestowing him with our highly coveted Major Award we were able to give him the bump of confidence and exposure he needed at the time to make his way to such well-deserved prominence and respectability.)

It is true that there are many serious allegations of governmental wrongdoing revealed by the leaked documents disclosing the NSA’s huge dragnet of virtually all American electronic communications and the FISA court order requiring that Verizon provide the government with all of their customers’ call data over a three month period. None of this will be particularly surprising to anyone who regularly follows electronic privacy or government surveillance issues. But what is inexcusably and glaringly absent in the mainstream coverage we’ve seen is anyone pointing out the sheer comic absurdity of it all. And that, my beloved readers, is something the Palace shall attempt to remedy forthwith.

The National Security Agency’s Top Secret document detailing its collection of the communications of American citizens is certainly disturbing. For one thing, the PowerPoint presentation leaked to the Perry Street Palace Major Award Winner for Rock Star Blogger of the Day™ appears to be a tool used to train intelligence professionals on the capabilities of a creepy and previously undisclosed surveillance program called PRISM. It reveals that the NSA — a military agency — has direct access to stored communications as well as real-time data collection capability on all of the systems of Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, YouTube, Skype, AOL, Apple and Microsoft, which, by the way, is currently running an ad campaign with the slogan “Your privacy is our priority.” (Hahaha. You cannot make this shit up.)

The multi-gazillion dollar, lawless, unconstitutional and unaccountable surveillance state implemented under Bush and expanded under Obama is not exactly news to readers of this blog, and certainly not news to readers of the Washington Post’s excellent series Top Secret America, in which we learned that “Nine years after the terrorist attacks of 2001, the United States is assembling a vast domestic intelligence apparatus to collect information about Americans, using the FBI, local police, state homeland security offices and military criminal investigators.” Since then we have learned of extensive domestic military drone operations (EFF even provides a helpful interactive map. NEATO!), discovered that the Department of Homeland Security spies on and disrupts nonviolent Occupy protests, that the FBI knew of a plot to kill Occupy activists and remained silent about it (yay for massive surveillance! Keeping Us Safe, motherfuckers!), that Occupy protesters are classified as “terrorists” by law enforcement, that the NYPD goes undercover to spy on liberal groups that oppose U.S. economic policy, immigration policy, labor laws, racial profiling and/or unconditional support for Israel, and that they also intensely surveilled local Muslim communities in six year exercise which led to exactly zero leads. Congress, needless to say, has remained stalwart and unwavering in its support for all of that: these fine representatives of We The People can only muster the courage to act in fearless, unanimous solidarity when outraged U.S. business travelers (and they themselves) are terribly, terribly inconvenienced by airline flight delays.

But all of that is just old news now. *yawn* BOOOOORING! (I just told my bartender I was writing today about the NSA scandal. He said, “How is this news?” He probably is a Longtime Loyal Reader™ of my blog reads Glenn Greenwald.)

But none of that sheds any light on the most surprising and disturbing aspect of these new revelations. I think you know exactly what I’m talking about, people. Yes, that’s right: the NSA’s abominable PowerPoint slides [TRIGGER WARNING for violent visual assault]:

NSAslides

AGHH! Four of the leaked NSA slides. We’d Google the other 37, but…why? WHY?! WHAT I DON’T EVEN.

BREAKING: Just as we were drinking the afternoon away diligently working on this piece, it came to our attention (via Wonkblog) that the Washington Post’s Dylan Matthews had just twenty minutes earlier reported on “The real NSA scandal? The horrible slides.” He notes that that some d00d named Edward Tufte, a “Yale political scientist and data visualization guru” (whatever that is…) tweeted about the NSA’s horrific PowerPoint file last night:

tuftetweet

“Dreadful spy-PRISM deck sets new record for most header logos per slide: 13″

Which tweet Mr. Tufte followed shortly thereafter with this one:

tuftetweet2

“PRISM “providers”: classic PPT statistical graphic: 13 logos, 10 numbers, 9 bubbles, 1 giant green arrow.”

While I am sure that the opinion of some “Yale political scientist and data visualization guru” (?!!!) may be considered respectable in certain circles (*eyeroll*), it will not surprise readers to learn that once upon a time, Your Humble Monarch™ was rather well known among “certain circles” herself as The Priestess of PowerPoint™. Truth be told, our mad skillz are still in demand to this very day by VIP patrons for client presentations, graphics for trial exhibits and legal briefs, etc. (It turns out that working for The Man pays very, very well. It also turns out that I can make PowerPoint dance on a dime without breaking a sweat, or even bothering to open both of my eyelids. Animation. Streaming audio and video. Custom graphics. “WHATEVER YOU NEED, BOSS!”) So with all due respect to Mr. Tufte’s observations regarding the NSA’s 13 header logos, 10 numbers, 9 bubbles and big giant green arrows, I submit that he has not even scratched the surface of the numerous crimes against humanity — or at least against humanity’s eyeballs — on display in this slide deck. For example:

nsaslidecolor

This is not a color. DO NOT GO THERE. Especially if it is necessary for some reason to incorporate on the same slide an enormous, hideous array of red, white, blue and/or black logos.

nsaslide3

Here, we see an oddly-shaped, green-colored arrow pointing upward for no discernible reason (except maybe to indicate AMERICA! FUCK YEAH!), pocked with yellow lemons, each indicating the name and date that various service providers forked over to the feds complete access to everything we do online.

SSOlogoSpeaking of logos, this just might be the most craptastic thing I have ever seen (and that is saying something, my friends), for more reasons than one. First, there’s the shit-colored stork/eagle/batweasel/whatever delivering the bundled baby Earth. It looks like something right out of a South Park episode — and not in a good way. Then there’s the whole Superheros Hall of Justice vibe with the ponderous-sounding SPECIAL SOURCE OPERATIONS. And what, you might be asking yourself right about now, the hell is that? According to WaPo, it is “the seal of Special Source Operations, the NSA term for alliances with trusted U.S. companies.” Trusted? So: we pay these companies for their services with our post-tax dollars, and on top of that we pay related fees and all sorts of other taxes to the government — and this is the logo they come up with for spying on us. Joke’s on us, people!

prismlogoAnd I would be remiss if I did not mention the logo for the PRISM program itself. The shape may be reminiscent of an infant’s plastic keyring toy, but make no mistake: this infant’s plastic key is badass, black-hat, jet black.

WaPo helpfully informs us that the program is called PRISM “after the prisms used to split light, which is used to carry information on fiber-optic cables…” …right into the gaping maw of the Eeeevil Fascists of Herbert Hoover’s FBI! It’s like we’re living in a weird old James Bond movie, although unfortunately not one with Daniel Craig running around shirtless in it. Wisely, I think, the PRISM logo incorporates a rainbow triangle. Get it? Light-splitting rainbow prisms. Take that,  Wikileaks, Anonymous and Occupy people! You might as well just pack it in now, in the face of the awesome logo that is… PRISM.

occupyanonymouswikileakscompositelogos

Weak sauce. Some people better up their game. ‘Swut I’m sayin’.

But the visuals don’t begin to cover the hilarity. There was Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Efense Contractors), who yawningly quipped that the leaked FISA court order appeared to be a matter of routine reauthorization. “As far as I know,” she said — and as the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, she certainly would know — “this is an exact three-month renewal of what has been the case for the past seven years…Therefore, it is lawful. It has been briefed to Congress.” Translation: “Ho-hum. I knew about this all along, I secured retroactive immunity for the multiple felonies committed by Verizon and the Bush Administration, and therefore everything is peachy. NOTHING TO SEE HERE, PEOPLE.”

And speaking of Senators, this little gem made me snort my drink through my nose:

“If we don’t do it,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, “we’re crazy.”

This is the same Senator Lindsey Graham who has called for a pre-emptive military strike to “neuter” Iran, accused Hillary Clinton of murder, and said — apparently in all seriousness — that “President Bush has shown great leadership.” You can peruse for yourself Sen. Graham’s right-wing voting record in all of its resplendent misogyny, derangement and sociopathy here, but I have to admit one of the headings at that link gave me the giggles:

lindsaygrahamondrugs

“✭ Lindsey Graham on Drugs ✭”

Soon after The Guardian’s disclosure, the chairman of the oxymoronic “House Intelligence Committee” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-eptile) rushed to claim in a news conference that the surveillance program helped stop a “significant domestic terrorist attack” at some undefined time in the last couple years, but he declined to provide any details. Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper issued a statement on Wednesday, saying “information collected under this program is among the most important and valuable foreign intelligence information we collect, and is used to protect our nation from a wide variety of threats.” My typically measured and carefully thought out response to these esteemed gentlemen is as follows:

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! YOU GUYS ARE FUCKING HILARIOUS! 

postheadlinebostonattack

New York Post cover, Tuesday April 16, 2013: “TERROR Bombs rock Boston Marathon.”

In a wild coincidence, that would be the exact same Director of National Intelligence, James R. Clapper, who just a few weeks ago lied in testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee by denying that the NSA conducted surveillance of American citizens on U.S. soil:

SEN. RON WYDEN: “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”

JAMES R. CLAPPER: “No, sir.”

OMFG you guys! These clowns crack me right up! Here’s Director of National Intelligence Clapper perjuring himself in testimony before the U.S. Senate! I know, right? That’s a federal crime punishable by fines and up to five years in prison! And, well, we all know how seriously the Unites States Congress takes even the merest whiff of perjury. (Unfortunately, that mean old Sen. Feinstein is probably conspiring right this minute to deny us this entertaining spectacle by retroactively immunizing Mr. Clapper, for any thing he ever did or said in the past or might possibly do or say in the future, provided Ms. Feinstein is fully briefed on the matter. SHE IS NO FUN AT ALL.)

You have to admit, the whole racket really is ingenious, isn’t it?

Here’s a fun little factoid about the surveillance laws:

When the FAA was first enacted, defenders of the statute argued that a significant check on abuse would be the NSA’s inability to obtain electronic communications without the consent of the telecom and internet companies that control the data. But the PRISM program renders that consent unnecessary, as it allows the agency to directly and unilaterally seize the communications off the companies’ servers.

Don’t be silly, all you paranoid un-American critics! It’s not like the NSA will ever in a million years get telecom and internet companies to just fork over all of their customers emails, video and voice chats, photos, logins, file transfers and social networking details! WHAT LOSERS!

The New York Times also ran an accompanying article today about Perry Street Palace Major Award Winner for Rock Star Blogger of the Day™ Glenn Greenwald, personally. It was fairly respectful and largely flattering (unless you think “gay” is an insult in which case wow are you ever at the wrong blog). Still, the Times could not resist letting in a few snipes from critics, including this snide little quip from blogger Andrew Sullivan:

“I think he has little grip on what it actually means to govern a country or run a war. He’s a purist in a way that, in my view, constrains the sophistication of his work.”

Sullivan would know about sophistication: having never governed a country or run “a war” himself, he is, after all, a practicing Catholic who fancies himself perfectly rational. I think this must be a lot like that “sophisticated theology” I’m always hearing so much about, but I, of course, am way too unsophisticated to understand.

Finally, The Times quoted one Gabriel Schoenfeld, a “national security expert” and senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, who called Greenwald, “a highly professional apologist for any kind of anti-Americanism no matter how extreme.”

Yes, yes indeed. The reason bloggers like Glenn Greenwald write so passionately about the illegal, immoral and unconstitutional wrongdoings of the U.S. government— in this case risking arrest and prosecution to do so — is because he’s…un-American.

Same reason we do it too, really.

LMAO.

__________

UPDATE: Via kade ellis on Twitter last night came a link to a post on privacysos pointing readers toward a Reddit comment, with the statement:

What follows should be required reading for anyone who says they are willing to give up their privacy in exchange for promises of security.

It’s excellent and should be read in its entirety, but here are a few passages that really stuck with me:

I live in a country generally assumed to be a dictatorship. One of the Arab spring countries. I have lived through curfews and have seen the outcomes of the sort of surveillance now being revealed in the US.

 

the purpose of this surveillance from the governments point of view is to control enemies of the state. Not terrorists. People who are coalescing around ideas that would destabilize the status quo. These could be religious ideas. These could be groups like anon who are too good with tech for the governments liking. It makes it very easy to know who these people are. It also makes it very simple to control these people.

The only difference here is that in a dictatorship, the state itself is the entity whose interests are paramount. In our de facto oligarchy, the state is the instrument of America’s Owners. They are the benefactors of the status quo, from which they are profiting quite handsomely (they thrive on perpetual war and economic conservatism, which is why leftism is perceived as a threat). From the perspective of the ordinary citizen under either system, however, the oppression of a surveillance state operates in exactly the same way.

Wut up.

I find myself staring at a smattering of open browser tabs, each a reminder of a subject I had intended to write about this week.  Some of these tabs have been open so long now, I get the distinct impression they are purposefully mocking me and daring me to do something about it: you know, like, actually write something.  But when I reviewed them this morning, I realized the sources speak perfectly well for themselves.  There really is no need for some smart-ass blogger to pretend she has anything to contribute whatsoever.  So without further ado, I bring you:

IRIS’S OPEN BROWSER TABS.

A Frontline report, The Untouchables, investigates why there have been no prosecutions of Wall Street criminals.

__________

The Truth About the Deficit : It’s Not Very Big, And There’s Only One Way To Close It.  (See also: Deficit Hawks Down, a good piece by Paul Krugman.)

__________

UN launches inquiry into drone killings:

The inquiry will assess the extent of civilian casualties, the identity of militants targeted and the legality of strikes where there is no UN recognition of a conflict.

Some kinds of drone attacks – in particular “double tap” strikes where rescuers attending a first blast become victims of a second – could constitute a war crime…

__________

A Rape a Minute, a Thousand Corpses a Year: Hate Crimes in America (and Elsewhere).  I have a love/hate relationship with Rebecca Solnit’s writing.  For example, words cannot express the depth of my contempt for her grotesquely ill-informed condescension to lefties who do not partake of the Obama/Democratic Party KoolAid.  But this piece is outstanding, and deserves the widest possible audience.

__________

This piece by Julian Assange is from late November, but I had not seen it until recently.  It details quite explicitly the machinations of the U.S. government, as revealed by the State Department cables allegedly leaked by Bradley Manning and published by Wikileaks over the last two years.  Assange:

It is the case that WikiLeaks’ publications can and have changed the world, but that change has clearly been for the better. Two years on, no claim of individual harm has been presented, and the examples above clearly show precisely who has blood on their hands.

Indeed.  When U.S. foreign policy routinely includes war crimes, cover-ups, lies to the citizenry both here and abroad, support for death squads and brutal anti-democratic regimes, corruption, rendition for torture, and the deaths of untold numbers of civilians and children — to say nothing of dead, maimed, and psychologically destroyed American soldiers — the American public should damn well know the truth.  As you read it, consider whose interests U.S. foreign policy serves.  (SPOILER ALERT:  It is not We the People.)

__________

On a somewhat related note, here is a good Citizen Radio interview of former CIA officer John Kiriakou.  He has just been sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison for blowing the whistle on CIA torture, the latest casualty of President Obama’s unprecedented war on whistleblowers.  To date, no one who created, directed or participated in the U.S. torture regime has been charged by the DOJ with any crime.

__________

My WordPress stats page (which I cannot link you to) helpfully informs me that one of the week’s top search terms that brought people to the Palace is this:

it’s large phallus thrust deep into her virgin womb

I don’t really know what to say about that, except to point out for the sake of accuracy that a womb is a uterus, where no phallus should be found thrusting.  Like, EVAR.

__________

Finally, tomorrow is a travel day for me: I will be heading to London for a week.  Longtime Loyal Readers™ may recall my last trip to that lovely city, and the resulting groundbreaking journalism for which the Palace is deservedly renowned.  Our fearless and intrepid investigation into the pie-facing of Rupert Murdoch and the British government’s strategic response thereto still stands to this day as one of our proudest accomplishments.  Look for upcoming London dispatches — well, assuming the hotel wifi doesn’t suck.

In no uncertain terms: Israel and Gaza.

We are hardly deaf to the prominent voices of the liberal blogosphere; neither are we oblivious to their critics on the left.  In particular, writers who consistently offered scathing condemnation of evil policies enacted during the Bush administration lost all credibility when they utterly failed to criticize the same evil policies under Obama — or worse, began defending them.  I still read some of those writers, but with a jaundiced eye:  I find that they frequently make insightful or informative points, but since 2009 I am no longer under the illusion that these are people who object to evil on principle.  Put another way, I may visit their Palaces from time to time but I would never trust them with the keys to my own.  Or with children.

And so it was that I came across David O. Atkins’ recent piece at digby’s blog, which I read with accelerating horror and disgust.  Although he does not deign to say it, it was written in response to this post by Chris Floyd (whose Palace we find very much to our liking, and would not fear for the safety of any small children residing there).  The good Mr. Floyd had written about the deafening silence of leading progressive bloggers on the slaughter in Gaza, which I excerpt here at some length (although I urge you to go read the whole thing):

It sure was a quiet weekend in the progressive blogosphere, where peace, justice and the alleviation of human suffering is an earnest, burning concern. At Eschaton, Atrios gave an amiable shrug and declared, “I got nothing to say.” Digby and her co-pilot, David Atkins, did have a few things to say – about Sarah Palin, General Pants-Down Petraeus, the grubby “Grand Bargaining” in the Beltway, and several examples of the stupidity and perfidy of right-wing Republicans. The posters at Daily Kos plied the same themes.

But even for those who didn’t got nothing to say, it was all very much in a low-key, mopping-up, post-election mode. It seemed as if there were no major news events going on anywhere in the world that involved the violent, unjust infliction of human suffering, with the direct monetary, military and political support of United States government and its entire bipartisan political and media establishments. Nothing that might grab the attention — even in passing — of writers publicly and professionally dedicated to discussing and analyzing major news events involving American policy, politics and the media.

Anything like that going on this weekend? Anyone? Digby, Dave? No? Kos and the gang? Anything? Atrios?

Nope. They got nothing.

Not on Friday. Not on Saturday. Not by Sunday evening (as I write this).

If you were a follower of many of the major “progressive” bloggers, you could have passed the weekend blissfully unaware that the American-armed, American-backed Israeli military was busily raining death into the cramped and crowded concentration camp of Gaza. Children dying, old people being blown to bits in their houses, the Israeli government ordering a massive call-up of troops and reserves for a possible invasion; top officials from Egypt and Tunisia flying into the besieged camp to show solidarity, mass demonstrations across the Middle East, some meeting with violent repression, others threatening to escalate into revolutionary outpourings. On every side: death, turmoil, suffering, chaos, whole nations in ferment — and Barack Obama standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Benjamin Netanyahu in defending assassination, aggression and the bombardment of defenseless civilians with massive military force.

As everyone reading this well knows, the Palace currently operates as a strictly VIP operation:  Many Tens of Loyal Readers™ do not an A-List progressive blogger make.  (We prefer to think of our readership as exceptionally discerning.)  Still, we were more than a little stung by Floyd’s criticism.  After all, we too had remained silent.

Not out of cowardice or amoral indifference mind you, but at least in part from sheer, wanton laziness exacerbated by our rather notorious capriciousness — which vices look positively virtuous next to the aforementioned failings, I would add in my defense.  Nor did I avoid the topic of Gaza out of a sense of complicit guilt.  Such guilt, I strongly suspect, accounts for the silence on the part of Atkins, Kos, and the rest of the A-list prog bloggers who actively campaigned to reelect Barack Obama.  But as Loyal Readers know, I did not vote for Barack Obama.  Indeed, I deployed every weapon in the Palace arsenal in an effort to convince others to desert him in droves.  And I hope that this is not interpreted as some smug sense of vindication on my part, but in that series of posts (and elsewhere) I have said all I could think of to say about the unconscionable evil that is U.S. foreign policy, under Bush and now Obama.  Watching it play out this week in Gaza (again) I noted with a grave weariness that the details change, but the story arc never does.  Nor, apparently, does the blood-soaked self-deceit of the American public.  I do not feel vindicated:  I feel saddened, sickened, and, more troubling to me than anything else, resigned.  That is about as uninspired a state in which a writer can find herself.  And so I remained silent — or perhaps more accurately, distracted myself with other topics.  But whatever one might say of my motives, there is no denying this fact:  instead of opining on the American-armed, American-backed Israeli military busily raining death into the cramped and crowded concentration camp that is Gaza, I chose to write an insufferably long post about Conservative Personality Disorder and my theory that a hierarchical worldview is the nexus between fiscal and social conservatism.  And then I threw a fucking birthday party for Voltaire.

And so I will remedy my omission now.

I do not support Israeli actions against Palestinians.  One of those two groups is an impoverished, oppressed minority whose lands were (and are presently being) forcibly taken from them and whose children are stunted from malnutrition due to years of punishing sanctions following a victory by Hamas in a democratic election; the other one is a theocracy backed to the hilt by American military power.  And if there is one thing I hate, it’s a goddamn theocracy with heavy artillery.

The notion that Israel is acting in self defense is a lie so enormous it would be hilarious if it were not so deadly.  Look at this map [h/t born on the wrong continent]:

How does a defensive action result in the total conquest of someone else’s lands? The answer is that it does not. Israel is the aggressor. The maps of Israel then and now prove it. [source]

I have no love for Hamas, which desires nothing more than its own theocracy with heavy artillery (and as I believe we’ve already established, I fucking hate those).  I am certainly no fan of rockets being rained on Israeli civilians, and I condemn such actions by Palestinians or anyone else.  But I simply cannot bear Barack Obama, a unanimous U.S. Congress, and the entire U.S. media establishment deliberately ignoring the fact that those rockets were not unprovoked:  on November 14, Israeli forces assassinated Ahmed Jabari, the very Hamas minister with whom Israel had been negotiating a long-term peace agreement via a backdoor channel.  (Jabari was killed in a targeted airstrike that took out a bunch of innocent civilians too, including the 11-month old son of a BBC cameraman.)  As Chris Floyd put it:

In other words, the Netanyahu government deliberately scuttled a deal which would have provided exactly what it says it is seeking. They knew the assassination would kill the deal; they knew it would provoke violent relatiation.

I found illuminating this Op-Ed in The New York Times by Gershon Baskin, who with the knowledge of Israeli security officials had been crafting the negotiated proposal for a long-term cease-fire with Jabari (via an intermediary, the deputy foreign minister of Hamas) at the time he was killed:

In the draft, which I understand Mr. Jabari saw hours before he was killed, it was proposed that Israeli intelligence information transmitted through the Egyptians would be delivered to Mr. Jabari so that he could take action aimed at preventing an attack against Israel.

Moreover, it included the understanding that if Israel were to take out a real ticking bomb — people imminently preparing to launch a rocket — such a strike would not be considered a breach of the cease-fire and would not lead to escalation.

Instead, Mr. Jabari is dead — and with him died the possibility of a long-term cease-fire. Israel may have also compromised the ability of Egyptian intelligence officials to mediate a short-term cease-fire and placed Israel’s peace treaty with Egypt at risk.

This was not inevitable, and cooler heads could have prevailed. Mr. Jabari’s assassination removes one of the more practical actors on the Hamas side.

More from Baskin:

This war is being presented in Israel, once again, as a war of “no choice.” The people of Israel are rallying around the flag as would be expected anywhere in the world. The United States government has voiced its support of the Israeli operation by stating, “Israel has the full right to defend itself and protect its citizens.” It certainly does, but we must ask whether there is another way to achieve the same goal without the use of force.

And if we are not @$$holes, we must also ask why Israel has a right to defend itself but Palestinians do not.

Unlike David Atkins, I do not give a flying fuck if I am deemed a vicious anti-semitic terrorist enabler (or worse) for saying this:  I stand squarely on the side of all of the world’s children and its innocent civilians — and the government of Israel is the belligerent, bellicose aggressor in the region.  Just like its big, bullying brother, the United States government, which endorses and enables all of it.

But of everything related to the story I so shamelessly avoided writing about this week, this little nugget absolutely takes the cake:

Barack Obama: “There’s no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders.”

Well, except maybe for Yemen.  Oh, and Somalia.  And Pakistan.  Afghanistan.  Libya. And now, apparently, Gaza.

RAGESOB.

Pernicious powers.

I’ve written before about the collective pants-wetting I witnessed in the months and years after 9/11.  I watched with abject horror as the citizens in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave — freedom-loving liberals and government-intrusion-hating conservatives alike — meekly acquiesced to one abridgment of their constitutional rights after another, all justified by the highly dubious rationale of “Keeping Us Safe.”  With the creation of the DHS, the principled, “small-government” conservatives in the Bush/Cheney administration and the Republican-controlled Congress were responsible for the largest expansion of the Federal government in history.  The abominable Patriot Act continues to be renewed with broad bipartisan support, and a secret, sprawling, massive, unaccountable Surveillance State now has its tentacles in virtually every American’s private life.  The system has a perfect, self-sustaining justification:  if there are no (Islamist) terror attacks on American soil, then it is credited for Keeping Us Safe and must be perpetuated.  If on the other hand there are (Islamist) terror attacks on American soil, then obviously we need to expand funding for more of it.

I said screamed then as I say again now: the rights we relinquish to the government will never be restored, and the power that we grant to it will never be relinquished.  I was (and still am) incredulous that any American in the 21st century could be so blindly gullible, so ignorant of all of history, to believe that secret surveillance programs, secret legal rationales, separate judicial systems, the militarization of the nation’s police forces, and a thousand other un-American abuses of power would only ever be used against Those Bad People.  Such powers are always —always — expanded beyond their intended limits, and abused for political purposes.

In addition to the NYPD infiltrating liberal groups and placing the expressly nonviolent Occupy movement under the purview of Counterterrorism Bureau’s Terrorism Threat Analysis Group, we have Glenn Greenwald reporting on the outrageous harassment and abuse to which U.S. citizens — who are suspected of no crime — are subjected upon returning from foreign trips by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP).

With no oversight or legal framework whatsoever, the Department of Homeland Security routinely singles out individuals who are suspected of no crimes, detains them and questions them at the airport, often for hours, when they return to the U.S. after an international trip, and then copies and even seizes their electronic devices (laptops, cameras, cellphones) and other papers (notebooks, journals, credit card receipts), forever storing their contents in government files. No search warrant is needed for any of this. No oversight exists. And there are no apparent constraints on what the U.S. Government can do with regard to whom it decides to target or why.

Lest you think these targets are all scary Muslims traveling back from madrassas in Pakistan, Glenn recounts the story of Laura Poitras, the Oscar-and Emmy-nominated documentary filmmaker and journalist, who has been continually subjected to unconscionable harassment virtually every time she returns to the United States.  Her first film, My Country, My Country, was released in 2006 and nominated for the 2007 Academy Award for Best Documentary.  According to Glenn, it “focused on a Sunni physician and 2005 candidate for the Iraqi Congress as he did things like protest the imprisonment of a 9-year-old boy by the U.S. military.” Her second, The Oath, chronicled the lives of two Yemenis caught up in America’s War on Terror, and won the award for Best Cinematography at the 2010 Sundance film festival.  Poitras is currently working on the final installment of her War on Terror trilogy:

As Poitras described it to me, this next film will examine the way in which The War on Terror has been imported onto U.S. soil, with a focus on the U.S. Government’s increasing powers of domestic surveillance, its expanding covert domestic NSA activities (including construction of a massive new NSA facility in Bluffdale, Utah), its attacks on whistleblowers, and the movement to foster government transparency and to safeguard Internet anonymity. In sum, Poitras produces some of the best, bravest and most important filmmaking and journalism of the past decade, often exposing truths that are adverse to U.S. government policy…
[Emphasis added.]

Oh, dear me.  Not truths!  How on Earth is the U.S. government supposed to conduct its secret, imperialist and counterproductive “wars” if Americans learn the truth about their actions?

Let’s look at what the U.S. government has been doing to Ms. Poitras, an American citizen suspected of no crime whatsoever:

Since the 2006 release of “My Country, My Country,” Poitras has left and re-entered the U.S. roughly 40 times. Virtually every time during that six-year-period that she has returned to the U.S., her plane has been met by DHS agents who stand at the airplane door or tarmac and inspect the passports of every de-planing passenger until they find her (on the handful of occasions where they did not meet her at the plane, agents were called when she arrived at immigration). Each time, they detain her, and then interrogate her at length about where she went and with whom she met or spoke.

She has had her laptop, camera and cellphone seized, and not returned for weeks, with the contents presumably copied. On several occasions, her reporter’s notebooks were seized and their contents copied, even as she objected that doing so would invade her journalist-source relationship. Her credit cards and receipts have been copied on numerous occasions. In many instances, DHS agents also detain and interrogate her in the foreign airport before her return, on one trip telling her that she would be barred from boarding her flight back home, only to let her board at the last minute. When she arrived at JFK Airport on Thanksgiving weekend of 2010, she was told by one DHS agent — after she asserted her privileges as a journalist to refuse to answer questions about the individuals with whom she met on her trip — that he “finds it very suspicious that you’re not willing to help your country by answering our questions.” They sometimes keep her detained for three to four hours (all while telling her that she will be released more quickly if she answers all their questions and consents to full searches).
[Emphasis in original.]

It is abundantly clear that Poitras is being targeted solely for her extraordinary film work and activism — which, last time I checked, are precisely the kinds of activities for which the United States Constitution ostensibly has a First Amendment. She has been reluctant to speak publicly, for fear doing so would further impede her ability to work and make matters worse, but an incident last week changed that:

On Thursday night, Poitras arrived at Newark International Airport from Britain. Prior to issuing her a boarding pass in London, the ticket agent called a Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agent (Yost) who questioned her about whom she met and what she did. Upon arriving in Newark, DHS/CBP agents, as always, met her plane, detained her, and took her to an interrogation room. Each time this has happened in the past, Poitras has taken notes during the entire process: in order to chronicle what is being done to her, document the journalistic privileges she asserts and her express lack of consent, obtain the names of the agents involved, and just generally to cling to some level of agency.

This time, however, she was told by multiple CBP agents that she was prohibited from taking notes on the ground that her pen could be used as a weapon. [She should have demanded a crayon. -Ed.] After she advised them that she was a journalist and that her lawyer had advised her to keep notes of her interrogations, one of them, CBP agent Wassum, threatened to handcuff her if she did not immediately stop taking notes. A CBP Deputy Chief (Lopez) also told her she was barred from taking notes, and then accused her of “refusing to cooperate with an investigation” if she continued to refuse to answer their questions (he later clarified that there was no “investigation” per se, but only a “questioning”).

Really, you should just go read the whole thing.  And then come back here and tell me who or what is going to Keep Us Safe from the U.S. government.

60 Minutes warns of the deadly, white powder. God hates figs. Media-bashing. Blasphemy. The top 0.001 throw their filthy lucre at the contemporary art market. All the usual gratuitous asides, including an F-bomb. And nuance . . . everything a loyal reader could hope for.

My brother is a smart, thoughtful and well-informed guy who just happens to agree with me on most issues, including nutrition and nutrition research. So this past Sunday night, on his advice, I watched 60 minutes – for the first time in more than ten years. Yes, 60 Minutes: that formulaic, infotainment, cash-cow icon that sets something of a standard for American TV journalism. Long after you and I have departed this veil of tears, when the iconic 60 Minutes finally succumbs to the total takeover of the medium by “reality” shows, the headstone should read, “Better than Fox News,” or maybe “Could’ve Been a Lot Worse.”

Reader challenge: I know you can do better . . .

Now for some perspective: It has been so long since I watched the show that I’ve forgotten the specific reasons it pissed me off, although I’m sure it came down to shoddy, careless, unreliable reporting. As in putting ratings, entertainment and profit ahead of in-depth, honest and responsible journalism. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but that’s the rule rather than the exception for commercial, mainstream media these days, especially when they try to cover demanding subjects such as, say, science. Or even really simple stuff like religion – you know, that hallowed, contrived institution that always gets a free pass from the free press. Free with the facts, that is.

Case in point: the bizarre mythology masquerading as historical fact in the dreary, annual, media-driven lead-up to Easter Sunday. You know, like, hey, let’s all of us exceptional Americans get all worked up and worshipful one more time and remember that God “died” for “our” sins! Damn thoughtful of Him/Them, don’t you think? I mean shit, He/They can do anything He/They wants/want, just with the snap of a metaphorical finger; so going through the motions of getting crucified must have really been a BIG DEAL for the Omnipotent Creator(s) of the Universe who somehow had to rest on the seventh day. Give me a fucking break.

While we’re on the subject of Easter, I never knew until yesterday how busy – and how pissed off – the Son of God was during those final few days. Did you know it was during that time frame when he drove the evil money changers out of the temple? Raised Lazarus from the dead? Dispatched an unlucky fig tree with a curse? Whatever happened to those magical powers when he needed a mere fig or two? And there’s quite a bit more to be learned in a very interesting take on those final days over at Edwin Kagin’s Blasphemous Blogging. Check it out, it’s well worth the trip. But as usual, I digress.

That Would be Most Helpful

Anyway, my last recollection of 60 Minutes was their mishandling of Bush’s National Guard coverup that culminated in Dan Rather’s firing. Not being able to prove their charges, 60 Minutes only succeeded in “validating,” at least in the impressionable minds of low-information voters, the right-wing claims of liberal bias in the media. (But we know, dear readers, that “reality has a well-known liberal bias,” as Steven Colbert so memorably, and correctly, said. Which means liberal bias is consistent with the traditional job description of a free press – something about the importance of discovering and publishing the truth. Lamentably, in this hyper-commercial, ratings- and profit-driven free-market era, that indispensable job description is honored more in the breach than the observance, particularly by Republicans.) Again, I digress.

Anyway, all their resources notwithstanding, 60 Minutes somehow succeeded against all odds in actually making Bush look better, in making it look as if the pampered, alcoholic, cocaine-snorting draft evader was the victim of a liberal smear campaign. Did that factor into the minds of undecided ignoramuses  voters enough to counteract the disgraceful Swift Boat tactics employed by the right? Way to go, 60 Minutes – you gave David Brooks an excuse to  write one of his patented false equivalence columns.

But hey, I’m not one to dwell on ancient history, so let’s fast-forward back to the present and last Sunday’s episode of 60 minutes. It was the segment titled Is Sugar Toxic? that my brother recommended, and after viewing it I’m passing his recommendation on to you. The gist was that sugar (fructose, really), in all its forms, is toxic to humans – a cause of or major contributor to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer! CBS even went out of house to secure the services of a highly-qualified correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta from CNN. The researchers Dr. Gupta interviewed offered up some persuasive evidence and altogether made a strong case that sugar consumption has caused a public health crisis. I was also impressed by how much scientific evidence they packed into a short, 15-minute segment. I urge you to watch it.

Then, for an entertaining change of pace and a glimpse of the ultra-rich at play, you might want to watch the segment titled Even in tough times, contemporary art sells, wherein Morley Safer reprises an infamous story he did about the art world almost 20 years ago. Warning: You’ll have to endure a Goldman Sachs commercial. Amazing, isn’t it, what can be done with millions of dollars?

So Typical

These bizarre claims demonizing The Affordable Care Act – Boehner called it “Armageddon” – are a perfect example of how Republican leaders speak on every subject. They have no interest in truth or even a semblance of accuracy. As someone, maybe Bill Maher, said, “They just make shit up” – whatever they think is going to play well with the nasty, mean-spirited, bigoted dittoheads that make up their base. They do the same thing with global warming, and now they’re demagoguing gas prices. They distort and lie about every issue, and they conspire to make sure they’re all repeating the same lies. Because even though they are always wrong about everything, when low-information citizens hear the same lies often enough, they believe them. And Fox News guarantees those lies will be played and replayed until their viewers have internalized them.

Is it really that simple? Yeah, people who believe Republigoons™ and their Ministry of Propaganda, Faux News, really are that simple. They want to hear what reinforces their biases, and the Ministry/Faux does not disappoint.

This isn’t politics, it’s a propaganda war. Unfortunately, only one side seems to realize it. So when liberals and moderates repeat right-wing lies in the process of refuting them with facts and reasoned arguments, guess what the net effect is? You can’t defeat mass propaganda with arguments appropriate to a scholarly debate; you defeat it with more effective framing of the issues, based in truth. (Don’t you hate it when Democrats are caught being deceptive, as happens far too frequently at FactCheck.org? Is it necessary for Dems to distort the facts? Doesn’t truth have a liberal bias?)

When the goal is persuasion, you must necessarily tailor the presentation to the audience; but if in the process you distort the facts, it will come out and the other side will be able to say, “See, they do it too,” or words to that effect. They would say that anyway, of course, but let’s not make it easy on them; and let’s not be truthful and accurate just because we might be caught – let’s do it because that’s who we are.

There’s just so much more liberals and moderates need to be doing to begin to reverse the right-wing tide. Paying more attention to the framing of our messages would be a good start.

About Scientism: “Seeing is Unbelieving”

A quick, high-yield read in the NY Times’ estimable Sunday Book Review today . . . well-written, insightful, nuanced, and informative – qualities all of us value and enjoy in an article. Back in the day I might have added, with a straight face, “fair and balanced.” But as you know, that perfectly legitimate phrase has been misappropriated and corrupted by the right-wing @$$holes at Faux News to the point that it may never be rehabilitated (except as a joke) in our lifetimes and to the lasting detriment of the American language.

I love science but not the smug pretentiousness of scientism. It is not helpful and reminds me of evangelicalism. It violates the cautious skepticism and the desire to get things right that lie at the heart of good science.

Phillip Kitcher is one impressive dude, and he gets it just right. IMHO, as always.