Conservatives love to vilify anyone who doesn't want to immediately throw down as "appeasers". But when you're dealing with terrorists whose aim is to bait us into overreaction, and you oblige them, aren't you the appeaser?
-- Bill Maher
This week's featured posts are "A Conservative Lexicon with English Translation" and "Classism and Corporal Punishment".
This week everybody was talking about Eric Holder
The Attorney General is retiring as soon as President Obama names and the Senate confirms a replacement. So this week was a time for retrospectives on Holder's tenure.
If you are liberal, you criticize Holder for not prosecuting fraud on Wall Street and failing to protect civil liberties against NSA snooping, but you admire his defense of voting rights against voter-suppression laws. If you're conservative, Holder is the villain of countless conspiracy theories like Fast & Furious, and you hate his defense of voting rights against voter-suppression laws.
One Holder policy is already showing results: This year the number of Americans in federal prison dropped for the first time since 1980. The U.S. incarceration rate "leads" all major nations (behind only Seychelles among countries of any sort) with 707 per 100K. Canada manages to avoid anarchy with only 118 inmates per 100K, so our rate could probably stand to come down.
If Republicans gain control of the Senate, confirming Holder's replacement could be a major headache, no matter who it is. Republicans are already raising the constitutionally bizarre idea that it would be illegitimate for the Senate to confirm Holder's replacement in the lame-duck session after the election.
Historically, cabinet appointments have been confirmed without much fanfare, unless some scandal is found in the appointee's background. Only during the Obama administration have appointments been contested in general, independent of the individual appointed. Compare, for example, President Bush's most difficult appointment: John Bolton as U. N. ambassador. Senate Democrats objected to Bolton personally, not to the idea of Bush appointing an ambassador to the U.N.
The air war against ISIS expanded to Syria this week. Vox observes:
This is a huge success for Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian leader has now convinced the world's most powerful country, which was threatening to bomb him just a year ago, to instead bomb his enemies. There is a strong indication that this was his plan all along.
And we also attacked a Syrian jihadist group not previously in the headlines: Khorasan, which the administration claims is plotting attacks inside the U.S.
Consensus opinion is that ISIS can't be defeated purely from the air; somebody is going to have to provide troops. The Kurdish Peshmerga is effective fighting force in the Kurdish region of Iraq, but it remains to be seen whether they will want to advance into Kurdish regions of eastern Syria ... or what will happen if they do. Kurdish unity and independence is one of the longstanding issues of the region, and our NATO ally Turkey is firmly against it.
and the fall election
Apparently Republicans believe women vote by falling in love with a dreamy candidate, rather than by thinking about issues like men do. At least, that's the image this ad presents: a young, pretty, woman of indeterminate race who's ready to "break up" with Obama and vote against "his friends" in 2014.
Naturally, the ad was created by one man (Rick Wilson) and paid for by another (John Jordan). Because who understands women better than men do, amirite? Joan Walsh calls it "condescending" and Vox finds it "weird". I wouldn't be surprised if more liberal blogs are linking to it than conservative ones.
It's hard to imagine that any woman who isn't already anti-Obama will be swayed, but maybe that's the point. Maybe Republicans are trying to keep their already-committed women in line, lest they defect to a female senate candidate like Kay Hagan, or to a male candidate who respects them like Mark Udall.
Dr. Ben Carson hasn't formally announced yet, but he seems to be running for president. This is the kind of thoughtful commentary you can expect in the 2016 Republican primaries:
WALLACE: You said recently that there might not even be elections in 2016 because of widespread anarchy. Do you really believe that?
CARSON: I hope that that’s not going to be the case. But certainly there’s the potential because you have to recognize that we have a rapidly increasing national debt, a very unstable financial foundation, and you have all these things going on like the ISIS crisis that could very rapidly change things that are going on in our nation. And unless we begin to deal with these things in a comprehensive way and in a logical way there is no telling what could happen in just a couple of years.
Saturday, Carson finished second to Ted Cruz in the presidential straw poll at the Values Voters Summit.
The Adrian Peterson controversy provoked me to write "Classism and Corporal Punishment".
and occasionally people have been talking about this blog
I hope someday it will seem like no big deal to notice Digby's Hullabaloo or David Brin (you'll have to scroll down some) discussing a Sift post, but that day has not yet come. I still get little chills from stuff like that.
but not nearly enough people talked about the People's Climate March
If you'd ever bought into the idea of liberal media bias, the People's Climate March should have snapped you out of it. Hundreds of thousands of people (organizers claimed 400K, but I haven't found a disinterested estimate) turned out last Sunday (the 21st), with supporting rallies in over 200 cities around the world. The network news shows that day discussed it not at all.
Imagine if the same number had showed up to demand a balanced budget or a new Benghazi investigation or something. It would have driven ISIS off the front pages.
Nothing to see here. Move along.
At least Jon Stewart talked about it, and connected it to the infuriating display of stupidity that is the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.
How far back to the elementary school core curriculum do we have to go to get someone on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology caught up? Do we have to bring out the paper mache and the baking soda so you can make a fucking volcano? Is that what we have to do?
and you also might be interested in ...
Another amazing John Oliver rant, this time about the Miss America Pageant.
A can't-miss interview with the Notorious RBG.
A very thought-provoking article by Ezekiel Emmanuel, the director of clinical ethics at NIH: "Why I Hope To Die at 75". He's my age (57) and in good health. He's not proposing suicide, euthanasia, or medical rationing. He's just saying that extending your life past 75 comes with an ever-increasing risk of disability, depression, or dementia.
The article has drawn a lot of my-Dad-is-89-and-doing-great comments -- and hey, look at RBG at 81 -- but that misses the point. Emmanuel thinks extended life is a bad gamble, so personally, he plans to start cutting back on medical tests and treatments as he approaches 75. If he turns out to be healthy as a horse at 90 anyway, great -- he won the lottery.
Because of Emmanuel's role in drawing up ObamaCare, his article has also draw a lot of weird we-knew-there-were-death-panels comments from the tin-foil-hat people, including the predictable National Review types, whose bizarre fantasies and nightmares often get in the way of understanding what anyone else says.
The bogus Obama "scandals" I talked about in "What Should Racism Mean?" are still happening.
I've had a soft spot in my heart for Emma Watson ever since she punched out Draco Malfoy. But her UN speech opens the door to a more mature admiration.
I want men to take up this mantle. So their daughters, sisters and mothers can be free from prejudice but also so that their sons have permission to be vulnerable and human too—reclaim those parts of themselves they abandoned and in doing so be a more true and complete version of themselves.
Then there was that whole little drama about someone threatening to release nude photos of her in revenge for that speech -- which turned out to be a hoax leading to another hoax, neither of which had anything to do with Watson.
What is the world coming to when you can't even trust the people threatening to release nude photos of celebrities? I'm reminded of the sad comment bank robber Willie Sutton made in his autobiography Where the Money Was, explaining why his accomplices kept turning him in. "You involve yourself with a very low grade of person when you become a thief." Maybe the same is true when you go looking for involuntary porn.
As a former high school newspaper editor, my sympathies are with Neshaminy High School student editor Gillian McGoldrick and her faculty supervisor, who have both been suspended over the paper's refusal to use the name of the school's team: Redskins.
The school administration is giving you a fabulous education, Gillian. The lesson they're teaching is not the one they think they're teaching, but you will value this experience for the rest of your life.
As for the faculty advisor Tara Huber: You probably knew that lesson already, but I hope it's some comfort to realize that your students will never forget you.
Two recent novels have interesting stuff to say about technology about the possibly destructive interplay between new technology and giant corporations. In The Circle by Dave Eggers, the Circle is a Google/Amazon/Apple/Facebook/Twitter combination that is idealistically trying to "complete the circle" by making all human experience available to everybody. "Privacy is theft" because it denies other people information they have a right to know. The novel recounts the narrator's gradual absorption by the cultish corporate culture, where "smiles" and "frowns" from strangers replace all genuine human relationships.
The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon examines the issue of letting corporations control access to our cultural heritage. (Picture Amazon's control of book distribution, or NetFlix' increasing monopoly on our film library.) What if a monopolistic online "word exchange" drove dictionaries to extinction? The corporation would then have an interest in seeing language change quickly, so that you'd have to look up more words. And then things get out of hand.
It's been blocked on YouTube, but you can still see Greenpeace's rising-seas version of "Everything Is Awesome", a song from The Lego Movie.
Privatization in action: The multinational corporation that bought the operating rights to the Indiana Toll Road just filed for bankruptcy. It turns out that things don't get magically more efficient as soon as government is out of the picture.
We used to say, "If we can send a man to the Moon, why can't we ... ?" Maybe the new version should be "If India can send a spacecraft to Mars for less than a billion dollars, why can't we ... ?"
and let's close with something amazing
When you watch Ana Yang perform, and then consider what she must know about the tensile strength of various liquids and the ways their bubbles behave when blown up with certain gases, it brings home the old Arthur Clarke adage: Sufficiently advanced technology really does look like magic.