you got the peaches, i got the cream

Not a pedophile. Seriously, NOT A PEDOPHILE. Probably. We think.

Shorter Father Benedict Groeschel, founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal order and lover of young persons everywhere in a totally not inappropriately sexual way:

Catholic TV Star, the Rev. Benedict Groeschel, Defends Child Sex Abusers

Jerry Sandusky, just like many Catholic priests, was a victim of predatory teenage boys. I mean, you try having a 14 year old boy prancing around you all day and see how long you can resist. Why are we jailing these innocent victims?

idiot wind blowing every time you move your mouth

PRyan gave quite the speech last night, didn’t he? Sure, we could quibble about details, about which parts of the speech were “true,” which were “grossly misleading,” and which were “completely made up,” but hey girl, just look into little Paulie’s eyes and you’ll know the truth in his soul. All this talk about “facts” and “objective reality” is cool, or whatever, but it’s not going to get the black welfare cheat out of the White House any faster, is it?

There’s a lot of chattering about the “Janesville lie,” which for Ryan and the Wingnuts seems to be that Obama said he would keep the GM factory in Janesville, WI open and didn’t do it (what he said: “I believe that if our government is there to support you, this plant will be here for another 100 years.”), and for everybody who actually lives in the real world is the fact that the plant closed before Obama took office so, you know, how exactly was he supposed to stop it? The nutters are trying several lines out in an effort to make Ryan’s lie true; human boil Ari Fleischer went with the idea that, even though the plant stopped taking new orders while Bush was in office, a few workers did stay on into Obama’s term to complete the last batch of work at the plant so technically… The slightly less stupid Bush went with “That’s exactly — those were the words Barack Obama used. It was a campaign promise and it is yet another campaign promise unfulfilled.” He was echoed by Megan McArdle, whose gastritis may or may not be reflected here:

I’m not sure what “campaign promise” she’s talking about. Again, here’s what Obama said in 2008 that Ryan quoted: “I believe that if our government is there to support you, this plant will be here for another 100 years.” I’m struggling to figure out if I’ve ever seen another “promise” formulated to begin with the phrase “I believe that if,” but I have to say I’m coming up snake-eyes on this roll.

But at least Megan didn’t alter the quote. Check out this place, Twitcher or something:

In other words, everything Paul Ryan said was true: He pointed to Obama’s own lofty promises about the plant being open for the next “100 years” if he were elected and contrasted it with the reality of a shuttered factory locked up and empty to this day. It was Obama who lied to Janesville workers. Ryan told America the truth.

Nicely done, totally rewriting the first part of his conditional. He didn’t say anything about “if he were elected,” he said “if our government is there to support you,” which at the time was, wait, not Obama, it was the guy before Obama, the one the Republicans won’t talk about anymore. What was his name again?

Eventheliberal Buzzfeed jumped into the fray, via Andrew Kaczynski, who tweeted:

…which links to a piece that quotes Obama twice saying that we need to retool plants like Janesville. I’m fairly certain that the word “like” has some important grammatical role in that sentence there, but maybe Andrew can set me straight. Obama, not being the secret lord and master of General Motors, despite what the wingnuts claim about the auto bailout, wouldn’t be involved in decisions about which plants to retool and which to leave idle, right? So “plants like Janesville,” well, that actually sounds about right, doesn’t it?

This is such a tiny lie in a vast sea of lies, and in the scope of a presidential campaign the fate of one idle GM plant isn’t really worth the time that’s being devoted to it. But the thing is, if  Ryan will so blatantly lie about something that is of a vastly smaller scale than, say, tax reform or Medicare, why should anyone believe him when he’s talking about anything else?

I’m just a poor boy, I need no sympathy

One of the interesting though not highly emphasized political stories this weekend was the revelation in the LA Times that Young Paul Ryan’s rise to Great Intellectual Titan wasn’t so bootstrapy as he likes to let on. I didn’t realize this was even in question, because one of the first things I heard about the guy after he got the nod from Romney was that his family had made a fortune off of road construction contracts from the communist government looters. But apparently Ryan likes to regale audiences with tales of his days flipping burgers at McDonald’s, washing dishes, waiting tables, and so forth, and how he was always grateful for the opportunity and never felt trapped in the lower class among the poors and moochers and whatnot. Of course, flipping burgers at McDonald’s at 16 with a wealthy family waiting at home probably carries with it a slightly different outlook on life than does the same job at 40 with nothing waiting at home but children who depend on your burger flipping paycheck for food and shelter. But Young Master Ryan thinks telling these stories humanizes him. He’s a “self-made man.”

Atrios astutely points out that the press knew Ryan didn’t work his way out of poverty on the drive through line at McDonald’s, but that most of the modern media has no goddamn idea what an actual working class person looks like anymore, so they hear “McDonald’s” and instantly their knees weaken in anticipation of writing Ryan’s rags-to-riches life story. Over at Political Animal, Kathleen Geier offers up the Monty Python “Four Yorkshiremen” sketch as a hilarious example of the amount of bullshit rich people tell themselves and others to convince…well, I don’t know, you, me, themselves, voters, anybody really, that they’re self-made men who made themselves in a self-sufficient way, wrenching themselves up from nothing to stand before you today a true modern success story. It’s almost always some part bullshit, some part self-delusion; Ryan may be selling a line to an audience, or he may really believe that he had it rough growing up and that he made something of himself despite his hard-scrabble upbringing, but if he does, that’s a delusion brought on by a total lack of perspective, life experience, or empathy.

What gets me about these kinds of stories is that rich and powerful people have been telling them about and to themselves for much of human history and across otherwise widely divergent cultures.

Continue reading

the republican parable of the two debtors

(that’s Luke 7: 36-50, in case you were wondering)

36 And one of the Pharisees desired Him that He would eat with him. And He went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat, but this meat was of exceeding toughness and lacked flavour, so He speaketh unto the Pharisee, Let us away now to the house of mine friend Bobby Flay, who might prepareth for us a steak of great succulence, in My mercy.

37 And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the establishment of Flay, brought an alabaster box of ointment,

38 And stood at His feet behind him weeping, and began to wash His feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed His feet, and anointed them with the ointment.

39 Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner and evidently a moocher also too.

40 And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.

41 There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.

42 And when they had nothing to pay, he giveth funds unto a legislator to write a new law to prevent these and similar moochers from making declaration of bankruptcy unto the Lord. And forthwith he didst package the debts of the two moochers into a credit default swap, which he sold unto his friends by convincing them that this was an investment of exceeding quality, and thus he collected substantial talents from his friends when the moochers failed to pay. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?

43 Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he maketh the most generous arrangements as unto interest rates and payment schedules. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.

44 And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.

45 Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.

46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.

47 Wherefore the woman did ask unto Him if she might partake of a crust of bread from His table, and He summoned the manager to removeth her from the premises.

48 And He said unto her, Thou cannot makest a stable living weeping on strange men’s feet and rubbing thine hair upon them. Seek ye to borrow money from thy parents, perforce to open a business that might cater to those who wish to pay for others to cry upon their various appendages and brush hair unto them.

49 And they that sat at meat with Him began to say within themselves, Who is this that dispenseth such sound financial advice?

50 And He said to the woman, I jest not with thee; leavest thine costly ointment as payment for mine advice and begone, for we are trying to eat.

Define your terms

Saw this on the Twitter machine this morning:

Oh, man, the Times flubs a big one on the Middle East! Well, that’s easy to believe. It’s not like they’ve never made mistakes, particularly about the Middle East. What happened this time?

If you have a moment, read the introduction to the Times’s “Room for Debate” feature, which this week asks the question, “Has support for Israel hurt U.S. credibility?” and see if you can identify the enormous analytical failure embedded within:

The president of Israel is resisting calls for a unilateral strike against Iran, but it’s just the “unilateral” part that he finds troubling: “It is clear to us that we have to proceed together with America.” Even if this is just posturing, the statement shows one reason the U.S. struggles to make allies in the Arab world: Israelis and Arabs alike assume that the U.S. will take a side in Mideast conflicts, and that the U.S. will side with Israel. Are they right?

It’s not that difficult to see the fatal flaws and assumptions built into the exercise. Iran is a Persian country, not an Arab country, and its leadership and ideology are loathed across much of the Arab world. The leaders of Arab nations ranging from Morocco and Jordan to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, all of whom are American allies, see Iran as the primary threat to peace and stability in the Middle East, and have been asking President Obama to confront Iran for three years. You’ll recall that the king of Saudi Arabia urged the U.S. to “cut off the head of the snake” before it was too late, and many other Arab leaders, as well, have lobbied President Obama vociferously. Whoever wrote this introduction doesn’t read the Times, apparently: Arab anxiety about Iran was covered extensively by The Times during the massive Wikileaks release.

Hm, OK, I guess. Iran is certainly not an Arab country. Its leadership and ideology may even be loathed across much of the Arab world, at least the Sunni Arab world. But you know what is NOT compelling evidence to support that contention? The fact that autocratic rulers in Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, and the UAE all hate the Iranian regime. What Goldberg is actually saying is that a few Arab kings loathe the Iranian leadership and ideology, not that “Arabs” do.

Pundits often fall into a bad habit when they talk about “Arabs” or how “Arabs” think about a thing, or how “Arabs” will react if America does X versus Y, and somebody ought to ask them: what’s an “Arab” in this particular tale, and why do they all seem to react to stuff in exactly the same way that their despotic leaders do? (To be clear, many of them fall into this habit when talking about any community other than their own, but I digress.) Why would you assume that if the kings and emirs of a few Arab states think or feel a certain way about a potential American or American/Israeli attack on Iran, that the residents of those states would all, as a unit, think or feel the same way? This kind of monolith-building is a bad idea in the best of circumstances, but are we not still watching the so-called “Arab spring” in which Arab populations are busily demonstrating that they don’t in fact, agree very much with their rulers, or necessarily with each other? All the monarchs he lists are still in power, but we’re talking about the King of Jordan, whose people have been openly protesting their conditions; the King of Morocco, who had to quickly and quietly give up big chunks of his authority to prevent what happened in Tunisia from happening there; the King of Saudi Arabia, who’s been quietly but efficiently suppressing unrest for some time now, and the emirs of the UAE, where (like the other Gulf states save Bahrayn, which has sectarian problems) there’s simply so much wealth to go around that nobody has much cause for dissatisfaction.

Surely he’s going to offer some evidence that non-ruling elite Arabs would also support an American attack on Iran, right?

It is not only the leaders of Arab countries who fear Iran. There is a reason the Iranian regime has failed to export its revolution to the Sunni Arab world, and that is popular suspicion of its motivations, as well as a range of other sectarian and religious disputes. And Iran is especially unpopular now that it has sided with the minority Alawite regime in Damascus, against Syria’s Sunni majority.

No, he’s…well, he’s got some nice conjecture, so that’s something. The 1979 Islamic Revolution never spread to the Sunni Arab world because Sunnis are suspicious of its motives. Well, sure, that might have something to do with it. It’s certainly why the Arab autocrats don’t like the Iranian regime, they having thrown off an Iranian autocrat and all. But there are plenty of other reasons why the Iranian revolution didn’t spread. Sunnism inherently lacks the independent, formal clerical hierarchy that drove the revolution and took power in Iran, so that’s one hiccup. There are other possible reasons, like such as:

  • centuries of cultural and political separation between the Persian-speaking Iranian world and the Ottoman-dominated Arab world
  • specific, alienating steps on the part of the Pahlavi rulers in Iran to reject the country’s Islamic heritage, steps that were not taken by monarchs in the Sunni Arab nations
  • the fact that the Shah was a pretty nasty, repressive piece of work even in comparison to contemporary Arab despots
  • the impact of specific-to-Iran events, like the British- and American-backed overthrow of the Mossadegh government, in creating a sense of powerlessness among the Iranian people
  • direct colonial involvement in the Arab world versus more indirect western involvement in Iran; this, for example, contributed to the establishment of Sunni authority and the rise of the Baath Party in Iraq, which was able to stifle any revolutionary stirrings among Iraq’s majority Shiʿa population

But “Arabs don’t like Iran because they’re Shiʿites” is all Goldberg has got. Sunni Arabs would cheer an American attack on Iran, and the reason we know this is because a generation ago “they” didn’t participate in widening the Iranian Revolution to the rest of the Middle East. Also too, “they’re” probably mad about Iran backing the Alawites against the Sunni majority in Syria–and, look, “they” probably are, but is that really it? This is really woefully meager evidence to support his argument. Concede the obviously flawed implication that all Arabs or all Sunnis or all Sunni Arabs are one monolithic thing. Concede that the reason the revolution never spread can be boiled down to “Sunnis don’t like Shiʿites.” Concede that most or all Arab Sunnis really do loathe the Iranian regime and, hell, the Iranian Shiʿite population. Concede that “they’re” all furious that Iran is still backing the Assad regime in Syria. The problem with Goldberg’s argument is, even if you concede all those deeply conjectural and downright flawed assumptions, that still doesn’t mean that all or even most Sunni Arabs would be pleased to see America and/or Israel attack Iran.

In other words, American action against Iran could be understood as America siding with the Arabs, not only with the Israelis. This is not news, of course, except to the author of this contentious and ill-informed introduction.

Sure, it could be. American action against Iran could be understood as lots of things. Maybe it’s all just a brave stand against ghormeh sabzi. But Jeffrey Goldberg clearly wants to tell you how it will be understood, just as much as he says the Times piece wants to. And, frankly, he doesn’t know either.

the parable of the good republican

(Luke 10:25-37 for a modern audience)

25 And, behold, a certain MBA graduate stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit vast sums of money from my wealthy parents who manage thine hedge funds?

26 He said unto him, What is written in the books of Trump? how readest thou?

27 And he answering said, Thou shalt endeavour to have thine earnings taxed at the rate for capital gains; and neglect not to make use of the carried interest exemption.

28 And He said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live exceeding well and see many paupers suffer in thy time.

29 But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And what of my neighbour, who still labours for salaried wages?

30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among a number of large corporate bankers, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.

31 And by chance there came down a certain liberal that way: and when he saw him, he went off to find governmental authorities to provide assistance.

32 And likewise a Sodomite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and he too went in search of the authorities, but in an exceeding swishy and fruity manner.

33 But a certain Republican, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had obvious solicitude for him,

34 And went to him, and looked on his wounds, and said, “Thou shouldst appear before a specialist for thine hurts. Hast thou health insurance of surpassing quality?” And, drinking unto himself a cup of wine of exceeding price and taste, he taught the man that the Lord God hath commanded the bankers to do him harm perforce in order to punish the man for homosexual behavior, or for failure to attend the proper house of worship. He suggesteth unto the man that he might borrow copious funds from his forebears to create a business concern, which wouldst then allow him to obtain exceeding generous tax relief from the pro-business candidate to be the next emperor, who was knownst to be far kinder to job creators than the current emperor. As the Republican aided the man in this fashion, the man crawled himself to an inn and with his last coins secured himself a room, wherein he collapsed unto the bed. But the Republican pointed out that surely the man should takest the floor and the Republican the bed, for the Republican’s charitable givings had been exceeding large in the previous tax year, and such generosity must be justly rewarded,

35 And on the morrow when the Republican departed, he took the man’s beast as reasonable payment for the Republican’s time and advice, and said unto the innkeeper, “As thou art a business owner, perchance wouldst thou wish to contribute to the Romney/Ryan campaign? Verily I say unto thee that I am a bundler unto this campaign, and wouldst be mightily honored to accept thy donation unto their cause. Believeth me, when thine tax savings accrueth unto thee, thy generosity will be repaid many times over.” Thus too did he secure substantial 501(c)(4) donations from those selfsame bankers who had beaten and robbed the now destitute man earlier in this tale.

36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the corporate bankers?

37 And he said, He that explained the teachings of Rand and Reagan unto him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.

the real mitt romney?

Listening to Stephanie Miller this morning, she had her former voice guy, Carlos Alazraqui, on, and they got to talking about Mitt, and who the “Real” Mitt is. The quest for the “Real” Mitt is apparently a serious one. Carlos thinks Massachusetts Governor and Reasonable Moderate Republican Mitt is the Real Mitt, which is a theory I see commonly held among my admittedly small and anecdotal circle of commie friends, but which I just don’t get. Why would you assume that the Mitt who you find more likeable is the Real Mitt, and the current one you can’t stand is some phony affect he’s put on for this race? Isn’t the reverse just as likely true? Or, maybe, the Real Mitt is neither of them?

You know who I think the Real Mitt is? This guy:

Hi Mitt!

…but he’s never once tried to run for office as this guy, because this guy couldn’t get elected “douchenozzle of the year” by the American Douchenozzle Society. “I mean, we all respect a good douchenozzle, but this guy just takes it too far,” they’d say.