Saturday, December 29, 2012

Ethnic sports team names...

So the Atlanta Braves are planning to bring back the screaming Indian logo, which frankly looks pretty cool, doesn't it? But still, I winced at the same time.

Ethnic named sports teams, whether Braves, Indians, Redskins, tend to be about Native Americans. Why is that? Because we as a race of people killed them off to the point of being mystical about them. This song ("Cheyenne Anthem") from the American progressive rock group, Kansas, captures the majesty we clothed these people after we killed them, to take one cultural example (Great song, by the way).

So the question I've always had for those who love keeping those names is should we just go one step beyond and have more teams with ethnic names, and really get racy like with "Redskins"?

I think of the Lenny Bruce bit about making fun of ethnic slurs...

And then I think...

How about the New York Heebs? "The Heebs are comin' to town, folks. They lead the league in steals...livin' up to their proud name!"

Or the Philadelphia Coons? The Arizona Spics? The Milwaukee Svennes? The Cleveland Polacks? The Boston Micks? And think of the logos for each team...

And yet, I wince at all of it. My sensitivities tell me this is all wrong, but unless we go through the exercise, we hear the all too familiar "It's traditional!" or "Hey! Nobody's bothered by this, so what's the fuss?" Well, maybe there is something wrong with names like Redskins at least, and probably Braves, Indians, Seminoles, and the like.

And for those who think what's the harm in ethnic names, get a load of this current soccer team in the Netherlands which has a nickname of "Jews," and where rival fans scream about sending the Jews to the gas chambers...Ah, the European disease of anti-Semitism lives on...

NRA conspiracy theories aside, the Assault Weapons Ban is more political theater and symbolism

Gun control advocates and gun advocates should read this long, but compelling blog post from a so-called liberal-left blogger, Kontradictions.

The post opens with why the NRA has hurt itself with conspiracy theories against President Obama, but then makes a compelling case why the Assault Weapons Ban was more symbolism than effective legislation. It explains in clear language the different types of guns most Americans have, and why most Congressmembers who supported the ban had no idea what it was legislating in 1994--and then how ineffective the ban was in reducing violent crime. This is precisely why President Obama should, with Congress, create a commission that can prepare a report that is at least as clearly written as this fellow's post to help us navigate through the political, cultural and economic perspectives about guns and our society. Where I still question this fellow is why we are seeing more of these sorts of crimes, and whether the real problem is a lack of a draft to "catch" the Adam Lanzas before they do harm to society....Israel and Switerland, with their draft and their militia regulations that operate like a draft in many ways, can learn about the troubled people and ensure they get mental health assistance before they act out.

One more thing not in the post, which was written after Aurora but before Sandy Hook: Gun control advocates need to explain the loose gun laws in Vermont, Oregon and Washington, and the low violent crime rates. Again, this is not to say gun control advocates are fully wrong, and again I am leaning back in that direction. I just wonder how we move forward in an effective manner from a public policy standpoint.

Thank you to my libertarian reader for sending this to me.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A dissenter among Israeli officials speaks out--anonymously

Read it here in Yediot Achronot, a major Israeli newspaper.

And here is a former military intelligence official recognizing that Netanyahu and his right wing allies have forsaken the two-state solution to the peril of Israel as a nation.

It is high past time to tell those who support the current Israeli government here in the U.S. that they are sowing the seeds of destruction of Israel in the guise of being "hawks." For when the Arabs decide there is no more two state solution, and those who want to boycott Israel can point to Netanyahu as no longer supporting the two state solution, the binationalist movement will have what it needs to isolate and undermine support for Israel in Western Europe and even the U.S. itself.

As I have said, ten years from now, the lament from these same hawks will be that they did not listen to Obama's advisers, including Rahm Emmanuel, Hillary Clinton and Dennis Ross when there was an opportunity to create peace with Palestinian leaders. And they will doubly lament the manner in which Netanyahu made Abbas look foolish for thinking he could negotiate peace with successive Israeli governments.

But, they will claim: Who could have foreseen the future? Who could have known?

Two George Bailey speeches in "Wonderful Life"

On this Christmas Day, I offer two of George Bailey's speeches from my favorite film of all time, "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946), the last New Deal film:

Here, Bailey defends his father's legacy of not making much money off his building and loan customers, and talks about how a stronger middle class makes people better customers for business.

Here, Bailey calms hysteria after a bank run and explains how important it is for people to stick together and hold onto the building and loan, which in our time, looks more like a non-profit co-op than a bank or even savings and loan institution. And he takes his money that he saved up for his honeymoon, and doles it out to his customers to tide them over in the depression. As we watch this scene, let's ask ourselves: Who's the Tea Party Republican in the scene, the one who does not understand the point Bailey is making, simply expects everything to fail and says everyone for himself. Hint: It's not Potter, who is who he is, a plutocrat.

For reasons that I don't understand, nobody has uploaded on YouTube the entire nightmare scene, which may be one of the first cinematic examples of alternative history. It is also a sophisticated Marxist analysis showing how economics affects culture, and the culture affects economic systems. George Bailey is important as an individual, but his status as the president of the building and loan, as opposed to being a taxi driver, explains why he personally means so much to the health of his community.

It is something I wish more wealthy folks with power would learn to understand again...

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A debate on guns

My libertarian commenter, Hip703, raises important points and I wish to give him some space in a post not a mere comment, and I have a response below. Hip's rejoinder in response to a post on guns, which comments I found very worthy, were more particularly in response to two statements I made in one of the comments to the post. I have reprinted the comment and cut-and-pasted Hip's rejoinders.

I will then comment in response below.

(MF Blog proprietor: "I'm also a little tired of comparisons to Switzerland and Israel when we are learning more about their gun laws, and how they derive from the militia or a draft, and how one has to explain in writing and in discussions with police why one needs to have a gun.")

Hip wrote:

Tired why? Too inconvenient? In those cultures, people are trained how to use firearms. Maybe if coastal elites would undergo similar training, their attitude toward firearms would change.

You are one of these people saying we need to "have a discussion" about gun control. Well, I am having a discussion. Again, the fact is that in Israel, there has not been mass killings in a school since 1974, when Israel started arming it's teachers. Are you saying that teachers in this country are not as capable of defending their schools as Israeli teachers?

Also, I take exception comment about "why one needs to have a gun." The Bill of Rights is not a Bill of Needs. Nor are our rights bestowed upon us by the government. Firearms ownership is a basic civil right.

What exactly is your proposal here? To disarm the citizenry? To repeal the Second Amendment? Restricting gun ownership to one-round Derringers?

(MF Blog proprietor: "You have to take your argument to a new factual analytic level. It's not enough to attack liberals as effete snobs anymore.")

Um, sorry, but I (Hip) carefully avoided use of the term "liberal." (Ironic how that term has been bastardized over the years (Hip's comment, not mine)). This is a very important point, and all liberals should listen up.

There are plenty of so-called "conservatives" who are hell-bent on gun control. David Brooks comes immediately to mind. The late Robert Bork did not believe the Second Amendment protected and individual right. And President Nixon favored gun control, chiefly for racist reasons.

The KKK wanted to disarm blacks during Reconstruction. The original draft of the Anti-Klan Act of 1871 -- pushed by President Grant -- made it a federal felony to "deprive any citizen of the United States of any arms or weapons he may have in his house or possession for the defense of his person, family, or property." The final version did not contain the provision because it was deemed superfluous; the shared view back then was that the right to keep and bear arms was fundamental.

Civil rights crusader and Klan-fighter Robert F. WIlliams, a black man, obtained a charter from the NRA in 1957 and founded the Black Armed Guard in Monroe, North Carolina. In one account from his book "Negroes With Guns," the Klan sieged the home of a black physician and his wife. Williams and the Black Armed Guard thwarted the attack.

For those readers interested in these topics, I would refer them to the following books:

In addition, many "liberal" blue states have sound firearms laws. Vermont, perhaps the most leftist state in the country, has virtually no gun regulations. Oregon and Washington are two other "liberal" states that are protective of the rights of gun owners.

My comments were directed at the coastal elites, the brie-and-Chablis crowd, many of whom are "conservative" and/or Republican. I mentioned David Brooks. Megan McArdle herself seems like an unprincipled utilitarian who would have no problem disarming the citizenry if she could. DItto Charles Krauthammer, who in the 1990s favored a complete ban on all firearms.

Even Jonah Goldberg of National Review has stated he would have "no problem" banning "high capacity" (read: standard capacity) magazines. I doubt Goldberg, an East Coast urban conservative, does not spend a lot of time at the rifle range, or reloading ammunition on a work bench in his garage.


And now my rejoinder:

Hip, your argument boils down to: Train everyone with guns. If elite folks knew how to handle guns, they'd be on your side.

I used to find this more plausible, but I no longer do. Your reference to Israel is unpersuasive because Israel has a draft where everyone learns to use a gun. You have not stated whether you favor a draft, or even a militia as set up in Switzerland--and Switzerland's laws about militias are far more than "get out your guns, folks". They are about drills and maneuvers and other things that interfere with "freedom."

I am interested in your take on Garry Wills' essay on the history of the Second Amendment, as he made a strong case about the limits of any individual right to bear a weapon. Volokh's only criticism of the essay, as he personally told me, is that Wills does not draw a specific line as to where the individual right ends. I responded the line is the legislature's to draw, not a court's unless it was completely confiscatory of all guns. And yes, I am questioning the scope of Heller right now...

Because of Heller, and because we are re-evaluating here, I believe Congress should authorize a commission to take testimony from folks such as yourself, as well as doctors who work in emergency rooms and others from other walks of life, including scholars, about guns and gun use. The Commission should also analyze the history of the Second Amendment, and go through the pros and cons (and limits) of each reform proposed, and see if we can eventually enact public policies that would overall limit the extent of gun related or caused violence in our land. A car has many positive uses and we take steps to regulate it, and car fatalities are clearly down. Guns that have limited use other than killing people seems to point in a direction different than we've been for the past decade at least.

For substance, I am now interested in our nation considering a severe limitation on the possession of guns that can shoot a dozen people at a clip whether you want to call it automatic or semiautomatic. I also like the idea of a police authority deciding who can have such guns as they do in Switzerland and Israel through a permitting system. If I may anticipate your response, allow me to say the following:

In a world where the military can kill us in our homes with the push of a button, your having a gun of this nature is just so much noise to the government. Thus, the anti-tyranny argument is, how shall I say it any other way, looking rather quaint. Further, your having a gun of this nature is not for hunting deer so hunting and food sustenance is not a compelling reason for the shoot-a-dozen-at-a-clip gun either. Simply stated, a gun of that nature is primarily used to shoot humans. And that is the problem at hand.

I am also familiar with the history of blacks who fought for their right to arm themselves against white racists in the late 1860s and into the 1870s--and I know I would have supported their legislative right to bear arms then especially as I would likely have been a Radical Republican a la Thaddeus Stevens, so unfairly caricatured in Speilberg's latest film.

Of course, how did that turn out for those armed blacks overall when white mobs set in on them and the white racists controlled the law in order to overwhelm those blacks? The irony is that had the black leaders of the time known of Gandhian principles, they might well have captured the attention of the nation in 1870s.

Again, I am supportive of a Commission on this subject as I think we need to learn anew on this topic.

Finally, I am intrigued by Hip's point that Oregon and Vermont have little murder by guns, and loose gun regulations compared to other States. That is why gun control advocates I've read strike me as overstating their case, too, and why I was more on Hip's side until I have decided to rethink things anew. A lot of our balloons need to be popped here as we work through the analysis.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Looksism still a legal basis to discriminate in most workplaces

I don't quite know where I ultimately decide on this issue of whether to extend anti-discrimination cases to someone was discriminated against based upon his or her looks.

This latest case in Iowa is an interesting one because the Iowa Supreme Court refused to endorse "looksism" as a ground for action against discrimination in employment. What bothers me about the decision, though, is the single fact that the good-looking woman worked for the small proprietor dentist for 10 years and was a stellar employee. There is something unseemly about the dentist's wife engineering the young woman's termination and therefore, something unseemly about the decision. Ten years and suddenly there is a problem?

This article nicely sums up the state of the law regarding "looksism." There are two types of "looksism." The first is the one most often discussed, where overweight or otherwise not attractive in the modern sense (beauty does change over time as we know) persons do not get hired or do not receive the promotion compared to the more attractive person. The Iowa case was the second type of "looksism," which is most rare, where the attractive person found himself or herself out of the job.

As I say, I hear the point that the male dentist sounds like a jerk for saying he can't keep from wanting to have an affair with his young, attractive assistant. However, I am skeptical of extending anti-discrimination measures to physical attractiveness because I am concerned about the way in which micromanagement already occurs in employment law cases, and know from defending and prosecuting them, how expensive they are both in terms of attorneys' fees and court and related costs. Too often, anti-discrimination cases tend to be filed by those who are oversensitive or who themselves have a difficult time playing well with others. In other words, too often the employees who sue tend themselves to be jerks at some level or another.

Unions really are a better answer, as the business agent of the union acts as a far better advocate for an employee in many instances than a lawyer or a "human resource" person. And the business agent can usually find out whether the other employees don't like the individual employee, either, and conclude the person simply is not a good fit. However, in a small business setting, such as the dentist's office in Iowa, unions are not practical and so what to do. But even then, how often does this second type of discrimination really happen that we need the law to intervene--and really, the young, attractive, competent subordinate couldn't find another job so soon? And what I also mean in these last points are this: I wonder which of the parties did not accept a reasonable settlement amount to avoid the court's decision?

As I write this, I have to say: It's no wonder California Governor Jerry Brown's office hasn't called me to discuss a judgeship--too "conservative" for Brown, too "liberal" for any Republican governor! :-)

Jesus, not shopping, not Santa, is the reason for the season

I have long said if I was a Christian in my religious philosophy, I would be saying "Jesus is the reason for the season."

It is perhaps time to re-read Cal Thomas' (yes, I am citing Cal Thomas...:-)) reasoned plea to not confuse celebrating Christmas with shopping, and not confuse Santa with Jesus. See it here, from December 13, 2005.

Two days before his column appeared, I had waded into the first War on Christmas propaganda from FoxNews, and wrote this post favorably quoting the Pope and castigating Bill O'Reilly for confusing Santa and Jesus in his childhood memory of toys under a Christmas tree.

Sometimes, though, saying "Jesus is the reason for the season" can begin to sound like we are being killjoys and too grim. For that reason, I repost my list of favorite Christmastime films, which I wrote in December 2006. Watching those films with family or friends is a salutary way to celebrate the season in which we should take a moment to reflect on our treatment of each other throughout the year.

Note: The 2006 MF Blog post begins with a discussion regarding the elections in Iran, which was in the news at the time, where I decided to update the post with something completely different--that is, the film list. On the subject of Iran, I was too hopeful about Iran's populace overthrowing its grim, violent leaders, but the day of reckoning against those yahoo mullahs is still coming. I was also very, very wrong about when Iran would successfully test nuclear weapons. Note the US Intelligence Estimate was right, the Israelis' intelligence estimates were wrong, and the neo-cons were also wrong. I too had thought the Iranians far more interested in completing their nuclear weapon program, but again, I was wrong.

I like the way in which the addendum to the 2006 post ends, though, and restate it here:

As we reflect on another Christmastime, I would merely ask the people of our nation to have more faith in each other, more faith in our nation's ability to survive its challenges and current incompetents and boors who are in leadership positions, and to realize that people around the world also want better lives for themselves and their loved ones. I don't say that because I always practice that, God knows I don't, but because it is a value worth preserving and striving to achieve. Skepticism is also an important value, but cynicism is just giving up and is akin to nihilism. We owe it to ourselves and each other to highlight and exault our best, not our worst, values, especially at this time of year.

Gun advocate strikes out...

Steven Greenhut, libertarian from California, wades into the gun debate in yesterday's website, and in my view strikes out.

He lambastes California for being anti-gun as if these explosions of white males committing mass murder is happening in California--when it is not.

He says if we don't believe him, we should check out the murder rates of Los Angeles, Oakland and San Bernardino.

Okay. Let's.

Los Angeles: Lowest murder rate of big cities in the USA in 2012. I find this information from the article to which I linked in the Los Angeles Times quite interesting, too:

With 147 homicides committed so far this year, the rate of killing is about the same as 2010 and puts the city on pace to have fewer than 300 killings for the third consecutive year –- a historic benchmark that is four times lower than the peak Los Angeles reached in the late 1990s. Robbery and aggravated assaults also are down, and the number of rapes has risen slightly in 2012.

And this chart from the Los Angeles Almanac shows that starting in the 1990s, after those pesky gun control laws were passed, the murder rate was cut in half. Are there other factors? Of course. But why deny there is some connection to limiting access to guns?

Moving onto Oakland, we see a rise in murder rates the past few years. So is Greenhut correct? Well, it looks like there has been a 25% reduction in the number of police officers in that benighted city, and its unemployment rate is still not good. See this Wiki entry on Crime in Oakland and this statistical chart comparing cities including Oakland in 2004:

"In 2004 the number of police officers per 10,000 residents was as follows:
New York City—44
St. Louis—39
Cleveland and Boston—34
San Francisco—29
Los Angeles—23

What's interesting is that San Francisco and Los Angeles are not much better than Oakland per capita, but again we are the ones with the more strict gun control than other states. And it is striking to me that the poorest and least well served neighborhoods in Oakland is where most of the murders take place. So if we want to talk about environmental factors and economic solutions, Mr. Greenhut, I would suggest we talk economics in a manner that speaks of New Deal, not Ayn Rand values.

And finally, San Bernardino County, which has long had a much higher murder rate than most parts of CA, before and after the gun control legislation Mr. Greenhut decries. Yet, San Bernardino's violent crime rate has dropped in recent years, after a short spike in the 2002/2003 period. See here in a December 4, 2011 article in the local newspaper there, The Press Enterprise. San Bernardino County is one of those counties trying to use bankruptcy laws to stop paying public employee pensions, by the way...

What is salutary about the current gun debate is that folks like Mr. Greenhut have to begin dealing with a deeper analysis than they have had to consider before the horrific tragedy that befell the elementary school in Connecticut last week. We are now having a debate about guns in a manner we have not had since the 1960s--and it is alas more than past time. I again will say I was AWOL on this subject, having been convinced by the likes of Mr. Greenhut not to bother with the issue, and wondering about too many other economic and cultural factors. What I realize now is that the cheap and easy access to guns is part of the equation for which public policy has a role for consideration and action.

ADDENDUM 12/22/12: Looks like the head of the National Rifle Association is striking out in his attempt at factual analysis, too.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The deal to cut Social Security is upon us...

Considering all the abuse I took from the TBogg brigades (see here and here) during the election year, I expect them now to fall into line, tell us what they had first called a "fantasy" was inevitable, and we need to do it to help give Obama "credibility."

These are the Sex and the City liberals, folks. And what I mean by that phrase is that such people are liberal on cultural issues such as abortion and gay rights, but on matters of civil liberties, they are likely to support locking up swarthy young men and leakers of embarrassing not security information (ahem, TBogg, who gets all macho bed wetting when that topic arises), and on economics, they don't understand why labor unions just don't completely go away.

As long as their cultural issues are pushed forward, again, abortion and gay rights, they really don't care about protecting Social Security and Medicare from the financial elite who continue to pillage our nation.

The thing that is most frustrating to me is that our nation is speaking loudly and clearly through polling that we should cut no deal with Republicans on Social Security and Medicare, and push through tax increases on income above $250,000. Yet, Obama keeps dealing away Social Security (expect Medicaid and Medicare reductions next from Obama) and is already shifting the income tax increase upwards to those making more than $400,000. The voters gave Obama a larger than expected victory as Romney proved to be more wooden, more duplicitous and arrogant that even low information voters noticed (the 47% of Americans video speech of Romney killed him more than anything else). The voters truly voted for hope again--and again, Obama and his financial elite friends are doing what they can to dampen and undermine that hope.

I was one of the few folks who have doubted all along. I voted for Jill Stein here in CA. I would have voted for Obama in any number of other States. I had hoped Stein would do better. She didn't. Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party did better, and good for them. Truly. The Property Party will continue to undermine the economic health of our nation and the TBoggbots and Obamabots will continue to support that decline. They are in control and they have no fear that Obama will go backwards on abortion or gay rights. So they say, "What's the problem with you? Can't you just get out of your one issue delusions?"--as if the health of the middle and working classes is a narrow issue.

Oh well. The fight is on, and let's hope the Progressive Caucus in the House and Senate will speak up and get all Tea Party on Obama's proposals. We are better off with no deal before January 2, 2013. Let us see the world after the tax increases and spending cuts previously negotiated take place. As most of the cuts are in the military, we will find that is where the fat and inefficiency always existed.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Troubling responses from gun advocates

We have seen two fairly prominent (for the Internet) responses from pro-gun advocates to the horrific massacre at the Connecticut elementary school last Friday.

Eugene Volokh, a law professor from UCLA who I deeply admire as perhaps the foremost authority on the First Amendment, and an all around good person, posted in the first 24 hours that the answer to shootings like this is to arm the teachers and principal. He also pointed to four instances where people were armed and stopped further violence in similar situations.

Megan McCardle, in her new position with the Daily Beast, a prominent Web magazine, believes that kids in elementary schools should be rounded up to jump the shooter, no matter how many of them are killed--since, after all, a killer with a fast shooting gun (do we really have to get into the debate over the vagueness in the terms "semi-automatic" and "automatic" guns?) is going to mow them down anyway. Her statement, however, is deep within an otherwise thoughtful meditation on the issue, a piece which explains that lots of the potential solutions would not have stopped the young man in this instance, and that some of his killing was done with a rifle that most folks don't want to ban.

As with Joe Scarborough, I have been doing some soul-searching over my admittedly theoretical pro-gun stance--as I've not held a gun, let alone shot one, but I found myself persuaded by pro-gun advocates over the last two decades on the issue of private rights to bear arms under the Second Amendment.

I am now strongly wondering about whether we should re-visit the assault weapon ban that expired six years ago. I am wondering whether we should be looking more closely at Switzerland's and Israel's actual permitting policies and see if they can be repicated here as those nations' policies are more restrictive than I had previously understood. The laws in those two nations also leads me to wonder whether we ought to reconsider the draft IF the idea is to create militias, whether fully public or semi-public as in Switzerland.

Most important right now, if pro-gun advocates are really left with saying, "Well, everyone needs to be armed" or "Let's do a suicide rush and see what happens," then I think we have some serious re-thinking ahead of us. (And let's note the National Rifle Association is uncharacteristically silent...).

To state a principle is a principle, considering the at least ambiguous history of the 2nd Amendment, as Garry Wills wrote in the September 21, 1995 issue of the New York Review of Books (Volokh has said Wills' article is compelling reading, and that his only criticism is that Wills is still skirting whether the 2nd Amendment means no right to bear arms for individuals), is no longer enough when there are now too many of these events that have popped up in the past several years. And Mother Jones has been prescient and timely with articles which analyze trends and patterns in these mass murders and shooting sprees in the United States. See here, here, here, and here.

Also, I know there are important public policy issues that are not addressed in our society--do I!--as this fellow at 3 Quarks Daily elegantly stated. I would feel better if pro-gun advocates were, as a group, New Deal liberals who would push for government programs to improve access to mental health care and facilities, push for government infrastructure rebuilding to promote mass amounts of jobs, and such things. But too often, I hear gun advocates speak of anarchy and speak in language more appropriate for a post-apocalyptic film about government tyranny and the need to "resist." Arming everyone as a matter of public policy would hasten those scenarios, not prevent them. Therefore, we need to readjust public policy and re-evaluate other solutions, including more control over gun distribution in our society.

As McCardle's long post had noted, controlling or banning guns does reduce homicides. Also, the difference between what happened yesterday in China tends to prove the difference between being armed with a gun compared to a knife. Guns don't kill people, people do. However, it sure is a lot more easy to kill people with a gun than a knife.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Yes, and how do you feel about that now, America?

Kevin Drum's post about the Republican war against unions sets up the title question...

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Digby needs to stop making people think she invented the phrase "the village" regarding permanent residents of DC

Digby is again tooting her horn about her "contribution" to our dialogue by talking derisively about the permanent elite in Washington, DC as "The Village."

This time, though, Digby recognizes that in 1998, Sally Quinn had used the phrase in a homespun way, while Quinn was attacking the Clintons. Nonetheless, Digby is still misleading her readers into believing she was the first to use the phrase in an ironic, sarcastic manner.

I emailed her a year or so ago about the fact that Gore Vidal was publicly and consistently using this phrase to describe the denizens of DC back in the 1980s in that exact same sarcastic, ironic manner. Digby never responded, and yet here she goes again...I love Digby and think extremely highly of her, but this is wrong of her, and she knows better.

Heck, when I was writing my novel in the late 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s (my book was first published in May 2003), I was using the phrase "the village" in the book to describe those elite residents of DC, thinking it was already widely known. See pages 203, 405 and 571 of the original hardcover version of my book. Yet, Digby says she started using the phrase in that manner in 2004.

I'm not saying Digby ever saw let alone read any portion of my book. I am saying that Vidal and others were using that phrase quite regularly in the 1980s and especially in the 1990s. It was not original to me and, frankly, I thought it so well known that I never thought it was necessary to cite Vidal or anyone as the parent of that phrase.

However, in light of the confusion Digby has sown over this phrase, she should at least alert her readers that Gore Vidal was more the parent of that phrase than she is...

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Hamas leader goes back to his war corner, arm in arm with Bibi

Armageddon is on the minds of Bibi Netanyahu and Meshaal.

So the 100 years war will continue...

There was a time when Meshaal was in favor of negotiations with Israel starting with the 1967 borders as a minimum for Israel. See here and here.

But Bibi doesn't want to see those negotiations happen, which is why he has undertaken the course of conduct he has undertaken these past several years. So Meshaal has gone back to his corner, just as Bibi has. And Abbas, the business oriented guy, stands there and wonders what the heck is wrong with all these people...

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Can we talk instead of spousal abuse instead of guns for a moment?

This article by Jessica Valenti is compelling reading about the recent murder of the Kansas City Chief football player's girlfriend.

I tend toward supporting 2nd Amendment rights, even though I don't ever recall even holding a real gun, and have no interest in ever holding a gun, let alone shooting one. The imbroglio over Bob Costas reading a local Kansas City writer's column is ultimately a sideshow. Yes, guns don't kill people, people kill, with guns more easily than with say knives. But again, those of us who live in urbanized environments or tight suburban environments sometimes don't get why people like to have guns. And those of us who do not like to hunt and kill deer and other animals for food don't often see the point of view of those who do.

But spousal abuse is not something I see as having another "side."

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Happy Zappadan 2012

Forget about saying Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, that Jewish holiday that has nothing to do with gifts, either, and Kwannza.

It is time to say Happy Zappadan.

First up is an abridged (missing the opening story) Cheepnis from the "Roxy & Elsewhere" album (1974).

And to finish us up tonight the entire, and I mean entire, "Grand Wazoo" album from 1972, which is Zappa and a large orchestral jazz band. And nearly all instrumental, with very little lyrics.

The "Grand Wazoo" album always has a special meaning for me because I saw Zappa live for the first time for the "Wazoo" album tour. The concert was at the Felt Forum in Madison Square Garden in New York in September 1972. I was all of fifteen and it was, I think maybe my third or fourth rock concert, starting in February of that year with The Yes (for the "Fragile" album tour).

As I say, Happy Zappadan!

Monday, December 03, 2012

Family values as democratic socialism

Matt Yglesias is still sometimes able to transcend his desire to be a Village insider in the ultimate village of Washington, D.C., and say something that shakes the current political consensus of the elites in this nation to their core:

America is not a family friendly nation. If it wishes to be family friendly, it will have to institute programs it currently calls "socialist." That includes paid parental leave, child care subsidies and programs, national health insurance and lowering the cost of educating youth again through tax subsidies and scholarships.

Michael Harrington told us this years ago, that socialism should only arrive when we are enlightened as a populace to the balance of government and the private sector, and not in bloodied revolutions. His last book, published in the year of his death in 1989, was prophetically called: "Socialism: Past & Future" because, he said, there is no socialist present.

There is now the faint stirrings that socialist ideas can be part of an overall debate. It will appear fresh and not all ideas become hackneyed upon their general acceptance. It will appear hopeful and above all, socialism should always have a component of hope in it if it is to remain humane, and not repeat the horrors of the application of the term in the 20th Century. There is never a permanent answer, and there is never a complete philosophy. Mixed economies always do better than pure ones. That is one of the few truths of humanity.

Off to work I go...


Sunday, December 02, 2012

It can't happen to me or you, right?

Please read this Glenn Greenwald post that is also cross-published at the British Guardian newspaper.

The article is about the young soldier, Bradley Manning, who is accused of passing state "secrets" to Wikileaks. I put "secrets" in quotes because most of the information is already known to those nations with whom we are in a cool war, i.e. Iran and Syria, to take two examples, and those with whom we have a strange relationship, i.e. Pakistan and Afghanistan. Secrecy is overrated, but government officials sure get angry when they find someone not playing the game of hiding information from the population at large in the USA.

The government's treatment of Manning is malicious and fits comfortably in the definition of torture. I am not putting the word torture in quotes because that is what is occurred with respect to this young man. And if we do not think what the Obama administration is doing is making it easier for his or future governments to put media reporters in jail for treason, and if we don't think the Obama administration is making it easier for government to do to other Americans what it has allowed to be done to Manning, then we are being dangerously naive, foolish and yes, cruel. And if we think Manning is the first to have been treated this way, then we have not been reading about what went on in Guantanamo Bay between 2001 and 2005, for example.

For corporate media liberals and Democratic Party stalwarts to not harshly criticize this Democratic Party president on this issue of civil liberties is more than a scandal. It gives proof for those who recognize the tribalism in American politics. We don't criticize the president because he is supposedly on "our" side. That is again a scandal, but it is also pathetic and yes horrible.

And if that is not enough for those on my "side" of the tribalalist discourse, then take note: Lindsay Graham, John McCain and the gang at FoxNews are flogging Susan Rice and a random event in Libya. They say nothing--that's right, nothing--about the treatment of Private Manning in any negative way. That's because they can't wait to exercise the same powers Obama is exercising.

So go ahead. Tell me that Private Manning's treatment is something we should not be screaming about. Tell me that Congress should not be passing legislation right now that gets this guy freed from his torturing captors on the basis that his rights under the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and definitely Eighth Amendment have been violated. And tell me that Obama should not be investigated for impeachment for countenancing or supporting the military's conduct against this young man and for continuing and expanding policies Bush, Cheney and John Yoo thought were appropriate responses to the Al Queda attack on the Trade Center Towers on September 11, 2001.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Rushdie: Okay, so he is a boor, but he's still a free speech hero

Zoe Heller writes a devastating review of Salman Rushdie's cloying third person perspective autobiography, "Joseph Anton: A Memoir."

She makes the case that Rushdie writes with a false naivete, an inability to forgive others for a hypocrisy which could easily be applied to him, and his refusal to own up to how badly he treated the women in his life. Rushdie is revealed as a player and not a very sympathetic one.

I think what is also galling to Heller, though it is not as clearly spelled out, is the choice Rushdie made for the memoir, which is a third person narrative style. It's like the Saturday Night Live caricature of the old Senator Robert Dole (R-KS) who often spoke of himself in the third person. See here.

I found the long quotes from Rushdie's book to be, again, cloying and it appears to have caused Rushdie to be less introspective than had he used the admittedly more commonplace "I."

Had I been friendly with Rushdie during his creation of his memoir, my advice to Rushdie would have been to reconsider the third person perspective narrative style. Rather than say it directly, I would have suggested Rushdie re-read the works of W. Somerset Maugham. Maugham knew how to write both non-fiction and--yes!--fiction with an "I" perspective. Compare, for example: the memoir "Summing Up" and the novel "The Razor's Edge." In the latter, again, novel, Maugham placed himself as a character in the book and also the narrator telling us, the reader, something completely "true." It is an amazingly vivid work, especially when we consider that Maugham was already in his senior citizen years when he wrote it.

Notwithstanding Heller's sharp insight and well-written review, I think we have to admit that free speech heroes are still heroes even if they are, personally speaking, boors. I would not wish what Rushdie had to endure on anyone and there is reason to suppose we in the West did not do enough to confront the Iranian leadership for their fatwa.