Thursday, December 28, 2017

Year-end Space Filler: The 10 Lamest Stories of 2017

By A.J. Liebling
Meta-Content Generator

With the first string gasbags languishing in St. Barts or trying to stay one step ahead of their wives' process-servers, the end of year is the time when those trapped in New York or DC fill space and air with their top ten lists for 2017.  Could anything be lamer?  Well, actually, they could – as these top 10 lame stories from the past year will demonstrate.

10. What does the Korean madman want? 

Gee, who could suss this one out?  Why does Kim Jong Un refuse to give up his nuclear arsenal at the demand of dotard President U Bum?   He is either a lunatic on a suicide mission or he has seen what has happened to fellow dictators in Libya and Iraq who tried to face down the United States without a few A-bombs in their pocket.  You make the call; your media savants somehow can't.

9.  Where will Jeff Bezos go next?

World-class city to Jeff Bezos: We have it all!
Having exhausted the labor market and gullibility of Seattle, Jeff Bezos has announced he is graciously prepared to receive tribute to locate some sort of office somewhere else pleasing to him.  The winning vassal state must have the right combination of a highly educated labor force, a major international airport, an established web of high-tech institutions and companies he can raid, and a government complaisant enough to toss him billions of subsidies for the privilege of hosting his minions.  In other words, nowhere.

Of course he will choose someplace, we hope not here, subject to sufficient bribes to please his most excellent crap merchant and labor sweater.

Let's see: educated work force, major airport, lots of culture, easily corrupted government officials.  Looks like the inside track belongs to Moscow.

8.  TV star marries unemployed Brit

Actually we like stories about plucky clever black/Jewish girls making good, and it doesn't get much gooder than landing a genuine if rather thick high-mileage British prince.  However, 10,000 words on the layers of meaning hidden in a slinky dress she wore in a photo is – what's the word? – lame.

7.  Those Silicon Valley geniuses

This lame-o perennial features a fawning profile of some Asperger's case who by dint of his coldness, ruthlessness, and just dumb luck made billions by rolling out a product that while no more innovative that what was already out there (Apple Mac, Friendster) managed to be adopted universally.  That makes the twerp the source of all wisdom on all subjects, including those on which he (and it's always he) knows nothing, like human relationships.

Never mind that such genius was utterly oblivious to Russian manipulation of his product, missed the last two major turns in technology, or had turned his startup into the sh*ttiest frat house at Ole Miss, the media hung on every banal utterance.

6.  Local person buys doughnut for The Poor

This is more a local news B-block staple following the fires, overturned trucks, and any good murder within 300 miles of the transmitter: some unfortunate person's Christmas was brightened when an unnamed/named benefactor bought doughnuts/turkeys/toys for the poor/a little old lady/whoever was standing in line behind them at Market Basket, thus showing what generous and wonderful people we are.  That these same generous and wonderful white people overwhelmingly voted for greedy, bigoted white men who devote their entire lives to screwing the poor, with tremendous success, somehow goes without mention.

5.  Grifter-in-Chief is now acting Presidential

This one was more prevalent in the first half of the year, before the media's Charlie Browns realized that Lucy was never in fact going to hold the football.  Every time U Bum managed to read a speech from a teleprompter without wetting himself, the media chorused that such effort represented a decisive turn from the torrent of witless bigoted insults that passed for a Presidential campaign.  Of course the next day U Bum resumed the cheap shots.  Meanwhile the grifting and the chaos went on as always.  We're hearing less of this narrative now as the catastrophe visited upon America by plutocracy and bigotry has become clear to even the meanest newsroom intelligence, a little too late.

4.  How we were supposed to know?

He was like totally better
Replacing lame narrative #5 has been the rising chorus of shocked self-righteous attacks on U Bum from, wait for it, Republicans.  Not Republicans who have to run for office, who remain hostage to their party's demented primary voters, but Republican gasbags who have long earned a semi-dishonest living providing much-unneeded “balance” to op-ed pages and cable news panels.

While we appreciate the return of Jennifer, Ana, Bruce, Steve, Nicole, and Billy to the side of the light, we have to ask where were they during the reigns of St. Ronald of Bitburg and George W. for Waterboarding?  Oh, that's right: working for those nefarious schmucks and shilling for their horrible policies, which bear a remarkable resemblance to those being promoted by the Grifter-in-Chief.

Thanks, but we'll look elsewhere for our moral re-armament.

3.  What makes white men kill people?

Funny when the gunman is black or brown, the answer is clear (thug, terrorist).  But when it's a white man with home-made machine guns, no one has a clue.  Usually we settle on some sort of unknown and unheard of mental illness.  The real question – why do we allow serial domestic abusers easy access to weapons of mass murder? – goes unasked and unanswered, although we suspect it may have just the teensiest bit to do with the Republican opposition to any sort of reasonable gun regulation that might get between a white wife beater and his vantage point high above the country-music concert.

2.  Why won't Hillary go away?

She won the popular vote by a margin of only 2,900,000, so why does Hillary Clinton think she has any right to participate in political life?  Especially when she refused to divorce her tomcattin' husband and made compromises in pursuit of what she saw as larger principles.  The nerve!  Surely it has nothing to do with the continued effort to silence outspoken women (although we'd be more righteously outraged if 53% of white women hadn't voted for someone else).

The question we have:  since no one ever asked this of John Kerry, John McCain, or Wilfred M. Romney, why won't this story go away?

But the winner has to be the lamest news story of 2017 (cue fanfare of assault rifles being shot and meth cookers exploding):

1.  U Bum's voters are still with him

"He tells it like it is"
Journey with our intrepid reporter into darkest (by which we mean whitest) Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Kentucky, Alabama, or other uninhabitable sh*thole and meet those adorable white critters who still support the Bigot-in-Chief.  Why?  Usually it takes 1000 words to get the answer, but the cuckoo eventually pops out of the clock.  It's that U Bum has given them what they want: an endless stream of bigotry and hate that matches what's in their hearts and lets them enjoy their unearned feelings of superiority as they waste away from lack of real jobs, health care, and hope.  

What the 74% of the American electorate who didn't vote for the Tangerine-Faced Pussy Grabber think one year on is of course not interesting to anyone.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Good and Dead: Former Archbishop of Boston, child torturing Antichrist, and Harvard grad

The obituary page of The Massachusetts Spy

By Luke Reschuss with
Gina Romantica in Rome

We almost buried the news of the too-long-delayed death of the evil Bernard Cardinal Law, dark Prince of the Roman Catholic Church, but as the work of undoing the evil that he perpetrated on innocent children for 25 years remains in progress, we thought we'd give him the sendoff he deserves on his way to someplace even hotter than Rome in August.

Cardinal Law and his flock

Speaking of Hell and Rome, we were as appalled as, though of course less personally injured than, any of Bernie's no longer young victims by the splendid funeral the dead felon got in St. Peter's Basilica, attended by an eminence no less exalted than Pope Francis himself.  We'll let The Boston Globe (which seems to have a little problem of its own these days with a coverup of misconduct somewhat less grave than the Archdiocese's) explain the final insult to the victims of child rape thusly:

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis prayed Thursday for a merciful final judgment for Cardinal Bernard Law, symbol of the Catholic Church’s failure to protect children from pedophile priests and its arrogance in safeguarding its own reputation at all costs.
In a final blessing at Law’s funeral Mass, Francis blessed his coffin with incense and holy water at the foot of the back altar of St. Peter’s Basilica and recited the ritual prayer commending him to God.
‘‘May he be given a merciful judgment so that redeemed from death, freed from punishment, reconciled to the Father, carried in the arms of the Good Shepherd, he may deserve to enter fully into everlasting happiness in the company of the eternal King together with all the saints.’’
The dean of the college of cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, celebrated the funeral Mass, along with some 30 other cardinals, and eulogized Law without making any mention of the scandal. Following the typical protocol, Francis arrived at the end of the service to deliver the final prayer.
US Ambassador-designate Callista Gingrich and her husband, Newt, as well as some other members of the diplomatic corps were on hand in the pews, . . .
Turnout was otherwise limited, with the basilica ushers stacking extra rows of empty seats before the Mass began.

Frankly we're surprised more didn't show up to stick pins in the stiff to make sure he wasn't faking, although the attendance of Callista the Sword-Swallowing Ambassador and her adulterous liege added one more sparkling jewel of hypocrisy to the already glittering tiara.

Speaking of merciful judgment, how much mercy was shown to the scores of children whose lives were destroyed by Cardinal Law's betrayal of every moral basis of every religion ever?  We'll let the Globe's Kevin Cullen sum up the quality of Cardinal Law's mercy:
But, please, in the name of everything we hold sacred, let’s not disabuse ourselves of the abuse he enabled. Bernie Law presided over one of the worst networks of sexual abusers ever assembled. Thousands of children were raped and molested on his watch. Some of them killed themselves. Some were dead, in their souls, from the moment they were inappropriately touched by a priest. He sent the priests who raped and molested on to other parishes to do more of what they did, rather than call scandal to his church. . . .
He forsook his position as a bishop, protecting his flock. Instead, he protected the institution and the men who used Roman collars as bait to abuse young people. He moved them to other parishes and places where they could rape again.

That is his legacy. That is what should be carved on his gravestone. It is the hard and horrible and inescapable truth.

And if the Catholic Church doesn’t have the truth, what does it have?
Now maybe it's the doctrine of the Catholic Church to forgive such evil.  In the shul we go to though we're told that for the sins that man commits against man (or child), God doesn't forgive.

And neither do Cardinal Law's legion of victims:
Another survivor, Alexa MacPherson of Holbrook, had a different reaction to Law’s death.

Now he resides in an exclusive
gated community
“I hope the gates of Hell are swinging wide open to welcome him,” said MacPherson, 42, who grew up in Dorchester.
So what is Cardinal Law's infernal legacy?  He escaped Boston one step ahead of the grand jury and retired to a lifetime of ease at a sinecure in Rome.  His church, having grudgingly coughed up a few more raping priests and their enabling bishops, has recently decided that it had suffered enough and let its Commission on Priestly Sex Abuse waft off into limbo, accordingly to the notoriously anti-clerical National Catholic Reporter.

We also remember that for years the Church's clever Boston lawyers frustrated the claims of of priestly molestation victims for compensation as substantial as their injuries by citing the Massachusetts law limiting the civil liabilities of charities, of which the Archdiocese of Boston was unarguably one, to $20,000.

In response, efforts were made to persuade the Great and General Court to amend Massachusetts law to exempt claims for injuries due to sexual abuse from that paltry limit.  You'll never guess what happened:
James F. Driscoll, executive director of the Catholic Conference, said in May 2012 that the measure would “have an immediate and harmful impact on the ability of all nonprofits, not just the Catholic Church, to serve thousands of people who rely on these organizations.’’
So the Archdiocese is good about the forgiving, but as for promising to compensate any future victims fairly, it's more like can't we just all get along?  The good news is that in his new home Cardinal Law should have no trouble getting along with his new colleagues.  After all, they're just like him.  And after all those summers in Rome, he's used to the heat.

As for the rest of us, it's much too soon to forgive an institution that still labors mightily to deny justice to children victimized by sexual predators in clerical collars.

Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 18, 2017

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The Massachusetts Spy is made possible by a generous if untraceable grant from Don-n-Vlad Hospitality Partners (Cyprus), LP

Monday, December 11, 2017

Why We Fight: Know Your Allies, Chapter 35,549

KABUL, Afghanistan — “You’re ugly, Maryam, everyone says so, but I guess you’re a virgin so when you’re ready to have sex, let me know and I will be glad to …” Her male co-worker, writing on her Facebook account, finished the sentence obscenely.

It was 10 a.m. on a normal day in the life of an Afghan working woman. The journalist Maryam Mehtar, 24, said she had already that morning been harassed or assaulted at least five times: in the bus to work, on the street waiting for the bus, by a man who grabbed her buttocks, by another man who asked how much she charged and by a young boy who said she had a “pretty vulva.

. . . .

When women speak up, they take a big risk, said Shaharzad Akbar, 30, who works as an adviser to President Ashraf Ghani and says she was sexually assaulted when she was an intern early in her career. “In Afghanistan, women can’t say they faced sexual harassment. If a woman shares someone’s identity, he will kill her or kill her family. We can never accuse men, especially high-ranking men, without great risk.”

They fear not only the vengeance of the abusers, but sometimes even that of their own families, Ms. Akbar and others said.

Zubaida, 26, was a police officer whose superior groped her breasts and demanded sex. She quit her job, but does not dare give her own full name or her abuser’s. “If I said his name, definitely he would kill me or one of my family members,” she said. Worse, if it became public, she said she would fear that her own family members might carry out an honor killing against her.

Even rape victims are sometimes killed by their own relatives, who believe the shame attached to rape is worse than the suffering of the rape victim.

“In Afghanistan, we are both the victim and the criminal,” Zubaida said. “I can’t even tell my own family that I quit because of sexual harassment. Western women are so lucky.”

. . . .

One woman gave up on government employment after repeated harassment and started her own nongovernmental organization. She began applying for grants from the United Nations, the United States Agency for International Development and various Western embassies.

“Every time the same thing: The Afghan staff would say, ‘I’ll approve your proposal, if you have sex with me,’” she said, asking that her name not be used because she still hopes to find a grant and does not want to anger potential donors. “Everyone thinks that those women who work outside the home are whores, and Afghan men can say and do anything they want with them.”

. . . .

When Ms. Mehtar posted on Facebook her view that “Afghan women are not safe even in their own homes,” she was deluged with a mixture of hate mail and sexually abusive comments. She received hundreds of Facebook and Twitter messages — which she has archived. One came from an Afghan writer named Jalil Junbish, who described himself as an authority on women’s rights. It read: “You’re a whore and have had sex with many men.”

Contacted by Facebook Messenger about the abuse, Mr. Junbish not only confirmed that it came from him, but repeated his accusation. “Maryam is a whore,” he replied to a female Afghan reporter for The New York Times. “Why are you her friend?” He added, “You’re a whore, too.”

When the reporter contacted Mr. Junbish by telephone, he confirmed that the Facebook account was his own, but he then claimed that it had been hacked by someone else who sent the abusive messages.

 . . . .

In one of the country’s most outrageous cases, last month, an Afghan air force colonel was accused of demanding sex from a subordinate. The woman secretly videotaped his assault on her, with his face and identity clear. Posted on Facebook anonymously, that video and a more explicit second one went viral in Afghanistan.

. . . .

Recently, the Ministries of Interior and Communications jointly set up hotlines to report sexual harassment, with separate numbers for women (989) and men (999). Since the interior ministry is in charge of the police, many assumed the hotlines were for reporting problems with police officers.

A woman who answered the 989 number said that was not their role; they handle only phone harassment cases of the heavy-breathing type. “If a policeman harasses you,” the hotline operator said, “you should slap him, or ask other women to slap him. We can’t help you.” 

The New York Times, Dec. 11, 2017

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Where in the world is Chaim Weizmann?

By Henry Cabot Lodge
Diplomatic Correspondent

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Never let it be said that subscribers to the New York Times don't receive the finest in service journalism for their thousand-dollar annual subscriptions.  We're not talking just about their coverage of obscure eateries at the very end of subway lines you never took east of Grand Central or south of Fulton Street, what $2 million will buy you in Tribeca (a parking space), or their glossy fashion spreads on how to look like an anorexic borderline junkie for only $75,000 a night.

No, included with your daily paper is a veritable fount of geographical learning.  Why just today you could learn where the capital of Israel is:
Jerusalem.  . . . is our capital and it always will be. It was taken away from the Jewish people by force. It was recaptured by force. If necessary, it will be preserved under Israel’s jurisdiction by force, too.

President U Bum says this isn't the capital of Israel . . .
So if your answer to the question “What is the capital of Israel?” was Bridgeport, Connecticut, you lost!  Don't you feel like a schmuck?  If you did, feel free to send a thank you to Shmuel Rosner, who embedded that geographical nugget inside an op-ed column that concluded with warm praise for President U Bum's latest diplomatic clanger:
But the president — often criticized for being blunt and never shying away from saying what he wants to say — will have his Trumanesque moment by refusing to pretend that Israel has no capital. If violence is the result of that, we will all regret it. But it is worth remembering that Truman’s recognition of Israel was also met with violence — and it is still remembered as a great American moment.
Who is this great melamed, Shmuel Rosner?   Is he the same guy who told American Jews a mere nine years ago that their job was to support whatever the Government of Israel did, no questions asked?  Well, maybe it's a common name in Likud circles:
I think that what American Jews can do--the best service they can give as to advance Middle East peace--is to support Israel as much as they can.  . . .   I want them coming for visits, I want them caring, I want them lobbying.  And no--I do not want them to be criticizing Israel in public and trying to pressure Israel on matters of policy and trying to "save Israel from itself" and all that condescending crap. 

Who likes condescending crap?  Not us, Shmuelkeleh.

 . . . or this . . .
On the other hand, Israelis like Rosner get to condescend to American Jews by telling them that U Bum's disastrous announcement on Jerusalem is nothing more than a reflection of geographical reality.  It's like we're all schmucks, a stereotype perhaps fostered by the spectacle of thousands of Reform Jews rampaging through the streets of Boston after spending more than six bucks for coffee and a roll at Eataly.  Can you believe it?

Of course, the Likudniks and their even-more-loathsome allies know that U Bum's slurred declaration was not about geography; it's about destroying any hope of a two-state solution.  In that same edition of the New York Times you could find the kind of candor that Israelis lavish on themselves:
Naftali Bennett, the education minister and leader of the right-wing Jewish Home party, said American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “shows that Israel’s strategic patience has paid off.”
“We have been told again and again that if we want more acceptance, we have to cut off parts of Israel and hand them over to our enemies,” he said. “What we are learning is the contrary: The world respects strong countries who believe in themselves and looks down on countries willing to give up their homeland.”
Translated from the Likud-speak, this means that U Bum's witless Jerusalem announcement vindicates the Israeli right's rejection of a two-state solution and territorial compromise with the Palestinians, because if you wait long enough, Sheldon Adelson will install in the White House some demented grifter stupid enough to look the other way whilst Israel paves the West Bank with settlements in preparation for annexation.

And according to the annexationists, Israel will get away with it because those pesky Arabs are too preoccupied with with all the other things they f**ked up, like Yemen or indeed the entire Sunni-Shiite feud:
But even as Arab and Muslim leaders across the Middle East condemned Mr. Trump’s announcement, doubts were raised about the stamina of the anger. The Palestinian issue, long a binding force in Arab politics, has slipped in importance in recent years, overshadowed by other conflicts.
The expansionists either deny the existence of the Palestinians as a people entitled to self-determination, or more smugly lump the Palestinians in with the Tibetans and the Kurds as history's losers whose demands can be ignored without consequences.  How's that working out in Northern Iraq, anyway?

At the risk of being labelled as “condescending,” we feel compelled to suggest that the consequences of U Bum's gift to his reactionary Jewish and evangelical base are unlikely to be in the best interests of the Jewish state.  Subsequent on-line editions of the Times report that violence has broken out in the West Bank and in Arab capitals and that Americans are being warned against traveling in Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Some Israelis seem to think that the loss of any number of Palestinian lives and perhaps a few 19-year-old IDF soldiers is but a small price to pay for burying the peace process.  We, along with maybe a few million other condescending American Jews, think that the death of even a single fearless pony-tailed or stubbled teenaged IDF draftee is far too high a price to pay for stupidity.

 . . . but his Holy Roller buddies
think this might be soon
The point of the consistent U.S. position on Jerusalem was not that the Israeli capital should be moved to Trump Towers Beersheva.  Rather, past U.S. policy was designed to give the Palestinians the hope that some day the peace process might result in a tenable state with a capital somewhere in the large annexed land mass Israel refers to as “Jerusalem.”  It was also intended to preserve the United States' unique position as the one power sufficiently trusted by both sides to broker a real and honest peace.

Well, that's all gone now, at least for the remaining weeks of the Grifter-in-Chief's Administration.  So why did the Master Negotiator embark on a path with no upside and tons of downside?  Consider that, in addition to Sheldon and his Likudnik Empire-Builders, there's one other group close to U Bum's tiny clotted heart who's pleased: Christian fundamentalists.

Why are they so devoted to sabotaging the peace process and ushering in Israeli dominion from the sea to the Jordan River?  If you read that book they carry around with them, you'll learn that a lot of them think that it's part of a cycle that leads to Armageddon, the restoration of Jesus Christ as the ruler of Jerusalem, and the rapturing of all good Christians.  None of this sounds too terrific for the Jews.

Even if you accept the protestations of these Holy Rollers that they don't actually support President U Bum on the grounds that he is helping to bring about the end of the world, you might want to pay heed to the words of Chaim Weizmann, the great Zionist leader and first President of Israel:
There must not be one law for the Jew and another for the Arabs....In saying this, I do not assume that there are tendencies toward inequality or discrimination. It is merely a timely warning which is particularly necessary because we shall have a very large Arab minority. I am certain that the world will judge the Jewish State by what it will do with the Arabs.
Stop condescending, Chaim.

Update, December 9, 2017: The Times op-ed editors must think that anyone who pays one large a year to get a newspaper must be pretty dim, because they reprinted the same geographical tidbit today, as mansplained by laziest Times columnist of the week Bret Stephens.  It's must reading if (and only if) you still think that the capital of Israel is Tombstone, Arizona.