Saturday, March 31, 2018

The never-ending banquet at The International House of Hot Takes

By A.J. Liebling
Meta-content Generator

The snow has melted, the crocuses are blooming, and the Red Sox are winning (OK, one game, but still!).  So why are we once again stuck inside, lured by the siren song of the International House of Hot Takes, d/b/a The New York Times Op-Ed Page?

We couldn't resist the latest hot, fluffy version of one of their traditional standbys: a stack of intolerant liberals, drizzled with condescension.  It's served to us by the most recent “diversity” hire: long-time reactionary hack Bret Stephens (If you foolishly thought that to promote diversity, The Times Op-Ed page might give space to groups traditionally unrepresented in mass media, like women of color, Latinas, Muslims, or Asians, then brother you've wandered into the wrong place).

With our government despoiled by corrupt autocrats, our children massacred in school, Puerto Rico languishing in ruins and despair, and our young men of color gunned down for the crime of texting, what social ill is white man Bret Stephens worried about today?

If you guessed a white man being criticized for the dumb shit he wrote and still believes, you won!  Bret has sprung to the defense of human toilet brush Keven Williamson, whose hiring by The Atlantic was greeted with less than universal acclaim by those intolerant liberals. 

According to Stephens, Williamson has graced the National Review and other equally-reputable outlets with “smart, stylish and often hilarious commentary.”  Whenever one white male reactionary describes the work product of another thusly, you know you're getting a horrible goulash of racist and misogynist hate speech, correctly spelled and punctuated.

Stephens' op-ed colleague, real journalist Michelle Goldberg, provided a few examples of Williamson's smarts, style, and hilarity:
He described an African-American boy in East St. Louis sticking out his elbows in “the universal gesture of primate territorial challenge.” Defiantly using male pronouns in a piece about the trans actress Laverne Cox, Williamson wrote, “Regardless of the question of whether he has had his genitals amputated, Cox is not a woman, but an effigy of a woman.” Feminism, he wrote, is a “collection of appetites wriggling queasily together like a bag of snakes.” He tweeted that women who have abortions should be hanged, later clarifying that while he has doubts about the death penalty, “I believe that the law should treat abortion like any other homicide.”
Have you stopped laughing yet? Equating women who wish to control their own reproductive system to murderers is not only not especially risible; it's not even original. It's been a staple of anti-choice hellhounds for generations.

Comparing people of color to monkeys and trans persons to freaks? Just as funny, and just as original.

But we're not here to pillory a garden-variety reactionary jackass like Williamson. We're trying to understand why Bret Stephens thinks liberals should tolerate the actions of The Atlantic, a publication with pretensions to decency.

Bret, give us the argument.  The take about hanging women for obtaining abortions?  That's OK, because it was only a Tweet:
I jumped at your abortion comment, but for heaven’s sake, it was a tweet. When you write a whole book on the need to execute the tens of millions of American women who’ve had abortions, then I’ll worry.
Perhaps women and their male supporters seeing the right to safe and legal abortion under siege, and within one vote of demolition by the Trump Supreme Court, are worried now.  Perhaps women seeking abortions in states where providers have been closed down by yahoos echoing Williamson are worried now.  Perhaps abortion providers coping with death threats on a daily basis are worried now.  Well, as long as Bret Stephens isn't worried, why should those trembling liberals be?

The Tweet-not-a-book-line was at least formally an argument.  Having formulated it, Stephens is quite sure his case is made:
The real question, then, isn’t what kinds of arguments are “acceptable.” It’s what kinds are, or ought to be, acceptable to liberals.
The “then” is what our old friend Karl Marx called a “verbal rivet:” it pretends to create an argument.  Of course, it doesn't – it just connects whatever came before it to the conclusion, which is that liberals should tolerate advocates for the execution or life imprisonment of women who terminate their pregnancies and those who assist them.  But Stephens, perhaps realizing that he hasn't actually stated a coherent position, continues by equating those who support a woman's right to choose with those who seek to hold Texas necktie parties for them.

Did I mention that all entrees at the International House of Hot Takes are served with Both Sides?  Believing that embryos, zygotes and fetuses are not human beings is no different from advocating the execution of those who act on those views.

Of course, had Williamson said that he believes that a fertilized egg is a human being and that it should not be legal to terminate a pregnancy, no one would balk.  It's the genocide (or life imprisonment) of millions of living, breathing, sentient women and abortion providers that causes some of us to wonder why a racist, misogynist, bigoted advocate for that position should be hired by a publication that once had a reputation for intellectual respectability. 

To Bret, this liberal outrage constitutes “character assassination.”  We sure hope that Williamson can recover from this dastardly assault.  That would distinguish him from Stephon Clark, who was assassinated simpliciter by the Sacramento Police for holding a cell phone.  But at the International House of Hot Takes, the continued war on persons of color isn't usually on the menu.  Maybe if the space that Bret Stephens wastes was given to someone who actually would bring a diverse perspective, Bree Newsome might serve up something worth reading.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Tireless advocate for rich white men, dead at 91

The obituary page of The Massachusetts Spy

By Luke Reschuss
Obituary Editor

After we're gone, we're remembered for the cause for which we dedicated our life.  That's why the first graf of Alan Dershowitz's obituary will recount his unrelenting advocacy of O.J. Simpson and torture.  George W. Bush's obituary lede will recall a war that has consumed hundreds of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars for no discernible purpose.

But we're not writing their obituaries today.  Today's passenger on the ferry crossing the Styx is one Pete Peterson, taken from us at the ripe age of 91.  He too will be remembered for his life's work: protecting the rich.  Did we mention that he was rich?  Funny coincidence.

He started out as a run-of-the-mill corporate CEO at the company once renowned for supplying loot to quiz shows (Bell & Howell) and from there served a term in the Nixon Administration without being convicted of any felonies.  The ability to run with thieves without being caught naturally brought him to the attention of Wall Street.

There he co-founded one of today's titans of financial finagling – Blackstone Group – which buys, sells, leverages, and destroys companies on behalf of institutional investors while creaming off the first inch or so of pelf for its principals.  Peterson eventually cashed out of Blackstone with billions of cash and stock.

Lest you think he was consumed by greed – well, in fact he was.  While other billionaires devoted some of their jack to good causes like universities, curing diseases, or The Washington Post, Peterson lavished a billion dollars on a foundation devoted to making sure that government did not try to ease the plight of the poor by taxing the rich.

Or as The New York Times more elegantly put it (by using the stiff's own self-serving words), his foundation sought “to raise public consciousness about long-term “politically untouchable” national challenges involving entitlements, foreign borrowing, health care costs, national savings, education, energy and nuclear proliferation.”

Let's stop there for just one second.  His foundation, humbly named after himself, was a tax-exempt entity.  Donations to it were deductible from what the donor would otherwise have to pay to the U.S. Government for all the good things it does.  If he donated $1,000,000,000 to this Foundation in 2007, that means, let me see here, that he reduced his tax bill that year (or future years if needed) by $396,000,000.  Now getting a tax cut of $396 million is no different from the Government spending $396 million.

So let's thank the American people who kicked in $396,000,000 to spread the word about how spending money on taking care of the poor and unfortunate was bad for the country, by which Pete Peterson meant bad for him and his fellow finagling plutocrats.

As the years went on, Pete's Foundation would weigh in on efforts to cut spending on fripperies like Social Security (which keeps old people out of poverty).  Somehow, that same concern about the crushing effect of deficits and debt never carried over to concern about tax cuts for the rich, like those just enacted by the Grifter-in-Chief and his Republican co-conspirators.

On Wall Street, Pete Peterson had a voracious
appetite for deals
Why is that?  If your great concern is the supposedly unsustainable debt burden we are bequeathing to those young people not mowed down in third-period Algebra II, why wouldn't you be just as concerned about revenues as spending?  Sadly Pete Peterson is no longer around to explain this to us.

The only clue he left was this faux-humble confession to the Times: ““I’ve always been involved with causes of various kinds,” Mr. Peterson said in the 2007 Times interview, “kind of a closet, second-rate intellectual, I guess you’d say. . . .”  We'd say he was being much too kind, notwithstanding the praise lavished on him by former Ayn Rand boy toy and clueless ideologue Alan Greenspan.

For a while there were actually schmucks who fell for his granny-starving program. As late as the Obama Administration, supposedly “centrist” Democrats were touting the benefits of a grand compromise through which Social Security benefits would be cut and Republicans in turn would agree not to shut down the U.S. Government forever.

Since then, though, Democrats have realized that immiserating the old will do nothing to appease the Republican lust to dismantle the social welfare system in the United States and therefore they are better off politically and morally opposing any such cuts and daring Republicans to enact them while they still have Congressional majorities.  Despite Peterson's persuasive money [Surely, efforts? – Ed.], that hasn't happened yet.

Indeed it may be fair to say that the “centrist” program of tormenting the poor to pay for tax cuts for the rich is as dead as Pete Peterson.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

From the International House of Hot Takes

By A.J. Liebling
Meta-content Generator

It's a cold Saturday morning here in Worcester (although not as cold as Charlottesville, today, amirite?), so who isn't ready for a sizzling stack of hot takes served fresh at the International House of Hot Takes, d/b/a The New York Times Op-ed Page?

What's on the menu today?  How about long-time favorites like both sides, served with a dollop of smug liberals?  Or tribalism bad, hot and tasty and guaranteed not to contain anything derived from America's sordid history of racism and sexism?  Perhaps you'd like a side of character is everything, with your choice of tortured Biblical allusions?

We're just bullsh**ting you.  At the International House of Hot Takes, you'll lap up whatever you're served and you'll like it, unless you want to be branded closed-minded, intolerant, or, heavens forfend, arrogant.

Today they're serving up hot, steaming portions of one of their classic menu items: why won't liberals listen to “small-town” America?  In today's version, it's why can't coastal elites understand why out in Green Acres no one has a problem with buying and shooting high-powered assault rifles at anything that moves, like your classmates in third-period U.S. History?

At the outset, we're wondering if there's anything about the slice of small-town America being quoted in extenso and with the most tender sympathy.  How many people of color are quoted in the piece, supposedly set in rural Iowa (3.7% black, according to the Census)?  There's plenty of rural places that have lots of PoC's.  Where's their op-ed column?  Are they down with assault rifles 'r us?

In fact, to find out whether all small-town dwellers think alike, you'd have to go all the way to the same day's Washington Post.  Guess what?  They don't!  In fact,

So, now we know that today's hot take doesn't offer up the views of small-town America, but of white small-town America.  That might be a just a tad different.

As usual with such hot takes, the problem is stated to be the deficient understanding of us smug coastal elites.  We just don't get the wisdom of small-town whites:
The reaction to mass shootings highlights this difference. Liberals blame the guns and want to debate gun control. For conservatives, the blame lies with the shooter, not the gun.
To my conservative friends, it’s a matter of liberty and personal responsibility. Even after a horrific event like the school shooting in Florida, where 17 people were killed, more gun control would be compromising those first principles. For them, compromising those principles would be even more horrific and detrimental to society than any shooting. What my conservative friends see is not gun control, but rather control, period.
Take that, you insufferable liberals.  Now you understand why laws are futile, and why these salt of the earth types oppose laws banning abortions (because people will get them regardless of what the law forbids) or murder (because bad people will kill no matter what).  Duh!

As for the dead students and traumatized survivors, we're sure they'll feel better knowing that keeping assault weapons out of private hands would be much more horrible than being slaughtered in class and so much more detrimental than living with the trauma of having seen the carnage or lost a beloved child.  How do we know this?  Because white small-town America tells us so!

And what about the organization that pimps out high powered weapons as the last line of defense against UN black helicopters landing in your cornfield and forcing your children to take mass transit to government indoctrination centers (which liberals call public schools)?
Not everyone here is an N.R.A. nut, but they think the N.R.A. may be the last line of defense for the Second Amendment. The apocalyptic videos about gun control from the N.R.A. spokeswoman Dana Loesch are over the top, as my conservative friends here know, but they think they are fun for the basic reason that liberals grow faint after viewing them.
The best part: it drives liberals crazy!
Small-town white America knows what's good fun: anything that causes liberals to splutter.  That must be why they loved lynchings so much.  And those hilarious Hillary T-shirts laden with obscenities and sexual references – in white rural America, the fun, like the meth, never stops!

Even taking the premise – that we should know what motivates white rural gun tossers – seriously, the hot take fails to satisfy.  Could it be that asking white racists what motivates them might not generate the right answer?  Could it be that they either don't really know why they voted for the Tangerine-Faced Grifter, or they know damn well and are ashamed to admit it?  Could it be that they understand that their views on people of color, immigrants, women, and anyone else perceived to threaten their position are, to coin a word, deplorable?

The chef of this delectable hot take, one Robert Leonard, is both an anthropologist and journalist at KNIA radio, Knoxville, Iowa's tower of information power.  He's a jack of many trades but he'll always have a job at the International House of Hot Takes.  We'll leave you with another one of his unforgettable creations, this time from 2015, via
With Bush now active on the stage, the dynamic has changed. Every candidate of both parties will have to up their game to keep up with him on the issues. Republicans will have to decide which they dislike more, a Bush dynasty or another Democrat in the White House. Of course, there is a large wing of the party that sees Bush as too moderate, and that they need a Tea Party favorite to win. Which is what every Democratic strategist I know wants them to continue to believe.
In fairness to the chef, there were plenty of cooks in the kitchen involved in the prep of that unforgettable hot take.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A great step forward for women torturers everywhere

By Husband Kimmel
Intelligence Correspondent

President U Bum, having dispatched incompetent corporate plutocrat Rex Tillerson (whose incompetence and demise were predicted at the outset in these pages), by the moron's version of a bullet in the basement of the Lubyanka – an early morning sh*thouse Tweet – needed some warm bodies to fill the gap.  So Republican hack Mike Pompeo will move from CIA to pick up the pieces at State, leaving a vacancy at the International House of Pain in Langley.

Gina Haspel is obviously qualified
Mirabile dictu, instead of appointing yet another disappointing and/or appalling white man to the post, the Groper-in-Chief has picked a CIA lifer, one Gina Haspel, to run the agency.  She brings a wealth of experience and is regarded by her peers as a professional non-political operative.

That sounds exactly like the kind of person U Bum would never appoint to any position anywhere, but don't worry – she could be perhaps the most awful U Bum Regime appointment ever.

Let's let our friend Dexter Filkins of The New Yorker remind us of Frau Haspel's greatest claim to infamy:
From 2003 to 2005, Gina Haspel was a senior official overseeing a top-secret C.I.A. program that subjected dozens of suspected terrorists to savage interrogations, which included depriving them of sleep, squeezing them into coffins, and forcing water down their throats. In 2002, Haspel was among the C.I.A. officers present at the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, an Al Qaeda suspect who was tortured so brutally that at one point he appeared to be dead. . . .
In 2002, according to people I spoke to, Haspel was present at a C.I.A. black site in Thailand when Zubaydah and al-Nashiri were being tortured. It’s not clear whether she took part in the interrogations themselves. Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation, which is recounted in the Intelligence Committee’s landmark investigation, was particularly gruesome. According to the report, he was waterboarded eighty-three times; at one point, he became non-responsive, with water bubbling up from his lungs. Doctors had to revive him. During his confinement, Zubaydah lost sight in his left eye.

But that's probably not what attracted Gina to the Grifter-in-Chief.  What must have really caught his eye was her eagerness to cover up the war crime of torture:
Haspel, a career C.I.A. employee, took part in another of the agency’s darkest moments: the destruction, in 2005, of video tapes of the interrogation of Zubaydah and a second suspect, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, at whose torture she was present, three years before.
For those of you who, like Jennifer Rubin, David Frum, Michael Gerson, Joe Scarborough, Billy Kristol, and other clueless Republicans who now claim to be shocked, shocked over the moral lapses of the U Bum Regime (see post below), have forgotten the crimes committed by the immediately preceding Republican Administration, let us remind you that by order of George W. Bush, hundreds of persons were subjected to brutal illegal torture to get them to confess to crimes they might or might not have committed (like those supposed links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda).  The details are set forth in Jane Mayer's classic The Dark Side and in the Senate Select Intelligence Committee report.   I'd provide links, but given the American public's utter lack of interest in these crimes then and now, why bother?

The nest of subversive Socialists doing business as the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence confirmed the reporting of brave journalists like Filkins and Mayer:

And all of this was a violation of U.S. and international law, notwithstanding a ridiculous memo written by willing mouthpiece John Yoo that said nothing was torture unless the victim died or was left permanently crippled.  The only thing left permanently crippled was the rule of law and decency in the United States, leading directly to the current collapse of almost every democratic norm.

But at least all that vile torture saved American lives, right?  Well . . . . 
To recap, President U Bum has nominated a woman who committed war crimes that achieved nothing but infamy and then covered up her involvement in these crimes.  No wonder she's the CIA's Ms. Popularity:
The praise for Ms. Haspel, despite her role in torturing detainees, reflects the agency’s ambivalent attitude toward those who participated in the interrogation program. The Bush administration declared the methods legal, and the view within the C.I.A. was that those who used the techniques were doing their jobs. (NYT, 2/17/17)
Doing their jobs?  Wasn't that what Eichmann said?

Back in 2017, the New York Times reported that some smug morally superior Senators were eager to question her about her role in torture and obstruction of justice, but 
Because Haspel’s new job is exempt from congressional confirmation, it’s doubtful she will ever have to publicly answer questions about her role in what amounts to America’s dirty war.
She'll have to show up this time, but given the Senate's razor-thin Republican majority, don't expect a few war crimes to stand between a qualified woman and the promotion she, uh, deserves.

Update, March 17:  Apparently our devoted spook wasn't presiding at the torture of Zubaydah, the Times now reports: “While Ms. Haspel oversaw the site during the torture of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri at the site, she did not supervise the interrogation and waterboarding of the suspected Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah.”

So no problem then.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Where were they then?

By B. William Cody
Guns & Ammo Editor

With the blood of the 17 most recent victims of America's insane gun lust calling out, like Abel, from the ground, the usual gang of Republican apostates and former Bush Administration coatholders has been, quite properly, criticizing their beloved party for its craven refusal to stand up to gun-totin' white nationalist groups, including the NRA, particularly with respect to its refusal to amend a law that allows any 18 year old with a debit card to buy a high-powered military assault weapon capable of firing deadly rounds as fast as the sociopath can pull the trigger.

Amazingly enough, there was a time in this country when the sale of such weapons, usable only for slaughtering innocents and not hunting varmints, was banned.  However, thanks to NRA finagling, that ban automatically expired in 2004 and was not extended.  Then-President George W. Bash, employing his usual lovable combination of disingenuousness and dickishness, claimed to support an extension, but refused to lift a finger, a phone, or anything else to get it renewed.  Whereupon the extension bill, like the children of Sandy Hook and Parkland, died.

According to The New York Times,
Mr. Bush said during the 2000 campaign that he supported the ban on 19 types of semiautomatic weapons passed in 1994, and he has repeatedly pledged to sign an extension if it reaches his desk. But the National Rifle Association -- which backs his re-election -- was eager to let the ban lapse, and Mr. Bush did nothing to push Republican leaders in Congress on the issue.
Where were, we wondered, all those Republicans in 2004, when they might have done some good?  We rounded up some of the loudest voices in 2018 in favor of banning assault weapons.  Some had better excuses than others.

Jennifer Rubin was still a hard-charging
entertainment lawyer in 2004 . . .

For example, Jennifer Rubin was still enmeshed in her prior career as an entertainment lawyer in LA., before her hopeless crush on Bibi Netanyahu led to drop lawyering for her current career of bloviating.   The 2004 whereabouts of totes adorbs Ana Navarro were, like D-Day's, unknown.  Maybe she was still in the jungles of Nicaragua with her beloved Contras.   

David Frum was a little closer to the action at a Washington think tank, but he seemed to be too busy with his mission with the Hot Air Force promoting the endless disaster of the Iraq War to notice the real danger to Americans on the shelves of Wal-Mart.

We heard Steve Schmidt on the cable raging about the failure to control assault weapons, so naturally we inquired as to his whereabouts in 2004.  It turns out he was a high-level flack and henchman in the Bush re-election campaign, in the course of which he lauded W. as a “steady and principled leader.”  We guess it's a case of those who can, do, and those who can't, flack.  We would have said teach, but the teachers are dead.

Speaking of overexposed on cable, what about long-time gasbag Joe Scarborough?  Incredibly enough, he was already blathering on cable news in 2004.  One month before the assault weapons ban lapsed he was observed “standing and applauding numerous times during the president's speech.”  That's President George W. Bush.

 . . . while Nicolle Wallace was spinning for George W.
Due to pressures of time and increasing nausea, we can only cover one more stalwart post-massacres opponent of assault weapons.  Come on down, former Florida recount rioter Nicolle Wallace!  By incredible coincidence, she was the Communications Director for the often tongue-tied Texan under her former name, Nicolle Devenish.  In 2004, in that senior policy-level position, she communicated her deep concern for human life by slamming John Kerry for refusing to support a bill making harming a pregnant woman a crime against the fetus.

Of course, that legislation, unlike renewal of the federal assault weapons ban, wouldn't have protected the massacred children of Sandy Hook, because in 2004, they hadn't even been conceived, much less born.

On the plus side, though, she has her own daily cable news show.