Sunday, October 19, 2014

Why Are Democratic Elected Officials Selling Out Monterey County?


Scott 'n Walt
Shenanigans abound in a central California Sheriff’s race. Beautiful Monterey County, otherwise known as the salad bowl for it’s 4 billion dollar a year Agriculture Industry is also the youth homicide capital of California. For several years Monterey has led the State in youth homicides and violence. Most people say it is those pesky “gangs.” But by using the word “gangs” they are really saying ‘who cares it is just brown kids killing brown kids.’

Dems like Jerry Brown, Bill Monning, and Luis Alejo are backing the current Sheriff, Scott Miller against Deputy Steve Bernal. So this Miller guy must be good right? I mean he has the backing of all these stand up Dems.

Maybe he is tough on drugs? His son was arrested June 2011 after a search of the apartment he lived in behind his father's home. In addition to possessing methamphetamine for sale, he was charged with possession of hydrocodone without a prescription, possession of fireworks and possession of less than 28.5 grams of marijuana. Last year he was arrested again and convicted again.

Ouch; his own son was selling meth out of the back of the Sheriff’s house? Tough on crime? Miller spoke to the The Herald shortly after about the arrest. What he did not mention is the woman arrested— 21-year old Alison Davi— had once lived in his home and that on one occasion he had helped her retrieve her impounded car. Miller said he didn't disclose that because, "No one asked me," he said Monday afternoon, "and I haven't seen her in three years."

Maybe he is a good manager with his staff? Read what the head of the DSA had to say:
I’m hoping this will open the eyes of the public as to the inner workings of the department and what's actually going on behind closed doors," he said. "It's pretty significant for a union to have never held a vote of no-confidence and then for the first time ever to hold a vote of no-confidence and to have it pass overwhelmingly.”
Wait is this guy even a Democrat? Turns out he is a NPP and used to be registered as a Republican but was even too extreme for them. Take a look at his campaign manager Gregory D Lee’s writings. Lee is a friend of 35 years with Miller and was forced to fire him after numerous editorials and a letter by Latino Democrats. "It is not easily understandable why Sheriff Miller would choose such a such an individual to be a policy advisory, confidant and hold the most trusted position in his re-election campaign as his campaign [spokesman]," they wrote. "Worse is the possibility Gregory Lee could shape law enforcement policy as part of Sheriff Miller's Leadership Team.”
”People judge politicians not just by their records, their deeds or what they say but also by the company they keep.

That's why many recently were shocked to learn of the ultra right wing background of Gregory D. Lee— who says he is Sheriff Scott Miller's official campaign spokesman.

For those who didn't catch some of the coverage earlier in the week, a coalition of Latino Democrats put out a press release with some links to Lee's political writings.

The ones I saw were both bigoted and downright ugly.

Here's some of the titles:

"Los Angeles Should Stop Hugging Illegal Aliens"

"It's the NAACP That's Racist, By Definition"

"Obama and Holder Want To Empty Federal Prisons"

"Why do homosexuals want to serve in the military? For sex of course"

Well maybe we shouldn’t judge him too much on other people’s actions but instead look at his own? The complaints aren’t the first Miller has faced. In his time as Pacific Grove police chief, Miller dealt with discrimination and retaliation complaints from Rhonda Ramey and Darrin Smolinski. Both were LGBT officers.

11 EEOC complaints in his first two years? When Miller took office the Sheriff’s department had a female Unersheriff and several Latino Commanders. All since have been replaced by his close friends, white men. When asked by a reporter during a forum how many Latino’s he has promoted to leadership positions, Miller couldn’t name one.

Well look, a good Sheriff runs a good jail:
"Severe overcrowding, outdated facilities and chronic under-staffing have created dangerous conditions in the jail, placing prisoners and staff at serious risk of injury and death," the complaint reads.
Among the allegations described in the suit:

Delays in medical treatment.

One of the plaintiffs, Jesse Hernandez, said he waited eight months to have surgery to reverse his colostomy and ended up with intestinal swelling, bleeding, fevers and obstructed bowels. Another man who was waiting for a colostomy bag showed up in court "leaking feces all over his body" and was immediately ordered to a hospital by the judge, the complaint says.

Deficient mental health care.

Inadequate suicide prevention measures.

Failure to provide reasonable accommodations for disabilities.

Failure to protect prisoners from violence.

So it appears the Deputies Union might have some legitimate complaints about being forced to work 16 hour shifts day after day and citing unsafe working conditions. In fact 2 brand new cadets from the graduating class of 13 new Deputies, quit on the first day after walking into the jail. One of them was the valedictorian of the class.

Steve Bernal who is running against the Sheriff and the establishment has the audacity to be a union member. Bernal is a member of Operating Engineers Local 3 and the Deputy Sheriff’s Association. Steve has received the endorsement of OE3, PORAC, Latino Police Officers Association former Chapter President, and the DSA of Santa Cruz, San Mateo, and Monterey. He has received the endorsement of the last four former Sheriff’s in Monterey and several retired Sheriff’s from nearby counties. Lastly, Nancy Cuffney the last undersheriff who spent 33 years in the department has also endorsed Bernal.

Miller has zero union endorsements. How do these upstanding Dems explain this and why would they be putting their name next to this guy?


This line from "Ever Decreasing Circles" almost made me feel sorry for brain-locked right-wingers


Until eerily close to air time, the show didn't have theme music, or even a name. Then somebody, or probably somebodies, thought of (a) Ever Decreasing Circles and (b) No. 15 of Shostakovich's 24 Preludes for Piano, Op. 34 (played by pianist Ronnie Lane). In Part 1 of the pilot episode, "The New Neighbour" (Part 2 is here), Richard Briars is Martin Bryce; Penelope Wilton is Ann Bryce; Peter Egan is Paul Ryman, the new neighbour; and Stanley Lebor is old neighbor Howard Hughes (no, a different Howard Hughes).

"No, no, what we mustn't do, Martin, is deprive ourselves of the sheer excitement of not knowing what we might end up with."
-- Paul Ryman (Peter Egan), in "House to Let," Episode 3 of
Series 3 (aired September 1986) of Ever Decreasing Circles

by Ken

I love that phrase "the sheer excitement of not knowing what we might end up with." I can't tell you who exactly wrote the line, because Ever Decreasing Circles was written by one of the great TV writing teams, John Esmonde and Bob Larbey. In one of the DVD audio commentaries, recorded some 20 years after the series (1985-87, plus a 1989 special) finished, the actors recall Esmonde as a "dark" writer and Larbey as contrastingly "light," one of the things that, obviously, made them such a good team. In case you don't instantly recall the names, they had written the classic series The Good Life -- which we in the U.S. got as Good Neighbors, for some name-conflict reason -- with the great team of Richard Briars, Felicity Kendal, Penelope Keith, and Paul Edding. (The DVDs were released in 2007, at which time, by great good fortune, Richard Briars, Penelope Wilton, and Paul Egan were all still available and eager to participate. The audio commentaries are spectacular.)

To illustrate the brilliance of Esmonde and Larbey: After they've concocted that wonderful line about "depriv[ing] ourselves of the sheer excitement of not knowing what we might end up with," the writers have "what we might end up with" turn out to be the Danbys, the tenants Paul has found for the the house he's bought, as an investment, in the close where he and the Bryces live. Martin is deeply concerned about the effect of a new tenant on the perfect equilibrium of the neighborhood. (Of course what Martin fears most of all is another Paul.)

Dan Danby -- borderline nuts?
As it turns out, Dan Danby is, well, borderline nuts, or perhaps over-the-border. Since his nuttiness is in the service of absolute social orthodoxy, Martin loves him, while both Paul and Martin's wife Ann are horrified. Sometimes what we end up with, after all that excitement of now knowing, turns out to be our worst nightmare. (Ann guesses correctly that what Martin assumes was an intensive search for just the right people was in fact Paul signing up the first people who looked at the place.)

The point here is that nobody could be less interested than Martin in the sheer excitement of not knowing what we might end up with, or in ending up with anything other than exactly what he expects, and approves of. The key to Ever Decreasing Circles, of course, was Richard Briars, who was one of the few actors (if there have ever been that many) who could make a character like Martin anything other than unbearable. He had spent his estimable career charming the pants off of audiences, and the show's creators reckoned that he could make Martin not only bearable but likable, but likable only in his utter impossibility. In one of the DVD commentaries, Penelope Wilton -- now best known to us as Downton Abbey's Isobel Crawley, mother of the unexpected heir to Downton, the now-late Matthew Crawley -- mentions that she used to get letters from viewers asking how she could be married to that man.

This is where comedic genius, in both the writing and the acting, comes into play. I always think of Seinfeld and the character of Kramer. Sometimes it has been pointed out to me that our Kramer, Cosmo K, was ripped out of the real-life existence of Larry David's and Jerry Seinfeld's old acquaintance Kenny Kramer, and certainly Kenny Kramer felt ripped off. But I ask the obvious question: Does anyone suppose that anyone ever found the real-life Kenny Kramer funny? I have a strong hunch that he drove acquaintances stark staring crazy, and probably night unto unbearable, about as far from amusing as you can get. The genius of the Seinfeld team, it struck me, was to have made their Kramer both hilarious and deep-down charming.

So it must have been with Ever Decreasing Circles's Martin Bryce. Martin is almost limitlessly exasperating, and the viewer often wonders, as those correspondents of Penelope Wilton's wrote her, how her character could have remained married to Martin. But, almost incredibly, the team of writers Esmonde and Larbey and actor Briars made Martin both entertaining and, infuriating as he is, sympathetic. He means so well, after all, and after all what could have produced a person so deeply damaged?

So maybe it was because of this context, the context of Martin's hopeless befuddlement, that I was able to hear Paul's line -- the line about "the sheer excitement of not knowing what we might end up with" -- so vividly. And heard it as something like a textbook description of the far-right-wing mind. For the adherents of right-wing orthodoxy, what matters more than never having to be uncertain about what to expect, and that what they expect is all their old certainties.

And suddenly I found myself feeling sorry, almost, for all those right-wingers who have been denied, or have denied themselves, the saving human grace of curiosity, of looking at the world around them with a passion to understand and explain -- and to reserve for themselves the sheer excitement of not knowing what they might end up with.

Ironically, they can't ever get their wish to always know what they're going to end up with, because reality doesn't allow it. Reality insists on behaving according to its own rules, showing hardly any respect for the protocols of institutionalized hokum.

There's a lot more to talk about in this connection, but for now let me just feel a little bad for those people who deny this fundamental aspect of their humanity, the deep-rooted need to explore and try to understand.

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Satan’s Man In The Vatican— Demoted Again


American fascist Raymond Burke, the satanic cardinal, loses his power over Church law

We’ve been covering slimy little neo-Nazi Raymond Cardinal Burke for years. He’s the far right’s and Satan’s representative in the Vatican and, before Pope Francis came along, seemed destined to turn the hands of time back on the Catholic Church to the 15th Century, which is where his worldview comes from. He’s the Ayn Rand of Catholicism, just more primitive and more partisan. Pope Francis has finally tossed him out on his ass.

Predictably, Burke had gone against the Pope at the Synod, claiming Pope Francis was trying to “weaken the church’s teaching and practice.”
“According to my understanding of the church’s teaching and discipline, no, it wouldn’t be correct,” Burke said, saying the pope had “done a lot of harm” by not stating “openly what his position is.” Burke said the Pope had given the impression that he endorses some of the most controversial parts of the Relatio, especially on questions of divorce, because of a German cardinal who gave an important speech suggesting a path to allowing people who had divorced and remarried to receive communion, Cardinal Walter Kasper, to open the synod’s discussion.

“The pope, more than anyone else as the pastor of the universal church, is bound to serve the truth,” Burke said. “The pope is not free to change the church’s teachings with regard to the immorality of homosexual acts or the insolubility of marriage or any other doctrine of the faith.”

Burke has publicly clashed with the pope since Francis took office in 2013, and he has come to represent the sidelining of culture warriors elevated by Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict and as the top doctrinal official under Pope John Paul II. Burke, who caused controversy while bishop of St. Louis by saying Catholics who voted for politicians supportive of abortion rights should not receive communion, went on Catholic television in 2013 to rebut remarks Pope Francis made to an interviewer that the church had become “obsessed” with abortion and sexuality to the exclusion of other issues, saying, “We can never talk enough about that as long as in our society innocent and defenseless human life is being attacked in the most savage way,” Burke said. While Francis famously responded to a question about homosexuality in 2013 by asking, “Who am I to judge?” Burke described homosexual “acts” as “always and everywhere wrong [and] evil” during an interview last week.

In the interview with BuzzFeed News, Burke confirmed publicly for the first time the rumors that he had been told Francis intended to demote him from the church’s chief guardian of canon law to a minor post as patron to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

“I very much have enjoyed and have been happy to give this service, so it is a disappointment to leave it,” Burke said, explaining that he hadn’t yet received a formal notice of transfer. “On the other hand, in the church as priests, we always have to be ready to accept whatever assignment we’re given. And so I trust, by accepting this assignment, I trust that God will bless me, and that’s what’s in the end most important.”

When the pope first took office, his pivot away from an emphasis on questions of sexuality were more a matter of personal tone rather than changes in church policy or personnel. There were rumors that he was trying to oust the man chosen by Pope Benedict to head the church’s office responsible for doctrine, Gerhard Müller, but last winter he instead elevated him from archbishop to cardinal. When word that Burke was on his way out began circulating last month, it signaled that Francis would take major steps to reshape the church. It coincided with the selection of a new archbishop of Chicago, Blase Cupich, whom Catholic progressives celebrated for positions like breaking with the American church hierarchy when it withheld its support for President Obama’s health reform law over questions of abortion and contraception.

Internal discontent among conservatives inside church leadership began to simmer over in the weeks leading up to the synod. Just before it began, Burke, Müller, and other senior cardinals published a book in several languages attacking the ideas laid out by Cardinal Walter Kasper on allowing those who had divorced and remarried to receive communion in a speech heartily praised by Pope Francis. It broke into open revolt at the midpoint of the synod, following publication of a document presented as a summary of discussions but that conservatives said misrepresented the debate by including passages on “welcoming homosexual persons” and discussing some of Kasper’s proposal on divorce. The backlash appeared to have been especially strong from the English-speaking world, which includes a large number of African and American bishops; in an apparent attempt to mollify anglophone conservatives, the Vatican released a new translation of the report that changed the phrase “welcoming homosexual persons” to “providing for homosexual persons” and made other small changes, while leaving the versions in all other languages unchanged.

The report is now being revised with feedback from small-group discussions held this week, and a final version is scheduled to be voted on on Saturday. Burke said he hoped that the committee writing the new report will produce a “worthy document,” but said his “trust is a little bit shaken” by the language in the interim draft he said lacks “a good foundation either in the sacred scriptures or in the church’s perennial teachings.”

But there seems to be little middle ground between Pope Francis’ worldview and Burke’s. Francis was president of the Argentinian bishops conference when that country passed a marriage equality bill in 2010 and reportedly tried to convince his colleagues to support a civil union proposal instead. He lost the internal battle and gave voice to the hard-line consensus that the law was “sent by the devil.” The fight over the bill left the church appearing out of step with the beliefs of many in Argentina, a country where 76% identify as Catholic but only 38.2% went to church in 2005, per the most recent data available from the Association of Religious Data Archives. While Francis has shown no sign he supports overhauling the church’s teachings that homosexuality is sinful, he seems to have taken from this experience a desire to downplay conflicts over sexuality in order to broaden the church’s message.
Burke isn’t being exiled to Malta and the Pope is keeping him in Rome where he can be watched. His job will be to head an organization charged with assisting the elderly, handicapped, children, homeless, those with terminal illness and leprosy in all parts of the world, as well as refugees and victims of natural disasters, epidemics and armed conflicts without distinction of race or religion.

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Food, glorious food -- or maybe not so glorious in Bob Mankoff's cartoon world


"Well, pay me! He ate it."

by Ken

First off, let me confess that I added the comma after "well" in the above cartoon caption. Sorry, I just couldn't read it without the comma.

Okay, that said, let me explain that New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff offers this cartoon as the first in a series of three he says sums up a piece he happened to reread recently, Anthony Bourdain's April 1999 "Don't Eat Before Reading This," which "detail[s] the unsavory behind-the-scenes restaurant practices that foist crummy cuisine on a credulous clientele."

All of which apparently came to mind because Bob was thinking about a familiar phrase: "Like watching sausage getting made."
The idea being that you may like how sausage tastes, but that if you saw how sausage was made, you would find it a lot less appealing. The idiom applies not just to sausages but to the unsavory activities that are the backdrop for what we enjoy or admire, from law to medicine to politics to whatever.
The Bourdain piece, Bob says, "brings the sausage metaphor home to its source -- food." And here are the other specimens that for Bob "sum up his piece in a few cartoons."

"Push the salmon with dill sauce."

"Is there anyone here who specializes in stress management?"


And it's of restaurant quality. Perhaps not surprisingly, I can't resisting this gem from the great Carl Barsotti:

"The chef said all the regular stuff is
as special as it's going to get today."

Okay, maybe one more. You can check out the classier offerings for yourself. I offer you this cautionary tale from the great Jack Ziegler:

"That's the food biz. Celebrity chef one day,
graveyard shift hash jockey the next."

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Thinking Of Running For Congress? Only The Rich And The Corporate Whores Need Apply?


Mark Warner, not really homeless

The two richest Members of Congress are both House Republicans, career criminal Darrell Isis (net worth: $357 million) and Texas wing nut Michael McCaul, who got rich by marrying the daughter of Hate Talk radio empire Clear Channel (net worth at least $117.5). When it comes to the Senate, though, the richest members are Democrats. Once Rockefeller retires in January, the richest senator will be venture capitalist and Virginia centrist Mark Warner (net worth $95 million). A former Virginia Governor, Warner won an overwhelming victory against a former Republican governor, Jim Gilmore, 65-34%. Obama won Virginia as well that same day, besting McCain by a far less impressive 53-46%. Virginians like the moderately conservative Warner as governor and they’ve liked him as senator. His 75.38 ProgressivePunch crucial vote score puts him down towards the bottom of the Democrats, a little better than fellow corporatists and right-wing Dems Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Tom Carper (D-DE) and Kay Hagan (D-NC) but worse than cautious moderates Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Jon Tester (D-MT) and Bill Nelson (D-FL). A Sherrod Brown, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders of Tammy Baldwin he’s never going to be.

The polling indicates that, despite a big name Republican opponent, lobbyist and former RNC chairman Ed Gillespie, Warner never had a serious challenge. Every poll has shown him ahead— and by a lot. In fact, not a single poll— not even by laughable Republican polling firms like Harper and Rasmussen who always try to show Republicans winning— has Gillespie breaking 40%. Several have him mired in the 20s unable to even get a third of the vote. The most recent CBS News/NY Times poll by YouGov (released the first week of October) shows Warner beating Gillespie 49-36%, 51-39% if you factor in “leaners.” Among self-described “moderates,” Warner is ahead 56-21%.

This week, Gillespie waved the white flag and admitted he has no chance. The way you do that 2 weeks before election day is to stop spending money. Though Gillespie had reported raising $4,164,818 on his FEC forms June 30— and had $3,111,992 cash-on-hand— he’s now pulled his TV advertising. CBS News reported this week that “political operatives who track television advertising said Thursday that Gillespie does not have ads reserved in the final push toward the Nov. 4 elections.”
The financial struggles of Gillespie's campaign are something of a surprise. He was the Republican National Committee chairman, served in President George W. Bush's administration as a top adviser and was a top lieutenant to 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

That pedigree, however, has not translated to extraordinary fundraising. And that has left Gillespie at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to advertising.

Following a report by The Associated Press about the drop-off in advertising, the Gillespie campaign said Thursday it would launch new rounds of TV ads on Saturday— but it did not specify when or where the ads would run, or at what cost. The campaign also announced it had banked $2 million for the final push to Election Day.

That's about a quarter of what his Democratic rival, first-term Sen. Mark Warner, has on hand.

Warner's campaign on Wednesday announced it had more than $8 million to spend in the race's final days. Warner is currently blanketing the state with TV.

Gillispie has struggled to keep pace in fundraising and advertising. He loaned his campaign $65,000 over the summer.

The non-partisan Center for Public Integrity shows Warner has spent $4.4 million on ads and the liberal Virginia Progress PAC has spent another $2 million.

Gillispie has spent $3.5 million on ads, but a scant $174,000 has come from outside groups.

…[B]uying television time to reach voters in population-heavy northern Virginia requires spending in the Washington, D.C., media market, where ads can cost more than $1 million each week.

Airtime always becomes more expensive as Election Day nears and more candidates are clamoring for more spots. Last-minute efforts to buy ads put the campaigns at the mercy of station owners who can demand premium prices that put cash-strapped campaigns at a disadvantage.

Campaigning for Senator Al Franken, Governor Mark Dayton and state Senator Mike Obermueller at Carleton College in Northfield this week, Elizabeth Warren told the crowd that "The game is rigged, and the Republicans rigged it." The crowd agreed. Today’s she’s in Iowa, campaigning for Bruce Braley with the same message.

I hope you already read yesterday’s post about how the very wealthy have come to control our democracy. As Noam Chomsky explained in the video at the bottom of the post, candidates are “vetted by corporate interests.” If the very rich don’t get behind you, you don’t have the finances it takes to run for office. There are very few exceptions. And corporate interests, while having no problem with Gillespie, of course, are perfectly happy seeing Mark Warner rise in national prominence and work for them inside the Senate Democratic caucus to counter pro-working family tendencies pushed by people like Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Sherrod Brown, Al Franken, Jeff Merkley and Tammy Baldwin. And, of course, that’s why the South Dakota Senate race is suddenly such a big deal. All the momentum belongs to independent-minded populist/progressive Rick Weiland who is on the verge of beating two corporate Establshment darlings, former Republican Governor Mike Rounds and former Republican Senator Larry Pressler. If you want to help beat the plutocrats and corporate predators… you can do it here, on the Blue America Act Blue Senate page.

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Eichmann Was Completely Unrepentant About The Extermination Of The Jews


Adolph Eichmann, like Mitt Romney, started off as an advocate of self-deportation

I never understood Roland’s interest in Jews-in-exotic-places but whenever we travel to off-the-beaten path countries, he always wants to visit synagogues— in places where you wouldn’t expect Jews, like Singapore, Yangon, and India. We still haven’t visited Madagascar but there’s even a small Jewish community there. Until Hitler decided to invade Russia, it looked like there was going to be a really big Jewish community in Madagascar. Franz Rademacher, head of the Jewish Department of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, proposed that Germany take over the French colony of Madagascar and resettle Europe’s Jews there (originally an idea that Poland’s right-wing government came up with in the late ‘30s. Half of Germany’s Jews had, in Mitt Romney’s timeless words, “self-deported” (to the U.S., Palestine, the U.K., Argentina and Brazil) in the 6 years after the Nazis took power. Hitler liked the Madagascar plan and Adolph Eichmann released a memorandum on 15 August 1940— Reichssicherheitshauptamt: Madagaskar Projekt calling for the resettlement of a million Jews per year for four years. His plan was to put the SS in charge of the island. In the end though, the Nazis got too busy with a two-front war and chose direct extermination over deportation. No European Jews were forced to resettle on Madagascar.

The plan was touched on by Bettina Stangneth in her new book, Eichmann Before Jerusalem: The Unexamined Life of a Mass Murderer, reviewed yesterday by Richard Evans for The Guardian. The book covers Eichmann’s years in exile after the Holocaust and the Nazi defeat and before he was kipnapped in Argentina (1960) and brought to Israel to be hanged in 1962.
So what kind of a man was Adolf Eichmann? How and why did he become a mass murderer? The first and still the most famous and influential attempt to answer these questions came from the German-Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt, who attended the trial as a correspondent for the New Yorker, subsequently publishing her articles in a revised book-length version as Eichmann in Jerusalem. The book stirred up a storm of criticism, particularly though not exclusively from Jewish intellectuals in the United States. There were many reasons for this. Reflecting what was known at the time, and in common with other early historians of the Nazis' genocide of the Jews, Arendt was highly critical both of the passivity of the great majority of European Jews in the face of persecution and extermination, and of the collaborationist administration of the Jewish Councils in the ghettos, whose tragic and impossible situation failed to arouse her sympathy. [She wouldn’t be a fan of gay Republicans like Aaron Schock, Lindsey Graham, Carl DeMaio and Richard Tisei today.]

The judgments she offers in Eichmann in Jerusalem are utterly independent and totally unsparing. Time and again she raises questions that provoke and disturb. The abduction of Eichmann from Argentina was illegal; the trial was a show-trial; Israel's marriage laws were similar to the racist Nuremberg laws of the Nazis; Eichmann's crimes were crimes against humanity, so international law should have dealt with the case. Arendt's independence of mind is one of the most impressive features of her reporting. She writes as a detached philosophical inquirer, not as the representative of any particular group or political tendency.

Eichmann in Jerusalem bore the subtitle "A Study in the Banality of Evil.” What she meant by this was not that Eichmann was a mere bureaucrat, a conscienceless pen-pusher who was only obeying orders. On the contrary, she argued, he was an ideological antisemite, a man of overweening ambition who wanted not only power but also fame. He had a compulsion to "talk big,” she observed, and indeed "bragging was the vice that was Eichmann's undoing.” Not a particularly intelligent man, he assimilated the ideology and behaviour of the evil system within which he sought to achieve distinction. He admired the Third Reich not least because it allowed men from a humble background like his own— or Hitler's, for that matter— to climb to the top. He was under no compulsion to act as he did: he could have opted out at any time; all his actions were voluntary. He deserved to die because he had failed, or refused, to exercise the kind of moral judgment Arendt herself showed in her book. His crimes were the crimes of a system, even a nation; as the psychologists who examined him in prison concluded, he was not a psychopath or a sociopath, though, as Arendt points out, he was most certainly, and frequently, a liar and a deceiver. This was the "banality of evil.”

In Argentina, Arendt notes, Eichmann did not go underground but occupied himself with "talking endlessly with members of the large Nazi colony, to whom he readily admitted his identity.” These conversations were recorded by a Dutch ex‑member of the SS, Willem Sassen, and edited extracts were published anonymously, though there could be little doubt about the identity of the principal participant. The existence of the original tapes and transcripts has long been known, but up to now their poor quality has defied systematic investigation. The German philosopher and historian Bettina Stangneth has now performed the invaluable service of deciphering them, putting them together with other, often little-known source material, and delivering a full analysis of Eichmann's ideas as he expounded them to his friends and former colleagues in exile.

In the conversations he had with Sassen and others, Eichmann was completely unrepentant about the extermination of the Jews, which he saw as historically necessary, a policy he was proud to have carried out in the interests of Germany. The cynicism, inhumanity, lack of pity and moral self‑deception of the conversations are breathtaking. This is a very disturbing book, and every now and then, as you read it, you have to pause in disbelief. Ten years and more after the war's end, Eichmann's lack of realism, typical for a political exile, even persuaded him that he could make a comeback, or that nazism could be rehabilitated, and he planned to launch a public defense of what he saw as its achievements.

In one of the conversations, Eichmann described himself as a "cautious bureaucrat" but also "a fanatical warrior, fighting for the freedom of my blood.” Stangneth dissents from Arendt's belief that Eichmann was unintelligent, and points out that he calculatedly presented himself only as the cautious bureaucrat during his trial, deliberately concealing his "fanatical" side. But his clumsy attempt to present himself as pursuing a Kantian "categorical imperative" does not show that he was in any way an intellectual; and his mendacious self-presentation as a mere pen-pusher did not convince anyone, least of all Arendt. What he lacked was moral intelligence, the ability to judge the system he worked for and whose ideology he assimilated so completely.

Stangneth's absorbing account of his years in exile, which is translated by Ruth Martin, adds considerably to our knowledge of Eichmann, but it is not a "total reassessment of the man", as the publishers claim, nor is it true to claim that the book "permanently undermines Hannah Arendt's notion of the 'banality of evil'." Half a century after it was written, Arendt's book, despite the fact that it has been overtaken in many of its details by research, remains a classic that everyone interested in the crimes of nazism has to confront.

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Time again to test our geographic mettle with those fiends from National Geographic (Zombies? Zombies??? Gimme a break!)


Zombies, eh?

by Ken

We haven't done this in a while, and when I saw the new issue of National Geographic in the mailbox this evening when I got home from today's urban gadding (first a visit to NYC Transit's Bergen Sign Shop out in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, then a Historic Districts Council walk up in Harlem and even farther up in Mott Haven, the Bronx, focusing on three still-in-use Carnegie-paid-for public libraries, with a drive-by of a third on the bus en route to the Bronx), I thought, you know, we haven't done this in a while!

So here it is, direct from the address insert in this month's subscription mailing:
1  Izmir, Adana, and Bursa are major cities in what country?

2  The Strait of Malacca links the South China Sea with which ocean?

3  Name the largest city in Scotland, which is located on the Clyde River.

4  The Corfu Channel separates the Greek island of Corfu from which neighboring country?

5  What country north of Ghana, formerly known as Upper Volta, won independence from France in 1960?



Okay, okay, I got three right, and two others maybe not quite as right. I'm frankly a little dubious about (4), the answer to which seems hardly worth concerning ourselves with. So maybe I don't know exactly where Corfu is. Am I expected to keep track of every last Greek island? Hey, there are, uh, millions of them. And then --


Now just a doggone minute! When did [name withheld] become Scotland's largest city? Everybody knows that [name withheld] is the capital and Edinburgh the largest city. Okay, Edinburgh isn't on the Clyde (it's on the Firth of Forth, as I was reminded when I looked it up), and I should have remembered that (besides, shouldn't that be "the River Clyde," not "the Clyde River"?), but it hardly mattered since I knew perfectly well what the largest city in Scotland is -- I've got this! And in any case I can hardly be expected to keep track of every confounded river in the world.


Never mind.

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How Do They Define Treason In Missouri These Days? Meet Debbie Dunnegan, Republican Jefferson County Recorder Of Deeds


Jefferson County includes many of St Louis’ southern suburbs. It’s well-off, very white, kind of centrist… a very Hillary Clinton kind of area— and not a very Barack Obama kind of area. Of the 10 elected county-wide officials, 8 are Democrats and only two are Republicans, County Commissioner Ken Waller and County Recorder of Deeds Debbie Dunnegan Waters. She expected an easy ride to reelection next month. A Facebook posting calling for a military coup against President Obama is causing her a little problem.

Chances are, no one outside of eastern Missouri would have ever heard of Debbie had she not crossed over into treason on her Facebook page this week. “I have a question for all my friends who have served or are currently serving in our military,” she wrote, “having not put on a uniform nor taken any type military oath, there has to be something that I am just not aware of. But I cannot and do not understand why no action is being taken against our domestic enemy. I know he is supposedly the commander in chief, but the Constitution gives you the authority. What am I missing?”

Dunnegan is upset that her words have been twisted, she says. “Something innocent and simple got twisted into a disaster because it’s an election.” She just wanted to know about the oath the soldiers take. That’s all. “I meant no ill intent toward the president. I meant no ill intent toward anybody,” she said. She worries her remarks could hurt her reelection chances as much as they will help her. Because, sure, among certain Republicans calling for a military coup on Facebook does help, especially when the president is an African-American fighting to bring health care to working families.

I wonder if Dunnegan will be invited to address the Republican National Convention— maybe put Ted Cruz’s name in nomination to be president. Or will Democrat Mike Bone defeat her in 2 and a half weeks at the polls?

UPDATE: Meanwhile, Up In South Dakota

No one is accusing former South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds of treason, per se. He’s just an old fashioned crook, looking for ways to line his pockets. His administration was selling EB-5 visas to wealthy foreigners— and everyone in South Dakota knows it. Bloomberg News was out in South Dakota for a few days this week covering the race. The video below is their report and it. paints Rick in a very positive light. Take a look, think about Debbie Dunnegan. Think about Ted Cruz and Mitch McConnell and all the other GOP crackpots and, if you can, please consider contributing to Rick Weiland’s Get Out The Vote efforts.

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Colorado Voters Are Making The CIA Domestic Spy Agents Very Happy-- Very, Very Happy


Getting control over congressional oversite was the biggest goal of the CIA and NSA in this election cycle. They’re actively infiltrating CIA agents into Congress itself. On the Democratic side, Steve Israel conspired with them to push forward several CIA candidates, including, among others, Kevin Strouse (PA-08) and Bobby McKenzie (MI-11). They were unable to gain any traction and were eventually abandoned by the DCCC to their own miserable fates. Both are expected to lose badly November 4. But don’t feel badly for the CIA.

The National Surveillance Establishment’s top goal of the election season is to replace their most fearless and relentless critic in the Senate, Mark Udall (D-CO)— to send a message to the rest of Congress that they can be taken out— with a slimy little right-wing worm who has shown a willingness to acquiesce to whatever the CIA and NSA want— so long as he can target women’s rights, equality and working families struggling to get a fair shake.

I bet the CIA would rather see Udall defeated— and will do anything and everything they can to get Cory Gardner in— than even catch Ed Snowden. In fact, let me turn, once again to Michael Gurnow’s book, The Edward Snowden Affair, for some insight into why the CIA is so freaked out about having someone as courageous as Mark Udall in Congress.
Snowden reiterates from his interview with Poitras that there are no technological limitations to what can be gathered and requested. Previewing a forthcoming disclosure, he states, “[T]he intelligence community doesn’t always deal with what you would consider a ‘real’ warrant like a [p]olice department would have to, the ‘warrant’ is more of a templated form they fill out and send to a reliable judge with a rubber stamp.” Policy, which is subject to administrative whim, is the only restraint, but Snowden declares “policy protection is no protection— policy is a one-way ratchet that only loosens and one very weak technical protection— a near-the-front-end filter at our ingestion points. The filter is constantly out of date, is set at what is euphemistically referred to as the ‘widest allowable aperture,’ and can be stripped out at any time.” Like the NSA’s reminder to its analysts that accidental intercepts are “noth ing to worry about,” Britain’s system of checks and balances for query protocol is equally lax. “For at least GCHQ,” Snowden tells his audience, “the number of audited queries is only 5% of those performed.” It is worthy to note Menwith Hill is over— seen by a Royal Air Force officer.

Toward the end of the interview, Snowden overtly condemns America’s invasive surveillance policies and practices: “Journalists should ask a specific question: [S]ince these programs began operation shortly after September 11th, how many terrorist attacks were prevented SOLELY by information derived from this suspicionless surveillance that could not be gained via any other source?” He assures his audience that regardless of what happens to him or how strict whistleblowing legislation becomes, gray hat leaking will not cease, because “[c]itizens with a conscience are not going to ignore wrong-doing simply because they’ll be destroyed for it: the conscience forbids it.” He boldly proclaims, “Truth is coming, and it can- not be stopped.”
I wonder if the CIA and NSA agents were laughing when they read that— or just too busy trying to undermine Mark Udall to stop long enough to laugh. The latest poll— released by Quinnipiac yesterday— is bad news for America, bad news for Colorado… good news for the CIA and other agencies that are spying on Americans.
U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, the Republican challenger in the Colorado U.S. Senate race, leads U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, the Democratic incumbent 47 - 41 percent among likely voters, with 8 percent for independent candidate Steve Shogan, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Another 4 percent are undecided… Colorado likely voters give Sen. Udall a negative 42 - 49 percent favorability rating, compared to Gardner's positive 47 - 41 percent rating. [Wait! An even more recent poll was released by the more accurate Mark Mellman and it shows Colorado voters coming to their senses and giving Udall a 44-41% lead over Gardner. This is going to be a nail-biter... for ordinary Americans as well as for the spy-masters of the CIA and NSA.]

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If Plutocrats Have Been Leasing American Democracy, They Are Now On A Path To Owning It Outright


Thursday evening we saw how Ro Khanna, a corporate shill posing as a Democrat while willing to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits, is being bankrolled by some of the most insidious anti-democracy forces in America. Crooked banksters and hedge-fund managers who should be in jail are buying out America’s entire electoral system, not just Silicon Valley’s.
In the winter of 2000, just as John McCain and George W. Bush were entering a pivotal series of Republican primaries, a mysterious new campaign ad appeared on television stations in New York, Ohio and California. The ad showed McCain’s disembodied head floating over belching smokestacks as a narrator intoned about votes McCain had made against solar and renewable-energy incentives— policies that in reality he had supported. The ad was sponsored by a group called Republicans for Clean Air.

The financial backers behind Republicans for Clean Air were the Texas billionaires Charles and Sam Wyly. They had a history of supporting Bush, but they were also heavily invested in a company seeking government-induced increases in alternative-energy production. The revelation that a single Texas family could so easily insert itself into the political process set off a round of frenzied indignation, and after McCain’s loss, it became crucial fodder for his effort to reform the national campaign-finance system. In 2002, along with a Democratic senator, Russell D. Feingold, he helped push a bill through Congress that ranked alongside some of the most sweeping efforts to contain “special interest” money in American history: the Tillman Act of 1907, which banned corporate contributions to candidates; the Smith-Connally Act of 1943, which prohibited union donations to candidates; and the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, which placed strict limits on what individuals could give to parties and campaigns.

Before 2002, parties could accept unlimited donations from individuals or groups (corporations, labor unions, etc.) so long as they devoted the funds — so-called “soft money” — to the amorphous act of “party building.” The McCain-Feingold law, as it came to be known, banned soft-money contributions, and it also prohibited political groups that operate outside the regulated system and its donation limits— like the Wylys and their Republicans for Clean Air— from running “issue ads” that appear to help or hurt a candidate close to an election. It implemented tough fines and even prison terms for those who illegally coordinated with the official campaigns.

In 2010, the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court effectively blew apart the McCain-Feingold restrictions on outside groups and their use of corporate and labor money in elections. That same year, a related ruling from a lower court made it easier for wealthy individuals to finance those groups to the bottom of their bank accounts if they so chose. What followed has been the most unbridled spending in elections since before Watergate. In 2000, outside groups spent $52 million on campaigns, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. By 2012, that number had increased to $1 billion.

The result was a massive power shift, from the party bosses to the rich individuals who ran the super PACs (as most of these new organizations came to be called). Almost overnight, traditional party functions — running TV commercials, setting up field operations, maintaining voter databases, even recruiting candidates — were being supplanted by outside groups. And the shift was partly because of one element of McCain-Feingold that remains: the ban on giving unlimited soft money to parties. In the party universe, rich players like the Wylys, Tom Steyer or the Kochs were but single planets among many. The party bosses had to balance their interests against those who brought just as much to the table in the form of money or votes. A party platform has to account for both the interests of the oil industry and those of the ethanol industry; those of the casino industry and those of the anti-gambling religious right; those of Wall Street and those of labor.

With the advent of Citizens United, any players with the wherewithal, and there are surprisingly many of them, can start what are in essence their own political parties, built around pet causes or industries and backing politicians uniquely answerable to them. No longer do they have to buy into the system. Instead, they buy their own pieces of it outright, to use as they see fit. “Suddenly, we privatized politics,” says Trevor Potter, an election lawyer who helped draft the McCain-Feingold law.

…The president of Americans for Prosperity is Tim Phillips. Tall and fit at 50, Phillips holds forth with evident delight, betraying the slight accent of his native South Carolina, on whatever topic is at hand. (A somewhat larger than usual breakfast, for instance, earns an emphatic “I’m in awe of our country at this moment.”) After attending Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, Phillips worked on several congressional races before starting a consulting firm with the Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed. The Kochs hired Phillips in 2005 to make Americans for Prosperity into a force that could defeat liberalism and elect true free-market conservatives— ones who understood that when business gets hurt, people lose jobs and the country suffers— and make them pay a price if they strayed. (David Koch is the chairman of the group’s foundation, while Charles Koch has no formal role.)

Americans for Prosperity started small, with an effort in Charles Koch’s home state of Kansas to defeat a proposed tax increase; it then moved on to spearhead a quixotic fight against the teachers’ union over pay in Wisconsin. As recently as 2008, the group’s activities were negligible, and it had just $7 million in its operating budget, according to its Internal Revenue Service filing. But after Citizens United, donations poured in. In 2012, it raised $115 million. It is impossible to know the identities of the donors, though the group’s annual closed-door conferences are regularly attended by many of the biggest conservative donors in the country, including the hedge-fund executive Foster Friess and the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.

Where does the money go? Americans for Prosperity obviously spends a lot on television, but it also maintains offices in 35 states with 600 paid staff members. The group funds phone banks, big-ticket events and many other details like beer cozies and water bottles. Its biggest chapter is in Florida, where its 50 paid staff members work out of 10 offices and constitute a year-round organization that rivals that of the state Republican Party.

The A.F.P. offices are in the same brick corporate campus in Arlington, Va., that housed George W. Bush’s campaign in 2004. The narrow white hallways and gray cubicles would be somewhat grim if not for Phillips’s insistence that each staff member place an image of something he or she holds dear on their nameplates (a pinup of the actress Jane Russell, the logo of the University of Virginia or, on Phillips’s own door, a photo of the band U2, with his own head pasted atop Bono’s body). A.F.P. operates at such a low hum that it would have been hard to guess, at the moment I was visiting, how many different operations its staff members were overseeing simultaneously. There was a $1 million ad buy criticizing the Democrat Mark Begich in Alaska, as well as a new ad campaign against Senator Mark Udall, Democrat of Colorado. There was a series of rallies attacking the Democratic Senate candidate Bruce Braley in Iowa and a door-knocking campaign for Rick Scott.

Then there was the balloon. Phillips pointed to a photograph on the wall, depicting a scene from an event Americans for Prosperity held in Bozeman, Mont., in 2009: a 70-foot balloon awaiting takeoff. “We called it the ‘Cost of Hot Air,’ ” Phillips said. At the time, A.F.P. was trying to counter the movement to establish a cap-and-trade system. Many Republicans, including John McCain, supported such a system, and a bipartisan implementation of it seemed likely upon Obama’s election. A.F.P.'s balloon was part of a national tour to block it. “We put on the side of the balloon: ‘Cap and trade means: higher taxes, lost jobs, less freedom’— six words.” It made dozens of trips, including one over Al Gore’s house in Tennessee. All the while, Americans for Prosperity, joined by other conservative groups, directed ads and phone calls pressuring lawmakers to vote against the major cap-and-trade bill when it came up for a vote in 2009; Phillips helped to rebrand the bill more negatively as “cap and tax.” It died in the Senate, and support for cap-and-trade among Republican officeholders fell to a negligible level, where it remains today. “I rode more hot-air balloons in that year-and-a-half period than I ever want to ride again,” Phillips said. “I do not like hot-air balloons.”

…The environmental impact of the Koch family is not entirely an abstract question. Koch Industries is the second-largest private company in the country, and its holdings include oil refineries, oil-services companies and one of the nation’s biggest fertilizer manufacturers. Another Koch property is the paper-goods producer Georgia-Pacific, whose plant in Palatka, Fla.— at the end of the narrow Rice Creek tributary of the St. Johns River— is seen by Scott opponents as an object lesson in how political donations can materially affect the planet.

In July, I went to see the plant with Lisa Rinaman, who heads an environmental group called St. Johns Riverkeeper, and two of her local friends, Sam Carr and Robert Virnstein. Because the plant, a hulking pale green structure festooned with smokestacks and rusting steel drums, is closed to outsiders, we approached it by water, in Virnstein’s pontoon boat. Georgia-Pacific employs 1,000 people at the plant, which produces Brawny paper towels and Angel Soft bathroom tissue. The plant also has a state permit to disperse certain amounts of wastewater into the creek. As such, Rinaman takes occasional boat trips to the plant, like this one, to keep a careful eye on the consequences. It’s work that she does not trust the state to do under Rick Scott.

In Rinaman’s view, the Kochs have reason to be bullish on Scott. More than a decade earlier, before Koch Industries owned it, Georgia-Pacific ran into trouble with state and federal regulators over the pollution from its mill on Rice Creek. The plant’s salty, dioxin-tainted wastewater was creating a putrid odor— “It was horrendous,” Carr said. “Oh, God. You’d come over the bridge and the smell was just unbelievable” — and worse, it was leading to “masculinization” among the creek’s native mosquito fish. The regulators settled on a solution that left environmentalists even more alarmed. Georgia-Pacific would need to take specific steps in an attempt to bring its pollution in the creek into compliance with clean-water standards. But if those steps failed, it was to then divert the wastewater to the much larger (and therefore more dilutive) St. Johns River, an ecological treasure. “It was one of those slap-in-the-face rulings,” Rinaman said.

Koch Industries bought the plant in 2005. Georgia-Pacific says that the $200 million in improvements that it completed were roughly twice the outlay that had been required by state and federal regulators. Even environmentalists saluted the effort. “Now, this is one of my favorite fishing holes,” Carr said as we sat on the creek. As if on cue, a giant alligator splashed in the water in front of us. “That was a big one!”

But even though the creek was cleaner, the plant’s pollutants were still above legal limits. So Georgia-Pacific, convinced it had done all it could and eager to move on, began making plans to build a $30 million pipeline to the St. Johns River. The Crist administration refused to grant it a permit to use the pipeline until it cleared a few more hurdles; these included a new kind of dioxin test that the state Department of Environmental Protection promoted as more sensitive than those commonly in use, but which was not validated under state rules. Georgia-Pacific, arguing that it should be required only to use formally sanctioned tests, managed to resist using the new method through the end of Crist’s term.

Crist had appointed two successive heads of the Department of Environmental Protection, both trained scientists with decades of experience in environmental policy. When Rick Scott took office, his choice for the post was Herschel Vinyard, an executive with a military contractor called BAE Systems Southeast Shipyards; previously, he had been a corporate lawyer specializing in regulatory issues. One of Crist’s environmental appointees said the department would be primarily concerned with “ensuring Florida’s dynamic natural resources, state lands, waterbodies and beaches are protected”; Crist himself challenged the department to create “a strategy to protect our state from the effects of climate change.” The Scott administration, by contrast, described Vinyard’s mission as “protecting the natural resources of Florida, while creating the best possible mechanisms for job creation in the state.”

Nearly every initiative related to climate change was dropped. Vinyard laid off 58 employees and declared a “time out” on the state policy of purchasing ecologically sensitive land for protection. He also worked with the State Legislature to change the rules for environmental permits, shifting the burden of proof onto groups trying to block them. To the dismay of many editorial boards across the state, he instituted a bonus system that encouraged workers to expedite the process by which companies received permits of every kind.

One company to which Vinyard granted a permit was Georgia-Pacific— the permit it had been seeking for many years under the Crist administration. The Department of Environmental Protection under Scott required some containment and monitoring measures that environmentalists had sought— officials of the department say it was among the strictest permits they had ever issued— but not the extra dioxin test. The Legislature also passed a provision banning the state from requiring any environmental test that was not on its officially recognized list. In Rinaman’s view, this language seemed suspiciously designed to exclude the test that the Crist administration had been pushing on Georgia-Pacific. Scott signed the provision into law; he also instituted a freeze on any new regulations, and then shed existing regulations by the hundreds.

Scott’s deregulatory efforts did not go unnoticed. Americans for Prosperity invited Scott to speak at the group’s Defending the Dream summit in 2013. “Here we are, two and a half years into his term, and he’s created more than 370,000 jobs in the state of Florida,” Slade O’Brien, the Florida director of the group at the time, said by way of introduction. “And one of the ways he did that was by eliminating over 1,000 burdensome regulations.” When Scott spoke, he noted that the number had grown to 2,600.
There are people running for office who understand the nature of this problem and are committed to fixing it. No one gets endorsed by Blue America who isn’t. The candidates we endorse do understand and are committed. It’s a red line in the sand. We don’t endorse wish-washy centrists, Wall Street-owned hacks or careerists, even if they wave blue banners and call themselves Democrats. There are no good Republicans on this issue— but there are plenty of bad Democrats.

Today might also be a good time to bring up another facet of encroaching plutocracy— multimillionaires buying themselves (or their children, as in the case of Florida New Dem, Patrick Murphy) congressional seats. Below is a list of this cycle’s top 10 self-funders. One, Florida sociopath Curt Clawson— who spent the most ($4,017,543 of his own money, 86% of what his campaign cost)— is already in Congress. He used all that cash to win a special election to replace Republican Party coke dealer Trey Radel. Most of the other biggest spenders this cycle have already lost. This is the whole sordid list in order of how much of their own money they used:
Curt Clawson (R-FL-19)- $4,017,543 (86%)
Paul Mitchell (R-MI-04)- $3,167,626 (100%)- lost primary
Thomas MacArthur (R-NJ-03)- $3,000,000 (96%)- likely winner
George Demos (R-NY-01)- $2,500,000 (89%)- lost primary
Dave Trott (R-MI-11)- $2,423,402 (71%)- likely winner
Tom Sanchez (D-TX-33)- $1,475,000 (99%)- lost primary
Sean Eldridge (D-NY-19)- $1,340,000 (44%)- likely loser
Ben Streusand (R-TX-36)- $1,301,030 (93%)- lost primary
Matt Rosendale (R-MT-01)- $1,126,547 (84%)- lost primary
Brian Ellis (R-MI-03)- $1,007,214 (55%)- lost primary
Self-funding plutocrats… not a very good investment bet... even if Florida Governor (and Medicare fraud millionaire) is about to write his campaign a personal check for $22 million to save his ass. One final thought from Bernie Sanders before we get to the short Noam Chomsky clip below. After Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen delivered a speech on income and wealth inequality in the U.S. Bernie issued a statement all 100 senators should have (but didn't): "Janet Yellen is right. Income inequality is the worst it has been since the 1920s. Now that we have a Fed Chair who recognizes the problem, the Fed must act as boldly to rescue the disappearing middle class as it did when it bailed out too-big-to-fail banks. The Fed has got to demand that big banks significantly increase affordable loans to small businesses to create jobs, instead of parking its money at the Fed and making risky bets on Wall Street.”

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Friday, October 17, 2014

The theological "gradualism" being talked about in the Vatican has nothing to do with (shudder) "political" change -- ha-ha!


With "The Company Way" update (see below)

"The Company Way": "Whoever the company fires, I will still be here." (That's Sammy Smith as mail-room chief Mr. Twimble and Bobby Morse as newly assigned mail-room flunky J. Pierrepont Finch, both holdovers from the 1961 Original Broadway Cast, in the 1967 film version of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, music and lyrics by Frank Loesser.) For more of "The Company Way," see the Update below.

by Ken

Let's say you're in charge of a big old church and you love the ancient dear but you've got the feeling that in some ways it's kind of stuck in, you know, the Dark Ages. Now you have a shot at doing something about it, and not that large a window. You have to know that one of your problems -- heck, probably your biggest problem -- is your large cohort of faithful insiders, for whom "the company way" is working just fine, thank you. After all, they're faithful insiders.

Okay, so maybe I'm not speaking entirely hypothetically, and have in mind the latest wrinkle in Pope Francis's apparent wish to shake his church out of its reflexively medieval ignorance and bigotry. That wrinkle is some indication of possible doctrinal "flex," not from the pope himself this time, but from what the Washington Post's Michelle Boorstein the other day, in "Church must show more compassion, respect for same-sex couples, Vatican document says," called "a top Vatican panel assisting Pope Francis." That panel, Synod 14, Boorstein wrote,
went further than the Church has gone before in affirming non-traditional relationships, saying Monday that the Church must “turn respectfully” to couples such as those who live together unmarried or are of the same-gender and “appreciate the positive values” those unions may have.

The comments blew away some longtime Vatican experts because they put the Catholic Church – the world’s largest – squarely in the middle of the mainstream public discussion about sexuality and marriage, rather than in one corner focused mostly on unchanging doctrine. What changes to doctrine or practice might follow from the suggestions, if any, weren’t at all clear.

The comments came in a document a small handful of clergy — including DC’s Archbishop Donald Wuerl — prepared to summarize what has happened during the first half of a two-week long “synod” Francis called in order to confront the Church’s most contentious issues. The document was the first real information the Vatican has released on what’s gone on in the rare high-level meeting of 190 top clergy, who are launching a deeper look at church teaching and practice around family issues. It’s meant to guide further talks for this week and in coming months.
"The document," Boorstein noted, "reaffirmed that traditional teachings are the 'ideal' but was remarkable to some in its openness and lack of emphasis on condemnation of untraditional relationships."
The Rev. James Martin, a Catholic writer with the Jesuit magazine America, wrote that the document was “stunning.”

“The Synod said that gay people have ‘gifts and talents to offer the Christian community.’ This is something that even a few years ago would have been unthinkable, from even the most open-minded of prelates–that is, a statement of outright praise for the contribution of gays and lesbians, with no caveat and no reflexive mention of sin,” Martin wrote. “That any church document would praise same-sex ‘partners’ in any way (and even use the word ‘partners’) is astonishing.”

On that, the document said “Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners.”
But Boorstein also quoted Fordham University Theology Department Chair Patrick Horbeck sounding a note of caution:
Some questions were asked here that have never been asked publicly by bishops: What good can we find in same-sex unions? In many ways for the first time in a long time the Catholic Church is saying it wants to ask really hard questions about how people truly live their lives. But the fact that the question is being asked doesn’t mean the answer will be what progressive and liberal Catholics want it to be . . .it would be a mistake to see this document as in any way definitive or significantly revolutionary.
Then came a press conference yesterday when, ThinkProgress's Jack Jenkins reported, "the Vatican reversed course."
[O]fficials announced the release of an edited English version of the report that alters passages that affirm gay people. For example, the new version changes the translation of the Italian phrase “Accogliere le persone omosessuali,” which was initially rendered in the English version as “to welcome homosexual persons,” a literal interpretation of the text. Although the original Italian document remains unchanged, Thursday’s revision edited the English version to read, “providing for homosexual persons,” a shift that Thomas Reese of the National Catholic Reporter said was “clearly … not an accurate translation.”

The new document includes other subtle alterations as well, although virtually all of the edits deal with the Catholic church’s position on homosexuality. Thursday’s version of the report, for instance, changed a phrase that previously referred to same-sex unions as “precious support in the life of the partners” to “valuable support in the life of these persons.”

The revisions appear to be an attempt by the Vatican — or at least English-speaking bishops — to control the media narrative surrounding the release of the original document. After various outlets and reporters heralded the inclusive stance of Monday’s document, conservative Catholics began publicly lambasting the report, with one South African Cardinal condemning some of its statements as “irredeemable.” Although there is speculation that Francis hinted at the release of the document during Mass on Monday morning, the Vatican quickly backtracked on Tuesday, explaining the report was a “working document” and saying that they did not want to give “the impression of a positive evaluation” of homosexuality, according to CNN.

I don't think you have to be Kreskin to intuit that there's some fairly fierce political infighting going on inside church ranks, and American Catholics must be proud to know that their very own U.S. bishops are once again in the thick of the fight to keep the Church safely mired in the medieval muck.

Wait! Did I just say "political"? "Politics" inside the Church of Rome? What could I have been thinking of.

At least that's what a gentleman named David Cloutier, who we're told "is on the theology faculty at Mount St. Mary’s University and is the editor of the blog 'Catholic Moral Theology,' " is here to tell us, with an absolutely straight face, in a WaPo op-ed piece whose title asks and answers its own question: "Is the Vatican evolving on sex and marriage? Not the way politicians do." Normally I wouldn't go out of my way to make fun of a person's faith. (Usually you don't have to. It comes pre-made-fun-of.) But when the person mounts his high horse spinning bullshit into pseudo-moral and pseudo-philosophical jibber-jabber, well, sometimes you have to take the shot.

"In American politics," says our man, " 'evolution' has become the term of choice to describe shifting attitudes, especially toward same-sex marriage."
President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) are among those who have talked about their views evolving or having evolved.

At the Vatican this past week, “gradualism” was the term emphasized by the bishops and cardinals from around the world meeting to discuss issues of sexuality and family that have divided the church.

The bishops and cardinals didn’t use the term to describe a shift in their thinking. Rather, in the provisional report of the Synod on the Family, they invoked gradualism in recognition that even those who strive toward a moral ideal tend to fall short; for all of us, morality takes time and practice. They urged appreciation of the good in relationships that don’t meet the church ideal of monogamous, til-death-do-us-part marriage.

In accordance with the “law of gradualness,” unmarried couples living together might be encouraged to find deeper commitment in a relationship that has obvious value. Individuals who have remarried after divorce may perhaps be able to take Communion if, for example, the second marriage is stable and clearly benefits the children. Some of the church leadership talked about affirming long-term, committed same-sex relationships in the same way the Catholic Church affirms the virtue in other religious traditions. “One simply cannot say that a faithful homosexual relationship that has held for decades is nothing,” Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich elaborated to a reporter. . . .
Our David goes on, and on, but you can read that for yourself. Let's fast-forward to where he really puts his finger on it. "Clearly, something is happening within the church."
Church leaders and members, like the members of any other community, have been influenced by the experience of having friends, relatives and neighbors who are living admirable lives after divorce, or who are in committed, loving same-sex relationships. The pope and the bishops meeting in Rome are also acutely aware of increasing secularization and decreasing membership.

But this is not the same as what happens when individuals or societies “gradually” change their views on a given issue.
You see, "Unlike secular political movements, the church is not staking out positions on social issues with the goal of effecting — or blocking — legal or cultural change."
It does not see social change (however important) as an end in itself. Instead, the goal is to facilitate the encounter with God, in the person of Jesus and the community of the church. The deliberations of the synod make clear that Francis and many other bishops worry intensely that a focus on certain moral ideals, especially when they sound like a simple “no” to many people, constitutes a barrier to that fundamental spiritual encounter.

Thus, unlike secular advocacy of this or that stance on an issue, gradualism rests on the more important theological conviction that God is really at work in the world. . . .
At this distinction I imagine the all-Catholic bloc of thug-justices on the U.S. Supreme Court would nod sagely. They too would never engage in "secular advocacy of this or that stance on an issue." It just comes out looking this way -- the, er, "company way."

And you know how they're always portrayed as bad guys when they have to once again just say no when they have benighted appellants asking for what might be called "the comfort of a little extra personal freedom and liberation"?
You could say that, in highlighting gradualness, the synod is saying something very, very old, and not all that political: We are all sinners, and we must rely on God’s grace, not just our own resources. That’s not a gradual realization on the part of the church but something ancient. And it arises not out of a kind of laxism, but out of a recognition of how demanding and challenging Christianity is. I myself need gradualism whenever I read about loving enemies, forgiving people over and over, letting go of the illusory security and charm of possessions. How fortunate we would be if we applied gradualism toward high ideals of sustainable energy use, care for the poor and the immigrant, and sexual respect and discipline — all of which are vigorously proclaimed by the church. Instead, we often sacrifice such ambitious ideals, perhaps for the comfort of a little extra personal freedom and liberation.

The church wants much more than these private victories. God wants nothing less than love out of us. But God also knows: It takes a long time.
This actually sounds strikingly like the kind of gradualism one of the small band of remaining non-thug-justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was talking about not long ago when she spoke the virtues of, well, gradual change in the area of same-sex marriage as opposed to, say, the thunderbolt of Roe v. Wade on the issue of abortion. Of course Justice Ginsburg was talking about gradual change in law, not religion, and in any case not being, you know, Catholic, she probably wouldn't understand. Probably Justice Scalia or Alito could explain it to her.

And of course the suggestion that there might be politics in the inner workings of the Church, why, that must seem practically blasphemous -- assuming, that is, that you know nothing whatsoever about the inner workings of the Church. Some people would say that it's one of the most intensely and viciously political institutions on the planet. Perhaps Justices Scalia and Alito can explain it to them when they finish explaining to Justice Ginsburg.


As I mentioned up top, Sammy Smith (doubling Mr. Twinble and World Wide Wicket Company board chairman Wally Womper) and Bobby Morse (J. Pierrepont Finch) were in the Original Broadway Cast of How to Succeed. Here they are in 1961, along with the reprise of "The Company Way" sung by Ponty's new archrival, Bud Frump (the nephew of WWW president J. B. Biggley), played on Broadway by the one and only Charles Nelson Reilly.

"The Company Way": Mr. Twimble (Sammy Smith) and Ponty (Robert Morse)

"The Company Way" reprise: Bud Frump (Charles Nelson Reilly), Sammy Smith, and company

Original Broadway Cast recording, Elliot Lawrence, cond. RCA-BMG, recorded Oct. 22, 1961

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