Sunday, February 28, 2010

What a bizarre practice

George Carlin said it: "When you're born, you get a ticket to the freak show. When you're born in America, you get a front-row seat."

I heard about this yesterday on NPR and I think it's just so bizarre that I thought I'd share it.

The phenomenon is "Hauls", and it's a new genre of YouTube video. People go to the store or mall, buy a bunch of stuff, and then sit down in front of the camera and talk about all the stuff they just bought.

Go on over to YouTube and look at them. Type "hauls" in the search engine and you'll find over 86,000 videos.

As I say, George Carlin had it right.

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Anti-vaxxer, starlet, kook

The leading light of the anti-vaxxer movement is apparently having second thoughts. (Or should I say first thoughts?)

Jenny McCarthy, shown here with her idiot boyfriend Jim Carrey, has for years been the leading spokesnut of the anti-vaccine movement. Aside from blaming the MMR vaccine for her son's autism she has been willing to try just about every possible remedy for his condition. Every remedy, that is, that is based on superstition, anti-intellectualism, or sheer gullibility.

McCarthy began to try almost every treatment that turned up on Google. Evan went through conventional, intensive Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy as well as a host of alternative approaches, including a gluten-free and casein-free (GFCF) diet, hyperbaric oxygen chambers, chelation, aromatherapies, electromagnetics, spoons rubbed on his body, multivitamin therapy, B-12 shots and a range of prescription drugs. McCarthy says she made a deal with God. "Help me fix my boy," she prayed, "and I'll teach the world how I did it."

Well, guess what? Her kid's all better now. No symptoms of autism. No antisocial behavior. No problems with speaking, or interacting people. No autism.

To what can we attribute this miraculous cure? Well, maybe Jenny's god, or maybe one of those quack cures she went for, or maybe, just maybe, he never had autism in the first place. As the study described in Time online demonstrates, the son's symptoms were always more consistent with an unusual neurological disorder than with autism, particularly the fact that they started with seizures, which you don't see with autism.

Was her son ever really autistic? Evan's symptoms — heavy seizures, followed by marked improvement once the seizures were brought under control — are similar to those of Landau-Kleffner syndrome, a rare childhood neurological disorder that can also result in speech impairment and possible long-term neurological damage. Or, as other pediatricians have suggested, perhaps the miracle I have beheld is the quotidian miracle of childhood development: a delayed 2-year-old catching up by the time he is 7, a commonplace, routine occurrence, nothing more surprising than a short boy growing tall.

So what is Jenny McCarthy saying now? "I'm sorry, and I apologize to everyone whose kid got measles because someone listened to me and didn't let their kid get vaccinated"?

Not exactly.

And she is also reversing her initial position that the MMR shots caused Evan’s autism. Jenny now says she wants vaccinations better researched — rather than getting rid of them altogether, as she previously promoted. And though her son may never have had autism, Jenny insists, “I’ll continue to be the voice” of the disorder.

I've got another suggestion. If you are interested in autism, any other medical condition, or the effects of vaccines, listen to the scientists, not to the ex-Playboy models.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Who's he supposed to have an affair with--a stranger?

Thanks to Josh for the latest news from the party of family values.

Last December, Paulding County lost its representative in the Georgia House when he resigned in a high profile sex and conflict-of-interest scandal.

Glenn Richardson, the family-values Republican who represented the county and was speaker of the house, stepped down after his ex-wife publicly accused him of having "a full-out affair" with a lobbyist while he was married.

So when Paulding County voters went to the polls for a special election Tuesday, they selected ... another family-values conservative who had admitted to an extramarital affair!

But, as the writer Tom Crawford of Capitol Impact noted this week, Stout "has been compelled to address a personal incident from 10 years ago: he had an affair with his first wife's mother while his first wife was pregnant with their daughter.

Stay classy, Republicans.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Thanks, Orly!

The latest from mail-order lawyer and birther queen Orly Taitz:

Orly Taitz, Birther Queen, seeks UN protection. Orly Taitz, California lawyer, dentist, and real estate agent, has made an appeal to the United Nations for “urgent action under the mandate for human rights defenders.” Taitz is is claiming she is under “increasing legal attack in the United States from groups and individuals opposed to her legal actions challenging the Constitutional qualifications of Barrack Hussein Obama to hold the office of President of the United States.”

According to
a letter sent by her attorney, Jonathan Levy, Taitz has "been the victim of death threats, vandalism, false complaints, and a suspected assassination attempt" in the course of her efforts to expose Obama as a fraud, adding that "her reports to law enforcement and the judiciary have been ignored." There has not yet been any official response from the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Get this:

As always main stream media misrepresents the truth. I wonder: are they so thick or so corrupt that they cannot comprehend one sentence, that I have been saying for a year and a half: Obama is not eligible because of his dual allegiance to 3 other countries and no valid documents proving US birth and he needs to be prosecuted for SS security fraud and common law fraud, using multiple ss numbers of the deceased and numbers that were never assigned.

Yes, you read that right--dual allegiance to three countries. Maybe "dual" means something different at the correspondence law school she got her degree from.

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Did you see this?

UPDATE: According to this posting from Daily Kos, the Sarah Palin SAT score report appears to be a fake.

Too bad, huh?

Wouldn't you think someone who went to five colleges would be smarter than this?

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Home Grown Suicide Bomber

You know the story of the day: a man with tax troubles crashed his plane into an office building that housed office space for the IRS. He is presumably dead, two IRS employees were badly burned, and one is missing.

It doesn't appear to be part of any plot or movement, although that's what people thought about Timothy McVeigh initially. (Actually, they initially assumed he had to be a brown-skinned Muslim, because that's what a terrorist is, right? I guess we found out.)

What does appear to be the case, though, is that he seems to have been very susceptible to the anti-tax rhetoric that expresses itself in idiot legal arguments like the idea that paying taxes is voluntary or that getting paid for your labor does not result in income to you. The unhinged manifesto of the guy who apparently did it traces the development of his thinking from his study of certain provisions of the Tax Code. (Or, to be correct, a single provision of the Tax Code; if you study idiot legal arguments you learn that one hallmark of these arguments is that they focus on what they think is the self-evident meaning of a single section, sentence, or clause, to the exclusion of any context that would reveal its true meaning.)

How can any rational individual explain that white elephant conundrum in the middle of our tax system and, indeed, our entire legal system? Here we have a system that is, by far, too complicated for the brightest of the master scholars to understand. Yet, it mercilessly “holds accountable” its victims, claiming that they’re responsible for fully complying with laws not even the experts understand. The law “requires” a signature on the bottom of a tax filing; yet no one can say truthfully that they understand what they are signing; if that’s not “duress” than what is. If this is not the measure of a totalitarian regime, nothing is.

My introduction to the real American nightmare starts back in the early ‘80s. Unfortunately after more than 16 years of school, somewhere along the line I picked up the absurd, pompous notion that I could read and understand plain English. Some friends introduced me to a group of people who were having ‘tax code’ readings and discussions. In particular, zeroed in on a section relating to the wonderful “exemptions” that make institutions like the vulgar, corrupt Catholic Church so incredibly wealthy. We carefully studied the law (with the help of some of the “best”, high-paid, experienced tax lawyers in the business), and then began to do exactly what the “big boys” were doing (except that we weren’t steeling from our congregation or lying to the government about our massive profits in the name of God). We took a great deal of care to make it all visible, following all of the rules, exactly the way the law said it was to be done.

. . .

That little lesson in patriotism cost me $40,000+, 10 years of my life, and set my retirement plans back to 0.

He goes on, referring to the government as pompous political thugs and their mindless minions, similar to the way the NRA and its allies like to refer to law enforcement as "jack-booted thugs".

What's as scary and disturbing as anything he wrote, since he was apparently just a sad, desperate man, is the reactions of other right-wingers to this act. Here are a few quotes from anti-government types at a discussion board I frequent:

HAHA! Internal Robbery Service 0 Pissed off Patriot American 1! MUAHAHAHHA!

You work for evil you are part of the evil. Well see that is where me and you disagree I don't think it was muslim terrorists that took down the twin towers.

If that happens it only ups the ante for a revolution! You take everything from someone then they have nothing left to give they don't mind giving up their life for their cause.

do you also not think Timothy McVeigh was a terroirist?
He wasn't no. He was a Freedom Fighter. Also one of my hero's

Yep, and be blames the government and taxes for bringing down his business.
==>well, he was right then. take goverment out of business and businesses shall flourish. instead we get goverment involved and businesses stagnate or fail.

the goverment should be fired and gotten rid of for the most part. maybe it is time to go back to the ways of our founding fathers and get rid of 99.9% of the goverment and 100% of federal laws.

From what we can piece together, Stack was someone who became convinced that, for some reason, his income could not be counted as income, and then became unhappy when he was inevitably found to owe taxes on his income. He found congenial to his situation the familiar right-wing argument that taxation=theft.

The problem is, ideas have consequences. In this case, what has become standard overheated rhetoric against the constitutional government of the United States may have led one depressed man to imagine himself part of an army, and to be willing to kill his fellow citizens.

Maybe the right-wingers should think about what they're doing when they shoot their mouths off.

And maybe that should go double for government officials, like Cosmopolitan centerfold and new Senator Scott Brown:

And I don't know if it's related, but I can just sense not only in my election, but since being here in Washington, people are frustrated. They want transparency, they want their elected officials to be accountable and open and talk about the things that are affecting their daily lives. So I'm not sure that there's a connection, I certainly hope not. But we need to do things better.

Now correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't it usually the conservatives who say that we shouldn't bother to try to understand why terrorists do what they do?

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George Will, left-wing socialist

Know some gullible people?

If so, this might just be the business model you are looking for:

Many people in the U.S.—perhaps 20 million to 40 million—believe there will be a Second Coming in their lifetimes, followed by the Rapture . In this event, they say, the righteous will be spirited away to a better place while the godless remain on Earth. But what will become of all the pets?

Bart Centre, 61, a retired retail executive in New Hampshire, says many people are troubled by this question, and he wants to help. He started a service called Eternal Earth-Bound Pets that promises to rescue and care for animals left behind by the saved.

Our service is plain and simple; our fee structure is reasonable.
For $110.00 we will guarantee that should the Rapture occur within ten (10) years of receipt of payment, one pet per residence will be saved. Each additional pet at your residence will be saved for an additional $15.00 fee. A small price to pay for your peace of mind and the health and safety of your four legged and feathered friends.

I knew there must be some disadvantage to living in Vermont!

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

He's found her

That's right. Richard Dawkins, so accomplished in both science and the philosophy of religion, can add another accomplishment to his resume: he has found the stupidest person in America.

I watched and listened to this entire interview so you don't have to. Trust me. This woman is the most witless, dishonest person you will ever want to meet. Not only does she lie incessantly, she has the most annoying way of laughing at every fact-based assertion she wants to duck.

I notice another video called "Why Richard Dawkins Doesn't Debate Creationists", and I think the answer is clear: they are dishonest, they refuse to confront the evidence, and a person who is constrained by the truth has a very hard time making any headway with them.

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The most dangerous unknown man in America

Who knows best about what to teach American students? Educators, experts in their fields, or a right-wing dentist who believes the earth is under 10,000 years old?

If you believe right-wing loon Don McLeroy, the dentist, he's just the man to do it.

The dentist is also a member of the Texas State Board of Education, and what makes him so powerful is that every textbook purchased by public schools in Texas, some 48,000,000 textbooks a year at a cost of $22,000,000,000, must conform to the textbook standards promulgated by the Board. This means that if Dr. Don doesn't like the fact that, for example, the best-known history textbook refers to the "living Constitution", and has for fifty or sixty years, he has the power to squeeze the publisher and get them to change it.

Or if Dr. Don wants to cram his Christianist ideology down the throats of your kids, he has seven allies on the Board to help him do it.

And because the Texas market is so huge, what is verboten in Texas isn't likely to show up in the public schools in your town, or your state, either.

You should read about it in today's Times Magazine. Here's just an example of how dangerous he is:

“BROWN BEAR, BROWN BEAR, What Do You See?” It’s not an especially subversive-sounding title, but the author of this 1967 children’s picture book, Bill Martin Jr., lost his place in the Texas social-studies guidelines at last month’s board meeting due to what was thought to be un-American activity — to be precise, “very strong critiques of capitalism and the American system.” Martin, the creator of 300 children’s books, was removed from the list of cultural figures approved for study by third graders in the blizzard of amendments offered by board members.

In this case, one board member sent an e-mail message with a reference to “Ethical Marxism,” by Bill Martin, to another board member, who suggested that anyone who wrote a book with such a title did not belong in the TEKS. As it turned out, Bill Martin and Bill Martin Jr. are two different people. But by that time, the author of “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” was out.

Or another example: just last Friday, the Board, acting on McLeroy's motion, has voted to reword the standards to say that Joe McCarthy was right.

As I say, this is a dangerous guy.

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Harold Ford for Senate, Take Two

Harold Ford has created a web page for his nascent Senate run, including a page where you can sign a petition urging him to run.

Forty-five signatures so far, but I'm guessing that not all of them are sincere:

Gordon Gecko, 15, 14

Donald Corleone, Out of State

Holden McGroyn, New York's 14th district

Gen. Jack D. Ripper (Ret.), Out of State

George W Bush, Out of State

Nottah Chanse, New York's 14th district

Harold Isfullofshit, 8, 14

So maybe you want to sign, either for yourself or one of your alter egos? I noticed that Dick Hertz hasn't signed yet.

Late update: the count is down to 36 signatures, so they've clearly weeded the list, but I notice that Dick Hertz has made an appearance.

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Mr. Deity and the Really Hard Time

Is it just me, or did Mr. Deity and Larry just channel Abbott and Costello?

Do you miss this asshole?

Are you missing George Bush?

A billboard has appeared in Minnesota, showing a picture of George Bush and asking: 'Missing me yet?' Is it time to start feeling nostalgic about the Bush era?

The English newspaper The Guardian has a poll on the subject. You might want to hop on over and cast your vote.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The Republican version of a principled conservative--maverick edition

John McCain on Don't Ask Don't Tell in 2006:

"But the day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, 'Senator, we ought to change the policy,' then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it, because those leaders in the military are the ones we give the responsibility to."

John McCain in 2010 after the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff testify that Don't Ask Don't Tell should be abolished:

"I'm deeply disappointed in your statement," he told Mullen. Congress took up this issue in 1993, McCain said, and reached a compromise between "the desires of a minority and the interests of a volunteer force." (He also brandished a letter signed by more than 1,000 officers opposing repeal.) "I'm eager to hear from our distinguished witnesses what has changed," he said.

Do you think he'll flip (or is it flop?) again now that Colin Powell has come out for the repeal of DADT?

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Random Thoughts

They might not each be worth their own diary, but I didn't want to ignore them.

1. One big difference between Obama and Bush:

Bush lies, Obama tells the truth. Say what you like about Obama's war plans (and most of us around here disagree with them), but at least Obama put the costs in the budget instead of trying to pretend they aren't part of the deficit.

2. More good news for Evan Bayh wannabe Harold Ford.

Picks up the coveted Karl Rove endorsement.

3. Economy drives booze sales downmarket.

According to one conoisseur, "we've switched from Bud Light to a lesser brand."

Rational Resistance wonders: Is that even possible?

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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Howard Zinn in Vermont

One of the absolute high points of my legal career was the defense of the Winooski 44. In 1984, peace activists occupied the offices of Senator Robert Stafford in Winooski to protest U.S. policy in El Salvador and Nicaragua. They were arrested and charged with unlawful trespass, and in November of that year 26 of those protestors were tried before a jury of their peers. I was fortunate to be one of the eight Vermont lawyers who represented the defendants.

The defense was necessity: the doctrine that a technical violation of the law can be justified if it was undertaken to prevent a greater harm, which in this case was the Reagan administration's support for death squads in El Salvador and contra mercenaries in Nicaragua to oppress the people. In addition to the moral authority of the defendants, witnesses for the defense included former Attorney General Ramsey Clark and Howard Zinn.

When I met Dr. Zinn he was very gracious and willing to be of assistance. His testimony was eloquent, and fleshed out the themes of his academic career and the deeply American values of political protest:

Well, social movements all through American history, including the current one dealing with problems in Central America, all use a variety of tactics. Their basic inteition is to arounse public opinion. The idea is to try to get the public, which they usually believe has not been told the whole trugh by the press or the government, aroused about an issue. They want to get information to the public. They want to appeal to the people who have not been paying attention to this issue. And so they use a variety of tactics which have been classic in American tradition, tactics of demonstration, tactics of petition, tactics of civil disobedience.

By civil disobedience I mean the technical violation of law in order to try to bring to public attention some very powerful issue, some very fundamental principle. This is an approach which goes back to the American Revolutionary period, to the movements of that time when, as most everybody knows who has learned something about the American Revolution, the colonists in New England used a variety of tactics which were technically outside the law, but which the colonists believed fit in with what they called a higher law. When they went onto the property of stamp tax collectors and destroyed the stamps, when they violated property lines in various ways in order to bring the attention of people to the abuses of the British King and Parliament, they were appealing to fundamental principles of government which they then expressed in the Declaration of Independence.

The Declaration of Independence was really the summing up of what is the relationship between people and government. The basic idea of the Declaration was that goverment derived its power from people. People set up governments. People set them up for certain purposes, and the purposes were to do something for people to guarantee life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Democracy is not just voting. Democracy is not just writing letters to congressmen. Democracy in America has always meant people getting together, meeting, petitioning, demonstrating, going out in the street; yes, sitting in, trespassing, doing various acts of nonvioolent, technical disobedience to arouse large numbers of people.

The way civil disobedience works is that it affects the public. It affects the majority of the people. It does more than affect one senator. It affects many senators. It affects many congressmen. It affects the President. It afects the military leaders of the country because what a government needs most of all when it carries out its foreign policy is legitimacy.

As I say, representing the Vermonters standing up for the people of El Salvador and Nicaragua in the face of a hostile government, and hearing the Vermont jury pronounce them not guilty, was one of the highlights of my legal career, and working with Howard Zinn to present his testimony was a great pleasure. While right-wingers attacked him for his views, Dr. Zinn expressed some of the most fundamental values of American democracy, and I was proud to know him, however briefly.

Howard Zinn died on January 27 at the age of 87. He will be missed by all of us who value justice and freedom.

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