Member since: Fri Sep 17, 2004, 03:59 PM
Number of posts: 46,698
Number of posts: 46,698
- 2015 (1599)
- 2014 (2917)
- 2013 (3310)
- 2012 (5564)
- 2011 (122)
- December (122)
- Older Archives
5:31 PM PST
Garry Wills... guns as our Moloch
Few crimes are more harshly forbidden in the Old Testament than sacrifice to the god Moloch (for which see Leviticus 18.21, 20.1-5). The sacrifice referred to was of living children consumed in the fires of offering to Moloch. Ever since then, worship of Moloch has been the sign of a deeply degraded culture. Ancient Romans justified the destruction of Carthage by noting that children were sacrificed to Moloch there. Milton represented Moloch as the first pagan god who joined Satan’s war on humankind:
First Moloch, horrid king, besmear’d with blood
Read again those lines, with recent images seared into our brains—“besmeared with blood” and “parents’ tears.” They give the real meaning of what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School Friday morning. That horror cannot be blamed just on one unhinged person. It was the sacrifice we as a culture made, and continually make, to our demonic god. We guarantee that crazed man after crazed man will have a flood of killing power readily supplied him. We have to make that offering, out of devotion to our Moloch, our god. The gun is our Moloch. We sacrifice children to him daily—sometimes, as at Sandy Hook, by directly throwing them into the fire-hose of bullets from our protected private killing machines, sometimes by blighting our children’s lives by the death of a parent, a schoolmate, a teacher, a protector. Sometimes this is done by mass killings (eight this year), sometimes by private offerings to the god (thousands this year).
The gun is not a mere tool, a bit of technology, a political issue, a point of debate. It is an object of reverence. Devotion to it precludes interruption with the sacrifices it entails. Like most gods, it does what it will, and cannot be questioned. Its acolytes think it is capable only of good things. It guarantees life and safety and freedom. It even guarantees law. Law grows from it. Then how can law question it?
Its power to do good is matched by its incapacity to do anything wrong. It cannot kill. Thwarting the god is what kills. If it seems to kill, that is only because the god’s bottomless appetite for death has not been adequately fed. The answer to problems caused by guns is more guns, millions of guns, guns everywhere, carried openly, carried secretly, in bars, in churches, in offices, in government buildings. Only the lack of guns can be a curse, not their beneficent omnipresence.
December 15, 2012, 5:25 p.m.
Posted by kpete | Sat Dec 14, 2013, 09:01 PM (5 replies)
Officials Say U.S. May Never Know Extent of Snowden’s Leaks
By MARK MAZZETTI and MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT
Published: December 14, 2013
WASHINGTON — American intelligence and law enforcement investigators have concluded that they may never know the entirety of what the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden extracted from classified government computers before leaving the United States, according to senior government officials.
Investigators remain in the dark about the extent of the data breach partly because the N.S.A. facility in Hawaii where Mr. Snowden worked — unlike other N.S.A. facilities — was not equipped with up-to-date software that allows the spy agency to monitor which corners of its vast computer landscape its employees are navigating at any given time.
Six months since the investigation began, officials said Mr. Snowden had further covered his tracks by logging into classified systems using the passwords of other security agency employees, as well as by hacking firewalls installed to limit access to certain parts of the system.
“They’ve spent hundreds and hundreds of man-hours trying to reconstruct everything he has gotten, and they still don’t know all of what he took,” a senior administration official said. “I know that seems crazy, but everything with this is crazy.”
Posted by kpete | Sat Dec 14, 2013, 07:42 PM (8 replies)
Megyn Kelly Spins, Fails
DEC 14 2013 @ 12:25PM
(Painting: Mother Mary with the Holy Child Jesus Christ, Oil/canvas, 1913. By Adolf Hitler.)
I’d say two things. The original segment was clearly not as light-hearted and humorous as Kelly now insists it was. She did not originally refer to the Slate piece as “tongue-in-cheek” and responded to its provocation by being offended, not amused. Since both tapes are out there, make your own mind up. But rather than cop to an obvious error – made off the cuff – she made the decision to hunker down and accuse others of persecuting Fox News because it isn’t liberal. So the classic and silly notion that white Republicans are somehow an oppressed class – and minorities should just stop whining – became her “correction.” But that’s not a correction. It’s a distraction.
More to the point, the much more disturbing assertion that “Jesus was white” – something Kelly injected into the conversation all by herself – is left hanging. She claims in one aside in her response that the question “is not settled.” But it is. Jesus was a first century Jew. He’s not a northern European. He was Semitic, not Caucasian. Now maybe Kelly will unpack why she may believe that Jews are somehow “white” in her racial categorization of humanity, while, say, Hispanics are not. But it seems likely she won’t. That would open a very large box of premises Roger Ailes prefers to keep vacuum-wrapped.
So she screwed up – which we all do. But on the core measure of whether she could fairly cop to her screw-up, correct and apologize for it, she failed. I tend to think that how journalists respond to error is more instructive than how they report and analyze in factually impeccable fashion. On that count, Kelly emerged this week as a flak and a hack. I guess I was foolish for hoping for more.
Posted by kpete | Sat Dec 14, 2013, 05:14 PM (9 replies)
SAT DEC 14, 2013 AT 10:18 AM PST
How To Destroy An Entire Country
by Alan Grayson
From a recent 188-page report by the World Health Organization come these ghastly and appalling factoids:
Suicide rates rose 40% in the first six months of 2011 alone.
Joining those doctors in joblessness are 27.6% of the entire Greek labor force. By comparison, in the depths of the Great Depression, unemployment in the United States peaked at a lower percentage than that. Among Greek young adults under 25 years old, unemployment reached an abominable 64.9% in May. (Yet the unemployment rate in Greece was as low as 7% as recently as 2008.)
I'm sure that my Tea Party friends will blame universal healthcare, paid sick leave and "generous" unemployment benefits for this catastrophe. "If we simply stopped helping people, then they wouldn't need our help," they would say. You can see where that "logic" leads. The dead need no help whatsoever, except possibly burial. Sort of like this: "The Republican healthcare plan: Don't Get Sick. And if you do get sick, Die Quickly."]
Maybe you think that I'm kidding about what my Tea Party friends would do. I'm not. A few years ago here in Florida, we had a children's health insurance program called KidCare, with a waiting list of over 100,000. The Tea Party Republicans didn't like that. So they eliminated the waiting list.
But back to Greece. A lot of people blame Greek government debt for the current suffering. According to the Central Intelligence Agency, that most authoritative of all conceivable sources, Greek government debt stands at 160% of GDP, which seems like a lot. But Japanese government debt stands at 215% of GDP, and the unemployment rate in Japan is only 4%.
Moreover, Spain's unemployment rate is virtually as high as Greece's, but Spain's government debt stands at only 85% of GDP. That's less debt than Singapore's, and Singapore's unemployment rate is 1.8%.
So we cannot properly attribute the catastrophe in Greece to labor protection, nor can we attribute it to government borrowing. What is the cause, then? The World Health Organization has the answer: austerity. "Austerity" is a bloodless term for gross economic mismanagement, animated by heartlessness. That robotic cut-cut-cut mentality that deprives us of jobs, of public services, of safety, of health, of infrastructure, of help for the needy, and – ultimately -- of our economic equilibrium and the ability to survive. The mentality that ushers in, and welcomes, a vicious war of all against all. Austerity is destroying an entire country, right before our eyes.
Or, as the World Health Organization put it: "These adverse trends in Greece pose a warning to other countries undergoing significant fiscal austerity, including Spain, Ireland and Italy. It also suggests that ways need to be found for cash-strapped governments to consolidate finances without undermining much-needed investments in health."
In America, we have a rich and powerful lobby that has the same prescription for every economic malady: austerity. Cut-cut-cut. Cut Social Security and Medicare. Cut teacher and police and firefighter jobs. Cut health care. Cut pay and cut pensions. It all boils down to that one ugly word: austerity. And austerity always brings disarray, disaster, decay and death.
People often ask me my position on various issues. Well, I'm for certain things, and I'm against others. But on one issue, I'm very consistent. I'm against pain and suffering. Especially avoidable pain and suffering. And therefore, I'm against austerity. It begins with seemingly innocuous budget cuts. It then leads inexorably to the destruction of countless lives.
Why am I telling you about Greece? In 1935, Sinclair Lewis wrote a book called "It Can't Happen Here." But it can. And it's up to us to prevent it.
Rep. Alan Grayson
"The horror! The horror!"
-- The last words of Col. Kurtz in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness (1899).
Posted by kpete | Sat Dec 14, 2013, 04:23 PM (28 replies)
Was just reading about the Krampus, St. Nicholas' counterpart..
Posted by kpete | Sat Dec 14, 2013, 01:56 PM (9 replies)
Bill Moyers blasted the National Rifle Association (NRA) in a commentary released on Friday, accusing the NRA of devolving into political bullies and lamenting what he described as an increasing disregard for gun safety in Texas.
“So it goes: ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill,’” Moyers said on Moyers & Company. “But if you do, hide behind the Second Amendment, made holier and more sacrosanct by the NRA than God’s own commandment.”
Moyers also looked back to former NRA President Charleton Heston’s famous boast that gun safety supporters would have to wrest his rifle from his “cold, dead hands,” arguing that his rhetoric fed less into the beliefs held by Moses — who Heston played in The Ten Commandments — and more into the Wild West mythos the NRA has helped propagate.
“The good Lord seems not to have anticipated the National Rifle Association,” Moyers said. “Its conscience as cold and dead as Charlton Heston’s grip on his gun, the NRA has become the armed bully of American politics, the enabler of the gunfighter nation, whose exceptionalism includes a high tolerance for the slaughter of the innocent.”
& THIS IS A MUST READ TOO!!!
The Great American Class War: Plutocracy Versus Democracy
December 13, 2013
by Bill Moyers
We are this close – this close! – to losing our democracy to the mercenary class. So close it’s as if we’re leaning way over the rim of the Grand Canyon waiting for a swift kick in the pants.
The Donor Class and Streams of Dark Money
The historian Plutarch warned us long ago of what happens when there is no brake on the power of great wealth to subvert the electorate. “The abuse of buying and selling votes,” he wrote of Rome, “crept in and money began to play an important part in determining elections. Later on, this process of corruption spread in the law courts and to the army, and finally, when even the sword became enslaved by the power of gold, the republic was subjected to the rule of emperors.”
We don’t have emperors yet, but we do have the Roberts Court that consistently privileges the donor class.
We don’t have emperors yet, but we do have a Senate in which, as a study by the political scientist Larry Bartels reveals, “Senators appear to be considerably more responsive to the opinions of affluent constituents than to the opinions of middle-class constituents, while the opinions of constituents in the bottom third of the income distribution have no apparent statistical effect on their senators’ roll call votes.”
We don’t have emperors yet, but we have a House of Representatives controlled by the far right that is now nourished by streams of “dark money” unleashed thanks to the gift bestowed on the rich by the Supreme Court in the Citizens United case.
Posted by kpete | Sat Dec 14, 2013, 01:51 PM (10 replies)
The Economist, never known as a hard left commie agit-prop political organ (like the New York Times for example) comes out in favor of a minimum wage over $10, because it does more good than harm, though not without some handwringing over it all...
The logical floor
Moderate minimum wages do more good than harm. They should be set by technocrats not politicians
Dec 14th 2013 | From the print edition
ON BOTH sides of the Atlantic politicians are warming to the idea that the lowest-paid can be helped by mandating higher wages. Barack Obama wants to raise America’s federal minimum wage by 40% from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour, and more than three-quarters of Americans support the idea (see article). In Germany, one of the few big rich-world countries still without a national wage floor, the incoming coalition government has just agreed on an across-the-board hourly minimum of €8.50 ($11.50) from 2015. In Britain, which has had a minimum wage since 1999, the opposition Labour Party is keen to cajole firms into “voluntarily” paying higher “living wages”.
For free-market types, including The Economist, fiddling with wages by fiat sets off alarm bells. In a competitive market anything that artificially raises the price of labour will curb demand for it, and the first to lose their jobs will be the least skilled—the people intervention is supposed to help. That is why Milton Friedman called minimum wages a form of discrimination against the low-skilled; and it is why he saw topping up the incomes of the working poor with public subsidies as a far more sensible means of alleviating poverty.
Scepticism about the merits of minimum wages remains this newspaper’s starting-point. But as income inequality widens and workers’ share of national income shrinks, the case for action to help the low-paid grows. Addressing the problem through subsidies for the working poor is harder in an era of austerity, when there are many other pressing claims on national coffers. Other policy options, such as confiscatory taxes, are unattractive.
Nor is a moderate minimum wage as undesirable as neoclassical purists suggest. Unlike those in textbooks, real labour markets are not perfectly competitive. Since workers who want to change jobs face costs and risks, employers may be able to set pay below its market-clearing rate. A minimum wage, providing it is not set too high, could thus boost pay with no ill effects on jobs.
MORE (really whiney, but good to see):
Posted by kpete | Sat Dec 14, 2013, 12:11 PM (0 replies)
Dear Pres. Obama: Dissent isn’t Possible in a Surveillance State
By Juan Cole | Dec. 11, 2013 |
In his stirring eulogy of Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first president to be legitimately elected, by the entire South Africa people, President Barack Obama said,
“There are too many of us who happily embrace Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality.
I am not an armchair politician who holds the real ones in contempt. Politics is hard. Most of us don’t have the patience or the stamina for it. Hammering out a compromise among persons with strong egos and entrenched ideologies is a talent and a skill that I admire. Those puritans who demand consistency and decry hypocrisy, who scoff at bargaining, may admire their own unsullied characters alone in their rooms, but they will never actually accomplish anything good for people. Barack Obama has the patience of a Job, in the face of an opposition party that has declared itself not a loyal opposition but a deadly enemy.
So it is not lightly or glibly that I use the occasion of Obama’s heartfelt speech to upbraid him. But the contradictions in his sentiments and his actions here are too extreme, too glaring to pass without rebuke.
The kind of information being gathered without a warrant not only by the National Security Administration but by a wide range of law enforcement and intelligence agencies has the potential for making dissent impossible. Most effective protest of the sort Mr. Obama praised in his speech is illegal. Often, the laws themselves are wrong, as with the latticework of Jim Crow legislation that subjected African-Americans or the enactments of the South African parliament in the Apartheid era. Breaking wrong laws is key to much of the social progress the world has made in the past century. Gandhi, whom Obama cited, formulated a policy of nonviolent noncooperation, which involves law-breaking. The government’s aspiration to total information awareness about all human beings will be deadly to conspiring to break the law or carrying it out.
Posted by kpete | Sat Dec 14, 2013, 09:19 AM (58 replies)