Lost In the Dangling Conversation


Looters broke into the Egyptian Museum during anti-government protests late on Friday and destroyed two Pharaonic mummies, Egypt’s top archaeologist told state television.

The museum in central Cairo, which has the world’s biggest collection of Pharaonic antiquities, is adjacent to the headquarters of the ruling National Democratic Party that protesters had earlier set ablaze. Flames were seen still pouring out of the party headquarters early on Saturday.

“I felt deeply sorry today when I came this morning to the Egyptian Museum and found that some had tried to raid the museum by force last night,” Zahi Hawass, chairman of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said on Saturday.

“Egyptian citizens tried to prevent them and were joined by the tourism police, but some (looters) managed to enter from above and they destroyed two of the mummies,” he said.

You know, I’m smaller than a speck of dust in the flow of history, but about that stream, I really do care. I care that we preserve the things about ourselves that teach us where we’ve been, what we did, why and how. It’s not the business of royalty that matters, but the history of a monarchic civilization cannot be written without regard for its monarchs. We can go forward as we choose, but we must know who we have been.

Yeah. I know. Not everyone cares. Events in Egypt are hard to read about and tough to imagine. It’s heartening to see the courage of Egyptians protecting the museum while they stand up to the corrupt government.

We’re Still On Our Way Home

Oh bloody hell:

Nearly a third of Texans believe humans and dinosaurs roamed the earth at the same time, and more than half disagree with the theory that humans developed from earlier species of animals, according to the University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

Hey Texans! Wanna buy half a bridge in Brooklyn?

About the same numbers of Democrats and Republicans — 43 percent — disagree with the idea that dinosaurs and humans lived on the planet at the same time. Republicans were slightly more likely to agree with the idea (31 percent to 27 percent). Perry had more voters in each group on the GOP side, but Kay Bailey Hutchison had the largest share of voters who believe in that coexistence.

Prindle says the results recall a line from comedian Lewis Black. “He did a standup routine a few years back in which he said that a significant proportion of the American people think that the ‘The Flintstones’ is a documentary,” Prindle says. “Turns out he was right. Thirty percent of Texans agree that humans and dinosaurs lived on the earth at the same time.”

Putting aside for the moment that the poll presents a dispute about an objective reality, let’s take this fundy talking point to its extreme conclusion. Suppose for just a moment dinosaurs and humans roamed the earth at the same time: what would oil be made of? If you believed, as some of these death cults do, that human remains must be buried and left whole or the soul has no body to inhabit on Judgment Day, what are you doing to your ancestors as you tool around Texas in your SUV?

If my brain was stewing in this sulphurous marinade I’d be nailing solar panels to every outdoor surface I owned.

Running Numbers From the Bar

Photo: National Post.

That’s the Sydney Opera House, seen through the dust storm currently blanketing Sydney. I’ve never seen a dust storm. This picture doesn’t make sense to my eye, but so few things do. In my misspent youth, there was a sense that reporters were supposed to report and the story was the story. Last night, Katie Couric interviewed Glenn Beck, which is like the ouroboros biting the back of its head, and, no, that doesn’t make sense either.

The City Tonight We’re Finding

Know what’s weird about Facebook, a platform for one liners so high anyone can swan dive? No one’s funny.

Old Man: [uncomfortable silence at kitchen table] Someone, tell a joke…

I can’t figure it out. The joint needs a piano, a player and a diva in a tutu. But not me. I’m all discombobulated. One of my relatives kept her children home from school so their delicate ears wouldn’t be assaulted by the President’s common sense message: work hard in school. I understand. She was raised by immigrants and she hates immigrants. She rails against Mexicans and goes to Mexico on vacation. She works in the healthcare field, has cancer and a $5000 annual deductible herself. It’s simple: she’s forgotten who she is and has lost her mind.

There’s a joke in there someplace.

You Can’t Stay Here With Every Single Hope

It’s Sunday dinnertime. Pete’s made yet another dinner for the record books. I spent all afternoon in the driveway, stripping ninety years’ worth of paint off our tenant’s bedroom door, so I’ve had a lot of time to think about this.

The resignation of Obama administration figure Van Jones, following controversies over a petition he had signed and his comments about Republicans, did not come at the request of the president, the White House senior adviser said Sunday.

“Absolutely not – this was Van Jones’ own decision,” David Axelrod told NBC’s “Meet the Press” when asked if the president had ordered the resignation. The chairman of the House Republican Conference, Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, had called for Jones to resign or be fired.

“I think Van Jones did the right thing,” Pence said Sunday about the resignation. “His extremist views and coarse rhetoric have no place in this administration.”

Jones has frequently been dubbed a “green-jobs czar” for the administration.

There are a number of ways to understand this story. CNN offers one in the next paragraph. It sounds innocuous, if one is only half-listening:

“The president should suspend any future appointment of so called czars while the administration and the Congress carefully examines the background and qualifications of the more than 30 individuals who’ve been appointed to these czar positions,” said Pence, speaking to reporters. “And the Congress ought to initiate a thorough inquiry into the constitutionality of this practice which has spanned Republican and Democrat administrations.”

Well, that might make sense if the president’s nominees weren’t already being blocked by Republicans on the confirmation committees. To be clear: Pence is calling for the president to stop staffing his administration and CNN skips blithely past that point but lands here, so close to the truth:

One of the most prominent conservative voices condemning Jones in recent days has been FOX TV host Glenn Beck.

Jones is a co-founder of colorofchange.org, a group that recently has been pressing advertisers to boycott Beck’s program after Beck called Obama a racist.

Color of Change sends me email. I participate in CoC’s campaigns because I agree with CoC’s positions on media racism generally and Beck’s racism in particular. So far: about 50 sponsors have removed their sponsorship from Beck’s program but not FOX itself. This has pissed off Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes and Glenn Beck, because – and we should be clear about this – in their view, Black people should be quiet, subservient and politically invisible. CoC’s campaign is the racist’s fear come true: Black people in numbers and fellow travelers like me wielding economic power. Murdoch, Ailes and Beck are not taking this lying down. They don’t care about Jones. It could have been almost any person of color. They picked a target, hounded him and forced him to submit. Still, there are different ways to measure what happened. FOX offers this coy tea leaf reading:

Jones’ Resignation May Embolden Administration Critics

I’m not linking to that crap. You can Google it, if you feel so inspired. Jill sums up her take thusly:

The only question is whether Beck is really as utterly batshit crazy as he seems, or if Beck is the second coming of Andy Kaufman and this is all a kind of gonzo performance art that’s gone completely out of control. But does it matter at this point, when the Obama White House has shown its complete willingness to dance to the tune of a party that has become now the exclusive province of racists, thugs, religious nutjobs, and other people you wouldn’t want to run into on a dark country road?

Why on earth does Barack Obama care about what these people say? Is there something in the water at the White House that makes Democrats shut off their ability for independent thought and turns them into hapless slaves of Republican Mojo Mind Control? What the hell is going on at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?

Whatever it is, it’s infecting the outside world as well. I was just listening to “Morning Edition” on WNYC and heard Leann Hansen say in regard to health care reform that “There doesn’t seem to be a lot of support for a public option”. And this is National Public Radio, that old supposedly liberal bastion. Either Leann Hansen has joined the ranks of Laziest So-Called Journalists in America, or the corporations that help subsidize NPR have given their marching orders. Or both.

Jane wants to know why the big-name liberal groups didn’t come out in support of Jones, but left him to twist in the wind.

If these groups, if these liberal leaders, let Jones just hang there while Glenn Beck pounds his chest and celebrates the scalp, we have no liberal institutions. What we have are a bunch of neoliberal enablers who have found a nice comfortable place in the DC establishment that they don’t want to jeopardize, a place on the new K-Street gravy train that they don’t want to lose. Dropping Van Jones from their rolodex is a small price to pay.

If there is going to be a serious progressive movement in this country capable of standing up for health care against an industry that spends $1.4 million a day on lobbying, we can’t just look to the members of the Progressive Caucus and say “hey, you, get something done.” They need cover. They need to know that they will be supported. And people like Van Jones who have given their lives to causes we say we value like prison reform and environmental advocacy need to know that they will be defended, and not handed over to Glenn Beck as an acceptable casualty in the battle for K-Street dollars.

So to all you liberal organizations in the “veal pen” – this is your moment of truth. I get all your emails. And the next Common Purpose meeting is probably on Tuesday. If you can’t get it together to at least put out a statement of support for Van Jones and condemn the White House for using him as a sacrificial lamb to right wing extremists that will devour us all if left unchecked, it’s time to add “proudly liberal only when it doesn’t matter” to your logo and be done with it.

At Jack & Jiill Politics, Jack laments:

Van Jones was one of the good guys. A really, really good guy. He used his education and his passion to combat police brutality and the massive, wasteful incarceration of so many of this nation’s young, brown people. Having fought in the trenches for so long, he saw an opportunity to build hope and jobs and tangible communities as the world responds to the climate crisis. He connected the dots and inspired action and had a vision. He was the rare outsider who got a chance to move inside, and move he did.

Van was the kind of guy that gave me real confidence in this administration’s seriousness. President Obama meets with generals every day and sees scary reports and wants to get re-elected. I can always make some politics-based allowances for his underwhelming actions. Van, however, was truly one of us. He got it. And to give someone like him power gave me more faith in the president. So when the lynch mob came after Van, it was a test. The same test so many Democratic administrations have failed time and time again. When the going gets tough, do you back your people, or do you fall back on excuses.

This White House, this administration and this president failed Van, failed its supporters and failed to honor the efforts of millions that got them into office in the first place. What’s the point of having power if you don’t use it? When will this White House realize that nothing it does will ever be acceptable to the loud-mouthed, ignorant minority? When will it learn that you cannot negotiate with terrorists??

I’m heartbroken over Van’s departure because it’s these little meaningless concessions that undermine people’s faith in the system. You get folks all riled up about change. You empower a man who embodies that change. And they you let him be run out of office by fucking Glenn Beck? So Glenn Beck is running the White House now? Is that how it’s gonna be? Just tell me that I knocked on all those doors for nothing, and I can start the grieving process, but don’t pretend this will solve anything.

I can’t help but look at this spineless response and see it in contrast to the previous administration. You know how gansta they are? DICK CHENEY IS STILL TALKING SMACK!

Somewhere in the course of my reading today, which I should have been able to backtrack and find but couldn’t, a Black female writer had written that Jones was punished by Beck for being a Black man breathing too loudly. (If you know who wrote that, please remind me.) I have been wondering since the Obama Campaign distanced itself from Jeremiah Wright if FOX News would be able to push President Obama apart from his supporters, and now the answer is clear.

I had a lot of time to think about this while I used the heat gun and the scraper, the orbital sander, the two coats of primer, two more coats of paint. The administration has made many false steps and mistakes along the way, but this is the one we will regret for decades. Bad laws can be repealed, bad policy will find its way through the courts and suffer reversal, but this is different. From the very beginning, Candidate Obama demonstrated a peculiar refusal to recognize the Republicans were not just trying to beat him. They’re planning to kill him. Beck’s taking Jones’s job and reputation is just the beginning of a political nightmare that will make Clinton’s impeachment look like a church picnic, and the worst part of it is that Mr. Obama is going to let Murdoch, Ailes and Beck do it. This weekend, the president could have called out Beck and stood with Jones, but he didn’t. No loyal supporter could be without blemish, and no past is pure. No one close to the president is safe, and we will see them destroyed one by one when Democrats do not stand together. For all intents and purposes, the skinny kid with ten bucks in his pocket has stood up in the cafeteria and announced he’ll be available for beatings every afternoon on the playground at 3:45.

What bully wouldn’t take him up on it?

Lock It Fill It Call It Find It

Christ on a water cracker, what the fuck is this?

One month after successfully tucking an amendment into the credit card reform bill that expanded gun rights, a small number of Senate Republicans are looking at the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act as another chance to score a victory for the Second Amendment. The possible plan — to add an amendment that would allow gun owners to carry their weapons from one state to another in accordance with concealed carry laws. The possible rationale — to defend gay rights.

This is such bullshit that actual bullshit would turn up its metaphorical nose.

“It makes sense for a group of people who would be protected by hate crime legislation to support something that would let them defend themselves before or after the crime,” said one Republican Senate aid familiar with the discussions. “It’s relevant, and we want to work together with gay groups to get the message out.”

While the aide described the discussions over a gun rights amendment to the hate crimes bill as “very fluid,” conservative and pro-gun rights gay groups outside of the Senate are ready to make a real push for it. GOProud, a new gay rights group that broke away from the Log Cabin Republicans in April, has talked with top staffers for Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) about how to make the civil rights case for conceal and carry reciprocity.

Yes, that’s right. Gay Republicans decided to overlook their ostracism within the party so they can ostracize each other!

Supporters of concealed carry reciprocity argue that the case for attaching it to a hate crimes bill — if that is the way that it can be passed — makes even more sense than the case for Coburn’s amendment. “Plenty of people have used guns to defend innocent people,” argued Second Amendment scholar and attorney David Kopel, “including crimes motivated by bias. This is a legitimate thing to attach to any bill that’s concerned with violent crime.”

That’s the case being made by Pink Pistols, a gay gun rights organization whose slogan is “Armed Gays Don’t Get Bashed,” and whose members can recount stories of fending off potential attackers by brandishing their weapons.

“Self-defense with a firearm is a valid and viable method of self-defense and protection,” said Gwen Patton, a spokesperson for Pink Pistols. “Imagine that individuals follow you from a place known in the neighborhood as a GLBT gathering place. They follow you to your car, and when you try to open the door, they hold out pipes and yell — ‘Hey, faggot!’ You pull out a concealed weapon that you have a license to carry. They say, ‘He’s got a gun!’ They drop their pipes and run away. No shots were fired, but a beating was just averted.”

Well, that’d be hunky-dory, wouldn’t it? But that’s a fucking fantasy because – hypotheticals get messy, here – suppose that GLBT gathering place is a bar. Now you’re tanked and carrying, nervous and trigger-happy. You have just become a real danger to yourself and others. Okay, suppose that GLBT gathering place is a community center and armed thugs approach and menace. Does anyone really – really – believe for a microsecond that the resultant shooting will not result in a scandalous trial and a lengthy sentence for your armed gay self, especially if the assailants are young, white men? Now let’s recalculate: how many beatings have been prevented?

This reminds me of a talk I had with a friend right after 9/11, when a great many people lost their minds.

Tata: …so the Assistant Principal had the six-year-old arrested for carrying safety scissors in her backpack, when he could have called her mommy and suggested other arrangements for art supplies.
Friend: At least, he did something!
Tata: That he’s sack-of-hammers-stupid, a coward and dangerous to children has left the conversation?

Yep. See, the difference between doing something and doing something constructive is pretty fucking obvious unless you’re not really trying to do something constructive, which these fuckers are not. They are not. No. They do not even have good intentions. They are attempting to exploit a situation they themselves as members of a homophobic, xenophobic, anti-woman political party help to foster, which is diabolical. It’d be funny if it weren’t for all the fear, the injury, the deaths, the terrible losses and the lengths to which GLBT people have to go just to live. Of all people, these self-loathing fuckers ought to know this campaign is in truly terrible taste.

Red Rain Is Coming Down

It is better to see the truth than to live with lies.

Fifteen of the sixty photographs the administration seeks to conceal may be seen here. Some closely resemble images you may have seen before from Abu Ghrahib. Many reality-based bloggers are posting these images this morning, each with her or his own reason for doing so. I will tell you plainly these pictures did not shock me on sight. I had to think about what I was seeing, about the people in the pictures. This image in particular rang a distant bell for me. I was reminded of Phoolan Devi.

In the 1994 movie The Bandit Queen, Phoolan Devi’s gang rape is horrible enough to sit through, but worse immediately follows as Phoolan is forced to walk naked and filthy through a town and her rapists. This degree of suffering drives people to madness. You see it in the film. You know it in your heart. What you must also know is that while Americans pretend nothing unusual is happening in these pictures, rage has already taken hold among the victims of Bush and Cheney’s imperial adventure. You see: the people know what we have done to them. The rest of the world knows what we have done. The only people still blissfully unaware may be Americans.

I am having trouble forming a sentence about this picture. I’ve erased several because they weren’t quite right, and that’s really the problem. The picture as we see it is a problem. What interrogators are doing is a problem. What the interrogators mean for the prisoners to feel is a problem. The intended sexualized domination is a problem. That there are now people walking around among us who did this is a problem. Nearly 100 people died in custody, many were probably tortured to death. That the serial killers who ordered this are not in chains is a problems. It’s hard to form a sentence with so many problems.

So these pictures reminded me of three women: Phoolan Devi, Valerie Plame and Liz Cheney. Perhaps you’ve never heard of Phoolan Devi. Her story is relevant here, and worth knowing for what it predicts. Violence begets violence, and the people we tried to subjugate will rise against us. That is the real lesson. History books tell it over and over again. Then there are the headlines. Greg Sargent:

Liz Cheney Claims Victory In Obama Detainee Photo Reversal

On Tuesday, Liz Cheney was widely quoted bashing Obama for being prepared to release the detainee photos, a move she said would be anti-troops. “When did it become so fashionable for us to side, really, with the terrorists?” Cheney asked.

Yesterday, of course, Obama reversed his decision, citing national security. Now check out this nugget in today’s Washington Post piece on Dick Cheney’s ongoing torture tour:

“This isn’t about partisan politics, it’s about what’s right for the country,” said Liz Cheney, the former vice president’s daughter and a former State Department official. “Every American, whether you’re a Republican, Democrat or independent, would agree that before critical decisions are made about national security of the nation, we ought to have a full and fair debate.”

Cheney’s daughter was among those who pointed to yesterday’s White House reversal on the detainee photos as evidence that a vocal, public debate over the new administration’s policies can make a difference.

So Liz Cheney is claiming victory, and clearly, this will only embolden the Cheneys to keep up the assaults.

By saying that he has now concluded that releasing the photos would endanger the troops, Obama is reinforcing the idea that he was originally prepared to do something that would endanger the troops, and only reversed himself after conservatives called him out on it. Whatever the merits of Obama’s decision, its political impact is that it lets the Cheneys continue to frame the ongoing debate, and to continue casting a full torture accounting as a threat to our national security.

Liz Cheney should go fuck herself. We can’t shout FIRE! in a crowded theater when the theater already burned down. Sargent is also right to say our president has made a very dangerous statement when he said his earlier position endangered the troops. The Cheneys control the conversation, so it will never end.

But what of Valerie Plame? This is still a puzzlement. I started reading newspapers when I was eight or nine, during the Vietnam War, then through Watergate. The CIA became the shadowy, brutal, power-mad villains of my childhood. The outing of Valerie Plame by Dick Cheney has always perplexed me. Yes, I’ve read the reports and followed the trial but still it’s never made sense. I’m still angry that for a brief moment I had some sympathy for the CIA – not that that’s important. I am not sure why I thought of her when I saw these pictures, but perhaps because she made CIA agents look so civilized. So pretty. So urbane. So civilized.

It is better to see the truth than to live with lies. Back to the pictures: it would be better for us to see what everyone else already knows.

You Know You’re Full Of Wish

Photo: Yale Joel. Life Magazine. 1962.

I’m at a bit of a loss for words today. Fortunately, Minstrel Boy said everything yesterday. These words should haunt you:

It’s easy to tell yourself that “it’s not my job or my business,” or, “It’s more important to move forward, this isn’t the time for looking back.”

I always have to look back. Too much of what I see I don’t like. We cannot afford to make our national memory like mine.

Investigate the crimes. Bring the criminals to account. Give them the fair treatment and trial that they denied to so many. If convicted give them a just punishment under the law. Then give them a decent incarceration. Fuck dude, go fucking nuts and pardon some of the bastards. I won’t care. Pardon means that they have been made to accept that they broke the law and did wrong.

The price of doing nothing is too fucking high.

In light so bright, it’s easy to feel the sun in one’s eyes.

Take Some Of These Knives Out My Back

Most days, I sit down to blog with an idea of what I want to say or a thought that’s bugging me. I don’t know what the weather’s like where you are but in Central New Jersey today the sunlight has turned that summer yellow, the breeze smelled fresh and the temperature hovered around 85 at midday. I can’t think when the weather turns, I am too busy feeling the wonder of being alive on a glorious day. So yeah, when spring turns summery I can be pretty stupid.

Under these circumstances, I thought I might watch a bit of public television.
This is the second time I’ve tried to watch an episode of The Secret Files of the Inquisition, and I won’t try it again. This is disappointing, because I studied Medieval and Renaissance history with an autodidact’s focus on the Catholic Church, and I love this. I guess I learned the hard way that it’s one thing to read about it but quite another to put a face to the affliction. Tonight, I had to change the channel in a big freaking hurry when a Jewish ceremony was observed by a Catholic neighbor in 1478 Spain, because I had a very good idea of what would come next, and I didn’t have the courage to bear witness to it. Also: how could anyone? How could anyone do that to another human being? Any living thing?

I don’t know, but a lot of people on TV are talking about how torture is useful, and it is freaking me out. Via Crooks & Liars, a transcript I’m having trouble believing I’ve just read.

[Joan] WALSH: You know, I couldn’t disagree more with my friend Chris [Cilizza]. This is not a “he said/she said” situation. This is torture. Torture is illegal. We don’t sit here, Howie, and say he said murder is illegal, but she said, well, sometimes murder’s not so bad. These are clear matters of law.

Ronald Reagan signed the 1988 U.N. Convention Against Torture where we committed ourselves to prosecuting people who torture. It’s the law. It’s super clear. It’s not a partisan witch hunt or a “she said/he said” situation.

[Howard] KURTZ: David Frum.

FRUM: It’s not super clear, because the key piece of information people need, most people need to make a decision, is missing. Look, there’s a hard core of civil libertarians who will say, I don’t care whether this contributed to the defense of the country. Forget it, we won’t do it, even if it means Americans die. And then there are some people who say, I support the president no matter what.

But most people want to know, did this contribute to the nation’s safety? If so, we’ll come to one judgment. If it was wasteful, as it’s sometimes alleged, and achieved nothing, then we all condemn it. That’s the thing we need to know, and that’s the thing we don’t know. That’s the missing piece in all the reportage.


WALSH: No, it’s illegal, whether it works or not. It’s illegal whether it works or not, David.

FRUM: Well, as I said, there’s a small minority who would feel like Joan does.

WALSH: Oh, really?

FRUM: Most people want to know, did it — and that is the missing or the contradicted piece. We don’t have a clear answer to that question.

WALSH: It doesn’t matter.

CILLIZZA: Howie, I just want to…

KURTZ: Chris.

CILLIZZA: Joan, just real quickly, I just want to point out, in our poll that came our this morning, 49 percent of people said no torture under any circumstances; 48 percent, in some special circumstances, depending on the information. That’s not my opinion.


WALSH: But Chris, the point is it’s illegal. In what instance does it matter that 80 percent of Americans would like to murder Dick Cheney? Does that — would that make it legal? It’s not a matter of opinion. It’s law.

Talking about torture in conversational tones isn’t rational, it is monstrous. Nothing can be said in defense of Frum and Cilizza that isn’t monstrous. Nothing. They should be seen for what they are and shunned by decent people. This is not even to mention what should happen to the people whose acts they themselves defend.

I’d like to make a joke about a Brothers Grimm ending for media douchebags defending atrocity but it’s too soon and this shit isn’t funny. The best I can do is say these villains should avoid anyone with a clear idea of justice and a magic wand.