Letter From Summersville Hospital

Letter From Summersville Hospital (via The Head On Radio Network)

(in homage to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) 8 May 2014 My Dear Fellow Americans Sitting here in a hospital room in Summersville, West Virginia waiting to find out if a combination of genetic Calvinism, environmental toxins and my own mistakes have finally…


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The Inconvenient Truth About Net Neutrality

A graphic from Sen. Al Franken's campaign website.

A graphic from the Senator’s official website.

Remember the tea party wave of 2010, when all the “real” progressives stayed home to show Obama how disappointed they were because the ACA didn’t have a public option? Something else happened in that election: every single one of the ninety-five Democrats who signed on to the net neutrality pledge lost their races, pretty much nixing any chance that advocates would ever be able to build a legislative power-base. Netflix is the poster boy for this issue, but they have stopped holding out for the basic rules of the internet to be upheld and started paying the new telecom tolls, so it’s a little late for Arianna Huffington’s editors to put President Obama’s face on this miserable movement failure.

The people who care about this issue the most — younger, hyper-connected adults — are the same voters who stayed home that year and ensured this day would come. As an interest group, the internet is actually very bad at turning its native causes into political action. I know that this flies in the face of all the petitions and crowdsourced fundraisers and so on, but can you imagine a world where Time Warner stops paying lobbyists and funding candidates just to show Congress how disappointed they are, knowing that a vote will be held on net neutrality sometime after the election? Of course not.

The tortured passage of the Affordable Care Act also highlighted another problem I often find in the demographic which stayed home in 2010: an impatience with political process, and even the basic structures of government, that I think is largely the result of civics education being drained from the American classroom in recent decades. To be blunt, the internet generation knows less about how laws are made than their parents did — and cares less, because in being “connected” to the virtual world through their smart phones they are disconnected from the world of real power and influence. Confronted with the way things are, they prefer to demand instead that things just ought to work a different way.

Net neutrality was a huge issue for the blogosphere in 2010, but then it largely faded afterwards. The internet freedom organizations that once championed the cause have mostly gotten sidetracked in Luddite notions of how metadata works and alarmist reporting on Edwards Snowden’s stolen PowerPoint slides. Meanwhile, the FCC got stuck in regulatory gridlock for four years, and John Boehner held a hundred votes to repeal Obamacare. Like I keep saying, it doesn’t matter how right your opinions are: as long as you lack the hard electoral power of political office-holders answering favorably to your issues, your agenda is just a daydream, even if it is “the First Amendment issue of our time.”

One president is not enough to change that. For a national issue like this one, you need at least ninety-five people to owe their offices to your support, just for a start, and you can never accomplish that with a slacker’s protest. The inconvenient truth about net neutrality is that hipster activism has proven utterly impotent, whereas the health care reform law that wasn’t good enough or fast enough for the cool kids has somehow managed to become part of our American lives despite their disdain.

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William Hoge’s Christian Sadism In East Blogistan

doyoureadthebible

Over at Crooks and Liars, Karoli has written a great piece about the continuing efforts of William Hoge, a fourth-rate right wing blogger, to use a Maryland domestic violence law for his legal harassment campaign against Bill Schmalfeldt. I have written about this sordid saga before, and after doing so I also did everything in my power to draw Hoge’s attention away from his housebound victim and towards myself. But unlike Schmalfeldt, I do not live in Maryland, so it is not possible for Hoge to obtain a peace order against me. And whereas poor Bill is stuck inside a rapidly-deteriorating body wracked by Parkinson’s Disease, with the internet as his only means of interfacing with the world, I am a harder target, capable of attending court without difficulty.

Let that be our starting point: William Hoge likes to pick only on those he perceives as weak and helpless, and he says that his Christian faith drives him to it.

In email correspondence today, Hoge told me that he draws inspiration for his fight from the first chapter of the book Simply Christian. I was able to download the preview to my Kindle, but the opening chapter left me even more confused: Author N.T. Wright is a retired Anglican bishop and noted Biblical scholar, and although he has plenty to say in this chapter about how Jesus was the manifestation of our human desire for justice, I see nothing in the text that would count as an endorsement of his actions towards Schmalfeldt. (Just to put things in perspective, Hoge also thinks that Trayvon Martin was asking for it, too.)

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Posted in East Blogistan | 6 Comments

How Maryland’s Domestic Violence Laws Became A Right Wing Weapon Of Personal Destruction

How Maryland’s Domestic Violence Laws Became A Right Wing Weapon Of Personal Destruction (via http://crooksandliars.com)

By karoli April 27, 2014 1:45 am – Comments When a group of right-wing bloggers discovered a convenient legal loophole gave them a way to harass and bully a disabled man, they used it with all their might. Right-wingers have discovered that it is a…

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The Syrian Experiment

A street in Homs, Syria in 2011 and 2014

Unlike in Tripoli, there will be no direct American intervention in Damascus. At most, the United States and its Middle Eastern allies will continue to make the Syrian uprising possible through material support. Contrary to paranoiac expectations, President Obama does not seem inclined to ask Congress for any further authority, and because of Russia’s veto there will be no United Nations Security Council resolution on the matter. Syria is the control experiment of the Arab Spring that isolates the variable of American intervention, with Libya as the experiment with the observed variable. So what does the empirical evidence look like so far?

The Syrian conflict has lasted three years and appears to be growing even bloodier. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, it has consumed at least 150,000 lives and as many as a quarter million. The UN refugee agency says that nine million Syrians have been displaced, and at current rates half the population of the country will have died or left home this Summer. Intense fighting is interfering with the delivery of humanitarian assistance, compounding the deleterious effects of the war on public health and infrastructure.

The Libyan conflict lasted only eight months and has been over for more than two years. While casualty estimates varied wildly for some time, the current government says that just 6,800 Libyans are dead or missing as a result of the war. Although the security situation in Libya’s cities is by no means perfect, the country is hardly being torn apart. Internal displacement is still a nagging problem, but there is no diaspora. In fact, foreign refugees are coming through the country when they leave other North African nations. Public health is not in serious danger and infrastructure is largely repaired. Libya is by no means a stable democracy, but the quality of life is obviously much better for most Libyans than most Syrians.

To be sure, Libya is not Syria, and there are unique aspects to the Libyan conflict just like any other. Nor is this about an idealistic “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) doctrine that might require intervention in all sorts of humanitarian circumstances without a realist’s cautions about the limits of power. It’s just that the deaths of a quarter-million people simply ought to mean something, especially to people who claim to abhor the evils of war. Anyone who tells you that Syria is better off without American intervention is saying that those lives mean absolutely nothing to them.

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Rape Is Just One Horror During The Collapse Of Civilization In Westeros

cersei_jaime

This week’s episode of the HBO series based on George R.R. Martin’s novels has produced a big fan controversy over Jaime Lanister’s rape of Cersei. What are the directors trying to do with this scene, which is not in the books? What does this mean for the two characters involved? Plenty of electrons are still getting spilled about this scene three days later as the controversy burns up chat rooms and blog comments. But ironically, the lessons we ought to take from Jaime’s assault on his sister are mostly being lost in this clash of opinions as the scene becomes isolated in our minds from everything else going on. Context is everything.

What I think many people continue to miss is that Westeros is a civilization in collapse. Not only is the climate changing (“Winter is Coming”), but the wars and power struggles depicted by Martin have destroyed all cultural norms and values in the society he has depicted. When outrage becomes a daily event, the survivors become numb to horror, and even the best of us become capable of shocking inhumanity. Martin’s fantasy, which already features torture, murder, rape and cannibalism, is a mirror on our actual human behavior in times of severe social stress and political upheaval. Continue reading

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Lawsuit Reveals Teen Was Groomed As Personal Sex Slave In The Duggar Family’s Movement

Lawsuit reveals teen was groomed as personal sex slave in the Duggar family’s movement (via Raw Story )

A leading advocate of the patriarchal Quiverfull movement groomed a teenage girl as his “personal sex object” and then used the purity culture to shame her into silence, according to a lawsuit filed by his victim. Douglas Phillips resigned last…


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Ukraine Leader Says Russia Wants To Set Southeast ‘On Fire’

Ukraine leader says Russia wants to set southeast ‘on fire’ (via AFP)

Ukraine’s Western-backed leader on Tuesday accused Russia of trying to enflame the country’s southeast but said he would proceed cautiously against pro-Kremlin militias consolidating control in the volatile region. Oleksandr Turchynov’s impassioned…


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Did Flight MH370′s Copilot Try To Say Goodbye?

fariqabdulhamid

As the search zone narrows and unmanned submarines begin to search the ocean floor for signs of a missing Malaysian Airlines jet, investigators have revealed that copilot Fariq Abdul Hamid tried to use his cell phone as the plane passed Penang. For weeks now, I have speculated for that Flight MH 370 may have been a runaway plane whose flight crew knew they were going to die. Hamid’s friends say he was probably trying to call his mother, an act consistent with the runaway plane scenario.

If we look at the map of the plane’s flight path, Hamid clearly tried to make that call just before the Boeing 777 turned ninety degrees on the first leg of its strange trip to the middle of the Indian Ocean. In the final moments before smoke or poisonous fumes incapacitated the flight crew, while pilot Zahare Ahmad Shah was programming the plane to avoid sea lanes and air traffic until it ran out of fuel, it makes perfect sense that Hamid would try to call his mom and say “I love you.”

mh370-presumed-diverted-flight-path

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NV Gov. Sandoval Defends Extremists Interfering With Federal Government Activity

NV Gov. Sandoval Defends Extremists Interfering With Federal Government Activity (via http://crooksandliars.com)

By karoli April 9, 2014 10:34 pm – Comments Cliven Bundy has been using federal lands to raise his cattle. Now that the BLM is putting a stop to it, Bundy is enlisting everyone from the Oathkeepers to Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval in his cause. Less…


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Posted in Kulturkampf, Piltdown politics | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Ukraine: Everyone Has An Agenda At The End Of The World

KGB agent Vladimir Putin poses as an everyday Russian to meet President Reagan

KGB agent Vladimir Putin poses as an everyday Russian to meet Reagan

In an “exclusive” at the Daily Beast, Eli Lake reports that the United States is withholding intelligence information of Russian troop movements from Ukraine’s government. That should be no surprise to anyone paying attention to how fractious the Ukrainian government is, or how thoroughly Vladimir Putin has penetrated it. Lake allows for these points, but duly reports the story as received from a Republican.

“I am not confident we are sharing any of that kind of information,” said Rep. Michael Turner, the Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee that oversees NATO and U.S. tactical air and land forces. “It’s clear we are not giving them critical military advice about the Russian capability on their border and the best utilization of the Ukrainian military to counter that.”

Instead, the U.S. intelligence community’s detailed analysis of a potential Russian invasion has been shared only with the Congress, American policy makers, and members of the Obama administration. The analysis includes details such as the geographic location of specific Russian units and predictions for how those units would be used in combination for a potential invasion.

That’s the sort of information that would be invaluable for any military preparing for a possible incursion. But it would be particularly useful to the fledgling government in Ukraine that lacks the satellites, sensors and intercept technology to learn the details of the military force that looks like it is about to invade its territory.

One alarming detail of Lake’s report is that Russian battlefield medical units have been mobilized, a sure sign that someone is ready for a bloody fight. Any invasion of Ukraine — regardless of the pretext — would in all likelihood be a short, sharp, glorious Soviet Russian victory, and it is doubtful that anything would be left of Ukraine afterwards. Continue reading

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