In All Their Glory

July 22, 2009

This really has to be seen to be believed. Watch how he has to walk the fine line between throwing red meat to the crazies in the party and at the same time sound at least minimally sane to everyone else by not actually coming out and saying what he’s hinting at: the president’s some sort of weird, foreign, illegitimate, usurper Other.

By the way, my birth certificate is only from the Town of Norwood (Massachusetts). How come this woman in the video gets one from the “United States of America?” I guess that’s the kind of birth certificate patriots get.

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Rotaries

July 22, 2009

There’s an interesting article in Slate about the advantages of rotaries instead of lighted intersections. One correction, though, of the article: it claims that what we call “rotaries” here in the Boston area (it says the Northeast, but the term is limited to Boston and environs) are really just traffic circles, not the roundabouts one finds in, say, Britain. This is false. Rotaries in Boston are exactly the same as roundabouts. Cars entering the rotary must yield to the traffic on the rotary. They are generally very small and do not have traffic lights. They are ubiquitous here, but are almost entirely absent from roads in the rest of the country. They are features of Boston’s driving landscape just as, say, 4-way stops are in Chicago.

The biggest problem with rotaries is that out-of-towners who are not used to them get spooked by them and often confuse who has the right-of-way. Particularly to the uninitiated, they feel awkward and unsafe, but the truth is they are very safe – significantly safer (and more efficient) than the use of traffic lights.

Read the whole article.

h/t: Yglesias

Unbelievably, Henry Louis (“Skip”) Gates, Jr., one of the most prestigious professors at Harvard University and a man that Time magazine recently named one of the 25 most influential people in America, was arrested last Thursday in Cambridge for, well, nothing.

Gates had just returned from China, where he was filming a documentary for PBS. His family was at their home on Martha’s Vineyard, where Gates planned to soon join them, but first he decided to stop at his house on Ware St. near Harvard Square in Cambridge. When he arrived there, he was unable to unlock his front door. He went around to the back entrance, entered the house there by key, shut off the alarm, and then went back to the front to try to open the front door. With the assistance of his driver (a car service drove him from Logan to Cambridge), whom Gates described as a “large Moroccan man,” the two managed to pry open the stuck door. Gates is a 5’7″ 58 year old man who weighs 150 lbs, is disabled, and walks with a cane. He is a quite popular figure at Harvard, is a celebrity as a result of his best-selling books and popular TV shows, and is well-respected by colleagues. He is also known as a very mild-mannered person. Gates was wearing a blue blazer and dress shoes. The car service driver was wearing a black uniform. The event took place at 12:44pm on a weekday afternoon on a tree-lined street in a very safe neighborhood.

With the door opened, the driver was able to carry Prof. Gates’s luggage into the house. Prof. Gates immediately called the Harvard maintenance service to come repair the front door of the house. While he was on the phone, he noticed a Cambridge police officer standing on his front porch.

You see, while Gates and his driver were trying to pry the door open, a passerby who observed them decided to call the police and report that two “black men” were breaking into a house.

The responding officer (who was white) reacted, according to Gates, with hostility, and demanded to see Gates’s ID. Gates believes the officer did not believe that it was his home. Apparently the cop believed that a small, middle-aged black man who walks with a cane and was wearing a dress blazer and leather shoes broke into a house in broad daylight at 12:44pm in Harvard Square. Something that happens, well, never.

The officer demanded that Gates exit his home. Gates refused. He said, however, that he would provide the officer with identification. Gates then went into his kitchen to get his wallet. The cop entered the home uninvited and followed him. Gates gave him the ID, which the cop look at suspiciously. Gates told the officer he felt he was being treated with prejudice because he was black, and that a white man under the same circumstances would be treated very differently. He asked the cop for his badge number and name. The cop did not respond. Gates asked this question repeatedly and became huffy, saying to the cop that this is what happens to “a black man in America.” The cop then turned and walked out onto the porch.

Gates then saw that a number of Cambridge and Harvard police officers had gathered on his porch. He walked outside and asked the other police officers for the name and badge number. Once Gates stepped onto the porch, he was grabbed by the first police officer and handcuffed behind his back. As he was being led off the porch, Gates protested that he was in pain and was disabled, needing a cane to walk. The handcuffs here moved to the front and he was given his cane.

Gates was then taken to the Cambridge Police HQ, where he was processed, fingerprinted, had his mug shot taken, and booked. He was charged with disorderly conduct, the police officer reporting that he was “loud and tumultuous.” He was then confined, handcuffed, in a small jail cell for four hours. Finally, he was released once distinguished Harvard Law professor and mentor of Barack Obama Charles Ogletree arrived and secured his release. He was scheduled to be arraigned on August 26th.

Once the Middlesex County DA’s office got word of what happened, of course, and once the story made international news, being reported on the front page of many, many newspapers, the powers that be scrambled to do damage control. Charges were immediately dropped, and a joint statement was negotiated in which neither side would admit fault but the police would state that the arrest was “regrettable.” It is unknown whether or not there will be repercussions for the officer involved.

So to recap – an innocent man in his own home trying to pry open his own door was reported to the police as a burglar. In the middle of the day, in broad daylight. A middle-aged man well dressed and walking with a cane. I’m certain, though, the witness saw none of this – she only saw BLACK MAN PRYING OPEN DOOR. Oddly, she reported to the police that both men were wearing backpacks.

That’s bad enough, but you have to figure there’s always some whack job out there. But once the police arrived and found Gates IN HIS HOUSE, don’t you think they’d assume it was a mix-up? OK, ask for idea, I guess so, sure – I could see them doing that to a white person, just to be abundantly (ridiculously) cautious. But to carry on as he did, following him into his house? Certainly he didn’t think the 60-year-old with the cane and the Harvard ID was going to run off.

But then, to arrest him? ARREST HIM? To be honest, I don’t care if he was rude to the cop (I’d be!), I don’t care what he said. He was in his own home, in the middle of the day! He was arrested well after that fact WAS ESTABLISHED. At the time he was arrested, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Professor Gates was in his home, and that no break-in had occurred. The police report admits as much. Exactly what would you have to do to justifiably be arrested for “disorderly conduct” at 12:44pm in your own home? Probably a lot more than a 58-year-old mild-manner professor with a cane could possibly do.

What fucking year is this, 1953? And where are we, Alabama? This story better not just fade away, because it reveals something seriously wrong with the Cambridge Police Department. There’s no room in our society for armed racist authority figures.

There is an enormous disconnect in this country between the realities of nuclear weapons and nuclear proliferation on the one hand and the way our press corps covers these issues on the other. These seem to be some of the most prominent concepts whenever nuclear weapons issues are discussed in the media:

1. North Korea might drop an A-bomb on us!

Where to begin? North Korea, Iran, Russia, China, Country X – they are not going to drop a nuclear bomb on us. And it’s not because we have magic missile shields protecting us. Let’s just think this through. Country X gets a couple of nuclear warheads. By this I mean that they actually have a number of weapons and the means of delivering them to US territory – no small achievement in itself. Let’s suppose they decide to drop one of these bombs on Los Angeles, destroying the city. We have about half of all the nuclear weapons in the world. We can deliver them to any spot on the globe at will. We also have the world’s most powerful military by a long shot, and can project conventional military power anywhere in the globe. Take a guess as to what would happen to Country X shortly after they destroyed Los Angeles. You see where this is going? A nuclear attack on the United States is suicidal. Kim Jong Il and company may be very, very, very, very bad men. And they may not be the sharpest scissors in the drawer, either. But I’ll bet you that they (a) want to stay alive and in power, and (b) know very well that we have a big nuclear arsenal. And that’s all they need to know to make sure they don’t simply decide on a whim to drop bombs on us. Period.

But it actually goes well beyond that. North Korea may have some (very small) nuclear devices, but they have not demonstrated the capacity to put them on missiles. They also do not possess missiles that can reach the United States. And they don’t seem to be anywhere near developing these things.

And yet, listening to the people on my TeeVee, you’d think we’re moments away from nuclear war with North Korea.

2. Once Iran gets the bomb they’re going to drop one on Israel.

Conveniently left out of these news reports is the fact that Israel has a nuclear arsenal, and has the capacity to deliver many, many nuclear weapons to anywhere they want within Iran’s borders. They can easily destroy the whole country. Iran, meanwhile, does not have the capacity to deliver a single bomb to Israel. Iran is right now on the verge of developing the capacity to make the nuclear fuel necessary for a bomb. There is no reason to believe they can put together a bomb, never mind one that can fit on a missile to deliver it to Israel.

But again, beyond all of this, there is the simple fact that an attack on Israel is suicide. Period. If Iran dropped a nuclear bomb in Tel Aviv (I’m assuming they would not drop a bomb on Jerusalem, considering it’s one of the holiest cities in Islam), soon there would be no Iran. Ahmadinejad may not like Israel, but he’s not suicidal.

These two points are so obvious and elemental (or at least they ought to be) that they are not worth the time it consumes writing about them. And yet they seem to be tossed around in the media constantly.

Yesterday Russia and the US signed an agreement to cut their nuclear stockpiles by roughly 30%. If the agreement is ratified by the legislatures in both countries, which is likely, these will be the first substantial cuts in the countries’ nuclear arsenals in many years. This is very welcome news – finally we have an administration that understands that we cannot effectively stem nuclear proliferation without simultaneously working toward nuclear disarmament ourselves. This is a huge step in the right direction.

Yet, after President Obama’s speech today in Moscow, members of the American press corps decided to ask not about nuclear proliferation but about – wait for it – Michael fucking Jackson! It’s true.

So if you’re wondering why the level of discourse in the media on nuclear issues is so low, this may have something to do with it.

Dave Weigel nails it (I’m reproducing his entire post here b/c I agree with every word of it):

“‘MSNBC’s “Morning Joe’ roiled, as most political shows will today, with discussions of Gov. Sarah Palin’s (R-Alaska) resignation. And as with most discussion of Palin, it featured well-paid New York or Washington-based pundits explaining why the second member of a Republican ticket that lost Indiana, Ohio and Virginia represented ‘real America.’
‘Which vice presidential candidate was taken off the campaign trail and which one was out there drawing thousands of people?’ asked Joe Scarborough. Of course, then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) was not ‘taken off the trail,’ and as TWI’s Laura McGann has reported, Palin’s crowds were always overrated. Scarborough’s quasi-co-host Mika Brzezinski followed this up by saying Palin represented ‘real Americans,’ and that some people in ‘urban America’ didn’t get it.
This is fascinating. In 2004, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) lost the presidency with 48.3 percent of the vote, and no one seriously suggested that they represented ‘real Americans’ or anything else. As Ben Smith reported after the election, at least 79 percent of Americans now live in urban areas; the people with whose opinion Brzezinski is so concerned represent a demographic and political fringe. Famously, the county in North Carolina that Sarah Palin pegged as an outpost of ‘real America’ went for Barack Obama over John McCain, by 18 points.
By every metric, Palin is one of the less popular Republican politicians on the national stage: her ticket even carried less of the vote in Alaska (59.4 percent) than the Bush/Cheney ticket carred in 2004 (61.1 percent). And yet mainstream pundits insists that she represents more of the country than the people who won the 2008 election. It’s quite extraordinary.”

(h/t: Sullivan)

There are a lot of things the media has to wake up to with respect to Palin. One is that she’s a pathological liar (and possibly a sociopath). Another is that she has no business in politics whatsoever – she is completely ignorant of public policy, has no interest in it whatsoever, cannot even speak coherently about it, and is utterly incompetent at governing. But perhaps most importantly of all, they need to understand that she’s just not all that. She has essentially no chance of winning the presidency, and is really not much of a viable candidate for anything outside of the tiny, tiny political world of Alaska. Her followers may be rabid (and many possibly violent) but they are also fringe reactionaries. They certainly do not represent the mainstream. And the whole “hockey mom” business is just so much more bullshit: McCain/Palin carried 43% of women nationally. That’s the worst showing among women in a two-candidate race since Goldwater got smacked around by LBJ in 1964. She’s got nothing.

Is it really so hard to wrap your mind around the idea that the guys who won the election with an outright majority of the popular vote just may be the ones who represent the “real America,” and not the losers?

Palin’s resignation is great news for the GOP. And really puts Obama in a tough spot. Or something like that. At any rate, he should apologize.

Seriously, what do you think’s going on? My money’s on Todd Palin got drunk, went out on his snow machine with a shotgun, and killed a hobo.

BTW, it is completely beyond me how Todd Palin being member of the Alaskan secessionist party (and Sarah Palin being pretty closely affiliated with it as well) didn’t become a major issue.

OK, that’s a pretty provocative title for a post. But how else do you describe this?:

“The only chance we have as a country right now is for Osama Bin Laden to deploy and detonate a major weapon in the United States — because it’s gonna take a grassroots, bottom up pressure — because these politicians prize their offices, prize the praise of the media, and the Europeans. It’s an absurd situation again, only Osama can execute an attack which will force Americans to demand that their government protect them effectively, consistently and with as much violence as necessary.”

That uber-tough-guy-super-patriot Michael Scheuer, on FOX (where else?) talking to a nodding Glenn Beck. These two ultra-American-warrior-patriots think that unless Bin Laden drops a nuclear bomb on us, we have no hope.

Where to even begin? This actually touches on so many things I’ve been thinking about lately.

First, Michael Scheuer isn’t some idiot off the street corner. Let’s put it this way – he’s not Glenn Beck. Scheuer was a big-shot CIA analyst for over 20 years. He was chief of the Bin Laden Issue Station at CTC. He’s a very prominent terrorism expert on TV and is an analyst for CBS news. The news folks treat him as super-adult-person serious. He is a Grown-Up. And yet, he is a crazy person who says things like this. And this is certainly not the first time he has said something crazy. And he is not alone. George Will, another super-duper-educated smart person grown-up serious adult on TV, doesn’t believe in climate change. His reasoning is something along the lines of: because every year is not necessarily hotter than the preceding one, all the scientists are wrong about global warming. No shit. Bill Kristol is another one. He’s certainly not as serious and adult as Will, but he’s not Glenn Beck, either. He thinks Sarah Palin is the shit and was the person most responsible for her arrival on the national stage. He’s been wrong about almost every single policy issue from the Iraq War to healthcare. Years ago, the press fawned over William F. Buckley. He wasn’t like a lot of other conservatives – he was another adult super-serious person who talked reason. But Al Gore, remember, is an imbecile not to be taken seriously. How is this?? How is it that there is a certain category of smart-sounding-but-nonetheless-stupid people who, no matter what they say, and no matter how wrong they are, are treated as informed expert grown-ups by the national media?

Second, how is it that people on the right can get away with saying just about anything and yet never, ever, get accused of being anti-American? Voicing on national television the desire to see Osama Bin Laden nuke an American city, even in jest, would, one would expect, be sufficient to raise questions about one’s commitment to this country’s security. If a liberal had said anything like this, the accusations would fly. And that person would never, ever, be invited back as an expert. Will Scheuer be back on Fox? Of course! On CBS? You betcha? Will there be an outcry over this? Won’t even appear on the radar screen, folks. Why? Because he’s a right-winger. And if you’re on the right, you are a super-patriot-tough-guy-warrior defending our country and supporting our glorious troops. By definition. We all know that. Republicans love America and just want to keep it safe. The end. Period. And anything that one of that group says can only be interpreted in that light. Look, this guy loves America so much, and so badly wants to keep her safe and basking in the warm glow of freedom, that he is willing to blow her up to accomplish that. That’s what I call love of one’s country. I think Adam Serwer in American Prospect sums the whole thing up:

“But understand, this is not unpatriotic. You can wish all manner of horrors on this country, but as long as these horrors might serve a specific political agenda, you’re not being unpatriotic. Unpatriotic is a public health care plan. Unpatriotic is a judge modifying subprime mortgage loans to keep a roof over someone’s head. Unpatriotic is phosphate free detergent. Patriotic is wishing for a terrorist attack on the United States.”

Exactly right. Climate change is a serious threat to this country. What’s the patriotic thing to do? Buy a Hummer. Eat a steak. Bomb somebody (damn, if only we could bomb the climate!). Do whatever you can to make climate change even worse. Or just deny it entirely! Cap-and-trade? Unpatriotic! The 8 Republicans in the House who voted for cap-and-trade are labeled “trai8tors” by their fellow Republicans!

Third, what exactly is the threat from al Qaeda if not an attack on our country? Silly me, I though the gravest threat from terrorists was the detonation of a nuclear device in an American city. That’s what I’ve been afraid of. Now I find out that we should actually wish for that to get us off our ass and start addressing the REAL threat. Which is what, exactly? Are they going to invade and enslave us? What the hell can these people do that’s worse than blowing up an American city?? Am I missing something? Scheuer imagines these guys as being capable of doing something so terrible that an A-bomb disintegrating Lower Manhattan pales in comparison. What would that be?

Fourth, I was under the impression that the gravest danger from terrorism is our own overreaction. My understanding was that, as horrible as the attack itself is or would be, what’s worse is what we could be provoked to do to ourselves. 9/11 was pretty horrible. Unspeakably horrible. As horrible as it was, though, it was not a threat to the continued existence or standing of the United States in any way, shape, or form. It did not diminish our position in the world. One would assume that al Qaeda wishes for more than killing a tiny percentage of our population, that they actually want to hurt our capabilities in some way. They do that not through killing a few thousand people (again, not to take away from the horrors of 9/11 at all, but those attacks killed 3,000 people, while smoking kills 100,000 in this country every year, and smoking doesn’t represent an ‘existential threat’ to the United States) but through provoking us into launching wars that bog us down in places like Iraq, weaken our military, blow a hole in our finances, weaken our morale, etc. A nuclear attack on a US city would be orders of magnitude more horrible than 9/11. Portrayals in movies, such as Sum of All Fears, of a terrorist attack on the US with a nuclear bomb disgustingly downplay what would actually happen in such an attack. Tens of thousands would die, if not hundreds of thousands. Millions would be injured. Millions would be homeless. A city would burn for days and days, and we would watch helplessly for days as the burned and crippled and maimed went on and on, suffering without any hope of medical care. Our economy would collapse. Cultural treasures would be lost forever – so many, and of such significance, we can’t even imagine. The suffering would be without precedent in this country. Nothing like it has ever happened – it would be beyond our darkest nightmares. Beyond that, with such a threat made real, would people continue to work and live in downtown areas? Obviously terrorists would immediately claim to have more bombs in the wake of such an attack, whether they actually possessed more or not. Would the residents of DC flee in panic after such a threat, in the wake of an attack on Manhattan? The residents of London? Chicago? LA? The damage, the suffering, the loss would be unimaginable. And yet – YET – the United States would endure. The greatest danger of all would be our reaction. How restrained would we be in the wake of such an attack? Imagine the anger, the desire to lash out. What would we do? I can assure you that whatever debates we have now about detentions, torture, occupations of foreign countries, the UN, human rights, etc., would be gone. The gloves would, most assuredly, come off. We would be willing to do things that we now consider unthinkable. THIS is what bin Laden wants. This is the rationale behind a terrorist attack.

And this is what Michael Scheuer and Glenn Beck want, too. Patriots, both.