Poll: how much of the vote would Obama win if he were white?

If you read Wufnik’s secession piece yesterday, you may have noticed that the inevitable cropped up in the comments: racism. You can’t talk about secessionist impulses anywhere – Scotland, Belgium, Spain, Quebec – without the subject of the US intruding, and that tends to mean the South. As in, the South in which I grew up (as did some of my fellow scrogues).

As Wufnik notes, there are all kinds of reasons why a group of people might want out of the nation they’re in, whether it’s language or historical culture or religion or resources or economics or whatever. But in the US South, it’s about one issue and one issue only: racism. If you want to argue that racism is not rampant in the South, either you’re trolling or you’re willfully self-deluding because you hate facing the bald facts or maybe you’re just not bright enough to be in a conversation with educated people.

No, racism doesn’t exist only in the South. No, not everyone who votes for Mitt Romney does so because they’re racist. And no, not all Southerners are racists. But the phenomenon is unarguably more ubiquitous there, especially once you get beyond the boundaries of larger cities. It doesn’t really matter, though: if you’re paying attention, you can’t help noticing a powerful correlation between racism and the relative redness of the electorate in a given state, can you?

Wufnik allows that if Obama wins re-election the right is going to pitch a full-on nukular galloping hissy fit (as opposed to the more reasoned, respectful, collaborative approach we’ve seen since 2008). (Despite the fact that some polls are calling it neck and neck, I do expect the president to pull it out. I’m not a hardcore quant demographer, but Nate Silver’s analysis seems coherent enough, and he’s saying it’s about a 73% chance of an Obama win). He’s probably right. I’m having a hard time imagining how much worse the racist right can get without actually donning white hoods and burning a cross on the White House lawn, but we’ll see, won’t we?

In any event, this all got me to thinking about a basic question. Consider the GOP approach, from their positively Byzantine assault on women to their willingness to openly lie about anything and everything to their reactionary theocratic rhetoric to … well, you’ve been watching, so you’ve heard the same barking asshaberdashery that the rest of us have. In a remotely sane world – that is, one in which candidates and ideas were intelligently evaluated on their merits alone – this batshit brigade couldn’t pull more than 15% of the popular vote if they were running uncontested. And yet, here they are, poised to score nearly half the popular vote for president and probably maintain control of the House. Why is that, I wonder?

So here’s the question: what would the polls look like if Barack Obama were white. (100% white, I mean.)

Instead of letting that hang there like a rhetorical question, let’s actually do a poll.

Feel free to add comments, if you like.

Drones: whatever became of U.S. respect for international norms prohibiting assassinations?

How effortlessly drones have insinuated themselves into our national narrative.

As Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations writes in a post at his blog Politics, Power, and Preventive Action (thanks to the Progressive Realist for directing us to it):

After following this program closely for the past half-dozen years, I have stopped being surprised by how far and how quickly the United States has moved from the international norm against assassinations or “extrajudicial killings.”

He writes that, in an October 23 Washington Post article Plan for hunting terrorists signals U.S. intends to keep adding names to kill lists, reporter Greg Miller

… underscores the cementing of the mindset and apparent group-think among national security policymakers that the routine and indefinite killing of suspected terrorists and nearby military-age males is ethical, moral, legal, and effective (for now).

But the “for now” can soon be dropped because of

… the increasing institutionalization—“codifying and streamlining the process” as Miller describes it—of executive branch power to use lethal force without any meaningful checks and balances.

In fact, it’s a significant departure recent history. As Zenko reminds us, in 1975, a

… U.S. Senate Select Committee investigation, led by Senator Frank Church … implicated the United States in assassination plots against foreign leaders—including at least eight separate plans to kill Cuban president Fidel Castro [followed by] President Ford’s Executive Order 11905: “No employee of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, political assassination.”

Thus was

… opposition to assassination was widely held and endured throughout the Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton administrations through 1999 for the following reasons.

In a quote from his book Between Threats and War: U.S. Discrete Military Operations in the Post-Cold War World(Stanford Security Studies, 2010), Zenko expands on that.

Assassinations ran counter to well-established international norms, and were prohibited under both treaty and customary international law. … weakening the international norm against assassinations could result in retaliatory killings of American leaders, who are more vulnerable as a consequence of living in a relatively open society. [Also] the targeted killing of suspected terrorists or political leaders was generally considered an ineffective foreign policy tool. An assassination attempt that failed could be counterproductive, in that it would create more legal and diplomatic problems than it was worth. An attempt that succeeded, meanwhile, would likely do little to diminish the long-term threat from an enemy state or group.

“Finally,” he writes, “the secretive and treacherous aspect of targeted killings was considered antithetical to the moral and ethical precepts of the United States.” Also, Zenko writes, it is

… notable that Miller does not find officials worried about the legality, congressional oversight, transparency, or precedent setting for future state and nonstate powers wielding armed drones.

In other words, their shortsightedness is disturbing. It might behoove them to read Daniel Suarez’s crackling new techno-thriller Kill Decision (Dutton Adult), in which drones are programmed to make their own decisions about what — or, to be more exact, whom — to attack.

Cross-posted from the Foreign Policy in Focus blog Focal Points.

Secession—it’s all the rage

If Barack Obama wins a second term in the White House, Frank Rich has suggested, the Right is going to go absolutely nuts. I suspect Rich is correct—we haven’t seen anything like the rage that will consume the Right, who have up to now convinced themselves that the polls are skewed or something. There will considerable denial, and then another lurch to the right. Larison has this spot on as well, as do any other number of commentators. As a result, we can expect secession fever to ratchet up. We’ve gone over this a number of times on this blog—S&R have provided a number of posts on the fact that while we might regard it as desirable that a bunch of the country wants to leave to start their own Baptist Republic, the problem is they just can’t afford to go it alone—they rely too much on a federal gravy train. So we’re probably struck with them for the time being.

Misery loves company, however. The US South is not the only place in the world these days contemplating Secession. In fact, it’s probably not even the most vocal about it either. Continue reading

How the Scrogues discovered politics

I saw a small notice on the front page of the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Friday October 26: “Romney will return to Ohio this evening with his running mate Paul Ryan for a rally at North Canton Hoover High School.”

It took me back to my senior year at North Canton Hoover High School. It was May of 1980. Our Senior Recognition Assembly was coming up and we found out that our guest speaker (usually someone quickly forgotten) was going to be GOP presidential hopeful George H. W. Bush. He was still in the race against that actor from California. The father of one of my classmates was involved with George Bush’s Ohio campaign and he arranged for the honor of the appearance.

I was one of those Library Nerds–the kids who volunteered to work at the circulation desk. I voraciously read all the newspapers and magazines I could. I was deeply suspicious about the activities of the CIA and, since George Bush had been its head, suspicious of him. I had also been through the most rigorous political indoctrination that my social studies teacher could devise. Continue reading

Tournament of Rock IV: the REO Speedwagon pod

Tournament of Rock IV: Monsters of Corporate Rock!Pod #6 results are in, and #7 seed KISS has eased by Genesis and Nickelback. The contemporary acts are not making much noise in the ToR so far, but there are some industry leaders yet to take their swings. KISS moves on to the Sweet 16.

Up next: pod #7: Show me the money.

  • #4 Seed: REO Speedwagon
  • Creed
  • Hall & Oates
  • No Doubt
  • Rod Stewart

REO Speedwagon

Although REO was slowly inching their way to big-time success, no one (not even the band) could have predicted the massive hit that their next album turned out to be, Hi Infidelity. Issued at the tail end of 1980, it became one of 1981’s biggest albums — spawning one of the best-known power ballads of all time, “Keep on Loving You,” as well as such popular rock radio hits as “Don’t Let Him Go” and “Take It on the Run.” Hi Infidelity would eventually go on to sell more than nine million copies — catapulting REO to arena-headlining status.

Jim: REO Speedwagon is kind of the love child of Head East and Dwight Twilley Band. Hard rock meets power pop. Catchy (if annoying) tunes played big for the arena crowd. Why they thought they needed a Getty Lee wannabe as lead vocalist is one of those enigmas I cannot decipher.

Bonesparkle: I think REO might have been the first band I ever heard more or less bragging about selling out. So, high marks for self-awareness.

Creed

Many reviewers slammed the band’s music as derivative, and frontman Scott Stapp was lambasted by publications like Rolling Stone for being “irony-deficient, Jesus-haired and often shirtless in a way that reminded people of the guy from Lord of the Dance.” Based on their frequently spiritual lyrics, some observers deemed Creed part of a new breed of alternative-styled Christian bands, an affiliation that Creed actively tried to downplay. Neither critical jabs nor a potential secular backlash could derail the band, though, and they went into the new millennium as a seemingly unstoppable commercial juggernaut.

Me: Have you read the story about Scott Stapp getting punked at the Gainesville Denny’s at 3am? No. Really, you oughta. Great Moments in Rock & Roll Douchebag History.

Jim: If U2 proves that God loves Rock & Roll, Creed proves that God hates Rock & Roll. Discuss.

Hall & Oates

From their first hit in 1974 through their heyday in the ’80s, Daryl Hall and John Oates’ smooth, catchy take on Philly soul brought them enormous commercial success — including six number one singles and six platinum albums — yet little critical success. Hall & Oates’ music was remarkably well constructed and produced; at their best, their songs were filled with strong hooks and melodies that adhered to soul traditions without being a slave to them by incorporating elements of new wave and hard rock.

Jim: Hall & Oates were an enjoyable blue-eyed soul outfit. Then they became an ’80s pop band. This was not a change for the better.

fikshun: Prostitutes do it to pay the bills. But at least they’re honest about it.

No Doubt

Tragic Kingdom was released in October 1995. The album served as a document of the breakup of Gwen Stefani and Kanal, whose relationship had lasted seven years. Thanks to constant touring and the appearance of “Just a Girl” and “Spiderwebs” on MTV’s Buzz Bin, the album hit the Top Ten in 1996. Stefani, who has made no secret of her pop ambitions, became a centerpiece of attention as an alternative to the crop of tough girls prevalent on the charts. By the end of the year, Tragic Kingdom hit number one on the album charts, almost a year after its first release; the record’s third single, the ballad “Don’t Speak,” was the band’s biggest hit to date.

fikshun: I’ve always been curious why established artists cover other artists’ songs (ie: Talk Talk’s “It’s My Life”). You don’t get any songwriting royalties, just performance royalties. Oh wait, it was a mascara promotion, wasn’t it?

Jim: Supermodel wannabe meets Sublime wannabes.

Bonesparkle: I feel for the guys. Imagine – you thought you were signing up for Dance Hall Crashers and next thing you know you’re Madonna’s backing band. It’s like Penny in that episode of Big Bang Theory: “Today I drove to Van Nuys for an audition that I thought was for a cat food commercial. Turned out to be porn.”

Rod Stewart

Rod Stewart may have begun his career as a respected singer, yet that critical respect eroded as he got older, as he became more concerned with stardom and adult contemporary songcraft than the rock music that launched him. While he has recorded some terrible albums — and he would admit that freely — Stewart was once rock & roll’s best interpretive singer as well as an accomplished songwriter, creating a raw combination of folk, rock, blues, and country that sounded like no other folk-rock or country-rock material. Instead of finding the folk in rock, he found how folk rocked like hell on its own. After Stewart became successful, he began to lose the rootsier elements of his music, yet he remained a superb singer, even as he abandoned his own artistic path in favor of following pop trends.

Jim: Once one of rock’s greatest vocalists and a fine songwriter. Ran out of ideas around 1973-74. Decided to become a cartoon character – the result is sad and obvious….

fikshun: I kinda think it’d be fun to have another tournament based on rock artists who most successfully sleazed their way through the disco era. Rod would have to be in the top 5.

Me: #3 on my “Oh How the Mighty Have Fallen” list. Long John Baldry told this joke in a show one time (Rod used to be in Baldry’s band way back when). What’s the difference between a bull and Rod Stewart’s band? With the bull, the horns are up front and the asshole is in the back.

Bonesparkle: I keep waiting for news that Stewart has been killed on stage when he failed to duck an especially well-heaved pair of XXXL granny panties.

Click to vote.

The rules.

Image Credit: Houston Press

Mr. Booth goes to the theater, ESPN FC fails to mention that assassination thing: sports "journalism" strikes again

Chicharito celebrates offside winner

It’s no secret to Chelsea fans that the sporting press, such as it is, does not love us overmuch. Time and again, whether we’re reading a match report or an  editorial “analysis” or listening to in-game commentary, we’re confronted with “journalists” who seem on the verge of bursting into song every time something bad happens to our side.

Fine. I can deal with this, and in a way it’s a badge of honor. Nobody bothers working up much in the way of snark or venom if you’re bottom of the table, do they? Still, as a guy who has been a journalism professor, it galls me at a professional level to see the media simply ignore the facts. Continue reading

The Des Moines Register's presidential endorsement is short-sighted and shallow; Iowa deserves better journalism

by Andrea Frantz

My husband and I, Iowa natives both, recently returned to our home state after 14 years in Pennsylvania. There were many things to look forward to as we anticipated our move home, not the least of which was the fact that we have long deemed Iowa an independent-minded state both socially and politically.

I am proud of the fact that I was raised in the state whose Supreme Court ruled against racially segregated schools more than 80 years before the Federal Supreme Court would do the same. In the same vein, Iowa was the nation’s leader to ensure its public schools were co-educational, guaranteeing that women could have the same opportunities for education that men had so long enjoyed. And I celebrated its forward-thinking attitude when it became the fifth state in the nation to legalize gay marriage.

We also looked forward to returning to Iowa’s long tradition of excellence in journalism and the Des Moines Register.

I was not surprised by the Register‘s endorsement of Mitt Romney last night. I saw it coming by drips and drabs in its coverage of both candidates, though it was perhaps clearest last week when I saw the blatant difference in tone in the side by side campaign “news coverage” on its front page. While the lead on the article focused on Obama was long-winded and struck a negative tone focusing on how his campaign had stepped up criticism against Romney, the lead in the Romney article was pithy and clear where the Register was leaning: “This must be what momentum looks like.” Hm. So much for objective news coverage.

While the Register‘s editorial board points to the state of the economy and jobs as the key drivers behind its endorsement, there is little in the way of specifics in this piece to support the choice. Not unlike Mr. Romney’s campaign, the endorsement offers no specific economic policies, plans, or achievements that illustrate how he is better suited to lead our country further out of the mire created by the Bush administration. This surface treatment of an exceptionally important issue does a disservice to your readers and ensures that political conversation in Iowa remains the consistency and nutritional value of a flaky, sugary pastry a la Pella’s famous Dutch letters. While sweet and perhaps a temporary energy fix, there’s nothing sustainable. Needless to say, I was looking forward to more meat and potatoes upon my return to the state. A little protein please, Des Moines Register.

Last, while the economy should, in fact, be a leading criterion for this Presidential choice, I am stunned by the fact that the Register ignores foreign policy, women’s health and reproductive rights, immigration, education, energy and the environment in its endorsement. All of these things are, in fact, drivers of economic stability and President Obama has a proven record and well-articulated vision with them. Mitt Romney has stated for the record he will boost funding to our military and aggressively engage Iran and China while simultaneously cutting funding to Planned Parenthood and federal pell grants. This is the “fresh economic vision” you herald?

For a newspaper that purports to serve Iowans equally, your endorsement falls short of the progressive, nuanced understanding of Iowans’ needs that I had so looked forward to upon my return to this state. Your endorsement is short-sighted and shallow both politically and as a journalistic contribution to the larger discussion. We deserve more.

Andrea Frantz is a journalism professor who still has faith in the future of the field…though some days, that faith is tested more than others.

Storm Watch: Sandy

Good luck and health to all of you in the storm’s path. This looks terrifying—two large storms coming together, very warm Atlantic temperatures, and a full moon. When these things come along, I always head for Weather Underground, especially the blogs there—there are now several good ones, including old reliable Jeff Masters, and a couple of newer ones from Angela Fritz and Brian Norcross. Norcross’s comments on Mayor Bloomberg’s inexplicable press conference are spot on. This one looks big and deadly—take care.

Yet another "study" telling me organic food isn’t any better for me than the usual crap

Jeez, how many of these are there going to be? Several months ago, recall, we had a large study under the aegis of Stanford University, that told us in no uncertain terms that organic food wasn’t any better for us than the ordinary industrial agriculture garbage that litters the aisles of American supermarkets. Well, to be more precise, the study claimed there was no additional nutritional benefit from organic food. This, as is now pretty clear, is a worthless claim.
Continue reading

Though bin Laden was hiding in plain sight, in the end he was tripped up by his caution

Security knows security when it sees it.

Mark Bowden of Black Hawk Down fame has just weighed in on the mission to kill bin Laden with a book titled The Finish: The Killing of Osama Bin Laden (Atlantic Monthly Press). Much of the excerpt that Vanity Fair published chronicles how President Obama et al chose between a drone strike, precision bombing, and an assault by Navy SEALs, as well as how the attack was carried out. The first priority, of course, was determining if bin Laden and his people actually resided at the Abbottabad compound.

Here, in part, was what attracted the CIA to the site.

Panetta brought two of the agency’s bin Laden team leaders to the Oval Office. They handed Obama classified pictures and maps and walked him through the material. What had first intrigued them was the compound itself. Unlike most homes in that affluent neighborhood, it did not have Internet or phone connections. The walls were unusually high, topped by two feet of barbed wire. There was no way to see inside the house itself, from the ground or from above. The agency had learned that the compound was home not only to [bin Laden courier] Ibrahim Ahmed’s family but to his brother Abrar’s family as well. They went by assumed names: Ahmed called himself Arshad Khan, and the brother went by Tariq Khan. They had never been wealthy, but their accommodations were expensive. The brothers were also wary. They burned their trash on-site. None of their children attended school. In telephone calls to distant family members, always made from locations away from the compound itself, they lied about where they were living. The C.I.A. has been known to misinterpret many things, but one thing it recognizes is high operational security.

At first glance, it seems as if bin Laden and Ahmed had thrown caution to the winds by hiding in plain sight in Abbottabad. However, when it came to behaving like normal citizens, they apparently lost their nerve. In other words, they failed to take their security to the next level and realize that their very cautiousness was a red flag. It’s true that bin Laden couldn’t walk the streets. But they could have taken their garbage out!

More to the point, use of phones and the Internet — innocuously, of course — would have provided the perfect cover.

Tournament of Rock IV: the KISS pod

Tournament of Rock IV: Monsters of Corporate Rock!In the previous match we saw a mild upset, as Bad Company nudged out Don Henley. In Alanis Morissette’s world, that’s ironic. BadCo advances to the Sweet 16.

Up next: pod #6, where we have posted urgent testosterone warnings.

  • #7 Seed: KISS
  • Bad English
  • Genesis (post-Peter Gabriel – 1978-forward)
  • Nickelback
  • Whitesnake

KISS

Rooted in the campy theatrics of Alice Cooper and the sleazy hard rock of glam rockers the New York Dolls, Kiss became a favorite of American teenagers in the ’70s. Most kids were infatuated with the look of Kiss, not their music. Decked out in outrageously flamboyant costumes and makeup, the band fashioned a captivating stage show featuring dry ice, smoke bombs, elaborate lighting, blood spitting, and fire breathing that captured the imaginations of thousands of kids. But Kiss’ music shouldn’t be dismissed — it was a commercially potent mix of anthemic, fist-pounding hard rock driven by sleek hooks and ballads powered by loud guitars, cloying melodies, and sweeping strings. It was a sound that laid the groundwork for both arena rock and the pop-metal that dominated rock in the late ’80s.

fikshun: Aren’t these guys the ultimate winner? They kept up the standard “put out a new album every 6-9 months” routine for years. No one can touch their merchandising. The bass player owns the brand likenesses for the drummer and guitarist!!! Oh, and name one other band that has such low corporate ethics that they see nothing wrong with marketing albums to kids with songs about butt sex and sex with minors.

Me: A friend of mine once asked what could possibly be more conservative than long-haired “heavy metal” rebellion among working class teens in the Midwest. He wasn’t talking about KISS specifically, I don’t think, but when I was in high school the only thing more mainstream than KISS was maybe Coke.

Jim: Why these bastards aren’t the #1 seed is one of life’s mysteries.

Bad English

Following Journey’s temporary breakup in 1987, guitarist Neal Schon and keyboardist Jonathan Cain teamed up with Cain’s former bandmates in the Babys — vocalist John Waite and bassist Ricky Phillips — to form Bad English. Drummer Deen Castronovo, who would later join Journey in the late ’90s, completed the lineup. One of the last supergroups of the decade, Bad English made power ballads like there was no tomorrow — and they did it better than most, due in part to Waite’s strong vocals and Schon’s creation of the power ballad prototype during his years with Journey. As the ’80s gave way to the ’90s, the group scored two huge hit singles — “When I See You Smile” and “Price of Love” — and watched its self-titled debut (released in 1989 by Epic Records) reach platinum certification.

Me: I loved John Waite. And I had loved The Babys before they split up. So you take three former Babys and add a guitarist who used to play with Santana and heck, that’s a formula for awesome, right? I momentarily lost sight of the fact that three of those guys either were or would be in Journey. Which was a formula for…well, formula.

Jim: Any band with Journey connections is damned forever. No exceptions.

Genesis

Genesis started life as a progressive rock band, in the manner of Yes and King Crimson, before a series of membership changes brought about a transformation in their sound, into one of the most successful pop/rock bands of the 1980s and 1990s. In addition, the group has provided a launching pad for the superstardom of members Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins, and star solo careers for members Tony Banks, Michael Rutherford, and Steve Hackett.

Brian Angliss: Genesis with Peter Gabriel may have been artistically interesting, but the music sucked. Genesis after Peter Gabriel, on the other hand, was a hell of a lot more fun, even though the trio seemed hell-bent on cranking out crappy social commentary (along with the occasional / real / social commentary) at least three times per album. [Crappy = "No Son of Mine"; Real = "Land of Confusion"]

Me: In truth, post-PG Genesis didn’t really become a king-hell monster of commerce until the self-titled release in 1983, a good five years after Gabriel left. And even at that point, mainstream wasn’t necessarily a bad word. Back then you might not be John Lennon, but that didn’t mean you were the Bay City Rollers, either.

Jim: Genesis with Peter Gabriel – interestingly artsy-fartsy. Genesis without Peter Gabriel – neither interesting nor artsy-fartsy.

Nickelback

Few bands did more than Nickelback to establish the force of slick, commercially minded post-grunge in the 2000s. Led by vocalist Chad Kroeger, the band initially emerged in the late ’90s as Canada’s answer to Creed, prizing a blend of gruff vocals and distorted (yet radio-friendly) guitars. After a handful of singles failed to gain much traction in Canada, “How You Remind Me” caught hold in 2001, eventually topping the charts in several countries while gathering four Grammy nominations and four Juno Awards. Creed imploded several years later, but Nickelback’s popularity only grew as the decade progressed, effectively eclipsing those acts that had once informed the band’s sound.

fikshun: So corporate that I’m not sure if I’m thinking of them or Coldplay.

Bonesparkle: Ah, yes – the kings of Contemporary Corporate Douche Rock. Their lawyers are still trying to decide whether or not the band can sue itself for plagiarism.

Jim: Journey for people who can’t tell the difference between Nirvana and Candlebox – or Bush – or Nickelback…wait….

Whitesnake

During 1982, Coverdale took some time off so he could take care of his sick daughter. When he re-emerged with a new version of Whitesnake in 1984, the band sounded revitalized and energetic. Slide It In may have relied on Led Zeppelin’s and Deep Purple’s old tricks, but the band had a knack for writing hooks; the record became their first platinum album. Three years later, Whitesnake released an eponymous album (titled 1987 in Europe) that was even better. Portions of the album were blatantly derivative — “Still of the Night” was a dead ringer for early Zeppelin — but the group could write powerful, heavy rockers like “Here I Go Again” that were driven as much by melody as riffs, as well as hit power ballads like “Is This Love.” Whitesnake was an enormous international success, selling over six million copies in the U.S. alone.

Me: Tawny Kitaen rolling around on the hood of that Jag was the archetypal expression of the ’80s aesthetic. Discuss.

Jim: Any band that evokes any memory of Tawny Kitaen deserves rebuke. Discuss.

Click to vote.

The rules.

Image Credit: Last.FM

The GOP and God-sanctioned rape

I live in Indiana with Richard Mourdock, the man who believes rape and the resulting pregnancy are parts of God’s plan.

I have never been raped, but I know something about rape. When my mother was in her sixties, she was raped twice by a serial rapist who was never caught. My daughter was sexually assaulted at college and the assailant walked away with an off-the-record rebuke. And a former high school girlfriend was kidnapped and raped while hitchhiking.

Here’s what I know about rape.

Six months afterward, I have seen my mother start shaking uncontrollably and then cry for hours.

I have heard my daughter scream in the night, and when her mother ran to comfort her, I have sat in bed listening helplessly.

I have been told by my former girlfriend that she can no longer have sex, because whenever a man touches her she goes completely rigid, stiff as a board, not even able to speak.

So no, I have never had a 250 lb man squeeze my throat until I heard things cracking while he shoved a dick up my ass, but I know something about rape.

I am tempted to wish the gift of rape upon Mourdock’s family, but I cannot. So let me wish this. Mourdock, may you be judged by a god who has rape as part of his heavenly plan.

It's time for the feds to consider RICO charges against the Boy Scouts of America

Back in September Kim Christensen and Jason Felch of the Los Angeles Times broke an absolute blockbuster of a story: the Boy Scouts of America have, for decades, been providing cover for pedophiles in its ranks.

Over two decades, the Boy Scouts of America failed to report hundreds of alleged child molesters to police and often hid the allegations from parents and the public.

A Los Angeles Times review of 1,600 confidential files dating from 1970 to 1991 has found that Scouting officials frequently urged admitted offenders to quietly resign — and helped many cover their tracks.

Volunteers and employees suspected of abuse were allowed to leave citing bogus reasons such as business demands, “chronic brain dysfunction” and duties at a Shakespeare festival.

DATABASE: Tracking decades of allegations

The details are contained in the organization’s confidential “perversion files,” a blacklist of alleged molesters, that the Scouts have used internally since 1919. Scouts’ lawyers around the country have been fighting in court to keep the files from public view.

In about 400 of those cases — 80% — there is no record of Scouting officials reporting the allegations to police. In more than 100 of the cases, officials actively sought to conceal the alleged abuse or allowed the suspects to hide it, The Times found.

The raw numbers are terrifying, and now Congress is being asked to audit the BSA’s youth protections.

The effort to seek a congressional inquiry came Thursday as the attorneys released more than 20,000 Boy Scout documents identifying more than 1,000 leaders and volunteers banned from the group after being accused of sexual or inappropriate conduct with boys.

How many victims are out there? Well, research suggests that only one in 10 molested boys reports the crime, so you do the math. If the Times report is accurate, then we’re talking about Jerry Sandusky times…what? 100? 1000?

You might expect, with good reason, that the public response to this outrage would be nigh-on nuclear. After all, we’re talking about the most appalling violation of trust fathomable – the only scandal in recent memory on a par with the BSA conspiracy is the Roman Catholic Church’s pedophile ring.

Instead, the outcry has been minimal, at best. The organization’s decision to deny one member his Eagle rank because he’s gay seems to have garnered about as much national attention. (How ironic, by the way. If you’re a gay kid who has earned Eagle, screw you. If you’re a gay who wants to be a scoutmaster, thanks, but you need not apply. If you’re a pedophile, though, we got your back.) Granted, the Boy Scout scandal isn’t threatening any football programs, but still, you’d think it would be driving at least a little bit of interest, wouldn’t you?

In any event, the Times report paints a picture of BSA leadership involved in a systematic, sustained campaign to cover up felony behavior. Earlier today, I found myself wondering why we weren’t hearing more about federal investigations into these crimes. More specifically, I began thinking that perhaps RICO charges might be in order.

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act…focuses specifically on racketeering, and it allows for the leaders of a syndicate to be tried for the crimes which they ordered others to do or assisted them, closing a perceived loophole that allowed someone who told a man to, for example, murder, to be exempt from the trial because he did not actually do it… While its original use in the 1970s was to prosecute the Mafia as well as others who were actively engaged in organized crime, its later application has been more widespread.

Since I’m not a lawyer, I reached out to Guy Saperstein, one of America’s most prominent attorneys. Here’s what he said:

I think RICO has been used in a few cases against Catholic church officials; I don’t recall if the cases were successful, but the cases went to juries, so at least a few federal judges found RICO to be applicable. The same standard could apply to the Boy Scouts, but to be successful under RICO, it would have to be shown that the abusive activity was at least sanctioned, if not designed, at the upper levels of the organization to be considered a criminal conspiracy. I also remember RICO being used here in Oakland against the head of the Hell’s Angels, Sonny Barger, a case defended by a friend of mine, but Sonny was acquitted or the jury hung when it could not be proven that running drugs and killing people was a policy of the Hell’s Angels.

So pursuing the Boy Scouts using RICO might be a potentially viable course of action (the case seems, from what I can tell, to be more or less parallel to the Catholic Church situation) although the outcome of such prosecution would be anything but certain. Was covering up for pedophiles “policy”? I’d think you could make the case, but I’m also sure that the BSA can afford good lawyers.

The BSA, for its part, seems to understand the gravity of its situation. (I expect those lawyers I just referred to have discussed the organization’s civil liability with leadership.)

The release of the files has been an embarrassment to the Boy Scouts, which in 2010 finally adopted a policy of requiring local scout leaders to report sex-abuse allegations to police.

“There have been instances where people misused their positions in scouting to abuse children, and, in certain cases, our response to these incidents, and our efforts to protect youth, were plainly insufficient, inappropriate or wrong,” said Wayne Perry, the national president of the Boy Scouts, in a statement last week. “Where those involved in scouting failed to protect, or, worse, inflicted harm on children, we extend our deepest and sincere apologies.”

It’s good to see them working to fix the problem, but in no way does this excuse those guilty of criminal behavior in the past.

I hope federal authorities are paying close attention to this case. We were repulsed by the Catholic Church’s game of musical pedophiles and I think the multi-tiered Sandusky cover-up at Penn State is still fresh in everyone’s mind. Here’s yet another large, powerful organization that spent decades violating its constituencies in the most reprehensible manner imaginable, and it’s about time that everyone – everyone – entrusted with the well-being of children came to understand that institutional enabling is as bad as the actual raping.

For all we know, there are other organizations out there still hiding serial pedophiles, and it would be good if the directors of said organizations had one more reason to come clean. Today.

The seven kinds of rape (thx to the GOP for sorting this out)

Back in the old days rape was rape. Or, at most, there were two kinds. There was the “put on a ski mask and rape her at knifepoint” type and there was the “she said she was 18″ statutory type. Which wasn’t really rape at all, because, I mean, LOOK at her. And she really wanted it.

These days it’s more complicated. There’s ALL KINDS of rape, and it’s important to understand the differences because some of them have distinctly religious implications. That is, if you’re being raped, it helps to be aware of whether or not it’s God’s will, for instance. That way you can know whether or not you should be enjoying it (in a holy spirit way, not a sins of the flesh way, you whore) and you can even be thinking about whether or not you’ll be blessed with a pregnancy. Maybe you can even start thinking about baby names.

Brainwrap over at Kos has updated the handy-dandy Republican Rape Advisory Chart you may have seen floating around on Facebook. It explains the different kinds of rape and provides certifying information from Republican candidates for elected office so that you know it’s valid and not some shit that a bozo just made up.

Please share this with any friends you think might benefit from it. You know, like potential rapists or undecided women voters.

Christopher Horner is demonstrably wrong

On October 24, Christopher Horner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) wrote a guest post at Wattsupwiththat.com commenting on the recently announced defamation lawsuit by Michael Mann against the CEI, The National Review, and two of the organizations’ authors.

Among Horner’s many questionable claims was one that is undeniably wrong. Specifically, Horner incorrectly claims that an investigation conducted by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the National Science Foundation was not independent of prior Pennsylvania State University investigations. The investigations were into whether or not Michael Mann was guilty of academic misconduct and both investigations found that he was innocent of the charges made by his many critics.

Horner specifically wrote the following at Wattsupwiththat:

The National Science Foundation purported to inquire, as well, but worked from what PSU provided it. So much for that.

This is demonstrably false, as anyone who has read the NSF Closeout Memorandum knows. While the OIG began their investigation with the information provided by Penn State, the OIG had the authority to probe beyond that information if they felt additional investigation was warranted. The OIG felt that, with respect to three of the four allegations against Mann, the Penn State investigation had been sufficiently thorough. However, the OIG felt that Penn State did not examine the first allegation – falsifying research data – in enough detail and so the OIG conducted its own independent investigation:

In particular, we were concerned that the University did not interview any of the experts critical of the Subject’s research to determine if they had any information that might support the allegation. Therefore, we initiated our own investigation under the NSF Research Misconduct Regulation. Pursuant to that regulation, we did not limit our review to an allegation of data falsification. Rather, we examined the evidence in relation to the definition of research misconduct under the NSF Research Misconduct Regulation. (emphasis added)

Furthermore, while this independent investigation did review the information provided by Penn State, it went beyond that:

As a part of our investigation, we again fully reviewed all the reports and documentation the University provided to us, as well as a substantial amount of publicly available documentation concerning both the Subject’s research and parallel research conducted by his collaborators and other scientists in that particular field of research.

As part of our investigation, we attempted to determine if data fabrication or falsification may have occurred and interviewed the subject, critics, and disciplinary experts in coming to our conclusions. (emphasis added)

As a result of this independent investigation, the OIG found that “There is no specific evidence that the Subject falsified or fabricated any data and no evidence that his actions amounted to research misconduct. (emphasis added)”

Steve McIntyre, one of Mann’s critics, admitted at Climate Audit that he had been interviewed by the OIG. Since the original Penn State inquiry and investigation did not interview McIntyre, McIntyre’s own comments provide independent confirmation that the OIG’s investigation went beyond the information provided to the OIG by Penn State.

S&R conducted a thorough investigation of Chris Horner’s public statements, reading through every Mann-related editorial written by and citation of Horner since the publication of the OIG closeout memo in August 2011. While S&R found examples of Horner making the same erroneous claim he made at Wattsupwiththat, we found no examples conclusive demonstrating that Horner had actually read the results of the OIG investigation.

If Horner has read the results, then he must be aware that his claim is false. If Horner hasn’t read the results, then he is spreading false rumors. Regardless of which option is the correct one, there is no doubt that Horner’s claim is wrong, and as a result he must correct his written record a soon as possible.

Latest stunt provides further evidence: "Donald Trump" is really Andy Kaufman pretending to support Mitt Romney

I broke the story back in June that “Donald Trump” is a hoax. In actuality, the real Donald Trump sold his identity, back in the 1980s, to none other than Andy Kaufman. Kaufman then staged his own death and assumed the Tony Clifton-esque Trump persona in pursuit of the greatest mass pranking since War of the Worlds.

Today, millions of people are considering Kaufman’s latest antics – the “October bombshell” that would alter the course of the election – and saying that not only has The Donald jumped the shark, he has perhaps wandered into full-blown insanity. Those conclusions would make sense if Trump were who he says and if he were doing what he claims to be doing. As the actions of a wealthy, intelligent businessman campaigning for Mit Romney, today’s non-events are at best a pathetic cry for help.

However, as performance art on the part of one of our culture’s true creative geniuses, it’s nothing short of brilliant. It’s not clear whether Kaufman is using the Trump character in direct support of the Obama campaign or whether the political element is merely a by-product. Is he making a political statement or using the elevated profile afforded by the election to draw greater attention to his own ultimately non-political project?

No way to know at this point, but I anticipate that one of these days Kaufman will unmask and this is one of many questions I know I’ll be eager to ask him.

For the time being, I say kick back and enjoy this show.

On Nov. 6, I'll vote for a liar for president

No matter how I try to rationalize it, I’m going to vote for a liar for president of the United States. And, no matter how I try to ignore history, I realize that I likely have always voted for a liar for virtually any political office.

I do not know anyone who has not told a lie. Size and intent of the lie does not matter; lies are lies. I know that lies come in a variety of shades, some of which have become socially acceptable. Honey, does this dress make my ass look fat? A man who answers no lies to protect the dignity of the woman. Oh, don’t worry about those few extra pounds. You still look hot to me. The woman who says that protects the frail ego of a man. When the pet rabbit dies, mom or dad tells little Bobby I’m sure Hoppy went to heaven.

We lie to protect the feelings of others. But we still lie, because we know absolute truth corrodes relationships.

But politicians lie to manipulatively establish and maintain relationships. Lies fertilize the ground on which campaigns are constructed. Candidates at all levels of politics lie, cheat, and deceive. Google “political lies” and explanations of why they lie abound.

Politicians lie for one seriously egregious reason. The lie: I’m running for office to bring real solutions to the American people. The truth: I want to achieve status and power. Then, if I can help the people — especially those who helped me buy my way to status and power — I’ll do so. A few decades ago, particularly odiferous political lies were usually caught by the press, reported by same, and produced revulsion in the electorate. Ask Richard Nixon.

But not so much now. We longer believe truth is possible in political campaigns. The sheer volume of corporate-supported advertising bearing lies, falsehoods, prevarications, deceptions, and context-free “facts” has inured the electorate. After all, candidates in many deceptive ads say, I approved this message. They have permitted lies in their names. So we expect lies. Lies become Truth-Lite™, what candidates believe we want to hear rather than what we need to hear.

The press has been complicit in fostering the staggering growth in political deceit: As media critics have noted, journalists have often focused on who’s lying more effectively rather than correcting the discursive record distorted by lies — the new post-truth journalism. Add the notion that the electoral audience is now firmly camped in an endless electronic chat room less reliant on “gatekeepers.”

The methods of lying have become the news and the fodder of pundits — not the lies themselves. That’s made lying by politicians easier. It has allowed politicians to lie with far more sophistication and not be corrected on the record. Consider the emergence of false equivalence — the tendency fostered by the political press that “objectivity” is a function of “balance,” that “both sides do it all the time.”

The invention of issues by pundits has created discourse that isn’t grounded in reality in the first place — so lies fill the void, and they’re effective if the pundits have ingratiated themselves with an audience eager to be lied to. It’s called motivating the political base. Lying to the already converted — those resistant to reason and cordoned off by ideological choice from rhetorical reality — is highly effective modern political practice.

The modern media universe of celebrity and “tell all” journalism has not made lying less profitable. No lie is too large to halt the deluge of money from donors. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been raised and given to politicians who lie. Therefore, politicians have permission to lie even more.

If lying has no significant political cost (although Sen. Gary Hart’s lie cost him his chance for the presidency), then lies beget more lies. Information becomes disinformation and misinformation. The public square has no shared factual commitments essential to honest discourse. Lying has eroded our ability to assess the moral compasses of our politicians. Are we now stuck with determining who lies less as the new standard for electability rather than who utters truth?

When it comes to our two presidential candidates, even the fact-checkers, it seems, cannot agree on which man lies most.

They both lie. So no matter which one I support, I will be supporting a liar.

Would someone please explain to me what we gain by having liars in the White House, Congress, and the statehouses of America?

h/t to my fellow Scrogues who allowed me to steal their ideas.

Climate scientist Michael Mann sues Competitive Enterprise Institute, National Review

Comparison of Mann’s original hockey stick to recent reconstructions confirming the basic accuracy of the original (AGU)

On October 22, climate scientist Michael Mann sued for defamation the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), The National Review (TNR), and two writers associated with the two organizations. The lawsuit is regarding accusations made by Rand Simberg of the CEI and Mark Steyn of NRO that Mann had committed academic and scientific fraud and for comparing Mann to convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky. Mann announced the lawsuit on his Facebook page. Mann and his attorney, John B Williams of the law firm Cozen O’Connor, originally demanded that the CEI and TNR retract their original articles under threat of a lawsuit, but both organizations refused to do apologize for or retract the articles.

The first article, written by Rand Simberg of the CEI, originally claimed that

Mann could be said to be the Jerry Sandusky of climate science, except that instead of molesting children, he has molested and tortured data in the service of politicized science that could have dire economic consequences for the nation and planet.

To the CEI’s credit, the editors removed this sentence and another they identified as “inappropriate” shortly after the article was published. But other of Simberg’s claims were identified by Mann’s attorney, John B Willams as defamatory, specifically claims that Mann engaged in “data manipulation” and “academic and scientific misconduct” that was supposedly exposed by the illegally published “Climategate” emails.

Simberg and the CEI refused to retract the article, writing in their response that they “reject the claim that [Mann's research] was closely examined, let alone exonerated, by any of the proceedings listed” in the retraction demand. Myron Ebell, in another part of the statement linked above, continued his criticism of the Penn State investigation even though the National Science Foundation (NSF) independently conducted a second investigation that interviewed Mann’s critics and yet reached the same conclusions as the Penn State investigation.

Simberg’s original article has more than just inappropriate comparisons and possibly defamatory rhetoric. It also has a number of errors in fact, including one regarding a quote taken from S&R’s own reporting. First, Simberg incorrectly claims that Penn State “didn’t bother to interview anyone except Mann himself.” The Penn State investigation was broken down into two phases, an inquiry and an investigation. It’s true that inquiry phase did not interview of Mann’s critics, but it did interview Gerald North, lead author of the 2006 National Research Council report that cleared Mann of any misconduct regarding his hockey stick papers, and Donald Kennedy, former editor of the journal Science. The investigation phase interviewed other subject matter experts but also included one of Mann’s critics, specifically Richard Lindzen of MIT – one of the people that Simberg himself contacted for comment on his article.

Second, Simberg quotes from an S&R report on the NSF investigation, NSF confirms results of Penn State investigation, exonerates Michael Mann of research misconduct. But Simberg mistakenly refers to the National Science Foundation Office of the Inspector General (OIG) as the National Academy of Science (NAS), a significant error. Furthermore, Simberg quote S&R’s report and neglects to mention that the very next paragraph contradicts his own point. Specifically, Simberg claims that “the NAS (sic) investigation relied on the integrity of the university to provide them with all relevant material, and was thus not truly independent (emphasis added).” The following section of the S&R report illustrates Simberg’s error – Simberg’s quote and emphasis is in italics/bold, the rest of the quote is original from the article linked above:

The OIG also independently reviewed Mann’s emails and PSU’s inquiry into whether or not Mann deleted emails as requested by Phil Jones in the “Climategate” emails (aka Allegation 2). The OIG concluded after reviewing the the published CRU emails and the additional information provided by PSU that “nothing in [the emails] evidenced research misconduct within the definition of the NSF Research Misconduct Regulation.” Furthermore, the OIG accepted the conclusions of the PSU inquiry regarding whether Mann deleted emails and agreed with PSU’s conclusion that Mann had not.

The OIG did conclude that PSU didn’t meet the NSF’s standard for investigating the charge of data falsification because PSU “didn’t interview any of the experts critical of [Mann's] research to determine if they had any information that might support the allegation.” As a result, the OIG conducted their own independent investigation, reviewing both PSU’s documentation, publicly available documents written about Mann and his co-researchers, and “interviewed the subject, critics, and disciplinary experts” in reaching their conclusions. (emphasis in second paragraph added)

Finally, Simberg implied that Penn State was more interested in the grant money that Mann had brought into the university than it was in investigating Mann, going so far as to claim that “Michael Mann, like Joe Paterno, was a rock star in the context of Penn State University.” S&R reviewed this allegation in detail in 2010, finding that Mann was responsible for only $4.2 million in grants between 2006 and 2009. Over the same period, Penn State made over $2.8 billion in research grants, and the Penn State football program made $160 million in profits on revenues of $280 million. Compared to the aggregate research grants or the direct profits brought in by Paterno, Mann’s research grants are small potatoes.

While Penn State was apparently willing to trash its good reputation for the public face of the university – the Nittany Lions football team – it would not have any reason to risk embarrassment over a few million dollars brought in by a controversial scientist. Risking the academic reputation of the university would threaten that $2.8 billion in research grants, and no-one would risk that for any single researcher, even one with Mann’s reputation. Quite the opposite – Mann’s reputation could be a drag on research grants, so if anything, Penn State was biased against Mann during the course of the inquiry and investigation.

The second article was written by Mark Steyn of TNR. It referenced the CEI post (complete with the “molested data” sentence that the CEI removed as “inappropriate”) and described Mann’s work as “fraudulent.” As with the CEI, TNR refused to retract the blog post or apologize for comparing Mann to Jerry Sandusky.

Steyn’s own article, short as it was, made some of the same mistakes that Simberg’s did. As an example, Steyn wrote that the Penn State investigation was “a joke,” yet the NSF disagreed. However, Steyn also made a mistake that Simberg did not – Steyn claimed that former Penn State president Grahm Spanier investigated Mann, yet the documentary evidence demonstrates that Spanier was not involved in the Mann investigation – the inquiry committee was composed of William Easterling (Dean of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences), Alan Scaroni (Ass. Dean for Graduate Education and Research in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences), Candice Yekel (Director of the Office for Research Protections), William Brune (Head of the Department of Meteorology), Eva J. Pell (then Senior Vice President for Research), and Henry C. Foley (Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School). The investigation committee was composed of Sarah M. Assmann (Professor in the Dept. of Biology), Welford Castleman (Evan Pugh Professor and Eberly Distinguished Chair in Science in the Depts. of Chemistry and Physics), Mary Jane Irwin (Evan Pugh Professor in the Dept. of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering), Nina G. Jablonski (Department Head of the Dept. of Anthropology), Fred W. Vondracek (Professor in the Dept of Human Development and Family Studies), and the aforementioned Candice Yekel as the Research Integrity Officer. None of these individuals has been compromised by the Sandusky scandal.

As the lawsuit announcement points out, Mann has been repeatedly cleared of charges of academic misconduct by multiple different organizations ranging from the National Science Foundation in 2011 to the Pennsylvania State University in 2010 to the National Research Council back in 2006. And while the multiple “Climategate” investigations may not have mentioned Mann directly, none of them found any evidence of scientific misconduct on behalf of any of the scientists whose private emails were illegally published, including Mann’s.

Simberg wrote in the comments to his article that he felt Mann would not sue because “the last thing that Mann wants to do is go under oath with a discovery process.” Rich Lowry, editor of TNR, wrote that a lawsuit would result in Mann going “to great trouble and expense to embark on a losing cause that will expose more of his methods and maneuverings to the world.” The discovery process is when lawyers go through the opposition’s emails and documents to discover what is and is not true, and both Simberg and Lowry clearly believe that Mann has more to lose in that process than either of them do.

Mann’s work and private correspondence has been investigated repeatedly and thoroughly over the last decade. As a result, Mann has little to lose in this kind of lawsuit – unless he truly is guilty of the very misconduct of which his critics accuse him. On the other hand, the National Review and especially the Competitive Enterprise Institute stand to lose much more in the discovery process – donor lists could be exposed, private communications among the climate disruption denial community could be published, and so on.

That Mann chose to move forward with his lawsuit even knowing that his emails and documents would become public should give the CEI, TNR, and their various ideological allies pause. For even if Mann fails to win his defamation claim, this lawsuit could result in the kind of exposure for climate disruption denying organizations and individuals that the tobacco litigation did for Philip Morris, the Tobacco Institute, et al.

Time will tell.

NOTE: S&R has obtained a copy of the legal complaint and will publish its analysis of the document following a review. We’ll also continue to bring you updates and analysis of this story as it develops.

DC Superior Court Case number: 2012 CA 008263 B

Elections are educational! 14 things we wouldn't have known without Campaign 2012

Everybody seems to be so negative about campaign season. They hate the ads, they hate the mudslinging, they hate the lying, they hate the candidates.

Not me – I LOVE campaign season. Why? Because it’s an opportunity to learn stuff that not only didn’t I know before, but that I’d never learn any other way.

For instance, look at some of the Science lessons I’ve learned in the past few months:

And what about History? I’d never have learned this one:

  • Slavery was a blessing in disguise for black people. (Granted, in parts of the country students can learn that most slaveowners were kind and that many blacks preferred being slaves, but it’s nice to have this kind of high-level, official validation.)

Many schools have slipped in their responsibility to teach Civics, but our candidates for public office are doing what they can to plug the gap:

How about Economics? God knows we need to learn how to be more fiscally responsible.

Then there’s Engineering:

And Behavioral Psychology:

And, of course, Political Science:

Finally, Geography:

  • You don’t have to share a border with a nation that has coasts on three large bodies of water in order to be their gateway to the sea.

We’ve got a couple weeks left and I’m carrying my notebook with me everywhere I go.I feel certain that I’m not through learning interesting and important lessons about our wonderful world.