The grimm reality of Matthew Grimm: Saturday Video Roundup

It’s Matt Grimm Day at S&R and we’re celebrating music with a social conscience. Join us?

Matthew GrimmWe love great bands and artists of all stripes around here, but by now it’s probably no secret that we’re champions of the overlooked genius. I don’t know. Maybe I’m projecting because I think more people ought to pay attention to me and as such I identify with those who don’t get the credit they deserve.

Whatever. My personal narcissism issues notwithstanding, our friend Matthew Grimm is a recording artist whose talent merits the attention of a very large audience. Continue reading

CATEGORY: Religion

Charles Keating, high priest of the Church of Jesus Christ Sociopath, is dead

Keating was an icon of the Old Testament morality that defines American culture.

Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. – Karl Marx

Charles Keating, the fixer at the center of the infamous Keating 5 scandal, is dead. Let’s all lift a glass to mark the passing of an evil man.

The Economist‘s obit is a must-read.

Mr Keating was so doughty in this holy war that Richard Nixon appointed him in 1969 to the national commission on obscenity. When the commission produced a feeble report, Mr Keating dissented. He wrote that “Never in Rome, Greece or the most debauched nation in history has such utter filth been projected to all parts of a nation.” At meetings of his 300-chapter organisation, Citizens for Decency through Law, he would stride round with a big red Bible in his hand. Sundays saw him devoutly at Mass, with thousands of dollars given to Catholic causes. Such was his local influence that when the Supreme Court ruled that obscenity should be judged by “community standards”, every adult theatre in Cincinnati closed down.

Strange, then, that this knight on a white charger—as he saw himself—was also the man who bilked 23,000 investors out of their savings. The total loss was $250m-288m, and the cost to the taxpayer $3.4 billion. In 1984 he had bought Lincoln Savings, a savings and loan association based in Irvine, California, and turned it into a piggy bank for his own American Continental Corporation. He persuaded Lincoln investors to swap their secured bonds for ACC’s junk ones, claiming that these too were backed by the government. Then he speculated freely in foreign exchange, risky development and tracts of raw cactus desert. Staff were exhorted to prey on “the weak, meek and ignorant”.

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Generation-X

How Generation X will save the world

What is Generation X? Maybe our last, best hope for change.

by Sara Robinson

You can’t blame Gen X for having had eee-freaking-nuff of the whole generational identification thing.

Americans born between 1960 and 1980 (give or take a couple years on either end) have spent their lives squeezed in between two over-hyped cohorts who have consistently hogged the spotlight, the jobs, the money, the social concern, and all the other cultural goodies that matter. To the temporal north, there are the Boomers — idealistic, moralizing, hyper-creative visionaries who still can’t entirely let go of their youthful golden years when they were so determined to Save The World. To the south, X looks down on the Millennials, the over-coddled, over-hyped, over-connected Indigo Children whose future is vanishing before their eyes — and who are now being held up at the next generation that just might Save The World. Continue reading

CATEGORY: PoliticsReligion

Hobby Lobby hypocrisy: 401k plan invests in contraception

HobbyLobbyEverydayObamacare litigant secretly profiting from the very immorality it publicly opposes.

The story by Molly Redden in Mother Jones, “Hobby Lobby’s Hypocrisy: The Company’s Retirement Plan Invests in Contraception Manufacturers,” is absolutely worth a few minutes of your time. In short: three-quarters of the Hobby Lobby retirement plan investments are in funds that invest in pharmaceutical companies that produce contraceptive devices that Hobby Lobby’s owners object to having covered by their insurance plans: Continue reading

CATEGORY: World

Japan and the whaling court ruling: not a great victory, but better than expected

Several months ago we posted about in interesting case in front of The International Court of Justice at The Hague—about whaling. Specifically the Australian government had petitioned the court to prevent Japan from whaling in waters designated as a protection area for whales by the Australian government in the Southern Ocean. Japan has been continuing its whaling practices for several decades under the guise of “scientific research” in spite of a formal ban on whaling adopted by the International Whaling Commission in 1986. Well, yesterday the International Court of Justice, in a strong opinion that probably surprised even the most ardent supporters of Australia’s suit, essentially called bullshit on Japan’s policies. Continue reading

CATEGORY: WordsDay

WordsDay: Thomas Jefferson – Benign Anarchist

“I am an Anti-Christ/I am an Anarchist…” – John Lydon 

American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson (image courtesy Wikimedia)

Joseph J. Ellis’s excellent study of the character of perhaps the most beloved and certainly the most enigmatic member of that group that we think of as the Founding Fathers, is called, aptly, American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson. Ellis’s work is not a biography of Jefferson (he readily admits that there are thorough multi-volume treatments of  Jefferson’s life that are, for all intents and purposes, definitive). Ellis tries – and in large part succeeds – in pursing another, certainly elusive, goal: an explication of Jefferson’s character.

Like any human, Jefferson was a person of contradictions and inconsistencies – as Ellis illuminates in this work. What originally attracted Ellis to this project, it seems, was not the desire to point out Jefferson’s flaws but instead a sincere desire to understand how, in spite those inconsistencies and contradictions, Jefferson has long been and remains (with the possible exception of Lincoln) the most popular icon of American political thought.

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Fred-Phelps

Gay marriage: Fred Phelps’ death is the end of an era, but it isn’t the end of the fight

The passing of Fred Phelps actually makes the struggle for gay marriage and LGBT equality a little more difficult.

A few days ago I summed up the impact the late Fred Phelps exerted on American society, concluding that he was, ironically, one of the best things that ever happened to the LGBT community’s quest for social justice. A number of other observers agreed, including Jay Michaelson at The Daily Beast and Peter Scheer at TruthDig, who thanked him for “his years of service to the gay rights movement.”

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LGBT

Fred Phelps is dead: the LGBT community owes him a debt of gratitude

An evil man has departed the Earth, but not before inadvertently making it a better place.

Without Contraries is no progression. – Blake

Fred Phelps, founder of Topeka’s Westboro Baptist Church, is dead.

Over the past several years Phelps distinguished himself as one of the most vile people in America, which is no small feat given the high profiles our society has accorded Hall of Fame hatemongers like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter.

As he has lingered on his deathbed in recent days, we’ve had a chance to ponder this moment and discuss what the proper response might be. My own pot shot – “may his funeral be well attended” – paled compared to some of the (justified, it must be admitted) rage against the man’s legacy. At the same time, we saw altogether more noble comments from people like Facebook’s First Citizen, George Takei, who reminded us that hate is conquered not by more hate, but by love. Continue reading

War

US war movie military policy: Baby Boomers grew up on films where battle was noble and Americans never died

America’s permanent war policy is a reflection of WWII movies, which offered an unrealistic vision of war’s motivations, consequences

My Depression-born parents raised me in a rural idyll during the Eisenhower years. As a child, I snuck into the Garden Theater to watch war movies. They enthralled me: Battle Cry, To Hell and Back, Away All Boats, D-Day the Sixth of June, The Wings of Eagles, Battle of the Coral Sea, and my favorites, the submarine movies: Run Silent Run Deep, The Enemy Below, and Up Periscope. I revered Steve McQueen in The Great Escape and John Wayne in Operation Pacific and The Flying Leathernecks. Later, I learned mediated definitions of traitorous betrayal in Guns of Navarone and Where Eagles Dare. Continue reading

Image (2) SCOTUSexterior.png for post 46109

McCutcheon v. FEC: another Citizens United

When wealthy individuals can donate unlimited sums of money to election campaigns, their votes count more than ours.

Should the rich have a larger say in the outcome of elections? It sounds like a silly question to ask, but with the decision of Citizens United v. FEC, the answer seemed to be a resounding “yes.” With the latest campaign finance case, McCutcheon v. FEC, the rich might have even more power headed their way.

In 2010, the Supreme Court issued a landmark campaign finance ruling with its Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision. Splitting 5-4, the fine judges at SCOTUS decided that the First Amendment prohibits the government from limiting independent expenditures by unions, corporations, associations, politically active non-profits and super PACs – allowing these groups to donate millions of dollars to campaigns and potentially swing elections with money. Continue reading

Politics: Don't Tread on Me

Why, oh why, Ohio? Husted again tries to suppress voter turnout

Ohio Republicans have targeted predominately Democratic voters in every way they can think of. They’d probably outlaw other parties entirely if they thought they could get away with it.

Are you a minority, a low wage worker, a student, or a senior citizen in Ohio? Were you hoping to vote on Election Day? Unfortunately, I have some bad news for you.

From Think Progress:

“Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has followed through on promises to restrict voting opportunities in his state. The change, announced Tuesday, eliminates extended early voting hours on weekdays, the final two days before Election Day as well as Sunday voting…”

This isn’t the first time that Husted has tried to cut early voting – he attempted to cut hours before the 2012 election as well, even openly defying court orders to restore the hours. Continue reading

CATEGORY: Journalism

The daily newspaper editorial: Make it weekly, please

Daily editorials, striving to not piss off anyone, have achieved ‘terminal neutrality’

Who — or what — killed the great American editorial? Wasn’t there a time when great newspaper editorials regularly thundered and whispered, sighed and screamed, were outraged or outraged others?

Paul Greenberg, the editorial-page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and a 1969 Pulitzer Prize winner, poses these questions on the website of the Association of Opinion Journalists.

Greenberg calls the forces that murdered the American newspaper editorial “as impersonal and characterless as many of the editorials themselves.” Among them are the goal of not pissing off anyone; “the stultifying editorial conference,” designed to drain life out of editorial positions; and hewing to “the party line or socio-economic fashion.” These forces produced, says Greenberg, “terminal neutrality.”

Although these forces had the daily newspaper editorial on its deathbed by the mid-1980s, Greenberg doesn’t reveal that I — yes, me! (gasp!) — pulled the plug on its life support. Yep, I pounded a few nails into the coffin of the daily newspaper editorial all by myself. Continue reading

Pussy-Riot

П is for Pussy Riot: thinking ahead to the next Russian Olympic Games

Pussy Riot’s commitment to social justice in the motherland is more than admirable. It perhaps merits a spot in Russia’s artistic canon.

The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia closed today, and if you set aside the homophobia and generally strong-armed approach to governance by the host, one Vladimir Putin, these games were remarkable in just about every way.

The images of the opening ceremonies have lingered with me for the past couple of weeks. If you watched, you know that the creative team built their narrative around the highwater marks in the nation’s glorious history, honoring their accomplishments in the arts, literature, science and technology. Given Russia’s considerable heritage, the little girl’s interaction with Cyrillic alphabet primer, associating a historical moment with each letter, couldn’t help being an impressive reminder to the world of the nation’s rich cultural legacy. Continue reading

CATEGORY: PersonalNarrative

A contrarian’s disheartened view of loyalty

As I age, I increasingly ponder loyalty. Most of us, I suspect, have an understanding of it. Perhaps it’s a feeling that we’d crawl through burning oil and run across broken glass because the person to whom we are loyal needs it. And that person never asks; we merely give unreservedly.

Lately, however, loyalty I have awarded (given? allowed? presented? What is the word that best presents bestowal of loyalty?) has been strained. Is it because I have come to expect something in return? A little quid pro quo? If that attitude has emerged in me, I am saddened. But I fear it has. I am human: I have done for others without marked compensation or gratitude for so long … but now, am I finally seeking a little sugar for my faithful attention?

I used to advertise my loyalty and I don’t believe there is a single person I loved that I didn’t eventually betray.
― Albert Camus, The Fall

Loyalty for me has always been freely given with no expectation of reciprocity. Either in an instant, or over time, I have become loyal to you. You owe me naught. But 70 years old is no longer a distant horizon. Has the erosion of physical ability or the emergence of emotional and intellectual insecurity altered that equation? Do I now need something, somehow, from an individual or institution that has received unqualified, unquestioned loyalty from me?
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Sports_Olympics

Sochi opening ceremony: when Goebbels and Reifenstahl met Cirque du Soleil

Alexander Putin may not be preparing to invade Europe, but he understands the value of spectacle in establishing a nation’s place in the world.

Sports_OlympicsThe Winter Olympics opening ceremonies in Sochi may have been the grandest show in history. It may also have been the grandest propaganda spectacle in history. It’s easy to get caught up in an artistic endeavor of that magnitude – I sat here with my jaw hanging open for a couple of hours – and the fluency with which President Putin’s creative department embedded a boldly geo-political program within some of the most breathtaking artistry we’ve ever seen. Continue reading

CATEGORY: Climate

Climate change in the UK: a complete and utter failure of political will

Britain is in the grip of some of the worst winter weather in years. In fact, maybe 100 years—that’s what meteorologists are calling the winter rains and storms we’ve been experiencing. Here in London it hasn’t been particularly bad—a warmer winter than usual, not a drop of snow in sight, but plenty of wind and rain, and occasionally a tree goes down. Down southwest way, however, it’s another story. Somerset is experiencing horrific flooding—as are Devon and Cornwall. Entire towns are now being evacuated following a series of storms that show no signs of ending.
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Football

Why the Football Gods smiled on Seattle

John Elway and Peyton Manning are Republicans. The Football Gods are Democrats.

As a Patriots fan, I initially had no real reason to root for either Seattle or Denver in yesterday’s Super Bowl. Seattle has never won one, so I was slightly inclined to root for them, but I have friends (and fellow bloggers) who live in Denver and root for the Broncos, so what the heck, why not root for the Broncos? I expected a close and exciting game, and if that’s what it was going to be, I’m fine with that. In fact, since the game doesn’t usually start until nearly midnight here in London, the prospect of staying up to three or four in the morning isn’t all that tempting, unless the Pats are involved, and, of course, they’re not this year. So I was going to watch a bit of the first quarter, and then hit the sack.

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Africa

Tackling poverty means that there will be more KFCs in Africa

Photo credit: CIMMYT.

Smallholder farmer prepares maize plot for planting with CIMMYT improved varieties, Embu, Kenya

Gates Foundation and KFC initiatives are better news than many understand.

Rural villages in Africa are not just poor, their demography is hollowed out. Continue reading