Friday, October 22, 2010


Juan Williams

Right wing extremists—basically, the entire Republican party-- refer to the few moderates that remain as RINOs: Republicans In Name Only.

Juan Williams is the counterpart—a LINO, Liberal In Name Only. He’s the (oh dear, don’t conflate this with race, but it’s the best analogy I can think of) Uncle Tom for the mouth-breathers on Fox. He makes nicey-nice with the O’Reillys, and accommodates their constant partisan ideological rhetoric by pretending to be a liberal who sees their point. What a useful tool for Fox.

NPR listeners are, yes, primarily liberal. It’s certainly not because NPR is a liberal propaganda organ. Far from it, they seem to be overcompensating in an attempt to forestall that accusation from the right, for whom NPR might as well be the anti-Christ.

NPR isn’t just paranoid. In 2005, former Corporation for Public Broadcasting board Chairman and GOP operative Ken Tomlinson resigned from the CPB board after delivery of an investigation by CPB Inspector Kenneth Kontz. Tomlinson was under investigation for hiring outside consultants to monitor perceived liberal bias on PBS programs like NOW with Bill Moyers and other shows. When Tomlinson’s term as Chairman was up, he moved to a regular board position, named Cheryl Halpern, a major GOP donor, as chairman, and tapped Gay Hart Gaines, also a prominent Republican, as vice chair. In addition, amid howls of protest, he earlier named Patricia Harrison, former Republican National Committee co-chair, as CPB’s president. There was no doubt that this team intended to either kill CPB or cleanse it of any shred of “liberal” programming, as defined by their own ideological parameters.

Since that time, even though this attempt at a takeover was foiled, CPB and NPR have, as far as I can see, been running scared—even though, at most, only 15% of their funding comes from the gummint—some reports state that figure is as low as 2-3%.

Pleasing the right?  I don’t know why they bother; nothing they can do will soothe the rage of those who believe they are victimized by the press for being true Americans. Those delusions are not malleable—they are fixed in the brains of the believers. Truth is irrelevant.

I have progressive friends who can’t listen to NPR anymore, for its own accommodation of right-wing blowhards. More often than not, a news segment on an issue--controversial only because it is attacked as such by Republican demagogues--ends with a sound bite from Boehner, McConnell and other shining lights of the new Know-Nothings. Invariably, that sound bite will comprise lies, distortion, disinformation, or profoundly ignorant statements, and usually, all of that. And never does the content of that sound bite get challenged for truth or accuracy. Instead, it closes the segment, is left hanging there as if it’s the last word on the subject. As if it’s a valid commentary. As if it’s rational, logical, informed. As if it’s true.  

Still, NPR can’t totally ignore its audience demographics, those who contribute the single largest share of its funding.
And that audience was increasingly frustrated with Juan Williams, who let his ideological blather reign all over his commentary on NPR. The fact that Williams was also a Fox commentator didn't endear him to that audience, let alone that that disqualifies him ipso facto from any credible role on NPR. It just does, dammit.

But Williams is also a hack, a fact NPR listeners were increasingly aware of. Steve Kornacki in Salon summed it up nicely:

“But I can't remember him ever advancing any kind of groundbreaking argument, or introducing some dramatically new and intelligent perspective on a major topic. What I can remember him doing -- a lot -- is using flawed, shoddy and easily debunked logic to make arguments that were (seemingly) designed to make conservatives say, "Ah, now there’s a reasonable liberal."

And he’s a bigot.

Williams now famously began his remarks thusly: "Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous."

As Andrew Sullivan said about that statement, “No, Juan, what you just described is the working definition of bigotry.”

And Fox added him to their roster of pinhead bigots with a $2 million contract. Any more proof needed?

NPR, what took you so long?

And so, good riddance Juan Williams. Juannie, we wish we hardly knew ye.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Abstinence-Only States Have More Teen Pregnancy

A new CDC study concludes that the five states with the highest teen pregnancy rate are those with abstinence-only policies: Mississippi, Arkansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. That will surely come as no surprise to anyone except the fun-loving legislators in those states, who also think The Flintstones is a documentary.

Especially Texas, where Thomas Jefferson is replaced in school textbooks by John Calvin. Jefferson may be remembered for coining the phrase “separation of church and state.” (Everyone knows that, of course, especially senatorial candidates)  

Calvin, famous for being both the church and the state, is also known for saying that The Bible says “that lust in your heart is committing adultery. So you can't masturbate without lust.” That sounds so familiar, so contemporary, doesn’t it? So in Texas, you can’t play with your own naughty bits, but you sure can play with someone else’s.

Of course, there may be another reason why the teen pregnancy rate is so high in those states.

After a night out mainlining moon pies, what else have they got to do?

The states with the lowest teen baby boom are Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. See--no moon pies, no big bellies.

Maine, unfortunately, is too cold for sex.

For more on this study, go here:


Ozzy Osbourne is writing an advice column for Rolling Stone. Yes, I know. But, as RS asks, “Why not?”

Question: I suffer from Vertigo. What can I do to cure it?
Answer from Ozzy: I thought I had vertigo for 40 years. I sent to the doctor, and he said, “Mr. Osbourne, the problem—as far as I can tell—is simply that you’re very very drunk.” So my prescription for you is to go to bed, drink only water, then get up and walk around in circles for a bit. If you’re still dizzy, let me know.

Can’t argue with that.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


We note today that:

1)Professional Obfuscator S. Palin got a combined SAT score of 841. Who says SAT scores are not a predictor of ability?

2)Professional Putz Christine O'Donnell, in debate:
O'Donnell: "Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?"
Coons responded that the First Amendment bars Congress from making laws respecting the establishment of religion.
O'Donnell:"You're telling me that's in the First Amendment?"
Audience: "Gasp."

Nevermind that. There'll be plenty more where that came from, and for the rest of our lives.

Instead,watch this video I made of Malaguena Salerosa performed by 60's folk duo Bud & Travis, masters of the genre; a hauntingly beautiful rendition of the classic Mexican folk song.

Monday, October 18, 2010


By now you’ve probably heard about this story. A resident of Obion County, Tennessee, Gene Cranick, lost his home and pets to a fire because he forgot to pay the annual $75.00 fee for fire protection.  Gene Cranick lives outside the South Fulton limits, therefore he must pay the South Fulton fire department the fee for protection.  

He didn’t pay the fee, and he didn’t get service. A neighbor, who had paid the fee, called the fire department, fearing his own house would burn. Firefighters showed up, protected the neighbor’s house, but refused to save Cranick’s house. That’s right—they refused to help. Cranick and his family lost all of their possessions in the Sept. 29 fire, along with three dogs and a cat.

What do we make of this?  Does it matter if Cranick actually did forget to pay the fee, or as some speculate, he just didn’t want to? What would the fire department have done if Cranick had told them there were people trapped inside? 

The firefighters “did the right thing,” said Kevin Williamson of the National Review. “The world is full of jerks, freeloaders, and ingrates—and the problems they create for themselves are their own.”

Contrast that with what Eric Zorn said in the Chicago Tribune. “The unluckiest or most hapless among us” will sometimes experience disaster, and “it violates our collective sense of decency to stand by while others suffer.”

The Boston Globe last Sunday reported on a study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research that found that college students today are 40 percent less empathetic than they were in 1979.

The article goes on to say “According to the findings, today’s students are generally less likely to describe themselves as “soft-hearted” or to have “tender, concerned feelings” for others. They are more likely, meanwhile, to admit that “other people’s misfortunes” usually don’t disturb them. In other words, they might be constantly aware of their friends’ whereabouts, but all that connectedness doesn’t seem to be translating to genuine concern for the world and one another.”

Do a thought experiment,” said Mark Davis, a professor of psychology at Eckerd College in Florida who’s spent the last 30 years studying empathy. “Imagine if humans didn’t have the capacity for empathy. What would it mean if, in fact, we never gave a damn about what happened to other people? That’s an almost an inconceivable world.”

Imagine. And think about what Kevin Williamson said.

Which world do you want to live in? 


This blog, and this writer, have been silent too long. After all, as we sink into a stew of social media, mobile madness and the basic irrelevance of truth, somebody's got to stand up and say, "So Near, And Yet...So What." Might as well be me.