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Tue Jul 16, 2013 at 06:54 PM PDT

Lil' Wayne capitulates

by Justin Doolittle

A few weeks ago, TMZ released footage of Lil' Wayne stomping on the American flag while shooting the video for "God Bless Amerika," a song from his latest album. The fact that this was done in the context of a music video did not deter the fascists and extreme nationalists who spend their lives worshiping the flag and savaging anyone who "disrespects" it in any way. Wayne responded by issuing a statement that was effectively an apology but also included some rather profound points about how the abstract entity "America" means different things to different people. (Yes, racists, black rappers can, it turns out, speak intelligently. Is your mind blown?)

Unfortunately, Wayne's thoughtful and apologetic statement apparently did not suffice, because the video has finally been released, with the entire flag-stomping segment stripped out. One cannot place the blame solely on Wayne for this. Surely, editorial decisions regarding a Lil' Wayne video are made by a number of different people and involve many factors. Wayne has had some bad publicity lately with the Emmett Till stuff and his whole team might have just agreed that this was a headache they didn't need. Still, though, it's hard to believe that if Wayne had really gone to war over this, he wouldn't have gotten his way. 

It's a sad state of affairs when even a guy who has spent his entire career not caring what anyone thinks about him can't stand up to this deranged culture of flag-worship. Here's the new, presumably O'Reilly-approved version of the video, if anyone's interested. Cool song, actually, but that's beside the point.


{Originally posted at Crimethink}
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Another unintentionally hilarious David Brooks column today. It's more or less the same moralizing bullshit that Brooks has been peddling for years. Basically, he's upset with American men, and he's particularly disappointed in their behavior since the Great Recession hit. 

The column is about the contemporary economic struggles of American males, so, naturally, the first eight paragraphs are spent discussing the 1956 movie, "The Searchers." Brooks has a crush on the "hard, confrontational, raw and tough to control" character played by John Wayne in that film. Then he makes a seamless segue from that to male labor force participation:
That image of the man outside the doorway is germane today, in a different and even more tragic manner. Over the past few decades, millions of men have been caught on the wrong side of a historic transition, unable to cross the threshold into the new economy. 

Their plight is captured in the labor statistics. Male labor force participation has been in steady decline for generations. In addition, as Floyd Norris noted in The Times on Saturday, all the private sector jobs lost by women during the Great Recession have been recaptured, but men still have a long way to go. 

In 1954, 96 percent of American men between 25 and 54 years old worked. Today, 80 percent do. One-fifth of men in their prime working ages are out of the labor force.

Amazingly, Brooks still thinks, in the face of all evidence, that male workers are to blame for their lack of steady employment. At this point, nothing will dissuade him of this belief. Brooks writes that "the definitive explanation for this catastrophe has yet to be written," despite the fact that his own colleague on the Times op-ed page has just spent five years patiently trying to explain to him why, exactly, the economy is depressed and so many people are out of work.

Unpersuaded by small factors that might have contributed to the lack of jobs, like the collapse of an $8 trillion housing bubble and the subsequent $600 billion loss in annual demand, Brooks gets his Charles Murray on and insists, again, that it has to do with "dignity," or something:
But, surely, there has been some ineffable shift in the definition of dignity. Many men were raised with a certain image of male dignity, which emphasized autonomy, reticence, ruggedness, invulnerability and the competitive virtues. Now, thanks to a communications economy, they find themselves in a world that values expressiveness, interpersonal ease, vulnerability and the cooperative virtues. 

Surely, part of the situation is that many men simply do not want to put themselves in positions they find humiliating. A high school student doesn’t want to persist in a school where he feels looked down on. A guy in his 50s doesn’t want to find work in a place where he’ll be told what to do by savvy young things.

He's just sure of it, evidence be damned.

Got that, American men? If only you were more "rugged," you see, the job opportunities would be coming at you from all directions. Get "rugged" on that skills section of your résumé. Also, stop turning down all those jobs that require you to submit to the orders of "savvy young things." Yeah, there might be three of you competing for every one job opening, but that's no excuse. Real Men would overcome those odds. David Brooks expects nothing less of you.

{Originally posted at Crimethink}
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In the least surprising development of 2013, it appears that the Evildoers in Syria now have some of our guns, and, according to the smart money, they're probably going to use them:

"U.S. Arms Showing Up In Hands of Pro-Assad Militias" (USA Today, July 10, 2013):

U.S. and Western weapons have been reaching Iranian-backed Shiite militias fighting to keep Bashar Assad's forces in power in Syria.
Why is this the least surprising development of 2013? I'm glad you asked:

"U.S.-Approved Arms for Libya Rebels Fell Into Jihadis’ Hands" (New York Times, December 5, 2012):
The Obama administration secretly gave its blessing to arms shipments to Libyan rebels from Qatar last year, but American officials later grew alarmed as evidence grew that Qatar was turning some of the weapons over to Islamic militants, according to United States officials and foreign diplomats.
"Flood of US Weapons in Afghanistan and Pakistan Fueling Militant Groups, Experts Say" (Global Post, June 22, 2011):
Some of the U.S. weapons bound for U.S. and Afghan troops in Afghanistan are being stolen, landing instead in the hands of those they are meant to be used against, and fueling militant groups in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, Pakistani officials say.
"Arms Sent by U.S. May Be Falling Into Taliban Hands" (New York Times, May 19, 2009):
Insurgents in Afghanistan, fighting from some of the poorest and most remote regions on earth, have managed for years to maintain an intensive guerrilla war against materially superior American and Afghan forces. 

Arms and ordnance collected from dead insurgents hint at one possible reason: Of 30 rifle magazines recently taken from insurgents’ corpses, at least 17 contained cartridges, or rounds, identical to ammunition the United States had provided to Afghan government forces, according to an examination of ammunition markings by The New York Times and interviews with American officers and arms dealers.

"Afghan Arms Are at Risk, Report Says" (New York Times, February 11, 2009):
The American military has not properly tracked tens of thousands of weapons the Pentagon bought and shipped to Afghan security forces, leaving the arms at risk of being stolen or sold to militants, according to a federal report that is to be presented at a House panel hearing on Thursday.
"U.S. Is Said to Fail in Tracking Arms Shipped to Iraqis" (New York Times, October 30, 2006):
The American military has not properly tracked hundreds of thousands of weapons intended for Iraqi security forces and has failed to provide spare parts, maintenance personnel or even repair manuals for most of the weapons given to the Iraqis, a federal report released Sunday has concluded.
At this point, not having an American-made weapon in the Middle East is like not having a smartphone here. It's probably a source of social embarrassment.

This list, of course, is by no means exhaustive. The USA Today report informs us that these militias in Syria might have come across these arms on the black market in the wake of a "major U.S. sale to Iraq" that took place back in 2009. That "sale" included 80,000 M-16s, 25,000 M-4s and 2,550 M-203 grenade launchers. Word on the street is the grenade launchers were Buy 1 Get 1 Free.

Fear not, though. Neil Hedlund, a spokesman for the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency, assures us that, contrary to what you might have heard, U.S. arms "are transferred to foreign militaries only under strict controls that prohibit transfers to third parties." Well, okay, then.

It's hard to believe that this is just pure recklessness and incompetence. Say what you want about the people running the U.S. war machine, but they're not stupid, and they're not naive. A simpler explanation is that said people just don't give a damn. Weapons manufacturers and defense contractors get rich, everyone gets armed to the teeth, a lot of people in the Middle East die, the endless cycle of violence and terrorism continues, and the goal of perpetual war is achieved.

{Originally posted at Crimethink}
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NBC News political director Chuck Todd, who is pretty much cool with torture but expressed righteous anger over the substantively laughable IRS non-scandal, appeared as a guest on Andrea Mitchell's ridiculous MSNBC show on Monday afternoon. The two consummate Villagers provided us with their unique and valuable insight on the political comebacks of former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer and former U.S. congressman Anthony Weiner. Weiner is running for Mayor of New York City and Spitzer has just announced his intention to run for New York City Comptroller.



Mitchell starts by asking, contemptuously, "What's going on in New York City?" 

Well, Mrs. Greenspan, what's "going on in New York City" is this: two citizens, both with considerable public support, have decided to run for political office. What will happen now is there will be what are called "campaigns" and then "elections" and Weiner and Spitzer will either win or they will lose. Yes, I know, MANHATTAN HAS GONE MAD!

Here goes Todd, as eloquent as ever :
God bless Conan O'Brien and Jay Leno and our friend who's filling in for Jon Stewart, Jon Oliver, that's all easy to mock and all this stuff but it really is... when we look at this problem of trusting government... if I were an elected official who didn't take a picture of his private parts, who didn't use prostitutes, I would be sort of upset that these guys are demeaning the whole thing. Let's not leave out Sanford and Vitter. When you have lost the public trust for the way that you have acted, the idea that the only way back for you and your own therapy is to use the voters, you just sort of wish that some of these guys would, ya know, go do your own charity, go do it another way. Don't use the political office because it really just erodes all of the trust in politicians and government. It just adds to what's already a bad soup.
Mitchell responded that that's "demeaning soup." She's so clever.

Please read what Todd said very carefully because it is incredibly revealing. Just take a moment to consider the context here, and the demonstrated moral compasses of these two mindless creatures of the Beltway media establishment. Chuck Todd, once again, went on national television and dismissed calls to investigate Bush's torturers as "cable catnip" that would just get in the way of other, more important political matters. Andrea Mitchell is married to someone who Matt Taibbi rightly calls "The Biggest Asshole in the Universe" - the guy who turned the Federal Reserve into "a permanent bailout mechanism for the super-rich." Just last week, Mitchell "interviewed" former secretary of state Madeleine Albright - a psychopath who explicitly supported the killing of 500,000 Iraqi children - with a tone so reverential it would embarrass the fucking Queen of England. So, torture, destroying the economy, and genocide are not enough to make Chuck or Andrea even raise an eyebrow. But sexting and hiring an escort are so profoundly offensive to their sensibilities that the perpetrators of these atrocities should voluntarily banish themselves from politics forever.

Please note, also, the absolute idiocy and disdain for democracy that are at work here. Tell me if you have ever come across a more intellectually incoherent sentence than this:
When you have lost the public trust for the way that you have acted, the idea that the only way back for you and your own therapy is to use the voters, you just sort of wish that some of these guys would ya know, go do your own charity, go do it another way.
Yeah, if you've totally lost the public, if the public just HATES you, then how dare you think you can re-enter politics just because you happen to get support from . . . the public! Seriously, can anyone make sense of this? If "the public" doesn't trust these people, then presumably they won't vote for them, which means Spitzer and Weiner won't be back in office, which means that everything Todd is upset about is moot. And what the hell does "using the voters" mean? 

Rarely is sheer hatred for democracy expressed in such clear terms. What if, say, voters of New York City - you know, the actual human beings who live there and pay taxes there - want Weiner to be mayor and Spitzer to be comptroller and elect them? Will Charles Todd, a rich celebrity who doesn't even live in the goddamn city, be disappointed in the peasants for electing such moral deviants? Could he possibly walk the streets of New York and tell this to voters' faces?

The main point here, though, is the expression of the moral priorities and political values of two leading members of the Village press. Sex scandals are evidently viewed by these "journalists" as more monstrous offenses than war crimes. Starving a few hundred thousand children can't compare to the horror unleashed upon the world by that one NSFW pic Weiner sent!

Liz Cheney is considering running for a U.S. Senate seat in Wyoming. I wonder if Todd and Mitchell will be getting together to declare her morally unfit to run for political office, too? Yeah, she's supported torture and war crimes, but it just might take a Liz Cheney sex scandal. 

And I'll leave you with that thought . . .  

{Originally posted at Crimethink}
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The New York Times ran a rather terrifying story on Wednesday about the increasing regularity with which young people who make allegedly threatening statements on Facebook or Twitter are being charged with felonies. Appropriately titled "140 Characters Spell Charges and Jail," the article specifically focuses on those luckless souls who have had their lives destroyed after being caught posting about assassinating President Obama.

Apparently, there is a group of agents at the Secret Service collectively known as the Internet Threat Desk - if that doesn't scream Orwell then nothing does - and these fine public servants descend on anyone who is determined to harbor serious "intent" to bring harm to the President. Then prosecutors take the ball and run wild. Young people across the country have been charged with felonies for posting tweets or Facebook statuses, no matter how jestful, that mention violence or assassination. 

To be sure, the Secret Service should investigate every threat, even when it comes from a manifestly harmless teenager and even when credulity must be strained to believe that it's anything more than an ill-advised attempt at humor, as is the case with many of those which have resulted in arrests. 

"Investigate," though, is the key word. An "investigation" typically involves applying logic, considering context, making intillegent judgments, and so on. But the full-throated legal assault being waged against those who make threats on the Internet has surpassed all limits of reason and rationality. Young lives are being ruined over careless Internet comments that harm nobody. The Times piece tells the story of Jarvis Britton, a 26-year-old African-American from Birmingham. Britton twice made threats against Obama on Twitter and, as punishment for this crime, will now be locked in a cage for one year. The fact that he has taken medication for schizophrenia apparently did not factor into his sentence. Britton was already unemployed; what will his future look like now, when any potential employer can quickly find out he served time in prison for threatening to kill the President? Not to mention the fact that he has to waste a year of his life in a cell, joining nearly one million other African-Americans who are currently locked up, expelled from society, effectively dismissed as Unpeople. 

The misfits and undesirables who threaten the President, joking or not, are hardly the only Americans being punished for the crime of typing in the English language. The full force of the law is also being brought down upon Americans who make what are called "Terroristic Threats" on the Internet. Two recent high-profile cases, one in Massachusetts and the other in Texas, illuminate the absolute absurdity of this concept. Cameron D'Ambrosio, a high-school student with a perfectly clean record who likes to rap, was arrested in May over lyrics he posted on Facebook, which were ludicrously interpreted as a Terroristic Threat. The case generated a substantial amount of attention and public outrage and the charges were eventually dropped - after the teenager spent about a month in a jail cell - but, again, what will now become of D'Ambrosio? He was and remains the only "victim" in the entire saga; his name will now forever linked with these "threatening" lyrics and this arrest, regardless of what his official criminal record might say. 

In Texas, another teenager, Justin Carter, is "currently on suicide watch" in a jail outside San Antonio, where he has had the good fortune of residing since February. Carter, in an argument with some friends online, said he was going to "shoot up a school full of kids and eat their still-beating hearts," along with another similarly worded threat, both of which were followed with "LOL" and "J/K." This did not deter the authorities. Nor did the fact that they found no weapons of any kind or anything to suggest Carter was actually plotting an attack. Never mind, though, he's obviously a Terrorist. Carter was locked up and bail was set at a reasonable $500,000; his parents, who originally thought the entire thing was a joke, cannot afford the $50,000 needed to get their son released. Carter's lawyer says he has represented murderers for whom bail was set at less than one-third of this amount. The teen faces up to eight years in prison and his life will certainly never be the same. Can anyone defend this as proportional punishment?

In Highland, Pennsylvania, two young men were recently arrested and charged with making Terroristic Threats over posts that referenced "shooting up" a local school. They claimed it was a joke to test the limits of free speech on Facebook. Neither student was in possession of any guns or any other kinds of weapons. Who cares? These measures, which might seem harsh on the surface, are obviously necessary to Keep Us Safe. 

In Brownsville, Texas, a sixteen-year-old girl, currently in the ninth grade and capable, no doubt, of boundless evil, was arrested in April on the grounds that one of her Facebook posts communicated an attempt to "copy" a recent attempted "bombing" of her school. This despite the local authorities admitting that the original "bomb" was actually "not a bomb" at all, but rather "nothing more than a cap-type item with a mild accelerant" that "wasn't intended to commit bodily harm." So, this child was arrested, her reputation stained forever, for musing on Facebook about copy-catting what was a non-attack, carried out with a non-bomb. 

The Brownsville case is particularly revealing because of one quote attributed to the police chief of the local school district, Oscar Garcia. Here is Garcia's rationale for arresting this child for her "threat":

It's unacceptable with events like Boston and all this crazy stuff going on. Joking or not, we're going to take it serious.
This is the kind of honesty that we would never hear from a skilled political operator. Garcia is expressly stating that, in light of "events like Boston" and other, unspecified "crazy stuff," authorities must step up the ferocity with which they address cases relating to "threatening" speech. In other words, in this scary, post-Boston world, we are left no choice but to arrest teenage girls for their mindless Facebook posts, because Terrorism. In D'Ambrosio's case, it was quite apparent that, coming just days after the Marathon bombing, and with D'Ambrosio even referencing that attack in his so-called "threat," absolutely no chances would be taken. After all, one can never be sure that the next 9/11 isn't being masterminded on the pages of this kid's notebook, as he sits in his middle-class home, primed to strike after skillfully deceiving us all with good behavior for his entire life.

This is absolute lunacy. Authorities in these cases seemingly make no distinctions based on age, record of behavior, possession (or lack thereof) of weapons, mental health, or anything else. In March, in New Castle, Pennsylvania, a 13-year-old boy was charged with eleven counts of Terroristic Threats after being found composing a "kill list" consisting of some classmates and teachers. (No one told the poor lad that there is only one American citizen who is permitted a kill list.) What will possibly become of this child? Is it morally responsible to wreck his life before he even reaches high school because of one single instance of victimless stupidity?

A Google search reveals dozens of similar cases across the country. This crackdown on Internet speech, largely targeting the young, is radically misguided. It takes a sledgehammer to the First Amendment and arbitrarily determines which speech is "threatening" and which is not (Eminem's many lyrics conveying his plans to commit murder are considered harmless entertainment - which they are - but Cameron D'Ambrosio's represented serious "intent"). It puts young people and their families through a legal nightmare straight out of Kafka, resulting in financial ruin and incalculable social and reputational damage. It takes more youths who have committed victimless "crimes" and tosses them and their futures into the merciless American Prison State.

Children being arrested and called Terrorists, bail amounts set at hundreds of thousands of dollars, multiple felonies, long prison sentences: we have lost our minds. This is a flagrantly excessive and destructive assault on free speech that is racking up an impressive count of victims. Our elected leaders have gone berserk over the virtually nonexistent threat of Terrorism and they are quite obviously willing to sacrifice our most cherished values - from privacy, to due process, to free speech - at the altar of Keeping Us Safe. The national obsession with Terrorism and Safety, which encompasses all levels of government and a substantial part of the public, is now driving us to previously unseen levels of irrationality and authoritarianism.

{Also posted at Crimethink and CounterPunch}
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NBC News published a bizarre and apparently-not-satirical piece on its website today about Paul Bremer, imperial ruler of Iraq for a year after the U.S. invasion. Bremer, who the authors gush is a "youthful 72," has taken up painting, and obviously this is newsworthy. Though he is "modest" about his skills, Bremer's work has fetched up to $800, a figure that surely has nothing to do with his name and is solely based on the quality of the art.

We learn that Bremer has found great peace and just loves painting landscapes. He is particularly fond of the "bright, colorful palettes" of the French and American impressionists. The piece then ever-so-gently mentions that Bremer "has been criticized for some decisions in Iraq - chiefly disbanding the Iraqi army," before quickly pivoting to Bremer's explanation for that decision, which, among other things, instantly put 400,000 Iraqis out of work. Then we meet Paul Tucker, a professor of art who, naturally, "admires" Bremer, "especially" for the "work he did in Iraq."

What the fuck could possibly motivate a news organization to publish an adoring, 1,000-word piece on the artwork of Paul Bremer? Perhaps they just wanted to do a nice light feature for this holiday weekend. Bremer's ruminations about French impressionism are just so much more pleasant than, say, this:

Baghdad: Attacks killed five people in town squares in Iraq on Friday, including four who died when a suicide bomber set off his vehicle rigged with explosives just before midday prayers. 

The latest violence, which left dozens wounded, comes as Iraq struggles with a surge in violence coinciding with a long-running government deadlock and months of protests among the Sunni Arab minority.

........

Iraq has seen a surge in violence since the start of the year, with the UN reporting more than 2,500 people killed from April through June, the highest such level since 2008.

One can hardly expect to find "stress relief" thinking about stuff like that.

{Originally posted at www.justindoolittle.net}
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There is an amazing report in the New York Times today about the Republicans' latest brilliant political strategy. It's the kind of article that should be saved and framed to show people in fifty years and shock their senses. The title of the report is "G.O.P. Sees Opportunity for Election Gains in Obama’s Climate Change Policy." It's an inspiring tale of how the party of Teddy Roosevelt is explicitly planning to punish the Democrats, politically, for their puzzling insistence on taking the threat of environmental catastrophe seriously.

In the wake of Obama's climate speech last week, Republicans believe they now have a "powerful issue" to use against Democrats in "energy-rich states from Texas to Minnesota." They're not even making a pretense of caring about things like policy, human beings, the world, etc. Right-wing Democrats are also joining in on the movement to accelerate the most dire threat the species has ever faced, attacking Obama as "anti-coal" for his centrist-though-maniacal regulatory proposals.

Former Democratic congressman Ben Chandler is a luckless soul who made the poor strategic decision to oppose destroying the environment in a district that, while it contains no actual coal mines, nonetheless has a "strong cultural affinity for coal," whatever the hell that means. Voters evidently treasure this long-distance relationship with coal, and, convinced that Obama was "waging a war on them," they booted Chandler out of office after eight years. This is presented as a cautionary tale for any Democrats who harbor any illusions about serving as foot soldiers in Obama's War on Coal and surviving politically.

Republicans smell blood and they plan to tie anyone with a D in front of their name to this dastardly environmentalist ideology (similar to what they did in 2010 over the equally nefarious Democratic plot to provide people with health-care).

Obviously, the fact that Republicans (and right-wing Democrats) are openly sacrificing the fate of the species in the name of possibly picking up a few congressional seats is not surprising. Still, though, we should not cease pointing out the absolute lunacy that is at work here. Consider the context. Jeff Goodell recently informed us in the pages of Rolling Stone that the City of Miami will, in the not-too-distant future, cease to exist. By the end of the century, if not sooner, SpongeBob will be the sole resident of this great American city. We are seeing record heat, droughts, and wildfires across the American West (as predicted by scientists a decade ago). Over 800,000 residents of New York City will be living in "flood zones" by 2050, more than double the current amount. Atmospheric CO2 levels are set to reach levels never before seen in human history.

The Republican response to this unprecedented threat is to slaughter the Democrats politically for caring about it at all (and, while they're at it, slash public investments in renewable energy). It's unconscionable, and the fact that it doesn't even shock us anymore is itself terrifying.

{Originally posted at www.justindoolittle.net}
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Here's the charming and elegant former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, in a 1996 appearance on 60 Minutes, responding to a question from Lesley Stahl on the murderous regime of economic sanctions the U.S. imposed on Iraq:

Lesley Stahl: We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it? 

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price--we think the price is worth it.

"You know, is the price worth it?" Those of us who are Unserious about foreign policy have focused on Albright's sociopathic answer to this question for years. It's worth noting that the question itself, though, is fucking insane. Stahl, a journalist, just casually asks one of the most powerful political leaders in the country if murdering 500,000 children for no reason whatsoever is "worth it." She might as well have been asking about a parking ticket.

Albright has never, to my knowledge, been called out for her genocidal lunacy by anyone in the courtier press. She is one of the more respected and beloved members of the Foreign Policy Community (FPC), and supporting genocide is hardly grounds for having one's membership in the FPC revoked (that would require a sex scandal or something).


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On Friday, Albright sat down for a warm chat with Andrea Mitchell, aka Mrs. Greenspan. Mitchell hilariously fancies herself as some kind of intrepid truth-teller; she brags in her MSNBC promo that she personally confronted Sudanese president al-Bashir over his genocidal assault on the people of Darfur. It probably doesn't even dawn on her that the primary role of an American political journalist is to challenge and confront American power. Confronting the leader of an Official Enemy takes approximately zero courage or integrity.

The idea of confronting Albright over her shocking support for murdering a half a million innocent children has probably never even arisen in her head. Mitchell, you see, is only horrified by genocide when Other Leaders engage in it. Bringing up dead children to Albright would just be terribly impolite and it would make the next Georgetown cocktail party so very awkward.

The glamorous, sometimes-opponent of genocide and her esteemed guest, then, decided to Look Forward, Not Backward, and had a very pleasant discussion on current developments in the Middle East. Mitchell dutifully referred to Albright by the honorific "Madam Secretary" and started the interview by praising her as "someone who knows shuttle diplomacy well" and thanking her "so much" for her presence. Mitchell repeatedly referred to the U.S. government as "we" and "our" - what do "we" do if Syria spins out of control, what do "we" do if Morsi cracks down in Egypt, Jordan is "our" strongest Arab ally. As Matt Taibbi recently wrote, "as a journalist, when you start speaking about political power in the first-person plural - it's pretty much glue-factory time."

After letting this deranged killer spew a bunch of meaningless platitudes like "what is important about democracy is listening to the people," Mitchell implied that Albright was the great humanitarian of the Clinton administration, always trying to convince the Colin Powells of the world to save someone, somewhere. Albright accepted Mitchell's praise/question and dusted off the old bullshit talking points:
"I mean, do think that there is a responsibility in the international community to protect those who are in fact being murdered or ethnically cleansed for no reason."
U.S. sanctions apparently qualify as a valid "reason" for mass murder. Mitchell closed the fearless, adversarial interview by commending Albright for her "hard work on reconciliation," providing her with an opportunity to praise Nelson Mandela, and complimenting "Madam Secretary" on her Lady Liberty pin.

This stuff matters. Yes, the notion of Mitchell confronting Albright over war crimes is completely ludicrous, but we shouldn't let ourselves forget that in a functioning democracy with an adversaral press, of course the journalist would confront the war criminal. It would be the first question! The fact that establishment journalists giving hot stone massages to the powerful is the norm in this country does not mean that right-thinking people should cease pointing it out. Especially in the current moment, with Glenn Greenwald having exposed so much of establishment journalism for what it is and opening way more eyes to the twisted, incestuous relationship between political power and its servants in the press. 

{Originally posted at www.justindoolittle.net}
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New York City Mayor Bloomberg, who is kind of a liberal except when it inconveniences him or disrupts his power in any way, appears on the verge of a nervous breakdown after the City Council bravely passed, with veto-proof majorities, two pieces of legislation in the middle of the night "aimed at increasing oversight of the Police Department and expanding New Yorkers’ ability to sue over racial profiling by officers."

Bloomberg has been in a state of hysteria for the past few days over this. He proudly stood next to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, a world renowned fearmongerer, as the latter actually said, "Take heart, al-Qaeda wannabes" in response to these mild legislative proposals that would name an inspector general to provide oversight to the NYPD and allow victims of several forms of police profiling - most notably in the context of the infamous and demonstrably racist "stop-and-frisk" policy - to file lawsuits.

Many are the "al-Qaeda wannabes" (I like to call them AQW's) who have just been waiting for these monumental breakthroughs: a mayor-appointed police watchdog and increased protection for victims of discrimination. Now they can unleash hell.

Speaking before the votes, Bloomberg saw Kelly's baseless and desperate speculation and raised him:
“What are you going to say at the next eulogy you have to give after these bills are passed when the family is 100% convinced that had you not passed this bill, their child would still be alive?” Bloomberg asked Council members as they prepared to vote. “This is not a game. This is a life-threatening thing.”
YEAH, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO SAY AT THE  NEXT EULOGY?

After the votes, Bloomberg reiterated that this was a matter of "life and death" and slammed this "harmful" and "dangerous" legislation that will hinder the NYPD's ability to "protect New Yorkers." In Bloombergian logic, you see, "protect New Yorkers" means "operate with zero oversight, and profile at will."

This is Bloomberg at his absolute worst: contemptuous of democracy, hysterically paranoid about the potential for even the slightest checks on his power, entirely disconnected from the day-to-day lives of the people of New York. It's actually good that he can't help but reveal his fascist side every now and then, because it reminds liberals that, despite his support for gun control and gay rights (which requires no political courage whatever), he's still a declared enemy of the people and he always will be.

* * * * *

Thursday was a glorious day in New York for another reason. The City Council again defied the Centrist Tyrant by overriding his unconscionable veto of legislation that would require city businesses with over 20 employees to offer paid sick leave for workers. Bloomberg is very rich, and his friends and family are all rich, so naturally he doesn't give a shit about paid sick leave, and he's fought this legislation tooth-and-nail for years. It's really fun to watch him lose.

{Originally posted at www.justindoolittle.net}

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I enjoy reading Ezra Klein's Wonkblog. It's lucid and informative and it provides useful insight into major domestic policy developments. Ezra seems like an extraordinarily intelligent and unfailingly nice guy, with a serious dedication to his work, and he deserves all the success he's seen over the past few years.

However, it is increasingly clear that this niche that Ezra has carefully created and owned - that of the Most Reasonable Liberal in the Room - is one that ultimately undermines progressive politics and aids and abets the extreme right.

On Tuesday, Ezra posted a column about Senator Jeff Sessions' position on immigration reform, titled "It's almost as if Jeff Sessions' opposition to immigration reform isn't about the poor at all." This particular piece is noteworthy because it's classic Klein: meticulously examining the posturing of a proven liar and thug like Jeff Sessions and cautiously - to the point of parody - concluding that perhaps Sessions is not being entirely truthful when he claims to oppose immigration reform on the grounds that it will hurt the poor.

The only appropriate response to hearing that a Republican senator opposes policy X because it will hurt the poor is laughter, followed, perhaps, by, "You gotta be fucking kidding me." Waging a brutal class war against the poor, of course, has been the official policy of the party for decades. Nevertheless, not a day goes by without some Republican claiming that he supports or opposes this or that policy because he cannot, in good conscience, inflict such substantial economic harm on the poor. It's entirely predictable and entirely meaningless. This is the party that - with the help of Bill Clinton - gutted the New Deal welfare regime on the grounds that it would help the poor if we provided them with less money and food.

Ezra, though, is apparently profesionally obligated to take every single Republican claim at face value. He researches Sessions' past votes on legislation that would help the poor, and finds that, shockingly enough, Sessions has actually voted against the interests of the poor on virtually every issue! What a conundrum. In response, Sessions' office sent Ezra some hilariously narrow and inconsequential examples of legislation on which the good senator has sided with the poor, which Ezra boldly denounced as not "entirely satisfying." He notes how odd it is that Sessions is allegedly basing his opposition to immigration reform on "progressive populism" when the evidence seems to indicate that this ultra-right-wing Republican senator does not, in fact, have a "progressive populist" record, before bravely concluding that "it's almost as if [Sessions'] opposition to the bill isn't really about poor Americans at all."

Nearly 800 words explaining why a Republican senator is lying when he says that he's simply out to defend the poor. This is why they pay Ezra the big bucks.

Let's have a look at another piece by Ezra, this one posted on Friday, titled "How Republicans learned to stop worrying and love big government." Of course, anyone who even cursorily follows American politics knows that alleged Republican support for "small government" is fraudulent and redundantly discredited by the party's actions over the past thirty years. Ezra, though, one of the smartest and most astute observers of American politics, is ostensibly just now experiencing the revelation that Republicans love big government when it suits their ideological needs. Consider this amazing graf:
Here’s what I don’t understand: How can Republicans who think themselves skeptical of the federal government also believe it capable of predicting the path of the economy 30 years into the future while locking down the border and picking through all electronic communications?
"I don't understand." So innocent, so naïve. Gee whiz, this sure doesn't seem to add up, these Republicans who claim to be skeptical of government but also support massive government activism when it comports with right-wing policy goals. WHAT GIVES?

Citing all kinds of empirical evidence, Ezra earnestly attempts to get to the bottom of this inexplicable cognitive dissonance on the part of Republicans, before concluding with a question:
The question is how Republicans who think the government farsighted enough to peer 30 years into our economic future, competent enough to lock down 2,000 miles of sand and brush and trustworthy enough to oversee a massive domestic surveillance program can keep alive the fiction that they are truly skeptical of the government. Or are they just skeptical of government when it’s doing things they don’t like?
Once again, this brilliant analyst of American politics pretends to be struggling to recognize something that is known to virtually every tolerably astute undergraduate student of political science, namely, that the Republican "skepticism of government" is transparent bullshit.

By pretending the Republicans have serious policy arguments, by taking everything they say at face value, by writing as though deep research is required to know that Jeff Sessions is not a staunch ally of the poor, Ezra not only lends undeserved credibility to a radical and dangerous political party, but also insults his readers' intelligence.

The reason this is so maddening is because it strains credulity to accept that someone as smart as Ezra is truly clueless and naïve about the nature of the Republican party and movement conservatism. Following this blueprint, though, has brought him enormous success, influence, and access, and he obviously has little incentive to change anything about how he writes.

In a classic 1969 debate with William F. Buckley on Firing Line, Buckley's show, Noam Chomsky confessed to Buckley that he felt that by even consenting to debate the Vietnam question, he was "degrading himself" and "losing his humanity." Chomsky said Vietnam had long ceased to be a legitimate "intellectual argument" and continued participation in debate over it had begun to cause him a feeling of "moral and emotional falseness." He compared it to "debating" Auschwitz. The point is that, sometimes, a line must be drawn. We don't need charts and statistics to tell us that the attack on Vietnam constituted a war crime that was colossal in scale, or that Auschwitz represented a kind of genocidal lunacy that has not been seen before or since. And we don't need charts, graphs, and voting records to know that the Republicans are not allies of the poor and don't care about fatuous slogans like "small" or "big" government.

When Ezra claims to be "excited" to talk to a raving lunatic like Tom Coburn (someone who supports executing "abortionists"), or devotes countless columns and interviews and graphs to pointing out that the annual budgets of sociopathic Randroid Paul Ryan will tend to help the rich and hurt the poor, he advances the idea that the Republicans are a respected political party with honest policy disagreements with the Democrats. This is inexcusable.

I am aware that Ezra writes about policy for a respected national newspaper and I am not suggesting that every post of his should read "The Republicans are lying. The end." However, there is one other person who also writes about policy for a respected national newspaper, but addresses the intellectual bankruptcy of his political opponents with a radically different style: Paul Krugman. One recent episode perfectly illustrates the difference in the respective approaches of Klein and Krugman and why, in my view, it's the relentless truth-telling of Krugman that represents the best path for the progressive intelligentsia in the face of a deranged conservative movement.

Avik Roy, considered a conservative intellectual and health policy wonk, recently attacked Obamacare on grounds that were "completely fraudulent," according to Krugman. Klein responded to Roy's mendacity by writing a long, characteristically sober column, explaining why Roy was mistaken in his analysis. Krugman, on the other hand, wrote a short, blistering post, arguing that Roy "has to know that he's making an essentially fraudulent argument" but "does it anyway," before closing with this:
I know that a lot of people wish we lived in a country where debates about things like health care policy were serious, honest discussions of debatable points. I like to hope that by the time I retire I’ll actually live in a country like that. But right now, and surely for years to come, it’s basically facts versus fraud.
Facts versus fraud, indeed.

It's instructive to compare the recent career trajectories of Klein and Krugman. Klein has become a rockstar. He is tremendously influential and seems to be very well-connected to the Obama administration, perhaps more so than any other journalist. Krugman, though, as Glenn Greenwald documents, has become something of a pariah among Villagers, derided for his "polemicism" and unnecessary "demonization" of those with whom he disagrees. When Krugman goes on the warpath against a Beltway favorite like Paul Ryan, ultimately dismissing him as a liar and a fraud, the Nobel Prize-winning economist incurs the wrath of media elites and his influence wanes. When Klein conducts respectful interviews with Ryan and posts dozens of columns and charts explaining why his budget is, perhaps, not ideal policy, Villagers approve of this "civil" approach, which is far preferable to that of the perpetually "shrill" Krugman.

By presenting evidence that the Republicans are frauds and liars, and then calling them frauds and liars, Krugman is providing an invaluable public service. When Klein insists on playing dumb about the true nature of the GOP, and refuses to ever budge from his maddeningly respectful posture, he's providing this party, which wants to shred the safety net and roll back virtually every bit of social progress made in recent decades, a wholly undeserved seat at the table of mainstream respectability.

In 2008, before he had fully mastered his current brand, Ezra tweeted, "Fuck Tim Russert. Fuck him with a spicy acid-tipped dick." Can we bring back that Ezra Klein, at least once in a while, perhaps when Paul Ryan releases his next budget?

{Originally posted at www.justindoolittle.net}
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Rapper Lil' Wayne has come under fire after TMZ, on Monday, posted footage of him stomping on the American flag while shooting a music video. The always-subtle gossip site titled the video "LIL' WAYNE TRAMPLES AMERICAN FLAG" in giant, bold letters. The internet, of course, lit up, with people aghast at this shocking spectacle of Wayne desecrating America's pride and heritage ("stepping all over the stars and stripes," as TMZ put it).

On Tuesday, Wayne, under heavy fire, posted what was effectively an apology on Facebook:
It was never my intention to desecrate the flag of the United States of America. I was shooting a video for a song off my album entitled "God Bless Amerika". The clip that surfaced on the Internet was a camera trick clip that revealed that behind the American Flag was the Hoods of America. In the final edit of the video you will see the flag fall to reveal what is behind it but will never see it on the ground. In most people eyes including my own who were raised in that environment, the Hood is the only America they know and the only America I knew growing up. I was fortunate from my God giving talents to escape the Hood and see the other beautiful places this country has to offer but most people who are born in that environment don't get that chance. That's their view of their America. That was Dwayne M Carter from Hollygrove New Orleans view of America. That's who I'm speaking for in this song.
(This is actually a rather profound point: that, for the millions of Americans relegated to a life of inner-city poverty, the hood is "America" - it's all they will ever see or know. But I digress.)

That apology, though quite sensible, will certainly not satisfy the voracious totalitarian appetites of the dedicated fanatics who are calling for Wayne's head. A publicist named Angie Meyer Olszewski told Fox News that what Wayne did as part of his music video was an "atrocity" to "every soldier who's ever fought to protect this great country." She confidently and cheerfully predicted that this "atrocity" will "without a doubt cost him album sales."

According to Fox, people on Twitter called for Wayne to be "locked up" for his heinous actions. John Ziegler, a "media critic and author," decreed that "a boycott here would be perfectly appropriate," though it's "unlikely" that it would have much effect "because his fan base will not see any negative coverage of this act from the news sources they are likely to consume" - code for "Wayne's fans are stupid black people who aren't interested in consuming real news sources and hearing the truth."

Even Wayne's own Facebook fans worked themselves into a frenzy. A brief scan of the replies to his apology reveals one "pissed off Army wife" who hopes this "ends" Wayne's career (177 Likes); an Army veteran who demands that Wayne either "sign up and serve" or "move to Canada or Mexico" (212 Likes); and another veteran who calls Wayne a "sad fucking excuse of a man" who doesn't deserve to be "buried in my country" when he dies (530 Likes). One commenter at USA Today sneered that this proves the Grammy Award-winning rapper "really has no intelligence other than the street smarts of a backyard hood thug."

The cult of flag-worship operates primarily at the grassroots level and it's terrifying in its reach. When the Supreme Court, in 1989 and again in 1990, ruled that desecrating the flag is an expression of free speech and is protected by the First Amendment, it invalidated flag desecration laws in 48 states. This is not just a pet issue for the ultra-right-wing fringe states.

The court decisions did not, by any means, settle the matter. In 2005, the Republican House of Representatives passed with a two-thirds majority a constitutional amendment that would have restored to Congress the power to criminalize flag burning and other physical desecration. It then went to the Senate, where it received 66 votes, one short of the 67 needed to send it to the states, three-fourths of whom would very likely have been more than happy to enshrine it as the new law of the land (in a weird twist, Senator McConnell was one of only three Republicans to vote against it). Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, the chief sponsor of the amendment, warned the dissenting senators that, should they continue resisting this movement to roll back the Bill of Rights, they will be subject to "the wrath of the voters." Hatch was wrong, in the sense that it's doubtful that any senators lost their seats due to their vote, but right on the fundamental point, which is that the public appears to be on his side. A June 2006 CNN poll found that Americans supported the proposed amendment by a margin of 56%-40%. A USA Today/Gallup poll from that same month found also found 56% support for the measure, though that was down from 63% in 1999. The USA Today/Gallup poll did reveal, though, that supporters of the constitutional amendment are far more intense in their views, with 40% of amendment supporters claiming they would be "upset" if it were not passed, and just 20% of opponents reporting that passage of the amendment would make them "upset."

This intensity gap is intuitive; flag desecration is a supremely emotional issue for those who want to reverse the Supreme Court's decision. Free speech advocates, on the other hand, are almost always fighting on multiple fronts, and something like flag desecration typically does not rise very high on the agenda. This is a mistake. The movement to abolish the right to desecrate the flag is one of the most explicitly totalitarian niche movements in the United States. Though it is mostly a grassroots, nationalist movement, it is hardly lacking in institutional credibility. I urge all readers to check out the official U.S. Flag Code, originally enacted by Congress in 1942 and reaffirmed several times since. It decrees that "no disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America," offers eleven precise commands for how to treat the flag, and sternly asserts that "the flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing." Lil' Wayne was apparently stomping on a "living thing" in his music video. We would laugh at this if it emanated from North Korea or some totalitarian state.

As David Morris wrote in a 2005 piece for AlterNet, the "evidence that we literally worship the flag is overwhelming." Flag-worship is, at its core, a tool for ensuring conformity and controlling how people think and act. The U.S. Flag Code also involves meticulous instructions for how to properly behave in the presence of the flag during the National Anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance (and even, in the case of the former, when the flag it not present: "When the flag is not displayed, those present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed there."). This is simply incompatible with any conception of a free society. Flag culture is very often conflated with the military - see the reactions above to Lil' Wayne's "atrocity" - with the obvious intention of demolishing the distinction between supporting one's country and supporting the military. The casual, widespread submission to all rules and commands relating to the flag, no matter how absurd, is extremely toxic to dissent, free expression, and individuality. Progressives and ostensible supporters of free speech must always stay vigilant on this, which means fighting back against totalitarians who demand, Stalin-like, absolute obedience in the name of the flag, and standing in solidarity with those who dare to break the rules of flag-worship and find themselves targeted by hordes of nationalist lunatics.

{Originally posted at www.justindoolittle.net}
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Chuck Todd is NBC News's political director and White House correspondent. He is presented as a straight reporter and analyst, not a commentator with opinions, even though he explicitly opposed prosecuting the torturers and killers of the Bush administration and openly professed to be "outraged" by the IRS "scandal" earlier this year. On Sunday, Todd appeared on The Chris Matthews Show (TCMS) - a truly amazing spectacle of the most trite Beltway chatter imaginable - and the first topic of discussion was the Syrian civil war and the Obama administration's decision to send arms to rebel forces. What this "objective" correspondent said about the issue was quite revealing.

TCMS is (mercifully) ending its run this summer and its website does not appear to be regularly updated anymore; transcripts and video have not been posted for any episodes since May 19 (if for some reason either becomes available, I will update this post). Fortunately, Jason Linkins of the Huff Post live-blogged all of the Sunday shows, including TCMS, and he did capture the gist of what Todd said, after the latter started off by rightly mentioning that polling clearly indicates that the American public strongly opposes U.S. military involvement in Syria:
"There are a lot of reasons to be involved in Syria," says Todd, whose involvement in Syria will be occasionally talking about it with dumb pundits between the "White House Soup Of The Day" segment and the pundit discussion on "What the White House soups tell us about the president's messaging strategy." Some of those reasons: we are lone superpower, humanitarian stuff, we are the world, cheeseburgers, flags.

"Assad could win," says Chuck Todd, as if the most likely result of a civil war in Syria should somehow shock us into pantslessness.
Todd immediately throws his pro-war cards on the table, confidently declaring that "there are a lot of reasons to be involved in Syria." He did not follow this by adding "and there are a lot of reasons not to be involved in Syria." Viewers can reasonably conclude right off the bat, then, that Todd is, for all intents and purposes, supportive of U.S. military involvement in Syria - after all, he thinks there are "a lot of reasons" for it - and that he has, at least temporarily, dropped his "objective" correspondent shtick in order to convey his apparently pro-intervention views.

Todd then started rambling a bit and tried listing some of the "reasons" to which he referred - I won't quote him directly until and unless a video or transcript becomes available, but Linkins is correct that he did specifically mention the terms "superpower" and "humanitarian" as representing just two of the whole "lot of reasons" that the U.S. military ought to intervene in a foreign country's civil war. As Linkins writes, Todd wrapped up his elevator pitch for war by breathlessly warning us that "Assad could win." Yeah, what's wrong with everyone, all hesitant about jumping into a civil war in the Middle East and shipping arms to people we know virtually nothing about? Don't they realize that ASSAD COULD WIN?

What is of interest here is not just that the ostensibly neutral Todd essentially came out in support for military invention, but his stated reasoning. The essence of his admittedly incoherent case was that the U.S. is the "lone superpower" in the world and, as such, it has a responsibility to intervene in Syria on "humanitarian" grounds.

This is a journalist, remember. A journalist who covers the White House. Typically, a journalist who covers the White House would want to spend most of his time questioning the White House and expressing skepticism at virtually everything the White House says that is not directly supported by evidence. Chuck Todd has a different conception of journalism, though. Chuck Todd evidently thinks covering the White House involves implicitly helping the White House make its case for military intervention by agreeing to, and promoting, several crucial premises on which the "humanitarian"/"superpower" case for war must rest.

First of all, no journalist should ever accept or agree to the manifestly dubious proposition that the U.S. government makes military decisions based on "humanitarian" concerns. Not only has that notion been redundantly discredited by history, but virtually every power in modern history has justified every military intervention on the grounds that it was for purely selfless, humanitarian reasons. It is entirely predictable, and thus effectively meaningless. The U.S. government, like all governments, is an amoral actor, and journalists should be the last people to accept the ludicrous notion that the highest officials and planners in the most powerful government on Earth are making decisions based not on perceived self-interest, but rather on the suffering of impoverished people on the other side of the world. This fatally undermines the skeptical, adversarial culture on which all serious journalism must depend. A skeptical approach does not, of course, preclude accepting that U.S. government policies, even military interventions, can theoretically have beneficial humanitarian effects, only that, just as a corporation makes decisions based on maximizing profit, the U.S. government makes decisions based on what aligns with U.S. government interests.

There is a second, rather weird premise that Chuck Todd evidently accepts a priori, namely, that U.S. military involvement (no matter the level) in Syria will, by definition, reduce the violence and alleviate this "humanitarian" crisis. This is an amazingly glib view on what exactly will happen if a Western superpower, despised in the Arab world, with a disastrous military record in the region, intervenes in Syria's civil war on behalf of an opposition that includes elements the U.S. doesn't even portend to know or understand (and which might include some genuinely dangerous elements). One need not be a pessimist by nature to understand the very clear and obvious risk that military intervention might, in fact, make the situation even worse.

No one with even a cursory knowledge of the history of allegedly humanitarian interventions would fail to consider the enormous possibility that, instead of facilitating peace, it could cause the situation to spiral even further out of control. Unfortunately, most of the people who can be found discussing this in the corporate media do not appear to have any interest in the messy details of these interventions or what happens after the intervening powers leave (see, for example, the lack of coverage in what has happened in Libya in the wake of Western intervention there), and are usually far more intrigued by "red lines" and other such fatuous nonsense.

One final imperial premise that Chuck Todd has evidently accepted lock, stock, and barrel: the idea that, out of all the countries in the world, the United States is the ideal candidate to intervene in Syria. In all the endless discussion about Syria and whether or not the United States should intervene in some fashion, what never arises is the question of why, exactly, out of all the countries in the world, the U.S. is the only serious candidate for intervention. Indeed, the question of whether or not an intervention is required is seemingly indistinguishable from the question of whether or not the United States should intervene. This is bizarre, considering that the United States is not in the same region (and virtually all of the populations in the region oppose U.S. involvement), possesses little or no understanding about Syrian history or culture, and is intensely disliked by substantial elements of the Syrian population. Chuck Todd reasons that intervention must be carried out by the U.S. because it's the "superpower" - an irrational platitude and non-sequitur that doesn't even make any sense as anything other than shameless state propaganda. Actually, the U.S. might very well be the worst choice to carry out any kind of an intervention; American involvement in that region will always be toxic and will always produce blowback and unanticipated consequences on a unique scale. However, among the courtier press, the imperial mindset runs so deep that these questions usually don't even arise. No one in polite circles dares to suggest that, yes, an intervention might be necessary, but that it should not be carried out by the U.S., and - gasp - the ideal choice might not be some beloved U.S. ally, either. That's because it's our world. Everyone else is just living in it.

It's always interesting when an "objective" Beltway journalist reveals, intentionally or unintentionally, his or her political ideology or position on a high-profile issue, as Chuck Todd has done in expressing his support for military intervention in Syria. But what is often more interesting is the reasoning given. Chuck Todd just swallows whole the imperial assumptions that have formed the framework of what passes for foreign policy "debate" in this country for decades: we have the unique right to intervene anywhere in the world; we're always the ideal choice to intervene; when we do intervene it's invariably for selfless and humanitarian reasons; the fact that we're the most powerful state, by some logic, means that we should always be the ones to intervene; and so on. There are many words to describe this kind of worldview, but "objective" is not among them. And there are many words to describe what Chuck Todd is doing, but "journalism" is not among them.

{Originally posted at www.justindoolittle.net}
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