Late Night: Nothing Says Self-Defense Like Letting The Justice System Work

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I know, it’s the Cornhole, but it’s actually trying to make an argument this time instead of just slavering over Mitt Romney’s jock:

Of course, any self-defense rule bears the potential for injustice. For example, in a two-person altercation, one may be dead and the other dubiously claims self-defense.

But these cases, like Trayvon Martin’s, implicate the self-defense justification generally. If George Zimmerman was the aggressor, he has no self-defense rights at all, whether the incident took place in a SYG jurisdiction or not. If Trayvon attacked Zimmerman, the only question is whether Zimmerman reasonably believed he was in danger, not whether he could’ve retreated. If Zimmerman provoked the confrontation, he lost the protections of SYG law.

Which is the exact two-person scenario you depicted in the previous paragraph. That’s the POINT. SYG laws are designed to give you the incentive to kill your attacker because hey, if nobody else is around to contradict you, you can claim whatever you like about what you thought was going to happen.

And the problem I have with the “perception of danger” idea is that stupid-ass racist people perceive danger at the shopping mall when they see two young black men walking out of a Gamestop, or they drive through a neighborhood that has a sign in Spanish. I can really, truly, deeply in my heart of hearts believe the kids walking home from Little League are about to murder me, because they’re carrying baseball bats. Does the law grant me the right to gun them down? If a jury of my middle-class white peers says yes, then it does.


In short, hard cases make for skewed policy debates — a demagogic dynamic with which Congress is well familiar after Sandy Hook. While anti-gun lobbyists have used both that tragedy and Trayvon Martin to pitch all sorts of legislation, what they really target is the right to self-defense. With SYG laws, yes, prosecutors need to show evidence to counter claims of self-defense, not simply argue that the shooter could’ve retreated. But for those who value due process — which should include historically mistreated minorities — that’s a feature, not a bug.

Yeah, I can see how people who are disproportionately victimized by what the powerful call “due process” should be grateful for that, given how wonderfully the justice system has always worked in their favor. Jesus H. Cirque du Soleil.


Late Night: This Wasn’t Just Our Failure

This has been making the rounds, mostly approvingly, and I think some of it’s goat shit: 

Unlike the Tea Party, most left wingers don’t really believe their own ideology.  They put partisanship first, or they put the color of a candidate’s skin or the shape of their genitals over the candidate’s policy.  Identity is more important to them than how many brown children that politician is killing.

So progressives have no power, because they have no principles: they cannot be expected to actually vote for the most progressive candidate, to successfully primary candidates, to care about policy first and identity second, to not take scraps from the table and sell out other progressive’s interests.

The Tea Party, say what you will about them, gets a great deal of obeisance from Republicans for one simple reason: they will primary you if they don’t like how you’ve been voting, and they’ll probably win that primary.  They are feared.  Progressives are not feared, because they do not believe enough in their ostensible principles to act on them in an effective fashion.

Things the Tea Party had that the “progressive blog movement” did not: An entirely approving 24-hour news network, plus a compliant network of “centrist” pundits all too willing to bow to pressure from that 24-hour news network to be less horribly liberal and consider “both sides” to issues like the fundamental humanity of women and morality of hideous torture and pre-emptive war.

Also a publishing network which made people who otherwise would be screaming on soapboxes into “bestselling authors” who then received fawning profiles in national “news” magazines. Magazines, too, which supported such leading lights of modern thought as Jonah Fucking Goldberg, and a syndicated columnist base consisting of such brilliance and fierce compassion as Kathleen Parker. All of this was set up during the Reagan and Clinton years, while Democrats were still cowering in fear of having their pictures taken with Jane Fonda.

All that existed before the first progressive blog ever lit up, and well before the Tea Party became a Bright New Light in American Politics. Their message gets reinforced every day, every hour, every minute, from a goddamn MEGAPHONE. It’s overwhelming, especially to low-info voters, which is most voters, because in case you hadn’t noticed this country is fucked and everybody’s working hella hard just to stay in cereal and hand-me-downs.

And even more overwhelming than the conservative message is the apathy in the opposite direction, which is reinforced by every media outlet that is not overtly conservative: That none of this matters, that it’s all too exhausting, that all politicians are horrible and destined to break your heart and why even fucking bother because boring, and here’s something we can report that someone tweeted.

Look, I’ve noticed the blog audience cratering and my own efforts at publishing stories that should matter to progressives going nowhere, and I’m as pissed as anyone that I can’t support a staff after nearly a decade of doing this, and that Ned Lamont isn’t in Congress, and that John Kerry won’t be Mr. President for the rest of his life, and that Howard Dean got fucked over, and that Obama isn’t more liberal.

But I fault Obama voters and progressive “principles” in general much less than I fault the people who had the money to build a media empire of their own and focused it on vanity projects intead, or kept their powder dry so as to appease moral monsters at dinner parties. A failure of money and a failure to understand media infrastructure (miscasting the NYT as liberal and thinking that would be enough, for example) is not a failure to “believe your own ideology.”


Late Night: Let Charles Krauthammer Decide When to Stop Hitting You

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It’s only okay to overcome prejudice if nobody bothers you about it: 

I don’t like the language police ensuring that no one anywhere gives offense to anyone about anything. And I fully credit the claim of Redskins owner Dan Snyder and many passionate fans that they intend no malice or prejudice and that “Redskins” has a proud 80-year history they wish to maintain.


When I was growing up, I thought “gyp” was simply a synonym for “cheat,” and used it accordingly. It was only when I was an adult that I learned that gyp was short for gypsy. At which point, I stopped using it.

Not because I took a poll of Roma to find out if they were offended. If some mysterious disease had carried away every gypsy on the planet, and there were none left to offend, I still wouldn’t use it.

See, Charles Krauthammer has evolved, you guys, and if we would just all wait, and be polite, everyone would evolve. Then there would be no need for “political correctness,” which as we all know is worse than a dozen Obamahitlers.

It does not occur to this stupendous nitwit that part of the reason words come to be known as offensive is that people targeted by them speak up, and eventually that filters through to even the most clueless rich beltway dillhole.

No, his evolution happened all by itself, through the genuine goodness and decency inherent in his noble soul. It had nothing to do with the people those words describe, or how they felt hearing themselves characterized such, or whether they were within their rights to say look, we don’t like that, knock it off.

They barely exist, just as they did when he was cluelessly using words like Negro and Redskin and Gyp. They don’t matter. What matters is that Charles Krauthammer’s evolution happened at its own pace. People offended by the stupid things he said should have been perfectly content to wait for him and people like him to grow up.

In silence, as befits their inferiority, without insisting on owning their names.


Late Night: Journalism Is Declining to Lead

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On the one hand, good, less of George Will and every other syndicated asshole out there, and fewer Letters to the Editor about how Kids Today twerk too much.

On the other, really?

Publisher Bob Hall said that although the Inquirer has endured repeated rounds of financially induced cutbacks in recent years, the decision to eliminate the op-ed page “was not done at all for cost-cutting purposes.” Hall said that in focus groups, people said the paper had “too many editorials, too much bias” and that some, but not all, of the space will be made up with an extra page on Sundays. Still, Hall acknowledged that many readers have complained about the cuts.

If you’re listening to focus groups you’re already lost.

OF COURSE readers are telling you there’s too much bias, because everybody who talks about media talks about bias, because almost everybody talking about media is a goddamn moron. Don’t believe everything you read in the paper, that one’s been around a while, despite us wanting to blame the Internet for all falsehoods in history, and media bias has been a wingnut refrain for at least 30 years if no longer. Some of it’s sunk in by now.

(Also, “bias” is not the same thing as opinion, and if you can’t differentiate between the two you have no business publishing a newspaper.)

Focus groups are bullshit. The seven dollars per person you spend feeding them lunch could be better spent on almost anything, including feeding your maintenance staff lunch. Focus groups are gonna tell you a bunch of half-educated shit about how to do the job you already know how to do, or should know how to do, and for God’s sake, talking about them openly is an admission to the general public that you have no fucking clue what you’re doing.

If you must have them, if you must have useless surveys of people who already don’t read you and are happy to provide you an excuse that involves you doing more work and them doing nothing, at least go over what they say and see if it’s based in the same universe as reality. Take what’s useful in there and use it, and screw the rest.

Trust your goddamn instincts. Set your own agenda. That is, ideally, what your opinion page should do: Set an agenda. Tell the community, not just your readers but the whole damn town you cover, what they should be thinking about and how they should be thinking about it. Fuck the feedback you get. Fuck the assholes who call up all, “Imma cancel my subscription and the Sunday coupons be damned.” Nine times out of ten they never read you anyway, they just wanna make a big noise. Take the way things have always been, take the way things are, and take them apart. Make your readers think, make them happy sometimes, but more often make them mad. At you if you have to, but try for making them mad at what you want them to be mad at.

I’m all for fewer editorials about how the sweet corn is really great this year and the local sports franchise is subpar and Both Sides Do It, but I’m not for fewer editorials because people don’t like opinions and it’s rude to stir them up and let’s have less “bias.” That’s not some editorial choice. That’s cowardice.


Late Night: Why DIDN’T You Shut Down the Government Over the War?


I mean, I’m sorry, Harry, but come on: 

In his letter to Boehner, Reid drew an analogy to Republicans’ current objects to the Affordable Care Act to his opposition to the Iraq War.

“I hated the Iraq War. I think I hated it as much as you hate the Affordable Care Act,” Reid wrote.

“There were many gut-wrenching nights when I struggled over what I needed to do to end the carnage. In those days, when President Bush was Commander in Chief, I could have taken the steps that you are taking now to block Government funding in order to gain leverage to end the war. I faced a lot of pressure from my own base to take that action. But I did not do that. I felt that it would have been devastating to America.”

Am I the only one who read this and thought:

a) His base was demanding that? I don’t remember anybody even thinking of that.

b) Shit, why DIDN’T we think of that?

After all, ending the Iraq War had a higher approval rating than defunding Obamacare does. It would also have prevented A LOT OF DEAD PEOPLE, whereas the current government shutdown is about preventing people from getting health insurance. The objective matters. These two things aren’t precisely equal. You want to compare hopeless causes, I’m always gonna go with the one that has as its aim keeping more people alive than otherwise.

I mean, would that we had a party that would fight that hard over an illegal war of choice that turned out to be based entirely on bullshit. Would that we actually had a party that stood in genuine and strident opposition to KILLING FOR NO REASON, that was willing to put its own ass on the line for an outcome rooted not in racism, greed and vanity but in genuine interest in the national welfare.

I know, I know, what the narrative would have been, what the political risks would have been, what the actual risks of a shutdown in the middle of a war would have been. But when I thinik about those risks, about the way Democrats were so scared of being branded cowards if they stood against the war, I can’t help but wish they’d been willing to risk as much toward a selfless end as Republicans are toward a selfish one.

I might not have wanted them to do it, knowing that they would have lost, knowing that the people hurt wouldn’t have been those who were to blame. But I would have liked it if they’d possessed the will to push that hard and speak that loudly.


Late Night: Dance Dance Devolution: Shutdown Coverage

Chris Cilizza, proving that nothing is too stupid to say to the entire Internet: 

Sure, sure, it’s not like he killed anybody with that tweet. And putting a shutdown playlist together is totally something that we’d do in any newsroom where I worked. But I hope we wouldn’t tell the whole Internet we were doing it and ask them to take it as just as big a joke as we found it, because the stakes aren’t the same for us as they are for the people affected by the shutdown. The black humor you use to get through your day is rarely, if ever, for public consumption.

Twitter’s best use as a news tool may be the ease with which it allows beltway “journalists” to display the amorality that makes “both sides do it” journalism inevitable. They’ve progressed from bitching about their jobs to their co-workers to bitching about them in public, acting like this is all either a giant ironic joke or the biggest chore EVAR. And let’s dial down the drama: Reporters are about to spend a week covering various types of nonsense from Republicans.

People without health insurance or paychecks are about to get sick and starve.

Not that you’d know it from’s homepage these days: 



These are all stories displayed alongside coverage of a government shutdown, coverage that relies almost entirely on statements from various public officials and stock market analysts. Glad to see even that isn’t getting in the way of stories like what the “top brand” is and if young ladies should be showing their titties in pictures.

These are the things we’ve chosen to care about, right now. These are the things we’ve made a priority. No wonder Cilizza thinks a dance party is the best way to cope with the shutdown. They have no idea anything else might be happening. They have no clue what this looks like from anywhere but where they are.


Late Night: Dire Warnings and Sharpening Rhetoric!

Tell me what I need to know about a potential government shutdown over Obamacare, CNN:

Polls showing a decrease in public support for the health care reforms embolden the Republican stance. Meanwhile, surveys showing most people oppose a government shutdown and that more would blame Republicans if it happens bolster Democratic resolve.

What polls and surveys, in both cases? No idea. There’s no link and no numbers. These are apparently indisputable facts that no longer need any kind of explanation.

Maybe this poll would help:

Sixty-two percent in a new ABC News-Washington Post poll say they lack the information needed to understand the changes that will take effect as the Affordable Care Act is implemented. Barely one in 10, moreover, thinks the federal government, their state government or the health insurance industry is fully prepared to implement the law.

On the law itself, moreover, 52 percent are opposed, vs. 42 percent in support; in 16 ABC-Post polls since August 2009, it has never received majority support.

So 62 percent say they have no idea what is going on, but we’ll continue to talk to them as if they know things, since they have no problem giving an opinion on that about which they know dick.

And goddamn, I wonder if a constant drumbeat of “both sides do it” could be to blame for people not having any idea who to trust:

Only a third would consider the president responsible for a shutdown, with 51% pointing a finger at Republicans in Congress, up from 40% who felt that way in March, the last time both sides were at loggerheads.

So only a third would consider the president responsible! What’s the headline on this story?

Polls give both sides ammunition in shutdown fight


Late Night: Pity the Rich Man’s Man

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Poor Larry. Now he’ll just have to go home and cry into his GIANT PILE OF MONEY. I get that it sucks you don’t get a job you want, no matter how rich you are, but can we please start differentiating between people with real problems and people whose resumés are just a line short of their desires? Not everything is just like Hitler and slavery.

And this Michael Wolff column isn’t THE most offensive thing in USA Today, but that’s just because it’s USA Today and we grade on a curve around here:

The public bake-off between the economists Lawrence Summers and Janet Yellen for the job of chairman of the Federal Reserve has boiled down, practically speaking, to discriminatory hiring practices

Janet Yellen’s stand-out credential is that she is a woman.

A) Being a woman is so totally a major advantage in a world that lets a dudebro columnist characterize the FUCKING FED CHAIR APPOINTMENT as a “bake-off” and reduce a woman whose CV looks like this:

She led the San Francisco Federal Reserve from 2004 to 2010 and has been Vice Chair of the Fed since then. So she’s served across multiple chairmen, in multiple positions, during good economic times and during the depths of the financial crisis.

to just some affirmative-action-hire chickadee.

Larry Summers’ main drawback — or, certainly, among his most conspicuous characteristics — is that he is not.

Larry Summers’ main drawback is that he was wrong about everything important in the past decade economically. But yeah, let’s focus on his penis. It must be really awful in some way, to scuttle his Fed appointment all by itself. Yikes.

Gender begins to distinguish a political point of view, too. That Summers might be more partial to banks than Yellen is pretty much billed as a gender result.

Summers, as a certain kind of dominant man, is aligned with Wall Street, and hence with money, and hence with the existing power structure. He embodies the inclinations that have gotten us into so much financial trouble.

Yellen, as an unshowy (read middle-aged) woman, is more academic and collegial in nature, and has done long and unheralded stints in government; she represents the collective self and hence a higher level of public selflessness and probity.

You hear that, dudes? You’re genetically unable to focus on the common good, because you’re a man. You came out of the womb predisposed to believe everything out of the mouth of anyone wearing a Goldman Sachs nametag. Must be nice, to not have to make any decisions on your own.

I expect this kind of “men are animals, they don’t have brains at all” thinking from my football halftime beer commercials. Not so much, from my major newspaper columnists.

And if women are unable to align themselves politically with the existing power structure, well, Mitt Romney will have to give a lot of red states back: (more…)

Late Night: The Hill They Want to Die On

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Apparently, for the Roman Catholic Church, it’s this: 

Children who attend Catholic schools in the Madison Catholic Diocese will no longer be taking field trips to the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery because the facility on the UW-Madison campus conducts research using embryonic stem cells.

The diocese announced its decision in a letter Thursday to principals and priests, saying the research runs counter to Catholic teaching on the sacredness of human life.

“Catholic schools in the Diocese of Madison may no longer participate in any activities, workshops or field trips at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery,” wrote Michael Lancaster, superintendent of Catholic schools. “Any plans to do so should be halted immediately, and alternative, morally acceptable means of meeting the educational objectives should be utilized.”


The Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery opened in 2010 as a public-private research center. It conducts research across disciplines, focusing on “the interfaces of computation, laboratory science, the humanities and entrepreneurship,” according to its website.

It houses the Morgridge Institute for Research, where renowned researcher James Thomson is director of regenerative biology. Thomson was the first scientist, in 1998, to grow human embryonic stem cells in a lab.

The diocesan investigation was triggered last spring by concerns from parents and priests, Lancaster said. While the research center offers many valuable educational programs that pose no moral or theological issues for Catholics, it also offers a workshop for middle and high school students in which they work with live human stem cells, he said.

“There is the possibility participants in this workshop may handle embryonic stem cells, which would clearly violate Catholic doctrine and teaching,” Lancaster said.

And clearly the possibility, the near occasion of sin, is enough to say fuck no to all science learning, and tell high school kids that their morals dictate that they live in the goddamn dark ages. That’s a GREAT way, btw, to make sure they stay interested in the church. That’s just a great way to not look like backwards-ass irrelevant fossils, guys. Way to fucking be.

You know, when I was growing up, this anti-science bent in Christianity was something my Catholic teachers mocked, like look, we’re not barefoot hicks in the woods handling snakes. But the abortion issue has so subsumed everything else the church could reasonably have an interest in or a position on, has so taken over as THE defining issue of the entire hierarchy, that it’s like every time it comes up people just glaze over.

The results aren’t pretty. 


Late Night: Well YEAH

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British people say fuck your war: 

Two-thirds of Britons do not care if refusing to intervene militarily in Syria damages the US-UK “special relationship,” according to a BBC poll released Monday.

The poll also found 71 percent of Britons felt the House of Commons was right to reject Prime Minister David Cameron’s call for military action in Syria last week.

Our “special relationship” can’t quite be quantified to most ordinary Britons, not the way, say, a bunch of coffins can.