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Archive for March, 2010

And yes, I’m being completely serious and props are due.

A while back, tremendous asshole Fred Phelps protested at the funeral of Matthew Snyder. Snyder was a marine who died in Iraq, and Phelps and his church go around the country protesting the funerals of soldiers because they believe God is punishing the U.S. for its acceptance of gay people.

Snyder’s father sued them for the actions they took during the funeral. He lost. And you know what, he should have. As morally deplorable as they are, Phelps and his ilk are still within their first amendment rights to protest in a public space. And because he lost, Snyder had to pay $16,500 in legal fees that Phelps had spent to defend his church.

Now, although Snyder lost and should have, take a moment to ponder his situation. His son died, his son’s funeral was disrupted by protests, he went to court, lost, and now has to pay thousands of dollars in legal fees.

Not anymore. Bill O’Reilly of Fox News is writing a check for the $16,500. What a wonderful thing to do. I can barely imagine the pain Snyder must feel at losing a son, but at least this grievous insult to injury is no more.

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Ok, I feel a bit dirty even writing that post title. Like I’m getting all Slate-tastic, New Republic, Mickey Kaus, Mark Halperin-esque contrarian anti-anti-anti-liberal on you all. But I think it’s true. In recent days, you must have noticed some of this. Congressmen and Senators have been called racial epithets, spit on, have had bricks thrown through windows, received violent calls, had white powder sent to their office, and have had their brother’s gas lines cut. I won’t link to all those stories, but good Lord, just go to memeorandum during any of the past few days and check it out yourself.

Now, to be clear, violence is bad and it is appropriate for these incidents to be reported to the media. And it is appropriate for the media to file stories about them. However, I think a lot of Democrats are mistaken if they think highlighting these stories will benefit them politically. It might fire up the base, and it also makes for fun blog posts and NYT columns about the extreme nature of the Republican party and its base.

But recall the last time something like this happened? It was last summer, when the health care debate was starting to ramp up. Tea partiers showed up in full force to town hall meetings and screamed about death panels, and the response of the liberal commentariat to write blog posts and columns much like the ones you see now. But if you think, as I do, that the goal of these efforts should be to discredit the opposition and make your policies more popular, then these efforts failed. Indeed, it was during the summer that Obama’s favorables overall and on health care started to fall.

And I think the reason for this is that most of these writers always overestimate the degree to which the public follows politics. If someone loosely turns in, and sees that a health care bill has frothing, virulent opposition, they’re going to assume there must be something wrong with the bill. And those people aren’t going to go read Ezra Klein to find out that their impression is mistaken.

So what to do, then? Making the bill more popular will depend not at all on highlighting the insanity of the opposition but will depend entirely on selling to the public exactly what benefits they now have because of the new law. Based on Obama’s appearances since signing the bill into law, he appears to understand that. Only when they understand and see and experience those benefits will the law truly be locked in as an important part of the social contract.

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Look, I’m generally anti-religious, but I try to steer clear of the more militant leanings of guys like Hitchens and Harris. After reading this, though, it’s hard not to be filled with their zealous (anti-zealous?) rage:

Top Vatican officials — including the future Pope Benedict XVI — did not defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys, even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church, according to church files newly unearthed as part of a lawsuit.

The internal correspondence from bishops in Wisconsin directly to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope, shows that while church officials tussled over whether the priest should be dismissed, their highest priority was protecting the church from scandal.

[snip]

Father Murphy not only was never tried or disciplined by the church’s own justice system, but also got a pass from the police and prosecutors who ignored reports from his victims, according to the documents and interviews with victims. Three successive archbishops in Wisconsin were told that Father Murphy was sexually abusing children, the documents show, but never reported it to criminal or civil authorities.

Instead of being disciplined, Father Murphy was quietly moved by Archbishop William E. Cousins of Milwaukee to the Diocese of Superior in northern Wisconsin in 1974, where he spent his last 24 years working freely with children in parishes, schools and, as one lawsuit charges, a juvenile detention center. He died in 1998, still a priest.

Sure, I know you’re thinking, “Well, what else is new?” Unlike previous cases, this one directly involves Cardinal Ratzinger — the future Pope Benedict XVI — to whom Father Murphy wrote a direct appeal that ended his canonical prosecution. The Pope is afforded protection from prosecution as a head of state of the Holy See, but so were Idi Amin and the Shah of Iran.

It’s time to take the Catholic Church to the cleaners for their vicious and destructive crimes, and to treat it like any other criminal organization — with contempt and loathing for its leadership.

What gets me most riled up is this:

At the same time, the officials’ reluctance to defrock a sex abuser shows that on a doctrinal level, the Vatican has tended to view the matter in terms of sin and repentance more than crime and punishment.

You want to make condoms and contraceptives illegal, make a woman’s choice about her own body murder, prosecute end-of-life care, and criminalize gay relationships. That all deserves crime and punishment. But your own crimes? Against children, the most vulnerable and trusting of your flock? Eh, fuck it, that’s your own sin to take care of and none of the government’s business. Here, in the most truly vile of crimes, the Catholic Church simply moves the perpetrator around while ignoring the victim.

Sue the Church until the Pope himself has to walk around jangling the collection box to an unwilling crowd. They deserve nothing.

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I’ve called for a Hall and Oates revival, and well, here it is!

The Bird and the Bee (Inara George and Greg Kurstin) have made an album of Hall & Oates covers non-ironically (OK, probably a little ironically) titled Interpreting the Masters Volume 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates.

Long live Hall and Oates!

(Side note: The LA Times wonders about how sincere the pop contrarianism is:

You can’t cover a song so precisely as a mere joke, and the band clearly adores source material like the unimpeachable “Sara Smile.” But the Bird and the Bee’s Hall & Oates covers did underscore our weird new world of pop contrarianism among the cool kids, where there’s a kind of brinkmanship to adoring once-maligned ’80s soft rock. (Will “Interpreting the Masters: Volume 2” feature Wings and Michael McDonald?)

I don’t like to think of my pop love as contrarian, because I do like listening to the music so damn much. Nevertheless, I do understand August Brown’s complaints. My response would be that just as we cannot malign any genre in its entirety, we should not pass over a period and genre simply because of the sound-of-the-times.

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It took me months to figure out what the hell Twitter was. But that was so a few months ago. The new kid on the internet block is Chatroulette. The idea is simple: you need a webcam, and you randomly get matched with someone else who has a webcam. You can then continue talking or chatting, or disconnect at any time and be connected with someone new. Of course, there is a certain level of risk involved in this, as you never know what you’re about to come face to face with. I haven’t used Chatroullete myself, but if I did, I would probably see a lot of dicks.  But it isn’t all dicks. This medium actually allows a certain amount of creativity. To wit, here is some guy with a piano, singing to or about anyone who happens to come up:

He looks and sounds a bit like Ben Folds, right? Well, here’s actual Ben Folds taking a crack at it during a concert:

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The Louisiana Purchase only passed because of a 59-57 vote in the House to pay for the thing.

Medicare polled as a party-line split in 1962.

Civil rights was a toss-up in 1965.

Health care reform polls poorly in 2010.

Today, the first three are no-brainers. 40 years from now, maybe health care reform will join them.

Now that the debate about process has ended and the reality of policy has begun, we will see if the Democrats take the lesson to heart.

Wall Street, you’re next.

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I can’t help but notice that the new Karate Kid movie is basically Bow Wow’s story from Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. (Video is NSFW for swearing and poor Schwarzenegger impression)

Compare:

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