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Giving organ donation a bad name

[ 59 ] March 24, 2012 |

What a waste of usable muscle. Condolences to the donor’s family, and to the vast majority of humankind. If I thought there were a remote chance my vital organs might wind up sustaining the life of an enfeebled war criminal, I’d gleefully ram a weed-eater through my own sternum.


Great Moments in Cocaine

[ 33 ] March 21, 2012 |

For no particular reason, I give you the Palm Beach Post, 16 April 1962:

At least one of the five Cubans seized here recently with a record supply of cocaine may have been a Castro agent sent here to spread addiction among local exiles and thus discredit them in the eyes of the United States, official sources said last night . . . .

Charles Siragusa, deputy head of the U.S. Narcotics Bureau, said the sudden influx of the hideous drug into this country has a threefold purpose:

  • To damage U.S. morale by circulating a drug that incites its users to crimes of wild abandon.
  • To accelerate the crime rate particularly among local Cubans so that the goodwill so hard won by refugee families will be broken and the exile population in general will be discredited.
  • [No third purpose was actually listed]

Cocaine orgies already have been held here . . . . Wherever its use becomes widespread, cocaine parties are inevitable.

Cocaine users lose all sense of propriety and morality, and the gravest of crimes becomes a joke. It takes only a few minutes to feel its effects. One deep sniff of the sugary powder and the party is on.

Goddamn, I miss the Cold War.

Not as bad as Cheney; still clearly worse than Ed Gein

[ 31 ] March 13, 2012 |

Now and then, responsible bloggers revisit old viewpoints and test them against a fresh stable of facts. This was an especially useful exercise, for example, after the war in Iraq had muddled on for half a decade; in this presidential election year, perhaps we’ll have a similar chance to revisit the campaign of 2008 and measure the strengths and weaknesses of our ancient predictions and preliminary evaluations of Barack Obama. On the internet, we must first be accountable — and unsparingly so — to ourselves.

About five years ago, I demonstrated through unimpeachable, crystalline internet science that Jewel Kilcher could easily be numbered among the worst human beings our nation has ever pinched through its sod-packed colon. This was long before the Whitney Houston Obituary Wars, but long-time LGM readers may remember the discomfort this important (if objectively uncontroversial) truth caused some of our transient commenters, who denounced me for squashing the dreams of young people who wanted nothing more than to scribble shite poetry like their heroine, or for adopting a grossly undeserved tone of disdain toward someone who’d enlivened the souls of millions with her irony-free acoustical earnestness.* And ever since, various japesters in my life have made certain that I’m never wanting for updates on Jewel’s personal life and inspiring professional accomplishments. (Did you know that she got hit by a fire truck last year? Well, you would if you were me!)

So today’s mostly-non-Jewel-related e-mail barrage included this from the Huffington Post, wherein we learn that Jewel, unlike any other artist in human history, used to not have a lot of stuff. We also learn that because “she has not forgotten what it’s like to be hungry,” she’s partnered up with ConAgra to defeat food insecurity — a goal the company will surely achieve once it’s finished blowing up its workers, gouging the Palin family, or making sure Americans are getting enough nutritious Salmonella in their diets. Even worse, I have come to learn via Google Books that ConAgra was once — and perhaps still is — “almost entirely run by homosexuals and pedophiles” and that ConAgra executives have long been central actors in a gruesome, freemasonic Nebraskan underworld that uses children as drug couriers and ass candy.

Don’t be fooled, people.


* After LGM migrated from Blogger and we said our final, tearful fuck yous to JS-Kit, we lost that thread among many others — or so we thought. Fortunately, the Jewel Wars produced a few moments of such high comedy that we occasionally linked back to the original discussion, which I stumbled across this morning almost by accident. Behold.

The Reagan Myth moves to white dwarf status

[ 41 ] March 7, 2012 |

I’m a bit late with this, but for the love of the Angel Moroni, the eventual Republican presidential nominee is talking some dubious shit:

Beginning Nov. 4, 1979, dozens of U.S. diplomats were held hostage by Iranian Islamic revolutionaries for 444 days while America’s feckless president, Jimmy Carter, fretted in the White House. Running for the presidency against Carter the next year, Ronald Reagan made it crystal clear that the Iranians would pay a very stiff price for continuing their criminal behavior. On Jan. 20, 1981, in the hour that Reagan was sworn into office, Iran released the hostages. The Iranians well understood that Reagan was serious about turning words into action in a way that Jimmy Carter never was.

Wow, that Ronald Reagan fellow must have been one terrifying fellow. I’ll bet his acceptance speech at the 1980 Republican National Convention was brimming with fury, warning of the severe consequences for Iran if–sorry, say what now? He didn’t actually mention Iran at all? That seems weird. But OK, fine. Maybe he didn’t want to harsh the celebratory mood. Surely, though, his late October debate with Carter was filled with the species of aggressive, demonstrative rhetoric that alerted the revolutionary leadership to his resolve and showed the humiliated American public that a vote for Reagan was a vote against the weak and . . . um, wait a minute.

First of all, I would be fearful that I might say something that was presently under way or in negotiations, and thus expose it and endanger the hostages. And sometimes, I think some of my ideas might involve quiet diplomacy, where you don’t say, in advance or say to anyone what it is you’re thinking of doing.

Your question is difficult to answer, because, in the situation right now, no one wants to say anything that would inadvertently delay, in any way, the return of those hostages if there is a chance of their coming home soon, or that might cause them harm. What I do think should be done, once they are safely here with their families and that tragedy is over — and we’ve endured this humiliation for just lacking 1 week of a year now — then, I think, it is time for us to have a complete investigation as to the diplomatic efforts that were made in the beginning, why they have been there so long, and when they come home, what did we have to do in order to bring that about, what arrangements were made? And I would suggest that Congress should hold such an investigation.

In the meantime, I’m going to continue praying that they’ll come home.

Well now I’m just confused. I expected to hear the clanking of gigantic, novelty-sized brass balls, but this sounds like a load of pantywaisted hippie nonsense to me.

No matter. Once Reagan was elected, the Iranians must have been positively soiling themselves with fear, scrambling to reach a deal as word leaked out that the time for shit-taking had well-nigh reached an end. By January 8 — a mere twelve days before the Serious Turning of Words into Action so elegantly and briefly described by Mittens Romney — the forces of manly Republicanism would have been wiggling in their seats as the anticipation mounted and OH MERCY ME WHERE’S THE BONER JUICE?

None of the actions being considered at the highest Reagan levels contemplate military action against Iran. Not yet, at least. Reagan planning shows a fastidious caution about the use, or even the threat, of military force. The reason, as explained by one key actor in the unfolding hostage drama: “We will suggest nothing in the way of military action that we are not absolutely certain we cannot carry out.”

Because Romney is in fact an empty vessel willing to say anything that sounds like something Republicans might endorse, it’s not surprising that Reagan — the chap who denounced Carter for releasing billions of dollars in frozen Iranian assets to get the embassy hostages back, then approved illegal arms sales to Iran in exchange for hostages in Lebanon who were never in fact released — receives undeserved credit for being tough on Iran. What’s remarkable, however, is that the guy whose relationship to Iran eventually led him to break the Constitution winds up sounding completely reasonable and cautious by comparison with the people who now claim him as their totem.

Empty stadiums, then and now

[ 27 ] February 25, 2012 |

On June 21, 1948, Life magazine ran a gleeful series of photos ridiculing Harry Truman’s famous don’t-call-it-a-campaign-trip campaign trip through the West — a tour that was widely mocked by his adversaries but which actually had the effect of reviving his fortunes at a time when many within his party were scouting about for a replacement candidate. Henry Luce was a first-rate Truman hater, believing him to be insufficiently hostile toward the Soviet Union and insufficiently supportive of the Chinese nationalists, so when a publicity gaffe led Truman to deliver a speech to a nearly-empty Ak-Sar-Ben coliseum in Omaha, his magazine provided ample space for this:

Life conveniently overlooked the fact that Truman had drawn 160,000 Omahans to a parade earlier in the day, just as they had almost nothing to say about the substance of Truman’s speech, which endorsed still-popular New Deal policies including agricultural price supports, soil conservation efforts, federal support for farm cooperatives, measures to alleviate food insecurity and malnutrition, electrification programs as well as improvements to rural health services. Though Truman would eventually lose Nebraska by a margin of 54-46 percent, it’s perhaps worth pointing out that FDR had lost the state by 15 and 17 points in 1940 and 1944. So while the Republican media made strong efforts to depict Truman’s speaking tour as the work of a bumbling dope, the reality was that the more Truman spoke — sparse crowds or no — the more popular he became with voters.

Not so with Mittens, whose dishonest speech to an empty stadium in Detroit offered — as Ezra Klein points out — a horrifying call for Americans to address a debt non-emergency by hacking away at programs that serve the poorest citizens. No wonder, then, that the more Willard Romney speaks, the more everyone dislikes him.

Sometimes the empty stadium is an anomaly, and sometimes you’ve really earned it.

“Rather than turning to my local politician for prenatal advice…”

[ 10 ] February 22, 2012 |

I intended to link to this yesterday, but here is an outstanding piece of testimony to the benefits of the very kinds of prenatal testing that Bishop Santorum regards as indulgent and murderous. Mittens inevitability aside, I do hope our Man of the Froth eventually wins the GOP nomination, if for no other reason than to facilitate our long-delayed national debate over the merits of 20th century obstetric techniques.

Your daily dose of unpersuasive counterfactuals

[ 82 ] February 21, 2012 |

Frum has an odd little piece about “the elections that went most disastrously wrong for the United States and the world.” Politely refusing to consider more recent contests, Frum decides instead to fixate on the three elections beginning with Wilson’s victory in 1912. Why? I honestly have no idea. It seems that Frum thinks the election of Wilson in 1912 and 1916 guaranteed that the US would neglect to enter the Great War until it was too late; that an earlier mobilization (under Taft or Hughes) would have resulted in a shorter war; and that with Zombie Theodore Roosevelt as president from 1921 onward, the post-war debt crisis might have been resolved in a way that discouraged the Germans from attempting to kill all the people.

The whole thing is just insufferably weird, especially as Frum claims to have turned his “‘what if?’ mind” to these elections “again and again” — though evidently without knowing much at all about them. This is especially so for Wilson’s election in 1912, which Frum suggests had something to do with Roosevelt refusing to “discipline himself” and accept Taft for another four years.

Hardly. Taft was a clumsy President who managed to alienate nearly everyone in the progressive wing of his own party by voting for a tariff bill they hated (and which he subsequently described as “the best bill” Republicans had ever passed), by firing Gifford Pinchot from the Forest Service, and for regarding the presidency in decidedly more conservative terms than Roosevelt had approached the job. Taft was, moreover, distracted by a horrific stroke suffered by his wife, Nellie, a mere two months into his term, as well as by what I’d have to describe as an overall dislike for the position. (In my never-to-be-written book, Presidents Who Hated Being President, Taft would be near the top of the list.) The Democratic Party, helped along by Republican infighting, absolutely clobbered the GOP in the 1910 elections, seizing 59 seats (and the majority) in the House while reducing their adversaries from 60 seats to 48 in the Senate. Heading into 1912, the Democrats could easily have nominated a cinder block, festooned it with tiny American flags, and defeated Taft with several electoral votes to spare. As it happened, the Democrats took the unusual route of selecting the strongest available (and perhaps the strongest possible) candidate, and they won a victory that was more or less inevitable. Roosevelt’s pride had nothing to do with it; he and his supporters would have sat out the election rather than swallow another four years of Taft. Indeed, if anyone could deny Wilson a victory by stepping aside, it would have been Taft himself — but in one of the great episodes of spite in American political history, Taft hung around and accepted the GOP nomination even though he understood that he was toast in the general election. The guy barely campaigned for another term — defeating Roosevelt was satisfaction enough.

But even if Taft had won in 1912, I have no idea why Frum thinks he’d have been able to persuade Congress (and a deeply ambivalent public) to enter the Great War before 1917. After all, Taft — unlike Frum’s former boss — rejected TR’s expansive view of presidential power. Even with fellow interventionists clamoring for blood, Taft most likely have relied on his “What the Fuck Am I Supposed to Do?” face to evade the problem altogether.

“Lager’s amber fluid mild/gives health and strength to wife and child”

[ 32 ] February 20, 2012 |

I happened across this image while reading Daniel Okrent’s fantastic Last Call, a history of the Prohibition movement that I assigned to an upper-division course largely out of an interest in remedying my own failure to devote much time at all to the political and cultural economies of booze during the early 20th century. (I have a variety of hypotheses — none of them very satisfying — about why many historians give short shrift to Prohibition. It certainly deserves more attention than I routinely offer it, especially to the degree that it shared ground with an almost endless variety of social movements, including woman suffrage agitation, nativist jeremiads, Jim Crow apologetics, anti-boss campaigns, child protection crusades as well as the drive for a federal income tax to release the state from its dependence on the impost duty on alcohol. For decades, there was almost literally no aspect of American life that couldn’t be explained, promoted or condemned by reference to whiskey and beer, which the Sage tells us are “the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.”)

At any rate, the Gies “Against Prohibition” series is outstanding. Okrent doesn’t offer much detail about Gies himself, but the internet (and specifically Google Books) remembers. George H. Gies was evidently dead by the time his sons began issuing these cards around 1914, right about the time Michigan was succumbing, along with dozens of its peers, to state-level dry laws. While alive, Gies had operated a highly-regarded, five-story, 50-plus-room “European Hotel” located on the second Williams Block of historic Monroe Avenue. During the 1880s and early 1890s, he had refused to abide by Michigan’s new statutes regulating saloon and restaurant hours; he also refused to serve black patrons. Both controversies drew him into court, where Gies argued that the 14th Amendment prevented the state from limiting his business hours and permitted him to deny blacks the opportunity to eat and drink and sleep in his place of business. (The latter case, decided in his favor by the Michigan Supreme Court, helped inspire the formation of numerous Afro-American Leagues in the state — a response to the <i>Plessy<i>-era logic by which Federal courts imagined no roadblocks that might inhibit anti-black policies and practices.) George Gies, then, would seem to have been in many ways the embodiment of alcoholic respectability. He ran a classy establishment, defended the property interests of business in court, and refused to supply dangerous negroes with rape juice.

So this madonna-like image here would have fused with Gies’ claims on behalf of his own (now posthumous) reputation and on behalf of his clients’ decency. Among other things, it was clearly drawn to counteract the arguments made by progressive women (suffragists, temperance advocates, etc.) that drinking was a homosocial male cultural enterprise that encouraged the sort of immoderation that endangered the health and security of both wives and children. Progressive feminists were apt to evoke concepts like “home protection” and “municipal housekeeping” to explain why second-class citizens like themselves should have a voice in monitoring the safety of the food supply, improving the labor conditions in textile factories and sweatshops, or reforming the local school and state court systems to better serve the needs of the nation’s youth. Corporate power was invading the home, and its pernicious influence needed to be checked. This image accepts the link between the corporate and domestic spheres but merely reverses the polarity, insisting that responsible brewers are no menace to mother and child. It would have summoned to mind the folk tradition — one that’s medically baseless yet still widely believed — that alcohol somehow enhances lactation by increasing the mother’s milk supply.

Given that the Gies company was essentially working on someone else’s (secure) rhetorical terrain, I seriously doubt the image had any other effect than to infuriate the Anti-Saloon League. But it’s a remarkable little document nevertheless.


[ 45 ] February 9, 2012 |

Thank Jeebus for this

The White House is “all talk, no action” on moving toward compromise, said Anthony Picarello, general counsel for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “There has been a lot of talk in the last couple days about compromise, but it sounds to us like a way to turn down the heat, to placate people without doing anything in particular,” Picarello said. “We’re not going to do anything until this is fixed.”

That means removing the provision from the health care law altogether, he said, not simply changing it for Catholic employers and their insurers. He cited the problem that would create for “good Catholic business people who can’t in good conscience cooperate with this.”

“If I quit this job and opened a Taco Bell, I’d be covered by the mandate,” Picarello said.

…because it gives me the opportunity to link to this 1997 classic

Hot on the heels of last week’s FDA approval, on Monday PepsiCo subsidiary Taco Bell launched its controversial “morning after” burrito, a zesty, Mexican-style entree that prevents unwanted pregnancies if ingested within 36 hours following intercourse.

Developed by a team of top Taco Bell gynecologists, the $1.99 “ContraceptiMelt” burrito creates an inhospitable environment within the womb, causing fertilized ovum tissue to be flushed from the body.

Also available are ContraceptiMelt Supremes, featuring sour cream and extra cheese.

Could someone please alert the office of Rep. John Fleming? The People must be told.

Another defeat for liberal fascism

[ 26 ] January 27, 2012 |

The Jane Addams Hull House Association is closing today. This is depressing for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is the loss of a connection to one of the progressive movement’s greatest landmarks. The original Hull House complex was absorbed by the University of Illinois-Chicago and turned into a museum about 40 years ago, but the Association carried on the work begun by Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr in 1889, serving tens of thousands of poor Chicagoans who will now have to rely on the over-strained resources offered by the city’s remaining social service agencies.

Surely Newt Gingrich has some miraculous plan to lift Chicago’s destitute from the cavern of their self-inflicted misery — perhaps by putting their children to work as custodians on our new moon base, where they’ll be forbidden to speak the language of the ghetto — but I’m eager to hear Ron Paul’s important philosophical musings on the need to expose the poor to the moral hazards of the welfare state. Perhaps they’ll pick up a copy of Atlas Shrugged at the library and join him in his crusade to blow up the Federal Reserve.

Meanwhile, in the time I’ve spent this morning reading the news and perusing Addams’ Twenty Years at Hull House, Willard Romney’s money has metastasized by an additional $5000 — roughly a quarter of what a family of four earns in a year at the federal poverty level.

Fucking hell.


[ 21 ] January 12, 2012 |

Bill Janklow, noted asshole, croaked today, and USA Today decided to stake its claim on the award for Most Unfortunate Choice of Metaphor:

He served four terms as governor and was elected to Congress in 2002. But he resigned in 2003 when he was jailed for manslaughter for causing the death of a motorcyclist by running through a stop sign.

Janklow changed the face of the state’s economy, education system and tax structure. Even his enemies admitted the Republican had a talent for getting things done, even as they complained that he ran roughshod over his opponents.

Um . . . yeah.

It will be interesting to see if any of the obits mention that Janklow may very well have gotten away with raping a girl in 1967. I won’t be holding my breath, though.

Government is not a business, part MMMCXXIV

[ 25 ] January 10, 2012 |

Somewhere in Bourdieu’s conversation with Wacquant, he observes — and I’m paraphrasing here — that the purpose of social science is to make it difficult to say idiotic things about the social world. Now I’m not an economist, of course, but to the degree that idiotic analogies are something of a hobby of mine, so I also have a passing interest in the moronic things people routinely have to say about macroeconomics. By far the worst of the lot, in my view, is the analogy between household and sovereign debt. Today, Krugman describes what might be the closest contender for top honors.

. . . [T]he fact is that running a business is nothing at all like making macro policy. The key point about macroeconomics is the pervasiveness of feedback loops due to the fact that workers are also consumers. No business sells a large fraction of its output to its own workers; even very small countries sell around two-thirds of their output to themselves, because that much is non-tradable services.

This makes a huge difference. A businessman can slash his workforce in half, produce about the same as before, and be considered a big success; an economy that does the same plunges into depression, and ends up not being able to sell its goods. Nothing in business experience prepares one for the paradox of thrift, or even the inflationary impact of increases in the money supply (which is real when the economy isn’t in a liquidity trap.)

All of which only reminds me of Berton Churchill’s famously idiotic harangue in Stagecoach (1939):

I don’t know what the government’s coming to. Instead of protecting businessmen it pokes its nose into business. Why, they’re even talking now about having bank examiners. As if we bankers don’t know how to run our own banks. Why, Boone, I actually have a letter from a popinjay official saying that they were going to inspect my books. I have a slogan that should be blazoned on every newspaper in the country. America for Americans. The government must not interfere with business. Reduce taxes. Our national debt is something shocking. What this country needs is a businessman for President.

Because, of course, that plan has always turned out well.

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