The Truth About Consequences

Orcinus, April 23, 2009

Run your bank into the ground? Hey, it was our fault for not keeping a better eye on you. Here’s some cash. Since you’re rich guys, we trust you to do the right thing going forward, so we’re not going to bother you with a bunch of rules and oversight—but you promise to be good now, ‘K?

Also, you Bush guys and CIA operatives who thought torture was a fine idea? Yeah, we know we’ve signed a bunch of treaties that unequivocally require us to bring you up on charges; but we’re looking forward now, not back, so, y’no, whatever. It was pretty ballsy of a few of you to actually admit to committing war crimes in public. We know from “audacity” (it’s our middle name, in fact), and that was audacity with the gain turned up to 11. I mean, really: We’re impressed. Shocked and awed, even. But we’re not gonna hassle you about ancient history, because it’s so much more important that we keep our eyes firmly on the future. Just promise you won’t do it ever ever again, all right?

It’s interesting to watch the Democrats trying to work some life back into their long-neglected oversight muscle. Thirty years of conservative misrule have muddled Americans’ understanding of words like responsibility, accountability, discipline,and punishment to the point where nobody knows that they mean any more—and don’t seem to want to know, either. The social conservatives go on and on about the evils of postmodern morality and situational ethics; and on this score, I can’t quite summon myself to disagree. It’s been as though nobody on Planet Washington ever had a parent who was able to explain right from wrong, or demonstrate the role cause-and-effect plays in the ethical universe. It’s like a moral-gravity-free zone.

Stuff happens. Whatever.

I am neither an ethicist nor a philosopher. But I am a mother, and know a thing or two about disciplining children. (I’ve got a freshly grounded teenager pouting upstairs right now who would be delighted to tell you all about it. At length. With loud choruses of what a Mean Mommy I am. What he doesn’t know is: I take that tune as a clear sign I’ve done my job right.) And, as an observer of the differences between conservatives and liberals, I know that our attitudes toward discipline—whether it’s children or adults who are being called to account—is one of our core areas of disagreement.

Understanding that difference may explain something about how we got here.

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Closer to Home


Orcinus, March 14, 2009

Last summer’s church shooting in Knoxville, TN hit close to home for me. As a Unitarian Universalist — and a liberal — the idea that the right wing’s eliminationist rage toward the left would end up in the death of two members of my own tribe wasn’t unexpected; but it was a gutpunch, and a moment of awakening.

But, for other reasons entirely, last Sunday’s shooting in a Baptist chuch in Maryville, IL hits even closer to home.

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“Know This If Nothing Else: This Was A Hate Crime”

Orcinus, February 10, 2009

Photo by J. Miles Cary of the Knoxville News

Progressives around the country can breathe a little easier today: James Adkisson has been sentenced to life behind bars for the deaths of Greg McKendry and Linda Kraeger, the Unitarian Universalist martyrs who died during his assault on their church in Knoxville, TN last July.

Many of us intuited at the time that Adkisson’s rampage was exactly the kind of rancid fruit that would inevitably take root in an American countryside thickly composted with two decades of hate radio bullshit, freshly turned and watered with growing middle-class frustration over the failing economy. That suspicion that was verified in the days that followed, when police searched Adkisson’s apartment and found it filled with books and newsletters penned by Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and other right-wing hate talkers.

But yesterday, Adkisson told us himself — in his own words — just how central right-wing eliminationism was in driving him to his shooting spree. Shortly after he was sentenced yesterday, he released a four-page handwritten “manifesto” — which he’d intended to be his suicide note — to the Knoxville News (the full .pdf can be downloaded here). In it, he unleashes the full measure of his hatred for liberals — and encourages other would-be right-wing warriors to take up arms and follow him into battle.

Some choice excerpts:

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Aretha’s Hat

Wasn’t that a thing?

A millenary confection in grey felt, glittering with rhinestones, trimmed in black grosgrain. My. Oh my.

I’m hearing from white friends who thought it was, well, tacky and overdone. I think they missed the point entirely.

Aretha’s hat was a full-on diva crown, in the best African-American Sunday Suit tradition.

Hats are tremendously symbolic in the AA community, with a whole lore surrounding them. In traditional black churches, you don’t show up on Sunday without your crown — the sartorial sign of the nobility of black women. You may clean hotel rooms or sling hash in a crummy uniform six days a week; but on the seventh day, your church hat puts the world on notice that you are nonetheless a beloved daughter of God.

That (well, that plus the bitter cold) is why you’ve been seeing so many men and women wearing them to inauguration events over the past few days. In black culture, hats are still an important mode of self-expression, and a potent statement of respect for yourself and the event you’re gracing with your presence.

I was halfway hoping Michelle would make a nod to that tradition, and sport some fabulous headwear of her own. No such luck: she’s more modern than that. But Aretha’s showstopping topper more than took up the slack.

And it also may have been the first sign of an emerging fashion trend. It’s entirely possible that with African America finally Having Arrived — as of today — that the love of a great hat will finally make its way back out into the larger culture.

You read it here first. Love that hat or hate it, you’re going to see more of them.

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More Maroons in Federal Way

Orcinus, January 16, 2009
Back in 2007, the school administrators in the working-class Seattle suburb of Federal Way found themselves on the wrong end of Jon Stewart’s wit when they refused to allow An Inconvenient Truth to be shown in their classrooms because the movie was “controversial.”

The same maroons are back at it again today. According to a Daily Kos post by Andrew Villeneuve (which in turn pulls from Seattle’s KING5 news), the Federal Way school administrators in their manifold wisdom have decided that kids need permission slips from their parents to watch the Obama inauguration at school.

Evidently, they also consider our new president “controversial.” (One wonders if they’d have made the same call if John McCain had won; or if in that case, attendance would have been mandatory.) Somebody in the front office is all too well aware that reality has a liberal bias, and is doing their level best to make sure that it doesn’t intrude on their attempted indoctrination of Federal Way’s youngest citizens.

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Breaking News: BC’s FLDS Patriarch Arrested for Polygamy

Orcinus, January 9, 2009

Photo of Winston Blackmore by Ian Smith of the Vancouver Sun

The Canadian press has erupted in the last hour or so with the news that former Bountiful, BC polygamist Mormon patriarch Winston Blackmore and his second-in-command Fred Oler have been arrested and charged with polygamy.

Blackmore ran the Bountiful compound until being displaced in a power struggle with Warren Jeffs two years ago; these days, he’s set up nearby with a new place of his own. He’s thought to have 26 wives — including, as he publicly announced at a 2006 polygamy conference, several “very young ones” and at least one who was under the age of 16 at the time he made that claim. And then he repeated that statement on Larry King. This is a man who knows he’s a child rapist, and is rather pleased with himself for his ability to get away with it.

Today, that ended. What’s most interesting about this, though, is that the two men were directly charged with polygamy — a step no jurisdiction dealing with the FLDS has yet dared to take. Through the decades, prosecutors have focused on the fallout crimes that result from these communities: child abuse and abandonment, forced marriage, rape, consipiracy to transport minors for immoral purposes across state lines, that kind of thing. But, so far as I know, no prosecutor has yet dared to stand up and charge any of these men directly for committing polygamy. Which makes today’s arrest a historical landmark of sorts.

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Investing in America

Group News Blog, December 7, 2008

A huge sinkhole, already one of the largest on record,
near Daisetta, TX, May 2008.
James Nielsen/Houston Chronicle, via Associated Press

In the comments threads for the next article down, we’ve got one trollish commenter who rejects Keynesian theory, and insists that the only way out of the current mess is to tighten our belts and balance the budget.

Several of our regulars, once they got the coffee drained back out of their noses, have been more-or-less (mostly less) gently pointing out that Friedmanism is dead, and another approach — like, oh, say, the one that got us out of the last Depression — is necessary. They’re also pointing out the essential difference between frittering away public money on things like defense spending (use a bullet once, and it’s gone forever) and real, enduring investments like the ones Obama is proposing.

It turns out that I’m working on my final semester project today — a presentation on infrastructure, due Wednesday — and happen to have the ROI figures on public investment right here to hand. Rather than post these figures in the comments thread, I thought I’d put them right out here on the front page, because we’re all going to need to know this stuff cold when the right wing starts squealing about how we can’t have that nice shiny new future until we first pay off the bills that they ran up on our credit card.

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Election Night: The View from Abroad

Group News Blog, November 10, 2008

I watched the election returns from a cozy townhouse in North Vancouver, BC. A Canadian couple from our church had invited in all their American friends to share the evening.

Eight years of Bush has been an impossibly hard burden for all Americans. For those of us who’ve spend these years abroad, some of the heaviest lifting has been answering the constant demands to explain American insanity to the rest of the world; and continuing to hold ourselves out an existence proof for that other, marginalized America that was trying so fiercely to resist the madness. Sometimes, it was all so impossible that all you could do is look sorrowfully at the sad, confused faces of our fellow planetary travelers and shrug:

Yeah, well. That’s why I’m here, and not there.

Tuesday night was the first time in five years that I wished with all my heart I was there. I missed something important, not being there to dance in the streets with the rest of you, being too far away to touch you and hold you and simply silently stand arm-in-arm, the way I stood in LM’s arms while watching Obama’s acceptance speech in Denver. History rolled over us like a wave that night, and holding on to each other was all we could do. Tuesday night, that wave turned into a tsunami, and it took the whole country holding on together just to keep everyone upright and breathing. Who would have thought that 30 long years of dark, sticky, putrifying conservative “you’re on your own” bullshit could be washed right out of our souls, leaving them shining and clean, all in one night? But it was. There is no question that from here on out, we’re all in this together; and that this fact will become one of the great joys of our time on this earth.

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Lying Liars, Part 13,417

Group News Blog, November 4, 2008

This e-mail was sent out yesterday to Farm Bureau members in Washington State, where Governor Christine Gregoire — who won her seat by 133 votes after several recounts in 2004 (and if that story doesn’t send you straight out to the polls, you are beyond hope) — is once again being challenged by the craptastic shill-for-the-developers Dino Rossi. According to the source that forwarded it to me, it’s since gone totally viral in the ag community.

—– Original Message —–
From: “Farm Bureau Members for Water Storage”<>
Sent: Sunday, November 02, 2008 11:06 AM
Subject: Farmers Rally in Yakima Against Christine Gregoire


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Let Them Wear Valentino, Part Deux

Group News Blog, October 24, 2008

Jeff Foxworthy has a venerable routine about why you can’t give rednecks money. They’ll invest the funds in commemorative ceramic plates of NASCAR drivers, he insists. They’ll build a new room onto the trailer “so we don’t have to sleep with Jim’s daddy no more,” he drawls. When he got his first big check, he ran right out and bought a pair of blue stingray cowboy boots (about $750 at Falconhead in Brentwood, CA — the ultimate fantasy boot emporium) — beautiful and unusual, in a delightfully tacky kind of redneck way.

That’s the kind of stuff that happens when people are in cotton so tall it’s over their head. (Been here, done this myself.) You lose perspective, quickly. And the next thing that happens looks something like this:

Photo of Piper Palin, courtesy Huffington Post

Now, I really do not want to believe that seven-year-old Piper is the proud owner of her own Louis Vuitton Montorguiel PM ($790 at More likely, some enterprising photog caught her helpfully looking after Mommy’s handbag while Mommy was off serving mooseburgers or something.

But given what we’re hearing about the Palin family — stories like Bristol Palin’s $1700 shearling maternity coat, for example — it’s easy enough to believe that they dropped $800 on a little treat for darling Piper.

This is what excess looks like.
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