Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Jon Swift Memorial Roundup 2011

(The Best Posts of the Year, Chosen by the Bloggers Themselves)

Welcome to a tradition started by the much missed Jon Swift/Al Weisel. He left behind some excellent satire, but was also a nice guy and a strong supporter of small blogs. As Lance Mannion puts it:

Our late and much missed comrade in blogging, journalist and writer Al Weisel, revered and admired across the bandwidth as the “reasonable conservative” blogger Modest Jon Swift, was a champion of the lesser known and little known bloggers working tirelessly in the shadows...

One of his projects was a year-end Blogger Round Up. Al/Jon asked bloggers far and wide, famous and in- and not at all, to submit a link to their favorite post of the past twelve months and then he sorted, compiled, blurbed, hyperlinked and posted them on his popular blog. His round-ups presented readers with a huge banquet table of links to work many of has had missed the first time around and brought those bloggers traffic and, more important, new readers they wouldn’t have otherwise enjoyed.

It may not have been the most heroic endeavor, but it was kind and generous and a lot of us owe our continued presence in the blogging biz to Al.

Here's his 2007 and 2008 editions. Last year's revival is here.

If you're not familiar with Al Weisel's work as Jon Swift, his site features a "best of" list in the left column.

Meanwhile, Blogroll Amnesty Day (co-founded with skippy) is a celebration of small blogs that's still going strong, and coming up again the first weekend in February.

Thanks to all the participants, especially those who helped out behind the scenes. Apologies to anyone I missed who wanted to participate. You still can, by linking your post in the comments. Whether your post appears in the modest list below or not, feel free to tweet your best post with the hatchtag #jonswift2011.

As in Jon/Al's 2008 roundup, submissions are listed roughly in the order they were received. As he wrote in that post:

I'm sure you'll be interested in seeing what your favorite bloggers think were their best posts of the year, but be sure to also visit some blogs you've never read before and leave a nice comment if you like what you see or, if you must, a polite demurral if you do not.

Without further ado:

Mad Kane's Political Madness
Newt's Pledge (Limerick)
Madeleine Begun Kane: "A limerick satirizing Newt Gingrich's belated marital fidelity pledge."

Addicting Info
It’s a Sad Day When Some People Think the End of Discrimination is a Sad Day
John Sheirer: "A takedown of all the bogus reasons conservatives used to object to the end of the discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" military policy. The article demolishes right-wing talking points on the issue with facts, logic, compassion, personal perspectives, and humor."

Self-Styled Siren
An Amateur Among Amateurs: Agee on Film
Farran Smith Nehme: "The title describes it. Agee is my favorite film critic; I put my heart into this one."

Sarah, Proud and Tall
In which the vengeance of God is justly meted out on earth
Sarah: "This is a little story about one of Bitsy Trump's famous Christmas parties, which contains gratuitous name-dropping, sex, drugs and an act of graphic violence perpetuated against Ayn Rand. What more could a girl want?"

The Satirical Political Report
Michele Bachmann Claims Slavery Ended By a 'Founding Fetus'
Don Davis: "The historically challenged tea-partier from Minnesota drinks the twisted tea to twist history. "

Clarence John Thomas
Dave Dugan: "The real answer behind the question, 'Why Clarence Thomas never speaks when The Supreme Court is in session.'"

His Vorpal Sword
They’re Going After The Wisconsin Teachers
Hart Williams: "How the Waltons, the DeVoses and the Brothers Koch are intimately connected in their attack on public education. And showing the obscene amounts of money they're using to do it...And showing how it's being applied in one state: Wisconsin."

Kiko's House
10 Years After the 9/11 Attacks, The Greatest Cover-Up In U.S. History Remains Intact
Shaun D. Mullen: "Ten years after the 9/11 catastrophe, the Bush administration cover-up of why the terrorist attacks were carried out despite the White House, CIA and FBI being repeatedly warned of them still holds… The mainstream media has been complicitous in ignoring this cover-up and ancillary efforts to hide the truth, which is not to be confused with the rantings of so-called 9/11 Truthers but rather an effort to hide the serial negligence and incompetence that characterized the government response before, during and after the attacks."

David E's Fablog
Hommage à Peter Watkins
David Ehrenstein

The Rude Pundit
The Case for Using Predator Drone Strikes Against Wall Street Executives
Lee Papa: "Hey, if we're not gonna bother prosecuting them, why not treat them as enemy combatants?"

U.S. Can't Take A Whopping Great Iraqi Hint
Steve Hynd

The Debate Link
On Bad Critiques of Rape Prevelance Studies (Part II)
David Schraub: "Two common (albeit somewhat contradictory) critiques of studies indicating rape is quite common in our society are that either the accusers are simply "crying victim" after the fact (e.g., to disguise a sexual encounter they retroactively regret), or that the label of "rape" is being foisted upon events they don't consider to be an instance of assault (as in so-called "gray rape"). In this post, I explain why these explanations don't carry water…"

The Triumph of the One Percent in Pictures
Jon Perr: "With income inequality at its highest level in 80 years while the federal tax burden is at its lowest in 60, the top 1% has already triumphed in the class war Republicans continue to fight on their behalf."

We Are Respectable Negroes
Black History Month is Herman Cain Playing a Race Minstrel For CPAC
Chauncey DeVega: "Here, I examined Herman Cain's breakout performance at CPAC in February 2011. I detailed how he channeled the figure of the race minstrel in order to please white populist conservatives (an argument which I was lambasted for at the time, but that many critics eventually used, in many cases verbatim, months later). Cain and the Right-wing echo chamber latched onto this post. Fox News, Big Hollywood, and many other Right-wing media outlets made it their talking point of the day (or week). Cain became a national figure, in many ways, precisely because of the critique I offered here."

Pruning Shears
Report from Columbus
Dan: "An account of the day thousands of Ohioans protesting SB 5 were locked out of their statehouse."

A Blog About School
Scenes from the first week of school
Chris Liebig: "A description of what my kids' elementary school looks like as it has become increasingly obsessed with behavior, behavior, behavior, and increasingly prone to emphasize obedience and at the expense of critical thought."

Poor Impulse Control
Gods Who Are Any More Vengeful
Tata: "The problem of televised crazytalk demands a solution in which surly sane people break the fourth wall – and do it right the hell NOW."

Mario Piperni dot Com
The Republican Primary – The Illustrated Edition
Mario Piperni: "Say what you will about the Republican primary so far but it has been wonderfully entertaining. I've put together a visual presentation which I believe captures the zany character and antics of all 8 Republican candidates. Enjoy!"

I'll Never Forget The Day I Read A Book
The Autobiography of Mark Twain
Clark Bjorke: "Maybe you remember that the first volume of Mark Twain's autobiography was finally published back in January of 2011, 100 years after his death. This is my review of the book in which I urge the reader to save a lot of time and money by reading one of the Mark Twain biographies written by a real biographer, instead of this meandering, bloated, Joycean tome. I don't think it was worth the wait."

Registration of Guns and Licensing of Gun Owners from the Alien Perspective

Bark Bark Woof Woof
Lanford Wilson – 1937-2011
Mustang Bobby: " A tribute to one of America’s great playwrights… and a good friend who taught me all about writing and character."

Diary of a Heretic
Readiness is All
Kathleen Maher: "This episode in a serialized novel-in-progress, "James Bond and the Girls of Woodstock," finds Matthew King, the new James Bond, preparing for, and nailing in one take, a scene in which Bond's arch-enemy tries to kill him with a fire bomb planted in the Brooklyn Museum."

Mock, Paper, Scissors
This One is for my Dad
Tengrain: "This was on the 4th anniversary of his death, and was just a quick little remembrance, but it seemed to have struck a nerve with my readers. It's not snark, so a bit out of character for the blog."

Watergate Summer
Police Brutality At Seattle Occupy Event 84 yr old Dorli Rainey is PepperSprayed...
enigma4ever: "Here is my post on 84 year old Dorli Rainey (which some media ended up using for research)."

How to embarrass your teenage daughter
J. of J-TWO-O: "I am submitting my post... as a public service to all bloggers and blog readers with adolescent female children."

Stump Lane
Democracy is FAKE (Part 2)
Montag: "A look at OWS used as a springboard to delve into root causes of hierarchy and oppression."

Stonekettle Station
Everybody’s So Different, I Haven’t Changed
Jim Wright/Stonekettle: "The question is, what's more important? Your convictions or how you're labelled for your convictions?"

Simply Left Behind
A Promise Made
Carl (aka Actor212): "What happens when you've been promised the American Dream, only to find out it no longer exists? You Occupy Wall Street."

How Unions Make a Nation Competitive
Marc McDonald: "Like Rodney Dangerfield, U.S. unions have long struggled to gain respect, especially since 1980. But the reality is that unions help make a nation more competitive by disciplining corporations into taking a long-term view and avoiding the short-sightedness that has long been a disaster for U.S. industry."

Bristol Palin’s Airing of Grievances

Whiskey Fire
Before We Go Licking Each Others' Balls to the Point of Unseemly Slobbering...

Balloon Juice
Three speakers, three listeners

Connecting the Dots
A Tale of Two Americas
Robert Stein: "An octogenarian compares his childhood in the Great Depression to today’s political climate—a different country in which government was seen as the answer to misery rather than the creator of it."

Mister Tristan
The Pixilated Side-Boob
Gary, A Relative of Mister Tristan: "The pixilation of a female Survivor contestant’s breast makes me think of how misdirected the righteous right is. They focus primarily on morality politics (abortion, Ten Commandments, prayer, etc.) while Rome burns (unemployment, lack of health care, poverty, etc.)"

Blue Gal
The GOP Debate I'd Like to See...
Blue Gal

I Plan and God Laughs
Gladiator Nation

The Spanish Recipe
Peter discusses a recipe through Mamet parody.

Strangely Blogged
Class, Cluelessness and damned statistics – or Why I'm not About Cutting Slack
Vixen Strangely

p3: Persuasion, Perseverance, and Patience
On Inoculation
Bill Nothstine: "Why many people apparently think that the unexpurgated Huckleberry Finn is as dangerous as smallpox."

Lake and Local
Florida Schools Have a Crisis in Wealthy Student Achievement
Billy Townsend: "This piece makes the statistical/political case that traditional poorer schools in Florida outperform wealthy schools. And has a little fun with local politics in the process."

The UN made me do it
B Psycho

Chimpanzee Tea Party
Foodies = Gluttons?
J.W. Hammer

An Immodest Proposal
Mark Gisleson: "Fair warning, this is possibly the rudest thing I've ever written, but it is done in the style of the original Modest Proposal."

The Inverse Square
I’m Shocked! Shocked To Find That There Are Neutrinos Going On Here
Tom Levenson: "This post looks at how the physicists response to the report of faster-than-light neutrino captures what it takes to assimilate major new results into scientific understanding -- and hence why climate change denialists have a very tough road to hoe."

Death of the Anti-Gonzo
driftglass: "On the occasion of the death of David Broder, as the over-the-top tributes and plaudits being offered up by every single person in the Beltway Media threatened to blot out the Sun, I thought it only fair that at least one contrarian jerk point out that, because of his willful blindness and reflexive hatred of the Dirty Hippies, the "Dean" of American political reporting completely missed the most important political story of the last 30 years."

Dreams Of A Straight Up World -OR- Isn't It Really Interdependence Day?
Rehctaw: "An Independence Day reminder that we are connected to this place and one another. For better or worse, so why actively go for worse?"

Chicago Guy
Tina Fey's Greek Restaurant
Chicago Guy explores the power of improvisation.

Huey Long Died 76 Years Ago
Darrel Plant: "Every year seems to make an annual posting of the Louisiana populist's "Share Our Wealth" plan more relevant. It began it on the 70th anniversary of his assassination, in the midst of the drowning of New Orleans, and it's been a staple through the years our economy has gone underwater."

From the ISLAGIATT (It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time) File
Tild Dallelie: "In which I clean out a folder of assorted graphics projects and share the best, or most memorable images."

The Hunting of the Snark
The Comfort of Others: Inequality Then And Now
Susan of Texas: "If you've ever wondered what Jane Austen would have thought of our growing income inequality (and haven't we all?), take a look at my guest post at Naked Capitalism comparing Sense and Sensibility to Occupy Wall Street."

Mental Floss
The Proliferation of a Virtual Species: You’ll Like This Alot
Miss Cellania: "How a typo became an animal recognized all around the internet."

World O' Crap
Your Suffering is Putting Me Off My Pu-Pu Platter
Scott Clevenger: "Dr. Diane Medved (Psycho Therapist and wife of right wing radio scold Michael Medved) bemoans the plight of wealthy tourists whose holidays are ruined by the sight of poor people, and cries out for vengeance against the Hobos of Hawaii."

Swing Time: "No Cuffs"!
M.A.Peel: "A look at the great Astaire/Rogers film on its 75th anniversary. Its story is amazingly fresh, something not far afield from the likes of The Hangover.

Hysterical Raisins
The Day After
nonnie9999: "Since the Raisin exists mostly to skewer the worst of politicians and politics, a lot of people would probably be surprised that this is the post that I'm most proud of this year. The sentiment still applies even though almost a year has passed."

Brilliant at Breakfast
So what on earth makes anyone think that more tax cuts will cause the executives of these companies to "create jobs"?
Jill: "What happened to rewarding the risk-takers; those who take a chance that they may lose, but that they also may win? In an environment in which a risk that doesn't reward is punished out of all proportion to the supposed "offense", why take the chance?"

Working until we drop: A fable for our times
Lance Mannion: "Apparently the geniuses down in Washington have decided that to "fix" Social Security, what this country really needs is a whole lot of people working into their seventies or until they drop dead."

Woman's Work
Melissa McEwan: "The hard truth for progressive men who care about reproductive rights is this: When you leave the public fight to others, you're leaving it mostly to women. This post is about the many ways in which treating the feminist/womanist fight for reproductive rights as 'woman's work' is some fucked-up irony, and why women need male allies."

Tom Watson
Here We Are Now, Entertain Us
Tom Watson: "The importance of Occupy Wall Street."

Zaius Nation
Paul Ryan's 2012 Budget: It Gives to the Rich, and Steals From the Poor!
Dr. Zaius: "A brief explanation of Paul Ryan's budget proposal."

Fried Green al-Qaedas
Mark Hoback: "Secrets of successful Speakers."

The Reaction
Osama bin Laden, 9/11, and the tweets of Rashard Mendenhall
Michael J.W. Stickings: "After Osama's killing, I defended Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall's controversial comments about 9/11 and the war on terror."

This Is So Gay
And Howe
Duncan Mitchel: "My review of Florence Howe's memoir A Life in Motion, a book about feminism, class, friendship, academia, the Civil Rights Movement, and publishing women's writings."

Just an Earth-Bound Misfit
Law, War and 9/11
Earth-Bound Misfit: "How to truly mark 9/11 by starting to roll back the National Security State."

They Gave Us a Republic
What is your Planned Parenthood story?
Blue Girl tells hers.

We are not bound by your dictums, Bob Costas
Brendan Keefe


Vagabond Scholar
They Could Not Look Me in the Eye Again
Batocchio: "Torture and wars of choice exist on the far end of an entire spectrum of dehumanization and cruelty that costs us all dearly."

Thanks again, folks. Happy blogging (and everything else) in 2012.

(A 2008 Jon Swift LOLcat, relevant every election season.)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Terry Gilliam's Christmas Card

CBS News:
"Yes, a card makes Christmas complete." These are the first (and only) words in this 1968 short video made by Terry Gilliam. The Monty Python member made this festive cut-out animation for the British TV show "Do Not Adjust Your Set" – a show that featured several other members of what would become "Monty Python's Flying Circus." As you could probably guess, it's odd, funny, and very appropriate for the season.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Psychohistorians versus Pseudo-Intellectuals

Asimov, Krugman and America deserve better. Teresa Nielsen Hayden makes an authoritative case that "Krugman is from Trantor; Gingrich ain't:

Far be it from me to discourage mainstream political commentary that’s framed in terms of science fiction, but Ray Smock’s Newt Gingrich the Galactic Historian gets it wrong:

If men are from Mars and women are from Venus, Newt Gingrich is from the planet Trantor, a fictional world created by Isaac Asimov in his classic Foundation series about galactic empire.

Wrong. The Honorable Newt is not from Trantor. Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman is from Trantor. This is known. He’s said on multiple occasions that he went into economics because the field of psychohistory doesn’t exist. What Krugman took from the Foundation Trilogy was the idea that you could learn everything about history and put it together in order to understand not only what has happened, but why things happen the way they do. Remind you of Gingrich? Me neither.*

Newt’s master plan for America does not come from a Republican Party playbook. It comes from the science fiction that he read in high school. He is playing out, on a national and global scale, dreams he had as a teenager with his nose buried in pulp fiction.

Do not blame that on science fiction. 93% of the people in my social circle read the Foundation Trilogy and assorted pulp SF in their youth, and none of them turned into Newt Gingrich.

Smock’s thesis is unwarranted. The argument present in his actual evidence is that Gingrich is prone to wishful thinking, and a grandiose view of his own place in the world. That’s not the fault of the books he’s read; it’s his innate character, beginning to end. If he’d read other books, he’d have drawn the same conclusions but used other examples to illustrate them.

Look at his relationship with history. I’ll allow that Gingrich has read more of it than the average citizen, but I’ve never seen any evidence that his reading has led him to form opinions not already present in his thinking. He mines history, shallowly, for illustrative examples. He uses it to put on airs. And if you’ve read Catton, Foote, and McPherson, Gingrich’s novels certainly won’t give you any surprising new takes on the Civil War.

Newt Gingrich’s knowledge of history is like George Bush’s religion: it exists only to validate what he already wants to believe. When the influence is that shallow, the texts are not to blame.

Hear, hear, and read the rest (the comments have some good stuff, too). Hayden's description of Gingrich's use of history reminds me of several other pieces that call into question Gingrich's quality as a historian and his modus operandi as a public (pseudo) intellectual.

In "Five myths about Newt Gingrich," John J. Pitney, Jr.'s first item is:

1. Gingrich is an academic.

He earned a PhD in history and taught college before winning a seat in Congress. He has often spoken of himself as a historian. In 1995, he told CNN’s Bob Franken: “I am the most seriously professorial politician since Woodrow Wilson.”

But whereas Wilson spent years publishing scholarly works, Gingrich was more like the professor who wins popularity awards from undergraduates but doesn’t get tenure because he doesn’t publish anything significant. He even told a college newspaper in 1977 that “I made the decision two or three years ago that I’d rather run for Congress than publish the papers or academic books necessary to get promoted.”

Since then, he has given countless lectures and written more than 20 books, but has never produced truly serious scholarship. A typical Gingrich work is full of aphorisms and historical references — and devoid of the hallmarks of academic research: rigor, nuance and consideration of alternative views. Conservative political scientist James Q. Wilson once assessed materials for a televised history course that Gingrich was teaching as a “mishmash of undefined terms... misleading claims... and unclear distinctions.”

Yet Gingrich has been quick to cite his credentials as a source of authority. In a letter to Reagan budget director David Stockman, he once wrote: “From my perspective as a historian, you don’t deal in the objective requirements of history.” And recently, he suggested that mortgage giant Freddie Mac had paid him for his historical expertise, not his Capitol Hill connections.

The "mishmash" NYT link is well worth following. It delivers more information about Gingrich's ethic breaches – he was fined an unprecedented $300,000 "for misusing tax-exempt funds for partisan purposes and providing untrue information to a House Ethics Committee inquiry." (Some things never change: "The 395-to-28 vote followed nearly a year of investigation led by the committee's special counsel, James M. Cole, whose view of Mr. Gingrich's transgressions was plainly harsher than the committee's Republicans were ready to accept.") The piece also gives a glimpse into Gingrich's megalomania: In 1992, in talks with supporters in Florida, Gingrich described himself as (among other things), "Definer of civilization," "Teacher of the Rules of Civilization" and "Arouser of those who Fan Civilization" (make your own joke). Finally, it provides more of Wilson's assessment of Gingrich's work as a historian:

In the fall of 1993, Mr. Gingrich began teaching the history course, ''Renewing American Civilization,'' that would later lie at the heart of the controversy over his use of tax-exempt funds. An associate, Jeff Eisenach, sought from James Q. Wilson, the conservative scholar, an endorsement of a chapter of the text prepared for the course. The professor's reply in September 1993 was not quite what the Gingrich camp was hoping for:

I am troubled by the chapter. Perhaps I don't understand the purpose of the course, but if it is to be a course rather than a series of sermons, this chapter won't do. It is bland, vague, hortatory and lacking in substance. I do not deny that personal character is important; I have spent much of the last 10 years making that argument in some detail. But this chapter does not strike me as a thoughtful examination of the sources or importance of character in American life. Philosophically, it is a mishmash of undefined terms (''the universal immune power''), misleading claims (''principles are natural laws''), and unclear distinctions (e.g., between principles and values). Scientifically, it is filled with questionable or unsupported generalizations (e.g., standards of acceptable conduct are influenced more by the media than by the family, broadcasting cannot continue to live by the numbers, since World War I Americans have lost sight of right and wrong in favor of ''quick-fix mentality,'' etc.)

Historically, it does not represent Adam Smith correctly. . . . The Founders are also treated somewhat cavalierly. It is true that George Washington spoke often of the importance of virtue, but he didn't write the Constitution; Madison and a few others did. In the Federalist papers, Madison defends that Constitution by saying that it does not require virtue for its operation: ambition will be made to counteract ambition.

I could go on, but I dare not for fear I have misunderstood what this enterprise is all about. I am a professor, and so I bring the perspectives (and limitations) of a professor to bear on this matter. If this is not to be a course but instead a sermon, then you should get a preacher to comment on it.

''Renewing American Civilization'' was more than a course or a slogan. It was one vision statement after another. This is from the March 19, 1993, version:

American civilization is decaying. Most Americans know that the combination of 12-year-old kids dying of AIDS and 18-year-old students, who cannot even read, receiving high school diplomas, threatens the very fabric of American civilization. . . .

We knew American civilization was decaying before the Democrats took the White House. We now know after two months of the Democratic machine that they will accelerate the decay and make it worse. . . .

Now that's fair and balanced history teaching. Gingrich has been a scoundrel for so long, it's important to remember his own history.

More recently, Steve Benen reports that Gingrich "intends, if elected president, to teach an online course." That's an odd, disturbing and potentially hilarious prospect, but it leads Benen to link a 1995 Washington Monthly piece by Allan Lichtman about the course Gingrich taught at Kennesaw State College in Georgia, the aforementioned “Renewing American Civilization." Lictman dubs it "fictionalized history":

Gingrich’s fictionalized history makes more sense when you examine his sources. This professor doesn’t waste much time on books or documents, unless you count novels and films. This is History Lite (which, admittedly, some students covet). He spends far less time on The Federalist Papers than he does on "The Last of the Mohicans," one of his favorite films:

“Wonderful scene where the American ... is standing there and the British officer says, ‘Aren’t you going to Fort William Henry?’ And he says, ‘No, I’m going to Kentucky.’ And he says, ‘How can you go to Kentucky in the middle of a war?’ And he says, ‘You face north, turn left and walk. It’s west of here.’ It’s a very American response... Now, he ends up going to fight. Why? Because of the girl, which is also classically American. It’s a very romantic country.”

Of the books he does use, you have to wonder whether he has read them recently…

Gingrich’s historical selectivity and outright errors are, well, revealing. He manages to get through the entire Civil War without ever mentioning slavery...

Not surprisingly, much of Gingrich’s course is preoccupied with the history of the welfare state-the “actively destructive” welfare state, that is. He doesn’t acknowledge any of the good that government has done over the past 30 years, when federal investments in education, electrification, research, and facilities built Gingrich’s modern South.

Instead, Gingrich explains, “The modern welfare state basically says to you: Tell us what kind of victim you are, and we’ll tell you how big a check you get ... In the elite culture model, we focus on losers.” Perhaps, but does Gingrich then number the people he represents among the losers? His congressional district receives the largest amount of federal funds of any district in America. Newt the teacher may have forgotten this. Newt the politician knows it well.

Films can be useful tools for teaching history, but it depends on their accuracy, and the teacher's knowledge about their accuracy (scrutinizing an inaccurate depiction could make for a good and fun discussion). Similarly, citing a film or novel might frame a public issue well, but obviously, this is not true is the fictionalized account is at direct odds with reality. Many of Gingrich's notions are either antiquated or fantastical – Al Franken once joked that all of Newt's ideas appear to come from a Reader's Digest from the 50s, and Stephen Colbert pointed out that many of Gingrich's crazy ideas seem lifted from Bond villains. Gingrich has long cited both fictionalized history and fiction to justify his positions. Back in 1994, Gingrich proposed putting welfare children into orphanages, citing the 1938 film Boys Town:

Asked to comment on Hillary Clinton's criticism of his proposal to ship welfare children to "orphanages," Rep. Newt Gingrich (R., Ga.), told the panelists of NBC's Meet the Press that the First Lady should hie on down "to Blockbuster and rent the Mickey Rooney movie about Boys Town."

This advice, from the man who yesterday was elected speaker of the House of Representatives, confounded the nation's movie lovers, not to mention its social-service professionals.

The inspirational Boys Town starred Spencer Tracy as Father Flanagan, the real-life figure who rehabilitated thousands of delinquent youths at his facility near Omaha, Neb. In the 1938 film, Mickey Rooney played Whitey Marsh, a hard-bitten delinquent who becomes a cherub under the patient care of Flanagan.

"There seems to be some romanticizing about orphanages these days," says Joan Reeves, commissioner of Philadelphia's Department of Human Services. "I remember Boys Town. I liked the movie. I cried a lot. But I don't look to movies for help in solving social problems."

"Doesn't Gingrich know that the Boys Town of today is nothing like the Boys Town of yesterday - and neither are the boys?" asked Frank Cervone, executive director of Philadelphia's Support Center for Child Advocates, which represents abused and neglected children.

"The actual functioning of the place is quite different from the 1938 film," said Randy Blauvelt, public relations director of Boys Town, which has been "besieged by the media" since Gingrich's statement.

James G. Driscoll made similar points, noting that "Gingrich has a Ph.D. in history and likes old movies, but knows little about preserving modern families. Very little." In a further odd development, Gingrich hosted a showing of the film on one of the Turner networks.

You may have caught Newt Gingrich's remarks that child labor laws should be repealed so that poor kids, who are lazy (and presumably black), can take over janitorial jobs at their schools. Check out Susan of Texas for a good treatment of this characteristically stupid and immoral proposal. Paul Glastris also notes that Gingrich was outraged at a Clinton plan to give jobs to inner-city youth – claiming that tax cuts to private businesses were better. Granted, Gingrich has a long history of flip-flops and talking out of both sides of his mouth, but that doesn't diminish the special quality of bullshit he brings to each one:

As Paul [Glastris] asked, “Why, then, was Gingrich against government jobs programs for poor teens in 1993 but favors them in 2011? Could it be that he opposes them only when they’re offered up by Democrats, and supports them only when they involve firing unionized workers?”

As we've examined before, "Gingrich has somehow remained a member in good standing in the Beltway, despite his long record of hyper-partisan, McCarthy-esque bomb-throwing and many attacks on the very notion of a functioning government." While he has said and done many despicable things over the years, the following get my vote for the most contemptible and unforgivable, summarized well by Steve Benen and Kevin Drum:

Just a few days before the ‘94 midterm elections — the cycle that would represent the “Republican Revolution” — a deranged woman named Susan Smith drowned her two young sons in South Carolina. It was a horrifying crime that captured significant national attention.

In his desperation to exploit literally any opportunity for partisan gain, Gingrich quickly made infanticide a campaign issue and publicly equated Smith’s murders with the values of the Democratic Party. Gingrich told the AP at the time, “The mother killing her two children in South Carolina vividly reminds every American how sick the society is getting and how much we have to have change. I think people want to change and the only way you get change is to vote Republican.”

That someone would think this is offensive. That someone would say it out loud, on the record, is just twisted.

Calling Gingrich “one of the nastiest, most malignant pieces of work ever to grace American politics,” Kevin [Drum] concluded, “Newt Gingrich extolling the virtues of bipartisanship is like Hannibal Lecter promoting the value of good nutrition.”

That’s a terrific line that happens to be true.

Another great summing up of Newt Gingrich is that "He's a stupid man's idea of what a smart person sounds like." Never one to pass up an opportunity, he will continue to show that for the rest of the campaign season and his political career.

(For more on Gingrich, see Roy Edroso's most recent wingnut roundup, John Richardson's 2010 feature for Equire [plus extras], and follow some of the links above.)

Thursday, December 01, 2011

"Pinball Wizard"

This version comes from Tommy, directed by Ken Russell, who died this week. Roy Edroso has more. Russell made some seriously weird films, but he came by it honestly, which made for some interesting and memorable moments in a long career. (Lair of the White Worm is bizarre and unforgettable; I haven't seen most of Russell's many and highly-regarded artist biopics.)

I also have to include this clip, since it features (as the YouTube poster puts it) "crazy dance and hair slapping" and the great mirror bit.

Eclectic Jukebox