Category Archives: I don’t think that word means what you think it means

Wanted: foreign affairs journalist to cover events in Ferguson, Minneapolis, and Cleveland.

Sometimes I think journalists don’t even read their own articles — or internalize their own hot air.  In this Sunday’s New York Times, Ellen Barry writes about a murder case in India in which caste affiliation gets in the way of justice.  Early in the piece, she grills the local constable, gets pushback, and examines her navel a bit:

Over the past decade, in Russia and then India, I have been asked versions of this question hundreds of times: Who are you to come here and tell us what is wrong with our system? And it’s true, the whole enterprise of foreign correspondence has a whiff of colonialism. During the years I have worked abroad, Americans’ interest in promoting their values in the world has receded, slowly and then precipitously. I doubted the regional hegemons filling the vacuum would do better, but still, I wasn’t sure it was such a bad thing.

(Emphasis, as the law nerds say, added.)  So, cool, I think, she’s just a little bit self-aware about her privileged position and first-world filter.  But after reporting that the local justice system refused to recognize a murder as a murder — based on caste loyalty — she sheds her self-awareness like a gossamer scarf:*

Sometimes it seemed that the European legal system, with its liberal emphasis on individual rights, had settled only lightly on a country fixated on the rights of groups. Political leaders have driven this deeper into the culture: Equality, in India, is equality among groups. Justice is group justice.

Perhaps her next colonial assignment should be Ferguson.  Or Minneapolis.  Or Baltimore.  Or Cleveland.  Or New York.  I’d be interested in the promotion of American values in those far flung locales.


*I’m picturing a blonde woman — perhaps in a perfume ad — running in slow mo as the scarf of self awareness floats gracefully up and away from her.**

**Note the latest in accessible images:  the image-free image description.

Texas Governor Orders Founding Fathers/Constitution Display Removed from State Capitol (but the Nativity Can Stay)

The governor of Texas removed an approved display involving the Statue of Liberty because . . . Texas has a budget surplus that it would like to redistribute to ACLU lawyers?

Source: Texas Governor Orders Atheist Display Removed from State Capitol (but the Nativity Can Stay)

BTW the headline originally read, “Texas Governor Orders Atheist Display Removed  . . .” but there’s nothing anti-God there, just pro-America and pro-Constitution.  Honestly, the full-support-for-civil-liberties-lawyers theory is the only one that really fits.

“Lost Opportunity”

Chief justice decries decision that does not ‘celebrate Constitution’ | TheHill.

“Indeed, however heartened proponents of same-sex marriage might be on this day, it is worth acknowledging what they have lost, and lost forever: the opportunity to win the true acceptance that comes from persuading their fellow citizens of the justice of their cause,” Chief Justice Roberts said in his dissent.

Wow – just think of all the opportunities we fans of civil rights have lost!

  • Lawrence v. Texas denied gays and lesbians the opportunity to persuade their fellow citizens that it was OK for them to have sex in the privacy of their own homes.  Dang – that would have been both fun and enlightening!
  • Romer v. Evans denied gays and lesbians the opportunity to persuade their fellow citizens to let them have the right to persuade their fellow citizens.
  • Brown v. Board denied African-Americans the opportunity to persuade their fellow citizen that they were fellow citizens.
  • Olmstead v. L.C. denied people with disabilities the opportunity to persuade their fellow citizens that they should be allowed to live in the community.
  • City of Cleburne denied people with disabilities the opportunity to persuade their fellow citizens that the Constitution protected them in the first place.
  • New York Times Co. v. Sullivan denied the press the opportunity to persuade their fellow citizens of their freedom of speech.
  • Estelle v. Gamble denied prisoners the opportunity to persuade their fellow citizens that they were entitled to some small modicum of medical care.

And so on.  You get the idea.

Dear Chief Justice Roberts:*  “RIGHTS” —

Image:  Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride with the caption


*  Wow. That scans just like “Dread Pirate Roberts.”

[Updated: edited for grammar.  #wordnerd]

This guy is tasked with public safety?

I personally believe in Jesus Christ as my lord savior, but I’m also a killer. I’ve killed a lot. And if I need to, I’ll kill a whole bunch more. … If you don’t want to get killed, don’t show up in front of me, it’s that simple. I have no problem with it. God did not raise me to be a coward.

via Ferguson-Area Police Officer Suspended After ‘Killer’ Rant Surfaces Online.  He apparently rants on along these lines, on the video, for an hour or so, largely missing the point of the whole “Christianity” thing.  And the whole “protect and serve” thing.

This guy is a cop, and a member of the “Oath Keepers, the right-wing law enforcement group that is aligned with the Patriot movement.”   A quick (and slightly toxic) visit to their website reveals that “Oath Keepers” are a collection of police and military types who believe their “oath” to their interpretation of the constitution gives them the right to do things like not do their jobs and shoot random people who do not share their interpretation of the constitution.*

They have a list of orders they will not obey, including executing warrantless  searches (good), disarming Americans (potentially bad, if the armed American is threatening to kill someone), and wildly paranoid:

We will NOT obey orders to invade and subjugate any state that asserts its sovereignty and declares the national government to be in violation of the compact by which that state entered the Union.

We will NOT obey any order to blockade American cities, thus turning them into giant concentration camps.

Whew!  Glad we cleared that up.  And good to know that when Texas finally secedes, no one will try to stop them.  Buh byeeeeee!

I do appreciate that this group is a big fan of Edward Snowden.  So they exist in that special place where the extreme right and extreme left of the political spectrum meet up in shared paranoia and megalomania.

I guess we’ve always known that certain subsets of law enforcement view themselves as creating, interpreting, and executing the law; it’s more than a bit frightening to think those cops have a self-aggrandizing club where they can encourage and reward each other for doing so.


* Based on their logo, this may or may not be caused by the emotional trauma of having very long but very thin penises:

Image: silhouette of man holding long gun, which also looks like he has a very long, thin penis protruding from his midsection.


Who Would Jesus Fear?

The residents of Indian Village are fighting mad about the potential location of a group home for mentally ill youth in southwest Louisiana’s Allen parish.

“We don’t have a problem helping people,” said 57-year-old resident Beth Courville. “We are a Christian community, a hard-working community.”

“Our fear is fear itself. We don’t know what’s going to be in our backyard,” said Courville. “We would like to stop this nightmare from happening to another community.”

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

America the Beautiful

I don’t usually get choked up over TV ads. (OK, yeah, I do. All it takes is folk music and/or puppies and I’m reaching for the kleenex.) But Coke’s America Is Beautiful Super Bowl ad was just beyond amazing.

It managed to portray – through images of our country, our American brothers and sisters, and the gorgeous voices of nine young girls singing “America the Beautiful” in nine different languages* — what is most beautiful, amazing, and exceptional about America.  I’m not sure my desire to drink a Coke is any greater after seeing the ad, but I’m really glad they made it.

Remember this?

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Send them, she said.  And they sent them.  Us.**  Which was highlighted eloquently by this excellent rebuttal to what turned out to be a conservative backlash against the ad.  That’s right, the part of the political spectrum that spends a lot of energy on American Exceptionalism — a/k/a why America is the Best.Country.Evah!!!1!!! — is angry about an ad that shows how truly exceptional we really are. We’re not exceptional because we have guns – the Somali pirates have guns. We’re not exceptional because we speak English – the Brits have been spreading English with colonialism for centuries, and it’s taught in high schools from Beijing to Kinshasa. We’re not exceptional because we’re white – most of us aren’t, and lots of liberal socialists with universal healthcare in Canada and Scandinavia are white.  We’re exceptional because we are one country formed by people from everywhere else.***

The prize for “I don’t think that word means what you think it means” goes to Glenn Beck who declared that the purpose of the ad was “to divide people.”  Yes, precisely, if by “divide” you mean “unify.”  Seriously,  you have to be addicted to anger to dislike this ad.  Do you think conservatives know that you can, in fact, be a Republican and still like this ad?  It’s OK.  They won’t take away your GOP membership card or your gun or your “Don’t Tread on Me” bumper sticker.  Go ahead — smile.  It’s a beautiful country full of beautiful people being sung about in beautiful voices.  Enjoy it for just a sec, then go back to being angry at  . . . whatever it is you’re always angry at, people getting healthcare or married or whatever.

As always, Jon Stewart has the best response.  I tried to embed the entire clip but failed.  But trust me, you’ll love it, especially — starting around the 4:30 mark — the long lost clip from a 1928 Super Bowl ad,  in which similarly marginalized and excluded Americans sing “America the Beautiful”:

{Image: White man standing on a street in front of the "Little Italy" sign, arms and hands splayed in front as he sings; image of the Italian flag (three horizontal green, white and red stripes) and the word "Italy" in the lower lefthand corner.}

{Image: an older white man sits at a bar with a full glass of dark beer in a Guinness glass; image of the Italian flag (three horizontal green, white and orange stripes) and the word "Ireland" in the lower lefthand corner.}

Gotta watch all the way to the end  — I love this lady!  Belt it out, sister!

{Image: White woman with dark hair and flowered dress with a necklace bearing the Hebrew letter "chai". Her arms are outstretched to the side and her mouth open in song. image of the soviet flag (yellow hammer & sickle against a red background) and the words "Soviet Union" in the lower lefthand corner.}


* You can see each version individually on YouTube along with the girls’ narration:  English; Tagalog; Mandarin; Arabic; Hindi; Hebrew; Spanish; Keres; and Senegalese French.

** Well, most of us.

*** Again, ahem, most of us.

The Man-Haters at Fox News

Brit Hume and Bill O’Reilly Think America’s Too ‘Feminized’ to Appreciate Chris Christie.”  Hume:

I have to say that in this sort of feminized atmosphere in which we exist today, guys who are masculine and muscular like that in their private conduct and are kind of old-fashioned tough guys run some risks.

This only works if “masculine” means “childish, lying, grudge-carrying asshole” and “feminized” means “acting like a decent, grown-up human being.”  Given what we know about Christie’s behavior, Hume’s declaration can only be read as an insult to men, something I would not have thought I’d hear at Fox News.

I think Google and I are not communicating

Google search for "Moroccan restaurant south colorado blvd" with the following results (accompanied by thumbnail photos):  Mataam Fez Restaurant; California Pizza Kitchen; Teddy's Restaurant; California Pizza Kitchen; The Corner Office Restaurant; and The Black Cat.

{Image description:  Google search for “Moroccan restaurant south colorado blvd” with the following results (accompanied by thumbnail photos):  Mataam Fez Restaurant; California Pizza Kitchen; Teddy’s Restaurant; California Pizza Kitchen; The Corner Office Restaurant; and The Black Cat.}

Totalitarian bicyclists

New York City recently started a bike-share program.  It’s my understanding that the program is sponsored by Citibank — a capitalist institution last time I checked — and that participation is voluntary, that is, no one is being forced by brownshirts to ride borrowed bicycles.

According to Wall Street Journal editorial board member Dorothy Rabinowitz, I may have this all wrong.*

As helpfully transcribed by Talking Points Memo:

“Do not ask me to enter the mind of the totalitarians running this government of the city,” Rabinowitz said when asked what she thought was the motivation behind the program.

“Look, I represent the majority of citizens. . . .The majority of citizens of this city are appalled by what has happened and I would like to say to people who don’t live in New York that this means something much more than the specifics of this dreadful program. It means: envision what happens when you get a government that is run by an autocratic mayor or other leader and a government before which you are helpless. We now look at a city whose best neighborhoods are absolutely begrimed, is the word, by these blazing blue Citi Bank bikes — all of the finest, most picturesque parts of the city. It is shocking to walk around the city to see how much of this they have sneaked under the radar in the interest of the environment.”


“Begrimed”? Is that even a word? And here is the scene that Ms. Rabinowitz finds begrimy:


There are plenty of things in NYC that might properly be called grimy — though it’s possible that Ms. Rabinowitz does not encounter any of them between the limo and the doorman — but this does not seem to satisfy any common language definition of the term.

What this is, of course, is another example of Conservative Linguistic Debasement:  “totalitarian” simply means “something a conservative does not like.”  It doesn’t have to relate to “a political regime based on subordination of the individual to the state and strict control of all aspects of the life and productive capacity of the nation especially by coercive measures.”  It just has to piss off a conservative.


* Having sat through most of the video editorial, I agree with James Fallows: “Henceforth when you read the Journal‘s editorials, I invite you to hear this voice, expression, and tone. . . . Onion writers, watch and weep.”

Constitutional originalism for the unbuff

Scalia Suggests ‘Hand-Held Rocket Launchers’ Are Protected Under Second Amendment | ThinkProgress.

Can you guess why Scalia suggests hand-held rocket launchers are protected under the Second Amendment?  Because you can “bear” them.  That is, you can, theoretically, lift them onto your shoulder.  So for this reason, “it does not apply to cannons.”  I swear this is not The Onion.  Seriously, folks, if we’re going for originalism, we can’t stop with the bright line between hand-held rocket launchers and cannons.  Clearly your Second Amendment rights, per Scalia, are calibrated to the amount of weight you can bench press.  Clearly this guy’s

constitutional rights are greater than mine, given that I’m not sure I could heft a Saturday Night Special.  But this, too, is flawed as originalism goes because at the time the Second Amendment was drafted, wasn’t the average body size smaller?  Shouldn’t we all be limited to the weapons that the average late 18th Century constitution-drafter could heft?  And if “bear” means only what it meant in 1781, how can freedom of the “press” apply to the internet?