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Archive for November, 2013

hobby-lobby-500The owner of Hobby Lobby believes that God has ordained its success.  Ergo, store policy should follow God’s law, which means to him, apparently, that his employees may not have health insurance that covers contraception.

When I heard him say this on the teevee I got out my bible to look for a place where Jesus says “Thou shalt not provide health insurance that covers contraception for employees.”   Let’s see–sermon on the mount?  Nope.  Tossing the moneychangers out of the temple?  Nope.  The last supper?  Nope.  I did find stuff like “love thy neighbor” and “care for the sick,” though.

Maybe Jesus didn’t say this.  Maybe it’s in the old testament instead.   Moses could have broken a tablet that said “Use ye not contraception.”  Or maybe when God kicked Adam and Eve out of the garden, he locked up all the abortive herbs inside the gates?  And then they grew through the fence so that women could use them?  (Nature plays a little trick on God–hee hee).

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Charlie Gets It

Charlie Pierce is exactly right about Kennedy’s assassination:  http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/anniversary-of-jfk-assassination-112213.

Here’s a taste:

“The murder of John Kennedy in broad daylight in the streets of an American city remains, to me, an unsolved crime. I do not accept the notion that the Warren Commission, created to allay public panic and not to investigate, and composed of wise men from Washington who had made careers out of knowing more than they ever would tell, somehow still managed to stumble onto the correct interpretation of all of the events of that surreal weekend. (Hell, Allen Dulles was on that Commission and Kennedy had fired his lying ass less than a year earlier.) I stopped believing in the Warren Commission even before it was put together. I stopped believing in the Warren Commission when I sat on my living room floor and watched the accused murderer of the president get gunned down on live TV in a roomful of Dallas cops. I stopped believing in the Warren Commission when I watched a lynching with my parents while the dead president was lying in state in the White House and as the country went numb around me.”

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Thanks on A Gloomy Day

imagesToday is the fiftieth anniversary of JFK’s murder, as you must know if you have access to any kind of media.  All of the coverage I’ve heard so far is resolutely in the “lone gunman” camp.  (The folks over at CTKA.net refer to this as the “Oswald You Crazy Kid” theory).

Last night I watched a veritable rant from Chris Matthews disparaging those of us who do not accept that Oswald “acted alone,” as they say.   And this afternoon a couple of guys on NPR used ballistic evidence to prove the magic bullet theory (you know, that one bullet created seven wounds in two men).  I didn’t understand their “scientific” explanations of laws of thermodynamics I’ve never heard of, although it did seem to me that their theory, complicated as it was, disrespected Occam’s Razor.

Those who accept the official story are awfully sure that the bullets they are studying are the ones actually used in the murder, despite some fairly gaping holes in the chain of evidence.  The magic bullet was picked up off the floor of JFK’s limo, in pristine condition, hours after the shooting.  As any fan of NCIS knows, you gotta keep control of the evidence.  But Dallas police said at first that Oswald’s rifle was devoid of fingerprints–even those of an ungloved cop who triumphantly held it up for reporters to see a few minutes after it was found in the Texas Book Depository.  By the time it got to the Warren Commission it had Oswald’s prints on it.

There’s lots more, but I’m not here to pick nits.  I’m here to say how distressing it is to see the MSM at work on a story that I know something about.  It’s even more distressing to know that equally serious levels of distortion and misdirection exist within their reportage of issues I know less well.

That’s why I give thanks for friends like Trep and Desert who don’t believe everything they read or hear.

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C732-1-WH64Members of the Warren Commission present their report to President Johnson

The coming Friday will mark fifty years since President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.  I was twenty years old when it happened.  Like most Americans who were alive then, I will never forget that day, nor the horrible days that followed.  On November 22, 1963, I was walking to my speech class at Nebraska, and I noticed that people were crying.  Odd, I thought.  When I arrived at class I found out why.  The professor had set up a television, and we all watched as reports from Dallas began to filter in to the networks.  I can’t remember whether I saw the live shot where Walter Cronkite announced Kennedy’s death (because I have often seen it afterward).  But if class started at 12:30 or 12:40, as many college courses do, I may have.

The university cancelled classes for the remainder of the week, and I caught a ride home with some other students who hailed from my tiny home town because I wanted to be with my dad.  The trip home was far more sombre than such outings usually were (we didn’t even buy beer to see us through the three-hour trip).  My father was Irish Catholic and a lifelong Democrat.  He didn’t talk about his politics in public settings in that little town, and I was under orders to keep my increasingly leftish opinions to myself as well.  So we huddled together in front of his big old mahogany teevee for three days and cried while we watched the endless coverage of the funeral.

This was my first experience with social and political disruption.  But disruptive episodes came along fast and furiously in the 1960s:   JFK in ’63, then Malcolm in ’65, and then, in rapid succession, Martin in April and Bobby in June of ’68.  When my husband rushed into our bedroom to announce that Bobby had been shot, I pulled the covers up over my head–I just could not deal with any more grief.  Our marriage eventually disintegrated, and it seems in hindsight that may have been due, in part, to our respective politics:  he still believed in LBJ and hence supported Humphrey, while I stumped the state for Gene.

What a small political difference that seems to be now when left discourse has very nearly vanished from the national scene–even someone with LBJ’s political skill would have a hard time getting elected to national office today.  Obama’s domestic agenda is downright tepid compared to LBJ’s, and the right has simply stopped him from governing.

My fascination with conspiracy theory has something to do with growing up in the age of rampant political assassination.  This category–political assassination–includes lots more people than those listed above, of course– Medgar Evers, Viola Liuzzio, Fred Hampton, the kids at Kent State, and, if we stretch the definition just a little bit, all those who were drafted into service in Vietnam.  Thinking on this large scale, I’ve begun to understand a little bit about why conspiracy thinking is relatively comfortable for those of us on the left.  Leftists tend to apply structural analyses to political developments, while conservatives rely on a sort of “great man” version of events.

Take the Kennedy assassination by way of illustration.  Right-wingers like Gerald Posner accept the official version of this event–that is, that Oswald worked alone–while lefties tend to see why powerful groups–the CIA, J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, the mafia, even the Dallas police department–make more sense as possible culprits.  Right-wingers don’t bother to explain why Oswald, a professing Marxist, would want to kill a left-leaning president whose vice-president was a liberal.  Nor are they interested in why Hoover hated RFK, or why Martin Luther King just might have riled up southern racists.  Or how their preferred villain, Osama Bin Laden, who was living in a cave in Afghanistan, was nevertheless able to arrange for four large planes to fly through American air space, unmolested, for over an hour.

Big readings of historical events (often called “conspiracy theories”) point out widespread corruption, not only among those in power, but of American democracy.  Can’t have that, now can we?  Better to award outsized levels of skill to a skinny kid with a mail-order rifle than to imperil the stalwart conservative desire to inflate the power of individuals to make history.

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parkland-paul-giamatti-600x400The dude pictured above is Paul Giamatti, playing the role of Abraham Zapruder in the film Parkland.  Now as all conspiranoiacs know, Parkland is the Dallas hospital to which JFK was rushed after he was shot.  And Zapruder is the man who shot the telling footage of the assassination as it took place.  Parkland is an effort undertaken by producer Tom Hanks, among others, to tell the story of what happened to the ordinary people who were sucked into the horrid vortex of events that followed upon JFK’s murder.

I was instructed by critics on Rotten Tomatoes not to like this movie or to think it would be very good.  (How wonky is that–to read reviews BEFORE watching a movie?)  But I did enjoy it, nonetheless.  I was particularly moved by its depiction of two characters:  Zapruder and Oswald’s brother Robert.  Giamatti is perhaps one of the finest actors working today, and it is extremely difficult not to empathize with his Zapruder’s anguish as he begins to realize, all at once, that the horror he has captured on his brand new 8-millimeter camera is worth a lot of money to those who want to exploit it.

The brother is portrayed by James Badge Dale.  He has few lines, so he has to display his feelings with his face and body.  When Robert is allowed to visit Lee for a few minutes, Badge Dale uses his face and body to convey an entire range of emotion while waiting for his brother to appear–disbelief, fear, and disgust move across his features in succession.  In the very fine scene that follows, Robert and Lee speak to one another through heavy glass by means of a telephone, and the actors make clear that this distanced sort of communication is typical of their entire relationship.

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Jeremy Strong plays Lee Oswald, and he is certainly a ringer:

parkland-jeremy-strong-400x600The scenes in the hospital are quite well done, showing the increasing desperation of doctors and nurses as they realize that they cannot save their dying patient (Marcia Gay Harden gives another Oscar-nomination-level performance as the head nurse who keeps everyone moving as they should.  She too has few lines but manages to convey through face and body how personally traumatic the moment is).

The film also gives the impression that the secret service was simply gobsmacked by the assassination.  Which is not to say that they weren’t prepared for such an event–they knew what to do, of course–but they weren’t emotionally ready to deal with their grief and shock.  This is skillfully conveyed by Billy Bob Thornton, playing the local Dallas agent, in a single moment when he sees the Zapruder film for the first time.  And the motif is repeated in a chilling scene as Kennedy’s personal agents rush, fumbling and cursing, to get the body aboard Air Force 1.

The only folks in the film who get no mercy from the director are the Dallas cops.  They are uniformly depicted as large unmoving and unsmiling men in big hats, and there are always too many of them in small rooms.  I don’t know if the producers/director meant to signal anything by their ubiquitous immobile presence but it does pose an interesting cinematic contrast to the frenzy of the secret service agents.

I don’t suppose a lot of young people will see this film, but they should.  If you weren’t alive in 1963, you probably have no way of realizing what a shock this assassination dealt to those affected by it.  This film delivers that realization, at least, in a way that is hard to ignore or forget.

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So Glad Somebody Noticed

wm-blake-slough-of-despondI felt as though I wandered into Bunyan’s Slough of Despond last week while watching teevee coverage of what its pundits call “news.”   There was a veritable feeding frenzy over the “failure” of the Affordable Care Act, known nearly universally to pundits as “Obamacare” despite the fact that this disparaging nickname was invented by the Rethugs.

Even after Obama apologized for saying the people could keep the insurance they previously had when the imposition of ACA standards turned up some policies that were crap, and when, if most people in this boat had simply checked, they’d have found better and cheaper insurance through ACA, the press did not let up.  Nor did it matter that the President provided a quick fix for this problem.  Even with all that most pundits, even those who work for the so-called “liberal” network MSNBC, continued to spew Rethug talking points.  Their irresponsibility was simply stunning.

Turns out I was not alone in my revulsion, though.   The people at Salon noticed the biased coverage as well:  http://www.salon.com/2013/11/16/theyve_learned_nothing_medias_obamacare_coverage_is_humiliating/.   It’s a good read.

(The image is by William Blake, of course).

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In a little over two hours from now, it will be 9:10 on 11/12/13!  And if you miss it this morning, you can celebrate tonight.

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