I Pledge Allegiance to the Declastution of the Divided States of O’Murica!


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declaration“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”

I wish I had a habanero for every time someone (usually a conservative) told me that passage was in the U.S. Constitution. My friends and coworkers would all eat really hot chili for couple of days!

Most recently, it was Jim DeMint who Declarified the Constitution, so to speak. That’s hardly an unusual mistake from right wingers, but it is a little uncommon from one who actually gets paid to sound like he knows what he’s talking about. Flat out getting the documents wrong is more common among the grunts of the culture wars, not their leaders at the Heritage Foundation. Usually, the talking heads just refer a constitutional question to the Declaration and hope you don’t notice the switch.

It would be easy to dismiss this as a mere accident, but there is a sort of logic to this, albeit a logic of deception. Usually the gambit facilitates a kind of scorched earth tactic in which all that is good and gooey about the Constitution becomes a direct consequence of Christianity (as evangelical Christians choose to understand it). See, the only mention of God in the U.S. Constitution is in the date, and that makes the explicit mention of a creator in the Declaration much more sexy for those who want their gods right up there behind the gavel of government. Now if you just ignore a few things about context of the Declaration (Jefferson’s Deism for instance), you can pretend that ‘creator’ means ‘Jesus’, pretend the Declaration is the Constitution, and pretend the whole point of the passages was not to say we have rights but to tell us where those rights come from, and voila! The Declaration is thus transformed into a speculative theological treaties and the constitution is taken along for the ride (whether by association or mis-recognition depends on whether the operative principle here is deceit or outright ignorance).

220px-Jim_DeMintBut of course such arguments are only meant for real O’Muricans! Us damned liberals aren’t expected to understand the miracles of Republican Jesus. DeMint only reminds us of the importance of God in passing, because this time he is trying to call attention to yet another of the great miracles of this document, the Declastution. This time DeMint was busy trying to convince us that constitutionalism amounts to belief in the power of small government, which is a truly miraculous transformation rivaling that of the Eucharist. This particular piece of conservative theology usually works by telling us about the importance of federalism, which is then defined as a need for balance between federal and state powers. Balance is such a magical word, because you can use it to describe the effort to increase Federal authority (which was clearly the point of the early Federalists) and then you can use it to describe the agenda of those hard at work weakening the Federal government (which is a common goal of contemporary ‘Federalists’). And you say this with enough faith and conviction modern voters won’t even notice the switch in emphasis.

Those that do can be dismissed as low-information voters!

Not content with such airy theological matters, Demint has proven himself a true charismatic, because he has performed a miracle in the name of Republican Jesus. Demint has enabled the Constitution itself and the conscience of good constitutionalists to end slavery without exercising the power of a big government. To hear DeMint tell the story, the move to end slavery was itself the work of those faithful to small government. They just willed it to happen. Some might think Lincoln had centralized our government and asserted Federal power over a states’ rights luvin’ Confederacy, but then again, some people believe in letting scientists define the science curriculum. There is just no accounting for the foolishness of liberal Apostates, but Republican Jesus will kick our asses on judgement day for sure.

And then Republican Jesus will transform water into Miller Lite.

constitution_quill_penYeah verily, his miracles abound! In His name, phrases like “No person” or “all criminal prosecutions” will refer only to the rights of U.S. Citizens. Non-O’Muricans are just fucked! By His grace, the word “religion” appearing twice in the First Amendment will only mean ‘religion’ once. The other time it will mean “state-sponsored church.” Hell, it might even be more narrow still if Republican Jesus wants it to. He will delete the Federal Supremacy Clause entirely, or at least guide the eyes of Teapublicans safely past this passage without inflicting its terrible words upon them. In His eyes, the Fourteenth Amendment is but the scribblings of a small school-girl, and it has no more force of law than a doggie drawn with a crayon. The Ninth Amendment has been sent to the cornfield, but the police are searching your home in hopes of finding the Fourth. And by “no religious tests”, the Constitution of course means “more religious tests.” All these things are known to those filled with the spirit of Republican Jesus.

One has only to accept that the Constitution is first and foremost a half remembered paragraph from a completely different document produced by a different group of people for a completely different purpose. If you also half-remember the Second and Tenth Amendments you get to call yourself a constitutionalist.


It Went Something Like This


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“What is that?”


“That right there out on the ice, is that a Nanook?”

“Is that a bear!?!”


“Right there!”

“Is that a bear?”

Is that a bear?”

“Oh hey, I see it.”

“Is it sitting down?”

“Did it just move?”

“Oh, yeah, it looks bigger now. It definitely moved?”

“I think it’s a bear.”

“I can’t zoom in enough without losing it.”

030“Is that a bear?”

“That’s definitely a bear?”

“Do you see it? Is it a bear?”

“I think it’s moving?”

“Let me just snap the picture and see if I can see it more clearly afterwards…”

An Uncommon Refutation


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26morg.184Philosophy buffs will already know about Sidney Morgenbesser, (September 22, 1921 – August 1, 2004). A Professor at Columbia University, Morgenbesser’s sharp wit has produced more than a few great stories. He is particularly known for a single moment of shear brilliance that outstrips the value of many published volumes. J.L. Austin, a prominent philosopher of language, had been giving a lecture, so the story begins. Austin claimed that two negatives could make a positive in many languages, but nowhere did two positives make a negative.

…to which Morgenbesser’s replied; “yeah-yeah!”

Won’t Someone Please Think of the Dan Snyders?


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DanSnyderSomeone really ought to take donations for the Washington Redskins. I hear they are in desperate need of team gear that isn’t racist or demeaning to Native Americans. Mind you, I say ‘Native Americans’ because I think that’s what Redskins owner Dan Snyder would want me to say. Dan clearly doesn’t think it prudent to go around calling real people ‘Redskins‘, but he does seem to think it’s appropriate to use that label for his football team. So, why on earth would Snyder continue using the name? I mean he cares, right? He cares enough to visit 26 tribes and start a charity for Native Americans, and he certainly cares enough not to call anyone this term to their face. So, why would he continue using the name for his team? I can only conclude that he and his organization can’t afford the costs incurred by the change of gear.

The conclusion is inescapable.

I know, I know, a lot of people might think rather poorly of Snyder at this point, but perhaps we are getting it all wrong. We don’t understand the scale of the problem Snyder faces. As Ross Tucker points out, the term ‘Redskins’ is so very divisive that the team name really must be kept. Hell, Tucker assures us that a lot of people would criticize Dan Snyder now regardless of any other consideration, just because he is Dan Snyder. Cause apparently there aren’t any real reasons to be concerned about Snyder’s team name or any of his efforts to defend that name in the public eye. People are just after Dan.

Man, that poor guy!

If Tucker’s point doesn’t show you just what a crazy pickle our poor man Dan has got himself into, then just consider the stories of Chief Dodson, Peter MacDonald, and now Gary Edwards, all figures Dan Snyder has promoted or honored through his organization. I mean Dan’s whole effort to establish relations with indigenous leaders seems to suffer from a bad case of fractal wrongness, because error raises its ugly head at every scale of the project. A more cynical person might suggest that Snyder has been cherry picking cooperative indigenous leaders for the purpose of misleading the public about indigenous support for his team. A more cynical person might suggest that Snyder’s charity was a straight forward bribe, and that he wasn’t all that serious about helping anyone. A really cynical person might even suggest that this kind of thing was part of a time-dishonored tradition of manipulating native leadership, and that such stunts could add real injury to the insult of the team name. A more cynical person might see in Dan Snyder’s efforts to sell his team name a message that he knows and cares even less about Native Americans than the simple racism of his actual team name would seem to suggest. But, well, that’s what a cynical person might think.

Bad cynical person!

For myself, I say the pattern here is obvious. Dan Snyder and his tiny understaffed organization are clearly struggling to keep up with events. Hell, they can hardly vet their people, and frankly, I think a few indigenous folks have taken advantage of Dan’s big heart. If that doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, then focus on the fact that struggling as they are Snyder has taken it upon himself to form a charity to help Native American communities. He and his charity even assisted with the purchase of a backhoe for Pete’s sake! A whole backh…, well part of a backhoe anyway! It’s a giving man that gives part of a backhoe when he can’t even properly vet a PR stunt.

Think about that and try not to get a great big old lump in your throat!

BYtx3CdIcAE8tVTWe know one thing for sure, and that’s that Dan Snyder understands just how insulting the term ‘Redskins’ really is. I think it’s safe to say that he would do something about this if he could. I did a whole fact finding mission about this sometime ago, or maybe I just thought about doing it, but anyway I’m pretty sure I know at least 26 Redskins fans that can live with a change of names. Hell, I’m quite certain I bought a burger for one of them, or at least assisted in its purchase. I’ll send Dan a postcard about all this and we’ll call the whole matter confirmed. It’s definitely time to change the name folks. But the Redskins need your help. They just can’t do this on their own. They can’t afford to change their stationary.

So, please folks, won’t you help Dan Snyder and his unfortunately named football franchise? Send them sports gear that doesn’t suck. Send them helmets, jerseys, shoes, and used mouthpieces. Hell, send them a hockey stick if that’s what you have. After all, it’s the thought that counts, isn’t it? I mean Dan has obviously put a lot of thought into his efforts to help others so it’s only fair that the rest of us ought to help him. So, seriously folks, just dig into that old closet or rifle through the boxes in your garage and see what’s left from your high school days. Somewhere in that dusty attic, you know you have what Dan Snyder and his people need. Send them pair of sensible socks if that’s what you have. Every little bit counts.

Please help Dan!




An Uncommon Eulogy


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Up here in the Seward’s Icebox we are celebrating Seward today. The rest of y’all are at work though. I’m almost sorry about that, but maybe this will brighten your day. I expect a few folks out there will recognize John Cleese, and hopefully even Graham Chapman. I know some of the best parts of my own mind have been populated with characters, accents, and even funny walks compliments of these two. I can’t help but smile when any one of their odd creations comes to the front of my thoughts, and  I can honestly say that their work has made my life more interesting and enjoyable. So, I thought I’d share a little known performance by Cleese here today. No, it’s not from any of their shows. It is the Eulogy he gave at Chapman’s funeral. It is in astonishingly poor taste.

…which is of course just as it should be.

Mansplaining Hobby Lobby At the Silly Girls: Ain’t Free Exercise Fun!?!


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Bjk4aOWIEAABqBXI understand the compulsion to wish that people would separate religion from politics, but you might as well tell the wind to stand in a corner and think about all the tall grass it pushes around. Religion IS politics. It always has been and it always will be. So, it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that the GOP has found Jesus again. The Prince of Peace showed them a little leg by means of Citizens United, and the good political Christians have been composing love poems ever since. Today it’s working on rhyme scheme full of obby, gobby, and a great big bibilo-bobby.

It’s moments like these when the distinction between religion and politics simply vanishes. Both embrace visions of a moral order; both anchor that order in some vision of the world at large, and both impose that order on real people. So, it shouldn’t come as any surprise when Jesus turns out to want the same things Uncle Sam does (especially when he’s talking out the right side of his mouth). Does it really make a difference whether the government controls your body or a church? …or for that matter a hobby store?

For practical purposes the word ‘your’ today excludes anything claimed by those of us with a y chromosome, but take heart mens’ rights activists! I’m sure someone is oppressing a man somewhere; y’all can still howl!

This notion that corporations are persons for purposes of the Bill of Rights really has opened up new ground in the frontiers of collectivism, and all manner of good commie-bashing Republicans have jumped the gun to homestead this new turf without the slightest trace of irony. So, today we face the perverse prospect that the religious views of a corporate entity may trump the personal liberties of a woman (along with the good judgement of her doctor).

Pardon me, I have to vomit.

If there was ever any doubt that religious exemptions to the terms of the Affordable Care Act are about controlling the bodies of women, that should have been dispelled long ago. It should have been dispelled the day Rush Limbaugh reacted to a critic of these exemptions by calling her a ‘slut’ and a ‘prostitute’ and spreading lies about her sex life. It should certainly have been dispelled when good respectable conservatives all across the land shouted ‘yea verily’ at the grand bigot-pontiff of hack radio and promptly drafted themselves up a rash of laws restricting the health options of any women unfortunate enough to live in the wrong state or county. For all the rhetoric of rights, one doesn’t have to look hard to see the naked power politics of the right wing’s current approach to women’s health. Control over women’s bodies is an end in itself, and the Republicans want it now.

On this topic, they can count on the support of half-baked misogynists everywhere.

Today the great masculine hope lies with Hobby Lobby and misogynists are lining up to buy a kitchy piece of cloth, or perhaps a nice candle. Others are happy to simply tweet their support. Their keyboards say ‘Religious freedom’, but so often their texts read sexism, and they read it loud and clear. Take for example this little gem from the Matt Walsh Blog. Matt’s thoughts on individual rights aren’t particularly interesting; one is hard-pressed actually to call them thoughts, at least insofar as they appear on the pages of this post, but what’s really fascinating to me is the social posture he takes in this post, the footing as it were. You see Matt isn’t content to frame a basic argument about religious freedom or the rights of supposedly Christian corporations, he wants to set his post up as a direct response to those women who may want birth control. The result is epic mansplaining.

I’ve poured through mounds of research, read pages and pages of court precedent; I’ve reflected on it, meditated, retreated into the mountains to ponder this mystery in peace; I’ve even Googled it, and all of these measures have brought me to one incredible solution for women who want birth control:

Pay for it yourselves.

Or find an employer that chooses to provide it.

Or have sex and don’t use it.

Or don’t have sex.

Basically, take responsibility for your sex life, one way or another.

By ‘epic’ I suppose I mean childish and petty, but what do you expect. Anyway, there you have it folks; at bottom this issue is basic childishness. Apparently, women need to take more responsibility for their own sex lives. So, Matt is going to give them all a good lecture and be done with it.

Can you just hear the guy saying “I won’t cum inside you baby?” No really just the tip? If it comes to that, he no doubt promises to do the honorable thing.  …You get the idea. I’m almost sorry if this is too graphic, but I’ll be damned if the issue of personal responsibility for sexual matters doesn’t play out in just such moments all over the world. Seriously the notion that women need to take more responsibility for their sex lives is perversely ironic and that is precisely what Walsh’s framing of the issue sets up. His blog post isn’t a polemic on a tricky political problem, it is a lecture given to an errant little girl, one whose rights certainly don’t extend to questions about her own medical care. Why not? Well, let’s let Matt tell you…

It used to be that your rights were infringed upon if the government punished or threatened you for expressing your sincerest beliefs.

Now, your rights are infringed upon if you want something but someone refuses to buy it for you.

It used to be that the vision of tyranny was a man or woman bound, gagged, and shoved in a cage for speaking his or her mind.

Now, tyranny is the tragic image of man or woman forced to spend their own money on something because nobody would give it to them for free.

We used to fight and die for free speech.

Now we sit around and whine for free birth control.

Here Matt’s language echoes that of Limbaugh’s old attack on Sandra Fluke. This is a simple case of someone wanting something for free (which isn’t true, but don’t tell these hacks). Gone is any consideration of larger medical issues or questions about how one decides to deal with his or her own body. I say ‘his’ because I think most of us can relate to those moments when an insurance company turns out to be the reason your doc is doing this as opposed to that, and I sincerely doubt that Matt and his fawning fans are any less likely to grumble about such things when faced with them. But when Hobby Lobby turns out to be the reason why a woman can’t get birth control, well that’s just the facts of life, dontchaknow! Oh yes, of course she can pay for the birth control herself, just like you can pay for any number of medical procedures and prescriptions yourself. The fact is that in THIS world, and I by THIS world (I mean the crappy world of health-care we have here in the U.S.A.) what insurance will and won’t pay for is often the difference between what we get and what we don’t. In the real world Hobby Lobby’s policies will make a difference in the care some women get. Some of us think that difference ought to be up to her and her doctor, but apparently that is the view of tyrants.

…and of silly girls who whine.

Of course this is the tip of the Obamacare iceberg here, and many of those telling women to go fly a kite for contraception are the same folks who fought tooth and nail to stop the Affordable Care Act. Their solution for women is the same solution they offered all of us in the years leading up to the ACA, let the market run its course. Pay for your own insurance or pay for your own medical care; that’s what apple pies and supply curves are all about! That folks would say this knowing that medical bills in the U.S. have long since become prohibitive for large sections of the working public is irresponsible in the extreme. It isn’t just governments that skew the market; corporations (and particularly insurance corporations) do that too, but don’t tell the free market fundamentalists. They’ll call you un-American, …or maybe a slut or something.

In any event, the ACA is law now, warts and all, and the present battle is a classic exercise in scapegoating. It turns out that health-care for women is more complicated than it is for men, and when it comes to sex and its consequences, women are more vulnerable than men. So, Hobby Lobby and its pious supporters have risen to the occasion, leading the right wing to its scape-goat. We may have to accept this abortion of a law, they seem to be suggesting, but at least we can leave the sluts out in the cold.

And if they don’t like it?

Well then there are always mansplaining culture warriors to put them in their place. You can’t help but notice the pleasure some of these folks take in explaining the issue. For some, it’s a kind of theatrical moment, a chance to play the role of the stern father or maybe the soup Nazi.

No sex for you!

Ah well! Let’s give Matt the last word here:

And, seriously, in case I forgot to mention it: pay for your own birth control.

The end.

Next issue?


An Uncommon Harbor and a Stolen Victory


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Point Hope from the Air

Point Hope from the Air

Have you heard about the big harbor at Cape Thompson in Alaska? Oh it doesn’t exist, of course, no thanks to the Atomic Energy Commission. they were going to make a harbor at Cape Thompson, just south of Point Hope. They were going to build it in a jiffy, so to speak.

I did mention this was the Atomic Energy Commission, didn’t I?

Project Chariot would have set off a series of atomic bombs at Cape Thompson in an effort to provide the proof of concept for operation Plowshare, a program to develop peaceful uses for nuclear explosives. In 1958, the prospect of geological engineering stood high on the agenda for the folks behind Operation Plowshare, and the Iñupiat people of the North Slope stood to become human guinea pigs in the process. Already showing signs of increased radiation due to above ground tests, the native population of the North Slope would have seen still more radiation flowing into the lichen to caribou highway to their own bodies. Luckily the natives of Point Hope understood radiation enough to fight back. It took an extensive public relations campaign and several years of struggle to stop Project Chariot. A lot of people fought damned hard to keep that harbor from happening and thankfully, they won, but that was hardly the end of the story.


When the Atomic Energy Commission finally gave up its plan to bomb the North Slope of Alaska for the purpose of building a useless harbor, it then proceeded to conduct a study of the radiation would have on Ogotoruk creek in Cape Thompson. Toward this end, they planted radioactive material in the creek and studied the effects.

…without telling anyone in the area.

Are you mad yet? I know I was when I first learned about this story. Bastard that I am, I just had to share the outrage, but I’m not going to tell that full story here, partly because I really am a bastard, and partly because others have already told that story better than I could. A thorough account of the controversy can be found in Dan O’Neill’s book, The Firecracker Boys. More recently, Iñupiat movie-maker Rachel Naninaaq Edwardson  released a documentary on Project Chariot. Edwardson’s work raises a number of questions about the lingering effects of the tracer study and health problems in the Point Hope community (including concerns that something may still be buried at Ogotoruk Creek). Her film is available through the North Slope Borough School District.

Arctic Graffiti II


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001It’s been an odd year here in Barrow, rather warm in fact. Still, a bit of snow did manage to stick to a wall or three, and in due time a few creative individuals took the time to do something clever with it. I don’t have a huge batch of snow-graffiti this time, but a few of these are really cool.

In related news, I actually took the time to tweak a couple of these photos, nothing special. just enhanced the contrast and shifted the color a bit in an effort to make the art come through better. I wouldn’t say that I accomplished anything brilliant, but at least you can read the writing. This is, I think, the first post where I have actually done any post-production on a photo. Sometime, I may have to go back through my old pics and see what I can do to improve a few of them.

Click to embiggen! …come on, all the cool kids are doin’ it!

R.I.P. Fred Phelps


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images-2If we could learn to look instead of gawking,

We’d see the horror in the heart of farce,

If only we could act instead of talking,

We wouldn’t always end up on our arse.

This was the thing that nearly has us mastered;

Don’t rejoice in his defeat, you men!

Although the world stood up and stopped the bastard,

The bitch that bore him is in heat again.

- Bertolt Brecht, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui


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