No, really, it’s a reasonable question.
No, really, it’s a reasonable question.
“And now let us begin this journey, the Bishop and people, this journey of the Church of Rome, which presides in charity over all the Churches, a journey of brotherhood in love, of mutual trust. Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the whole world that there might be a great sense of brotherhood.”
Among the billions of people around the world who are not Catholics, many look upon the papal pomp and circumstance with a certain measure of curiosity ranging from the benign to the banal to the belligerent. The personality cult surrounding the pontiff is a strange enough, given the bland personalities required for such a storied and bound office, but even those who see nothing more than a bunch of old men playing dress-up might take a note about reverence. In tumultuous times that often seem devoid of solemn respect—well, that is the question, is it not?
Modern perceptions of religion are sharply caricaturized. One need not give over to religious belief in order to acknowledge that cynicism toward mystical fantasy need not include derision of ideas like sanctity and veneration. Perhaps this is a classic first world problem, a contrast that stands out clearly amid American affluence; we have the luxury of such discussions.
But the world needs next Medici pope only slightly less than the next Honey Boo Boo; there is only so much modernization critics of the Catholic Church can reasonably demand. Imagine Rick Santorum as pope.
Mark Memmott brings us the news:
Carl Kasell, who has been on the air with NPR since 1975 and has brought listeners the news of joyous events such as the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and tragedies such as the 9/11 attacks in 2001, is planning to give his final newscast on Dec. 30.
In case you can tune in, it’s scheduled for 11 a.m. ET that day.
We should not be heartbroken, though; Mr. Kassell will continue in his position as judge and scorekeeper—and, presumably, prize—on NPR’s Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me.
Thanks, Carl. It’s been a good run.
No, no, no … I’m not hopping on the gloom bandwagon.
Historically, U.S. Treasury bills are considered to be one of the world’s safest investments. But growing insecurity about the long term health of the U.S. economy and recent weakness in the dollar benefits gold, which is often used as an alternative asset hedge to a depreciating dollar.
What if investors are moving away from the dollar for good? Foreigners own a little more than half of publicly-held U.S. government securities, according to the Treasury Department. So if these foreigners – both central banks and private investors – decided to give their Treasury portfolio a heave-ho, it could leave to a devaluation of the greenback and rising interest rates, and the cost of borrowing for consumers and businesses could rise. That would be bad for economic growth.
Rather it’s when you read something that is sort of thoughtful-scary, it’s worth noting. You know, like, if this ever actually came true, this is the day I first heard about it, or something stupid like that.
Anyway, never mind.
And now for something completely … uh … yeah.
Or maybe I could do that mixed martial arts bit. Michael Buffer. “It’s tiiiiiime!” Except I don’t have the voice for it. Nor the flair. Nor the bling, now that I stop to think about it. And, frankly, watching members of the journalistic community beat each other bloody is only mildly fun, like making crabs fight in sand pits on the beach without the pervasive sense of guilt.
Let me state at the outset, then, that I like Greenwald. If I walked into a bar and found Glenn Greenwald and Joe Klein arguing, I would probably wonder what someone did to piss off Glenn. And then, of course, someone would whisper, “That’s Joe Klein!”
And I would say, “Well, that explains it.”
More than likely, someone else nearby would say, “Who’s Joe Klein?”
Not that they would know Glenn, either. This aspect of political journalism, while widely-enough attended to keep it going, is actually fairly obscure. Yes, FOX News may be the #1 cable news station, but it’s a cable news station. The top-rated cable news station averages a little under three and a half million viewers daily. An intriguing portion of that is composed of people who despise the network and keep tabs on what insanity its talking heads regularly offer. But some weeks I’ll watch four, maybe six hours of cable news. Some weeks I don’t see it at all. That’s more than most people—perhaps anyone—I know. And I don’t watch FOX.
By the time we get down to a blogbrawl between two generally unrecognizable people like Greenwald and Klein, the audience for such petty spats is relatively small. It is also vocal and very much interested, so we’ll start by accommodating that rabid sector of conservatism that, while it despises “quotas” or any such rules pertaining to those attributes born into a person, requires ideological quota parity before rewarding anyone with the respect of taking them remotely seriously. Or even bothering with the pretense.
So for the benefit of those who do not understand that one can be critical of a Republican, GOP cause, or conservative talking point without fellating Nancy Pelosi, I’ll start with a quota rap against Glenn:
Glenn Greenwald has a few things to say about the euphemization of torture:
In today’s New York Times, William Glaberson describes a proposal being circulated by the Obama administration to enable Guantanamo detainees to be put to death upon a mere guilty plea, i.e., without the need for a full-blown trial. The article describes the purpose of the proposal this way:
The proposal would ease what has come to be recognized as the government’s difficult task of prosecuting men who have confessed to terrorism but whose cases present challenges. Much of the evidence against the men accused in the Sept. 11 case, as well as against other detainees, is believed to have come from confessions they gave during intense interrogations at secret C.I.A. prisons. In any proceeding, the reliability of those statements would be challenged, making trials difficult and drawing new political pressure over detainee treatment.
The primary reason to avoid trials upon a guilty plea is to prevent public disclosure of the details of the torture we inflicted on these detainees. Despite that, the word “torture” never once appears in this NYT article. Instead, according to the NYT, detainees in CIA black sites were merely subjected to “intense interrogations.” That’s all? Who opposes “intense interrogations”?
Over the years, we’ve heard a cyclical crescendo rising from the constant murmur about the “liberal media”, implying and sometimes explicitly accusing a conspiracy among journalists to wreck the Republican Party and the right wing of American politics.
Yet over and over, in an effort to be “neutral”, major media outlets, including newspapers of record, have given over not to political correctness, but what is described as “Bureaucratically Suitable” language. BS language is much like its cousin, PC, except that it is tailored to institutional and legalistic desires.
Over at Planet Money, an NPR listener from Massachusetts explains why it took his boss twelve years to finally give over and buy a microwave oven for the office:
He’s always resisted because he doesn’t like the smell of warmed food in the office. [O]thers who’ve been at this architecture firm six years and longer have been eating cold soup and leftovers or eating out more than they’d care to for some time now. He’s laid off 40% of the office in the last year (5 people), finally resorted to bringing his own lunch, and realized it would be nice to be able to heat it up.
Something about supply, demand, and capitalism goes here, but you know … that’s such pathetic story I don’t even want to bother writing a joke about it. So just think of it this way: Everything you need to know about what’s wrong with capitalism in America is contained in that paragraph.
In an attempt to ease back into rhythm, a simple question. Paul Kane and Lori Montgomery bring us the news:
In a narrow vote, the House today rejected the most sweeping government intervention into the nation’s financial markets since the Great Depression, refusing to grant the Treasury Department the power to purchase up to $700 billion in the troubled assets that are at the heart of the U.S. financial crisis.
The 228-205 vote amounted to a stinging rebuke to the Bush administration and Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., and was sure to sow massive anxiety in world markets. Just 11 days ago, Paulson urged congressional leaders to quickly approve the bailout. He warned that inaction would lead to a seizure of credit markets and a virtual halt to the lending that allows Americans to acquire mortgages and other types of loans.
This whole episode seemed sketchy from the outset. On the one hand, the economy does appear to be falling apart, and such an event falls well within the purview of the federal government’s concern. To the other, though, it seemed suspicious that, after waiting so long to acknowledge the situation, the Bush administration wanted Congress to pass a seven hundred-billion dollar solution in a matter of days.
“I had come all the way from America for this and did not know how many chances I would get to speak to someone whose penis had actually been stolen,” writes journalist Frank Bures in his recent Harper’s article, “A Mind Dismembered: In Search Of The Magical Penis Thieves.”
Bures traveled to Lagos to research the phenomenon — a phenomenon not of actual genitally mutilated men, but instead men who believe that their penises have been stolen or shrunken.
And as bizarre — or even comical — as the notion might sound, the belief has deep roots, going back as far as 300 B.C, and has had recurrent outbreaks in China, India and elsewhere, often with deadly results.
In April, lynch mobs in Congo pursued supposed sorcerers who were accused of stealing and/or shrinking mens’ penises. Police detained the would-be spell casters for their own protection. In 2001, at least 12 suspected penis thieves were not so lucky — they were lynched by an angry mob.