His ride’s here.

I need to check out the right-wing Catholic blogs more often. Otherwise, it might have been even longer before I learned that Joseph Sobran, an embarrassing oddity for the ultraconservative commentariat, died late last week, succumbing to kidney failure and what sounds like a cascade of other health problems brought on by him being such a p.o.s.

You’ve probably never heard of him. I’ve only heard of him because my newspaper carried his column, one of the relative few that ran him at his peak and the tiny handful that hung on after Sobran broke with William F. Buckley Jr. and was fired by the National Review. It was bad enough that we bought his phoned-in paleoconservative dreck when he was respectable, but after Buckley called him out for praising an unapologetically racist magazine, and Sobran retaliated by saying his mentor was a tool of the Podhoretz clan and more concerned with getting seated at the right dinner parties up there in Jew York, well, he crossed the line into embarrassment.

If you paid absolutely no attention to any of this when it was happening in 1993, I’ll try to make this tie together with what we were talking about yesterday. Because while it’s no doubt way too generous to call Sobran crazy, he was one of those right-wing shitheads who took radical and offensive positions in part, I am sure, because he just liked being reviled, and was somehow able to make the revulsion read — in his own mind, anyway — as resentment for a brave truth-speaker. Such as? Abraham Lincoln was a tyrant. William Shakespeare was a fraud. The Clintons were white trash. And the Jews were indirectly responsible for 9/11, by shaping U.S. Middle East policy to favor Israel. And so on. The last time I looked him up, he was referring to Barack Obama as “our mulatto president.” Classy.

After his cashiering from polite salons, he was free to do things like give speeches to the Institute for Historical Review, a Holocaust-denial group. He spent a lot of time in this keynoter claiming he has no animus for Jews. As for what Hitler did, well…

Here I should lay my own cards on the table. I am not, heaven forbid, a “Holocaust denier.” I lack the scholarly competence to be one. I don’t read German, so I can’t assess the documentary evidence; I don’t know chemistry, so I can’t discuss Zyklon-B; I don’t understand the logistics of exterminating millions of people in small spaces. Besides, “Holocaust denial” is illegal in many countries I may want to visit someday. For me, that’s proof enough.

…Of course those who affirm the Holocaust need know nothing about the German language, chemistry, and other pertinent subjects; they need only repeat what they have been told by the authorities. In every controversy, most people care much less for what the truth is than for which side it’s safer and more respectable to take. They shy away from taking a position that is likely to get them into trouble. Just as only people on the Axis side were accused of war crimes after World War II, only people critical of Jewish interests are accused of thought-crimes in today’s mainstream press.

If the president says he was born in Hawaii, I take him at his word. After all, I wasn’t there.

Sobran’s passing was barely noted in respectable conservative journals, ignored by the blogosphere, and, as I mentioned before, acknowledged sadly by right-wing Catholics. Apparently Sobran considered himself a faithful and devoted servant of the Roman church, albeit twice-divorced and not enough of an expert on chemistry to formally acknowledge the slaughter of 6 million of God’s chosen people. I think even they were embarrassed by him.

I wonder what his last days were like. Where did he get his money? How did he live? In such cases, it’s useful to remember that there’s a very good chance he spoke to groups like the Institute for Historical Review because their checks cleared. (Boy, there’s a short film ready to be made, eh? “The Old Conservative in Exile.” Shiny suits, pilled cuffs and dandruff just play better on the big screen.)

Whew. I need a palate cleanser. How about a feature borrowed from Zorn, Fine lines?

Add the butter. One of the many reasons that restaurant food often tastes better than the stuff we make at home is that restaurant cooks do not know your cardiologist and have no real interest in your long-term enjoyment of life. They cook for this moment and for the fleeting feeling of delicious transcendence they can offer a diner. Next time, you can use less. This first time, add all four tablespoons.
Sam Sifton on a pork ragu

Our symphony orchestra is on strike. Gloomy Gusses here think its death is inevitable, that a world-class orchestra is simply something we can no longer afford:

There are lots of numbers here, like there are in just about any labor dispute. But, at base, there are only two metrics that truly matter in the first DSO walkout since 1987 — changing consumer demand and the 21.3 percent decline in Michigan’s median income between 2000 and 2009.

That nation-leading collapse, a sickening number for the ripple effect it delivers to everything from home values and wage levels to public tax revenues and, yes, support for the local orchestra, goes further than just about anything else in describing what’s happening to the DSO. It’s also what will affect public and private institutions, businesses and communities, here for years to come.

Orchestra musicians can walk picket lines for the next year and it won’t change the fact that the economic profile of their geographic home has changed dramatically, if not irreversibly, in ways that peers in New York, Boston, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco simply haven’t seen and probably won’t.

As much as it pains me to say, that’s probably true. Although it was also true during the Depression, and the DSO hung on then. With help. You know how Francis Ford Coppola got his middle name? Well, his daddy was a flutist in the Detroit Symphony in the 1930s, and never forgot the group’s sugar daddy, whose financial support kept the place afloat. It could still happen.

Let’s close with a bookend, then. I have work to do:

“If a guy is anti-Semitic and no one is listening, is he still anti-Semitic?” — Paul Shaffer

Happy Tuesday, all.

Posted at 9:23 am in Detroit life, Media |

30 responses to “His ride’s here.”

  1. brian stouder said on October 5, 2010 at 11:01 am

    The sobering thing in Sobran’s obit was that he died at 64 (which sounds awfully young to me!); and doing the math – he hit his definitive career crisis when he was 47. Yesterday’s enlightening discussion hereabouts, about mental/spiritual wellbeing (it seems to me) applies here. It does generally seem that what has come to be called a “mid-life crisis” is as inevitable as teenaged awkwardness, and/or cock-sure 30-somethings (around whom the world turns). It seems to me – a 49 year old – that folks in this stage of life hit these “Y”s in the road (which have always been there) and realize that the choices they’ve continually – maybe thoughtlessly – made are becoming definitive and final; that if they don’t veer off on one of these “Y”s at some point, they never will.

    In Sobran’s case, the impression one has is that he had to choose between sucking it up and conforming with the boss (welcome to reality, buddy), or else letting it all hang out and veering down the forbidden road (as he apparently always wanted to do).

    ‘Course, once he veered down that road, there was no coming back, which may be what he truly wanted, or maybe not.

    Michael Burlingame builds his portrait of Lincoln around an image of a successful prairie lawyer and small-potatoes, low-road political figure who hits a midlife crisis and realizes that he’s been wasting his time with national politics (the high-point being a one-term stint in the House of Representatives, where he was anti-Mexican war, and became “Spotty Lincoln”) and buckles down on his professional career. Later, national politics goes unacceptably off track – the repeal of the Missouri Compromise – and at the hands of an old rival (Stephen Douglas) who always (from birth, onward) seemed to win with ease, while Abe worked hard and failed. It seems that, at that point, Abe switched back – and even though he lost the 1858 senate race against Douglas, he made a clear, convincing, high-road case for the way things should be; an example of a successful mid-life crisis.

    Aside from that marvelous portrait, though, I have serious problems with Burlingame’s treatment of Mary Lincoln, and I think it’s not too much to say that Burlingame’s own problems or issues with women come strongly to the fore; possibly aftershocks from his own problems and issues with women (and wives), projected onto Mary; but we digress!

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  2. Jolene said on October 5, 2010 at 11:07 am

    Wow! That is an astonishing figure–the 21% decline in median income, that is. Seems like there’s no end of depressing numbers these days.

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  3. Jolene said on October 5, 2010 at 11:35 am

    Brian, today’s WaPo has a very favorable review of a new book that might interest you. It’s called Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln’s Corpse.

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  4. ROgirl said on October 5, 2010 at 11:43 am

    Brian, whatever Sobran wanted, the only thing he’s going to be remembered for by most people is his anti-Semitism.

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  5. brian stouder said on October 5, 2010 at 11:45 am

    Jolene, I saw that author on C-SPAN this past weekend, and I think I’ll pass*; BUT – I was captivated by Louise Knight, as she spoke about her new book called Jane Addams; Spirit in Action.

    I confess the main reason I stopped and watched was because of the funny appearance of her interviewer, but that quickly passed, and I very much enjoyed the discussion of “benevolence” (a bad thing) and the changing role of women in the early 20th century, and so on.


    *his main qualification seems to be that he works at Ford’s Theater. I read the Booth book by Kauffman a few years ago, which was enough

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  6. Jeff Borden said on October 5, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    I’ve no idea how garbage like Joseph Sobran continued to pay their bills. He went too far even for the looniest of the conservative movement. But other conservatives live quite handsomely on what many liberal websites refer to as “wingnut welfare.” Thus, an unmitigated piece of offal like David Addington, who helped turn the United States of America into a place where torture is perfectly all right, landed at some right-wing “think tank,” where he will undoubtedly draw a nice, six-figure salary for churning out the occasional white paper, or for speaking to some group of like-minded droolers. The Kochs, the Pickens, the Coors, the Olins and, of course, our old buddy Scaife are ATMs for these creeps by funding these organizations.

    Newt Gingrich, who cannot leave the stage soon enough for me, pursues another route to keep him and current wife Calista living large. He runs some bogus political organization –where those of limited intellect but deep pockets can donate– but a recent audit found that the group had spent more than $2 million last year on private jets and limousines. Just like $P, he’s a real man of the people, but apparently too fine and delicate to squeeze his ample ass onto a commercial airline flight, or to ever take a freaking taxi.

    The right-wing billionaires, who have been given the keys to the kingdom by the Citizens United decision, are perfectly willing to funnel millions to these right-wing organizations, and now we cannot even determine who is funding them, thanks to the Roberts court. But it’s the lefty organizations like the late ACORN,who dare organize the poor and the disenfranchised, that are a real threat to our nation.

    Read the papers. The right is outspending Democrats by almost 8 to 1 in the midterms. And, folks, it will only get worse. We’re going to find ourselves in a nice little plutocracy –if were not there yet– very shortly. Somewhere, the dessicated corpses of the robber barons of yore are doing dances underground.

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  7. Jolene said on October 5, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    Back to yesterday’s discussion re different kinds of minds, it’s worth checking out Temple Grandin’s TED talk. She talks a lot about the idea that, given the right kind of opportunities and instruction, people with certain autistic features can function at a pretty high level. She’s an odd duck, for sure, but what she’s been able to do is pretty amazing.

    These differences in cognitive wiring really are fascinating. Given how complex the brain and the rest of the body are and how susceptible to early influences–both physical and psychological–it’s impressive that most of us turn out to fit within pretty well within some broad category called normal.

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  8. Jeff Borden said on October 5, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    How mean and stupid are the teabaggers? Check out this story from Missouri.

    A conservative group in Missouri is picking up the backing of the Tea Party and Joe The Plumber in its quest to stop the Humane Society and other animal rights groups from passing “radical” anti-puppy mill legislation.

    The measure, which can be read in full here, is called Proposition B or the “Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act.” It aims to help eliminate the “3000 puppy mills” in Missouri that constitute “30% of all puppy mills in the U.S.,” according to Michael Markarian, the Chief Operating Officer of the Humane Society.

    “This measure would provide common sense standards for the care of dogs,” he told TPM, including sufficient food and clean water, vet care, regular exercise, and adequate rest between breeding cycles, among other things. Markarian said the measure only applies to “commercial dog breeding facilities” that have more than 10 breeding females who they use for “producing puppies for the pet trade.”

    Sounds pretty straightforward, no?

    Well, according to the Alliance For Truth, the main force behind the anti-Prop B movement, there is something much more nefarious afoot (er, apaw) in the Humane Society’s measure. The Alliance For Truth claims that the Humane Society of the United States has a “radical agenda” and is “misleading the public with its intentions on Prop B. The society seeks only to raise the cost of breeding dogs, making it ever-more difficult for middle-class American families to be dog-owners.”

    God, I hate these people.

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  9. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on October 5, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    Moe, answered your last question at yesterday’s thread. Sort of.

    Is it fair for me to point out that, unlike overt racism, anti-Semitism seems to be a bipartisan malady? Although the left in this country isn’t as compulsively Jew-phobic as in England and Europe.

    How you account for Rick Sanchez, I do not know, but I doubt either end of the political spectrum was eager to claim him before last Thursday, let alone today. But Stewart was, if you were paying attention, his usual classy self at heart even as he riffed on Sanchez’ foolishness; he also made an effort to point out how Rick has condemned hate groups and anti-Semitic activity, in between stints at the Taser spa. (Really cleans out your sinuses, I’m told.)

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  10. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on October 5, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    The Louise Knight book on Jane Addams is quite good; Brian, I agree with you on Swanson, but the fellow who wrote the review, John Waugh — he did “Class of 1846” and “Lincoln & McClellan,” plus a few others, all of which I liked.

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  11. Jeff Borden said on October 5, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    You make a good point, Jeff TMMO. It was about 25 years ago that the esteemed Rev. Jesse Jackson referred to New York City as “Hymietown,” a particularly low point in his very checkered public life. It was particularly striking because so many Jews were so deeply involved in the Civil Rights movement including the one poor Jewish college student who was among the three voter registration workers murdered by the KKK near Philadelphia, Miss.

    That said, I suppose I would be accused of being an anti-Semite because I think our foreign policy is far too Israelcentric. If you oppose the illegal settlements on the West Bank being pushed by Bibi Netanyahu, that’s generally the response you’ll get. A story in the Chicago Tribune yesterday noted that Rahm Emmanuel faces a tough road with Jewish voters in Chicago, who believe he has not done enough for the pro-Israel crowd. So, fealty to Israel apparently is a requirement for any Jew seeking any office at any level of government.

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  12. Bob said on October 5, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    Jeff — The Alliance For Truth claims that the Humane Soci­ety of the United States has a “rad­i­cal agenda” and is “mis­lead­ing the pub­lic with its inten­tions on Prop B. The soci­ety seeks only to raise the cost of breed­ing dogs, mak­ing it ever-more dif­fi­cult for middle-class Amer­i­can fam­i­lies to be dog-owners.”

    That’s the same HSUS for which Rush Limbaugh recorded radio spots a year or two ago, right? If the Alliance for Truth hasn’t recognized that the human fondness for animals crosses all political, religious and class boundaries, the Alliance deserves to take a beating.

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  13. Jeff Borden said on October 5, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    My sentiments exactly, Bob. All this would do is make the puppy mills abide by some basic rules that anyone who cares about animals would welcome, but in our overheated world, this constitutes a radical agenda. Middle-class Americans can choose from an enormous range of animals at various shelters, pounds and humane societies. The only costs incurred are to pay for the neutering, the shots, the microchipping, etc. To claim this is an effort to deny people from the pleasures of dog ownership is simply batshit insane.

    I really do hate these teabaggers. They are as mean as they are foolish.

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  14. Linda said on October 5, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    How much would you bet this puppy mill fandango isn’t about money? That, in fact, some folks in the “free, independent” tea party OWN puppy mills, and know they can jerk the chains of people who think we are oppressed by not being able to pack at Starbucks?

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  15. Tom M said on October 5, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    re: Sobran’s Holocaust denial- see this Errol Morris film Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred Leutcher, Jr. a fascinating look at Holocaust denial and one of its champions. All the characters are in this film (Ernst Zundel, David Irving, Robert Jan Van Pelt) although I don’t remember Sobran.

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  16. Jeff Borden said on October 5, 2010 at 5:25 pm


    By now, the teabaggers have coalesced into a movement that is against anything other than the Second Amendment. I anticipate a period where they will be protesting traffic lights because they are not mentioned in the Constitution and, besides, who is the government to say I have to stop?

    Looney, looney, looney.

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  17. prospero said on October 5, 2010 at 8:14 pm

    Jeff, is there some way these people aren’t nuts? Is it conceivable these idiots aren’t just nuts? Nope. I’m not a witch? But I’m a nutscape.

    Here’s the deal. YOU VOTEFOR SOMEBODY


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  18. prospero said on October 5, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    I’m not a witch. You vote for somebody so stupid, youu shouldn’t get to vote again.

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  19. prospero said on October 5, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    Sorry. Seriosully. If you are such a fucking moron you’d vote for a republican, you are too stupid to be allowed to vote. It’s almost impossible to believe anybody could be that fucking stupid.

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  20. coozledad said on October 5, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    I’m just wondering if artificially induced insulin comas would stop our local shitheels from pasting rebel flags to their porkwagons. ECT, maybe? A massive civil war reenactment with live ammunition?

    Talk about your hate-filled fringe boobies: down here we call them engineers.

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  21. moe99 said on October 5, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    Well, the Daily Beast has decided that all the Mama Grizzlies share a look with…..Monica Lewinsky!


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  22. coozledad said on October 5, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    I don’t doubt it, Moe. When it came out that Monica was sucking Bill off, the Republican males in the office initially praised his “good taste”. My initial theory was that it was because she looked a little bit like Brian Wilson. But after a little thought, I realized they were simply impressed that a politician would let a girl do him.

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  23. Denice said on October 6, 2010 at 12:05 am

    I would rather die and be forgotten than die and be remembered for the bad opinions I had.

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  24. prospero said on October 6, 2010 at 2:28 am

    I know I saidd the sorta same thing more than once. But Jesus Christ, if ou vote for somebode that goddamns looney, you should surely never be allowed to vote again. If they’re certifiable, you can’t get away with voting for them. You are nuts too.

    This woman isn’t an idiot or a fullgoose looney?

    No joke. If you vote this way should you not have to turn in your voting credentials? I just about give up.

    No joke. If you vote for somebody certifiable you do not get to vote again. These assholes are not close to sanity. That’s the teabaggers. I’ll choose the real underground because assholes are letting morons like this run government.

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  25. prospero said on October 6, 2010 at 3:01 am

    I know I saidd the sorta same thing more than once. But Jesus Christ, if ou vote for somebode that goddamns looney, you should surely never be allowed to vote again. If they’re certifiable, you can’t get away with voting for them. You are nuts too.

    This woman isn’t an idiot or a fullgoose looney?

    No joke. If you vote for a sociopathic liar, you really ahouldn’t be allowed to ever vote again.

    Christine O’Donnell got 30,000 votes in a state with 185,000 registered Republicans. Ain’t that a mandate. Are these people kidding? Is the press so full of it they can’st figure out how they;re full of it? 30thou votes, Why;s she inevitable, Dana Milbank?

    She slready got all of the votes she could possibly get. She’s stupid ane she’s a liar. We don’t care she lies her ass off?

    Look. That is voting for Republicans. They lie and don’t care , they just lie. They just make shit up.

    zpeople are going to vote for people that are pretty close to dertifiabley loony. If you think its acceptaable to rescind the 16th amendment, vote for Rane Paul because he believes businesses should be allowed to not serve black people.

    How does an American consider this? Rand Paul thinks that if you run an ice cream shop, it should be your choice to refuse to serve icce cream to black people. He said so, for a fact. Isn’t it some sort of bizarre situation in whick somebody that expressed such out and out racism would be considered in an rlection?

    Rand Paul said that if you were black it’s his right to refuse your business because of the color of your skin. He said this. You assholes. How can his comment be … well it can’t, He’a stupider than thou racist. He says shit like like this all the time. He’s a flaming racist. This is just Republican shit, aall the time.

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  26. mark said on October 6, 2010 at 5:56 am


    You haven’t said the “sorta same thing more than once.” You have said the exact same thing dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of times. And your point is so extreme and over-the top in its absolutism that it really isn’t worth reading more than the first twenty times. The vast, vast majority of voters have split their ticket on occasion and they are not too stupid to vote because they voted for one, ten or two hundred republicans.

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  27. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on October 6, 2010 at 7:09 am

    This gets us into interesting territory, where science fiction and other speculative authors have gone — Robert Heinlein suggested in “Starship Troopers” that the franchise (voting privileges) should belong only to those who served their country. Some critics claimed that Heinlein was promoting fascism in wanting only combat veterans to vote, but he pointed out a number of passages that clearly indicated that there were a variety of forms of national service (hospital, outdoor/CCC-type, etc.) in his scheme that qualified someone, and that it was just a suggestion. “Why should having a pulse be enough to justify you entering a polling place?” he said, somewhat akin to Prospero’s, um, point.

    Others have said it might be interesting to try some historical redress, such as only letting women vote for a few generations, just to see how that sorts out; of course, in the pre-Jacksonian era, only owners of property had the franchise, which meant even adult white males couldn’t all vote. No male in the Gill line voted until at least 1864, possibly until the early 1890s in PA; women in my family started voting in Iowa when they got there in 1910, as little as 20 years later, though they didn’t vote in national elections for another 20.

    Even though much about voting categories has been “fixed” for our entire adult lives (we don’t appear to have many over-60 year old African American southerners in our commentariat), there’s nothing about them that’s really all that forever. The national service/voting idea strikes me as potentially more productive than a federal “mandate” to do community service, and as Heinlein said when asked “if he really meant it,” his answer was always “I’m not saying I’m sure it’s the best idea, I’m just saying why not try it? We can always change it back.”

    Prospero’s idea I’m not as enthusiastic about. Who gets to choose who the candidates are for whom voting becomes a future disqualification? For that schema, I demur.

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  28. coozledad said on October 6, 2010 at 7:55 am

    I’m old enough to remember the teabaggers discussed as some sort of “healthy” political response to the election of a black candidate, but what becomes clearer pretty much on a daily basis is the paraldehyde they were administering to the bughouse militia has worn off, and the next candidate Dick Armey will be subsidizing will be a Rip Taylor manque who scoops feces out of a bucket and throws it when he’s not smearing it on himself.
    Wolf Blitzer will admire his throwing arm, Rush will threaten to lift the roll covering his genitals and smother any internal opposition, and Reagan’s hair will champion the will of the little fucked up people from its perch atop Paul Ryan’s head.

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  29. brian stouder said on October 6, 2010 at 8:51 am

    Cooz, as you say, the “bug­house militia” will always be with us; and it’s the otherwise semi-respectable cadre of Republican personages who are now busily adding stars-and-bars bumper stickers to their political resume’s that bothers me. Locally there is such a fellow, Mitch Harper, who posted this bit of dreck:


    Joe Fox, Mayor Henry’s Director of Communications, sent the following news release to local news media today. The release states the students will be taught about “inter-cultural awareness and human rights in the 21st century.” We can only hope that whatever is taught will teach some 18th century ideas of individual rights intrinsic to every person. The release doesn’t indicate whether the children selected will be issued uniforms by the government.

    I posted a response (which he hasn’t accepted), basically asking if he really hoped “some 18th century ideas of individual rights” will be taught, considering how they would have to treat the Asian children, and the girls, and anyone else who isn’t apparently white and male.

    I think in a few years, many of these semi-respectable, work-a-day Republican public servants will deny ever having nodded in agreement with these teabaggers back in the day, much as the America Firsters and Birchers (etc) receded.

    And I’ll be one of the cranky old men who remind them, whenever the subject comes up

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  30. Bitter Scribe said on October 15, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    I just discovered this website. Now I won’t get any work done for hours. Thanks a lot, Nancy Nall.

    Good riddance to Sobran. I remember how smugly revolting his Sun-Times column was. Even his column photo made him look, literally, fat-headed.

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