Ignorance marches on.

First things first: None of the animals in the previous photo were for eating. (At least not yet.) I was, as always, most charmed by the baby goats, which were either pygmies or baby pygmies or maybe from some breed known only as Cute. They weren’t much larger than cocker spaniels, and came directly to the fence for scratching and nibbling. One grabbed the drawstring on my pants and backed away with it until he’d untied the knot. How did goats get so smart? They’re just another agricultural cash crop, and yet, I can’t think of a dumb one among those I’ve met along the way.

Certainly even a dumb goat is smarter than your average Florida congressman, it seems. I was arrested by this story in the NYT Sunday, which just about ruined a beautiful Sunday morning. It’s about a GOP plan to defund the American Community Survey, the data-gathering exercise that provides a wealth, literally, of facts about life in these United States. But because government is no longer of/by/for the people in some folks’ mind, but instead comprised of nosy parkers, this must be stopped:

“This is a program that intrudes on people’s lives, just like the Environmental Protection Agency or the bank regulators,” said Daniel Webster, a first-term Republican congressman from Florida who sponsored the relevant legislation.

…Each year the Census Bureau polls a representative, randomized sample of about three million American households about demographics, habits, languages spoken, occupation, housing and various other categories. The resulting numbers are released without identifying individuals, and offer current demographic portraits of even the country’s tiniest communities.

It is the largest (and only) data set of its kind and is used across the federal government in formulas that determine how much funding states and communities get for things like education and public health.

For example, a question on flush toilets — one that some politicians like to cite as being especially invasive — is used to help assess groundwater contamination for rural parts of the country that do not have modern waste disposal systems, according to the Census Bureau.

I’m just…astounded by the ignorance of that quote. “Just like the Environmental Protection Agency or bank regulators.” And not, say, the Transportation Safety Administration, or the FBI if your names is Hussein, or anything like that.

It gets worse. Actual, non-brain dead American companies and institutions are protesting this, saying they need the data to know where to open stores, to use just one example. Rep. Webster tells them they need liberty, not information. (Actual words, yes.)

Can anyone guess when Webster was elected to Congress? Anyone? Not you again, Brian. Let’s see if someone else knows.

That turned my eyeballs inside-out for a while, so I needed to read this thing in the Sun-Times to right myself. It’s a sharp, but not rant-y, piece about the Joe Ricketts/Obama attack thing from last week, written by a sportswriter. I’d like to lay aside the content for now and just examine why I liked it. I think it’s because Rick Telander actually takes a stand, with a minimum of caviling and equivocation and hand-wringing. This used to be commonplace, and like a lot of things, you don’t really notice it’s going away until one day you ask yourself why so many newspaper columns are on-the-one-hand-this, on-the-other-hand-that, who-is-correct-only-time-will-tell exercises in not offending anyone. This is like a fresh slap of Aqua Velva, it is:

Everybody named Ricketts has been scurrying for cover since the bombshell dropped, with the conservative Ricketts kids semi-distancing themselves from their father and his right-wing dirty dealings.

But the Rickettses don’t come one at a time; they march as a group, and they’re right of center by design. They bought the Cubs with the family trust, so, as the saying goes when the dowry gets passed along, Own it, kids!

Or it might just be that I’d just read Mitch Albom phoning in another Sunday op-ed piece, and this one stood out.

Finally, transgendered children? Really young ones? Worth a read.

How was your weekend? I got back to the gym and am paying for it now, but it’s a good pain. Beside the glorious weather, I was lucky to catch a glimpse of a couple of just-out-of-the-nest robins, still with their speckled breasts and what-the-hell expressions. Better grow some tailfeathers, kids — it’s a bird-eat-worm world out there.

A busy week awaits, but it appears summer is really here. Let’s hope it’s a great one.

Posted at 12:40 am in Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' |

43 responses to “Ignorance marches on.”

  1. Sherri said on May 21, 2012 at 1:19 am

    Rep. Webster is a Tea Party 2010 wonder, of course, but I’d already read the article. Liberty, not information, indeed. After all, facts have a well-known liberal bias.

    Rick Telander wrote one of my favorite books on basketball, Heaven Is a Playground.

    I’m busy being very thankful that I have good health insurance. I realized Saturday night that I was having a recurrence of shingles. I had a horrible nasty painful case of shingles when I was pregnant 18 years ago, which left me with numbness and tingling in the area, so when the tingling suddenly got much worse and a few lesions popped up, I didn’t wait until Monday. I got myself to urgent care on Sunday and got started on anti-virals right away. I’m glad that the mania for liberty hasn’t totally obliterated science yet, and I think it’s insane that everyone doesn’t have the options I have. Shingles have to be treated early for the drugs to be effective, and untreated, can cause permanent damage.

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  2. Jolene said on May 21, 2012 at 1:59 am

    I had the same reaction to the article re the American Community Survey. The ignorance is just killing. He is so far from knowing what he is talking about. Survey researchers (or any researchers) do not use “random” in the same way that we use it in everyday speech. It’s not the opposite of scientific; as anyone who remembers first-semester statistics knows, a random sample is part of what makes a survey scientific. It’s bad that one Congressman is this clueless, but the whole house passed it! And the talk of compromising on a voluntary survey is hardly comforting.

    In a similar act of cluelessness, House members are, I read last week, developing ideas to retain the “popular” parts of the healthcare reform act. If it is invalidated by the Supreme Court, some members want to reintroduce the provisions that allow kids up to age 26 to stay on their parents’ insurance and the provision that requires insurance companies to cover people w/ pre-existing conditions. This is idiocy, of course, as it’s only because healthy people are mandated to join the insurance people that people w/ pre-existing conditions can be covered. It kills me that people w/ this level of ignorance (leaving aside meanness, which seems to be correlated) are in charge of making policy.

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  3. Little Bird said on May 21, 2012 at 2:27 am

    I just found out that one of my facebook friends is transgender. I didn’t know until I saw her in person for the first time today. I am assuming she is post-op, but don’t have the inclination to ask. If this is how she wants to be seen, this is how I will “treat” her. As Deborah told me earlier today, I have interesting friends.
    And thank god for that!

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  4. coozledad said on May 21, 2012 at 6:00 am

    It wouldn’t surprise me if the Republicans call for defunding the FBI. It’s getting in the way of their looting:
    Kasich is on the short list for a Romney veep pick, too. He’s got the right stuff. He’s a thief, a prick and a liar. Righties gonna be trying to shake this turd down their pantlegs today.

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  5. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on May 21, 2012 at 6:50 am

    Kasich can’t make it past the no-doubt amped-up vetting process. His temper, his marital history, his Wall Street sojourn: he’s got less chance than I do of being an Ohioan tapped for veep, especially by Romney. Not gonna happen. Portman, very likely to happen.

    I think Kasich is being floated by national GOP goobers who don’t want the Portman pick to go through. He’s the moral equivalent (in this context) of throwing dust in the air during a fight.

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  6. beb said on May 21, 2012 at 8:13 am

    First, Nancy, I’m sorry I was a smart-ass on Saturday’s thread. And I’m glad to hear that none of the animals were harmed in the making of that thread.

    As for Romney’s VP choice: There was an interesting comment to the effect that anyone nominated should run for the hills because if they lose they will be dead meat to the party for the rest of their lives. That said I can’t imagine Ohio’s governor doing any better an Indiana’s governor or Wisconsin’s. They all been tagged as anti-union, anti-people people. But if Mister born-on-third-base-thinks-he-hit-a-triple thinks he needs a midwestern governor. There’s always Michigan Rick Snyder. He’s as loathsome as they come, as willing to sign any anti-union legislation that comes along but he hasn’t crusaded on busting the unions as much as the others so people might think he’s the techno-nerd he claims to be. And if he’s running for vice-president maybe he’ll leave Michigan alone.

    I’m surprised that Webster didn’t name the FDA as an intrusive government program because after all no one should be prevented from eating rat droppings in their food. Why is it that I’m constantly reminded of 50’s SF stories, in this case “The Marching Morons.”

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  7. 4dbirds said on May 21, 2012 at 8:28 am

    Genealogy is my hobby and I especially love the extra information on the census.

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  8. Icarus said on May 21, 2012 at 9:28 am

    So Robn Gibb died after a long battle with cancer. First Donna Summers, now Bee Gees member, both mentioned here last week. kinda spooky.

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  9. Dorothy said on May 21, 2012 at 9:36 am

    I’ve been wondering how Deborah is getting along in Chicago with all the NATO summit upheaval. Hope you had enough groceries inside to last you a few days, Deb!

    I read awhile back that Brangelina’s first biological child, daughter Shiloh, was strongly identifying as a boy – like Chastity Bono. But Shiloh is only 5 or 6, isn’t she? And I read that they were allowing her to express herself thusly.

    This was a glorious weekend. I attended commencement at Kenyon for the first time, despite having worked here for five years. A co-worker’s son graduated and she asked me to attend with her family. I’m so glad I did – and next year we’ll be there because our two International “daughters” will be graduating. I wish their families in Ukraine and Nepal could attend but I know they can’t afford the airfare. So I’ll be there in place of their moms and dads.

    I cut the grass last night and saw a young robin hopping away from me, trying to hide in higher, unmowed sections of our yard. Poor thing looked like it had a broken wing. I suspect it won’t be long for this world if the roaming neighborhood kitties happen upon it.

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  10. Suzanne said on May 21, 2012 at 9:38 am

    Wm F. Buckley must be tossing and turning in his grave to see what has become of the Conservative movement he did much to launch. There used to be thought there, but now, well, it’s people like Rep. Webster. I figured business would be against defunding the American Community Survey before I even got that far in the post. Businesses need demographic information to plan their marketing strategies and God forbid they pay for it themselves!

    For all their talk of religion and godliness, their real deity of the far right is a completely unregulated free market economy which they believe will save us all. But a free market economy has to play by some rules, some laws to keep things like rat poison out of the food chain. Certainly, you could argue that a company that lets rat poison seep into their food will soon go out of business proving that the free market works, but what do you do with all the dead bodies that pile up in the meantime? There’s the glitch.

    Transgendered preschoolers? Not sure about that one. Seems awfully young to be making that kind of life altering decision.

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  11. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on May 21, 2012 at 9:44 am

    The Rat Poison Institute just released a study showing that small amounts of rat poison, over time, are like red wine. It’s good for you to get a little in your food from time to time. It kills the, uh, it kills the stuff that’s bad for you and, um, helps other stuff more, uh, for you.

    So it’s all good!

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  12. Suzanne said on May 21, 2012 at 9:48 am

    Well, Jeff TMMO, rat poison and coumadin are pretty much the same thing, so I guess my anaology only holds up so far.

    Which leads me to this,
    which I found interesting, especially the comments. The comments are generally more interesting that the articles, although that is not true here at nn.com.

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  13. Julie Robinson said on May 21, 2012 at 9:59 am

    Time has some good eclipse photos: http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/05/21/ring-of-fire-solar-eclipse-dazzles-spectators-around-the-earth/#japan-annular-solar-eclipse

    We spent Saturday putting in the garden and flowers before the heat overtook us. I cut back on veggies but still went a lil’ cray cray with the flowers. No matter, the joy they bring is worth the sore muscles. Am I right, gardeners?

    If it seems that Congress is dumber than in the past, it just might be that they are:http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2012/05/21/153024432/sophomoric-members-of-congress-talk-like-10th-graders-analysis-shows?sc=fb&cc=fp.

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  14. Bitter Scribe said on May 21, 2012 at 10:09 am

    Sometimes I think the only cure for Tea Party congressmen is a full-blown case of the disease. Let them have real power and completely screw things up for a few years. That seems to be the only way to inoculate the rest of us against their stupidity.

    Yes, it will be painful and cause God knows how much suffering. But if that’s the only way to make the electorate at large understand how worthless these people are, so be it.

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  15. Deggjr said on May 21, 2012 at 10:17 am

    Rick Telander attracted a fine set of commentators. How dare he write about his betters like that! Fall in line like the commentators have.

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  16. JWfromNJ said on May 21, 2012 at 10:39 am

    There is a ongoing issue in Blufftucky, ummm, Bluffton, Ind. the hotbed of the Apostolic Christian Church just a half hour and 120 years south of Fort Wayne regarding a long polluted open sewage ditch that well illustrates the thought process of the tea party folks. They’re being “forced” to remedy the situtation by installing septic systems or building a common system in the McKinney ditch area. The local tea party folks have been railing that it’s forcing them to carry an unfair tax burden and saddle their kids with additional debt. We’re talking household sewage from nearly 100 homes being discharged in an open ditch, very third world. They reject the notion that it’s unhealthy, and have made the drainage board meetings into a centerpiece of tea party thoughts. A friend of mine who reports on the issue is ready to quit his job and move anywhere but Wells County to avoid having to sit through another round of their nonsense. And they do believe it’s about preserving their liberty at all costs.

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  17. Bitter Scribe said on May 21, 2012 at 10:42 am

    JWfromNJ: What a perfect metaphor. The liberty to wallow in shit.

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  18. alex said on May 21, 2012 at 10:56 am

    What a perfect metaphor. The liberty to wallow in shit.

    Sort of like the liberty to be denied health care, a freedom these folks also consider paramount.

    To give Indiana some credit, at least our state GOP legislators had the cojones to call out Rep. Bob Morris (defamer of the Girl Scouts) for being a knuckle-dragging asshat. People like Webster (and La Bachmann, who urged her constituents to defy the census for some batshitty reason) don’t elicit a peep from their fellow GOPers. These days, Republicans invite censure from their colleagues only when they talk sense.

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  19. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on May 21, 2012 at 10:57 am

    They may take our sewage ditch, but they’ll never take . . . our freedom!

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  20. Jolene said on May 21, 2012 at 11:03 am

    Your link needs fixing, Jeff.

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  21. Jolene said on May 21, 2012 at 11:04 am

    Never mind, it worked the second time.

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  22. brian stouder said on May 21, 2012 at 11:05 am

    OK OK, I’ll quit waving my hand like that kid on Welcome Back Cotter (“Oh! Oh! Oh!”).; but it IS funny when self-styled, modern-day “tea party patriots” don’t even know what the United States Constitution – the Original Recipe portion written with quill pens – says.

    Aside from that, if I could speak robin, I’d dearly love to tell a particular robin momma (or daddy?) to calm down! A nice nest is constructed atop a Verizon (Frontier?) box on the back of our house. It is within 5 feet of where our garbage can resides, and every time anyone goes back there, she immediately flies to the fence and looks on nervously, avid to return as soon as possible. She does seem to trust us a little; she doesn’t go into attack mode. (I think this shows that we could sooner get through to her than to our elected bird brains, but we digress)

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  23. Dorothy said on May 21, 2012 at 11:12 am

    We have two bird nests atop deck support posts in the back, too, Brian. One of them is a robin. They both drop their share of bird poop onto our nice patio and I’m not happy about having to spray it off every chance I get, but I’m out there watering my garden anyway so I might as well. I wish I knew how to prevent them from building nests there. Anyone have any suggestions?

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  24. Charlotte said on May 21, 2012 at 11:40 am

    Well, the kestrel up at Himself’s vacation cabin (for rent, if anyone wants to come to Yellowstone just email me for a link) took care of two of the messiest robins nesting on the gables. The two over the porch seem to still be doing just fine. Last summer we discovered why you often find half a robin’s egg someplace weird — the mamas clean them out of the nests. Pick the empty shell up, and fly it over someplace else before dropping it. That was fun to watch.

    Highlight of my weekend was watching the kid I’ve been mentoring absolutely KILL Phantom of the Opera — played Christine. I haven’t heard her sing in a few years, and we had a great voice teacher in town (who sadly, died in February). Audrey worked on that score for a year, and it showed — she sang beautifully. High school and middle school kids and they just tore the place up. Unfortunately I’m beset by an Andrew Lloyd Webber earworm this morning.

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  25. Prospero said on May 21, 2012 at 11:55 am

    Rubber snakes or a fake owl might work Dorothy.

    And, there are bird spikes:


    These are commonly applied at urban building entrances so enterers and leavers aren’t subjected to pigeon poop makeovers. There are all plastic versions.

    Or holographic owls: http://www.birdbusters.com/bird_scare_holographic_owl_repel_strips.html

    GOPers have been out to get the Census for a long time, because they think the Census, like voting in general, and facts, favors, quelle horreur, their opponents. They hate the Census like it’s USPS or AMTRAK or public broadcasting, even the Originalists that want it counted the old-fashioned way, none of those new-fangled sampling and computers.

    So pegging Webster as a 2010 Teabanger is child’s play, but who’d be surprised if he were one of those 1994 Contract ON America types that just let the term limits promise slip his mind, like Kyl and Inhofe, two of the true mental midgets on the GOPer roster all these many years later. You know, stop them before they vote again.

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  26. Jeff Borden said on May 21, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    I believe Rep. Daniel Webster defeated the very loud-mouthed liberal Alan Grayson in 2010. Webster is such a flaming asshole his nickname is “Taliban Dan,” so you can guess where he stands on issues like health care, choice, etc.

    Somewhere on the ‘Net today I read an essay about how declining civilizations tend to go crazy. (This is one of the premises of Jared Diamond’s “Collapse.”) So, as our glaciers melt, our temperatures rise, our financial system is legally looted, a few hundred ultra-wealthy fuckweasels purchase politicians by the gross, tens of millions of fellow citizens scratch out an existence without health care, good schools or safe neighborhoods, tiny little men like Daniel Webster do their best to keep their eyes tightly closed to all but their own obsessions.

    I honestly don’t know what it will take to change this situation. The GOP suffers from mass amnesia over what it did to our country for eight years under the wee man from Crawford, but so do millions of Americans who will smilingly vote against their own self interests. Rmoney will reinstate the whole Bush agenda — and then some.

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  27. Dexter said on May 21, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    From Facebook:
    Wendell Pierce-
    “Headed to NY, as TREME receives the Peabody Award for broadcast excellence.”

    To which I say OH HELL YES!

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  28. Prospero said on May 21, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    The Sports Illustrated writer Peter King, in a weekly NFL column, quotes EJ Dionne, from the latter’s commencement address at Allegheny College:

    The great generations harness the good work done one-on-one, in local communities, to larger movements for change in our nation and in our world. They remember what the philosopher Michael Sandel has taught us, that, “When politics goes well, we can know a good in common that we cannot know alone.” Your generation has a chance to get us beyond the wreckage of the old culture wars and to sweep aside the debris of prejudice on the grounds of race, gender and sexual preference. Your generation has the opportunity to restore faith in public life and in public action.

    Never lose your desire to transform charity into justice, division into civility, selfishness into generosity, cynicism into hope.

    Read more: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2012/writers/peter_king/05/21/mmqb/index.html

    Now there’s that inchoate hatred from the left that wingnut trolls are so wounded by.

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  29. jcburns said on May 21, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    Glad to see Peking disseminating Mr. Dionne’s wisdom. And Ted Koppel’s. And…Savannah Guthrie’s?

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  30. LAMary said on May 21, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    We had a blue jay nest in our shrubbery when I was about 8 or 9 years old and that mama blue jay did not want anyone near her nest. She went after me once and I refused to go out the side door of the house for months afterwards.

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  31. nancy said on May 21, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    I’ve always been impressed by that impulse in animals. A wren — a bird about the size of a golf ball — went after Alan’s dad one day at their lake cottage, and drew blood. He was teasing Ruby one day and she launched herself at him, mouth agape, just like the killer bunny in that Monty Python movie. It’s the equivalent of me facing down a regiment, or a giant the size of the Empire State Building.

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  32. Prospero said on May 21, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    jc: King has been a longtime fan of commencement speeches, and says one of his proudest moments was being invited to deliver an address at his alma mater, Ohio U. He’s a very thoughtful guy, and frequently draws criticism from readers that take offense at his decidedly moderate politics. His MMQ columns are de rigeur for professional football fans.

    A wonderful story about a retired NFL player:


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  33. Mark P said on May 21, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    Jeff B., you know the quote applied to the Japanese for attacking the US: Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad. I wonder if they have it in for us.

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  34. Jeff Borden said on May 21, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    Mark P.,

    Maybe they do. . .maybe they do. Or perhaps the ghost of H.L. Mencken in mucking around in American politics.

    There’s another story floating today around based on research by something called the Sunlight Foundation, which finds language skills used by members of Congress are effectively at the level of high school sophomores. The study finds the 10 politicians with the lowest-level of speaking skills are all Republicans and eight of them are freshman elected in the teabagging revolution. Whatta suprise. Simpletons speak in simpletonese.

    Obviously, there are highly intelligent conservatives, but the oafs getting elected to Congress are just flat-out dumb, dumb, dumb.

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  35. brian stouder said on May 21, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    And by the way*, if I was waving my hand at Mr Limbaugh today, and wanting to kibitz about today’s headlines, I’d ask him how it is a matter of “religious freedom” that compels the Catholic Church to file suit in US District Court today. They (the Catholics) are asserting that if they canNOT dictate specifically what is and is not covered by their health insurance, then their religious freedom is trampled.

    But what about MY religious freedom? As a taxpayer, I am compelled to pay taxes, or else go to prison, and those tax monies go to all sorts of things I don’t believe in, most especially including Catholic schools and Catholic hospitals. Where is the respect due to non-Catholic taxpayers?

    *Have you noticed that one of Romney’s favorite sayings is “by the way” (usually offhandedly pronounced “b’th-way”)? By the way – to where? It reminds me of the Mickey Rourke character in Angel Heart; we’re on the way to hell, but b’th-way – did I tell ya I created 10,000 jobs? Would you believe 100,000? How’s about 245,000?? (etc)

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  36. Prospero said on May 21, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    News Rand Paul can use.

    Kasich? Bwahahahaha:


    But hell, RMoney might just find that admirable vulture capitalism.

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  37. Jeff Borden said on May 21, 2012 at 4:28 pm


    Nicely said. Given all the scams people run under the guise of religion, it’s enough to make me wish we taxed churches. For every honest parish or congregation where people of faith make a difference in the lives of others, there seems to be two that are little more than tax dodges preaching a prosperity gospel or seeking to minimize the lives of other people whose viewpoints they oppose.

    The One True has a lot of nerve spending all this cash in a challenge to the administration when there are so many victims of priestly abuse in need of help.

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  38. Pam said on May 21, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    Every day I wish very hard (in a mantra, like Arya in Thrones) that congressmen like Webster will fall prey to some evil banking scheme and lose everything! Then we’ll see how they like banking regulations. What a stupid putz!

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  39. Jeff Borden said on May 21, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    Like you, Pam, I wish very hard that blockhead Sean Hannity, who goes on and on and on and on about how no one in America is hungry, be forced to live for one month on food stamps.

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  40. Prospero said on May 21, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    Jeff B: The Fux dickheads went out of their ways to ridicule Mario Batali for doing that food stamp challenge:


    Better to be part of the problem than part of the solution for those bastards.

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  41. Minnie said on May 21, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    Nancy, I agree that baby goats are captivating. Have you looked at “Animals Talking in All Caps” today?


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  42. Deborah said on May 21, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    Dorothy, We’re in New Mexico so missing the whole NATO deal in Chicago. They encouraged people to stay home from work today. My office declared that it would still be a work day, but encouraged people to work at home. We left Saturday morning and had no problems getting out of town.

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  43. Prospero said on May 21, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    Chronicles of the “liberal press”. A sterling example of what WaPo does better than anybody, phony moral equivalence thinly disguised as bipartisan comment:


    Incredibly lame.

    It is pleasant watching the stock market rally while facebook stock nosedives. My mutual funds gained about a %.25 cents a share while Zuckerberg lost a few bucks per.

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