The Sunday Papers: April 22, 2012

Welcome to a new installment of the Sunday Papers. Last weekend I skipped it; although any day Katherine Kirsten’s idiotic musings are not published in the Star Tribune is a good day, the pickings were just too thin to blog about. Two stories in the New York Times provoked a lot of thought, one lamented the loss of religious cohesion in America and the other discussed the bouncing ball of Autism’s diagnostic criteria. These articles provoked so much thought in fact that I’ve decided to write standalone blogs about each issue.

This weekend there were bunch of articles worth recommending.  The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has been in the news a lot lately. This ultra-conservative group was formed back in 1973 in order to orchestrate a coordinated attack on “liberal” policies and promote the right wing agenda.  They are responsible for everything from the “Stand Your Ground” laws that get people shot for walking with Skittles to voter ID legislation and tax break laws for businesses. This group appears to have gotten more influential in recent years and I suspect it’s because the Republican Party has become infested with politicians who simply don’t know how to do their jobs, and/or don’t really care to do their jobs. They need someone like ALEC to write the laws because they don’t know how to do it themselves- yet another consequence of the Tea Party surge.  Of course Republican lawmakers deny they get their legislation form ALEC, it’s just a koinkidink that the bills the introduce are identical to the ones that ALEC writes. Mike Mcintire pens an expose of ALEC for the NYTs that reveals a plethora of interesting and alarming details regarding its nature and function.  Mcintire also reveals the duplicitous nature of a group that sees fraud behind every welfare check of any kind but considers legislation to recover money from businesses that defraud the government to be “false claims” legislation.

Duplicity is an ALEC specialty, they’re registered as charitable organization, but Mcintire demonstrates that they are actually a lobbying organization for business. Furthermore they claim to be non-partisan while all but one of their 104 leadership is a Republican. The article was excerpted in the Strib but the full version in the NYTs is well worth your attention. And let me say that we all owe a great debt of gratitude to Common Cause and The Center for Media and Democracy for their diligent and creative efforts to unmask the true nature of the abomination that is ALEC!

While we’re on the subject of ALEC, Richard Meryhew deserves credit for bringing us the overlooked story of a young Wisconsin man who was shot dead for being on the porch of some guys “castle” about two weeks after Treyvon Martin was shot. Wisconsin is yet another ALEC success story.

The Strib also brings us a revealing article by Randy Furst about a young North Minneapolis man that the police beat-up  . Raejuan Telford was lying on his couch watching TV when the police smashed into his house looking for his younger brother. I understand the value of police officers, but when people in their living rooms end up with collapsed lungs, broken ribs, and bruises all over, despite not even being suspects of any crime, we have a problem. And by the way, in my city, the police surround the house and knock on the on the door, they don’t just burst in and beat people up, so there’s that as well.

The Strib has an excerpt of a NYTs expose about Wal-Mart’s misbehavior in Mexico, I recommend the Strib version because there’s not much reason to read the article let alone the really long version of it in the NYTs. The only reason I mention the article is because it’s written from the really bizarre perspective that Wal-Mart is known as being some kind of squeaky clean den of morality. I don’t know about you but as far as I know Wal-Mart has always been more or less a serial violator of environmental and labor laws as well as civil rights all over the world. This is EXACTLY the kind of behavior I would expect from Wal-Mart so have no idea why the NTYs author David Barstow thinks we’d be surprised by any of this. However once you get beyond that strange premise Barstow deserves credit for an exhaustive investigation. I’m just afraid the story would be more interesting to a jury than most readers.

I have many times bemoaned the exaggerated salaries and dull intellects of our corporate executive class and blame said class for almost everything I don’t blame on sports.  My angst is yet again confirmed by Brooks Barnes in a NYTs story about Disney’s burgeoning consultancy business. Seems Mickey is making a splash telling companies how improve their customer’s experience.  Now I have no problem with Disney, and frankly, having been to Disney World I think they’d be really good people to get advice from and I think they’ll be really good at this. My problem is that the example of the kinds of advice Disney provides are things like telling GM they should drop a complimentary bottle of water in a cars cup holder before the driver leaves the lot. Not bad advices but remember GM is paying its executives millions of dollars, and someone from Disney has to suggest a bottle of water? The other one that surprised was a suggestion to school teachers that they get down on the child’s eye level when working with kids, how can you not already know that?

Speaking of exaggerated salaries here’s a nice little graphic from the NYTs:

Ellen Barry of the NYTs brings us the story about the former soviet republic of Georgia’s plan to build a brand new city on a swamp next to the Black Sea. Everyone’s pretty sure that sucker’s gonna sink long before it becomes a new port. Glub glub glub.

There are a lot of people who think the Strib is preoccupied with sports and new Vikings stadiums because of generally not publicly acknowledged business interests. Is it a coincidence that the day after NFL executives blew into town to push for a new Vikings stadium Jean Hopfensperger pens a Strib story about the Vikings binding communities together?: “NFL Alums Create Ties That Bind Communities” I can think of no reason to read this story but I’m left wondering:  Is there nothing an NFL franchise can’t do?

Finally, a guy by the name Charles W. Colson died a few days ago and Tim Weiner of the NYTs (amongst others) brings us his Obituary. Now I understand a reluctance to speak ill of the dead, but I see no reason to rehabilitate sociopaths when they die. Colson was Nixon’s “hatchet man” and went to prison for his role in the Watergate scandal. Prior to his conviction he was “born again” as Christian and became one of the nation’s most influential evangelicals. Here’s the thing, a sociopath is a sociopath and by all accounts Colson was an unscrupulous hack, he simply converted from a political hatchet man to a religious hatchet man. He joined the ranks of Lou Dobbs and Jerry Falwell in their effort to turn dishonesty, hypocrisy, and hate, into Christian virtues.  Men like Colson have obliterated the notion of faith amongst millions of Evangelical Christians and contributed to the polarization that has paralyzed our nation. Colson did more damage as an Evangelical than he ever did as Nixon’s hatchet man.  Here’s what Max Blumenthal has to say about Colson in his highly recommended “Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party”:

“His 1995 science fiction novel “Gideon’s Torch” revealed his radical passions. The book follows a heroic band of Christian guerrillas who must stop the National Institutes of Health from harvesting brain tissue from aborted fetuses to cure AIDS, a plan funded by Hollywood liberals. To do so, they launch a righteous killing spree of abortion doctors, eventually firebombing the National Institutes of Health. Not surprisingly, “Gideon’s Torch” became a recruiting tool for those wishing to realize its fictional narrative. It has been excerpted at length on the website of the Army of God, a radical anti-abortion group responsible for the killing and bombing of abortion providers.”   Page 61.

Ever wonder where Michelle Bachmann gets her “death panel” ideas?

The narrative presented by Weiner would have us believe that Colson was a scoundrel who became a do-gooder after he was born again. Had Weiner not written this fantasy, I would not have to speak ill of the dead.

Have a good week!

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