Jim Hightower Is Just One of Us

Jim HightowerOn this day in 1503, the great Italian Mannerist painter Parmigianino was born. He was a master, but a bizarre one. He was known for his physical distortions of forms. For example, the highly stylized Madonna with the Long Neck, presents the Virgin Mary with an almost giraffe neck. The Vision of Saint Jerome shows Jesus as awkwardly tall and Jerome with a very long finger.

The Norwegian composer Christian Sinding was born in 1856. He is best known for his lyrical piano compositions. They can be overwhelming. A good example of this is Rustle of Spring, which would probably drive you crazy if it were twice as long. But as it is, it’s kind of cool:

The great Russian composer Reinhold Gliere was born in 1875. He is especially known for his ballets. Like many Russian composers of that time, he used a lot of folk melodies, which may explain the enduring charm of this work. A good example of this is Russian Sailor’s Dance:

The great Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann was born in 1906. He is best known for the original synthesis of LSD. On 16 November 2013, the 75th anniversary of the first synthesis of the drug, I wrote:

It’s a big day in drug history. Seventy-five years ago, Albert Hofmann synthesized lysergic acid diethylamide, better known as LSD. I remember a story (possibly apocryphal) dating back to the 1970s. On the first day of Introduction to Chemistry, a certain professor would walk in and write on the chalk board:

C20H25N3O

He would then say, “This is the chemical formula for LSD. I don’t want to be asked for the rest of the year!” Of course, it would take at least another year of chemistry to gain the skills in organic chemistry to learn how to make it. In his way, Hofmann was as much an advocate for the drug as was Timothy Leary. And he was so right up to his death a few years ago at the age of 102.

Other birthdays: pathologist James Paget (1814); botanist Joseph Charles Arthur (1850); Munich School Greek painter Georgios Jakobides (1853); the great American sculptor Alexander Stirling Calder (1870); physicist G W Pierce (1872); Australian painter Nora Heysen (1911); science fiction writer Jerome Bixby (1923); television producer David Wolper (1928); guitarist Lee Ritenour (62); and actor Amanda Peet (42).

The day, however, belongs to the great political humorist Jim Hightower who is 71 today. I still enjoy reading his column at the back of every issue of The Progressive. In addition to being very funny, he’s also very insightful. He’s responsible for two of my favorite lines. He was the first person to reference “trickle-down economics” as “tinkle-down economics,” as I discussed in Pee on Me. And he also said that Bush the Junior was “born on third base, thought he had hit a triple.” Here he is ten years ago on The Daily Show:

Happy birthday Jim Hightower!

Christie 2016 Bumper Sticker!

Christie 2016 Bumper Sticker
Made Especially for Frankly Curious by: Andrea English

On Thursday night’s Colbert Report, he presented a bumper sticker for a potential Chris Christie 2016 presidential campaign. I often grab these, as I did with the Slow & Measured faux movie poster about Harry Reid’s approach to filibuster reform. I also did it with The Daily Show‘s excellent Obama Hope poster parody, Mitt Romney: No We Can’t! For some reason, I am the only person who sees fit to grab these things, and they are very popular. So when I saw the Christie faux bumper sticker, I knew I had to have it.

Generally, it is simply a matter of pausing the video, doing a screen capture, and then editing to size inside of Gimp. But this time, there were three problems. First, is that they blurred out the word “fuck.” Second, is that since they placed the bumper sticker on a car, they distorted the shape of it. And third, the quality was surprisingly bad, even with a capture done in full screen mode.

Lucky for us, we have an artist more or less on staff—Andrea English. So I asked her if she could fix it. I’m not sure that she did. I think she may have just recreated it. She’s rather good at this kind of stuff. When the local Republican Party was doing a bumper contest, I came up with “Fuck America: Vote Republican.” And she created:

Republican Bumper Sticker - Designed by A. L. English
Made Especially for Frankly Curious by: Andrea English

That bumper sticker has been very popular. I doubt that the Christie bumper sticker will be as popular. It has less general usefulness, especially now that I think there is no chance he will run for president. Before, I thought that he would run. Now, I tend to think he won’t even serve out his second term as governor. It couldn’t happen to a more deserving man.

And if I’m wrong, I’m sure he will fuck me over. And given that Andrea lives in New Jersey, he is already fucking her over!

Update (12 January 2014 3:07 am)

Barbara Buono agrees with me. I can’t believe this “liberal” interview. As if it was Buono’s job to uncover Christie’s coruption. But as she notes: she tried. No one cared. And that includes most of the people on MSNBC. But she is right on when she says, “He will be leaving the governor’s office before his term’s up, but it won’t be to run for president.”

I’ve been angry for a while about how Buono was treated by both the Democratic Party and the “liberal” media:

Barbara Buono
Why Has the Democratic Party Abandoned Barbara Buono?
Back to Normal in New Jersey
Obama and Buono and Christie
I’m Official in Love with Barbara Buono

The Last Two Words on Chris Christie

John Dean Speaks“John Dean.”

Richard Nixon did not know about the Watergate break-in before it happened. That’s important to know. The reason that he was forced to resign was that he knew about and approved of the cover-up. And just as important, the cover-up wasn’t about Watergate but about the larger project that the Nixon administration was involved in: the dirty tricks and the retribution against real and perceived enemies. So in a larger sense, the big reason that Nixon was wrong was that he was the one who wanted his administration to be run as effectively a criminal enterprise.

I think the similarities between Nixon and Christie are overwhelming in this regard. There is no doubt that Christie designed his administration in a very corrupt way with the over-arching idea that it could get the most done in such a liberal state if everyone understood that any resistance to Christie’s will would be punished. This is important: it isn’t just that Christie knew about this, it is his own design; it is the way he works.

So just like Nixon with Watergate, I don’t think Christie knew about this particular bit of retribution against Fort Lee. But there is no doubt that his people did it because that is the way they work; that is the way Christie’s people knew that Christie expected them to work. It’s possible that Christie did know about it, but it certainly wasn’t the case that his people would have felt that they needed to get his approval about it. So let’s just give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he was not in on the original conspiracy.

Fort Lee Traffic JamThat brings us back to the great question about the Watergate break-in and Nixon’s involvement. Howard Baker famously asked, “What did the president know and when did he know it?” I have the same question about Christie, “What did the governor know and when did he know it?” Because I absolutely don’t believe that he didn’t find out that some of his closest people were involved in a conspiracy to punish Fort Lee at the same time that we all did. That doesn’t strain credulity; it requires credulity combined with an intense desire to think the best about Christie. In other words, it requires a really really stupid Josh Barro.

When the traffic in Fort Lee started backing up, and it became an issue with accusations, Christie could not have failed to at least wonder if this wasn’t the work of his own people. It was, after all, the way they did things in the Christie administration. And as the controversy continued and built, there must have come a time when Christie asked one or more of his people what was going on. And I certainly think this happened well before his big meeting in December—three months after the event. A big meeting is not how he would have approached the issue. He would have asked key people quietly and with no one else around if there was anything to all the allegations.

Look at the way that Christie has answer questions. Politico reported, “When asked about that claims that the closures were ordered for political retribution, Christie said ‘absolutely, unequivocally not.'” Okay, but that isn’t the question now, is it? No one really thinks that Christie went to an aide and said, “Let’s cause a four-day traffic jam in Fort Lee”—much less, “Let’s cause a four-day traffic jam in Fort Lee to get back at…” He’s safe on that count just like Nixon was safe on the count that he did not order the Watergate break-in.

But what we have here is a very intelligent and sophisticated politician. And he has only acted on a big controversy surrounding him twice. The first time was in December when he had what amounts to a show meeting telling his people to admit to any wrong doing. The second time was when he fired two people, only after their misconduct was front page news. Chris Christie knew that his office was responsible for the Fort Lee traffic jam long before he fired anyone. And that means that he withheld information about the conspiracy. And that means he was involved in a cover-up.

Chris Christie - Richard Nixon

The only thing that will save Christie is if there is no John Dean in his administration. John Dean, as you should recall, was White House Counsel for Richard Nixon. And Dean rolled over on Nixon. Without Dean, I doubt Nixon would have been forced out of the presidency. Well, there are a lot of potential John Deans out there. David Wildstein’s attorney has already made it perfectly clear that his client would have quite a lot to say if he were granted immunity. And as this whole thing becomes a criminal matter when people are looking at prison time, I believe there will be more people who will have stories to tell. I won’t be surprised at all if someone says, “I told the governor what we had done while it was still going on!” Regardless, someone is going to say something that will show that Christie was lying when he said he only found out when the story broke this last week.

If I were Chris Christie, I would be very worried about those two words. Who will be the member of his administration who fills that role? Who will be Chris Christie’s…

John Dean.

It’s Raining, But Not for Long

Irma ThomasWe have had basically no rain this season and it isn’t looking like there will be much rain in the near future. But today, and today only, it is raining!

This is, folks, my biggest worry about global warming. Rising temperatures should cause more rain. And indeed, the models all predict more rain. It is just that it mostly falls over the ocean where it doesn’t really help us. In graduate school, I worked with a guy who did great (really meticulous) work correlating temperature and rainfall for the United States. The results were that the United States is going to become a much drier place. As a result, food production (especially things like wheat and corn) will be pushed north. And if you really think that this couldn’t one day end up in a war between the United States and Canada, then you are naive and probably don’t read this blog anyway.

In general, I don’t talk about this issue to people because what’s happening this year doesn’t necessarily mean anything. But I am definitely worried. And what all this means to the natural environment is totally unknown. Animals can migrate. So can plants, but they do it really slowly—far too slowly to deal with what we have going on. The earth will muddle through the whole thing, but it could still be a catastrophe. Meanwhile, conservatives are unwilling to do any kind of a risk analysis. Two years ago this month, I wrote, A Really Big Problem. I asked a question:

Let’s suppose there is only a one percent chance that global warming is actually happening. If it does happen, it is going to have a profound effect on future generations, and certainly for the next five generations, it is going to be worse for the next than it was for the last. If this has only a 1% chance of happening, isn’t it a good idea to be truly conservative and try to stop it from happening, rather than continuing on as we have for the sake of the fossil fuel industry?

That’s what I just don’t get. Conservatives act like it is absolutely impossible that this is happening. Clearly there is enough evidence that it deserves that we invest some resources into countering it. But actually, there are three stages of global warming denial:

  1. There is no global warming!
  2. There is global warming, but humans aren’t the cause!
  3. Humans are causing global warming, but there is nothing we can do about it!

There are people in all of the categories. I get really annoyed at the people at stage one. These are the people who claim that it is all a hoax. And why is it a hoax? Why would all those scientists lie? Because of all the money! ExxonMobile made $41 billion in 2011, but it is some climate scientist with his $50,000 a year job who is lying because of the money. And note: if a climate scientist found results that countered the prevailing theories, he would not only get a lot of money, he would become famous. That’s how science works!

The people at stage two are making a better argument. The climate system is complicated and correlation is not causation. Of course, the case for anthropogenic global warming is a lot more than that. But mostly people at stage two talk about the sunspot cycle and wave their hands around a lot. The terrible thing is that solar forcing is the first thing that goes into the models. And a complete accounting of solar changes has been included in the models for the last two decades. So these people really have nothing to back up their claims other than their desire to believe.

The stage three people anger me the most. These are the exact same people who claim that we must balance the federal government budget today because we are destroying our children’s future. Well, economically, that turns out not to even be true. But they make that inter-generational argument. However, we can’t do anything to hurt profits today even though it will have negative effects on future generations and it may well have catastrophic effects. It is simply untrue that we can’t do anything about global warming. It is true that doing something about it may be expensive. But that’s very different from having no options. These are the worst kind of people: they don’t give a damn about the kids but they are more than willing to use them to further their political agendas.

But like I said, it is raining today. And I love the rain. So here is one of my favorite singers Irma Thomas singing the hell out of “It’s Raining” by another Louisiana legend Allen Toussaint: