Getting Down to Business - Monday is the first official day of our new TPM Investigations Desk. So our editors don’t kill me, I want to be clear that no one should expect a flood o...
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But if you’re a lawyer defending a gay-marriage ban in court, you need an actual legal reason for your position. This was the unenviable spot in which Paul Clement found himself recently, defending the House Republican opposition to gay marriage before the Supreme Court. Clement developed a reputation as a right-wing superlawyer for his work in transforming the legal challenge against Obamacare from a no-hope libertarian crusade into very, very nearly the law of the land. It’s a measure of the hopeless illogic of the case against gay marriage rather than Clement’s lack of skill that the best legal case he could come up with was … well, it wasn’t good:
Marriage should be limited to unions of a man and a woman because they alone can "produce unplanned and unintended offspring," opponents of gay marriage have told the Supreme Court.
By contrast, when same-sex couples decide to have children, "substantial advance planning is required," said Paul D. Clement, a lawyer for House Republicans.
So the problem here is that you can’t discriminate against people without good cause. You need some distinction to justify it. The traditional distinction that straight people raise kids doesn’t work, since gay couples can do that too. So Clement fell back on arguing that only straight couples have unplanned children. Gay couples don’t get drunk and wake up pregnant. It is, to say the least, ironic that after years of using alleged gay social irresponsibility as a rationale for discrimination against gays, heterosexual irresponsibility is now a rationale for discrimination against gays.
Over the course of three years as a Fox News paid contributor -- earning a reported $1 million a year -- former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin made $15.85 per word, according to a study from the University of Minnesota's Smart Politics published Monday:
A Smart Politics review of the more than 150 FOX broadcasts in which Sarah Palin appeared as a paid commentator from 2010 through 2012 finds that she spoke 189,221 words on air during this span, for an average pay rate of $15.85 per word.
According to the study, Palin appeared on the network in some form an average of once every 7.2 days. Most of her appearances were on "Hannity" or "On the Record w/ Greta Van Susteren."
A brand new conservative group calling itself Americans for a Strong Defense and financed by anonymous donors is running advertisements urging Democratic senators in five states to vote against Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s nominee to be secretary of defense, saying he would make the United States “a weaker country.”
Another freshly minted and anonymously backed organization, Use Your Mandate, which presents itself as a liberal gay rights group but purchases its television time through a prominent Republican firm, is attacking Mr. Hagel as “anti-Gay,” “anti-woman” and “anti-Israel” in ads and mailers.
Those groups are joining at least five others that are organizing to stop Mr. Hagel’s confirmation, a goal even they acknowledge appears to be increasingly challenging. But the effort comes with a built-in consolation prize should it fail: depleting some of Mr. Obama’s political capital as he embarks on a new term with fresh momentum.
The media campaign to scuttle Mr. Hagel’s appointment, unmatched in the annals of modern presidential cabinet appointments, reflects the continuing effects of the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which loosened campaign finance restrictions and was a major reason for the record spending by outside groups in the 2012 election. All told, these independent and largely secretly financed groups spent well over $500 million in an attempt to defeat Mr. Obama and the Democrats, a failure that seemed all the greater given the huge amounts spent.
While the campaign against Mr. Hagel, a Republican, is not expected to cost more than a few million dollars, it suggests that the operatives running the independent groups and the donors that finance them — many of whom are millionaires and billionaires with ideological drive and business agendas that did not go away after the election — are ready to fight again.
I don't know what's become of you. This thing you've been doing, it's gotten out of control. I don't even know you anymore.
I was with you in the beginning: You were a callow youth who quailed at the sight of blood, rich tropical vistas blurring to the rhythm of your panicked breath. Your security blanket — the militaristic elder brother who was going to make everything OK — died with a sanguine gurgle under your hands. You ran with the terror of a hunted animal through jewel-green foliage, the whip-sting of gunfire chasing your heels, and I sat on the edge of my seat. When you stumbled, I cried out. The merciless branches, the horrific, alien tropical landscape buffeted you carelessly, and I felt your pain. When you fell, my stomach turned.
And now, not even 10 minutes later:
You accepted a generic tribal tattoo — oh, sorry, tatau — without complaint. You have a radio, a fully-functioning tablet and generous access to vehicles, so you could try to contact your family; you could try to get a ride to the mainland, get to an embassy, call for help and let your family know your brother has died, that everyone you love is being held hostage by pirates. You could spare a tear, even.
Instead you are agreeably slaughtering tapirs for backpacks.
I don't think you're unsettled because Far Cry 3 was effective. I think you're unsettled — I think we both are — by this yawning gap between what a game says it wants to do and what it then goes and does. It's as troubling as the cheerful gawping tourists you met in that war zone. The game mines superficial rituals of meaning and then it puts a gun in your hand.
I always liked Kieron Gillen's take on BioShock. As gamers across the world took offence that sacrificing one Little Sister gets you the bad ending, Kieron says, "Well, how many dead children did you think were necessary for you to be evil?" How many furtive knifings until Brody is beyond reproach?
I hear the cry of a million bros: That doesn't sound like a lot of fun. No. But why do game developers build mansions and buy Ferraris off the back of efforts to neuter grotesque modern horrors, to make them fun? Kirk Hamilton's articulation of Medal of Honor's promo campaign as "mortifying" really resonated with me. I've heard my own gin-laced hiss — "war profiteers" — threading into the dark of some promo party, as regards certain kinds of industry people.
You know, some people just don’t get art. Yesterday, a number of websites reported on a special collector’s edition of the upcoming zombie-game sequel Dead Island: Riptide. Available now for preorder in the United Kingdom and Australia, the “Zombie Bait Edition” comes with a few extras commissioned by the studio, Deep Silver. The package includes special artwork and a steel case to protect your copy of Dead Island from the elements. Oh, and there’s also a scale model of a nubile, bikini-clad woman’s dismembered corpse. ...
In this “grotesque take on an iconic Roman marble torso sculpture”—an actual thing said by an actual human being who works for Deep Silver—the limbs aren’t just gone. No, their gory absence suggests a struggle. This anonymous woman’s limbs and head were ripped from her, presumably amid spurts of blood and a few prerecorded voiceover-booth moans rendered in sparkling 7.1-channel surround sound. ...
You’ll notice, too, that every part of the figure’s body is mangled except the breasts. A couple of the gashes on Oh God, You Just Know Someone Is Masturbating To This Right Now come close to the boobs, but they stop short, out of solemn reverence. This is in keeping with the long game-industry tradition of honoring huge bazongas above all (and honoring the ass, too, if there’s any development time left over after programming the huge bazongas). ...
The gore serves as a complement to the misogyny, because without that face and those limbs to distract the viewer, a clear point of focus—boobs—can emerge. It’s so elegant how it all fits together. You know in A Beautiful Mind when all those numbers and equations are connecting together around Russell Crowe’s head, like a dazzling crystal? This is like that, except with hating women instead of math.
The final touch of grace is the nationalism element. The statue comes in two versions, one with the Union Jack for U.K. buyers and one with the Australian flag for those Down Under. Thus Deep Silver quells any lingering queasiness with the soothing balm of patriotism. We can all rest easy knowing that while this woman tits may have met her tits end, she died tits for tits queen and country tits tits.
If you have been watching Fox News in recent weeks, you will have heard a lot of discussion about Hitler. Guests have been lining up to equate the gun legislation proposed by President Obama with Hitler, Nazis and 1930s Germany in general.
Since the Newtown, Conn., school shooting, Fox guests have been among the loudest voices saying that any new restrictions will decimate the Second Amendment and lead to government oppression not seen since Hitler, Mao or Stalin. ...
Then stepped up Bob Schieffer.
Speaking on a special Jan. 16 edition of CBS News, the host said this of the obstacles to passing legislation: “Surely passing civil rights legislation, as Lyndon Johnson was able to do, and before that, surely defeating the Nazis was a much more formidable task than taking on the gun lobby.”
Heads on Fox started to fizz. When Hannity played the clip on his show, he followed it up with a clip from Rush Limbaugh, who asked: “Is there room for that in our discourse today?” Limbaugh called it “over-the-top defamation.”
Should a recently introduced bill in New Mexico become law, rape victims will be required to carry their pregnancies to term during their sexual assault trials or face charges of “tampering with evidence.”
Under HB 206, if a woman ended her pregnancy after being raped, both she and her doctor would be charged with a felony punishable by up to 3 years in state prison:
Tampering with evidence shall include procuring or facilitating an abortion, or compelling or coercing another to obtain an abortion, of a fetus that is the result of criminal sexual penetration or incest with the intent to destroy evidence of the crime.
Sexual assault trials are infamously grueling for survivors, who are often subjected to character assassination and other attempts to discredit their accounts. State Rep. Cathrynn Brown’s (R) bill would add the forced choice between prison or an unwanted pregnancy to these proceedings.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have come to a deal on filibuster reform. The deal is this: The filibuster will not be reformed. ...
What will be reformed is how the Senate moves to consider new legislation, the process by which all nominees - except Cabinet-level appointments and Supreme Court nominations - are considered, and the number of times the filibuster can be used against a conference report.
But even those reforms don't go as far as they might. ...
A pro-reform aide I spoke to was agog. "Right now, you have to negotiate with McConnell to get on a bill," he said. "Tomorrow, if this passes, you still need to negotiate with McConnell to get on a bill. It changes nothing on how we move forward."
|Unusual artwork in Red Rock Canyon|
|Cottonwood Cove is beautiful,... before you get to the crucifixions, at least|
|Hoover Dam is in better shape than the roads nearby!|
|Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare|
I can't express how cold it was. Maybe 10-15 degrees F in the sunshine, not including wind chill. The cold was compounded by the fact that none of the buildings we visited were heated, which meant hour-long tours in cavernous, 30-degree indoor environments. It is quite extraordinary to have the Honored Guest Experience in such conditions: they're proudly showing you their latest technology or best library, and you can see your breath. A clue to how much is really in their control.
Ordinary North Koreans live in a near-total information bubble, without any true frame of reference. I can't think of any reaction to that except absolute sympathy. My understanding is that North Koreans are taught to believe they are lucky to be in North Korea, so why would they ever want to leave? They're hostages in their own country, without any real consciousness of it. And the opacity of the country's inner workings--down to the basics of its economy--further serves to reinforce the state's control.
The best description we could come up with: it's like The Truman Show, at country scale.
Looks great, right? All this activity, all those monitors. Probably 90 desks in the room, all manned, with an identical scene one floor up.
One problem: No one was actually doing anything. A few scrolled or clicked, but the rest just stared. More disturbing: when our group walked in--a noisy bunch, with media in tow--not one of them looked up from their desks. Not a head turn, no eye contact, no reaction to stimuli. They might as well have been figurines.
Of all the stops we made, the e-Potemkin Village [her term for the Kim Il Sung University e-Library] was among the more unsettling. We knew nothing about what we were seeing, even as it was in front of us. Were they really students? Did our handlers honestly think we bought it? Did they even care? Photo op and tour completed, maybe they dismantled the whole set and went home.
When one of our group went to peek back into the room, a man abruptly closed the door ahead of him and told him to move along.
Actress Nichelle Nichols tells the lovely story of how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. convinced her to remain on Star Trek after she had decided to leave the series for Broadway:
I was going to leave “Star Trek,” and [creator] Gene Roddenberry says, “You can’t do that. Don’t you understand what I’m trying to achieve? Take the weekend and think about it.” He took the resignation and stuck it in his desk drawer….
As fate would have it, I was to be a celebrity guest at, I believe, it was an NAACP fundraiser in Beverly Hills. I had just been taken to the dais, when the organizer came over and said, “Ms. Nichols, there’s someone here who said he is your biggest fan and he really wants to meet you.”
I stand up and turn and I’m looking for a young “Star Trek” fan. Instead, is this face the world knows. I remember thinking, “Whoever that fan is, is going to have to wait because Dr. Martin Luther King, my leader, is walking toward me, with a beautiful smile on his face.” Then this man says “Yes, Ms. Nichols, I am that fan. I am your best fan, your greatest fan, and my family are your greatest fans…. We admire you greatly ….And the manner in which you’ve created this role has dignity….”
I said “Dr. King, thank you so much. I really am going to miss my co-stars.” He said, dead serious, “What are you talking about?” I said, “I’m leaving Star Trek,” He said, “You cannot. You cannot!”
I was taken aback. He said, “Don’t you understand what this man has achieved? For the first time on television we will be seen as we should be seen every day – as intelligent, quality, beautiful people who can sing, dance, but who can also go into space, who can be lawyers, who can be teachers, who can be professors, and yet you don’t see it on television – until now….”
I could say nothing, I just stood there realizing every word that he was saying was the truth. He said, “Gene Roddenberry has opened a door for the world to see us. If you leave, that door can be closed because, you see, your role is not a Black role, and it’s not a female role, he can fill it with anything, including an alien.”
At that moment, the world tilted for me. I knew then that I was something else and that the world was not the same. That’s all I could think of, everything that Dr. King had said: The world sees us for the first time as we should be seen.
Come Monday morning, I went to Gene. He’s sitting behind that same dang desk. I told him what happened, and I said, “If you still want me to stay, I’ll stay. I have to.” He looked at me, and said, “God bless Dr. Martin Luther King, somebody knows where I am coming from.” I said, “That’s what he said.” And my life’s never been the same since, and I’ve never looked back. I never regretted it, because I understood the universe, that universal mind, had somehow put me there, and we have choices. Are we going to walk down this road or the other? It was the right road for me.
TV’s first interracial kiss—between Nichols and William Shatner—also occurred on Star Trek.