Artvoice: Buffalo's #1 Newsweekly
Home Blogs Web Features Calendar Listings Artvoice TV Real Estate Classifieds Contact

The Morning Grumpy 12/16/2011

All the news and views fit to consume during your “morning grumpy”.

1. Congressional approval is always low, no one really thinks Congress is doing a good job, right? However, history shows that while people disapprove of Congress, in general, they usually think their congressperson is doing a good job.  With Congressional approval numbers at an all-time low, how is that historical favoring of local Representatives holding up? Not so well, actually.

As voters look toward the 2012 congressional elections, anti-incumbent sentiment is running at or near record highs. Just 20% of voters say they would like to see most members of Congress reelected in the next congressional election. Two-thirds (67%) think most members of Congress should be replaced. This exceeds – by double digits – previous highs set in 2010, 2006 and 1994.

As is generally the case, voters are more positive about their own congressional representative. Half (50%) say they would like to see their own representative reelected while 33% say their representative should not be reelected. Still, this equals the level of anti-incumbent sentiment in 2010, when 58 incumbents went on to lose reelection bids – the most since 1948.

Not good news for Republican incumbents found in this poll, specifically.

2. It seems a shame that our elected Congressional representatives from WNY (with the exception of Rep. Louise Slaughter) and both of our Senators voted to support the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. Why is it a shame? I refer you to Subtitle D of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), particularly Sections 1031–1033. You can read an analysis here.

The law, awaiting President Obama’s signature, would allow for the indefinite military detention of any person alleged to be a member of Al Qaeda, the Taliban or “associated forces.” The provisions also apply to any person who supports or aids “belligerent” acts against the United States, whether the person is apprehended beyond our borders or on domestic soil.

For noncitizens, such detention would be mandatory. Military detention would still be the default, even for citizens, but at the discretion of the president, it could be waived in favor of handing over the case to domestic law enforcement. Under this law, if the Defense Department thinks you’re a terrorist, there would be no presumption of innocence; you would be presumed a detainee of the military unless the executive decides otherwise. Without such a waiver, again, even if you’re a citizen, you will never hear words like “alleged” or “suspected.” You will be an “unprivileged enemy belligerent,” with limited rights to appeal that status, no rights to due process, or to a jury, or to a speedy trial guided by the rules of evidence.

According to the “law of war” invoked by these sections of the NDAA, a person in military custody can be held indefinitely, without charge and without access to civilian courts. Perhaps most significant, with the suspension of constitutional provisions for due process, there would be no Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.

Dangerous times, and not because of a terrorist threat. Glenn Greenwald breaks it down for you here and here.

3. Student debt has ballooned out of control.

4. One of the greatest journalists, critics, thinkers and men of our generation died yesterday after 62 glorious years on this Earth. Christopher Hitchens was a man in the greatest sense of the word.

Fearless in the way he lived, powerful in the way he spoke, forceful in his writing, insightful in his thinking and a classic sonofabitch. The world is poorer for his loss. Rest In Peace. As a remembrance, take a moment to revel in this tale of Hitch and friends taking a stroll in Beirut. For those of us who loved his work, it represents everything we loved about him.

Fact Of The Day: In 1773, the Boston Tea Party took place as American colonists boarded a British ship and dumped more than 300 chests of tea overboard to protest tea taxes. 236 years later, baby boomers donned goofy hats to bastardize the memory of this remarkable event as they protested the black guy and his proposed moderate/incremental changes to American healthcare regulations.

Quote Of The Day:  “That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.” – Christopher Hitchens

Song Of The Day: “Galway Girl” – Steve Earle

Follow me on Twitter: @ChrisSmithAV

Email me links, tips, story ideas: chrissmithbuffalo[@]gmail.com


  • Bbill
  • Hitch: I never warmed up to him again after Iraq, I’m sad to say. Even when I agreed with him, I though he’d become a blowhard and self-parodist. God Is Not Good is, frankly, not good; I prefer the measured reason of Daniel Dennett for my atheism. He became as sloppy with facts as he was facile with insults, and though he could certainly produce a noteworthy turn of phrase up to the end, I think his best days as a writer were behind him in about 1998.

    Regardless, I did respect him and I am surprised how sadly I take this news.

  • Jesse

    Sorry to hear about Hitchens. We need more firebreathers.

    The modern Tea Party movement was started on this day in 2007. By Ron Paul fans. In protest of GEORGE BUSH, not Obama, who wasn’t close to the White House yet. SO f*** all that “anti black guy” nonsense. It’s too bad the GOP was able to coopt the movement in the meantime.

  • Mike Chmiel

    But the modern Tea Party movement would have died the same day as Paul’s campaign had it not re-energized and spread like wildfire upon the black man’s Presidential election.

    You can’t really compare the Paul-esque Tea Party and what occurred after Obama’s election. Same name, different set of principles.

  • @ Mike – “You can’t really compare the Paul-esque Tea Party and what occurred after Obama’s election. Same name, different set of principles.” Remember that in October 2012 when Occupy Wall Street is nothing more than a fancy Democratic Get Out the Vote machine.

  • Bbill

    If you want to try and make the case that the baggers weren’t motivated and enabled by the specter of scary black mooslim kenyan communist socialist fascist usurper in the White House (“take our country back” from what exactly?) go ahead and best of luck.

  • I got to hear Hitch speak at the U of R, about his book about Mother Teresa. Protesters were holding signs outside when I went in (hmm…hope that doesn’t mean I crossed a picket line…). His basic point was that just comforting people in circumstances largely imposed by a brutally classist society — without attempting to fight the underlying classism — doesn’t make you a saint. The kind of iconoclastic whack at an iconic figure like Mother Teresa that was at the core of who Hitch was and what he did.

    Interesting moment from the Q&A after that speech. A student started his question, “so the take-home message is…” to which Hitch responded, “take-home message?? I’ve never heard that phrase before. I sincerely hope it doesn’t catch on.” Sorry you didn’t get your wish on that one, Hitch.

  • rastamick61

    I congratulated Hitch for his waterboarding experiment when he was a guest on the Bill Press radio show. He pretty much ended up on the side of Jesse Ventura and others who’d also been treated to the rag the angled plank and the pitcher and said Goddamned right it’s torture. I will always treasure his immolation of Sean Hannity too as Hannity tried to wax philosophical on the death of Jerry Falwell. Hitchens had none of it and at one point referred to Hannity’s windy obsequies as “rather unlettered.” As if Hannity would ever be considered anything but. Hitchens will be missed and I think we should all be compelled to say the thing everyone is thinking but decorum prevents. Anyone who throws down with a book about Mother Teresa and calls it Missionary Position is going to leave a huge crater behind. Thanks for the memories.

  • Max

    Chris – on the Congressional approval – I think the Dems ought to be looking over their shoulders for what’s coming, too. We’re just witnessing yet another “December surprise” where Congressional Democrats rolled over on modestly increasing taxes on the 1%. As you’ll recall, last year it was to extend the Bush tax cuts for another 2 years. This time word is it’s being sacrificed as part of the yet to be finalized “deal” to extend the Social Security payroll tax cut. Both outcomes indicate there’s really no discernible difference between the GOP and the Democrats on the matter, except you know explicitly where the GOP’s coming from and the Democrats will fold their cards before the first play.

  • Mike Chmiel

    @Brian Castner – I wish the Democrats were somehow saavy enough to co-opt the Occupy movement. They are currently too busy serving their Wall Street masters and and kowtowing to their GOP congressional counterparts.

  • Alan, on the Mother Teresa issue…

    “Mother Teresa was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction. And she was a friend to the worst of the rich, taking misappropriated money from the atrocious Duvalier family in Haiti (whose rule she praised in return) and from Charles Keating of the Lincoln Savings and Loan.

    Where did that money, and all the other donations, go? The primitive hospice in Calcutta was as run down when she died as it always had been—she preferred California clinics when she got sick herself—and her order always refused to publish any audit. But we have her own claim that she opened 500 convents in more than a hundred countries, all bearing the name of her own order. Excuse me, but this is modesty and humility?” – Hitch, in a rant called Mommie Dearest.

    http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/fighting_words/2003/10/mommie_dearest.html

  • On Hitch & Mother Teresa, he got some flack at his U of R talk regarding the incendiary title of his book (Missionary Position) & unflattering cover art. His response was something along the lines that his publisher actually wanted the title, “Sacred Cow,” but Hitch thought that unkind!

    I’ll miss his frightfully intelligent and articulate iconoclasm.

  • @ Chris – Didn’t you just post a bit about Gingrinch being a parody of what the right thinks a smart person looks like? You can say the same about Hitchens and the left. I tend to agree with Ethan – at some point he put a greater priority on being a dick than being thoughtful. The more he trampled sacred cows, the more he was cheered, ironically canonized while still alive. His arguments (strawmen like the Mother Teresa rant) don’t do well under scrutiny, but when your comeback from this man-of-letters is “kiss my ass, I’m drunk,” they don’t have to.

    • Brian, to imply that Hitchens was a leftist is to completely miss what the man stood for. Also, to compare the intellectual standing of a phony like Newt Gingrich with Hitchens is beyond comprehension. Have you read the Mother Teresa book? It is certainly not a straw-man argument, but rather a beautiful and well-crafted polemic.

  • starbuck

    This won’t change anyone’s mind who clings to tea party equals racism propaganda, but I can’t resist just in case it can annoy even one person who reads it.

    CBS polling in both early and late October found supporters of the tea party had disproportionately higher preferences for Herman Cain as the nominee (24% Oct 3, 32% Oct 25) than did the poll’s full set of respondents (17% Oct 3, 25% Oct 25).
    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20125120-503544/herman-cain-tops-mitt-romney-in-latest-cbs-nyt-poll

    An NBC poll in mid-October also found Cain’s favorability substantially higher with both TP supporters and very-conservatives.

    Cain’s numbers are sky-high among Republican primary voters. Fifty-two percent view him favorably, versus just 6 percent who see him unfavorably. Among Tea Party supporters, his favorable/unfavorable score is 69 percent to 5 percent. And among Republicans who identify themselves as “very conservative,” it’s 72 percent to 2 percent.

    Amazing how so many TP types could go through all of October without knowing Herman Cain is black…

  • Bbill

    “kiss my ass, I’m drunk,”

    That’s essentially what George W Bush told us for eight years.

  • Chris, I think you may be proving my point, if you don’t see the parallels between Gingrich and Hitchens (reminding everyone they are the smartest guy in the room being only the most obvious). No, I don’t think Hitchens was a leftist. I think he was what the left thinks an intellectual looks like. I.E. an obnoxious speaker of “truth” to power, with little examination of how valid that “truth” might be. No, I haven’t read the Mother Theresa book. I have seen some of his TV pieces on the subject, and read him on Slate, Vanity Fair, etc. Based on that, I think by the end he had more in common with Howard Stern than ______ [I don’t know, what’s the right actual smart iconoclast pick here? Chomsky? Suggest one.].

  • BTW, having said all that, I should back up and say I don’t like the trend in our current culture (of which I am now participating and Hitchens certainly did) of declaring a person, once dead, not as smart/talented/entertaining/meaningful/etc as we all thought when alive. The “eh, he wasn’t that great” knock-down meme is kinda dickish itself, so I should back off it.

  • During Mother Teresa’s beatification process, who was brought in to argue against it? Hitchens. The Pope himself found his arguments to have validity and invited him in to make a case. I think that eliminates the strawman hypothesis.

    BTW, I’ll gladly put Hitchens’ volume of work against that of Newt Gingrich and compare intellectual heft any day. Gingrich is a phony contrarian, incapable of making persuasive arguments and reliant upon the stupidity of his audience to grant him seriousness. As you seem caught up in the personality and not the varied, prolific and provocative work of Hitchens, I’d suggest you read more of his work before making the comparison.

  • So, my last reply was a little condescending, for that I apologize. However, it’s hard for me to not be condescending when presented such a bizarre argument.