The Very Model Of A Modern Pirate Repellent

Noted Infidel and Zionist/Christian crusader Britney Spears is being used by the British Royal Navy to scare off Somali pirates. “Oops! I Did It Again” and “Baby One More Time” are the most off-putting songs in Spears’ oeuvre, according to Second Officer Rachel Owens, who added that the ship’s speakers can be aimed solely at the pirates so as not to disturb the crew. “It’s so effective the ship’s security rarely needs to resort to firing guns.”

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What D’Ya Mean Ya Don’t Wanna Get Married?

Yesterday’s NYT Sunday Styles cover story is “Choosing To Say ‘I Don’t.'” Apparently some same-sex couples in the 14 states where they can now marry do not wish to marry.

Listen up gay fellows and wimmynfolk! I could care less how queer and transgressive you think you are. Buckle up, buckle down, settle down, and get married. Did you expect straight people would go through the agony of relinquishing compulsory heterosexuality just so you could pull the football away and say, nah, I don’t particularly care to get married just now.

So that’s how you want to play it, eh? Well, we straight but not as narrow as you think people are not as stupid as you think neither. We just might have some trick up our sleeve to fool you into saving the oppressive institutional facade. So watch your step! Or you might not even notice when bourgeois patriarchy insinuates itself into the very heart of your pretend-nonconformist sandbox.

Senator Dianne Feinstein Finally Finds Some Surveillance She Dislikes

Congratulations, Senator! So many billions of pieces of metadata you thought were “lawful” and “effective” and “conducted under careful oversight”–could the NSA have forgotten to tell you about Angela Merkel’s unencrypted Nokia? And you want everyone to know you do not like being left out of the loop? The leader of a new Church committee you will probably not be, but if the NSA’s spell on you is broken a little, that could be a good thing for the country.

Pope Abandons Futbol, Takes Up Cricket: “The Tea And Cucumber Sandwich Life Is The Life For Me”

Formerly populistic Pope Francis has completely forgotten about global poverty and suffering since he tasted the glorious tea and cucumber sandwiches served at the recent announcement of a cricket match between representatives of the Church of England and the Vatican. “Our earthly life is such a brief pilgrimage,” said the Pope to his fellow celebrants at Casa Santa Marta chapel yesterday. “I simply cannot believe I have blown so much of it watching World Cup matches when I could have been out on the pitches of New Zealand, New Delhi, and New Dorp! (See the novel Netherland). Today is the first day of my new life!” The Pontiff, who had not spoken a single sentence of English in public before this month, is taking a sabbatical from the papacy for six weeks with the Sarah Lawrence English immersion program in Florence. Going forward, in a ploy aimed quite transparently at the main demographic prize, dwarfing the inconsequential numbers of Roman Catholic soccer fans in Brazil and Mexico, Francis is said to plan to subsist entirely on samosas, chat, and lassi.

Telling It Slant–Harvard Nobodies Miss “Gigantic Opportunity”

A “gigantic missed opportunity” to “peel back the layers of interpretation and classification that have built up over the years and get back to the original documents.” So says Mike Kelly, head of archives and special collections at Amherst College, according to Liz Bury for the Guardian. Kelly is trash-talking Harvard, which partly financed and shaped the Emily Dickinson Archive project, newly available online this week. Harvard’s Houghton Library “felt it best to start with a subset of Emily Dickinson’s work” (so says a Harvard curator of modern books and manuscripts, according to Bury). But the new Dickinson site includes only 539 of the 850 Amherst College manuscripts. Kelly maintains that this can only “problematise the current scheme” and reinforce the unjust hegemony of the 1998 Harvard edition of Dickinson’s poem.

Who better to mediate, or at any rate interpret, this conflict than a Dickinson biographer from faraway Oxford, Lyndall Gordon. Background: the Harvard collection was owned originally by Susan Dickinson, wife of Emily’s brother Austin Dickinson. The Amherst papers come from Mabel Loomis Todd. Gordon says “it all goes back to the adultery and the two homes. Austin had an explosive affair with Mabel Loomis Todd,” and the “war between the two houses…is extraordinarily, pulsatingly alive in the present,” having been “handed down from generation to generation.” The colleges are none too cozy either, are they?

Harvard has, says Bury, “positioned the archive as open to change and revisions at a later date,” quoting Morris: “We also plan to make the application programming interface (API) open.” A likely story! According to the Boston Globe, a written agreement “called for Harvard to share its digital collection with Amherst (but) as of (mid-October) Harvard had not done so, according to Kelly, prompting Amherst’s lawyer to call Harvard’s lawyer and inquire of their whereabouts. (Colin) Manning (of Harvard) said a hard drive containing the Emily Dickinson manuscripts was sent by FedEx last week.” That sounds sensible, if it were still about 1999. Harvard, methinks thou hidest and liest. Wherefore art thy Ve-Ri-Tas?

Could it be that healthcare.gov was being managed–or worse, is being redone–by a committee of Harvard and Amherst alums?  Success in circuit lies–but maybe not in a health website.

Obama Fecklessly Denies Conducting Surveillance On Newly-Discovered Vegetarian Piranha

In a desperate effort to change the narrative and thus win the day, President Obama is reported to have denied today that the NSA is surveilling or will ever be surveilling the Amazonian vegetarian piranha.

Angela Merkel is said to be developing a state-of-the-art liverwurst to tempt the piranhas. Francois Hollande remarked ironically that if Americans possessed more acute theoretical faculties we would perceive that Obama had said nothing, nothing to exclude U.S. surveillance of vegan piranhas. Hollande denied rumors of a French plot even more insidious than Chancellor Merkel’s: to introduce the vegan/vegetarian piranhas to appellation controlled Roquefort.

Pope Not Loving Smell of Limburger In The Morning

Not the cheese. I mean the Catholic bishop of Limburg, Germany, Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, born in 1959 in Twisteden, Lower Rhine, now suspended from his bishopric by Francis. According to a Vatican statement, “a situation has been created in which the bishop can no longer exercise his episcopal duties.” Was it the 783,000 euro garden? Or the 20,000 dollar bathtub? The courtyard fountain was perhaps a touch flamboyantly phallic, but hey, building projects sometimes get away from busy servants of the Lord, even those in direct apostolic line of succession. Who is the pope to judge whether Franz-Peter’s haus ist nicht auszuhalten?

The statement from the curia asserts that “the Holy Father has been continuously and objectively informed of the situation.” Blah di blah blah. In fact Bishop Tebartz-van Elst, in his private meeting with Francis the other day, informed the pope that his advocacy of austerity and humility was merely a passing phase, and one ideology among others, soon to be forgotten by the next pope–spoiler alert–Pontiff Baroque Rococo Reconquista II. The Limburger raised his right eyebrow, normally a signal for an altar boy to feed him fresh lingonberries. The Pope then raised his right eyebrow, normally a signal to pull the plug, and the audience ended in mutual recrimination and incomprehension.

I Am Shocked, Shocked That We Are Spying On The French

On what grounds are we surveilling the French? What would Foucault (author of Surveiller et Punir, in which the panopticon plays a major role) do about this? Is M. Le President Hollande up to the task of threatening deconstructive retaliation? Are “declaration” and “independence” actually French words? Why did our surveillance of the Germans seem to provoke so little response (French word too)? It is said that Speaker Boehner eats breakfast at Pete’s Diner on 2nd St SE on Capitol Hill. Right next door is Le Bon Cafe. Coincidence? I think not. The perfidious cheese- and croissant-eating French are absolument indubitablement snooping on us. Do we have a clear and distinct idea of how to reponder? Pourquoi pas? J’ai aucune idee.

Their Usual Faffing About Won’t Do The Trick–Congress Needs A Long Nap

Dilly-dallying won’t do it. All 535 need plenty of sleep, and some of the worst–no need to name names, I expect–may need 24 full hours just to begin clearing the gunk out of their toxin-filled brains.

Discerning Evil Spirits In Washington

“He will not be mocked…you cannot serve two masters.” I hope that the House stenographer, who interrupted voting last night with those words, among others, is feeling OK today. Perhaps she needs professional help, and if so I hope she gets it. But it is easy to imagine that taking down the utterances of our representatives in Congress would drive strong persons to rant. And half of what the woman, Dianne Foster Reidy, said ought to be heeded by the Congresspeople. If Pope Francis, who has been speaking often about idolatry lately, said of our politicians that they are mocking God and trying to serve two masters, many would say yet again what a capital fellow and terrific pope he is!  But as Charlie Pierce wrote today on his Esquire politics blog, “impromptu outbursts of the crazy cannot be allowed.” Pierce goes on to cite remarks on the end times etc. by Ted Cruz and Michele Bachmann at the recent “Values Voters Summit,” where “well-dressed and well-organized insanity is encouraged,” and concludes that “our courtier press doesn’t hate crazy. It just hates improv.”

Pope Francis In A Fire Helmet!

Fire helmet, good. The rosary bead on the ear was good too. The fire helmet with the beads woulda been even better. And a policeman’s hat with Mardi Gras beads, while singing “Another One Bites The Dust” or  “(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care” (a la Freddie Mercury at Wembley Stadium 1986) would be the best. Then we would all know that this Pope has moved beyond valuing “mercy” to an actual nonjudgmental stand.

Key Conservative Can’t Fathom Why Absolute Fruitcakes Are Still Called “Conservatives” By Media–But He Isn’t

A leading inside-the-Beltway conservative wondered this morning why no one was willing to call him a conservative. “They refer to me with all sorts of labels, but never as what I really am,” he thought aloud, not cognizant his words were being recorded by multiple forms of surveillance. “While all these nut job anarchist flamethrowers get called ‘conservative.’ I just don’t get it.”

I refer, of course, to Barack Obama.

If My New Favorite Craft Beers Can’t Get Label Approval, How Can I Get Properly Tanked Up To Join Palin And Cruz At The World War Two Memorial And Cut Down Barricades?

Who knew that Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin had WWII combat medals? Otherwise what would they be doing busting through barricades at the Veterans Memorial in Washington today? Actual veterans did show up in numbers the other day, but reports from today’s event described it as a few hundred Tea Partiers carrying barricades around town, finally dumping them in front of the White House (to be retrieved by currently unpaid park rangers). Senator Cruz accused the President of using veterans as political pawns. Really? Could he have even less shame than his spiritual mentor Joseph McCarthy?

Does Moral Poverty Impede Political Functioning?

Poverty impedes cognitive function, according to Mani, Mullainathan, Shafir, and Zhao (Science magazine, 30 August 2013). The researchers “experimentally induced thoughts about finances and found that this reduces cognitive performance among poor but not in well-off participants.” Their evidence was gathered “from shoppers in a New Jersey mall and from farmers in Tamil Nadu, India.”

This blog will now reveal that research is in progress on a follow-up project interpreting the impairment in political functioning caused by utter spiritual and moral poverty. Evidence is being gathered from persons walking through the Ohio clock corridor outside the Senate chamber, Washington, D.C. Unbeknownst to passersby, the clock–commissioned in 1815, stopped since 12:14 Wednesday due to government shutdown–is equipped with 21st-century monitoring equipment. We might be willing to release video and transcripts for $980 billion or so.

OK, I’ll just tell you the truth for free: 78 per cent of House Republicans and 52 per cent of Senate Democrats are guilty of extreme inability to recognize the right, the good, and the true. The cognitive incapacity, moreover, associated with spiritual and moral meagerness of this magnitude appears to be preventing our elected representatives from functioning even at the most basic level of voting on “clean” bills that would prevent debt default and government collapse. Many Representatives appear to be actually incapable of grasping the very idea of “clean.” Any rallies in equity markets, it should go without saying, ought to be evaluated in light of a sober assessment of the moral solvency of the traders in Greenwich and Stamford.

Obama Defies Boehner To Defy The Defiant Yoho

President Obama spoke at length at a press conference today–just over one hour. He called on John Boehner to stop the excuses and let the House vote on the debt ceiling as well as allow a vote on a spending resolution that Reid and Boehner had already negotiated weeks ago.  Speaker Boehner spoke for three minutes, and sounded reasonable, especially if your memory and attention span are so far gone that you have no idea what he was saying a week or two ago.

Scalia Previews Court Term: “Pigs Running Off Cliffs”

As the Supreme Court, shutdown or not, begins its new term today, the remaining pragmatic precedents from the O’Connor era are likely to be narrowed if not swept away. And if you thought Citizens United gave too much leeway to big money in politics, get ready for McCutcheon, which may overrule all campaign contribution limits by individuals.

As per usual, Justice Scalia sees the big picture (from an interview with New York magazine): “the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and whatnot.” Is our man Scalia being one-sidedly rude to his fellow right-wingers here? Certainly not, for he proceeds to attack godless liberals next: “what he (the Devil) is doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way.”

Republicans Abandon “Certainty” For Their New Special Friend: Conglomerate Beast

I have a vague memory that two years ago (and for many years before that) Republicans harped quite a bit on the horrors of “uncertainty.” Republicans claimed that “job creators” needed more certainty to put Americans back to work. As Sheri and Allan Rivlin wrote in October 2011, “if you don’t think about it very hard, there is real brilliance to this “ubiquitous Republican talking point“: “each time it is delivered, and it is delivered a lot, it connects three ideas: 1) the economic uncertainty that is dominating the public’s landscape 2) the assertion that it is the policies of President Barack Obama…causing the uncertainty, and 3) the promise that if the uncertainty could be removed business leaders would create more jobs.”

The uncertainty refrain has “powerful emotional appeal,” as the Rivlins noted. I think that is a big part of why observant and clever reactionaries are so upset with current events in Washington. Their party, which had a patent on “certainty,” is well on the way to taking ownership of uncertainty. And even the finest Republican gerrymandering will struggle to find enough voters who are truly pining for the end times.

Take The Cross, Leave The Cannoli

Pope Francis attacked “pastry shop Christianity” today while visiting Assisi, as in Francis of Assisi. He said there is “no Christianity without the Cross.”

Extremism In The Defense Of False Equivalence Watch

Representatives of Washington conventional media wisdom are declaring today that maintaining false equivalence far outweighs any damage to actual ordinary people that a government shutdown or, for that matter, government default might cause. See, among many examples, columns by David Gergen and Todd Purdum.

As Senator Rand Paul explained to Mitch McConnell on a hot mic today, ” I just did CNN and I just go over and over again, ‘we’re willing to compromise, we’re willing to negotiate.'”

And who in the media could ask for any better lead-in to a superficially balanced assessment of political dysfunction than Senator Paul’s cynical and hypocritical tribute to virtuousness?

P.S. Senator Paul also noted (largely accurately, sorry to say–Paul Begala among others tried to warn Obama off this) the tactically dubious framing by President Obama: “I don’t think they poll-tested ‘we won’t negotiate.’ I think that’s awful for them to say that over and over again.” McConnell’s reply has not yet been properly translated from the original Turtle-speak.

Stop! In The Name Of “We’re Not Going To Be Disrespected”

Congressman Marlin Stutzman, R-IN, said yesterday: “We’re not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”

I don’t know what even a Democrat who wanted to sit down with Stutzman could possibly say to ease his troubled mind.

Being, Essence, And Substance in South Australia

Superficially it seems reasonable that if a Catholic priest gave Communion (or the Body of Christ, if you wish) to a dog, he should perhaps be relieved from active duty, as it were.

But the gentleman in question, Greg Reynolds, denies that he gave Communion to a dog. In a September 24 email to the National Catholic Reporter, Reynolds asserted: “I did not give a consecrated host to any dog or any animal and never would.” The Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, called giving an animal holy Communion an “abomination” but did not directly accuse Reynolds of committing the abomination himself. According to The Age (6/8/12) website, “a first-time visitor arrived late at the Inclusive Catholics service in South Yarra with a large and well-trained German shepherd. When the consecrated bread and wine were passed around, the visitor took some bread and fed it to his dog.” The story also notes that the dog “was not offered the cup!”

Pope Francis signed off on the excommunication, which took effect September 18. Nevertheless, in his latest interview with La Repubblicca’s editor, Eugenio Scalfari, which made headline news because the Pope attacked “Vatican-centric” narcissistic thinking and called the papal court “the leprosy of the papacy,” Francis also said “a spark of divine light is within each of us….our species will end but the light of God will not end and at that point it will invade all souls.”

As ex-Father Reynolds commented to NCR, “something seems to have got lost in transit and translation. I would dearly love to know what was Pope Francis told.” Reynolds may or may not be thinking inclusively enough to say this, but I will: If our species will end–a novel remark from a pope, as far as I know–would it not be prudent to start giving as much consecrated host and wine to man’s best friends right away, before the human species does something even more imprudent and there’s nobody left but rats and roaches to eat the leftover wafers and lap up the fine Yarra Valley wine?

P.S. For a serious reflection on being, essence, and substance, please see the just translated 1950s Strasbourg lecture course by the late Paul Ricoeur, Being, Essence, and Substance in Plato and Aristotle. Spoiler alert: Ricoeur argues against a simple anithesis of Platonic essence and Aristotelian substance–it’s not that easy, gotta take the “long detour” to really “work out the ontological foundations of our western philosophy, so as to understand its intention by way of the history of its beginning.”