Hastert’s High School Love

“You know, Mr. Speaker, you and I have a lot in common,” Kean said. “You were a high school history teacher?”

“Yes,” Hastert replied.

“And so was I,” Kean said, reminiscing about his two-year stint as a teacher at St. Mark’s, the Massachusetts prep school that he had attended as a student. “And you were a wrestling coach?” he continued.

“Yes,” Hastert said, clearly softening. “Yes, I loved that.”

—Philip Shenon, The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation, (New York: Twelve, 2008), 229.

From Shenon’s work it seems quite possible the 9/11 Commission received an extension in its mandate in part because of the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives’ fond memories of sexually abusing teenage boys.

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A Frightening Truth

It occurred to Kean that this might be the commission’s most frightening discovery of all: The emperors of espionage had no clothes. Perhaps the reason the White House had fought so hard to block the commission’s access to the PDBs was that they revealed how ignorant the government was of the threats it faced before 9/11.

—Philip Shenon, The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation, (New York: Twelve, 2008), 221.

This is consistent with Tim Weiner’s Legacy of Ashes.

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Former US Official Reveals Risks Faced by Internal Critics

Der Spiegel has an interesting article on Günther Rüdel’s grandson and one’s civic responsibility in a criminal state.

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More on assassinating for peace

The Council on Foreign Relations:

Mansur’s potential death provides a real-world, real-time ability to test two hypotheses about the policy of killing terrorist leaders. These are based upon the objectives of the strike, according to the Pentagon press release, as well as subsequent statements by President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.

Hypothesis one: Mansur’s death will reduce Taliban attacks and fatalities against Afghanistan national security forces, U.S. and coalition troops, and Afghan civilians.

Hypothesis two: Mansur’s replacement will be more likely to participate in the long-stalled peace and reconciliation negotiations with the Afghan government.

There has been a tremendous amount of social science research on these challenging policy puzzles.

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Assassination as response

The Guardian:

“If people want to stand in the way of peace and continue to threaten and kill and blow people up, we have no recourse but to respond, and I think we responded appropriately.”

—John Kerry, explaining a US missile attack blowing up the occupants of a vehicle in Pakistan


In a highly unusual public statement about a drone strike, a Pentagon official described Mansoor as “an obstacle to peace and reconciliation between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban, prohibiting Taliban leaders from participating in peace talks with the Afghan government”.

We blew the Taliban leader up because he was an obstacle to reconciliation between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban.

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What does it mean to be a “B-Bagger Bernie Bro”?

Just had this strange exchange with someone I used to play Chess with in high school:

Chris K on Bernie Sanders

The extent to which it is difficult to conduct political discussions without degeneration into slinging invective disappoints.

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FBI bugging public light fixtures and bus stops

In the paranoid nightmare as reality department, KPIX is running this story saying FBI agents hid microphones inside light fixtures and at a bus stop outside the Oakland Courthouse without a warrant to record conversations, between March 2010 and January 2011.

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Meaning as a function of consequence?

The fact remains that meaning, and its perception, as seen from the logotherapeutic angle, is completely down to earth rather than afloat in the air or resident in an ivory tower….the perception of meaning, as I see it, more specifically boils down to becoming aware of a possibility against the background of reality or, to express it in plain words, to becoming aware of what can be done about a given situation.

—Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning, (Boston: Beacon Press, 2006), 144.

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This is America!


A North Carolina man has pleaded guilty to a federal misdemeanor charge after authorities say he grabbed a Muslim woman’s hijab on a Southwest Airlines flight in December and pulled it off.

Federal authorities say 37-year-old Gill Parker Payne, of Gastonia, North Carolina, entered the plea Friday. He was charged with using force or threat of force to obstruct a Muslim woman in the free exercise of her religious beliefs.

The two were on a 11 December flight from Chicago to Albuquerque when the confrontation happened.

Authorities say Payne approached the woman, who was sitting several rows in front of him, and told her to take off her hijab – an Islamic-style headscarf – saying, “This is America!” He then removed the hijab from her head.

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Illiteracy in the 21st Century

From Counterpunch:

Illiteracy is now a scourge and a political tool designed primarily to make war on language, meaning, thinking, and the capacity for critical thought. Chris Hedges is right in stating that “the emptiness of language is a gift to demagogues and the corporations that saturate the landscape with manipulated images and the idiom of mass culture.”[1] The new form of illiteracy does not simply constitute an absence of learning, ideas, or knowledge. Nor can it be solely attributed to what has been called the “smartphone society.”[2] On the contrary, it is a willful practice and goal used to actively depoliticize people and make them complicit with the forces that impose misery and suffering upon their lives.

Gore Vidal once called America the United States of Amnesia. The title should be extended to the United States of Amnesia and Willful Illiteracy. Illiteracy no longer simply marks populations immersed in poverty with little access to quality education; nor does it only suggest the lack of proficient skills enabling people to read and write with a degree of understanding and fluency. More profoundly, illiteracy is also about what it means not to be able to act from a position of thoughtfulness, informed judgment, and critical agency. Illiteracy has become a form of political repression that discourages a culture of questioning, renders agency as an act of intervention inoperable, and restages power as a mode of domination. It is precisely this mode of illiteracy that now constitutes the modus operandi of a society that both privatizes and kills the imagination by poisoning it with falsehoods, consumer fantasies, data loops, and the need for instant gratification. This is a mode of manufactured illiteracy and education that has no language for relating the self to public life, social responsibility or the demands of citizenship. It is important to recognize that the rise of this new mode of illiteracy is not simply about the failure of public and higher education to create critical and active citizens; it is about a society that eliminates those public spheres that make thinking possible while imposing a culture of fear in which there is the looming threat that anyone who holds power accountable will be punished. At stake here is not only the crisis of a democratic society, but a crisis of memory, ethics, and agency.

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