Say what you will about the propriety of Roland Burris accepting an appointment to the US Senate from disgraced Governor Hairdo but the tide of evasive, nonsensical wankery coming out of his camp at the moment is driving me a bit batty (see, e.g., Burris’ tortured performance on Rachel Maddow yesterday).

A more recent example?

Take the new gambit being trotted out today, with Burris and his sympathizers triumphantly trying a new version of the race card on for size.

Today, Illinois Rep. Bobby Rush — already having ham-handedly played his first race card yesterday with his oh-so-subtle entreaty that we try to avoid lynching Mr. Burris — doubled down with his second, even more ludicrous race card by comparing Harry Reid to segregation-era race-war-mongers George Wallace and Bull Connor:

[T]he recent history of our nation has shown us that sometimes there could be individuals and there could be situations where school children — where you have officials standing in the doorway of school children. You know, I’m talking about all of us back in 1957 in Little Rock, Arkansas. I’m talking about George Wallace, Bull Connors and I’m sure that the U.S. Senate don’t want to see themselves placed in the same position.

Look, I’m no fan of Harry Reid but this whole ludicrous intra-party racism-baiting bullshit needs to get nipped in the bud (no, “nipped” is not a thinly-veiled derogatory reference to those of Asian descent).

How is intraparty racism concern-trolling helpful for anyone involved in this mess (besides Gov. Hairdo)? Are segregation references still this much of an assumed magic get-out-of-jail-free card in the grievance politics arsenal?

Question regarding your appointment to the US Senate? SEGREGATION!
Question regarding a law you sponsored? GEORGE WALLACE!
Sharp criticism on the fluffiness of your quiche? RACISM!

Do we have something like Godwin’s law for knee-jerk, inappropriate references to segregation-era policies or figures like George Wallace? If not, we need one.

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Well, it looks like everyone in the political establishment and the media is playing along with Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s gambit by hastily canonizing the newly appointed junior Senator from Illinois, Roland Burris, as the kind of unquestionably pure and saintly lion of the people Blago wanted us to view him as.

You know what question I’ve haven’t heard anyone ask Mr. Burris?

It would go something like this:

“Mr. Burris, the Democratic leadership in this country is unanimous in calling for Governor Blagojevich to resign.

The President-Elect and the entire Democratic Caucus in the Senate have stated that they would not accept any person appointed by Mr. Blagojevich to President-Elect Obama’s vacated Senate seat.

Why now, after decrying Mr. Blagojevich’s allegedly illegal actions with respect to trying to sell the vacated Senate seat, have you decided to forcefully thumb your nose to the entire elected leadership of the Democratic Party by accepting Mr. Balgojevich’s appointment?

Although many say that you are a man of great character, why would you now then decide to get caught up in a naked plot by the Governor to hold onto power and, in the process, sow division and rancor in your Democratic Party?

Shouldn’t you have let the process play out before deciding to complicate the matter in this way and run the risk of making the entire leadership of your chosen party look like ineffectual hacks should they ultimately cave to Mr. Blagojevich’s demands?”

As usual, the media was fed a handy narrative and they ate it up like starving children. More needs to be asked of Roland Burris about why he effectively decided to volley a big “Fuck You!” to nearly every important figure in national and Illinois Democratic politics.

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You gotta hand it to Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich — he is just about the most perfect nutjob politician on the market these days.

Facing down the hurricane-force political headwinds, Blago announced today that he will appoint respected pol Roland Burris to President-Elect Obama’s vacated Senate seat, against the stated wishes of Obama and the entire Democratic Caucus in the Senate. Ballsy!

You’ve got to watch the press conference to appreciate the depths (heights?) of mental illness chutzpah he is plumbing:

Wonkette, as usual, has the best snark to sum it all up:

“Blagojevich’s news conference came less than an hour after U.S. Senate Democratic leadership issued a statement saying the Senate will not seat anyone the governor chooses to fill Illinois’ vacant Senate post.”

O RLY, Democratic leadership? You’re going to REFUSE this nice, experienced, elderly black gentleman a legally valid seat in the Senate? Ha ha, no you won’t!…

Illinois Rep. Bobby Rush also spoke at the presser to offer his support of Burris, and he said THIS: “I would ask you not to hang or lynch the appointee as you try to castigate the appointor.”

HA HA HA, yeah c’mon Harry Reid, stop lynching black people, it’s a dick move.

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Gosh, what a surprise. Colin Powell’s former Chief of Staff said in a recent interview that Bush’s knowledge of foreign policy was as bad as Sarah Palin’s:

We had this confluence of characters—and I use that term very carefully—that included people like Powell, Dick Cheney, Condi Rice, and so forth, which allowed one perception to be “the dream team.” It allowed everybody to believe that this Sarah Palin–like president—because, let’s face it, that’s what he was—was going to be protected by this national- security elite, tested in the cauldrons of fire.

Thank God we’ll have someone other than an incurious, simpering idiot in charge of the White House for a while.

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Following upon countless studies that have consistently found that the abstinence-only sex “education” championed by the Bush administration have been ineffectual or counterproductive, a new comprehensive federal study finds that students who pledge abstinence until marriage engage in dangerous sex practices at a higher rate than other students. Quelle surprise!

Teenagers who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not promise abstinence and are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control when they do, according to a study released today.

The new analysis of data from a large federal survey found that more than half of youths became sexually active before marriage regardless of whether they had taken a “virginity pledge,” but that the percentage who took precautions against pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases was 10 points lower for pledgers than for non-pledgers.

“Taking a pledge doesn’t seem to make any difference at all in any sexual behavior,” said Janet E. Rosenbaum of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, whose report appears in the January issue of the journal Pediatrics. “But it does seem to make a difference in condom use and other forms of birth control that is quite striking.”

As Steve Benen puts it:

Got that? The difference between teens who make abstinence “pledges” and teens who don’t isn’t sexual conduct, it’s that those who make the “pledges” engage in more dangerous sexual conduct.

After a while, this just gets repetitious — the right insists that abstinence programs work, objective research shows they don’t. Conservatives, not satisfied, demand more objective research, which further proves abstinence programs don’t work. No evidence, no matter how overwhelming, seems to be enough.

But reality just won’t budge. The nonpartisan National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy found that abstinence programs do not affect teenager sexual behavior. A congressionally-mandated study, which was not only comprehensive but also included long-term follow-up, found the exact same thing. Researchers keep conducting studies, and the results are always the same.

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I tried to watch Meet the Press a week or two ago but couldn’t get through more than 20 minutes of David Gregory as the new host. Although Tim Russert was deeply flawed in his own way, I could at least stomach him for an hour. Gregory I cannot abide. Glenn Greenwald sums up some of my thoughts on the matter here:

Several months before he was named as moderator of Meet the Press, David Gregory went on MSNBC to categorically reject Scott McClellan’s accusations that the American media failed to scrutinize the Bush administration’s pre-war claims. Gregory vigorously praised the job which he and his “journalistic” colleagues did in the run-up to the Iraq War — the period which Salon‘s Gary Kamiya called “one of the greatest collapses in the history of the American media.”

Proclaimed Gregory, with a straight face: “Questions were asked. I think we pushed. I think we prodded. I think we challenged the President. Not only those of us in the White House Press Corps did that, but others in the media landscape did that. I think there are a lot of critics who think that . . . . if we did not stand up and say this is bogus, and you’re a liar, and why are you doing this, that we didn’t do our job. I respectfully disagree. It’s not our role.

Perish the thought that a reporter should point out when government officials are making “bogus” claims and are lying a country into a war. That is “not their role,” says the New Tim Russert (and, unsurprisingly, the Old Tim Russert wholeheartedly agreed).

Greenwald goes on to sharply criticize Gregory’s interview with Israeli foreign Minister Tzipi Livni:

Whatever one’s views are on Israel’s attack on Gaza — pro, con or otherwise — there’s no denying that it’s an extremely controversial matter — at least it is in the world that exists outside of mainstream American political discourse. Even within Israel, there are scathing criticisms of what the Israeli Government is doing — on both strategic and moral grounds. Yet none of those objections made their way into David Gregory’s interview of Livni. He didn’t present her with a single argument against the Israeli attack. He didn’t challenge a single word she uttered. He was even more sycophantic with her than the average American journalist is with the average American political leader.

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Crooks and Liars found a heart-wrenching post from a social worker discussing the front-line effects of the recession on the most vulnerable among us. Although hard to read, we need more stories like this (e.g.) and less on how previously free-wheeling Wall Streeters are being mildly inconvenienced.

I have had a ringside seat to the economic downturn this year. It is not an abstraction to me. The folks at the bottom are always the first to feel the pinch, when it comes. Clients of the agency I work at come through our doors every day requesting assistance with basic necessities like food, clothing, shelter and medications. As the year has progressed and New York State has chosen to repeatedly victimize its most vulnerable citizens, it has become more difficult to help people meet these needs. I have visited food banks with empty shelves, been told clients were ineligible for help when I knew they were and had to challenge these decisions. I have sat with clients while their applications for public assistance were reviewed by fraud investigators at social services.

Our local social services department actually hired fraud investigators at the same time that it was laying off child protective workers demonstrating conclusively where our values lie and how genuinely mean spirited we are as a people. At the federal level Social Security routinely denies people eligible for benefits in the hopes that they will not reapply. Many people who receive benefits must hire a lawyer before social security will concede that they are indeed eligible. As the resources have become more limited, the level of scrutiny and inhumanity has risen accordingly.

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I came across this discovery a few months ago and am still absolutely fascinated. In essence, scientists have discovered a mass of galaxies at the edge of the observable universe* that all appear to be pulled in a particular direction by what they hypothesize may be some enormously massive object.

Patches of matter in the universe [i.e. galaxy clusters] seem to be moving at very high speeds and in a uniform direction that can’t be explained by any of the known gravitational forces in the observable universe. Astronomers are calling the phenomenon “dark flow.” The stuff that’s pulling this matter must be outside the observable universe, researchers conclude…

Scientists discovered the flow by studying some of the largest structures in the cosmos: giant clusters of galaxies. These clusters are conglomerations of about a thousand galaxies, as well as very hot gas which emits X-rays. By observing the interaction of the X-rays with the cosmic microwave background (CMB), which is leftover radiation from the Big Bang, scientists can study the movement of clusters.

The scientists deduced that whatever is driving the movements of the clusters must lie beyond the known universe.

A theory called inflation posits that the universe we see is just a small bubble of space-time that got rapidly expanded after the Big Bang. There could be other parts of the cosmos beyond this bubble that we cannot see.

In these regions, space-time might be very different, and likely doesn’t contain stars and galaxies (which only formed because of the particular density pattern of mass in our bubble). It could include giant, massive structures much larger than anything in our own observable universe. These structures are what researchers suspect are tugging on the galaxy clusters, causing the dark flow.

“The structures responsible for this motion have been pushed so far away by inflation, I would guesstimate they may be hundreds of billions of light years away, that we cannot see even with the deepest telescopes because the light emitted there could not have reached us in the age of the universe,” Kashlinsky said in a telephone interview. “Most likely to create such a coherent flow they would have to be some very strange structures, maybe some warped space time. But this is just pure speculation.”

While you’re on the topic, I suggest reading up on the Great Attractor.

* – Note the article’s description of the “observable universe”:

When scientists talk about the observable universe, they don’t just mean as far out as the eye, or even the most powerful telescope, can see. In fact there’s a fundamental limit to how much of the universe we could ever observe, no matter how advanced our visual instruments. The universe is thought to have formed about 13.7 billion years ago. So even if light started travelling toward us immediately after the Big Bang, the farthest it could ever get is 13.7 billion light-years in distance. There may be parts of the universe that are farther away (we can’t know how big the whole universe is), but we can’t see farther than light could travel over the entire age of the universe.

Just ponder that for a second. Even though I’m something of an armchair cosmography hobbyist, I still so rarely sit back and think deeply about the contours of our universe as such. Reflect on the fact that there is an entire portion of our universe that is impossible for us to ever observe (although technically in our past light cone) but yet still appears to be exerting influence on the parts of the universe we can see.

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