Wednesday, December 31, 2014



1. Anyone still maintaining that the NRA is a mainstream organization devoted to gun hobbyists, gun education, and other phony claims should take a gander at the NRA magazine's special election issue and then kindly shut the hell up.  A paranoid column from NRA leader Wayne Pierre appearing in the gun group’s magazine, America’s 1st Freedom, warns about terrorist attacks and “angry mobs” rioting “just for the hell of it” and calls on members to “vote our guns” on Election Day.

The issue cover depicted a flag and gun-toting ISIS fighter along with the headline, “Chaos at Our Door.” The Vote Your Guns issue's primary editorial seems to list every far-right militia theory, every ammo-hoarding survivalist mantra, every xenophobic conspiracy theory, and so on. Among the things LaPierre told readers to be afraid of:

• An electromagnetic pulse attack (EMP) that could kill "as much as 90 percent of the population of the U.S." by bringing about the reemergence of "Third World" diseases like "amoebic dysentery, typhoid, [and] cholera -- killing our youngest and frailest family members."

• A cyber attack that would put "our economy into a tailspin" and possibly become "deadly" if hackers took over a dam or oil processing facility.

• An attack "along the lines of the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India, where terrorists launched a dozen coordinated attacks, gunning down innocent victims at hotels, a bar, a train station, a hospital and a movie theater," killing 164 people.

• An incident similar to a 2013 terrorist attack on a mall in Kenya where "[f]our armed terrorists linked to al Qaeda were able -- thanks to Kenya's strict anti-gun laws -- to spend four days torturing, mutilating and gunning down shoppers.     

Sunday, November 30, 2014



This month’s bonehead absurdities offer a glimpse of the wing-nuts voters elected in November. Go figure.  

1. What would you think if the writer of the book, The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future, became head of the most important Senate committee on the environment? Well, get ready. In what may prove the most disastrous consequence of the November election, leading climate change denier, James Inhofe (R-Ok.) will be replacing Barbara Boxer as chair of the Committee on Environment and Public Works. This is like having an arsonist as the local fire chief.  

The hyper-religious Inhofe prefers to let our climate future rest with God. As he said in his book: “My point is, God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing with the climate is to me outrageous.  

His response to the IPCC Synthesis Report released two weeks ago:  

“The idea that our advanced industrialized economy would ever have zero carbon emissions is beyond extreme and further proof that the IPCC is nothing more than a front for the environmental left. It comes as no surprise that the IPCC is again advocating for the implementation of extreme climate change regulations that will cripple the global economy and send energy prices skyrocketing. The United States is in the midst of an energy renaissance that has the potential to bring about American energy independence, which would strengthen our national security and energy reliability for generations into the future. At a time of economic instability and increased threats to American interests, the IPCC’s report is little more than high hopes from the environmental left.”  

2. Jody Hice (R-GA). Another beneficiary of a hard-right conservative district, Hice is a Tea Party Republican straight out of central casting. He’s a preacher, conservative radio host, gun-toter, and the district's worthy successor to Paul Broun, who famously called "Evolution and embryology and the big bang theory ….lies from the pit of Hell."

Hice's most recent hit has been the assertion that Muslim-Americans are not protected by the First Amendment because Islam is not a true religion. He also is viciously anti-gay and is for women entering politics only if it is "within the authority of her husband."  

Jody Hice probably shouldn’t be considered a bonehead of the absurd; he’s just plain mean.

Friday, November 14, 2014


nfl concussions

NOTE:  This is the first of a three-part essay on head injuries in football.  This post will trace the sordid history of the NFL’s denial of the connection between concussions and later life neurological impairment.  For this history, I draw heavily on the book League of Denial: Inside the NFL’s Concussion Crisis by investigative journalists Mark Fainaru-Wada and his brother Steve.  The book earned them a prestigious 2014 George Polk Award for investigative journalism.  The brothers also made a documentary film called League of Denial, which aired on PBS.  I hope BLS followers watched the program, but if you didn’t you can stream it on  Part II will focus on changes the NFL made in response to growing pressure to take action to mitigate head injuries.  The possible connection between brain injuries and domestic violence will be taken up in Part III.

I recently watched a PBS Frontline program on the NFL’s concussion crisis called League of Denial, written by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru.  The program traced the decade-long effort by the NFL to discredit scientific research that pointed to a likely connection between repeated head collisions in football and permanent brain damage.  Watching the documentary made me so mad I almost threw my remote at the TV screen.  Part of my reaction was outrage at the NFL’s despicable behavior and part was personal.  One of the former players who suffered neurological damage was Ralph Wenzel, a fraternity brother and friend of mine from San Diego State in the early 1960's.  Wenzel died at age 59 after suffering from Alzheimer’s.

Thursday, October 30, 2014



Wow, what a month for absurdities. I don’t know if there’s something about October or if I’m just finding more bonehead statements. Whatever, here are 12 worthy candidates:

1. New Hampshire GOP state Rep. Steve Vaillancourt raised sexism and ageism to new heights when he called Democratic incumbent Ann McLane Kuster "ugly as sin" and therefore too ugly to win!! His words:

"Let's be honest. Does anyone not believe that Congressman Annie Kuster is as UGLY AS SIN? AND I HOPE I HAVEN'T OFFENDED SIN," Vaillancourt wrote on NH Insider, a New Hampshire politics blog.   His bonehead absurdity is representative of the kind of misogynistic theater of the absurd that inhabits right-wing talk radio shows.
2. Louisiana Senator David Vitter is urging colleagues to hold up the $1 billion the white House has requested to combat the Ebola virus because it: “focuses on Africa and largely ignores our own borders.”

Most of the money has been held up for nearly a month, as Republicans on key committees demand more details from the administration. The $1 billion is to be used for the construction of medical facilities, supply distribution, and medical training for military and civilian personnel. Given that speed is critical to fighting the epidemic, the Vitter statement and GOP intransigence are not only absurd, they’re unconscionable.

Monday, October 20, 2014


  By Ronald T. Fox  


"We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." 
                     Louis Brandeis

Is social inequality an inherent feature of free-market capitalism and if so is this necessarily a bad thing? Ideological liberals tend to think so. Most conservatives strongly disagree. To them inequality is a natural result of what happens in a free society where citizens possess vastly different levels of intelligence, education, talent, work ethics and personal drive. Soaring incomes at the top are seen as a just reward for initiatives taken and services rendered, like job creation. The investors of capital produce economic growth which provides economic opportunities for all. As the economy grows, all incomes will rise and an expanding middle class will enjoy a greater share of the national wealth.   

It would be great if this is how things really worked, but as is abundantly clear to most, save those living in the splendid insulation great wealth provides, the America of today presents quite a different picture. Social inequality in the United States is souring, reaching proportions not seen since the Gilded Age. The return on capital has increased much faster than economic growth and incomes have not only failed to rise, they’ve actually declined over the last couple of decades (median middle-class household income peaked at $56,080 in 1999 and it stands at roughly $50,017 now). This development finds average Americans struggling to grab a share of the American Dream. It also finds them increasingly marginalized in our political system. The wealth that has been accumulating at the top of our social strata has generated wide political inequality that is threatening the very foundation of our democratic system. It has turned America into a plutocracy.  

Extreme inequality is harming American society in many ways. I’ve written about some in previous posts (see: Does Economic Inequality Matter?  Economic Inequality and the Failure of ElitesEconomic Inequality and the Cheating Cultureand The Collapse of American Journalism and the Growth of Institutional Corruption). This essay will focus on the political dimension of economic inequality.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


By Ronald Fox
I predicted in a previous post (Say Goodbye to the A-10 Warthog: Shame on the Air Force) that it was likely the Air Force’s A-10 “Warthog” close air support (CAS) airplane would be phased out. The Pentagon’s recently leaked preview of its 2015 budget confirmed the suspicion of many who have followed the issue: the fleet of 350 A-10 attack planes is scheduled to be permanently retired. Should the elimination be finalized, it will be a sad day for combat troops who have grown to love the highly effective CAS aircraft. It will also disappoint military reformers who have long been critical of the Air Force’s “deep strike” strategic bombing mindset, which they argue has been responsible for excessive costs, ineffective air power, and, arguably, longer wars. These reformers would like to see the Pentagon purchase weapons where mission cost effectiveness is the overriding procurement criteria. It is clear, however, that the Pentagon remains fixated on expensive high tech weapons of unproven effectiveness.

Monday, October 13, 2014


By Ronald T. Fox

The A-10 Attacks

Much has been written about the ability of the Pentagon to get the Congress to do its bidding. Working in tandem with the individual military services, weapons manufacturers and other contractors that desire a piece of the procurement action, and members of the Senate and House who drool over bringing big contracts home to their state or district, the Pentagon can field a formidable machine extremely adept at moving favored legislation.

clip_image004It also has a formidable propaganda machine capable of shaping public opinion, as Senator J. William Fulbright wrote about decades ago. To build support for a new weapon, the Pentagon and the individual services frequently resort to embellishing the weapon’s capabilities, playing down its costs, and puffing up similar weapons possessed by our enemies. If it meets organized resistance, which is rare, it pulls no punches in fudging facts and discrediting critics. With such tools, it rarely loses a political fight, especially since it can count on pro-military members on Congress who prioritize defense spending over real defense.
The Most Expensive Weapon Ever Made

An excellent case to observe the Pentagon machine at work is its current fight to retire the Air Force’s A-10 Thunderbolt (affectionately also known as the Warthog) and replace its close air support (CAS) mission with a combination of aircraft: the speedier B-1B bomber, F-15E, and the F-16.

Until recently the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter was also offered as an effective alternative, but with its cost souring (it’s reputed to be the most expensive weapon ever made) it has become too expensive to risk close to the ground where airplanes are vulnerable (see previous post: F-35 Cost Explodes: Business as Usual at the Pentagon). It seems the Air Force is operating under the assumption that future wars will be high tech affairs against heavily-armed foes sporting sophisticated air defenses, wars that don’t favor the slow-moving A-10. This seems strange given the current saber-rattling over going to war against ISIS, which would present precisely the kind of challenge that favors the A-10.

In two previous essays, I sang praise of the A-10’s virtues in supporting troops on the ground and lamented that it had lost favor with the Air Force and would likely soon be retired (see: Say Goodbye To the A-10 Warthog: Shame on the Air Force and The 2015 Defense Budget: A Final Nail in the A-10 Coffin?). It appears now that I may have been premature in my prediction.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014



1. During a September 15 rant on sexual assault, radio pontificator Rush Limbaugh had this so say about a woman saying “no!”:  

“[According to Ohio State policy,] consent must be freely given, can be withdrawn anytime, and the absence of "no" does not mean "yes." How many guys, in your own experience with women, have learned that no means yes if you know how to spot it? ... Are these [policies] not lawsuits waiting to happen? ”   
2. At a fund-raiser for Dominionist Christians, Ted Cruz' arrogance, ignorance, and insensitivity were boldly on display:
“Christians have no greater ally than Israel . . . Those who hate Israel, hate America. . . Those who hate Jews, hate Christians. If those in this room will not recognize this, then my heart weeps.”  
Cruz was understandably booed off the stage.   
3. Donald Trump offered President Obama the opportunity to play golf for free on any of his courses for life. Lest you think the Donald has found some generosity of spirit, he specified one important condition:  
“If Obama resigns from office NOW, thereby doing a great service to the country . . .”

Trump’s disrespect for the President, not to mention anyone other than Donald Trump, aptly captures the era of incivility in which we live.   
4. Leave it to Arizona. Russell Pearce, a former state senator and current vice chairman of the state’s Republican Party—the man who sponsored the state’s draconian anti-immigration law—announced his support for mandatory birth control or sterilization for Medicaid recipients in his September 6 radio show discussion about Arizona’s public assistance programs. In his words:  
“You put me in charge of Medicaid, the first thing I’d do is get Norplant, birth-control implants or tubal ligations.” He continued, “then we’ll test for drugs and alcohol,” before adding that those who want more children should “then get a job.”  
These comments incensed even his fellow Republicans, who called for his resignation, to which he complied on Sept 14th
5. Rob Ford, Toronto's crack-smoking mayor, and Mike Tyson, boxing’s former bad-boy and convicted rapist, expressed their mutual admiration in a press conference in Toronto’s City Hall. Here we have the pot calling the kettle white:   
Tyson emerged from the meeting with a full-throated defense of the good Mayor, suggesting (Ford) is “the best mayor in Toronto’s history.”  Of Tyson, Ford remarked, “We’re cut from the same cloth,”  “There’s no nonsense. I respect him.”

And the winner is . . .

Saturday, August 30, 2014



There are six candidates this month:

1. Amy Coulter:  “Why can’t we deal with our border the way the nation of Israel deals with Hamas?”

Yes, we should be bombing poor and desperate children trying to cross our border.

2. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama praising the House for standing strong on immigration:

 “While the Republican House has voted to protect our constituents and the Constitution, Senate Democrats have abandoned both in the face of this clear and present danger.”  Responding to criticism of inaction in the House, he offered this sick apologia: “A non-decision is a decision. Indecision is decision.”   

3. Distressed asset king Sam Zell:

“This country should not talk about envy of the 1 percent. The 1 percent work harder.”   

4. Cypress Semiconductor CEO TJ Rodgers:

 “President Obama is a member of a minority and as such I’m sure during his lifetime he has been prejudiced against . . . Now he’s doing the exact same thing, talking about the top 1 percent as if there’s something wrong with us.”   

5. When asked about the issue of same sex marriage, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker responded:

“I don’t think the Republican Party is fighting it. I’m not saying it’s not important, but Republicans have not been talking about this. We’ve been talking about economic and fiscal issues. It’s those on the left that are pushing it.”

This is a strange coming from a man on record supporting his state’s ban on equal marriage and currently defending it in court. Saying Republicans are done talking about it can't be welcomed news to the LGBTQ community or to the solid majority of Americans who now support same sex marriage and LGBTQ rights.

6.  At a secret strategy conference of conservative millionaire and billionaire donors hosted by the Koch brothers, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had much to say.  He seemed to not know he was being recorded. 

Here’s some of what he said.

“The worst day of my political life was when President George W. Bush signed McCain-Feingold into law.”

Wow!  Lucky man not having to fret over Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, 9/11, Citizens United and other horrors.

“We now have the best Supreme Court in anybody’s memory on the issue of First Amendment political speech.”
“So all Citizens United did was to level the playing field for corporate speech . . .  “We now have, I think, the most free and open system we’ve had in modern times. . . “The Supreme Court allowed all of you to participate in the process in a variety of different ways.”

As if the millionaires and billionaires weren't previously participating.  Damn it, corporations are not persons!

Regarding the proposed constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United:

Well, you and I — and everyone else fighting these absurd and disastrous Supreme Court rulings — are defending the First Amendment.

He also touched on the ability of Republicans to control the budget by placing riders on the spending bill.  To thwart President Obama and the Democrats, he smugly announced:

"No money can be spent to do this or to do that.  We're going to go after them on healthcare, on financial services, on the Environmental Protection Agency, across the board . . .  All across the federal government, we're going to go after it."

 And the winner this month is . . . . .

Monday, August 18, 2014


  By Ronald Fox  

There was a time, not so long ago, when I lamented that America was in an extreme conservative moment. Now, I’m sorry to say, that moment appears to be much more enduring that I thought. Despite so many reasons why voters should turn away from ideological conservatives and their GOP brethren-- their declining appeal to women, Latinos, and young voters, hostility to policies that would benefit the overwhelming majority of Americans, such as healthcare, job creation, raising the minimum wage, a fairer tax structure, a greater investment in public works, and protection of the environment, and their blatant promotion of the interests of the wealthy-- conservative Republican fortunes appear to be on the rise with no end in sight.  

Recently three articles appeared in the New York Times that added salt to my oozing political wounds: outside group spending on political advertising is set to break $2 billion in congressional races, up nearly 70 percent since the 2010 midterm election; Republicans are now being given a 60% chance to take over majority control of the Senate; and, the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld a law limiting collective bargaining rights for most public employees. Ouch! The future seems to hold only more ugliness for the left.  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


  By Ronald Fox   

A number of legal and policy developments have taken place since I posted The NCAA under Fire. This post will bring you up to date.   

O’Bannon v. the NCAA
On August 7, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken issued her ruling on the O’Bannon v. the NCAA class action lawsuit. While it is sure to please the O’Bannon plaintiffs and future football and men's basketball players in power conferences, it raises many questions about fair competition and the future of college sports. In a 99-page decision, Wilken ruled that the NCAA’s decades-old rule barring payment to players for the use of their names, images and likenesses in video games and television broadcasts (names on their jerseys) was in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890.  This strikes down NCAA regulations that prohibit athletes from receiving anything other than scholarships and the cost of attending school.

In accordance with the decision, power conference athletes who enroll on or after July 1, 2016 can begin receiving payments in the form of deferred compensation.  Television and video game revenues will be put into a trust fund to pay Football Bowl Subdivision and men's Division I basketball players after they leave school. The NCAA, however, will be allowed to set a cap on the money to be paid to athletes, as long as it allows at least $5000 per athlete per year of competition. The ruling does not allow players to endorse products for money. 
Ed O'Bannon Likeness in a Video Game

Monday, August 11, 2014



By Ronald Fox

Although Jordan Spieth, the 20-year old golf phenom, has won only one PGA event, he appears poised to cash in big on endorsement contracts. After Spieth's tie for second at the 2014 Masters, Bob Dorfman, executive director at Baker Street Advertising in San Francisco, pointed to the young star as exactly what golf needs right now and companies will be lining up to sign him. Dorfman believes because Spieth is not flashy, outspoken or controversial, he will appeal to golf’s core audience. Acknowledging Spieth's lack of charisma and uniqueness, Dorfman thinks it’s the Dallas native’s squeaky-clean image that traditionalists can get behind.

Lacking charisma and uniqueness? Not flashy or unique? Squeaky-clean image is just what golf needs?  Is this what professional golf has come to?

Thursday, July 31, 2014


By Ronald T. Fox

NOTE:  An anonymous reader commenting on my original Cheney post (Does Dick Cheney Have Amnesia, or Is He a Hypocrite, Ideological Delusionalist, or Shameless Liar?) said I went too easy on Obama and also should have offered an opinion as to how best to characterize Cheney.  On reflection, I think these criticisms have merit.  So I have re-worked the original post, incorporating changes I think make the piece clearer and more balanced and nuanced.  Most of this new post repeats the original.  I wanted it to be inclusive for any first-time readers.    
Dick Chaney
One would think the current disintegration of Iraq would have a sobering effect on any lingering neoconservative fantasies about building a stable democracy, friendly to the U.S., through a forced regime change and occupation. No so. Judging by recent public statements the extremist insurgency that has reached the very outskirts of Baghdad has reinforced the commitment of the community of neo-conservatives, hawks, and other inhabitants of the American war machine to use military force. Their lesson, as always when military adventures fail, is that we haven’t been forceful enough. For them, the deteriorating Iraq situation presents a too-good-to-be-true opportunity for a U.S. military re-engagement and escalation. Their calls for a stronger military response to the Syrian and Ukrainian crises were thwarted. Iraq, however, presents a much better opportunity. After all, American blood was spilled there.  

The Beltway war coalition is seizing the opportunity, telling us a strong military response is necessary to vindicate shock and awe and restore U.S. credibility in the world, issues that have arisen they say because of President Obama’s weak response to emerging threats. The crisis also offers a wonderful opportunity to blame Obama for the bloody mess in Iraq and Syria, which will divert attention from their own failings and make for good politics in the November election. The “Obama lost Iraq” mantra is already a Fox News loop.

There’s something terribly wrong with this narrative, though it shouldn’t be surprising since its being communicated by the same crowd that pushed us into war in 2003. To be sure, the political and security situations in Iraq are deteriorating, but while the Obama Administration has made decisions that have helped inflame the insurgency, the lion share of blame rests with the Bush Administration's hair-brained neo-con scheme to change the Iraqi regime and then conduct a violent occupation that fomented not only Sunni, but also Shiite sectarian anger and hatred.  We are now witnessing the blowback many saw coming.   


sterling featured

By Ronald T. Fox
For his recent racist remarks and other past displays of “bad behavior,” LA Clipper owner, Donald Sterling, has been banned from the league and is being forced to sell his team. In the jury of media-driven public opinion, Sterling is guilty as charged and his punishment is both appropriate and long overdue. Signs are that the litigiously inclined Sterling will not go down without a legal fight so the next stage in this drama will likely play out in the courts. The Sterling case has me thinking about basic liberties, justice, double standards, hypocrisy and the challenges raised by a conflict between principle and action.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


ncaa featured


NOTE:  A pre-edited version of this article was circulated by mistake.  Please read this version.

In a previous post (Justice for College Athletes: Northwestern Football Players Take on the System), I applauded the fight of Northwestern football players to win the right to form a union. The March decision by the Chicago office of the NLRB to declare that college athletes were workers, and not “student athletes,” has opened the door to a process that could ultimately lead to college athletes enjoying not only the right to organize into unions, but entitle them to such benefits as unemployment insurance, workman’s compensation benefits, and a portion of the revenue generated by college sports.   While the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA), led by former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter, is legally challenging Northwestern University, the real target by implication is the NCAA. The CAPA action is just one of five ongoing legal challenges to the power and reach of the NCAA. This post will update the various legal cases.

Friday, July 25, 2014


Since these last three responses to the initial Yossarian comment were not circulated to subscribers, I decided to circulate the following for you Catch-22 lovers:

Tuesday, July 22, 2014



1. This one comes from comments made in Nicholas Wade’s book A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History, in which he produces 250 pages of pseudo-science to rationalize racial inequality as biologically driven (it’s in the genes). He claims social behaviors, which he generalizes across races and cultures, grow out of “instinctual social behaviors” that develop separately through evolutionary biology.

Regarding Africa, in explaining why the continent has absorbed billions of dollars in aid over the past half century without improving its standard of living, he offers this profundity: “Africa is tribal and warlike and resistant to innovation because of “natural selection,”

In other words, Africa’s troubles, and those of African Americans, are a result of genetics. Someone must not have told him about the ravages of imperialism and the global impact of the slave trade.

2. Our old friend Dick Cheney is back in the news. Expressing alarm at the territorial gains by Sunni Muslim insurgents and al Qaeda jihadists and the growing influence of Iran over the current Shiite government in Iraq, he blames it all on the Obama administration. In an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal entitled The Collapsing Obama Doctrine. co-written with his daughter Liz, the Cheney team gives us this jeremiad:

“Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many. Too many times to count, Mr. Obama has told us he is “ending” the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—as though wishes made it so. His rhetoric has now come crashing into reality."  Later in the op-ed they added: “American freedom will not be secured by empty threats, meaningless red lines, leading from behind, appeasing our enemies, abandoning our allies, or apologizing for our great nation--all hallmarks to date of the Obama doctrine. Our security, and the security of our friends around the world, can only be guaranteed with a fundamental reversal of the policies of the past six years.”

Later in an interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News, the former vice-president offered this profound observation:

“President Obama is on track to securing his legacy as the man who betrayed our past and squandered our freedom.”

I’m not sure about Obama’s legacy, but Cheney’s legacy is well secured: the key point person in pushing the U.S. into an illegal, costly, and utterly disastrous war in Iraq. I elaborated on this point in a separate post ( see Is Dick Chaney an Amnesiac or a Hypocrite, an Ideological Delusionalist, or a Shameless Liar?)

3. The much disgraced Judith Miller, who carried much of the water for the weapons of mass destruction fraud that helped ramp up support for the war in Iraq, is back with this astute observation penned in a recent column:

“The Lack of Major Wars May Be Hurting Economic Growth.”

4.  Responding to Texas Governor Rick Perry's decision to send 1000 national Guard troops to the Texas-Mexican border to stop the influx of Children pouring into the U.S. illegally, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican Federal government basher who is favored to replace Perry in November,  offered this hypocrisy:

 "Texans are willing to put the boots on the ground, but we expect Washington to foot the bill." .

And the winner is:

Saturday, July 5, 2014


NOTE:  (I'm posting Jim Dubbs' comment below as a new post because it exceeds the 75-word limit on Phronesis on-post comments.  We will customarily do this when comments exceed 75 words.

Is it not also possible that historic size of these immense fines that were imposed and agreed to resulted precisely because the Feds know that it is not likely that any individual banker would be prosecuted, or even less likely, convicted?  A possible metaphor: UPS trucks are routinely issued tickets for (double) parking violations in Manhattan, while a small company truck equally violating the law is not likely to get a ticket.  The cops know that the company UPS, not the driver, pays the fines, while the driver of the small company's truck usually has to pay his own ticket.  I suggest that it is this knowledge about who pays the fine that determines who, or more accurately, what is ticketed in the first place.   And both cops and truck drivers are ultimately just working men, who can be sympathetic.

If criminal prosecution were pursued maybe there would be much lower or no fines for civil malfeasance.    It's likely a necessary trade-off; plus criminal acts are harder to prove given the more stringent rules of proof.

The sinister and simple reason: Like the working men cops and drivers, the persons on both sides in these financial cases all come from the same community.  Just consider the many former members of banking and securities enforcement agencies who end up working for firms they once were investigating.  One man's ADA is likely to become another man's corporate counsel.  (Or to quote that eminent American jurist, H. Rap Brown's definition of justice, "Just us white folks.")

Jim Dubbs


In a recent posting, I expressed disappointment that we were not receiving many responses to our postings. There may be a technical reason. It seems to make comments, and I gather also to receive emails of new postings, your cookies have to be enabled. Most desktops have cookies enabled by default, but it appears IPhones and IPads, do not. You can enable cookies yourselves on these devices by going to Settings, then Safari (or other browser, if you don’t have Apple) then to “block cookies.” You will have three choices: Always, From Third Parties and Advertisers, and Never. Your default is probably third parties and Advertisers. You will need to click on “never” if you want to post a comment on our postings. My tech adviser assures me you won’t be swamped with ads if you enable cookies, and that enabling will open up an array of useful applications. If, however, you find that enabling cookies causes you problems, you can always enable cookies (by clicking on “Never” block), send your response, then later change back to the cookies setting you prefer. If you’ve been having problems responding from your desktop, check to see if cookies are enabled.

If you’ve been frustrated by being unable to send a response, feel free to re-read any previous posting and have at it. Please note that the link to leave a comment is at the bottom of the page, a distance from the end of the last text paragraph, so you will need to scroll down.

It’s also OK to send a response via email. My email is:, and Chuck’s is I believe there is a word limit on responses launched from our blog, so if you have a lengthy comment, it’s fine to email us.

Monday, June 30, 2014



1.   This tidbit comes from Texas Governor, Rick Perry, in a speech to the Comstock Club in San Francisco:

"I may have the genetic coding that I'm inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have to desire not to do that-- and I look at the homosexual issue the same way."

2.  In a television appearance on the CBS This Morning show, Secretary of State John Kerry said that if Edward Snowden were a “patriot”, he would return to the United States from Russia to face criminal charges.
“This is a man who has betrayed his country,” Kerry told CBS News. “He should man up and come back to the US.”

Man up?  Return to face charges?  The 1917 Espionage Act, doesn't distinguish between sharing information with the press in the public interest of selling secrets to a foreign enemy.  Thus it would be impossible for Snowden to argue that the information should never have been withheld from the American public in the first place.  The fact that the disclosures led to historic reforms in the US and around the world, even motivating Republicans and Democrats to politically cooperate, and earned Snowden journalism awards would be irrelevant to his prosecution under the Espionage Act. He thus could not prove the disclosures served the public good.  Moreover, he could face unlimited charges, including being charged for each of the documents published.  It would take not a man, but a fool to return to face criminal charges.

3.   You can always count of Ann coulter to live up to her bonehead tradition. 
This is what she recently wrote in the Clarion Ledger:

"If more “Americans” are watching soccer today, it’s only because of the demographic switch effected by Teddy Kennedy’s 1965 immigration law. I promise you: No American whose great-grandfather was born here is watching soccer. One can only hope that, in addition to learning English, these new Americans will drop their soccer fetish with time."

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


By Ronald T. Fox

(Due to some kind of glitch, this article was re-posted.  My apologies.  Two-years later, however, he remains, the "Most Interesting Golfer in the World.")

   MiguelFeatured Miguel Angel Jimenez became the oldest man to ever win on the European Tour when he captured his country’s national championship, the Spanish Open, in a playoff.

I must admit, I’m a big Miguel Angel Jimenez fan. I don’t know if it’s because of his old hippie look, ever-present cigar, quirky stretching routine, the excellence of his game at the age of 50, the frankness and authenticity he conveys in interviews, or all of the above. I think what most impresses me is how he blends great golf skills with a passionate love of life, which he is not reluctant to put on display, on and off the course. It is this combination that makes him unique among modern professional golfers.

Sunday, June 1, 2014


spanking photo: Spanking political cartoon 40_spanking2_1.jpg

By Ronald Fox

In four previous postings about wrongdoing by JP Morgan Chase, for which it received substantial fines but did not have to plead guilty to any criminal offenses, I expressed skepticism that big banks would ever pay a criminal price for their numerous misdeeds. My skepticism was based on recognition of the political and economic clout of large Wall Street banks, which makes federal regulators and prosecutors, not to mention the Congress, extremely hesitant to criminally prosecute a big bank, regardless of its transgressions.
Prosecutors in Manhattan and Washington worry that a guilty verdict, or even a plea to a lesser criminal offense, could prompt revocation of a bank’s charter—the equivalent of the death penalty. The cautiousness of their approach to prosecute big banks attests to their reluctance to take actions that might jeopardize a company’s license to conduct business in the U.S. They have thus relied on stiff fines and “deferred prosecution agreements,” which suspend charges in exchange for specified concessions, as the punishment of choice. Such actions, as I argued, amount to little more than face-saving gestures that will have little effect on deterring corporate crime.
To the surprise of many, last week Credit Suisse, which has a giant investment bank in New York and an American chief executive, pleaded guilty to the crime of conspiring to help several of its American account holders evade taxes, a felony under American law. This represents the first time in over 20 years a bank as large as Credit Suisse has pleaded guilty to a criminal wrongdoing. The bank were also required to pay $2.6 billion in penalties and employ an independent prosecutor for up to two years. The agreement further mandated that eight bank employees indicted in the tax evasion scheme had to be terminated.  I find both good and bad news in the plea agreement.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


By Charles Snow  

On November 5, 2011, Penn State University was rocked by the news that Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant on the staff of legendary football coach Joe Paterno, was being charged with 48 counts of child sexual abuse. Two days later, Penn State’s Athletic Director, Tim Curley, and Vice President of Business Operations, Gary Schultz, were charged with various crimes related to the Sandusky case. Almost a year after those charges were leveled, Penn State’s President, Graham Spanier, was indicted on various charges involving the Sandusky case (additional charges were filed against Curley and Schultz at the same time). Sandusky was convicted on 45 of the 48 charges against him and is now serving a long prison term. The three Penn State officials are still awaiting trial.


By Ronald Fox

Although many people believe the recently revised PED policy established for major league baseball, which includes stiffer penalties and more frequent testing, have effectively terminated the PED problem in baseball (the NFL,NBA, and NHL policies are much weaker, significantly not including blood testing, which is necessary to detect human growth hormones), I think this is wishful thinking. The use of PEDs must be understood as a product of a cheating culture that has crept into professional sports. The incidence of PED use may have slowed in baseball, but I suspect this may be only a temporary lull. Until the value system that sustains cheating in professional sports is changed, the problem will not go away.



With the recent release of the 2014 Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, it was easy to predict that bonehead deniers would see a need to reaffirm their denial credentials.  Sure enough, they emerged from under their rocks.  This month's bonehead absurdity candidates put their gross ignorance on display in offering the following comments about climate change.

1.  This whopper comes from conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer:

“What we're ultimately talking about here is human sin, through the production of carbon. It's the oldest superstition around. It was in the Old Testament. It's in the rain dance of the Native Americans. If you sin, the skies will not cooperate. This is quite superstitious and I'm waiting for science that doesn't declare itself definitive but is otherwise convincing."

2.  Despite the IPCC Report, which concluded that there is increased certainty that human behavior is causing ice caps to melt, sea ice to collapse, water supplies to be stressed, heat waves and heavy rains to intensify, and coral reefs to die,  and its follow-up report, the National Climate Assessment, which concluded that climate change has already widely affected the U.S. and the worst is yet to come, Republican Party office holders and most of their conservative constituents remain in denial about the reality and growing peril of global warming.

Phronesis has decided to select the GOP as an organization candidate for the May Bonehead Absurdity award.   The following quotes are representative of absurd Republican ignorance, many of them coming from politicians with presidential ambitions:
  • Ted Cruz (R-Tx):  "The last 15 years, there has been no recorded warming."
  • Bobby Jindal (R-La):  Global warming is a "left-wing environmental theory."
  • Rick Santorum (R-Pa):  Calls climate change "a beautifully concocted scheme."
  • Ran Paul (R-Ky):  Says "The earth's 4-5 billion years old . . . and you're going to say we had four hurricanes and so that proves a theory?"
  • Mario Rubio (R-Fl):  "I do not believe human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it. . . and I do not believe that the laws they propose we pass will do anything about it, except destroy our economy."
  • Dana Rohrabacker (R-Ca):  "Global warming is a total fraud."
And, perhaps, the topper:
  • Joe Barton (R-Tx):  Noah's . . . great flood is an example of climate change, and that certainly wasn't because mankind had overdeveloped hydrocarbon energy."

3.  Here's another climate change idiocy, this one from Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak, who on May 19 said:

“I now believe global warming alarmists are unpatriotic racists knowingly misleading for their own ends."

And the winner is . . . . .

Thursday, May 8, 2014


I think this insightful response from Jim Dubbs to my essay on Wondering What's Going On In Ukraine deserves to be circulated to subscribers.

It seems to me the seeds of the crisis involving Ukraine were planted by the policy of Bush I and Clinton to voraciously expand NATO membership to countries formerly in the Warsaw Pact.  Since these countries along Russia's borders formed what was historically a "cordon sanitaire" (Iron Curtain to Churchill fans), or sphere of interest at a minimum, for the Soviet state, this US policy could hardly be seen a nothing less than a provocation to Putin  -- a push for US hegemony.  (Bad enough, especially in a geopolitical sense, that Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Albania and the Baltic countries joined NATO -- after all they had at one time or another be independent states -- but Ukraine, lordy, it was where ancient Rus began.)  

This provocation had to be tolerated by a weakened Russia in what was gleefully but fleetingly called the unipolar world.  That description of the world doesn't quite work anymore for the US, given the quagmires of Afghanistan and Iran, upheaval in the Middle East, the rapid rise of China.  Sort of like DeGaulle for France after WWII, Putin has rekindled a Russian nationalism that must be satisfied.  And he knows that NATO doesn't have the capacity to resist, at least militarily.  And as for economic sanctions, what can he fear if the head of Exxon-Mobile still comes a'courtin?

Come to think of it, while Lenin may have indulged in a bit of hyperbole when he said that the capitalist will sell us the ropes to hang them, he was on to something.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014


By Ronald Fox

Are you like me wondering what’s really going on in Ukraine? Russian president, Vladimer Putin, is steadfast in claiming that the CIA was behind the unrest that brought down Viktor Yanukovych and replaced him with a government favorable to the West and is still calling the shots of the Kiev government. The Obama administration has been unequivocal in denying Putin’s claim and blaming him for the unfolding crisis. The mainstream American media has wholeheartedly accepted the Washington version; the media in Moscow, not surprisingly, has sided with Putin's position. 
Which claim is correct? I can’t answer this question. What I can say is that I have little trust in the jingoistic coverage that has dominated mainstream media in the U.S, or what President Obama and Secretary of State, John Kerry, are telling us. I also have no reason to believe Putin’s account. So like any critical thinking person, I am left confused as to what’s going on.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


By Ronald Fox
Oh how times have changed. The cooperation that led to the joint US-Russian diplomatic initiative in Syria and efforts to achieve a nuclear weapons agreement with Iran, seem a faint memory, laid to rest by the crises in Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula. This is disconcerting to me, and I’m sure to many others who hoped the Syrian initiative established a foundation for future Washington-Moscow diplomatic collaboration. Neoconservatives, however, couldn’t be happier. The Ukrainian uprising and the Russian annexation of Crimea have resurrected the neo-conservative geopolitical perspective. That’s right, the same neocon thinking that steered us into the catastrophic wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, with all the death and destruction left in their wakes, not to mention the squandering of nearly $1 trillion in American taxpayer dollars. Instead of joining other half-baked notions in our historical hall of infamy, neo-conservative thinking is once again captivating Official Washington.


By Ronald Fox
One of the best features of America is that our citizens have the right to protest for rights. Virtually every achievement in social justice in the US has been precipitated not by reasoned action by our leaders to “do the right thing,” but by direct citizen protest actions. This is a rich history of which we Americans can be proud.
Taking on established practice has not been easy given that protectors of the status quo have inertia on their side and possess far greater power resources to deploy. They have fiercely fought citizen demands for fairness and justice, especially when citizen gains would come at their expense. Such is the situation today with the group of inspired Northwestern University football players challenging their university, the N.C.A.A, and, by extension, state legislatures.  They have the audacity to want to form a union.

Sunday, April 20, 2014



(NOTE:  A preliminary draft of the April Bonehead Absurdity  candidates was inadvertently posted a couple weeks ago.  My apologies.  Now all the candidates and the winner can be announced.)

1.  Democrat Rep. Bruce Braley:  Braley, who is running for the Senate in Iowa, slammed the state's senior senator, Charles Grassley, as "a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school."

This may be the all-time greatest bonehead comment.  To pop off in such an arrogant fashion to voters who take pride in their state being part of the "Corn Belt,"  and whose conservative instincts makes them highly suspicious of intellectual elites, is mind-boggling. 

2.  George W. Bush:  In an interview with  daughter Jenna Bush Hager on TODAY Friday, the former president recalled an encounter with Vladimir Putin that he claimed revealed a lot about the character of the Russian president.  The comment reveals Bush's keen insight.

“As you know, our dear dog Barney, who had a special place in my heart — Putin dissed him and said, ‘You call it a dog?’’’ Bush told Hager.

3.  John Coleman, co-founder of the Weather Channel and long-time weatherman at KUSI in San Diego, claims scientific knowledge as the basis for his opposition to climate change.  Although the following statement was from last year, it reflects a position he has repeated on several occasions in public statements, including recently upon his retirement:

"It [global warming] is the greatest scam in history.  I am amazed, appalled and highly offended by it.  . . . . Some dastardly scientist with environmental and political motives manipulated long-tern science data to create an illusion of rapid global warming."

4.  Rush Limbaugh:  Referring to gay marriage, which he called immoral, Rush Limbaugh told listeners to his radio program:  "The institution of marriage had been targeted for destruction, essentially, and the road to destroying it is being paved."  This coming from a man who is currently married to his fourth wife.  Good thing divorce is not a technical and literal destruction of marriage.

5.  Cliven Bundy:  It doesn't take much these days to become a conservative folk hero.  Refuse to pay government fees for grazing cattle in a federally protected habitat, then gather a self-styled militia to fend off Bureau of Land Management officials, and Fox News will confer hero status.  This will give you a celebrity platform to pontificate your social philosophy.

Referring to African Americans, Bundy told New York Times reporters:
"They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton . . . . . . .and I've often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn't get no more freedom. They got less freedom."
And the winner is:

Saturday, April 5, 2014


Blog-mate Charles Snow posted the following response to my Harold and Maude commentary.  My  response follows his.

“Ron could be a professional film critic. His reviews not only capture the essence and quality of a film, but he is also able to validly place a film's message in its historical context.

Regarding his review of Harold and Maude, I would like to comment on his point about anti-war movement violence. He says that at the time (early 1970s), he became disillusioned with the anti-war movement's preoccupation with violence and death. I was in Berkeley during the late 1960s and early 1970s, and I witnessed first-hand many incidents of violence during political protests. There were violent incidents involving the bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam war, riots over People's Park near the Berkeley campus, and so on. Usually, protesters' violence was directed at inanimate objects not people (even the police).

My observation at the time was that change did not occur unless there were violent protests. Peaceful protest was not seriously listened to by the power structure, whether it be politicians, university administrators, or businesspeople. Protests were routinely and appropriately allowed, but meaningful change seldom resulted. Only when peaceful protests escalated into unruly crowd behavior and violence did the protests succeed in gaining the attention of the people in charge and perhaps in influencing them to pause and consider the arguments being made.

Thus, based on my personal experience, some of the things we value in America today would not exist without violent protests. America of the sixties was not ready for peaceful protests, and violence was the main weapon used to achieve desired change.”

Fox Response:  I don’t deny the utility—even imperative--of violence when it is used in a purposeful way.  Trouble is, as the social movements of the 1960's evolved, a growing number of activists began to deploy violence as an end in itself, which in my view harmed the cause.  Sadly, one of the blow backs from the violence and anti-American bashing during this period was an invigorated extreme right-wing movement, which rose from the ashes of the Goldwater defeat in 1964.  This culminated in a shift of white working class voters to the Republican Party, where they have largely resided ever since.  For an excellent treatment of this history, see Geoffrey Kabaservice’s book, Rule and Ruin: the Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican party, from Eisenhower to the Tea Party.

As the anti-war movement evolved, the love, compassion, humanity, idealism, and simple good cheer I found among its followers began to erode.  It was this erosion  I  believe Harold and Maude spoke to.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


By Ronald Fox
When I first watched Harold and Maude, shortly after it was released in 1971, I recall it triggered a full range of my emotions, from side-busting laughter to profound sadness when Maude died. Like other counter-culture adherents, I was in the midst of a value crisis, which found me questioning the values of our materialist consumer culture. I had also become disillusioned with the preoccupation of the anti-war movement with violence and death. It seemed that Harold and Maude, which offered viewers an alternative vision of life and living, was speaking directly to me. Watching it again recently, I found it to be just as timely today as it was in 1971. It remains one of my favorite films.  
Harold and Maude is a simple story about a young man, Harold Chasen (played by Bud Cort), living an affluent life with his materialistic, controlling single mother. Harold so hates his materialistic life, he becomes obsessed with death. To entertain himself and aggravate his patrician mother, he regularly stages fake suicides, which are notably creative and hilarious, especially when his intent is to frighten women his mother has arranged for him to meet, and hopefully marry. His suicide acts include self-immolation and self-mutilation, which, as predicted, causes the potential brides to flee in horror. To further exasperate his mother, Harold converts the XKE car his mother bought him (he did not ask for it) into a hearse-- all the more to connect to his morbid fascination with death.
Harold’s preoccupation with death leads him to attend the funerals of people he doesn’t know. It is at one of these funerals he meets Maude (played by Ruth Gordon), a vivacious 79-year old woman who also has a hobby of going to funerals, except she goes to celebrate life, not death. Maude is everything Harold isn’t: she is perky and carefree, has a sunny outlook on life, refuses to conform to society conventions, and disdains holding on to material things. Strangely the pair bond and as their relationship progresses, Maude teaches Harold to respect living things, place less emphasis on material possessions, enjoy the pleasures of music (she gives him a banjo), art, and nature, and cherish each new day. Mainly, she teaches him to love life and living.  

Saturday, March 29, 2014



We have three candidates for the March Bonehead Absurdity of the Month award:

1.  The annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) convention offers numerous opportunities to find bonehead absurdities, though with the heavy media presence, comments usually lack the off-the-cuff spontaneity that makes for a good bonehead absurdity. Nevertheless, one can always count on conservative favorite, Ann Coulter, to offer some worthy morsels.

Amnesty for immigrants was Coulter's venting topic this year. Here is a compilation of her venom:

Republicans who support [amnesty] are basically telling people, “Screw the country! We want our low-wage workers!” And: “ …… on top of that, something I think people haven’t really noticed — well, certainly they’ve noticed on MSNBC where they are celebrating the browning of America, but if you don’t celebrate it you’re a racist.”  Coulter of course turned her wrath on Democrats: "You want the Democrats who want more immigrants, particularly illegal immigrants, because they need brand new voters, just warm bodies, more votes . . . . .Amnesty goes through, and the Democrats have 30 million new voters. I just don't think Republicans have an obligation to forgive law-breaking just because the Democrats need another 30 million voters." And, finally, the best: “Amnesty is forever and you got to vote for the Republicans one more time and just make it clear; but if you pass amnesty, that’s it, it’s over and then we organize the death squads for the people who wrecked America.”

2.  Our next candidate, Austin Ruse, is not a celebrity, per se, but the Catholic Family and Humana Rights Institute he heads is popular among conservatives for, among other things, its rabid opposition to the U.N.  When the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities came up for ratification by the Senate, Ruse blasted out an email  claiming that the UN would use it as an excuse to take kids away from their parents.  This should tell you all you need to know about Ruse and his organization. 

Serving as a guest host on American Family Radio, Ruse went even further to the bonehead absurdity extreme.  As has been reported in the news, a freshman at Duke University recently revealed she's helping to pay her tuition by acting in porn films.  Ruse's used the woman's degrading announcement to blast liberal academics:

"That is the nonsense that they teach in women’s studies at Duke University, this is where she learned this. The toxic stew of the modern university is gender studies, it’s “Sex Week,” they all have “Sex Week” and teaching people how to be sex-positive and overcome the patriarchy. My daughters go to a little private religious school and we pay an arm and a leg for it precisely to keep them away from all of this kind of nonsense. I do hope that they go to a Christian college or university and to keep them so far away from the hard left, human-hating people that run modern universities, who should all be taken out and shot."

3.  Congressman Paul Ryan said on William Bennett's "Morning in America" talk radio show that there was a  "tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there's a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with." 

And the winner is  .  .  .  .  .


By Ronald Fox

New Note:  Sometimes Feedburner sends out previous posts on its own with no instruction from us.  I noticed this March 29 post was somehow re-sent last night.  I apologize for the redundancy.
(This post is a continuation, or Part II, if you like, of yesterday’s post, The Ukrainian Crisis and the Resurgence of the Neocons.  NOTE:  It's risky to speculate on events while they're unfolding.  I have no crystal ball.  My hope here is to stimulate an exchange of thoughts about where the Ukrainian crisis is heading and what Americans can expect.)
At stake in the Ukraine crisis is not only Ukrainian democracy and the territorial integrity of internationally recognized borders in the region, but the future of U.S.-Russian relations as well as the broader dynamics of international relations.  It could be we are witnessing the onset of a new Cold War, with its demonization of all things Russian and its many dysfunctions and dangers.  Worse yet, if the situation escalates into a shooting war, things could spin out of control with consequences too horrible to contemplate. Perhaps we should be grateful Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons in 1994, though now they probably wish they hadn’t.
Already the confrontation over Ukraine and Crimea has jeopardized, if not doomed: diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict in Syria; achieve a satisfactory outcome to the Iran nuclear weapons issue; attain future U.S.-Soviet nuclear arms reductions (in fact, expect the events to encourage both countries to build up their nuclear arsenals, and possibly withdraw from existing arms control treaties); and, strengthen nuclear non-proliferation (who fools with a nuclear power?).  Prospects for future Washington-Moscow peace-making initiatives (which I wrote favorably about in a December 13 posting: After Iraq and Afghanistan: Will the U.S. be Less Inclined to Use Military Force Abroad?), such as in the fight against international terrorism and managing relations with North Korea, appear dead in the water.  Neocons and fellow hawks won't mind these consequences since a lack of progress in these areas will open up opportunities for the use of American force that could lead to the Pax Americana they want to establish.  For those who desire a world based on respect for human rights, the rule of law, and the peaceful settlement of disputes, however, there is good reason to dread a neocon future.     

Thursday, March 13, 2014


By Ronald Fox
Like many youngsters in the 1950s, I watched science fiction movies. I don’t remember being very scared by the monsters and aliens, but what I do recall is that the films got me, an inquisitive kid for my age, thinking about atomic security—or more correctly, atomic insecurity. I wondered why our glorious A-bombs, which were supposed to protect us from evil, didn’t work so well against invading aliens, who always seemed smarter and more technically advanced than us. The aliens would dish out mass destruction, only to be thwarted at the last minute, not by our weapons, but by the brilliance of some scientist who figured out how to defeat them. This may have produced a happy ending, but it was little consolation for my skeptical mind. My lesson was to worry about our atomic future.

Throughout the early years of the atomic age U.S. security officials went to great lengths to convince the American public that nuclear supremacy would not only protect us from military attacks, but also enable us to control world events, large and small. We would be omnipotent. We were told that atomic weapons were a godsend, bestowed upon the United States, and not our enemies. This numinous quality would prove highly seductive, luring millions of Americans in the early post-World War II period to worship at the altar of nuclear power. In the tightly controlled and conformist Cold War atmosphere of the time, few dared to challenge the pro-bomb orthodoxy. Among the few, however, were science fiction film-makers.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


So many absurdities surround in our lives, there's a whole body of philosophical thought called "absurdism."  In this spirit, Phronesis is starting a new award series we will call “The Bonehead Absurdity of the Month.”  Each month we will select a statement by a public figure that is, according to the dictionary definition of absurd, so  "utterly or obviously senseless, illogical, or untrue; contrary to all reason or common sense; laughably foolish or false" that it warrants recognition as our bonehead Absurdity of the Month.

We didn’t post our December 2013 winner because of the holidays, so this posting will present the December recipient of this distinctive award.

The December Award goes to Congressman Duncan Hunter, Jr., R-Calif. Who said in a C-SPAN interview on December 6 regarding Iran:

"I think if you have to hit Iran, you don't put boots on the ground, you do it with tactical nuclear devices, and you set them back a decade or two or three. I think that's the way to do it — with a massive aerial bombardment campaign."

Given that bombing campaigns have never proven their worth for the U.S., it's amazing the Right remains so affixed to them.  Our bombing and deployment of military force in the Middle East is accomplishing one thing: destabilization of the entire region.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Response to Yosarian's Question about Exaggerating Enemy Fighter Airplane Capabilities


Thanks for your comment.  Yes I can give you an example.  To push the F-14 and F-15 programs, the Pentagon hyped the Russian Mig-25 "Foxbat."  It was portrayed as a super plane, with superior speed, range, and capability to what we currently had; that is until a defecting Russian pilot in 1976 landed his Foxbat in Hakodate,  Japan, where upon inspection we found it to be very ordinary.  It was made of steel instead of titanium (which made it unwieldy), almost incapable of close-quarters combat, electronically far inferior to U.S. fighters, and had less top speed and range than the Pentagon had claimed. Such exaggeration was common in U.S. Cold War assessment of the Soviet threat.

Yossarian, huh?  Figures.

Friday, February 28, 2014


Absurdity of the month
There were three Bonehead Absurdity candidates for February:

From Clint Eastwood:  "I voted against that incompetent, lying, flip-flopping, insincere, double-talking, radical socialist, terrorist excusing, bleeding heart, narcissistic, scientific and economic moron currently in the White House!"

Rocker Ted Nugent: Nugent called the President a "communist-raised, communist-educated, communist-nurtured, subhuman mongrel."

Richard H. Black, Republican state senator from Northern Virginia, said: a statue of Lincoln had no business going up to Richmond because it would be "sort of like putting the Confederate flag at the Lincoln Memorial."

Because Nugent is a well-known fascist, and Black a certified idiot, Phronesis decided their utterances, while absurd, were too typical to warrant the bonehead label (even Texas governor, Rick Perry, said about Nugent's venom: "That's just Ted").   Eastwood's seemed more bonehead worthy, so we have selected Clint Eastwood as our February winner.  
NOTE:  Should you hear or come across any bonehead absurdities, please send them to me.  Phronesis is always on the lookout for worthy candidates.

Sunday, February 16, 2014


 High Noon.Gary Cooper

By Ronald Fox

I recently re-watched the 1952 film, High Noon, starring Gary Cooper.  I'd seen it before, years ago, but hadn’t remembered much about it other that it was introduced by a catchy tune sung by Tex Ritter and that the good guy, Cooper, prevailed in the end. The film won four academy awards, including a best actor for Cooper and a best song for Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darlin', which was written by Ned Washington from Dimitri Tiomkin's haunting melody.  It might have won more had it not gotten swept up in the anti-Communist hysteria of the time.  Watching it this time, I was able to apply a broader perspective that comes with age as well as insights drawn from many years of studying and teaching post-World War II cultural history. There’s much more to this film than I originally realized.

Monday, February 10, 2014


By Ronald Fox

In an earlier post, Chuck expressed shock that, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, there are some politicians, think tanks, “scientists,” and average Americans who still aren’t convinced that global warming is real and human caused (see: The Climate Change Saga: Oh My, What is Wrong with Us?) This skepticism challenges the consensus opinion of 97% of climate scientists as well as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which gives a 95% guarantee of human causation of global warming, a rare consensus among scientists on any natural phenomena.
Just 63% of Americans believe climate is changing, and of these only 47% of believe the change is human caused (this represents a decline of 7% since 2012). These numbers stand in contrast to IPCC findings as well as public opinion in European nations, where governments have made far more significant strides in phasing out fossil fuels. Why do so many Americans disregard climate change science? Why are so many indifferent to a global crisis of such monumental proportions?

Friday, January 31, 2014


Absurdity of the month

There were three nominees for the January Bonehead Absurdity Award:

  • The first nominee was John Macky, CEO of Whole Foods. Macky scored multiple bonehead absurdities, telling NPR that he thinks the Affordable Care Act is “fascism,” and a week later in a Mother Jones interview, called climate change “perfectly normal and not necessarily bad.” These comments came from the same fellow who compared labor unions to herpes.

  • Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor and presidential hopeful, earned a nomination  when he insinuated to Republican National Committee members that women who use birth control “cannot control their libidos." He also claimed, “Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription. 

  • Our final nominee was the silver-tongued Michele Bachmann, who said Stephen Hawking on Black Holes shows the danger of listening to scientists.  "If black holes don't exist, then other things like climate change and evolution probably don't either."

And the winner is:

With such worthy candidates, this was a tough one.  After considerable thought, Phronesis has decided to award the January Bonehead Absurdity Award to John Macky.  Bachmann was a close second.  In her case, we figured the black holes statement was so typical of her countless absurd utterances (meaning she is an absurd bonehead), we gave the nod to Macky.