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April 08, 2013

Coffee Snorters, Monday Edition

It's Squirrel Week at the WaPo, and this is your big chance to learn more than you ever wanted to know about the frisky little varmints. Don't miss the slideshow on the aerial acrobatics of flying squirrels - amazing photography.


I hope you had it while you could because, last week, sex ended. And the stupid just keeps on coming....

Catholics and Protestants, are your ears burning?

The Defense Department came under fire Thursday for a U.S. Army Reserve presentation that classified Catholics and Evangelical Protestants as "extremist" religious groups alongside al Qaeda and the Ku Klux Klan.

The presentation detailed a number of extremist threats within the U.S. military, including white supremacist groups, street gangs, and religious sects.

The presentation identified seventeen religious organizations in a slide titled "religious extremism." They include al Qaeda, Hamas, the Filipino separatist group Abu Sayyaf, and the Ku Klux Klan, which the slide identifies as a Christian organization.

"Religious extremism is not limited to any single religion, ethnic group, or region of the world," the slide explains, in language that closely resembles the text of a Wikipedia page on "extremism."

While outfits such as al Qaeda and the KKK are explicitly violent, the presentation also lists Catholicism and evangelical Protestantism as extremist groups.

Remember when all the "fact checkers" objected to Romney calling Obama's "investment" in green carmaker Fisker a loser? Looks like Romney has been proven right again:

Fisker Automotive Inc.’s mass firings after receiving federal loans to build luxury plug-in cars is adding to the political debate over the U.S. government’s funding of clean-energy programs. Most of the assets of Fisker’s battery supplier that received a $249.1 million federal grant, the former A123 Systems Inc. (AONEQ), were acquired last year by a Chinese company. Now Fisker, awarded $529 million in U.S. loans, is firing 75 percent of its workforce after failing to secure a deal with an automotive partner to fund operations.

If the goal was to subsidize job creation overseas, I'd say this administration is doing a heckuva job.

America's greatest strengths and weaknesses, seen through the eyes of a foreigner who doesn't hate us:

Is the United States in systemic decline?

"Absolutely not." It is the most militarily powerful and economically dynamic nation in the world. America faces debt, deficit and "tremendously difficult economic times" but "for the next two to three decades" it "will remain the sole superpower."

America has shown over its history "a great capacity for renewal and revival." It doesn't get stuck in "grooved thinking" but is able to think pragmatically and imaginatively. Its language "is the equivalent of an open system that is clearly the lingua franca" of all the economic and political leaders and strivers in the world. In the coming decades "it is the U.S. that will be pre-eminent in setting the rules of the game. No major issue of world peace and stability can be resolved without U.S. leadership."

A major factor in America's rise and economic dominance: All the brightest people in the world know "Americans will let you work for them in America and in their multinational corporations abroad." But America will lose its technological edge unless it is able to continue attracting talent.

What threatens America's standing in the world?

Our elections have become "a never-ending process of auctions" in which politicians outbid each other with promises. America's leaders seem captive to popular sentiment. They must break out of this and do what is necessary for America, "even if they lose their re-election."

Our consumer society and mass communications "have made for a different kind of person getting elected as leader." Politicians hesitate to speak needed truths: "A certain coyness or diffidence seems to have descended on American politicians."

Mr. Lee is "amazed" that "media professionals can give a candidate a new image and transform him . . . into a different personality. . . . A spin doctor is a high-income professional, one in great demand. From such a process, I doubt if a Churchill, a Roosevelt, or a de Gaulle can emerge!"

What worries him about the prevailing U.S. culture? A lot: "guns, drugs, violent crime, vagrancy, unbecoming behavior in public—in sum, the breakdown of civil society."

"The ideas of individual supremacy . . . when carried to excess, have not worked," and the world has taken note: "Those who want a wholesome society where young girls and old ladies can walk in the streets at night, where the young are not preyed upon by drug peddlers, will not follow the American model. . . The top 3 to 5% of a society can handle this free-for-all, this clash [but] if you do this with the whole mass, you will have a mess. . . . To have, day to day, images of violence and raw sex on the picture tube, the whole society exposed to it, it will ruin a whole community."

Bread and circuses. Speaking of which:

A mom and dad were flying from Denver to Baltimore with their two sons -- ages 4 and 8. During the flight, a PG-13-rated movie (Alex Cross) was being shown on drop-down screens above the seats. After seeing the opening scenes (apparently the movie includes graphic violence and sex), the parents decided this was NOT a movie they wanted their sons to see and asked the flight attendants to fold up the monitor in the boys' line of vision. Even though the passengers sitting behind them lent their support, agreeing that the movie was definitely not appropriate for children, the family was told folding one screen was not an option. The parents nicely asked if the captain would be able to make this happen. The flight attendants very nicely told them no.

The next thing the family -- and the rest of the passengers knew -- the flight was being diverted to a Chicago airport because of "security concerns."

No -- there was nobody having a baby on the plane, no one trying to light a shoe bomb, nothing wrong with the plane itself. Apparently, the pilot decided that the family's complaint about the movie constituted "grave danger to the aircraft."

Funny thing, that slippery slope we're always being threatened with: it works both ways. Speaking of which, this was a thought provoking read.

Posted by Cassandra at April 8, 2013 07:00 AM

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There is, in Flaubert's The Temptation of St Anthony a scene where St. Anthony and Hillarion (the devil) watch a parade of horrible, disgusting, creatures pass by. Hillarion narrates the passage of horrors explaining that each monstrosity, never content in its one form, morphs into some other form of horrid creature. Every vile thing that can be imagined is on parade.

St. Anthony, (shocked by it all): "For what purpose?"

Hilarion—"To establish equilibrium, to combat evil. Life is exhausted, its forms are used up; and it is necessary to progress by metamorphoses of them."

We are now witnesses to that parade. We are to take from it two things: there are no differences just equivalencies; the only evil is boredom.

Posted by: George Pal at April 8, 2013 10:46 AM

Flying, I would expect that...but when I saw a flying squirrel run horizontally across two complete walls of my brick house and then pause at an inside corner I was amazed. Mostly that I had seen my first flying squirrel, but also that it could do that. The tail with a part in it is pretty cool, too.

Posted by: tomg51 at April 8, 2013 03:24 PM

They are amazing little critters, Tom :)

Posted by: Cassandra at April 8, 2013 06:04 PM

Wow, it's been a while since the last time I saw spam on here.
Natch, it's for clothes....

Posted by: DL Sly at April 9, 2013 11:51 AM