Who's the Most Humble? We Are!

| Tue Nov. 24, 2015 2:03 PM EST

People For the American Way emails to highlight something from last Friday's pre-Thanksgiving celebration of Christian virtue in Iowa. Here is Carly Fiorina:

"I do think it's worth saying," Fiorina declared, "that people of faith make better leaders because faith gives us humility, faith teaches us that no one of us is greater than any other one of us, that each of us are gifted by God. Faith gives us empathy; we know that all of us can fall and every one of us can be redeemed. And faith gives us optimism, it gives us the belief that there is something better, that there is someone bigger than all of us."

PFAW is doing the Lord's work here—so to speak—but I can't get too worked up about this. It's annoying, but what do you expect at a big gathering of evangelical Christians in Iowa? But then there's this from omnipresent messaging guru Frank Luntz:

Luntz then followed up on Fiorina's statement by declaring that "I can back that up statistically," asserting that "every single positive factor that you can describe is directly correlated to someone's relationship with faith, with God, and all the pathologies that you would criticize are directly related to a rejection of God."

You know, I've got nothing against organized religion. It provides an important part of life for a lot of people and does a lot of good charitable work. It also does some harm, but what human organization doesn't?

<rant volume=7>

But it sure does get tiresome to hear Christians like Fiorina constantly preening about how great they are and then in their next breath boasting about their humility. Fiorina also explicitly suggests that nonbelievers are second-rate leaders and then immediately congratulates believers like herself for their empathy. As for optimism, I have rarely come across a community more convinced that the entire country has become a grim and ghastly abomination than evangelical Christians. Generally speaking, I'd say that evangelical Christians—the ones who blather in public anyway—are among the least humble, least empathetic, and least optimistic people in the country.

Still, you can just chalk all this up to political hyperbole and let it go. But then Luntz steps in to bring the Science™. It's not just Fiorina's opinion that believers are better than nonbelievers. By God, Luntz can prove that every single bad thing in the world is due to unbelievers. Who needs faith when you have dial tests? So there you have it: Revel in your overwhelming superiority, Christians. What better way to win sympathy for your views?


Have a nice Thanksgiving, everyone. Eat with a few sinners and publicans this year, OK?

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Use This Trick to Avoid a Boring Thanksgiving Spread

| Tue Nov. 24, 2015 1:20 PM EST
Leafy radicchio: so tantalizingly bitter.

Turkey. Gravy. Stuffing. Mashed potatoes. Green-bean casserole. The great Thanksgiving war horses all deliver gentle flavor and soft texture (save, all too often, for the turkey). To avoid unwittingly serving a vast baby-food smorgasbord, what you need is a dish with a little crunch and a blast of bitterness—yes, bitterness, the most neglected and misunderstood of the five basic tastes. What you need, in short, is a member of the chicory family, those underutilized, cool-weather vegetables like radicchio, frisée, endive, and escarole.

To avoid unwittingly serving a vast baby-food smorgasbord, what you need is a dish with a little crunch and a blast of bitterness.

In her excellent 2014 cookbook, Bitter: A Taste of the World's Most Dangerous Flavor, with Recipes, Jennifer McLagan writes that "cooking is about balancing tastes, and bitter often plays a vital role in a dish's harmony; it is crucial to the composition of a meal or a menu." Without bitterness, she adds, "we lose a way to balance sweetness. Food without bitterness lacks depth and complexity." Also, bitter is "both an appetite stimulant and a digestive—that is, it has the power to make you hungry as well as helping you digest your meal." In other words, bitterness is a necessary component to a successful feast.

Some sound advice from Boggy Creek Farm

Since the weather cooled a couple of months ago, Austin's Boggy Creek Farm has been churning out gorgeous, richly red-veined heads of leafy radicchio. I sometimes chop it up raw, toss it in a lemony dressing with plenty of chopped parsley, and serve it garnished with toasted walnuts and grated Parmesan. Such a salad would make a fine addition to the holiday table, but it might be too bold for the bitter-averse.

To draw them in, you might try the other way I've been treating the season's radicchio bounty: braised, mixed with another earthy fall staple, kale, emboldened with garlic and a little chile pepper, and mellowed with sautéed onions. If you really want to draw in the uninitiated, take the finished product (minus the lashing of vinegar at the end), and turn it into a rich gratin, a technique I highlighted last Thanksgiving.

While you're cooking, listen to this excellent episode of the BBC Food Programme focused on bitterness—why we recoil from it, why we always come back to it, and why we need more of it. Also check out this great recent New Scientist article on the nefarious plot to reduce bitterness—and vital nutrients—from our food.

Braised Radicchio and Kale
(Makes a side dish for 3-4—multiply accordingly.)

1 onion, halved lengthwise and sliced thin
3 cloves of garlic, crushed and minced
Enough extra-virgin olive oil to generously cover the bottom of a large pan
A pinch of chile flakes
1 bunch of kale, preferably Russian red or lacinato
1 head radicchio
Sea salt
Some grated hard cheese, such as Parmigiano-Reggiano, to garnish (optional)
Plenty of freshly ground black pepper
A little vinegar, such as balsamic or apple cider (fresh lemon juice would be a great substitute)

Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over low-medium heat, add the onions and a pinch of salt, and let them sauté, stirring occasionally, until they are very soft. Don't rush this step, and make sure there is sufficient oil—you'll want the onions to cook until they're fully translucent (but not caramelized), to tease out their sweetness.

While the onion is cooking, prep the kale and radicchio. Remove the stems that run down the center of the kale leaves (holding a leaf in one hand, slice down each side of the stem with a knife). By the time you're done, you'll have two piles: one of stems and one of leaves. I apply a nose-to-tale ethos to vegetables, and consider greens' stems to be highly flavorful. So bunch the stems in a pile and slice them finely, crosswise. Set aside. Now chop the greens coarsely and set them aside, too. (The point of separating out the stems is to give the stems a head start cooking, as they take a little longer.) Coarsely chop the radicchio, and add it to the chopped kale leaves.

Now the onions should be soft. Add the chopped garlic and a pinch of chile flakes to the pot and stir for a minute or so, until it has released its fragrance. Add the chopped stems and another pinch of salt, stir to mix in with the onions and garlic, and cover the pot. Let them cook for about five minutes, stirring occasionally. Now add the chopped kale and radicchio leaves, and add a good dash of water (or stock). Stir, combining the leaves with the other stuff, and turn the heat up until the liquid begins to boil. Stir again, cover, and turn the heat to low.

Allow the mixture to braise slowly until the leaves have begun to turn tender but retain a little crunch. Take the lid off and turn the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until any remaining liquid has evaporated. Add a dash of vinegar (or lemon juice), a big grind of pepper, and taste, adding salt, vinegar, or pepper to taste. Serve, garnished with a bit of grated Parmesan or other hard cheese. This dish makes a fine side to roast meats (including turkey), and you can also toss it with pasta, along with more olive oil and cheese, some toasted walnuts, and chopped parsley. Happy feasting.

Here's a Look at the Memes That Climate Denialists Are Funding These Days

| Tue Nov. 24, 2015 12:48 PM EST

How does climate denial work? Who funds it? In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Justin Farrell used network analysis to take a detailed look at a massive corpus of 41,000 texts written between 1993 and 2013 and came up with an unsurprising answer to the second question: ExxonMobil and the Koch family foundations are the 800-pound gorillas here. But it's not just direct contributions from these two that matter. They also act as a signal of approval for everyone else: "Donations from these corporate benefactors signals entry into a powerful network of influence," Farrell says.

Perhaps the most intriguing finding, however, is that climate denial is faddish. Certain themes get hot for a while and then get replaced by others. For example, take a look at the chart on the right. Is CO2 good? Well, sure: without it all of Earth's plants would die and then we'd die too. Duh. But around 2008 we saw a spurt of op-eds and videos telling us that since "CO2 is life," then more CO2 must be a good thing, not a bad one. Remember those? But what prompted this idiocy? As the chart shows, organizations that received no funding from corporate denialists never adopted this meme. But among organizations that did receive funding, the "CO2 is life" meme skyrocketed.

You can see similar dynamics with other denialist memes, which have all had both fallow and active periods. Interestingly, though, the four memes Farrell studied are all in active periods right now. Hyperactive, even. And those memes all took off at the same time: around 2007-09. This might be related to the public embrace of Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth, or it might be related to the election of a Democratic president. Or both. Farrell's research doesn't tell us. Just for the record, though, here are the four memes he identified. I have taken the liberty of translating them into language we can all understand:

  • The great "global warming pause" based on using 1998 as a baseline.
  • Energy production means more jobs and more growth.
  • CO2: You call it pollution, we call it life.
  • Hey, global temperatures go up and down all the time throughout history.

According to Farrell's data, all of these memes are still in full flower. This is surprising since I haven't seen the "CO2 is life" nonsense lately. Maybe it's just gone underground. In any case, now you know where it comes from.

On His Way Out, Kentucky Governor Restores Voting Rights for 140,000 People

| Tue Nov. 24, 2015 12:15 PM EST

Outgoing Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear signed an executive order on Tuesday immediately restoring voting rights to more than 100,000 ex-felons convicted of nonviolent offenses. Until now, Kentucky was one of three states, along with Iowa and Florida, that did not give ex-felons their voting rights back after they completed their sentences. "This disenfranchisement makes no sense," Beshear, a Democrat, said in his announcement. "It makes no sense because it dilutes the energy of democracy, which functions only if all classes and categories of people have a voice, not just a privileged, powerful few. It makes no sense because it defeats a primary goal of our corrections system, which is to rehabilitate those who have committed crimes."

The restoration does not apply to sex crimes, other violent crimes, or treason. Going forward, felons exiting the criminal justice system will be presented with a certificate indicating the restoration of their right to vote and to run for public office. Those who are already eligible must submit a form to get their rights back. The Brennan Center for Justice in New York estimates that 140,000 Kentuckians are now eligible for rights restoration, along with another 30,000 who will become eligible in the future.

A spokesman for Republican Governor-elect Matt Bevin told Insider Louisville that "restoration of voting rights for certain offenders is the right thing to do," but he did not weigh in on the specifics of Beshear's order. Beshear's move is particularly significant because such restrictions on the franchise have disproportionately affected African Americans—often by design. Racial disparities in the criminal justice system are generally reflected in felon disenfranchisement rates, and Kentucky is no exception. According to 2010 census data compiled by the Sentencing Project, 5.5 percent of the state's voting age population were disenfranchised due to a past conviction. But for African Americans, the number is 16.7 percent.

Beshear's order comes after years of failed attempts by Kentucky lawmakers to address the issue. Because permanent disenfranchisement is in the state's constitution, a change would require approval by 60 percent of lawmakers and by voters via a ballot referendum. In 2014, the effort stalled. The GOP-controlled state Senate wanted a five-year waiting period before ex-felons could apply for their rights, and the Democratic-controlled state House would not agree to it. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, now a Republican presidential candidate, opposes disenfranchisement for ex-offenders and tried to revive the issue earlier this year.

Beshear said he waited until now to take executive action in order to give the legislative process a chance, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal. Bevin will be sworn in December 8.

Kentucky joins several states that have eased restrictions on felon voting since the mid-1990s. One of the exceptions to this trend is Florida, a perennial swing state where Democratic-leaning black voters are disenfranchised at an even higher rate than in Kentucky. In Florida, many ex-offenders must personally petition the governor and his cabinet for rights restoration. Under the current governor, Republican Rick Scott, Florida has made it very difficult for ex-felons to have their rights restored.

How Popular Is Your Senator?

| Tue Nov. 24, 2015 11:50 AM EST

Martin Longman points us this morning to Morning Consult, which has a fun list of the most and least popular senators in America. The most popular senator in his home state is Bernie Sanders; the least popular is either Bob Menendez or Mitch McConnell, depending on whether you go by approval or disapproval ratings. But which states are the most and least satisfied? That turns out to be surprisingly easy to figure out:

  • Vermont is the happiest state. Vermonters really like both Sanders and Patrick Leahy. Maine and Wyoming also do well.
  • Arizona is the grumpiest state. Both John McCain and Jeff Flake have sky-high disapproval levels. Kentucky is also pretty unhappy with its senators.

On another note, not a single state that begins with A has a Democratic senator. How about that?

Republican Super-PAC Attacks Trump Because He's Creepy About His Daughter

| Tue Nov. 24, 2015 11:28 AM EST

New Day for America, a super-PAC supporting Ohio Gov. John Kasich, one of the back-of-the pack GOP presidential contenders, has a bold new plan to take down front-runner Donald Trump: tell Iowa voters how creepy he is. The group posted a web ad on Tuesday that mocks Trump for, among other things, saying of his daughter, while sitting next to her on national television, "If Ivanka weren't my daughter, perhaps I'd be dating her."

Of all the Republican wannabes, Kasich took the lead in the last debate in assailing Trump, noting that Trump's plan to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants was nutso. But Kasich's verbal punches did not land, and, so far, it's tough to see him as the guy to dethrone Trump—and there's not much evidence to date that a YouTube clip like this will persuade Trump fans that he's too weird to be president.

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Turkey Shoots Down Russian Jet

| Tue Nov. 24, 2015 11:18 AM EST

Turkey shot down a Russian jet today. Since Vladimir Putin is a real leader, not the featherweight we have here in America, I'll bet he made it crystal clear what price Turkey would pay for this. Let's listen in:

Certainly, we will analyze what's happening very seriously, and today's tragic event will have serious consequences for Russian-Turkish relations. We have always treated Turkey as not just a close neighbor, but as a friendly state. I don't know in whose interests today's incident is, but it's not in our interest. And instead of immediately establishing the necessary contacting us, the Turkish authorities immediately their NATO partners, as if we downed a Turkish jet.

How....very Obama-like. But we'll see what happens. This intervention just keeps getting worse and worse.

5 People Shot at Black Lives Matter Protest in Minneapolis

| Tue Nov. 24, 2015 10:21 AM EST

Update, November 25, 7:50 a.m. EST: A third man is now in custody. The Star Tribune reports the three suspects are Allen Lawrence "Lance" Scarsella III, Nathan Gustavsson, and Daniel Macey. Police say the Hispanic man arrested earlier in the day was released after officials determined he was not at the scene of Monday's shooting. 

Update, November 24, 2:28 p.m. EST: Police have arrested two suspects in connection to Monday night's shooting in Minneapolis. The Guardian reports the two suspects are a 23-year-old white man and a 32-year-old Hispanic man.


The police are searching for three gunmen who reportedly shot five people during the continued Black Lives Matter demonstration in Minneapolis on Monday, where demonstrators are protesting the November 15 killing of an unarmed black man by the police.

Officials say the victims suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

A witness told NBC News that the gunmen arrived at the scene "yelling and being aggressive and it was obvious they were here to antagonize and confront people." At least one of the suspected gunmen was seen wearing a mask.

Black Lives Matter protester Miski Noor told the Star Tribune that the group was attempting to escort the men away from the demonstration, when gunfire broke out. On Facebook, the activist group described the gunmen as "white supremacists."

"I don't want to perpetuate rumor," Rep. Keith Ellison, whose son has been participating in the protests, said in response to Monday's shooting. "I'd rather just try to get the facts out. That's a better way to go. I know there's a lot of speculation as to who these people were. And they well could have been, I'm not trying to say they weren’t white supremacists. But I just haven't been able to piece together enough information to say with any real clarity."

Monday marked the eighth night of ongoing protests for Jamar Clark, the 24-year-old black man who was fatally shot by the police earlier this month. On Sunday, the Department of Justice announced it was opening a federal investigation looking into Clark's death.

In the wake of Monday's violence, Clark's family has called for an end to the protests.

"Thank you to the community for the incredible support you have shown for our family in this difficult time," Clark's' brother Eddie Sutton said in a statement released on Tuesday morning. "We appreciate Black Lives Matter for holding it down and keeping the protests peaceful. But in light of tonight’s shootings, the family feels out of imminent concern for the safety of the occupiers, we must get the occupation of the 4th precinct ended and onto the next step."

Both a school walkout and march are still planned to take place as scheduled today.

Turkey Just Shot Down a Russian Warplane Near the Syrian Border

| Tue Nov. 24, 2015 8:54 AM EST

Update, November 24, 3:00 p.m. EST: Speaking at a press conference from the White House on Tuesday, President Obama responded to the situation by saying Turkey had the right to defend its airspace. But he pressed the two countries to abstain from escalating tensions. While expressing solidarity with Turkey at an emergency meeting, NATO also echoed the president's call to calm.


A Turkish fighter jet shot down a Russian warplane on Tuesday, after Turkey says the Russian aircraft ignored several warnings that it was violating the country's airspace. The Kremlin denies that its warplane crossed into Turkish airspace.

The two pilots inside were seen ejecting themselves from the SU-24 plane. Their whereabouts were still being officially determined. A Syrian rebel group claims to have found one of the pilots badly wounded. The group told Reuters the pilot was dead.

In response, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the incident was a "stab in the back" that would render "very serious consequences" for relations between the two countries. He also accused Turkey of being "accomplices of terrorists."

"Neither our pilots nor our jet threatened the territory of Turkey," Putin said before a scheduled meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan. "This is obvious. They are fighting terrorists in the northern areas around Latakia, where militants are located, mainly people who originated in Russia, and they were pursuing their direct duty, to make sure these people do not return to Russia."

"These are people who are clearly international terrorists."

A NATO official told CNN that the group has called an emergency meeting for later today to discuss the downing of the Russian aircraft.

More Than 100,000 People Have Signed a Petition to Oust the DEA Chief

| Tue Nov. 24, 2015 6:00 AM EST

More than 100,000 people have signed a petition calling for the ouster of Drug Enforcement Administration chief Chuck Roseberg after he flatly rejected the idea that smoking marijuana could have medical benefits. "What really bothers me is the notion that marijuana is also medicinal—because it's not," Rosenberg said during a press briefing earlier this month. "We can have an intellectually honest debate about whether we should legalize something that is bad and dangerous, but don't call it medicine—that is a joke."

In response, a petition with more than 106,000 signatures is calling upon President Barack Obama to "fire Chuck Rosenberg and appoint a new DEA administrator who will respect science, medicine, patients, and voters."

Rosenberg is clearly wrong, yet it's not entirely inaccurate to call medical marijuana a joke—in California at least.

Roseberg need not look far to find reputable studies documenting the medical value of marijuana, even in its whole-plant, smoked form. As Vox's German Lopez points out, a comprehensive review in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that pot can effectively treat chronic pain and muscle spasticity.

Still, it's not entirely inaccurate to call medical marijuana a joke—at least in California, the state with the nation's most lax medical marijuana law. When I visited a "marijuana doctor" in San Francisco a few years ago, it took me less than 15 minutes to get a pot card for—wait for it—"writer's cramp." Meanwhile, my wife waited for days before being denied a pot recommendation from our HMO, Kaiser Permanente, despite suffering from a flare-up of actual arthritis. While she sat at home popping Advils, I headed to the International Cannabis and Hemp Expo, where my card got me into a "patient consumption area" staffed by busty women in tight-fitting nurse outfits and a dispensary worker with a nametag that read, "Dr. Herb Smoker, MD."

But that sort of irony wasn't what Rosenberg was talking about. He seems to believe that because marijuana is popular as a recreational drug, it can't  also be real medicine. Clearly, Dr. Herb Smoker isn't the only medical professional who disagrees.