Political Animal


January 28, 2012 9:58 AM Wingnut of the Week: Larry Pittman

By Ed Kilgore

As I said in a post yesterday, it’s not appropriate to take notice of every nutty right-wing statement made by a conservative state legislator somewhere in America. There’s just too much of it after the 2010 elections, and it’s hard to tell how much of it reflects serious patterns rather than random crazy people lifted very temporarily to public office by an electoral wave that will eventualy carry them back out to sea.

So to avoid the temptation of posting about this stuff constantly, I’ve decided to institute a Wingnut of the Week feature that will honor some exemplary figure who has emerged from the fever swamps and frightened or entertained us all. From several worthy possibilities, I’ve decided the inaugural honoree has to be Rep. Larry Pittman of North Carolina, who spoke for many righteous (or self-righteous) people in calling for a return to public hangings. Apparently angered by a public letter from a death row inmate boasting of his continuing ability to live and breathe, Pittman said in an email to his colleagues:

If murderers (and I would include abortionists, rapists, and kidnappers, as well) are actually executed, it will at least have the deterrent effect upon them. For my money, we should go back to public hangings, which would be more of a deterrent to others, as well.

Well, that’s nice, and a real contribution, BTW, to the debate over abortion policy. Why mess with harassment of abortion providers when you can just string them up in front of cheering crowds, eh?

In his defense, Pittman said he only intended to send the email to a single colleague, and hit “Reply All” by accident. We’ve all done that, of course, though not all of us have expressed lethal intentions in such emails.

But what clinched “Wingnut of the Week” for Pittman in my book was how he describes himself in his official bio: “pastor, shipping worker, company chaplain.”

After all, nothing quite proclaims the Gospel of Jesus Christ like a public execution.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • K in VA on January 28, 2012 10:08 AM:

    Many states would sell broadcast rights to cable channels for a "Hanging of the Week" show, which would get the highest numbers ever in the Nielsens

  • ComradeAnon on January 28, 2012 10:19 AM:

    He forgot witches. Or do we burn them? Oh for the 17th Century.

  • David in Cambridge on January 28, 2012 10:19 AM:

    "In his defense, Pittman said he only intended to send the email to a single colleague, and hit “Reply All” by accident."

    And the moral of the story is "Never send ANYTHING by email unless you wouldn't mind the whole world seeing it... because it just might."

  • c u n d gulag on January 28, 2012 10:20 AM:

    "Wingnut of the Week."


    How about "Wingnut of the Weak-minded?"

    But he's got a point, though, about hanging being a deterrent.

    Why, after one or two of them in the first few years of this countries history, capital crimes weren't committed until FDR started the Socialist safety-nets.

    Everyone knows that.

    And if they held public hangings for Conservative morons like him, I'd pay whatever TicketMaster wanted to charge me.
    I'd pay extra to stick around and watch the buzzards swoop in for a good meal or two.

    Public hangings.

  • c u n d gulag on January 28, 2012 10:24 AM:

    No "TWIG," huh, Ed?

    I guess God IS dead!

    Or, does the fact that this asshole's a pastor, count?

  • Brenna on January 28, 2012 10:26 AM:

    K in VA is right about televising hangings.

    It makes my head spin to think how many of these wingnuts would like to see an Obama hanging.

  • theAmericanist on January 28, 2012 10:28 AM:

    Did you even read the story he was reacting to? http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/death-row-inmate-boasts-life-leisure-dares-state-kill-letter-newspaper-article-1.1012443

    Hembree murdered a teenager. He was convicted and sentenced to death. That's not an ordinary thing -- a death penalty sentence requires that a jury which has convicted a killer, in a SEPARATE proceeding, find that a killing is especially heinous, cruel, or depraved, an especially murderous murder.

    That involves a form, with a series of questions that are vague, often contradictory, and frequently misunderstood -- there have been many cases in which the form directly and explicitly causes a jury that wants a killer executed to be unable to express their intent, e.g., the Colon case in Connecticut. (He smashed a baby's skull.) Contrary to the easy sneering from the Left, it is rare for a killer to be sentenced to death -- and much, much less common for the sentence to be carried out.

    So mocking people who are deeply troubled by the failure of self-government in our criminal justice system is deeply unwise. Perhaps you should apply a little humility.


  • jpeckjr on January 28, 2012 10:30 AM:

    I like this new feature. You should set up a special email address for nominees. Local elected officials should be eligible, too.

    But limit it to elected officials. You'll never be able to keep up with all the wingnuts who aren't in public office.

  • Al on January 28, 2012 10:30 AM:

    Pittman sent a colleague an email that accidentally went to a wider audience. If lawmakers can't have frank private discussions during policy debates, congress would grind to a standstill.

  • hells littlest angel on January 28, 2012 10:43 AM:

    I like the idea of a Wingnut of the Week. However, there seem to be too many mitigating circumstances to "hang" the title on this guy. I'd go with the Oklahoma legislator who wants to ban foods containing aborted human fetuses. The perfect combination of dumb as a doorknob and crazy as a shit-house rat.

  • Graychin on January 28, 2012 10:49 AM:

    I like the "Wingnut of the Week" idea. Steve no doubt took "This Week in God" with him, but this is a worthy substitute.

    It wouldn't hurt to also list the runners-up for the WOTW award - just a brief description of the wingnuttery that brought them into consideration.

    Re: Captcha - I'm not very good at reproducing Greek letters on my keyboard, although I'm sure it's possible.

  • citizem_pain on January 28, 2012 10:54 AM:

    I hesitate to call these Pittman types Christians. They certainly don't adhere to the teachings of Christ. They seem to prefer the 1st testament; it reinforces their authoritarian mentality.

    Not sure what to call them, but they certainly shouldn't be called Christians.

  • stormskies on January 28, 2012 10:55 AM:

    All these wingnuts are but a symptom of a larger cause, and that cause is the very nature of the people, our fellow citizens, who have 'elected' them in the first place ........ the louie gomerts, and michelle bachman's, and all of the rest of the 'hall of fame' of wingnuts ..

    they have been elected ...........

    by one of the most stupid populations of peoples on this Earth ........

    which is the true tragedy of our country ...

  • theAmericanist on January 28, 2012 11:00 AM:

    "that cause is the very nature of the people..."

    Feeling comfortable with people who hate democracy, Ed?

  • chi res on January 28, 2012 11:01 AM:

    After all, nothing quite proclaims the Gospel of Jesus Christ like a public execution.

    Well, they do make a big deal out of that whole cruxifiction thing, you know,

  • 2Manchu on January 28, 2012 11:01 AM:

    I'd bring back hanging, and then invest in the rope industry.

  • cr in NY on January 28, 2012 11:02 AM:

    It's not the hanging so much as the inevitability of a "Hanging Channel" on cable that bothers me …

  • Patrick Star on January 28, 2012 11:03 AM:

    "pastor, shipping worker, company chaplain."

    Sorry, but, offhand, these aren't adequate credentials for representing citizens as a state congressional legislator. I'm a UPS driver, who deals with "shipping workers" all day long, and the thought of one of these guys being a state legislator is kinda funny, to say the least.

  • stinger on January 28, 2012 11:04 AM:

    @gulag: I think TWIG was Benen's. In any case, not to worry - the likelihood of any given wingnut also being a god-botherer is quite high. We'll be getting two-fers.

    And for those who think capital punishment is rarely carried out, look at Texas alone. Bush killed people at the rate of more than 30/year, for 5 years; Perry, more than 21/year, for 11 years now. Whether or not their guilt is actually borne out by DNA or other scientific evidence doesn't even seem to matter to some of you.

    Furthermore, anyone who takes seriously Hembree's boasts should consider the possibility that the guy may be lying about life on death row for purposes of his own.

  • Texas Aggie on January 28, 2012 11:07 AM:

    Commenting on the comments, I agree thoroughly with hells littlest angel. His thought was also my first thought. Apparently theAmericanist didn't read the article very well. The point wasn't that the guy didn't deserve to be executed, but rather that the Pittman not only wanted to do it publicly, but also that he included anyone who performed an abortion. And that he claimed to be a pastor makes it that much worse. Pittman's post was a strong indication of a sociopathic mind regardless of who it was intended for. It most definitely was not indicative of any relationship with Christianity.

    "If we were a genuinely Christian nation, we would forgive our enemies, speak truth to power, and go forth to serve and to sacrifice, not to rule. - Tom Ehrich

  • T-Rex on January 28, 2012 11:10 AM:

    This is a scene straight out of Margaret Atwood's Handmaid's Tale. She anticipated where the right wing in this country was going over 20 years ago.

  • truthbetold on January 28, 2012 11:14 AM:

    There was several contenders this week. As was pointed out the Oklahoma legislator who thought aborted fetuses was being mixed in our food. Then you have Tony Perkins, head of Family research council and his denouncement of the on-line game 'Star Wars: The Old Republic" because they allow for same sex couples. You also have the "USS Obamaboat" ad by Republican Mark Oxner against former Rep. Alan Grayson in race for a seat in Florida. Let us not forget the twist and turns of Governor Jan brewer for her finger wagging at President Obama or vision of the moon colony becoming the 51st state of the union by Gingrich.

    Looking forward to the ultimate "Wingnut of the Year' title holder. Good luck figuring that one out.

  • Hedda Peraz on January 28, 2012 11:18 AM:

    Y'all confuse the so-called "Christian Nation" with the real one.
    I speak, of course, of the (late) Jerry Falwell's "God Fearing Christian Nation". Where women knew their place (three steps behind) and children cowered beneath the covers (in fear of the Devil)

    Looks like This Week in God is still here, with or without Ed Kilgore's help. . .

  • mellowjohn on January 28, 2012 11:26 AM:

    @ T-Rex:
    someone over at the great orange satan uses a tag something like: "the left considers 'a handmaid's tail" a warning. the right sees it as an instruction manual."

  • theAmericanist on January 28, 2012 11:29 AM:

    As is generally the case, you guys assume you know more than you do, and that others know less than they do. That's unsound.

    There were 15,000 murders in the US in 2009. There were fewer than 50 executions. What were you saying about "evidence doesn't even seem to matter", asshole?

    Sensible people have two reasonable reactions to Hembree's letter: 1) what counts most is that, despite his death sentence, he remains alive to taunt his victims, and 2) the most likely effect of his daring the state to carry out his sentence is to prolong his appeals, since now his lawyers can claim Stockholm Syndrome, the latest sophistry in opposition.

    As for the mean-spirited take on Pittman, pick any thread on this site at random, and tell me how the PUBLIC beam in your eyes warrants dissing Pittman for what he'd intended to be a private mote in his.

    Which -- unfortunately for you clowns -- comes back to the point I made: did any of you (did Ed?) actually READ what Hembree wrote? Are you familiar with his case?

    Ya wanna compare the crap you guys routinely say about less important matters is so much better?

    Fools who argue -- as stinger did -- that "evidence doesn't matter", should explain why they imagine that Hembree isn't guilty, and what their reasoning is that he should still be alive to taunt his victims: as the father of the murdered girl put it "he murdered our daughter, got the death penalty and now he's just sitting in jail laughing at us."

    And, as I just noted, it's worse than that: there is an established body of law to delay the execution of convicted killers who have lost appeals based on the odd notion that when they demand the sentence be carried out, that is proof that it should NOT be.

    Mocking people who believe in self-government is unsound. As noted, that's exactly what you guys do, viz,, Americans are "one of the stupidest populations of people on this earth..."

    If you were half as self-aware as you are self-righteous, you'd be embarrassed.

  • J on January 28, 2012 11:34 AM:

    I would go the estimable Mr. Pittman one better and have (limited) government financed not by taxing hard-working Murkans, but rather out of the gate receipts and liquor sales at public hangings!

  • Dex on January 28, 2012 11:40 AM:

    I agree with Graychin 10:49, this idea WOTW should be expanded, to include a small number of honorable mention, due to the vast reservoir of material.

    The number of right wingnuts appears to be growing at a rapid clip.

  • veralynn on January 28, 2012 11:42 AM:

    as a constituent of Mr Pittman, I can tell you he wasn't elected. Another GOP nutjob was elected and then moved on. My county's GOP decided this guy was someone who should hold office and represent me. Thanks Cabarrus GOP. I feel 'represented'....by idiots.
    Until the majority of adults in this country realize their votes matter and they need to vote, we will get the party putting these people in office.
    I can also tell you, most of the people in this county, 60-40 for McCain in 2008, are not as nutty as the ones they elect or put in office. they don't reflect the majority. I hope this weekly feature will be spread far and wide so people who don't pay attention will start.

  • theAmericanist on January 28, 2012 11:57 AM:

    "Until the majority of adults in this country realize their votes matter and they need to vote..."

    And just how, pray tell, can you do that when you're insisting that self-government doesn't matter? Hell, that it's evil and unChristian (interesting from folks who reflexively dis faith).

    Consider that Stormskies " the very nature of the people, our fellow citizens... one of the most stupid populations of peoples on this Earth ... the true tragedy of our country..." and Patrick Star's disdain for the idea that a ""pastor, shipping worker, company chaplain..." might actually win an election, cuz "these aren't adequate credentials for representing citizens as a state congressional legislator...." express what is damned near a consensus among you guys.

    That's why I picked on Ed -- whose claim, after all, is that he's a brilliant political and legislative strategist, somebody who Knows How It Works.

    Who tagged as his first Wingnut of the Week a guy who... articulated rage that a murderer sentenced to death taunts the family of his victim?

    A few days after Ed called US citizens "immigrants" because they're "Hispanic", and then he spent more time arguing with himself about whether "Latino" was a better term, than trying to figure out why he doesn't know a US citizen from a foreigner, much less why "immigrants" can ALSO be US citizens... which is (except for the former DLC folks, cuz they're so enlightened and all) the key to actually winning elections and fixing the system.

    You guys could make Mitt Romney look like a man of the people -- and you just might.

  • SYSPROG on January 28, 2012 11:59 AM:

    Oh theAmericanist lighten up. The crime was heinous. He probably deserved the death penalty (if you believe in that). Where Pittman deserved Wingnut of the Week is when he jumped the shark if you will. 'Abortionists, kidnappers'? And who decides? HIM? We can have a discussion of the death penalty but when a wingnut holds a cross in one hand and the flag in another and proclaims himself 'all knowing' he deserves the title WOTW.

  • berttheclock on January 28, 2012 12:06 PM:

    stJust love the wording from the "Congratulations" by the local Republican County committee who appointed Pittman into office on a 5 Zip vote. The wording is "Pittman, who has previously ran for the office......................" Perhaps, they need to speak with that RepuG authority on education in North Caolina, who was mentioned in the education thread. BTW, theAmericanist, the pastor was appointed by a select RepuG Committee. He was not elected by the people He had run before and he had lost.

    BTW, Senator Tom Coburn supports the death penalty for abortion providers.

  • Roger Ailes on January 28, 2012 12:23 PM:

    What about crucifixions? Surely more Christian than hanging.

  • Anonymous on January 28, 2012 12:31 PM:

    I think theAmericanist is trolling but it does point out what I have found to be the biggest problem in dealing with right-wingers. I suspect he is doing is purposefully, but typically the conservatives I talk to just can not hear what I am saying.
    They latch on to the part that is important to them - in this case that this guy really does deserve to be executed (which I don't even disagree with) - and completely ignore the points others are making - 1. how disgusting it is that a 'pastor' and 'chaplain' wants to execute him publically (a perfect demonstration of how hateful conservative modern christians are), 2. noting that he wants to include abortionists among those executed (just, wow), 3. that unfortunately, it seem entirely likely that the public execution channel would be a huge success (a comment on the blood thirsty/mean Right and also on our voyeuristic society in general, I think), 4. pointing out that public hangings are a grisly spectacal rather than a real deterrent to crime - do we really think people commit murder just so they can live the high life that this convicted killer is living??

    It's as though they just can't even hear what you're saying (or in this case, read what you're typing) and makes any conversation almost pointless. theAmericanist will come back with - 'but, but this guy is really bad and is mocking the family! Why do you lefties want to coddle him?' when NO ONE has said that.
    How can you move forward from that?

  • theAmericanist on January 28, 2012 12:40 PM:

    You guys should CTFL.


    You might also usefully acquire literacy: I pointed out that Ed's point, such as it was, is to make fun of a guy who articulated rage that a killer sentenced to death was mocking his sentence.

    Folks who know something about politics -- as opposed to you exalted types -- recognize that that articulating a rage that many people feel has a certain power. Mocking that is unsound.

    I noted that sensible people (as opposed to you clowns) have just two reasonable reactions to what Hembree wrote -- first, the most important thing is he is somehow still alive to write it (and why is that?), and second, that the most likely effect of writing it will be to prolong his appeals and delay his execution.

    Understanding those three points -- the two reasonable reactions to what Hembree actually wrote, which provoked Pittman's email, and the significance of Pittman's email itself -- yields kind of a lot of evidence that mocking him isn't such a good idea.

    I'm not a conservative (you guys are ignorant as well as stooopid), and I know exactly what you're saying -- better than you do, in fact, which is why I keep quoting you, and why that makes you uncomfortable.

    Since you are fond of mocking people of faith as well, it seems a good idea to remind you (as you oh-so-daintily complain that a pastor might articulate rage at Hembree's letter), to CTFL.

  • berttheclock on January 28, 2012 12:54 PM:

    Oh thou Highest of Learned Americans, theAmericanist, if you would spend as much time reading the thread as you do expounding on your limited view and understanding of the thread, you would find Mr Kilgore was taking exception to the addition of abortionists to the list by Pittman. He was not commenting on the letter by the inmate.

    Please, I beg of you, check out the various outlets for continuing education in your area. Begin with any course designed to improve your reading comprehension.

  • chi res on January 28, 2012 1:04 PM:

    Really? Engaging theAmeriKanist?

    That's like complimenting John Edwards on his hair; it just serves to further inflate an already super-sized ego.

  • LJL on January 28, 2012 1:11 PM:

    Kilgore probably intended to be ironic with the last sentence, "nothing quite proclaims the Gospel of Jesus Christ like a public execution." But there is no irony whatsoever in the statement. It is only non-believers or wishy-washy believers who think real Christianity is a spiritual version of Hello, Kitty. All real Christians know that the only way to prove to God that you like him is by killing his enemies.

  • AndThenThere'sThat on January 28, 2012 1:42 PM:

    Once upon a time, theAmericanist would bring some insight into a thread. Lately however, it's ramblings sprinkled with lots of "you people" in an ironic condemnation of people over-generalizing. I fear for his/her health.

  • stormskies on January 28, 2012 2:03 PM:

    The Americanist is just another spluttering wingnut who can't actually deal in facts. When I made the statement about the American population being one of the most stupid populations on Earth, which factually it is, the spluttering Americanist could not deal with that fact. So instead of dealing with the fact the spluttering one turned it into some mumbling thing about self government and hating democracy. This is what this spluttering idiots do when confronted by facts: they turn it into something else so as then spew forth whatever their stupid agenda is about.

    Let's ask the spluttering one this: 20% of Americans 'believe' the the Sun revolves around the Earth, and another 50% 'believe' that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old in which humans co-mingled with the Dinosaurs. So, spluttering one do these facts demonstrates the stupidity of Americans, or do they demonstrate their intelligence ?

    No other population of peoples on the Earth believes in these delusions to the extent that Americans do. This is a fact spluttering one.

    Turn these facts into something else because people who as stupid as you do just that.

  • ORgone on January 28, 2012 2:19 PM:

    BTW what is the difference between the purtainist practices of the "back to the future", establishment, republicans and Sharia law?

    In the 17th century the practice included whipping 50 to 100 lashes before hanging. If Pittman's concept of true practice of criminal justice is punishment and deterrance, as well as entertainment and social control, perhaps reverand Pittman would include public flogging of anyone he considers unchristian-like including Quakers and unionists.

  • theAmericanist on January 28, 2012 2:27 PM:

    Stormskies proves my points -- for example, that you guys are ignorant as well as stoopid. I don't regard "you guys" as an inappropriate generalization since it is factually accurate (by "you" I'm addressing the folks in this thread), and refers to typical behavior (every thread).

    It's not actually true that "20% of Americans 'believe' the Sun revolves around the earth'. I doubt that even Storm thinks it's true, but that he/she/it posts it underscores the basic contempt felt for Americans in general. The brag shows that Storm really DOES think Americans are exceptionally stupid. A smarter or more self-aware person than Storm would have realized they were conceding my point by bringing up extraneous nonsense.

    More to the point in this thread (which I made in short sentences using simple words), an overwhelming majority of Americans support the death penalty now, and have ever since the Gallup company started polling on the subject in 1937. (There was one anomalous year, in 1966.) There is a set of laws which establish that execution is lawful and just for crimes in certain circumstances, all of which apply to Hembree. Yet he is still alive -- and taunting the victims of his crimes.

    So it helps to recognize just why somebody might articulate rage at something like Hembree's letter, and why it might be a bad idea to mock someone who articulated that rage.

    I merely noted that mocking Pittman for it was unsound. As noted, folks who were a bit more self-aware and a bit less self-righteous than you clowns might have usefully inquired just how that could be so.

    After all, you are all utterly persuaded (because you are entirely sympathetic) to WHY Ed picked on Pittman -- after all, he talked about abortionists and public hangings, right? And isn't that the point?

    Um, no, it's not. YOU might think so -- and so, I expect, does Ed -- but you reveal more than you state.

    Note that the first thing I asked was whether Ed had even read the story that Pittman was reacting to -- Hembree was convicted of killing a teenager. There is no doubt he did it. And yet somebody huffed that folks who actually know what this is about don't care about the evidence.

    Like, um, that Hembree killed that kid?

    Note also that Hembree was sentenced to death. Why, then, is he still alive? I pointed out that the first thing a sensible person would reasonably conclude about his letter is that, somehow, he is still alive to send it: why is that?

    That sensible insight is why it is unsound to mock people who articulate rage over it. Ed -- and you guys -- all take for granted that you can skip that part and make fun of Pittman talking about abortionists and public hangings, but THAT IS ONLY TRUE IF YOU DON'T SKIP THE PART ABOUT HEMBREE SENTENCED TO DEATH YET STILL ALIVE.

    Which you did. Going too fast for you?

    The second point that sensible people reasonably conclude -- I realize this involves not only knowing the facts, but actually thinking about 'em -- is that Hembree's letter will likely have the effect of PREVENTING his execution for a time.

    That is a direct threat to self-government, after all. That's why it is so telling that you guys have happily insisted that Americans are exceptionally stupid. You reveal more about yourselves than you know -- the self-righteous are rarely self-aware.

    See, the way this works, first acquire knowledge, then apply intelligence, and finally -- if you've got the character for it -- understand anger.

    Knowing what Hembree did, and the significance of his letter, is the sorta thing that reveals why people in North Carolina just might be really, REALLY angry about it.

    And that is why it is unsound to mock Pittman for expressing that anger -- even though he sent what he intended to be a private email that extended that anger to abortionists and public hangings.

    See how it works, Storm? FOCUS -

  • N.Wells on January 28, 2012 2:29 PM:

    To Ed:
    Great idea on Wingnut of the Week, but please consider making it Wingnuts of the Week, as singling out just one risks cutting into entertainment and educational value. Concentrating them into one thread should prevent the topic from sucking up all the oxygen and overwhelming your site.

  • stormskies on January 28, 2012 2:47 PM:

    here you go spluttering one ....... you can believe whatever wish ..... the facts speak for themself ..

    America the Ignorant

    Silly Things We Believe About Witches, Obama, and More
    Three Stooges vs. Three Branches

    What a bunch of knuckleheads: according to Zogby, the majority of Americans—three in four—can correctly identify Larry, Curly, and Moe as the Three Stooges. Only two out of five respondents, however, can correctly identify the executive, legislative, and judicial branches as the three wings of government.

    World Geography

    Lost? Don't ask an American. Sixty-three percent of young Americans can't find Iraq on a map, despite the ongoing U.S involvement there. Nine out of 10 can't find Afghanistan—even if you give them the advantage of a map limited to Asia. And more than a third of Americans of any age can't identify the continent that's home to the Amazon River (above), the world's largest.

    Supreme Court vs. Seven Dwarfs

    It's hard to imagine what inspired the pollsters at Zogby to ask the question, but the answer is striking: in a 2006 poll, more than three quarters of Americans could name at least two of the seven dwarfs, while not quite a quarter could name two members of the Supreme Court. NEWSWEEK's response is a split decision, if you will: on the one hand, Disney is as much a symbol of America as the high court, and those dwarfs are adorable. On the other hand, it should be easy to name only two out of a pool of nine options. Objection sustained!

    America the Ignorant

    America the Ignorant

    Didn't we clear this one up in the 16th century? Copernicus be damned, 20 percent of Americans were still sure in 1999 that the sun revolved around the Earth. Gallup, the pollster that conducted the study, gamely tried to dress it up by celebrating the fact that "four out of five Americans know Earth revolves around the sun," but we're not buying.


    To mark the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth, Gallup thought it might be a good idea to poll Americans on their beliefs of the British naturalist's theory. But the results must have had Darwin spinning in his grave, since only 39 percent of Americans believed in the theory. The good news: only a quarter said they didn't believe it; the remaining portion either didn't have an opinion or didn't answer. (Also, only 55 percent correctly linked Darwin's name with the theory.) However, it appears that views may, um, evolve: younger people believe in evolution at far higher rates than older ones.

  • stormskies on January 28, 2012 3:16 PM:

    here even more about one of the most stupid populations on Earth spluttering one ........


    They’re the sort of scores that drive high-school history teachers to drink. When NEWSWEEK recently asked 1,000 U.S. citizens to take America’s official citizenship test, 29 percent couldn’t name the vice president. Seventy-three percent couldn’t correctly say why we fought the Cold War. Forty-four percent were unable to define the Bill of Rights. And 6 percent couldn’t even circle Independence Day on a calendar.

    and more.........

    33% of respondents couldn’t identify the date on which the Declaration of Independence was adopted
    65% of respondents couldn’t identify what happened at the Constitutional Convention
    88% of respondents couldn’t identify one of the authors of The Federalist Papers
    80% of respondents couldn’t identify who was President during World War One
    73% of respondents couldn’t identify what the Cold War was about
    59% of respondents couldn’t identify what role Susan B. Anthony played in American history
    61% of respondents couldn’t identify how long a Senator’s term of office is
    29% of respondents couldn’t identify the name of the current Vice-President

    and more spluttering one ......

    In March 2009, the European Journal of Communication asked citizens of Britain, Denmark, Finland, and the U.S. to answer questions on international affairs. The Europeans clobbered us. Sixty-eight percent of Danes, 75 percent of Brits, and 76 percent of Finns could, for example, identify the Taliban, but only 58 percent of Americans managed to do the same—even though we’ve led the charge in Afghanistan. It was only the latest in a series of polls that have shown us lagging behind our First World peers.

    splutter on sputtering one .........

  • beb on January 28, 2012 3:20 PM:

    Can I nominate TheAmericanist for next week's "Wingnut of the Week"? I suggest borrowing Olbermann's "Worst Person in the World" and have two or three runner-ups.

    Public Hangings won't increase the number of government executions, it just turns the small number now into a public bloodsport. That seems neither Christian nor civilized. Life-in-jail-without-chance-of-parole ultimately id cheaper than capital punishment because there's not the endless litigation involved.

    And let's remember that when capital punishment was common (Dickensian London) it didn't exactly deter crime.

    But what makes this guy a wingnut is his inclusion of abortionists (legal occupation) among his list of people who should be hung. He's not really interested in deterring crime, he wants an excuse to kill doctors.

  • stormskies on January 28, 2012 3:21 PM:

    Rep. Larry Pittman of North Carolina was in fact 'elected' by stupid Americans ... no different than electing Louie Gomert, Michelle Bachman, and the rest of the rapidly stupid wingnuts ........ it takes stupid to elect stupid .. and that is the point spluttering one

  • stormskies on January 28, 2012 3:22 PM:

    I will second your nomination beb ........

  • Douglas Lee on January 28, 2012 3:44 PM:

    A good idea, but please consider including several runner-ups. Our current politics are simply too rich in nonsense and malice to rest with just one instance a week of outrageous statements and behavior.

  • stinger on January 28, 2012 5:16 PM:

    My point about evidence was that DNA evidence has exonerated some death row inmates (source: American Civil Liberties Union). Yet the possibility of mistakenly executing people doesn't seem to faze some.

    My apologies to other commenters on this thread for engaging tA. I'll try not to do it again, as s/he can't contribute without name-calling.

  • theAmericanist on January 28, 2012 5:47 PM:

    Stinger: care to cite an actual case? I realize you figure that an argument-by-authority is persuasive (hey, the ACLU said so!), but folks who know a bit more ... don't.

    See -- this IS a case: Hembree killed a teenager. He was sentenced to death. He's not dead. He wrote a letter taunting his victims. Is there something in that sequence of facts which confuses you?

    Look, folks: it's obvious that you guys don't know what you're talking about. Let me explain it to you --

    Political emotions are binary. That is, somebody wrongs Bob, who looks for help. You're either with Bob, or you're against him. That's just how humans roll. IFF is binary, there isn't a third choice.

    Political emotions are also transitive. That is, when somebody wrongs Bob and he looks for help, so Max tells Bob "I'm with you", and YOU respond by observing that Max is an asshole, Bob naturally concludes that you're with the person who wronged him, and against Bob.

    There's an exception to that dynamic, or rather a potential pre-condition: if you've already shown you're on Bob's side in some way, then that buys you some credibility when you observe that Max is an asshole.

    Kindly show any evidence that any of you (Ed included) have established that you are on the side of Heather Catterton, the murdered teenager, or her family.

    Political emotions are sticky, and cumulative: when you hear about a story like Hembree's letter (even if it's through something like Pittman's email) and your first reaction is to mock an expression of anger and NOT to share it, if your instinct is not to stand with Catteron's family -- well, that sorta thing is like pine tar: you're gonna pick up a lot of shit, and it won't wash off. You have to WEAR it off, through hard work.

    Just look at Ed's post, and this thread: there isn't a single mumbling word in Ed's post about what provoked Pittman's anger, which is, after all, what he mocked. I'm the only one who asked if he'd even read about the case. Since then, I've only observed the facts of this particular case, the general popularity of the death penalty, and that it is not generally considered shrewd to insult self-government -- the first two, you guys have ignored, while you've scoffed at the idea of self-government itself.

    I've also noted -- this is the sorta thing that demonstrates what sticky means -- that people who actually know something about the death penalty recognize the most likely effect of Hembree's letter, with "Kill me if you can, suckers. Ha! Ha! Ha!", is to DELAY his execution, since there is a body of law making a convicted killer's advocacy of execution a reason NOT to execute.

    If you don't understand anger, it is foolish to mock it.

  • mudwall jackson on January 28, 2012 7:51 PM:

    Which -- unfortunately for you clowns -- comes back to the point I made: did any of you (did Ed?) actually READ what Hembree wrote? Are you familiar with his case?

    so americanist, you would make public policy based on what one self-centered, loathsome piece of crap says from a prison cell?

    i take it you're in favor of public hangings for acts that are legal. is that with or without a trial? or did you miss that part of pittman's email?

    and yes, in fact i did read what hembree said.

  • Doug on January 28, 2012 8:08 PM:

    "If you don't understand anger it is foolish to mock it." theAmericanist @ 5:47 PM
    Roget? Here boy, come on...

  • smartalek on January 28, 2012 8:31 PM:

    "anyone who takes seriously Hembree's boasts should consider the possibility that the guy may be lying about life on death row for purposes of his own." stinger on January 28, 2012 11:04 AM:

    One of the many hilarious (except when used as the basis for actual policy decisions -- then, not so much) aspects of the current incarnation of the right wing is their willingness -- nay, eagerness -- to accept as completely credible any assertion (read: certain classes of assertions) by people, groups, and interests that they know are evil personified.
    The Nazi Party in Germany called itself "National Socialists" -- and they must perforce have been telling the truth, and were, in fact, "socialists."
    (Do they also believe that all those commie countries were actually "People's Republics" and "Democratic Republics"?)
    Unless, that is, the rightwingers don't really believe this, and are themselves lying...

  • President Lindsay on January 28, 2012 11:23 PM:

    Suggestion for Ed as he takes the reins: Install an ObnoxiousTwitOMeter link by every commenter's name. If someone gets more than a certain number of votes, ban them from the site. It would be a relief to bid adieu to theAmericanist once and for all.

  • theAmericanist on January 29, 2012 8:13 AM:

    (patiently) It'd help if you guys looked past your own sense of yourselves.

    1) I've never defended Pittman. I just pointed out mocking him for articulating a nearly universal anger is unwise. I've even noted that it might be useful for you folks to ask yourselves just how that could be so.

    2) You don't seem to get that anger about Hembree's letter IS universal. That's pretty revealing, actually. Note that my first question was simply whether Ed had bothered to read the story that provoked Pittman. Later on, I pointed out that Ed's post said absolutely nothing about what most folks found intensely offensive about the story -- not Pittman's private email, but Hembree's public letter. Ed's post stinks of the easy elitism that characterizes this whole thread -- Hembree was merely "boasting of his continuing ability to live and breathe", as if no one could possibly have any objection to it.

    3) While nothing that Hembree said about life on North Carolina's death row is surprising or hard to believe (you doubt it's air conditioned? you question whether it's a "life of leisure" -- perhaps because you think death row inmates are forced to work? Um, do you know how security works on death row?), I've several times noted that sensible people reach just two reasonable conclusions about his letter (and for the evidently large percentage of you folks who are illiterate, NEITHER of them are about his life of luxury): first, he's still alive despite having been sentenced to death, and second, that the most likely effect of his letter daring North Carolina to carry out his sentence is to delay his execution. (I note that none of you have considered that -- but I assure you that this is part of the anger, since it drives the alienation.)

    4) So it is downright delusional how you guys have reacted to plain common sense -- first there's Stormskies and Star, who insist that Americans are exceptionally stupid and that ordinary people are unfit to hold public office. Then you have Storm -- too dense to realize he's proving my point -- throwing up yards of 'proof' how dumb Americans are. And you have a series of posts insisting that folks who think it's just a bit more important that this guy was sentenced to death for murdering a teenager and is publicly bragging that North Carolina (and, er, folks like you) are incapable of carrying out the sentence, than that a tertiary office holder said something stooopid in anger in a private email, are somehow gullible. Um, about what?

    5) I noted self-government. You guys should take a moment to recognize just how quickly you reject it -- and on a far deeper level than Stormskies weird idea that Americans are exceptionally dumb.

    6) In my NYT magazine piece, I chose the word "reification" for a reason. (ahem) It's used in Marxist theory to denote alienation, the way people will act out economics as a personal perspective on the personal. What the word denotes, of course, is treating an abstraction as if it is an object. It'd be hard to come up with a more obvious example than death penalty law -- what's most real in this mess is Heather Catterton, after all. She's dead. Hembree killed her. The good people of North Carolina have determined that he should be executed for that crime -- he's been convicted and sentenced.

    7) That's where the anger comes from. I noted -- which really is Politics 101 -- that emotions like this are binary and transitive: when someone has been wronged and they look for help, you're either with them, or against them. Since you guys (starting with Ed) have all been gleefully dissing Pittman for articulating anger that you apparently neither feel nor understand, I asked what any of you have done to show that you're actually on the Catterton's side.


    8) I also asked Stinger for even a single case where DNA "exonerated" a killer on Death Row. (Psst... I know a bit about these cases, Stinger. Y

  • theAmericanist on January 29, 2012 8:22 AM:

    "the way people will act out economics as a personal perspective on the POLITICAL."

    (extreme ahem) This comes out of Milovan Djilas' The New Class, which was the last gasp of intellectual Marxism a generation or two back. Djilas figured out that most folks don't think of themselves as "workers" or "intellectuals", but as people, so the first step in creating a Marxist revolution has to be alienating them -- causing them to reify their concept of themselves, to treat an abstract idea of who they are as if it was a concrete fact.

    That's what you guys do (to be fair, folks on the Right do it too): the old Internet line " a pack, not a herd" doesn't quite do you justice. You act more like a flock, or even a school of fish -- a handful of folks create for you a sense of yourselves, and you follow that through the most obvious changes of direction and counterfactuals.

    If any of you had CTFL, you'd have seen that death penalty law is just an extreme example of it -- a substantial body of law, rooted not in legislatures but in court decisions (based on a foreign intellectual, no less) that was intentionally designed to be not only nonsensical, but impossible to carry out. It'd be hard to come up with a better example of reification and alienation -- which is why it is unsound to mock people who articulate anger about its results.