Monday, December 9, 2013
I'm gonna see if I can stop doing this for a while, try ignorance on for size. This stuff is just getting too depressing, and depression is something of which I have plenty already.
For one thing, I'm finding it more difficult to decide what I think about President Obama. I've said from the beginning that he's anything but a far-left liberal, and that's most certainly true. In fact, other than his shocking desire to allow gay people to have civil rights equal to the rest of us, and to find a way for those who can't afford health care to be able to do so, finally, you'd think teabaggers would absolutely love the guy. He's more of a capitalist than Henry Ford. And the latest, regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership, ought to delight corporatists like a golden parachute, assuming the coverage is accurate. I have no problem with our president being a pragmatist, but I'd like a thorough explanation of reasons, rather than what has appeared to be unnecessary secrecy.
Nor does his retention of Bush-era spying speak of the "Alinskyite" (whatever that is) that the right wing likes to call him. So, regarding President Obama, there's an insane amount of hatred for him, and an unprecedented and concerted effort to block everything he does, no matter how reasonable, every person he nominates, no matter how qualified; and yet he keeps doing things that liberals find abhorrent. I still like him; still think he's doing what he sees as best for the country, takes his job seriously, and that he's not at all ideological. All those, to me, are good things, at least in theory. But who knows, anymore?
Meanwhile, the crazy on the right is so deep and wide, their attempts to turn us into a mindless theocracy so profound, their disregard for all people non-white, non-male, non-christian, non-heterosexual, non-wealthy so undisguised, their appeal to the basest among us so successful, that it's a source of constant sadness, frustration, and pessimism. Not to mention their steadfast, selfish, short-sighted and destructive refusal to address the most important and future-threatening issues facing us. Climate change, health care, income inequality, education, paying for infrastructure and research. In that regard, I'll always be a proud liberal. There's simply no question of which party is willing to face such things, effectively or otherwise, but realistically.
I'm fairly sure I'll not be able to turn off my curiosity, nor my compulsive reading on all things political. But I'd like to see if I can stay away from this blog long enough to decide if it's a good thing or bad, for me, personally. It'd be a start. And maybe I can stop thinking about all this stuff altogether, and concentrate on upcoming grandfatherhood, or exercise, or something fun. Maybe, if I were to succeed in being totally ignorant, I could join the ranks of the majority of my fellow Americans and just be outraged without really knowing why, but secure in the knowledge that outrage means I'm better than all those "other" people.
Sunday, December 8, 2013
“Among the sayings and discourses imputed to him [Jesus] by his biographers, I find many passages of fine imagination, correct morality, and of the most lovely benevolence; and others again of so much ignorance, so much absurdity, so much untruth, charlatanism, and imposture, as to pronounce it impossible that such contradictions should have proceeded from the same being.”
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Short, April 13, 1820
“And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerve in the brain of Jupiter. But may we hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this most venerated reformer of human errors.”
-Thomas Jefferson, Letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823[Image source]
Saturday, December 7, 2013
A while back I posted my anger at MSNBC, welling for a while, but brought over the top by Martin Bashir's suggestion that someone should shit in Sarah Palin's mouth. And darn it if I wasn't right, if that had, indeed, been what he said.
So it turns out I can be just as credulous as a teabagger, brought to outrage by falsehood, deliberate or otherwise. I admit I didn't hear what he said when he said it, nor did I seek out a source of the actual words. I must have assumed that since it was everywhere, including on liberal sites, that it was an accurate rendition of his commentary. Mea culpa. Mea really, really, embarrassingly, culpa. Here, it turns out, is what he actually said, in response to the moosekiller's comparison of the national debt to slavery:
BASHIR: It’lll be like slavery. Given her well-established reputation as a world class idiot, it’s hardly surprising that she should choose to mention slavery in a way that is abominable to anyone who knows anything about its barbaric history. So here’s an example.
One of the most comprehensive first-person accounts of slavery comes from the personal diary of a man called Thomas Thistlewood, who kept copious notes for 39 years. Thistlewood was the son of a tenant farmer who arrived on the island of Jamaica in April 1750, and assumed the position of overseer at a major plantation. What is most shocking about Thistlewood’s diary is not simply the fact that he assumes the right to own and possess other human beings, but is the sheer cruelty and brutality of his regime. In 1756, he records that “A slave named Darby catched eating canes; had him well flogged and pickled, then made Hector, another slave, s-h-i-t in his mouth.” This became known as Darby’s dose, a punishment invented by Thistlewood that spoke only of the slave owners savagery and inhumanity.
And he mentions a similar incident again in 1756, this time in relation to a man he refers to as Punch. “Flogged Punch well, and then washed and rubbed salt pickle, lime juice and bird pepper; made Negro Joe piss in his eyes and mouth.” I could go on, but you get the point.
When Mrs. Palin invoked slavery, she doesn’t just prove her rank ignorance. She confirms that if anyone truly qualified for a dose of discipline from Thomas Thistlewood, then she would be the outstanding candidate."
There's no one on earth who can gin up martyred outrage like Sarah of the empty head, and she makes a damn good living at it. Sure, a case can be made that what Mr Bashir said was a little less than that expected of a professional journalist. But it was a long, long way from saying, literally, that someone ought to shit, or "defecate" even, in the poor defenseless lady's mouth; and, couched as it was, it was milder by far than what one hears daily on right-wing radio.
In context, I'd have to say I agree with his sentiment. She trivialized slavery as only she could do, and could stand to inform herself a little better (requiring the sort of effort toward which she's never shown the slightest inclination). Plus, it's undeniable that if someone were to notice feces in Ms Palin's mouth, it'd require DNA testing to be sure it wasn't just a result of her usual logorrhea. In my original post, I expressed outrage that Bashir had suffered no consequences. Now I understand why, and I find his resignation an overreaction on his part. In fact, MSNBC should have stood up for him, making the context crystal clear. So my ultimate reaction to the network remains, if for different reasons.
But I digress. The point is, first, that I took outrageous claims at face value and, second, that Martin Bashir ended up resigning over the reaction to the misconstruction of what he said. Right wing outrage is a powerful force; the more so when it's baseless. Which, of course, it almost always is.
I really should have looked into it before firing off a response. I usually do. I'd like to think I'm better than a teabagging right winger or their propagandists. In this case, I surely wasn't. Hope it's a rarity.
Friday, December 6, 2013
This ought to be remembered as a seminal speech, addressing our most important economic/political problem; and an entirely factual critique of the likely irreversible damage done to our country and its future possibilities by trickle-down Reaganomics. (The meat begins at about 1:50.) It won't, of course. It'll be lied about by the RWS™, passed off as a call for communism, and have its point entirely missed by a lazy press more interested in the coming 2014 horse races, or whether he knew his uncle, than in the work necessary to be worthy of the title "reporter."
Other than climate change, growing economic inequality in the US is the greatest threat to our survival, and, very specifically and clearly, to our kind of capitalism. The speech, of course, will neither be heard nor understood nor given any thought at all by our right wing. If today's teabagging Republicans can force themselves to listen, with open mind and willingness to give consideration, to only one thing President Obama says, this is it. Because the truth of it is not in doubt, even if what we can or will do about it is. Sadly, that sort of willingness is long since dead, far as I can tell.
At minimum, given the huge importance of what the President is saying, you'd think it would stir a "national debate" on the central issues, with those who disagree doing so on the merits of the argument. Outlining matters of importance is what presidents ought to do. And on those rare occasions when they actually do, it ought to be given attention in its own right, rather than being subject to the usual hyperpartisan dissembling and mongering.
Yeah. Right. Anyone listening? To what he said, heard for its message and not through the prism of Foxorushsavbeckian purposeful lying? Just the words, and their meaning, without waiting for someone to tell you what you're supposed to think about it?
The full text is here. Not that it matters.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
The above, according to an email from the Democratic Party that I found in my trash file, is being sold by the Republican Party to raise money. Har. Har.
Yep. Those awful liberals, trying to be inclusive. Send us some money so we can punish them for wanting to be respectful of all Americans. Not to mention those capitalist businessmen who prefer to welcome all comers into their stores to spend their money. Liberals, right? And not to mention that, like all the liberals I know, I'm happy to say Merry Christmas in stores or anywhere it's said to me.
Has there ever been a party so unabashed in proclaiming its narrow-mindedness, so pleased with its divisiveness, so certain in its manipulations of its supporters most base instincts, so sure that trotting out this tired trope every year will work forever? (The real war on Christmas, brought to you annually by Bill O'Reilly, Sarah Palin, et al: making it, over and over, a time for self-pity and anger.) Or, for that matter, so proudly cynical, so blithely dismissive of the most fundamental principles of the country for true love of which they claim (for fundraising purposes only, your results may vary) sole proprietorship?
[Image source from that mailer. Message from here.]
Monday, December 2, 2013
Today's non-conservative Republican party. I can see how despotic, plutocratic, selfish, profit-only-damn-the-consequences people support them. But the average person? People who value education, clean water, who'd like a future for their kids, even those who follow the teachings of Jesus? I just don't get it.
- Item: right-wingers are attacking Pope Francis for actually advocating the principles of humility and charity spoken by Jesus. The damn commie!
- Item: right wing media hero Erick Erickson says it's necessary to deny Democrats the opportunity fix the Affordable Care Act. To FIX it!! Because, you know, god forbid it might work, might actually provide health care to people at reasonable cost. Can't let that happen. Because politics. Similarly, they prefer to prevent economic recovery on Obama's watch and have done everything to block measures to achieve it. Because power. And insane hatred of all things Obama.
- Item: Wisconsin's R legislature and its teabagging governor have just turned the northern part of the state over to a mining company for the purpose of strip-mining; the same company being sued in Spain for polluting its water and destroying the land.
- Item: still collecting full pay, the R-controlled House has worked fewer days than ever before, and will work even fewer next year. But, doggone it, they'll never raise the minimum wage. Nosiree.
- Item: as with the first significant effort to address the horrible problems with our health care system, Rs have lined up to decry -- many before they even knew what's in it -- the first major effort to reduce the risk of Iran getting a nuclear weapon. Because war.
- Item: they deliberately lie to their supporters, over and over, as policy, assuming they're idiots.
I could go on, of course, and have until I make myself sick and crazy. I know there've always been crazy people, dumb people, people who refuse to open their eyes. But surely this is unprecedented. Normal not crazy not dumb people, in massive numbers, falling in with a party that, clearly and undeniably, is inimical to everything those nice average people need. In a full-time and highly organized propaganda effort that would make Kim Jong Un jealous and the Soviet Politburo weep with envy, Rove, Murdoch, Limbaugh, Beck, the Kochs, et et al al al have managed to buffalo and bullshit and deceive and manipulate people who, if they'd stop for a mere second or two and look the hell around, would realize they're voting against everything they need. Nice people. Decent people.
It's simply amazing. It's inexplicable. I fail completely to understand it, except as proof of the limitations of the human mind in the face of overwhelmingly difficult problems. In the messes we've created on this planet we've finally outstripped the ability of human beings to deal. Always inclined to magical thinking, our pathetic little brains have, like an over-shaken pinball machine, gone into "tilt" mode. Previously happy to believe everything will be fine in the next life, that god is keeping score and will "wipe away the injustices" that he allowed to occur (or made to occur) in the afterlife, we've now gotten to the point of giving up trying altogether here on Earth. It's too hard to address our problems, too threatening to be charitable or to think beyond our selfish needs. So we flock to the party that says it's just fine to be like that. (So the ones bankrolling the deception can go on raping the land and ripping off the non-wealthy to support their greed.) (Too harsh? How?)
That's the only way I can figure it out. Because there's nothing, clearly, about today's Republican party that offers a thing for the average person except reinforcement of denial. Of everything.
Friday, November 29, 2013
(I had a different video up there at first: the Platters singing "The great pretender." This one seems more appropriate, given the mutual level of outrage.)
This is really starting to piss me off. I've been saying it forever, and it's demonstrably true: but somewhere along the line I've gone over the edge. Today's embarrassing and disgusting version of a once credible Republican Party is made up of a bunch of deliberate liars; people who treat their "base" -- correctly, it turns out -- like idiots. Lying as policy. Distraction as method. It's beyond simply politics at its worst. It's fking evil.
The latest example is the ginned up bullshit about Obama "closing" the embassy to the Vatican. Hyped and rehyped endlessly by the right wing screamers and the prevaricating collective on Fox "news," it's complete and total bullshit. Even Jeb, the supposedly thoughtful Bush, savior of reason in the echo chamber, has jumped on it with both dishonest stinky feet. As usual, Charles P Pierce tells it better than me:
The Smart One is making noise again.
Why would our President close our Embassy to the Vatican? Hopefully, it is not retribution for Catholic organizations opposing Obamacare.
Twitter -- Another Venue In Which the Bush Family Can Be Annoying.
And, of course, as part of his ongoing project to sabotage those parts of his brother's political career that Jebbie didn't cock up on his own, the fine hand of C-Plus Augustus appears just in time to undermine little bro's pandering to the angry papists.
Ironically, the process of moving the embassy from its current location to the compound at the U.S. Embassy to Italy began under Jeb's brother, President George W. Bush, whose administration purchased the buildings. The new location is actually a tenth of a mile closer to the Vatican and the move will come with no reduction in staff or activities.
Euripides wrote something like this once. Then, after he'd read what he'd written, he spent 14 months on Corfu, drunk on ouzo, and chasing fishwives.
This isn't just a misunderstanding or misinterpretation. This is deliberate. This is modus operandi. This is despicable. Unlike Obama's "lies" about keeping your crappy insurance if you want to -- untrue, but not a lie: he was wrong. There's a difference -- this is taking information, turning it upside down and inside out and effluxing it back into circulation as something it's not. On purpose. To deceive. How do they live with themselves?
I feel like running into the streets screaming, all across the country: they think you're idiots. They assume your hatreds trump the most minimal efforts at reason. They lie to you all day every day. They want you to believe this stuff, concentrate on it, so you'll ignore their real agenda: flushing your money uphill to the wealthy, turning the country into a theocracy (okay, you probably are fine with that) and stoping spending money on anything you, and your kids, and grandkids, actually need.
How could it be made any more obvious? Other than carrying around signs that say we're greedy, we have no useful agenda, and we'll do and say anything to get our way, what more could they do to get their sheeply follows to start getting it?
I know, I know, he says, raising his hand and waving it for attention: nothing!! Not a fking thing!!! They've over-eyed the wool and it ain't coming down. The only way they'll stop making dishonesty the central feature of their message is when their teabagging followers demand it.
And, it's clear as the space between Sarah Palin's ears, they never will.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
I feel bad for Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes, who are smart, thoughtful and fact-based news figures. They deserve better than to be stuck on MSNBC, which is free-falling into irrelevance at best, and, at worst, becoming an embarrassment to liberals. Liberals who, I might add, have never followed that network in the numbers or mindless devotion of those wedded to Fox "news."
MSNBC hired Alec Baldwin, of all people, to do a nightly show, after he'd made it pretty clear he has a tendency toward malicious outbursts on some occasions, whether on voicemails or to reporters. After a brief time and another homophobic rant, he's been excused from further service. And why not?
Ed Shultz, now back in the good graces of the network, took a forced vacation after some less-than thoughtful remarks. He's a smart guy, but a pale imitation of the vituperative anger of a Rush Limbaugh. What's the point?
And now, the Martin Bashir thing: beyond tasteless comments about Sarah Palin. (Yeah, all she needs is more reason to play the martyr, and to get lots of face time and money to pitch it.) Worse, he's apparently and inexplicably suffered no consequences for his feculence. Chris Matthews, when asked to comment on the episode, refused. Cowardice under fire. Or orders. I can only assume -- hope, anyway -- that Maddow and Hayes are deeply pissed at being associated with this mess, no matter how indirectly.
I quit watching MSNBC regularly in the Olbermann era, when I tired of him trotting out the same people every night to agree with him. I didn't often disagree with him or his stooges; I just decided that, unlike teabagging Foxolimbeckians, I didn't need constant reinforcement of my thoughts (or, in the case of the Foxified, the lack thereof.)
This latest is inexcusable. If liberals don't need propaganda the way today's Republicans seem to, at least they're entitled to have a media outlet that provides intelligent, factual, and thoughtful analysis; one to which they could point as an example of meaningful and insightful commentary, in contrast to the dissembling that passes for it on Fox. That's what Maddow and Hayes do, consistently. The rest of them have become no more than hacks. (Admittedly, I say that having watched, for several years now, only the occasional online clip.) Is their management under the impression that to succeed they need to be controversial? Are they of the opinion that liberals will flock there if they provide it?
Not me. Not the people I know. I think Rachel and Chris need to find a new outlet (is there one?) and let the rest of them sink from view.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
I heard from a Canadian reader recently:
As a Canadian that lives an hour from the border, we are sucked into American politics and social commentary quite easily. We sit and wait to see what is happening there and cross our fingers and toes that some of it doesn't spread north. Our Prime Minister is a conservative and I would expect has a harder time moving our nation's views to mirror his as the voting power here is leaning left. I feel for those who are feeling like they are beating a dead horse when it comes to voicing their opinions in the States. All I can say is...keep doing it...please. We need to hear voices of reason coming from the US as well as the crazy, 'I can't believe he just said that!' stories we hear. Educate the young and hopefully the next generation will be more open to views and see the US as a global citizen and act accordingly.Yeah, well.
"Educate the young" is exactly the solution, and, not coincidentally, happens to be exactly why teabaggRs are so desperate to destroy public education, turn it into a bible school aimed at those who need simple answers to hard questions; teaching them not to question, not to seek beyond their deliberately narrow views of things.
Those forces are winning; or, ultimately, are destined to. Because I think we've reached the limits of the collective ability of humans to deal with the disasters they've created. Retreat into magical thinking and denialism is all we have left. Enough of us, anyway, to prevent the rest from acting as needed.
This, from a former Republican Senate staffer, pretty much says it all (the whole article is worth a read. Below is an excerpt):
... Senate rules have been around for a long time. They work. They work, that is, if they are treated with respect, and if the Senate's role in the government is likewise treated with respect by its members. If they are, instead, treated with contempt -- as mere tools to enable timely response to organized constituencies -- work in the Senate will grind to a halt, encumbering the rest of the government.
I can understand, though I do not share, intense disagreement with every Obama administration initiative and disapproval of every Presidential nominee to every judgeship or executive branch office. Willful perversion of the Senate's rules in an effort to ensure that the Senate passes no legislation and approves no nominees (at least in a timely way) is so far beyond my experience with the body that I struggle to believe news accounts from the place.
And willful perversion of the Senate's rules is what the Senate Republicans committed themselves to. It is idle to complain about Sen. McConnell as if he were holding up nominees and legislation by himself. Nearly every Republican Senator -- including people like Cochran, Grassley, Hatch, McCain and Alexander who have been Senators for many years -- has supported McConnell without cavil throughout this entire sordid business. If McConnell acted in bad faith by going back on a promise made last year not to obstruct routine nominations, so did they...I'd add, as I've already written, that the impact of reform is much greater on Republican obstructionism that it might be on Democrats; because they have never and would never use the filibuster as often as Rs have. Maybe it even figured into their thinking: hey, we're not as big of assholes as they are, so who cares, right?