Cutting Through The Crap

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Really???


I have a conservative acquaintance who considers Charles Krauthammer the smartest guy on earth. Me, I think Paul Krugman's description of Newt Gingrich applies equally to ol' Chuck: he's the stupid person's idea of what a smart person sounds like. 

So it didn't surprise me in the least that Dr K, after years of Mitch McConnell doing the same, only more so, is all angry and stuff at Harry Reid.
“Harry we hardly knew ye, and what we did know, we didn’t like,” Krauthammer said on “Special Report.” 
Krauthammer said that he wasn’t against Reid being a partisan, but explained, “I do think he was a disgrace to his own institution because he emasculated it in the name of protecting the president and trying to re-elect Democrats.” 
Krauthammer also charged Reid with shutting down the Senate as soon as Republicans took the House in 2010.
In a world that made any sense at all, in one where people had even the teeniest bit of self-awareness, you'd think such statements would be preceded by "Look, I realize that when the situation was reversed I said the exact opposite and that this is stunningly hypocritical, but..."

[Image source]

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Blind Leading The Blinded



Never mind the buzz over Ted "the one" Cruz; forget about the familial glow of Jeb "the smart one" Bush. The guy who the thinkers of the right (I know, I know) consider the true standard-bearer of Republican policy is Scott Walker. I believe the word for that is... un-fucking-believable. Because he's taken his state, buried it, and danced on the grave.

... Wisconsin ranks worst among the 50 states in terms of a shrinking middle class, with real median household incomes here falling 14.7 percent since 2000, according to a new report.
... 
All other states showed some decline but none as great as Wisconsin’s 5.7 percent figure.
... 
“Our recent experiment in Wisconsin to undermine this legacy has brought us the greatest contraction of the middle class in the country,” he said. 
In addition, many Wisconsinites are now paying a higher percentage of their income to cover housing costs. In 2000, only 24 percent of state families were spending more than the 30 percent of their income on rent or a mortgage but that has increased to 31 percent.
... 
Also, the median household income in Wisconsin was $60,344 in 2000 but now stands at just $51,467 after adjusting for inflation. That’s a dip of 14.7 percent.
... 
Put another way, Wisconsin incomes were well above the national average in 2000 but are now below the national average, according to the data...

And that article doesn't even mention the increasingly drastic cuts to needed services, as they scramble to address deficits while hewing to the tax-cut-as-revenue-enhancer catechism.

Truly, we've come to find ourselves in some parallel universe, where the more something is true, the less it is to be believed. I can only wonder when we're gonna discover that down is up and that gravity makes us all float away.

[Image source]

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Priorities



This is where we're headed. Who, other than the very powerful, can really think it's good for America? If the next president is a Republican, and if the numbers stay the same in Congress, it'll become reality.

And then what?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

That God, Whatta Guy


When I was in about the fourth grade, I wrote stories. One was about a family out for a drive, with a statue of Jesus, or Mary, or maybe it was St. Jude, on their dashboard. There was a crash. Everyone survived unhurt, except for of one of the kids whose eye was poked out by the statue. My awakening to irony and mythology was possibly precocious.

And now this. Not made up. Horrific. Horrifying. Seven kids killed, on the Sabbath, by a fire started by a hotplate, used in lieu of an open flame, per Orthodox Jewish rules. How unspeakably awful. And let's not invoke irony here, because there are no subtleties: it's just too terrible from all points of view. But can we finally all agree that -- or at least wonder if -- we're much better off if there is no god; because if there is, he's truly an awful entity. Cruel. Uncaring. Egotistical. Criminally abusive. If he's there, let's just stop pretending that he cares about our supplications, or that he deserves our praise. Let's stop groveling and try to make the best of a bad thing. Because if this sort of thing happens, what difference does it make? He'll do what he'll do, and it won't be nice. People rationalize how this can be, with vapid answers. Like abused kids, they still love the abuser. Praise the lord.

How not to feel deep sadness for the family; for the mother who (so far) survived the fire, for the dad off to a religious retreat for the weekend. Honoring the god of their beliefs with more devotion than most, suffering the greatest of all possible tragedies. And reaching the dad was made harder by rules against using electronics. On the Sabbath. Seems obvious that family would still be alive and together, had they not followed those arbitrary rules.

How to reconcile this sort of occurrence with the lengths people go to, following variably prescribed dicta based on contradictory interpretations of the oft-translated and mistranslated and regularly misconstrued words in books of dubious origin. How to explain continuing to do so in the face of so much evidence that there's no one there, on the other end, listening or caring? Miracles, or answers to prayers, are what we call it when he does something unexpectedly decent. It's because of their rarity that we consider them deliberate, while ignoring the implications of what, by definition, are his less pleasant and altogether more frequent acts. Strange.

There is, of course, something satisfying in ritual, whether it's based on religion or family tradition. Weekend picnics. Playing "Oh Hell" after dinner. Climbing the fence to get to the annually-appearing pond and greeting the latest generation of frogs and salamanders. Beyond the fun, it's comforting to count on certain things, against uncertainty. I get that, and I'm all in. For that matter, I always (mostly) liked our Seder dinners, especially because Grandpa skipped over half the pages in the Haggadah. I thought it was funny. And I still miss him.

But why add the unnecessary layer of magic? As Ted Cruz rallies evangelicals to "vote their values," exhorting them to crown him their king so he can ascend to his destiny, justifying regressive, cruel, selfish, astonishingly hypocritical, and shallow policies to gain the praise and payments of the rich and powerful, can't we yet see the danger of it all? Is there no way we poor humans and our miserably fearful minds can find a way to face reality, to live well and good and happily, generously, empathetically, for no reason other than that it's right? Objectively right. As opposed to the cruelty of Ted Cruz. Do we really need a book of self-canceling tales to keep away our fears? Do we really need to follow made-up rules designed to make us think we're more in control than we really are (not to mention pay the clergy)? Can't we just face life as it is? Wouldn't it be healthier?

But, of course, no, we can't. It's not how we're built. "That's all there is" isn't enough. Too scary, too tough to swallow. And, for so many, I guess, too hard to see the higher morality in good for goodness' sake.

So, magical thinking it is. It keeps the monsters from taking root under the bed. It gives meaning to those unable to find enough of it within themselves and their loved ones. It's better than living in fear, I guess. Better than being overwhelmed. But what a bitter commentary on one's view of life: tolerable only by hiding from its most central feature. And if there's a more despicable view of life and one's own sense of morality than that of the right-wing hater-icon and grifter extraordinaire of Duck Dynasty fame, I don't know what is. Absent his much-proclaimed faith, he says, he'd be a rapist and murderer, and so would you.

I'm indescribably sad for that poor family in Brooklyn, and their friends and their congregation. More, I'm deeply worried about the future of a once-great nation, increasingly turning to magical thinking as our self-created problems become ever more challenging.

[Image from NYT, linked article.] 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Because There's Nothing Jesus Loves More Than War


It's no joke: we're being led by religious zealots who neither understand nor accept the idea of religious freedom; who see the US as exclusively a Christian nation; who have no respect for anyone who disagrees. Not to mention that they also believe war is the best thing America does; has ever done; will ever do. Truly, we are screwed. And it's not just this guy: the entire Republican party is perfectly fine with it.
A Republican congressman has introduced legislation that would force cadets at the Air Force’s Academy to say “so help me God” during their oaths every school year. He said the legislation is necessary because Americans don’t have “freedom from religion.” 
Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX) said the bill, called the Preserve and Protect God in Military Oaths Act of 2015, would protect the religious freedom of American troops. 
“Our Constitution’s very First Amendment protects every individual’s freedom of religion. But our servicemen and women who protect our county with their lives are seeing that freedom under fire,” he said in a statement. 
The U.S. Air Force Academy announced in 2013 that cadets would not be required to say “so help me God” while reciting the Honor Oath.
The oath, which the cadets recite at the beginning of every school year, reads: “We will not lie, steal or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does. Furthermore, I resolve to do my duty and to live honorably, so help me God.” 
Johnson said the Air Force’s Academy only made the end of the oath optional “because of one radical atheist group’s demands!”

[Image source]

See Cruz



So the hat of Ted Cruz is now inringened. And he wasted no time in going full Christian evangelical, making his announcement at the phony school created by one of America's most despicable preacher-grifters, peddlers of hate, con-men to those who can't afford to be conned. Urging people to rally behind him, was Ted, calling upon them to "vote our values."

Yeah. Values. Like denying rights to homosexuals. Denying science, replacing it with the Bible. Removing health care coverage, help for the poor. Shifting even more money to the already wealthy via the loved-by-billionaires-and-suckered-by-everyone else flat tax. Pushing false claims about the economy.

Well, it's someone's values, all right. Maybe even today's evangelicals'. But Jesus'? Hard to see where.

Ted Cruz sees himself, far as I can tell, as a pre-anointed savior riding to rescue us all on the wings of angels. He's Jim Jones, he's David Koresh. Were he to become president -- an outcome that even in my most pessimistic moods I find unlikely -- he'd bring the same end upon us all as did they to their deluded followers.

Ted Cruz is a scary, scary dude, with the toxic combination of self-righteous belief in his infallibility and special status among the holy, smug disregard for about half the population, mendacious rejection of science, and willingness to base his campaign on the worst of human foibles: fear, blame, hate, denial. That he could say this with a straight face says it all. That he has a single supporter, let alone the unbridled enthusiasm of countless teabaggers, is as strong an indictment of what America has become as anything I can think of.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Pressing Matters


Here's my latest newspaper column:

Here are some things I’ll never understand. 
How can anyone still claim cutting taxes increases revenue and magically provides the means to keep a country functioning? Why don’t the Bush and Reagan failures to do so, and the contemporary lessons of such laboratories of doctrinaire tax cutting and deregulation as Kansas, Wisconsin, et al., inspire people to question the mythology? Aren’t lousy bond ratings, budget deficits, anemic job growth, drastic reductions in crucial services enough to make people wonder whether they’re being bamboozled, by whom, and for what purpose? How do they explain Minnesota’s neighbor, where the Democratic governor raised taxes a little on the top two percent, increased the minimum wage, Republicans said the sky would fall, and the state moved near the top in job growth and budget strength? In their much-mocked California, the Democratic governor’s progressive policies produced an economic turnaround and a corporate bonanza after years of Republican doldrums. Yet Scott Walker, whose state is in the pecuniary dumpster, leads potential R presidential candidates! 
Another mystery: If a “reporter” says he witnessed certain things, and later claims he meant he saw pictures of them, what’s a reporter? If he says he was in a combat zone but was actually covering a protest a thousand miles away, what’s combat? If he writes he was on a porch in Florida and heard the sounds of a suicide, but was, in fact, in Texas, how big was the porch? For which network is lying a business model: one that defends a proven liar, or one that takes him off the air? 
Someone explain: Why do all elected Republicans who received government help on their climb to success want to pull up the ladder behind them? 
Next: Why is freedom of speech such a difficult concept? If people can’t express opinions without being shouted down, or if having a campus speaker with whom students disagree is intolerable, then where’s the “free” part? On the other hand, why can’t the Alaskan griftress grasp that having her word salads undressed isn’t the same as threatening her freedom to embarrass herself? Likewise, when advertisers choose to disassociate from the toxic combination of Limbic lies and hate, isn’t that what the “free hand of the market” is all about? I get plenty of disparaging responses to my columns, most of which actively avoid or mendaciously misconstrue the argument, which I find amusing, predictable, and disappointing. What I don’t find it, though, is a threat to my First Amendment rights. Which, by the way, apply to only to government interference anyway, and which is precisely the point. 
Moving on: If Holy Mike Huckabee and his acolytes don’t support same-sex marriage because the Bible tells them so, where do they stand on stoning to death a wife who’s found, on her marriage bed, not to be a virgin? And what of the unequivocal evidence that sexual orientation is NOT a choice? (Sorry, Dr. Carson, it’s not brain surgery: your prison “proof” was stunningly specious.) Just another datum sucked into the science-rejection black hole, like climate change, evolution, and age of the earth. Connected conundrum: since sexual preference is inborn, what sort of god would create homosexuals, only to burn them in an eternal lake of fire? Shouldn’t we all hope that’s not how it works? Or are we all Stockholmians now? 
Related: what separates those who embrace the knowledge we gain from science, see it as part of the wonder of our existence in this tiny outpost of the universe, give thanks to God for His gifts of curiosity and intelligence and the means to follow wherever they lead, from those who can’t? How did the latter group come to comprise the only flavor of elected Republicans across the land? Do denialism and homophobia represent the majority views of Republicans? Since polls indicate most Republicans would declare Christianity our official religion, maybe so. But if not, what’s keeping true conservatives from reclaiming their party? 
Finally: How does it make sense to claim that when a president or attorney general addresses racial problems it’s divisive and responsible for violence; but when a “news” network claims, 24/7/365, that the president hates and wants to destroy America, it isn’t?
[Image source]

Friday, March 20, 2015

Post Racial America



As our Supreme Court has informed us, and as Bill O'Reilly and his similars remind us pretty much daily, race is no longer a problem in the US, and anyone who says otherwise is playing the race card. Which is why none of the following things, culled from a couple minutes' looking over just two recent days, happened.

Not this.

Or this.

Or this.

Most certainly not this.

And this never happened.

Nope.

Good god, not this.

This didn't happen.

This didn't, either.

Nuh uh.

No way this happened.

None of it. Because we're exceptional and it's all good.

[Image source]



Thursday, March 19, 2015

Obvious Man



All of the above is true. And yet, Rs still want to do those things that caused the crash in the first place, and refuse to accept the reality of what happened to reverse it. What's wrong with these people? And those who vote for them?

Monday, March 16, 2015

Have (A) Little Faith



I used to write on an online forum, in their health section, providing information to people with medical questions. Occasionally I'd wander into their religion section, and once in a while I'd get into a back-and-forth over various beliefs and assertions, making known my thoughts on the impossibility that if there's a god he/she could be anything like the Christian view of "all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving." I'd mention the obvious contradictions inherent in thinking god answers prayers but has a plan for us all. That miracles are signs of god's influence but bad things that happen aren't. At one point, a conversee said that I'd caused him to question his faith. I felt bad, and quit going there. 

I guess I still feel that way, but, as Christianity is becoming an increasingly negative force in our politics, and as one party seems bent on catering to the most narrow-minded, anti-factual contingent among us, I'm starting to think it'd be great if everyone questioned their faith. Except, perhaps, those who'd go nuts or kill themselves or someone else without it. And, of course, those to whom their faith is a source of personal strength, a useful guidepost along the road of life, and who have no desire to impose it on anyone else. (A shrinking number, if my view of the political scene is correct.)

Anyhow, this article is timely. I agree with it. (Sorry about the spacing. Don't know enough HTML to fix it.)

... less than a third of Americans are willing to express confidence in the reality of human-induced climate change, evolution, the age of the Earth, and the existence of the Big Bang. Among those surveyed, there was a direct correlation between religious conviction and an unwillingness to accept the results of empirical scientific investigation. ... on average, religious faith appears to be an obstacle to understanding the world... 
... Some teachers shy away from confronting religious beliefs because they worry that planting the seeds of doubt will cause some students to question or abandon their own faith or the faith of their parents. But is that really such a bad thing? ... 
... Consider Roy Moore, the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, famous for refusing to remove the Ten Commandments from his courtroom wall: in a recent speech, he declared that the First Amendment only applies to Christians. Or consider the new freshman class in the House of Representatives: it includes Jody Hice, a man who claims that “blood moons” are fulfilling Biblical prophecies. ... 
... One thing is certain: if our educational system does not honestly and explicitly promote the central tenet of science—that nothing is sacred—then we encourage myth and prejudice to endure. We need to equip our children with tools to avoid the mistakes of the past while constructing a better, and more sustainable, world for themselves and future generations. We won’t do that by dodging inevitable and important questions about facts and faith. ...
I'm not naive enough to think that skepticism toward certain religious beliefs, or open-mindedness regarding science will become widespread anytime soon; or even, for that matter, that those who need to reject reality to keep their heads from flying off will find a way to keep it to themselves. But for the sake of our future -- the future of those who'll long outlive me! -- I hope there's at least a possibility that it could happen before it's too late.

[Image source]

Tom Tomorrow


Entire cartoon here. Would that it were true.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

More From The Columnar Epithelium


Here's my latest newspaper column:

I wonder how many people recall when Binyamin Netanyahu urged the invasion of Iraq, “guaranteeing” it’d bring “enormous” benefits to the entire Middle East and, maybe, even lead to the downfall of Iran. Do they also remember that he started saying Iran was “one year away” from acquiring nuclear weapons nearly twenty years ago? And what of the former head of Mossad claiming Mr. Netanyahu lied in his recent speech to Congress? (www.tinyurl.com/p5wm8qx) How about the video that’s been going around again, showing him bragging how he sabotaged the Oslo Accords, and how easy it is to manipulate Americans? (www.tinyurl.com/mckml2j) Suddenly it becomes clear: John Boehner invited Bibi not just to foil the efforts of our president, but because they’re brothers in charms: wrongness, deception, and prevarication. 
And now, evidently worried that their fawning over a foreign leader brought here to derail denuclearization didn’t adequately highlight their venality, Republican senators have sent an unprecedented letter to Iran’s leadership, telling them to think twice about choosing peace. Possibly a felonious violation of the Logan Act and definitely an embarrassing testament to misunderstanding our Constitution and international law, it’s an outrage some might even call treasonous. Oh, but surely there are less fraught words to describe interference with a president’s constitutional right to negotiate agreements with other countries, even when that interference could lead to war and the death of American citizens. Because we never can have enough wars, real Americans love the occasional invasion, especially when it doesn’t involve their own kids. Better still when they can avoid providing funds to care for returning soldiers. Presidents who fail to understand that don’t love America like you and I do. 
Who can know what the reaction would have been from Fox “news” and the pantheon of right-wing screamers had Democrats invited the president of France to speak to Congress before George Bush launched his disaster upon the world? Would there have been revulsion at the unpatriotic spectacle of lionizing a foreign leader above our own? Shibboleths about foreign policy and shorelines? Gee, ya think? 
I’m a supporter of Israel, an admirer of how they’ve transformed a most god-forsaken and inhospitably arid part of the planet into a fertile dynamo of innovation and invention; and I’m an unequivocal believer in their right to exist. The Six Day War was stunning. In dealings with their neighbors, Israel is in the right more often than in the wrong. But I find this recent congressional side-show of standing-ovational genuflection (Oxymoron? Why not?) shameful on many levels, not the least of which is the fundamental cynicism behind so much of Republican “support” for Israel, which differs from mine by one hundred eighty degrees. Mine wants to see it exist as a Jewish state forever; mine is based, in part, in respect for my heritage. Theirs is predicated on a Bible story of the Apocalypse, and a vision of Jesus’ return to the land, heralding the burning of Jews in hell for all eternity if they don’t admit their evilness and convert on the spot. I find it -- what’s the word? -- creepy. 
I keep wondering where the bottom is, how much lower today’s elected Republicans will go. Surely there’s more to come, more attempts to ruin public education, to demonize the poor, to rob future citizens to reward present contributors; more disregard for health care, for the environment, for protection against pollution, unsafe food; more efforts to paint our president as “other,” one who doesn’t understand or love America, in order to distract average voters from an agenda that favors only the already favored. 
All I’ve ever wanted from my writing is to get one or two people to accept the possibility, even if they don’t believe it, that criticizing Fox “news” and the current iteration of the party it represents could be based on an honest desire for rationality. In that spirit, what if everyone watched the speech President Obama gave on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, evaluated it free of preconceptions? Examined, honestly, whether the speaker, even if they can’t stand him, understands what America is really about, loves it or not, or deserves the disrespect he gets from our elected Republicans. It’s here: www.tinyurl.com/m7y4akm 
[Image source]

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Behold The Awful People


The shooting of those two cops in Ferguson is horrifying on too many levels to count. I hope they find who did it and get them off the streets forever, by whatever method a jury decides. But leave it to Fox "news" and the rest of the right wing screamers to blame it on Eric Holder. And Barack Obama.

In other words, it's okay to belittle our president 24/7, call him unAmerican, an America hater out to ruin our country, someone "other," a Kenyan usurper, a terrorist sympathizer. No consequences there; in fact, the more dishonest and inflammatory the better. But let someone on the other side, and most especially one of differing pigmentary proclivities, speak up about real problems in the country, and that's tantamount to suborning revolution. Because, you know, as our Supreme Court has informed us, racism is dead. And anyone who mentions it is, well, racist.

I'm sure that makes sense to someone.

God, these are awful people.

[Image source]  

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Hope You're Sitting Down



Shock. Shock!! The guy behind the Senate letter asking Iran not to choose peace is, only a day later, meeting with war contractors. 

In an open letter organized by freshman Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., 47 Senate Republicans today warned the leaders of Iran that any nuclear deal reached with President Barack Obama could expire as soon as he leaves office. 
Tomorrow, 24 hours later, Cotton will appear at an “Off the Record and strictly Non-Attribution” event with the National Defense Industrial Association, a lobbying and professional group for defense contractors. 
The NDIA is composed of executives from major military businesses such as Northrop Grumman, L-3 Communications, ManTech International, Boeing, Oshkosh Defense and Booz Allen Hamilton, among other firms.
Oh, probably just a coincidence. Today's Rs can't be that venal, am I right?

[Image source]

Said With A Straight Face


Holy Mike Huckabee can't figure out the difference between "allowing" and "imposing." Also, he can't figure out the difference between lying and truth:
Mike Huckabee, who once vowed to fight the purported secular theocracy running America, spoke yesterday to American Family Association President Tim Wildmon about how the left seeks to “impose” its “secular values” on conservative Christians, who Huckabee insisted do not want to impose their views on anybody.
God help us. He's the guy -- among many, many, many -- who'd ban abortion, birth control, same sex marriage; who'd demand teaching of creationism in public schools and would happily end teaching evolution. That's not "imposing???" But allowing those things, making them available to those who choose them while forcing them on no one, THAT'S imposing. (Okay, I guess you could call teaching science "imposing" on those who need to reject it to keep their heads from coming apart at the sutures; but then so is teaching English to those who prefer to speak in tongues.)

This is exactly why it's impossible to argue with such people. They simply can't be made to get it. In the same article, Poor Mike complains that liberals will never understand the values he outlines in the book he's hyping. That liberals want everyone to think like them; which is to say Mike Huckabee condemns everyone who doesn't think like him.

Tonguing his way through the butter that wouldn't melt in his mealy mouth, Blessed Mike claims secularists and homosexuals among his many friends. Well, good for him. Sharing space with the very people he believes will burn in a lake of fire forever while he and his godly friends, who wish no ill on anyone nor would impose anything, look down from their place alongside Jesus and smile that smug smile of his, tut-tutting away the desire to dance on their graves.

Except, of course, that he won't be. Because it's all bullshit. And if it's not, and if it turns out there's a god (it won't) and that she has even a fraction of the morality Immaculate Mike claims for her, he'll be boiling with the best of them.

[Image source]

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

About America



Listen to this speech, the whole thing. Really listen. Put aside, if you have them, your dislike of the speaker, your Foxified vision of who he is or is not, and just listen to what he says. Then consider this: who really understands America, believes in it, loves it: the man uttering the words, or those seeking to block him at every turn? The man reminding us of what America's struggles and triumphs have been, and how and through whom we got where we are, or those who'd have us believe the worst of him, who sew disrespect at every opportunity?

Who foments racial divide? The man who speaks of our history and notes our progress, who points out how far we've come and how far there is left to go, or those who'd rather not hear any of it, pretending there never was a problem or that it's all in the past?

This might be his best speech ever. It's America, distilled and explained. It ought to be taught in those history classes red-state legislatures are trying to rewrite. But, of course, it won't.

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Final Solution


Finally a right-wing nutjob has coughed up a plan I can support unreservedly:
On Thursday, End Times broadcaster Rick Wiles invited John Price, a onetime failed Republican Senate candidate from Indiana, author of “The End of America,” to discuss his decision to move to Costa Rica three years ago in order to follow God’s call to “flee from the daughter of Babylon and not stay and participant in her sins and not be around when the nation is destroyed.” 
Price told Wiles that other Americans should consider leaving the U.S., which he said is “truly is the daughter of Babylon” as a result of the upcoming Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage.
Brilliant. I hope he sets up a crowd-source funding site. I'd chip in for sure. Load 'em up, head 'em out. And watch the average IQ of the country skyrocket, its willingness to plan for the future (and pay for it), its commitment to finding real-world solutions to earthly problems, return to that golden era when America stood for pitching in, for innovation and invention.

It's a twofer, really: we get rid of the bigoted, frightened, and selfish Bible-thumpers, and the nation is saved from being destroyed from within. For exactly the opposite reason the man suggests.

[Image source]

Sunday, March 8, 2015

When Even Denial Isn't Enough


Florida might be the state most at risk from rising sea levels due to climate change. So, not alone among R-led states, it's not enough that their governor is a committed denier of the problem, he's banned the use of any terms related to it:

DEP officials have been ordered not to use the term “climate change” or “global warming” in any official communications, emails, or reports, according to former DEP employees, consultants, volunteers and records obtained by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting. 
The policy goes beyond semantics and has affected reports, educational efforts and public policy in a department with about 3,200 employees and $1.4 billion budget.

These are not normal people. They're stupid, pig-headed deceivers. And yet they get elected, and reelected. What explains that? How can it be that Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin, whose state is wallowing in debt, poor employment growth, cutting services in order to avoid raising taxes on the wealthy, is now the leader among Republican presidential candidates?

How thoroughly have people been brainwashed and bamboozled? How needy of excuses for their own selfishness and fearfulness must R voters be, to continue to defend the indefensible; whether it's economic policies that have failed -- and continue to fail -- every time they've been tried, or a news organization that's been shown, over and over, to peddle lies and propaganda?

Is there no line to be crossed, anywhere, any time? No outrage too obvious to ignore? Evidently not. It's simply astounding.

[Image source]

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Another Newspaper Column



Here's my latest column in our local newspaper. I think I like it.


Like “closure” as applies to the loss of a loved one, and “accident” as applies to a child getting hold of a gun and killing himself or someone else, the term “boots on the ground” should be excised from public discourse. How sterile, how easy to swallow. Boots. How painless, how undisturbing of sleep. Not soldiers, sons and daughters, spouses and parents. Boots. How about blood on the ground? Or boots on the ground with feet still in them, attached to nothing else? Bits of brain, leaking memories into the hot sand. When we send people off to war, it’s a lot more than boots. If it’s sometimes necessary, so is the recognition of what it means, free of whitewash. 
Our president feels that ordering soldiers into combat is a last resort. Which, to our Republican friends, the most vocal of whom found ways to avoid it (I didn’t) for themselves and their kids, means weakness. Rudy “9/11 and not much else” Giuliani would have us believe it means he doesn’t love America. The latest to speak from the other side of the edge is Congressman Lamar Smith, of (surprise!) Texas, who says President Obama is doing “nothing” to combat ISIS; he even managed to toss in the lie-till-the-Foxified-believe-it-which-usually-takes-only-once classic that it’s because he “doesn’t believe America is exceptional.” He also claimed Egypt and Jordan are doing more. Let’s consider ways in which this is as bogus as Bill O’Reilly’s claims of combat experience and his JFK assassination-related lie. (I’m not gonna defend Brian Williams, by the way, but at least he actually was in a combat zone.) 
We’ve been bombing ISIS for months. When other countries have done so, it’s with US air cover and coordination. We have “advisors” (I’m thinking special forces) there. The president has asked for an extended AUMF against ISIS. And, although the claim that other countries are doing more is as false as Foxian fairness and balance, why shouldn’t they be? If ground forces are needed, why must it be ours? The most immediate threat of ISIS is to the countries in which it’s operating; and, for the most part, to Muslims there, whom it’s been killing wholesale, along with only a few non-Muslims. 
Which brings us to another object of right-wing perseveration: Because Obama doesn’t use the term “radical Islam,” he either doesn’t understand the threat or, as many screamers would have it, is actually the power behind it. President Bush, one might recall -- if, unlike Jeb, one were into revisiting those times -- took pains to point out we weren’t at war with Islam. There’s a reason, and both presidents since 9/11 have recognized it: the ultimate solution to terrorism (if there is one) will require that the countries in which terrorists operate decide enough is enough. One of the most powerful recruiting tools Islamic radicals have is convincing others that the US is, in fact, at war with Islam, and that they are Islam’s true defenders. 
I’m not convinced that uttering the words “radical Islam” is dispositive in either direction; but it’s not hard to understand the difficulties of getting Muslim countries in the region, who split along Sunni/Shia lines and who have eons of internecine animosities among them, to cooperate in efforts against such groups as ISIS and al Qaeda. If it’s perceived by those involved in the process that sensitive souls are offended when US leaders use the term and that avoiding it is useful, I won’t argue; likewise when the president makes the evidently-too-subtle distinction between the religion of Islam and those who pervert it to justify brutal, horrifying acts. I don’t suppose it’s especially helpful when Americans burn mosques, either. 
The ways in which President Obama has spoken of “American exceptionalism” (a term making its way up my opening list) and love of country, and in which he’s acknowledged the grave dangers of radicalism and terrorism, are many. (List provided on request.) Meanwhile, I disagree but am fine with people arguing Obama should wage war differently, or with our troops instead of the ones there. But let’s stop the “he’s doing nothing” and the “he doesn’t love America” bilge. People who say that are embarrassing themselves. And our country.
  
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