Cutting Through The Crap

Thursday, April 17, 2014

I Pledge Allegience

I'm in the midst of an eight-week online course on global climate change, presented by the Scripps Oceanic Institution. The above is one of the optional bits, a brief detour from intellectual curiosity to the reality of what happens when half the country is Foxolimbeckified.

In short, we're screwed. The US is so far off the rails at this point that there's no way back on track. And it's getting worse by the hour: Fox "news" turning outlaws into heroes, fairly begging them to shoot someone. Haters shooting someone. Kids shooting someone. Legislatures turning schools into churches of denialism. Shoe-truthers sprouting like fungi. We're an insane nation, a stupid nation, a frightened nation, long since given up on facing reality with a sense that it can be dealt with. Sinking to the bottom, playing each other for fools, turning to the worst traits of frail humanity and elevating them onto altars.

There was a time when the US led the world in education, in invention, in scientific discovery, in optimism. In generosity, in standing for individual rights, especially toward its own. Now, thanks to the deliberate deceptions of right-wing media, we've become the opposite, speaking of exceptionalism while rendering it true in only the most destructive of ways. Rejecting science, laughing at expertise, ginning up hate and blame, turning to magic. A once-respectable political party, now a haven of insanity and rejectionism. Supported, beyond belief, by half the country. It's too hard. We've made the world too complicated for those who prefer easy answers, and they've thrown in the towel, tossed their lot with the people who refuse to help in any useful, realistic way.

I can barely stand it any more.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Coming To A Theater Near You

Currently playing at our local theater: "God's Not Dead." "Heaven Is Real." "Son Of God." "Noah."

Currently heard everywhere on right-wing media: "Christianity is under attack."

Currently being readied for teaching in public schools across the country: Hobby Lobby president's Bible study course. (He says he hopes it'll become mandatory.)

It is, of course, entirely consistent with the current, and highly successful, strategy of the teabagging R party: the big lie. The deflection. The distraction, the claim of the opposite. While pretending it's their religion that's threatened, they carefully work to eliminate all vestiges of religious freedom for everyone else in the country. Under the false flag of victimhood, they deliberately move us ever closer to theocracy, cheered on by their poor martyred followers, ignored by the press.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Virtual Reality

Here, at last, is the deal: Barack Obama was "virtually" born in Kenya. Settled. Finally.

Similarly, it turns out Scott Brown, according to John Sununu, was virtually born in New Hampshire. How cool is that? No carpetbagger, he. I mean, other than a silly boundary line, Maine might as well be New Hampshire. Right? Matter of fact, if you want carpetbagging, look no further than current New Hampshire Senator Jean Shaheen. Why, according to Mr Sununu, since, like most Democrats most of the time, she votes similarly to the Massachusetts delegation, well sir, she's damn near the "Senator from Massachusetts." Says he, evidently forgetting that only a couple of years ago, that Scott Brown fella was the actual senator from Massachusetts. You wanna go with the born-there native candidate, though, you'll have to look entirely elsewhere.

That, folks, is today's R party in all its glorious nut-shelled and nut-cased mendacity. In order to deflect the obvious truth of Brown's carpetbagging, they're gonna run him on the claim that his opponent is the interloper. It's like that Congressional bag-lady of the tea kind who just got up and claimed it's the Republican party that's been fighting for equality for women. I guess all those "no" votes were a rear-guard operation.

That's some industrial grade bullshit on all counts. But do they have reason to think they can get away with it? Well, of course they do. With the entire right-wing media lined up to tell their audience that bullshit tastes like chicken, and with that audience happily reaching for their forks, who the hell wouldn't?

Why those folks who still dare call themselves Republicans haven't awakened by now to the level of disrespect shown them by their "leaders" is beyond me. They can't all be that damaged, can they?

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Reality Can Be A Bitch

Facing facts is not something today's R party is particularly comfortable (or experienced) with. When reality is so bright as to be impossible to ignore, things get interesting. Like these surprisingly open-eyed words of an R Congressional aide:

...One congressional GOP health aide, who was granted anonymity to speak candidly, said his party is as determined as ever to fight Obamacare, and will remain so as long as it exhibits failure. He said devising an alternative is fraught with the difficulty of crafting a new benefits structure that doesn't look like the Affordable Care Act. 
"If you want to say the further and further this gets down the road, the harder and harder it gets to repeal, that's absolutely true," the aide said. "As far as repeal and replace goes, the problem with replace is that if you really want people to have these new benefits, it looks a hell of a lot like the Affordable Care Act. ... To make something like that work, you have to move in the direction of the ACA. You have to have a participating mechanism, you have to have a mechanism to fund it, you have to have a mechanism to fix parts of the market." 
It sheds light on why Republicans haven't yet followed through on the "replace" component of their "repeal and replace" mantra, more than four years after Obamacare was enacted. The popular parts of the law, most notably the preexisting conditions guarantee, are unsustainable without unpopular parts like the individual mandate. Unraveling the parts people dislike means unraveling the whole structure, and rebuilding the well-liked elements is difficult without arriving at a similar place as Obamacare...
Step away from the comfortable confines of Foxolimbeckian fawning and spin, from the insular world of teabaggers wherein a thing becomes fact simply because they wish it so, and the real world can be a tough place, huh?

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Could Be...


There's nothing a good Republican of the teabagger sort hates more than activist judges. I mean, geez, just look up "activist" in their dictionaries and you see liberal judges making all sorts of heavy-hammered decisions based on, on, well, on stuff they don't agree with. Privacy. Civil rights. That kind of thing.

And yet can anyone think of a more "activist" (i.e., twisting the Constitution like a pretzel to achieve a pre-conceived result) ruling than the conclusion that "corporations are people" and that "money is speech?" Scalia and Thomas like to refer to themselves as "originalists." So where in the First Amendment does the original text equate money with speech? What money is, is money. What's speech, is speech. (In fact, reading the quite spare First Amendment, our founding patriarchs went out of their way to mention separately freedom of speech and freedom of the press. One might conclude, therefore, that freedom of forming words with one's mouth, and freedom of newspapers to write what they want, is what's protected. Writing, not talking, by individuals? Not mentioned by name. Maybe, since I'm not in any way a member of "the press" this blog isn't protected at all. Now there's originalism!)

Well, of course it's reasonable to extrapolate and claim that the founders were okay with private citizens writing stuff, although it's hard to prove they had cyberspace in mind. But to equate money with speech? That can only be seen as a ruling out of thin air, designed to give political advantage to the most wealthy and powerful. No one can call that anything but judicial activism of the highest order.

Likewise, the creation of corporate personhood is an undeniable example of judges making law; the very thing that conservatives have, until melanosis overtook the country, considered anathema.

Politics is nothing if not a breeding-swamp of hypocrisy. If all sides do it, and they do, the last five years of Republicanism have taken it to heretofore unseen levels. Line 'em up and count the transgressions, stick 'em on a seesaw and watch which end sinks.

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

What Would It Take...

... for teabaggers finally to reject people like this (not to mention the "news" sources that give them a soapbox.)

Dicks, The Lot Of Them...

Read Charles P. Pierce on the US torture program:

... For years, our herd immunity on these matters consisted of a general consensus that there were some things that the United States simply could not do and remain the country we told ourselves and the world that we were. We believed that there were things that were unthinkable, and that kept us at least partly safe from an outbreak of our worst impulses. That herd immunity will not be rebuilt easily. It will take a steady intellectual and political inoculation against the worst in us all. And we must contain the spread of the infection as best we can, and not listen to those people who tell us that what always has worked in the past for us endangers us now.
Dick Cheney, the anthropomorphism of the word "abomination," remains a hero to our far-right wing, trotted out regularly on their Bolshivekian, propagandistic airwaves and allowed to excrete his poison at will. The shame is all of ours, but not all of us are at fault. That designation remains the sole property of those freedom-loving Americans with teabags on their hats and Foxolimbeckian offal in their brains.

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Monday, April 7, 2014

Their Worst Nightmare


Anyone who believes in democracy as it used to be known, and who sort of likes the idea of government being responsive to regular folk, ought to be damn upset and really worried about what the Supreme Court has done to campaign finance legislation.

You'd think, even as the usual right-wing 5/9ths argue that money is speech, that they might also recognize the corrupting effects of allowing the voice of a very few to be heard preferentially over those of the majority of voters. But not those guys. "Corruption, or the appearance of corruption?" Ain't never heard of it, they. All the R pretenders sliming their way to Las Vegas to grovel at the feet of Shellout Adelson? Corruption? Just because Lindsey "I love America more than you do" Graham, after receiving tens of thousands of dollars from M. Adelson, introduced legislation written by the man's lawyers, designed to tamp down his competition? Why, I swear, that's no more corrupt than a lily of the field. The very idea!

John "Balls and strikes means balls to me" Roberts can't be so dumb as to not recognize the effects of his ruling, so blind as to not see what's going on. No, he's doing exactly what he's been wanting to do to the idea of free and fair elections, to the idea of equal voting rights for those of different persuasion from himself, since well before he buffaloed his way onto the bench. And he's now in a place from which he can wreak his violence to democracy, unchecked, without fear or pretense that he's doing otherwise.

No corruption from unlimited buying of politicians, he says. Racism in voter suppression a thing of the past, he says. Staring at a portrait of Boss Tweed and reaching under his robe...

Saturday, March 29, 2014


Why does anyone still give a shit what John McCain says about anything? Didn't he make it pretty clear how far he'd fallen when he gave us Sarah Palin?

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Friday, March 28, 2014

A Man Of Integrity. Integrity, I Tell You

Lindsey Graham earned his Senate seat from his perch in the House by feigning sorrowful outrage at having been forced, forced I tell you, to prosecute President Clinton, chin fairly aquiver with the holiness of his mission and his deep love for his country, the honor of which was surely, surely I tell you, at stake in this matter that gave him a heart heavy as a bale of South Carolina cotton. He's better than you. He's better than me. He's better than all of us. And it saddens him to say it.

A member of the party of family values and Christian goodness, he's stepped up once again, riding on the righteous wings of money floated to him from casino-magnate and bankroller of the rightest people in our country, Sheldon Adelson. Why, it's only just and honorable to ban online gambling, right? Wouldn't have a thing, not a thing I tell you, to do with Shell-out Shelly, who stands to make more of his many millions. I mean, the fact that his people wrote the damn bill that Lindsey "I so love our country that it just pains me no end to take his money" Graham just introduced is merely a red-blooded America-loving freedom of the people from our bad bad government coincidence. Right?

Because Lindsey Graham would be pained in his ambiguously oriented heart if it were anything else. Pained, I tell you.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014


CPP tells us:

Forty-six years ago this week, elements of the American armed forces entered the village of My Lai 4 in Vietnam and systematically slaughtered 504 civilians in a deliberate war crime. The only reason the death toll wasn't higher was because some American heroes,  including Hugh Thompson and Larry Colborn, placed themselves between another group of civilians and the marauding Americans. 
Now, we discover, thanks to the 60 Minutes group, that, once again proving to be history's yard waste, Richard Nixon decided to ratfk Thompson and Colborn for his own cheap political purposes, and he set his button man, H.R. Haldeman to do it. 
The documents, mostly hand-written notes from Nixon's meetings with his chief of staff H.R. "Bob" Haldeman, lead some historians to conclude that President Richard Nixon was behind the attempt to sabotage the My Lai court-martial trials and cover up what was becoming a public-relations disaster for his administration... 
And yet, he was "rehabilitated," his considered a worthy opinion in his later years. Not unlike Newt Gingrich, Oliver North, Tom Delay, William Krystol, either overt criminals or constantly wrong. Or both. While the bodies of the victims are still warm, right wing media can't get enough of Dick Cheney, liar and undeniable war criminal, nor in any way denigrate W, his right hand man. Donald "Six days, six weeks, not six months" Rumsfeld is still given rehab time, stealing oxygen from the rest of us.

It would appear that there's no crime, no damage done, no distance traveled beyond what was once considered respectable conservatism, that disqualifies one from hero-worship and opinion-seeking in the cesspits of right-wing media, the halls of Congress, the gathering of crackpots known as CPAC.

Kinda depressing, really.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Heading Over The Edge

If it isn't already obvious to everyone, here's more evidence that what's really going on with a large swath of the charter school movement -- the publicly funded charter school movement! -- is the dumbing down of education by those who claim the opposite. Namely, the replacement of science with bible studies:
Taxpayers in 14 states will bankroll nearly $1 billion this year in tuition for private schools, including hundreds of religious schools that teach Earth is less than 10,000 years old, Adam and Eve strolled the garden with dinosaurs, and much of modern biology, geology and cosmology is a web of lies. Now a major push to expand these voucher  programs is under way from Alaska to New York, a development that seems certain to sharply increase the investment...
We've become inured to the steady erosion of the wall between church and state; as more and more right-wing Christians rend their garments and wear sackcloth in town squares, wailing of their persecution far and wide, they are, in fact, simultaneously succeeding in their real goal, from which this disingenuous crying is deliberate distraction. While the courts, so far, seem to be ignoring or forgetting what they've said before, time and again, we come ever closer to undisguised theocracy.
... Decades of litigation have established that public schools cannot teach creationism or intelligent design. But private schools receiving public subsidies can — and do. A POLITICO review of hundreds of pages of course outlines, textbooks and school websites found that many of these faith-based schools go beyond teaching the biblical story of the six days of creation as literal fact. Their course materials nurture disdain of the secular world, distrust of momentous discoveries and hostility toward mainstream scientists. They often distort basic facts about the scientific method — teaching, for instance, that theories such as evolution are by definition highly speculative because they haven’t been elevated to the status of “scientific law.” ...

How can one not despair for our country? On what basis is there reason to feel optimistic about our future? Increasingly, as the world becomes more complex, our problems more difficult, people -- in the exceptional USA USA USA, anyway -- are checking out. Turning to magic, to wishful thinking, to pre-failed solutions, ignorance, and pretending it'll all go away. To rationalizations for selfishness and short-sightedness. 

These are, indeed, the end-times. Brought on not by gay rights or food stamps. Brought on by the willful ignorance of those who so conclusively misread all the signs, and call it by all the wrong names.

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Cosmic Conjob

Entire cartoon here.

Perchance To Dream

Surgical residencies have been significantly affected by the recently reduced work-hour requirements. People are finishing with inadequate training, and, realizing that, many are seeking subspecialty fellowships before loosing themselves upon the unsuspecting public. And directors of those fellowship programs are commenting that people entering them are disturbingly unskilled, unready to operate unsupervised. Not all of those, one notes, go into fellowships. Some go into you.

Back in my day (he said, like a typical old guy who grows nose hairs nearly as fast as he kills off brain cells) we had essentially no limitations on hours worked. On my easy rotations, I had every other night away from the hospital, although the time out was rarely more than about eight hours. On the harder ones, it was every other weekend off, usually starting mid afternoon Saturday and ending around 5 am Monday. As chief resident on the trauma service I had one short night out of the hospital in two months.

It's not as if I liked working that hard (although there were times I absolutely loved it); but I always believed, because, I'm pretty sure, it was true, that it was what was necessary to become a well-trained surgeon, one who could legitimately ask people to trust him with their lives. The rules changed, I remind the reader, after an incident in NYC a few years ago wherein a young woman died after arrival in an emergency department, and the review concluded (falsely, as it turned out, too late to matter) that the poor care she received was due to lack of sleep by the resident who first saw her.

In that context, I found this recent report interesting (I can't link to it because it's behind a log-in-required wall):

... Does loss of sleep from unscheduled nocturnal surgery have a negative impact on subsequent daytime elective laparoscopic cholecystectomy? The authors used Canadian administrative data to compare the outcome in 2078 cholecystectomies performed by surgeons who operated the preceding night vs 8312 cholecystectomies performed by surgeons with no immediately antecedent nocturnal surgery. The patient characteristics of the 2 groups were nearly identical. The results after cholecystectomy were similar in the 2 groups: the relative risk for conversion to an open procedure was 1.18 (P = .33), iatrogenic injuries were insignificantly lower in the nocturnal surgery group, and overall mortality was low and similar in the 2 groups...
I've thought about this subject a lot. Looking back, I've always believed that lack of sleep never affected my judgement or technical abilities during those training years. The main reason, assuming it's true, is that I was young. In those days, when called from sleep I'd be wide awake and functioning instantly. When I could grab a couple of hours of sleep, I fell asleep right away.

Funny thing is, it was after I was in practice, getting older, that I began to take longer to crank up my brain when the phone rang at two a.m. If I took a call and didn't have to get up, I'd often lie awake, sometimes needed to call back to correct something I'd said. To me, that was scary, and eventually was a factor in my early retirement: although it never happened, I started to worry that I'd talk myself out of the need to come in at 3 a.m. and that disaster would result.

I still think the work-hour restrictions were based on bad evidence, and are but one more example of widely-applied rules imposed based on a single incident, the consequences of which are much worse than the problem being addressed.

He says, reaching for the ear-hair trimmer.

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Friday, March 21, 2014

Ryan Hits The Road

Entire cartoon here.

Sanction Very Much

I've mentioned once or twice that I'm no economist, so I can't really judge this. But while neocons wail and rail about Obama's weakness and how we really need to toss some bombs, somewhere, on someone, kill a few people and send troops some damn where before Putin waves his dick again, it would seem that the economic sanctions Obama has just announced are hardly nothing:

More from the linked article:

President Obama took new steps Thursday to intensify the economic isolation of Russia following its “illegal” annexation of Crimea, which could have a “significant impact on the Russian economy,” the president said. Speaking from the White House on Thursday, Obama said the U.S. will move “to impose sanctions not just on individuals but on key sectors of the Russian economy.” Senior White House officials say the sanctions will apply to 20 senior members of the Russian government and other “cronies.” They will also apply to St. Petersburg-based Rossiya Bank, which will be “frozen out of the dollar,” making it difficult for the institution to operate internationally. 
The sanctions will target Russia’s financial services, energy, mining, and engineering sectors, officials said Thursday.
If you don't make a bunch of people bleed or, better, die, you're not really serious, say such right-wing but never-right intellects as John "We're all whoever now" McCain, Lindsey "I'm sincere and I'm tough" Graham, Sarah "Sarah Palin" Palin, and every well-couched never-served pundit in Rushohannityland.

Today's Republican icons simply don't understand subtle. Nor can they seem to remember further back that their last press appearance (although, since they regularly contradict themselves, that's probably too long an interval). To them, foreign policy is a one-note deal: push people around. And everything bad that happens in the world is Obama's fault.

Must be nice to be so certain, all the time.

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