Cutting Through The Crap

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Paul Ryan Defends God



Many, including the President (and this guy), have said, in reaction to reactions to gun violence, especially mass murders, that "thoughts and prayers" aren't enough. Now Speaker (really should be with a small "s") Paul Ryan has had a thing or two to say about that little bit of common sense:

This week, Congress’ leading Republican offered his response to the argument. The New York Daily News reported: 
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Thursday blasted critics who say prayer isn’t an adequate response to mass shootings and defended his rifle-loving party’s do-nothing approach to gun violence.“The attitude in some quarters these days is, ‘Don’t just pray; do something about it,”’ Ryan said at the annual National Prayer Breakfast. “The thing is, when you are praying, you are doing something about it. You are revealing the presence of God.” 
Yep. Good job everyone. Drinks are on me.
As part of the same set of remarks, but outside of the context of gun violence, the Wisconsin congressman added, “It says a lot about our country that people of both parties – and all faiths – will drop everything and pray for their fellow Americans. What it says is, we believe in the dignity of the individual. And that is why prayer should always come first.” 
As for mass shootings, the GOP leader did not elaborate on what should always come second.

Really? No suggestions for real-world action? Are we surprised? Because that, I guess, would be an affront to God.

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Friday, February 5, 2016

Salad Words


Given the wide range of choices, it's hard to put them in order; but at or very near the top of the list of outrages today's teabagging Rs attribute to President Obama is the idea that he's been "divisive." It becomes clear that the word, to right-wing screamers, means "saying and doing stuff we don't like. Calling out lies and deceptions. Pointing out consequences. Daring to discuss the stuff we'd prefer to keep under the rug. Like racism. Telling us things we don't want to hear." Ted Cruz, Donald Trump? Not divisive. Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter? Butter wouldn't melt. Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity? Alex Jones? Paragons of inclusiveness. And that emerging hope of "the establishment?" Yeah, how about him?

Marco Rubio's predictable, swift, nasty, and ignorant response to Obama's speech at a mosque showcases perfectly the idiocy of the charge. Watch the president's speech, and find the "pitting of people against one another" to which young Marco refers, in horror. Let me know where it is. Ask yourself which party is pitching Islamophobia. Deny that there've been countless acts against Muslims in the US, or that it's being rhetorically encouraged by the top R candidates.

Today's Republican party (and, yet again, let me emphasize the fact that I say "today's," because it wasn't always so) has made ignoring reality central to its march toward plutocracy. (The theocracy grift, most likely, is less of a goal than a means to the end. And by "end" I mean pretty much the end of everything. And who better to get to ignore the real agenda than people whose religious paranoia goes to eleven, eclipsing all other issues.) That's the case whether it's climate change, science in general, racism, income inequality, public education, energy, and so much more. Because addressing those pressing problems is inimical to the creation of their oligarchical plutocracy. Distractions from what's really important: succoring their wealthy controllers, suckering everyone else.

Imagine a picnic, people drinking beer, having a grand old time, while gulping down potato salad that's been sitting in the sun for two days, getting that greenish sheen. Someone walks by (maybe, you know, someone who knows these things), has a look, and says, Hey people, you better stop eating that salad; it's gonna make you sick. It could even kill you. People look up from the table, pissed, and say, Go away, asshole. You're ruining our picnic. And you're being divisive.

And that's exactly what's going on.

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Stakes



I'll admit I have significantly less enthusiasm for Bernie and Hillary than I did for Barack Obama; were either of them to win the presidency, I'm certain there'd be no tears in my eyes on election night the way there were when Obama won. But I'd unreservedly vote for either of them over any of the R candidates. The stakes are simply too high. As Charlie Pierce points out, the water debacle in Flint is the perfect example of why that is; far as I'm concerned, whoever wins the nomination should harp on it nonstop. And connect it, in terms of what would happen were all three branches to go R, to everything else that matters: climate, environment, health care, and on and on.

Every election is claimed to be the one where the very survival of the country is on the line. This time, though, I think it's really true. We've seen the "agenda" of the current R party; that every single one of their prospective nominees (Kasich who has zero chance, excepted maybe) is a flat-out liar says most of what we need to know. Beyond that, imagine where we're headed if climate change is ignored, if income inequality gets any worse, if environmental regulations are removed, if gay rights and women's are rescinded, if Muslims are broad-brush demonized, if the US becomes an overtly Christian nation of the type promoted by Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio (the type that justifies selfishness and hatred, which is a kind it's hard to recognize but there it is), if public education is allowed to wither, if science becomes something to ignore entirely. If voting rights continue to be denied to certain groups of citizens.

Flint. That's the wormhole through which we can see the future. Says Charlie:

As part of the deal that was wrangled out of the Democratic National Committee, there will be more debates, and one of them will be in Flint, Michigan. So here's my tip for the two candidates, and for all their followers currently engaged on Twitter in the Battle of Antietam: 
Knock that shit off for one night. 
The only issues to be debated in Flint involve the failure at all levels of Republican (and conservative) government, and the destruction of the political commonwealth by the same. Just take turns pointing that out for a couple of hours and you may not have to worry about who you're running against. Also, if you can have a big pitcher of lovely yellow water on your podiums for the camera, that would be nice, too...

Seriously. Today's Republican Party, what's left of it, has gone nuts. They're nothing but a bunch of ideological mongers of selfishness and victimhood. And shoot-first war. If they take over, kiss our kids' future goodbye. Well, unless you're one of their oligarchical sponsors. Then you can build a little higher, filter the air a little longer, build your own hospital, and outlast the rest of us. By a few years.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

What Gingrichorovism Hath Wrought



My latest newspaper column:
Pop. Sploosh. That sound you DON’T hear is exploding heads of Trump supporters. After decades of purposeful preparation, holding incompatible thoughts has become stress-free, making it effortless to reconcile their love for him with his attacks on their most sanctified source of “news.” If nothing else, the audation of The Donald reveals the cynicism – and undeniable success! – of plans hatched well before the ascendency of Newt Gingrich, furthered by right wing radio and, ironically, perfected by Fox “news.” Decades past, Republican leaders concocted a brilliant way to produce voters who’d elect representatives ready to enact their dream of unregulated plutocracy: distract them with objects of anger, fear, and resentment. Play to religious paranoia. Devalue education and expertise. Bankrolled by the Koch brothers, up sprang the Tea Party as the vehicle for getting there, and now, like Dr. Frankenstein, the power-mad geniuses must contend with their uncontrollable creation. Trump and Cruz, the concepti of Gingrichorovian impregnation of the party, have turned to patricide. To a cynic like me, the rarity of such karmic poetry makes it all the more satisfying. 
But if it’s entertaining, it’s also scary. Whatever else is true of those two vainglorious demagogues, they’re nothing like the thoughtful conservative counterbalance a functioning democracy requires. Neither are their indiscriminately angry adherents. Trump is a thin-skinned egotist given to childish insults and substance-free declarations, having only shallow political ideas like building a wall (illegal immigration has dropped dramatically on Obama’s watch) and banning Muslims. Cruz is an incendiary Bible-thumping claimer of, as his daddy just confirmed, Christ-like martyrdom, which somehow excuses his fabrications from the Mount. Caught being untruthful, Democratic candidates try to wiggle. Republicans high-five. 
When I’m not shaking my head in despair, I chuckle over the heartburn Trump is causing Republican Party leaders; at Cruz and his self-righteous religious zeal, I shudder. He’s Elmer Gantry, suffused with Torquemada and Jim Jones. Now that he’s the front-runner out of Iowa, let’s hope he’ll go the way of prior winners there, Huckabee and Bachmann. 
Speaking of laughing while cringing, how about the wildlife at Malheur? I don’t know if the FBI had guidance from the White House, but it seems pretty Obama-like to have refrained from rushing in with guns blazing, waiting instead for the militiamen to become laughing stock over their own ineptitude. (Not that ISIS is as incompetent as they are, or that solving the Middle East is comparable to shutting down a bunch of self-absorbed misunderstanders of the Constitution; the Iraq war inflamed that part of the world for generations. But the initial restraint is familiar.) It was worth the frustration of seeing those guys do their dance without any evident pushback, ultimately to witness their quick capitulation in the face of what appears to be a well-planned trap. I’m sorry for the man who lost his life, no matter his stated intentions. With their hoped-for martyr, the militia movement will live on. Their misdirected fury is as much a part of the fabric woven by the aforementioned right-wing manipulators as are Trump and Cruz and those citizens in their thrall. 
Absent compelling alternatives, “establishment” Republicans seem to be counting on the resurrection of Marco Rubio, who so far hasn’t figured out which persona to inhabit: standard issue religious regressive and political prevaricator, or the hoped-for new voice. Handsome, young, a facile speaker, he seems unable or afraid to try anything but time-tested boilerplate flogging of resentment. Obama has done “incredible damage” to the US, he declared on Fox “news” the other day, to no request for specification. If that isn’t stooping to conquer, what is? And what is this disaster of which he speaks? Employment? Medicaid? The auto industry? Budget deficits, the stock market, energy dependence, gas prices? Corporate profits, the Koch brothers’ wealth? Or is it the carnage in the Middle East uncorked by his predecessor and still confounding containment? Because that, at least, is true. Rubio, though, and Trump, and Cruz and all the other Republican candidates have assured us that they’ll fix it right up, by sending in more troops and pounding the hell out of the region. 
History tells us something about that but I seem to have forgotten what it is.  
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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Fears For Tears



My latest newspaper column:
I keep trying to write something other than rants about Republican politics, but I can’t. It’s simply too important to point out the dangers of their science denial, their attacks on public education, their clinging to destructive economic policy, their preference for war and fear-mongering, rejection of compromise, desire for theocracy. Abandoning any claim to understanding democracy, much less supporting it, that party has turned to presidential candidates who prefer totalitarian bluster and lies to democracy and truth. Actual conservatism, all but dead now, had ideas that kept a toe grounded in reality; and they recognized our history. Who, for example, would argue for government bigger than it needs to be? Who, for another, would deny that our Constitution was founded on compromise, presumes public civility, and rejects the idea of oligarchy? 
But in their reflexive reactions to everything our president says or doesn’t say, does or doesn’t do, today’s right-wingers have left that all behind. I keep thinking, as yet another line is crossed, that their followers would have enough of it. That at some point followers of Fox “news” and the other conspiracy mongers of the airways would say, okay, that’s beyond the pale. Like they did, say, with the Dixie Chicks and their comparatively mild rebuke of that other president. 
Consider those right-wing screamers’ reactions to President Obama’s announcement that he’ll be strengthening enforcement of existing gun laws. You know, the thing they’ve always demanded in response to calls for more laws: enforce the ones we have. Except when Barack Hussein Obama says it; then, it’s tyrannical tyranny by a tyrannizing tyrant. And when his plans include spending on mental health care, because, as the NRA tells us, mass murders are about that, not guns, it’s economic wastefulness. And now, despite demanding it for years, they’re even angry at how hostages in Iran got released. In their view, unless we get everything we want by dint of bombs and blood, we’re weak. Losers. Yes, say their followers. It’s only war and braggadocio that make us great. 
About those gun-related executive orders, Charles Krauthammer opined “Obama’s not asleep at the wheel, he’s not at the wheel at all.” Good one, right? But consider this: the man he’s derided as a despotic dictator, when he acknowledges there’s only so much he can do without Congress, is criticized, with a straight face, by Dr K for staying within the law. Alex Jones, of course, saw it differently: the president’s actions will lead to rounding up gun owners and putting them in camps the way Nazis did Jews. Yes, he said it. No doubt his followers believe it, because that’s what passes for policy disagreement nowadays. Even moralistic Rand Paul has turned to Jones for advice. Simply amazing. 
That’s just the sideshow, though, predictable as voting to repeal Obamacare without offering alternatives. The real tell is in their claims that President Obama faked tears as he spoke of children who’ve died from gun violence. Because in their universe, only fetus-Americans deserve tears. Outside the womb, the young are on their own. Empathy and concern for children, deep enough to bring tears to a president who’s had to meet repeatedly with the families of murdered kids, can only be fake. No matter how much you disagree with President Obama, who can defend that level of mendacity and hatefulness? If it’s not enough to make Foxophiles change the channel, what is? 
What does it say about their view of voters that candidates think the path to credibility consists in saying to the president, as Chris Christie did, “We’re gonna kick your butt out of the White House.” Marco Rubio says he bought a gun for protection against ISIS. Does a majority of Republicans think that way? Is that what’s required to win conservatives’ votes nowadays? If so, what hope is there? If not, why their silence? 
Here’s a thought: imagine rational people hearing the words President Obama spoke in his final State of the Union address without knowing the speaker. Which would they find consistent with a person who, as the screamers claim, hates America, who’s deliberately made us weak? At what point will today’s Republicans demand respectful dialogue from their preferred leaders?  
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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A More Perfect Union: Formed At Last


So Sarah Palin has thrown her considerable weight, backed by her reputation for to commitment to informing herself as deeply as possible on the most complex issues of our time, behind the only other person in modern-day politics with a similar reputation. Depth. Curiosity. Profundity. I can only be speaking of Donald Trump; he, of the most wide-ranging knowledge of our most important problems, and of the most all-encompassing and thoughtful solutions. Or, as Andy Borowitz has put it:

DES MOINES, Iowa —An endorsement from former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is expected to widen Donald J. Trump’s already impressive lead among so-called “idiot voters,” an aide to the billionaire said on Tuesday. 
While Trump was previously thought to have a lock on the idiot vote heading into the Iowa caucuses, a recent surge by Senator Ted Cruz, of Texas, has put the idiots back in play. 
Cruz has worked tirelessly in recent weeks to tailor his message to undecided idiots, even revamping his stump speech to rid it of two-syllable words. 
“That’s why Palin supporting Trump and not Cruz is such a win for us,” the Trump aide said. “She’s been out of politics for awhile, but she still has idiot cred.”...
That anyone still listens to Sarah Palin on any subject (abstinence? family values?) strains understanding to the limits of natural law. OTOH it's entirely unsurprising that she'd be supporting Donald Trump, whose approach to policy is indistinguishable from hers: superficial, sound-bite-based, lazy, attention-hungry. And his Trumpeting of her support is perfectly consistent with his willingness to pander to the basest of the base.

Of course anyone who considers Sarah Palin a hero would feel the same about Trump. What's entirely inexplicable, though, is how easily he's sucked in Evangelicals. His claims to religiosity are as transparently phony as Palin's to reading.

Can they go any lower? Hard to imagine. But this is America, where anything's possible, right?

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Saturday, January 16, 2016

Militias. Yeah, Right.



There are so many good writers out there who say the things I've said, or want to say, so much better than me. Jim Wright is one of them, and this article should be read in its entirety; for the history, for the writing, and for the truth of it. Those delusional buffoons currently occupying Malhuer Wildlife Refuge, and those who defend them and/or aspire to be them, are the furthest thing from patriots:

... Those men, those men who led the Continental Army and fought for our freedom, those men knew exactly what they were doing when they included the words “well-regulated militia” in the Second Amendment.And they for damned sure weren’t talking about giving Americans the right to shoot down their own government – because those Founders were the government.
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There are few things professional soldiers despise more than some fake wannabe warrior.
Professional military personnel look upon militias and paramilitaries the same way cops regard amateur security guards.
And for good reason.
Irregular militias, paramilitaries, are worse than useless when it comes to defense of a nation. Literally worse than useless. They are untrained, undisciplined, undependable, and too often belligerently unaware of their own pitiful state. They take up resources and risk the security of real soldiers. Irregular militias are often indistinguishable from an armed mob. Like those currently occupying Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, militias are almost always composed of misfits and rejects, wannabe soldiers and pretend Marines puffed up with stolen valor, disaffected braggarts, belligerent drunkards, criminals, the dangerously mentally ill, conspiracy theorists, and angry losers of every stripe.
...
 
They’re in it for themselves and only for themselves and make no mistake about it.
These are Sovereign Citizens – an oxymoron if ever there was one. These are people who have declared themselves a nation unto themselves and have rejected the obligations of civilization. They are citizens of nothing, an army of one, defenders of mob rule and rights by force. 
They believe freedom comes at the muzzle of a gun and only at the muzzle of a gun, and they believe in their freedom not yours.
They literally believe a gun gives them the right to do anything they want...

As I said, it's worth a comparatively (these days) long read. It won't, of course, be read by those who need it most.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Hold Onto Your Seats


It's an amusing -- and informative -- part of any State of the Union Address, watching which party's people stand, or don't, for what statements. In the case of last night's episode, I only wish the president had spent some time pointing it out, because it's such a clear demonstration of what the Republican Party has been during his presidency, and of what will happen were the next president to be one of them. So here's a partial list of those things that kept Rs glued to their seats:

  • Nearly 15 million new jobs and the unemployment rate being cut in half.
  • Equality for all Americans.
  • Cutting pollution levels.
  • A good education for our children.
  • Fighting terrorism.
  • The idea that America is the strongest nation on earth.
  • Avoiding war.
  • Making it easier to vote.
And—drumroll, please—saving the best for last …
  • Curing cancer! 
And think about this: if the president's speech were somehow given anonymously, with listeners not knowing who spoke the words, which would they find objectionable, and why?

[Image from the linked article]

Friday, January 8, 2016

Potted?


The estimable Charlie Pierce went to a Trump rally and wrote about it. The usual buttons were pushed, the proclamations of Trump's brilliance, the lack of actual policy: it was all there. But one thing CPP wrote hadn't occurred to me before: is the regular appearance and removal of protestors part of the performance? Will we someday find out they're plants?
... The crowds are edged with a startling amount of security, both public and private. There were cops from several towns on duty in Lowell, and a remarkable number of people in suits, wearing earplugs, but not wearing any Secret Service insignia. By my count, the event was interrupted five times by protesters. The protesters were curiously able to infiltrate the tight security, and their conspicuous removal became an integral part of the show. Their expulsion never failed to give He, Trump another rhetorical launching pad for some of the high-flown, winking contempt he shares for the Other with his crowd. It is what binds them to each other. "Get them out," he says, and everybody cheers...
It'd be perfect, wouldn't it? He's already bamboozled his followers with complete egotistical bullshit, lying prolifically, rambling about his own greatness, producing "policy" an inch wide and an inch deep. They love it. It's pretty much like pro-wrestling; so why not bring in the fake villains, too?

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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Of Boomers And Bundys


My latest newspaper column:
Well, knock me down and call me Cliven: a bunch of patriotic ammosexuals have battled past uncaged sage grouse and stormed an empty building in Oregon, protesting the jailing of arsonists. Because if we can’t burn stuff wherever we want, what’s next? Stop signs at intersections? My suggestion: fence the building off, invite as many others of the Bundiose as want in, turn off electricity and water and ignore them. Then, when the Viagra runs out, lock ‘em up. Criminals and seditious (if borderline comical) terrorists, they deserve nothing less. (The press calls them “peaceful.” Imagine the terminology had it been Black Lives Matter or “Occupy.” Or Muslim-Americans.) 
I’ll guess those people, assuming they claim any belief in democracy (clearly, they don’t understand it), are supporters of Trump or Cruz. Each bases his campaign on grievance and resentment, haranguing about non-existent tyranny, loss of liberty, impending takeover by roving gangs of atheist Muslim ISIS immigrants. Freedom, they warn, is threatened everywhere, starting with penalties for illegally grazing or conflagrating on government lands, leading directly to rounding up Christians and poking them with Sharia sticks. 
So those tough guys who, in their minds, would have fought their way across beaches of WWII and through jungles of Vietnam (having mostly found it inconvenient to join the current military), grabbed up their long guns and bandoliers, braved a wintering wildlife preserve and a building on holiday, to defend America by breaking its most fundamental citizen compact. 
Maybe by the time this column is published we’ll have heard from Trump and Cruz; I predict they won’t outright condemn such lawlessness. They’ll blame it on Obama, sad that such actions have become necessary, as we peer from our barricaded homes to see true Americans marched off in chains, mules pulling wagons because gas is illegal, shards of former greatness falling from the skies like WKRP turkeys, while praise for turgid “militiamen” blares from every right-wing radio station and from Rupert’s and Roger’s propaganda central. 
These are intractably delusional, selfish people whose real problem is that democracy is the opposite of selfish. Depending on a shared sense of common goals, it recognizes that a society made of people unwilling to compromise turns to totalitarianism. For America, lasting freedom requires making the occasional sacrifice, accepting constraints that won’t appeal to everyone. Holding fire till the next election. And if that one doesn’t work out, till the next. Or the next. Recognizing that not getting everything one wants is the price of living in a republic as enduring and creative and resilient as ours. Given its rejection of such ideals, it’s amazing it took as long as it did for the present-day Republican Party to give itself over to totalitarian demagogues, while convincing its carefully blinded voters it’s really about defending freedom. 
Couch it, deny it, paint it with pretty words and trickle it down: today’s Republican party and those who claim allegiance to it (I aver, yet again, that I respect true conservatives and wish their remnants controlled the current party) are only about rationalizing selfishness and staggering short-sightedness. For what will be the inevitable result if our country turns entirely to the agenda of those would-be leaders? If the takeover in neighboring Oregon is the inevitable result of Trump’s and Cruz’ and Fox “news’” round-the-clock suborning of treason, it’s weak tea compared to the greater implications for us all. Because whatever else might be true about those melodramatic “patriots,” they’ve suffered nothing like the struggles of hopelessness and impoverishment faced by those fellow citizens of the government they so love to hate, whose numbers would increase exponentially were Republican priorities to overtake our country. 
What happens to kids growing up in poverty, who’ve been told they don’t matter, denied decent education, healthcare, jobs, and hope? From unwillingness on the part of the already-haves to provide a helping hand, they’ll have no options but failure or crime, costing way more than aid denied. If it’ll help, wetland warriors, consider social justice the ultimate form of selfishness. Then take your self-important fantasies and go home. 
Sorry: the Christmas truce is over. Seeing pus, a surgeon must drain it from the body politic.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The War On The War On Drugs


Pretty remarkable quote here from Nixon's ace henchman, John Fking Ehrlichman:
"The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar Left, and black people. You understand what I'm saying? We knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or black. But by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did."
Take all the time you need to digest it. I'm still choking on it.

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Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Grift That Keeps On Giving


Pushing theories of grain storage in The Great Pyramids notwithstanding, there's never been an obvious reason why Ben Carson is running for president, other than self-promotion and self-serving fundraising. His wacky statements on all manner of subjects have made me question his intelligence, but he's clearly smart enough to know a good grift when he sees one, and to count on the lack of intelligence of enough people to keep the money rolling in.

Huckabee is doing the same thing, of course, but, far as I know, he's not raising anywhere near Carson-level of cash. It's a whole new ballgame: candidacy as cash cow. Based on sheep.

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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Perspective


In these times of war, terrorism, climate change, impending plutocracy, and a Republican party gone mad, it's nice to know people retain perspective. This letter to the editor appeared in the local paper today, reprinted, other than the name of the writer, in its entirety:

Hi, we live out in the Monroe area. I would love to see a bowling alley out here in Monroe!
Just would be so wonderful!
Thank you for listening.
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The World According To Rove



I suppose I should be wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, but Karl Rove just left a turd blossom in the wassail bowl. (Or maybe we should see it as a gift to those able to retain humor in the face of idiocy.) Whatever. Rove has an editorial in the WSJ. It's behind a paywall, so I'm gonna take this article's word for it. Anyhow, here's the final line:

Because of his lack of vision, the mop-up operation his [Obama’s] successor will face is unlike any in living memory.
That leaves the world with no more gobs to be smacked. Really. But it's the perfect representation of today's R party, and of how they view their voters: nothing that's wrong with the world can't be blamed on Barack Obama, and George Bush never happened. Especially not two unpaid-for wars, at least one of which was disaster beyond measure; nor the tanking of the economy unseen since the G.D.

Second only to intelligence, memory in their voters is an enemy to be vanquished. And they've done a pretty good job of it. Reaganomics? Hell, yeah, it works. Voter fraud? Oh, yeah. Rampant. Public assistance? Clearly, nothing but cheaters. Invading countries and replacing governments by force? Works like a charm. Billionaires and oil companies running the country? Hey, look: there's a black guy in that white house.

But, why not: Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas Truce



My latest newspaper column, as published and slightly rearranged and annoted by the editor:

Today, on the cusp of Christmas, I can't find it in my bleeding heart to produce a typical rant, despite the need. After all, as I understood it in the mondegreen fields of my early youth, all I need to do to be jolly is to tis the season. So, tis I will.
Fa la la: when someone wishes me Happy Holidays, whether a store employee or otherwise, I take no offense. Same with Merry Christmas. I served in a war; I know something about what war looks like, and, folks, there ain't no war on Christmas. It's business as business: they get to decide their greetings, you get to decide yours. Let's all be happy about that.
Speaking of happy, for the last year and a half my wife and I have been enjoying a new kid on a block in Portland, our grandson, who, blessed with two fabulous parents and a passel of doting grandfolk, aunts and uncles, happens to be (no offense, but I remain committed to the truth) the cutest little guy there ever was. Since he became bipedal, he's a nonstop doer of very important stuff, all over the house. And, as I'd been hoping, he's becoming pals with the family dog, a predictably loveable chocolate Lab. Nothing makes me happier than our more or less monthly trips down I-5 to watch that family happen. A nephew is there, too, and they make for a tight group of good people. Not a hater or excluder among them. Happy, they are, to live their lives and let others live theirs. Notwithstanding the frightening popularity of Trump/Cruz style proto-totalitarian mongering of fear, hate, resentment and war, it gives me a little hope. And I'm happy to have been grandfathered into the era of video chatting, when we're not there.
Unhappily, that big storm blew the top half of our venerable cedar tree onto our house, punching several branches through the roof and into the living space, turning a glass door into shards as it blasted into the room, along with the frame within which it formerly stood. Launched it, really: it flew several feet before ending up where it did, me sitting one room away. Happily, our insurance company found a crew to remove the tree in a hurry, allowing me to board up the hole where the door used to be. Unlike Sarah Palin, I appreciate people with expertise in their jobs. (I don't include my hole-covering skills in that observation, although the guy at the lumber place who cut the plywood to my erroneous specifications was pretty cool, busy as he was the day after.)
We found it possible to live without power, TV, phone and Internet for three days. (Well, not entirely: I hit Starbucks a few times for coffee and Wi-Fi.) Going to bed when it gets dark has an upside, turns out. And it appears that with some science-based trimming the tree might survive. Pretty it might not be for a decade or two, but alive; which is a good thing because I think its roots encourage our bluff to stay where it belongs.
Our neighbors were concerned enough to check on us when it all went down. Having good neighbors makes for good feelings. One of them, an Everett cop, has enough goodness in him single-handedly to counter at least a dozen of the stories we've heard of bad police behavior around the country. It's a job I wouldn't want; I'm grateful there are those that do.
Now that we've had time to observe, let's recognize that same-sex weddings don't threaten our own marriages; let's recall our immigrant roots, and the ways people of all faiths, and of none, have made this country great, even teachers and scientists. And, living through the dark days of Northwest winters, let's rejoice in the knowledge that solar panels haven't sucked all the energy out of the sun! (The Independent: tinyurl.com/redstatescience)
So, Merry Christmas and well-seasoned greetings to all. May we manage, through our faiths or in spite of some versions of them, or simply by the empathy-derived golden rule, to let go of hate and fear of “the other,” if only until the new year.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Freedom To Show One's Idiocy



The nice thing about freedom of speech is that it allows us to know who the idiots are.
Seriously. You can disagree with President Obama on anything and everything. I do, on some things. But actually to believe that? It's beyond depressing. How easily do such people assimilate the bilious hate that's fed them every day! And, sure, call me a race-card-player: there's no way any of them would believe that kind of shit about a white guy. These are the people voting for Trump and, when Trump fades, for the even scarier and more holy Cruz.

And, if it need be said, those who are actually destroying the fabric of democracy are legislators in this guy's state and so many others, enacting voter ID laws to "combat" a non-existent issue of in-person voter fraud. And it's the S. Court, when it gutted the Voting Rights Act, and when it allowed unfettered purchasing of elections by billionaires. And, of course, it's the non-stop right-wing lies and distractions, convincing voters to look the other way, to blame Obama for nothing he's done to threaten democracy, and to be blind to those who have.

Again, and again: on what basis is there reason for hope for our political future?

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Monday, December 21, 2015

This Is What Happens...



This, I'd say is, at least in part, due to the concerted efforts of today's Republican leaders to demonize teachers, teachers' unions, and public education. Chris Christie and Scott Walker, among others, have touted their successes in breaking those unions. Virtually all of the R candidates have suggested teachers are overpaid.
A Washington survey shows that principals across the state are in “crisis mode” because of a shortage of substitute and full-time teachers. 
Yakima Herald reports that the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction found that 58 percent of elementary-school principals, 50 percent of middle-school principals and 45 percent of high-school principals say they’re in crisis trying to find substitutes. 
Some school administrators end up having to cover for classes for hours or even full days. In the state survey, 74 percent of principals reported personally doing so. Many school districts have bumped up substitute pay or hired emergency substitutes who aren’t fully qualified as a last resort.
I see this as yet another example of the long-term effects of short-sighted policies aimed, by teabagging Republicans, at the lowest common denominations of voters: whipping up resentment, finding scapegoats, dodging responsibility by suggesting that all our problems are due to spending tax money on unimportant things, like education or health care or food stamps, instead of on tax cuts for rich people and rich corporations, and on tanks.

What's more disturbing is the ease with which they're able to convince voters that they're right. But who cares, right? We got ours.

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Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Good And The Bad


As usual, and no doubt in part because it's easier to have substantive "debate" with three people than with ten, all of whom are playing to the lowest listener, the Democratic debate allowed for actual discussions of issues and policies. Bickering and over-talking were at a minimum if, sadly, not entirely absent.

They all pretty much agree with each other; the most salient point is that, were any of the R candidates to win the White House instead of any of them, it'd be a disaster for our country and for the world. I won't list the ways because, to people who read this, they're obvious. (Climate change was mentioned by the candidates as a pressing issue, but, weirdly, there were no questions directed to them about it.)

One thing stood out for me: when Martha Raddatz asked about the attack in San Bernardino and questioned what they'd do to prevent such things in the future, none of them said the obvious: There's no way. If this was truly a "lone-wolf" incident, and if, as it's now becoming known, they really left no indications on social media, etc, then how would it have been possible to prevent it? It's a big country. Guns are everywhere, and we'll never know, because Rs won't let it happen, if stricter rules would have prevented them from getting them from their neighbor.

I wish they'd said it. But we all know the reaction from the magical-thinking, chest-thumping mongerers of war and deportation of Muslims on the right would have said. And, no doubt, more than the 30% of Rs who agree we should bomb Aladdin's home town would have bought right in.

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