Cutting Through The Crap

Friday, May 22, 2015


So Rand Paul makes a point of filibustering (for ten hours! -- where have ye gone, Jimmy Stewart?) the renewal of NSA spy legislation. And, surprise, surprise!, he fundraises off it. With a "filibuster starter pack." Geez, the guy isn't even pretending to be sincere. Or hiding his contempt for voters.

Oh, man, it's gonna be a long year and a half.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Trading Punches

I really don't know yet what to think about the trade deal known as TPP, which President Obama strongly supports and which the left wing of the Democratic party opposes. But this article is worth a read, as it addresses many of the talking points.
... Start with the widespread but absurd claim that the TPP is being negotiated “in secret.” The TPP will be public before the U.S. Congress votes to approve it, so our citizens will have legislative review of this agreement. The only constraint is that Congress will have to vote “take it or leave it” rather than offering amendments... 
...What about the claim that the deal violates international sovereignty by creating a separate judicial review procedure? Well, it appears that progressives have forgotten their historic support for the United Nations, or the international criminal court at The Hague, or a whole host of other cross-border agreements. If an international agreement is going to mean anything, it has to come with a dispute resolution mechanism that necessarily gets some authority delegated to an international body... 
...First of all, opening our markets to developing countries helps the world’s poorest people. ... Global inequality has gone down dramatically over the past several decades as trade agreements have brought prosperity to more poor regions. 
Second, as formerly poor nations become more prosperous through trade, their citizens choose to invest in goods that make the world a better place. Country after country, including the United States, enacted environmental improvements and labor safeguards as they became more prosperous...
I admire Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. The fact that they're both against the deal gives me pause. But I also believe that, even though he's not as far left as many would like, President Obama has been trustworthy in things I care about.

As the article suggests, there's a lot of money coming from somewhere in the effort to stop the agreement. I guess it'd be good to know from whom, and why. Meanwhile, I think if I ever get around to making up my mind, it'll need to wait until the deal is there for all to see.

[Image source]

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


I discovered this post from a few months back. For some reason I never published it. Now that Bill's back in the news, I guess it's as good a time as any.


Doesn't like getting called out, much, does he?

"My unit." The one in his hand, I guess. What a jerk.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Mistakes Were Made

I started writing this for my newspaper column right after Jeb's multiple choice fiasco. Since many others have chimed in, and since my next column isn't due for a while, I'm posting it here. It's already gonna look like I'm late to the party.

Of course it was a mistake. In truth, “mistake” is the gentlest among many applicable words, but that simple question about invading Iraq trips up every Republican presidential candidate. Even with different framing, “knowing what we know now” versus the less hypothetical “was it a mistake,” they resort to nonsensical babbling. For obvious reasons. 
It’s not as if I don’t understand prospective uncertainty. Thinking a patient had appendicitis, for example, I’ve taken out a couple of normal ones; and no matter what the preoperative evidence had been, including an unequivocal radiologic diagnosis, it always made me feel bad. But having considered all possibilities, having done appropriate tests and explained that there’s no set of data based on which it’s possible to be 100% certain, I’ve not felt that my decision was a mistake. (In the days before more accurate imaging, we were taught that if we didn’t have a 15% normal appendix rate, we weren’t operating enough, risking perforation.)  
In fact, no matter the operation in question, a decision to operate is always one of glorified odds-playing. Bad outcomes don’t always imply poor judgment or sloppy technique. But the act of taking another’s life in my hands was never something I took lightly; I owed my patients nothing less than gathering all the relevant data, interpreting it honestly and with only the patients’ best interest in mind. I was obliged to maintain my skills, and to be sure I knew the latest developments in research and technology. Still the possibility of complications was always present, and weighed heavily on every decision I made.

So, yes, I understand gray zones, and the impossibility of perfection. Which means I understand that in every way, on every level, in real time and in hindsight, the Iraq invasion was a mistake of monumental proportions, and, unlike the complications with which I dealt in my career, there may be no healing from it.
It’s telling that when Marco Rubio said, in response to what passes for “tough” questioning on Fox “news,” that the world is better off without Saddam Hussein, he wasn’t asked to enumerate the ways. Given the chaos in the region that has resulted, it’d have been clarifying. But that’s not even the most central point. The real point is that even if he ceded presidential decisions to Dick Cheney, George Bush had to have known the reasons he gave to justify the invasion were questionable. Mobile weapons labs. Yellowcake. Aluminum tubes. Reconstituted nuclear weapons program. Actual WMD.  
To every one of his claims there were, at the time, counterclaims from credible sources. And let’s remember inspectors were there, finding nothing. It’s hard to conjure a similar situation; but had I operated on someone when all the tests were equivocal and my diagnosis had been questioned to my face by experienced doctors, and if I didn’t find anything when I went in and if the patient got sick as hell as a result, I’d have spent the rest of my life in a courtroom. Not to mention in self-recrimination, a phenomenon lacking in every one of the war’s original cheerleaders. 
Think about it: Every prediction that preceded the invasion turned out to be wrong. Pay for itself. Greeted as liberators. Shiites and Sunni will kumbaya. The war will last a few weeks. Eric Shinseki was fired after rightly putting the number of troops required way higher than planners were claiming. Even if those claims were made in good faith, what does it say about Cheney and Bush that they chose such clueless advisors; not to mention the fact that they shut down those who disagreed? Clearly, to call the invasion a mistake is to be too mild. “What we know now” was, in fact, known then. It just didn’t comport with their unstoppable plan. I assume they figured the results would be so mission-accomplished flight-suit glorious, we’d excuse the falsehoods. 
For the next year and a half, we’ll be watching the parade of presidential pretenders threading the needle. Except for Lindsey Graham, who loves war more than (your) life itself. He’s just announced that if anyone even thinks of joining ISIS he’ll kill 'em with a drone. As to how he plans to read thoughts, who'll fly the drone, and where he’ll hide the Constitution, we await enlightenment.
[Image source]

Monday, May 18, 2015

I Wish

Sadly, the last panel has it wrong: in several states, Rs are doing everything they can to keep non-Rs from voting. Or, via gerrymandering, to make sure their votes don't count.

The Man Who Would Be Kinky

My man Charles P Pierce has the best name for Lindsey Graham: "Huckleberry J. Butchmeup" is what he calls him. He's about to launch a presidential campaign from under his bed, where he'd like us all to be. He's the guy who said we need to stop ISIS before they come over here and "kill us all." His will be a campaign based wholly on fear. Oh, and tossing the Constitution further than you could throw that aluminum foil on his head if you yanked it away and balled it up:
"If I'm President of the United States and you're thinkin' about joining al-Qaeda or ISIL — anybody thinkin' about that? — I'm not going to call a judge, I'm going to call a drone and we will kill you," Graham said at the Iowa Republican Party's annual Lincoln Day Dinner fundraiser.
Let's consider that for a minute, okay tough guy? You're gonna kill someone for a thought, before any action, right? And how, one might wonder, will you obtain those thoughts? And who's gonna operate the drone?

Huckleberry thinks you'll be impressed by his macho. He thinks you're so afraid that you'll do anything, allow anything, including thought policing and preemptive murder without the benefit of that silly "innocent until proven guilty" thing, to stay safe. Huckleberry wants to scare the shit out of you and then, he figures, he can be king.

Tell me again why we should give any of these people as much as a single vote.

[Regarding the cartoon: yes, he really said that.]

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Latest Newspaper Column

Here's my latest offering, as published today in the local newspaper:

I’m thinking of Baltimore and recalling these words: “While no one condones looting, one can understand the pent-up feelings that may result from decades of repression and people who have had members of their family killed by that regime, for them to be taking their feelings out on that regime. 
So said Donald Rumsfeld, explaining the lawlessness that followed bringing peace, freedom, and democracy to Iraq. From the picture that’s emerging, there are parallels: decades of anger, frustration, and loss of hope stemming from repressive and uncaring actions by government officials. 
My neighbor is an Everett cop, best neighbor ever. I know others, too, and they’re uncommonly good people. Working in emergency rooms and trauma centers, I’ve seen how dedicated and professional most police are, and what a dangerous job it is. I’ve seen the lowest of society’s low, criminals committing horrifying acts, addicts coming back and back again. I’ve come to know how easy it is to become cynical, how hard to avoid stereotyping whole categories of people based on the behavior of some. And yet, as important as relations between police and citizens are, they’re results, not the cause of the problem. 
Reactions to Baltimore, and Ferguson, and New York, and on and on, shatter along predictable lines: Overzealous militarization; they were asking for it. Lack of family; lack of opportunity. Racism is no more; racism is obvious. To discuss is to politicize. Too much money spent; not enough. Without doubt, though, African Americans in many big cities have ample reason to distrust the police; and police have cause to assume the worst when in ghettoized neighborhoods. Yet whereas it’s important to demand accountability on both sides, it’s also a pundit-ready distraction from the harder work of finding solutions. I’m no thaumaturge, nor have I the wisdom to dissect the complexities and failures of policy and of humanity that brought America to this place; even in retrospect, who can say what might have been different had other approaches been tried? 
But here we are, awash in failures, blame aplenty, and something needs to change. If it’s possible – and given our current political dysfunction, I’m doubtful – it might take generations to get there, and we don’t do “future” any more. Today’s teenagers and young adults, already through the cracks, are probably lost to us. And it’s likely impossible to repair, in time, the broken communities into which babies are now being born. But if there’s not time to rescue their neighborhoods, maybe we can still help those children, and the ones they’ll have in another generation, avoid poverty and crime. Were we to narrow our thoughts precisely to that, maybe we’d think past the usual ideological barricades. I may have no answers, but I’m pretty sure which ones are certain to fail: it’s those being advocated by the party currently in charge of legislation around the land. 
The problem is too many families without fathers, they say, yet they want tougher laws and more incarceration for petty crimes. It’s people unwilling to work, they claim, and people abusing food stamps and unemployment; so they cut those programs while refusing to fund job creation and skill centers; they’d eliminate the minimum wage, making work more futile, keeping economy-stimulating cash out of people’s pockets, while increasing dependence on social programs. It’s babies being born out of wedlock, they preach, while demanding failure-proven abstinence-only education, and legislating to prevent access to birth control and abortion. Yet for those kids whose mothers “choose life,” they reject paying for preschool, childcare, nutrition aid, and healthcare. In whatever direction solutions may lie, it can’t be this. This will beget more kids delivered into hopelessness, while blocking all avenues out. It’s only by thinking, specifically and non-ideologically, of the children being born right now into broken neighborhoods, not pointing fingers but seeking the best way to help them avoid repeating the cycle, that we can hope to end it. Some say liberals failed in Baltimore because they invested in housing and not in humans. It rings true. Now what? 
How sad that for something so important and obvious we still need to decide between spending on this or on unneeded weapons systems and tax giveaways to those who already have it made.
[Image source]

Has The Line Been Crossed, Finally?

I keep hoping, and I keep writing, and maybe it's even faintly possible, that there will come a line beyond which even the Foxified won't follow the craziness that's become today's Republican party. Lo, and behold: one of their more starry-eyed (she loved her some Mitt) pundits seems to have hit her limit
... Dr. Ben Carson joins Mike Huckabee in refusing to accept that Supreme Court decisions, on gay marriage for example, are binding. ... Huckabee has said much the same thing. And to boot he’s hawked “nutritional supplements” as a cure to diabetes. ... So he’s both a constitutional and dietary charlatan. Either one should disqualify him. 
Then there is Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who cynically chooses to pander to the conspiracy-mongers who turning a military exercise primarily in Texas into a secret plan to impose martial law. ...  
... In less obvious ways, some presidential hopefuls also play on the ignorance and fear of the public. How many times has Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) falsely suggested the National Security Agency is listening to the content of millions of phone calls? Before reversing himself, he also gave support to the anti-vaccine hooey. ... 
... It is only when they are repeatedly and consistently called out that pols will stop fanning the flames of paranoia and ignorance. ... And worse, it also debases our political culture, hampers serious debate and further erodes self-governance itself.
Good for her. Will it make a difference? Is hers a lonely voice among so-called "conservatives," or might it be a precursor to a suggestion of a sign of the beginning of the start of a hint of the possibility of the onset of the inception of the dawning of a great-if-shockingly-late awakening? Has the insanity finally become blatant enough that even the carefully, intentionally, and willingly blinded are beginning to see it? Heck, even Laura Ingraham, among the screamiest of the screamers, recently found Jeb Bush to be too hard to take.

We can hope. We must hope; because if it's not true, we're doomed as a country, and possibly as a species. Let's note, however, that Ms. Rubin didn't include climate change denial or the perserverating belief in trickle-down economics among her complaints. Until we start hearing that, too, from the right, it's just so much hot (oh, it's not really hot) air.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Who We Were, And Would Yet Be

This is a pretty chilling article-about-an-article about CIA torture in a "black site" in Thailand (except, of course, as George Bush told us back then, "The US doesn't torture.) And we may look forward to R candidates, lacking anything useful to offer on the home front (and when they're not ginning up resentment among Christians so that, per usual, they'll vote against their best interest) vying for the toughest of the tough-guy images, so that it may all start again.
... The CIA interrogators said that if Zubaydah died during questioning, his body would be cremated. And if he survived the ordeal, the interrogators wanted assurances that he would "remain in isolation and incommunicado for the remainder of his life." ... 
I mean, if the guy doesn't have the good grace to die while we're torturing him, then we should stash him away for life, because we have rendered him nothing more than evidence. He's the knife the killer washes off in the sink, the gun the stick-up kid throws in the river, the witness that has to die because he saw too much or knows too much. Commit the crime. Bury the evidence. These are not original thinkers there, in our intelligence community.
... Marco Rubio's alleged comeback is attributed to his tough-guy stance on the jihad menace, which Rubio summed up last weekend by quoting an action movie at a wingnut rodeo in South Carolina. Make no mistake. When they talk about this, it's about putting our national conscience back in cold storage again and returning American foreign policy to the control of the people who run the black cells, who torture people until they are little more than evidence, and then hope to hell they die.
And we've just learned, if Seymour Hersh is to be believed in his latest, torture had nothing to do with obtaining the information that led to finding bin Laden. On the other hand, the facts that torture is ineffective, diminishes us and those who do it, and pollutes the possibility of trial, will in no way lessen the lust for it on the part of today's "conservative" party and its leadership. 

There's no end to the awfulness of these people, and no amount of evidence that will open their eyes nor the ones of those who vote them into office. That time, when people thought seriously about difficult issues, when facts were considered important and expertise admirable, is as long gone as Dick Cheney's original heart.

[Image source]

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Read It And Weep

This is the party that seeks total control of government. The one that not only denies climate change and would bar even mentioning the term, but would prevent further study of it. 

Last week, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, headed by Texas Republican Lamar Smith, approved a bill that would slash at least three hundred million dollars from NASA’s earth-science budget. 
The vote brought howls of protest from NASA itself and from wider earth-science circles. The agency’s administrator, Charles Bolden, issued a statement saying that the bill “guts our Earth science program and threatens to set back generations worth of progress in better understanding our changing climate.” ... 
The vote on the NASA bill came just a week after the same House committee approved major funding cuts to the National Science Foundation’s geosciences program, as well as cuts to Department of Energy programs that support research into new energy sources. As Michael Hiltzik, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, noted, the committee is “living down to our worst expectations.”
Cutting NASA and the N.S.F.’s climate-science budgets isn’t going to alter the basic realities of climate change. No one needs an advanced degree to understand this. Indeed, the idea that ignoring a problem isn’t going to make it go away is one that kids should grasp by the time they’re six or seven. ... 
“It’s hard to believe that in order to serve an ideological agenda, the majority is willing to slash the science that helps us have a better understanding of our home planet,” Representative Johnson wrote. Hard to believe, but, unfortunately, true.
It simply has to be, hasn't it, that there's a point beyond which even today's Foxified Republican voters won't go? Shouldn't it be that a majority of Americans would look at this political joke of a party and say, finally, enough idiocy is enough? Or has selfishness and denialism become the norm? Are we seeing the permanent end of rationality in a once-great country?

Sort of looks like it. Because people like this getting enough votes from anywhere to put them and keep them in office ought to be impossible in the US of all places, where advances in science that changed the world were once routine; where innovation and invention were synonymous with our name.

Really? Does made-up and perfectly packaged fear of the Muslim Kenyan Nazi Socialist Commie ISIS-controlled terrorist Christianity-outlawing America-hater and his illegitimate occupation of the White House explain the ease with which whole swaths of the county have been bamboozled into voting against their and their kids' future? If so, I suppose we deserve what we're getting.

But our children and grandchildren sure as hell don't.

[Image source]


Monday, May 4, 2015

Gods' Will

[Image from somewhere on Facebook]

The Stinking Rose Of Texas

There is, it's well past undeniable, no bottom to the descent into insanity of todays Republican party:
...Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler) put forward an amendment that would make it illegal to terminate a pregnancy after 20 weeks, even if a fetus “has a severe and irreversible abnormality,” effectively forcing families with wanted, but unsustainable pregnancies to carry to term at the behest of the state and against the advice of their doctors or their own wishes. 
Schaefer said, during debate over his amendment, that suffering is “part of the human condition, since sin entered the world.”...
Yeah, that's it. Sin. Especially women. That'll teach 'em.

Even some Republican lawmakers opposed Schaefer’s proposal, casting it as a cruel and unnecessary intrusion into the lives of grieving Texans.
Schaefer’s amendment passed, briefly, before state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio) filed a legislative point of order that prompted the bill’s sponsor to pull down the entire piece of legislation for review.
Texans, many of them anyway, are all about secession. What's taking them so long?

If they go, let's hope they take Kansas with them.
Public schoolteachers in Kansas could be jailed for teaching "harmful material," and university professors would be banned from signing op-ed letters with their titles when writing about public officials, if two new bills become law...
Truly, we are a nation of idiots.

[Image source]

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Problem Solved

So in the "world's greatest deliberative body" there aren't the votes to pass a (meaningless) resolution that states the obvious:

WASHINGTON — The Senate rejected the scientific consensus that humans are causing climate change, days after NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared 2014 the hottest year ever recorded on Earth. 
The Republican-controlled Senate defeated a measure Wednesday stating that climate change is real and that human activity significantly contributes to it. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, offered the measure as the Senate debated the Keystone XL pipeline, which would tap the carbon-intensive oil sands in the Canadian province of Alberta. 
The Senate voted 50-49 on the measure, which required 60 votes in order to pass.
“Only in the halls of Congress is this a controversial piece of legislation,” Schatz said. 
The chairman of the environment committee, Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., is an enthusiastic denier of climate change, saying it is the “biggest hoax” perpetrated against mankind. 
“The hoax is there are some people so arrogant to think they are so powerful they can change the climate,” Inhofe said Wednesday on the Senate floor. “Man can’t change the climate.”...

If the resolution itself was meaningless, the implications of the vote on it aren't: 1) The United States is signing out of science. 2) The United States is electing idiots to run the country. 3) As long as Republicans control Congress, nothing much will be done to combat climate change, and 4) if they get the White House, it'll be nothing at all.

History, written by survivors of the human race or by aliens who've been waiting till the humans are gone, or by sea creatures or primates who evolve the small amount it'd take to be smarter than humans, will record with amazement what happened to what was -- yes, I agree it was -- the greatest and most innovative, the most brave and generous country that ever there was. When the world needed it the most, it checked out. When the problems humans had created had gotten so monumental that only hard and expensive solutions were available, the US said "We don't do hard, we don't do expensive. And, while we're at it, we don't do thoughtful and selfless concern for the next generation. We only do ignorance and conspiracy and rationalization for greed. We only do some perverse version of Jesus. And, ironically, we only do fk 'em."

And here's the thing: these guys always were and will always be idiots. It's obvious. So the blame and the shame go to those that, equally as selfish and unwilling to think beyond themselves, keep electing them. The teabaggers, the Foxified, the dittoheads, the paranoids, conspiracists, and the self-important religionists who use their religion to excuse hatred, bigotry, and ignorance in order to justify what amounts to no more than selfishness and fear of their own shadows.

To the extent that there's hope for a future, it depends on voters waking up. Given the well-financed, cynical, and highly effective efforts to keep them asleep, it seems pretty damned unlikely. Doesn't it?

[Image source]

Thursday, April 30, 2015


How much more insane can they get? The elected governor of Texas, no more crazy than any of them, has acted swiftly and with courage in response to clear evidence of an existential threat:

Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday asked the State Guard to monitor a U.S. military training exercise dubbed "Jade Helm 15" amid Internet-fueled suspicions that the war simulation is really a hostile military takeover. The request comes a day after more than 200 people packed a meeting in rural Bastrop County and questioned a U.S. Army commander about whether the government was planning to confiscate guns or implement martial law...
Can we, finally and forever, stop with the "both sides do it" bullshit? Today's R party is insane. There's no equivalent to this embarrassing idiocy on the left. It's beyond shameful, beyond unbelievable. It's the living, breathing, frothing-at-the-mouth proof that one party, the party currently in control of Congress and trying like hell to get the White House, is ruled by people wholly detached from reality. It should make anyone question anything said by anyone in that party about any subject or person. Period.

The United States of America, once a leader in thought, innovation, science, education, invention; on its way to becoming a laughing stock at best and a disaster in fact. And there are enough of these people effectively to thwart the best efforts of the one remaining half-way sane party to prevent it.

It's appalling. It really, really is. On what basis can one hold onto hope?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Newspaper Columny

Here's my latest in the local paper, as of this morning:

Republicans in Congress just voted to repeal the estate tax, and it’s perfect. By which I mean it’s the perfect demonstration of the mystifying current state of political affairs, a master class in what’s happening at all levels of right-wing “governance” today. Let’s start with some facts ( the estates of married couples that are subject to the tax are those valued at more than about eleven million dollars. Second, the tax – currently 40% -- is applied only to money above that level; in other words, the tax on an estate worth about eleven million one hundred dollars would be forty bucks. Because of that, and various loopholes, the average overall rate ends up around 17%. Third, estates of that amount account for two-tenths of one percent of all estates. In 2013, about twenty small businesses and family farms paid estate taxes. The total number of families paying estate taxes is just over five thousand. Using the ten-year metric by which tax policies are measured, eliminating the tax adds over 300 billion dollars to deficits, including interest on the debt. 
Whatever side of the political divide you’re on, you can’t disagree that elimination of the estate tax is of benefit to none but the very most wealthy; nor can it escape notice that among that group are those who contribute astonishing amounts of money to various political candidates. Since Citizens United, we’re informed we needn’t know the exact amounts, nor even the sources of the cash; but if anyone thinks it doesn’t lead to quids pro quo, they’re off-planet. Or they’re Anthony Kennedy. 
As usual, despite their claims to fiscal high ground, Republican Congressfolk proposed nothing to make up for the hit to budgetary balance. But we all know from where it’d come, were the bill to make it into law (which it won’t, as long as there’s a Democratic president): It’ll come from services to the rest of us. Which is exactly the point. Average people elected these guys. The people most hurt, every time and everywhere this trickle-down fantasy has been implemented, are the ones serially selecting the brokers of bogosity. How can this be explained? 
Well, for one thing, Republicans and their media mouthpieces managed to rebrand the estate tax as the “death tax.” Brilliant. Because if most of us will never get within miles of that kind of money, we’ll all die. So we can relate. Clearly, Republicans are infinitely more effective at selling messages that make no sense than Democrats are at selling ones that do. Like “Death Panels” vs. “Affordable Care.” Polls show how ill informed Republicans are on the effects of the ACA. ( 
Repealing the estate tax does no good for the country at large. It can only be understood as a payoff to a tiny number of people giving huge amounts of cash to politicians. Everyone who’s not in that category ought to be outraged at how much power has been given to so few, promising to vote the givers out of office faster than the Koch brothers can sign a check. So how do they get away with it? Like they always have: by ginning up outrage at something else. It’s like shooting fish in a barn door, and we can already see the latest prestidigitation taking shape. To get their electorate, yet again, to vote against their own interests in the important things, to ignore, as usual, the damage caused by the policies they’ll endorse by default, to overlook the glaring differences, for example, between Republican-governed Wisconsin and Democrat-governed Minnesota, the Republican machine is grinding up their latest summer sausage. To wit: 
You’re aware, right, as Mike Huckabee has revealed, that gay marriage will lead to criminalization of Christianity. (Benghazi.) You’re upset that, as Bill O’Reilly informs us, rich people suffer oppressive tax rates, while poor people have it too easy. (Benghazi.) Like the Kansas legislature (Benghazi), you’ve noticed all those folks spending food stamps on cruise ships. And if those don’t get you, Lindsey Graham, about to announce his candidacy (Benghazi), reminds us we have to stop ISIS before “we all get killed here at home.” Our ever-vigilant media, meanwhile, would rather know if Scott Walker would attend a gay wedding than how he explains his economic disaster.
[Image source]

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The President Speaks About Baltimore

President Obama's words (spontaneous, in response to a question) on Baltimore and the issues involved:

First, obviously, our thoughts continue to be with the family of Freddie Gray. Understandably, they want answers. And DOJ has opened an investigation. It is working with local law enforcement to find out exactly what happened, and I think there should be full transparency and accountability.  
Second, my thoughts are with the police officers who were injured in last night’s disturbances. It underscores that that’s a tough job, and we have to keep that in mind. And my hope is that they can heal and get back to work as soon as possible. Point number three, there’s no excuse for the kind of violence that we saw yesterday. It is counterproductive. When individuals get crowbars and start prying open doors to loot, they’re not protesting, they’re not making a statement, they’re stealing. When they burn down a building, they’re committing arson. 
And they’re destroying and undermining businesses and opportunities in their own communities that rob jobs and opportunity from people in that area. So it is entirely appropriate that the mayor of Baltimore, who I spoke to yesterday, and the governor, who I spoke to yesterday, work to stop that kind of senseless violence and destruction. That is not a protest, that is not a statement, it’s people – a handful of people taking advantage of the situation for their own purposes, and they need to be treated as criminals.  
Point number four, the violence that happened yesterday distracted from the fact that you had seen multiple days of peaceful protests that were focused on entirely legitimate concerns of these communities in Baltimore led by clergy and community leaders, and they were constructive and they were thoughtful. And frankly, didn’t get that much attention. And one burning building will be looped on television over and over and over again, and the thousands of demonstrators who did it the right way, I think, have been lost in the discussion.  
The overwhelming majority of the community in Baltimore, I think, have handled this appropriately, expressing real concern and outrage over the possibility that our laws were not applied evenly in the case of Mr. Gray and that accountability needs to exist. I think we have to give them credit. My understanding is you’ve got some of the same organizers now going back into these communities to try to clean up in the aftermath of a handful of protesters – a handful of criminals and thugs who tore up the place.  
What they were doing – what those community leaders and clergy and others were doing, that is a statement. That’s the kind of organizing that needs to take place if we’re going to tackle this problem. And they deserve credit for it and we should be lifting them up. Point number five, and I’ve got six, because this is important. Since Ferguson and the task force that we put together, we have seen too many instances of what appears to be police officers interacting with individuals, primarily African American, often poor, in ways that raise troubling questions. And it comes up, it seems like, once a week now or once every couple of weeks. And so I think it’s pretty understandable why the leaders of civil rights organizations, but more importantly moms and dads across the country might start saying this is a crisis. What I’d say is this has been a slow-rolling crisis. This has been going on for a long time. This is not new. And we shouldn’t pretend that it’s new.  
The good news is that perhaps there’s some newfound awareness because of social media and video cameras and so forth that there are – are problems and challenges when it comes to how policing and our laws are applied in certain communities, and we have to pay attention to it and respond. What’s also good news is the task force that was made up of law enforcement and community activists that we brought together here in the White House had come up with very constructive, concrete proposals that if adopted by local communities and by states and by counties, by law enforcement generally, would make a difference. Wouldn’t solve every problem, but would make a concrete difference in rebuilding trust and making sure that the overwhelming majority of effective, honest and fair law enforcement officers, that they’re able to do their job better because it will weed out or retrain or put a stop to those handful who may be not doing what they’re supposed to be doing.  
Now, the challenge for us as the federal government is is that we don’t run these police forces. I can’t federalize every police force in the country and force them to retrain. But what I can do is to start working with them collaboratively so that they can begin this process of change themselves. And we – coming out of the task force that we put together, we’re now working with local communities. 
The Department of Justice has just announced a grant program for those jurisdiction that want to purchase body cameras. We are gonna be issuing grants for those jurisdictions that are prepared to start trying to implement some of the new training and data collection and other things that can make a difference. And we’re gonna keep on working with those local jurisdictions so that they can begin to make the changes that are necessary. I think it’s gonna be important for organizations like the Fraternal Order of Police and other police unions and organizations to acknowledge that this is not good for police. We have to own up to the fact that occasionally there are gonna be problems here, just as there are in every other occupation.  
There are – there are some bad politicians, who are corrupt. And there are folks in the business community or on Wall Street who don’t do the right thing. Well, there are some police who aren’t doing the right thing. And rather than close ranks, you know, what we’ve seen is a number of thoughtful police chiefs and commissioners and others recognize, they’ve got to get their arms around this thing and work together with the community to solve the problem. And we’re committed to facilitating that process. So the heads of our COPS (ph) agency that helps with community policing, they’re already out in Baltimore. Our head – assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division is already out in Baltimore. But we’re gonna be working systematically with every city and jurisdiction around the country to try to help them implement some solutions that we know work.  
And I’ll make my final point – I’m sorry, Mr. Prime Minister, but this is a pretty important issue for us – we can’t just leave this to the police. I think there are police departments that have to do some soul searching. I think there are some communities that have to do some soul searching. But I think we, as a country, have to do some soul searching. This is not new. It’s been going on for decades. And without making any excuses for criminal activities that take place in these communities, what we also know is that if you have impoverished communities that have been stripped away of opportunity, where children are born into abject poverty. They’ve got parents, often, because of substance abuse problems or incarceration or lack of education themselves, can’t do right by their kids.  
If it’s more likely that those kids end up in jail or dead than that they go to college. In communities where there are no fathers who can provide guidance to young men. Communities where there’s no investment and manufacturing’s been stripped away. And drugs have flooded the community, and the drug industry ends up being the primary employer for a whole lot of folks. In those environments, if we think that we’re just gonna send the police to do the dirty work of containing the problems that arise there, without as a nation and as a society saying what can we do to change those communities, to help lift up those communities and give those kids opportunity, then we’re not gonna solve this problem. 
And we’ll go through the same cycles of periodic conflicts between the police and communities and the occasional riots in the streets. And everybody will feign concern until it goes away and then we go about our business as usual. If we are serious about solving this problem, then we’re going to not only have to help the police, we’re going to have to think about what can we do, the rest of us, to make sure that we’re providing early education to these kids; to make sure that we’re reforming our criminal justice system so it’s not just a pipeline from schools to prisons, so that we’re not rendering men in these communities unemployable because of a felony record for a non-violent drug offense; that we’re making investments so that they can get the training they need to find jobs.  
That’s hard, that requires more than just the occasional news report or task force, and there’s a bunch of my agenda that would make a difference right now in that. Now, I’m under no illusion that out of this Congress we’re going to get massive investments in urban communities, and so we’ll try to find areas where we can make a difference around school reform and around job training and around some investments in infrastructure in these communities and trying to attract new businesses in.  
But if we really want to solve the problem, if our society really wanted to solve the problem, we could. It’s just it would require everybody saying this is important, this is significant, and that we don’t just pay attention to these communities when a CVS burns and we don’t just pay attention when a young man gets shot or has his spine snapped. We’re paying attention all the time because we consider those kids our kids and we think they’re important and they shouldn’t be living in poverty and violence.  
That’s how I feel. I think they’re a lot of good-meaning people around the country that feel that way. But that kind of political mobilization, I think we haven’t seen in quite some time. And what I’ve tried to do is to promote those ideas that would make a difference, but I think we all understand that the politics of that are tough, because it’s too easy to ignore those problems or to treat them just as a law-and-order issue as opposed to a broader social issue. That was a really long answer, but I felt pretty strongly about it.

The above is from here, where there is also video of the remarks. I find it impressive, and comprehensive. I wonder if a single person in our right-wing media and legislatures will find a single thing they could agree with. I wonder how the speech will, as usual, be seen only as divisive and critical of America and unworthy of the slightest effort to understand.