Cutting Through The Crap

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Speech That Writes Itself

All that's needed to defeat Donald Trump is to tell the truth, if only the Foxolimbeckified would listen. They won't, though, because they choose sources of "news" and opinion that make sure they don't.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Trump? Knowing Nothing Helps

Here's my latest newspaper column:
So, let me get this straight. Donald Trump now says his ban on Muslims was “just a suggestion.” Then, having eschewed big-donor money, he accepts a hundred million bucks from Sheldon Adelson, “proud” of his support. He’ll eliminate gun-free zones; his private resort in Florida is gun-free. He says climate change is “bulls**t” but wants a permit for a retaining wall at his Florida* golf course to mitigate the rising seas from “climate change.” Renegotiating our loans in order to end the national debt in eight years wasn’t what he really meant when he said exactly that. Calling reporters, for years, faking a persona to extol his wonderfulness (and admitting it!), he now pretends it never happened. Trump lies with each breath, including, evidently, on his taxes. In the same breath as claiming stuff that happened 25 years ago is irrelevant, he accuses Bill Clinton of rape. 
And now his signature ideas, deporting millions and building a wall, aren’t really going to happen; they’re merely “virtual.” So what is it, supporters, that attracts you? Is there a position he’s taken, one you considered vote-worthy, which he hasn’t changed? Seriously. Can you name a single one? Maybe it’s his promise of deals. Terrific deals, believe him. Leading to greatness as yet undefined. His deals are great. Other than his casinos, all of which went bankrupt. And his “university.” And steaks. Great steaks. That I can tell you. 
Right-wing screamers claim President Obama used the IRS for political purposes, which, as it turns out, he didn’t. Recently Donald Trump threatened, overtly, to use it against Jeff Bezos, owner of the Washington Post, for criticizing him. Not bothered, Trumpists, by threatening our free press? Or is it okay, as long as it’s the “liberal” press? What about a hair-trigger, temperamental, revenge-seeking president as Commander-in-Chief, a guy whose response to any criticism is to get even? Not a worry? How much of this before his supporters to realize they’re being conned by a guy who’ll say anything and believes nothing, not even his own words? 
Which brings me to the results of the most recent PPP poll: Republicans (defined as voters for Mitt Romney in 2012) are clueless. Approval of President Obama broke along party lines, of course; but what proves the remarkably successful effects of Foxolimbeckification was their response to questions about the budget deficit and the stock market. By wide margins, Romney voters believed the former has gone up and the latter has gone down under Obama. The opposite is true, of course. Democrats, being reality-based, answered correctly. This is scarily portentous. 
It’s one thing to have philosophical differences and policy disagreements. Democracy is predicated on it; but it presupposes the commonality of shared information. How can there be meaningful discussion about anything when one side has no idea of or desire for basic facts?  When, as a matter of policy, that party makes a point of disregarding facts and expertise; and not just disregarding: mocking. Snowballs in the Senate. Sarah Palin and Donald Trump in the limelight. 
Look, I get it: there are plenty of reasons to disagree with liberalism on lots of things, and Hillary Clinton is far from the perfect candidate. There are “conservative” ways to address climate change, and legitimate differences on where the line is between security and freedom. Given the impossible situation in the Middle East left behind by George Bush, there are other impossible ways to have dealt with it. Same with the economy. But c’mon, people. Donald Trump? Is your frustration so deep, your desire to return the Fifties, when everyone knew their place, so great that a lying, vengeful, bullying, conspiracy-theory promoting, know-nothing producer of empty promises that change by the minute your best answer? A man so in need of attention and so insecure that he brags constantly? Is he the symbol of American greatness that gives you pride? Really? 
Vote for Republican representatives if you must. Send them money. (I hope you’d pick ones, assuming there are any, who still believe in civil rights and science.) But take a deep breath and ask yourself: by what measure is Donald Trump the right person for the Oval Office?
*Correction: Pieter Breitner, reader and occasional commenter, has pointed out that the golf course for which he applied for the retaining wall is in Ireland, not Florida. 

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Thursday, May 19, 2016

It Begins...

The more I see of Donald Trump and his followers, and of the rationalizations otherwise (probably) intelligent people provide for voting for him, the more I find this opinion piece to be true. I've said as much myself, if less persuasively.

... Today, less than 5 percent of eligible voters have voted for Trump. But if he wins the election, his legions will comprise a majority of the nation. Imagine the power he would wield then. In addition to all that comes from being the leader of a mass following, he would also have the immense powers of the American presidency at his command: the Justice Department, the FBI, the intelligence services, the military. Who would dare to oppose him then? Certainly not a Republican Party that laid down before him even when he was comparatively weak. And is a man like Trump, with infinitely greater power in his hands, likely to become more humble, more judicious, more generous, less vengeful than he is today, than he has been his whole life? Does vast power un-corrupt?  
This is how fascism comes to America, not with jackboots and salutes (although there have been salutes, and a whiff of violence) but with a television huckster, a phony billionaire, a textbook egomaniac “tapping into” popular resentments and insecurities, and with an entire national political party — out of ambition or blind party loyalty, or simply out of fear — falling into line behind him.
It's not merely speculative. Trump has already threatened to use the IRS against Jeff Bezos and Amazon, because Bezos' WaPo has criticized him. I'd hope the irony isn't lost on his followers, all of whom, I assume, believe (falsely) that President Obama used the IRS for political purposes and called him a dictator because of it. He's promised uses of our military so reckless that generals have suggested they'd have to ignore his orders.

Trump's supporters, clearly, don't care. Quite the contrary. For them, as I wrote, it's about getting even. At everyone who's, in their minds, taken "their" country away. Blacks, immigrants, legal and otherwise, non-Christians, LGBT citizens. That resentment and the flogging of it is the history of the rise of tyrants throughout the world. It's an illusion to think it can't happen here. Trump, deliberately or not, is following the blueprint line by line, while once-credible conservatives look the other way, selfishly, and as the RWS™ across all their media whip up the frenzy.

Trumpists love it. They aren't frightened by the implications of a leader who'd trample on the press and single out various minorities for punishment. Unless they figure on being part of the Stormtroopers, they should be.

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Friday, May 13, 2016

Facts Be Damned!

The above is from the latest PPP poll. The approval ratings of Obama are to be expected, and it's nice to know that disgust with Congress is universal, even if it's for opposite reasons between the parties.

But the glaring lack of knowledge of unemployment and the stock market? Well, not unexpected either, I suppose, given the effectiveness of the right-wing scream machine, especially Fox "news" and talk radio. What it does is help to explain those who support Donald Trump.

It's one thing to have political disagreements. It's healthy, even. But until Lee Atwater and Karl Rove came on the scene, and before that black guy moved into that white house, I wouldn't have claimed that the parties differ so widely on simple knowledge of demonstrable facts. Nor is it limited to the above two items.

It kinda removes the firmament from under all those who vote with today's R party, doesn't it? When they're so lacking in basic knowledge, how can one accept their arguments for Trump (other than by claiming agreement that facts don't matter)?

"Both sides do it" is the mantra of the right, and of their enablers in the media, which includes pretty much all TV media. But it's demonstrably false. Only one side deliberately pushes and exalts lack of knowledge. Only one makes up its own facts, proudly.

Yet again, we see why Donald Trump is their preferred candidate, and why he has a frighteningly real chance of winning the presidency.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Getting Even

My latest newspaper column:
I hate it when any people, but especially “liberals,” disrupt speakers by trying to shout them down. I hate it as much as hearing the nominee of a formerly respectable party call on audiences to rough them up, or saying he’d like to punch them in the face. I hate it because it allows followers of that particular proto-fascist to pretend that the disrupters are representative of liberalism. I think students rejecting speakers with whom they disagree are entirely missing the point of education. Back in the day, when Robert McNamara received an honorary degree at my college graduation, some of my classmates stood and turned their backs, which was so shocking that it made the national news. Today, shouty students enable people to dismiss them as wanting “free stuff,” rather than considering their call to redirect money lost from free-stuff tax breaks to where it would do some good: public education, roads, jobs, child care. 
I dislike speech disrupters as much as seeing Bill O’Reilly screaming at dissenters on his show and cutting off their mikes; as much as videos of ill-informed men inside a Target store, screaming about bathrooms, or of those same types intimidating citizens by parading around priapically with assault weapons. I wish protesters would do so silently, and not block roads to Lynden.* Because, among other things, their interruptions beget people pretending that’s what liberalism is, providing pretext for ignoring the fact that House Republicans just voted to cut school lunches for 3.5 million hungry children. Because whereas college kids shouting at speeches is NOT mainstream liberalism, cutting food for hungry children (while legislating to create more of them), is EXACTLY the mainstream of today’s Republican Party. Trump’s party. Formerly known as the party of Lincoln. 
Donald Trump, who promises a free-stuff wall, ending health coverage for millions, indiscriminately bombing the Middle East, and trade wars with China; whose plan for eliminating the national debt includes the astoundingly reckless, intellectually disqualifying, and catastrophically ignorant idea of defaulting on our loans! Donald Trump, whose oeuvre includes childish insults, wild conspiracy theories, and incessant rodomontade; who, after an attack in Pakistan, tweeted, vaingloriously, “Only I can solve.” (Do his followers actually believe that?) Donald Trump, who lies that we’re the highest taxed country in the world; who, like the rest of his party, thinks climate change is a hoax and that the best use of our money is military spending, because another aircraft carrier will keep bombs out of our malls, and who needs schools? 
Donald Trump, whose peddling of fear has reached Mukilteo**; who thinks demonizing Muslim-Americans is a better plan than considering them fellow Americans whose help is essential in fighting radicalism; Donald Trump, who’d keep all Muslims out of the US “until we find out what’s going on.” 
So a few people heckling speakers provide a rationale for electing an uninformed demagogue, without a care for the consequences. He says what’s on his mind, Trumpists gush, in tones confirming they’re okay with his misogyny, his scapegoating, his serial fabrications, his thin-skinned narcissism and vulgarity. He’ll bring jobs back, they accept, without questioning how, forgetting his claim that American workers are overpaid, and ignoring the employment and pocketbook implications of the trade wars he’d begin. 
Other than in his own perfection, who can know what Donald Trump believes? Minimum wage: yes or no? Lower taxes: yes or no? Contradicting himself within the same sentence, he’s consistent only in playing to the basest instincts of his crowds, for whom, evidently, that’s enough. They excuse his behavior, convinced he’ll lead the way to undefined “greatness.” Absent any depth of policy, a vote for Trump is a statement that what you really want is to get even; to stick it to those unruly kids and anyone else who doesn’t think or look or believe like you. As long as the poor, the disenfranchised, the Muslims, the gays, those lazy immigrants get what’s coming to them, who cares about climate change, health care, schools, or the environment? 
It’s by exploiting the willing blindness of exactly that sort of vengeful, aggrieved, credulous nihilism that despots have grabbed power throughout history. Donald Trump knows this. Do his embittered believers? 
* Lynden is where Trump just spoke, a very red part of Western Washington, about 75 miles north of my home.

**Mukilteo is pretty much where I live. Recently a (temporarily) anonymous postcard was sent to residents warning about plans to build a mosque. Just yesterday we learned that the proposed site has been defaced with anti-Muslim graffiti.

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Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Wave On Which He Rides

The above picture is from this morning's Seattle Times, taken as Donald Trump spoke at a rally yesterday, about 75 miles north of here. (He avoided the liberal bastions of and around Seattle itself.) Nice looking folks, eh? Optimists, welcoming of people not like themselves, am I right? People who love America for its inclusiveness, its willingness to have elected a black president, its openness to people of all sexual orientations and religious beliefs.

Okay, yeah, sure, I don't really know, based only on a photo. Just taking a wild guess.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

A Bankruptcy Of Ideas

Among Donald J. Trump's more ridiculous claims is that he'll eliminate the national debt in eight years. Not the deficit. The debt. Gone in eight years. While cutting taxes "enormously" and increasing military spending. Right. Evidently he has a beautiful version of arithmetic; the best. Like no one's ever seen. He has a beautiful brain. And now we know a key part of his plan: he'll demand that those to whom we owe money accept, like, fifty cents on the dollar. Amazing plan. Terrific. The best. Winning. Fabulous deals, is what he'll make.

Well, other than, you know, ruining all confidence in the US and causing a global economic collapse. I don't think you need to have an advanced degree in economics to understand the idiocy of such an idea. Trump, of course, based his success in significant measure on avoiding financial responsibility for his business fkups by using bankruptcy laws. Like, four times. Because, hey, what kind of yuuuuugely successful inheritor of millions cares about the people to whom he owes money? Fine for an amoral businessman. But for the U.S. of exceptional A? Not so much. Well, it's what he knows.

Really and truly: the man is a self-absorbed idiot whose main accomplishment is to have picked exactly the right time to hop the prefabricated idiocy train which is today's Foxolimbeckified version of a political party. Would this bizarre and clueless idea move any of his followers to realize how unprepared for and, no matter how many people try to polish the turd*, incapable of the presidency? Not likely. Because whatever it is they see in him, it has nothing to do with competency. How could it?
* You can't polish a turd. Read my book for context.

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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Praise The Lord And Pass On Cruz

Well, of course, the Lord works in mysterious ways, and, reportedly, He has a plan for us all. But even allowing for His penchant for killing babies in and out of the womb, producing debilitating diseases with untold suffering, and encouraging mass slaughter of innocents, by war, famine, and flood, all perfectly understandable stuff from the all-powerful first and last besides which there is none else, it's hard to read His mind in messing with US politics.

Huckabee, Santorum, Rubio, Carson, Cruz, all announced their entry into the presidential race by assuring us God had spoken to them, and that He's definitely pulling for them. None so loudly and with as much assurance as Cruz, though, amplified by his father: Ted, without hesitation, is the anointed one. Or was. Or maybe his anointment was for something else. It was less anointment than an ointment. Preparation T. Who knows? What we do know is that he based his campaign almost entirely on a not-so-humble version of Christianity, all but announcing his aim to turn the US into a Biblical theocracy, at the direction of and with the blessing of God. Or so he'd have had us believe. So much for that, for whatever reason.

I've waited for years for athletes who praise God for the catch, the hit, the punch, the game-winner, to blame Him for the dropped ball, the fumble, the clanker off the rim (ring?) Because there can't be one without the other. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the game on the scoreboard.

So let's hear Ted and any other of those godlier-than-the-rest-of-us announce their realization that God was just fking with them. Or that it was just a voice in their head, background noise among many other inscrutable sounds, that they mistook for a direct line to beyond the Gates. Let's have them take to the microphones, confessing that God must have been trying to humiliate them for their decidedly unChristian hatefulness, untruthfulness, lack of charity; that, as it turns out, when Jesus wrote the Constitution, he actually must have had separation in mind.

But then we'd have to fit Donald Trump into the picture, too. And that's simply beyond rationalization, no matter how firm one's belief. There's not much leeway: either God doesn't exist or, protestations of presidential pretenders to the contrary, He's staying out of it entirely. Which makes those who claim His counsel either liars or nuts (recall the association between paranoid schizophrenia and religious hallucinations).

Either way, the presidential politics of today's Republican party confirms beyond argument that if God exists, things can't be playing out according to any plan of His. All these years, all those philosophers counting footprints on the heads of pins. All it took was the devolution of the Republican Party to narrow the argument to only two possibilities, neither of which can be pleasing to the self-described party of God.

Or maybe it was Carly.

Can't wait for Glenn Beck and Tony Perkins to weigh in.

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

No, The Other One

Brilliant. Could Ted "Anointed-by-God" Cruz have picked a more perfect running mate than Carly Fiorina? Since Trump wasn't available, he found the only other presidential candidate who lies with the fluidity and disregard that he does; and if likeability were oxygen, when the two of them entered a room together, everyone in it would turn blue and decerebrate.

Carly Fiorina. She of the non-existent video that she refuses to admit she never saw. Like Cruz, it's immaterial to her when someone points out her lies, and not just that one. She just plows ahead, either oblivious or, more likely, cynical to an unseen degree, even among today's Republicans. This isn't politics as usual. It's pathology. The two of them together ought to cause something cataclysmic, a physical force previously unknown, a mini-black hole, the appearance of dark matter that swallows them up. If only.

That poor Marco Rubio wasn't up to the job became evident early on. Cruz's panicky missteps are a more recent phenomenon (although God knows he was a scary and indecent person from the get-go.) Colluding with Kasich. Clumsy pandering, embarrassing even, in Indiana. And now this. Carly Fking Fiorina. It's as if he's being face-melted by the Ark.

Hearing Ted Cruz speak is mind-numbing, as he repeats falsehoods like whistles in the dark; but actually watching him as he utters his despicable deceptions, is painful. His clumsy facial expressions, painted on by the numbers, looking as if he's entirely unfamiliar with how Earthlings behave; you can almost hear him reminding himself, "Appear human, Ted. Smile at appropriate times... now... and make it look natural. By turning the corners of your mouth upward. You can do it. You practiced it in the mirror..."

Which, come to think of it, explains a lot: he probably can't see his reflection in mirrors.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Carry On

Here's my latest newspaper column:
In 2015, roughly one person per week was shot by a toddler with a gun, and over a hundred children died in accidental shootings. About thirteen thousand people of all ages died with guns involved, by accident, homicide, or murder/suicide. From 2005 to 2015, seventy-one Americans died from terrorist attacks on US soil, while about 302,000 died from other forms of gun violence. 
Not long ago, a worshiper shot himself in the foot in church. Around here a guy worried about attacks in movie theaters legally carried a pistol to a movie, dropped it, and shot another moviegoer. A Georgia mom killed her 8-year-old daughter when she dropped her gun. Same thing, same age, in Dallas. Dropped guns have gone off in Wal-Mart, Cracker Barrel, Chipotle, an Alabama supermarket, a “Muslim-free” gun shop in Oklahoma. Two patrons killed a gun-shop owner and his son over a $25 handling fee for a failed repair. A lady fired wildly at escaping shoplifters in a crowded Home Depot parking lot. Another good guy busted up a carjacking by shooting the car owner, aiming for the perpetrators. An owner shot his dog accidently, saying he was aiming for his girlfriend. 
A Florida man killed himself while demonstrating the proper way to clean a gun. A Florida woman, who’d posted on Facebook “My right to protect my son with my gun trumps your fear of my gun” was shot in the back by that (four-year-old) son after leaving her pistol loose in her truck. Another Florida man who bought a gun to protect his family shot his four-year-old daughter while cleaning it. A gun in a mom’s purse in a hospital went off and shot her two-year-old daughter in the face. 
People called police about that Colorado random mass-murderer as he was open-carrying down a street, before he open-fired. Police did nothing because he’d broken no laws. And there’s the problem. With everyone packing, how do you know who’s doing so with mayhem in mind? Doesn’t it, in fact, make it easier for a bad guy to walk into a public place and start firing? But, you say, he’d be shot by a patriotically packing patron. Before killing how many? How many such people would be deterred, since many seem intent on dying in their act of violence? And, given the incidents of stupidity above, how likely is the good guy or gal to hit the target instead of someone else? 
Yes, there have been a handful of of good guys with guns stopping bad guys, including a recent (and suspicious) nearby one; far fewer, though, than the other type. And let’s not forget road rage. No, the idea of omnipresent guns in the hands of average citizens doesn’t make me feel safe at all. Meanwhile, training requirements and permits are being legislated away in several states.
In a rare nod to reality, Republicans won’t have guns at their upcoming convention; logically in line with legislators who’re fine with guns in schools, churches, bars, and everywhere else YOU hang out; just not where they do. Could it be because they know, deep in that place in their chests where other people have hearts, that arming all citizens makes us less safe? Does the money they take from the gun lobby speak to them in their dreams, whisper in the voices of the dead that they’ve sold us out? Not likely. 
This exceptionally American mess is predicated on the insanely paranoid idea that citizens need arms to protect themselves from our government; that unless they stockpile AR-15s and enough ammo to fill a silo, Obama’s minions will storm their homes and turn them into gay Muslim Kenyans. That armed with long guns they’ll beat back drones, tanks, and Apache helicopters. That any attempt, no matter how exiguous, to keep guns out of the hands of criminals or, maybe, to require minimal competence, is tantamount to arguing for repeal of the Second Amendment. And so it goes: last weekend bled with mass and individual murders 
I don’t deny that we’re too far gone ever to come back to rationality. All I’m saying is that when an armed patriot heads into a place I’m in, I’m heading out.    
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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Fighting For Dollars

Dick "dick" Cheney's company (Halliburton and its subsidiary KBR) took in about 40 billion dollars off the Iraq war. Stealing money from taxpayers, as the video (brief excerpt from the longer version) shows. There's big money to be made in our wars. Think that has anything to do with why we fight them? And why Republicans, who love both wars and the corporations that supply them, refused to have this film shown to Congress? This is sickening, quite literally. And yet, thanks mostly to one political party, on it goes.

Nor is any of their presidential candidates going to do a thing to change it, because war is where the money is, and equating it with patriotism is where the votes are, and getting the votes is what allows them to get the money, and war is where the money is...

Monday, April 18, 2016

Geeks Gone Wild

This is an interesting read. It's impressive on its own, and also (in a world where reality would be considered important, which for half of the country it isn't) as a response to those who think because President Obama isn't sending in tens of thousands of troops he's doing nothing to fight ISIS.
...President Obama confirmed for the first time last week that the U.S. is conducting “cyber operations” against ISIS, in order to disrupt the group’s “command-and-control and communications.” 
But the American military’s campaign of cyber attacks against ISIS is far more serious than what the president laid out in his bland description. Three U.S. officials told The Daily Beast that those operations have moved beyond mere disruption and are entering a new, more aggressive phase that is targeted at individuals and is gleaning intelligence that could help capture and kill more ISIS fighters. 
As the U.S. ratchets up its online offensive against the terror group, U.S. military hackers are now breaking into the computers of individual ISIS fighters. Once inside the machines, these hackers are implanting viruses and malicious software that allow them to mine their devices for intelligence, such as names of members and their contacts, as well as insights into the group’s plans...
I'm sure ISIS has smart guys in its networks; but for some reason I believe the more computer literate geeks are on our side, and I like the idea of them doing their thing.

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Thursday, April 14, 2016


Oh, the irony. As this article reminds us, the Republican plan to make Obama fail in order to win their elections by claiming Obama has failed (see: the common definition of chutzpah) has, rather than giving them a knight in shining armour to march them to the White House, given them Trump. Or, worse, Cruz.

... Take, for example, the administration’s 2011 proposal of a $447 billion package of measures including payroll tax cuts and the creation of an infrastructure bank that would have led to the creation of thousands of construction jobs, as well as other substantial economic benefits.
... Designed to be bipartisan and fully paid for by higher taxes on rich Americans and some corporations, the American Jobs Act was nonetheless dead virtually upon its arrival on Capitol Hill.
That’s not all. During his administration, Mr. Obama put forth proposals for larger tax credits for child care; community college investments; expansion of the earned-income tax credit; changing retirement plans to be portable across employers and available to part-time workers; and tax credits for manufacturing communities.
All these — and many more — were ignored by Congress...
Brilliant strategy, they considered it. Prevent anything that'd improve the lives of working people, make those same people (especially the white, male, minimally educated ones) angry over their plight, sauce it up with constant propagandizing about persecution of whites, make a policy of blaming "others," and they'd waltz to the presidency. Except it seems to have backfired.

Turns out (who knew?) that if you foment nameless rage in a bunch of people whom you've deliberately made uninformed, it can lead to nameless rage in uninformed people. And when the politicians who run the game play it for power and not for the good of average people, it can lead to a little more specific naming of that rage: them.

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