Cutting Through The Crap

Friday, April 30, 2010

Weak Tea


Why aren't the teabaggers, so suspicious of government intrusion, outraged? Could it be that they have no actual principles?

In my local paper the other day -- so far north from the fray that our Latino gardeners, roofers, guys hanging at Home Depot in the morning, don't seem worried at all -- was a letter to the editor. "Excuse me" if I don't have sympathy for the Arizona illegals, he said, with me paraphrasing. A former legal immigrant himself, now a citizen, he'd dutifully carried his green card with him at all times, in those bygone days. So, he says, what's the big deal?

Hey, it's not a big deal for actual illegals, I guess. Illegal is illegal. But here's the thing, as I understand it: police are charged with stopping anyone about whom there might be a "reasonable" suspicion of their illegality. Based on shoes, evidently. Thus identified, and absent "papers," they can be taken to jail and, if found later to be on the up and up, the gathered up are still responsible for legal costs. So it's not about illegals after all. It's about legals. And citizens. And everyone with dark dermis and felonious footwear. You damn better have your papers.

So what would you carry? Passport? Birth certificate? Everywhere? Would you? I wouldn't, and I'd be pissed if I thought I had to. So, you'd think, would the bag-dippers. Who's next, they like to ask. Okay, yeah: they're about concentration camps and stealing your kids and other made-up stuff, and this is real; but it shouldn't be that much of a leap... This is police state stuff, isn't it? The very thing over which they get out their crayons. I'm fine with controlling illegal immigration. But is this the way? Every time we get scared, must we give up more rights? And the thing is, most actual citizens would have a much harder time with "proof" than immigrants -- legals of whom will have papers, and illegals of whom might well have printed some nice ones up. So, who gets screwed?

Of course there are solutions. All we need to do is re-legalize implanting chips, and we're cool.

[Having written the above, I read an opinion piece in the NYT that takes significant exception to much of the popular characterization of the law. Maybe it's just a no-nonsense piece of smart legislation. On the other hand, Arizona is not exactly known for its sanity; and even a Bush is unhappy with the law. In Forbes Magazine, hardly a liberal bastion, this article asks the same question I did above: where's the conservative outrage? Especially since the law makes Arizona like France.]


Thursday, April 29, 2010

For Donna


I know a very nice woman named Donna. Yesterday, when it was revealed that she reads this blog, it sort of freaked me out. I mean, I don't mind offending people in the abstract; but she's an actual person. As I thought about it, I concluded we'd never really talked politics or religion, and I don't know where she stands on this stuff. I do know, however, that she's very bright person, has an extremely successful professional life, that she and her husband are very generous souls, and that they both have a sense of humor. So it should be okay, right? No offense, right?

Very much to the right of me (and to the South) lives a good friend. We talk about everything, and often. Sometimes I think of him when I'm writing -- particularly on religion -- and I try to include a phrase to indicate that I tar not every Christian with my doubter's brush: just the holier-than-thou, believe-my-way-or-get-out-of-my-country types. He tolerates me. God knows many readers have taken offense at what I write; in fact, lately they seem mostly to have packed up and gone, presumably to where they won't be challenged: the contemporary hallmark of the ossified and teabagged. (More on that to come, shortly.)

We had dinner the other day, Donna et maritus, me et uxor. Sheepishly, I tried to make sure she understood that my ranting is overthetopper than am I in real life. I'm pretty sure she knew it already.

Anyhow, the relationship and my reaction sheds some light on this whole blogging heat-extremism-hate thing; not that it's original or less than obvious. It's easy to sit here in my mother's basement, in my underwear, shunning the light, drinking Koolaid and regurgitating all that hippie liberal stuff I learned at that hippie liberal college I attended. (What?!?! When did it slip to #2??). Thoughts, uncensored by the barest of civilities, flow like pus (something about which I know a thing or two.) Were I to discuss the same topics face to face -- at least with people I know to be civil and thoughtful, a description that seems to fit not many errant commenters in these parts -- the choice of words would most certainly be different. So would the flow (bidirectional) and quality (one would hope) of the conversation.

Which, of course, is not to say that much will change around here.

But you never know.

And, as I told Donna at dinner, going here might help to reconstitute my credibility. Could work for anyone, really.


Schadenfreude


Shamelessly, I've been enjoying the circular firing squad among conservatives of late, regarding "epistemic closure." It's been a beautiful thing, mainly because it's exactly what I've been saying for years; at its core, it's the very reason for this blog. Lately, even the newspaper of record has noticed. (And it's taken some lumps over the term. To which I say, hey, let's not lose sight of the doughnut for the hole. This is fun.)

First used in this context by Julian Sanchez of the libertarian Cato Institute, the phrase “epistemic closure” has been ricocheting among conservative publications and blogs as a high-toned abbreviation for ideological intolerance and misinformation.

Conservative media, Mr. Sanchez wrote at juliansanchez.com — referring to outlets like Fox News and National Review and to talk-show stars like Rush Limbaugh, Mark R. Levin and Glenn Beck — have “become worryingly untethered from reality as the impetus to satisfy the demand for red meat overtakes any motivation to report accurately.”


Oh my. And there's way more.

Soon conservatives across the board jumped into the debate. Jim Manzi, a contributing editor at National Review, wrote that Mr. Levin’s best seller, “Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto” (Threshold Editions) was “awful,” and called the section on global warming a case for “willful ignorance,” and “an almost perfect example of epistemic closure.” Megan McArdle, an editor at The Atlantic, conceded that “conservatives are often voluntarily putting themselves in the same cocoon.”

Bruce Bartlett, a veteran of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush’s administrations, wrote that in the last few years, “epistemic closure” had become much worse among “the intelligentsia of the conservative movement.” He later added that the cream of the conservative research institutes, including the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation, had gone from presenting informed policy analyses to pumping out propaganda.


And those are just the first salvos. Excuse me while I have a blogasm.

Conservative defenders dismissed the complaints. At National Review, Mr. Levin replied that “Manzi is guilty of ‘epistemic one-sidededness’,” if not “lunacy” and “wingnuttery.” Many of Mr. Manzi’s colleagues attacked him for his takedown of Mr. Levin.

How great! On the one hand, these guys are taking each other apart. They're addressing the point I've been making seemingly forever: the Republican Party, along with its RWS™ and media mouthpiece, have devolved into mere propagandizing based on lies, rejecting all meaningful discourse and any attempt at real contributions to the debates over our most pressing problems. They've validating my whole premise, as I shiver ecstatically. (And while the body politic suffers immensely.)

On the other hand -- and it's, I admit, way too much for which to hope -- it raises, if ever so slightly, the possibility (far off and small as it might be) that there could be some sort of awakening on the right. We could -- and I realize this is like believing in flushes -- get back to (yes, it's pollyannish in extremis) a two-party system where both are intellectually strong and working from different positions toward (well, one can dream, can't one?) the same goal, with serious discussions and mutual (I tread here on shells of eggs spread upon the thinnest of ice) respect. All it would take is a little more back and forth like the above-referenced fracas, a bit of self-directed reflection, and.... and.... well... okay... I know I'm reaching here, because it'd take... something... like... yes...

...THIS.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Explanation


I've written before about testable differences between the brains of liberals and conservatives. It explains some things; maybe even excuses the poor folks: they can't help it. But then I read something like this, and I think, nope, there are some things that they should be able to control, no matter their cross-wiring. Maybe it's just that they're assholes.

UCLA economists Dora Costa and Matthew Kahn analyzed the impact of an energy-conservation program in California that informed households about how their energy use compared with that of their neighbors. While the program succeeded in encouraging Democrats and environmentalists to lower their consumption, Republicans had the opposite reaction. When told of their relative thrift, they started cranking up the thermostat and leaving the lights on more often.


It may well be futile to attempt reasoning with those for whom facts don't matter, and who lack even a basic sense of shared future. I think there's a word for people like that...


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Down Is Up


If it didn't begin with Newt Gingrich, he certainly got the stone rolling down hill with his memo. Truth is irrelevant; in fact, it's best avoided. Make stuff up. Such is the central theme, the governing (as it weren't) principle of Republican leaders, and of those tasked with spreading their messages. And, oh, how well it works.

More than anything else, this is what bothers me so deeply about our political present, and future: that the opposition has resorted to overt lying in order to regain power. Redoubled, reiterated, reinforced by a dominant media network, their message takes hold disturbingly easily and thoroughly. And so it is that speeches like this get cheers -- not to mention other pretty ugly responses.

See, it's not as if there's nothing to criticize about President Obama, or about legislation that's come down the pike. But, long ago, Republicans realized that defending their central tenets of deregulation, tax cuts, and theocracy has gotten harder and harder as reality has shown the dangers and/or unworkability of each. Arguing their case on the merits has become all but impossible; it's a lot easier to distort ideas put forth by Democrats than it is to come up with their own new and useful ones. But if it became obvious that their core beliefs were anything but brilliant, their response to that realization most certainly was.

Brilliant.

Concluding they could no longer argue the rightness of their Ronaldian failures, they made that swift-slick and sly-sick calculation: we can still win elections without the work of producing ideas if we're willing to rewrite the past and lie about the present; the American voter is nothing if not malleable, gullible, and willingly ill-informed, they figured, and, boy, have they been right. Of what have they convinced their followers, whom they hold in such low esteem? Socialism! Soft on terror! Apology tours! Government takeover! Coming after your guns! Coming after your children! Giveaway to the banks! How else to explain the Republican filibuster of Wall Street reform, than that they figure they can lie about it with impunity; that they can keep bedding with bankers, and no one will care; that they can call their shit shinola and their RWS™ will fan it from the flatscreens, and the teabaggers will nod their heads, raise their fists, mad as hell without two facts to rub together in their low-taxed, gun-totin', misunderstood-Constitution-carrying hands.

As pathetic as Congressional Republican leaders are, as devoid of ethics as the RWS™ and their "news" channel may be, I'm not certain they're stupid enough to believe that stuff themselves. Which makes it worse. Following that Newtonian lead, they've overboarded all pretense and moved on without shame, leaving conscience behind, counting on the baseness of their base and the credulity of the rest. They have yet to be disappointed.

I know I repeat myself. I wish I could let it go. And, most assuredly, I continue to believe George Bush is the worst president of my lifetime and well beyond, with Ronald Reagan close at his neck. But at least I have facts on which to base my arguments. I don't make stuff up, I don't use words chosen for me by others. I point to actual events, positions, results. How few there are on the right that do the same, as relates to their commentary about Barack Hussein Obama.

Which is worse? The cynicism of the right wing leaders and their mouthpieceri, or the fact that they've found such fertile soil in which to dig? Either way, it bespeaks the coming of the end.

If I believed we could survive it, I'd say what the hell. Take that former half-term governor of a socialist state and stick her in the White House. Give John Boner the Speakership, McConnell the leadership, and let's do it all again: let's further widen the gap between rich and poor, let's Christianize our war plans once again, further theocratize our schools, let's cut taxes even more, privatize social security, unfetter all businesses from any regulation, let's drill everywhere, abandon CAFE standards, let's find another country to invade. Let's lift our middle fingers once again to the rest of the world, round up a few more American citizens and deny them counsel, let's repeal health care legislation, take away all equality for gays, and, while we're at it let's forget about stem cell research, let's outlaw Islam, jail brown people now and ask questions later.

But the thing is, as the passage of less than a sequiyear's time has shown, people have no political memory. Such destruction as would be wreaked, such proof, once again, of the fraud that is the tax-cut-deregulation-heterowhitesonly sum of all parts of the current Republican party, would no more bring the country to its senses than has, mere months later, the meltdown brought on by Bush, riding the coattails of Reagan, and the rhetoric born of Gingrich/Rove/Delay/Armey.

Newt may not have been the first to stumble upon the power of dishonesty. Sarah may not be the first to parlay it so recklessly. But their timing has been perfect. And not even Newt could have known that a mere few years after he opened his mouth, there'd be tea people only too happy to dip their bags right in.




Monday, April 26, 2010

A Chicken In Every Plot


The next senator from Nevada suggests we can solve rising health care costs by paying with chickens. Like the good old days. A Republican dream, if ever there was one. No need for insurance: gecherself some Rhode Island Reds.

Not that I mind the idea of chickens as payment. No vegetarian, I. Given the opportunity to trade my services, I'd be happy to consider it, although for most people who couldn't afford care, I just gave it away. Actually to figure the price of an operation in terms of proffered services -- not simple. Better, I felt, to go freebie. And there are legal issues. Charging a patient less than one charges Medicare is, last time I checked, considered fraudulent, subject to monetary penalties and institutionalization. Ouch. So, either you hide the transaction (tax fraud), or you need a much bigger waiting room. And a greenback/grocery converter. Is there an app for that?

The larger problem is that, as has been pointed out, the cost of office care or even a surgeon's fee for a procedure, is a pretty small slice of the costy pie. I might take six hundred bucks' worth of chickens, especially if the giver would build me a coop, come by once in a while to twist a neck. But the price, say, of an appendectomy really turns on hospital charges; I'm guessing not many of those institutions would accept payment in poultry, or even the installation of an air conditioner.

How many chickens ought I share with my nurse? My receptionist? If I sent some along to my suppliers, would they squawk?

The funny thing is that an all-barter economy is pretty much the thing those right-wingers claim to hate: communism. From each according to his ability, to each according to his need. How strange things get, when the Foxobeckian, the Bachmannopalinized among us begin to confront reality -- even their version of it. Putting forth actual ideas, as opposed simply to screaming about what Obama is doing: harder than it sounds, huh? Which, probably, is why they are so much better at the latter, and so piss-poor at the former.

At every turn, these guys are giving us chicken shit, and asking us to believe it's chicken soup.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

This Should Do It


Yep, all it will take is information like this -- y'know, facts -- and the RWS™ and their brainwashed teabaggers will stop saying Obama is a socialist who wants the government to own the banks and the automakers.

From the beginning, it was obvious to anyone who got information from, say, a NEWS source, that to the extent that government was "taking over" GM and Chrysler it was only temporary, and that taxpayers actually stood to make money on the deal. Same with banks.

So, yeah, any day now I expect to hear all those liars at Fox "news" correcting their disinformation. And within moments, I'm guessing teabaggers will march on Washington with signs (misspelled, but still...) saying, "Sorry Mr President. We sort of got it wrong. Nice job."

And our plum tree will begin producing gold coins.




Friday, April 23, 2010

Hot Topic


With so much crazy out there, so much from which to choose, I haven't commented lately on global warming denialism. But there's a thought I've had for a long time and just haven't gotten around to mentioning. So here it is. In honor of Earth Day, which I missed.

A favorite tactic among the supercilious is reminding us that a mere forty years ago, there were scientists sounding alarms over the prospect of global cooling. To which I have two things to say in response. First, the obvious: that's what science does. It corrects itself. By definition. Science differs from, say, entrenched reticence, religious fundamentalism, or reflexive rejection of whatever you don't like, in that it challenges the known; tests it; refines it; seeks falsehood and replaces it with something closer to truth. Continually.

Next, my little insight. The argument defeats itself!! If, based on geologic trends over previous eons, we were predicted to be heading into a cooling phase, and if, within a mere four decades that trend has entirely reversed, doesn't it suggest something pretty serious and non-geological (for lack of a better term) is happening? Isn't it pretty apparent that NOTHING but human activity could account for such rapid change? A half-century! A semi-demi-hemi-nanosecond in geologic time.

Or, to put in another way, it's like calling off the fire department as your house burns, because yesterday a guest told you it was cold inside.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

New Rule


Rightly or wrongly, I find anonymous comments annoying.

There's a difference between signing in anonymously, which is perfectly fine, and leaving comments with no moniker by which to identify yourself. It's courtesy, if nothing else. (Wow. Suddenly I can see the problem.) More than that, it allows the blogger to know to which person s/he's responding, assuming the comment is worthy of a response.

Given the inanity and predictability of the latest round of anonymous comments I'm getting, I can see why the writer or writers would prefer not to be known. All I can do is plead ignorance or excessive frugality: my stat counter neither allows me to attach a specific IP address to a specific comment, nor to block them if I were able. So your secrets are safe. I'm sure the current anonymous's teachers would be relieved to hear that.

It's not hard, even for those with teabagger mentality. (Note to those who point to polls that identify teabaggers as demographically similar to other groups, particularly old white reasonably educated [level of education, as opposed to being conversant with facts] conservatives: polls that have actually gotten at knowledge on issues have shown dramatic lack thereof, compared, say, to ..... yep ... liberals. You can search this here blog for previous links.) End your comment with an X. (Note to those with teabagger mentality: if you notice another anonymous has used an X, pick another letter. There'd be twenty-five left. If I ever get more than twenty-six anonymi, I'm sure that between us, maybe with the help of our regulars, we can come up with something else.)

So that's all there is to it. From now on, comments anonymously signed in and lacking an indentifier at sign off will not be published. Not particularly onerous, not a high bar. And, as we know, low bars are de rigueur for the opposition nowadays.

And, yes, I know this is an escalation from the last time I addressed this issue. I didn't follow that rule, either.




Quickie


Following logically from the previous post, about idiocy...

I watched an interview of a nice young (twenty-five years old) guy, evidently one of the founding teabaggers. He wrote a book in which he refers, he acknowledged, to the health care legislation as "tyranny." It's a common theme. It says exactly who the teabaggers are: they are people who neither understand the meaning of nor accept the most basic premise of democracy. Elections.

People who describe the Affordable Care Act as tyrannical cite polls. But if governance were by polling, we'd not need elected leaders at all. In a democracy, people influence government via elections. ELECTIONS. Not polls. Elections. Because, as the previous post shows, people will believe anything; at least long enough to get polled on it. Longer, apparently. As George W. Lincoln said, "I can fool you all the time, but some people...uh..." Teabaggers can't and will never accept the results of an election they lost. Among the many words for that is "unAmerican."

Polling on the ACA remains all over the place, but one thing is sure: of those who oppose it, significant numbers do so because they've been deliberately misinformed by a "news" network with a hyperpartisan agenda, by Congressional Republicans, and, most unanimously, by the rest of the RWS™. How much of the public believes in forced microchips? Enough to pass laws outlawing them.

Which is why it's not tyranny to pass legislation based on campaign promises rather than the latest polls. Especially in the current environment of a deliberate propagandizing disinformation campaign by the most watched "..." network.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Crazy, Codified


In a literal case of the lunatics being in charge of the asylum, Georgia is set to outlaw the implantation of microchips in humans without their permission. (In doing so, it would become the fourth state to have passed such a law! And it should surprise no one that the legislatures of each of the states are controlled by Republicans.) The responsible committee in Georgia heard testimony from citizens, which included this:

“I’m also one of the people in Georgia who has a microchip,” the woman said. Slowly, she began to lead the assembled lawmakers down a path they didn’t want to take.

Microchips, the woman began, “infringe on issues that are fundamental to our very existence. Our rights to privacy, our rights to bodily integrity, the right to say no to foreign objects being put in our body.”

She spoke of the “right to work without being tortured by co-workers who are activating these microchips by using their cell phones and other electronic devices.”

She continued. “Microchips are like little beepers. Just imagine, if you will, having a beeper in your rectum or genital area, the most sensitive area of your body. And your beeper numbers displayed on billboards throughout the city. All done without your permission,” she said.

It was not funny, and no one laughed.

“Ma’am, did you say you have a microchip?” asked state Rep. Tom Weldon (R-Ringgold).

“Yes, I do. This microchip was put in my vaginal-rectum area,” she replied. Setzler, the sponsoring lawmaker, sat next to the witness – his head bowed.

“You’re saying this was involuntary?” Weldon continued.

The woman said she had been pushing a court case through the system for the last eight years to have the device removed.

Wendell Willard (R-Atlanta), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, picked up the questioning.

“Who implanted this in you?” he asked.

“Researchers with the federal government,” she said.

“And who in the federal government implanted it?” Willard asked.

“The Department of Defense.”


After which, the committee approved the legislation.

This is only mildly surprising. First of all, it's self-evident that Republican legislators are disproportionately disposed to craziness. Raising alarm about things that don't exist, ignoring those that do, they bathe themselves and their constituents in delusion. And, given as so many of them are to religious obsessions, their delusions align nicely with this kind of paranoia.

Second, it's of a piece with the credulity given to craziness, and the extent to which it's fanned for political gain: disingenuously and deliberately by many Republican lawmakers, delusionally by the rest. Prominent among the disinformation about the recent health care law is the lie -- among many others (such as the claim that it exempts Muslims from being required to buy insurance) -- that it includes the forceful implantation of microchips. It's one thing to accept that certifiable paranoid schizophrenics like the poor lady above believe such things; it's an unimaginable other that there are enough believers elected to public office -- even in the South -- that legislatures would pass such a bill. One can only wonder how it is that they don't get laughed out of office.

And yet, it's pretty obvious: it's the result of the deliberate creation of unquestioning followers by the leaders of the Republican party, cynically catering to the religious right, furiously fanning the fundamentalist flames of fanatical factlessness, and intentionally damaging public education by replacing reasoning with religion. (In the first linked article, it's stated that "In Virginia, a bill supporter declared microchips to be the “666″ mark of the beast referred to in the Book of Revelation.") So far, it seems to be working for them, as they've astroturfed their way among the teabaggers, who rage on. Unfocused and without solutions to the problems -- real and imagined -- that upset them so, they will only elect more of the same Bachmannopalinized leaders, legitimizing (at some level, anyway) the rantings of Glenn Beck and that poor chippie of Georgia.

The thing is, as we're beginning to see, when such people are elected there's evidently no limit to what they'll do. When reality ceases to be a fundament, when unhinged thought is not only not a disqualification but has become a requirement for politicians, total collapse can't be too far down the thoroughfare. And along that road, woe be to the non-white, non-Chrisian, non-heterosexual, non-reactionary.

When we've finally become a nation composed mostly of the politically insane, wandering aimlessly about the land, babbling, drooling, confused, bereft of those basic means of support that a reasonable government might have provided, no one -- assuming there might still be a few willing and inclined -- will be able to find the poor souls to help them.



BECAUSE THEY WON'T HAVE THEIR MICROCHIPS!!!







Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mind Control


I guess you could call it mind control, were minds involved on the receiving end.

Nevertheless, it goes well beyond amazing that the Republican party and its RWS™ and, downhill from the privy, its teabaggers, have, without the slightest hesitation or shame, turned to one guy, one cynical and very rich, very successful, brilliant even, propagandist extraordinaire, to put words into their mouths which they then, without a second thought, parrot and repeat, in unison, regardless of truth -- because it's untruthful -- robotically, unceasingly, willingly, unblinkingly, knowing as surely as the big lie always has, that it'll eventually become, in the minds (were thinking involved) of enough people, some perverse and zombified if unrecognizable version of truth, if by "truth," we accept the RWS™ meaning: namely, lie. Whew. Excellent sentence, if I may say so.

Frank Lunz gave us "government takeover" for the health care debate, when government takeover was (is) the last thing the bill was (is.) But to the teabaggers, it became and remains truth of Kenyan proportions. And now, to prevent the inarguably needed regulation of the Wall Street version of banking, he's given us "bailout" as a way of defeating legislation aimed, among other things, at ending the need for bailouts. Even as the ink dried, Mitch McConnell picked it up like a kid finding a shiny quarter on a dirty street and ran off with it, jowls jiggling, eyes blinking. In unison, his fellow lobotomates slavered their simultaneous sycophancy. None, not a one, cared to point out that the "bailout" fund was paid for by banks, to prevent tax money from being so used again. And when the offer came to remove the provision, it had no effect on their opposition, despite their claim that it had been their main objection. Their words are popcorn: empty puffery, dissolving in their mouths even before they are spoken.

Never mind that McConnell's mouthing of Luntz immediately followed a meeting with Wall Street bankers. Such overt pandering and craven disregard for the needs of the country no longer bothers him or any of his breed. Never mind that the lie is too much even for Mark Halperin (that link is worth a click). Certain of his echo chamber and the credulity given it, Mitch finds no need to hide his deception; not even the pretense, in his view, matters any more. You're dumb enough to buy it, he says to the baggers.

I must say, though, that even to a cynic like me it's pretty astounding that the beholden nature of Congressional Republicans to Wall Street and its money, and their patent unconcern for anyone not supremely wealthy is so undeniable, yet so unimportant to the teabaggers. I guess when you live downhill from that privy for long enough, shit starts to smell like team spirit, and crap tastes like chicken.

So here's the deal, teabaggers. Mitch McConnell, Frank Lunz, Fox "news" and the rest of the RWS™ don't actually care about you, except as votes. Tax cuts? The only ones important to them are the ones for the richest of the rich. Balanced budgets? Which Republican administration has ever had them? A talking point for the benefit of the credulous. Remember "deficits don't matter?" Trickle down economics? Did it work? (At least Obama isn't claiming his deficits -- and those inherited from Bush -- aren't serious; and he's doing something about them.) Wall Street reform? Last thing on their minds, other than as a hook in your mouths. Those bankers are their real constituents; those guys are them. Is there any doubt?

The fact is, teabaggers, the aforementioned Rs, their propaganda organ known as Fox "news", their word smiths and their screamers, all think you're stupid and gullible, susceptible to the most elementary of manipulations: words. They're treating you like it without so much as a twinge of doubt or compunction. So far, you haven't proved them wrong.

There's still time to wake up.

But not much.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Smokeless Gun


Much is being made by those who wish only the worst -- including my latest and, by all measures, least interesting troll -- of the astounding revelation, in that organ the RWS™ suddenly have found nothing but credible, the NYT, of a memo by Robert Gates regarding Iran policy, or lack thereof.

When I first read the article, a few things came to mind: 1) given the anonymity of the sources, we have no idea what the memo actually said, 2) we have no idea of context, 3) we DO have an idea of the intent of the leaker.

Be those as they may, today there's a little more information.

In a statement issued on Sunday, Mr. Gates said he wished to correct what he described as mischaracterizations about the memo’s content and purpose, and to dispel any perception among allies that the administration had failed to adequately think through how to deal with Iran.

“With the administration’s pivot to a pressure track on Iran earlier this year, the memo identified next steps in our defense planning process where further interagency discussion and policy decisions would be needed in the months and weeks ahead,” Mr. Gates said.

“The memo was not intended as a ‘wake-up call’ or received as such by the president’s national security team,” he added. “Rather, it presented a number of questions and proposals intended to contribute to an orderly and timely decision-making process.”

The New York Times article quoted one senior official as saying the document was a “wake-up call.” But Mr. Gates said, “The New York Times sources who revealed my January memo to the national security advisor mischaracterized its purpose and content.”

Well, sure, there's spin, and there's backspin. Damage, and damage control. Still, it's hardly credible that, after sixteen months in office and numerous speeches and diplomatic efforts on the subject of Iran, President Obama hadn't thought about policy until the memo. Okay, it's credible to trolls, John McCain and all of the RWS™. But not to anyone who thinks about stuff.

Heck, when George Bush invaded Afghanistan (from the Oval Office) he used a CIA plan developed under Bill Clinton. So if it were true that there were no contingency plans for Iran when Obama took office (and I'm betting it's not), what would that say, and about whom? And does anyone except my troll and the TB/RWS™ contingent think policy discussions aren't held regularly regarding Iran? We know, for example, that attacking has been war-gamed.

How, I wonder, does one arrive at a meets-all-possibilities strategy for a situation of endless fluidity? How, one might ask, could anyone believe that dealing with Iran is not of the highest priority in this or any other imaginable White House? And how could anyone not believe -- AND PREFER -- that this one includes a lot more complexity than the "pulling the trigger" on "bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb Iran" that would constitute the entire strategy had Obama lost the election?

Never mind. A second-hand, context-free, anonymous and partial description of a memo which is part of a hugely complex process dealing with a near-impossible problem is enough to convince those already convinced. They hate hearing stuff like this, so jumping to self-evidently wrong conclusions is what they do.

What we don't have is a coherent opposition party. Would that we did.


Quite A List


Here's an impressively long and well-documented list of Republican hypocrisies, in the form of an open letter. A small sampling:

You can't call a reconciliation out of bounds when you used it repeatedly.

You can't spend taxpayer money on ads against spending taxpayer money.

You can't condemn individual health insurance mandates in a Dem bill, when the mandates were your idea.

You can't demand everyone listen to the generals when they say what fits your agenda, and then ignore them when they don't.

You can't whine that it's unfair when people accuse you of exploiting racism for political gain, when your party's former leader admits you've been doing it for decades.

You can't portray yourself as fighting terrorists when you openly and passionately support terrorists.

You can't complain about a lack of bipartisanship when you've routinely obstructed for the sake of political gain -- threatening to filibuster at least 100 pieces of legislation in one session, far more than any other since the procedural tactic was invented -- and admitted it. Some admissions are unintentional, others are made proudly. This is especially true when the bill is the result of decades of compromise between the two parties and is filled with your own ideas.


The post on which the list occurs, surpassingly long and detailed, is from a while ago. Indulge me: there's no dearth of outrage; just of energy at the moment.

I don't doubt a long list could be made of Democratic transgressions. But this long? And this blatant, this level of outrageous mendacity? I really doubt it. But I'd be happy to be shown otherwise.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Hidden Camera



For those unfamiliar with the Mr Deity bits, it should be easy to see why I like 'em. He sings my song, acts my act, says my sayin'.



Friday, April 16, 2010

It's A Stretch


No politics here. Just some interesting information.

Nearly always, I stretch before riding my bike. Always, I begin riding at a slow speed in an easy gear, and take a while to crank it up. Turns out, the stretching might not be such a good thing. In retrospect, I'm not sure I get less sore when I omit it.

Many people take it for granted that they should start their exercise routines with some stretching on the spot, perhaps hoping it will loosen them up for their work-out. Most fitness experts now agree this kind of static stretching before exercise is not just counter-productive, but potentially harmful.

Traditional stretches, like when people bend over to touch their toes or stretch their legs on a fence, often cause the muscles to tighten rather than relax - exactly the opposite of what is needed for physical activity.

Experts say it is like extending a rubber band to its limit. When people stretch to the maximum, they are more likely to pull a muscle.

Fact-oriented scientist that I claim to be, I'm gonna omit the stretching and see what happens.

And now, presumably, back to the ranting and raving that really affects my health.


Earth Orbits Sun


In what ought to be received with a resounding and unanimous "DUH," but most surely won't, a Federal Court has ruled unconstitutional the Congressionally declared "national day of prayer." In her ruling, the Judge stated the obvious:

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb wrote that the government can no more enact laws supporting a day of prayer than it can encourage citizens to fast during Ramadan, attend a synagogue or practice magic.

"In fact, it is because the nature of prayer is so personal and can have such a powerful effect on a community that the government may not use its authority to try to influence an individual's decision whether and when to pray," Crabb wrote.

Nothing is more fundamental to the Constitution. The ruling not only does nothing to limit the freedom of people to pray, it protects it. Like the fact that, despite the weeping and gnashing of the teabaggers, tax rates are near historic lows, you'd think this would be self-evident, even to the logic-impaired followers of Fox "news" and the rest of the RWS™.

Let the screaming begin.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Same-o, Same-o

Just like the last time, Fox "news" has found evidence anew that Obama is sending secret messages to Muslim terrorists.



www.thedailyshow.com

Is there any point beyond which teabaggers and those who defend them will not follow Fox "news"? Over which line might they refuse to step? What bold deception would lead them to say, "Well, maybe, just the teensiest bit, and only once in the tiniest while, we're being taken for a ride by cynical people, nasty people, extremely rich people, with a very selfish -- if barely hidden -- agenda."

I think I know the answer.


Research


A little while back I mentioned, with some surprise, that the far-right Tom Coburn had actually criticized Fox "news." As a result, that most facile of Fox liars, the one that started it all, the guy who might actually believe that anything he says magically becomes true simply because he, himself, is magic and wonderful, had Coburn on his show. And lied, without engaging so much as a single piloerector.

Coburn had stated that Fox "news" claimed that, under insurance reform, people would be jailed if they didn't purchase a policy. Billo said that his team had "researched" it, and had found not a single instance of anyone on Fox saying such a thing. Hmm:

November 13, 2009: Glenn Beck tells Fox News' audience that those without coverage will "go to jail."

November 12, 2009: Beck said "there will be jail time" for those who refuse to participate in the health care system.

November 9, 2009: Dick Morris argues, "One of the provisions in the Pelosi bill is you actually can go to jail for not having health insurance."

November 10, 2009: Sean Hannity tells viewers, "Penalties for people who don't get government-mandated health insurance, uh, jail time, a possibility?"

October 7, 2009: Greta Van Susteren says it's "theoretically possible" that if "you can't afford insurance for whatever reason" the government could "send you to jail."

November 10, 2009: The on-screen graphic during Fox & Friends tells viewers during a segment on the health care debate: "Comply or go to jail."

Remember, O'Reilly promised Coburn, "[W]e researched to find out if anybody [on Fox News] had ever said you are going to jail if you don't buy health insurance. Nobody has ever said it."


The point is not that Fox lies: it's entirely obvious to anyone who has half a brain that lying is Fox's modus operandi, its raison d' être. The point is that when I say such a thing, I get (have gotten) comments suggesting I'm some sort of elitist smarter-than-thou. I get questions like, if Fox is so bad, why do you pay so much attention? The point is that Fox is the most watched cable "news" channel, and, as is apparent even in my tiny corner of the www, people actually believe it. Defend it. People who'll be out there complaining about taxes today, when, in fact, 98% of them got a tax cut this year. The point is that otherwise (conceivably) normal people are letting themselves be manipulated, used, and taken for fools.

How is it that so many people are that easily deceived? I don't think they're all dumb, although they don't generally spell so good. I think it's as I've said before, many times, many ways: our problems are so big, and addressing them is so hard, that people just go into tilt mode. They fall back onto belief, facts be damned. Denialism is easier, feels safer, doesn't challenge. Fox "news" is perfect for such times.

Other than the fact that it's lying us all into oblivion, and its viewers totally don't care. Love it, actually.

Oh, since at least one commenter has a problem with facts as factual things, there's this:


[Update, 4/16: Billo addresses the lying BY LYING. And then, in perfect projection and perfidy, he follows that blatant lying, that statement so easily disproved that it proves he lies without even a nibble of regret, with this:

The importance of this is that you, the everyday American, are now being lied to on a regular basis by people working for huge corporations -- and nothing's being done about it. A voter-driven republic -- a voter-driven republic -- cannot survive if lies supersede the truth.
Really. It's simply amazing.]



Wednesday, April 14, 2010

On The One Hand...


Torture-lovers and constitutional rights-haters seem a little silent on this story:

Here we had a serious terrorist threat -- arguably the most important since 9/11 -- and an al Qaeda recruit who was poised to kill a lot of people. Obama administration officials thwarted Zazi's plan, took him into custody, read him his rights, and gave him a lawyer.

And the results couldn't have been better for the United States. Zazi will spend the rest of the his life behind bars, but only after cooperating with federal officials and becoming a valuable source of intelligence.


It's been my contention that Obama's policies on terrorism are much more rational and effective than Bush's ever were, and it seems there's evidence to support that position.

On the other hand...
[Afghanistan] is the longest war in American history. And it is a war for which there is no end in sight. And to my mind, it is a war that is utterly devoid of strategic purpose.
[....] I mean, if we could wave a magic wand tomorrow and achieve in Afghanistan all the purposes that General McChrystal would like us to achieve, would the Jihadist threat be substantially reduced as a consequence? And does anybody think that somehow, Jihadism is centered or headquartered in Afghanistan? When you think about it for three seconds, you say, "Well, of course, it's not. It is a transnational movement."
[...]They can come from Brooklyn. So the notion that somehow, because the 9/11 attacks were concocted in this place, as indeed they were, the notion that therefore, the transformation of Afghanistan will provide some guarantee that there won't be another 9/11 is patently absurd. Quite frankly, the notion that we can prevent another 9/11 by invading and occupying and transforming countries is absurd.
[...] And as with any other international criminal conspiracy, the proper response is a police effort. I mean, a ruthless, sustained, international police effort to identify the thugs, root out the networks and destroy it. Something that would take a long period of time and would no more succeed fully in eliminating the threat than the NYPD is able to fully eliminate criminality in New York City.


I think President Obama is far more thoughtful -- and correct -- about terrorism than President Cheney. And yet even he is not immune to political reality. I don't know if it's part of his calculation or not, but since every smart thing he does -- be it reducing nukes, getting agreements about fissile material, stopping torture -- is greeted by the RWS™ and teabaggers with claims he hates America, maybe he ought simply to do what's right in Afghanistan as well. You know damn well that there will be terrorist attacks here, and that if he sends a million troops there, or pulls them all out, closes Gitmo or builds ten more, it won't matter: to the RWS™ and the TBs, it'll be his fault. Heck, it will have been what he wanted.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Maybe He Deserved It


Seems Barack Hussein Obama is becoming a real world leader.

Obama is changing the direction of global gravity. He is also confronting Iran without the shallowness of bombing vs. sanctions vs. public humiliation that his administration has been flirting with. In the past week, and over the next month, Obama is showing what a U.S.-led world order should look like.

This is a huge shift, for the world hasn’t had much faith in America’s abilities to deliver.
[...] In recent years, this has translated into a sense that the United States is a well-branded, globally important but underperforming country, whose influence is weakening — more like a national version of General Motors than Google.
Now, out of the blue, Obama is changing the game.

There's this, too:

Inside Tuesday's Obama-Hu meeting, Obama "reaffirmed his view that it is important for a global and sustained and balanced global economic recovery that China move toward a more market-oriented exchange rate," Jeffrey Bader, the NSC's senior director for Asia, said after the meeting. "The president also noted his concern over some market-access issues, market-access barriers, in China and the need to address them as part of the rebalancing effort."

Our sources said the U.S. officials at the meeting came out with a positive reaction, feeling that the meeting went much better than Obama's last bilateral with Hu in November in Beijing...

[...] Obama was very tough and resolute when talking about the Iran issue to Hu and said he wanted to see some progress by the end of April, we're told. Meanwhile, the Chinese, while not making any specific promises, are accepting the principle of a dual-track approach toward Iran, mixing engagement with pressure, and are working with the other countries in good faith, our sources report.

As one put it, "They're coming around."


I can't see anything but good in all of this; but I'm sure we'll be hearing from the usual RWS™, probably from their Alaska headquarters, about why it's tantamount to treason.

Huck Us All



Mike Huckabee comes across as a nice guy. On a personal level, I bet I'd like him. Sense of humor. Not seeming to take himself too awfully seriously. Master of the faux open-mindedness of a zealot on a mission, he appears to realize he needs to bide his time, wear a little sheep. He's a really good example of why religion and politics don't mix. Not to the benefit of society. This society, anyway. Well, the kind of society that includes thoughtful people. Treats people fairly. Uses brains.

So I guess it's an open question.

Anyway, here's what he said recently.
“You don’t go ahead and accommodate every behavioral pattern that is against the ideal,” he said of same-sex marriage. “That would be like saying, well, there are a lot of people who like to use drugs, so let’s go ahead and accommodate those who want to use drugs. There are some people who believe in incest, so we should accommodate them. There are people who believe in polygamy, so we should accommodate them.”
As tired clichéd rhetoric goes, I guess you gotta admire him for holding off on the horse thing. He had more to say, though:

In what may come as a surprise for some, Huckabee agreed that an atheist could be fit to serve as president. “I’d rather have an honest atheist than a dishonest religious person,” he said.

“It’s better to have a person who says, ‘Look, I just don’t believe, and that’s where my honest position happens to be,’” he said. “I’m frankly more OK with that than a person who says, ‘Oh, I am very much a Christian. I very much love God.’ And then they live as if they are atheists, as if they have no moral groundings at all. That’s more troubling.”

“I think it’s nice if a person believes in God,” Huckabee said. “I’d hate to think somebody was making decisions who thought that he couldn’t be higher than himself.” (Emphasis mine, mine, mine.)


"Huckabee agreed that an atheist could be fit to serve as president." Really? Is that what he said? What he said was that atheists have no moral grounding. And he said something incomprehensible about being higher than oneself. Guess he's referring to George Bush listening while God told him to spend thousands of lives and trillions of dollars (unfunded) to depose a guy who was no threat. Good one, God. Totally got him.

This is exactly the self-important and self-deluding b.s. of the holier-than-thou. It's the smugly satisfied, thoroughly debunkable belief that good behavior based on expectation of reward or fear of punishment is somehow morally superior to the same acts done only because it does right by one's fellow men. And women. The opposite, of course, is true. And what gives Slim Mike the right, based on a self-contradictory book written by a bunch of guys twenty centuries ago, to deny the most basic of freedoms to people with whose sexual orientation he's uncomfortable? To claim, against all evidence, that their orientation is a matter of choice?

God save us from such believers. They'll be the death of us all. Homosexuals first, of course. Non-Christians second, to be sure. But, eventually, every last one of us, including themselves.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Oh Well


From The Washington Monthly, a website infinitely more widely read than mine, and actually respected, come words that could have been written by me:

I write a lot about the excesses of Republican rhetoric, in part because I find GOP remarks illustrative of a party gone mad, and in part because of the impact the rhetoric has on the larger political culture/discourse. Most of the time, the temptation is to mock the absurdities.

But once in a while, we find a case like this one, in which a sitting member of the House of Representatives -- not a Fox News personality, not a host of right-wing radio show -- suggests, in print, that the president is a traitor.

Is nothing beyond the pale for Republican officials in 2010? Must there be no difference between GOP lawmakers and unhinged right-wing activists? Are we to believe that we should simply expect and tolerate the casual accusations of treason against American patriots?


It was written in response to this, from a Republican Congressman:

Simply put, President Obama is disadvantaging the United States one step at a time and undermining this country's national defense on purpose. Whether he is catering to the anti-war leftists or truly doing what he thinks is best for our security, the president is leading this nation down a very dangerous path. [emphasis in the original]

What is there to do but sigh, deeply? Just keep writing, I guess, on the off chance that some time some one, or maybe two, will see how fatally such RWS™ are damaging our political process and, therefore, our country. Clearly, there are those that see it, but the question remains, unanswered, for now: which side has the numbers?