Cutting Through The Crap

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Life And Death And Politics



Since the death of my aunt, the last of that generation in my family, I've had a hard time finding motivation to write here. It's been a long time since I've felt as involved in something really meaningful as being there when she died. Few moments are as intimate, and that my cousin was willing to share it with Judy and me has left me grateful, still deep in thought.

By comparison, the usual political bullshit, threatening though it is to our future, seems well beneath the merely annoying. As depressing as are the rise of Rick Perry and the enthusiasm of so many (any at all, really) for Michele Bachmann, two people who represent the lowest common denominator and the worst of our human inclinations toward scapegoating, paranoia, divisiveness, and resorting to magical thinking, I find it hard to get as excited as I've been. Or, maybe, it's that I just don't want to. Life is about life. Today's politics avoids it, is nothing more than rude noise. Destructive, dangerous noise. Scary noise. But suddenly, reading the latest outrage from the RWS™ or their congressional tools, instead of wanting to vent my anger by pounding the keyboard I find myself taking a breath and turning the page. Or I start to write, and quit halfway through. (The latest was Michele Bachmann's claim of being linked into god's message service regarding Irene, her claim she was kidding, and her explanation that makes it clear she wasn't. What kind of god kills a couple score of innocents, I wondered; sends a message to D.C. by wreaking destruction everywhere but there, scourging the city by leaving it with nothing but a couple of cracked phallic symbols. What, he could't just pick up the phone? And then I hit the delete button.)

On the evening of my aunt's death, after taking my cousin out for a nice dinner and talking about the events of the past days and weeks, Judy and I shared a feeling of having participated in something transcendent (at least w/r/t our pathetic politics). For Judy, it was the first time she'd attended death. For me, it was among many I'd seen as a surgeon, but this was emotionally very different. I was there when my dad died, too. Then, I'd had to participate in the decision to withdraw support, help my mom to understand through the fog of her dementia, be the medical liaison between his caregivers and my siblings. Freighted it was, and still is. If there are no second thoughts, there remain many unpleasant ones. When Maria died, sad as it was, the end of an inspiring life lived to the fullest, her way, it seemed undeniably a part of life, a necessary part, about which, notwithstanding understandable grief, there were needed no regrets.

Against this, the kabuki of broken and cynical politics seems an afterthought, a nearly laughable (were it not so horrible and depressing) example of people deliberately missing the point, missing it by a mile. Because it's what their supporters demand.

So who knows? With any luck, I'll maintain this sense of the value of life and of the emptiness of our current brand of politics, and stop caring so much. At dinner with my cousin, the three of us were talking about all sorts of things. Mentioning the approach of our fortieth anniversary, I came up with a little witticism: the secret of a long marriage, I said, is learning how to stop giving a shit. It got a good laugh. The little stuff, the unimportant things, idiosyncrasies, the ones that used to drive me crazy: in the end, who cares? What do they matter?

The prospect of a Perry or Bachmann or Romney presidency -- choose among the proudly illiterate or the unabashedly unprincipled -- is hardly unimportant idiosyncrasy, given the inevitable damage to our country that would follow. Even so, against having spent those most precious moments, I think I just might not give a shit any more. If the US elects any of those as its next president, well, it deserves every bit of the devastation that will follow. Of course the destruction will fall upon us all, even those who saw it coming and called out warnings. But WTF. It is what it is.

And since it'll be too late to change once the havoc is wreaked, not caring will be the only option left, short of killing our neighbors and eating them.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The View From Here


When I was working full time, most often I left home before sunrise and got home after dark, which meant that although I knew we had a nice view -- it's why we bought the house, thirty years ago -- I rarely got to appreciate it. Among the many pleasures of my semi-demi-retirement is being able to drink it all in. No matter the season, the weather, the time of day, it's never the same, never less than beautiful. Great storms, steely calm, pink sunrises, sunsets like fire, boat traffic, calm seas. We see eagles, osprey, fishing. Sea lions swim by, barking for our pleasure, or snooze as they hitch rides on the log booms heading to the harbor hauled by tugs, the markings of which we've come to recognize. Small local working ones, enormous sea-going ones. Gargantuan cargo ships, navy craft of various sizes, including the home-ported Abe Lincoln, of "Mission Accomplished" fame. Sailboats with spinnakers puffed with color, parades of them sometimes; Coast Guard boats and helicopters. Sometimes there are flybys of old warrior aircraft from Paul Allen's Flying Heritage Museum; a little less welcome are newly minted Boeing planes, including the much delayed 787, noisy.

For the last couple of days salmon season has been open for the purse-seiners, and yesterday there were more than I've ever seen: maybe thirty of them arrayed across the Sound as if guarding it from invasion; and there are at least half a dozen processing ships lined up in front of our place, to which the fishing boats parade to offload their catch. It's dusk now, and that's what they're doing in the picture. When we first moved here, the fishers tied up overnight next to the nearby ferry dock, and when we'd go down there they'd toss us a fresh caught whole salmon, for which we paid five bucks. They still spend nights in front of our place, and we can hear them talk to each other, see the lights, but they stay a little off shore and don't sell. Nice while it lasted.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Bet You Can't . . .


... look at the above and keep from smiling.

That's my other amazing aunt and her friend Vladimir Horowitz. One of my favorite pictures, ever, which I couldn't find when I first wrote about her.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

This Changes Everything


What it says on the above inscription is this:

When Jesus Christ was 21 years old, he came to Japan and pursued knowledge of divinity for 12 years. He went back to Judea at age 33 and engaged in his mission. However, at that time, people in Judea would not accept Christ’s preaching. Instead, they arrested him and tried to crucify him on a cross. His younger brother, Isukiri casually took Christ’s place and ended his life on the cross.

Christ, who escaped the crucifixion, went through the ups and downs of travel, and again came to Japan. He settled right here in what is now called Herai Village, and died at the age of 106.

On this holy ground, there is dedicated a burial mound on the right to deify Christ, and a grave on the left to deify Isukiri.

The above description was given in a testament by Jesus Christ.

I'll admit 106 isn't a very biblical age; but where's the evidence that it's wrong? Other than the fact that you don't need special glasses to read it.

[Seen first at Pharyngula.]

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Kumbaya


I'm getting tired of this:

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is calling on Americans to rekindle the spirit of unity that characterized the response to the Sept. 11 attacks. "It can be a lasting virtue," he said. "Not just on one day, but every day."

The president made his appeal during his weekly radio and Internet address...

[...]

But he cast his plea for good will against the backdrop of the economic challenges facing the country today. Coming in the aftermath of bitter partisan fights over government spending and tough criticism of his administration by Republican presidential candidates, his remarks were an overt call for greater cooperation.

[...]

"We were united, and the outpouring of generosity and compassion reminded us that in times of challenge, we Americans move forward together, as one people," he said.

[...]

In the Republican address, Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada stuck to economic themes, criticizing the Obama administration for creating "more government that continues to impede economic growth at every turn."

[...]

Heller called for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution and repeal of the health care law that Obama signed last year, both demands that Republicans have failed to achieve.

He also called for an overhaul of Social Security and Medicare to reduce their long-term costs and to simplify tax laws.


Kumbaya and butterflies vs screw you and go to hell. What will it take for Obama to stop reaching out to nowhere and start saying what needs to be said?

Friday, August 26, 2011

сумасшедший

[In my Russian-speaking days, I loved that title word. So literal.]

Not that there was ever much doubt, but now it's official: what's left of the Republican Party is a lost cause. They've looked at the field of presidential contenders, and they like what they see. So the only question is whether there's enough people left in this country who have ability to think, to prevent the whole country from becoming a lost cause, too.


WASHINGTON (AP) — After grousing for months, Republicans are growing more satisfied with their choices for president and, so far, they like what they're hearing from the newest candidate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
An Associated Press-GfK poll released Friday found that two-thirds of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents are pleased with the party's presidential field, compared with just half in June. And they're paying more attention, with 52 percent expressing a "great deal" of interest in the GOP nomination fight — compared with 39 percent earlier this summer — after a period that saw Perry enter the race and Michele Bachmann win a test vote in Iowa, the lead-off caucus state, threatening Mitt Romney's standing at the top of the pack.


Stay-at-home mom Jennifer Bevington of Toledo, Ohio, is among those Republicans who like what they see, saying: "Out of the top three — Michele Bachmann, Perry and Romney — of who's running, they should be able to come up with a good candidate."


Mary Parish of Troy, Tenn., had doubted for months that any of the candidates in the field were strong enough to run the country or topple Obama. Now, the retired convenience store manager says: "I like Rick Perry. I think he's a Christian, a good Christian person. I like what he stands for, and I think he's strong enough to beat Obama."



And there you have it. Really, I no longer have the heart to spend the time it would take fully to express my thoughts. Guy's a Christian? Nuff said, Good to go. Romney? Who stands for nothing and is the most blatant panderer ever to run for national office, who changes positions as if he's performing kata? Really? (Just today he announced he'd not cap carbon emissions if elected, completing his run, in abject fear, from prior sanity, toward the teabaggers, crying tell me what to say. I'll say it.)

What do you suppose ol' Mary thinks Perry stands for? The death penalty? Covering up evidence he allowed the killing of an innocent? Betting on dead teachers, after laying them off en masse? Payoffs for appointments? Is praying for rain, hating gays, and denying all science good enough for her? Or is running up huge deficits okay if Republicans do it? (Dumb question: of course it is.)

Huntsman excepted -- and, clearly, he hasn't a chance in aw heck -- there's none in the field that gives the slightest nod to knowledge, science, or education. Proudly -- and just like the teabaggers whose packages they've swallowed -- they wave their lack of caring about facts like the flag whose government and future they'd destroy. The more they lie, the more their followers love them. The less connected to reality, the better it is for them in today's Republican Party.

So I guess we'll find out soon enough if the US has finally gone irretrievably to the dark side: the side that figures a little hate here, a little ignorance there, and a lot of praying is all we need to get by. Because the alternatives are just to damn thinky.



Efflux


In my local paper there was a letter to the editor yesterday. I found it interesting. It said, mostly:
For all those who think we could solve our deficit problem if only the "rich" would pay their "fair share," here are some cold, hard numbers for you.

In 2009, 235,413 people filed tax returns reporting $1 million or more in income. In aggregate, those people earned $726.9 billion. If they had been taxed at 100 percent, it would only have covered about half of that year's $1.4 trillion deficit.

[...]

So let's just be honest about this: If you want to punish the wealthy for being too successful by taking more of their money away -- if that would somehow make you feel better -- just say so. But stop pretending that we can solve our massive deficit problem by "taxing the rich," because all of the rich people put together don't earn enough money for that, even if we took all of it. The math just doesn't work.

Don't buy into the Big Lie.



Don't buy into the Big Lie, says he, hitting all the disingenuous talking points. Lies, some would call them. Because who the hell has proposed taxing the rich at that rate? More importantly, who has claimed that balancing the budget can be done only by raising taxes on the wealthy? Anyone? But it's an "argument" the right wingers like to make, thinking they've discovered the concept of debate (it's shown up in comments here, too). It's like infants discovering the rhythm of conversation, producing gibberish in delight.

"Punish the wealthy," he sneers, using the fabrication du jour. Yes, there's talk of returning to the tax rates of ten years ago, before Bush blew up a balanced budget. But by what definition is that "punishment?" The economy was soaring, the rich were flourishing, and their tax rates were only about three points higher than now. To take a position that the Bush cuts were reckless and damaging is simply to be factual. To suggest eliminating them is to promote a return to the good times; times when few had anything about which to complain; a time when we were paying down our debt. Someone show me the punishment part. Someone make the case that it's in any way about resenting the successful. What it's about is balance.

The letter precisely reflects (regurgitates) the nonsense that's nonstop on Fox "news" and the rest of the ubiquitous right-wing propaganda network. That it's patently, demonstrably wrong on every level has no bearing on the extent to which it's swallowed whole, and passed on, undigested, in the manner by which most other undigested matter re-enters the world.

[The reason I didn't respond to the writer with a letter of my own is that in the same pile of letters was one from me, providing links to the lecture in my previous post, for the benefit of a recent climate change denying letter-writer.]


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Climate Changer


Some guy named Lord Monkton, with no background in science but who nevertheless is considered an expert and who has actually testified before Congress at the request of Republicans, is a climate change denier. (No surprise that a person who's published not a single paper on the subject is the go-to guy for teabaggRs who want to ignore facts.) For those who have the interest (and willingness to listen to a fairly boring and dysanimated speaker), here's a series of videos comprising a lecture by someone with actual scientific background who takes apart the dear lord, carefully, in detail, factually, piece by piece.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Words: Meaning Is Optional


Funny, isn't it? When liberals talk about having the wealthy pay a little more in taxes, it's CLASS WARFARE!!!!! When the RWS™ blame our problems on the poor, it's... well, whatever it is, it can't be class warfare, because that's what liberals do.

Sorta like changes in the tax code, right? When taxes, as is now the case, are structured to send more and more money upstream, to the very wealthy, that's not income redistribution. It's ... well, whatever it is, it can't be that, because Ronald Reagan and George Bush did it. But suggesting moving a little money the other way? There you go: income redistribution.

I'd suggest Republicans provide us all with dictionaries, but it's pretty evident they don't much cotton to carrying around reference material.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

News


President Barack Hussein Obama reportedly spent time in the bathroom of the Martha's Vineyard estate at which he's vacationing, even as fighting raged in Tripoli, the capital of Libya. Sources close to the president conceded that after moving his bowels, he took additional time to brush his teeth and shower, as sounds of gunfire were heard half a world away. It's not known whether Mr Obama washed his hands immediately after defecating or if he waited until taking the shower. White House officials made no attempt to deny that while in the bathroom the president was out of touch with the Libyan revolution, the results of which he'd touted less than twenty-four hours earlier. Ignoring shouted questions from outside the window regarding the whereabouts of Moammar Ghadafi, President Obama spent several minutes in a cleansing process that some have speculated may have been a ritual related to Sharia law.

It's estimated that during the ten minutes Mr Obama was attending to personal needs, the world population increased by 1,500 people, many of whom were born into poverty.

Monday, August 22, 2011

They Just Can't Help It


Congenital assholes John McCain and Lindsey Graham have issued a statement on Libya:

"Americans can be proud of the role our country has played in helping to defeat Kadafi," the senators said in a statement released late Sunday night. "But we regret that this success was so long in coming due to the failure of the United States to employ the full weight of our airpower."


Got it. Our president managed for the first time, ever, to get a desired result by initiating action and then letting others bear most of the military and financial burden. No boots on the ground (that we know of), no US deaths (that we know of). And that's regrettable? It took too long? By what standard? Iraq? Afghanistan?

Not arguing the right or wrong of having intervened at all, it's nevertheless much preferable, in my view, to have let the revolution play out in its own time, with its own people, without the sight -- for once -- of American troops cruising through towns like occupier/liberators. Ownership, is what it's called. Of which there seems to be none in the aforementioned Georgian wars.

But those two frustrated war-lovers think we should regret how it happened. Our military exhausted, our country in debt, soldiers dying by their own hand rather than return for a tenth mission: that pair of jock straps for our troops think we should have done more. Dropped more bombs, claimed more scalps. Thumped more chests. Because of some rusty clock in their Obama-deranged heads; and their belief that having friends in the world counts for nothing.

Pathetic. Country first, they once said. There's simply no way forward when this is how it is.




Windmills



Jon Huntsman, most likely not much longer in the race for the Republican nomination, ought to go all in with reasonableness.
Others agree. As surely as Rick Perry is an idiot, Huntsman will lose anyway, so why not free himself to speak truth to teabags? Why not plant his flag squarely in the tiny and otherwise unpopulated territory meant for thoughtful and helpful conservatism?

Because one way or the other, we're about to see teabaggerism boiled down to its dregs. And when the Rs pick a flag-bearer from among their current choices, there will be blood: either a resounding loss come next November (one might hope), or when that person wins and proceeds to put in place the policies that will finish us off as a great nation. Or, maybe, a nation at all. And if there's anything left, and if there's any hope of resurrection, there might be (one might hope), once again, a place for a person of integrity and knowledge in the current cesspool that's enflooded and drowned a once great (or at least credible) party. If that's the case, to have been on record as having stood against the tide could put Mr Huntsman at the front of the next pack. (I know a guy who works for the State Department, in Asia; several of his liberal colleagues who've worked with him have said Huntsman is a Republican they could vote for.)

On the other hand, assuming I'm right -- and you only have to look at pretty recent history to know I am -- after the damage we'd see, who'd want the job to clean it up? It'd only be possible if he had a Congress willing to work with him. And knowing the ability of teabaggRs to cling beyond death to the wrong, their willingness to put holes in a sinking ship and ignore the drowning, if there are any at all left in Congress, any at all willing still to vote for them -- any at all -- he'd as well walk away before he even started.

For the record: I'd love to see Hunstman be the Republican nominee, even recognizing he might just win. But the best part is I think the campaign would be at a level not seen in a long time: factual, detailed, policy-oriented. It would be the closest thing to what might be called a fair and honorable and -- dare I say it? -- honest fight.

[Since I wrote this, it seems Mr Huntsman has been thinking the same way. Good for him. There still might be a place -- if vanishingly small -- for reality-based integrity among conservatives, if no longer in their so-called party.]

[The above is brought to you by the letter F, as in ... you know. Because it's really clear that it'd take more than evidence to open enough eyes, sealed closed as they've been, by Foxorovian design. There is, I'd aver, no evidence, not even the total failure of our country, that would convince teabaggRs they'd been wrong about anything. The proof has been there since Ronald Reagan; it was writ even larger by George Bush and President Cheney. If that debacle didn't convince them (do they even remember it, after all these nearly three years), WTF would?]

Friday, August 19, 2011

Full Of Grace



Maria loved that song. Not long ago, when she'd become unable to travel, an opera-singer friend of her daughter sang it to her over the phone from California.




Even as death approached, she remained beautiful. Her hair, which was always perfect, had fallen away, pitilessly, from radiation. Her dentures, which she'd had made with the same gold inlays and fillings that preexisted them so none would know, no longer fit and were gone. Only then, at ninety-three, was she finally starting to look her age. Yet her skin remained perfect: fine and unblemished, smooth and unwrinkled, her face simply did not brook its own gauntness. Absent her cancer, I think she'd have lived to a hundred and five. Until hours before she died, she'd been lucid, recognized us who were there, said "Thank you, Sid" to the things I said to her, took my son in a near head-lock and told him how happy she was for him in his engagement. She's known and loved his fiance for several years. (Hearing from us, when she asked, frequently, when they were getting married, that we studiously avoided bringing up the subject, she said, "Well I can," and she did, telling them she wanted them to marry before she died. She saw the ring, and approved.)

Three days before her death she'd awakened suddenly and said "Seventeen." Only that, then returned to sleep. It was on the seventeenth that she died. Aunt Maria always called her own shots.

In her last couple of months, unable to get out of bed, she still threw parties with crowds of people. "It's more fun with lots of people," she said, correctly. She had an affinity for those younger than her (of course, there weren't many who were older), and enjoyed the company of anyone who enjoyed life as much as she. Good movies, good restaurants, good symphonies, plays, musicals. Museums. Traveling. A good book of nearly any sort. If there are true grande dames in life, she most certainly was one. But with her it was fully real, not an act, neither a pose nor artifice. She simply valued decorum and elegance of a bygone time, it was who she was; for Maria, it was a vehicle for truth, and for showing respect, caring, and love.

She spoke her mind. She read, she followed the news, politics, had opinions and wanted to know yours. The scores of the local sports teams were as important to her as the results of elections, the latest Paris fashion show. To the young son of a friend, she gave a book every year, encouraging his reading; he's said it was central to the Pulitizer Prize he eventually received.

And Maria was tough. A tough broad, a broad though always thin and graceful, tall and commanding. Faced with many challenges throughout her life, she handled them without self-pity, but with the certainty that she'd find a way; and she always did. Her laugh was like bells (unlike my other aunt, whose laugh evoked a tommy-gun), and she graced us with it, enthusiastically, all the time. I loved to evoke that laugh; even the occasionally bawdy or otherwise outrageous attempt was okay with her. If you can take measure of a person by her friends, she was superlative. She had dozens, devoted to her, a couple unbelievably so, glad to be in her company, who helped her generously, because they loved her; but also in the certainty that she'd be doing the same for them, and had.

To her husband, a lot handsome and a little difficult (or, maybe, the other way around), whose considerable wealth came from making the best dog food in the Pacific Northwest and who loved the boating life more than she did, she was the devoted wife; but after his death over a decade ago, she found and gathered her own strength and flourished even more.

Maria's daughter, given by her the gift of life, gave her mother the gift of a good death. Refusing hospice but acceding, if reluctantly, to twenty-four hour home care in the last weeks of her life, Maria made clear that it was still her house and the care-givers (who were great, mostly) were her guests, if also, eventually, friends. Help was okay; demands, not so much. But her daughter, who lives far away, was there nearly always; and at the end, unfailingly. Half a day before her death, Maria was still conscious enough to give and receive love freely. I love yous were said, kisses of the most unselfconscious kind exchanged, often, eagerly. (The gifts were mutual.) My wife and I were honored to be there, too, to be part of it. At the end, with her favorite music playing softly, having remained to the end in her immaculate and well-decorated home with its spectacular view to the east (in her closet, her clothes were covered in plastic, labeled, and numbered), with her daughter stroking her hand and brow, whispering to her, sweet somethings, and my wife holding her other hand, Maria's breathing slowed and finally stilled, without fear or agitation or pain. And she looked even more beautiful.

Of course the tears followed, sobs. But if those who fear death (who doesn't?) could have witnessed it, I think they'd had left feeling some comfort for their own. Would that every death could be so right, so obvious a necessary part of life, so well managed. So meaningful.

A couple of days before her death she called her daughter, son-in-law, granddaughter, great-granddaughter into her bedroom and told them she thought she was dying. And said she felt the presence of God.



[Maria at ninety-two.]


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Gee, Ya Think?




File under "duh:"

With Tim Pawlenty out of the presidential race, it is now fairly clear that the GOP candidate will either be Mitt Romney or someone who makes George W. Bush look like Tom Paine. Of the three most plausible candidates for the Republican nomination, two are deeply associated with a theocratic strain of Christian fundamentalism known as Dominionism. If you want to understand Michele Bachmannand Rick Perry, understanding Dominionism isn’t optional.

Put simply, Dominionism means that Christians have a God-given right to rule all earthly institutions. Originating among some of America’s most radical theocrats, it’s long had an influence on religious-right education and political organizing. But because it seems so outré, getting ordinary people to take it seriously can be difficult. ...

Now, however, we have the most theocratic Republican field in American history, and suddenly, the concept of Dominionism is reaching mainstream audiences. Writing about Bachmann in The New Yorker this month, Ryan Lizza spent several paragraphs explaining how the premise fit into the Minnesota congresswoman’s intellectual and theological development. And a recent Texas Observer cover story on Rick Perry examined his relationship with the New Apostolic Reformation, a Dominionist variant of Pentecostalism that coalesced about a decade ago. “[W]hat makes the New Apostolic Reformation movement so potent is its growing fascination with infiltrating politics and government,” wrote Forrest Wilder. Its members “believe Christians—certain Christians—are destined to not just take ‘dominion’ over government, but stealthily climb to the commanding heights of what they term the ‘Seven Mountains’ of society, including the media and the arts and entertainment world.”


Scary, depressing, destructive as this is to everything we once loved about America, there is a certain karmic amusement. Even Karl Rove is worried. He may not have expressed it in so many words, but his plan to dupe the highly religious into the Republican fold, for their gullibility and tautological need for simple truths, might just becoming a bridge too far even for him, the most unapologetically untruthful manipulator since (insert outrageous name here.... Stalin? Machiavelli? L. Frank Baum?) See, the thing is, it's fine -- desirable, really -- to have a bunch of credulous voters, easily manipulable, bathed in religious certainty and preferring it to thoughtful reflection; what better way to get a bunch of people to vote against their own -- and their country's -- interest. But when they're taking over the party, running for office, winning, well, that's another thing entirely:

[Click image to enlarge.]

I'd like to think -- although nowadays it's a long way from certain -- that even for enough Christians to be significant this dominionism is a little much. That among those who see this as a "Christian nation" there are sufficient numbers who retain a semblance of connection, however ephemeral, to the First Amendment, and who'd like the country to remain a thoughtful nation.

But who knows? I guess we'll find out.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Here




Here's evidence the teabaggers haven't a clue.

Here's an oopsie two-step on the stimulus, from Bush's head economist.

Here's another, from another right-wing economist.

Here's how two somewhat well-known governors got AAA credit ratings.

Here's anti-gay hypocrite number gazillion.

Here's relevant info for Michele Bachmann, who stands against raising the debt ceiling (and has no clue what the meaning of the debt ceiling is), and for the rest on her side who agree. And here's but a small (very small) collection of her... what shall we call them? ... lies.

Here's Rick Perry.

Here's a list.

Here's a humor piece that happens to be dead-on.


On What Planet?


How bizarre it is that a straw poll in an obscure town where, evidently, crazy is king (or queen), a person who amasses an astounding total of 4823 votes (crushing the next closest by an astonishing 152) is now the frontrunner of a formerly great party, forcing at least one opponent out of the race.

Not that I'll miss T-Paw (some will), who showed how much prostitution of oneself is now required by the teabaggers, who love crazy candidates as much as they hate facts. Mere moments before gracing Michele Bachmann with their imprimatur, they rushed like kids to an ice cream truck to gain sight of the mother of all crazy and brazen narcissism, mobbing Sarah Palin who just happened to show up in town in time to take the spotlight from Batshitwoman. (Just a coincidence, she purrs.)

What a pair. (I refer to the two women.)

How utterly sensible: after candidates spend more time and money per capita than they'll ever again, hanging out for weeks in a speck on the map, trying to get the attention of the aforementioned less-than-a-handful of voters, sufferers of ADHD, take a tiny poll among those least connected to reality, totaling fewer participants than show up to high-school football games in Perryland, and call it meaningful -- the will of the people. More than that: make it the basis on which the rest of the supplicants will be able to raise money. See ya, Timmy. Good luck, Thaddeus.

By definition, people in the thrall of Michele Bachmann, about whom the only question is whether her non-stop misrepresentations of fact are deliberate lies or simple stupidity, are not the sort who ought to have any say at all over the future of our country.

But there it is, and there it will ever be. Good luck, democracy.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Revealed

Highly believable:


New GOP Strategy Involves Reelecting Obama, Making His Life Even More Miserable

WASHINGTON—Calling a GOP victory in the 2012 presidential election antithetical to the party platform, top Republicans revealed a new long-term political strategy Tuesday: reelecting Barack Obama and making his life even more of a living hell than it already is.

"For three years, the Republican Party has coalesced around the single goal of making President Obama's every waking moment sheer and utter torture," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters. "But we can't continue to do that if he's not in office."

"If we are going to make the president a haggard shell of a human being by the time he leaves the White House, we need four more years of never compromising, four more years of miring every piece of legislation in unnecessary procedural muck, four more years of pretending we want to work with the president and then walking away from the table at the last second," McConnell added. "Four more years! Four more years! Obama 2012!" ...

Checkup




Others can wade through the rest of the data and the methodology in the report. The salient charts are these:


[click on images to enlarge]



The first chart is about money spent on health care; the second is about results.

Well, at least we're number one in something. USA!! USA!! USA!!

As long as any attempts to fix the mess are characterized as killing grandma, we won't get very far. On the other hand, maybe teabaggers have shown us the way: as it is with tax cuts, which pay for themselves, all we need to do is stop paying so much for health care (I suggest continuing what's been done so far: stop paying doctors and hospitals altogether) and the problems will fix themselves.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

D.O.A.


Well, so much for that idea. Not, of course, that it was unpredictable.

To the so-called Super Committee, Dems have appointed people known for commitment to negotiating; some of them, at least.* And Rs, because it's what they do, have appointed only people who've already signed the future-killing no-tax pledge.

Oh well.

________________________

*To those who buy into the outrage over Newsweek's cover picture of Michele Bachmann: check out the first of the above links.

No Doubt About It


Sometimes you can only gain perspective by imagining a flip-side. Thinking about teabaggers...

If they were liberals – Fox News would run headlines: “Liberals Hate America.” ...

These liberal obstructionists would be called terrorists. Not just maybe once in a private off the record meeting with the VP – but on the record and all the time. Since these liberal freshmen would seem to have the same economic goals for the U.S. as Osama bin Laden – that would be pointed out repeatedly. They’d be accused of treason. ... There would be calls to deport them...

If liberals were doing to their country what extremist tea party Republicans are doing to theirs – it would be called unpatriotic. A whole tsunami of sound bites would sweep the country calling for the sabotage to stop.

Liberal dissent is akin to a security breach but conservative economic calamity is given a pass. We’ve treated the tea party like they are our country’s kooky, graying, drunken uncle at Thanksgiving dinner spouting some non sequiturs he picked up on AM radio. When really they are well-funded economic saboteurs who refuse to participate in the democratic process. Their goal of causing the executive branch of government to fail means our entire country goes with it.

The media likes to pretend it treats the political spectrum as opposite equals. The right is the same as the left – the other side of the same argument. Politics is not symmetrical nor is the coverage of the partisans. Nothing makes this clearer than the coverage and tolerance of the brinksmanship-happy tea party.

If liberals did this to their own country they’d be called criminals. The tea party did do this to their own country and they are treated like avant-garde Civil War reenactors.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Truth Is Out There



And, yes, Rachel's piece was from a while back. And, yesser than that, it didn't matter. In our political landscape since the advent of Fox "news" and RWS™ radio, truth no longer does.


Made His Mark


With the passing of Mark Hatfield -- governor of and then Senator from Oregon -- there are few if any remaining Republicans of the old school: thoughtful, moderate, a reacher across party lines. I only met him a couple of times, at my parents' house, I think. He recommended my dad, a Democrat, for a vacant federal judgeship on the Ninth Circuit, and LBJ made the nomination. Long story.

Oregon had a tradition of moderate Republicans. Tom McCall was a great governor, an environmentalist, who called the house one afternoon looking for my dad, and when I asked who was calling, said "It's the gov!!" I don't recall that his or Hatfield's party affiliation ever meant much in our home; just that they were good guys, smart, hard-working, and rational.

I miss those days. I really, really do.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Get Foxed


Here's a very good point, the perfect demonstration of what Fox "news" does, along with the people whose water it carries. (Or is it the other way around?) Anyway...

During the machinations leading to the debt ceiling/budget debacle, the Foxians and the rest of the RWS™ were claiming downgrading US credit could be a good thing. Bring it on. Wakeup call....

.... [C]onservative rhetoric only makes sense today if you ignore the conservative rhetoric from July. Throughout the Republicans’ debt-ceiling hostage strategy, a wide variety of prominent voices on the right downplayed the threat, not only of default, but also of a downgrade... Don’t worry about the consequences of the hostage plan, conservatives said, just focus on the ransom.

And yet, notice what happened after the downgrade actually occurred — suddenly the consequences the right “welcomed” are necessarily President Obama’s fault, reality notwithstanding.

Indeed, two weeks ago, Fox viewers were told downgrade might be a good thing. This morning, Fox viewers were told repeatedly that the downgrade the GOP caused is a tragedy that must be blamed on the White House.

There’s a good reason Fox viewers seem so confused so often.


Truly, it's no exaggeration to say that the smoking remnants of the Republican party, and their mouthpieces of the airwaves, and their leadership hopefuls have, with exuberance, taken leave of all pretense of reason. Clinging with bloody fingernails to discredited ideas, singularly focused on regaining and retaining power for themselves and those who've bought them, ignoring long-term consequences to the country they claim to love, they've shown willingness to say and do anything to bring down Obama, while stamping their feet to get their way.

One expects politicians to have a certain facility for fudging the truth. But simply ignoring it, willfully to mislead so blatantly, cynically to foist destruction on the public because they care only about their power and hewing evangelically to their already-failed ideology -- this is happening at a level heretofore unseen, far as I can tell.

I suppose we could hope the effects we're seeing might be a wake-up call to those of the teabagger mentality: they are, after all, the only ones who don't already know. But that would presume a connection between the world and what goes on inside their heads.

[As long as we're on the subject -- and what other subject can there be, really? -- I wish to hell President Obama, in yesterday's useless (except for acknowledging the troops that died) speech, would have finally stated the obvious: that the opposition party no longer has any credibility, that they've deliberately done everything they can to damage the economy so they can blame it on him, that they've long since abandoned the most fundamental principles of our democracy, that their ideas have been tried for the previous eight years and have failed; and it's time to face it and make a decision. If voters like what they've seen from Congress lately they should reelect all the teabaggRs therein. If they can peel the scales from their eyes and look to the future that stands before us as things now stand, and if they find that alarming, then they must -- to save the country -- make it clear by dis-electing these teabaggers of terror in favor of people willing to address our problems sensibly and cooperatively.

How much worse could it get if he did? How much more intransigent could Rs become? Would Rush Limbaugh reach back and find even a higher level of hateful vitriol? Is that even possible?]


Self-Inflicted


Words are cheap. In the case of teabaggRs, they not only have no value; they have no meaning. As they continue to blame President Obama for everything that's happened since they got their way (think about it: they got, in the words of John Boehner, "98%" of what they wanted in the budget catastrophe, prior to which they blocked pretty much everything else Obama has tried to do), it's as obvious as a forest fire what's happened, and Fareed Zakaria says it well:


We've downgraded ourselves. We've demonstrated to ourselves, the world, to global markets that our political system is broken and that we are incapable of implementing sensible public policy.

...What the deal does is once again kick tough choices down the road, this time to a Congressional supercommission that will have to come up with a larger plan to reduce our debt. And it does nothing to spur growth, and, without growth, the debt and the deficit will expand well above current projections.

... Democrats now feel they need to mirror the Tea Party's tactics because they worked and they are becoming unyielding on any cuts to entitlement programs like Medicare. Republicans, emboldened by the success of their bullying, have closed ranks more solidly around a no-tax agenda... More than two years into the Obama administration, hundreds of key positions in government remain vacant for lack of Senate confirmation. The Treasury Department, for example, had to handle the global financial crisis, recession, bank stress tests, the automaker bailouts, as well as its usual duties with about a dozen of its senior positions, almost its entire top management, vacant, nobody in there.

Senate rules have been used, abused and twisted to allow constant delay and blockage. The filibuster, which was historically employed about once a decade, is now a routine procedure that allows the minority to thwart the will of the majority. In 2009, Senate Republicans filibustered a stunning 80 percent of major legislation. ...

Is that how a democracy should function?

No, it's not. It can't. And what's happening now is exactly what I and others have predicted: TeabaggRs, having successfully and deliberately seen to it that the economy cannot recover, having sabotaged their country as a game plan, are now blaming Obama for the very results they produced.

Of that, there's no question. The only question is whether even this current calamity is enough to wake up the teabagging idiots and those who enable them. My guess? No fricking way.

Monday, August 8, 2011

And That's The Way It Is

Poor Standards


I guess no one should be surprised that, as all of the R candidates for president have agreed the S&P downgrade of the US credit rating must be Obama's fault (even if they're not sure why), it's evident that they either haven't read the report, or simply ignored it. On the other hand, maybe we should excuse them: No one in the media seems to have read it, either.

Have you seen, anywhere, in any media, or even heard reported or repeated on NPR, the following sentence? “We have changed our assumption on this because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues, a position we believe Congress reinforced by passing the act.”

It’s right there on Page 4 of the official Standard & Poors “Research Update” – the actual report on what they did and why – published on August 5th as the explanation for why they believe Congress – and even the Gang of Twelve – will be unable to actually deal with the US debt crisis. [Preceding emphases mine, naturally.]


Now S&P isn't exactly riding a wave of credibility lately, and I'm not arguing about the rightness or lack thereof of their decision.
They said what they said, did what they did, correct or not. But as teabaggRs line up behind the report and squeak their scorn at Obama over it, you'd think their arguments would have at least a passing connection to the actual stated reasons for the downgrade. Those reasons aren't really subject to interpretation, and it doesn't seem too much to ask that pretenders to leadership of a formerly semi-credible party (not to mention our whole country) would deal with it.

In a world, that is, where their party had even the most minimal grasp of or concern for fact. That world, tragically, has long since disappeared from the Universe.

But it's even worse than all that. The tactics used by Congressional Republicans, with nary a one of them objecting, have made it clear to the world that the US is no longer governable. When a major political party has resorted, as its main political modus operandi, to the threat of drowning the baby in the bathwater in order to get its way, there's nothing left of good governance, and no reason to hope for its return anytime soon. [Need proof: teabaggers are actually happy about the damage they've done!]


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Real Or Fake?


Fake News:

Obama Turns 50 Despite Republican Opposition

August 4, 2011 | ISSUE 47•31

WASHINGTON—After months of heated negotiations and failed attempts to achieve any kind of consensus, President Obama turned 50 years old Thursday, drawing strong criticism from Republicans in Congress. "With the host of problems this country is currently facing, the fact that our president is devoting time to the human process of aging is an affront to Americans everywhere," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who advocated a provision to keep Obama 49 at least through the fall of 2013. "To move forward unilaterally and simply begin the next year of his life without bipartisan support—is that any way to lead a country?" According to White House officials, Obama attempted to work with Republicans right up until the Aug. 4 deadline, but was ultimately left with no choice except to turn a year older.



Real News: (Well, "real" in the sense that Fox actually said it.)



Fox Nation Calls Obama Birthday Party 'Hip-Hop BBQ'

President Obama held a lavish, star-studded 50th birthday party for himself at the White House on Thursday.

Politico compiled an exhaustive list of some of the many people who showed up, including:

Al Sharpton, Patrick Gaspard, UBS Investment Bank President Robert Wolf, FCC Chair Julius Genachowski, Leader Nancy and Paul Pelosi, Secretary Tim Geithner, Secretary Arne Duncan, U.S. Trade Rep. Ron Kirk, Secretary Hillary Clinton, Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Rep./DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, former Virginia Gov. and DNC Chair Tim Kaine, Anita Dunn and Bob Bauer, Robert Gibbs, David Axelrod, David Plouffe, Valerie Jarrett, Michael Strautmanis, Pete Rouse, Bill Daley, Deputy Chief of Staff Alyssa Mastromonaco, Denis McDonough, John Brennan, Rahm Emanuel, Tina Tchen, White House chef Sam Kass, Julianna Smoot, Marty Nesbitt, Eric Whitaker, Linda Douglass, and many more.

Celebrities like Jay-Z, Tom Hanks, Hill Harper, Stevie Wonder and Charles Barkley also showed up. It was your usual fancy White House 'do.

But that's not how Fox Nation—the weird aggregating cousin of Fox News—sees the affair! To them, the whole thing had a different flavor. Say what you will—Fox Nation knows how to keep things unique. We also love the url for the item:
http://nation.foxnews.com/president-obama/2011/08/05/obama-parties-chris-rock-jay-z-and-whoopi-while-rome-burns


Friday, August 5, 2011

They Approve?


It surprises me not at all that the latest polls show 84% disapproval of the job Congress is doing. What's a shocker is that 14% actually approve. What can it possibly be that they find satisfying; and who the hell are these people?


Debt

[Click image to enlarge.]

Never hurts to be reminded.

A guy who sends me the occasional email, and who I've generally thought reasonably smart about the economy, recently wrote that the debt is so huge there's no way to solve it. All the gold in Fort Knox, he said among other things, would barely make a dent.

But that's not relevant, seems to me. The point is that if we were to achieve a balanced budget -- you know, like Clinton did -- we'd pay off the debt eventually. If you owe $500K on your house, but can't scrape together the cash to pay it off all at once, it doesn't mean it's impossible to pay it off. All you need to do is keep making payments and avoid taking out second and third mortgages.

In the case of the US, it's not quite that simple, of course, because obligations will continue to increase (mostly because of old guys like me -- although I don't plan to partake of Medicare. I have my own solution to illness). Which is why everyone but teabaggRs and a few Democrats know that long-term balance will have to include cuts that change the slope of rising costs of entitlements and defense, and will have to include revenue unless we really do want to remove all hope of future survival. To achieve balance with cuts alone -- and not even Paul Ryan's draconian plan gets near balance -- would mean the end of education, environmental protection, infrastructure, and, most social programs. About that there's really no argument.

The mathematics of balance are simple; it's because of the politics that solution seems impossible, especially as long as teabaggRs have the corner on stupidity and the rest of the Rs have abandoned all pretense of respecting the rules of democracy.

It's a fair assumption that voters, too steeped in selfishness and willfully stupefied by the RW scream machine, won't give the Senate back to Democrats in numbers to defeat filibuster; and won't return the House majority to them. I look forward (in the way one looks forward to disease and torment) to seeing if Democrats, when they become minorities in both houses, will resort to the destructive tactics the Rs have used. And, of course, to the screams from Rs if they do.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Kudos



Credit to Gov Christie not only for nominating a Muslim judge, but for defending him from "the crazy" despite a barrage of outrage from his fellow right-wingers. His position is the true conservative one.

Meanwhile, I gotta admit Sarah Palin got off a good one over Joe Biden's comparing the behavior of teabaggRs to that of terrorists. Within a not-necessarily-broad definition of terrorism -- holding an entity hostage under threat of destruction in order to get their way -- Biden is right. I've said so here, and so have others.

Better, though, for us crazies to have pointed out the truth than the Veep. Can't say anything bad about the opposition, dontcha know. Unless you're a RWS™.


News Item


For some reason I hadn't heard this. Maybe it's because I get all my news from Fox.
Hege Dalen and Toril Hansen have rightly become national heroes in Norway after they rescued 40 fleeing teens from the massacre on Utoya Island. Using their boat, they made multiple trips into the waters around Utoya where Anders Breivik was murdering 69 people and ferried as many as they could to safety. Bullet holes later discovered in their boat indicate Breivik fired upon them. There's been some concern among the gay community that their story hasn't received the attention it should because they are a married lesbian couple.

Those who oppose gay marriage do so on religious grounds, so they claim. It goes like this: being gay is a choice. The(ir) bible says homosexuality is a sin. Therefore...

Implicit is the corollary that since these people are choosing to affront god, they are godless. And to those same people who make such arguments, people who are without god have no basis for morality.

So I wonder what explains this behavior. For that matter, I wonder what explains the silence of the press...


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The More Things Stay The Same






Can't improve on that. I particularly relate to his comments about wanting people dumb, so they'll vote against their own interests; not noticing what's going on. It's what I've been saying every way I can think of. Not only is it true, but the cynical effectiveness of it is seen everywhere; most especially in teabaggers. Carlin would have loved those guys.