Cutting Through The Crap

Friday, August 31, 2012

Gee, Another Lie


Mitt's adoring wife ("I just love women," she proclaimed as many shifted uncomfortably in their seats) told an adoring audience that her man is self-made. Yeah, she did. Well, he isn't, and it's not that he was born into privilege, which he was, unlike nearly everyone; it's that he took advantage (in all senses of the word) of government bailouts when he'd nearly ruined his business:

Mitt Romney likes to say he won't "apologize" for his success in business. But what he never says is "thank you" – to the American people – for the federal bailout of Bain & Company that made so much of his outsize wealth possible.

According to the candidate's mythology, Romney took leave of his duties at the private equity firm Bain Capital in 1990 and rode in on a white horse to lead a swift restructuring of Bain & Company, preventing the collapse of the consulting firm where his career began. When The Boston Globe reported on the rescue at the time of his Senate run against Ted Kennedy, campaign aides spun Romney as the wizard behind a "long-shot miracle," bragging that he had "saved bank depositors all over the country $30 million when he saved Bain & Company."

In fact, government documents on the bailout obtained by Rolling Stone show that the legend crafted by Romney is basically a lie. The federal records, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal that Romney's initial rescue attempt at Bain & Company was actually a disaster – leaving the firm so financially strapped that it had "no value as a going concern." Even worse, the federal bailout ultimately engineered by Romney screwed the FDIC – the bank insurance system backed by taxpayers – out of at least $10 million. And in an added insult, Romney rewarded top executives at Bain with hefty bonuses at the very moment that he was demanding his handout from the feds...


Well, surely that'll do it. Those "we built it" chanters at the RNC will finally acknowledge that no one makes it entirely on her own around here, and the plans of their party will see to it that it stops happening at all, mostly. (I threw in the "mostly" because of this guy -- well, he did have a gun, and a camera, and tools, and the occasional visit by an airplane...)

Like several of the speakers at the RNC who claimed to be self-made but received significant government money (and even those who didn't, became successful -- Romney has said it himself -- in part on the wings of educators, people who built roads with taxpayer money, the union workers who built, with government money, too, the hall in which the RNC is holding its days-of-ignorance-nights-of-deception rally) Mitt Romney would be a financial failure were it not for the infusion of taxpayer money into his struggling and initially mismanaged firm.

We already knew The Rominee "saved" the Olympics on the backs of American taxpayers. Now, it turns out, the same is true of his highly-touted and lowly-intentioned private enterprise. Is it a big deal? Well, no, it shouldn't be. Because it's undeniably true, except to teabaggers, that we can't get along without government, that no one in America ever has. So, who cares, right? Well, other than the fact that Ryan/Romney and all other Rs have decided to base their campaigns on lying about it, no one, I guess.

Certainly not teabaggers and those who love them, those who'll swing the election to a pair of constant and easy liars. Unless they were to decide to seek what we in the real world like to refer to as "information." (I'm putting air-quotes around that, too.) News. Facts. Truth.

Yeah. Like that'll happen.


Eastwood Speaks


In case anyone missed it -- presumably because of trying to smother her/himself with a pillow during the RNC -- Clint spoke at the convention last night, addressing Imaginary Obama in an empty chair (and rambling on for so long they couldn't show the Movie of Mitt in prime time). It's become quite an internet meme, and it's pretty damn funny. Chris Rock tweeted "Eastwood on phone to Obama after speech: it went as planned, sir."

But I think the above sees it most clearly, as metaphor for what's motivating teabaggers.

(For the record, I admire Eastwood a lot for his movie-making, producing ones that are thought-provoking and, even, daring.)



Regular Folks


Wonder if he wore his pressed jeans to this event:

Gov. Mitt Romney's campaign toasted its top donors Wednesday aboard a 150-foot yacht flying the flag of the Cayman Islands.

The floating party, hosted by a Florida developer on his yacht "Cracker Bay," was one of a dozen exclusive events meant to nurture those who have raised more than $1 million for Romney's bid.

"I think it's ironic they do this aboard a yacht that doesn't even pay its taxes," said a woman who lives aboard a much smaller boat moored at the St. Petersburg Municipal Marina.

...

The event ... appeared on no public calendars...

I really can't say: is this monumental arrogance, or simple stupidity; is this stuff so normal in Romneyworld that they don't give it a moment's thought? Is avoiding taxes, having no sense of responsibility or obligation to exceptional America -- a matter of pride? Do they pat themselves on the back, thinking only suckers pay taxes?

For any true conservative, anyone who claims to love this country, to vote for these guys is to relinquish any claim on honesty or concern for our future. A vote for Mitt Romney is a vote to enable a brand of cynicism that should have no place in our government, a level of denialism and mendacity that's unprecedented, that cashes in our future survival as a nation for their immediate greed. It's undeniable. Seriously. These are horrible people. They need to be rejected, and their party needs to regain its sanity, for the good of us all. It would make all of us better.

Only voters can make it happen, and only time will tell if it's already too late. I don't think that's hyperbole: With its rank dishonesty, its pigheaded unwillingness to compromise, its trading rationality for religion, its deliberate appeal to the basest of its base while hiding billionaires controlling their message for their own purposes, today's Republican party is dragging us away from democracy. (I'd have followed "dragging" with "kicking and screaming," but, clearly, their perfectly propagandized followers think they're being taken to Disneyland. I've always found political conventions to be silly at best, no matter what party. But the spectacle of deliberate lying, the same lies repeated over and over, being cheered as if it were truth at this year's RNC is as bad as it gets.)

I know I'm repeating myself, and descending far into blatherdom. But how can you not? This is America now: a land of liars and denialists, still claiming exceptionalism as if the word applies any more, and only needs the saying to be true.



Thursday, August 30, 2012

Liar In Waiting


Before he became VP nominee, I knew Paul Ryan wasn't very good at math. His budget claims have never added up, and he's afraid to show his work. But being arithmetically challenged doesn't necessarily imply rank dishonesty. Nor, for that matter, does his far-right position on women's choice and other social issues. It's consistent, I'll give him that.

But last night he gave what is demonstrably one of the most dishonest speeches ever heard at a national convention -- at least by a member of the ticket. Clearly, if he had integrity before, he's been fully assimilated by Romneyborg. (Which suggests any perception of integrity was false in the first place.)

At least five times, Ryan misrepresented the facts. And while none of the statements were new, the context was. It’s one thing to hear them on a thirty-second television spot or even in a stump speech before a small crowd. It’s something else entirely to hear them in prime time address, as a vice presidential nominee is accepting his party’s nomination and speaking to the entire country.

The article details the specifics, as do many others. (How blatant must it be when even someone from Fox "news" chimes in?) Read them if you can stand it. Paul Ryan got up there and lied to the country he claims to love, lied without embarrassment. Lied like it came easily, lied like a man with no core. Like the man to whom he's handed his integrity and the contents of his scrotum, he treats voters as if they're stupid; as if he assumes they'll trade in their rectitude as willingly as he did, as if it means no more to them than it does to him. Those in attendance ate it up, of course; lies are what they demand, what they've been fed for so long by their "news" source of choice that they can't tell the difference, nor make an effort to find out.

What an astonishing thing: Today's Republican party is going all-in on lying as essential strategy. Clearly, they don't believe they can win if they tell the truth, about themselves, about their opposition. And they assume they've succeeded, aided by their Foxorovebaugh machine, in removing from enough people the ability or desire to care. To tell lies from truth.

The question is whether they're right. You know how I answer.

[Added: wonder of wonders, I guess when it's that blatant lots of people notice, and it shakes the media from its "everyone does it" obsequiousness. Here's a list, and it's not all flaming liberals. The question remains, however: will any self-identified Republicans/conservatives finally have enough of it and try to rescue their party from its mendaciousness by voting the current breed out of office, and withholding their vote for R and R? Given their recent history, I'm not at all optimistic. Which is a real shame. Because we need sane conservatives in the conversation.]

Game Plan


There's no way I could, even for the sake of my loyal readers, hungry as they are for my opinions, watch the R convention. But I have read about it, and watched a couple of clips. So it's become very clear: the Romney camp, and the entire cadré of R mouthpieces, have decided to base the rest of their campaign entirely on two lies. What does that say about what's left of their ideas?

1) Obama gutted welfare reform.

2) We built that.

There it is: it's all they think they've got. Rather than try to convince people of the worthiness of their ideas, everyone of which comes pre-failed since Ronald Reagan tried them and George Bush took them to their illogical limit, they've thrown in the towel on discourse and gone all in on deception. Which is surprising in a way, because the last three decades have been nothing if not the careful and successful dumbifying of their potential electorate. At this point they could say pretty much anything -- like, you know, it's Obama that's trying to destroy Medicare; Obama's vast wealth means he's out of touch; we loves us some women's rights -- and their Foxified voters would lap it up like labradors. But, then, they're aiming at those mythical undecideds, and they've decided this is the only way to reach them.

How unsure of their message must they be? How derisive of those voters to whom they're broadcasting their lies?

I suppose it'd be a waste of pixels, once again to point out the obvious falsehood of the claims they've now made central to their appeal. I could repeat that every fact-checker, every impartial commentator, has said the welfare claim is an out-and-out lie, that what Obama did is grant flexibility requested by several governors, including, way back, Mitt Romney himself. And that the flexibility is predicated on getting more welfare recipients working, not fewer. (Interestingly, unsurprisingly, now that Mitt has made the lie his favorite subject -- justifying it by saying it's working, and announcing that he doesn't care about the facts,* literally -- a couple of the governors are trying to wiggle out of the fact that they made the requests. Morals? Ethics? Honesty? In today's Rs?)

You didn't build that, said Barack Obama. If unwittingly ripe for decontextualization, it was a truism: if we stop providing the infrastructure that people need to succeed, success won't happen. It's such a truism that Mitt Romney, who's never said anything without subsequent changing of his mind, has said it himself, even as yelled out the lie to an credulous audience. (What an unmitigated asshole!)

(It occurs to me that there's another lie coming out of the convention as well: in displaying a "debt clock" they're ignoring the causes and blaming it all on Obama. The truth of the matter is quite different. But who cares, right?)

Now we know, beyond the slightest doubt: Republicans have decided they can't win without lying, that they've concluded that people whose votes they seek won't choose their candidates based on honest characterization of their plans, or a true discussion of Obama's. How pathetic, how cynical. How derisive they are of voters. How poorly it speaks of a national political party, choosing to base an entire campaign for the presidency, for control of the government, unapologetically, inarguably, on lies. How Orwellian. How characteristic of those regimes they claim to hate!

Soon enough, we'll find out: how dumb are American voters? Sadly, I think I know the answer.

[As is often the case, after I write something I read the words of another who says it better. This time it's Robert Reich.] [And here's another. And another. Lots of people besides me look at Romney and his current party and see the same thing. Just not teabaggers and Foxophiles. Not, in other words, people willing and/or able to process information.]
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* That link is worth reading, by the way: from a more credible and impartial source than myself (a Christian one, even!), it outlines Romney's love of the lie and how he gets around the fact-checkers.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Selfless


Having heard complaints about how hard it can be to read the admittedly bizarre and often-unreadable word verifications that Blogger uses, I've once again removed the requirement. (I have nothing to do with the nature of the word verification, only the ability to activate or inactivate it.) I'll still be moderating, which I've been doing a little more actively lately. As some have noticed.

Anyhow, like unplugging a sewer, I've been getting spam comments again, dozens, and it's really annoying. It's not that it's hard to mark them as spam and delete them forever; I think it's that I get all excited to see a new comment (I do like them, you know), only to find, when opening it, that it's ridiculous bogosity. And, typically, poorly constructed, plainly bullshit stuff. Blogger claims to have spam detectors, and indeed they do. But any program that lets this crap through ain't worth the electrons its printed on.

I don't know how spambots work, but I'm sure no one -- not even a person of teabagger mentality -- is stupid enough individually to send out this stuff, expecting it to get through.

So. Know how much I care, you too-few readers (numbers do steadily increase, but it's still nothing compared to Surgeonsblog, of which I was rightly -- so I'd argue -- proud.) I'm making it easier for you at the cost of my own columnar epithelium.


Vox Populi Vesani


Gotta give him some credit: at least he didn't say Obama created the hurricane. Just that he made the hurricane center meteorologists lie about it.

There are so many things about which one could say "it tells you all you need to know about today's Republican party." But right up there at the top is the fact that Rush Limbaugh holds so much sway over it. Millions of devoted listeners lapping him up. Speaks at all their gatherings. All its potentates kowtow to him, seek his imprimatur. When Rush sneezes, hankies are lifted toward him by knee-bended teabaggRs, heads bowed in obeisance, hoping a little of his frothy sputum drips on them.

I don't follow Rush Limbaugh, but I can't avoid reading about him once in a while. I don't know if this is an escalation from cynical money-making phony bombast to card-carrying insanity, or if he's always been this crazy. But I have no doubt there are millions nodding their heads in agreement as he suggests that the national weather service is a pawn of the White House, willing to cost communities millions by making false predictions for political purposes. And, since it must be true that most of them are career professionals, staying in place across administrations, we have also to conclude that they bend with the winds. Which seems appropriate.

With demonstrably insane leaders spouting conspiracies, rejecting facts (one of Romney's people, defending their totally dishonest welfare ads on the grounds that they're effective, just said "we're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers"); with a platform proudly built on denialism, hate-mongering, and rejection of the very idea of expertise and education, how can it be that today's Republican party appeals to anyone at all, let alone about half the country?

If America is exceptional in any way, it's that it's flourished by virtue of commitment to public education, to embracing innovation, welcoming immigrants, calling out fakers, demanding an aggressive and free press, willingness to provide the basics of what average people need to succeed. Respecting opposing views, keeping religion (mostly) separate from public policy. Think of where today's Republicans stand on any of those issues, and of where their retreat from them is taking us. The party that tosses around the word "exceptionalism" like a bludgeon, thinks saying it is enough; and it rejects everything that, until now, has made it possible. (Count the times the word is used at their convention. Observe the items in their platform that will usher in an end to it.)

Proudly uninformed, actively rejecting knowledge and deriding -- mocking!! -- expertise, trying to reduce what was once (arguably) the world's best system of public education to nothing more than Sunday School, spouting conspiracy theories with every exhalation, retreating from a melting-pot of ideas to an insular and frightened paranoid parochialism, today's Republicans are, in every way, exactly the opposite of what's made America successful. And what's most appalling of all is the ease with which their Limboid view of things has taken hold.

But then, it's exactly because it's easy. Easy is easier. The world has become too difficult for the Republican mind to manage. At the very time when reason and cooperation are most critically needed, they recoil in horror and retreat to mumbledom, catch phrases, easy and doctrinaire answers, fantasy. Need I point out the similarities to, you know ... that religion thing, the fundamentalist variety, anyway, on which the R party rests its case. The problem is that singing and praying and testifying might be just dandy for your mortal soul, but they aren't enough when there are worldly problems to solve. Nevertheless, responding to the difficulties we face, today's Rs are just singing louder, praying harder, and listening to their media testifiers as if their non-truths will set them free.


Leaders


A friend sent a link to an article that mentioned something I'd missed: Todd "No-One-Gets-Pregnant-From-Legitimate-Rape" Aikin Akin is on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee! Science. Technology. Nor is he the only teabagging crackpot sitting thereupon. If you have the fortitude, drill down through this article, and be petrified. I won't spoil the fun by posting its rundown of each of the members, but it's all there. As is this thought:

So what gives? Why are there so many congressmen so blind to science, as it were? These Congressmen aren’t necessarily dumb people—in fact, most of them aren’t. But they, like everyone, are prone to confirmation bias, wherein our pre-existing ideologies (something this Congress has no shortage of) trumps our ability to gather information in an objective manner. We’ll discard good info if it doesn’t support our more deeply felt beliefs. It doesn’t help that those deeply held beliefs are massaged by moneyed interests in Congress—family values groups reward pols for anti-abortion stances, the massive fossil fuel industry gives them a pretty good reason to vocalize anti-climate change views, and so on.

In fact, a number of recent studies have shown, for instance, that better-educated conservatives are even less likely to believe in climate change, and that obtaining more data does little to sway their views. In other words, it’s not an inability to read complicated science journals that lands these folks at a point where they disregard science. It’s because the science in question doesn’t seem to make room for their beliefs: in lower taxes, in eliminating pollution regulations on business, being opposed to abortion, and pro-Intelligent Design ed, etc.


How far beyond appalling is it that people like these sit on such an important committee? Not to mention that they've all been voted into office, by voters, fellow citizens, the very people whose future is so jeopardized by such ignorance. People by definition already victimized by anti-intellectualism, and proud as hell of it. In what scenario will they ever change their minds?

I don't see it getting better, which is why I've begun to think the election will be lost. Of late, having been born of Reaganism, Americans seem especially prone to recoiling from the hard stuff, to resorting to magical thinking when the going gets tough. And to selfishness, when pitching in is what's most needed. Even if these tendencies are mostly seen among those of teabagging proclivities, their numbers are enough to bring it all down. What would it take for those who elected such blockheads ever to un-elect them, to abandon the force-fed ignorance they so desperately need to maintain equilibrium? Ain't happening: as we've seen with blinding clarity, you don't need to control all branches of government to bring it all crashing down. Enabling ignorance works.

In a democracy like ours (meaning one that's no longer based on a thoughtful electorate and cooperation among legislators, but on the power of moneyed interests and their ability to deceive the willingly deceived and buy off the rest) this sort of ignorance is self-perpetuating. Because, in a continuous feedback loop, it leads to the degradation of education, to unwillingness to invest in those things that might improve it and give kids a chance to learn. The more people like this roam the halls of Congress, the more certain it is that Americans will lose the ability or desire to recognize the danger. While America willingly cedes the future to more enlightened countries, ones willing to invest in its kids, our citizens elect more and more Aikins Akins, sealing their fate.

So maybe I should put it this way: We're approaching critical mass (if we haven't already passed it): the upcoming election is the last chance to reverse the deadly feedback loop. If the Rs win, the slim chance of mitigating the trend will be lost forever. Because when, in the formerly great (or, at least, non-awful) Republican party, there's no more countervalance to guys like Aikins Akin, support for education will be lost, disinformation the goal. It'll be meltdown: China syndrome. In more ways than one.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Convention, Condensed


It boils down to this.

Oh. And, this, which happened while Artur Davis, their token black guy, was speaking:


Threat Levels


Da Judge is worried about President Obama, no doubt on a black horse, riding into Texas with the full force of the UN army behind him. Of course it ain't gonna happen. Neither is this:
LUDOWICI — Prosecutors say a murder case against four soldiers in Georgia has revealed they formed an anarchist militia within the U.S. military with plans to overthrow the federal government... The prosecutor said the militia group had big plans... Ultimately, prosecutors said, the militia’s goal was to overthrow the government and assassinate the president.
But, really, which scenario has more potential to do actual damage, in whatever amount? Which is already extant: right-wing neo-Nazi haters of Barack Obama trying to hurt someone, or UN peacekeepers rising up under the banner of Kenyan anti-colonialism and marching across our borders?

Thanks to the constant barrage from the RWS™ proclaiming Obama's "otherness," his illegitimacy, his hatred for our country, these nutjobs are given a reason for existing; a claim to relevance, a channel for their life-long sense of grievance. They are out there. Their numbers may be small, but if they succeeded in their assassination plans, there'd be millions more, silently cheering. You know, the ones already dismantling democracy by voter suppression and destruction of education. Anarchy on the inside.


At All Costs


Just as the majority religion in America -- the one with a virtual monopoly -- likes to portray itself as under siege even as it's succeeding in worming its way into our schools and political platforms to an unprecedented degree, so is Mitt Romney's Republican party seeking to win by appealing to white people who've seen the black guy in their house as a threat to their legitimacy, their sense of entitlement. There are none so manipulatable as those made to feel threatened by forces beyond their control.

... The Washington Post’s fact checker, Glenn Kessler, gave the welfare ads his lowest rating, four Pinocchios. The Tampa Bay Tribune’s Politifact was equally harsh, describing the ads as “a drastic distortion” warranting a “pants on fire” rating. The welfare commercial, according to Politifact, “inflames old resentments about able-bodied adults sitting around collecting public assistance.”

Sharp criticism has done nothing to hold back the Romney campaign from continuing its offensive — in speeches and on the air — because the accuracy of the ads is irrelevant as far as the Republican presidential ticket is concerned. The goal is not to make a legitimate critique, but to portray Obama as willing to give the “undeserving” poor government handouts at the expense of hardworking taxpayers.

Insofar as Romney can revive anti-welfare sentiments – which have been relatively quiescent since the enactment of the 1996 reforms – he may be able to increase voter motivation among whites whose enthusiasm for Romney has been dimmed by the barrage of Obama ads criticizing Bain Capital for firing workers and outsourcing jobs during Romney’s tenure as C.E.O. of the company.

[...]

The Romney campaign is willing to disregard criticism concerning accuracy and veracity in favor of “blowing the dog whistle of racism” – resorting to a campaign appealing to racial symbols, images and issues in its bid to break the frustratingly persistent Obama lead in the polls, which has lasted for the past 10 months. The result is a campaign run at two levels. On the trail, Paul Ryan argues that “we’re going to make this about ideas. We’re going to make this about a positive vision for the future.” On television and the Internet, however, the Romney campaign is clearly determined “to make this about” race...

The longer campaigns go on, the nastier they get. Once unthinkable methods become conventional...


The thing is, the approach is working. Playing on white Christian fear and aggrievement, caring nothing about factuality, the Romney campaign has finally gotten back to the base(st) line. It's always worked, and Republicans have the most experience and expertise in the technique.* Plus they have the distinct advantage, having played to perfection the long game of misinforming and diseducating, of having potential voters who are more primed than ever to accept it. Nor should we forget they have unprecedented cost-free use of a well-honed and shameless propaganda complex.

A recent commenter seemed shocked that I think Obama will lose. As I do, she lives in the Pacific Northwest, where, although hardly an all-liberal bastion, there's a general sense of sense, even among Republicans; so it's easy to be lulled into not recognizing what American voters have become. And as we've seen, the story of Mitt Romney's life has been learning how, and willingness, to win at all costs.

(Here's an interesting article suggesting it'll be the last time the R party tries to win by appealing only to white people. If he loses, maybe so. But I'm not at all confident he will. And if they manage to put in place their programs, so devastating to our ability to compete in the world, it won't really matter what happens next: it'll be too late to recover. Educating our kids, helping to feed the hungry ones, providing a modicum of health care for them -- gone from the list of priorities, in favor of tax cuts at the top, and the war machine. Let's hope China and India will be kind to us, and share their inventions. And let's hope we'll be able to afford to buy them.)
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* Sure, Obama and Ds are willing to raise fears, too. But they've been relying on the truth, at least insofar as politicians ever do. Their claims about the Ryan/Romney budget and its effects on education, infrastructure, health care, etc, etc, are accurate, and supported. As are their statements about voucherizing (a word Rs have been instructed to avoid) Medicare and its effect on costs.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Like It Is



Here's a former political scientist and researcher on that latest of Romney's lying ads, the one that sent me into insensate frothing:

Now, let me be absolutely clear about something. I've been paying very, very close attention to political ads for a long time. In my former career as an academic I did a lot of research on political ads. I've watched literally every single presidential general election campaign ad ever aired since the first ones in 1952. I've seen ads that were more inflammatory than this one, and ads that were in various ways more reprehensible than this one (not many, but some). But I cannot recall a single presidential campaign ad in the history of American politics that lied more blatantly than this one.

You can get the details on those lies here or here, but it's something quite rare in politics. Usually candidates deceive voters by taking something their opponent says out of context, or giving a tendentious reading to facts, or distorting the effects of policies. But in this case, Romney and his people looked at a policy of the Obama administration to allow states to pursue alternative means of placing welfare recipients in jobs, and said, "Well, how about if we just say that they're eliminating all work requirements and just sending people checks?" I have no idea if someone in the room said, "We could say that, but it's not even remotely true," and then someone else said, "Who gives a crap?", or if nobody ever suggested in the first place that this might be problematic. But either way, they decided that they don't even have to pretend to be telling the truth anymore.


The article, titled "Lies Are The New Truth," is worth a read in full, if only for its inclusion of Newt Gingrich's defense of the ad by saying, essentially, well, yeah, it's not true, but I have no doubt it would be true if it
were true. And, as is his wont, throwing in some of his tried and false lines about "the welfare president." (Newt, tell me this: does the fact that jobs disappeared under George Bush faster than your first two wives have anything to do with increased numbers of people getting government aid?)

[I wrote this one a while back, so it's a little dated in terms of timeliness; but not in content, especially since Mitt's come out with two more ads repeating the same lie, and it's clear he plans to build his convention around it, too, despite its demonstrated falsity.]

He Should Know


Okay, so no one lies all the time:
"Big business is doing fine in many places - they get the loans they need, they can deal with all the regulation," said Romney, speaking to a group of supporters at a private fundraiser in Minnesota.

Romney then added that the reason that big businesses are "doing fine in many places" is because they are able to invest their money in "tax havens."

"They know how to find ways to get through the tax code, save money by putting various things in the places where there are low tax havens around the world for their businesses," said Romney.

For making a similar statement, Obama was jumped on with both feet by Rs, including Mitt. To be fair in ways Mitt wasn't to Barack, The Rominee was trying to say it's small businesses that need help, although, as usual, he didn't specify much about what he had in mind. But it's pretty clear, isn't it, that since what he mainly learned at Bain and what made him very rich was how to make use of those very same offshore tax havens, he won't be doing anything about those loopholes, now, will he? And since his pal Paul Ryan has claimed he can balance the budget simply by closing as-yet unnamed loopholes, it doesn't leave a lot of room, does it?

Crossfire


So we've learned that all the innocent bystanders injured at the Empire State Building, other than the intended target of the killer, were shot by the police. There were nine of them. Gail Collins makes a damn good point about that:

... This isn’t surprising; it’s only in movies that people are good shots during a violent encounter. In 2008, Al Baker reported in The Times that the accuracy rate for New York City officers firing in the line of duty was 34 percent.

And these are people trained for this kind of crisis. The moral is that if a lunatic starts shooting, you will not be made safer if your fellow average citizens are carrying concealed weapons.

...

People, try to imagine what would have happened if, instead of diving for the floor, a bunch of those moviegoers [in Colorado] had stood up and started shooting into the dark. Or ask a cop.

I suppose you could argue that if a killer-to-be knew that no matter where he went there'd be dozens of people armed to the teeth he might not go there at all; and it may be a good point. But so is the other, and it's the one for which we have some proof. Knowing human frailties, which include hotheadedness, paranoia, hatefulness, and just down-home clumsiness, not to mention stupidity, I'd say there's a lot more mayhem to be had than prevented were everyone to be packing, everywhere.

One of my occasional coffee-buddies, a hunter, owner of many guns, a loader of his own ammo, a proud NRA member, recently returned from a trip to Texas. At the home of a friend of a friend he was asked if he'd like to head to the back forty to shoot a few rounds. Expecting some kind of target practice, he was surprised to see young men running around with assault rifles, playing war. With seriousness and pride, he was shown a cache of forty-thousand rounds of ammunition. Literally. A couple of .50 cal sniper rifles. My friend, with whose love and use of guns I have zero problem (I like shooting, too, got a little training with M-16s at the behest of Uncle Sam), was stunned. Felt as if he were on a strange planet. It wasn't recreation: it was training. For you-know-what.

The good judge of whom I recently wrote is among friends in his home state.

As a realist, I know there's no way gun laws will change significantly in this country; nor do I believe that if they did it would solve anything. That ship has sailed out of the toothpaste. But the idea of arming everyone, which is the way Wayne LaPierre would have it, gives me the creeps.

If my friend, or people like him, were the ones sitting in the theater all weaponized, at least I wouldn't feel less safe. But those good ol' boys down in Texas, with their paranoid fever-dreams and imaginary enemies? They come into the theater, I'm going out.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

God And Gossip


It's an interesting way to say something that seems obvious: to the extent that humans believe they're being watched, or judged, by some sort of more powerful entity, they'll behave better.* And that has evolutionary benefit. The tendency to believe in god/gods evolved in us, for obvious reasons, and it's powerful enough that it exists, with all its internal contradictions (I'm thinking of the biblical god in particular: polytheism gets around a lot of the problems), in otherwise very critical thinkers.

DNA: all knowing, all powerful!
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* Somewhere back in the archive is a post I wrote about an experiment: in an employee lounge there was a place for free coffee, and a request for donations to cover the cost. Above the area were placed differing pictures. When it was generic, landscape, whatever, people gave donations at a much lower level than when there was a picture of two large eyes looking back. (I tried to find the post, and failed; but I did stumble upon this one, which I found re-amusing. Sometimes I crack myself up.


It's Science, Guys

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Boil The Lance



There was a time I was heavily into cycling. My best bike is the same one Lance Armstrong rode when he won the 1999 Tour de France, a Trek 5500, a carbon-fiber beauty with high-class components. (His might have had some added goodies, who knows?). I've taken a few multi-day, multi-hundred mile rides, have trained to and succeeded in climbing some pretty challenging mountains, into pretty thin air. It ain't easy. Although I've never competed, I have raced my nephew home once or twice, so I know all there is to know about that. (Nowadays, my body being what it's become, there are highway beautification rules that prevent me from being seen out there in Lycra. So I ride my lesser Cannondale on a trainer. Indoors.)

I feel bad about what's happened.

Having fought allegations for so long, it would seem Lance has concluded without saying so that they have something on him that'll stick. It's disappointing. On the other hand, doping or not, what he did takes an incredible amount of commitment, talent, toughness, and fitness. Heck, he won against other dopers, didn't he? In the fricking Alps. Shoot me up like Mark McGwire and Roger Clemens put together, I still could't make it out of the starting gate of the Tour.

Which brings me to the point. I've always thought that there should be strict rules for amateur sports. But pros? Makers of millions? Like NFL, NBA, MLB, and NCAA Division I college athletes? I say, except for drugs known to do long-term damage, why not? Same way I've always said those Division I colleges should tell their major sport players, hey, you want an education, we'll give you one. Otherwise, here's free room and board, a car, condoms, a nice monthly stipend, show up for practice, okay? I mean, who's kidding whom?

Or maybe not. I don't know what I think. Only that the Armstrong thing makes me sad. But, nowadays, what doesn't?


Friday, August 24, 2012

Won't Float Your Boat



Those that hate President Obama blindly will believe anything and everything they're fed, greedily, and nothing will change that. But the remaining undecided voters able to think -- and I take it on faith that there are some, even though the concept of undecidedness this late in the game suggests a cone of silence thicker than science can account for, and not much in the way of thought at their disposal -- aren't very likely to be persuaded by the Rovian ploy to make into a weakness the fact that Obama got bin Laden.

I think the attempt to swiftboat Obama's role in the running down of OBL, and the aftermath, is as shameful as it gets, in a big pile of shameful, and it says a lot about today's R party. It says even more of those who might be persuaded by it.

George Bush decommissioned the CIA group tasked with finding Osama. He said, unequivocally, that it wasn't a priority. Barack Obama, wisely or not, said he'd find him, and directed that attention once again be paid to the search. He did so publicly, opening himself to inevitable mocking had it failed. By golly, they found him.

Given George Bush's crotch-forward flyboy flaunting on the deck of the USS Abe Lincoln, recklessly claiming credit for a mission that wasn't accomplished then and never will be, you know he'd have out-strutted Obama, peacocked and pranced like lords a-leaping, had he been the CIC when the kill happened. And Rs would still be dancing over it today.

Whatever. To all but the most hardcore Obama-haters -- and there are more than enough of them to go around -- this move is pretty pathetic. If these guys manage to win the election -- and I think they will, having successfully stupefied the electorate -- with their lying, their avoiding of their own records, their flipflopping, we truly aren't worthy of the democracy that was left to us.

The Pentagon ain't too impressed, either.


There Went The Judge


Speaking as I was of crazy (and probably always will be, sadly, as long as teabaggers control the R party), I think that judge in Texas is a pretty good example of what rational America (what's left of it) is facing. I refer to the guy who's ready to protect his state from the invading UN army that'll be heading there after Barack Hussein Obama, the America-hating Muslim, is reelected and hands the US over to the UN. Yes, that's what he believes, and it's obvious he's far from alone. Nor is his anywhere near the craziest of theories about our president. It does, however, lend itself (or so you'd think, assuming "you" are among those still capable of that activity) to pointing out a few obvious problems with it.

I wish someone would sit the good lawman down and ask for a point by point explication of how it will happen. Maybe they could start by asking where he thinks this UN army is currently residing, and how it will get into his back yard. Of course, before they come out of their secret hiding-base (here I was thinking they cobbled together troops from various countries when they undertook a mission), Barack Obama, that in-over-his-head naif who has the world sneering at us, will convince the UN to act. Make a case for why they should take on the US military and, after wiping it out with their blue beanies intact, assume ownership of this place. Rally the world to join his mission to destroy us. Which countries will answer his call; what will the others do? Then, after Obama manages to pull the whole thing off, piece of cake, country on its knees, tell us how many troops it would take to maintain the enslavement, where they'd come from. Pretty big country. I mean, Lubbock is one thing, now that Buddy Holly is gone. But the Bronx? South side of Chicago? Get real.

So, yeah. Ask the guy for a step-by-step. From reelection of Obama to UN invasion. How does that work? Details. The vote breakdown in the UN. Which countries supply the troops; how many. Do they fly into Lubbock, or take the train? March down from Canada, up from Mexico, battleships ablazing? I assume that'll be easy enough to specify that the judge will have some time remaining to tell us who got the idea of implanting the semen of a Kenyan Muslim into a white Kansan hippie to produce Barack Obama, send him to Indonesia, bring him back, knowing they'd have no problem getting him elected president, given the extant conditions at the time. Because if he believes the UN scenario, he sure as hell believes the secret Manchurian Muslim thing.

Seriously. This guy is not an outlier in today's Republican party. He's the perfect icon of what they've become, dead center. In The United and Exceptional States of America, guys like that are actually elected to office. By Americans. Exceptional Americans. U.S. Americans, as the lady said.


No Asylum


I run lukewarm and cold over Thomas Friedman, but a recent column is absolutely right. As I've said many times, this country needs a thoughtful (if that's too much to ask, I'd settle for sane) conservative party. I really hate that, heading toward a really important election, we're forced to deal with the sickness that's become the Republican party. I hate that we can't have meaningful discussions of significant issues, arguing both sides earnestly, motivated by a shared commitment to finding solutions. Instead, we're putting up with a party taken over by its lunatic fringe. At a time when the issues facing us are as serious as they can be, one side of the equation refuses to engage.

Instead of honest consideration of ways forward from unemployment, crumbling infrastructure, failing education; instead of looking for balanced ways to solve debt, we're forced by teabaggRs to deal with voter suppression, science denial, and troglodyte views of women and their rights. We're having to deal with people to whom the whole idea of democracy and the compromises it entails is as foreign as that Kenyan Muslim in the White House. And it's killing us.

Says Friedman:
...But what’s even more troubling is that we need more than debates. That’s all we’ve been having. We need deals on all four issues as soon as this election is over, and I just don’t see that happening unless “conservatives” retake the Republican Party from the “radicals” — that is, the Tea Party base. America today desperately needs a serious, thoughtful, credible 21st-century “conservative” opposition to President Obama, and we don’t have that, even though the voices are out there.
[...]
Imagine if the G.O.P.’s position on debt was set by Senator Tom Coburn, the Oklahoma Republican who has challenged the no-tax lunacy of Grover Norquist and served on the Simpson-Bowles commission and voted for its final plan (unlike Ryan). That plan included both increased tax revenues and spending cuts as the only way to fix our long-term fiscal imbalances...
[...]
Imagine if the G.O.P.’s position on immigration followed the lead of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Rupert Murdoch, chief executive of the News Corporation. Bloomberg and Murdoch recently took to the road to make the economic case for immigration reform. ... Murdoch added, “give them a path to citizenship. They pay taxes; they are hard-working people. Why Mitt Romney doesn’t do it, I have no idea, because they are natural Republicans.”
[...]
Imagine if the G.O.P. position on energy and climate was set by Bob Inglis, a former South Carolina Republican congressman (who was defeated by the Tea Party in 2010). He now runs George Mason University’s Energy and Enterprise Initiative, which is based on the notion that climate change is real, and that the best way to deal with it and our broader energy challenge is with conservative “market-based solutions” that say to the fossil fuel and wind, solar and nuclear industries: “Be accountable for all of your costs,” including the carbon and pollution you put in the air..."
[...]
We are not going to make any progress on our biggest problems without a compromise between the center-right and center-left. But, for that, we need the center-right conservatives, not the radicals, to be running the G.O.P., as well as the center-left in the Democratic Party. Over the course of his presidency, Obama has proposed center-left solutions to all four of these challenges...

The point -- one I've been trying to make for a long time -- is that when one party has lost all interest in or ability to compromise, has based all its ideas on discredited or false premises, proudly refuses to accept science and expertise as any sort of basis for discussion, not even as a starting point, would rather lie about its opposition than speak truthfully about its own ideas, cares more about imposing its religious beliefs than talking shared concerns, there's no real discussion at all. The left gets to point out the stupidity of the right and gets to ignore any problems with its own positions; and the right... well, the right focuses on distracting and confusing its electorate over its own insanity. Having the aforementioned Murdoch on their side when it comes to the propaganda part eliminates the need to explain themselves, to tell us why their pigheadedness and theocracy won't take us down the road to ruination as it did last time.

The only way it will change is if their voters make it happen. Which means, as obvious as a heatwave, that it won't. Ever. Because by the time people wake up and demand it (assuming that they'd have retained some ability to push their way through the fog of ignorance they've been fed until it felt like knowledge to them), it'll be way too late. And I have a real bad feeling that November will be the beginning, the re-beginning only briefly interrupted, of the end.

I suppose there's irony to be appreciated, from above the 50,000 foot level. As transformative as the election of Barack Obama was thought to be, it, in fact, provided the perfect avenue for hatred to run unabated through the Republican party and to be harnessed cynically by people who couldn't care less about the long-term implications of choosing that path. Following the Foxorovian model that says no lie is too venal, no trick too cynical or deception too unethical when the goal is to regain power, the party of teabaggers took the opportunity to feed on their people's worst instincts, to exploit human frailty and neediness to its maximum and then beyond; and so, rather than signaling a new era of cooperation and rising above partisanship and the politics of hate, the election, exactly because of what it was, became its own opposite: the destruction of the hope it was thought to portend.

No other candidate could have generated so much hope; no other candidate could have fueled so much hate. No party other than today's Republicans could have been willing to exploit it so shamelessly.



Thursday, August 23, 2012

Mars Landing




My astronomer friend sent me this link, which includes real images after I posted the simulation a while back. I can't seem to make it embed (frickin NASA can land a rover on Mars but they can't supply useable embed code), so you'll have to click the link. Worth the knuckle work.

Once again: the brilliance, the ability to foresee, calculate, predict. Gee, if only there were people applying such genius and clear thinking to evolution and climate change... Oh, wait....





Plainspoken Downeasterner



I like the way this lady talks. Truthful, clear, simple, necessary.

When I was in college in Massachusetts, "Bert and I" records were a-listened to the way them young-un's of today listen to that clip clop stuff on they transistor radios. So I know a thing or two about New England straight talk.



Rominomics


Loyal reader PT sent me a link to a list of economists who support The Rominee. Just goes to show you.... something.

The economists (I haven't taken the time to check them all out, but I note one got a Nobel Prize for showing how to value derivatives. Yeah. Like that worked out well...) signed a statement which repeats the whole list of teabaggR talking points; especially the big one, always claimed and never seen, that cutting taxes on the very wealthy and on corporations will stimulate job growth (NB: those taxes are already at all-time lows, or thereabouts, right?) Predictably it also includes the faith-based and fact-free claims that making Medicare a voucher system will "strengthen it" and privatizing Social Security will save it.

Further, these open-minded thinkers announce that Obama has increased the size of government, despite the fact that the number of government employees has been reduced during his presidency. (Perhaps they're including those on government aid programs: you know, the people being rescued from the disaster caused by the programs they're claiming will work now when they caused the problem in the first place. And military personnel, and those in veterans' support. Following, you know, Bush's wars.) In signing the declaration, those academic elites repeat and assume we'll believe, once again, the claim that regulation is the problem. And what they say about Obamacare could have been written by Sarah Palin. It's really a pretty remarkable document, a political screed, a series of unsupported and unsupportable claims.

What Mr. Reich says up there is based on the actual Ryan budget, not on wild statements. And while The Rominee keeps trying not to say anything specific, he's said Ryan's budget is virtually identical to his, whatever his is, and is just peachy with it. And congressional Rs have already voted yea. If they're elected, it's what we'll get.

So step up and take yer choice, people. It's all out there.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Peeling The Onion


I haven't had anything to say about Todd Akin and his statement about rape, for two reasons. First, it's because what he did was only to express, if more candidly than usual, exactly what the typical teabaggR believes about rape and abortion. So it wasn't really new. And the medical theory he cited came from a Romney guy, which sort of tells you where they really stand, no matter how shocked they pretend to be by Akin's letting it slip.

Second, he's clarified his statement and done so much better than I ever could have:
You see, what I said was, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” But what I meant to say was, “I am a worthless, moronic sack of shit and an utterly irredeemable human being who needs to shut up and go away forever.”
It is clear to me now that I did not choose my words with care and did not get across the point I was trying to convey. In hindsight, I guess instead of using the words “legitimate rape,” I should have used the words “I am an unforgivable, unrepentant, and unconscionable subhuman dickhead.” Or better yet, “I am an evil, fucked-up man who should never have been elected to the United States Congress, and anyone who would vote for me is probably a pretty big fucking dumbshit, too.” See how much more sense that makes? It’s amazing how a few key word changes can totally alter the meaning of a statement.

Public service: Since some might remained confused about what constitutes legitimate rape, this should help.

They're Coming

Truth Be Told


As opposed to the lying ads produced by Romney, tell me where this ad is untrue or even an exaggeration. Once again, I challenge my conservative readers seriously to consider what it means for democracy. Not to mention their own interests, if they stop and think about it.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Twofer


I note President Obama is spending time pointing out what Paul Ryan's views and budget plans would mean for women, for the country. I think it's good strategy. I also think he should preface it all by saying that it really doesn't matter what Mitt Romney says he'll do: he's never taken a position on anything that he hasn't changed. At least Paul Ryan is consistent, and, since choosing him is one thing The Rominee can't change, it's Ryan's policies that we can consider significant and most likely to be put in place. Especially since congressional Rs have already voted in support of them all.

Just a thought. I'm sure Obama's strategists can put it more effectively than that. But it's sort of a twofer, isn't it?


Near Death Experience


Speaking of Interstate 5.

Several years ago a newly-hired anesthesiologist at my clinic and his whole family were wiped out by a car that crossed the median of I-5 and crashed head on into them. Roland, his wife, and two young kids, gone. (He was very religious; they named a chapel at the hospital after him. That god! What a way to get another place to glorify himself.) The last case he did was one of mine, a big-deal case, esophagectomy, requiring lots of skill on both sides of what's still called, by some, anyway, the "ether screen." At the end of the operation I'd told him what a great job he'd done. I was glad of that, at least.

Yesterday, coming home from Oregon, as Roland had been, the same thing almost happened to Judy and me. Had it not been for a Jersey barrier, I'd not be writing this.

Traveling around sixty in the left lane, going through Tacoma, I had my eyes ahead. I didn't see what caused it, but suddenly a car heading south crossed a couple of lanes and hit the barrier at high speed and at right angles, its trajectory right at us. Pieces of the car hit mine, and my thought was that I'd just seen someone die. (Amazingly, according to the paper today, there were no major injuries. Surprising: it looked horrible. And reassuring: it was a Miata, the same car Judy drives.) It was only a minute later that I realized it would have been us, too, absent the concrete.

Life is fragile, death can be random, the human body is flimsy as a wet paper sack. There's no sense to any of it, other than, as they say, to live like it could end in a heartbeat, although I'm not sure what that really means or how a person can do it. Quit work? Buy a VW bus, stop shaving, live by the beach? Or just wear clean underwear and don't let your bladder get too full.


No Comparison


What's an analogy that's dramatic enough? Pot calling a kettle marijuana? A sniper calling a squirt gun a weapon of mass destruction? Britney Spears claiming Beyoncé makes the world uglier and less talented? I'm at a loss for words, a dictionary written in disappearing ink.

Gas blaming water for spreading fire.

Paul Ryan, jumping on the Romneywagon like a dog from the roof of a passing car, has joined those blaming President Obama for increasing political partisanship since he was elected. Of all the things R and R say... well, who can choose among them? It's really laughable.

Except that it's just another depressing part of their sad strategy to deceive the willingly deceived: identify Obama's strengths and demonize them; identify their own weaknesses and claim that it's someone else's fault.

They have at least two things going for them in promoting this ridiculous meme: political memory is a short as a lace-wing's life; and their voters are, by design, the most fact-averse in history.

South of Centralia WA, visible from Interstate 5, there's a billboard that constantly broadcasts and updates right-wing lies. On our way home from Oregon yesterday, we saw the latest: "Why is Obama trying to suppress the military vote?" It's the perfect example of how it works: a lie is produced, it takes wing on Fox "news" and right-wing radio, gets spread all over the wingnutosphere like nuclear winter. And when, as usual, it's thoroughly debunked, it doesn't matter: teabaggRs don't pay attention to the actual media. The lie remains embedded like an anal tattoo. Which is the plan.

Need I remind those who'll never get it: Barack Obama reached out to congressional Rs so much when he took office that Eric Cantor said that in six weeks they'd had more face-time with the president than they'd had in eight years of George Bush. He modified the stimulus to include too much in tax breaks to get their votes. He based health care reform, and carbon emission control on Republican ideas, to the ire of the left. Far after it was clear that Rs had no intention of cooperating on anything, in any way, lest Obama get credit, he continued to try. It's on the record. As is the meeting held by congressional Rs on inauguration day to plot the destruction of his presidency.

Barack Obama is responsible for the hyperpartisanship of the last three years the way Cantor Fitzgerald was responsible for the attack on the World Trade Center.

Well, okay, he does have to take responsibility for being black. And that explains a hell of a lot.