Cutting Through The Crap

Thursday, February 28, 2013

So Much For Originalism



Antonin Scalia is revered by the hard-core rightists for his self-described and oft-touted Constitutional "originalism." Funny thing about that: in the arguments regarding the Voting Rights Act, the dishonesty of that view of him was revealed. Not that it hadn't already, many times, as he's steadily dropped any pretense of political impartiality over the years.


The Reagan-appointed jurist said lawmakers keep reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act out of fear of political repercussions. In a sarcastic tone, he described it as odd that congressional renewal has passed with growing margins over the years in spite of the fact that racism is widely acknowledged to have become less severe in the covered jurisdictions since 1965.
The core struggle in the case is between the 14th Amendment, which guarantees equal protection under the law, and the 15th Amendment, which tasks Congress with enforcing a ban on discriminatory voting laws.
Scalia signaled that he fears Section 5 will be repeatedly reauthorized into perpetuity, regardless of whether it’s justified, unless the courts step in.
“This is not the kind of question you can leave to Congress,” he said. (Emphasis added.)

Yeah, well, see, the thing is, turns out the Constitution has actually weighed in on the matter:

Amendment XV: “SECTION 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. SECTION 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”  (Emphasis added again, in case the point is too subtle.)
What a phony asshole. Who me, legislate from the bench?

[Image source]

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Two Brains Of Humankind



(I wrote this a while back but never published it. With no inspiration for today as we await whatever happens vis a vis the sequester, I've dug it up.)

Here's but a partial snippet from the summary portion of a comprehensive report on climate change, involving 240 scientists, who, according to deniers like a certain two-initialled reader here, must all be in cahoots for as-yet unspecified reasons.



Report Findings 
Global climate is changing, and this is apparent across the U.S. in a wide range of observations. The climate change of the past 50 years is due primarily to human activities, predominantly the burning of fossil fuels. 
[...] 
Some extreme weather and climate events have increased in recent decades, and there is new and stronger evidence that many of these increases are related to human activities. 
 [...]

Human-induced climate change is projected to continue and accelerate significantly if emissions of heat-trapping gases continue to increase. 
[...] 
Impacts related to climate change are already evident in many sectors and are expected to become increasingly challenging across the nation throughout this century and beyond.  
[...] 
Climate change threatens human health and well-being in many ways, including impacts from increased extreme weather events, wildfire, decreased air quality, diseases transmitted by insects, food, and water, and threats to mental health.
If I could come to understand why it is that climate change denial is exclusive, in this country, to today's Republicans; if I could come to understand why it is that climate change denial, in terms of national policy, is exclusive to the US, I think I'd know everything I've ever wanted to know, and could die unhappy.

Actually, I have a pretty strong inkling: it relates, somehow, in ways I haven't entirely figured out but which seem intuitively correct, to the connection between Christian fundamentalism, Biblical literalism, and the Republican party. There's a mindset that needs to believe certain things, the believing of which requires denying reality. That much, I think, borders on the obvious. It's the "why" that's so puzzling to me. The "what is it about them?" It's as if we're separate subspecies. (I'd say "species," but I know that cross-fertilization, in the genetic -- not cognition -- sense is possible.)

Whatever the explanation, it bodes deeply and widely ill for us as a nation, and, given this nation's influence in the world, as a species. This short-circuited thinking process, this overriding need to deny what's obvious, be it climate change or the age of the earth or economic policy or the nature of sexual preference or the value of torture, has become an unbridgeable gap between the two political parties in general, and between human beings occupying this land, in particular. There's simply no avenue for the meeting of the minds, no bridges between the two versions of reality. Which shouldn't be surprising, given that one version exists, while the other doesn't.

It must be -- and this is part of the mystery -- that human brains have evolved in two separate ways. Maybe at one time it was useful to have separation of powers, as it were: shoot-from-the-hip reactors, tough-guys, no-self-doubters; and planners, creators, think-of-the-consequences sorts. Maybe, for all its impressive powers, the brain, as it was developing, couldn't handle both kinds of thinking, and since both were necessary when, you know, we had to ride on dinosaurs, there was a division of mental labor   which, because it's too late now even though it'd be better if it weren't, is becoming a fatal flaw for humanity.

That which got us though tough times back in the days before the days, is killing us now. One can only hope that whatever sentient beings arise from the literal ashes of our current denialism will find a way to leave magical thinking behind and deal with the world as it is. It might keep life going until the sun goes all nova on us.

[Image source]

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Pundit



By a series of unlikely connections, I'm on a list of potential community panelists for Huffington Post Live. Yesterday morning I got a call (from an unknown NYC number; generally I don't pick up unknowns, but I thought it might be from my niece); turns out it was HuffPo asking if I'd like to participate in a panel later that day. A discussion of current events, topics to be determined at the last minute.

Well, I thought, why not. So later that day, around 1 pm local time, I found myself part of a video panel listening in and commenting when asked. First up, high on my list of things I think about, was Kanye West and his statement, hot off the presses, that he doesn't give a fuck what President Obama says. (Obama has twice called him a jackass.) I sat there as the HuffPo entertainment editor was interviewed, offering wisdom about Kanye's psyche, while I barely suppressed the desire to make a well-known hand motion indicating mental masturbation. Eventually I was asked my opinion; is it unusual, the host seemed to be asking, that an entertainer has influence on a president. Influence, I increduled? I think he has zero. I think he's a talented entertainer but I stopped listening to his opinions on anything a long time ago, I added. If he starts talking about how to remove a gallbladder, I might pay attention.

Another topic was the administration's announcement that access to research paid for by taxpayer funds will be freely accessible. Sounds fine to me. A young woman panelist said she thought all internet content should be free, and it's not right that some newspaper sites have a paywall. I said I agreed about taxpayer funded research, but that I didn't think providing high-quality news content for free was a viable business model. Otherwise, I said, you'd just get stuff like my blog, where I shoot off my mouth couple times a day, no charge.

The final topic was about an upcoming PBS show on the Women's Movement, to be aired, I think, tonight. The lady who produced it was interviewed, and was very nice. The host asked me something about whether women could get equal pay in a law firm, or access to med school. To which I replied by saying my grandmother had been the first president of the Oregon League of Women Voters, my aunt had been the first practicing female lawyer in Oregon; so I came from a family in which success for women was assumed. I pointed out that there are more women than men in med school nowadays, and that the place where I got my surgical training recently had a class of surgical interns that was all female. I could have added that the chairman (chairperson) of the department of surgery there is also a woman, but I forgot.

There was another segment about a Craig's List ad for dates to a wedding. At that point I was making faces. I was ready to say my son is getting married next month and I already had a date. But by then, they'd cut me off, I think.

[Image source]

Monday, February 25, 2013

Why We're Screwed, Part Who Knows



On the question of whether budget deficits are getting bigger, smaller, or staying the same, 96% of Americans have it wrong. That rounds off to everyone. Pretty amazing. To what should we attribute such misinformation? How about constant lies and distractions spewing from the right, including but hardly limited to Fox "news." How about the fact that Rs have long since given up even pretending they care about facts? How about teabaggers who take actual fierce pride in not knowing what they're talking about?

Well, sure, those are easy. But 96% includes a lot of Democrats. What is it about them, too? Is it that, rather than making an effort to educate people, President Obama has had to spend his time responding to the idiocy and deceptions of John Boehner, and, just the other day, David Brooks? Is it that our media are so vapid and superficial that such matters take back seat to haircuts?

Whatever the reason, it's clear that not many people pay as much attention as I'd like to think. This stuff is pretty important; yet people simply don't care, or are too lazy to look beyond the crap they're fed, or are too invested in believing falsehoods in order to maintain their sense of self.

Well, I guess the good news is that even if this blog had more readership it still wouldn't make a damn bit of difference. We've become a nation of narrow-minded, unthinking, self-deluding and self-destructive idiots, well past critical mass. Well, I suppose on some level it's freeing.

[Image source]

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Compatability



Since my Sunday newspaper column is, once again, on a local matter, I offer instead the above thoughts on the compatibility, or lack thereof, between science and religion. Seems a decent Sunday topic.

I've puzzled many times over the fact that some people I know, doctors of very high caliber (by some definition, scientists), are deeply religious. So it's not exactly true that the two are in all ways incompatible in vivo; observation tells us otherwise. It's just that, in order to be both a scientist (meaning anyone who understands and accepts the scientific method, and one who considers her/himself a realist who prefers to base beliefs and actions on demonstrable fact) and a standard-issue religionist, one has to create certain lacunae of thought, entry into which is self-prohibited.

For those who need it, it seems to work. But it's not really compatibility at work: it's compartmentalization. Like potassium and water: they're fine together, long as you put the potassium in a water-tight box.


Friday, February 22, 2013

Message Fail



I wrote the following for my weekly newspaper column. And then I realized that, having already sent one in for this Sunday, it couldn't be published before the deadline. So I'll just plug it in here, rather than entirely waste the effort. Sorry for a certain redundancy vis a vis a previous post:

Working my way through the “sequester” fiasco as best I can, I conclude it’s a microcosm of everything that’s wrong in D.C. nowadays. And, yes, it reveals much more about the venality of today’s Congressional Republicans than it does about Democrats. Sorry, but when a thing is true, there’s no way to pretend otherwise. 
The sequester, as we’ve all heard by now, is the nonsensical name for the effects of a bipartisan agreement made many months back, in order to get Rs to buy into the Ds temporary fix to an impending fiscal crisis: if Congress couldn’t subsequently get its act together to address our budgetary problems, such drastic cuts would occur – in domestic spending that Ds would abhor, and in defense dollars that Rs would find impossible to countenance – that, surely, they’d act like adults and get to work. Yeah, right. 
Each side claims the monetary high ground at this point: Ds say they’ve offered cuts in domestic spending far beyond what they’d choose,and President Obama says he’s open to more; Rs say that since they agreed to slightly higher taxes on slightly hardly anyone, they’ve done all they need to do. We can argue about how much of which concession is the greater (or we can simply do the math and acknowledge that Ds agreed to far more in cuts than Rs agreed to in revenue.) 
But at this point Rs have taken all further revenue off the table; even the highly touted and lowly specified Romney/Ryan tax loophole closures are no more. It’s up to Ds, they say, to provide a wholly R-centric budget; meaning, they must do it entirely by cuts to get a single R vote, no matter the impact on the economy, or jobs, or our ability to educate our kids, leave them a livable future. We’re done, say the Rs, literally and literally. 
Okay, well, at least they’ve made clear their priorities: lower taxes, despite being half of what they were in the time of their hero, Ronald of Reagan. But what’s most revelatory of who and what they are is their attempt to characterize this sequester as the sole responsibility and fault of Barack Obama. Sure, they fictionalize history as policy (witness their intent to return to the policies that nearly killed us); but have they still not noticed that there are videos nowadays, and detailed records of what happened mere months ago? 
At the time of its inception, the sequester was welcomed as a policy victory by such congressional luminaries as John Boehner and Paul Ryan, the latter considered their finest fiscal mind. A majority of Republicans voted for it: you can look it up. Now, though, as President Obama is pointing out the real consequences of their fiscal intransigence, suddenly they’d have us believe it was rammed down their gullets. That’s the part I find so emblematic of who they are, and who they think their public is: dumb, and dumber. 
Over the last several years, thanks largely to their message maven Frank Luntz, Rs have been undeniably brilliant at messaging, making Orwell’s fiction and Goebbels’ reality look positively incoherent. “The Clear Skies Act, The Patriot Act, Government Takeover Of Healthcare, Death Panels.” But now, as if admitting they’ve run out of ideas or have given up even pretending, they’re using the term “Obamaquester.” Really? From the people who gave us “Death Tax?” That’s the best they can come up with? Doesn’t even scan. 
Pick a number: if the sequester happens, Rs get 87% of the blame. If forced, I’ll go down to 84, but really there’s not much wiggle room. At this point they’ve explicitly ruled out helping, while arguing that they’re innocent as lambs. The facts speak otherwise. But then, since deciding to cling to forty-year-failed Reaganomics, when have facts mattered? 
Boehner wrote an op-ed the other day in which he simultaneously blamed the sequester on Obama, claimed it will wreck the economy, and said he’s fine with letting it happen. Even conservative pundits went slack-jawed over that one. I’m almost feeling sorry for the Speaker, heading, as he does, a party chewing off its own head. He didn’t elect his Tea Party members; voters did. And until those voters think harder next time they have a ballot in their hands, there’s nothing anyone can do.
[Image source]

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Idiots. Nasty, Stupid, Dangerous Idiots.

Puzzle: What do you get when you combine reflexive hatred with chronic stupidity, mixed with such longstanding disregard for fact that you no longer can recognize reality, nor care to, and add in levels of credulity that most sentient humans left behind when they graduated kindergarten?

This:



These people got into Congress by being elected. There are voters out there who knowingly send people like that to represent them in influencing the policies of the United States of America. Who listen to Fox "news" and Rush Limbaugh, and read Breitbart's ghost-site, and buy it; believe it like they believe Jonah really set up shop inside a whale; believe it like they believe teabaggers arose from the roots of the greenest grass, like they believe Mitch McConnell and Eric Cantor and John Boehner and Paul Ryan have their best interests at heart.

As long as there are people like that electing people like that based on listening to people like that, we're  simply and totally screwed. What a deadly combination of all the worst traits possible in humankind. What irony that they call themselves patriots. How thoroughly they've destroyed democracy. How blind.

I guess I should stop. There's no point jumping out the window: I'm on the first floor.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Sequestration



On my cardiac surgery rotations in training days, a prof used to like to ask interns for a list of reasons for seeing unoxygenated blood in the heart when on total cardiopulmonary bypass. To my surprise, I came up with one of the more obscure ones, pulmonary sequestration. I remembered that gem as I thought about writing concerning the upcoming "sequester." There's no relation, other than the fact, I guess, that things are about to get bloody.

It's the perfect symbol of everything that's wrong with our politics. Having been a bargaining chip proposed originally by President Obama as a way to get Rs to agree to be half-way reasonable, it was approved by a majority of Rs at the time. It was, in fact, lauded by none other than the teabaggRs monetary mandarin, Paul Ryan, who, naturally, is now furiously trying to weasel out of his words from back then. [Added: John Boehner himself thought the idea was peachy at the time, too.]

Rs, usually pretty good at coming up with Orwellian wordplay to disguise their real intentions, have tried again, pretty pathetically, calling the imminent sequester "the Obamaquester." If that isn't a sign that they've just about run out the string, I don't know what is. 

But if the newspeak is atypically laughable considering their previous efforts, like "clean skies" and "patriot act," the intent is par for the discourse. Rs are happy to wreck the economy and will do everything they can to pretend it's Obama's fault. And, if recent history tells us anything, Fox "news" and the usual RWS™will beat it into the heads of their gullible and frightened teabagging listeners, convincing them easy as pie.

All revenue is off the table, say Boehner and McConnell. Having previously agreed to a tiny fraction of it, in terms of total deficit reduction, they've closed the door on anything more, not even the "loophole" closures sung so strongly by The Rominee and his boy wonder; while Obama and Ds continue to be open to further spending cuts. But not, so they say, at the price of our future. I can only surmise that, somehow, Rs are convinced that if they succeed in stopping the recovery and causing another recession they'll be able to turn that into votes in 2014. And I suppose they're right, assuming they manage successfully to shift the blame to our president. 

Can they pull that off? They'll have to come up with something more Lunzian than "Obamaquester," that's for damn sure. On the other hand, teabaggers will buy in no matter what. People that can send a despicable McCarthyite like Ted Cruz to Washington will believe anything.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Income Inequality



This rings true to me, and not just because Joe Stiglitz and I were college-mates. In the article he lays out the ways in which our nearly-unprecedented (except for right before the Great Depression) income equality is holding back economic recovery and wiping away what's left, for most people, of The American Dream: hard work allowing anyone to "make it."

Politicians typically talk about rising inequality and the sluggish recovery as separate phenomena, when they are in fact intertwined. Inequality stifles, restrains and holds back our growth. When even the free-market-oriented magazine The Economist argues — as it did in a special feature in October — that the magnitude and nature of the country’s inequality represent a serious threat to America, we should know that something has gone horribly wrong... .
... There are four major reasons inequality is squelching our recovery. The most immediate is that our middle class is too weak to support the consumer spending that has historically driven our economic growth. While the top 1 percent of income earners took home 93 percent of the growth in incomes in 2010, the households in the middle — who are most likely to spend their incomes rather than save them and who are, in a sense, the true job creators — have lower household incomes, adjusted for inflation, than they did in 1996...
Bringing it up, of course, begs responses of Marxism, socialism, communism, hatred of America. But, as ought to be obvious, it's exactly the opposite. To want to address it is to want to see America survive, and, yes, as a capitalist nation.

[Image source]

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sunday Column



My latest column for our local paper:



Well, just as predicted by Michele Bachmann and other members of the Legion of the Loose Screw, plans are afoot to round up patriotic Americans and put them in camps. Only thing is, having gotten tired of waiting for the government to do it, they’re doing it to themselves. 
Yessir. In the adjacent Potato Kingdom, white supremacist central, plans are being made for a heavily-guarded, multi-walled “citadel”, complete with neighborhoods, a farmers’ market, an amphitheater (for patriotic speeches!), a weapons factory, and a gun museum, to be built aside a reflecting pool. I assume they won’t be doing much reflecting on how idiotic it is. They will, however, each be equipped with an “AR-15 variant rifle and 1000 rounds of ammunition,” and a requirement to demonstrate proficiency, along with handguns, annually. 
Turning to the East, local expatriate Glenn Beck is raising money (when is he not?) to build a utopian community, along the lines, it appears, of the hippie communes of yore, or collective farms in the former Soviet Union (no fancy shops!) He calls it a libertarian paradise, though. The differences are elusive, except that he plans to allow commerce with the outside world (it’s a theme park!), taking advantage of the non-libertarian, regulated capitalism the rest of us enjoy. In selling his vision, Mr. Beck hasn’t yet gone down the path of militaristic paranoia that our neighbors have. 
As to them, well, I’m no military strategist, but it seems if you’re expecting an attack by the most powerful military in this corner of the cosmos (far as we know), gathering up all your people into one spot doesn’t seem all that wise. (They claim it’s preparation for “grid failure.” I’m unconvinced: it’s Idaho.) Maybe they haven’t gotten it under their three-cornered hats that whereas in 1776 it was “one if by land, two if by sea,” nowadays there’s also “three if by air.” 
When I was a flying doc in Vietnam, like every other flier I was issued a survival vest. Along with items that included a hacksaw blade encased in rubber for, uh, insertion in, well, you know, in case of capture, we were issued a .38 pistol and twelve rounds of ammo. Pilots being pilots, some added bandoleers with a couple hundred extra rounds. Me, I figured if I was on the ground, alone, in a situation where two hundred rounds were called for, all I really needed was one. I’d propose the same paradigm to a passel of paranoid patriots peering in peril at professional pilots plotting the paths of prodigiously powerful plummeting projectiles. But then I’m mostly a pragmatist. 
On the other hand, since there’s no chance in hell that anyone is actually coming after them, I find it comforting to know that these people will be safely stashed somewhere else. Less grandiose than Glenn Beck, who seeks two billion bucks for his project (I assume there’ll be management fees), the guys next door claim to eschew the profit motive. Liberals, though, will be “unwelcome,” as will “establishment Republicans.” Like Beck, they plan a libertarian lifestyle, where “neighbors keep their noses out of other neighbors’ business.” Good luck with that. 
If states, as some have said, are laboratories of democracy, then enclaves such as these might well be, at least, beakers. On that level, it could be interesting. After all, who could object to gatherings of people who differ from the norm? (Oh yeah. Them.) So, best wishes. It’ll be a fine experiment: how long can thousands of paranoid people packing heat (“3,500 to 7,000 families”) live together in harmony, without rules, before they start shooting each other? We may get a chance to find out. 
Meanwhile, let’s be clear about one thing: whatever these people choose to call themselves, they’re not patriots. Their beliefs differ fundamentally from those of the country for the love of which they claim sole possession. Like those demanding it after the last election, they are, in effect, seceding, rejecting the essence of living in a democracy, which is that you don’t always get your way. They abhor diversity, especially of thought. They prefer to ignore what citizenship in this country has done for them, and the fact that it’s one of a very few that would allow them to do what they’re doing. They repudiate America, and are, in effect, moving out. Just not too far away.



[First Image source
[Second Image source]


Friday, February 15, 2013

On Wings Of Smoke



Speaking of the Tea Party. It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone with at least one eye, one ear, and half a brain, but the astroturf roots of teabaggerism are becoming ever more evident. And guess what: it started with big tobacco. Knock me over with a pack of Zig-Zag.

Conventional wisdom holds that the Tea Party movement emerged as a result of grassroots anger against the government in 2009. We've known for some time that the real story is more complicated. An awful lot of big money, including from the infamous Koch Industries and other corporate sources, helped fund and direct the movement. But that's not all. A new peer-reviewed study, published in the journal Tobacco Control and funded by the National Cancer Institute, found that the Tea Party's origin story involves another extremely troubling major character: Big Tobacco...
Well, gee whiz. It's been apparent from the beginning that behind the gullible and credulous tricorner teabaggers were people with money and another agenda entirely. You'd think they'd be embarrassed to find out how successfully they've been hoodwinked and used. If, that is, they'd ever showed capacity for reflection or depth of thought.

[Image source]

It Gets Worse



Sounds like John McCain is suddenly satisfied with the response he's gotten to his questions on Benghazi and is ready to move ahead on getting a vote for Chuck Hagel. Maybe it's because even he, a man who still denies being embarrassed over selecting as his running mate a person who'd need to gain a hundred pounds of gravitas to be considered a lightweight, is getting twitchy at the depths to which his party and its spokespeople have descended regarding the Hagel nomination.


On February 7, Breitbart News's Editor-at-Large Ben Shapiro published an explosive-looking story under the headline "Secret Hagel Donor? White House Ducks Question on 'Friends of Hamas.'" Quoting "Senate sources," Shapiro claimed that crucial documents on Hagel's "foreign funding" might be kept from the Senate Armed Services Committe because "one of the names listed is a group purportedly called "Friends of Hamas."...

[...]

Here's the problem: There's no proof that "Friends of Hamas" actually exists. At best, it's an organization so secret that nobody in government has thought to mention its existence. At worst, it's as fake as Manti Te'o's girlfriend. The Treasury Department, which designates sponsors of terror, has done so to many charities tied to Hamas. "Friends of Hamas" is not among them. The State Department doesn't designate it, either. And a bit less holistically, a Lexis search for the group reveals absolutely nothing...

[...]


But the "Friends" accusation goes further than that. It supposes that a pro-terror group exists, and further supposes that the non-existent group would back Hagel somehow. This morning I wrote Shapiro to clear up the accusation. "Have you found any more proof that this group exists?" I asked. "Is it just shorthand for some people who might support Hagel, or a real group?"
"The original story is the entirety of the information I have," he said.
I'm getting tired of saying it, and really depressed: these are truly awful people. I can only wonder what's really behind their smearing of Chuck Hagel; to whom are these people beholden, at whom their  despicable act is aimed? He'll be fine as a Defense Secretary. Seems about time to have one who knows the horror of war from the point of view of the grunts who fight them. Or maybe he'll just be like all the rest; but in stooping to suggesting he's some sort of a traitor, and to do it by innuendo made of whole cloth (not to mention, for the first time in history, filibustering a cabinet nominee,) Congressional Rs and their media cheerleaders show there's simply no bottom to their mendacious cynicism.

And yet, teabaggers and those who defend them show they're of that same cloth: no moral barriers or uncrossable lines whatsoever. As long as it's in service of their pre-failed and wholly selfish agenda, it's okay by them. Slime away!

(Useful insight update: it's because Chuck Hagel wasn't nice to George Bush, says John McPOW: "He was anti-his own party and people — people don’t forget that." Well, okay then. The grownups are surely in charge.)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Summation



On one level, Marco Rubio, savior-in-waiting for the R party, was shockingly banal (and parched) in his official response to Obama's State of The Union speech. On another, which is to say based on what today's Rs have to offer, it was entirely unsurprising. Those expecting him to rise up and show the world the best face of that party couldn't have been disappointed, I guess, because it has only one face, no matter who wears the smile. Government is the problem he said. We can't change the weather, he fogged. The deficit is Obama's fault, he Romneyed. More taxes will only make things worse, he Ryaned. 

It's pretty amazing. They have nothing new, and just don't care. Yet their old comes in pre-failed wrapping. 

They have dredged up another old wrinkle, though; Joe McCarthy, like Ronald Reagan and his manifold failures, is alive and well again among the teabaggRs. Their latest electee, a shameless and factless raging lunatic, replayed the technique as if reading it from a book: we don't know if Chuck Hagel is a terrorist sympathizer, because we don't have anything to suggest it. Having nothing to suggest it, we just don't know. Therefore, we can only surmise.

Yep, he went there. Innuendo and accusation ex nihilo. Is there proof, I wonder, that Senator Cruz (my god, he's a senator??) isn't a child abuser and meth-cooker? I mean we have no evidence one way or the other, so, who can say? 

How much more horrible do these people have to get before even teabaggers have had enough? Answer: there's no line the crossing of which would be a deal-breaker for them. None. How despicable. How pathetic. How indescribably dangerous. Deal-breaker? Who am I kidding? They eat that stuff up they were at a Donner party.

But Happy Fucking Valentine's Day. At this rate we may not have many left, so have some chocolate and wash it down with Dom.

[Image source]


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

WSJ!



This parody of an already renowned Super Bowl commercial appears in the Wall Street Journal, of all places. The flavor:


And on the eighth day God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need someone who can flip this for a quick buck.”
So God made a banker.
God said, “I need someone who doesn’t grow anything or make anything but who will borrow money from the public at 0% interest and then lend it back to the public at 2% or 5% or 10% and pay himself a bonus for doing so.”
So God made a banker.
God said, “I need someone who will take money from the people who work and save, and use that money to create a dotcom bubble and a housing bubble and a stock bubble and an oil bubble and a commodities bubble and a bond bubble and another stock bubble, and then sell it to people in Poughkeepsie and Spokane and Bakersfield, and pay himself another bonus.”
So God made a banker...
[Image source]


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

NRAvings



Joe Scarborough, on and off my list of Right Wing Screamers (RWS™), has, like any thoughtful person, had it with the NRA, as currently led by Wayne "Frenchie" LaPierre. I guess there's only so much that can be said about it; and I doubt there are many people in the middle. We have the literally crazy wing who feel this close to being hauled off to concentration camps, and everyone else. Well, that is, if "everyone else" also includes people on the far left who'd like to see the Second Amendment repealed, which will never happen.

But the thing is, it's the ones who feel okay with that ad that are controlling the conversation. My brief jaunt on HuffPost Live was on a segment devoted to a Tennessee state legislator who, despite a career-long "A" rating from the NRA, was primaried and ousted by them because she took exception to a law written by them, making it illegal to prevent an armed person from coming onto your property. Your property. Saying no to guns. On your property. An armed person.

As we've seen, CongressRs include enough crazy people elected by crazy people from gerrymandered districts that'll never elect any other kind, that reasonable legislation has no chance. Some are too scared to take an intelligent stand; many, clearly, haven't the intelligence or desire to do so. They're right there with the NRA.

I have friends who are NRA members, and they're as troubled by its behavior as I am. There was a time, I think, when the NRA was an organization of gun enthusiasts (although I'm not a member and don't own guns, you could call me an enthusiast to the extent that I've gone to firing ranges for the fun of it, and plan to do it again) and hunters, with none of whom I have the slightest problem. And I doubt (wishful thinking?) that the majority of legal gun owners share the wild-eyed paranoia and hate of those behind, and agreeing with, the ad.

The problem is, though, that they're the ones getting the attention, and, because of the weak-kneed press and fecklessness of our legislators, and of the power of money and blackmail in our political system, in the end they'll carry the day. We'll be lucky if we get a mild improvement in background checks.

Around here there was recently a town meeting as a city council prepared to remove the ban on guns in city parks. Tons of people showed up, including many with pistols on their hips. The repeal passed unanimously. The US of A. Twenty-first century. People packing city hall, packing heat. Absolutely amazing.


Monday, February 11, 2013

My God, What Have They Done To Him?!


Is there nothing we can count on anymore?


[Image source]


Hope



From a while back, by one of my favorite drollish political writers, Charles Pierce:


.... He doesn't need to do this any longer. He doesn't have to accept as axiomatic that there are no options except austerity and being called a socialist by the likes of Sarah Palin. He won a campaign by ignoring those kinds of cheap dichotomies and the forces that drive them. 
It's not simply that he is in a unique position now to be president of the whole country. (He already started using this by taking to the road to sell his economic proposals shortly before Christmas.) The politics that elected him are the politics of the people outside the Beltway, the ones who waited in line for five hours in places like Cleveland and Fort Lauderdale in order to endorse with their votes the ideas on which he was running. He no longer has to abide by the rules of Beltway politesse or by the parameters set down by an increasingly irrelevant courtier press. It is partly all of those things, but it is something more as well, something more fundamental and sweeping. 
It is more that he has a chance to establish what we can call — in the way that fresh approaches always get labeled — a New Realism for the country and its politics, a demand that the empirical take precedence over the theoretical, that a distrust of experience and of expertise is no longer allowed to prevail in the councils of the government, and that the country itself has to accept all this, rather than retreating again into the comfortable fantasies promoted by its favorite TV and radio stars. The self-contained conservative universe began self-destructing by degrees when he was first elected. The process accelerated last November, when all the imagined horrors of that paranoid universe came true and the country — duped by Nate Silver, or sodden with government goodies, or cheated by the hidden hand of the defunct ACORN — reelected the Kenyan Muslim Islamist Socialist Communist Usurper to another term. 
By being reelected, he has made an opening. He has made a clearing. He has the ability now to marginalize that which was marginalized for so long, and ought to be again, while at the same time broadening the national dialogue to include ideas that once were quite mainstream — gun control, the necessity of a social safety net, labor rights — but that were shoved to the margins by thirty years of crackpot economics and the existential night sweats of a country grown too timid to uphold those things that made it worthwhile in the first place. That is the challenge of his second term. It is, to borrow a useful verb from a president currently packing them in at your local octoplex, to disenthrall the country, including all of us, and including himself most of all, from the nonsense of the quiet past that is inadequate to the stormy reality. We can think anew. He can act anew. And, by God, he might have a chance to save the country.

In some ways, it seems President Obama feels the same way. He has two reasons for taking a stand: for one, he's right. For another, the teabaggRs are simply unable to refrain from looking stupid and reactionary. They claim they need new messaging, but for the same old message. I'm feeling nearly persuaded that if they continue to be who they've chosen to be, at some point they'll self-destruct; and not because Barack Obama deliberately "annihilated" them, as John Boehner claims is his intent. It'll be because they've done it to themselves. All that our president needs to do is point it out.

Seeing teabaggers continue to elect their particular brand of lunatics, I know we're not there yet, though. But sometime. Possibly even in my lifetime. Maybe even before it's too late.

[Image source]

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Word




My newspaper column today is on a local political issue. So here's a Sunday-appropriate video.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Going, Postal



The above is an interesting explanation of the issues behind the Post Office's intention to stop Saturday delivery. I hadn't known that stuff.


Remembrance


It's been pointed out I missed Ronald "The Saint" Reagan's birthday, which was 2/6. My bad.

[Image source]

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Trending



According to the latest polling, Fox "news" credibility is at an all-time low. It's still better rated than others in most ways, sadly; but it's dropping. The only network with over half of respondents saying they trust it is PBS; that's a little bit reassuring. Republicans trust only Fox. Democrats trust all outlets except Fox.

PPP's annual poll on TV news finds that there's only one source more Americans trust than distrust: PBS. 52% of voters say they trust PBS to only 29% who don't trust it. The other seven outlets we polled on are all distrusted by a plurality of voters. 
Just like its actual ratings, Fox News has hit a record low in the four years that we've been doing this poll. 41% of voters trust it to 46% who do not. To put those numbers into some perspective the first time we did this poll, in 2010, 49% of voters trusted it to 37% who did not. 
We find once again this year that Democrats trust everything except Fox, and Republicans don't trust anything other than Fox. Democrats put the most faith in PBS (+61 at 72/11), followed by NBC (+45 at 61/16), MSNBC (+39 at 58/19), CBS (+38 at 54/16), CNN (+36 at 57/21), ABC (+35 at 51/16), and Comedy Central (+10 at 38/28). Out of the non-Fox channels Republicans have the most faith in PBS at -21 (27/48), followed by NBC (-48 at 18/66), CNN (-49 at 17/66), ABC (-56 at 14/70), MSNBC (-56 at 12/68), CBS (-57 at 15/72), and Comedy Central (-58 at 8/66). 
Well, one may hope. To the extent that Fox "news" is experiencing falling approval, I'll assume it's because of my constant pointing out of its transgressions. Right?

[Image source]

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Killing Us Hardly



From an interview with General McChrystal on Face The Nation:

 SCHIEFFER: What do you think is the greatest threat to our national security at this point? 
MCCHRYSTAL: In the near term, it's clearly our economic challenges. Our inability to make tough decisions to move our economy forward, that worries me in the near term. In the long term it's our education because that is the future. 
SCHIEFFER: Not terrorism, education. 
MCCHRYSTAL: We can handle terrorism. We can handle a nuclear- armed Iran. We can't handle a future where young Americans are not educated enough to take our country forward.
Interesting, huh? From the general formerly in charge of our operations in Afghanistan, the very thing many of us believe and have been trying to say forever: our future is more endangered by those who'd, in the name of cutting taxes on the wealthy and spending more on defense, cut funding for those things most important to our future and our security.

And yet the entire R delegation in Congress is blind, deaf, and really really dumb to this. Not only do they not want to pay for education, they want to take what's left of it and turn it into science-denying, history-changing Bible school. And, fully foxified, their teabagging electors are right there with them, seeing Muslims under their beds and in the White House, made so afraid of their shadows by carefully orchestrated propaganda that they keep electing people like that, thinking they're saving America. When, in fact, they're doing exactly the opposite, while the people pulling their strings are making out like the bandits they are.

Yes, I sound like some sort of raving leftie: but where am I wrong? Will it stop before it's the death of us? Doubtful: teabaggers have just elected two more idiots to the Senate.

[Image source]

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Gun Range



"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." Wayne LaPierre, NRA president.

Except at a gun range, where there are lots of presumed good guys with guns.

[Image source

Monday, February 4, 2013

Testimony


Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy



Eloquence. Clarity. Intensity. Credibilty. Basic common sense. The clearest, best statement you'll ever hear; and one -- because none from Newtown were invited -- the august body known as the US Senate won't.

Shrink Rap



As austerity reaches our shores from across the pond, as teabaggRs' forcing of cuts begins to be felt here as it has been in Europe for years now, one can only wonder how those monomaniacal spending-reducers will react; other than to blame it on Obama, of course.

On a political note, it would be nice if this report persuaded some people that government spending really does affect economic growth. Unfortunately, the kind of people who refuse to believe this seem to have a weird, walled-off section in the brains that makes an exception for military expenditures. Higher spending on bombs and aircraft carriers is good for the economy, but higher spending on bridges and electrical grids merely saps business from the private sector. I don't know if the anti-Keynesians really believe this or are only pretending to believe it, but it works out the same either way. A report like this won't change their peculiar views one whit.
How ironic (and idiotic) that Rs are fine with the stimulus package known as defense spending, while absolutely oblivious to the positive effects of domestic spending. It's undeniable; but then denial is what they're about.

We need to spend money at home, and we need the revenues to make it possible. It's not raising taxes that slows the economy: it's cutting spending which means cutting jobs which means people don't have money which means the corporations and their wealthy managers don't have demand for their widgets which means they lose money and the economy retreats. Why is that so hard is for them to understand? It's not as if it's not written in the winds. And every newspaper in Europe.

[Image source]

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Bogeymen




My latest Sunday newspaper column:
Our president’s recent executive actions and legislative recommendations about gun violence are brave and overdue. The orders are no more than common sense, though, and there’s no way Congress will pass the laws; besides which they wouldn’t make much difference, anyway. In the US, dangerous and crazy people will always have access to guns, because guns are everywhere. 
But there’s another kind of crazy going on; and although I have no more optimism about it than I do about mass murders, I spend a lot of time puzzling over it. What explains it? Is there more of it now than there has been? If so, why? I refer to those who defend gun ownership on the basis of their absolute certainty that the government is this close (holding thumb and forefinger about a millimeter apart) to marching onto their property, taking their weapons, and dragging them off to labor camps. What is it with those people? Did no one look under their beds for them when they were kids? 
Yes, the Second Amendment (which, clearly, isn’t going away) was written after a revolution in which armed citizenry came together to fight an unjust government. (It was also a compromise allowing states the means to put down slave rebellions.) But the idea that, today, a bunch of guys in camo gear, bearing no matter how many arms, could hold off the US (or any) military, with its laser-guided bombs, its attack (black?) helicopters, drones, heat-detection devices and who knows what else, seems to me profoundly silly. 
Call me na├»ve. Other than, maybe, the prospect of a President Huckabee and General Boykin rounding up non-Christians (would those “patriots” take up arms against it?) I can‘t imagine the reality in which such a conflict would come to pass, or, importantly, with which our soldiers would cooperate. Not in our democracy, no matter how dysfunctional it’s become, thanks, in no small measure, to the presence in Congress of compromise-averse ideologues and theocrats whose political views reject the most basic tenets of democracy. Ironic, isn’t it: those most fearful of a far-fetched government takeover are electing representatives who, by their anti-democratic actions and repudiation of the sort of bipartisanship and compromise that birthed the US into being, are more of a threat to our freedom than any gun laws could ever be. 
Which brings me to my point: Large numbers of people are squirreling guns and ammo, spinning tales of Atheist Muslim Nazi Gay Socialist Kenyan U.N.-led troops rolling into town, tossing out Sharia law like Mardi Gras beads, appearing simultaneously in every burg in the U.S. And while they imagine themselves aping John Wayne and Davey Crockett holding off invaders at Alamo-rent-a-car spots all over the country, clear and present dangers to our democracy are being ignored every day. 
Congress just quashed a law requiring a search warrant to read our emails. Indefinite detentions are still occurring, rendering habeas corpus null and void. And if, because of terrorism, you’re O.K. with that, democracy is endangered in more insidious ways, too: states enacting laws designed to suppress legal voting; education – the cornerstone of an informed electorate, which is, in turn, democracy’s most powerful safeguard – is being undermined and underfunded everywhere. Attacks on teaching science, which, not coincidentally, helps people learn how to evaluate bogus claims, are increasing. Not to mention that it also causes us to fall further behind other countries in innovation and research. Threats to our freedom? There they are, even as those who arm themselves against figments are the ones, by their electoral choices, imperiling our existence without a shot being fired. 
I’m not much for conspiracy theories, but since they’re out there like potholes lately, consider this one: Those who have the most to gain from government ignoring the needs of its citizens, i.e., the tax-averse wealthy and those corporations that hate regulation, have highjacked right-wing media, to peddle fear about the Second Amendment and other diversions (New Black Panthers! Hitler in the White House!!) keeping credulous people voting against themselves, frightened of that which isn’t, blind to that which is. Thus, the Tea Party, produced and directed by the Koch brothers, kept constantly befuddled and distracted by Fox “news;” while “patriot” groups, curiously easily convinced, buy arms by the bushel, standing watch in the wrong direction. 
How’s that for a Doocy of a theory?