Cutting Through The Crap

Friday, November 29, 2013

Professional Pretenders



(I had a different video up there at first: the Platters singing "The great pretender." This one seems more appropriate, given the mutual level of outrage.)

This is really starting to piss me off. I've been saying it forever, and it's demonstrably true: but somewhere along the line I've gone over the edge. Today's embarrassing and disgusting version of a once credible Republican Party is made up of a bunch of deliberate liars; people who treat their "base" -- correctly, it turns out -- like idiots. Lying as policy. Distraction as method. It's beyond simply politics at its worst. It's fking evil.

The latest example is the ginned up bullshit about Obama "closing" the embassy to the Vatican. Hyped and rehyped endlessly by the right wing screamers and the prevaricating collective on Fox "news," it's complete and total bullshit. Even Jeb, the supposedly thoughtful Bush, savior of reason in the echo chamber, has jumped on it with both dishonest stinky feet. As usual, Charles P Pierce tells it better than me:

The Smart One is making noise again.  
Why would our President close our Embassy to the Vatican? Hopefully, it is not retribution for Catholic organizations opposing Obamacare. 
Twitter -- Another Venue In Which the Bush Family Can Be Annoying.
And, of course, as part of his ongoing project to sabotage those parts of his brother's political career that Jebbie didn't cock up on his own, the fine hand of C-Plus Augustus appears just in time to undermine little bro's pandering to the angry papists.


Ironically, the process of moving the embassy from its current location to the compound at the U.S. Embassy to Italy began under Jeb's brother, President George W. Bush, whose administration purchased the buildings. The new location is actually a tenth of a mile closer to the Vatican and the move will come with no reduction in staff or activities.

Euripides wrote something like this once. Then, after he'd read what he'd written, he spent 14 months on Corfu, drunk on ouzo, and chasing fishwives.

This isn't just a misunderstanding or misinterpretation. This is deliberate. This is modus operandi. This is despicable. Unlike Obama's "lies" about keeping your crappy insurance if you want to -- untrue, but not a lie: he was wrong. There's a difference -- this is taking information, turning it upside down and inside out and effluxing it back into circulation as something it's not. On purpose. To deceive. How do they live with themselves?

I feel like running into the streets screaming, all across the country: they think you're idiots. They assume your hatreds trump the most minimal efforts at reason. They lie to you all day every day. They want you to believe this stuff, concentrate on it, so you'll ignore their real agenda: flushing your money uphill to the wealthy, turning the country into a theocracy (okay, you probably are fine with that) and stoping spending money on anything you, and your kids, and grandkids, actually need.

How could it be made any more obvious? Other than carrying around signs that say we're greedy, we have no useful agenda, and we'll do and say anything to get our way, what more could they do to get their sheeply follows to start getting it?

I know, I know, he says, raising his hand and waving it for attention: nothing!! Not a fking thing!!! They've over-eyed the wool and it ain't coming down. The only way they'll stop making dishonesty the central feature of their message is when their teabagging followers demand it.

And, it's clear as the space between Sarah Palin's ears, they never will.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Fallout



The dark side of the nuclear agreement with Iran.




MSNBC Ya Later



I feel bad for Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes, who are smart, thoughtful and fact-based news figures. They deserve better than to be stuck on MSNBC, which is free-falling into irrelevance at best, and, at worst, becoming an embarrassment to liberals. Liberals who, I might add, have never followed that network in the numbers or mindless devotion of those wedded to Fox "news."

MSNBC hired Alec Baldwin, of all people, to do a nightly show, after he'd made it pretty clear he has a tendency toward malicious outbursts on some occasions, whether on voicemails or to reporters. After a brief time and another homophobic rant, he's been excused from further service. And why not?

Ed Shultz, now back in the good graces of the network, took a forced vacation after some less-than thoughtful remarks. He's a smart guy, but a pale imitation of the vituperative anger of a Rush Limbaugh. What's the point?

And now, the Martin Bashir thing: beyond tasteless comments about Sarah Palin. (Yeah, all she needs is more reason to play the martyr, and to get lots of face time and money to pitch it.) Worse, he's apparently and inexplicably suffered no consequences for his feculence. Chris Matthews, when asked to comment on the episode, refused. Cowardice under fire. Or orders. I can only assume -- hope, anyway -- that Maddow and Hayes are deeply pissed at being associated with this mess, no matter how indirectly.

I quit watching MSNBC regularly in the Olbermann era, when I tired of him trotting out the same people every night to agree with him. I didn't often disagree with him or his stooges; I just decided that, unlike teabagging Foxolimbeckians, I didn't need constant reinforcement of my thoughts (or, in the case of the Foxified, the lack thereof.)

This latest is inexcusable. If liberals don't need propaganda the way today's Republicans seem to, at least they're entitled to have a media outlet that provides intelligent, factual, and thoughtful analysis; one to which they could point as an example of meaningful and insightful commentary, in contrast to the dissembling that passes for it on Fox. That's what Maddow and Hayes do, consistently. The rest of them have become no more than hacks. (Admittedly, I say that having watched, for several years now, only the occasional online clip.) Is their management under the impression that to succeed they need to be controversial? Are they of the opinion that liberals will flock there if they provide it?

Not me. Not the people I know. I think Rachel and Chris need to find a new outlet (is there one?) and let the rest of them sink from view.

[Image source]

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Oh, Canada



I heard from a Canadian reader recently:

As a Canadian that lives an hour from the border, we are sucked into American politics and social commentary quite easily. We sit and wait to see what is happening there and cross our fingers and toes that some of it doesn't spread north. Our Prime Minister is a conservative and I would expect has a harder time moving our nation's views to mirror his as the voting power here is leaning left. I feel for those who are feeling like they are beating a dead horse when it comes to voicing their opinions in the States. All I can say is...keep doing it...please. We need to hear voices of reason coming from the US as well as the crazy, 'I can't believe he just said that!' stories we hear. Educate the young and hopefully the next generation will be more open to views and see the US as a global citizen and act accordingly.
Yeah, well.

"Educate the young" is exactly the solution, and, not coincidentally, happens to be exactly why teabaggRs are so desperate to destroy public education, turn it into a bible school aimed at those who need simple answers to hard questions; teaching them not to question, not to seek beyond their deliberately narrow views of things.

Those forces are winning; or, ultimately, are destined to. Because I think we've reached the limits of the collective ability of humans to deal with the disasters they've created. Retreat into magical thinking and denialism is all we have left. Enough of us, anyway, to prevent the rest from acting as needed.

[Image source]

Rule Makers, Rule Breakers



This, from a former Republican Senate staffer, pretty much says it all (the whole article is worth a read. Below is an excerpt):


... Senate rules have been around for a long time. They work. They work, that is, if they are treated with respect, and if the Senate's role in the government is likewise treated with respect by its members. If they are, instead, treated with contempt -- as mere tools to enable timely response to organized constituencies -- work in the Senate will grind to a halt, encumbering the rest of the government.
I can understand, though I do not share, intense disagreement with every Obama administration initiative and disapproval of every Presidential nominee to every judgeship or executive branch office. Willful perversion of the Senate's rules in an effort to ensure that the Senate passes no legislation and approves no nominees (at least in a timely way) is so far beyond my experience with the body that I struggle to believe news accounts from the place.
And willful perversion of the Senate's rules is what the Senate Republicans committed themselves to. It is idle to complain about Sen. McConnell as if he were holding up nominees and legislation by himself. Nearly every Republican Senator -- including people like Cochran, Grassley, Hatch, McCain and Alexander who have been Senators for many years -- has supported McConnell without cavil throughout this entire sordid business. If McConnell acted in bad faith by going back on a promise made last year not to obstruct routine nominations, so did they...
I'd add, as I've already written, that the impact of reform is much greater on Republican obstructionism that it might be on Democrats; because they have never and would never use the filibuster as often as Rs have. Maybe it even figured into their thinking: hey, we're not as big of assholes as they are, so who cares, right?

[Image source]

Monday, November 25, 2013

Simple Truth


Tom Tomorrow


Full cartoon here.

Right Before Our Eyes



Interesting report on what's before our eyes. As the country argues over the relative merits of progressive vs regressive (i.e. Tea Party) visions, there's actually a side by side set of laboratories in which the two divergent approaches have been playing out. Rather than speculate, prevaricate, and gesticulate, we have only to look at the neighboring states of Wisconsin and Minnesota.

The former has an uber-teabagger governor and a right wing legislature, and has implemented spending cuts, demonized unions, stopped paying for infrastructure, cut spending on schools by 15%; the whole ball o'wax. Bag o' tea. The latter has a progressive governor and legislature, has implemented targeted tax increases to pay for those things abandoned in Wisconsin. Guess which state is seeing significant job growth and economic expansion. Here's an article by a poli-sci professor that addresses, and answers, that very question:

... A month after Mr. Walker’s inauguration in January 2011, he catapulted himself to the front ranks of national conservative leaders with attacks on the collective bargaining rights of Civil Service unions and sharp reductions in taxes and spending. Once Mr. Dayton teamed up with a Democratic Legislature in 2012, Minnesota adopted some of the most progressive policies in the country. 
Minnesota raised taxes by $2.1 billion, the largest increase in recent state history. Democrats introduced the fourth highest income tax bracket in the country and targeted the top 1 percent of earners to pay 62 percent of the new taxes, according to the Department of Revenue. 
Which side of the experiment — the new right or modern progressivism — has been most effective in increasing jobs and improving business opportunities, not to mention living conditions?... 
... Three years into Mr. Walker’s term, Wisconsin lags behind Minnesota in job creation and economic growth. As a candidate, Mr. Walker 250,000 private-sector jobs in his first term, but a year before the next election that number is less than 90,000. Wisconsin ranks 34th for job growth. Mr. Walker’s defenders blame the higher spending and taxes of his Democratic predecessor for these disappointments, but according to Forbes’s annual list of best states for business, Wisconsin continues to rank in the bottom half.
Along with California, Minnesota is the fifth fastest growing state economy, with private-sector job growth exceeding pre-recession levels. Forbes rates Minnesota as the eighth best state for business...
[California, by the way, mentioned above, has a D governor and legislature, too; and they've managed to balance their budget and get the economy growing after years of R deficits and stagnation.]

There's lots of supporting info in the article, well worth a read. None of this is really surprising, since such experiments have been done time and again, on the national and state level, always with the same results. And yet, we remain divided pretty much down the middle; and the advocates of Wisconsin-type austerity and draconian cuts to their future are in Congress in great enough numbers to block a progressive -- and effective -- agenda.

So, in yet another context, one must ask: at what point will the Tea Party people who elect these regressive legislators who push a pre-failed agenda stop and look at the evidence? There's no mystery as to what works. The only mystery is why so many people who'd benefit from progressive legislation refuse, or are unable, to see it. And yet again we see the real reason for teabaggRs' devotion to destroying public education: the more people know, the more they learn to think, the more likely it is that they'd figure it out. And they might even recognize how they're being played for fools by Fox "news" and the Rushosavbeckian scream machine.

[Image source]

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Truth Is Out There



This one made all the media, and was trumpeted on Fox "news" and RW radio like Gabriel was playing the horn. A lady from my state, who'd touted Obamacare and was featured by the WH, it turns out, didn't qualify for the rate relief she'd been told. Another lie, another bald-faced lie by the lying liar from Kenya. Well, as has been the case with a heck of a lot of the sad stories trotted out by the let-'em-diers, it turns out there's more to the story. A lot more: 

... Except there’s a key detail none of these media outlets mentioned. 
Which is: Sanford’s son was discovered to qualify for Medicaid coverage at a cost of just $30 a month. He has ADHD and, according to Sanford, it costs them $250 a month for prescription drugs alone. Which will now all be covered. 
It’s true the rest of her insurance won’t get a big discount, as she had first thought. “That mistake is totally on us,” said Bethany Frey of the Washington state health exchange. 
But a bronze-level policy for a 48-year-old woman making $49,000 can be had on the state exchange for $237 a month, and a silver-level policy for $313.
So here’s a family that was totally uninsured for 15 years because it had always cost at least $500 to $600 a month for skimpy policies to cover them both. And what they can get now is full coverage for $30 a month for the son and scantier coverage in the $250 to $300 a month range for the mom. 
How is that a horror story? Yet it prompted a live scandalcast in front of the White House by a national news network — which didn’t know, or maybe didn’t want to say, that due to the state health exchange the son now is getting essentially free health care...
The problems with the ACA are many. Some might even say expected, at the beginning of such a huge program. A program aimed -- and mostly successful at -- getting people previously unable to, enrolled in affordable health care. One might wonder: for every story (many of which have been found to be falsified; and in the case of Fox, deliberately so) of people priced out, how many thousands of unheralded successes are there? But where's the news in that?

It strikes me as little like, in reverse, how excited we get when a lone survivor of a building collapse is found, after hundreds died. "It's a miracle," we like to say.


When There Was Reason To Hope, And To Be Inspired

Helpful Flow Chart



[Image source]


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Dag The Wog


Remember when Rs accused Clinton of using the Bosnia attack to distract from blow jobs? The above has to be the stupidest thing I've seen from a R in a long time. Well, make that in a millisecond. They produce them like Seattle rain.

Yeah. The culmination of five years of severe sanctions, and countless attempts at diplomacy before this. Held it back just in case Obamacare had problems. Peace. What a fking distraction.

To Congressional Rs there's nothing -- NOTHING -- Barack Hussein Obama could do of which they'd approve. Achieve peace. Make war. Try to fix health care. Ignore it.

C'mon, teabaggers: isn't there any point at all, none, at which you'd look at these guys and realize what complete assholes they are; how bereft of ideas, how lacking in interest to do work on behalf of our county, how disinterested they are in anything but obstructing and criticizing our president, no matter what? Even if it makes them look like idiots?

Never mind. By now, we know the answer.


Precisely!




Friday, November 22, 2013

Fili-Bluster



Here's a good point. A few people have pointed out that if Republicans are so concerned about minority rights, legislatively speaking (we know they're not when it comes to actual human beings), they could, in the House where they have all the power, change rules to allow filibusters. Let the Dems in that arena have the power of veto the way Rs did (and still mostly do) in the Senate.

Any takers, teabaggRs? Speak up. We can't hear you.

[Image source]

Undeniable



And she's a member of Scotland's conservative party! Because, when you take religious based bigotry and hatred out of it, marriage equality is a conservative principle. Wouldn't it be nice if we had conservatives like that in the US? There was a time... Will it ever happen again?




Thursday, November 21, 2013

Finally!!



As Mitch "If my lips are moving..." McConnell implied in his otherwise stupendously cynical and dishonest response to the vote to reform filibuster rules, we must assume the reason it's never been done is because each side understands they could be in the minority someday and want to use it.

Fact is, the change affects only cabinet-related appointments and federal judges except the Supreme Court. Hardly a scorching of the process. Another fact is that over half of all nominees blocked by filibuster in the history of the US since the Constitution was ratified, have been blocked by Republicans during the Obama administration. Over half! I think it's safe to say, for several obvious reasons, not the least of which is, as opposed to teabaggRs, a belief in governance, that Ds would never, have never, and will never use the filibuster as regularly as Rs have since, well, you know...

So, good for them. Too bad they waited so long. Too bad it'll only affect a tiny part of R obstructionism.

[Image source]

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Thanks, Ron



Far be it from me to blame everything that's happened in the past four decades on Ronald "What's my next line?" Reagan, the way teabaggers blame our Bush-induced economic calamities on Barack Obama. But it was when I was in training in SF, CA, that the then-governor decided that hospitalizing the mentally ill wasn't worth the money, and rousted them onto the streets, where, for the most part, they remain.

That legacy remains, too: in our area there are virtually no inpatient facilities for the mentally ill; not now, not when I wrote this piece on Surgeonsblog. Nor, evidently, are there any in Virginia, where a homocidal kid was released into the wild after a court-ordered psych evaluation, for lack of beds.

As it is with hurricanes and typhoons, evidently, one can't make a global case based on any particular event; but I see this tragedy as emblematic of the failures that derive from teabagger-type austerity. "Saving" money in the short term, ignoring the long-term consequences. Justifying what amounts to no more than selfishness; allowing oneself to believe that magic will take care of the future, so it's fine not to care about present problems. While claiming exceptionalism for the country in whose most basic tenets you don't actually believe.

[Image source]

Wish I'd Said That...



My favorite political writer, Charles P. Pierce (CPP, I'm told, is the correct shorthand) has done it again. Writing about that fraudulent faker of a fact-free fraud, Paul Ryan, who evidently flunked arithmetic but whose persona as the budget guy among teabaggRs is as undead as Ronald Reagan's mythology, had this to say, in conclusion to a long piece:

So here's my question. All those years when my money and the money of millions of other Americans were helping this already well-off young man hold body and soul together while he went through college, how come his incentive wasn't damaged by all the taking he was doing? How come he wasn't crippled by "dependency"? How come his work ethic survived long enough to guarantee that he would never draw anything but a government salary for the rest of his life? How come, as a congressman, on my dime, he hasn't felt the slow, stultifying hand of government strangling his individual initiative? How come the only people all this quasi-mystical horse-pucky applies to are the people too poor for Paul Ryan's party to care about? If I do nothing for the rest of my career here than point out what a complete fake this guy is, while embarrassing the fatheads who still take him seriously, I will die a happy blogger.

As CPP suggests, being the designated genius in a body that contains such wunderkinder as Louis Gohmert and Michele Bachmann is no great accolade. But to see through him takes a moment's reflection, a bit of math, and the remembering of budget outcomes of R policies since Ronald the Forgetful. Given the laziness and fawnitude of our so-called political reporters nowadays, it doesn't happen.

Nor, of course, would it make any difference to teabaggers, they of reality-avoidance as lifestyle, if it did.

[Image source]

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

JFK At Amherst



One of the last public appearances made by President Kennedy was at my college, where he'd come to dedicate the Robert Frost Library. I was a sophomore, and I heard the above speech as he gave it. Parts of it, the ones referring to the value of the artist to society, have been quoted many times. I wrote about the experience here; of hearing him, and of the death mere weeks later. It's nice to hear the words again, still as impressive in my fuddydom as they were as an impressionable youth. Nor is it hard to conjure the sadness that followed.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

So Simple, And Yet So Hard




My first thought on seeing this was that he's a really brave guy. My second thought was how horrifying it is that, in The United States of America, you have to be brave to say stuff like this, the obvious.


Friday, November 15, 2013

I'm Pissed



And the more I think about it, the more pissed I get. My friend Rick called the other night, and we shared our misery.

After the government shutdown, people were finally beginning to see how destructive, how devoid of ideas, how bent on scapegoating the poor in order to keep succoring the rich, is today's teabagging Republican Party. It's as if the curtain of ignorance finally parted just a little, letting in enough light that some even were talking about Democrats taking back the House. Giving John "Tell me where to put my scrotum, now that it's empty, and I'll do it" Boehner something real to cry about.

Then comes the healthcare website rollout, and it's a disaster. Embarrassing. Inexcusable. Incompetent. So Rs are handed, like a head on a platter, a perfect rationale for resurrecting their pre-failed policies, an excuse for their selfish shortsightedness: see, they're saying. Democrats are incompetent. This is what we were trying to save you from.

Never mind that it's the first real attempt to address the myriad problems in our health care system; that it's based on actual concern for actual people who have no access to affordable health care, whose lives are ruined because of it. A fking website failure has wiped all that off the consciousness. It's tragedy, writ in the clouds.

Clearly, Obama wasn't lying when he said people could keep their plans if they liked them. He was wrong; he was overstating; he wasn't anticipating how insurers -- those socialist taker-overers of our health care system -- would try to screw it up, all innocent; but literally lying, i.e. saying something he knew was false, understanding that it'd be found out soon? No, obviously. Which doesn't make it any better.

For one thing, people who want to believe he's a liar will believe it. For another, it's just more fodder for the Foxifiers.

I like Barack Hussein Obama. (And I still believe it's more likely than not that, when the issues with the ACA are fixed, people will see it for the good thing it is [while we wait for the inevitable realization that single payer is the only and ultimate solution] and be glad for its existence in many ways.) I think his heart's been in the right place, and he's tried to do many of the right things, against an impossibly strong tide of dissembling, obstruction, and actual demonstrable lying on the other side. But this initial rollout has been beyond the pale, a straw on the back of an already gasping camel. It's really, really depressing; enough that I'm ready to give up.

Because it means the good guys, the people thinking beyond their narrowest of self-interest, the ones willing to help those in need because they realize it helps us all, the ones who value education, who think government has an essential role in seeing to it that we have a future, through research, through investing in our kids, our health care, our roads, those people are being shouted down by the selfish, the short-sighted, the hateful, the all-too-easily deceived into acting against their own and their children's interests by oligarchical manipulators.

It's all but unspeakable. In America, once a leader in all good things -- innovation and invention, education, promoting of equality (kicking and screaming, but still...) -- the tide has turned away from it all. As the US and the world are increasingly in need of people willing (and able) to see beyond the immediate, to not turn away from the difficult solutions to nearly impossible problems, the US is falling back into magical thinking, scapegoating, and willful ignorance. Electing people like Gohmert, Bachmann, Braun, Foxx, Cruz, Paul, Ryan, etc, etc, ad nauseum. Lionizing people like Palin, Beck, Limbaugh, Savage, Ingraham, Malkin, Carson, ad vomitum. Finding all manner of ways to justify doing nothing, spending nothing, learning nothing, hating everything. Because, in the end, that's who they are.

But then, who can blame them? Humans weren't designed for this. In the main, we're too flimsy of mind, too subject to whim, too easily fooled for times like these. Evolution needed a few more eons to get it right, but we fked it up too much, too soon, before that happened; or, if it's part of questionably intelligent design, the designer, undeniably, fell way short. Amateur hour up there. Humans. Best he/she/it/they could do?

America. Leading the way to the bottom. USA. USA. USA.

[Image source]

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Google



So I went to google today, and this is what I found. (The greeting came up when I hovered over the cakes.) Strangely, I found it a little scary. But sorta nice, too. I guess we all need to just give in to the technology, accept that "they" know everything about us at all times, and trust that it's a net good... I mean, what could go wrong, right?




Hey, This Guy's Different



Says what he means, and means what he says:


 New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, November 5, to CNN's Jake Tapper:
TAPPER: Do you think of yourself as a conservative, do you think of yourself as a moderate?
CHRISTIE: I'm a conservative. And I've governed as a conservative.
And Chris Christie, five days later, to NBC's David Gregory:


GREGORY: Are you a moderate or a conservative?
CHRISTIE: David, listen. I don't get into these labels. That's the Washington, D.C. game.
[Image source]

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Great Mind At Work



Asked what the Tea Party proposes as an alternative to the PPACA, Sarah Palin clarifies:
"The plan is to allow those things that had been proposed over many years to reform a health care system in America that certainly does need more help so that there's more competition, there's less tort reform threat, there's less trajectory of the cost increases? And those plans have been proposed over and over again. And what thwarts those plans? It's the far left. It's President Obama and his supporters who will not allow the Republicans to usher in free market, patient-centered, doctor-patient relationship links to reform health care!"
Okay, then. Got it. Next?

John "Takes a licking and keeps on pricking" McCain humbly let it be known recently that he's getting lots of people pushing him to run again. Think he'd ask her back?

[Added: turns out she has a solution that's actually better: Canadian health care. Not kidding. Who knew she's a socialist?]

[Image source]

War Mongrel



She was a little late to the trough: I'd been seeing Christmas commercials on TV for at least two days before Sarah the Moose-killer rekindled the annual celebration of having nothing to say, i.e., rolling out the tired paranoia-appealing claims of The War On Christmas. Well, Sarah the Self-promoting has a book coming out on the subject, because that's the sort of thing she does: appeal to the lowest common denominations. Policy is hard, dontcha know. Too much like work. So, on schedule (or just a little late) the Grifter of Grizzlyland dredges up the old faith-full as predictably as snow in the Rockies; albeit, in the only hopeful news associated with our lady of laughable laziness, to a smaller crowd than in past years.

It's pretty daunting to come up with a list topper of right wing dissemblage, but this WOC crap has gotta be very near it; and, this time of year, way over. It is, of course, the perfect soil in which to plant the happy seeds of aggrievement that characterize Sarah the Simple and those who adore her; i.e. every teabagger from sea to shine-on sea.

How awful that some minimum wage clerks in a few department stores say "Happy Holidays!" this time o'year, because their bosses made a capitalist business decision to be inclusive. How it forces Christmas into the closet, makes good Christians have to skulk around, looking over their leaden shoulders like Jews on Kristallnacht. How sad that the only place to celebrate Christmas is in one's home, church, watching endless Christmas-themed TV shows, reading articles about celebrants and celebrations in newspapers, magazines, Sunday supplements; hearing them on the radio; caroling; putting up lights, driving around to see them; putting Nativity scenes only on one's lawn, one's churchyard, in malls, store windows, places of business. Not public schools or city hall? The horror! What's next? Paying taxes?

Sarah and Bill and Sean and Glenn and Ann and Laura and Michelle never tire of rending their garments this time of year. Do their audiences ever look around and start to think it's time to come up with something real, something important? Do they think, yet again, that they're being played, being treated like stupid people who can't see? Well, not all of them, not by a long shot. There's nothing a teabagger likes more than self-pity and victimhood, no matter how phony. But, geez. Isn't this one, after all, getting pretty ridiculous?

War on Christmas! It's like eating a couple of Big Macs at McDonalds and decrying the war on hamburgers.

[Image source]

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tom Tomorrow


Entire cartoon here.


Insight



This is probably a pretty good way to understand teabaggers, at least as reflected in the leaders they seem to prefer:

... In the aftermath of the great government shutdown of 2013, the Tea Party continues to cause heartburn for establishment Republicans. Consider the results of last week’s elections, which offer clues to the internecine GOP battles that lie ahead. Although it’s much too early to draw hard conclusions, Chris Christie proved that a moderate, common-sense Republican could win in deep blue New Jersey, while in purple Virginia the wild-eyed social reactionary Ken Cuccinelli failed to gain traction outside his uber-conservative Christian-right base. 
Yet the Tea Party is willing to defy overwhelming negative public opinion, wreck the government, risk plunging the world economy into chaos and invite political defeat. The driving force behind this destructive strategy is that Tea Party zealots answer to a “higher calling. 
They believe America teeters on the brink of destruction, and hold as an article of faith that liberals, gays, Democrats, atheists and the United Nations are to blame. This “end-times” world-view is a foundational precept of the evangelical movement, from which many of the so-called Tea Party favorites spring. Scholars call it apocalypticism...

Some may wonder why I rail against American religionists. Wonder no more: this is codified insanity, the end-times endgame endpoint of a kind of zealotry born of the worst of human failings. Biblical literalism -- which necessitates the ignoring of obvious inconsistencies and commands within the text -- comes from a pathological inability to reconcile oneself with reality. It's a false sense of strength born of the worst sort of weakness. This is the worst of religion: that which demands of its followers that they deny any and all of reality that fails to comport with their fearful view of god's domain. Not to mention the joy it engenders in its followers as they imagine the burning in hell of all those they find distasteful.

It's a perversion. And it threatens to overtake our country, either by perpetual obstruction as a minority or, worse, by deliberate destruction as a majority. (If there's a god, may he forbid.) Can't get to those end times fast enough, and they'll do whatever it takes to speed it along. By turning our country into everything Jesus preached against.

A friend of mine writes a weekly column for the same paper from which I recently bailed. In his most recent he enumerates some quotes from God, the sort that appear on the internet an the occasional church bulletin sign. Like these:

"Yes, I made those people too. No, I don't make mistakes." 
... 
"I put the instructions on two tablets. Did you lose them?" 
"That 'love thy neighbor' thing -- I meant it." 
"I'll be back. That's a promise." 
"Keep an eye on the kids. They're kind of special to me." 
...
"What's it going to take for me to get your attention?" 
"If I'd wanted men and women to be exactly the same, I could've stopped with Adam." 
... 
"And just who said that hating anyone was OK?" 
"I never doubted your existence." 
"I'm not sure I like what you've done to my planet." 
"Yep, I wrote those books too. I just used different pen names."...
See, that's a god I could get behind. Loving; sense of humor; gently chiding. (Wonder what he'd have to say about the Philippines... "Oops, sorry. Was talking to Tim Tebow." "Still working on my aim, but, heck, it's only been six thousand years" "Hey, once a biblical destructor, always...") Sadly, it's not the one teabaggers claim for their own, nor the one over to whom today's Republicans would turn our country. That neither exists doesn't really make me feel any better.

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Monday, November 11, 2013

Radio Star



So I was asked recently to do an interview on an NPR station out of Indiana U. It's available online now, and since I didn't totally embarrass myself, despite lots of hems and haws and y'knows and uh's, I hereby provide a link. (It's about surgery, not politics.)

Screwing The Poor For Jesus



Approximately ignored in the nonstop coverage of the problems associated with a law and its website aimed at helping the poor, is the actual, right-now, unconscionable effect on the hungry from the cuts in food stamps begun this month. Brought to us by our legislative Christian right. While they continue subsidies for the wealthy.

This disconnect is astounding to me. For devil-worshipers, sure. Or, you know, those godless atheists. But for the party of Jesus? Unabashedly to build its ideological center around succor for the wealthy and disregarding the poor? In America, where there's more money in the vaults of a single hedge-fund manager than has been spent by all the food banks across the land, ever? While people go hungry, and that party of god clinks its glasses in celebration. Getting tough on moochers. Picking on people not their own size, because they can.

It's nothing more than responsibility-avoiding justification for the most selfish and shortsighted among us. How do such people, non one-percenter supporters of a shamefully regressive and heartless party, live with themselves? Easy: they have 24/7 sources of reinforcement, telling them that it's not their problem; that the poor in this country deserve it, that they're the ones robbing us of a future. Click on Fox "news" or right-wing radio and be bathed in the warmth of reassurance that their niggardly coldness is just fine. Godly, even. There's never been a more finely tuned network of messaging, geared toward numbification and dumbification; and justification for Robin Unhoodery. (BTW, the guy Bill Maher points to, above, as justifying his nastiness with biblical certainty, is this guy.)

I can see how Wall Street loves the message. But Joe and Jane Teabagger? Honestly. I don't doubt that many of them are decent people, and yet, there it is: the more we ignore the needy, the less we spend ensuring that the next generation has a functioning country, the happier they seem to be. All but dancing on the graves of those whose health care they'd deny, on whose tables they'd see to it that there's inadequate food. How can this be?

Wanna live in ignorance? Wanna be given justifications for not caring about anyone but yourself, not even whether your grandkids will have roads to drive on (in their polluting cars, because, you know, there's no such thing as climate change) or schools to attend (which are just brainwashing, anyway)? Pas de problemmo: be a member of today's Republican Party. Join the gang: tune into Fox and Rush and Glenn, listen to Ted Cruz' dad, and tune out reality. It works. It works, obviously, really really well.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Yeah. That'll Work.



Biggest storm ever to make landfall hits the Philippines. (One storm... can't conclude... global warming... yada yada yada... one after one after one after one...)
More than one million people fled in search of safety ahead of category-five super typhoon Haiyan, which caused mudslides, flash flooding and a storm surge with waves of up to 30 feet. One expert said that the storm's winds had the potential to "obliterate poorly constructed homes." 
... 
"We lost power and all roads are impassable because of fallen trees," he said. "We just have to pray." 
Why, exactly? Pray, that is. To get god to change his mind? To convince him to rewind and not blow the storm there in the first place? Raise the dead, of which there now appear to be ten thousand or more; or spare a few that he'd had on his kill list but hadn't yet got around to? Keep one hut standing, one old lady alive, trapped for days, so people can call it a miracle, god in his mercy?

If god has plans for us all, and is perfect, knows us before we're born, and none happens but that he wills it, why exactly? Pray, that is. One capricious dude, he must be, prayer works if it does. As Yoda the spiritual would put it.

Me, I think god did it because my state recently approved gay marriage. Kinda bad aim, for sure, off by a few thousand miles; but he has a lot on his mind, what with other states lining up to do the same thing. Besides which, it seems to be a favorite m.o. since biblical times: kill a bunch of innocents to send a message to the guilty. Which is another reason why praying seems a little presumptuous. If you believe in god, you have to believe that this is exactly what he wanted to happen, exactly as it happened.

[Image from linked article]

Friday, November 8, 2013

Dead Silence



Remember that CBS "60 Minutes" report on Benghazi? The one in which a guy made some claims that were picked up by Fox "news" and other right-wing screamers like money in the street, touted and praised to and from the heavens? Because Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi? The one after which it was discovered the star of the show was a liar? I wrote about that. And, in case you've forgotten, here's a timeline of the sorry episode, ending with the apology and retraction (after first sticking to their "liberal media" guns).

So, after beating and bleating the story of stories, convincing their credulous followers of that which they'd already been made to believe, easy as pie: that Obama lied about Benghazi Benghazi Benghazi and that it was the worst thing to happen to America since slavery (or was that affordable care?) you can be sure they've told their viewers and listeners about the retraction, right? Because they report, so you can decide.

Yeah. Right. Sure they have.

Lindsey Graham, who hyped it like a cure for gay, seems to have his mouth too full of something, too, to talk.

I've asked it a million times: how much of this would it take for their sheeplike viewers to become convinced they're been played for suckers? At what point might they conclude there are better, more honest news sources out there, and that they've been choosing lies over truth? When might they even go so far as to ask themselves why?

I got your answer, right here.

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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Jesus Christie



Yes, he'll be the one to bring us together. The good Republican, the centrist, the thoughtful one, like days of yore. Or, as Charles P. Pierce puts it:

... the only issue in the election became whether or not you think Chris Christie should run for president. And 31 percent of the liberals who voted assented to that proposition. How the hell did that happen on a night when the state also kicked him squarely in the nuts by overwhelmingly reversing his veto of an increase in the minimum wage, a veto that is the perfect expression of everything Chris Christie stands for as a politician? If you want to know why actual liberalism continues to be a dead parrot in our politics, and why the only real political dynamic in the country revolves around a choice over whether we will drift slowly to the right or stampede headlong in that direction, look to that number. 
There is no reason on god's earth why a self-identified liberal would vote for Chris Christie. He's a tool of the ascendant oligarchy, awful on women's rights, terrible on infrastructure, very high on union-busting, and a short-tempered, thin-skinned bully into the bargain...

Chris Christie is a scary dude. Like good'n godly Mike Huckabee, he can grin and dip a little when he says hateful stuff, kinda make you smile, even like the guy if you don't listen too carefully. And there he was that time, all friendly-like with Barack H. Obama, as they watched New Jersey wash out to sea. Gotta like that part, right?

Well, he's not as insane as Michele Bachmann or Louis Gohmert, not as duplicitous as Mitt Romney, might know arithmetic better than Paul Ryan, although that remains to be seen. But he can put his finger in the wind good as the rest of them, when votes matter. Back off his anti-gay stuff for a moment or two, leading up to an election.

But Charlie's right: for anyone who considers her/himself a liberal, or a progressive, or one who has an ounce of concern for wealth inequality and its ability to wreck our country; for anyone who believes that public education -- good and effective public education -- is the core of a functioning democracy and that it needs to be available to all; for a person who considers government spending on science and research and infrastructure of value; for a person who believes any of that to find Chris Christie a compelling presidential candidate is to be no better than a teabagger who votes against his/her own interest because the plutocrats behind that movement convinced them that the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer and that turning public education into bible school is a formula for American success.

I'm betting he'll be the nominee. The process should be entertaining. The outcome, possibly really awful. I'd love to be wrong on all counts.

[Image source]

Could It Be?



Might the weight of the evidence finally be enough that even the ideological hidebound and reflexively selfish are beginning to notice? Is wealth inequality finally so dramatically dangerous that even Republicans are concerned? Have teabaggRs taken the war on the poor to dysfunctional extremes that threaten our national health? Bruce Bartlett, to whom I've referred here several times, former economic adviser to Presidents Reagan and Bush the First, staffer for Jack Kemp and Ron Paul, has written that he thinks maybe so

... [billionaire manager of Pimco] Mr. Gross now thinks that labor has suffered too much from excessive gains by the wealthy. ... 
He thinks the wealthy ought to support higher taxes on themselves. ... 
Another growing concern of the wealthy and business groups is the recognition that they lack any control over the Tea Party. ...
...
 
The business community is especially upset by having the Tea Party repeatedly throw away winnable races and is trying to inject more political realism into the nominating process. Some business groups are even reaching out to Democrats. The Fairfax Chamber of Commerce in Virginia, for example, endorsed the Democratic candidate for governor this year for the first time since 2001. 
... Some Republicans and conservative intellectuals are now saying that cuts to the welfare state have gone too far as well.
On Oct. 28, the Republican governor of Ohio, John R. Kasich, blasted his party for its “war on the poor.” ...
 
On Oct. 31, Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, a prominent think tank in Washington, said the conservative war against the social safety net was “just insane.” He urged his fellow conservatives to “declare peace on the safety net.”
...
 
It is ironic that that A.E.I. should be leading the charge toward a more sympathetic approach to the poor; another of its scholars, Nicholas Eberstadt, wrote a book last year, “A Nation of Takers,” which blasted growth of the welfare population and was widely credited with inspiring Mitt Romney’s attack on the 47 percent of the population who are “dependent on government.”
I have long believed that the Tea Party is a populist movement with no staying power. ... A pushback has clearly begun.
 
Republican hopes in 2016 may depend on how well it succeeds.
Teabaggers will teabag. Theirs is not a philosophy (a word that gives far too much credit) that is subject to change. Born, by definition, of the need to reject reality to justify selfishness, and fueled by fears of otherness so deep-seated as to be like sinew and bone, teabaggerism reflects the worst of us, yet, sadly, is a dark part of what it is to be human. So it's not a question of changing the minds of the hardened. It's a matter of whether there are enough people, voters, still capable of thinking beyond a zone about three feet in diameter: the one in which what they conceive as their immediate concerns are the only ones.

It doesn't take the rejection of self-interest; it only requires the realization that, in the long run, self-interest and national interest are inseparable. Especially if personal self interest includes concerns for family, for kids, and kids of one's kids.

Being the frightened and needy creatures that they are, humans are easily swayed (a believer ought to hope to hell they aren't actually made in god's image); convinced, willingly and unreflectively, to act against their own interests by manipulations of those fears by unscrupulous others. The plutocrats behind Fox "news," the ones funding and pulling the strings of the credulous, the powerful and many-moneyed who've polluted our electoral process thanks to right-wing judicial activism. President Obama has tried to appeal to their better instincts, his words falling on ears deafened by the likes of those at Fox, and those hateful (and insanely rich) people of the right wing airwaves. To whom might they listen, when they refuse to see the obvious destructive impacts of their party's efforts? One hopes they'll pick up their copies of The New York Times and read Bruce Bartlett, one of their own.

Yeah. Right. Good one.

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Monday, November 4, 2013

When Truth Doesn't Propel The Narrative



Today's Republicans loves them some scandals, the more imaginary, the better. And where there are none, they'll make them up, because what's better than that? And when their made-up stories aren't getting traction, well, they find someone else who'll make stuff up, exactly to order. Now I'm in no way making light of the sadness that occurred in Benghazi. But I do find that the constant dredging up of it, like Ronald Reagan's befuddled corpse, finding sinister behaviors where there are none, is beginning to cross the line that separates them from sanity. (Is there one? Do I imply it's only just been crossed?)

‘60 Minutes’ broadcast helps propel new round of back-and-forth on Benghazi
In an explosive report on CBS’s “60 Minutes” on Sunday, the British supervisor of local security guards protecting the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, on the night of Sept. 11, 2012, provided a harrowing account of the extremist attack that killed four Americans.
 
The man whom CBS called Morgan Jones, a pseudonym, described racing to the Benghazi compound while the attack was underway, scaling a 12-foot wall and downing an extremist with the butt end of a rifle as he tried in vain to rescue the besieged Americans.... 
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) and other Republican lawmakers referred to it repeatedly during a Wednesday news conference. Graham said he would block confirmation of all of President Obama’s nominees... 
But in a written account that Jones, whose real name was confirmed as Dylan Davies ... provided to his employer three days after the attack, he told a different story of his experiences that night. 
In Davies’s 2 ½ page incident report ... he wrote that he spent most of that night at his Benghazi beach-side villa. Although he attempted to get to the compound, he wrote in the report, “we could not get anywhere near . . . as roadblocks had been set up.”

So, clearly, the guy is a liar, and the only question is to whom he lied. We may never know; but as we ponder it, we could do a thought experiment. Which story would you prefer people believed about your heroics: the one where you spent your time at the beach, or the one where you leapt a wall and pounded bad guys with the butt of your gun, like Rick Perry at the Alamo?

[Image source]

It's A Start



Another thinking Republican takes a look at his party and heads for the door.

... I simply cannot stand with a Party where its most extreme element promote hate and division amongst people. Nothing about my platform has, nor will it change. The government shutdown was simply the straw that broke the camels back. I guess being an American just isn’t good enough anymore and I refuse to be part of an extremist movement in the GOP that only appears to thrive on fear and hate mongering of anyone and everyone who doesn’t walk their line. We’ve received some wonderful support by numerous leaders and members within the NC GOP, as the vast majority of Republicans are wonderful, hard-working people that don’t agree with those radical nut-jobs either but unfortunately the extremists in the party, with their ‘burn it all down’ philosophy, appear to be the ones turning out the majority of voters in the primaries and mid-term elections. And I want the people to know there is a choice.”...

What's amazing to me is how rare this is. True conservatives ought to be repulsed by what's happened to their party, in droves. It couldn't be more clear. And yet, stories like this remain rare. That judge, and this guy. Maybe there are more; North Carolina has become a parody of itself, if what's happened there could be considered humorous in any way. But in those districts that elect the typical teabaggR -- Bachmann, Gohmert, Braun, Foxx -- the farce is strong, and it'd take an unimaginable and impossible number of people to become unblinded for it to change.

I've said it a billion times: we need a conservative party. When there's been a sane one, willing to sell its ideas in that well-known marketplace, and when they've accepted the crystal clear concept that America has worked best when two parties find a place somewhere in the middle, we've managed to make progress. Tantrum throwing and threatening real damage to the country they claim to love when they can't get their whole pie is the opposite of America and its most central political values.

So we know of two people who've come to recognize that. Anyone else ready to step up? And, mind you, it doesn't require switching parties. Getting the current iteration of Republicanism back within the earth's gravitational pull would suffice. Might even be better.

[Image source]

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Okay, Well, That's That



I assume everyone will find this compelling, and we can get back to the important stuff, right?
American Biblical scholar Joseph Atwill will be appearing before the British public for the first time in London on the 19th of October to present a controversial new discovery: ancient confessions recently uncovered now prove, according to Atwill, that the New Testament was written by first-century Roman aristocrats and that they fabricated the entire story of Jesus Christ. ...
Although to many scholars his theory seems outlandish, and is sure to upset some believers, Atwill regards his evidence as conclusive and is confident its acceptance is only a matter of time. ... 
Atwill asserts that Christianity did not really begin as a religion, but a sophisticated government project, a kind of propaganda exercise used to pacify the subjects of the Roman Empire. "Jewish sects in Palestine at the time, who were waiting for a prophesied warrior Messiah, were a constant source of violent insurrection during the first century," he explains. ... 
Was Jesus based on a real person from history? "The short answer is no," Atwill insists, "in fact he may be the only fictional character in literature whose entire life story can be traced to other sources. Once those sources are all laid bare, there's simply nothing left."...
Interestingly, some of the pushback is coming from atheists: skeptical by nature, they're finding the man's claims of parallelism as off-putting as when it shows up in other conspiracy theories.
The first thing that jumps out at some Atheists when reviewing Atwill’s claim is his description of what he calls “evidence” of his theory: the gospels themselves. He claims that he sees “parallels” and “connections” between the gospels and historian Flavius Josephus’ book entitled The War of the Jews. ... Atheists know that whenever people see conspiracies, “connections,” and “parallels” between two seemingly unrelated texts/events/signs/Nostradamus’ verses etc., it’s generally not because there is any actual connection ... but rather it’s because our brains are wired to make sense out of chaos, find connections between things, and create order where none is organically available.
I guess the one thing that can be said for sure is that the lecture will be lively. Hope to have some followup.

[Added: I wrote this a while back and never got around to posting. Since the lecture has presumably happened, and since the world hasn't erupted, I guess it was no big deal. Haven't bothered to find out more...]

[Image source]

Friday, November 1, 2013

Let 'Em Eat Pie



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Advice For The Ages



Somehow I missed this one. Rand Paul, hero to many, honest to none, had this to say to a group of med students. It should replace Fox "news" phony "fair and balanced" motto. Because it's the operative phrase for all of the right-wing purveyors:

Rand Paul was talking with University of Louisville medical students when one of them tossed him a softball. "The majority of med students here today have a comprehensive exam tomorrow. I'm just wondering if you have any last-minute advice." 
"Actually, I do," said the ophthalmologist-turned-senator, who stays sharp (and keeps his license) by doing pro bono eye surgeries during congressional breaks. "I never, ever cheated. I don't condone cheating. But I would sometimes spread misinformation. This is a great tactic. Misinformation can be very important." 
He went on to describe studying for a pathology test with friends in the library. "We spread the rumor that we knew what was on the test and it was definitely going to be all about the liver," he said. "We tried to trick all of our competing students into over-studying for the liver" and not studying much else.
"So, that's my advice," he concluded. "Misinformation works.
"
Who was it that said a "gaffe" is when a politician inadvertently speaks the truth? If ever there were a more truthful statement about today's teabaggR strategy, and that of its propagandists of the airwaves, I don't know it.

Plus, it confirms that Rand "take your board certification and shove it" Paul is kind of a dick.

[Image source]