Friday, December 26, 2014
As we roll up 2014 like that rug in "How to Get Away With Murder," it might be useful -- if the people who need to pay attention were actually to pay attention which won't happen because, well, not paying attention is their thing, their raison d'etre, their way of pretending away being wrong all the time and where was I? -- to ask our self a simple and easily answerable question: were Rs right about anything? And having done so, we might also take a little time to wonder: will they ever be?
Ebola is going to kill us all; hiring a political operative to wade through the bureaucracies to coordinate our efforts was shameful. The Affordable Care Act will cause premiums to skyrocket, will tank the economy, will kill jobs, will be an utter failure. Putin is playing chess while Obama plays marbles (oh, that was a good one; and how our right-wing fawned over Mr Putin -- a real leader, the tough one, the one making Obama look like a fool. Every last one of our commie-hating freedom-loving wingnuts announcing to the world that their ideal leader is a dictator, a suppressor of human rights, of the press; an invader. Not that it was a surprise, based on observation over the past 14 years.) Would a current comparison of the two economies be useful? Did our much-reviled sanctions (why oh why didn't we kill someone?) turn out to be the failure predicted everywhere in our right-wing media? Did our non-militaristic response diminish us in eyes of the world? (How would we know?)
As the Dow reached the point of tripling since Obama took office, let's recall, shall we, the famous op-ed in the WSJ: "Obama's radicalism is killing the Dow." Nor, as we finish off yet another month in a record-breaking string of consecutive months of job growth, ought we forget that not a single R voted for the stimulus way back when. How 'bout we recall when they blamed President Obama for gas prices hitting all-time highs, as they regale us with their silence as prices hit the lowest level in many years? (For the record: given the many factors in oil prices that are out of the control of any president, I've never believed he had anything to do with either direction; although it's true that US oil and gas production has risen dramatically during his presidency. Which, speaking of Rs being wrong, isn't necessarily a good thing for those that believe in anthropogenic climate change.)
Anyone seen any ISIS folk around here? Are they running rampant over there, absent (very many) US boots on the ground? Has getting the locals to do their own work been an abject failure?
How many Benghazi investigations have proved any of the R claims of malfeasance, stand down orders, etc? Will the next one? (Will it be the ninth, reaching the same conclusion?) Has anyone paid attention to the just-released, R-majoritied report on the IRS non-scandal which found no White House involvement? Have Rs who favor torture been vindicated yet?
And what about those laboratories of Reaganomics, Wisconsin and Kansas? How are they doing, economically? Budget balancally? Jobsy?
One could go on like this for a long time, but I'm still in a cookie coma from yesterday. See? I'm not even providing my usual linkage. But it ought not even be necessary: everywhere we look, virtually everything we see in the way of Republican claims and predictions, for the year and for the entire Obama presidency, have been proven wrong. And not just a little wrong. Spectacularly, glaringly, surpassingly wrong. Wrong on all levels. Wrong here, wrong there, wrong in the morning, wrong in the evening, wrong at suppertime. Their wrongness rises to the level of of timelessness; it sets a standard to which no one else, other than they, forever, ought ever to aspire, much less believe they could achieve.
Which certainly explains the recent election results, and makes one highly optimistic for our future under their leadership, the first order of whose business, evidently, will be to politicize the CBO, fire its director, and install someone who'll buy into their preferred fuzzy math, to make it look like their economics are working when they aren't.
Now that's how you deal with being wrong. Right?
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
It was a disgusting display and, perhaps more than anything at the time, made clear how stupid our country had become; how the media fail us all, Fox "news" especially but hardly exclusively. That was a truly shameful time, and, sadly, hardly an outlier but merely a harbinger of enormities that followed, and that are surely yet to come.
Lest we forget the role the Bushes played, and in case anyone might ignore what it tells us about ol' Jeb, the reasonable one, this lengthy piece by Charles P. Pierce is worth a read. It's history we must not forget; and it's sure not to be the only episode of its kind, now that the newly insane R party is unleashed upon us all.
I'm not gonna excerpt any part of the article. Read it for yourself. It's worth the effort. In addition to the political circus, it adds a very human perspective to the people at the hospice in which Ms Schiavo was bedded and to the work they do, and did at the time.
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
As usual, Charlie says what needs to be said, what I tried to say, and does so much better than I did.
... It is very simple. If the CIA is insubordinate to the president, whom the country elected, then it is insubordinate to all of us. If the NYPD runs a slow-motion coup against the freely elected mayor of New York, then it is running a slow-motion coup against all the people of New York. There is no exemption from this fundamental truth about the way this country and its system is supposed to work. The military -- and its civilian analogues in Langley and in the precinct houses -- always is subordinate to the civil power which, no matter how much it may chafe them, means that they always are subordinate to politicians. If we render our torturers superior to the political institutions of the government, and if we render the police superior to the civil power of elected officials, then we essentially have empowered independent standing armies to conduct our wars and enforce our laws, and self-government descends into bloody farce.
But, alas, in the past few weeks, we have shown ourselves to be relatively at peace with that very thing -- as long as the torture is done in the prisons overseas and the judicial killing is done in the streets of the ghetto, and as long as our fear of some omnipotent Other is what drives our politics...[Image source]
Monday, December 22, 2014
Rudy Giuliani blames Barack Obama for the killing of those two NYC cops. (Credit to Lindsey Graham, usually one of the basest and alarmist of the right wing crazies, for mostly staying off the blamewagon.) The police blame their mayor and protesters. Me, I blame right-wing media and self-enamored assholes like Mr Giuliani. So there.
Why? Because they've made it impossible to have a much needed open minded, open hearted honest discussion of race and racism in this country. Anyone who brings it up is "playing the race card." By bringing it up, in unusually thoughtful and even personal ways, President Obama is called "the most divisive president" in history, personally responsible for the racism, which doesn't exist, that exists in this country.
There simply is no way to be rational about it as long as that's the response by the Foxolimbeckibaggers. And rationality on the subject is what we desperately need, in quantities this country is no longer capable of mustering.
I'm sorry the guy who killed those officers killed himself, and I'm sorry there are no longer public hangings for people like him. I think cops do the most dangerous and (sadly) necessary job there is; I'm sure I don't have the guts to have been one. The people who rioted and caused destruction after the grand jury fiascos did their cause no good; nor do those who accuse all cops of racism. And, I have to say, nor does Al Sharpton, more often than not.
But there's no doubt there's racism in this country, and that it includes some cops; and that, whether on the street or within courthouses, justice is meted out unfairly, often, to black people. And other minorities. (We're learning there was raw dishonesty spewed to the grand jury in Ferguson, and the prosecutor knew it and rationalized it away. It's no surprise that the outcomes of that and the Staten Island juries engendered outrage.) The causes and the effects are deeply rooted on both sides, probably too deeply to be solved in the lifetime of anyone now living. But as long as there are craven narcissistic dishonest politicians like Rudy Giuliani, and media puppets hell-bent on carrying water for the worst of such people and for those paying their salaries, and plenty of people ready and willing to swallow it whole, we may as well just stop even trying.
Without doubt the intentions of the guy who killed the cops were far more despicable and his mind immeasurably more perverted than those who killed Michael and Tamir and John and Eric; there's no comparison to be made. But to use the event in the most cynical way, to shut down any further conversation on the subject, is to do untold harm to the prospects of eventual resolution.
And to think that, for the first several hours after the attacks of 9/11, I actually felt admiration for the guy.
Saturday, December 20, 2014
Friday, December 19, 2014
As I was watching a commercial for some drug or other (don't get me smarted), as the list of possible adverse occurrences was run off at hyperspeed while images of happiness flowed by happily, I thought of the perfect drug. It's for hypochondriacs. It only has side effects.
Thursday, December 18, 2014
When Putin invaded Crimea, the usual America-haters like McCain and Graham and every right-wing screamer there is blamed it on Obama. Weakness. Bowing before dictators. Benghazi. And they claimed his lack of response only made it worse and showed the world how weak we are. Gotta invade. When there's trouble in the world, gotta shoot someone somewhere. Because that's the way we roll.
So now Russia is facing a tanking economy, a ruined ruble. No doubt the reasons are many, and complex. But might any of those bellicose bemoaners give any credit to the very tough economic sanctions President Obama imposed after the invasion, and around which he got the world to rally and up which he continues to?
Yeah. Sure they will. And after blaming Obama for rising gas prices, they'll thank him for lowering them. (Yeah, I know, I know. But fair's fair, right?)
Germany. Japan. Vietnam. Russia, at least for a while there. Former mortal enemies become partners. And the extent to which a country gets access to what America, for better and for worse, has to offer, seems to parallel their trajectory toward reasonableness. That we now do business with those countries is not a statement of acceptance of their pasts; but a recognition of the inevitable forward trajectory of history. Or something.
So, on those general principles, the opening of relations with Cuba seems like it can only become beneficial to both parties, in the long run. The embargo has lasted for half a century, to what end, in the end? I understand that many Cuban refugees would feel betrayed in some sense (the last voice I'd listen to, however, would be Marco Rubio's); but they've had their way for decades. Seems to me, as has been the case with the aforementioned other former enemies, that the citizens of Cuba, for whom there's been much reason to feel sympathy, will be better off for it as well. And there's a lot more of them.
Which is why the reflexive, craven, and predictable response from the most deadly duo since Bonnie and Clyde is about as low as two public figures have ever gotten; as nuanced as a proverbial I'm not saying what in a you know where:
The policy shift reflected "America and the values it stands for in retreat and decline," they said in a statement, one of several issued by Republicans seeking to line up against the change in policy.
"It is about the appeasement of autocratic dictators, thugs, and adversaries, diminishing America’s influence in the world," said McCain and Graham.
Yeah. Pushing the buttons like trained monkeys, hitting all the juicy Foxolimbeckian buzzwords. Appeasement. Thugs. Diminishing America. It is, of course, no such thing. Time, in fact, will prove the opposite. But that's not what those two political thugs are about.
The fact that what Obama, with the help of the prodigious pontiff, has done is eminently reasonable is, of course, exactly the problem. Reasonable simply isn't in the vocabulary of those two, not since poor John lost the election. They've become embarrassing clowns. If Obama found a way to generate electricity with a cancer cure, McCain and Graham would be the first ones scrambling to the mikes to denounce it. Even if it required changing a previous position.
What nasty people they've become.
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
There's a lot I've forgotten from med school days. Probably most of it. But I'm pretty sure I'm right about this: there's no fucking way hummus would be absorbed through the rectal mucosa. To claim it's a medical procedure is to lie through one's teeth.
Which, coincidentally, is the beginning of the route by which absorption does, in fact, take place.
Monday, December 15, 2014
Another of my semi-random columns showed up in the local paper today.
Said a chief prosecutor in the Nuremburg trials: “As an International Military Tribunal, it … seeks guidance not only from international law but also from the basic principles of jurisprudence which are assumptions of civilization and which long have found embodiment in the codes of all nations…”
Comes now the Senate report on the torture that was done in our name. After reading it (here’s an interactive “Cliffsnotes” version: http://wapo.st/1D3POg2), there can remain no doubt that George Bush lied when he told the world “The US doesn’t torture.” You can think it’s horrible, or you can thump your chest with pride that we’re as hardcore as anyone; but you can’t deny the lie. You might have decided what we did in the aftermath of 9/11 -- out of fear, or panic, or the best of intentions, or, as George Bush claimed, on instructions from God -- was justified and righteous. You might reject the conclusion that “we” forsook the most basic of American values, tossed away that which once separated us from the worst of humanity; you might, as have many, even before Dianne Feinstein was done reading the report into the record, find nothing wrong with what we did, only with those revealing it.
You might believe, like me, (decidedly in the minority http://53eig.ht/1B3tb6G), that our torture program diminished our greatness, did us only harm, debased our standing in the world, and removed forever our once-justified claims to the moral high ground; or, like Mr. Bush, you might want to change the subject, praising the brave men and women of the CIA, suggesting the report is intended only as denigration of those people, as opposed to a way toward illumination of the sort of state in which we’ve come to live, good and bad, potential and actual; a means of facing fundamental questions, given ephemeral mention after the attacks of 9/11, of the balance between freedom and security, of government as protector or deceiver.
Wherever you stand on the morality or necessity of torture, one thing ought finally to be unassailably clear: Bushcheney’s program didn’t work. Period. Which isn’t surprising. Torture never has been a vehicle for obtaining the truth: since the racks of the Inquisition and the drownings in Salem, the waterboarding by the Khmer Rouge and the KGB, torture’s timeless gift to the world has always been the coercion of false confessions. Ask John McCain, whose outrage at our program is pure, and nearly singular on his side of the aisle. In fact, in the report we learn that one captive hauled to a “black” site in (redacted), after days of brutal torture, gave what was demanded of him: claims of Saddam’s WMD stockpile and connection to al Qaeda. The ones used to justify the war. The ones enumerated by Colin Powell at the UN. The ones later recanted by the man, admitting he said what he needed to say, lied to make the torture stop.
To the surprise of exactly zero people, Fox “news” and the rest of right wing media are united in their outrage. Not at the torture. At the fact it was revealed. Not about the impact and implications of the actions; at the airing of them. The Cheney approach, father and daughter.
Remember the 1970s Congressional investigation of CIA excesses, headed by Senator Church of Utah? The coordinated attacks that came his way, orchestrated in part by a couple of President Ford’s men, names of Cheney and Rumsfeld? Shall this be the ultimate fate of the current report, vilifying those who provided it, ignoring the substance? Or might we yet have a clear-headed, non-Foxolimbagian disputation about whether open society and democracy, ruled by law, have an inherent protective power of their own, worth saving, in the longest run transcending even military might; or are they now merely quaint and obsolete indulgences of a naïve past?
The report makes a point of not directing eyes where they belong: not on those who tortured, but those who authorized and then lied about it. By treaty (signed by Ronald Reagan) and definitions at the time, these were war crimes requiring punishment. Do we address it, or ought we just define it away and move on?[Image source]
Friday, December 12, 2014
Carl Levin, D-MI, has scheduled a speech on the floor of the Senate, on the occasion of receiving a letter from CIA director Brennan, finally releasing only a small part of a classified cable from pre- Iraq invasion days; the declassification and release of which Levin has been demanding for years:
... On March 6, 2003, just two weeks before U.S. troops would cross the Iraqi border, President Bush held a prime-time televised press conference. In that press conference he mentioned the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks eight times, often in the same breath as Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. There was a concerted campaign on the part of the Bush administration to connect Iraq in the public mind with the horror of the Sept. 11 attacks. That campaign succeeded. According to public polls in the week before the Iraq war, half or more of Americans believed Saddam was directly involved in the attacks. One poll taken in September 2003, six months after we invaded Iraq, found that nearly 70 percent of Americans believed it likely that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the Sept. 11 attacks. Americans who believed in a link between Iraq and 9/11 overwhelmingly supported the idea of invading Iraq. Of course, connections between Saddam and 9/11 or al Qaeda were fiction.
America’s intelligence community was pressed to participate in the administration’s media campaign. Just a week after the President’s prime-time press conference, on March 13, 2003, CIA field staff sent a cable to CIA headquarters, responding to a request for information about a report that Mohammad Atta, the leader of the Sept. 11 hijackings, had met in 2001 with an Iraqi intelligence official in the Czech capital of Prague. In stark terms, this CIA cable from the field warned against U.S. government officials citing the report of the alleged Prague meeting.
Yet the notion of such a meeting was a centerpiece of the administration’s campaign to create an impression in the public mind that Saddam was in league with the al Qaeda terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. On multiple occasions, including national television appearances, Vice President Dick Cheney cited reports of the meeting, at one point calling it “pretty well confirmed.” Officials from Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon, who set up a sort of rogue intelligence analysis operation, briefed senior officials with a presentation citing the Prague meeting as a “known contact” between Iraq and al Qaida.
Far from “pretty well confirmed,” there was almost no evidence that such a meeting took place. Just a single unsubstantiated report, from a single source, and a mountain of information indicating there was no such meeting, including the fact that travel and other records indicated that Atta was almost certainly in the United States at the time of the purported meeting in Prague.
Yet Vice President Cheney’s reckless statements continued, even as evidence mounted that there was no Prague meeting. ...
The Vice President made those statements in the face of a then-classified June 2002 CIA assessment that said the alleged meeting was “not verified,” called the information about it “contradictory,” and described assessments of Iraqi cooperation with al Qaida terror plots as “speculative.” The Vice President made those statements in the face of a July 2002 Defense Intelligence Agency analysis, which reported that there was no evidence that Atta was in the Czech Republic at the time. He made those statements despite a Defense Intelligence Agency memorandum in August 2002 rejecting the claims by a rogue intelligence analysis shop at the Pentagon that the meeting was an example of a “known contact” between Iraq and al Qaida...
This isn't really new, of course; the falsehoods have been talked about (a little) where newspeople still exist. But the brazenness seems to have escaped people's notice. After all, this is America, where democracy flourishes and a well-informed electorate demands much of its leaders; especially truth. Right? Right? Anyone? Any teabaggers out there?
There's lots more in the speech. And yet Dick Cheney remains a favored guest on right-wing TV and radio, gets thousands for speaking to conservative groups. When he should be in jail. And, unless he lied to Bush the way he lied to the rest of us, his puppet should be in the cell next door. Of this there's no doubt: Hearing all that's in the speech (assuming they look elsewhere than Fox "News") people will rise up as surely as Alaskan waters, and demand appropriate punishment. Call for his head. Get him off the stage and, once and for all, out of government, off our TVs. Send bad Mr Levin back to Michigan, and hang his ass. (Hey, isn't Levin a Jewish name?)
Thursday, December 11, 2014
Hey, everybody!! Bipartisanship is back. Were it otherly shoed feet, if it were Ds trying to sneak a bunch of liberal sh*t like early childhood education or food stamps or health care coverage for the needy into a bill, well, you can be sure the Rs would be having none of it. Shut the f*ker down, is what they'd do.
Not Ds, though. They'll pack up and head out, let Elizabeth Warren point out the obvious, ignore her, and call it good. Rs, in lockstep would never let a bill like that come forward, were the roles reversed. But Ds, from all of whose multiple emails I've just finally unsubscribed, cave like tar sands and sign on -- enough of them, anyway -- to a spending bill that opens the store yet again for derivative-mad bankers, guts pensions for retirees, robs students to pay their loaners, cuts environmental protection spending, allows nearly unlimited campaign donations, prevents the IRS from investigating political groups disguised as "social welfare" organizations, cuts education funding, gives a break to the potato lobby, attacks Michele Obama's school lunch program. And more.
Well, sure, I'm all for bipartisanship, which, since the election of that black guy in the white house, has been all but absent. Leave it to Ds to be the ones to resurrect it, letting Rs use a word that hasn't passed their lips in six years, except to belittle it.
Must be nice to be able to count on a few Ds to do what none of them have done, and then to be able to claim credit. Anyone doubt that, in claiming they'd get governance up and running, that that's what Rs had in mind: knowing Ds would never be as willing as they've been to burn the place down to get their way. Because that's the difference, right there.
And then there's this:
King and Bachmann expressed disappointment that Boehner was reaching out to Democrats to help pass the omnibus bill. They admitted that the immigration vote in their plan would ultimately be symbolic. The House has passed multiple bills objecting to Obama's moves.
Tuesday, December 9, 2014
So more of my windbagging was published the other day in my local newspaper:
Let’s talk immigration. I’ll be over the top, I promise.
After listening to President Obama’s minimalist plan, and to the predictable claims of atramentous tyranny and calls for impeachment and intimations of revolution by the usual Foxolimbeckian screamers, I did me a little research, learned a few things of which I hadn’t been aware. I recommend it. (ow.ly/EPVaR) There’s context to consider, and, just maybe, knees to be unjerked.
So here’s the thing: In the bipartisan US budget, the amount of money allocated to deporting illegals means that “only” four hundred thousand a year can get the boot. (Unlike Bush, Obama has deported to the max.) So, within those legislated restraints, what the president decided to do is what normal people do with limited funds: prioritize. We’ll concentrate, he declared, on getting rid of criminals, and what some might call takers not makers. Hard-working, tax-paying people who’ve been here at least five years, AND who have American-born kids, move to the bottom of the leave-it list. Nothing more: no “amnesty,” no path to citizenship, no access to the Affordable Care Act, no floodgates pried open. Other than who said it, you’d think the self-proclaimed party of family values and fiscal responsibility would applaud such thoughtful use of scarce funds. In a world that made sense, they would.
Immediately, Michele “FEMA reeducation camps” Bachmann and those who ilk with her, including some local letter writers, claimed the president is granting citizenship and health care. “To the ramparts!” she cries. Choreographed outrage rises like the seas around the Solomon Islands, Fox “news” is awash in fulmination about the shredded Constitution. (If Obama shredded the Constitution, he picked up scraps to do it, because Reagan and Bush and other presidents before him acted in the same way.)
Immigration politics are a microcosm of the decline in polity that’s been gripping our country for a long time. Here we are, flooded with problems that need fixing. Filling the airwaves, objurgation sells. Solutions are hard; too hard, evidently, for our deliberately divided country. Of the serious threats we face, immigration is near the bottom of the list; in fact, looking at the names of kids who are valedictorians, scholarship winners, genii of science fairs, it may be our only hope for securing the future. But considering the unlawful kind, of which none other than exploiters of cheap labor is in favor, is illustrative.
We have, so it’s said, around twelve million illegal immigrants. At the rate of deportation for which Congress has been willing to pay, it’ll take more than thirty years to move them all out. Beneath the hot rhetoric there’s a frigorific dearth of workable suggestions; and no apparent interest in paying the costs of finding, detaining, confirming, and delivering us of those who don’t belong. Which follows a familiar pattern: the reactionary response to any proposed solution to any given problem is to reject it with scorn and contempt if, as with all big problems, spending or regulation is involved. And then, as surely as O’Reilly follows Hannity, to spend the rest of the time blaring blame and shrieking sedition.[Image source]
After his speech President Obama acknowledged his was but a small step and implored Congress, after years of frippery, to act comprehensively. With so much more to be gained nowadays from incessant inflammation, it’s hard to imagine they will. And, yes, Fox “news,” with its furious fracking of the middle ground, demeaning its demographic with dismissive and derisive discourse, remains the most toxic force in political play. Anyone notice how its Ebola freakery stopped with the election, that there was barest mention of the doctor who came to Nebraska and died? And how about the latest of eight Benghazi reports, two years in the making, led by Republican Congressfolk, that debunked every claim heard nonstop on Fox “news” for years? Far as I know, they gave it thirty seconds. And then Lindsey Graham, modeling what’s become acceptable behavior for the faithful, called it “full of crap.”
Instead of making immigration an argument about whether the president’s plan is impeachably criminal or merely tyrannical, how ‘bout we turn off Fox “news” and try to recall how it was that Americans actually used to confront problems?
Sunday, December 7, 2014
If there's a constant theme to my political posts, it's the degree to which the right wing has distracted its gullible and deliberately diseducated followers from their real agenda. The people voted into office by this deceived demographic clearly have no interest in their voters' interests. It's a perfect storm of deception, propagandizing, legalized (by our Supreme Court) bribery, and fomenting false and foxified outrage to keep people looking in the wrong direction. THIS is the stuff about which voters should be outraged. Instead, it's whether President Obama is acting like a dictator by issuing fewer executive orders than his predecessors; or if, in saying a few measured and obvious things about racism in this country, he's the cause of it all.
Dispiriting, is what it is. Read this article, and see if you agree:
The letter to the Environmental Protection Agency from Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma carried a blunt accusation: Federal regulators were grossly overestimating the amount of air pollution caused by energy companies drilling new natural gas wells in his state. But Mr. Pruitt left out one critical point. The three-page letter was written by lawyers for Devon Energy, one of Oklahoma’s biggest oil and gas companies, and was delivered to him by Devon’s chief of lobbying....[Image source]
Thursday, December 4, 2014
Some people think surgeons have brass balls.
I don't have crystal ones, either; but I was right about one thing: now that Rs are in control and feeling damn good about it, they're letting their freak flags fly as never before. If anyone thought they couldn't get any crazier, think again. (Well, they've always been this crazy; it's just that some felt the need to hide it more than others. Now, all governors are off.) (Was that a pun I just made?) Here's a sampling of what we can expect.
Thursday, November 27, 2014
Settling in to watch a little football, I see a pre-game tribute to veterans. Guys speaking of their experiences as the camera pans back to reveal their wheelchairs and missing limbs. Moving music plays, the "connection" between Thanksgiving, football, and the military is made. And it puts me in mind of something I wrote a while back, and moves me to reprint it here:
This is a really difficult issue, rife with emotion, perfect for demagoguery.
Chris Hayes, a guy whose show I've never watched, got in hot water (to put it mildly) for saying, perhaps inartfully, something I've said here as recently as a few days ago: we love and idealize wars too much in this country, and too easily equate patriotism with fighting them. Calling the fallen soldiers heroic, while certainly true on many levels, also enables the overlooking of the horror of our own creation to which we send them; lets us ignore how terrible war is, how much we damage the people we send to fight them. And makes it too easy, I think, to shame people away from asking questions, which is probably the most dangerous aspect of all.Whereas it's individually appropriate, and can't be overstated regarding those in the trenches (I served in Vietnam, in case you didn't know, was injured in a rocket attack, have run to tend to wounded as Cobra helicopters fired overhead: I've seen heroes, and I'm not one of them), promoting hero-worship is also an easy way for leaders to keep minds off what's going on. In some ways, weeping over heroism is a self-indulgent act of assuaging our own guilt. Worse, exploited cynically by those who benefit from war, politically and financially, it becomes an all-too-effortless substitute for the hard work of living in a democracy, an innoculation from criticism. Some pretty bad people know it all too well.
To bring that subject up is, as I see it, neither unpatriotic nor disrespectful. In an open and democratic society, it is, in fact, the opposite. Which, of course, is exactly why the RWS™, who have less love for democracy than they have for the black guy in the white house, have jumped on Chris Hayes (and, of course, on all liberals) like a Medal of Honor winner on a grenade. (Except none of them have ever served nor would have had the instincts to do it.) From their armchairs and sound studios, they loves them some war. Mitt Romney, looks like, loves him some war even more. In service of that proposition, they equate questioning with lack of patriotism, hating the troops, treason (a word tossed around by teabaggRs likefrisbees by the hirsute). And, with far too many people, they've succeeded in over-eye-pulling the wool.
That it's nearly impossible to have such a discussion rationally doesn't mean Mr. Hayes shouldn't have tried. His apology was honest and heartfelt, I think; but his original words were meaningful. It's something we should be talking about. With our volunteer army and unpaid-for wars, it is too easy for us; saluting the flag with tears in our eyes as soldiers and veterans march by seems to fill the bill for many of us, and is a hell of a lot less difficult than paying for their care; or than setting aside selfishness and prejudice for the common good, sacrificing something real, compromising, as real patriots should do. If heroes are people who are sent (unprepared in the case of Iraq) to an unnecessary or unwinnable war and are killed or maimed fighting it, so, in these polarized and hateful times, are those willing to question it or try to prevent it in the first place. It should be harder to send kids to fight and die than it seems to be, less easy to ignore the realities by calling it heroism. And it should be easier to debate the wisdom of it all.I think that's all Chris Hayes was trying to say.
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Monday, November 24, 2014
My friend Chuck Sigars (rhymes with tigers) has gotten into the podcast business; we did a lengthy session yesterday, and he's in the (daunting, surely) process of editing it to sensible and comprehensible size. Meanwhile, he's put up a clip. (Don't know where I got that lip-smacking tic, but I'm sure there's even more embarrassment to come.)
Friday, November 21, 2014
Here's a bit of perspective on the immigration "debate," after President Obama's announcement last night. It's from this thread on Andrew Sullivan's blog, where lots of wisdom can always be found. As with so much else, when you strip away the rhetoric designed to inflame and obfuscate, there's much to be learned:
Your question of “how many immigrants will Obama let stay,” or “allow to stay,” perpetuates an important misconception in this debate. As Greg Sargent helpfully explains, Obama is not proposing to deport less people, and the same number (roughly 400,000) will continue to be deported, with or without executive action. Why? Because Congress only appropriates enough money to deport that number, or roughly 3.5% of the approximate 12 million undocumented aliens. As there is an existing, bipartisan agreement that some 96.5% of the undocumented population will be allowed to remain here (i.e., the “how many” question), Obama’s executive action asks only: which undocumented immigrants should populate the 400,000 who are deported?
That is a crucial distinction. The question is not whether Obama should increase the number of undocumented immigrants (he isn’t), but whether he should apply severely limited resources in a targeted fashion (e.g., new arrivals, criminals, etc.) or indiscriminately (e.g., a law abiding mother of a U.S. citizen-child)? And, is Obama plausibly “tearing up the Constitution” if he deports the only number of people he can (about 400,000), but prioritizes who should be deported within such Congressionally imposed constraints?
Notably, Republicans are not proposing to increase such spending/deportations. Characteristically, they are threatening only to further defund the government. Aside from raw politics, the Republican position is largely: (i) don’t inform our base that we agree that less than 1 out of 10 undocumented immigrants should be deported, (ii) apply the meager 3% budget indiscriminately to terrorize the wider immigrant population, and (iii) most of all, don’t do anything that would remove the pejorative, crippling “illegal” designation from this disadvantaged labor supply.[Image source]
Thursday, November 20, 2014
So I had another column published in the local newspaper:
I wonder. Of the miniscule number of Americans who voted, how many cast their votes because of “Obama’s Katrina?” You know, the perilous plague that, according to voices in many heads and on Fox “news,” the president of the United States deliberately brought here as reparation for slavery. Or, less apocalyptically, was it because they agreed with the repetitive claim that the president’s response to Ebola – it’s everywhere! -- proves we can’t trust this government? The government of the country that has hosted a total of four people with Ebola and which now has ZERO?
Was it ISIS massing on our southern border, ready to march into Arkansas holding hands with Mexican drug lords, as the newly-elected senator from there warned a pre-election town hall? Or fear, shared with Iowa’s pistol-packing (for protection against the government!) next senator, of Agenda 21, that nefarious suggestion from the UN that countries manage their land responsibly?
Because the thing is, poll after poll has shown that most Americans support the goals of the Democratic Party and reject those of today’s Republicans (tinyurl.com/k3s6ofq). Social Security. Medicare. Minimum wage. Medicaid. Taxes. Military spending. Job creation. Even unions! So how to explain the insweeping, like an ocean-heated hurricane, of the party promising to do the opposite of what most people think is needed?
In the House of Representatives, gerrymandering by Republican state legislatures has pretty much locked up R seats forever; for that to change, the ocean would have to be tippling at the turf of Topeka. (Speaking of Kansas: they reelected their Tea Party’s dream governor, who’d promised a tax-cutting, job-creating, budget-balancing, deregulated Republican paradise but delivered only debt and lagging job growth.) According to several analyses, laws aimed at suppressing minority voting in several states had the desired effect. Nor should we discount the deadly combination of mealy messaging by Democratic candidates and the astounding apathy of their voters. In Utah an incumbent senator, rightly admired for his strong advocacy of environmental protection among other important things, chose to run on birth control. Pathetic. (The only non-incumbent Democratic candidate for the senate who was willing to campaign with the president won.) But none of these provides a compelling answer.
The tougher the times, the more effective is propaganda. The more challenging the problems, the easier it is to get people to look the other way. Which means that, today, convincing voters that ISIS is about to look at their tax returns while giving them Ebola before chopping their heads off in Benghazi, works. When the agenda behind the distraction is antithetical to the needs of everyone but the people behind the distraction behind the agenda, distraction IS the agenda.
Which clarifies the real explanation: Truth-telling has become a political loser. In twenty-first century America, after decades of deliberate dumbification, perpetual propagandizing, excoriating expertise, flogging fear, promoting paranoia, we don’t want to hear the truth, much less know how to recognize it, even when it’s obvious as a pH probe. So, against the rising tide, here’s a list of truths we hold to be self-evident, if hard to swallow:
Due to human activity, the climate is changing. The ocean is unsustainably acidifying. Tax cuts don’t pay for themselves. Wars don’t, either. Corporations won’t hire unless there are customers to buy their products; massive wealth concentration works against that. Privatizing public education has led to rich executives and poor students. Same-sex marriage threatens no one else’s. Science is indispensible to our future. So are roads and bridges. Separation honors and protects religion. Eliminating the EPA will increase deadly pollution. By maintaining equal onramps to the information superhighway, net neutrality encourages, not stifles, innovation. Not all corporations do right by their employees or our country: unions and regulations provide needed restraints. Kids born into poverty usually stay that way. It’s easier to make good choices when there are choices. Health care access saves money. And lives.
It shouldn’t escape notice that solutions, if there are to be any, while demanding sacrifice from us all, will disproportionately affect a small number of very wealthy and powerful people. People who, coincidentally, control right wing media and their purchased politicians. People who rightly figure that keeping the electorate riled up about the wrong things works out just fine. For them.[Image source]
Friday, November 14, 2014
John Doar (to James Meridith's left in the pic) has died. It might well not be a familiar name, in which case, read Charlie, whose tribute ends thus:
...Quite simply, there was no braver American amid the tumult of the 1960's and the 1970's than John Doar. Arguably, there were very few greater Americans during that same time. He made the law a shield, and then he made the law a sword, and he stood in against the most dangerous beasts in this country's heart and beat them all. He never wrote a book. He did not become the star he could have become. (Almost everyone else involved in Watergate did, god knows.) And, last Tuesday, he died, at the age of 92. When that smiling dunce, Reagan, got up at his first inaugural, and said that government was the problem, when he told that stupid Rotary Club joke about "I'm from the government and I'm here to help," I always thought about John Doar, who was from the government, and who came to help, and who did more for this country in three years down South than Reagan did in his entire sorry life. There is one thing more you should know about John Doar.
He was a Republican.
Every modern Republican should be ashamed of themselves because of that.[Image from the referenced essay]
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