Sunday, July 26, 2015
I tired of Chris Matthews a long time ago and haven't watched MSNBC in years. But when I heard that Marco Rubio quote I concluded (as if I didn't already know) that he (Rubio) is a pandering political pretender scumbag with zero class. So when I found this clip, I figured it's worth posting. Because I know a few people who think Rubio is the next big thing.
His comment, of course, will endear him to his base in the same way Trump's comments about McCain have endeared him to his.
What an awful group of candidates. Every last one of them.
Saturday, July 25, 2015
Friday, July 24, 2015
If anyone still believes our system of health care financing makes any sense as long as it includes the health insurance industry, this ought to disabuse them of the misapprehension:
The health insurer Anthem said on Friday that it had agreed to acquire its rival Cigna for $48.3 billion in a deal that would further concentrate the United States market to just a few major players.
The combined company would have estimated revenue of about $115 billion and serve more than 53 million people with medical coverage...Sure, the Affordable Care Act is better than no change at all. But, as many have said from the beginning, it's a sop to insurance companies and sucks billions in profits and administrative costs out of the system, dollars that ought to be spent on actual care.
And, of course, it makes even more of a joke out of the claims of the right-wing screamers that it's a government takeover, socialist commie nazi Kenyan thing that makes you hate America and marry someone of the same sex while you stand, gunless, before a death panel.
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Here's my latest newspaper column:
Not long ago Donald Trump addressed a crowd in Arizona, where he retrod his undocumented claims about the Mexican government “sending” its rapists to the US. The venue was a convention center with a capacity of 4,100. Afterwards he tweeted a picture of the audience with the notation, “This is what 20,000 people looks like.” Perfect.
Donald Trump is indeed perfect. Detail by detail, he embodies the voter-ideal the Republican hierarchy and its media enforcers have been working so hard to create: a person to whom facts are irrelevant, whose idea of strength is the my-way highway, whose definition of patriotism is bullying braggadocio, and whose answers to the most complicated problems are so simple they fit on bumper stickers. Nuance? Unwelcome as a climate change conference. He’s the mephitic spawn of Karl Rove and Lee Atwater. Or maybe he sprang from the ids of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Alex Jones, Michael Savage, Ann Coulter, and the rest of our rightwing spewers. It’s as if they each brought a favorite body part to a lab and stitched him together. His popularity tells us much about today’s Republican voters.
Rising to political prominence by questioning President Obama’s birthplace, Trump sent “investigators” to Hawaii where, he claimed, they were finding “amazing” things which, for some reason, he’s never gotten around to sharing with us. (Maybe it was pineapples. Pineapples are pretty amazing over there.) Now he tops the polls and Republican leaders are between a rock-head and a hard case: to criticize is to disown the denialism and deceptions they’ve been crafting for years. It’s no mystery why “the base” admires Donald Trump. He’s born of decades of deliberate disinformation, efflorescing now like a corpse plant. His ideas are boilerplate: tax the poor, cut needed spending to lower taxes on the rich, talk tough, reject science, monger fear and resentment. Offering nothing new, he does it louder.
Predictable as the next round of record-breaking heat, Trump attacked the agreement with Iran as soon as it was announced. “It’s a disgrace,” he informed us. “We look so desperate,” he reasoned, as if strict sanctions leading to years of negotiations involving several countries happened in a panic. Yes, because anything except war is a sign of weakness, and because our previous invasions have worked out so well. Trump, of course, wasn’t alone in opining before the details were made public. Lindsey Graham crawled out from under his bed to speak to Joe Scarborough, predicting the end of the world. Joe mostly agreed but allowed as how he’d like to read it first. “Me, too,” said Mr. Graham, without evident irony.
Not that it’ll make any difference, but experts, including nuclear scientists and weapons inspectors, have marveled at how airtight the agreement is. So far, arguments against it ring hollow. I don’t know if it’ll work, but apocalyptic claims notwithstanding, it’s hardly naïve. The only way we’ll get past the constant threat of war is to give Iran’s young people reasons to reject their ayatollahs and admire the US. After all, we found our way from “you’re with us or with the terrorists” to offering alternatives. Given the opportunity, they might, too.
Even if they voice objections, Trump has made it impossible for Republicans to deny their real agenda: illegal immigration and “taking our country back” are exactly what Tea Partiers have been fed by those wanting to keep them angry in the wrong direction. Who knows whether Trump’s claims are deliberate lies or simply uninformed? (He does seem to favor making up numbers on the spot.) But, exactly as intended, they’re keeping impending oligarchy under the rug,
I’ll admit Trump is facile, if thin-skinned, in interviews. Wiggling out of tight spots with flimflam, he’ll do well in debates, at least in the eyes of the fact-averse. Which, I suppose, is the point. Unless their party produces a candidate with realistic ideas, they may as well go for the guy who slings it the furthest. And now we have his asinine comments about John McCain, which, no matter the fallout (because Rs hate [Kerry!] attacks [Cleland!] on decorated veterans [Duckworth!]), won’t change the fact that a superficial blowhard like Donald Trump has led the Republican presidential pack.[Image source]
Sunday, July 19, 2015
His thoughts on the morality -- or lack thereof -- of the Biblical view of God are exactly those that I concluded as I thought about it over time, and went from the sort of belief that I (sort of) inherited to the reality-based conclusion that life is better lived based on the very human traits of empathy and inquiry.
I understand that people will have "answers" to his propositions, and I recognize the necessity. My point, though, is that it's fine for people to use whatever thought processes they need to make it through life; but when they insist that these internally inconsistent or morally questionable beliefs become the basis for public law, it's time to call them out on it.
If it works for you, fine. Life is hard. But if your need is so great that you consider it an assault on your religion when others see things differently, or insist that your views must become the law of the land, well, watch the video again.
Wednesday, July 8, 2015
My latest newspaper column, somewhat revised and refined from a previous post here:
Whatever else they may be, in their marriage-equality dissents the conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court are neither impartial nor innocent callers of balls and strikes, as Chief Justice Roberts famously feigned at his confirmation hearing. It doesn't take much understanding of the role of the Supreme Court to recognize which of the verbiage in their dissents had nothing to do with it. Even Justice Kennedy's opinion for the majority, poetic as it was in places, was laden with chaff. He concluded:
“It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization's oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”
I agree, of course. But the entire opinion could have been rendered with the last two sentences alone. Clarence Thomas (in whose lifetime his own marriage was illegal until the Supreme Court invalidated laws prohibiting it) was having none of that dignity stuff, asserting, as jaws dropped: “Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be enslaved.” That's some strict interpreting!
No longer bothering even to pretend, Antonin Scalia could only splutter and fume: “This is a naked judicial claim to legislative — indeed, super-legislative — power. … Except as limited by a constitutional prohibition … the States are free to adopt whatever laws they like. … A system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy.”
Every high school student should know how wrong that is. Surely he's heard of judicial review. If not, what did he mean by “except as limited by a constitutional prohibition”? That's precisely the job of the court: to determine when laws violate the Constitution. He may not like the decision (I've disliked many of his, in which he did exactly what he decries in this opinion: did he forget them?) but to say that it's inconsistent with democracy is to ignore a founding constitutional principle, settled since Marbury v. Madison. So he went for hysterical hyperbole. So did Mr. Alito, warning “people will have to whisper their beliefs in the recesses of their homes.” That's what plops from the south end of a north-facing horse, the sort of fear-mongering vote-fishing jiggery-pokery we expect from Fox “news,” not from a member of the highest court in the land.
Other than his bizarre anthropology lesson, Mister Justice Roberts was slightly more temperate, if no less wrong: “It is instead about whether … [the definition of marriage] should rest with the people. … The Constitution leaves no doubt about the answer.” He's right in his last sentence, but like Scalia, startlingly wrong in its application. This no more about “redefining” marriage than “Loving v. Virginia” was. It's about equal rights under the law; no more, no less. It could just as well have been about the ability of states to restrict public education to heterosexuals. What could be a more central role of the Supreme Court than determining whether the Constitution allows such proscription? Claims about love or children or lessons on Aztec and Carthaginian conjugal habits are beside the point. In making those arguments, the court is trying to define marriage, which is not their job. Theirs is to act when “the people” produce laws contrary to our Constitution. If the furious four were what they claim to be, instead of agenda-driven ideologues, the decision would have been unanimous.
Predictably, presidential candidates from the party of patriotism have rushed to the unconditional embrace of Fox “news,” unfurling their intention to ignore the law, adjuring others to join them. That's not merely historical ignorance: it's traitorous sedition, leaving us to wonder why they hate America so much. As they shamelessly whip up outrage over a non-existent attack on religion, let's note that none has explained why all must follow their preferred religious views, or how same sex marriage harms the rest of us. I just checked, and, by golly, I'm still married. Forty-four years.
Monday, July 6, 2015
Can any rational person -- and I take it on faith and a certain amount of experience that there remains a few some among today's conservatives -- deny that these people are completely nuts?
It’s only been five days since the court issued its ruling, but conservative pundits have already predicted that gay marriage will ultimately be responsible for natural disasters, terrorist attacks and the destruction of freedom.
1) Terrorist attacks While there haven’t been any terrorist attacks against the U.S. since the court’s ruling, whenever there are, anti-LGBT activists will know who to blame: ... Sandy Rios, the American Family Association’s director of governmental affairs, linked the marriage equality decision to the reported July 4 terror threat. Declaring that there will be “some consequence” to this “unbelievable affront to God,” Rios suggested that “the terror threat against this nation has gone up exponentially” as a result of the marriage decision.
2) Forced gay sex The right-wing warnings of “forced homosexuality” are now coming true, at least according to one pastor...The article goes on. And on. Several more bullet points.
If thinking were a thing, one might think that at some point, when all of these apocalyptic things fail to happen, the suckers will begin to realize they've been sucked. But they're still claiming Obama is coming for their guns, nearly seven years into a non-gun-coming presidency. So, no, I guess not.
It's worth commenting on the "forced gay sex" thing: looking for an excuse, ya think? It reminds me of a joke my grandpa liked to tell. Short version: an observant Jew is traveling through Texas, and stops for a bite to eat. A Texan offers him half his ham sandwich and the man demurs. The Texan offers him a beer, and again he refuses. (My grandpa managed to make this about a five-minute dissertation.) Finally, the Texan gets pissed off and pulls his gun. "Listen, stranger, around these parts we don't cotton to unfriendly visitors. Now drink the damn beer." So, trembling, the Jewish man takes a sip of beer. And says, "Hey, as long as you have the gun on me, would you mind passing the ham sandwich."
So. Yeah. Forced gay sex. And don't fling 'em into the briar patch.
Wednesday, July 1, 2015
It came to me today on my morning walk, and admittedly it was hot as hell and my brain might have overheated some. But it all makes sense, that rejection of science, facts, expertise that has come to constitute today's Republican party, which, in turn, is made up of so many of a particular sort of Christian. And here it is: THEY'RE GIVING BACK THE APPLE!
It's all about original sin, that evil woman who chose to learn stuff, that offensive act from which all of God's wrath, through generation after generation, by storm and pestilence and hemorrhoids and halitosis and by raining down homosexuals upon us all, has flowed.
THEY'RE GIVING BACK THE FKING APPLE!!! It ain't me, God, they're saying. I'm not the one who wanted to become enlightened about this world. See? Watch this. You can have it all back. So we're good, right?
THEY'RE GIVING BACK THE APPLE!!!!
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What a great negotiator. What great deals he'll make. Asshole.