Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Me, Too!


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Those Who Forget History...



This letter to the editor appeared in my local newspaper this morning:
Whether you agree or disagree with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on gay marriage, in my opinion, it was offensive to see the White House emblazoned in rainbow colors that evening. The White House is — and should remain — a symbol of all Americans, regardless of their beliefs.
Uh, ma'am? I think that's the whole point of the rainbow.

[Added: Surprise! Bill-O doesn't get it, either.]

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Monday, June 29, 2015

And Another Thing



If the job of the Supreme Court is to judge constitutionality, how is this relevant:
In a 5-4 decision, the court sided with industry and 23 states that challenged the Environmental Protection Agency over the rules for oil- and coal-fired utilities, which the EPA estimated would cost $9.6 billion dollars annually. The states and industry groups said the cost estimate far outweighed the benefits the rules would produce, estimated at $4 million to $6 million per year. 
The courts majority agreed, saying the EPA interpreted the regulation "unreasonably when it deemed cost irrelevant to the decision to regulate power plants."
Why is cost an issue for the courts? The question, I'd think, is whether the agency has the power to regulate emissions. It does, or it doesn't. Yet again, far as I can tell, the "constitutionalist" wing of the court deems to legislate rather than adjudicate. I admit to not having read the whole decision; maybe there's precedent (although that seems only to apply when they so choose) for the courts deciding "undue burden" in cases like these. Maybe somewhere within they claimed there's no right to regulate. But if so, the cost issue would have been moot.

Laws are passed all the time that demand compliance without saying who is to bear the costs or where the money would come from, or without even addressing the issue of costs. I know there are some lawyers who read this. Maybe they could enlighten us all.

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Judging The Judges



Whatever else the conservatives on the Supreme Court may be, in their marriage-equality dissents they’re neither impartial nor innocent callers of balls and strikes, as Chief Justice Roberts famously pretended at his confirmation hearing.  (At least we can agree that “judicial activism” is defined, by all sides, as a decision with which one disagrees.) It doesn’t take much understanding of the law and the role of the Supreme Court to recognize that most of the verbiage in their dissents has nothing to do with it. Even Justice Kennedy’s opinion for the majority, poetic as it was in places, was full of irrelevance. Kennedy 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 it’s only the last two sentences that are material; in fact, the whole opinion could have been rendered with those alone. Contrarily, the raging of Antonin Scalia couldn’t have been more unhinged. “This is a naked judicial claim to legislative—indeed, super-legislative—power; a claim fundamentally at odds with our system of government. Except as limited by a constitutional prohibition agreed to by the People, the States are free to adopt whatever laws they like, even those that offend the esteemed Justices’ “reasoned judgment.” A system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy.”

As every high school student should know, that is astoundingly wrong. Surely he’s heard of judicial review. He even alluded to it, with the words “except as limited by a constitutional prohibition.” That’s precisely the job of the court: to determine when laws violate our constitution. He may disagree with the conclusion, but to say that it’s inconsistent with our democracy is to ignore a basic American judicial principle, settled since Marbury v. Madison. To conclude that the Constitution allows discrimination against an otherwise legal class of citizens is to forfeit claim to the label “conservative,” not to mention “Constitutionalist.” So he went for smoke and mirrors.

To the smacks of foreheads everywhere, Justice Thomas asserted, “…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.

Other than a weirdly inappropriate anthropology lesson, Mister Justice Roberts was more temperate if no less wrong: “… It is instead about whether, in our democratic republic, that decision should rest with the people… or with five lawyers who happen to hold commissions authorizing them to resolve legal disputes according to law. The Constitution leaves no doubt about the answer.” He’s right in his last sentence, but like Scalia, startlingly wrong in its application. Sure, this “redefines” marriage in the same way “Loving v. Virginia” did, and in the same way the Roberts court recently redefined “people.” But this was about equal rights under the law, nothing more, nothing less. It could just as well have been about the right of states to limit public schools only to heterosexuals, or to demand that they only include teaching the Bible. What could be a more fundamental role of the courts than determining whether the Constitution allows such things? Claims about love or children or Carthaginians on either side are extraneous. In making those sorts of arguments, the court IS defining marriage, which is NOT their job. Their job is to act when “the people” produce laws that are contrary to our Constitution, and when they do, to put a stop to it. Despite those bizarre dissents, that’s just what they did. If the furious four were what they claim to be, the decision would have been unanimous.

Predictably, and to the righteous waving of teabags, presidential candidates from the party of patriotism are lining up before the approving “journalists” at Fox “news,” to promise they’ll ignore the court. That’s much more than historical ignorance. It’s sedition, undisguised. Why do they hate America so much?


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Beyond Unbalanced



Having breakfast in a motel where we're staying while visiting the grandkid and those who brought him into the world, Fox "news" was on, loud, before I changed channels and muted it. (Can't be too careful.)

And there some panel was, still talking about how President Obama shouldn't have used the word "nigger," despite the context that should have been apparent to a third grader. And then one of them mentioned how he debased that song I'm sure they all sing every morning after taking the Pledge of Allegiance and agreeing that the Supreme Court must be ignored. "Amazing Grace."

Who can consider that network anything but nonstop and base propaganda? Their motto is the ultimate example of Orwellian -- or more accurately, Politburo -- use of language. And that kind of crap spews into people's homes round the clock, their listeners lapping it up as if from a trough. Can there be any question why our politics are so polarized, our president so reviled by the Foxified? God, it was awful.

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Amazing Grace


Simple



I'm no legal scholar, but it seems to me pretty obvious, and the decision could have been written in a single paragraph rather than a hundred or so pages: same-sex marriage is constitutionally protected for the following simple, clear, and inarguable reasons:

1) Equal protection under the law for all citizens is at the core of our Constitution and of American values. 
2) Sexual preference is not a matter of choice any more than is color of skin, and, therefore 
3) The only basis for considering homosexuals undeserving of equal rights is a religiously-based one and, therefore 
4) Since the Constitution forbids raising religious law above civil law, there is no Constitutional basis for preventing same-sex couples the right to marry, and, also 
5) No state has the power unilaterally to remove Constitutionally-guaranteed rights.  
6) Period.
And, oh yeah: No one is forcing anyone to marry a person of the same sex, nor will any given house of worship be required to perform such a marriage. Also obvious.

(Added: As moving as the final paragraph of the decision is, it's only the last couple of lines that are legally relevant: "They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right." See? Simple.)

(More: also obvious: preventing same-sex marriage harms an innocent group of citizens. Allowing it harms no one.)

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Win-Win



The Supreme Court's ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act is perfect. I refer to Republican presidential hopefuls, all of whom went into full programmed outrage mode, written no doubt before the decision was even handed down. Others have said, but it's worth repeating: surely it's exactly what they hoped for. Now they can rail and rant, continue their false claims of a socialist government takeover, etc ad nauseum without being called to account. Not needing to produce alternatives -- for now, anyway -- they can simply fan the flames of misinformation, misunderstanding, and misguided resentment and, as they see it, ride them to victory.

Good call, Mr Justice Roberts. It's a win-win. Your guys are off the hook, millions of Americans retain access to health insurance.

My dad, a lifelong Democrat, an Oregon state supreme court justice and, later, chief judge of the court of appeals, told me a few times that he admired Antonin "not pretending anymore" Scalia as a brilliant jurist. One of the things I miss most since Dad died is the talks we'd have about the law and about politics. I always found his opinions insightful and profound. I'd love to know if he'd still hold Scalia in esteem. I'm pretty sure not. His dissent in the Burwell case, while entertaining, is partisan and bitter (failed) activism, very loosely wrapped in faux legalese (sez I, not a lawyer) and that's the way he's been for a long time.

[Added: here's a better analysis than mine.]

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Not Much To Do Between Lecturing On Abstinence, Evidently



I know, I know, schadenfreude is unbecoming. Shame on me.

Bristol Palin: Sarah Palin's Daughter Announces Pregnancy in Blog Post 
"I do not want any lectures and I do not want any sympathy," Palin wrote. She did not provide any details about how far along the pregnancy is, or who the father is.

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What Would Sam Do?



In what world would it be news that a Republican governor and potential presidential candidate would bravely announce his intention to uphold the law of the land? Oh, yeah. Ours.

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) said Wednesday that if the Supreme Court strikes down his state's ban on same-sex marriage, he'll "abide" by the decision. 
"If the Supreme Court rules another way, they are the court and the law of the land, and we will abide by it,” Kasich, a potential 2016 presidential contender, told reporters ahead of an appearance at a caucus candidate forum. The two-term governor has not yet announced he's in the race...
The fact is that several if not all R presidential candidates have proudly stated their intention to ignore the law if the Supreme Court makes a decision with which they disagree. As I've written, this amounts to sedition. To use such a position as a platform from which to run for the presidency of the United States, whose Constitution they'd be swearing to uphold, at the very least disqualifies them from serious candidacy. And it shows in how little regard they hold the most fundamental aspects of what this country stands for. It's beyond bizarre.

But what about today's Republican party, at least as represented by its leaders, isn't?

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

My Latest Newspaper Column



Here's my latest column in the local newspaper.
Only hours after the murders in Charleston, as if the horror itself wasn’t enough, the reprehensible reactions from the right made me feel like rolling into a ball and crying. 
When the president said, “… this type of violence doesn’t happen in other countries,” I knew, as sure as the planet is warming, that, despite his next sentence, “It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency,” the damage was done. Right-wingers jumped on it like Chris Christie on a tuna sandwich. Now we can talk about Obama politicizing, coming for our guns, and, as usual, ignore the heart of the issue. And ignore it they did. 
“This is an attack on religious freedom,” preached Rick Santorum. “There are people out there looking to kill Christians,” warned Lindsey Graham, presumably from under his bed. Jeb Bush couldn’t imagine what the motivation might be, nor could Governor Nikki Haley; Marco Rubio couldn’t either, but managed to reaffirm his faith in the Second Amendment. Rand Paul intoned, “It’s people not understanding where salvation comes from.” Ted Cruz said that Christians across the country were mourning the loss, not bothering to mention anyone else, while Rick Perry referred to it as an “accident,” plus prescription drugs. Predictable as December rain, the NRA blamed the assassinated minister. On Fox “news,” Steve Doocey found it beyond his capacity to understand how anyone could call it a hate crime. “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country,” said the killer to a parishioner before opening fire, his clothing bearing logos of apartheid countries. “You have to go.” Online, he was even worse. No. He wasn’t talking about Christians. 
A slog through right-wing websites found them excreting the whole loathsome litany: It’s a hoax, a “false flag” excuse for confiscating guns and imposing Sharia law. Obama is a Nazi, Jews control the media and Obama planned it. There was more, lots more, and I’ll spare you the rest. But the message is clear: we’ll not talk about race, we’ll not talk about guns, but we will revel in our ignorance and call it truth. What produces such people? How does their hate get that strong, their denial so pervasive? 
NRA-bullied legislators are too cowed even to consider reducing access by criminals and the mentally ill to guns. And what does it say about our culture that the man’s parents chose to gift him with one, given his history? (Of course, you don’t come to embrace those views in a vacuum.) We know it’s not racism though: the right has informed us it is no more. The Confederate flag? Not about racism, but proud heritage. If you’ve forgotten on what heritage the Confederacy was founded, their vice-president stated it very clearly as the Civil War began, and maybe we need a reminder. After the murders, the flag flew at full mast in South Carolina. 
Why is it so hard for today’s Republicans to admit there might be a problem with racism in this country? They’re all moochers, they tell us. When there’s violence, they were “asking for it,” “no angels themselves.” They’re “thugs.” It’s whites who are victims. “Laziness is a trait in blacks,” recently said Donald Trump, who’s amazing. So-called conservatives have no problem claiming Obama is “divisive.” When might they concede that Foxolimtrumpian rhetoric has an effect, too? It’s as if they think that even uttering “racism” will cause their throats to constrict and their brains to leak out of their ears. What are they so afraid of?

There goes Obama, dividing us yet again, wail “conservatives,” outraged. Yet when their leaders hustle the Christian persecution pretense on which, in the absence of workable policy, they’ve chosen to run, that’s just fine. Clearly it’s impossible for a once-great political party even to consider that gun violence needs addressing, or that, despite Barack Obama’s election, racism might still exist, and I wish I understood why. 
If both sides are politicizing, liberals are pointing out actual problems, while today’s “conservative” leaders are pushing phony claims of a war on religion. And nothing will change. With half the country in denial, choosing ignorance on this and on so much more, nothing will ever change. Who wouldn’t weep? Who wouldn’t despair for our country?
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Bill "Always Wrong" Kristol Is Still Wrong


See, the thing is I'm pretty sure that those fighting for the Confederacy didn't consider themselves "Americans." Because that was sort of the whole fking point.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Flagging Enthusiasm



I believe the term is "pyrrhic victory." Sure, I suppose it's a good thing that South Carolina -- and maybe other states will follow -- might remove the Confederate flag from its capital (that is, assuming the idea will get 2/3 yes votes in each legislative chamber.) Symbolism is symbolic, after all.

Call me a cynic, but I don't think racism and resentment will end with the last flop of the flag in the wind. Might even increase, given that, well, it's symbolic of stuff. It will if Rush has anything to say about it.

Either way, let's see how long it takes after the flag unflies for the Foxolimbeckians to claim, see, there's no racism, just like we've been saying. (Not long.)

Oh, and there's more good news: turns out anti-Semitism is over, too.

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Those Who Fail To Understand History...


Because a favorite talking point of "conservatives" is that they're the party of Lincoln, and that the South used to be Democrats. Because they haven't noticed what happened since, I guess.

Must be those Texas history books.

Proving The Adage



Even the most loathsome of people can on occasion say or do the right thing. In the case of today's Republican leaders, props to two of the most usually repulsive: Lindsey "they'll kill us all" Graham and Ben "Obama's a sociopath/Nazi" Carson. The former called for the Confederate flag to be removed from the capital of his state, while the latter stated the obvious, which, in today's version of that party is wholly unexpected and unusual, no matter the topic. The murders in South Carolina were racially motivated, he allowed, alone among his fellow presidential contenders, far as I know.

S.C. Governor Nikki Haley called for the removal of the flag, too, so other than her years of defending it, good for her. She made a point of saying racists should feel free to flag their own property, of course, but she's in a state where not reassuring such people could cost her the next election.

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Monday, June 22, 2015

Also, The Sun Rises In The East



Isn't this about as obvious a thing as there is?
Anyone recall when the Justice Department, under Eric Holder, said the same thing and the right-wing screamers went nuts? Maybe this time, since it's cops, they'll listen.

Yeah. Sure they will.

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E Unum, Pluribus Of The Crazy



In this amazing interview (amazing, in part, because it's a podcast from Marc Maron's garage and because he spent an entire hour there, but mostly because it's pretty darn good) the president said a lot of really important and even inspiring things. Guess what one word -- one word which, in context was nearly bland -- the right wing screamers have focused on.

To quote CPP, these truly are the mole people.

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US Health Care In A Nutshell



I was happy to hear AG Loretta Lynch announce the arrest of hundreds of healthcare fraudsters, including docs, nurses, and various suppliers. But really, that's small potatoes. The real ripoff of health care dollars is totally legal, and by design.

Want to know why I and so many others were disappointed when President Obama went with a conservative plan for health care reform? Need evidence that insurance companies are sucking untold amounts of money from the system and putting it into the pockets of investors? Think that has nothing to do with the cost of health care in the US? Believe that the ACA is making it tough on insurers? Yeah. Right.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Health insurer Cigna Corp. has rejected a $47 billion offer to be acquired by its larger rival, Anthem Inc., saying the terms of the bid are inadequate and "woefully skewed in favor of Anthem shareholders." 
Cigna's sharply worded rejection came just one day after Anthem went public with its cash-and-stock offer, which amounts to about $184 for each Cigna share or about an 18 percent premium on Cigna's closing stock price on Friday.
What a shameful situation. As people still struggle to afford access to health care in the US, dollars meant to pay for that care are being handed over, right in front of all of us, to insurance CEOs and investors. It makes no damn sense. It's a scam and a travesty.

Billions. They'd pay billions to get in even deeper on the racket. Rejected because it's not enough of a ripoff from premium payers, too little of a windfall for investors.

And Obama's a socialist.

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Friday, June 19, 2015

The Donald. Duck!!



The more I think about it, the more I believe it's possible Donald Trump could get the R nomination. For one thing, Fox "news" seems to be falling all over the guy, giving him a full hour on Hannity, and Bill O'Reilly featuring his "first" interview.

He's the exact teabagger paradigm: bluster, wild statements, America-fuck-yeah braggadocio, pursuit of the superficial, ignorance of facts, pushing of resentment and hatred of the "other," paranoid claims about President Obama, crude, thin-skinned, hyper-inflated ego, and, most important of all, pushing the feel-good if brainless notion that there are simple, bumper-sticker-ready solutions to each and every one of our problems, including pretending they don't exist at all.

I think his star will rise steadily, especially in the early voting primary states, where he's just their kind of guy. And, were he to get the nomination, and if he were in a debate with any of the D prospects, he'd look like an idiot to anyone who knows anything, and like the reincarnation of Jesus (whose teachings they ignore), Ronald Reagan (whose failings they deny), and every one of the founding fathers (of whose writings they know nothing, really) to everyone else.

Donald Trump, in other words, is the perfect symbol of the America half the country desires. And, sadly, of how much of the world sees us.

That he paid people to attend his rally doesn't change the fact that he seems to have Fox in his pocket. I suppose I'm only half serious, but it wouldn't surprise me at all if he, at least, wins a couple of primaries. If there's plenty of time for him to make a fool of himself (or, by dropping out to continue his TV show, of his believers), he's already done so enough that if that sort of thing mattered, he'd already have been laughed off the stage.

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Papa Do Preach



Following up on this morning's post, if this doesn't confirm the idiocy of Jeb and all the other climate change deniers, minimizers, and simplifiers, I don't know what does. Admittedly, I'll not likely read the entire 184 pages. But this summary, by the estimable Charles P Pierce, is pretty convincing that the current Pope is, in most things, a fine, fine, man:
 ...In the 184 pages of Laudato Si, Papa Francesco has called them all out—the climate deniers, the plutocrats who stand behind them, the system of extraction and consumption from which the latter profit, the political leaders who bow before them and refuse to confront the very real crisis, and anyone else who marinates in apathy while the crisis first overwhelms the poorest of the poor, as most crises usually do. 
He wrote: 
"The idea of infinite or unlimited growth, which proves so attractive to economists, financiers and experts in technology ... is based on the lie that there is an infinite supply of the earth's goods, and this leads to the planet being squeezed dry at every limit." ...
If, like me, you don't plan to plow through the whole encyclical (great word, by the way), at least read Charlie's take on it. Not much more need be said. Except how shameful today's Republican party has become, and that I hope some of them live to see the consequences of their selfishness and stupidity; and, much too late, to be forced to admit how damaging it's become.

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Unforced Error



President Obama's statement on the murders in Charlotte will, predictably as higher temperatures and floods, be fodder for the right wing screamers, and entirely negate the central truth of his message:

In a statement at the White House, President Barack Obama mourned the victims and lamented the steady stream of mass shootings he has had to address while in office. "Once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun," he said. "At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence doesn’t happen in other countries." (emphasis mine.)
Damn.

He did add this, but it won't matter:

"It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it. I say that recognizing the politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now. But it would be wrong for us not to acknowledge it," he said.

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Jeb Bush Is An Idiot, And Other Obvious Things



Quoth the smart one:
“I hope I’m not going to get castigated for saying this by my priest back home, but I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope,” said Bush, a devout Catholic. He added that he wanted to see exactly what the pope recommended “before I pass judgment, but I think religion ought to be about making us better as people, less about things [that] end up getting into the political realm.”
Right. So let's keep religious stuff out of the political realm and vicey versy, is what you're (cough Schiavo cough) saying? And shut up, your holiness, on birth control and abortion. Right, Jeb?

Wild guess here: Jeb doesn't really have a problem with the latter two, pontifically. He's down with "moral issues," even if they're based on a particular religious creed, and even when it's advocated as public policy. So, I'd like to hear him explain, why isn't being good stewards of God'd gift of our planet a moral issue, or a religious one? In what way doesn't it make us better people to protect our planet, and save it for future generations? And why shouldn't religious leaders speak out about such an affront to God?

Well, of course, lifting the corner of the rug, Jeb squares the circle (metaphors, mixed) by saying "we really don't know" what's causing climate change. So everybody just shut up about it. Especially you, Frankie the Pope. Just shut up.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Catching Up On The News



I don't have anything useful to say about either of the stories of the week, but I'm pretty sure the following takes on them are wrong:

Fox News Blames CNN And Obama For Dallas Police Department Attack 

Glenn Beck: Rachel Dolezal Controversy Paving The Way For Internment Camps

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

What Words?



Traitorous? Seditious? Anti-Constitutional? Tyrannical? Fascist? Not to mention hate-filled, homophobic, hypocritical, stupid, dangerous, and deeply unAmerican.

... Fearing a huge setback to their cause, opponents of same-sex marriage, including some of the major contenders for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, are darkly warning that they will not "honor" an adverse Supreme Court decision. Some are calling for civil disobedience. Others are moving to strip the Supreme Court of its authority to decide whether gay couples should be allowed to marry, while others have questioned whether the court has that jurisdiction in the first place. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has said that such a decision would be "fundamentally illegitimate."
Those who are merely calling for a new constitutional amendment to enshrine marriage as between one man and one woman now seem almost quaint in their desire to use the ordinary constitutional process to counter the Supreme Court...
The article goes on to quote many prominent Republicans, including several of their presidential (chief law enforcer!) wannabees, all of whom happily demonstrate their lack of understanding of how our democracy, with its checks and balances, works. Or maybe they do understand but just, in the end, don't like it. Don't like it one damn bit. Because what's the good of government, anyway, if you don't always get your theocratic narrow-minded uninformed way? (These are, of course, the same sort of people who accuse President Obama of being a tyrant.)

These are undeniably awful people, who haven't the least idea about what makes America great, nor, despite their flag waving, love for its most fundamental principles. And it's time their teabagging voters woke up to what's going on and put a stop to it.

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Monday, June 15, 2015

Do It Yourself


I've had lots of people tell me, while disagreeing with something fundamentally true, like the value of vaccines or the role of mankind in climate change or the bogosity of homeopathy et al, that "I do my own research." Like this person:

... "The meningitis originated in a left ear infection, which was reportedly left untreated by conventional antibiotic therapy," Terzian wrote in his report.
A simple antibiotic to treat the ear infection would have saved the victim's life, Terzian added.
The child's mother, Christine Delozier, told investigators that she didn't believe in vaccinations or other aspects of modern medicine, not because of any religious beliefs, but from her own upbringing and her own research...
What a load of crap. "Own research." Unless she has a lab somewhere, where she runs tests of antibiotics, or she's done some prospective double-blind studies of her own, what it means is she searched the omni-informational internet until she found a couple of assertions that conformed to her preconceptions. Your "own research" can lead you anywhere you'd like to go, nowadays. Without at least a rudimentary ability to evaluate what you find, the term is meaningless, except as a way to convince yourself you know something you don't.

This is precisely why the Republican attempts to ruin public education, to banish understanding of science to the "pit of hell" whence it came are so frightening. You don't have to be a scientist to be able to recognize pseudoscience and "alternative" medicine woo, but you do have to have had some teaching on it. I don't suppose the climate change deniers give much of a shit about some kid who dies because her mother has no idea how to tell sense from nonsense, but the results were inevitable. Their fight against science is deliberate; the more people who understand what it's about, the fewer there will be to believe their lies, whether about climate change, birth control, pollution, and so many others.

Ignorance is their aim, and they've been remarkably effective at spreading it, oozing from the mouths of their leaders, fomented 24/7 on their propaganda networks. I'll allow that they'd prefer not be considered responsible for deaths such as this, nor are they their direct aim; what they want is a substrate of gullible voters through whom they can push their plutocratic plans. But that level of gullibility requires careful cultivation. Idiocy such as this, based on knowing nothing about real research, is the unavoidable result.

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Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Blinders Leading The Blinded


Honest to god/gods, I can't understand the reflexive, inevitable, and pervasive right-wing response to all incidents of police vs (black) citizen violence: it's always entirely excusable, the recipients of said violence are always at fault.

Clearly the left wing has jumped the gun in a couple of instances before all the facts are in. But this latest one? A bunch of teenage girls at a swimming pool, acting like teenagers? The cop feared for his life? C'mon! Seriously?

Megyn Kelly has informed us the girl who got thrown to the ground and kneed was "no saint, either." She knows this, how? She defines this, how? The girl, maybe, had some words to share as she walked away. Shouldn't cops be able to hear some unpleasant words, tolerate a little sass, if that's what there was, from a teenage girl ferchrissakes, without going literally ballistic?

Either that cop has serious anger management issues or is seriously a racist. Doesn't matter: he's in the wrong business, and it's sorta too bad he resigned, to keep his pension, rather than being fired. I've said it before: I respect the job cops do, and the ones I've met, working in ERs, having one as a neighbor, are really good people. It's a scary job. But is it so hard to accept, as with humans in all walks of life, that there are a few bad ones? That even, in fact, in some cities, in some departments, there might be cultures inimical to good policing?

The point here, again, is this: Is there no amount of unnecessary police violence against unarmed black citizens that might be unacceptable to such people as Megyn Kelly and all the right wing screamers? In every situation is "fearing for his life" a legitimate excuse? Why is it that such people on the right can't bring themselves to question the actions of police in any event, most especially this one? Does it threaten their bogus narrative that there's no racism in the US since we elected the president they can't stand no matter what he says or does but not because he's black of course?

These people are poisonous. They're making it impossible -- deliberately, no doubt -- to discuss racial issues in a meaningful way. Not to mention any important issue at all. I think they're killing us.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

More Columny



Here's my latest newspaper column, on the sexy subject of infrastructure:

Megyn “Benghazi!” Kelly, of Fox “Benghazi!” “news” would like you to know that people who “politicize” the Amtrak crash in Philadelphia are “despicable.” By which she means those who’ve pointed out the disasters waiting to happen as our infrastructure putresces from years of neglect. By which I mean the suicidal Republican obsession with budget cuts in order to pay for tax breaks for their wealthy benefactors. Oops. Did I politicize? 
Crazy times. You can’t discuss obvious racial disparities without being accused of “playing the race card” or being “divisive.” You can’t react to the latest (nearly daily) incidence of a child finding an unattended gun and shooting someone without being characterized as a gun-confiscator. (Can we stop calling those events accidents, by the way?) And now you can’t point to the irrational path down which Republican economic policies are dragging us without being tagged as a despicable politicizer. Question: how do you discuss the results of political policy without “politicization?”

In an earlier column I mentioned poverty, listing some approaches I consider doomed to failure. Because I’m not brilliant enough to have ideas of my own, I didn’t propose any. Yet I heard from people who reFoxively accused me of tax-and-spend liberalism, despite the fact that I’d mentioned nothing of the sort. Because considering problems government ought to address implies money might need to be spent, programmed outrage results as if by a rubber hammer on the patellar tendon. Question the carefully maintained construct that we can get along just fine by ignoring all problems that require monetary outlay, and expect responses on a par with that which results from pointing out the science behind anthropogenic climate change, or the real age of the earth: changing the subject, obfuscation, or “la la la, I can’t hear you.” 
It began with Ronald Reagan, of course: the idea that government is the problem, that tax cuts magically solve everything, that we can have what we need without paying for it, that privatizing everything but the use of our pudenda is the path to paradise. It’s not. (tinyurl.com/psxuu94) Or, in the case of infrastructure, that we can just pretend it away. It’s the perfect message for a nation given to rationalizing hard stuff out of existence, banning expert testimony, even, as per the governor of Florida, disallowing the use of certain sciencey words. Who wouldn’t want to believe that by paying less in taxes there would be nights of prosperity and days of jubilee? Show me where and when, and I’m on my way.

By definition, government budgets are political documents. Read the one just passed, without a single Democratic vote, by Republicans in the US House of Representatives, and ask yourself if it isn’t wholly about priorities of that party. (tinyurl.com/kejxfse) Tax cuts for the wealthy, spending cuts for the poor, spending increases (not paid for!) for defense, drastic reductions in Medicare and Medicaid. Of course it’s political. Of course it’s impossible to discuss the impact without mentioning the politics of those who wrote it. What’s despicable, I guess, to people like Megyn Kelly, is pointing to predictable -- or, in the case of Kansas, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Amtrak, actual -- consequences. It’s factually indefensible, not to mention patriotically irresponsible, to perpetuate the mythology of Reaganomics.  
Today’s Republican leaders like to suggest that governments ought to budget the way families do. Okay, consider homeowners with punctured pipes and rotting roofs. Let’s wonder whether, especially with current interest rates, a responsible family wouldn’t do needed repairs even if it required borrowing money; and let’s imagine the consequences of ignoring the problems. Then let’s agree that it would be inexplicable and self-destructive were that family to gather the money together only to donate it to the owner of a gated mansion down the road. To say that reflects the Republican budget is not to stretch the analogy. Marco Rubio, considered by some to be the brightest and most promising among the R presidential contenders, recently suggested that even if manmade climate change is real, it’d cost too much money to do anything about it. (tinyurl.com/o8uvtpb) 
That’s the current Republican path to our future, folks. If this is Yogi’s fork in the road, I’m not taking it.  
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Poor Timing, Bad Hand-Eye Coordination




Glenn "They're gonna kill me" Beck credits God and Rick Perry, not necessarily in that order, for ending the Texas drought by sending killer floods.
Glenn Beck returned from vacation today and noted that upon his return flight back to Texas, he was astonished to see the extent of the flooding that devastated large parts of the state during his absence. After co-host Stu Burguiere mocked the idea that the flooding, or the preceding drought, could in any way be attributed to climate change, Beck noted that it was actually former Gov. Rick Perry's 2011 prayer proclamation that ended Texas' drought... 
So He dithered for a few years (admittedly a blink of an eye in God-years), allowing more misery till he could get around to it, probably attending to a certain amount of smiting somewhere else, likely over gay marriage, or maybe helping some high school team win a championship, and eventually got on the ball by killing a bunch of people and wiping out the belongings of countless others; but halle-the-fk-lujah, right?

I dunno. If Beck's right, God isn't all that good at microsurgery, which raises obvious questions in my mind. Flooding the whole world in the good old days wasn't exactly precision work. I think he needs more time in the simulator.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Today's Brand Of Conservatism In Extremis


Overseer of the conservative paean to Reaganomics and teabaggerism that is Kansas, Sam Brownback has taken the ultimate step:
On Thursday, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill that threatens the entire state's judiciary with destruction if it rules against a law he favors. Brownback has spent much of his tenure attempting to curb the state supreme court and consolidate power in the executive branch. Thursday's startling maneuver suggests the deeply conservative governor has no compunction about simply obliterating separation of powers when another branch of government gets in his way.
In his contempt for the most fundamental idea of separation of powers he's far from alone in his party. Nor is it the case with oversight in general. I wonder when those who claim President Obama is a fascist dictator will weigh in on this adventure.

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Violence Against Hope



Along with the tendency of some liberals to be overly credulous when it comes to "alternative" medicine, rejection of vaccines, and other forms of medical woo, I find myself deeply disturbed by the persistence -- increase, really -- of thin-skinned political correctness and complete misunderstanding of free speech, unwillingness to brook, much less listen to opposing views, that seems to characterize many college campuses. It's no more liberalism than the theocratic promulgation of ignorance we see in today's Republican party is conservatism.

There've been plenty of examples recently, the latest having occurred at Smith College, just down the road from where I went to college, and where I distinguished (!) myself playing Conrad Birdie in "Bye Bye Birdie" about fifty years ago.
... Lawyer and author Wendy Kaminer found herself at the center of that heated debate this year when she joined a free speech panel discussion at Smith College and used a racial slur while discussing its use in literature and academia. Kaminer joined HuffPost Live on Wednesday and explained what transpired on the panel. 
"I was accused of committing an explicit act of racial violence because I questioned our growing list of words we can only know by their initials," Kaminer said. "I questioned the value and the uses of euphemisms and in doing so, I uttered a few forbidden words, including a racially charged word. And by doing so, I was accused of committing an act of racial violence." ...
The mind reels. Racial violence. For using a word. In a discussion about free speech. Even Jerry Seinfeld agrees it's gotten ridiculous. Well, sure, if you can't be a little crazy in your youth, what's the point. But these are "elite" students at an "elite" college, and you'd hope they'd be smarter than that. More able to hear hard stuff and deal with it.

Hard as it is to agree with them, conservative pundits are right when they criticize this stuff, and these kids are handing them all they need to convince teabagger types that liberalism is effete nonsense. They have no idea what liberalism is but neither do those students. Kids getting drunk and screwing on the beach over Spring break bothers me a lot less; hell, if I'd been able to get girls in my college days, I might have, too.

This, though... this is not very different from the denialism and preference for falsehood, the rejection of unpleasant realities that characterizes today's Republican party. It's unwillingness to hear stuff they don't like. And if today's yutes are gratifyingly more open-minded about same-sex marriage, less fundamentalist in their religious views, less frightened of immigrants, less militant than the last generation, this sort of thing makes me less optimistic (if that's possible) about our future and theirs. Because I sort of count on them to reverse the effects on our politics of the Palin/Gohmert/McConnell/Bachmann/Ernst/Hannity/O'Reilly/Inhofe/Graham/Huckabee/Santorum/Walker/Perry/Jindal brand of mendacity and stupidity, and return us to the days of honest discourse about things that are real and that matter.

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Monday, June 8, 2015

So Far Out Of Touch They Can't Be Reached


Funny. All the R presidential candidates, real and imagined, have no trouble saying that a major initiative that clearly worked, and may have prevented another depression, was a mistake. OTOH, when it comes to Iraq, the benefit of which is unclear at best, and which has cost uncountable lives and money, plunging the region into chaos, strengthening our enemies, they hem and haw.
If you want to understand the temperaments and governing philosophies of the Republican presidential candidates, pay close attention to the way they talk about an iconic moment of President Barack Obama’s tenure: His decision, in the spring of 2009, to rescue Chrysler and General Motors. 
Most of the top GOP contenders have said the decision was a mistake. The latest to do so was Rick Perry, the former governor of Texas, who boasted Friday during MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that he was against all bailouts -- including the one for General Motors. “When corporate leaders make bad mistakes, they need to be held accountable, whether they are on Wall Street or on Main Street,” Perry said. 
Perry and the other Republicans critical of the auto industry rescue might sincerely believe it was the wrong policy. Or they might simply fear the wrath of Republican primary voters who can’t stomach support for an initiative that came from Obama. Whatever their motives, Republicans who say they would not have extended the same lifeline that Obama did need to reckon with a key fact: 
By nearly all accounts, the 2009 rescue package saved a vital U.S. industry and, just maybe, the economic fortunes for an entire region.
The nice thing about calling the bailout a mistake is they don't have to address the consequences of not having done it. Because it was done. No consequences derive from their claim. Free pass pander. Iraq, on the other hand, is staring them in the face, its failures as undeniable as Donald Trump's hair. On that, however, they prefer not to opine.

But what the heck. It's not as if any of them is even pretending to be in touch with reality. Scott "the other Koch brother" Walker, for example, fresh off ruining his state's economy but proud of demonizing teachers, now stands ready to welcome a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Marco "the foreign policy expert" Rubio stepped on yet another rake trying to explain the difference between "nation building" and "helping to build a nation." Rick "don't google me" Santorum is still trying to confirm how it is that he is welcome to opine on climate change whereas the Pope is not. Or how it is that the world faces "more pressing problems" than climate change, i.e., jobs for Americans.

Well, at least Lindsey "they'll kill us all" Graham says Caitlyn Jenner is welcome in the Republican party. Here's the sound of Republicans around the country shouting their agreement.

[Image source.] [One might only hope it's true.]

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The War On The War On Christians



As I've said, many times...

But, hey, if it gets the votes, who cares if it's bullshit, right? Because running on b.s. is what every one of the R candidates for the presidency plans to do.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Why Fox "News" Is NOT News


Question: if Fox "news" is a serious news organization, and if Meyn Kelly is a serious "journalist," why do they spend so much airtime on the Duggars, the Duck people, criminals like Cliven Bundy, etc?

Just curious. Probably I'm missing something.

Trump Card


So Donald Trump, the great patriot and humble man of hair knows just how to defeat ISIS. But he ain't telling:

Donald Trump totally knows how to defeat ISIS, but there’s no way he’s telling any of us what his plan is yet. Trump spoke with Fox’s Greta Van Susteren tonight and bemoaned how the U.S. has “totally messed up the balance in the Middle East.” He believes the U.S. has to do something to combat ISIS. 
Van Susteren asked him exactly what that would be. Trump said, “I do know what to do and I would know how to bring ISIS to the table or, beyond that, defeat ISIS very quickly.”
He then added, “And I’m not gonna tell you what it is tonight.”
It'd be worth having him run just to find out his plan. And if he insists he'll only reveal it if he wins, and, as is as certain as global climate change, he loses, it'll be interesting to see if he tells the next president. Of course, if he has a plan and is willing, for purposes of his ego, to let countless people die before telling the president, then he's even more of a narcissistic idiot than he seems to be.

Here's my guess: either he's bullshitting, or whatever it is he thinks he came up with is bogus. Just like the "amazing" stuff his investigators were finding in Hawaii about Obama's birth. Seems to have slipped his mind to reveal it.

There are actual human people in the US, so-called conservatives, Republicans, who fall for the man's bullshit and want him to run. Simply amazing.

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Friday, June 5, 2015

Searching For Just The Right Words...



Really. So this is what Rick Perry chooses to campaign on. "Obama's war on religion." Virtually admitting he has nothing important to say, among all the actual problems we face, he picks one that doesn't exist and lies to pretend it does; to pander to that slice of the Foxolimbeckified population that actually believe it. Wearing leather.

Oh! I think I just found the right words: despicable smarmy dishonest cynical puke. And that's as generous as I can make it.

[Update: I won't take it down since I already posted it and people have seen it, but the above video is from his 2012 campaign. I'm gonna guess he'll bring it up again; but since he now wears glasses he might try to mention something real. We'll see.]

No Good Deed...


Needlessly provocative title notwithstanding, here's a well-written, seemingly objective and thorough article about the Clinton Global Initiative, which began with none but good intentions, has had an immeasurable and impressively positive impact on millions of people around the globe, is unprecedented in its ability to mobilize money and action from wealthy people all over the planet from all parts of the political spectrum, and nearly singular in the portion of its money that goes straight to its good works.

Such a huge and successful enterprise gets messy, I guess, when a party to it decides to run for president; questions get raised for legitimate as well as for clearly cynical and purely political reasons. I suppose it'd be par for the course of American politics if the unlikely outcome were to be the end of Hillary's candidacy. Given the enormous good the Initiative has produced, it'd be a travesty if it scared away donors in the process. 

If it's true that no good deed goes unpunished, especially when the dysfunctional mess known as the American way of governance and electioneering is mobilized, there ought to be no way such a plainly altruistic and uncommonly effective effort to help people in need can survive, much less even have existed at all. No ex-president has ever attempted or accomplished such a thing. Some spend their time doing not much more than making paintings of their feet in bathtubs, and cats. And, yes, as the article points out, Bill Clinton hauls in big bucks speaking on behalf of his work. Hey, I got paid for saving lives, too. Admittedly, on a somewhat lesser scale.

I can see why suspicions have been raised. If there was real and significant hanky-panky, we ought to know about it, and shame on them. But, far as I can tell, at its center is a vast organization dedicated to good works; the messiness is a side effect, its impact exaggerated, the claims of the Foxified fallacious. So far. 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Voices From Under The Bed



Well, as I've said, Lindsey "some of us will have to go but not me" Graham is running on the promise of war, based on scaring the shit out of people. Which is probably a winning message to about half the population, especially the America-fuck-yeah crowd who've never been in a war (I have) and who never will. Nor their kids.

His is sort of the reverse and perverse Underpants Gnome scenario: Phase 1, ISIS exists; Phase 2, (?); Phase 3, we all die. Someone needs to get him to fill in the parentheses. They won't. He can't.

The operative words are "don't vote for me." I wonder how many will take his advice. Because it's a lot easier to sit there with a figurative (and, quite possibly literal) hard-on for kicking some ass than it is to do it, and make it stick. Peace and jubilee will prevail, they'll love us, and become our BFFs. Oh sure, it hasn't worked yet, every time we've tried. But, hey, why not? This time it will.

For sure.

Uh Oh, This Can't Be Good...

Pluto's Moons Are 'Tumbling In Absolute Chaos,' NASA Says

Learning Curves Are For Pussies


The best summary of our adventures in the Middle East you're likely to see.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Throwing In The Towel?


Anyone else find this quote from Rick "google me" Santorum amusingly ironic?:
“The church has gotten it wrong a few times on science, and I think that we probably are better off leaving science to the scientists and focusing on what we're really good at, which is theology and morality,” Santorum said. "When we get involved with political and controversial scientific theories, I think the church is not as forceful and credible."
Leave science to the scientists. If that isn't a clear statement that we should accept the opinion of scientists on matters of science, I don't know what is. So, has Rick Santorum just agreed that manmade climate change is a thing, and that, as science is telling us, we need to do something about it damn fast? Guess so, huh?

(BTW, il Papa has a master's degree in chemistry!)

[Image source]

Sleazeball


There was a time when I thought, despite his generally assholery, that Jeb Bush might not be an unabashed sleazeball. Just wrongheaded but not necessarily a grifter on par with the rest of his field. What was I thinking? Had I forgotten the Terry Schiavo horror? Or, for that matter, his role in the fiasco known as the election of his brother? But now, as if it needed to be emphasized that he's no better -- worse, really -- than the rest, there's this:

WASHINGTON — Jeb Bush is under growing pressure to acknowledge what to some voters and a number of campaign finance lawyers seems obvious: He is running for president. The lawyers say Mr. Bush, a former Florida governor, is stretching the limits of election law by crisscrossing the country, hiring a political team and raising tens of millions of dollars at fund-raisers, all without declaring — except once, by mistake — that he is a candidate. ... “When you look at the totality of the activities, could a reasonable person conclude anything other than that he is seeking the presidency?” asked Karl J. Sandstrom, a campaign finance lawyer who served on the Federal Election Commission. For a candidate to avoid restrictions by simply not declaring his candidacy, he said, “makes a mockery of the law.” 
See, the thing is, as the article makes clear, were he to declare he couldn't be using superPACs the way he is, couldn't pile on the cash as he's doing. Because it would be illegal. Technically, I guess, he's not quite breaking the law. He's just deliberately flaunting it, unlike his brother who had no problem breaking it like a child's leg.

If it's true that around half the country would align with the R party (only because they have no clue what it really stands for and because they've been Foxified into voting on carefully curried outrage instead of their interests, but still...) you'd think they'd be able to come up with at least one candidate who's not an embarrassment to the human race. You'd think there might be at least one person unwilling to treat the electorate like the idiots they've become, appeal to their once-active higher minds. Really? No one, no where?

Jeb Bush, it turns out, it just a slightly more articulate version of his brother. Amoral. Manipulative. Aim low sort of a guy. What a pathetic assortment of disappointments is the current and potential Republican field of presidential candidates. But the party has no one to blame but itself. It set its course when it pandered to the teabaggers, and has sunk lower and lower ever since. Believe it or not, I feel sorry for the country, which needs two strong opposing but thoughtful parties. We've only had one for quite a while now, and it shows.

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If You Can't Persuade Them, Threaten Them

Well, of course he was kidding . I mean, after all, it's not like his entire career was one of bullying, suing, threatening, and lyin...