Cutting Through The Crap

Friday, October 30, 2015

Pressing The Point



The history of R candidates and their defenders attacking the press as "liberal" and "unfair" and askers of "gotcha" questions is long and repetitive. Likewise, the cheerful responses to those claims by their intended audience.

At the most recent "debate," the biggest cheers were for Ted Cruz' attacks on the press, his whining about questions he and others got, and, especially, his claim that at the Democratic "debate" the questions were nothing but a softball love-fest. It's interesting to recall the reality -- interesting, that is, to those to whom reality makes a difference.
COOPER: ... Secretary Clinton, I want to start with you. Plenty of politicians evolve on issues, but even some Democrats believe you change your positions based on political expediency.
You were against same-sex marriage. Now you're for it. You defended President Obama's immigration policies. Now you say they're too harsh. You supported his trade deal dozen of times. You even called it the "gold standard". Now, suddenly, last week, you're against it.
Will you say anything to get elected? 
**** 
COOPER: Senator Sanders. A Gallup poll says half the country would not put a socialist in the White House. You call yourself a democratic socialist. How can any kind of socialist win a general election in the United States?
COOPER: ... Governor Chafee, you've been everything but a socialist. When you were senator from Rhode Island, you were a Republican. When you were elected governor, you were an independent. You've only been a Democrat for little more than two years. Why should Democratic voters trust you won't change again? 
**** 
COOPER: Governor O'Malley, the concern of voters about you is that you tout our record as Baltimore's mayor. As we all know, we all saw it. That city exploded in riots and violence in April.
The current top prosecutor in Baltimore, also a Democrat, blames your zero tolerance policies for sowing the seeds of unrest. Why should Americans trust you with the country when they see what's going on in the city that you ran for more than seven years? 
**** 
COOPER: Senator Webb, in 2006, you called affirmative action "state-sponsored racism." In 2010, you wrote an op/ed saying it discriminates against whites. Given that nearly half the Democratic Party is non-white, aren't you out of step with where the Democratic Party is now?
Now, I'm not gonna defend all the questions that were asked of any of them at any of the debates. John Harwood, who's generally a good reporter and a smart guy, set the tone for deserved condemnation with the first question he asked in the R game of dodgeball. Dumb, and embarrassingly inappropriate. And, as has been widely agreed, all of the moderators covered themselves with shame. It was as if they deliberately handed Rs talking points about media bias for the rest of the election.

Lost in all the appropriate furor over the inappropriate tone of so many questions is the fact that there were substantive questions and when there were, virtually all of the candidates either ignored them or lied. Fiorina and the 72,000 pages of tax code; and the well-known fudge of job loss "facts" under Obama. Carson about his tax plan, and his relationship with a bogus purveyor of medicall woo. (The fact that, while denying a relationship, he claimed to use the product and that he's impressed with it ought to disqualify him from anything but late-night infomercials.) Rubio and his personal finances, his tax plan. And on it goes.

No one on that side cares. Whereas it's true that much of the press today is idiocy, it doesn't change the fact that the press does have a role to play, and within that role is the need to ask tough questions. Sometimes they do, and when it happens, the right wing rises as one to condemn it.

And, as we're seeing, they get away with it. More's the pity that, as in the recent debacle, so many "reporters" make the myth all too easy to believe. As has been said by others (Al Franken, in his "Lies" book, for one), our problem as a nation, with respect to the press and its job, isn't that "media" are liberal. It's that they're lazy.

Attacking the press is a well-worn path. It's yet another way in which today's Republicans demonstrate their lack of love for our form of democracy. Or, at least, their lack of understanding of it. Sadly, it's also true that "the press" seems to have lost sight of their true role, as well.

Also, this:


[Image source]

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Brush Carbaugh


Rush Limbaugh. Ben Carson. One follows the other. My latest newspaper column:

I had the misfortune to hear Rush Limbaugh discussing the discovery of water on Mars, and I can’t get it out of my head. What, I worry, does it mean that such insanity has overtaken the formerly credible Republican Party? What does it imply for the future of our country? Do people still pay attention to him? His ratings have been falling and some of his advertisers have abandoned him, but is it his sort of “thinking,” whether or not it gets as much radio play as it used to, that explains the rise of Ben Carson to the top of the polls in Iowa? Do his supporters actually prefer denial and ignorance? Am I the delusional one, believing that accurate information is important? 
What Rush said was, “When they start selling iPhones on Mars, it’ll matter to me.” Well, okay, we can agree on that much, because that would definitely be cool. But Limbaugh’s main thrust was that it’s all phony, another manifestation of the evil liberal conspiracy to … well … something-water-something. Because, he pointed out, global warming is a lie, just more progressive perfidy. His isn’t the grudging argument, the closest deniers get to enlightenment, that there’s global warming but mankind has nothing to do with it, adding that it’s arrogant to think that anyone but God can affect the weather. It’s not, as Marco Rubio says, that yes, it’s happening and humans might be playing a role, but we can’t afford to do anything about it (which, when you think about it, is even more idiotic than denying it). Nope. In Rush’s mind, there is no global climate change at all. He knows science, he says. He’s all “science 101.” Science 101. Not, say, biology, or chemistry, or physics 101. Science 101. Comes to science, he’s your man. 
He wasn’t done. He spoke of playing golf with excellent golfers, asking them if it got boring to be so good. His point was that it’s not boring to him, Rush Limbaugh, being so right all the time, but it’s hard and it’s lonely.  
Really, truly, objectively: on today’s political stage, fairness isn’t balanced. There simply aren’t people on the left – not ones with any credibility, anyway – who so blatantly and proudly deny reality. Who see nothing but conspiracy and America-haters wherever they look. Who make a darn good living at it. Who run for president on it. Which brings me back to Ben Carson, who might know his way around the superior sagittal sinus, but who couldn’t sew up policy with a rope. Currently taking “time off” to sell his books, he’s saying things that, in a sensible world, would embarrass us all. When interviewed on the economy, the only thing he made clear through the gobbledygook is that understanding it has completely eluded him. But he’s calm, and that makes people feel safe. 
Among Republican contenders, Ted Cruz is the most disturbing, because his approach is textbook demagoguery, his rhetoric that of all successful despots, who strode to power using targeted hate and fear as weapons, fortified with messianic self-regard. The thought of him winning is deeply frightening, but we know it can’t happen here, right? Right? (www.tinyurl.com/no-way-right) Carson’s candidacy is the more depressing, though, because notwithstanding the kakistocracy he’d bring, so much of our country takes him seriously. I’d say “despite” the evidence that he’s out of his depth, but doubtless it’s because of it. In his curiously compartmentalized mind, liberals consider him an “existential threat” when, in fact, his nomination would be a Godful gift to progressives. 
Those voters lifting him in the polls must consider facts a waste of time, preferring to be told that Barack Obama is a psychopath, that homosexuality is a choice, that legislating gun rights is worse than a body full of bullet holes, and that government should censor political speech. That’s what Carson gives them, and it’s of a piece with Rush on Mars. 
Now, in the most bipartisan way possible, let me say that Hillary Clinton made her inquisitors look like children who’d been told they were going for ice cream and found out they were heading to the doctor for shots. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Death Can't Stop The Awful


Bob Woodward has a new book out, about Nixon, culled from the recently available files of Andrew Butterfield; best known, to me anyway, as the guy who broke the news of the White House tapes during the Watergate hearings. Here's a bit of an interview with Amazon Book Review...

ABR: You took periodic trips from Washington to California, spent hours and hours going through these papers. What did you find that was most surprising?
BW: The "zilch memo" where Nixon writes this memo--hand-written, on the Top Secret January 3, '72 memo that Kissinger sent him--where he just says to Kissinger, "We've had 10 years of total control of the air in Laos and Vietnam. The result equals zilch." His whole policy was built around Vietnamization, around getting the U.S. troops out, and they were almost out at this point, [but he's still] bombing. He dropped nearly three million tons of bombs in Southeast Asia: North Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia. That's more than were dropped in all of WWII, I think. He says [the value was] "zilch."
It's early '72, an election year. Does he stop the bombing? No, he intensifies it. ...  And then he talks with Kissinger about how the polling shows how popular the bombing is. ... So he's talking with Kissinger, and they recall May 8 and the massive bombing that day. Kissinger says "May 8, you won the election that day." And you see this is the other side of Watergate: It's not about the war, it's all about winning reelection. As I started to look at this, I thought, My God, help us...
...
ABR: All of this happened over 40 years ago. Why should it matter to us now?
BW: This couldn't be more relevant now as we're going into a presidential election. Who are these people running for president? What really drives them? How do they really decide things? What are their real values? I think all of the candidates are going to get a full-field inquiry and biographical study--and I think they should. What about Hillary? What about Trump? We're in this era where the message managers have so much control and influence. Well, what's really there? Who are these people? We'd better know that.
I sorta think Woodward has become a tool in the past few years; and why is he, of all people, surprised that for Nixon it was all about winning elections? And he mentions Hillary and Trump, but not the rest of the R candidates, huffing in unison, about how tough they'll be, starting wars on call? What, that's not about winning elections?

Still, it sounds like an entertaining read for us confirmed (and reality-based) Nixon-haters.

[Image source]

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Well Said



I think this is a fair and accurate citation (not "fair and balanced." Not possible, when there's this much imbalance) of the differences between R and D candidates.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Guns And Apple Pie


Here's my latest newspaper column:

People died in Roseburg, but it’s not about guns; it’s about mental health. Another campus killing, but it’s not about guns; it’s about godlessness. It’s not about guns, because guns don’t kill people, demented atheists do. But we’ll never know, will we, because, yet again, Congressional Republicans have blocked funding for research on gun violence. Because research leads to knowledge, which leads to understanding, which sometimes leads to useful ideas. And knowledge, understanding, and useful ideas are, as Palinophiles and their emissaries in Congress have told us, are elitist. Plus, it’s a little too much like science, which, as we know, is “from the pit of hell.” (That claim is from one of the strangely stupid Congressional Republican physicians. Me, I once understood the Krebs cycle, if only briefly.) 
Since there’s approximately one firearm for every Still-Alive-American out there, and who knows how many rounds of ammunition for each, we must accept that the bag is way too far out of the barn, making control nearly impossible. And, yes, “If guns were outlawed only outlaws would have guns.” But no one’s talking about outlawing all guns, and I’d agree regulations are pointless were it not for the fact that there’s nearly perfect consanguinity among states (not to mention countries) with the least regulation and the most gun violence. Correlation doesn’t equal causation, but it’s something to consider, isn’t it? Or not. Lou Dobbs says the correlation is with lack of prayer in schools. 
Happily, legislators are on the case, generously offering thoughts and prayers. (Question: is it hard to pray with one hand reaching behind the back for NRA money?) (Another question: what’s the goal of their prayers, assuming they’re actually praying, not just tweeting? The entity to whom they’re supplicating allowed/caused it to happen, so what’s the expectation, beseechmentwise?) 
Maybe the answer really is more guns. If every student were packing, perhaps the latest school shooting wouldn’t have happened, or gone so far. If the price to pay is the occasional gun going off in a classroom accidentally (or because someone taught evolution), what can you do? And if not all of the good guys with guns know how to aim them, hey, this is America. Where civilians spray lead at shoplifters in parking lots. 
Ben Carson, emerging from his saxicoline habitat, is tired of President Obama politicizing the problem, by, you know, addressing it. But Carson is all for solutions. His is to inspire victims to rush the shooter, although when he once had an opportunity, his response was beyond disgusting. Coincidentally, someone actually did attack the gunman in Roseburg, which is also the town where, decades past, RFK braved a hostile crowd, advocating gun regulation two weeks before he was murdered. 
In Kentucky a few days ago, a five-year-old boy, using the rifle he’d been given as a birthday present, killed his two-year-old sister. “It was God’s will. It was her time to go, I guess,” said grandma. “… And I know she’s in good hands with the Lord.” Well, “accidents” happen. With guns, about every day, but what can you do? Freedom isn’t free. Besides, it was his birthday.There’s no point arguing over the contradictory words in the Second Amendment: “well-regulated” vs. “not be infringed:” original-intender Scalia settled the matter two hundred years later. “Well-regulated,” he discovered, was just filler. So here we are, the only “civilized” country where, by a factor of over a thousand, more people die yearly from civilian gun violence than from terrorism. 
Regulations won’t stop all gun violence, maybe not even most. But what if one death they stop is your child’s? Those who oppose even the most middling of regulations are those who, like Ben Carson, believe a Nazi takeover is this far from happening. Ironically, it’s only armed right-wing militias who’ve actually threatened such a thing. Those people notwithstanding, aren’t sensible controls worth a shot? How about we start regulating gun owners the way we regulate motorcycle owners? If not from me, take it from this guy. 
Either way, though, it’ll be fine. The right wing has a new solution: stop mentioning the shooters’ names. Nice work everybody. High five.  

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Mitch Giveth, And Mitch Taketh Away


After using the filibuster a record number of times when they were in the minority, Rs have suddenly come to Jesus:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is opening the door to changing the filibuster in response to growing pressure from Republicans angered that Democrats have blocked legislation from reaching the White House. 
McConnell has appointed a special task force to explore changes to the filibuster rule and other procedural hurdles — including whether to eliminate filibusters on motions to proceed to legislation. That’s a tactic the minority often uses to shut down a bill before amendments can be considered...
Boy, who could have seen this coming? Oh, yeah. Everyone.
Their defenders blame it on Democrats during the current Republican majority, of course. How quickly they forget.

[Image source: everywhere]

Time Marches On

Monday, October 12, 2015

Hypocrites, But Not Completely Stupid


Added, 3:00 pm: Well, as my biggest fan, in the comments below, has pointed out, this appears to be false. I hate it when I get duped.

However, our friends on the other side love being duped. In fact, in clinging to Fox "news" and the rest of the right-wing screamers, they DEMAND it.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Plutocracy Coming? Nope. Already Here




This article is a fascinating read, if deeply disturbing.

They are overwhelmingly white, rich, older and male, in a nation that is being remade by the young, by women, and by black and brown voters. Across a sprawling country, they reside in an archipelago of wealth, exclusive neighborhoods dotting a handful of cities and towns. And in an economy that has minted billionaires in a dizzying array of industries, most made their fortunes in just two: finance and energy. 
Now they are deploying their vast wealth in the political arena, providing almost half of all the seed money raised to support Democratic and Republican presidential candidates. Just 158 families, along with companies they own or control, contributed $176 million in the first phase of the campaign, according to a New York Times investigation. Not since before Watergate have so few people and businesses provided so much early money in a campaign, most of it through channels legalized by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision five years ago....
So, between Citizens United and the end of the Voting Rights Act, the radical right-wing Supreme Court has literally unmade our democracy.

Oh, and, unsurprisingly, there's this:


[All images are from the linked article]

Friday, October 9, 2015

That Their Means Stuff




From the department of useless, possibly meaningless, but sort of interesting information.

Full disclosure: I've been using "grammarly" for a while, and it designates as errors many things I don't consider erroneous. Amusingly, it flagged "grammarly" [just did it again] for incorrect usage!

So, even though its findings comport with my liberal biases, a certain amount of sodium chloride is called for in the taking. But since it presumably applies the same rules to all the candidates, it's probably "fair," even if of questionable significance. Mostly, I use it for spell check. It has, however, pointed out that my word usage is more original, or something, than the majority of its users. So, you know, there's that.)

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Mixed Messages


I'm so confused. Just when I was beginning to believe the "biblical" flooding in North Carolina is because of the gay, as Pat Robertson has told us, it turns out it's because of the Israel. And this comes directer from God because it's via Michele Bachmann, who recently quit Congress to spend more time with the voices in her head:
With parts of North and South the Carolina experiencing devastating floods, former Rep. Michele Bachmann is weighing in by suggesting that the flooding is a sign of God’s wrath for President Obama’s foreign policy. “US turns its back on Israel, disasters following,” she wrote on Twitter.
But, but, what about Pat?
... Pat Robertson said on his podcast Monday morning that he has an alternate theory for why the flooding has occurred in the Palmetto State so hard, and it has to do with “the gays getting married.”
Well, damned if that quote wasn't from a satire site of which I hadn't heard. And yet, who can tell the difference? It's not as if we haven't already been warned about gay-based flooding.

So which is it? And how can we tell? And why flood South Carolina, where gay marriage is greeted as warmly as President Obama (by some, anyway) in Roseburg? Why not flood just a church that's performing a same-sex marriage? And not by busted pipes in the basement. Zap it with lightning, too. Maybe a bunch of them all at once, from clouds appearing only over them, on a really sunny day? Write it in the sky while it's happening, or rumble the words like thunder: "Take that, other-fuckers." Give us a little help, here, okay? Some things require precision clarity.

And how do you get from foreign policy to floods in South Carolina? Wouldn't opening the earth and swallowing the State Department be less ambiguous? We're not geniuses around here, big guy.

I mean, how are we supposed to decipher messages delivered in such a scatter-shot manner, and with America's most holy folk providing such differing revelations about them?

Besides, floods are so old-school. And messy. It's like if your kid talked back to you so you went to his school and set off the fire alarms. Take away the TV for a week. Geez. Who's gonna know your point? How about this: when a gay wedding is happening, heat up all the iPhones taking videos, so hot they burn a cross into the hands of each holder. This is century twenty-one, after all. It's all about social media. What the hell is going on up there, anyway? Haven't they heard?

[Image source]

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Home To Roost



This pretty much says it all, Republican spending-cut-wise:
..."Let's just get through this thing, and whatever it costs, it costs," Graham told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on "The Situation Room" on Monday of the devastating floods in his home state. 
Graham was among the Republican senators who opposed a federal aid package in January 2013 to assist states hit by Hurricane Sandy, but now he doesn't remember why."I'm all for helping the people in New Jersey. I don't really remember me voting that way," Graham said. 
Pressed further, he said: "Anyway, I don't really recall that, but I'd be glad to look and tell you why I did vote no, if I did."...
Yeah, as if he doesn't know why he voted no. It's because the only spending he, and his Republican cohorts, and the voters who send them to D.C. like is that which is spent on themselves.

[Image source

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Carly's Their Patsy


The Koch brothers' search for a suitably pliable and clueless candidate had a little setback with the demise of bought-and-paid-for Scott Walker's candidacy. In a case of perfect timing, however, Carly Fiorina rose to the surface on the bubbles of her willingness to lie through her teeth and/or to show her credulity, to say what she thinks they'd like to hear, on such matters as Planned Parenthood, torture, and military spending, among so many others. Tax cuts for the wealthy, of course, go without saying. Perfect, in other words, for would-be puppet masters:
NEW YORK, Oct 4 (Reuters) - Carly Fiorina has emerged as the Republican candidate of the moment in conservative fundraising circles, drawing the notice of the billionaire Koch brothers and other wealthy donors who could instantly remake her shoestring presidential campaign. 
Fiorina's show-stealing performance in a Republican presidential debate last month, and her subsequent surge in the polls, has prompted industrialists Charles and David Koch to take a "serious look" at the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive, according to three sources close to the brothers...
How blatant does it have to get before people take notice? When will so-called "conservatives" wake up and smell the cacophony?

[Image source]

Monday, October 5, 2015

Plutocracy In All Its Glory


This is the perfect metaphor for the reach the Koch brothers have across the political process in the US; and not just at the national level. And it's an example of how, even when the need for spending is obvious, people's selfishness can be manipulated:
COLORADO SPRINGS —
This much everyone can agree on: The streets of this large city on the Rocky Mountain Front Range are a wreck. Sixty percent are in disrepair, cracked and rutted; driving on them is often a game of vehicular Minesweeper. One local TV news channel runs a segment called "Pothole Patrol." 
But when this city's newly elected conservative mayor urged voters to approve an increase in the sales to pay to improve the roads, he drew fire from an unexpected source: a branch of Americans for Prosperity, a powerful conservative advocacy group backed by the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch. 
The group's involvement in a municipal infrastructure issue spotlights how it is seizing on local issues around the country as it works to build a permanent grass-roots army...
Why should they care if potholes get fixed in Colorado Springs? I guess because all taxes are bad; because any willingness to increase taxes, no matter the need, raises the possibility that it could lead to the Koch brothers having to pay more. Or, maybe, gas taxes, which might lead to people seeking alternative fuels for their cars.

We're not heading toward plutocracy. Facilitated by the love of the largesse they spread within one political party only, we're already there.

[Image source]

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Thoughts And Prayers



Good for President Obama for saying "Thoughts and prayers aren't enough." And good for Mike Huckabee for not disappointing, speaking for all the teabagging nutjobs out there in suggesting the president was "exploiting" the tragedy in saying it.

After that mass murder in the state of my birth, politicians rallied to the cause. By tweeting. Prayers. Thoughts, even. But pledges to act? No, not that. Because freedom.

And, since this is Sunday, let me ask yet again: what, exactly, do those who are "sending" their prayers think those prayers will accomplish? They're asking something from god, evidently; but on what basis would one think that the god that allowed/caused the mass murder would be moved by prayer, ex-post facto, to do.... what? Raise the dead? Been there done that. So, maybe, bring "peace" to the families and loved ones of the dead? Really? All it takes is a prayer? To that guy? No, what it's about is pretending you care. Or, in the case of the sincere, it's tacit acknowledgment that there's really nothing anyone can do. Except, maybe, vote out the NRA cow-towers.

It's doubtful that most of those, especially the tweeting politicians, who say their "thoughts and prayers" go out somewhere or other actually spent any time praying. Less likely is any of them taking any sort of action, legislatively, to address the issue of gun violence in the US. Not the same group that just, yet again, blocked funding for research on the subject. Because knowledge.

Praying is easy. Saying you're praying is easier still. Who cares if it makes no sense, theologically, and is entirely ineffective except as a smokescreen? But it's not like they're doing a damn thing otherwise. So why the heck not?

Friday, October 2, 2015

Pennies From Heaven


"The smart Bush," as he was once described, turns out to be the tone-deaf, clueless one. Speaketh the guy who wouldn't recognize a bootstrap of the sort up by which many people have pulled themselves if you stuck it up his nose:
"Our message is one of hope and aspiration," Mr. Bush said. "It isn't one of division and get in line and we'll take care of you with free stuff. Our message is one that is uplifting — that says you can achieve earned success."
Which, naturally, leads to eliminating the estate tax
HARWOOD: How does eliminating the estate tax helps anybody's right to rise? That tax only applies to people who have made it big time—they've risen. 
BUSH: Well, they're dead. If they've lived a good life, outside the money they've made, they're up in heaven looking down on us...
Good answer, Jeb. So, yeah. The smart one, after all.

[Image source]

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Seems Like A Good Deal, If I Understand Correctly

An offer received from Groupon or one of those places:

Celebrity Deluxe Waist Trainer Corset with Boning

  • $18.99
  • $59.99 value

Jeb (!) Couldn't Give Less Of A Shit



This is not only unsurprising but approaches criminal ignorance. Jeb (!) has released his energy plan (while praising Jesus -- not kidding) and it's entirely about deregulating the oil and gas industries, and increasing drilling and, why not, fracking. There is zero -- ZERO!!! -- mention of renewable energy anywhere within miles of the zone of destruction that is his "plan." Not one fucking word.

It's looking increasingly unlikely that "the smart one" will get the nomination, but I doubt any forthcoming plans from his competitors on that side of the spectrum will be much different. Because if climate change isn't happening, then why even bother, right?

Swear to FSM, these people are beyond horrible. They're terrifyingly ignorant, deliberate and exclusive panderers to the most damaging aspects of our capitalist democracy. They're destroyers, literally; and they don't give the slightest of shits. I don't care how important it is to you that gays don't have the right to marry, or that women can't control their own health care decisions, or, more likely, that you want what you want without paying a penny more in taxes; unless you have equal don't-give-a-shitness for the future of your kids and grandkids, voting for any of them is equivalent to murdering them.

Seriously. It is. As long as their oily benefactors get their $$, they don't care whether the planet dies; as to the people on it, well, when have they ever? Other than zygotes.

[Image source]