Sunday, September 30, 2012

It's A Cookbook!!

That was my thought when I watched the video of The Rominee, in his Bainful iteration, talking about how they take over companies, do some manipulations, then "harvest" them. "Harvest." I imagine it's good business-speak, but it does seem a little cold. For a human, anyway.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Winning At Some Costs

Wise words in an essay by John Hodgman, who plays public pomposity, but who, evidently, is a private thinker. It appears in the 90 days, 90 reasons project: a daily dose of reasons to reelect the president. I think he means to address those liberals who're disappointed in Barack Obama because (I told you so) he's not liberal enough, and a pragmatist. People who want it all, now; and, failing that, are willing to let the other side win.
Those on the right who began wishing in 1980 to dismantle the Great Society, de-regulate and de-unionize business, and starve the beast of the federal government are, you may have noticed, very close to succeeding. I am not saying this to scare you; maybe you agree with them. But the point is that it happened because they endured the compromises, hypocrisies, and retreats needed to get the wins, and profoundly change policy in ways we barely noticed -- the repeal of Glass-Steagall; the massive tax cuts; the empowerment of corporations as political donors. These things did not happen because conservatives who believed in them kicked Reagan out of office in 1984 for failing to outlaw abortion immediately. It happened because they won elections.
(And were also willing to settle for the steady erosion of abortion and contraceptive rights, state by state across the country, which, if unchecked, may end up amounting to the same thing).

It's worth a read in its entirety; as a bonus, as you'd expect from him, it's funny and witty, too.

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Friday, September 28, 2012


Maybe I can preempt some right-wing spam for a few people. You're welcome.

The above is the sort of crap that RWS™ like Drudge et al., and his dutiful mail-forwarders, like to upchuck into the political scene. Here are the facts:

Is the Obama Phone Obama's doing? No. The universal service requirement dates back at least to the Communications Act of 1934. The Lifeline program specifically was started in 1984 under President Reagan and was expanded in 1996 under President Clinton to allow qualifying households to choose to apply the benefit to either a landline or a cell phone. So no, it's not an Obama handout.
Shockingly, despite the bipartisan origins of the service, the idea of an "Obama Phone" for the undeserving has existed for a long time. A couple email forwards, debunked by, were circulating in October 2009 and described poor people shamelessly showing off their free phones:

I get crap like that sent to me all the time, often accompanied by the ironic phrase "Snopes confirms!!!"  Yesterday someone rediscovered the oldie favorite about Barack and Michele Obama having "relinquished!!!" their law licenses under "questionable!!!!" circumstances. Other than disproving it, Snopes confirms. I mean, how stupid do you have to be, how gullible, how deeply in need of hate to fail to recognize bullshit like that from a mile away? Enough, evidently, that Drudge is considered credible and Foxorovobeckian dishonesty is considered biblical in its literalism.

I'd been collecting the stuff that people send me like the above, planning to wrap it up in a stinky ball and drop it into this space. But it's a fool's errand. Those who believe it will always believe it; and the more the evidence mounts that they're wrong, the further it pushes their heads to where they can neither see nor hear it. Exactly, in other words, where they like it.


Lucidity In This Guy

Why, seems like just yesterday that I wrote about the dumbness of Mitt. And now, as usual, we can enjoy Jon Stewart doing it much better (for reasons unknown, he omitted the airplane windows thingy. Too easy, I guess).

Thursday, September 27, 2012


 There's a safer for work version, but it's not as much fun.

Pulling A Fast One

This should work.

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Too Bad He's So Bad

Definitely a glass-half-empty kind of guy, I'm hardly convinced President Obama is gonna win this thing, current polls notwithstanding. But I am concerned that Mitt Romney (who could have seen it coming?) is turning out to be such a crappy candidate. Because I'd like this election to be about the issues at hand, about the real choice, the real direction in which voters want to see the country headed. The way it is now, teabaggers and teabaggRs can blame it on Mitt if he loses, and not on their message.

And, who knows, they might be right. Because, other than the fact that he was the only sane one in the bunch, and that the alternatives were even worse, he's the worst candidate up with whom they could have come. He's charismatic as an empty chair, as comfortable around regular people as a spider around shoes, as willing to lie as a guy facing a third strike law (well, in that he was among similars), as committed to his positions as someone who's not committed to his positions.

To watch The Rominee work his magic, with anything but Foxian blinders, is to cringe. Were he around, the Marquis de Sade might throw an arm around Mitt's shoulders and say, "I feel for ya, guy." He's becoming more pathetic by the hour. (Check out that link. Really.)

So it'll be too easy to blame his loss, assuming it happens, on his bearing Mittness. People didn't reject teabaggerism, they'll say, they rejected the man who changes positions like dirty underwear. (Do those things actually get dirty?) They rejected the guy caught on tape saying what we really believe; the guy who got caught hiding his money all over the world, like we wish we could.

I'd much rather the Rs had found, among the ruins of their party, a person able to carry their standard proudly and with conviction, and with something greater than the attractiveness of spoiled food. (Admittedly not an easy task, of late.) The country needs the debate, held honestly, among honest exemplars of each side, the issues laid out clearly, the choices for what they are.

Of course, to the extent that Mitt seems to be blowing it, I'm delighted, because I'm of the mind that, addressing the actual issues, the actual facts of what Obama has done and hasn't, and of what Romney claims he'd do (who the hell knows?), the choice is pretty obvious. Unless the goal is to pay as little in taxes as possible, damn the consequences. Or to discriminate against gays; or to degrade education to the point that, other than whatever value publicly-funded bible school might have, it's a white-flag-waving signal to the rest of the world to pass us by.

If Obama wins, I'd like to be able to think it's because a majority of voters see the danger in what today's Rs are proposing. But, sadly, the very fact of Mitt sort of negates the whole idea.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Big Time

Since I'm sure my readers spend their time reading The Economist and The New York Times, they probably missed this. Fact is, I did, too, until another surgeon came up to me today while I was scrubbing for a case and mentioned she'd seen it.

I'm especially disappointed at the first quote of mine, which was just part of a story I was telling when the interviewer asked me about when something surprised me during an operation. It certainly doesn't belong in "things surgeons won't tell you." I gave her a lot better ones than that, including one I thought the most important of all:
"Judgment is more important than techinique. The body heals well enough that it can make up for it if your surgeon is a little less than graceful. But there's no amount of healing that can fix the wrong operation done at the wrong time."
See? That's better than any of them.


This ebook is described as proposing that the upcoming election is really a referendum on George W Bush. It's an interesting formulation, which I hadn't thought of exactly like that; although it's clear enough, and I've said so many times, that R and R want to take us back, in all ways, to those times. In his deafening absence from R/R/R talking points (and conventions), it's pretty clear they'd rather we not put it that way.

This book documents how the eight year reign of President George W. Bush changed Washington and the country. A compilation of some of the best journalism published in the Washington Monthly magazine during those years, the book provides an insightful real-time account of what happened in the nation’s capital when, for the first time in half a century, the GOP took charge of both elected branches of government. Suddenly, the rules in Washington changed in ways Beltway veterans were slow to see, in the service of an agenda they did not grasp, and with a level of incompetence that they literally could not believe...

I might have to give it a read. In any case, although Ds are pointing it out to a certain extent, it seems to me it needs to be made very clear, because it's entirely true: we'll be choosing whether to go back to what went on under Bush, or what's happened since. Makes it simpler for everyone, whatever side they're on. (Some might argue that it's not exactly like Bush, because these guys want to cut spending so drastically. To which I'd reply: same basic policies; just more people hurt.)

The problem for Rs -- and it's implicit in their explicit expunging of George W from their conversations -- is that they know they're offering nothing different from the Bush years, and they know how disastrous it was for the country. What's less obvious, but certainly must be true, is that the ones pushing return to those days aren't thinking about the country at all. They're thinking about their personal wealth, how to retain it at all costs, how to increase it, even if it's at the expense of everyone else. There's no other way to explain it.

If the election really were about what it's really about, it'd be a landslide; or so you'd think, if it weren't for some of the comments here, which indicate facts have nothing to do with it. For teabaggers, that's obviously true; the question is how many of them there still are out there, deeply the Foxification has penetrated, and whether, at this late date, anything can penetrate it.


Sheila Baird, lifelong Republican who voted for John McCain, and who was FDIC chair under Bush (and continued for a while under Obama), doesn't plan to vote for The Rominee:

Final question -- you're a lifelong Republican. You write in the book that you voted for John McCain in 2008. Are you planning to vote for Mitt Romney this time around?

Bair: I am very disappointed in Mr. Romney. I am aghast at the recent statements that he made; they were on YouTube. I think he has a lot to explain. I am also, though, disappointed in Mr. Obama. I think his policies have been Wall Street-friendly through his economic team. I think he's got the worst of both worlds -- Wall Street doesn't like him because he's been publicly critical, yet his administration has performed policies that are pretty friendly to them. So at this point I have to say I'm probably going to write in Jon Huntsman.
That she's not voting for Romney isn't the interesting part: she is, after all, one of those few remaining intelligent self-described Republicans. What's is interesting (reconfirming her intelligence) is the recognition that Obama has, in fact, been very friendly to Wall Street and yet they've lined up against him. Like so much else at the heart of teabagger rage against their president, it really makes no sense. He's anti-business? By what measure? He's made us less safe? On what evidence? (Not, surely, by virtue of terrorist body-count.) His energy policies are hurting Americans? In what way, exactly? Quadrupling drilling? Getting us closer to energy independence than we've been in decades? Whom does that hurt, and how? (And, unless you can point to why current gas prices, the same as they were under Bush, are his fault, line up the dots and connect them, don't bother to bring it up.)

The idea that Obama hates capitalism is as ridiculous as is the hate so many people have for the Affordable Care Act. The number of pages in it, or the number of Congressfolk who read it before voting, it seems to me, are less important than what's in it. When people find out, they mostly like it. Not to mention that when they're told it was originally designed by a conservative think tank, they're sort of dumbstruck.

If it hasn't happened by now, ain't never gonna: having a discussion of the two candidates that's based on reality. What Obama actually has or hasn't done (as opposed to crap like this); what Romney says he'd do (to the extent that he's been willing to reveal it); how his ideas have worked when they've been tried before. Claiming Barack Obama is antibusiness just because it's apparent that teabaggRs will eat it up and vote accordingly doesn't make it so. Evidently, Sheila Baird is among the few on the right who gets that.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Judy (my child bride) showed me a perfect quote from George Orwell. I'd like readers to note that it has  now replaced the subtitle of my blog. The man surely foresaw these times, did he not?

Not Smart

Noting that George W went to Yale, and that, some years back, Harvard offered me a seven year scholarship, we know that just because The Rominee went Ivy League it doesn't mean he's smart. Slowly it's becoming pretty clear; and, really, we should consider it a welcome break from the lying. Example one:

PELLEY:  Now, you made on your investments, personally, about twenty million dollars last year. And you paid fourteen percent in federal taxes. That's the capital gains rate. Is that fair to the guy who makes fifty thousand dollars and paid a higher rate than you did?

ROMNEY:  It is a low rate. And one of the reasons why the capital gains tax rate is lower is because capital has already been taxed once at the corporate level, as high as thirty-five percent.  . . .
No, Mittster Businessman. That's dividends. Not capital gains. Capital gains are profits you made, all by yourself, without lifting a finger or breaking a sweat, when you sell something that's appreciated. Harvard MBA? Well, George showed us that having one doesn't necessarily mean you know arithmetic.

And how about this, after his wife's plane made an emergency landing:
“I appreciate the fact that she is on the ground, safe and sound. And I don’t think she knows just how worried some of us were,” Romney said. “When you have a fire in an aircraft, there’s no place to go, exactly, there’s no — and you can’t find any oxygen from outside the aircraft to get in the aircraft, because the windows don’t open. I don’t know why they don’t do that. It’s a real problem."

Excellent point, Governor. First day in office, you should issue an executive order.

Yeah, sure, everyone misspeaks. The RWS™ and Frank Drackman would like you to believe our president thinks there are 57 states. But the above don't seem like slips of the tongue: more like run-of-the-mill dumbness. I suppose I could be wrong. Maybe he's just woefully misinformed about basic stuff. Stuff that fifth-graders know. But coattail college admissions don't concern themselves with I.Q. Not back in those days, anyway.

Finally, how about this: what sort of doofus shows up at a Latino event wearing brownface? Seriously. He did.

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I can't decide what I'd do if my house were on fire: get outside or watch TV. After exercising, if I were thirsty, I haven't figured out whether to drink water or go into a sauna. Some stuff just is too hard.

What constitutes the undecided voter, this far into the election cycle? Maybe they've been too busy creating jobs or collecting food stamps to give it proper thought. Or perhaps they're so deep into research, going to original sources, comparing the information they've gathered from Fox "news" and MSNBC, reading Daily Kos and Breitbart, weighing the pros and cons, waiting to hear from their college professors to whom they've submitted questions, simply overwhelmed with the data needed to make a properly informed choice.

Or they could be fucking idiots.

I mean, sure, choosing between Scarlett Johansen and Amy Adams might be tough sometimes, or strawberry jam versus blackberry. But Mitt Romney and Barack Obama? Today's Republicans and today's Democrats? It's not as if they overlap much, have the same plans, the same attitudes toward, oh, voters' rights, women's rights, gay rights, military spending, education, taxation, student loans, climate change, science in schools, Medicare.... Nor is it the case that how one feels about some of those issues would take one toward different parties: you think one way about any of them, you're in the same party with the rest.

I think it oughta be, like, suddenly there's an announcement: okay, time's up. Everybody vote by tomorrow or you don't get to vote. For one thing, I'm already sick of the commercials from whomever about whatever. For another, I can't imagine what information not yet available would change minds.

As hard as it is for me to understand how anyone making less than a couple hundred thousand a year could vote for Mitt Romney or any teabaggR; as depressing as it is that the lies of R and R, amplified by the RWS™ and Fox "news," are so easily swallowed, I find it even more amazing and incomprehensible that there are still people too uninformed to have made up their minds. TeabaggRs are woefully uniformed, but at least they've been able to form an opinion. But undecideds? Now??? Still???? Are these the ones we want deciding our elections?

(On the other hand, here I am writing this stuff, as if I might enlighten and change a couple of minds. Who's the potato head?)

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The Man Who Hates America

And apologizes for it.

Here's his speech today at the UN:

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, fellow delegates, ladies and gentleman: I would like to begin today by telling you about an American named Chris Stevens.Chris was born in a town called Grass Valley, California, the son of a lawyer and a musician. As a young man, Chris joined the Peace Corps, and taught English in Morocco. And he came to love and respect the people of North Africa and the Middle East. He would carry that commitment throughout his life. As a diplomat, he worked from Egypt to Syria, from Saudi Arabia to Libya. He was known for walking the streets of the cities where he worked -- tasting the local food, meeting as many people as he could, speaking Arabic, listening with a broad smile.

Chris went to Benghazi in the early days of the Libyan revolution, arriving on a cargo ship. As America’s representative, he helped the Libyan people as they coped with violent conflict, cared for the wounded, and crafted a vision for the future in which the rights of all Libyans would be respected. And after the revolution, he supported the birth of a new democracy, as Libyans held elections, and built new institutions, and began to move forward after decades of dictatorship. Chris Stevens loved his work. He took pride in the country he served, and he saw dignity in the people that he met. And two weeks ago, he traveled to Benghazi to review plans to establish a new cultural center and modernize a hospital. That’s when America’s compound came under attack. Along with three of his colleagues, Chris was killed in the city that he helped to save. He was 52 years old.

I tell you this story because Chris Stevens embodied the best of America. Like his fellow Foreign Service officers, he built bridges across oceans and cultures, and was deeply invested in the international cooperation that the United Nations represents. He acted with humility, but he also stood up for a set of principles -- a belief that individuals should be free to determine their own destiny, and live with liberty, dignity, justice, and opportunity.

The attacks on the civilians in Benghazi were attacks on America. We are grateful for the assistance we received from the Libyan government and from the Libyan people. There should be no doubt that we will be relentless in tracking down the killers and bringing them to justice. And I also appreciate that in recent days, the leaders of other countries in the region -- including Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen -- have taken steps to secure our diplomatic facilities, and called for calm. And so have religious authorities around the globe.

But understand, the attacks of the last two weeks are not simply an assault on America. They are also an assault on the very ideals upon which the United Nations was founded -- the notion that people can resolve their differences peacefully; that diplomacy can take the place of war; that in an interdependent world, all of us have a stake in working towards greater opportunity and security for our citizens. If we are serious about upholding these ideals, it will not be enough to put more guards in front of an embassy, or to put out statements of regret and wait for the outrage to pass. If we are serious about these ideals, we must speak honestly about the deeper causes of the crisis -- because we face a choice between the forces that would drive us apart and the hopes that we hold in common.

Today, we must reaffirm that our future will be determined by people like Chris Stevens -- and not by his killers. Today, we must declare that this violence and intolerance has no place among our United Nations. It has been less than two years since a vendor in Tunisia set himself on fire to protest the oppressive corruption in his country, and sparked what became known as the Arab Spring. And since then, the world has been captivated by the transformation that’s taken place, and the United States has supported the forces of change.

We were inspired by the Tunisian protests that toppled a dictator, because we recognized our own beliefs in the aspiration of men and women who took to the streets. We insisted on change in Egypt, because our support for democracy ultimately put us on the side of the people. We supported a transition of leadership in Yemen, because the interests of the people were no longer being served by a corrupt status quo. We intervened in Libya alongside a broad coalition, and with the mandate of the United Nations Security Council, because we had the ability to stop the slaughter of innocents, and because we believed that the aspirations of the people were more powerful than a tyrant. And as we meet here, we again declare that the regime of Bashar al-Assad must come to an end so that the suffering of the Syrian people can stop and a new dawn can begin.

We have taken these positions because we believe that freedom and self-determination are not unique to one culture. These are not simply American values or Western values -- they are universal values. And even as there will be huge challenges to come with a transition to democracy, I am convinced that ultimately government of the people, by the people, and for the people is more likely to bring about the stability, prosperity, and individual opportunity that serve as a basis for peace in our world.

So let us remember that this is a season of progress. For the first time in decades, Tunisians, Egyptians and Libyans voted for new leaders in elections that were credible, competitive, and fair. This democratic spirit has not been restricted to the Arab world. Over the past year, we’ve seen peaceful transitions of power in Malawi and Senegal, and a new President in Somalia. In Burma, a President has freed political prisoners and opened a closed society, a courageous dissident has been elected to parliament, and people look forward to further reform. Around the globe, people are making their voices heard, insisting on their innate dignity, and the right to determine their future.

And yet the turmoil of recent weeks reminds us that the path to democracy does not end with the casting of a ballot. Nelson Mandela once said: “To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” True democracy demands that citizens cannot be thrown in jail because of what they believe, and that businesses can be opened without paying a bribe. It depends on the freedom of citizens to speak their minds and assemble without fear, and on the rule of law and due process that guarantees the rights of all people. In other words, true democracy -- real freedom -- is hard work.

Those in power have to resist the temptation to crack down on dissidents. In hard economic times, countries must be tempted -- may be tempted to rally the people around perceived enemies, at home and abroad, rather than focusing on the painstaking work of reform. Moreover, there will always be those that reject human progress -- dictators who cling to power, corrupt interests that depend on the status quo, and extremists who fan the flames of hate and division. From Northern Ireland to South Asia, from Africa to the Americas, from the Balkans to the Pacific Rim, we’ve witnessed convulsions that can accompany transitions to a new political order. At time, the conflicts arise along the fault lines of race or tribe. And often they arise from the difficulties of reconciling tradition and faith with the diversity and interdependence of the modern world.

In every country, there are those who find different religious beliefs threatening; in every culture, those who love freedom for themselves must ask themselves how much they’re willing to tolerate freedom for others. That is what we saw play out in the last two weeks, as a crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world.

Now, I have made it clear that the United States government had nothing to do with this video, and I believe its message must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity. It is an insult not only to Muslims, but to America as well -- for as the city outside these walls makes clear, we are a country that has welcomed people of every race and every faith. We are home to Muslims who worship across our country. We not only respect the freedom of religion, we have laws that protect individuals from being harmed because of how they look or what they believe. We understand why people take offense to this video because millions of our citizens are among them.

I know there are some who ask why we don’t just ban such a video. And the answer is enshrined in our laws: Our Constitution protects the right to practice free speech. Here in the United States, countless publications provoke offense. Like me, the majority of Americans are Christian, and yet we do not ban blasphemy against our most sacred beliefs. As President of our country and Commander-in-Chief of our military, I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day -- (laughter) -- and I will always defend their right to do so. Americans have fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people to express their views, even views that we profoundly disagree with.

We do not do so because we support hateful speech, but because our founders understood that without such protections, the capacity of each individual to express their own views and practice their own faith may be threatened. We do so because in a diverse society, efforts to restrict speech can quickly become a tool to silence critics and oppress minorities. We do so because given the power of faith in our lives, and the passion that religious differences can inflame, the strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression; it is more speech -- the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy, and lift up the values of understanding and mutual respect.
Now, I know that not all countries in this body share this particular understanding of the protection of free speech. We recognize that. But in 2012, at a time when anyone with a cell phone can spread offensive views around the world with the click of a button, the notion that we can control the flow of information is obsolete. The question, then, is how do we respond? And on this we must agree: There is no speech that justifies mindless violence. There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents. There’s no video that justifies an attack on an embassy. There’s no slander that provides an excuse for people to burn a restaurant in Lebanon, or destroy a school in Tunis, or cause death and destruction in Pakistan.

In this modern world with modern technologies, for us to respond in that way to hateful speech empowers any individual who engages in such speech to create chaos around the world. We empower the worst of us if that’s how we respond. More broadly, the events of the last two weeks also speak to the need for all of us to honestly address the tensions between the West and the Arab world that is moving towards democracy.

Now, let me be clear: Just as we cannot solve every problem in the world, the United States has not and will not seek to dictate the outcome of democratic transitions abroad. We do not expect other nations to agree with us on every issue, nor do we assume that the violence of the past weeks or the hateful speech by some individuals represent the views of the overwhelming majority of Muslims, any more than the views of the people who produced this video represents those of Americans. However, I do believe that it is the obligation of all leaders in all countries to speak out forcefully against violence and extremism. It is time to marginalize those who -- even when not directly resorting to violence -- use hatred of America, or the West, or Israel, as the central organizing principle of politics. For that only gives cover, and sometimes makes an excuse, for those who do resort to violence.

That brand of politics -- one that pits East against West, and South against North, Muslims against Christians and Hindu and Jews -- can’t deliver on the promise of freedom. To the youth, it offers only false hope. Burning an American flag does nothing to provide a child an education. Smashing apart a restaurant does not fill an empty stomach. Attacking an embassy won’t create a single job. That brand of politics only makes it harder to achieve what we must do together: educating our children, and creating the opportunities that they deserve; protecting human rights, and extending democracy’s promise.

Understand America will never retreat from the world. We will bring justice to those who harm our citizens and our friends, and we will stand with our allies. We are willing to partner with countries around the world to deepen ties of trade and investment, and science and technology, energy and development -- all efforts that can spark economic growth for all our people and stabilize democratic change. But such efforts depend on a spirit of mutual interest and mutual respect. No government or company, no school or NGO will be confident working in a country where its people are endangered. For partnerships to be effective our citizens must be secure and our efforts must be welcomed. A politics based only on anger -- one based on dividing the world between “us” and “them” -- not only sets back international cooperation, it ultimately undermines those who tolerate it.

All of us have an interest in standing up to these forces. Let us remember that Muslims have suffered the most at the hands of extremism. On the same day our civilians were killed in Benghazi, a Turkish police officer was murdered in Istanbul only days before his wedding; more than 10 Yemenis were killed in a car bomb in Sana’a; several Afghan children were mourned by their parents just days after they were killed by a suicide bomber in Kabul. The impulse towards intolerance and violence may initially be focused on the West, but over time it cannot be contained. The same impulses toward extremism are used to justify war between Sunni and Shia, between tribes and clans. It leads not to strength and prosperity but to chaos.

In less than two years, we have seen largely peaceful protests bring more change to Muslim-majority countries than a decade of violence. And extremists understand this. Because they have nothing to offer to improve the lives of people, violence is their only way to stay relevant. They don’t build; they only destroy. It is time to leave the call of violence and the politics of division behind. On so many issues, we face a choice between the promise of the future, or the prisons of the past. And we cannot afford to get it wrong. We must seize this moment. And America stands ready to work with all who are willing to embrace a better future.

The future must not belong to those who target Coptic Christians in Egypt -- it must be claimed by those in Tahrir Square who chanted, “Muslims, Christians, we are one.” The future must not belong to those who bully women -- it must be shaped by girls who go to school, and those who stand for a world where our daughters can live their dreams just like our sons. The future must not belong to those corrupt few who steal a country’s resources -- it must be won by the students and entrepreneurs, the workers and business owners who seek a broader prosperity for all people. Those are the women and men that America stands with; theirs is the vision we will support. The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. But to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see in the images of Jesus Christ that are desecrated, or churches that are destroyed, or the Holocaust that is denied. Let us condemn incitement against Sufi Muslims and Shiite pilgrims. It’s time to heed the words of Gandhi: “Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.”

Together, we must work towards a world where we are strengthened by our differences, and not defined by them. That is what America embodies, that’s the vision we will support. Among Israelis and Palestinians, the future must not belong to those who turn their backs on a prospect of peace. Let us leave behind those who thrive on conflict, those who reject the right of Israel to exist. The road is hard, but the destination is clear -- a secure, Jewish state of Israel and an independent, prosperous Palestine. Understanding that such a peace must come through a just agreement between the parties, America will walk alongside all who are prepared to make that journey.

In Syria, the future must not belong to a dictator who massacres his people. If there is a cause that cries out for protest in the world today, peaceful protest, it is a regime that tortures children and shoots rockets at apartment buildings. And we must remain engaged to assure that what began with citizens demanding their rights does not end in a cycle of sectarian violence. Together, we must stand with those Syrians who believe in a different vision -- a Syria that is united and inclusive, where children don’t need to fear their own government, and all Syrians have a say in how they are governed -- Sunnis and Alawites, Kurds and Christians. That’s what America stands for. That is the outcome that we will work for -- with sanctions and consequences for those who persecute, and assistance and support for those who work for this common good. Because we believe that the Syrians who embrace this vision will have the strength and the legitimacy to lead. In Iran, we see where the path of a violent and unaccountable ideology leads.

The Iranian people have a remarkable and ancient history, and many Iranians wish to enjoy peace and prosperity alongside their neighbors. But just as it restricts the rights of its own people, the Iranian government continues to prop up a dictator in Damascus and supports terrorist groups abroad. Time and again, it has failed to take the opportunity to demonstrate that its nuclear program is peaceful, and to meet its obligations to the United Nations. So let me be clear. America wants to resolve this issue through diplomacy, and we believe that there is still time and space to do so. But that time is not unlimited. We respect the right of nations to access peaceful nuclear power, but one of the purposes of the United Nations is to see that we harness that power for peace.

And make no mistake, a nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained. It would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations, and the stability of the global economy. It risks triggering a nuclear-arms race in the region, and the unraveling of the non-proliferation treaty. That’s why a coalition of countries is holding the Iranian government accountable. And that’s why the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. We know from painful experience that the path to security and prosperity does not lie outside the boundaries of international law and respect for human rights. That’s why this institution was established from the rubble of conflict. That is why liberty triumphed over tyranny in the Cold War. And that is the lesson of the last two decades as well.

History shows that peace and progress come to those who make the right choices. Nations in every part of the world have traveled this difficult path. Europe, the bloodiest battlefield of the 20th century, is united, free and at peace. From Brazil to South Africa, from Turkey to South Korea, from India to Indonesia, people of different races, religions, and traditions have lifted millions out of poverty, while respecting the rights of their citizens and meeting their responsibilities as nations.

And it is because of the progress that I’ve witnessed in my own lifetime, the progress that I’ve witnessed after nearly four years as President, that I remain ever hopeful about the world that we live in. The war in Iraq is over. American troops have come home. We’ve begun a transition in Afghanistan, and America and our allies will end our war on schedule in 2014. Al Qaeda has been weakened, and Osama bin Laden is no more. Nations have come together to lock down nuclear materials, and America and Russia are reducing our arsenals. We have seen hard choices made -- from Naypyidaw to Cairo to Abidjan -- to put more power in the hands of citizens.

At a time of economic challenge, the world has come together to broaden prosperity. Through the G20, we have partnered with emerging countries to keep the world on the path of recovery. America has pursued a development agenda that fuels growth and breaks dependency, and worked with African leaders to help them feed their nations. New partnerships have been forged to combat corruption and promote government that is open and transparent, and new commitments have been made through the Equal Futures Partnership to ensure that women and girls can fully participate in politics and pursue opportunity. And later today, I will discuss our efforts to combat the scourge of human trafficking.

All these things give me hope. But what gives me the most hope is not the actions of us, not the actions of leaders -- it is the people that I’ve seen. The American troops who have risked their lives and sacrificed their limbs for strangers half a world away; the students in Jakarta or Seoul who are eager to use their knowledge to benefit mankind; the faces in a square in Prague or a parliament in Ghana who see democracy giving voice to their aspirations; the young people in the favelas of Rio and the schools of Mumbai whose eyes shine with promise. These men, women, and children of every race and every faith remind me that for every angry mob that gets shown on television, there are billions around the world who share similar hopes and dreams. They tell us that there is a common heartbeat to humanity.

So much attention in our world turns to what divides us. That’s what we see on the news. That’s what consumes our political debates. But when you strip it all away, people everywhere long for the freedom to determine their destiny; the dignity that comes with work; the comfort that comes with faith; and the justice that exists when governments serve their people -- and not the other way around. The United States of America will always stand up for these aspirations, for our own people and for people all across the world. That was our founding purpose. That is what our history shows. That is what Chris Stevens worked for throughout his life.

And I promise you this: Long after the killers are brought to justice, Chris Stevens’s legacy will live on in the lives that he touched -- in the tens of thousands who marched against violence through the streets of Benghazi; in the Libyans who changed their Facebook photo to one of Chris; in the signs that read, simply, “Chris Stevens was a friend to all Libyans.” They should give us hope. They should remind us that so long as we work for it, justice will be done, that history is on our side, and that a rising tide of liberty will never be reversed.

Thank you very much.

[Image source]

Truth, Finally

It had to happen eventually: finally Mitt Romney got something right. In this case, he got it doubly right.

Defending the low tax rate he paid on the only tax returns he'd reported at the time, The Rominee said"I don't pay more than are legally due, and frankly if I had paid more than are legally due I don't think I'd be qualified to become president." At the time, I thought it was a little over the top, silly even. But now we have some context in which to evaluate the claim.

In his recent release, all 800+ pages of it (wow, the lengths some people go to game the game), it comes out that he actually did pay more than he owed, several hundred thousand, in order to keep his rates above the level he claimed he'd always paid. (There's also the mysterious disappearance of $7 million between his preliminary and final filings. But, hey: small potatoes, right?) Parking his money all over the planet in the world's best tax havens, betting against the US Dollar by investing in the instruments of other countries, had he fully taken his charitable deductions he'd have paid even a lower rate than the one he paid, already below that of people working harder and earning much less. So he did that thing which, by his own declaration, disqualifies him from the presidency.

But he did it one better: he did it, deliberately, to dupe the citizens of the nation he wants to lead, to promote his lie. In doing so, I'd say he disqualified himself twice with the same move: by his own definition, and by his obvious attempt to deceive. Good call, Mitt. 

But, [Romney's lawyer} acknowledged, the couple "limited their deductions of charitable contributions to conform to the governor's statement in August, based on the January estimate of income, that he paid at least 13 percent in income taxes in each of the last 10 years."
[I just read something interesting about his tax scam on the American people: after the election, since it was his 2011 forms on which he played footsie to fool us, he can file an amended return and get his money back! Sorta like Bain: risking other people's money, no lose for himself.]

On a related note, I've been emailing back and forth with a guy who pays more in taxes per year than I've ever earned in a year, and he's fed up. Voted for Obama first time around, won't do it this time, because of taxes. On some level I sympathize, even though after taxes he's still left with probably three or four times what I had, in my best year, before taxes. But you'd think guys like Romney, for whom he intends to vote for purely selfish reasons, best I can tell, would anger him a lot more than Obama: he, after all, manages to avoid millions in taxes because his is all capital gains, whereas my correspondee works for a living. Takes public transportation to work and gets a senior discount.

In fact, Romney pays less than the capital gains rate, presumably because he manages to hide so much money, and because he gives to his church. Mitt Romney assures us he'd close tax loopholes, but won't say which ones, or how much he expects to recover. Were he and his donor-buddies paying the rate my pixel-pal pays, it'd go a long way toward helping out. Seems to me, though, that a guy who makes an 800 page effort to hide his money isn't thinking along those lines.

I have a reader who takes exception to my characterization of Mitt as amoral. I consider the word different from immoral, which, to me, suggests a person who knows he's breaking some rules. The amoral person, like Mitt, is able to excuse any behavior no matter how venal or dishonest without a moment's thought. It means he has no moral code to break, other than his most obvious one: whatever it takes to advance his personal ambitions. If there's a line beyond which he won't go, it's a subtle one, and I don't see it.

[Image source]

Monday, September 24, 2012

I've Had It

I think I might have officially had it. Not with blogging. With the goddam fundraising.

The phone calls might be coming less, hopefully because I've begun picking up and telling them to take me off their list before they get past the "may I speak to..." I give online, I tell them; because it's true.

But, dammit, I get probably twenty emails a day, from the DSCC, DLCC, Obama for America, Patty Murray, Elizabeth Warren, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Joe Biden, Al Gore, Bill Clinton, various local politicos, and Barack and/or Michele Obama. (And, no, I don't think they're personally involved, even when they start with "Dear Sid.")

When so moved, I chip in; for some more than others. I'm approaching the legal limit for Mr Obama. But it never ends. If there's a followup email, it's never just a thank you, but a request to make it weekly, or up the ante. Happened again today, within four seconds of giving. Emails arrive from the source to which I just gave, and they act like if I did so again, it'd be the first time. It's starting to piss me off. Enough is never enough. I'm willing to put my money where my mouth is, and I do. But, geez, can a guy get some props? Or a break?

I did get one -- and only one -- email of pure thanks, with no request for anything else. It was from Elizabeth Warren, and it made me like her more.

Maybe I should start answering the phone calls again, just for the satisfaction of telling them it's time for a little gratitude and hanging up on them.


Because I find it hard to call one religion any crazier than any other, I've tiptoed around Mitt's, quoting more authoritative sources than myself on the few occasions I've brought it up. I do see something specially strange in choosing to follow faiths mostly made-up on the spot, like Scientology or that one from a hundred fifty years ago; they differ only in numbers from the followers of David Koresh or Jim Jones or that guru in my native state, with the Rolls Rice (it's a plural.)

But I have to say there's something specific and disturbing about this:

David Twede, 47, a scientist, novelist, and fifth-generation Mormon, is managing editor of, an online magazine produced largely by members of the Mormon Church that welcomes scholarly debate about the religion’s history from both critics and true believers.
A Mormon in good standing, Twede has never been disciplined by Latter Day Saints leadership. But it now appears his days as a Mormon may be numbered because of a series of articles he wrote this past week that were critical of Mitt Romney.
On Sunday, Twede says his bishop, stake president, and two church executives brought him into Florida Mormon church offices in Orlando and interrogated him for nearly an hour about his writings, telling him, "Cease and desist, Brother Twede."
Mormon leaders have scheduled an excommunication "for apostasy" on Sept. 30.

Short of rioting and killing and their various other transgressions against humanity and common sense, I guess I'd defend most faiths' rights to do most of what they want. But this smacks of the extremism and thought control we see in Iran, or Saudi Arabia, or Pakistan... And whereas it's between the writer and his church, I wonder about having a president who's been brought up to think that way; assuming he has. I'd like to know how he feels about it: if not the particulars of this case, then about the threat of excommunication from the faith that he's described as the most important thing in his life, one for which he's been some sort of high holy guy. In which role he seemed to relish telling others how to live their lives (see link below).

Maybe it's no more fair than the questions raised about JFK and Catholicism. But that religion, having been around a while, was sort of familiar. They'd pretty much stopped drowning witches and lopping off heads by the time JFK came along. And unlike Mitt and the Taliban, JFK wasn't, far as I know, one who'd doled out his religion's brand of justice to others (link coming up). I'd like to know what excommunication would mean to Mr Romney, in terms of gateway to heavenly reward, to the special places reserved there, as I understand it, just for Mormons; and to what lengths he'd go to avoid it, what he'd do, as president, if threatened by it, as he's threatened others.

Not to mention wondering why the elders are so anxious to get Mitt in office that they're shutting down criticism of him... Now there's a conspiratorial question with some kick to it.

[Image source]

Call The Ambulance... For Me!!

Of all the outrageous things Republicans say about health care -- and who can really count them or place them in some sort of order? -- the worst is their contention that everyone has care in this country, because they can go to the ER. Mitt Romney, like Dr Frankenstein reanimating his patchwork corpse, brought it up again on "60 Minutes." What a simpering, dishonest, self-contradicting asshole. How do you choose between screaming and stabbing yourself? Rising up in rage, or tearing your eyes out? The man has no conscience, no shame. He'll say any damn thing he wants, even though he's acknowledged it himself: ERs are the most expensive and least efficient way to provide non-emergency care. And waiting until you actually have an emergency is the worst way to handle your health care needs.

He knows it. It's among the main reasons -- it's the only reason, in fact -- he worked to institute Rommeycare. So he's a bi-orificed asshole; he's a cloaca. He knows he's lying, and he's negating that thing on which he originally based his entire political career. He's repeating a soulless and demonstrably false talking point to show his bona fides, to pander, to Foxified teabaggers. Okay, maybe that's tri-orificed. Could be a first. Probably comes from keeping his head up there for so long.

Shall we go, step by step, through the reasons emergency care is in no way a substitute for proper access to regular care? Shall we recount, once again, the ways in which it's both inefficient and hugely expensive? The ways in which relegating millions of Americans to emergency rooms costs the rest of Americans more than if the relegees had actual coverage? Shall I elaborate on my years of working in and around emergency rooms, pushing gurneys with really emergent patients in them, past people packing the halls waiting hours to see someone about a belly ache? People showing signs of having not been to a doctor in years, if ever?

No. Let's not. It's as obvious to you and me as we know it is to Mitt, who has to be the most amoral man ever to seek the presidency. And, yes, I remember Richard Nixon.

[Image source]

Building Success

Like most of what rattles around between my ears, I doubt this is an original thought. But it's instructive, I think, to note that in his speeches The Rominee defines success as "building a business." Borrow money from pater and mater to do it if you need to. But strive for it. Not to become a teacher, a cop, a soldier, or simply to have a steady and well-enough paying job to feed your family: build a business.

I mean, he did, and all those people at his "takers and makers" money bombs did, the people he's spent his life with, so why can't you? And if you don't, if you haven't, if you have different goals, well, go laze in your recliner over there among the rest of the 47% and don't bother the rest of us with your moochy whining.

Mitt Romney, gazillionaire by risking other people's money, straining his fingertips doing deals in an office (a very plush one, I presume), has no idea of how most people live, and it shows. It doesn't even occur to him that there's anyone out there but aspiring entrepreneurs whose goals are elevators for their cars; that government has responsibilities to people who might see and do things differently. Whose president would he be when he's that clueless? And why is it that the Democratic presidents who've approached his level of wealth -- FDR, JFK, LBJ (I think) -- actually did understand and empathize with -- what's the word? -- normal people?

[As usual, I write this stuff and while it sits in line someone comes out with a similar idea, stated better, before I get around to publishing. In this case, here's another take on it.]

[Image source]

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Moving On

I'd guess that up to now, even most Christians have considered the Dalai Lama a good guy. Sort of sweet-looking, a little shy, humble, nice smile, hearty laugh, and a benign view of the world. Needs a fashion consultant, but they'd have him over for dinner. Up to now. Turns out he's thinking it's time to move on beyond religion. Talk about enlightenment:

You go, Mister Lama. If you find the answer, one that all people will accept, what a fine and hopeful world it'd be; and considerably less bloody.

Actually, I'd say the answer is already here; but it's both too simple and too difficult for people to grasp. And it comes from a decidedly unenlightened ex-surgeon tapping away on his laptop with his feet up on his desk: empathy and curiosity.

Empathy. And curiosity.

That's all there is to it, all there needs to be for people to get along, to survive and make progress in the world; and yet both seem entirely absent, today, from a major political party in the exceptional US of A. Which, given what that party calls upon instead, and the results thereof, pretty much proves His Holiness' point.

[Wrote this before my pledge to source my title pics, and now I can't find it again.]

Friday, September 21, 2012

More Realism From The Right

Despite being young, Conor Friedersdorf, to whom I referred a couple of years ago, is a throwback conservative: not doctrinaire, able to think, to criticize and praise both sides intelligently. He's a writer for The Atlantic, and his latest is worth reading. Saying what I've been saying, over and over, he takes today's Republican party to task for its aversion to fact, its preference for hate-filled rhetoric, its abandonment of the very idea of compromise. Its turning to Fox "news" as its source of information, to Rush Limbaugh as its spokesperson. Like me, but probably for different reasons, he'd like to see it change. Titled "Until Republicans Fix This Problem, They Can't Fix Any...," it says, in part:

... These were all questions of consequence.

But the American right was incapable of adjudicating them. It didn't matter that Reihan Salam and Ross Douthat wrote a very smart book setting forth one possible political program; that David Frum engaged in the same process; that Bruce Bartlett pressed fiscal conservatives to reexamine their failures; that Matt Welch, Nick Gillespie, and their Reason staffers weighed in with sharp libertarian critiques; that figures from Ron Paul to Daniel Larison offered devastating eviscerations of neoconservatism; that Tim Carney attacked the right's penchant for corporate cronyism; or even that the Tea Party grew into a populist force as the Obama Administration began.

Ideally, the right would find a way to incorporate nuggets from all these critiques. Sure, their advocates want to take the Republican Party in dramatically different directions. Winners and losers are inevitable. 
But respect for empiricism and reasoned, intellectually honest debate could ensure that the best critiques would be aired; the best ideas attempted; and the very worst rejected, whatever their provenance. At minimum, it's possible to imagine a coalition where sound argument was valued enough to render the most vile ad hominem and the most hair-trigger heretic-shaming beyond the pale. Instead Rush Limbaugh and Erick Erickson remain among the right's most influential voices. Fox News is movement conservatism's go-to information source; its big boss, Roger Ailes, profited from airing lunatic conspiracy theories from Glenn Beck that no one can defend, but he hasn't been discredited. ...
National Review's readers have been exposed to the argument that President Obama is allied with our Islamist enemy in a "Grand Jihad" against America; in Forbes, Dinesh D'Souza set forth the thesis that Obama's every action is explained by a Kenyan anti-colonial ideology that overwhelms all else. I mention those magazines not because they're worthless, but because both publish good stuff, and employ a lot of talented people who are more than smart enough to see through this nonsense. ...
A bit farther toward the fringes you've got the birthers.
The civil war the right needs is one waged against the hucksters... Victory would mean establishing norms that would've made Roger Ailes too ashamed to air all those months of Glenn Beck; that would've made the Claremont Institute mortified to give Rush Limbaugh a statesmanship award...; and that would make Mitt Romney embarrassed to stand in front of donors uttering untruths.

In the article there's much more. I can think of a few readers who'd benefit from giving it a look. That is, if they hadn't already been implanted with the Foxorovian thought-blocker. We'll always have fringe groups and unhinged thinking, along with lots of people unable or unwilling to call it into question. But an entire political party, a major political party, becoming its own fringe? Whodda thunk it?

[Everyone knows that image, right?]


I've been collecting some cartoons over the past weeks, and finally decided to get them off my desktop in one colorful posting. Any and all can be enlarged by clicking.

Well, It's Only One In Seven

"Poll: Fifteen Percent of Ohio Republicans credit Mitt Romney with killing Osama bin Laden"

The source is here. It also reminds us that viewers of Fox "news" are more poorly informed than those who don't watch news at all.

What a country!

Preemptive Apology

Recently I received an email from the creator of one of the images I use here, asking me to take it down. I did so, immediately, and replied with an apology, to which he responded generously.

I assume it's true of more bloggers than me: images are so freely available online (I use google images, searching based on whatever word or phrase I think might be fruitful) that we forget they have authors. Drag, drop, done. There was a time I'd put some sort of attribution under the image, but over time I got lazy. Nor would such attribution always be satisfactory, I'd guess.

Because my readership is somewhere south of HuffPo or The Dish, I implicitly relied on anonymity. Hearing from the artist was, therefore, a surprise, and a reminder I need to be more careful. I enjoy the process of looking for and selecting the perfect title images for my posts: I amuse myself with visual pun-itry, congratulate myself on my wit. (And why shouldn't I? No one else does!)

Bad habits being hard to break, and good ones hard to maintain, it might take a while to be consistent; but I'll try to resume applying attribution for those images not clearly in the public domain, or whose origins aren't self-evident. Meanwhile, I apologize to any and all talented people whose work I've appropriated here. All I can say is I haven't meant to offend, and I make zero profit from it.

[Image from here. Not sure that's the original source, however.]

Tom Tomorrow

[You know the drill, size-wise.]

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Moochers, And George And Ron

I hadn't thought about the fact that one reason so many people aren't paying federal income taxes is because of R tax policy. This guy has:
For what it’s worth, this division of “makers” and “takers” isn’t true. Among the Americans who paid no federal income taxes in 2011, 61 percent paid payroll taxes — which means they have jobs and, when you account for both sides of the payroll tax, they paid 15.3 percent of their income in taxes, which is higher than the 13.9 percent that Romney paid. Another 22 percent were elderly.

So 83 percent of those not paying federal income taxes are either working and paying payroll taxes or they’re elderly and Romney is promising to protect their benefits ... ... Part of the reason so many Americans don’t pay federal income taxes is that Republicans have passed a series of very large tax cuts that wiped out the income-tax liability for many Americans. ... So whenever you hear that half of Americans don’t pay federal income taxes, remember: Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush helped build that. ...

Some of those tax cuts for the poor were there to make the tax cuts for the rich more politically palatable. “Do you think we wanted to include a welfare payment to people who don’t pay taxes and call it a tax cut?” A top Bush administration official once asked me. “No. But that’s what we needed to do to get it done.” But now that those tax cuts have passed and many fewer Americans are paying federal income taxes ..., Republicans are arguing that these Americans they have helped free from income taxes have become a dependent and destabilizing “taker” class who want to hike taxes on the rich in order to purchase more social services for themselves.

The antidote, as you can see in both Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney’s policy platforms, is to further cut taxes on “job creators” while cutting the social services that these takers depend on. ...

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