Friday, November 30, 2012

Comment Commencing Comments

I've heard from a few readers lately who've said they miss being able to comment. I miss having them, too, for the most part. I think my reason for stopping them was rising frustration over the political scene during the campaign, and a feeling of not needing any more aggravation. Most legitimate (to use a word having recent political implications) comments are not, in fact, aggravating. Having gotten rid of word verification, though, I got tons of spam; and whereas it's only a click to get rid of it, it's really annoying. Plus, once in a while Blogger fails to email me about a new comment, and sometimes I forget to check the pending page, so some people end up thinking I've shit-canned them when I haven't.

But what the heck! Not allowing comments seems a little cowardly. I'd said I'd post the occasional emailed comments, like Andrew Sullivan does. But he gets a few million hits a month and, presumably, tons of emails. Here, not so much.

Anyhow, let's go at it again. Comments will resume, sparse as they may have been and will be. And since I've also heard from people who thought the kibosh was the right move, I'll be a little more scrupulous in managing what gets through and what doesn't.

Ironically, this comes at a time when my vim vigor and verve are vanishing.

[Update: wow, it took exactly three minutes for the first spam comment to arrive...]

[Image source]

Assholes, Idiots, And Poopyheads

It's so painful following the so-called negotiations over the much-called fiscal cliff, that I don't think I can do it. What a bunch of disingenuous posturing self-indulgent borderline criminals. The whole bunch of them. Each side demanding the other makes the first move. Every participant heading for the cameras to condemn the other side. Cheerleaders from the sidelines and fringes, demanding no quarter, fanning the flames.

I'd say it's time to call in actual negotiators, arbitrators who've done tough ones, let them do what people actually do when they're trying to reach agreement: talk, listen, propose, counter, and do it behind closed doors and staying away from the limelight. Committed to doing something for the good of those whose future is at stake, rather than for their own preening and grandstanding.

Who do these people think they are? Really, it's a serious question. Do they see themselves as entrusted with the task of doing the country's business, or are they just a bunch of egoists bent on making the most noise, turning the greatest number of heads in their direction? These despicable souls are like the owners of a pro sports league and the players during a strike: strutting, calling the other side names, crying foul. Except that unlike those people, already more wealthy than fifty of us will ever be, are negotiating only for their own inflated self-interest; and the outcome has almost entirely esoteric impact.

Our elected representatives, on the other hand, have the future of hundreds of millions of people in their hands, and they act like it's just about themselves. And, of course, a handful of their biggest donors. I find it truly and deeply depressing. Appalling.

I just saw the movie "Lincoln." I thought it was pretty well-done, a little Spielbergian sappiness here and there, but what was likely a reasonably realistic rendition of the politics surrounding the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment, based, as it was, on DKG's book. (I've read, though, that the implied urgency of getting it done during the lame-duck session was overblown.) Back then, playing to the press meant taking note of a few people taking notes in the balcony. The weight of the outcome was heavily felt and deeply considered by both sides. I wouldn't say there was much in the way of compromise, given the black and white, as it were, nature of the issue. But a key moment occurred when Thaddeus Stevens (I believe it, because Tommy Lee Jones, who played him, was a classmate of my wife at Harvard) was willing to tone down his rhetoric in order to gain a vote or two.

People spoke like speakers, back then. Using language. To each other. To persuade, and, of course, to annoy. To get a laugh. Since (I assume, without looking it up) there are records of the sessions, I presume the rhetoric in the movie was reasonably true to the times. It was good stuff. Puffery, to be sure; but weighted with the importance of the issue at hand, freighted with understanding that there were serious implications, good and bad, on both sides of the matter. Looking at our barely articulate and demonstrably stupid congressional leaders nowadays, it seems democracy wasn't meant for these times. It was meant for times when representatives -- and those who elected them -- were half-way (at minimum) educated; when people focused more on issues than on personal aggrandizement (did they? I think so) and when bribery meant something prosaic, like becoming postmaster of a backwater county, rather than having tens of millions funneled into a super-pac with no rules.

The reelection of Barack Obama was a good thing: it was, so I'd like to think, a repudiation of lying as political strategy, and an affirmation of his accomplishments in the first term. But if the non-negotiations  so far are an indicator, not a damn thing has changed in Congress: it's still led by pig-headed and self-absorbed losers more interested in themselves, their personal power, than in doing what democracy requires: negotiating in good faith, putting the interests of country ahead of those of person or party, and, above all, willingness to compromise to get there.

A pox on both houses in both Houses. I can't stand looking at any of them.

[Image source]

Thursday, November 29, 2012

"Army": New Meaning

This picture appeared in The Seattle Times the other day, part of a pretty interesting story, actually, about a guy from around here they call "the IED whisperer" in Afghanistan. Not wishing to detract from the story itself, nevertheless I find the picture pretty amusing. (I admit to editing slightly, but only to remove an irrelevant part. The original is findable in the article.) (I also admit to being hypomotivated; thus the digging into unpublished drafts from the past.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Nowadays when a Republican apparatchik speaks the truth, it resonates like a cannonball in a dumpster. So some guy in Florida has admitted that their war on early voting was, as was obvious to everyone but teabagger apologists and Fox "news" commentators, aimed solely at voter suppression. Denying the right to vote to citizens. Of the United States of America, the country toward whose democracy they like to claim surpassing love. Suppressing the votes of those of the darker skin-tone variety. It was never about preventing fraud, of which the only examples this cycle (and of which, as usual, there were virtually none) were pretty much limited to Republicans.

Jim Greer, the former head of the Florida Republican Party, recently claimed that a law shortening the early voting period in the state was deliberately designed to suppress voting among groups that tend to support Democratic candidates, the Palm Beach Post reports.
“The Republican Party, the strategists, the consultants, they firmly believe that early voting is bad for Republican Party candidates,” Greer told the Post. “It’s done for one reason and one reason only...‘We’ve got to cut down on early voting because early voting is not good for us.’"... 
... Scott's predecessor, Republican-turned-Independent Charlie Crist, resisted efforts from Republicans to shorten the state's early voting period, citing reasons that mesh with Greer's claims. In an interview with The Huffington Post earlier this month, Crist said the new law is clearly aimed at curbing turnout among Democrats. "The only thing that makes any sense as to why this is happening and being done is voter suppression," he said.
Crist added, "People have fought and died for our right to vote, and unfortunately our legislature and this governor have decided they want to make early voting less available to Floridians rather than more available ...  It's frankly unconscionable." 
Greer also acknowledged that the effort to restrict early voting would directly affect turnout among Florida's African Americans, a demographic that consistently supports Democrats.
In the run-up to the recent election (there was one, as I recall) I know I began to get a little crazy. But if I was a little hot under the collar some times, and posting way too much, I don't think I ever deviated from factual: todays Rs are grievous liars, deceivers, suppressors of democracy. It's they that hate what America is; it's they that tried to win an election based on lies, on fomenting hate, on fakery. It's they that actively reject science and expertise, they that want this to become a biblical theocracy.

As the postmortems continue apace, and as Fox "news" resumes its customary lying and propagandizing (want to see what happens when someone calls them out on it, on their air? Watch this) -- it's only a few seconds before they cut him off), I'd like to think the reason The Rominee lost and that Ds picked up seats in both houses (actually received two million more votes in the House of Representatives than Rs did, due to geography and gerrymandering, which sort of puts the lie to their claim that they "have a mandate" because they retained the House [one of a very few times in history that a party maintained control while losing the popular vote totals) has nothing to do with "gifts," as Romney claimed, or "ground game," as others have said. It's because enough people actually understand who todays Rs are, and what it is they stand for. They lost because of their values, not in spite of them.

I hope so, anyway. If they ever realize it, it might mean we'd be back on the road to having two legitimate parties in this country. Signs, so far, however, don't look all that good, as John Boehner and Mitch McConnell continue their heel-digging obstructionist rhetoric, and realists continue to be shot down by the revanchists, as if nothing happened on the first Tuesday of this month.

[Image source]

Monday, November 26, 2012

Eye Witness Testimony

On the left, the police sketch of the suspect, released after the killing of three shopkeepers. On the right, the guy they later arrested for it.

[Both images from the above link]

Darell Iss A Dick

Several sources are posting an AP story about the assassination of a Benghazi security chief. One source, a forum for cyclists, of all things, and sent to me by a reader, contains claims that his was among the names leaked to the public by Darrell Issa in his Congressional witch hunt, decried at the time as risking the lives of those people. I've looked around several times, several places, and can't confirm that the name was on Issa's list; if it was, it only magnifies what was already an impression of the hugeness of Issa's grandstanding and dishonest sickishness. The car-alarm multimillionaire has been surpassed only by John McCain as a full-time critic of President Obama; but in the case of Issa, he's taken his position of chairman of the House Oversight Committee (placing him there is a perfect example of committing an oversight) to hold endless hearings to highlight himself and smear everyone else.

But here's the thing: in trying to find out whether the chief's name was among those leaked by Issa, I came across the entirely unsurprising right-wing tinfoil take on the matter: Obama had the man killed because of what he knows.

And so it goes. Elections, it turns out, have no consequences.

[Image source]

Friday, November 23, 2012


This is what hackery looks like. This is what assholery looks like. Asshole hackery, hackish assholery. Holy asshackery. After their nonstop and made-up mongering of events (and non-events) in Benghazi, the newly reconstituted (because of the imminent departure of Joe "Droopy" Lieberman) troika turned its America-loving gaze to the just announced cease-fire in the Middle East. After taking another swipe at Obama, which they (McCain and Graham, at least) do with each and every beat of their blackened and embittered hearts, they praised the efforts of everyone involved except, you know, the ones that other observers consider key players: President Obama and Secretary Clinton.

I don't know enough about Ms Ayotte to include her in this (although she spends a lot of time with them), but it's clear those two former but always phony moderate males have gone so deep into the recesses of their own hate-fevered and cavernous minds that they'll never emerge. If Barack Obama were to end global warming with a wave of his hand, announce the death, by a laser he invented himself, of every terrorist on earth, patent in the name and for the profit of the people of the US a battery that ran electric cars for ten years without a charge, they'd be critical. Somberly, sorrowfully, sadly like the parents of a wayward child, critical. Righteously, religiously, seriously, self-centeredly and limelight-hoggingly critical. "It hurts me to say this but I have to because, much more than everyone else, I love my country" critical.

Pathetic, is what it is. Sad. We should give them their own street corner in D.C., couple of sandwich boards, two sturdy soapboxes, a pair of megaphones, and let them blather nonstop and unfettered, round the clock. Let's even set up a closed-circuit TV so they could watch themselves, fit it with a Fox "news" logo so they'd believe (because they'd want to bad enough, they would) that they were the only people on that airspace, ever. It'd be soothing to them, maybe, and a balm for the rest of us.

[Image source]

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Here's what I have to be thankful for: spending the day with my wife, our son, his incredibly fabulous, beautiful and altogether wonderful fiance, and our nephew, who's become like a brother to our son. Those three "kids" give me hope for the world; at least they let me know the part of the world they'll inhabit will be better for it.

[Image source]

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Gawd, I hate reading letters to the editor around here. There are some with which I agree, of course, but the ones that feel like fingernails on the proverbial chalkboard could have been written by Fox "news." Well, in effect, they were. Talking points transcribed. Wild claims repeated, dutifully, verbatim. Takers versus makers. Socialism on the march. The end of our "freedoms," as yet unspecified.

For a minute there I allowed myself the delusion that the election night meltdown on Fox was a life lesson for the lied-to; a fix for Foxification. But no. It's only gotten worse. Facts? Clearly not wanted. Reality? Ask Alan West, who'll probably refuse to concede even when Patrick Murphy is sworn in. (Update: he conceded. Grudgingly.) Since the beginning of this blog, a main theme has been the furious flight from reality by today's Republican party. The election results, so far divergent from the unanimous claims of every single Fox commentator, would serve to shine light into the darkness that is Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes, deceivers of a magnitude not imaginable mere years earlier. Is what I thought. Because it was so obvious.

How wrong I was. They've just increased the heat and squelched the light even more heavily. Want proof? Check this out. Is there even a word for that? A sentence? A pot calling a kettle a hypocrite? Stoned people throwing glass houses? McCain missing a closed-door session providing information on Benghazi to go on TV to complain about not receiving information? (Why is he even given airtime anymore? There should be a separate 24/7 cable channel, all McCain and Trump and Palin and Dick Morris and Karl Rove, all the time. Let people who feel the need to be dumber watch whenever they want. And save the rest of us from having them show up, uninvited, ruining our evenings.)

Because (and who's the one ignoring reality here?) I'm still being told my weekly column will be up and running soon (I've written, you might not be surprised to know, a couple dozen already) I find myself feeling I must read everything that's on the op-ed page. And so I do. Same old thing: paranoid fantasy about our president, his actual record notwithstanding. Even under the irresistible logic and powerful persuasion of my soon-to-be column, I don't doubt it'll continue. Long after Obama's term is over, no matter how well the economy might be doing, no matter how few UN tanks are rumbling in our streets and no matter how little influence Sharia law will have had on the body politic, no matter how much further along we are toward budgetary balance, they'll write in; decrying the evil socialist, the secret Muslim, the Kenyan hater of America. Screeching. Fingernails on the chalkboard.

And to them, I'll be part of it, too.

[If I maintain my plan of silent running for the next few days, Happy Thanksgiving. It could be worse.]

[Image source]

Monday, November 19, 2012

Generally Speaking

It's a serious question, one only being asked lately and, even then, not very loudly: how do you know when a general is competent? Since World War II, have we had any at all who were? Ike was, I think, and Patton. The former a careful and thorough planner, the latter a blood-and-guts go-for-the-kill sort. Bradley: seems like it. MacArthur? Not entirely sure. Nimitz did the Navy damn well, I'd say. But since then, to whom can we point without reservation?

I'm no military mind, but having spent a year in Vietnam, a probably unwinnable war, I'm of the opinion that General Westmoreland didn't really get it. I don't know who led the invasion of Grenada, an embarrassment cooked up by Reagan to viagrate our post-Vietnam sense of impotence; but a light colonel could have managed that one.

Colin Powell? Maybe so, at least in terms of the invasion of Kuwait. All in, then all out. And I don't blame him for the falsity of his UN appearance: I think he was duped. Tommy Franks, briefly a hero of Iraq number two, was thought brilliant, until it became evident he'd not planned past day three or so.

That David Petraeus couldn't keep his dick in his pants isn't really germane, but it has raised some questions about him, starting with the fact that he decks himself out in all his ribbons, looking a little like a silly Sovyetski. From experience I know the military loves to give itself ribbons, of which I have several, most of which I got just for showing up. (Which is not to say that those of many aren't far beyond deserved, and the least we can do in recognizing heroism and sacrifice.) But lots of career guys and gals choose only to wear a handful at a time. Not sure what it says about Petraeus and his coat of many colors that he parades in full dress guzzy; but, combined with a certain weakness of spirit recently revealed, it could be of a piece. But what's more relevant, and not much in the way of addressed, are his military skills and wisdom.

He literally "wrote the book" on counter-terrorism; and from what I understand of it, there's some deep thinking there, along the lines of hearts and minds. But how has it worked out for us? Which wars has he won, exactly? Here's an interesting opinion piece, with a pretty brutal title:

FASTIDIOUSNESS is never a good sign in a general officer. Though strutting military peacocks go back to Alexander’s time, our first was MacArthur, who seemed at times to care more about how much gold braid decorated the brim of his cap than he did about how many bodies he left on beachheads across the Pacific. Next came Westmoreland, with his starched fatigues in Vietnam. In our time, Gen. David H. Petraeus has set the bar high. Never has so much beribboned finery decorated a general’s uniform since Al Haig passed through the sally ports of West Point on his way to the White House...  
... No matter how good he looked in his biographer-mistress’s book, it doesn’t make up for the fact that we failed to conquer the countries we invaded, and ended up occupying undefeated nations. The genius of General Petraeus was to recognize early on that the war he had been sent to fight in Iraq wasn’t a real war at all. This is what the public and the news media — lamenting the fall of the brilliant hero undone by a tawdry affair — have failed to see. He wasn’t the military magician portrayed in the press; he was a self-constructed hologram, emitting an aura of preening heroism for the ever eager cameras.

Pretty tough stuff, the claims of which I have no basis for judging. But there's a implicit issue: How do you know if your generals know what they're doing; if their training and experience has created the high level of competence we need? Petraeus could indeed be the best we have; but "best" doesn't necessarily mean good enough. I assume the Pentagon asks those questions, but by what means does it answer them? Again, my experience tells me there's a strong inclination in the military to fluff the ratings, and to promote those who don't rock any boats. When you rack up a few stars above your clavicles, what then? Military hierarchy is very inbred. Unlike corporations, they don't bring proven leaders in from outside when profits are down.

I don't know the answers, but this seems a good time to start asking questions. It's unlikely we'll ever fight another war like WWII. And while teabaggers and teabaggRs scream about "gutting the military," it's not likely that owning another battleship would have prevented Benghazi, or will intercept a suitcase bomb in a mall. (Benghazi might have been different, of course, had the Rs in Congress not so severely cut the funding for embassy security that the Obama administration had requested. But, you know, we want stuff without paying for it, don't we?) And it's probable that, whereas there was a time we could mark the ends of wars by watching people gather on battleships to sign things, the new reality is that we may never again have an opportunity to say we've "won" anything; maybe just that we didn't definitely lose. Certain threats, barring the worldwide end of religious fundamentalism or witnessing a few more major steps in human evolution, will never go away.

But since we have the most expensive and arguably the most powerful military in the world, it'd be nice to know that it's being managed, at the level of carrying out -- and giving reliable input on -- orders by the Commander in Chief, by people who know what they're doing.

Yet what do you suppose would happen to politicians -- whether a president or members of Congress -- who raised the issue? Boy oh boy: people would be slapping "support our troops" stickers all over the place, wouldn't they?

[Image source]

Friday, November 16, 2012

Torn Tinfoil

So David Petraeus is testifying to Congress about Benghazi. Not only that, he's doing it after leaving the government, so there's no reason for him to cover anything up; not beholden to anyone. Sort of the opposite of the Fox "news" and RWS™ conspiracy mongering, huh?

Guess that'll end that, and teabaggRs will stop ginning up fantasies and get to work on the people's business, right?

Sorry: Couldn't hear you.... RIGHT???

[Image source]

Making The Rounds

This one's been making the rounds in the usual places.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The More Things Stay The Same

I feel like I should feel better than I feel, post-election. But I don't. I feel sad, and tired, my blogthusiasm is waning, and I'm not sure why. Maybe it's just a let-down thing, a blogological "now what?" The energy I felt -- anger, more like -- about the race The Rominee and his dishonest buddy were running was so motivational that its sudden ending has left me needing new direction. Or maybe it's a feeling of  "mission accomplished." Except that I had nothing to do with it. Perhaps it's the end of getting fifty or more emails a day, "Dear Sid, send more money." Validating, if annoying as hell.

Instead, it's a feeling of why give a shit. Coming when the details of my column-writing for the local paper may actually be firming up. Ironic.

In any case, it's puzzling. Petraeus? Unlike Glenn Beck, I don't have anything to say about it. Filibuster reform? Well, actually, that could be interesting, but I don't have anything to say about that, either.

Fact is, other than the election being over, it doesn't really seem anything has changed: the hate for Obama is only increasing, even before he's had a chance to show us what he has in mind this time around. Secession. Wickedness. Both sides digging in only deeper, suggesting meaningful attempts at budgetary balance are as far off as ever. It's somehow even more depressing, because the election should have, so you'd think, been a validation. At some level, anyway. But no. We're so polarized that there's no giving an inch, no recognition of a need to compromise. So what was the point? If the election, in theory, was a testing of competing ideas with one idea "winning," why doesn't it seem to matter?

In reality, it might not have mattered much, politically, anyway, which side won. Because in a functioning democracy where Congress were made of people elected to work things out, the two sides would have had to approach each other from similar directions, and the end result -- given the realistic options -- would have been the same. But as things now are -- paranoia, hatred, intransigence being the ruling ideals of one of the parties, fecklessness and disorganization being those of the other -- we remain at impasse. Having an election didn't do a damn thing. Mitt Romney, loser that he is, went full 47% again. The crazies are crazier (check it out!), and just as bad at spelling; want to have nothing to do with the results of a free and fair election.

So. So what? It's all a bunch of depressing bullshit, pantomime, sturm und drang, signifying nothing. Except slow descent into a failed state.

Yesterday was my birthday. Maybe that's it.

[Image source]


A cool illusion, based on something or other about retinal behavior. (There's not really any green dots. The color doesn't change on the page, which you can sort of see if you don't look at the cross in the center. But looking at the center, the residual image is, briefly, green. I think I used to know the name of the effect.) Anyhow, at one point I figured I'd use this as the title picture for a relevant post. But in my less agitated, post-election state, I decided just to post it for its own sake.

And I thank the reader who sent it to me a while back. Was it Pieter? My memory ain't fer shit.

[Added]: from reader Brad Davis, PhD comes this explanation:

... color information at the retina is red, green blue (more or less, the absorption curves are notnearly that clean). The first synapse is in the lateral geniculate nu.cleus of the thalmus where this three color system becomes a four color sytem. there are neurons that have a steady state response rate which increase their rate for green and reduce their rate for red, and vice versa. There are similar cells for blue/yellow and for intensity. With the illusion, the change from red (magenta) to neutral results in an overshoot, the neuron responds too much or too little briefly. This accounts for many afterimages (There are effects in the retina as well, this just isn't one of them.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Opening Of The Eyes

Where were these guys during the campaign? Now a bunch of conservatives are saying it's necessary to raise tax rates on the rich, that it's a matter of fairness, that you can't balance a reasonable budget without it. Funny how that works. Or, rather, how the hell did that work?

I've said here -- not that it's rocket surgery -- that proper budgetary balance will need to include raising revenues in ways that conservatives might not like, and cutting spending in ways liberals might not. And, since it must include cutting defense spending, ways that conservatives won't like, either. It's not ideology so much as math.

But it's pretty amusing, all these people piping up and being reasonable. Maybe it's really true that elections have consequences. Now, if only the teabaggRs in Congress could get the message. Because to listen to McConnell and Boehner, ain't much in the way of coming to Jesus.

Was reasonableness the real winner of the election? Did preference for facts finally rise above its opposite? Not on Fox "news," of course, which is now in full dudgeon, pumping out dark and dastardly Obama-Petraeus conspiracy theories faster than Staten Island basement sumps. Not in Texas and the rest of the red states, of course, where talk of secession is competing with news of the latest $60 million dollar high school football stadium; but maybe, just maybe, there's a secret stirring among those few remaining Republicans actually interested in the success of this country more than just that of their party. Etherial as the latter may be.

[Image source]

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Blind Date

One of my favorite movie lines is in "The Great American Fourth Of July," by the same folks who brought us the classic "A Christmas Story." In the movie, the central kid is forced into a blind date by his parents, and makes it clear to the audience (narrated by the author, Jean Shepherd, both movies) he's not at all happy about it. Until he sees her, Miss Junior Corn Blossom, a beauty. So much so that at the movie he takes her to, he tries to put his arm around her. As she recoils in disgust, he realizes, with crushing force: " I  am the blind date."

I bring this up because of the election. (Judy or I also bring it up, from time to time, in real life.) The subtle reader, one with rare insight, might have been able to discern, by careful reading, that I believed if Romney won, it'd signal the end of the world as we know it. A victory for dishonesty, for propaganda and deliberate misinformation; for a hate-filled, misogynist, antediluvian, troglodyte view of the world; for theocracy, for the end of education and science; for ceding the economic future to India and China; for policies that have failed in the past and would fail again. Only this time around, I argued, there might well not have been the reserves to allow another recovery. In a nutshell.

Which, if the list is different, is pretty much what teabaggers are saying now that Obama is reelected. "The takers" have won. Socialism. White people are screwed. They are, I assume, fully expecting to see the FEMA tanks and UN gays rounding up guns and shooting them with other guns.

Or, taking it down a notch, there are reasonable people fully as convinced that the election marks the end of America as I'd have been had the opposite result have occurred. Could it be? Am I the blind... date?

Well, no, actually.

In the movie, the girl really was a beauty, and the guy really was a doofus. (Or, as Grover Norquist might say, a "poopy-head.") Characterizing the election as about "takers versus makers" really is a falsehood. We really won't become a socialist country (or, at least, any more of one than we already are; and, in fact, since I'm predicting Obama will work to means-test or otherwise moderate Social Security and Medicare, we'll be less of one.) People will keep their guns and ammo. Allowing same-sex marriage will not diminish "traditional" marriage. The budget will become more balanced, not less. Immigrants will continue to dominate high school honor rolls, science contests, and spelling bees. It's really true that only one party has been willing to compromise. Congressional Democrats really did agree to spending cuts. Congressional Republicans really haven't agreed to any tax increases.

But, looking at it from whatever distance I can allow myself, it's pretty damn amazing to observe the ability of human brains to evaluate the same set of circumstances and come to polar opposite conclusions. It really does make you wonder whether there really is any such thing as objective reality.

Doesn't it?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Notes From The OR

Heard this while waiting to start a case last week (remember, this is in Washington State):

"I voted a straight GOP ticket.... gays, Obama, and pot."

[Image source]

Tom Tomorrow, RIght On

The whole cartoon is here.

Fear ............................................................................................... And Loathing

At some point, if it's going to have meaningful influence in America's political process, the Republican party will need to return to conservatism; because at this point, it's just the party of fear and loathing. I think of two readers of this blog whose comments we'd see from time to time before I decided to end commenting. They are the exact people on whom today's Republicans have counted, and to whose distorted views of the world they have appealed. I'd argue they represent pretty accurately the typical members of todays perverted, pigheaded, paranoid, propagandized, played, perturbed, pissed, patronized, and passively polluted population of a previously perfectly palatable political party.

The first is a nice lady, I'm sure, devout and sincere. And, because of the constant barrage of disinformation she's absorbed undiluted and unquestioned, she's scared shitless. Her comments were full of fear: she couldn't stop talking about the "New Black Panthers," a group of, like, four guys, who stood silently one time at one polling place, four years ago, doing nothing. But to Fox "news" and the rest of the RWS™ they were proof of some horribleness, the end or beginning of something or other, a threat to whatever it is they threatened, something bad and scary, no doubt about it. Then, this time around, there they were again, in the form of one guy, opening doors for little old ladies. To Fox, this was headline news, a shudder down the spine of the spineless. An excuse.

And she was scared of Obama's obvious plans to do something, something, something really really bad, with Putin, to whom he'd been caught whispering when Mr Putin was disguised as Mr Medvedev. Whatever the plan was, it'd be unAmerican and awful. Nor did she like Obama's "energy policy," the specifics of which she never got around to enumerating. But whatever it was, she didn't like it. Because oil.

I know this lady (from online only) to be a good person. But she was the perfect target, evidently, because she was officially and sincerely scared, and didn't really know of what. Stuff that hasn't actually happened in the past four years, and won't in the next.

The other commenter, who used to be a friend I knew in person, is a Republican because of his loathing. He loathes immigrants, he loathes black people. And Jews ("collaborators," he calls them.) Oh, he says he's not prejudiced; but he also believes Obama is gay, Muslim, and had a couple of other gays killed in Chicago; and he knows for damn sure the birth certificate was a fake. There's no more perfect target for the Foxorovian purse seine than this guy. He's a full-time hater, and when facts don't keep his hate burning hot enough, he makes new ones up. Rush Limbaugh's exact demographic, too.

Both of these people, by the way, claim to be good Christians. I don't know about the lady, but in many ways the man is (or used to be). Which just goes to show you... something.

What they're not, is conservatives. Conservatism wouldn't be sidetracked by fighting gays and birth control. It wouldn't be trying to make this country into a biblical theocracy; nor would it be marching alongside those who disbelieve science, who consider it the work of the devil. They wouldn't countenance attempts to suppress voting, or candidates who lie unashamedly. Conservatism, in fact, has no religious affiliation at all. It's a political philosophy. If some of them are evangelical, fine by me. But to the extent that they're blending the two, it's making their political prospects smaller and smaller. Same with their deliberate appeal only to whites. White Christians. White male Christians. And attacking -- attacking!! -- all the rest. How can that be a political strategy, in the world's greatest -- and most successful -- melting pot?

Conservatism, as I've always understood it, anyway, is about the smallest possible government able to do what needs doing; and it recognizes there are, in fact, needs. It's about free enterprise, within an environment of reasonable rules. It's about the sort of fiscal responsibility that allows both government and private enterprise to work. And it's about individual responsibility and accountability, of a sort that recognizes that it happens best within a functioning society. It's most decidedly not about absolute social Darwinism; nor is it about denying civil rights to gays, or taking charge of women's bodies. That sort of meddling in lives is the business of churches. Conservatism has nothing to say about it. In my view.

In a nation of immigrants, conservatism can recognize the value of allowing people to come here. Nor is it the sole province of conservatism to say that it ought to happen legally. If today's conservatives have a hard time accepting the rights of gays, it need not be a central philosophy. For a true conservative, it ought not matter, at worst; and it ought to be a thing they'd strongly support, at best. Less government interference. For liberal or conservative society, it's not a religious issue. Neither is contraception.

When conservatives question the limits and nature of the welfare state, it's a good thing. When they demand accounting for spending, it's a good thing, too. When they demand the lowest possible taxes consistent with the thriving of our society, who can disagree? These are conversations that we need to have. But neither conservatives nor liberals have a legitimate claim that their ideas are the only worthy ones, or that those who disagree hold their country less dearly.

If there are some liberals who are intransigent -- and there are -- it's not the central ethos of their party, the way it's become for today's Republicans. If there are extremes on both sides -- and there are -- it's only today's Republicans who've made their most extreme advocates their centerpiece, turned their party platform over to them. If there are a couple of liberal commentators who are rude -- and there might be -- it's only on the right that the likes of Rush and Sean and Glenn and Ann and Bill and Michael are considered heroes.

I don't want conservatism, true conservatism, to die away in this country. But as manifest today, it's a cancer. It's not their central ideas: it's what they've become. Science deniers, haters, theocrats, closed-minded, scorched-earthers, birthers, deliberate purveyors of lies, demonizers, conspiracy-mongers, misogynists, self-deluders, clingers to failed ideas, rejectors of reality.

None of that is conservatism. None of that is good.

[Image sources

Sunday, November 11, 2012

When Will They Ever Learn?

Back from my free hamburger (worth every penny), I read this article, which seems more appropriate fodder than food, for Veterans' Day. We're so happy to send kids to war (the 47% anyway, which ironically, is the percent of the vote with which it looks like The Rominee will end up). And we're so unwilling to face what it does to them. Hand 'em a hamburger (I took it, damn me), slap on a magnetic ribbon, go about your business, like a patriot.

A DECORATED combat veteran, Staff Sgt. Dwight L. Smith Jr. seemed the perfect soldier. Until, that is, he visited his family in Delaware last Christmas and, as he later told the police, “clicked on.”Inexplicably one morning, while driving his bright red Hummer on a public street, he ran down a 65-year-old woman, Marsha Lee, as she walked her dog, according to police accounts. Then, as a witness watched, he got out and threw Ms. Lee, injured and screaming, into the back seat and drove off... 
... “I know my child,” said Sergeant Smith’s father, Dwight Sr., a 49-year-old manager in the Philadelphia schools. “This isn’t my kid. He was a goofy kid. This isn’t the same man that I sent over.” 
The father was sitting morosely in his dimly lit dining room, the curtains all drawn. In the corner of the room was the purple heart that Dwight Jr. earned in Afghanistan, and in the living room just beyond was his wedding photo and a military portrait. It’s impossible to reconcile that beaming young man in the photos with the one who murdered and raped Ms. Lee.
People of the RWS™,  Fox "news," and teabagger persuasion seem to dislike President Obama because (among other thoughtful things) he likes to end wars; and he appears to consider going to war a last, as opposed to a first, a preferred, resort. Oh, Mitt Romney, under the influence of his neocon advisers, would have shown those Persians a thing or two, he would. We can't afford to appear weak, we can't. Real men cut off other kid's hair; and they start wars. And realer men don't bother to think about what wars do to those that fight them. That would show weakness, too, it would.


My wife's at the ballet. A local joint is giving free burgers and fries to vets today. Think I'm gonna go.

[Image source]

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Fish Story

Others have said it, but it's still worth a comment: the highly-touted CEO business genius ran a very crappy campaign at the nuts and bolts level; and our never-ran-a-business president put together a team of unrivaled.

Disorganization up and down the ranks, reliance on a failed computer program, people wandering around not knowing what to do: that's the story we're hearing from numerous sources, regarding the Romney campaign. Raising the obvious question: with this sort of bumbling over a political campaign, how'd he have done trying to run a country? Which is, I'd say, a question with a pretty easy answer. Other than health care, he didn't go much of a job in MA. Taking no stand that wasn't reversible at the drop of a teabag, he didn't have much of a plan.

Reading about this stuff I learned a couple of things I hadn't known. Obama's team developed a computer program they called "Narwhal." Evidently it was a pretty effective and amazing tool for keeping track of voters and other campaign matters. The Romney folks, needing one of their own, developed "Orca," named, evidently, because Orcas eat Narwhals. Clever, other than the fact that it didn't work for shit, apparently. Which brings us to the point of this little post, namely a reader comment on Andrew Sullivan's blog, in a post called "Romney's Bureaucratic Bumbling Campaign":
Remember that the first words out of the Byron York's mouth upon witnessing his first Obama Rally in 2008 were "We're going to need a bigger boat," referencing the point in Jaws where the shark first appears. Do you remember the name of the boat they used that ended up being destroyed? It was the Orca.

[Demonstrating my mental exhaustion after the perils and paulines of the campaign, I'm providing none of my usual links. But it's all reality- and fact-based, as usual.]

[Later: Okay, okay, here's one. Later still: another.]

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Fangs For The Memories

You know it's being said, right? Somewhere, as the fever rises. Obama somehow glammored (a True Blood reference) David Petraeus into his affair so they'd be able to kick him out before he testified about Benghazi. The plan is even more diabolical because, like birthing a half-breed in Kenya so he could take over the US, it took planning well before conditions that led to it were even in place.

For a moment there, I thought the spectacle of the Fox "news" meltdown on election night might have caused its endumbed followers to peel at least a couple of layers of scales from their eyes. For how could it have been more clear? They hire people to tell themselves, and their zombied watchers, what they want to hear, believing it will magically make it all true. It's been apparent forever that Fox viewers buy the bullshit in Costco quantities; but I really didn't know the extent to which the purveyors thought it was true, too. Wanted it to be, so badly, that they believed.

When the hated New York Times decided to hire someone to give its readers the best possible election polling information, they chose Nate Silver. Fox hired Dick "dick" Morris. It speaks volumes, although, evidently, it'll only be heard by those who already knew. Since the election, Fox carries on its dissembling, and the hatred and disinformation just keeps ramping up.

When the tanks don't appear in our neighborhoods, carrying Muslim UN troops, rounding up kids into FEMA camps and making people pledge allegiance to Sharia law, maybe a few will reconsider their paranoid hate and ask themselves why they had it. Probably, though, they'll just find a new excuse to keep on hating, the human mind -- gods' greatest creation -- being as flawed as it is.

[Image source]

Friday, November 9, 2012

Just As They Said It Would

I hope this gets through. As I write, hunkered in my basement, UN tanks are rumbling through the streets, their blue-helmeted, brown-skin troops sweeping their eyes, burning with suspicion and hatred, across our homes. Machine guns are at the ready. My neighbors and I, who'd planned for this (although we thought we'd have more time) have been shocked to find our stores of weapons have somehow disappeared, replaced with pictures of Karl Marx reading the Koran.

Communication is spotty; they seem to have taken control of the airwaves. I can see children being rounded up and forced into vans with "FEMA" painted crudely on the sides. The kids appear to be drugged; the older ones are engaging in furtive sex acts with others of their own sex, seemingly not exactly knowing why. I think it's the drugs. Probably generic, but still effective.

In a nearby park, troops are tossing Bibles into a pile and burning them. Looks like a lot of Updike, too.  David Foster Wallace. Those two seem to burn faster. I watched as a soldier brutally yanked a crucifix necklace off a young woman, threw it on the ground, and urinated on it. (What they say about black guys and their, you know, seems to be true, by the way.) Unimpeded by the UN troops, packs of other black people are racing down my street, carrying TVs and tanning equipment looted from my neighbors. I fear for my chardonnay. I've kept it in a climate-controlled cooler. Will they?

Is your TV still working? On mine I see Barack Obama speaking from the Oval Office. I don't dare turn up the sound for fear they'll hear me; but he's wearing a black turban, someone who must be Michelle is there, but I can't be sure. She's covered in a burka. Obama has just thrown an American flag on the ground and walked on it, laughing. I think that's Joe Biden, handcuffed, behind him. Eric Holder has just slaughtered a sheep. It's gruesome, although I do like lamb, but not with mint jelly.

Now the TV shows men with bandoleers and AKs raising the Nazi Muslim flag on the White House (ironic, huh?) lawn. The camera just zoomed in on a paper one off them is holding, pointing at it and laughing. It looks like a birth certificate; I can't make it out, because it seems to be written in Kenyan. And transcripts from Occidental College. Looks like Ds and Fs. My god.

How coordinated is this? I'll tell you: They're tearing out the veggies in the garden and replacing them with poppies and a falafel bush.

We were warned, and I didn't believe it. I have only myself to blame. And now I see one of the tanks coming closer. Is that my wife on it? It is. I should have known. She went to Harvard.

[Image source]

He'll Be Just Fine

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Flow Of History

Charles P. Pierce is a good writer; mostly he's funny and snarky, but once in a while he soars higher. I've linked to him before. Here's what he wrote (among many other posts, too) after the election. (The fact that it uses the same quote from Obama's speech that I did is coincidence, unless he reads me, a thing for which there is little evidence.) It starts with this, but it's worth reading the whole thing:

There is a story that they tell in Georgia politics about the first time that Barack Obama was inaugurated as this most improbable president of the United States. Shortly before the ceremony, they say, he met with John Lewis, the congressman and American hero who was nearly beaten to death on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama as he marched to demand the right simply to vote. The two huddled in the corner and the president-elect wrote something on Lewis's inaugural program. He walked away, and Lewis showed the program to the friends who had come with him. 
"Because of you," it said. "Barack Obama." 
Part of what drives people crazy about him — and if you wanted to see crazy, you should have seen the fugue state that overcame the Fox election all-stars last night, because I've seen jollier police lineups — is that he so clearly understands his own genuine historical stature, and that he wears it so easily, and that he uses it so deftly. It is not obvious. He does not use it brutally or obviously. It is just... there with him, a long and deep reservoir of violence and sorrow and tragedy and triumph out of which comes almost everything he does. He came into this office a figure of history, unlike anyone who's become president since George Washington.

[Image source]


This is exactly the point of everything I've been trying to say here. Already, though, it's evident that the RWS™ and Fox "news" and their followers are pulling the bubble even more tightly around themselves. As obvious as it has become that they lie to themselves as much as to everyone else, it still doesn't seem very likely that the message will get through: we need two strong and reality-based parties. We need honest conversations and good arguments on both sides to come to practical solutions to actual problems.

In today's Republican party, and from their favored "news" sources, we have none of it. And it's killing us.

(The longer version of Rachel's soliloquy can be seen here.)


"America's never been about what can be done for us; it's about what can be done by us together, through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self- government. That's the principle we were founded on." Barack H. Obama, election night. 

That's about as un-socialist and pro-American as it gets. I wonder if teabaggers and teabaggRs and conspiracy-fuelled nasties will take a moment to hear it.

[Image source]

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Moment's Reflection

I guess I'll need to take a moment or two to digest it all. I don't feel like gloating (for one thing, I'm more relieved than exhilarated), and I really hope (it could happen, couldn't it?) that there'll be some changes in attitude in D.C.  John Boehner has already mouthed from both sides, so who knows?

With the exception of Jim Graves, running against Michele Bachmann, everyone to whom I gave money across the country won: Warren, Baldwin, Duckworth, what's-his-name running against Alan West; and, of course, the black guy. Locally, the school district of which my wife, Judy, is board president passed its levy to buy new school buses. In the state, gay marriage passed, and it looks like the D candidate for governor will win. A pro-marijuana initiative is leading, too. I voted for it without a lot of thought: mostly to see what would happen, both in terms of federal reaction, and in terms of effects on costs of law enforcement. I don't expect to see drug-crazed people roaming the streets and highways. If so, I guess it can be repealed.

My most significant initial reaction, though, is pleasant surprise that the millions and millions poured into elections by a small group of billionaires didn't have the effect I feared. (Nor, for that matter, did the blatant efforts at suppressing voting in D districts.) Poor Sheldon Adelson: hundred million or so spent around the country, and 0 - 6 in outcomes. Same with Karl Rove and the Koch brothers. I don't like the idea of democracy being for sale to such a small number of people, and maybe it isn't. Will they redouble their efforts, or reconsider their asset allocations? I'll be curious to see.

I'm glad the false characterizations of President Obama didn't prevail; and I'd like to think that Mitt Romney finally reached his lifetime allotment of dishonesty, that rejection of lies as strategy was in play. Some are saying so, at least with regard to his Jeep ads in Ohio. I hope so. Because if money and lies were all it takes to win elections, it'd be a bad thing. I say that soberly, not triumphally. One election doth not a trend make; but I hope it has meaning in that regard.

I liked Obama's victory speech; to me, it's what he's always been about, and I think it's more than just words. It was cool that he mentioned the Romney family, Mitt's parents. Romney's speech was nice, too. Will there be a lessening of vitriol? I'll do my part. For now.

[Image source]


We just had new windows installed, on election day of all days. Three of the old ones had fogged up so badly, seals broken, that views were measurably diminished. Wonder what it'll be like, being able to see things more clearly.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Too Good

Now that we know Mitt Romney was "quietly" courting Glenn Beck, I think the above drawing is just too good to pass up. It came from here.

Patch Work

[Image from The New Yorker. Sentiment from wishful thinking.]

Love of Democracy

Interesting, isn't it, that a Democratic governor does what it takes to make sure all citizens can vote; and Republicans do whatever they can to make it harder, especially for, you know...

I'd say it tells you everything there is to know about the two parties. Democracy? Only one party believes in it.

[Image source]

Strategy, Illustrated

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Anti-Capitalist

Romney Knows Business

I'd heard the name Delphi floating around, but with all the other outrages, I'd not paid a lot of attention. I should have:
Mitt Romney and his partners made a killing on the GM bankruptcy by gaining control of bankrupt parts supplier Delphi, then threatening to withhold components critical to the production of GM vehicles. Romney's business partners were willing to force GM into liquidation and cause a national economic calamity unless they got more money. In the end, the Romney investor group got what it wanted and earned a profit of more than 3,000 percent on its initial investment. 
This is the real Romney, a man who objected to the rescue of the domestic auto industry, then made astronomical profits after his business partners threatened the survival of GM. A man who lies about Chrysler moving jobs to China, when his history at Bain Capital, the private equity firm he founded, shows that he has invested in Chinese factories where workers are grossly exploited. Romney won't even act to stop the Sensata factory in Illinois, in which he is an investor, from closing the doors and moving to China the day before the election. 
Mitt Romney won't come clean on Chrysler, won't come clean on his Chinese investments and threatened the restructuring of GM for his own profit. That is the picture of a me-first hedge-fund investor, not someone who has the judgment or character to be President of the United States.
"Squeaky clean," a reader calls him.

As I (and many others) have said: Mitt Romney's "business experience" has no more to do with managing the US economy than Al Capone had to do with managing the temperance movement. He's a single-minded self-promoter and profiteer with no convictions he won't change, for expediency's sake, at a moment's notice; other than the one that tells him of his entitlement. But, you know, he didn't take a salary as governor of the state he left at 48 out of 50 in job creation, so he's a good guy.

I really don't like the man, in case you can't tell. There's never been a more undeserving or dishonest major candidate for president, and if he wins we don't deserve to persist as a country. Which is lucky; because we might not.

[Image source]

One Day More

One Term More - With Subtitles from One Term More on Vimeo.

(Don't worry: it's not actually a parody.)

Two Reasons

Beyond the policies, the lies, the impact on the Supreme Court, the devastation to domestic needs, etcetera ad infinitum if Romney wins, there are two other important reasons to vote for Barack Obama.

One, to which I've referred before, is that to vote for Mitt Romney is to empower the literally insane people in his party serving in Congress, who believe climate change is a hoax, that science is the work of the devil, that the biblical law supersedes the Constitution of the United States, that only white Christians deserve to be here. (Along with their womenfolk chattel, that is.) It's to legitimize lying over truth, ignorance over education, denial over reality.

But the other is the better one: I really really want to see what the RWS™ and crazies say when it does NOT come to pass that Obama will confiscate their guns, ban the bible, facilitate a Muslim/Sharia takeover, declare martial law, round up Republicans and put them in concentration camps, turn the US over to the UN, and/or implant RFID chips in every citizen. And countless other dire warnings and crackpot conspiracies that motivate so many of the teabagger mentality. (What he will do, mark my words, is piss off some liberals by addressing Social Security and Medicare in ways they might not like. But, unlike Mitt Romney's vaporous and regressive and mathematically impossible plans, it'll be to make them financially solvent for those who need them most.)

[Image source]

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Give 'Em What They Want

Here's one of the more interesting takes on Mitt Romney's incessant and blatant lying that I've seen. It's not a bug; it's a feature. It's a way of showing his right-wing bona fides. The article, if longer than it needs to be (it's the twenty first century, after all: we like sound bites), makes a good case that lying is part of the marketing strategy of "modern" conservatism, and it give lots of examples. In particular, the author describes the hand-in-hand relationship of selling snake-oil (pretty literally) to the gullible, with marketing ripoffs and fakery, by combining them with infusion of conservative shibboleths and fears. The more I think about it, the more sense it makes: if it doesn't entirely explain why it's so, it does point out the relationship we see in today's Republicans between their ideology (whatever it is) and crazy conspiracies and inexplicable credulity.

The article begins with a short (in comparison to the whole) compendium of Mitt's lies:

...And then there’s the most delicious kind of lie of them all, the kind that hoists the teller on his own petard as soon as a faintly curious auditor consults the record for occasions on which he’s said the opposite. Here the dossier of Mittdacity overfloweth. In 2012, for example, he said he took no more federal money for the Salt Lake City Olympic Games than previous games had taken; a decade earlier, however, he called the $410 million in federal money he bagged “a huge increase over anything ever done before.” 
There are more examples, so many more, but as I started to log and taxonomize them, their sheer volume threatened to crash my computer. (OK, I’m lying; I just stopped cataloging them, out of sheer fatigue.) You can check in at MSNBC’s Maddowblog for Steve Benen’s series “Chronicling Mitt’s Mendacity” for the current tally... 
All righty, then: both the rank-and-file voters and the governing elites of a major American political party chose as their standardbearer a pathological liar. What does that reveal about them?
He then embarks on a history of the connection between right-wing lies and the selling of phony products. Mass marketing techniques pioneered by such people as Richard Viguerie and Paul Weyrich (remember them?); raising huge sums for certain "charities" and keeping most of the money himself. He goes on:

This method highlights the fundamental workings of all grassroots conservative political appeals, be they spurious claims of Barack Obama’s Islamic devotion, the supposed explosion of taxpayer-supported welfare fraud, or the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. 
And, in an intersection that is utterly crucial, this same theology of fear is how a certain sort of commercial appeal—a snake-oil-selling one—works as well. This is where the retail political lying practiced by Romney links up with the universe in which 23-cent miracle cures exist (absent the hero’s intervention) just out of reach, thanks to the conspiracy of some powerful cabal—a cabal that, wouldn’t you know it in these late-model hustles, perfectly resembles the ur-villain of the conservative mind: liberals.
There's a lot of meat in the article, and on some level it's pretty amusing. But it resonates, and ends with the rousing finale:
And that, at last, may be the explanation for Mitt Romney’s apparently bottomless penchant for lying in public. If the 2012 GOP nominee lied louder than most ... it’s just because he felt like he had more to prove to his core following. Lying is an initiation into the conservative elite. ... Sneering at, or ignoring, your earnest high-minded mandarin gatekeepers—“we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” as one Romney aide put it—is another part of closing the deal. For years now, the story in the mainstream political press has been Romney’s difficulty in convincing conservatives, finally, that he is truly one of them. For these elites, his lying ... is how he has pulled it off once and for all. And at the grassroots, his fluidity with their preferred fables helps them forget why they never trusted the guy in the first place.
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