Thursday, January 30, 2014


Of all the idiotic things we hear from our good friends on the right, the idea that Barack Obama is divisive has gotta be at the top of the list. Poor little innocents. Who, literally, on the very day of his inauguration, plotted to block him at every turn. They claim he's divisive, refuses to work with them.

Most amazing of all, though, is that the sheeple to whom they pitch their poison buy it like cheap scotch.

He's On It!!!

Governor Christie, we can be sure, will get to the bottom of any possible ethics violations, yessiree. Because conservatism: 

The state Ethics Commission, which would rule on any ethics complaints against state officials in Bridgegate or other Christie administration scandals, yesterday approved Gov. Chris Christie’s recommendation for its new executive director -- Susana Espasa Guerrero, a former governor’s counsel who served in the governor's office with all nine Christie aides subpoenaed in Bridgegate. Guerrero previously spent eight years working in the law firm of Christie’s most trusted political adviser, William Palatucci, overlapping with Christie’s last four months as a partner at the firm before taking office as U.S. Attorney.

Before Christie took office, the Ethics Commission had always had a tradition of nonpartisan executive directors, Schluter said.
Accountability, is what they call it.

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Home state lady. Very proud.

Still Like HIm

I said I wasn't gonna watch the SOTU, but then I ended up doing it, mostly. A comment from a reader on another blog pretty much captures my thoughts.

This speech tonight reminds me why I voted for Obama.  I think the GOP made a ghastly strategic error in choosing to stand only for obstruction, and Obama is driving them into the mat on it tonight.  He’s clearly channeling the sane middle in the US electorate.  The 47 percent of the nation inside the Fox bubble won’t change their minds.  But Obama is reminding the majority that voted for him just why they did.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


And so it is that Congressional Republicans have loaded the House Committee on Science, including its chairman, with none but science-deniers. And why Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann and Louis Gohmert and Paul Broun, etc etc etc ad facepalmium, remain leading lights in the party.

Oh, how we are screwed.

Why Today's Republicans Fear Education

Monday, January 27, 2014

Blast From The Past

KevinMD, as I may have mentioned before, is probably the most popular blog by a physician, and he's been reprinting some of my old stuff from my Surgeonsblog days. Here's the latest, which is a little long and, by now, elderly, but remains at least one important aspect of what's wrong with healthcare finance, and how it contributes to good docs burning out.

The medical director of my clinic once gave me a book on burnout. I never read it. Didn’t have the time or energy.
Because a young reader considering a career in surgery referred to stories he’s heard of depressed and disappointed surgeons and asked for my thoughts, I’ll try to address it. Parenthetically, I’ve heard from more than a few readers that my blog and/or book has inspired them to consider surgery as a career. Don’t know whether to smile proudly, or shoot myself.
I quit my practice much younger than I’d have predicted when I went into it. In thinking about the reasons, not all of which can I distill, I can’t make the claim that one ought to generalize: I speak only for myself. In some things, the themes are universal; in others, maybe more particular to me than my colleagues. As with many others, it’s true that my love for my work diminished over the course of my career: yet at its core, the rewards and pleasures remained. It’s just that it was harder and harder to access them, as the layers of bullshit of all sorts increasingly hid it all from view. Maybe it’s like this: early in my career a day of work had ten pounds of pleasure in it. By the end, it was still ten pounds (heck, maybe even twelve), but I had to wade through fifty pounds of crap to find it. Thirty years ago, it was only five.
Surgeons my age are transitional characters. When we first dipped our toes in the pool we were touched by ripples of the good old days: regulations were minimal, the default presumption was that we knew what we were doing, most of our time was taken up with actual patient care. The occasional meeting. Serving on a committee once in a while. And we could charge what we thought was a fair price for what we did. Let’s get that last concept out of the way first. (Reality check: not everything about the good old days was good, especially for the consumer. I admit it enthusiastically. It’s not necessarily better now; just different.)
I’ve yet to meet a medical doctor of any sort who went into the profession first and foremost for the money. (For some, that came later.) Nor would I claim that doctors deserve to be the highest paid of professionals. In fact, at the time I took up the scalpel, I thought many docs — surgeons especially (general surgeons less so!) — made way too much money. The public health would be much more adversely affected were garbage collectors to cease to exist than if doctors did.
Yet there’s a truism: most people willing to work very hard, who have an ethic of excellence, who take great and justifiable pride in what they do, expect some sort of reward commensurate with and in some way proportionate to the quality of their product. And money, for better or worse, is one of the vehicles for providing that reward. Not the only one; not, maybe, the most important one. But a very tangible one. Measurable. Whereas I recognize that speaking about it at the outset risks losing any sympathy (in fact, I’m not asking for sympathy: I’m just trying to explain, and to answer an honest question), I think it’s central, symbolically, to understanding the unhappiness that I and many of my cohorts came to feel.
My brother is an attorney. A very successful one; a senior partner in one of the US’s bigger international firms. I gather he’s really good at what he does: the accolades he’s received within his profession attest to it, as do (to the extent that I can understand them) the extremely complex cases he’s guided to favorable outcomes. He charges by the hour, a hefty sum which has risen steadily over the course of his career. More, I gather, than many of his peers. And, I’d wager, his clients are happy to pay it: for their top dollar, they get a top echelon lawyer who can be counted on to work his ass off and most likely prevail in their cause. To them, he’s worth it. (Makes four times more than I ever did, and is probably four times better at what he does than I was at what I did — I’m thinking there may be greater divergence among good attorneys than among good doctors.) As in virtually every other profession, you get what you pay for. Not so, any more, with medicine.
Two things have happened to physician reimbursement, and both have had a perverse and adverse effect on professional morale. First, payments have steadily declined, to about a third of where they were when I started out. Second, fees have become standardized, meaning doctor A gets exactly the same amount to take out a colon as doctor B, no matter how much better at it one is than the other. By law and/or contract, doctors have no ability to establish their own charges or to collect the difference.
In the first instance, the effect is that doctors have to work harder and harder every year just to stay even financially; in the second, it means there’s no incentive — financially anyway — toward excellence. If money is a surrogate for acknowledgment of a job well done, the current system says “we don’t give the slightest shit about whether you are doing your job better than the next guy or girl.” Take it, and shut the f@*k up. Or so it seems. You may or may not believe this: doctors are, for the most part, altruists. The real rewards come from doing right by the patient.
I love the relationship I have, as a surgeon – especially and particularly as a surgeon — with my patients. I love (except when all hell breaks loose) being in the operating room. (Heck, sometimes even then: as long as I can bail myself and my patient out, able to tell myself I did good, and seeing the instant proof.) But (or is it “so?”) it’s enormously deflating every year to get the latest announcement from Medicare, or Blue Cross, or for-profit Joe the insurer and its multimillionly paid exec, of the latest cut in what they’ll pay me.
Similarly, the notion that they’ll be paying the same amount to some guy who I KNOW is not getting the results I am (or saving them the amount of money I am, by virtue of a passion for cost-effective care and willingness to work extra hard to achieve it.) Like I said, it’s perverse. And my claim is that it’s having an effect on who chooses to go to medical school, and who chooses to go into the most demanding specialties. My friends in academic medicine seem to agree. It’s elsewhere that hard work and excellence are valued more.
Every year I was in practice I made more than in the previous year, despite the fact that in virtually every year, reimbursement declined. The reason is obvious: I simply kept working harder and harder. Partly it’s because that’s who I am: I never took as much time off as I was allowed, I always took call on my own patients, rounded whether I was on or off. So here’s an instance in which my behavior contributed particularly to my burnout. But the milieu was the same for everyone. And it compounds itself: as you work harder and harder to stay even, you’d like to hire some help.
But anticipating further cuts, you feel you really can’t afford to. As I got older I came to think I’d be happy to trade time for money; but my younger partners — with young kids and longer futures — didn’t want to take the financial hit. And whereas they were taking the same amount of call as I was, they (perhaps wisely!) kept fewer office hours, saw fewer patients, and took more vacation. And why shouldn’t they? Coming along in the new era, maybe they saw that hard work wasn’t recognized and rightly concluded it wasn’t worth it. Yep, you get what you pay for.
Sid Schwab is a retired surgeon who blogs at Surgeonsblog and is the author of Cutting Remarks: Insights and Recollections of a Surgeon.
Among the good things in The Affordable Care Act is an attempt to define and recognize and reward what is considered good care. I'm not convinced the criteria are a true measure, but, like the ACA itself, it's a start.

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The Horror!

So the party of personal responsibility and accountability is aghast, agog, and araged that when some of their own appear to have broken the law there are consequences. And so it is that, predictable as tears on Glenn Beck's pillow, they see conspiracy and persecution -- vengeful, hateful, terrorful and terrible, not to mention legal -- in the fact that when word came from Gov Christie's people that it was "time for some traffic problems," and when Dinesh D'Souza seems to have been playing loose with campaign finance laws, and when Virginia ex-governor McDonnell got caught soliciting and taking bribes, there've been people audacious enough to look into those matters.

Why, it's... it's... nothing short of suppression of dissent. It's... it's... hunting witches. It's... it's... it's... unAmerican. We get to make shit up. We get to hold government hostage while making wild accusations that turn up nothing. Since when can parts of the government actually DO their jobs, especially when there's a Democrat in the White House? And, for gods' sake, when there's real evidence of real wrongdoing???!!!

Seriously. On what basis can one have hope for the future when one party has gone so irretrievably off the rails? How can anyone believe today's Republicans will ever get back to thinking straight and pitching in, or that those that keep electing them will stop for a minute and think about what they've done? I know I can't.

(And I can't remember where I found that gif. It was a while ago.)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Back In The Day...

... when Republicans were actual conservatives, and able to think straight.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Already Too Late?

I'm convinced that, in the US at least, we've moved irreversibly past the time when enough people were willing to think beyond their immediate self-interest to make a difference. Not sure when it started; if not with Ronald Reagan, it certainly gained irresistible traction with him. And continues today with teabaggerism and the short-sighted, denialist, theocratic, science-averse stance of those they've elected to Congress and to their state governments.

The Mark Twain quote in my blog title says it all, although I doubt even he imagined the extent to which it's become pervasively true mere decades later. What a deadly combination: problems so big they're hard to imagine and harder to fix; voters cultivated for credulity, using their religiosity (i.e. a need to believe the easy stuff) against them; a non-stop propaganda machine designed by very rich and powerful people to get those who are neither to think they're helping themselves while in fact doing the bidding of those who couldn't care less about them.

It didn't take much, it turns out, to get millions of people to rationalize selfishness, to ignore reality, to believe that truth is lie, and vise versa. Appeal to the basest of human instincts and the tendencies to look for easy answers, for forces to blame beyond oneself. Appeal to fear, to tribalism. And, maybe most importantly, to the need for certainty when there is none.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Mirror, Mirror

It's a tough call to say which are the most outrageous things said about President Barack Hussein Obama, but certainly in the top ten is the claim that he's the most divisive president ever. To say so is to ignore virtually all of his speeches, to be unable to hear what he's saying; and, most importantly, to pretend the divisions in this country since his election have nothing to do with how people on the other side have talked about him.

So Glenn Beck is having a sad, all of a sudden, because it seems he's had a moment of self-reflection; an event nearly unknown among those with whom he ilks.

"I wish I could go back and be more uniting in my language," he told Kelly. "I think I played a role, unfortunately, in helping tear the country apart and it's not who we are."  
"I didn't realize how really fragile the people were, I kind of thought we were a little more in it together," Beck continued. "Now I look back and I realize if we could've talked about the uniting principles a little more instead of just the problems, I think I would look back on it a little more fondly."
There's no doubt our country has become even more divided than it was when George Bush screwed up everything he touched; but, really, how can it be argued that the president himself had more to do with it than people like Beck and the rest of the RWS™?

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Lab Rats

North Carolina has become the laboratory for all things teabagger. The latest:

... That change was overshadowed by the GOP’s broader changes to the basic shape of the income tax code in the state to favor the rich and harm the rest.
Along with the disappearance of the EITC, low-income North Carolinians will be paying higher taxes in order to pay for a tax cut for the richest people in the state. Republicans moved from a two-tiered, progressive income tax system to a flat tax rate of 5.8 percent. A person who earns a million dollars per year will get a roughly $10,000 tax cut thanks to that move, but the bottom 80 percent of the income distribution will see their taxes rise. That means that four out of five taxpayers in the state were going to pay more next year even before the EITC repeal. ...
I'd say we'll see their perversity play out till there's no more North Carolina; but that's actually sort of what they want. Their governor has explicitly said he wants to force poor people to move somewhere else. Which sort of perfectly condenses it. Avoid responsibility; let someone else worry about it; espouse economic policy that only works for some and which, if adopted by all, would be self-defeating.


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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Rewriting History

They say there's a movie out about Mitt Romney, painting him as just a really decent guy. I don't plan to find out.

With the possible demise of Chris "No one tells me anything" Christie's presidential aspirations, some on the right -- tacitly admitting the bottom of the barrel has been breached -- have encouraged Mr Romney to run again. Even I can't bring myself to wish the humiliation on him; but he seems to be eschewing the effort. So far.

Meanwhile, let's not forget that Mitt Romney raised the bar on prevarication and mendacity higher than it's ever been. His lies were legion, nearly uncountable (Steve Benen stopped at 533). It says more than any of us would like to know about the state of US politics that nearly half the country not only didn't care, but actively denied it. From the above-linked article:

This is documented. Proven. Validated, verified, demonstrated, catalogued and quantified. Mitt Romney lies. 
Here are 30 — 30! — of Benen’s weekly “chronicling” posts. These are all backed up and sourced. These are not assertions, interpretations or allegations. These are facts, actual instances. 
Click those links. Read the lists. List after list of lie after lie. Hundreds of them — 533, to be exact, although Benen does not make any claim to providing a comprehensive chronicle.
This is unprecedented. “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” Romney’s pollster, Neil Newhouse, said.
This has produced what James Fallows calls the “post-truth” age — a relentlessly dishonest onslaught of brazen falsehoods with which the media and the political system are struggling to cope. What do you do when every article, every “fact-check,” every arbiter denounces a lie and corrects it, but then a politician just keeps repeating it?...  
... One of the weirder aspects of this for me is watching this unfold in the politically conservative culture of my evangelical world. The most partisan evangelical conservatives are also those most likely to rant against “relativism” and to trumpet their status as defenders of “absolute truth.” ...
That's Mitt Romney's legacy; and the extent to which an entire party was unwilling to acknowledge it, much less call him out, is proof of how far they've fallen from what some might once have considered a conservative value (not exclusive, by any means, but one they once claimed). The guy always gave me the creeps. Run again? Who in his or her right mind....

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Monday, January 20, 2014

Far Out!

What Took Him So Long?

A high-profile gay conservative quits the Republican Party

Jimmy LaSalvia is a lifelong conservative activist. He likes low taxes and limited government and refers to the political party that disagrees with these views as the “Democrat” Party. He’s also gay and for years has been leading the fight for a place in the Republican Party for fellow gay conservatives; LaSalvia even started an advocacy group called GOProud when he found the Log Cabin Republicans to be far too liberal. 
But, on Monday, LaSalvia finally threw in the towel and changed his registration to be an independent. On his blog, he wrote “So, now I feel huge sense of freedom. I am an independent conservative. (That sounds much better than ‘gay Republican.’)” 
In an interview with The Daily Beast, LaSalvia explained why he left the GOP. “I came to the realization that the leadership of the Republican Party just doesn’t share my principles and my values” said the conservative activist. “I am a limited government conservative and they’re big government people. I do not tolerate bigotry in any form and they do.  So I came to realize that they are wrong and I can’t continue to defend them or to let them stain my reputation any longer.”...
(In other news, he also stopped trying to breathe under water.)

... In LaSalvia’s opinion, “most people are turned off by both parties. The left wing of Democrat Party simply doesn’t live in reality and the Republican Party is tolerant of bigotry and that just isn’t acceptable to most Americans.” He ... still insisted that he was a limited-government conservative and that most Americans are right of center. LaSalvia simply wasn’t a Republican anymore...
A point I've been trying to make for approximately ever: today's Republican Party is anything but conservative; and to identify with it one can only consider oneself a fundamentalist Christian and/or an unapologetic bigot and/or a global denialist about pretty much everything. Which is NOT to say the same about conservatism. Who doesn't, for example, wish to see government as small as possible to do the job it needs to do? Who's for waste, corruption, incompetence? Who wants to pay more in taxes than is necessary to provide for the needs of a successful democracy, now and into the future?

Where the arguments are -- healthy arguments -- is in deciding the bounds of "necessary" and "successful." And "as possible." Or, at least, that's where the arguments ought to be, and where both parties must realize that they'll never get all of what they want in defining and executing those terms. Sadly, that's not where today's Republican Party, nor its mouthpieces at Fox "news" nor right-wing radio, nor teabaggers live.

Where they live is in theocracy, in fear- and hate-mongering, in "I demand everything I want or I burn the place down, and anyone who disagrees is evil." The Republican Party is as far from conservatism as Gitmo is from summer camp; it's as happy with the most basic principles of our democracy as a polar bear is with a heat wave. And until misguided, Foxolimbeckified, teabagging, under-bed-hiding manipulatees stop electing Republicans and start electing conservatives, our system will continue on its inexorable path to ruin at our own hands. Ruination by Republicans, not conservatives.

Our future depends on conservative voters waking up, leaving their party or demanding that it wake up, too. Sadly, too many of them have been convinced of their god-inspired rectitude by a cynical, dishonest, highly-effective and lowly-aiming propaganda machine, working entirely against the interest of those very voters.

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Saturday, January 18, 2014


Amusing, isn't it, that the corporation in question is called "Freedom." From regulation, I guess. And from responsibility, now that they've declared bankruptcy. Anyone wonder who the owners voted for in the last election? And every one before that?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Sure They Care!

Not that it's a surprise, but in case anyone thought the right-wing concern about BENGHAZI!!!!! was anything but a political opportunism used to gin up falsified outrage, as opposed to genuine concern for embassy security, have a look at the budget that came from Mr "Math Genius" Ryan and Ms "Trying to be bipartisan" Murray:
Despite the concern over security after the 2012 attack on the United States Mission in Benghazi, Libya, the spending bill earmarks less to embassy security, construction and maintenance than it allotted for fiscal 2013 - $2.67 billion, down by $224 million.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

America, America, God Shed His Grace On Thee...

Crazy Simple

Me, I like to point out that while the right wing is waxing idiotic about how cold it is this winter here in parts of the U.S., Aussies are considering canceling matches in the Australian Open because it's too damn hot down there. But this guy (if you need to, take a trank before watching) has a better way of looking at it.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Bridge Not Far Enough

The usual right-wing suspects rally to Chris Christie's defense, in the expected ways: it's not as bad as Benghazi, or the IRS scandal. They're right, of course.

Well, other than the fact that someone very very close to Mr Christie, close enough to fit in his pre-banding pants along with him now, deliberately ordered a retaliatory catastrophe that cost at least one life. About that, there's not the slightest doubt. The only unanswered question is what did Christie know and when did he know it? Is it credible that such a high-level deliberate action was done without his knowledge?

The similarity to the IRS and Benghazi is that they both share made-up coverage from the right: in the case of the bridge deal, the made-up coverage is that it's no big deal, and in the case of IRS/Benghazi is that it is. We know that, too.

Investigations have revealed that the IRS wasn't targeting right wing groups more than left; and, in fact, it only denied tax-exempt status to lefty groups. It was following the law; the law that bans politically active groups from tax exempt status.

And unless you believe that Obama or his administration deliberately caused the Benghazi attacks, or deliberately prevented rescue attempts (you'd not be alone, by a long shot, among Foxophiles), there's no comparison there, either. Tragic as it was.

When the first suggestions appeared claiming IRS malfeasance, I thought (and wrote) that if it was true, it was a very bad thing. Had it been true, I'd have continued to say it. Unlike the RWS™ and their true believers, though, when the truth came out, it was over for me. Same with Benghazi: investigation after investigation, by government sources, by newspapers, have found no evidence of deliberate action to cause or foment or ignore it by our government. Poor communication? Possibly. Deliberate actions causing major problems, a la the GWB (pick your initials: it's true in the case of the George Washington bridge, and of our previous president)? Not.

So, yet again, we see how the right wing of our country, via its leaders anyway, operates. No fact is worth considering when it controverts your message. No lie is too big to tell; no distraction too irrelevant to place into the dialog. No false equivalence too much of a reach to spew and to spread.

I can't speculate why they've left their senses to this extent: is it because they know their ideas have never worked and they can't think of any alternatives that aren't the same as liberals', which have? Who knows? But one thing is sure. They do this stuff with the confidence that they've successfully endumbed their sheep to the point that they'll believe whatever they're told. This whole bridge thing, Karl Rove tells them, proves that Christie is exactly what we want in a president. He's got the balls, Fox "analysts" pronounce, to screw people. Yes, yes, they say. Yes. Yes. Oh great political mind. Oh fair and balanced news source. Yes. Yes. And yes.

The effectiveness of this Machiavellian brilliance is matched only by its destructiveness.

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Monday, January 13, 2014

Makers And Takers

I think I've said this before, but, despite the impenetrable minds of teabaggers, it can't hurt to keep trying, even if it's a lost cause.

There's nothing that's ever settled for today's Republicans, whether it's the location of a president's birth, Benghazi, teleprompters, same sex marriage, birth control, you name it. And so it is with the dirty poor, moochers all, back in the news (they never left) since Rs demanded the end of unemployment benefits and their media mouthpieces on Fox "news" and talk radio rallied to their defense.

Ever since Saint Ronald mentioned welfare queens and their Cadillacs, it's been gods' truth that anyone who hasn't a full-time job, who might be a union member, is on food stamps, medicaid, unemployment, or partakes of any other social help programs (exceptions: corporate tax cuts, farm subsidies for corporate farms, tax shelters...) is nothing more than a lazy "taker" from our benighted and martyred job creators.

No one likes the idea of people taking advantage. I get that, and I share the feeling. But what I don't get is this: if Republicans think everyone on food stamps or unemployment should stop "eating bonbons" and get a job, why is it that they've done everything possible to prevent the creation of those jobs?

Of course, they'd argue that they've always advocated the one and only thing necessary for job creation: tax cuts on businesses. Lower taxes, and businesses will start hiring, because it's obvious: hiring has nothing to do with whether there's a market for your widgets. It's all about taxes. No one's buying what you're making? Not a problem. They'd hire workers to sit around eating bonbons if only they didn't have to pay (historically low) taxes. (Let's ignore, for a moment and for all eternity, that when George "they have WMD" Bush lowered taxes enough to blow a balanced budget and skyrocket our debt, it was followed by the worst job losses since the depression. But that's fact. That's history. Who relies on that liberal crap?)

How idiotic. What makes jobs is people buying stuff. What allows people to buy stuff is having money. What allows that is, among other things, raising minimum wage. Maintaining unemployment benefits while looking for work. Paying for training programs. Investing in infrastructure. Making it so that health care costs don't bankrupt people. What good Republican fiscally sound business person would hire more people than s/he needs to make the products they're able to sell, just because their taxes were lowered?

All the things which make jobs, in other words, are those that today's Republicans are absolutely and inalterably against. They have it entirely ass-backwards, which would be easy to see if they didn't already have their heads in there.

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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Baby It's Cold Outside

Mike Luckovich. One of the best political cartoonists.


In case you haven't seen this. Gut wrenching.

The Evolution Of Politics

It's increasingly clear that today's Republican party is the party of science denial. Thing is, for them it's a feature, not a bug: and some are saying it quite clearly:

Robert Knight is a senior fellow/executive director at the American Civil Rights Union and a columnist for The Washington Times. He isn't surprised at the results. 
"Evolution is at the core of a left-wing, secular, humanist worldview that has been breathing down everybody's necks in America for years [and telling us that] the best we can do is empower government to make our decisions for us," he offers. "That leads to terrible things like socialism and communism and fascism and Nazism and the more extreme forms of liberalism in this country." 
The political commentator is encouraged that more Republicans reject the concept – and believes it could bode well for the GOP at election time later this year. 
"The Republicans have a great opportunity to say Look, we've witnessed the collapse of a lot of lies that liberals have told over the years, and now we're questioning evolution more than ever as a basis for people's worldviews," Knight suggests. "So the dynamics are fascinating – and I think they could add up to an enormous conservative revival in this country."
In other words, given their success so far in dumbing down their chosen electorate, the future is looking ever brighter for them; playing the dumb card is going to pay ever greater dividends. And here's the thing. Given the level of credulity and desire for denialism of teabagging Foxophiles, the guy is absolutely 100% right.

America, we hardly knew ye. Before you threw in the towel.

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Wednesday, January 8, 2014



So it seems the insanity known as modern "conservatism" in these parts has infected people north of the border:

Back in 2012, when Canada's Harper government announced that it would close down national archive sites around the country, they promised that anything that was discarded or sold would be digitized first. But only an insignificant fraction of the archives got scanned, and much of it was simply sent to landfill or burned. 
Unsurprisingly, given the Canadian Conservatives' war on the environment, the worst-faring archives were those that related to climate research. The legendary environmental research resources of the St. Andrews Biological Station in St. Andrews, New Brunswick are gone. The Freshwater Institute library in Winnipeg and the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Centre in St. John's, Newfoundland: gone. Both collections were world-class. 
An irreplaceable, 50-volume collection of logs from HMS Challenger's 19th century expedition went to the landfill, taking with them the crucial observations of marine life, fish stocks and fisheries of the age. Update: a copy of these logs survives overseas. 
The destruction of these publicly owned collections was undertaken in haste. No records were kept of what was thrown away, what was sold, and what was simply lost. Some of the books were burned...
One might hope that the reflection in the mirror might shock the US "conservatives" into some sort of self-recognition. Doubt it. I'd guess plenty of them would be cheering them on. Assuming they'd heard about it. On Fox "news."

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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Stripped Bare

Especially if by using the word "modern" he was foreseeing teabaggerism.

And, as usual, their policies do the opposite of what they claim, other than as they affect the uppermost echelons, who neither care nor need to worry about it.

We're All Koch Suckers Now

The estimable CPP wrote about the Koch brothers. He's depressed. With reason aforethought.
... This is two guys -- TWO FREAKING GUYS! -- and they have more power within the American political system than a million earnest volunteers knocking on doors. They have more influence than millions of people writing letters to the editors, protesting outside school boards, or organizing online. This is two guys -- TWO FREAKING GUYS! -- whose politics were formed on what was still considered the Republican fringe in the 1950s and 1960s, and they have more power within the American political system than what's left of the entire infrastructure of organized labor. 
Two freaking guys. 
Two freaking unaccountable guys... 

...Look at the facts. This is what Citizens United hath wrought. It has infested our politics with money-whipped italics.
 Two freaking guys. One election cycle. This is the power or organized money. It has bought virtual plutocracy in state governments from Wisconsin to North Carolina. It has bought itself the single worst Congress in the history of the Republic. And it is growing in strength, and there is nothing anyone can do to stop it, because Citizens United was decided in such a way as to choke off any regulatory solutions, and then Shelby County came along as the hook off the jab and what electoral remedies could not be buried under the floodtide of money could be washed away by the state legislatures in those virtual plutocracies... 

...Honest to blog, I don't know where we go from here. ... There aren't many avenues left by which ordinary citizens can effectively run their self-government any more, and the ones that still exist are narrowing by the day....
Read the whole damn thing, if you haven't just eaten. At least the brothers are doing exactly what they want for their own interests. Their enabling teabaggers, however, over whose eyes they've pulled the pashmina, are, by their willing ignorance, screwing themselves and everyone else; all while thinking they're the last vestige of defense against... something something something... 

How pathetically sad.

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Monday, January 6, 2014

Liberals And Science

I've written before about my problem with a certain brand of liberal credulity toward "alternative medicine." Read The Huffington Post and you'll regularly find a platform for unsubstantiated (refuted, actually) claims by shameless practitioners. Same with liberal anti-vaccination bandwagonism.

And it applies to a knee-jerk tendency to reject the very thought of GMOs, genetically modified organisms, many of which have undoubtedly saved lives and prevented hunger in destitute areas of the planet. I've just read a lengthy article in the NYT about this, in which it sort of parenthetically referred to the same puzzlement:

Scientists, who have come to rely on liberals in political battles over stem-cell research, climate change and the teaching of evolution, have been dismayed to find themselves at odds with their traditional allies on this issue. Some compare the hostility to G.M.O.s to the rejection of climate-change science, except with liberal opponents instead of conservative ones. 
“These are my people, they’re lefties, I’m with them on almost everything,” said Michael Shintaku, a plant pathologist at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, who testified several times against the bill. “It hurts.”
Mainly, the article is about a proposal to ban GMOs in the State of Hawaii, and the attempts of one legislator to educate himself, against the tide, on the subject. Despite learning that the science on the subject is pretty convincing regarding the lack of harm, and, in fact, confirms benefit in many cases, he was, in the end, unable to stem that tide.

Indeed, it's exactly like right-wing climate change denialism, with the same claims of people being bought off by big industry, the unreliability of science, its past errors; the same willingness to ignore data when they conflict with preferences and prejudices.

More evidence of human fallibility, I guess, and of unintelligent non-design. Present company excepted, of course: I recognize the factuality of evolution, anthropogenic climate change, the bogosity of alternative medicine, the value of vaccinations, and don't reject GMO out of hand. I am, in other words, the very model of a modern major generalist.

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Friday, January 3, 2014

He's Gay

Anyone taking bets that this guy is gay?

Former Constitution Party Utah State Senate candidate Travis Meacham began a fast the day after District Judge Robert Shelby released his ruling that Utah’s Amendment 3 prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying is unconstitutional. He is attempting to draw attention to what he says is an option for the state: Nullification. 
“I cannot stand by and do nothing while this evil takes root in my home. Some things in life are worth sacrificing one’s heath and even life if necessary. I am but a man, and do not have the money and power to make any noticeable influence in our corrupt system. Never the less, I can do something that people in power cannot ignore,” the 35-year-old wrote in a blog explaining his intentions...
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Anthem For Our Times

Thursday, January 2, 2014


Change "newspapers" to Fox "news" and right-wing radio, and it's like he had a crystal ball.


I'd have added another branch or two under the lowest "no." Not hard to think of a couple of ways to get to today's religious right, who are neither boring nor generic nor, really, Christian.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Charlie Welcomes The New Year

As usual, Charles P Pierce says it better than I or anyone else could:

... The world, at the age of 4.5 billion years, more or less, and increasingly depending on whether you're a Republican or not, has spun merrily around the sun one more time, and all of us are still here. We survive, but it's an open question whether or not we evolve. 
It's not just the newly quantified stupid inherent in one half of our political system that bothers me, although knowing that an ever-increasing slice of one of our two political parties adheres to the biological principles of 1838 is worrisome. (What, for example, are they teaching their children? What will their children teach their own children? And on and on until half the country is painting in caves again.) It's that it's always been my conclusion that human evolution  -- political, cultural, and social -- is tied to the impulse toward cooperation, or, in the case of our politics, the inclination toward commonwealth. 
Since I opened this pop stand two years ago, and since the Mayans were wrong and it kept going after 2012 closed, I have seen the country take a startling, and alarming, turn away from what I believed was an irresistable movement and, indeed, I have seen people actively campaign against it, conflating in their fevered minds what drove the signers of the Mayflower Compact with the ambitions of the  Bolsheviki, and translating the first three words of the Constitution from "We, The People," to "I Got Mine." ...
There's much more in the article, well worth reading in full. And, by golly, if there were any true conservatives left, it's hard to imagine they'd disagree with most of it.

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