Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Sounds Familiar

Gotta admit I'm not as optimistic as the guy near the end. With tobacco, the planet wasn't at risk. The stakes for denial were only personal. In the case of climate change, given the intransigence and denialism of our Congressional teabaggRs, by the time they'd wake up -- if they ever would -- it will most certainly be too late for all of us. And they've shown all too well that they're perfectly willing and capable of preventing progress even when the majority desires it.

Likewise, their bible-based antipathy to science means they could be standing in five feet of water and still claim either that it's not happening, or that it's god's will so who are we to interfere...

Out The Window

We had it won, and Obama threw it away. So say the sayers of sooth, all of whom got everything wrong at the beginning, and whose wrongness seems to qualify them as the most sought-after guests on what passes for news shows in the US. And so do all the followers of Foxolimbeckian prevarications. Ignoring, per usual, the facts: the withdrawal date was established by George Bush. When President Obama proposed a residual force, altering that agreement, the Iraqi parliament refused.

In thinking about this -- which I do a lot -- something occurs to me, and I assume it occurred to our president as well. There was only a very small window in time through which to extricate our troops from that ten-year debacle of frustration and death, and he chose it. It was a time that had been established by mutual agreement, before he took office. There was a sort-of government in place, elected sort-of democratically. There was a level of stability exceeding that since the invasion. The American people were for it. The Iraqi government was for it. Even John McCain, who never met a country he didn't want to invade, called it a great victory, giving all credit to George Bush, who belongs on the list of war strategists that includes André Maginot. It was then, or never. Never, ever.

We know Barack Obama was aware that Iraq was a powder keg from the day we chose to invade it. In a massive understatement, he'd called it a "dumb" war, choosing not to include "ill-advised, poorly planned, based on misinformation at best and lies in all likelihood; a war the reasons for which changed like the shamals; ignorant of the realities of that region... etc, etc, ad infinite nauseum." Had we left troops behind, they'd have been exposed (unlike Japan, Korea, Germany) to constant attacks from all sides, hated by all sides as occupiers and infidels; and eventually we'd have been faced with the choice of pulling out under fire or reintroducing another few hundred thousand soldiers, starting all over again with no reason to expect different results.

Barack Obama picked the one time that might have avoided constant war, forever. It was a brave decision, if for no other reason than he knew as well as he knew his country of birth that he'd be branded a quitter, or worse, a traitor, by the right-wing screamers of our airwaves. It was a gamble against great odds. George Bush had cast the die, made success nearly impossible, first by making the worst decision any president has made (other than, perhaps, choosing to go to a particular theater one particular night), and then by refusing to heed expert advice about troop levels and the requirements for managing the aftermath. 

Iraq is a pretend country, tossed together by the British a hundred years ago, inexplicably made to encompass factions at war with each other since mankind rode dinosaurs. It was only under a ruthless dictator that "stability" was maintained. Had we kept troops there, as the people who got everything wrong at the time are saying now, they'd have been there forever, trying to maintain order where none is possible. There was one moment, and one only, in which removing our troops made some sort of sense, while claiming some kind of victory by some kind of definition. In which we could leave and not be seen to do so on the run. In which there was a whisper of hope that, after the immeasurable sacrifice of troops and treasure, breaking our economy, weakening our military, the Iraqis could manage their affairs, find peace among themselves. 

Now it looks like it won't work out well. But after ten years of pointless war at a cost of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars, a war which gave Osama bin Laden more than he could have ever hoped for in his not-cave in Pakistan, our president gave it a try, when the most favorable of unfavorable conditions had come together. I admire him for it. Those that hate him more than they love our country, don't.

Monday, June 23, 2014

World Cup Wisdom

"Soccer is one of those things that the rest of the world cares more about than we do. Y'know, like healthcare, education, gun control…"

---David Letterman

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Tom Tomorrow

Complete cartoon here. If only it were true.

The Spillage Of Filth Continues

Not to be outdone in the firing-up-of-aggrievement approach to statesmanship, Bobby Jindal, clawing at the walls of the pit of obscurity into which he's fallen, takes it to the next level
Jindal spoke at the annual conference hosted by the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a group led by longtime Christian activist Ralph Reed. Organizers said more than 1,000 evangelical leaders attended the three-day gathering. Republican officials across the political spectrum concede that evangelical voters continue to play a critical role in GOP politics. 
"I can sense right now a rebellion brewing amongst these United States," Jindal said, "where people are ready for a hostile takeover of Washington, D.C., to preserve the American Dream for our children and grandchildren. 
The governor said there was a "silent war" on religious liberty being fought in the U.S. — a country that he said was built on that liberty. 
"I am tired of the left. They say they're for tolerance, they say they respect diversity. The reality is this: They respect everybody unless you happen to disagree with them," he said. "The left is trying to silence us and I'm tired of it, I won't take it anymore."

It's not simply that this is the opposite of true, spoken by a guy who'd love to silence the teaching of evolution, whose party demands that no one speak about nor spend money to understand climate change as his city remains among the most endangered by it, that chills me to the bone. It's that he can, without a moment's consideration of the consequences, spray this filth to the people most likely to act on it in the very way he seems to be condoning: armed rebellion. Can he be unaware of the incidents happening across the land, threatening and shooting BLM workers, killing cops, trying to attack courthouses, butching up at Nevada ranches? Does he think such inflammatory rhetoric has no impact beyond furthering his doomed ambitions? Or doesn't he care? (Clearly: he doesn't.)

This goes far beyond the usual right-wing obstructionist and failed-ideas cynicism, and it ought to be evident to everyone, especially what's left of conservatives who still consider themselves part of the process of being American in a democracy. This is wanton. It's perverse and immoral obsession with personal power at the expense of the nation; willingness to inflame the worst in us to gain credibility amongst the most depraved and ill-informed. Bobby Jindal, and those in whose orbit he'd like to spin, are perfectly happy to suborn violence in pursuit of their ambitions, damn the cost.

Oh, he'd say, who me? Pleasant little me, just trying to capture a few fleeting photons of the fading spotlight of fame? Just because I talk in terms of revolution, hostile takeover, and suggest our very way of life is at stake, by a duly-elected (twice) president, in the sort of free and fair election my party would like to prevent? Flinging falsehoods at the people least interested in truth and most hairy of trigger? Me? Or, as they say in Louisiana and on the hated PBS, moi?

This is first-order irresponsibility. It's obscenity. It's truly unAmerican, and is deadly to the democracy it claims to love (while seeking to bypass it.) This is the depth to which the formerly credible Republican Party has sunk. These are truly, horrifyingly, dangerous people, and even if they're too dumb or too blind or perverted by power to see the peril in their chosen method of politicking, there's no excuse for it.

More importantly, there's no excuse for the four or five actual conservatives left in that party remaining silent about it. Shame on them. In their silence is de-facto agreement; and tacit admission that they can't win on positive ideas.

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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Persecution Complex

What is it about religion -- most of them, anyway, and, of late, especially right-wing Christians in the US -- that requires a sense of persecution and martyrdom in its followers? Corollary question: why do they feel the need to impose their beliefs on everyone else; and, when met with resistance in the political arena, why do they equate that with attacks on their faith?

I think I know the answer to the second half: for some people, their need for faith of the most rigid kind demands that whenever they open their eyes there's no sign of discordance, anyhow, anywhere. To the extent that others might believe differently from themselves, they'd feel threatened. Their kind of faith is about maintaining, at all costs, walls between themselves and their fears.

Well, I know the answer to the first part, too. Here's Ted Cruz, on a political mission, fiercely fanning the fires of the frightened faithful for the furthering of his fevered fakery, fomenting fear like the fker that he is:
"The idea that our federal government is going after our religious liberty now is just astonishing and heartbreaking," Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas told the crowd gathered at the Omni Shoreham Hotel. "No time in our nation's history have we seen threats like these to our religious liberty." 
Cruz said he was "honored to defend" the display of the Ten Commandments on the Texas state Capitol grounds, the Pledge of Allegiance and a veterans memorial cross in the Mojave Desert. .. 
... The tea party favorite said religious liberty is under attack abroad — and he blamed the Obama administration for that, too. 
"We see our foreign policy collapsing every week as the world is getting more and more dangerous," Cruz said. As a result, "Christians are being persecuted in stunning numbers."
(Conveniently forgetting that before Bush's invasion, Iraqi Christians and those in other parts of the region were treated much better than after.) It's such a great rallying cry that of course Mr Cruz is hardly alone:
Earlier, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio — who, like Cruz, is on a short list of possible candidates for the 2016 GOP nomination — urged attendees to protect family values. 
"We must reinvigorate the role of values in this country," Rubio said. "The good news is we still have time to reclaim the American dream."
Oh wow. The guy is nothing if not original.

Republicans have been using this trick very effectively ever since Ronald Reagan began their scorched-earth policies of cutting taxes on the rich and paying for it by screwing everyone else. What better way to keep those most affected by such upside-down policies in line than by playing on their inborn sense of religious persecution? How more effectively to hide the fact that their polices are as unChristian as they can be, than by getting their voters to look fearfully over their shoulders instead of straight ahead? 

Well, of course it works. Even as our country becomes ever more theocratic, with more and more legislation on state and national levels promoting religious-based ignorance and prejudice, right-wing leaders claim their religion is under attack.

It's kinda the opposite of their much-loved "stand your ground" laws, isn't it? As they march into our public squares, our schools, our bedrooms, our uteri, waving their bibles and calling us unAmerican and threatening to their values, if any of us stand up and say, hey, wait a minute, you're scaring us and we don't like it, they say back off, you have no right to protect your space. If you don't want our religion in your life, too bad for you. Protecting your religious views is the same as an attack on ours.

And it's simply foolish to expect their voters to wake up and see how they're being played. It's their nature to want to feel aggrieved. It erases the need to feel guilty about their short-sighted selfishness.

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Possibly The Most Horrible Pair On The Planet

So Dick "Dick" Cheney and his spawn have penned a screed, lapped up like bags of money by the Wall Street Journal. Forget the universal shame that anyone gives them a platform to say anything, anywhere, about anyone. Just take in (while sitting down) the monstrosity of their blackened (in Dick Dick's case, literally) hearts when they can write, evidently without a second's introspection, a sentence such as this:
“Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many,” The Cheneys wrote in their op-ed, published by the Wall Street Journal.
Really. They said it. Not -- if you can believe it -- in reference to George W. Bush, every one of whose adventures and policies left the our country, and others, in ruins.

And then, rising to peak rancidity, they wind up with this:
President Obama is on track to securing his legacy as the man who betrayed our past and squandered our freedom.”
One expects this sort of blinkered hyperbole and unfettered hatred from the Foxolimbeckians of the world. The willing ignorance, the deliberate mischaracterizations, the endless repetition of demonstrated falsehoods, of which their piece is full. But at one time this guy was vice fking president of the US. How can we have elected such a man? For that matter, how can a would-be president have selected Sarah Palin, a Cheney clone only dumber, to be his running mate?

Don't you think a person elevated to that level of political hierarchy might think twice before spewing such rhetoric? Consider it a level of discourse not exactly healthy for the common weal? Dick Cheney made his torture-loving evilness clear when he was in office. Hard as it is to imagine, he's become even more so in his dotterage. And daughterage. He should be banned from all airwaves, have a dirty sock stuffed in his mouth, and be left on the side of a road. In Baghdad.

I don't particularly like the guy.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Question That Answers Itself

In one of the most hilariously un-self-aware comments I've ever received, a reader deposits this beauty on Surgeonsblog, where I still take and respond to comments:
Full caps. Love it. Rambling spewage with no reference to anything in particular. Check. Name-calling as argument. Got it covered. And he wonders why I stopped accepting comments? Comedy perfection!

I'll thank him, though, for motivating me to repeat what I said when I stopped allowing comments: I'm happy to engage in conversation with whomever is willing to take the time to email me directly. It only takes a moment to find the address here. And, as I've said, if someone makes a particularly worthy point, yea or nay, I'll include it in a future post.

Fact is, I have nearly daily conversations with one of the more, uh, colorful naysayers from way back when. Happy to. It's just that I got tired of wasting my time, and that of my readers, with the sort of clueless, if entertainingly laughable, person who squatted and left the above. Anonymously. Need I say?

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Wise Men

Why, in the name of you name it, are any of the original architects (and they compare to real architects the way a kid playing pickup sticks does) of the Iraq war given air time anywhere, let alone our so-called "mainstream" media?

If there's any justification at all, it ought only to be to demonstrate how utterly and disastrously wrong they were about everything going in. Everything. And then to play such comments as these, and to ask why the fuck we should listen to anything they have to say, ever again, unless it's an abject apology and and offer to spend the rest of their lives in prison, naked, on live TV.

There are other differences that suggest that peacekeeping requirements in Iraq might be much lower than historical experience in the Balkans suggests. There's been none of the record in Iraq of ethnic militias fighting one another that produced so much bloodshed and permanent scars in Bosnia along with the requirement for large policing forces to separate those militias. And the horrors of Iraq are very different from the horrific ethnic cleansing of Kosovars by Serbs that took place in Kosovo and left scars that continue to require peacekeeping forces today in Kosovo.
And this gem:

These are Arabs, 23 million of the most educated people in the Arab world, who are going to welcome us as liberators. And when the message gets out to the whole Arab world, it's going to be a powerful counter to Osama bin Laden… It will be a great step forward.
The prevarication, the misunderstandings, the claims of how easy it'd be, were dead wrong. Thousands of dead, wrong. Well, except for this:
Once you got to Iraq and took it over, took down Saddam Hussein’s government, then what are you going to put in its place? That’s a very volatile part of the world, and if you take down the central government of Iraq, you could very easily end up seeing pieces of Iraq fly off: part of it, the Syrians would like to have to the west, part of iteastern Iraqthe Iranians would like to claim, they fought over it for eight years. In the north you’ve got the Kurds, and if the Kurds spin loose and join with the Kurds in Turkey, then you threaten the territorial integrity of Turkey. 
That was Dick "Dick" Cheney explaining why they didn't march on into Baghdad after the Kuwait victory. What do you suppose had changed (other than having become CEO of Haliburton, that is) about the internal dynamics when he said this:

What do you think is the most important rationale for going to war with Iraq?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I think I’ve just given it, Tim, in terms of the combination of his development and use of chemical weapons, his development of biological weapons, his pursuit of nuclear weapons.
MR. RUSSERT: And even though the International Atomic Energy Agency said he does not have a nuclear program, we disagree?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: I disagree, yes.
Or, in the same interview, this:
MR. RUSSERT: If your analysis is not correct, and we’re not treated as liberators, but as conquerors, and the Iraqis begin to resist, particularly in Baghdad, do you think the American people are prepared for a long, costly, and bloody battle with significant American casualties? 
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I don’t think it’s likely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators.
WMD, al-Queda camps, creating a paradise of democracy and America-love (coupla bases tossed in and oil alplenty). Kristol, Krauthammer, McCain, Graham, Wolfowitz, Feith, Paul fking Bremer, ferchrissakes!! All trotted out -- and not just, as expected, on Fox "news" -- as goddam oracli of Delpheri.

A well-informed electorate. By whom, pray tell? When this is what passes for reportage, for incisive investigation of the problems of our time, for addressing the complexities of impossibly complex situations (well, at least Jon Stewart does), by what magic will Americans come to their senses and demand better? If not now, when? How about putting this guy on TV? Instead of these disgraced ones?

It's become obvious as Ann Coulter's clavicles that we have only ourselves to blame. And by "ourselves" I mean those flocking to Fox "news" and right-wing radio for their preferred version of truth. We don't want complicated answers. We don't want to do the hard work, or to think beyond our immediate selves. Not enough of us, anyway. The teabagging idiots in Congress didn't just show up. They were elected. By voters. In America. Those news shows didn't get this way because of poor ratings. Fox set the standard, got the viewers, and the rest are following its lead to rake in the advertisers. And we (not me) watch this shit and consider it useful.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Parts About Stoning?

If you had to name one book that made you who you are today, what would it be? 
At the risk of appearing predictable, the Bible was and remains the biggest influence on my thinking. I was raised reading it, memorizing passages from it and being guided by it. I still find it a source of wisdom, comfort and encouragement.
So says Hillary. Oh well, it's a Christian nation, after all.

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Monday, June 16, 2014

Prepare To Be Shocked

Kindest Cut?

I grew up Jewish (all sides of all generations, as far back as it goes), and bear the -- let's call it -- physical evidence. Got no problem with it. And, other than the fact that I'm no longer a believer, I'm proud to consider myself Jewish.

Suddenly I have a grandson, and he's about to undergo the, uh, process, and not much out of religious concerns. With which I'm entirely okay, for a number of reasons including the mild medical ones. Having cared, during my urology rotations in my surgery training, for a few guys with phimosis (don't click), paraphimosis (don't click), and balanitis (definitely don't click), I'm thinking long run...

However. Thinking of the little guy (the grandson) having to feel pain makes me sad. This is magnified immeasurably by thinking of his parents thinking of it. He's such a sweet baby; content, cute, cuddly, and calm. This'll be his first encounter with something unpleasant (although he doesn't seem to like being changed all that much. [Hey, hey, it took me half a day to produce that...])

On the other hand, I did innumerable hernia repairs on infants not much older than he, and never had an emotional problem with it. I'm sure the parents did, and the baby must have experienced some pain (although I made a really teeny incision and never touched any muscle). I'm not among those who believe circumcision inflicts lasting trauma, any more than does a hernia repair. One of my favorite bloggers considers it male genital mutilation and there's no input he's received that has or will ever change his mind. (Similarly, his dislike of the Clintons knows no bounds.) Like so many of the most firmly-held beliefs, there's no way really to test his claims; but there is, as mentioned, some medical data supporting the doing.

This little guy has the most loving parents imaginable. I know it'll hurt them; but the love they give him will be, by far, the dominant factor in his future. Along that path, this will be a most minor event.

We were there for his birth. I'm glad not to be there for this.

[Followup, 6/19: it went fine. He's fine.]

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Friday, June 13, 2014

Putting Up

Call me crazy. You wouldn't be the first.

Here's what I'd love to see happen: President Obama says to McCain, and Graham and Boehner, who are among the most strident in demanding we get our invasion on again, bring back the band, "Okay. You got it. Get together and gimme a plan. We'll put your name on it. Grab a general or two if you want. Lay it out, detail for detail, contingency for contingency; tell the world exactly what your goals are, how to achieve them, when we'll know we've done it, and what to do afterward. Lay it on the line. Commit to it, tell the troops and their loved ones how you'll support them, pay for them, care for them when they get back, the ones that do. Do that, and I'll announce where the plans come from, who's responsible -- namely you three (and sure, toss in Doug Feith if you'd like -- and I'll do it."

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Pointing Fingers

As Iraq descends into civil war, as was inevitable from the day Dick Cheney whispered into the tunnel to George Bush's empty head, we know that the right will (has already begun to) blame it all on President Obama's decision to end US military involvement. (For an excellent response to that kind of mendacity, read this.) And I suppose if you believe the history of the war began sometime after 2009, you could make the argument. After all, it was either pull out, after more than ten years of death, treasure, and futility, or commit tens of thousands of US troops to remain until Jesus returns to sort it all out. So damn Obama for following the terms of an agreement signed by George Bush in 2008.

But this result was evident to everyone but George Bush and the neocons who pulled his strings, from the outset. It's why George's dad, with the agreement at the time of Cheney and Powell, demurred when urged to march right on into Baghdad from Kuwait. And if any other outcome was remotely possible after Bush pulled the trigger on a half-loaded gun, it ended when Rumsfeld et al buried the "Future of Iraq" project deeper than Saddam Hussein in a spider hole. Didn't fit the narrative running between their ears. Said it was a complex and expensive process, requiring that nation-building stuff which Condi Rice said -- rightly, it turns out, if in another context -- the US doesn't do. Not well, anyway.

So. Nope. You can't blame a building collapse on the people called in to shore it up, when it was built on quicksand with material that wasn't up to code. And much as our insaner and insaner right wing would have it, you can't blame Iraq's current state on Obama unless you're down with the idea of keeping our forces there forever, over the objection of Iraq's government, figured it was part of the plan all along, believe we should fight forever when their own army refuses to; or unless you can come up with a convincing approach that would have prevented a nation of permanent tribal hatreds and religious incompatibilities, built on a culture of grievance, honor killings, revenge, and repression, from doing exactly what it did when its admittedly ruthless dictator was taken down. For no reason involving the security of the US.

The opposite, in fact.

And John McCain thinks we should hitch up and do it all over again. Because this time, well ....

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Party Lines

Still gonna vote for them? Still? To whose benefit? Huh? Is there nothing they can do, teapeople, to make you see the light?

Follow The Money

And so it all comes down to the R billionaires, yet again, even if, in the case of the guy who beat Eric Cantor, it takes a little digging to find it. Which Charlie has done:

The most revelatory piece about how Dave Brat came to be the likely new congressman from the Seventh Congressional District of the Commonwealth of Virginia ... undermines the emerging character of Dave Brat, Ordinary Joe. A lot of the credit for his upset is going (rightly) to various radio hosts who took the payola from wingnut sugar daddies as described by Ken Vogel and MacKenzie Weinger. Mark Levin took almost $800,000 from Americans For Prosperity. Laura Ingraham was on the arm, too. Brat also seems to owe his job to Cato Institute president John Allison. [Blogger's note: Hannity took even more $$.]
The funding for the program came from John Allison, the former CEO of BB&T (a financial-services company) who now heads the Cato Institute. The two share an affinity for Ayn Rand: Allison is a major supporter of the Ayn Rand Institute, and Brat co-authored a paper titled "An Analysis of the Moral Foundations in Ayn Rand." ... 
In 2008, Allison was forced by the evil federal government to take some TARP bailout money. ... he got busy and set up the BB&T Moral Foundations Of Capitalism Program, which is how Brat's gig at Randolph-Macon came to be. In brief, Brat's job ... was financed in some way or another by the same vast lagoon of plutocratic payola with which we've all become sadly familiar. This is not going to be prominent in the mainstream analysis of what happened.
The only people who don't seem to know that the Tea Party is about as grass-roots as a yacht factory are the teabaggers themselves. From its inception that group has been bought and paid for by a handful of very wealthy people, whose interests are in exact opposition to the well-meaning but purposefully misinformed average Dicks (and Janes) of the movement. So it'll be interesting to see what this guy does when he gets to D.C. Wittingly or un, it sure looks like he's beholden to and programmed to do the bidding of the same self-interested and cynical plutocrats currently running everyone else in the R party nowadays.

For those who can stand it, there's more detail here.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Indispensable For All Americans

The full cartoon is here. I'd suggest going there, studying it in full, downloading it, copying it in wallet size, and carry with you at all times. Looks like you'll be needing it.

Eric Can't

I'm no political pundit, and I have no clue what goes on in the backwaters of the reddest parts of Virginia; but in thinking about the crushing of Eric Cantor and dancing on his grave that happened in yesterday's Republican primary there, I have a few random thoughts trying to congeal in my head.

1) I've always considered Eric Cantor the epitome of today's R party negativity and dishonesty. He pretty much put his name on the strategy, from day one of Obama's presidency (literally: day one), of deliberate obstruction of everything the president proposed, no matter the merits or impact on our country.

2) If Eric Cantor, who never missed an opportunity to diss the president and to stand in the way of immigration reform (yep, he did, and yet some say it was his "weakness" on the matter that did him in) isn't conservative and obstructionist enough for today's Rs, then that party really is heading over a cliff.

3) FWIW, when Cantor won his previous primary he got around 200,000 votes. The guy who just beat him got around 30,000. Whatever that means, it seems important is some way or other. [Correction!! Don't know where I got that 200,000 number. Maybe it was in a general election. Last time around he got around 37,000 votes. There actually was increased turnout in this primary compared to 2012 but it still was around 12% of registered voters.]

4) If the guy who beat Cantor is the new ideal of the R party, if the backing of such thoughtful luminaries as Laura Ingraham is what it takes to get elected, what must potential R presidential candidates be thinking? After all, that guy, it turns out, is okay with these guys. How much further to the right can they go? How much more simplistic and unworkable must their proposals become?

5) I've been saying for years that today's R party has gone insane, that its policies and prevarications are the entire opposite of what a viable future demands. Assuming that there remain some true conservatives out there -- thoughtful ones, ones who consider themselves part of a complex fabric and who still believe in give and take and that the most workable solutions are a distillation of good ideas from all sides, carefully boiled down with more in mind than personal power and whatever it takes to get money from oligarchical donors -- then I'd have to say this bodes very ill for them and the future of what's left of their points of view.

6) This result may be a cause for great joy among the hardest of the hard core, the people who consider Ms Ingraham an icon of intellect and a pointer toward the truth; but -- and I hope to hell I'm right about this because if not, well, we're so far beyond hope in this country that the only thing we'll need is shovels -- I'd have to say it's a harbinger of good news for Democrats and, by obvious implication, for the country. People in whatever gerrymandered district from which Eric Cantor oozed into the political world are, one must assume, perfectly happy with theocracy, science-rejection, ending public education, denying climate change, and barring the doors to immigration. But if they represent the "thinking" of a majority of Americans... well, the thought is just too horrifying to contemplate. Because if they get their way, these guys will be winning the spelling bees of the future. And by "future" I mean the end of America.

7) The inevitable response of R party leaders to this, namely feeling the need to court the hardest of the hard core -- Open Carry patriots and militias and Cliven Bundy analogues among them -- will, or at least ought to if there's an ounce of hope for the rest of us, red and blue and purple, make a Republican presidency virtually impossible. And if I'm wrong about that, rational people may as well update their passports.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

What They've Wrought

As the incidents continue to pile up -- "sovereign citizens" taking up arms and killing people, Cliven Bundy "revolutionaries" killing cops, the politically aggrieved shooting up campuses -- you'd think at some point those in the right wing who lionize such criminals as Bundy and give air time to those who flock to his ranch, armed to the teeth to fight off the black helicopters (and by "those" I mean Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh and most everyone else breathing our air and exhaling propaganda they call "news") would begin to have second thoughts. About whipping up paranoid fevers and hate-filled incoherence in those most susceptible to it. In the name of ratings. In the service of a party gone mad.

At some point, a rational person might think, even the most shameless grifters (and by "shameless grifters" I mean Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh and most everyone else breathing our air and exhaling propaganda they call "news"), assuming they had an ounce of common sense and a grain of actual love of the country for which they claim exclusive love, might be given pause. Stop to wonder if maybe, in appealing to the worst of which humans are capable, they're causing harm. Connect dots big as softballs between their rhetoric, their trotting out of conspiracy theories and theorists, flooding the airwaves non-stop with rank hypocrisy and outright lies, and the ginning up of paranoia among the gun-toters, the crazed imaginings of wrongdom, to be righted not by adhering to the principles in our founding documents -- voting by educated citizens -- but by tumescent dreams of martyrdom in coffee shops and family restaurants and shopping malls across the land. And the occasional courthouse.

I doubt it. No sign of it.  Because such people are not such people.

I'm about as afraid of actual revolution as I am of black helicopters. I don't care how many guns these people are stockpiling against some imaginary invasion of UN tanks driven by Kenyan Muslims; they're no more capable of starting an effective uprising than they are of spelling "Morons." That's not the problem. What they are capable of is killing innocents and, increasingly, they're doing it. Cops. Bystanders. Easy targets. Maybe even a couple of redblooded rednecks, in the crossfire. Could happen, eventually. Think that'd get someone's attention? Or would they just claim some sort of false flag operation directed by the traitor in the White House? Because these minds, such as they are, are permanently closed.

There was a brief moment when some lost soul (probably now with a lost job) in the NRA actually spoke out against those Open Carry nutjobs flashing their penis analogues in public places; lasted about as long as it takes a kid to find his uncle's loaded gun and kill his brother. Because to the right wing, such people are heroes. Patriots. Americans as only they can be. So the sad fact is, the only people whose voices might actually cause reason to enter those crazed cranii and push out the voices therein are the very ones who implanted the paranoid fantasies in the first place. You know who I mean; I've parethesized them twice.

The chance of that happening, of those destructive egocentric charlatans wising up and cooling down their rhetoric? Less than zero. They've got too much of a good thing going, too many people who consider them their best source of news, making too much money whoring out their souls.

Thanks to those whose living depends on whipping up fear and loathing -- and that includes the idiots they elect, or hope to, when they do cast a ballot -- we're just screwed, is all there is to it.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Couldn't Resist

Since ending my weekly column in our local newspaper several months ago, I've written a few articles but never sent them in.
For some reason, I couldn't resist weighing in again, so here's what appeared today:

My hypocrisy alert is always on, but it’s been ringing off the hook lately, and I just have to share, as sensitive people like to say. The alarm was getting pretty loud as Congressional Republicans regaled us with their outrage over the VA problems, hoping their shouting would drown out our memories of how many times and over how many bills they voted no to increasing funds and services for veterans. It’s sort of working, because I’ve pretty much lost count.

I don’t minimize the issues with the VA; and no matter how underfunded and understaffed they might or might not be, there’s no excuse for trying to hide and falsify records. Rs have been after General Shinseki’s head ever since he called the powers that were on their claims it’d take only a handful of troops to stabilize Iraq; and whereas I think he’s a straight-up guy who managed to fix some things, but not enough, it seemed inevitable that he’d lose his job over it. Because that’s how it works when Congress is worried someone might blame them for the effects of their own penuriousness. I’ve said a million times, and written it in this very paper, that it’s appalling how we like to give tearful lip-service to our troops, salute our flag and slap stickers on our bumpers, while refusing to support them in the way they most urgently need: with funds and services.

Meanwhile, if there’s been hypocrisy involved in that scandal, Republican reaction to the release of prisoner Bergdahl has been transcendent, reaching levels of unctuousness that’s almost admirable in its brazenness. Switching directions like a Seahawks running back, they’ve scrubbed their websites and social media accounts of all mention of the times they demanded the White House use “all means possible” to get him back, of their singsonging that we don’t leave troops on the battlefield; and of their initial expressions of support on his release. Why, even as they fawned over that Duck Dynasty guy, putting on false beards when interviewing him, Fox “news” has suddenly decided Bergdahl’s dad looks like a Taliban. Maybe there are subtleties of beardedness with which I’m not familiar, having produced something pretty pathetic myself when I tried to grow one. But on Fox, it would appear, whiskers have political implications undecipherable to the rest of us, the distinctions between which are as yet unexplained.

Now, I acknowledge that although all the information isn’t in, and it’s changed a few times already, the man might not be the poster child for prisoner exchange. And people who think the deal was a bad one have a point. (Remember when the Israelis traded a thousand prisoners for one of their soldiers, though?) On the other hand, those Taliban people were at Gitmo for twelve years. We know the government puts transmitters in our fillings, right? So maybe those guys are bugged. Maybe they’re programmed to work for us. In any case, would you trust someone who’d been in custody of the enemy for that long? John McCain was in Hanoi for a lot less time, and look what he tried to do to us. (Two words. The first one is Sarah.) Whatever the men might have been before they were imprisoned, it’s hard to see them being sent back to the front lines anytime soon. And how about Oliver North, suggesting we might have negotiated with terrorists. Four words, Ollie: Iran. Contra. Missiles. You.

But let’s be real: we negotiate with enemies of all sorts, all the time. It’s how wars end, isn’t it?

Surely the questions surrounding Bergdahl’s disappearance and capture were known to the president, and to those Republican representatives demanding his release before it happened. So maybe there are workings behind the scenes that we’re yet to find out. Maybe the president thought that, as when he used a conservative model for health care reform, he’d get praise for doing what they wanted. Fat chance. Meanwhile, I don’t know which bothers me more: the troubling questions about the situation, or the speed with which everyone on the right changed their tune when they decided they might get more mileage out of screamery. After all, they’ve done their fifty votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and they’re approaching double digits in hearings on Benghazi and on the millions of dollars spent in those empty exercises, and they’re still in the dumpster, public-opinion-wise. The old dogs need a new trick.

Friday, June 6, 2014

The End Point

The important part of the video is at the end. I've thought the same thing: is it inevitable that someone will feel threatened by these microphallus compensators and violence will ensue?

Okay, so some people (erroneously) think their Second Amendment rights are under threat. But what is it with these "Open Carry" guys prancing around and into public gathering places flashing long guns? Up for what shortcoming are they making? Whom, other than themselves, do they think they're impressing?

Jeebus. This country has gone so far over the edge that it's no longer in sight. We're truly a nation of idiots, and I can't see any way back.

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