Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Cutting Off The Nose

I have a friend -- I guess we're friends, but we get pretty mad at each other when we talk politics -- who's about as hard-core right wing as it gets. Believes with all his heart that Fox "news" is fair and balanced; loves him some Bill O'Reilly, thinks Ann Coulter is the catty meow. Other than his political blinders, he's a truly good guy, a no-longer-active Marine (not "ex:" he informed me there's no such thing, and I get it), volunteers lots of time to help connect vets with services, loves his family, especially his grandkids. To me he once praised our Democratic senator for her help in setting up a veterans' center in his town, saying she and her staff were the best he'd ever worked with, that they understand veterans' issues like no one else and are committed to providing for them.

He made it clear he'd never vote for her, because she's a Democrat. He also agrees Subarus are great cars (I'd just bought one for my daughter-in-law), and said he'd never drive one, because liberals do. He wasn't kidding.

On one occasion I asked him, as a veteran, as a father and grandfather (characteristics we share), what, specifically, he saw happening if Rs take full control of our government that would be good for him and his. The only thing he could think of was that they'd fix the deficit. I pointed out, of course, that starting with Saint Ronnie every R president has increased deficits and every D has lowered them. "Well, that's what they claim," he said.

He used to be a typically Foxified climate change denier. I challenged him to take an online course with me, produced by the Scripps Oceanic Institute. He surprised me by agreeing; and by the end, he was convinced. Good for him. In his willingness to learn, he's exceptional among most on his side. I've tried to get him to consider that maybe the rest of the stuff he hears on Fox "news" is similarly false. He can't. Or won't.

When I've sent him information about various subjects on which we disagree, he dismisses it as liberal propaganda, no matter the facts at hand. If it comes from the NYT, he won't read it. Liberal media bias, he says. Pre-rejected. Okay.

Still, he's more open than most teabaggRs. When we get together for coffee, we find more common ground than when we fire emails at each other like 122s. But he's absolutely typical otherwise: despite being unable to offer one thing that Rs are for that he sees as positive for the future of his grandkids, other than his mistaken belief that they'd fix the deficit (I've referred him to Kansas; he denies it demonstrates the problem with R policies and doesn't accept the evidence), he'll vote for them till forever. He buys totally into the Ann Coulter description of liberals. (According to her, liberals hate America more than terrorists do; college is for effete wimps, and professors are to be laughed at; liberals hate religion because liberalism is religion to them and they can't stand the competition -- and those are accurate paraphrases. You can look it up.)

Kansas is hardly alone in demonstrating the failures of R economic evangelicism. Texas has cut 5 billion from its school funding. Throughout red states, voter suppression is rampant, denigration of science is everywhere. These things bode obviously ill for my friend's grandkids, and for mine.

Fox "news" is brilliant at keeping its followers' eyes off the ball. While they flog Benghazi and ISIS and Ebola, equate liberalism with hatred of everything good, whip up derision for half the population and victimhood for Christians, claim that enormous wealth inequality doesn't exist and if it does it's the fault of the poor, the real agenda of those to whom it's beholden is carefully kept out of sight. For who is it, really, that benefits from the R lockstep denialism (as opposed to this), from their zeal to cut taxes on the wealthy and on corporations, other than the wealthy and the corporations; who, other than polluters, is better off from eliminating environmental regulations? When has it ever worked to create jobs? More importantly, who gets hurt when the price is cutting funding for schools, for health, for research, for infrastructure? Everyone but the already wealthy.

Everyone, in other words, including the very people whose votes will put Rs in control. Which they'll do out of fear (terrorist immigrants!), out of nastiness (gays!!), out of a false sense of religious persecution (because they'll never understand, let alone agree with, the power of separation), and out of being daily distracted and perfectly propagandized into ignoring the consequences of R economics, even though the evidence is everywhere.

I can't understand it, and I can't stand it.

(Added: in eerily perfect timing, my hero CPP just posted this.)

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Even Dumber Than We Thought

Who knew the fate of the world was in the hands of an astrologer? (Well, we knew, but not the extent of it.)

In his 1988 memoir, Donald T. Regan, a former chief of staff for President Ronald Reagan, revealed what he called the administration’s “most closely guarded secret.”
He said an astrologer had set the time for summit meetings, presidential debates, Reagan’s 1985 cancer surgery, State of the Union addresses and much more. Without an O.K. from the astrologer, he said, Air Force One did not take off.
Nancy, we know, fed Ronnie his lines when he stumbled. Maybe he was just humoring her with the astrology stuff; I suppose we'll never know. But it's of a piece with a guy who had trouble separating reality from movies and who insisted on an economic theory that was bogus on its face.

Leader of the free world, getting his cues from a charlatan. How scary is that?

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Here's What's Coming

Republicans, polls tell us, are about to retake the Senate. As long as there's a Democratic president, nothing much will change, really, other than the end to filling judicial vacancies. For now. But whereas Democrats are trying to rally women around reproductive rights, and Hispanics around immigration, and everyone else by pretending they never heard of Barack H. Obama, they're missing -- for reasons that escape me -- the opportunity to explain one of the most important outcomes if Republicans eventually get control of the whole shebang: economic ruin.

No one mentions how much better the American economy is doing compared to virtually any other Western country. This, of course, is entirely due to measures opposed by literally every R congressperson, the opposite of which they'll pig-headedly and in ignorance of the evidence from across the waters, put in place if they have the chance. Austerity, namely. Refusal to spend on infrastructure, insistence on cutting government and taxes.

Here's a snippet from a sobering article about European economic disaster in The Economist:
Something radical is needed. The hitch is that European law bans many textbook solutions, such as ECB purchases of newly issued government bonds. The best legal option is to couple a dramatic increase in infrastructure spending with bond-buying by the ECB. Thus the European Investment Bank could launch a big (say €300 billion, or $383 billion) expansion in investments such as faster cross-border rail links or more integrated electricity grids—and raise the money by issuing bonds, which the ECB could buy in the secondary market. Another possibility would be to redefine the EU’s deficit rules to exclude investment spending, which would allow governments to run bigger deficits, again with the ECB providing a backstop.
Note that the "solutions" are the opposite of every R plan since the dawn of the dead known as Reaganomics.

There are other issues, even bigger ones: dumping environmental regulations, the end of any effort to address climate change, return to virtual poll taxes, attempts to reverse health care progress. And more. But those things might not be noticeable for a while; and they won't affect the wealthy as much as everyone else. But if our economy reverts to immediate post-Bush? Which is exactly what Rs would do? That'll be felt very soon, and by almost everyone.

Not that the people most at risk are even thinking about it. Because Ebola. Because children at the border. Because ISIS and Benghazi.

Because Fox "news," carrying water for the only people who stand to gain -- for a while, anyway -- from living in a country that prefers to hand them tax breaks instead of fixing its roads, paying for education... makes sure that its viewers haven't a clue.

But who cares, right?

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Arm, The Teachers

The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a tiny woman with no gun.
“I believe she’s actually the real hero. She’s the one that intercepted him with the gun. He tried either reloading or tried aiming at her. She tried moving his hand away and he tried shooting and shot himself in the neck,” Cervantes said.

This time it happened just up the road. I've operated on a couple of the family members of the shooter. Good people. Judy knows the grandfather of one of the victims, has worked with him on committees. It's an unrare tragedy, much closer to home than most.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

And His Words Echoed In An Empty Room

Wow. I came across this piece, written after the reelection of George W. Bush. It's titled "Screw You, America," and it says, immeasurably better than anything I've written, by a factor of immeasurable, everything I think about our current state. It begins...

America speaks with one voice. Unfortunately, it emanates from its ass.— Barry Crimmins 
DON’T FORGIVE my anger. All this needs to be said. And I know that as soon as that stiff-faced to-the-manure-born right-wing lackey in the White House tries to appoint a 21st-century counterpart to Roy Bean to the Supreme Court in a few weeks, more people are going to wish they’d said it sooner. John Kerry fucked up. More important, America fucked up. And the people who fucked up the most — you infamous red-staters — are going to suffer along with the rest of us. To put it in lingo a NASCAR devotee would understand, "Y’all deserve a good talkin’-to." 
John F. Kerry, you’re first...
He continues...
Now, the rest of you ... 
A lot of us effete Easterners want to know: what the fuck is wrong with you?! You voted against your self-interest at every turn (you dumb-asses in South Dakota deserve special credit for voting out one of the most powerful Democrats in the Senate) and re-elected an ignorant cowboy who can’t be trusted to remember a lunch order, never mind run a country. What in the name of God ...?! Wait, it was in the name of God, wasn’t it? Rendered weak and ignorant by a spoon-fed climate of fear, you slack-jawed inbred flatlanders have sought refuge in the traditional twin towers of mindlessness — jingoistic patriotism and fundamentalist religion. God’s on your side. Like hell. Jesus loves us, dammit...
Oh, there's lots more. Both entertaining enough to produce an ironic chuckle and depressing enough to make you want to jump off a bridge, assuming there are any in good enough condition to support your walking out there.

Oh well. Not like any of it is important. Or true. Or that we're about to compound the crazy in less than two weeks, according to polls.

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Monday, October 13, 2014

The Fly In The Ointment

It's coming together like a hurricane and high tide, as obvious as a flood if only teabaggers and the people they love to elect could see it:
... NIH has been working on Ebola vaccines since 2001. It's not like we suddenly woke up and thought, 'Oh my gosh, we should have something ready here,'" Collins told The Huffington Post on Friday. "Frankly, if we had not gone through our 10-year slide in research support, we probably would have had a vaccine in time for this that would've gone through clinical trials and would have been ready." It's not just the production of a vaccine that has been hampered by money shortfalls. Collins also said that some therapeutics to fight Ebola "were on a slower track than would've been ideal, or that would have happened if we had been on a stable research support trajectory." "We would have been a year or two ahead of where we are, which would have made all the difference," he said...
Teabaggerism, as manifested in R budgets, as manifested in the dishonest math of "conservative" icon Paul Ryan, as demonstrated time and again ever since Ronald Reagan first confused a movie script with reality, doesn't work. Can't work. Has never worked.

Oh, in some imaginary world, maybe. A world in which the climate is impervious to our emissions, in which everyone already has a job and no one ever gets sick, and in which roads never get potholes. It works in that world I can almost see from here, the one Sarah Palin can see from her porch and which teabaggers see through their blinders, where all kids are born healthy, well-fed, with money to burn and with internet portals implanted in their brains, giving them ready access to all knowledge.

Over here, though, where our particularly benevolent god, the one who oversaw the writing of our constitution and who speaks only to Republicans and who has a plan for us all, America's god, who knows each of us before we're born, has chosen to put together a few nucleotide pairs, call it ebola and toss it out among us for the grins -- not to mention cancer and Alzheimer's and the occasional mudslide -- and has penciled into his script the tendency of people to maim and mutilate each other, to wage wars and god knows (literally knows, so they say) what else, cutting funds for helping people in order to "pay" (other than the fact that it doesn't) for tax cuts for wealthy people and for more aircraft carriers and tanks we don't need, well, in that world, the real world, there are consequences to such charlatanism.

Over there, beyond the horizon separating fact from fiction, in the place where Fox "news," peddles its propaganda, where they trot out their preferred psychopaths and lunatics daily to tell us how Obama has created Ebola to punish white people for ... Africa or something, where they're mongering fear the way Pike Place Market mongers fish, a sense of irony seems absent entirely. In that parallel universe, and in the minds of their listeners, so carefully cultivated to consume without question, it seems not to have occurred to them that their constant support for those who'd dismantle government and their nonstop efforts to discredit those who'd like to strengthen it might be a factor in the extent to which we are unprepared for such eventualities as god's punishment for gays.

Why, I wonder, does it take the marginal threat of an epidemic here to get people thinking about this stuff, when the ongoing and obvious disaster of climate change has been, and remains, in the "minds" of Fox nation, a myth? Is it because viruses don't care if you're on food stamps?

Or maybe god got tired of teabaggers ignoring his teachings and figured the only way to shake them out of their unchristian selfishness was to tap into their unchristian selfishness.

If you're a teabagger, your guess isn't as good as mine.

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Prayer Works

Just a question of for whom?
A fortune teller faces a December trial after allegedly stealing a combined $16,200 in cash, gold and jewels from two clients.
Delma Aide Pineda-Perez, who works under the name Amalia, allegedly told the clients in August to hand over their valuables so she could pray over the items and make a curse go away, and that she would would return them in a few weeks. The clients told police that Pineda-Perez said they needed to have faith in her. But instead, prosecutors allege, Pineda-Perez moved without leaving a forwarding address.
There's something pretty obvious to point out, here. But I won't.

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Brilliant Idea

It's called "Surgeon General," you fking idiot. And your party has blocked him forever, just for the fun of it (and for fear of the NRA, of course). (Oh, and by the way: have you forgotten your own criticism of Obama for appointing "czars," as if it's some sort of evil plot? Of course you have, you trichobezoar, you.)

The only thing more stupid than John McCain nowadays is the fact that "news" shows keep trotting him out every Sunday like donation cards at a megachurch.

[If you need to torture yourself, the video from which I took the above screen shot is here.]

Thursday, October 9, 2014

We Have Met The Enemy

Here's a chilling recitation of how Republicans -- America- and democracy-lovers all -- are going about accomplishing at the red state level what they'd do at the national level if only they could. Nothing really new in the piece; but it brings it all together as a whole, and makes even more clear the importance of voting in the upcoming election. A very partial sampling:
... The most visible effort is the drive to gut public sector unions, a key source of votes and financial support for Democrats. Wisconsin, under Republican Governor Scott Walker, has led the charge on this front. With support from the Koch brothers, the state has severely restricted collective bargaining rights for public employees, ended mandatory union dues and limited wage hikes to the rate of inflation...
... Perhaps the most controversial action taken by Republicans in states where they have power has been the approval of legislation designed to restrict minority and student voting through photo ID laws and limitations on early voting. In 2013, the North Carolina legislature enacted a major revision of state voting laws that Dan T. Carter, a prominent historian of the South, describes as the “nation’s most extensive effort at voter suppression.” Carter writes:
Every change in North Carolina’s new election code was targeted at reducing potential Democratic voters regardless of race, creed, color or national origin. The state’s VIVA/Election Reform law, passed on a straight party line vote, now requires a government-issued photo ID card to vote, but rejects student IDs, public-employee IDs, or photo IDs issued by public assistance agencies. Other provisions end Sunday voting (African Americans have a tradition on voting after church) and straight-party ticket voting (fifty seven percent of straight ticket votes are by Democrats), shorten the early voting calendar, (Democratic voters are thirty percent more likely to vote early than Republicans), ban same-day registration during early voting, (a majority of same day registrants are Democrats)...
... Democrats today convey only minimal awareness of what they are up against: an adversary that views politics as a struggle to the death. The Republican Party has demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice principle, including its historical commitments to civil rights and conservation; to bend campaign finance law to the breaking point; to abandon the interests of workers on the factory floor; and to undermine progressive tax policyin a scorched-earth strategy to postpone the day of demographic reckoning... 
(Emphasis mine. And it oughta be yours, too! Even -- especially! -- if you're what used to be called a conservative.)

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

When? And What?

At what point, based on which evidence, will the teabagging consumers of Fox "news" realize, much less -- Hannity forbid! -- admit that they've been lied to, played like a bugle from the Revolutionary War, whose values they claim to love but fail to follow at every turn? How many years of non-confiscatory federal gun laws, for example? How many reminders that the only gun law Obama has signed was the one that allowed them in national parks and on Amtrak?

When might they agree that Michele Bachmann's head is filled with canaries and that there never were and never will be FEMA reeducation camps? Or that Obama didn't arrange for 12 year olds to mass at the southern border after being trained as terrorists? Or produce Ebola as payback for slavery?

How many claims by Lindsey Graham over the Foxified airwaves that we're all about to be killed by ISIS (not just Christians, mind you: all of us!!!) before they start to worry about his ability to survive anywhere but under his bed? How often will they peer at Jeanine Pirro before they see her as an insane fear-mongerer whose wild claims are rooted either in some very peculiar personal demons or a shockingly (but not unusually, for Fox) cynical desire for ratings? Will they cower in fear that Bill Clinton's home state is about to come under attack, or start to wonder if their potential leaders are either nuts or without a semblance of ethics?

Might actual data about the Affordable Care Act convince dry-mouthed Foxolimbeckians that it's lowering the deficit, strengthening Medicare, and helping hospitals reduce unpaid care? I suppose not. I guess they'll look at the data like Rush Limbaugh looks at the latest employment numbers.

Sure, we'll always have insane citizens, paranoid and hateful. But only one network gives voice to them, all day, every day. There are precious few that call them out for their ignorance; besides, of those who need to hear it, who listens?

And there's the problem, and the answer to my opening questions: our right wing has become entirely refractory to factual input. Their party is filled with paranoid, cynical, lying, elected and protected lunatics (Bachmann, Palin, Gohmert, King, Broun, Paul, Perry, Jindal, soon-to-be-federalized Hice; and fueled by dishonest, stupid, and demagogic mouthpieces: Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, the Fox and Friends crew, The Four and a half, O'Reilly, Jones, Savage, Cain... need I go on?) whose wild claims are ingested without chewing by voters too comfortable in and dependent upon their own hatreds and paranoid fantasies, too certain their guns and their religion are about to be swallowed up by Kenyan armies and UN-led Muslim commies, too afraid (and too selfish) to face cataclysmic problems of our own making, to even consider that there might be a more rational way to look at things. That those telling them otherwise haven't the slightest concern for the real interests of any American but the most wealthy. Donors, that is.

Oh, and here's an even bigger question, with the same answer: when will the right wing understand that states don't have the right selectively to deny civil rights to a class of people? And that the very reason their beloved founders established the federal court system is precisely to prevent, among other things, states from doing so. The argument, which we're hearing several times daily, from such leading teabags as Ted Cruz (who, un-ironically, conflates refusal to act with "judicial activism") and others equally confused, that "unelected" courts have ignored the "will of the people" misses the point by 180 degrees.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Teach The Children

I've expressed my opinion a few times that the charter school movement is really a Trojan horse for those who'd turn public school into bible school, and for those cynics who understand the value to today's Republican party of a thoroughly endumbed electorate.

Turns out I might be wrong. Looks like it might be as simple as the usual corporate grift: a way of skimming public funds for personal profit.

This is pretty disgusting, and beyond disheartening:

... So that's what the charter school movement has come to in Philadelphia -- a "flip this school" real-estate scheme. Lovely. And that's not even to get into the scandal around the state's "Cyber Charter," an Internet-based school the founder of which is currently on trial for funneling millions of dollars away from the school and into his pockets,  with which he allegedly bought himself a plane, and condos for his mother and girlfriend... 
According to court documents unsealed Thursday by federal officials, Trombetta told one of his former associates, "I can no longer accept cash in bags in a Pizza Hut parking lot." After that, regular payments from Avanti Management Group were sent to One2One, according to the affidavit. The bags of cash, a private plane bough by Avanti but used mostly by Trombetta, a Florida vacation home and a home in Mingo Junction, Ohio, for Trombetta's former girlfriend all were described as perks enjoyed by Trombetta as part of a scheme to siphon money from taxpayers' funds sent to PA Cyber for more than four years. 
They all have so very much to answer for, the people who have decided to enrich themselves by bashing public school teachers and, in doing so, putting the entire philosophy of public education, one of the lasting contributions to society of the American political commonwealth, at serious risk. No wonder they operate secretly, and in the shadows, and beyond the reach of public accountability. They are burglarizing the future for their own profit.

Pro Choice

Monday, October 6, 2014

Boy, Who Coulda Seen That Coming?

So here's an article about the arms used by ISIS:
... It suggests that ammunition transferred into Syria and Iraq to help stabilize governments has instead passed from the governments to the jihadists, helping to fuel the Islamic State’s rise and persistent combat power. Rifle cartridges from the United States, the sample shows, have played a significant role...
So, what's the answer? How do we deal with such nihilistic and savage groups? Or, for that matter, with any group in the Middle East that seems, for a moment or two, to share certain of our "values?"

On the one hand, it seems pretty clear that to do nothing about ISIS wasn't really a viable option. On the other, it's hard not to believe that any intervention on our part would play right into their hands; was exactly what they were hoping to accomplish by broadcasting their awfulness to the world.

Pants on the ground? Been there, twice, done that, with hundreds of thousands. And now the region is in chaos. Chaos which, by the way, was unleashed by Bush's ill-conceived, unprepared, and untruthful war. To think that leaving a few thousand troops in Iraq would have prevented ISIS, whose roots were formed in the backlash to the invasion and whose horsepower comes, in large measure, from those people John McCain and others saw as the good guys in Syria, is to ignore history as recent as yesterday. And, as was the case with al Queda after our invasion of that land in which they didn't exist, ISIS has seen a recruiting boom since we began our bombing.

Many have pointed out that we left troops in Japan, and Korea, and Germany after WWII. I see no similarities: each is a homogeneous nation with few if any internally fighting factions. There aren't people flooding those nations to help in their fight against the infidel Americans. Each, in contrast to the Middle East, is a closed system. And in the decades since the end of the war, there have been virtually no US troops hurt in combat. It's good duty. The regions are no longer defined as combat zones; GIs there don't even get combat pay. Which says something important about the differences.

Safe to say that not everyone in those countries is happy to see US troops there; but in most ways their presence is a major economic positive. In Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East, our troops are considered hated defilers of holy land, and always will be, causing the death of whom is a badge of honor. There's just no comparison.

The politics, if that's the word, of the situation are impossibly complex; Saudi Arabia is playing both sides. Today's "friends" are tomorrow's (and yesterday's) enemies. There seems an infinite pool of people willing to take up arms against us and against each other; and they come there from all over the world, tens for every one we eliminate.

Hard as it is to contemplate, it seems to me the only "solution," if there's ever to be one, is to let history play itself out. The parties in the region have to decide if they want to live in peace or not. "Moderate" Muslims need to decide to act against the radicals. In the long run, the actors can't be us. We've seen how unable we, the US, are to influence matters in "our" direction. Assuming we can identify groups truly committed to democracy, we can offer them logistical aid. More importantly, in order to be seen as something other than desecrators, we could limit our physical interventions to helping improve health care, education (especially of girls and women), agriculture, systems of governance.

Pie in the sky? Probably. Is staying out of the fray the same as ignoring the suffering of innocents? Well, yes and no. I think Bush's war games have been the cause of much more suffering than they, on paper, might have prevented. So what about our military response in Kosovo (and, for that matter, what about our failure to act in Rawanda?) Different. Much different. The former was successful, the latter inexcusable. But, as with the aforementioned post-WWII countries, the targets were specific and identifiable. And limited. The Middle East has no truly good guys; only the sometimes good, the always bad, and the truly horrible. And they're everywhere, borderless.

In my gut, which is more than ample, I believe President Obama understood all this, which explains his hesitancy. But ISIS, evidently understanding the politics of this country more than the average citizen, forced his hand.

[Image source]

Yea, Us!


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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Mystery Solved


Money Is Speech Is Silence

Charles P Pierce has written a thoughtful essay on the effects of money in our political process, and has provided somewhat of a unique take on it, concluding with this:

Citizens United -- and its ungodly spawn, McCutcheon -- have sent our politics into refraction. Nothing is what it appears to be any more. Chozick is right to point out that the result of the decision has been to create candidates drifting ever closer to the ideal ofNashville's Hal Phillip Walker, who campaigns through that film only as a voice from a sound truck. Thanks to John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy, we now have candidates who campaign primarily as characters in television commercials, like Flo from Progressive Insurance, or the two people in the bathtubs for Cialis. Moreover, the flood of money now flows so swiftly and powerfully, and so far underground, that the best you can do is guess what effect it is having on the process. Then, after it's over, ideology gets credit for what money has purchased. The new world of unregulated political money has given an even deeper sense of unreality to the way we govern ourselves. Nothing is as it seems to be. Nothing can be reckoned fully to be genuine. Not the polls. Not the campaigns. Not the candidates. Not even the results, truth be told. Unregulated political money has worked as an accelerant to all the worst aspects of modern political campaigns. More than ever before, our elections have become design contests.
The preceding paragraphs are worth a read, too. As usual he says much better than I ever could something about which I've written and pondered a lot: what explains the obvious fact that the fank and rile of the right wing vote so predictably against their own interests.

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