Monday, August 31, 2015

Speaketh The Man About Whom No One Cares

So Bobby "not an anchor baby" Jindal thinks that the mere mention of climate change is to politicize it.
... But Jindal said while the anniversary is a time "to mourn the loss of loved ones, the passing of a period in our history" and "celebrate those whose future has become brighter in the storm's terrible wake," it is "not a place for politics."
"It is therefore with disappointment that I read of the White House's plans to make this visit part of a tour for your climate change agenda," Jindal wrote. "I understand that your emphasis in New Orleans will – rightly – be an economic development, the temptation to stray into climate change politics should be resisted."...
Right. Because since one of our two main political parties considers it a hoax, it's by definition "political." So there, Obama. Keep your damn mouth shut. And while we're at it, same goes for murder by gun.

So which is the more appropriate descriptor for "Bobby:" Asshole, or idiot?

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Tom Tomorrow

Too good to post only in part. But it's from here.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Donald Lashes Out At Atrocity

So two idiots beat up a homeless Hispanic man in Boston, claiming they were inspired by Donald Trump's call to get rid of such people. Told of the incident, our next president gave those two a piece of his mind, sparing nothing:
Trump, told of the alleged assault, said “it would be a shame . . . I will say that people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again. They are passionate.”
Now there's some fine leadership from a guy who's amazing; because, hey, things things happen when people are passionate about making our country great.

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Failure To Love, Much Less Understand

Interesting, isn't it? Those lovers of the Constitution really don't like it all that much, do they? And the above doesn't even mention their dislike of voting by those with whom they disagree; or the whole concept of innocent until proven guilty; or, worst of all, separation of church and state.

Now here's something amusing: in their panic to out-Trump Trump, virtually all of the R candidates are shoving their way to the front of the line to state their opposition to "birthright citizenship," as defined in the Fourteenth Amendment. It's impressive how facile they are, absent meaningful policy to address actual problems, in coming up with an appeal to the substance-averse. Five minutes ago, no one was talking about it. Suddenly, out of thin air and surely very soon with the help of Fox "news" and the rest of the right-wing screamers and haters, they'll have everyone on their side, the side of denial, nodding in agreement. Okay, fine. If you don't like the Fourteenth Amendment, passed to prevent racial discrimination, get behind an amendment to reverse it. Because who cares about climate change or wages, right? Lost on gay marriage, need a new distraction and ginned-up outrage.

But the kicker is that Donald "Great" Trump believes birthright citizenship, if challenged, wouldn't hold up in court. Wouldn't hold up in court!

Oh, the towering, cosmic, reverberating stupidity of that statement, the bottomless misunderstanding of the Constitution and its clearly enumerated process for amending it. Because, you know, the Constitution, including all its amendments, is, sorta by definition, "constitutional." Laws that run counter to it? Unconstitutional. Things in it? Yep: constitutional.

I'd like to think a leading candidate for the nomination of a formerly credible political party would have at least a minimal understanding of how things work, legally. And I'd like to think those that think he'd be a great president would find this a revelatory bubble-burster.

I'd be wrong, of course.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Mass Debating

Here's my latest newspaper column:
Watching the “debate” on Fox “news” felt like a reverse lobotomy: I may never be able to forget it. If buzzwords were ice cream, global warming would be solved. If gullibility were raindrops, my lawn would be green. Firearms were banned, though. Weird, huh? 
First, a word of praise: the moderators asked good questions. Sadly, they didn’t push when the candidates ignored them, but credit for trying. On the other hand, they made the Fox “news” agenda very obvious. Not a word about climate change. No mention of the influence of big money on our political system, except when the Donald copped to buying politicians. On those issues, greater threats to our country than Iran or ISIS, silence. On its fiftieth anniversary, the gutted Voting Rights Act was unmentionable, but not the evil of women’s healthcare. 
For Ted Cruz, launching an investigation of Planned Parenthood is job two on day one. The economy, education, health care? Not on his inaugural to-do list, because falsehoods are the perfect distraction from what he really plans to do. “Selling body parts” has a good chance to be this year’s Lie of the Year, like “death panels” a while back. Those cynically edited videos show nothing of the sort and nothing illegal; but to get a vote, they’ll say anything. Mike Huckabee won’t be president; for him, it’s about selling books. 
Poor paranoid Ben Carson looked lost. With a goofy smile from a time warp, he name-dropped Saul Alinsky. Checking his Tea Party list, he called for increased military spending. And torture. His tax code will be the Bible, so save ye your bushels of wheat. According to polls he’s the favorite of people who consider abortion the biggest problem we face. I assume they’re fine with his published research using tissue from aborted fetuses.  
Rand Paul was petulant. Evidently he and Chris Christie really don’t like each other. Christie won the who-hugged-whom challenge; in the battleground of ideas, though, it’s a toss-down. 
They all hated the possibility of avoiding war with Iran. Trump proclaimed we “got nothing” from the nuclear agreement. Scientists disagree, as do dozens of generals, admirals, and Israeli security professionals. But those people are, you know, “knowledgeable.” So, no. Negotiating is weakness, the candidates droned, unanimously. It’s about our military, they tumesced. Respect for America only happens when we’re tough guys. The world admires our weapons, not diplomacy. Unlike them, I’ve been to war. To me the president’s recent words make more sense. 
Marco Rubio, pundits (but not polls) tell us, won. Must have been his lies about Dodd-Frank, or disavowing his record on abortion exceptions. But he’s good-looking, and a smooth talker. Seriously. He is. Since there’s little difference among them, why not? Jeb looked worried, and still needs better coaching on Iraq. 
On same-sex marriage, John Kasich was impressive. Afraid that he might have appealed only to the dozen or so remaining true conservatives, he was quick, a couple of days later, to refer to climate change as “an unproven theory.” Nice recovery, sir. That was close. 
I’m no psephologist, but watching Trump I’m thinking we might be seeing performance art. Making not even a pretense of depth, maybe his aim is to show how easy it is to dupe voters with catch phrases alone, and how his voters prefer attitude over substance; that they, in fact, demand it. If it turns out that’s his game and people wise up and then he drops the mike, I’ll take back everything I’ve said about him. 
These things were confirmed: a vote for any of them is a vote to ignore climate change, to allow more money from fewer people to run the country, to abandon our structural needs at home (other than a border wall), defund women’s health care and wipe out consumer and environmental protections. It’s to choose war with Iran, repeal the ACA with no replacement, and, yet again, to re-gift the oligarchy with the pre-failed economics of trickle-down. They may have fudged questions, but on that they were unambiguous. Then Megyn Kelly chose a viewer question: which of them talks to God and what’s He had to say lately.
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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Thursday, August 13, 2015


This might be the most even-handed analysis, by a reporter who's spent much of his career in the region, of the current state of Iraq, as applies to our withdrawal, in response to Jeb Bush's recent claim that it's all Hillary Clinton's fault.

... Moreover, I think the Republican argument that a handful of American troops could have saved Iraq misses a larger point. The fundamental problem was American policy—in particular, the American policy of supporting and strengthening Maliki at all costs.... As Emma Sky, who served as a senior adviser to the American military during the war in Iraq, put it, “The problem was the policy, and the policy was to give unconditional support to Nuri al-Maliki.” (Sky’s book, “The Unraveling,” is the essential text on how everything fell apart.) When the Americans helped install him, in 2006, he was a colorless mediocrity with deeply sectarian views. By 2011, he was an unrivalled strongman with control over a vast military and security apparatus. Who enabled that? 
First, it was the Bush White House. Then the Obama White House—Clinton was a part of that team, of course, but the official with primary responsibility for Iraq was Vice-President Joe Biden. Biden was a firm backer of Maliki, because it was through Maliki that the Americans seemed sure of an easy exit... 
... So, back to Jeb Bush’s claim. What’s the verdict on Hillary Clinton? She played a supporting role in a disastrously managed withdrawal, which helped lay the groundwork for the catastrophe that followed. And that was preceded by the disastrously managed war itself, which was overseen by Jeb Bush’s brother. And that was preceded by the decision to go to war in the first place, on trumped-up intelligence, which was also made by Bush’s brother...
I've said a million times that the chaos that followed the invasion was predictable (and predicted) from the time the idea burbled up from the swamp in Dick Cheney's brain. Perhaps keeping troops there for pretty-much ever would have been the better choice among lousy ones. But in the end it seems the problems that preceded our invasion and were uncorked by it will remain until they themselves, without or in spite of our help, manage to rise above their sectarian hatreds and insanity. It hasn't happened in centuries, and I'd bet it never will.

So our troops would have, inevitably, returned to being cannon-fodder and stokers of even more resentments. And, as awful as things are over there, and as horrific and inhuman as ISIS is, I'm not convinced -- not by a long shot -- that they represent the sort of threat to us, here, that all the R candidates would have us believe. I still think our future is under much greater and more demonstrable threat by climate change, by the usurping of our republic by self-interested plutocrats, by ignoring our enormous needs at home.

That view, most obviously, was not shared by the audience at the recent Republican "debate," to whom Planned Parenthood and (the diminishing number of) illegal immigrants are the monsters under the bed.

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Thursday, August 6, 2015

Keeping Their Eyes Off The Ball

In another perfect example of Republican misdirection aimed at keeping voters looking away from their deceptions, there's the constant harangue over in-person voter fraud, which has led to laws whose real purpose is to keep Democratic voters from being able to vote. (Happily, one such was just declared to be in violation of what's left of the Civil Rights Act. Sadly, that'll stand only till it gets kicked up to the Supremes, at which point, as per John Roberts' view that there's no more discrimination, it'll be upheld.)

Meanwhile, they've managed to keep attention away from their voting machines, generally manufactured by shady R-owned companies, big donors to R candidates. Questions have occasionally been raised but, compared to the non-existent but over-hyped issue of illegal voting, it gets no traction. Meanwhile:

... According to the Wichita Eagle, Wichita State mathematician Beth Clarkson has found irregularities in election returns from Sedgwick County, along with other counties throughout the United States, but has faced stiff opposition from the state in trying to confirm whether the irregularities are fraud or other, less-nefarious anomalies. 
Analyzing election returns at a precinct level, Clarkson found that candidate support was correlated, to a statistically significant degree, with the size of the precinct. In Republican primaries, the bias has been toward the establishment candidates over tea partiers. In general elections, it has favored Republican candidates over Democrats, even when the demographics of the precincts in question suggested that the opposite should have been true...

"Stiff opposition." Gee, I wonder why.

These guys are evil geniuses, I'll give them that.

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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

More Columny

My latest newspaper column:
Inconceivable as it is that a Jewish Socialist could become president, I’m glad Bernie Sanders is running. For one thing, it might stimulate inquiry into what Bernie means when he describes himself as a “democratic socialist.” People toss around political labels like grenades nowadays, refusing to consider solutions (not to mention problems) on their merits, flinging the preferred vulpine epithet to dismiss ideas out of hand. It’s long past time to go deeper. Considering the magnitude of the problems we face, it might already be too late. 
There’s a discussion worth having in the US, without the demagoguery and apocalyptic superficiality that’s become the norm since the election of our Kenyan Muslim Nazi Socialist Communist America-hating terrorist-loving powerless dictator of a president. Why, we should ask ourselves, do Scandinavian countries consistently rank better than we do in so many important categories? Health. Education. Longevity. Crime. Quality of life (whatever that means.) If we’re certain we prefer our economic priorities to theirs, we ought to be able to say why, to say what it is about those countries, given the aforementioned areas of ascendency, that we find objectionable. After all, their versions of socialism – what we might call “democratic socialism” – differ widely from that which, until recently, characterized China and Russia. Private enterprise is central to and flourishes in Scandinavia. Who hasn’t brought a bookshelf home from Ikea in a Volvo? 
In the midst of the Cold War, I spent a summer in the Soviet Union on a language study tour. Khrushchev’s shoe was still reverberating in the UN and race riots were boiling across the US. Even as naïve biology major, and well before the appearance of Gorbachev and Reagan on the scene, I could see that the Soviet system (textbook socialism but never communism) was failing. I saw factories in disrepair, where posters on walls declaring the mortal danger of America seemed to be the only motivation workers had to do their jobs. Only Party members had cars, made in the USSR, more of which were uphooded alongside the road than driving on it. Living in cramped gray apartments in shoddy buildings while their leaders enjoyed comparative luxury, people wearing drab clothes and worn-out shoes pushed others aside to get to the loaves of bread on shelves. Newspapers, meanwhile, featured pictures of US police turning dogs and fire hoses on black people, headlines declaring the evils of Uncle Sam. Absent an existential enemy and constant propagandizing, I concluded, regular people there would never put up with such one-sided austerity. (Shall I enumerate similarities to the playbook of one side of our current political spectrum? Too easy. It’d be like shooting ducks in a fish.) 
If communism is inconsistent with human nature (it is), and if pure socialism creates torpor and eventually rots and collapses under its own weight (it does), we’ve seen (but not learned) in our own experience that unfettered capitalism is unsustainable too; yet every Republican candidate would take us there again. The party that considers itself most aligned with business is the one leading the way down, arguing for widespread deregulation and elimination of all manner of protections for citizens (not to mention the planet.) Sequestering most wealth in the hands of few is inimical to successful capitalism. So is limitless squeezing of workers. It’s history, it’s arithmetic, and it’s obvious. Boiled down, that’s what Bernie Sanders is trying to say. 
If the Senator has any chance to win, and I don’t think he does, I’d like to see him moderate his rhetoric. The point about wealth sequestration can be made without blanket demonization of corporations and the very wealthy; but, as ought to be obvious to everyone not receiving gargantuan tax breaks, or hiding profits overseas, or polluting, or all three, there are myriad ways in which their outsized political influence is changing America for the worse. We need more jobs, safer roads and dams and bridges, a modernized electric grid, better access to healthcare and quality education. Government has a necessary role in that. We know where the money is, and it’d require only a small portion of it to make it happen. Corporations and billionaires would be fine. At the least, Sanders’ campaign might result in talking about it.
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