Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Carson The Confused

Here's my latest newspaper column:
You know what they say: running for president isn’t brain surgery. And now a renowned neurosurgeon is demonstrating that getting through medical school must not be, either. (I made it, after all.) But how is it that he, plus every Republican doctor in Congress, manages to be so uninformed about science, and so much else? And yet I’d bet they’ve all prescribed antibiotics. Rote learning gets a bad rap, evidently. 
Ben “Let’s end divisiveness” Carson made his Tea Party bones when he called Affordable Care the worst thing since slavery. Upping his “let’s be nice” ante, he compared homosexuality to bestiality; then, approaching apogee, come-together-wise, diagnosed President Obama as a psychopath, later confirming he meant it literally. Taking tea to the boil, he fears cancelled elections, considers evolution a plot foisted on Charles Darwin by Satan, and calls the big bang a fairly tale. “Political correctness,” his new favorite term, is how he deflects criticism. That’s some mighty fine undivisiveness right there. 
But he was just getting warmed up. Admired for dismissing prejudice as an excuse, Dr. Carson demonstrated what he meant by stating he wouldn’t want a Muslim president. Islam, he says, is inconsistent with the Constitution, and for once, he’s right. Because in America the same applies to all religions, especially the version of Christianity embraced by most Republican contenders, including Carson and Holy Mike Huckabee, who has revealed that God’s law takes precedence over our constitution. Specifically, he preaches ignoring decisions of the Supreme Court when they’re not “right,” where, presumably, “right” is defined by any person’s particular choice of the various interpretations of the various translations of various versions of the Bible. As a Christian it’s your call when the Constitution applies, sermonizes Messianic Mike. That’s about as incompatible as it gets. I assume he’d leave out the “preserve, protect and defend” part of the presidential oath. 
Kindly Doc Carson speaks of respecting the law, declaring Islamic constitutional incompatibility, while ignoring Article Six, which proscribes religious tests for office. But, again, he’s right, if unintentionally. Any religion becomes incompatible with the presidency when it’s pumped from the heart to the body politic. When Carson proposes replacing the tax code with the Bible, there’s a compatibility problem. When he claims this is a “Judeo-Christian nation,” there’s a compatibility problem even though most of his party followers agree with him. Even Saint Ronnie understood the wrongness of such thinking, as did Barry Goldwater, the founder of what was once considered, unironically, “modern conservatism." 
Nowadays if you don’t blast your Christianity like a bazooka, forget about the Republican nomination. Donald Trump, not entirely dumb, has begun lugging around a Bible after letting it slip that he’s never sought God’s forgiveness. (There’s a Jewish contender for the Democratic nomination; he doesn’t honk that Shofar, though, because he considers it, as he should, irrelevant. Not so those other guys, testifying nonstop, to the delight of their enraptured voters.) 
Is stoning your disobedient son compatible with the Constitution? Do “war presidents” follow Jesus’ call to turn the other cheek? How many Republican candidates subscribe to His views on charity? In a rare Biblical reference to Christian government, Acts 2:44-45 bespeaks communism, not capitalism. 
There’s one Muslim in Congress. Far as I know, he’s never offered a bill based on Sharia law, while Christian legislators who’ve proposed Bible-based legislation are legion, and not just in Congress. A city council in Arizona wants only Christian prayer at their meetings. Several red states have proposed making the Bible their state book. Constitutional incompatibility? Not to “values voters,” who, when it comes to their – and only their -- religion, consider the document irrelevant. 
People who don’t understand how separation of church and state protects both won’t change. Most Republicans consider this exclusively a Christian nation while, for religious reasons, rejecting the science of climate change, evolution, sexual orientation, and more. The thought of a president with a mind closed that tight, Christian or otherwise, scares me to death; I’d vote a hundred times for Kareem Abdul Jabbar before I’d vote once for Carson, who, emulating Palinesque down-dumbing, sneers at those “highfalutin scientists.” I would, that is, if it weren’t unconstitutional.
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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

What's Up With Carly?

Carly Fiorina is a strange person, and not just because while ruining Hewlett-Packard she got them to ship her yacht across the county. Maybe she's a literal example of a pathological liar. Whatever the reason, it seems that pretty much everything she says is false; so the only question is whether she's a deliberate liar, inexplicably poorly-informed and incurious, or if she actually is able to ignore reality even when it stares her in the face and thinks she's telling the truth.

I suppose it doesn't matter, in that there's no explanation that excupates her or makes her qualified to be president of the US.

The list of her prevarications is long; the Planned Parenthood video lie, if Reaganesque in its confusion between memory and reality, is beyond bizarre: it seems the video she claims to have seen does indeed exist, sort of. However it shows only part of what she claims (not the "harvesting" b.s.), was from spontaneous abortion, not an induced one (chalk another infanticide up to God, the greatest abortionist of all time), and the woman whose premature birth it was has acknowledged what is and isn't, but has allowed the video to be used anyway, because she's "pro-life," so why not? Will the time come when Ms Fiorina gets it and/or acknowledges it? Will her supporters?

Meanwhile, her latest might be even worse: she likes torture, she says, because, despite irrefutable evidence to the contrary, it kept us safe. So, is that a blatant pander to the Foxified, a deliberate lie, or a reflection of unwillingness or inability to assess information? Whatever. But she does it with a glibness that's really disturbing. Sarah Palin screeches her lies and is nothing more than a grifter. Plenty of people take her seriously, but she is not a serious person. Same with Michelle Bachmann, who just came up with a whopper about that drowned Syrian child. Fiorina, on the other hand, seems to want to be taken seriously, and she aspires to seriousness with her lies. There's something weirdly unique about that among women Republican politicians. No less scary; but unique.

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Monday, September 28, 2015

But, But, In The Movies...

Good guy with gun
Houston police say that an armed man’s attempt to stop a carjacking went terribly wrong on Saturday night when he shot the vehicle’s owner in the head, then fled the scene. 
According to KHOU Channel 11 News, the shooting took place around 11:15 p.m. at a Valero gas station in north Houston. 
Police officials say that two men jumped the owner of a Chevrolet pickup truck and absconded with his vehicle. 
As the men struggled with the car-owner, a passerby produced a gun and fired multiple shots, missing the thieves but striking the victim in the head. 
The shooter quickly gathered up his shell casings from the pavement and fled the scene...
Donald Trump, kissing the ass of the NRA (that would be Wayne LaPierre, I guess), proposes universal concealed-carry and an end to gun laws. Because what could go wrong. Because this is the USA, where, acccording to "conservatives," the solution to gun violence is more guns. Because there's no other idea that makes sense.

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Saturday, September 26, 2015

Ladies And Gentlemen, The Next President Of The United States

Coherence? We don't need no stinkin' coherence. Besides, it's all about me. And my book. It's always about me. And my book. And me.

Friday, September 25, 2015


Anyone remember when, after Rs took control of the House, they said "The adults are in charge now"? When they asked us to watch how well they can govern?

Yeah, me too. Not only were they able to do not much more than produce about fifty flaccid votes to repeal the ACA, demonstrating to all who chose to look (which excludes the Foxified, of course) that they're pulling from an empty quiver, they've now taken it down to the next level of destructiveness. Boehner is gone, or will be, he says, soon. The lunatics are now in charge, if not in control.

In a world where all people could see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and think with their brains, this would foretell the end of their majority, in both houses, because their recalitrant idiocy would be obvious and undeniable. Not that it hasn't been from the beginning; but maybe now even the averager Republican voter would be able to see it.

But this isn't that world. In the halls of the hateful, there'll be nothing but rejoicing, as they see the opportunity to grind everything to a halt, pending the rapture.

Update: And, by golly...

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Monday, September 21, 2015

Scotty Slides South

In ordinary circumstances, i.e. in a world that made any sense at all, the following would be considered excellent and hopeful news:
Scott Walker is said to be quitting presidential race
Monday, September 21, 2015 4:08 PM EDT
Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin has concluded he no longer has a path to the Republican presidential nomination and plans to drop out of the 2016 campaign, according to three Republicans familiar with his decision, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Mr. Walker called a news conference in Madison at 6 p.m. Eastern time.
Mr. Walker’s intended withdrawal is a humiliating climb down for a Republican governor once seen as all but politically invincible...
After all, the man in whose administration are many currently or formerly under indictment, and who soon may be himself, is also the one who's taken his state ever more deeply into the dumpster. His claim to infamy, and the reason for his love affair with teabaggers, is that he "broke" the teachers' union. On that basis, mystifyingly, he got reelected a couple of times, despite increasing budget deficits, drastic cuts to all things important, breathtaking job losses, and, of course, the sword of justice ever dangling over his head. That, and the tons of money the Koch brothers paid for his services as their midwest lapdog.

So, good news. The increasingly insane R party, the party of denialists, neglecters of those in need, of reanimators of the corpse of Reaganomics no matter how many times it's failed, has finally, possibly even before it's too late, reversed course.

Except, no. They're turned their love lights onto a narcissist whose ideas are an inch wide and a millimeter deep but who hits all the notes for white male sorta-Christian xenophobes; a doctor who earns love by calling our president a psychopath and by comparing homosexuality to bestiality and who claims Planned Parenthood is deliberately committing genocide on blacks (while, butter wouldn't melt in his mouth, calling for an end to divisiveness) and who'll use the Bible for his tax code while saying Islam is inconsistent with the Constitution; and a woman who all but destroyed a major corporation and got fired for her troubles, and who, like Ronald Reagan, can't seem to sort out the viewing of film within the reality of her world.

I guess, though, that as the field gets winnowed there'll be less noise through which the inquisitive voter (of which, it seems, there are none on that side of the political spectrum) has to wade to see the idiocy of the rock-bottom remainders. (No offense to these guys.)

So there's that.

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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Constitutionally Clueless

So Ben "Let's end divisiveness" Carson thinks Islam is inconsistent with the US Constitution:
Carson, who placed third in the CNN/ORC poll of the Republican presidential field released Sunday, said a president's faith would matter to him depending on what that faith is. 
"If it's inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter," he said. "If it fits within the realm of America and is consistent with the Constitution, I have no problem." 
He said that Islam, as a religion, is incompatible with the Constitution. 
"I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that," he said. 
Donald "I don't need God's help" Trump, who never met a conspiracy theory he didn't think was fabulous, trumped that:
When asked by Todd whether he'd support a Muslim president, Trump evaded the question. 
"Would I be comfortable? I don't know if we have to address it right now," he said. "Some people have said it already happened." 
Guess what? I agree with Carson. But I'd say the same about Christianity. In fact, several would-be presidents and their myriad supporters have said the same damn thing: God's law is supreme and takes precedence over Supreme Court rulings, they say, seditiously. Moreover, according to Mike "God loves me more than He loves you and I don't love you at all" Huckabee, to name just one such claimant, each individual gets to decide which court decisions are "right" enough with his/her faith to be followed. That's about as Constitution-free as it gets.

Religion -- any religion -- is consistent with our Constitution only to the extent that its believers among our political leaders keep it entirely to themselves. We have one Muslim in Congress; far as I know he's never proposed legislation intended to implement the dreaded Sharia law. The number of Christian legislators, however, who've tried to legislate based on their selective view of their selected version of the much-translated Bible is beyond measure.

Unsurprisingly, our "liberal" media chose not to ask a follow-up question.

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Friday, September 18, 2015


Good Point

It's not original with me, but it's a point I haven't seen made very widely, with regard to the kid in Texas who made a clock, got cuffed and hauled to jail because "they" thought it was a bomb.

They didn't think it was a bomb. They knew it wasn't a bomb. Else they would have evacuated the school. Else they would have called the bomb squad. Else they would have taken the kid and his clock somewhere other than the principal's office with four cops in it.

So, why, I wonder, did they do what they did? Whatever else is true, we know it had nothing to do with the kid's skin color, or ethnicity, or religion, because this was Texas and they like nothing so much as religion in schools. Plus, down there there's no racism. There's no racism in America at all, which is why it's okay the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act.

And we know this, too: when our president invited the kid to the White House with all those colored folks in it, he was being divisive. We know this because a Palin has told us so, and they almost lived there themselves.

So I guess it's just one of those things...

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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Nobody Home

Trudging through comments on various websites following last night's "Republican" "debate," I found myself wondering what it would take (if it's even conceivable that it'd ever happen) for R voters to demand substance; and, when what passes for substance passes out the orifi of the effluxer, when they might look below the surface to see if anything's there. So far, it ain't happening, as the comments of adoration and adulation make clear. Case in point: Carly Fiorina's tough-guy approach to Putin (when did he stop being a hero of the right wing screamers, anyway?):

What I would do, immediately, is begin rebuilding the Sixth Fleet, I would begin rebuilding the missile defense program in Poland, I would conduct regular, aggressive military exercises in the Baltic states. I'd probably send a few thousand more troops into Germany. Vladimir Putin would get the message.
Because, here's the thing (from the same source):
Her answer on Russia, for instance, was bizarre.
The Sixth Fleet is already huge, and it's hard to say why adding to its capabilities would intimidate Putin — after all, America has enough nuclear weapons pointed at Russia to level the country thousands of times over. Her proposal for more military exercises in the Baltics seemed odd in light of the fact that President Obama is already conducting military exercises in the Baltics. And the US already has around 40,000 troops stationed in Germany, so it's hard to say what good "a few thousand" more would do. And pushing on a missile defense system in Poland is a very long-term solution to a very current problem. In total, Fiorina's laundry list of proposals sure sounded like a plan, but on inspection, it's hard to see why any of them would convince Putin to change course.
Carly Fiorina is so glib in her lying and nothing-there-but-words polices that she sounds -- especially compared to Trump, et al, like there's a brain at work. Mid-brain, maybe.

I think the difference between her and the rest of the candidates is that they can lie and make it sound like they're telling the truth; she lies and doesn't seem to realize it. Or maybe it's that she's so used to lying to shareholders and board members that she is, in fact, just like the rest of them.

And I'd say the difference between Huckabee and Carson, god-wise, is that Huckabee is as dishonest as they come, a charlatan pitchman for God on the order of any megachurch leader, just not as rich. Yet. But he's trying. Carson, OTOH, is so sure he's got God in his pocket (or that he's in God's pocket) that it doesn't occur to him he could be wrong about anything.

Scratch the surface, teabaggers and those who call themselves Republicans or conservatives. See if, down deep, there really is anything there; anything that makes actual sense; anything that hasn't been tried already and failed; anything that hasn't been claimed and disproved, time and again.

Good luck with that.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015


Here's my latest newspaper column (which some might recognize as an updated version of a prior post):

It's easy to recall the horror of 9/11 when it happened, the disbelief, the shock, the realization, as I watched, that people were dying, thousands of them. The sense that things had changed, irrevocably, forever.
I was impressed with George Bush with his megaphone at ground zero, supported the action in Afghanistan, noted how quickly the Taliban were vanquished and hoped it would resonate around the Muslim world.
And then, as 9/11 became an excuse to push a neoconservative agenda, as it became a way to rescue a presidency already foundering after a mere nine months, it all changed. Iraq happened, torture happened, “with us or with the terrorists” happened, Afghanistan was abandoned, 9/11 became a tool for politicization, mongering fear for political advantage. Cheney and Bush turned the potential unity of purpose that nearly emerged after the attacks into divisiveness and hatred among ourselves. (Cheney’s still at it.) If you didn't love the invasion of Iraq, if you didn't love torture and detentions and renditions, if you didn't hate Muslim Americans and their mosques, you hated America. You were “soft on terror.” 
The memory of 9/11 became, like so much else in the right-wing armamentarium, a breeder of disinformation and blatant manipulation
Yes, I remember; and like other memorializations of our history, of sacrifice (actual sacrifice, like those who died, who tried to help, who did help) I am moved. But now, I'm also tired. I'm tired of the hypocrisy, of the delusion that stopping for a moment, for leaving a bouquet somewhere, for welling up and moving on, is actually meaningful. Mostly, I feel a sense of being manipulated. Bludgeoned. Never forget, they say. So we'll do what? Invade another country? Declare another liberal to be an America-hater? Watch another political ad use those images to hide an agenda? Ask us to support our troops while doing nothing to support our troops?
I honor those who died on 9/11, those who did so for no reason at all and those who went to the towers on purpose, to save lives. After the attack, I know that we still need increased security. I wish "sacrifice" meant something other than going shopping, as George Bush urged after the attack. I wish Republicans weren’t still blocking medical funds for those first responders. 
And I wish the smarmy memorials, the florid TV coverage of the anniversary would stop, because I see it as cynical rating-grabs, and, for politicians, as vote-gets. What we need, in response to 9/11, is not slickly produced montages. What we need is to remember what democracy is, to realize that what has kept us strong is our diversity, our invention, our willingness to incorporate differing views, to find compromise, and, when necessary, actually to sacrifice, all of the country, as has happened many times in our history but not for a minute after 9/11, other than by our troops; to do without for a while, to help each other when we can, to heave to a common need. In the aftermath of 9/11, the first real attack on American soil, we've come to do the opposite. And it's been deliberate, a political ploy by the most cynical among us, to divide and conquer, to find scapegoats, to distract from the selfish agenda that's really at the heart of their manipulations. They saw 9/11 as opportunity, and they've taken it. 
There's another aspect of these memorials, too: it sometimes seems that the more we wallow, the more the terrorists can admire their work, remember how much damage they did, how it changed us for the worse. Other than the need to acknowledge those who died, I find myself wondering how it'd be if we stopped the memorials altogether, the endless manipulation of emotion by people who actually couldn't care less for the needs of those they're fooling for political gain. Since 9/11/01, our needs are obvious. How about addressing and resolving them, in the spirit that existed for a moment or two back then, now co-opted and turned into the opposite of itself? 
Me? Cynical? Well, I just listened to Sarah Palin screech her word salad at the rally for war, and to Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, and I feel sick.
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Monday, September 14, 2015

Tom Tomorrow

The rest of the comic is here. It is, of course, exactly how it is, and what I've been trying to say here for years.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Oh, We Love War So

My latest newspaper column (given, in the paper and online version, the worst headline ever, but not by me.)
Bowe Bergdahl is back in the news. Donald Trump, modeling the sober analysis we need in a president, delighting his Fox “news” hosts, just called him a “dirty rotten traitor." Trump also mentioned the six soldiers who died trying to find him, a claim that remains a subject of controversy.

When I served in Vietnam, I took care of many acutely wounded GIs, and helped evacuate those needing higher-level treatment. On a routine basis, though, the most common complaint I heard, other than backaches, was, “Doc, I can’t take it any more.” I hadn’t much in the way of help to offer. When I managed to contact the only psychiatrist in theater, comfortably ensconced in combat-free Saigon, connecting after three days of trying, he said he was so swamped he couldn’t deal with anyone unless they were plainly psychotic. So I did what I could. (When I finally encountered a soldier who’d broken completely, and after a reprise of the effort to speak to him, the shrink said, “He sounds insane. Send him home.” Good gig.) 
I don’t -- and I bet Mr. Trump doesn’t either – know Sergeant Bergdahl’s state of mind when he chose to desert after his friend was blown up. But I’d like to hear people who berate him include in their discussion those who’ve come home so damaged they can’t hold a job, or become homeless, or addicted, turn to crime or, increasingly, suicide. We call them heroes on their way over, preferring wholeness on return. Taught to see war as a source of pride, to consider it the one begetter of true “patriotism,” we’d rather not acknowledge the ways, physical and mental, in which it rends those who fight when ordered to (and by “those” we mean “not us.”) Those war-loving Congressional Republicans, let’s remember, have quashed bill after bill aimed at providing jobs and other resources for veterans. A while back, John Boehner hurled what he must consider a most damning epithet at Barack Obama: “He’s an anti-war president.” Golly.

When Dwight Eisenhower warned against the growing military-industrial complex, he left out a couple of tines of the pitchfork: politicians and their network of propagandists. I find it significant that the day after Tom Cotton publicized his treasonous letter to Iran, urging war over peace, he reached out to defense contractors. Rand Paul has flipped on his desire to cut defense spending. Ted Cruz (whose main policy man is John “Nuke ‘em” Bolton) and Donald Trump are heading to an anti-peace rally, because what self-respecting Republican candidate would want to give nuclear treaties a chance? Promising to send more combat troops into the fray, none bothers to explain how ISIS actually threatens us here at home, or how fighting them there reduces that threat, when recent history teaches the opposite. 
Yes, Bowe Berghdal deserted; but I won’t join those gloating over his fate the way Fox “news” and its followers have since he was charged, revived by The Donald’s recent pimping of outrage. At one point, I’d guess, Bergdahl was an average guy. He wasn’t drafted like I was; he volunteered. I doubt he did so thinking he’d be unable to take it, that he’d find fighting a war so horrifying he’d risk going outside the wire, ending up a prisoner for five years. What he did was dishonorable; but so is the inclination to ignore the factors that brought him to it. 
It behooves us all, those of us not making the decisions but electing those who do, to consider if we’re being taught to love war too much by people who have much to gain from decisions that bring riches to corporations like Dick Cheney’s, which made thirty-nine billion in profits after he orchestrated the falsified fervor for invading Iraq; to consider whether, if Bowe Bergdahl wasn’t up to the job we sent him to do, we all, Donald Trump included, bear some responsibility. Or, maybe, to not rejoice at his fate, or turn it into criticism of the president who found a way to bring him home. Especially since before he did, the right wing screamers were saying Obama hates the troops because he hadn’t even tried.
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