Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Fears For Tears

My latest newspaper column:
I keep trying to write something other than rants about Republican politics, but I can’t. It’s simply too important to point out the dangers of their science denial, their attacks on public education, their clinging to destructive economic policy, their preference for war and fear-mongering, rejection of compromise, desire for theocracy. Abandoning any claim to understanding democracy, much less supporting it, that party has turned to presidential candidates who prefer totalitarian bluster and lies to democracy and truth. Actual conservatism, all but dead now, had ideas that kept a toe grounded in reality; and they recognized our history. Who, for example, would argue for government bigger than it needs to be? Who, for another, would deny that our Constitution was founded on compromise, presumes public civility, and rejects the idea of oligarchy? 
But in their reflexive reactions to everything our president says or doesn’t say, does or doesn’t do, today’s right-wingers have left that all behind. I keep thinking, as yet another line is crossed, that their followers would have enough of it. That at some point followers of Fox “news” and the other conspiracy mongers of the airways would say, okay, that’s beyond the pale. Like they did, say, with the Dixie Chicks and their comparatively mild rebuke of that other president. 
Consider those right-wing screamers’ reactions to President Obama’s announcement that he’ll be strengthening enforcement of existing gun laws. You know, the thing they’ve always demanded in response to calls for more laws: enforce the ones we have. Except when Barack Hussein Obama says it; then, it’s tyrannical tyranny by a tyrannizing tyrant. And when his plans include spending on mental health care, because, as the NRA tells us, mass murders are about that, not guns, it’s economic wastefulness. And now, despite demanding it for years, they’re even angry at how hostages in Iran got released. In their view, unless we get everything we want by dint of bombs and blood, we’re weak. Losers. Yes, say their followers. It’s only war and braggadocio that make us great. 
About those gun-related executive orders, Charles Krauthammer opined “Obama’s not asleep at the wheel, he’s not at the wheel at all.” Good one, right? But consider this: the man he’s derided as a despotic dictator, when he acknowledges there’s only so much he can do without Congress, is criticized, with a straight face, by Dr K for staying within the law. Alex Jones, of course, saw it differently: the president’s actions will lead to rounding up gun owners and putting them in camps the way Nazis did Jews. Yes, he said it. No doubt his followers believe it, because that’s what passes for policy disagreement nowadays. Even moralistic Rand Paul has turned to Jones for advice. Simply amazing. 
That’s just the sideshow, though, predictable as voting to repeal Obamacare without offering alternatives. The real tell is in their claims that President Obama faked tears as he spoke of children who’ve died from gun violence. Because in their universe, only fetus-Americans deserve tears. Outside the womb, the young are on their own. Empathy and concern for children, deep enough to bring tears to a president who’s had to meet repeatedly with the families of murdered kids, can only be fake. No matter how much you disagree with President Obama, who can defend that level of mendacity and hatefulness? If it’s not enough to make Foxophiles change the channel, what is? 
What does it say about their view of voters that candidates think the path to credibility consists in saying to the president, as Chris Christie did, “We’re gonna kick your butt out of the White House.” Marco Rubio says he bought a gun for protection against ISIS. Does a majority of Republicans think that way? Is that what’s required to win conservatives’ votes nowadays? If so, what hope is there? If not, why their silence? 
Here’s a thought: imagine rational people hearing the words President Obama spoke in his final State of the Union address without knowing the speaker. Which would they find consistent with a person who, as the screamers claim, hates America, who’s deliberately made us weak? At what point will today’s Republicans demand respectful dialogue from their preferred leaders?  
[Image source]

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A More Perfect Union: Formed At Last

So Sarah Palin has thrown her considerable weight, backed by her reputation for to commitment to informing herself as deeply as possible on the most complex issues of our time, behind the only other person in modern-day politics with a similar reputation. Depth. Curiosity. Profundity. I can only be speaking of Donald Trump; he, of the most wide-ranging knowledge of our most important problems, and of the most all-encompassing and thoughtful solutions. Or, as Andy Borowitz has put it:

DES MOINES, Iowa —An endorsement from former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is expected to widen Donald J. Trump’s already impressive lead among so-called “idiot voters,” an aide to the billionaire said on Tuesday. 
While Trump was previously thought to have a lock on the idiot vote heading into the Iowa caucuses, a recent surge by Senator Ted Cruz, of Texas, has put the idiots back in play. 
Cruz has worked tirelessly in recent weeks to tailor his message to undecided idiots, even revamping his stump speech to rid it of two-syllable words. 
“That’s why Palin supporting Trump and not Cruz is such a win for us,” the Trump aide said. “She’s been out of politics for awhile, but she still has idiot cred.”...
That anyone still listens to Sarah Palin on any subject (abstinence? family values?) strains understanding to the limits of natural law. OTOH it's entirely unsurprising that she'd be supporting Donald Trump, whose approach to policy is indistinguishable from hers: superficial, sound-bite-based, lazy, attention-hungry. And his Trumpeting of her support is perfectly consistent with his willingness to pander to the basest of the base.

Of course anyone who considers Sarah Palin a hero would feel the same about Trump. What's entirely inexplicable, though, is how easily he's sucked in Evangelicals. His claims to religiosity are as transparently phony as Palin's to reading.

Can they go any lower? Hard to imagine. But this is America, where anything's possible, right?

[Image source]

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Militias. Yeah, Right.

There are so many good writers out there who say the things I've said, or want to say, so much better than me. Jim Wright is one of them, and this article should be read in its entirety; for the history, for the writing, and for the truth of it. Those delusional buffoons currently occupying Malhuer Wildlife Refuge, and those who defend them and/or aspire to be them, are the furthest thing from patriots:

... Those men, those men who led the Continental Army and fought for our freedom, those men knew exactly what they were doing when they included the words “well-regulated militia” in the Second Amendment.And they for damned sure weren’t talking about giving Americans the right to shoot down their own government – because those Founders were the government.
There are few things professional soldiers despise more than some fake wannabe warrior.
Professional military personnel look upon militias and paramilitaries the same way cops regard amateur security guards.
And for good reason.
Irregular militias, paramilitaries, are worse than useless when it comes to defense of a nation. Literally worse than useless. They are untrained, undisciplined, undependable, and too often belligerently unaware of their own pitiful state. They take up resources and risk the security of real soldiers. Irregular militias are often indistinguishable from an armed mob. Like those currently occupying Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, militias are almost always composed of misfits and rejects, wannabe soldiers and pretend Marines puffed up with stolen valor, disaffected braggarts, belligerent drunkards, criminals, the dangerously mentally ill, conspiracy theorists, and angry losers of every stripe.
They’re in it for themselves and only for themselves and make no mistake about it.
These are Sovereign Citizens – an oxymoron if ever there was one. These are people who have declared themselves a nation unto themselves and have rejected the obligations of civilization. They are citizens of nothing, an army of one, defenders of mob rule and rights by force. 
They believe freedom comes at the muzzle of a gun and only at the muzzle of a gun, and they believe in their freedom not yours.
They literally believe a gun gives them the right to do anything they want...

As I said, it's worth a comparatively (these days) long read. It won't, of course, be read by those who need it most.

[Image source]

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Hold Onto Your Seats

It's an amusing -- and informative -- part of any State of the Union Address, watching which party's people stand, or don't, for what statements. In the case of last night's episode, I only wish the president had spent some time pointing it out, because it's such a clear demonstration of what the Republican Party has been during his presidency, and of what will happen were the next president to be one of them. So here's a partial list of those things that kept Rs glued to their seats:

  • Nearly 15 million new jobs and the unemployment rate being cut in half.
  • Equality for all Americans.
  • Cutting pollution levels.
  • A good education for our children.
  • Fighting terrorism.
  • The idea that America is the strongest nation on earth.
  • Avoiding war.
  • Making it easier to vote.
And—drumroll, please—saving the best for last …
  • Curing cancer! 
And think about this: if the president's speech were somehow given anonymously, with listeners not knowing who spoke the words, which would they find objectionable, and why?

[Image from the linked article]

Friday, January 8, 2016


The estimable Charlie Pierce went to a Trump rally and wrote about it. The usual buttons were pushed, the proclamations of Trump's brilliance, the lack of actual policy: it was all there. But one thing CPP wrote hadn't occurred to me before: is the regular appearance and removal of protestors part of the performance? Will we someday find out they're plants?
... The crowds are edged with a startling amount of security, both public and private. There were cops from several towns on duty in Lowell, and a remarkable number of people in suits, wearing earplugs, but not wearing any Secret Service insignia. By my count, the event was interrupted five times by protesters. The protesters were curiously able to infiltrate the tight security, and their conspicuous removal became an integral part of the show. Their expulsion never failed to give He, Trump another rhetorical launching pad for some of the high-flown, winking contempt he shares for the Other with his crowd. It is what binds them to each other. "Get them out," he says, and everybody cheers...
It'd be perfect, wouldn't it? He's already bamboozled his followers with complete egotistical bullshit, lying prolifically, rambling about his own greatness, producing "policy" an inch wide and an inch deep. They love it. It's pretty much like pro-wrestling; so why not bring in the fake villains, too?

[Image source]

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Of Boomers And Bundys

My latest newspaper column:
Well, knock me down and call me Cliven: a bunch of patriotic ammosexuals have battled past uncaged sage grouse and stormed an empty building in Oregon, protesting the jailing of arsonists. Because if we can’t burn stuff wherever we want, what’s next? Stop signs at intersections? My suggestion: fence the building off, invite as many others of the Bundiose as want in, turn off electricity and water and ignore them. Then, when the Viagra runs out, lock ‘em up. Criminals and seditious (if borderline comical) terrorists, they deserve nothing less. (The press calls them “peaceful.” Imagine the terminology had it been Black Lives Matter or “Occupy.” Or Muslim-Americans.) 
I’ll guess those people, assuming they claim any belief in democracy (clearly, they don’t understand it), are supporters of Trump or Cruz. Each bases his campaign on grievance and resentment, haranguing about non-existent tyranny, loss of liberty, impending takeover by roving gangs of atheist Muslim ISIS immigrants. Freedom, they warn, is threatened everywhere, starting with penalties for illegally grazing or conflagrating on government lands, leading directly to rounding up Christians and poking them with Sharia sticks. 
So those tough guys who, in their minds, would have fought their way across beaches of WWII and through jungles of Vietnam (having mostly found it inconvenient to join the current military), grabbed up their long guns and bandoliers, braved a wintering wildlife preserve and a building on holiday, to defend America by breaking its most fundamental citizen compact. 
Maybe by the time this column is published we’ll have heard from Trump and Cruz; I predict they won’t outright condemn such lawlessness. They’ll blame it on Obama, sad that such actions have become necessary, as we peer from our barricaded homes to see true Americans marched off in chains, mules pulling wagons because gas is illegal, shards of former greatness falling from the skies like WKRP turkeys, while praise for turgid “militiamen” blares from every right-wing radio station and from Rupert’s and Roger’s propaganda central. 
These are intractably delusional, selfish people whose real problem is that democracy is the opposite of selfish. Depending on a shared sense of common goals, it recognizes that a society made of people unwilling to compromise turns to totalitarianism. For America, lasting freedom requires making the occasional sacrifice, accepting constraints that won’t appeal to everyone. Holding fire till the next election. And if that one doesn’t work out, till the next. Or the next. Recognizing that not getting everything one wants is the price of living in a republic as enduring and creative and resilient as ours. Given its rejection of such ideals, it’s amazing it took as long as it did for the present-day Republican Party to give itself over to totalitarian demagogues, while convincing its carefully blinded voters it’s really about defending freedom. 
Couch it, deny it, paint it with pretty words and trickle it down: today’s Republican party and those who claim allegiance to it (I aver, yet again, that I respect true conservatives and wish their remnants controlled the current party) are only about rationalizing selfishness and staggering short-sightedness. For what will be the inevitable result if our country turns entirely to the agenda of those would-be leaders? If the takeover in neighboring Oregon is the inevitable result of Trump’s and Cruz’ and Fox “news’” round-the-clock suborning of treason, it’s weak tea compared to the greater implications for us all. Because whatever else might be true about those melodramatic “patriots,” they’ve suffered nothing like the struggles of hopelessness and impoverishment faced by those fellow citizens of the government they so love to hate, whose numbers would increase exponentially were Republican priorities to overtake our country. 
What happens to kids growing up in poverty, who’ve been told they don’t matter, denied decent education, healthcare, jobs, and hope? From unwillingness on the part of the already-haves to provide a helping hand, they’ll have no options but failure or crime, costing way more than aid denied. If it’ll help, wetland warriors, consider social justice the ultimate form of selfishness. Then take your self-important fantasies and go home. 
Sorry: the Christmas truce is over. Seeing pus, a surgeon must drain it from the body politic.

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