Cutting Through The Crap

Friday, November 21, 2014

Perspective



Here's a bit of perspective on the immigration "debate," after President Obama's announcement last night. It's from this thread on Andrew Sullivan's blog, where lots of wisdom can always be found. As with so much else, when you strip away the rhetoric designed to inflame and obfuscate, there's much to be learned:
Your question of “how many immigrants will Obama let stay,” or “allow to stay,” perpetuates an important misconception in this debate. As Greg Sargent helpfully explains, Obama is not proposing to deport less people, and the same number (roughly 400,000) will continue to be deported, with or without executive action. Why? Because Congress only appropriates enough money to deport that number, or roughly 3.5% of the approximate 12 million undocumented aliens. As there is an existing, bipartisan agreement that some 96.5% of the undocumented population will be allowed to remain here (i.e., the “how many” question), Obama’s executive action asks only: which undocumented immigrants should populate the 400,000 who are deported? 
That is a crucial distinction. The question is not whether Obama should increase the number of undocumented immigrants (he isn’t), but whether he should apply severely limited resources in a targeted fashion (e.g., new arrivals, criminals, etc.) or indiscriminately (e.g., a law abiding mother of a U.S. citizen-child)? And, is Obama plausibly “tearing up the Constitution” if he deports the only number of people he can (about 400,000), but prioritizes who should be deported within such Congressionally imposed constraints? 
Notably, Republicans are not proposing to increase such spending/deportations. Characteristically, they are threatening only to further defund the government. Aside from raw politics, the Republican position is largely: (i) don’t inform our base that we agree that less than 1 out of 10 undocumented immigrants should be deported, (ii) apply the meager 3% budget indiscriminately to terrorize the wider immigrant population, and (iii) most of all, don’t do anything that would remove the pejorative, crippling “illegal” designation from this disadvantaged labor supply.
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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Still Tilting



So I had another column published in the local newspaper:

I wonder. Of the miniscule number of Americans who voted, how many cast their votes because of “Obama’s Katrina?” You know, the perilous plague that, according to voices in many heads and on Fox “news,” the president of the United States deliberately brought here as reparation for slavery. Or, less apocalyptically, was it because they agreed with the repetitive claim that the president’s response to Ebola – it’s everywhere! -- proves we can’t trust this government? The government of the country that has hosted a total of four people with Ebola and which now has ZERO? 
Was it ISIS massing on our southern border, ready to march into Arkansas holding hands with Mexican drug lords, as the newly-elected senator from there warned a pre-election town hall? Or fear, shared with Iowa’s pistol-packing (for protection against the government!) next senator, of Agenda 21, that nefarious suggestion from the UN that countries manage their land responsibly?
Because the thing is, poll after poll has shown that most Americans support the goals of the Democratic Party and reject those of today’s Republicans (tinyurl.com/k3s6ofq). Social Security. Medicare. Minimum wage. Medicaid. Taxes. Military spending. Job creation. Even unions! So how to explain the insweeping, like an ocean-heated hurricane, of the party promising to do the opposite of what most people think is needed? 
In the House of Representatives, gerrymandering by Republican state legislatures has pretty much locked up R seats forever; for that to change, the ocean would have to be tippling at the turf of Topeka. (Speaking of Kansas: they reelected their Tea Party’s dream governor, who’d promised a tax-cutting, job-creating, budget-balancing, deregulated Republican paradise but delivered only debt and lagging job growth.) According to several analyses, laws aimed at suppressing minority voting in several states had the desired effect. Nor should we discount the deadly combination of mealy messaging by Democratic candidates and the astounding apathy of their voters. In Utah an incumbent senator, rightly admired for his strong advocacy of environmental protection among other important things, chose to run on birth control. Pathetic. (The only non-incumbent Democratic candidate for the senate who was willing to campaign with the president won.) But none of these provides a compelling answer. 
The tougher the times, the more effective is propaganda. The more challenging the problems, the easier it is to get people to look the other way. Which means that, today, convincing voters that ISIS is about to look at their tax returns while giving them Ebola before chopping their heads off in Benghazi, works. When the agenda behind the distraction is antithetical to the needs of everyone but the people behind the distraction behind the agenda, distraction IS the agenda. 
Which clarifies the real explanation: Truth-telling has become a political loser. In twenty-first century America, after decades of deliberate dumbification, perpetual propagandizing, excoriating expertise, flogging fear, promoting paranoia, we don’t want to hear the truth, much less know how to recognize it, even when it’s obvious as a pH probe. So, against the rising tide, here’s a list of truths we hold to be self-evident, if hard to swallow:  
Due to human activity, the climate is changing. The ocean is unsustainably acidifying. Tax cuts don’t pay for themselves. Wars don’t, either. Corporations won’t hire unless there are customers to buy their products; massive wealth concentration works against that. Privatizing public education has led to rich executives and poor students. Same-sex marriage threatens no one else’s. Science is indispensible to our future. So are roads and bridges. Separation honors and protects religion. Eliminating the EPA will increase deadly pollution. By maintaining equal onramps to the information superhighway, net neutrality encourages, not stifles, innovation. Not all corporations do right by their employees or our country: unions and regulations provide needed restraints. Kids born into poverty usually stay that way. It’s easier to make good choices when there are choices. Health care access saves money. And lives. 
It shouldn’t escape notice that solutions, if there are to be any, while demanding sacrifice from us all, will disproportionately affect a small number of very wealthy and powerful people. People who, coincidentally, control right wing media and their purchased politicians. People who rightly figure that keeping the electorate riled up about the wrong things works out just fine. For them.   
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Friday, November 14, 2014

There Might Not Be Any Left


John Doar (to James Meridith's left in the pic) has died. It might well not be a familiar name, in which case, read Charlie, whose tribute ends thus: 
...Quite simply, there was no braver American amid the tumult of the 1960's and the 1970's than John Doar. Arguably, there were very few greater Americans during that same time. He made the law a shield, and then he made the law a sword, and he stood in against the most dangerous beasts in this country's heart and beat them all. He never wrote a book. He did not become the star he could have become. (Almost everyone else involved in Watergate did, god knows.) And, last Tuesday, he died, at the age of 92. When that smiling dunce, Reagan, got up at his first inaugural, and said that government was the problem, when he told that stupid Rotary Club joke about "I'm from the government and I'm here to help," I always thought about John Doar, who was from the government, and who came to help, and who did more for this country in three years down South than Reagan did in his entire sorry life. There is one thing more you should know about John Doar. 
He was a Republican. 
Every modern Republican should be ashamed of themselves because of that.
[Image from the referenced essay]

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Just A Thought...



... Maybe voters are more sophisticated than some (me) may think. Maybe it's occurred to them that only Rs vote in lockstep; that only Rs are willing to torpedo the economy in exchange for votes; that in the Senate, since BHO's election, Rs have used the filibuster more times than any party in history.

So, let's consider, in the name of the desire to get things done (even, evidently, if they're the wrong things, like pretty much everything Rs want to do), voters figured it could happen only if Ds were in the minority in the Senate. Only Ds would break with their party and march across the aisle once in a while; only Ds would be loath to filibuster the way Rs have done.

Predictably, that part is already happening, by the predictable people. Now let me make clear: I'm all for compromise when there's a reasonable middle to be found. But the only ones who've indicated a willingness on most matters have been Ds: they did it on health care, the stimulus, taxes, and pretty much all of Obama's initiatives. With well-known results, in terms of getting R votes.

So if compromise is a good thing, what I see happening is nothing of the sort. Rs will propose their usual pro-Kochian, anti-science, anti-environmental programs, all of them. And enough Ds will refuse to filibuster (unlike the Rs, in times soon to be past) that their lockstep and uncompromising programs will be passed. Vetoed, maybe. But passed in Congress.

Or let's take this alleged sophistication of voters to the meta level: what they really had in mind is, knowing the above, getting the backward R legislative agenda fully in the open. Written down. Passed out of both houses, no room to hide. Then, when the president explains why it's horrible for the future of our country and vetoes it, people will finally, despite the fact that with only a little digging it's been visible for a long time, see what's truly at stake. And that there's not a hell of a lot of time left to get going.

Well, in the time it took to write this I've been able to come to a conclusion about the proposition: nah. That's not it. That's not it at all.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Bruce Didn't Step In It, He Put His Finger On It

So I'm gonna rip off my hero Charles P Pierce a little bit, and simplify what he wrote about the latest ginned-up Foxolimbeckian outrage; namely, that Bruce Springsteen trashed veterans by singing "Fortunate Son" at a ceremony for them. As Charlie said,

The song isn't about people like this:


It's about people like this:


I always thought it was obvious.

The Day After



Among those who served in Vietnam, I had it pretty good. The only time I was in the jungle was on an ill-advised medical mission. I experienced incoming rocket attacks nearly every night, but I was on a big base where the odds of getting hit (I sort of did) were low; and I never had to hold a weapon in anger.

I wasn't thrilled about being sent there, but on reflection I'm glad I was. I experienced, first hand, a seminal event of my generation. During my tour, I made friends that I was sure were and would remain the best I ever had. (After returning to the world, I had contact with one of them, once, and rarely think of them now.) And I got to understand, if comparatively removed, why so many people find their war experience to be the highlight of their lives. It's an important point.

War is intense. It focuses the mind. It provides a kind of clarity, eliminates the extraneous, makes the universe small. War imparts meaning in and of itself, demands a certain kind of bravery (much more for some than for others) even if, as in Vietnam and, I'd opine, Iraq, the real purpose or "value" is unclear. Whatever else it might be, war is a world unto itself, with rules easy to understand; unlike life, in war intention is discernible. It needn't be explicable.

So I found this article, about a lengthy poem, "Why Men Love War," by a Vietnam veteran, and about the writings of a British Iraq war veteran, compelling. The author's use of the word "fun" is problematic; partly because it's true, and partly because it's false, especially for those damaged by it. In some ways I thought the article was insane. And flippant. But there is truth, too, worth considering. Today, the day after veterans' day. The article concludes:
This month marks the thirty-year anniversary of the publication of ‘Why Men Love War.’ It’s no less true today than it was then. I hope that it will be widely read, especially among today’s newest generation of veterans, to give them the peace of mind that what they’re experiencing is not new. If they read with an open mind, they might even come closer to reconciling their feelings on war, and recognize that there is no great answer but the terrible truth. We love war because it’s fun. It’s terrible, reviling, and true. The dirty, nasty thing was a blast, and we know we’re not supposed to think that. We’re especially not supposed to feel that. But we do.
And I guess I'd add that the "we" who love war includes those who never served. Because it's so easy, so cleansing, so self-serving to salute a parade, produce a lump in the throat, slap on a sticker, and, for a moment, call it good.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Most Sincerely Dead



Okay, it's official. Irony is dead. Gone like the budget surplus GWB inherited. Deceased as a wolf under Sarah Palin's helicopter. Republicans have taken irony and hidden it away, like Saddam's WMDs, like Curveball's mobile bioweapons labs. They've taken irony, wrung its neck, kicked it, drowned it in a sea of exported oil.

First it was George Bush, unaware of being born into a political dynasty, forgetful of the many times his daddy bailed out his failed businesses, claiming, on national TV, that "you have to earn your way into politics; nothing is ever given to you." Yes. He really did.

Then comes Rush Limbaugh, threatening to sue the DCCC for taking his words out of context and using them for political purposes. Talk about calling a thing that cooks stuff a pot.

But really, how can you top this: Sarah Palin is outraged that President Obama contacted Iran about helping in the fight against ISIS. Because Reagan. Yep. Because Reagan. Quoth the maven:
"Good God, Mr. President. To partner with Iran is to trust the enemy, which is insane. Iran has complicity in the rise of ISIS as it supports radical militias and arms Islamic terrorists.”... “…his willingness to negotiate with terrorists” and for “pulling an anti-Reagan move by taking our Big Stick of strength and putting it in the hands of any foe.”
Yeah. Got that? Reagan, who unconstitutionally sold weapons to Iran. Who, by definition, committed treason by doing a deal with them, to hold the hostages till after his election.

Oh, and Mitt "Beg me to run" Romney doesn't much like it, either.

(For the record, who the hell knows the extent to which the US and Iran are cooperating against ISIS; and who the hell knows how it'll work out? On the other hand, it's not as if former enemies -- Vietnam, anyone? Germany and Japan? -- have become partners in the fullness of time. To look for ways to crack the wall, which could -- who knows?-- lead to progress in other, i.e., nuclear, areas? Is it to be rejected out of hand, a clearly bad idea?)

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Friday, November 7, 2014

Yep

Voodoodoo


Gerrymandering, fear mongering, voter suppression. Yeah, I suppose they all played a role. But what explains, really explains, the fact that in virtually all relevant matters, Americans prefer those things for which Ds stand and reject the things Rs want to do. That's not hyperbole. That's what the polls have been saying for years.

So what happened? Voter turnout, especially among Ds, was abysmal. Was that because they had no idea what was at stake, or because they knew but didn't care? Is it because, as usual, Ds couldn't hold a candle to Rs when it comes to messaging, are (thankfully) unwilling to gin up the sort of blatant and dishonest scary stuff one heard on Fox "news," right wing radio, and in practically every R ad on the airwaves? Maybe so. Which means, I guess, that people really are that gullible, fearful, small. Or, in the case of Democrats, lazy.

But why would Ds be afraid to stand proudly behind what's been accomplished in the last six years? How pathetic that they ran away from President Obama like the squirrels on our front lawn! Why focus only on the focus group message, instead of putting out there the magnitude of what's at stake? (Udall, of all people, knew. What a pathetic campaign.) Yes, they're up against a nonstop propaganda machine and some very clever (and unethical) managers on the right. So they let a clearly true message at the center of a questionably phrased point get obscured by perfectly played "outrage." They just can't help themselves.

I think, in these times, a message based on truth and reality is a loser. Because truth and reality are too hard to swallow nowadays, thanks to our own careless behavior on so many fronts. People don't want to hear it; they want something easy, something familiar; and fear and hate fill the bill quite nicely. Same with a message that we don't need to pay for anything, that tax cuts on the wealthy will make us all rich. Keeps the mind on the wrong stuff, which is exactly what's called for, when your political plans are antithetical to everything needed by everyone but the tiny group of people pulling the strings.

So it's hard to see a way back. Dems are nothing if not weak-kneed when it comes to campaigns. And given the gloominess of the reality of our twenty-first century, and given their inclination to be truthful, more at least than Rs ever will be, there's no way their message, even if they got it together, would be one our perfectly Foxified nation will accept.

I guess I could be wrong. I sure as hell hope so. Surely this time, for reasons I can't quite see, R tax cuts and deregulation will, finally, against the many lessons of their history, against what we can see in Kansas (which just reelected their governor everyone of whose previous promises failed to materialize), prove to be something other than the voodoo that they do so well.

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Translation



So Mitch McConnell gets up and, with a straight face (well, there's no way something that doughy can be called straight, but let's be metaphorical, okay?) says "Just because we have a two party system doesn't mean we have to be in perpetual conflict." Seriously. That's what he said.

Here's the helpful translation (I think we're gonna need lots more of them), for those that might be confused:

"Now that we have majorities in both houses, Democrats, please, please, please, don't do what we've been doing for the last six years."

Or, to put in another way: 

"If you Democrats do what we've been doing since day one of Obama's presidency, we're gonna call you a bunch of dicks. And Fox "news" will, too."

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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

At Least It'll Be Interesting



Well, it's gonna be interesting. The open-minded liberal in me says maybe I've been wrong about these guys; maybe they'll wake up to climate change, decide that in order for capitalism to work, it takes more than putting money in the pockets of the already wealthy. Maybe they'll propose a workable alternative to the ACA before voting, over and over, to repeal it. Maybe they won't hold the economy hostage and shut it down next time President Obama vetoes one of their proposals. It could be all good, right?

And no matter the likelihood of them actually proposing workable solutions to our problems, it's gonna be interesting to see the interplay between the teabagging wing and the old fogies like Mitch "Filibuster? Never heard of it" McConnell.

Other than an end to all presidential appointments, nothing much will change in the next two years. With an eye on the White House in 2016, Rs will find themselves in the unusual position of having to produce actual governance, of a sort that will appeal to enough voters to get them there; something they haven't had to bother with for the last six years. And that's gonna be the most interesting of all.

I only hope I can look at it from about 50,000 feet; otherwise, it ain't gonna be much fun around here.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Newspaper Column



As a former weekly columnist, I still occasionally send a screed to the local paper. Today they published one I'd sent in a while back, long ago enough that I assumed they'd spiked it. Singing my usual song, I guess, which doesn't make it any less true or, I'd argue as the election approaches, relevant. They did, however, edit out what I consider the meat of the argument, which I'll indicate below in bolded italics.

How long must one bathe one’s brain in the baleful bilge bubbling from Fox “news” to believe, as do some, that Barack Obama is the worst president ever? Listening to how many people assert, how many times, that our president brought Ebola here to punish white people, does it take to extinguish critical thinking? I make no claim about who might really be the worst president of all time; I was a biology major.  But, c’mon! Let’s just compare the two most recent. It’s like shooting ducks in a fish. 
One was gifted an unprecedented budget surplus which he unapologetically turned into the largest deficits ever recorded. He took an economy that had created twenty million jobs and transformed it into one losing three quarters of a million per month. Rudely dismissing the messenger, he ignored warnings about Osama bin Laden; intelligence about Saudis and flight training got lost in his bureaucracy. Proclaiming the truth of dishonest information, about which there’d been specific warnings he chose to ignore, that president undertook an ill-conceived and unpaid-for war, with minimal preparation and unrealistic expectations of the aftermath. The result was countless ruined or ended lives and crushing debt. The reasons for the war remain conjectural, and the aftermath – regional destabilization, enabling our enemies, recruitment of more terrorists including the roots of ISIS – he left to others to fix; daily, we see how impossible that’s been, having no good options. At home, again unconcerned about funding it, that president added a Medicare benefit, risking future solvency. The list goes on. I won’t. 
Under the current president our economy has produced more consecutive months of job growth than any time in our history. The stock market has nearly tripled; the deficit is down by two-thirds. In place is health care reform covering millions who never had it, saving lives, cutting costs and, to the horror of those who still believe in Reaganomics, this president made sure it’s paid for. He revitalized the auto industry, completed the abandoned search for bin Laden. All this he did without the help of a single Republican Congressperson. Imagine how many jobs there’d be, had Rs not blocked every jobs bill after the initial stimulus, which they unanimously rejected but didn’t have the votes to filibuster until a few months later. 
President Obama has been far from perfect. Among liberals like me, disappointments include giving up on single-payer health coverage; failing to end (much less prosecute) many of Bush’s policies; misspeaking on several occasions; believing he’d have participants in solutions among Republicans. We don’t yet know if his ISIS plan will succeed. But to consider him worse than the president he succeeded, knowing all the above? Let’s call it, charitably, mysterious. 
Sure, it’s partisan hyperbole, bordering on silliness. But there’s a fundamental issue here, serious as a case of Ebola and more pathogenic: There’s no middle ground any more. Politicians are incapable of addressing our urgent problems. Voters hold Congress in historically low regard but keep electing the same hidebound obstructionists. (Not here, happily.) Pushing the agenda of a handful of very wealthy people whose aims are antithetical to those of their listeners, contumeliously convinced they’re getting “fair and balanced” news, a propaganda machine unlike any outside Pyongyang and Moscow has become a threat to effective democracy, which requires informed voters. More hyperbole? Hardly. 
We’ll always have paranoid haters and cynical profiteers. But only one network trots them out round the clock, providing them an audience made grateful to be deceived. Only one defends voter suppression, laughs at inequality, lionizes law-breaking government-haters, gives voice to conspiracy mongers like Keith Ablow, Jeanine Pirro, and to haters like Ann Coulter; promotes Sean Hannity’s and Steve Doocey’s peculiar cluelessness and Bill O’Reilly’s egomaniacal bloviating. This weakens us; it endumbs and divides us, paves the way, as intended, to plutocracy. They’ve gotten rich manipulating their followers who, when faced with problems which require cooperation and sacrifice (not to mention generosity), are convinced instead to turn to denial, scapegoating and fear. Always fear. Always distraction from the real agenda. Clearly, it’s irresistible, despite the obvious disregard their media have for their audience. 
I quit my column here not because of negative comments, per se. It was the futility. The encounters with so many people to whom facts will never matter, who enthusiastically dismiss reality when it threatens to pierce the illusory comfort of the Foxolimbeckian bubble. It won’t be me, but someone needs to find a way back.
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Doomnation



In timing that can only be considered ironic, the latest report from Copenhagen is released. As the rest of the world is recognizing the existential implications of climate change and mankind's primary role in it, we in the US are about to turn congress over to people who'll make sure we continue to ignore it. Deny it. Pretend it's a liberal plot.

It's unbelievable and inexplicable that our nation has turned so steadfastly to such people; has become unwilling to make the sort of sacrifices, address the challenges for which it once was rightly known. It's depressing beyond description that a small cadre of very wealthy people whose livelihood depends on continued pollution have so easily subverted our political process, bought our elections, bombarded people with evidently irresistible propaganda, feeding their fears and relying on their weakness to achieve their ends.

And now, finally, we see the results of the so-called Republican "long game" and the inability of feckless and disorganized Democrats to match it with reality. Brilliant: single out the religious base, convince them Christianity is under attack, vote them into school boards, endumb the populace, feed fears of bogeymen that don't exist. Behind the power of a unified disinformation network, get them, and then those around them, to believe we're at greater risk from those that would provide health care and public education than from those who'd rape the land and darken the skies for profit, who figure there's nothing that will result that can't be dealt with in their insulated castles, so who cares.

Is that hyperbole? Am I over the top? In prose, maybe. But in fact?

If humanity survives long enough, history will look at early twenty-first century America and smack its forehead so loudly it'll be heard on the moon colony which if it doesn't exist means humanity is a thing of the past.

The fault will be ours, America's only. Exceptionalism will, finally, be inarguable. We'll have been the only country on the planet that buried its collective heads in the hot sands, from which the words will barely be discernible but will still be mumbled, plaintively: voter fraudIRS, ebola, ISIS, Benghazi, birth certificate, socialism...

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Comment, Allez Vous



Gonna allow comments again, for now. We'll see how it works out, one more time. Be nice.

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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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