Cutting Through The Crap

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Disgusting Sleazebag, Is How I'd Put It



I tired of Chris Matthews a long time ago and haven't watched MSNBC in years. But when I heard that Marco Rubio quote I concluded (as if I didn't already know) that he (Rubio) is a pandering political pretender scumbag with zero class. So when I found this clip, I figured it's worth posting. Because I know a few people who think Rubio is the next big thing.

His comment, of course, will endear him to his base in the same way Trump's comments about McCain have endeared him to his.

What an awful group of candidates. Every last one of them.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Friday, July 24, 2015

Forty-Eight Billion!


If anyone still believes our system of health care financing makes any sense as long as it includes the health insurance industry, this ought to disabuse them of the misapprehension: 
The health insurer Anthem said on Friday that it had agreed to acquire its rival Cigna for $48.3 billion in a deal that would further concentrate the United States market to just a few major players. 
The combined company would have estimated revenue of about $115 billion and serve more than 53 million people with medical coverage...
Sure, the Affordable Care Act is better than no change at all. But, as many have said from the beginning, it's a sop to insurance companies and sucks billions in profits and administrative costs out of the system, dollars that ought to be spent on actual care.

And, of course, it makes even more of a joke out of the claims of the right-wing screamers that it's a government takeover, socialist commie nazi Kenyan thing that makes you hate America and marry someone of the same sex while you stand, gunless, before a death panel.

[Image source]

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Columnating Trump


Here's my latest newspaper column:
Not long ago Donald Trump addressed a crowd in Arizona, where he retrod his undocumented claims about the Mexican government “sending” its rapists to the US. The venue was a convention center with a capacity of 4,100. Afterwards he tweeted a picture of the audience with the notation, “This is what 20,000 people looks like.” Perfect. 
Donald Trump is indeed perfect. Detail by detail, he embodies the voter-ideal the Republican hierarchy and its media enforcers have been working so hard to create: a person to whom facts are irrelevant, whose idea of strength is the my-way highway, whose definition of patriotism is bullying braggadocio, and whose answers to the most complicated problems are so simple they fit on bumper stickers. Nuance? Unwelcome as a climate change conference. He’s the mephitic spawn of Karl Rove and Lee Atwater. Or maybe he sprang from the ids of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Alex Jones, Michael Savage, Ann Coulter, and the rest of our rightwing spewers. It’s as if they each brought a favorite body part to a lab and stitched him together. His popularity tells us much about today’s Republican voters. 
Rising to political prominence by questioning President Obama’s birthplace, Trump sent “investigators” to Hawaii where, he claimed, they were finding “amazing” things which, for some reason, he’s never gotten around to sharing with us. (Maybe it was pineapples. Pineapples are pretty amazing over there.) Now he tops the polls and Republican leaders are between a rock-head and a hard case: to criticize is to disown the denialism and deceptions they’ve been crafting for years. It’s no mystery why “the base” admires Donald Trump. He’s born of decades of deliberate disinformation, efflorescing now like a corpse plant. His ideas are boilerplate: tax the poor, cut needed spending to lower taxes on the rich, talk tough, reject science, monger fear and resentment. Offering nothing new, he does it louder. 
Predictable as the next round of record-breaking heat, Trump attacked the agreement with Iran as soon as it was announced. “It’s a disgrace,” he informed us. “We look so desperate,” he reasoned, as if strict sanctions leading to years of negotiations involving several countries happened in a panic. Yes, because anything except war is a sign of weakness, and because our previous invasions have worked out so well. Trump, of course, wasn’t alone in opining before the details were made public. Lindsey Graham crawled out from under his bed to speak to Joe Scarborough, predicting the end of the world. Joe mostly agreed but allowed as how he’d like to read it first. “Me, too,” said Mr. Graham, without evident irony. 
Not that it’ll make any difference, but experts, including nuclear scientists and weapons inspectors, have marveled at how airtight the agreement is. So far, arguments against it ring hollow. I don’t know if it’ll work, but apocalyptic claims notwithstanding, it’s hardly na├»ve. The only way we’ll get past the constant threat of war is to give Iran’s young people reasons to reject their ayatollahs and admire the US. After all, we found our way from “you’re with us or with the terrorists” to offering alternatives. Given the opportunity, they might, too. 
Even if they voice objections, Trump has made it impossible for Republicans to deny their real agenda: illegal immigration and “taking our country back” are exactly what Tea Partiers have been fed by those wanting to keep them angry in the wrong direction. Who knows whether Trump’s claims are deliberate lies or simply uninformed? (He does seem to favor making up numbers on the spot.) But, exactly as intended, they’re keeping impending oligarchy under the rug, 
I’ll admit Trump is facile, if thin-skinned, in interviews. Wiggling out of tight spots with flimflam, he’ll do well in debates, at least in the eyes of the fact-averse. Which, I suppose, is the point. Unless their party produces a candidate with realistic ideas, they may as well go for the guy who slings it the furthest. And now we have his asinine comments about John McCain, which, no matter the fallout (because Rs hate  [Kerry!] attacks [Cleland!] on decorated veterans [Duckworth!]), won’t change the fact that a superficial blowhard like Donald Trump has led the Republican presidential pack.
 
[Image source]

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Thoughts For A Sunday



His thoughts on the morality -- or lack thereof -- of the Biblical view of God are exactly those that I concluded as I thought about it over time, and went from the sort of belief that I (sort of) inherited to the reality-based conclusion that life is better lived based on the very human traits of empathy and inquiry.

I understand that people will have "answers" to his propositions, and I recognize the necessity. My point, though, is that it's fine for people to use whatever thought processes they need to make it through life; but when they insist that these internally inconsistent or morally questionable beliefs become the basis for public law, it's time to call them out on it.

If it works for you, fine. Life is hard. But if your need is so great that you consider it an assault on your religion when others see things differently, or insist that your views must become the law of the land, well, watch the video again.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

More Columny


My latest newspaper column, somewhat revised and refined from a previous post here:

Whatever else they may be, in their marriage-equality dissents the conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court are neither impartial nor innocent callers of balls and strikes, as Chief Justice Roberts famously feigned at his confirmation hearing. It doesn't take much understanding of the role of the Supreme Court to recognize which of the verbiage in their dissents had nothing to do with it. Even Justice Kennedy's opinion for the majority, poetic as it was in places, was laden with chaff. He concluded:
“It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization's oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”
I agree, of course. But the entire opinion could have been rendered with the last two sentences alone. Clarence Thomas (in whose lifetime his own marriage was illegal until the Supreme Court invalidated laws prohibiting it) was having none of that dignity stuff, asserting, as jaws dropped: “Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be enslaved.” That's some strict interpreting!
No longer bothering even to pretend, Antonin Scalia could only splutter and fume: “This is a naked judicial claim to legislative — indeed, super-legislative — power. … Except as limited by a constitutional prohibition … the States are free to adopt whatever laws they like. … A system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy.”
Every high school student should know how wrong that is. Surely he's heard of judicial review. If not, what did he mean by “except as limited by a constitutional prohibition”? That's precisely the job of the court: to determine when laws violate the Constitution. He may not like the decision (I've disliked many of his, in which he did exactly what he decries in this opinion: did he forget them?) but to say that it's inconsistent with democracy is to ignore a founding constitutional principle, settled since Marbury v. Madison. So he went for hysterical hyperbole. So did Mr. Alito, warning “people will have to whisper their beliefs in the recesses of their homes.” That's what plops from the south end of a north-facing horse, the sort of fear-mongering vote-fishing jiggery-pokery we expect from Fox “news,” not from a member of the highest court in the land.
Other than his bizarre anthropology lesson, Mister Justice Roberts was slightly more temperate, if no less wrong: “It is instead about whether … [the definition of marriage] should rest with the people. … The Constitution leaves no doubt about the answer.” He's right in his last sentence, but like Scalia, startlingly wrong in its application. This no more about “redefining” marriage than “Loving v. Virginia” was. It's about equal rights under the law; no more, no less. It could just as well have been about the ability of states to restrict public education to heterosexuals. What could be a more central role of the Supreme Court than determining whether the Constitution allows such proscription? Claims about love or children or lessons on Aztec and Carthaginian conjugal habits are beside the point. In making those arguments, the court is trying to define marriage, which is not their job. Theirs is to act when “the people” produce laws contrary to our Constitution. If the furious four were what they claim to be, instead of agenda-driven ideologues, the decision would have been unanimous.
Predictably, presidential candidates from the party of patriotism have rushed to the unconditional embrace of Fox “news,” unfurling their intention to ignore the law, adjuring others to join them. That's not merely historical ignorance: it's traitorous sedition, leaving us to wonder why they hate America so much. As they shamelessly whip up outrage over a non-existent attack on religion, let's note that none has explained why all must follow their preferred religious views, or how same sex marriage harms the rest of us. I just checked, and, by golly, I'm still married. Forty-four years.

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Monday, July 6, 2015

Plagues Upon Us


Can any rational person -- and I take it on faith and a certain amount of experience that there remains a few some among today's conservatives -- deny that these people are completely nuts?

It’s only been five days since the court issued its ruling, but conservative pundits have already predicted that gay marriage will ultimately be responsible for natural disasters, terrorist attacks and the destruction of freedom. 
1) Terrorist attacks While there haven’t been any terrorist attacks against the U.S. since the court’s ruling, whenever there are, anti-LGBT activists will know who to blame: ... Sandy Rios, the American Family Association’s director of governmental affairs, linked the marriage equality decision to the reported July 4 terror threat. Declaring that there will be “some consequence” to this “unbelievable affront to God,” Rios suggested that “the terror threat against this nation has gone up exponentially” as a result of the marriage decision.   
2) Forced gay sex The right-wing warnings of “forced homosexuality” are now coming true, at least according to one pastor...
The article goes on. And on. Several more bullet points.

If thinking were a thing, one might think that at some point, when all of these apocalyptic things fail to happen, the suckers will begin to realize they've been sucked. But they're still claiming Obama is coming for their guns, nearly seven years into a non-gun-coming presidency. So, no, I guess not.

It's worth commenting on the "forced gay sex" thing: looking for an excuse, ya think? It reminds me of a joke my grandpa liked to tell. Short version: an observant Jew is traveling through Texas, and stops for a bite to eat. A Texan offers him half his ham sandwich and the man demurs. The Texan offers him a beer, and again he refuses. (My grandpa managed to make this about a five-minute dissertation.) Finally, the Texan gets pissed off and pulls his gun. "Listen, stranger, around these parts we don't cotton to unfriendly visitors. Now drink the damn beer." So, trembling, the Jewish man takes a sip of beer. And says, "Hey, as long as you have the gun on me, would you mind passing the ham sandwich."

So. Yeah. Forced gay sex. And don't fling 'em into the briar patch.

[Image source]

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Applesauce



It came to me today on my morning walk, and admittedly it was hot as hell and my brain might have overheated some. But it all makes sense, that rejection of science, facts, expertise that has come to constitute today's Republican party, which, in turn, is made up of so many of a particular sort of Christian. And here it is: THEY'RE GIVING BACK THE APPLE! 

It's all about original sin, that evil woman who chose to learn stuff, that offensive act from which all of God's wrath, through generation after generation, by storm and pestilence and hemorrhoids and halitosis and by raining down homosexuals upon us all, has flowed.

THEY'RE GIVING BACK THE FKING APPLE!!! It ain't me, God, they're saying. I'm not the one who wanted to become enlightened about this world. See? Watch this. You can have it all back. So we're good, right?

THEY'RE GIVING BACK THE APPLE!!!!

[Image source]

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Me, Too!


[Image from the walls of Facebook]

Those Who Forget History...



This letter to the editor appeared in my local newspaper this morning:
Whether you agree or disagree with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on gay marriage, in my opinion, it was offensive to see the White House emblazoned in rainbow colors that evening. The White House is — and should remain — a symbol of all Americans, regardless of their beliefs.
Uh, ma'am? I think that's the whole point of the rainbow.

[Added: Surprise! Bill-O doesn't get it, either.]

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Monday, June 29, 2015

And Another Thing



If the job of the Supreme Court is to judge constitutionality, how is this relevant:
In a 5-4 decision, the court sided with industry and 23 states that challenged the Environmental Protection Agency over the rules for oil- and coal-fired utilities, which the EPA estimated would cost $9.6 billion dollars annually. The states and industry groups said the cost estimate far outweighed the benefits the rules would produce, estimated at $4 million to $6 million per year. 
The courts majority agreed, saying the EPA interpreted the regulation "unreasonably when it deemed cost irrelevant to the decision to regulate power plants."
Why is cost an issue for the courts? The question, I'd think, is whether the agency has the power to regulate emissions. It does, or it doesn't. Yet again, far as I can tell, the "constitutionalist" wing of the court deems to legislate rather than adjudicate. I admit to not having read the whole decision; maybe there's precedent (although that seems only to apply when they so choose) for the courts deciding "undue burden" in cases like these. Maybe somewhere within they claimed there's no right to regulate. But if so, the cost issue would have been moot.

Laws are passed all the time that demand compliance without saying who is to bear the costs or where the money would come from, or without even addressing the issue of costs. I know there are some lawyers who read this. Maybe they could enlighten us all.

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Judging The Judges



Whatever else the conservatives on the Supreme Court may be, in their marriage-equality dissents they’re neither impartial nor innocent callers of balls and strikes, as Chief Justice Roberts famously pretended at his confirmation hearing.  (At least we can agree that “judicial activism” is defined, by all sides, as a decision with which one disagrees.) It doesn’t take much understanding of the law and the role of the Supreme Court to recognize that most of the verbiage in their dissents has nothing to do with it. Even Justice Kennedy’s opinion for the majority, poetic as it was in places, was full of irrelevance. Kennedy concluded:
“... It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

I agree, of course. But it’s only the last two sentences that are material; in fact, the whole opinion could have been rendered with those alone. Contrarily, the raging of Antonin Scalia couldn’t have been more unhinged. “This is a naked judicial claim to legislative—indeed, super-legislative—power; a claim fundamentally at odds with our system of government. Except as limited by a constitutional prohibition agreed to by the People, the States are free to adopt whatever laws they like, even those that offend the esteemed Justices’ “reasoned judgment.” A system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy.”

As every high school student should know, that is astoundingly wrong. Surely he’s heard of judicial review. He even alluded to it, with the words “except as limited by a constitutional prohibition.” That’s precisely the job of the court: to determine when laws violate our constitution. He may disagree with the conclusion, but to say that it’s inconsistent with our democracy is to ignore a basic American judicial principle, settled since Marbury v. Madison. To conclude that the Constitution allows discrimination against an otherwise legal class of citizens is to forfeit claim to the label “conservative,” not to mention “Constitutionalist.” So he went for smoke and mirrors.

To the smacks of foreheads everywhere, Justice Thomas asserted, “…Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be enslaved…” That’s some strict interpreting.

Other than a weirdly inappropriate anthropology lesson, Mister Justice Roberts was more temperate if no less wrong: “… It is instead about whether, in our democratic republic, that decision should rest with the people… or with five lawyers who happen to hold commissions authorizing them to resolve legal disputes according to law. The Constitution leaves no doubt about the answer.” He’s right in his last sentence, but like Scalia, startlingly wrong in its application. Sure, this “redefines” marriage in the same way “Loving v. Virginia” did, and in the same way the Roberts court recently redefined “people.” But this was about equal rights under the law, nothing more, nothing less. It could just as well have been about the right of states to limit public schools only to heterosexuals, or to demand that they only include teaching the Bible. What could be a more fundamental role of the courts than determining whether the Constitution allows such things? Claims about love or children or Carthaginians on either side are extraneous. In making those sorts of arguments, the court IS defining marriage, which is NOT their job. Their job is to act when “the people” produce laws that are contrary to our Constitution, and when they do, to put a stop to it. Despite those bizarre dissents, that’s just what they did. If the furious four were what they claim to be, the decision would have been unanimous.

Predictably, and to the righteous waving of teabags, presidential candidates from the party of patriotism are lining up before the approving “journalists” at Fox “news,” to promise they’ll ignore the court. That’s much more than historical ignorance. It’s sedition, undisguised. Why do they hate America so much?


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Beyond Unbalanced



Having breakfast in a motel where we're staying while visiting the grandkid and those who brought him into the world, Fox "news" was on, loud, before I changed channels and muted it. (Can't be too careful.)

And there some panel was, still talking about how President Obama shouldn't have used the word "nigger," despite the context that should have been apparent to a third grader. And then one of them mentioned how he debased that song I'm sure they all sing every morning after taking the Pledge of Allegiance and agreeing that the Supreme Court must be ignored. "Amazing Grace."

Who can consider that network anything but nonstop and base propaganda? Their motto is the ultimate example of Orwellian -- or more accurately, Politburo -- use of language. And that kind of crap spews into people's homes round the clock, their listeners lapping it up as if from a trough. Can there be any question why our politics are so polarized, our president so reviled by the Foxified? God, it was awful.

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