Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Charles P Pierce has written a thoughtful essay on the effects of money in our political process, and has provided somewhat of a unique take on it, concluding with this:
Citizens United -- and its ungodly spawn, McCutcheon -- have sent our politics into refraction. Nothing is what it appears to be any more. Chozick is right to point out that the result of the decision has been to create candidates drifting ever closer to the ideal ofNashville's Hal Phillip Walker, who campaigns through that film only as a voice from a sound truck. Thanks to John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy, we now have candidates who campaign primarily as characters in television commercials, like Flo from Progressive Insurance, or the two people in the bathtubs for Cialis. Moreover, the flood of money now flows so swiftly and powerfully, and so far underground, that the best you can do is guess what effect it is having on the process. Then, after it's over, ideology gets credit for what money has purchased. The new world of unregulated political money has given an even deeper sense of unreality to the way we govern ourselves. Nothing is as it seems to be. Nothing can be reckoned fully to be genuine. Not the polls. Not the campaigns. Not the candidates. Not even the results, truth be told. Unregulated political money has worked as an accelerant to all the worst aspects of modern political campaigns. More than ever before, our elections have become design contests.The preceding paragraphs are worth a read, too. As usual he says much better than I ever could something about which I've written and pondered a lot: what explains the obvious fact that the fank and rile of the right wing vote so predictably against their own interests.
Friday, September 26, 2014
How interesting it will be: Rs hate Eric Holder nearly as much as they hate Barack Obama. They're celebrating his announced retirement like they celebrated the choice of Sarah Palin as veep. And with about the same amount of reality-testing.
So how will they deal with Obama's next choice for AG, knowing that Holder will remain until his successor is in place? They've filibustered pretty much everyone the president has put forward for pretty much every possible position. It's what they love to do. OTOH, the more they block the nominee, the longer the hated Holder holds his home. Ha.
Thursday, September 25, 2014
Check Out Health Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with DrMikeSevilla on BlogTalkRadioCame across this webcast interview I did a few years back, when Surgeonsblog was in its prime. My part starts at about 12:00, and goes on for a looooong time... (And, oh yeah: the picture is of Mike, the host, not me. I'm not that good-looking.)
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
When he's on his game, Jon Stewart can out-interview any of our most celebrated "journalists." Again, can't get the embed code, so go to this link to see his interview with General Anthony Zinni. Then consider how unlikely it is that our latest military adventure will be any more successful than any of our several recent ones. Consider how it began with the criminally short-sighted, simplistic, dishonest, ill-prepared invasion of Iraq. Listen for what the general says he heard from people in the region as Dick Cheney's puppet announced our imminent salvation of god-demanded good from the clutches of evil.
More importantly, consider what is said about the limits of, and the areas in which American influence might have a positive role in the world. Then consider the ways in which the right wing in our country are doing everything they can to take us in exactly the wrong direction.
Oh, they'll find the funds to "support" the military, if by support you mean fund battle capabilities including weapons systems the military neither wants nor needs. Not the soldiers themselves, of course; not when they come home. Simultaneously they'll rail against "foreign aid," that paltry part of our budget, block its spending in exactly the areas where we might have a chance of accomplishing something that gains friends, stabilizes the world, instead of creating more enemies and fomenting the chaos that comes from acting only on the sort of fear that flutters poor little Lindsey Graham's tender heart, and on the vote-getting and deceitful pounding of "patriotism," connecting the word to war, and only to war. And the massive profits therefrom.
Not to mention the nearly parenthetical reference by Zinni to the fact that China aims to out-educate us. Consider the implications, and contrast it to the relentless efforts of today's "conservatives" to defund education, to turn it into bible school, to rewrite history, to demonize science and those who promote it.
I'll credit President Obama for seeming, until now, to realize the historical consequences of our recent interventions, the ways in which they have made things worse, the impossibility of solving complex problems with only one tool. For obvious reasons, not all of them good, he couldn't sit by regarding ISIS any longer. But I find his attempts to pretend it's not war, it's somehow different, disappointing. But he's had to reap a whirlwind, an existential storm not of his own making, for which the only solution, if there's time for it, is the passage of time. Centuries, maybe. With death abundant in the meantime. (But, because of the denialsim and obstructionism of America's right wing, I doubt humanity has centuries left on this earth.)
There can be no doubt that Bush's arrogant and simple-minded invasion of Iraq was the worst mistake by any president, and that its ramifications for the world and for our own economy and body politic were and remain disastrous, leaving massive problems with impossible solutions. No matter how Obama had handled it, the multi-layered catastrophe was set, irretrievably, in brimstone. Pulled out sooner, or not at all. Kept ten or a hundred thousand troops in Iraq forever. Occupation was and is destined to fail. American troops cannot affect, in the long run, the tribal and religious and ethnic hatreds in that region.
Clearly, we'll never learn. And if some people do learn, they'll never be able to turn their wisdom into action, because for every Anthony Zinni in this country, there are dozens of John McCains and Lindsey Grahams and John Boehners; and hundreds of mouthpieces on right wing TV and radio to cheer them on, to bamboozle their audiences, convince them that our future depends on god and on war and that to consider anything else, like education and helping those in need here and abroad, is tantamount to treason. Which, in fact, is their favorite word to use to describe everything Obama has done with the tiny bucket for bailing that they've allowed him as we drown in the flood from the dam his predecessor blasted to bits.
(Yes, I go over the top sometimes. Frequently, I suppose. But it's either that or go all Oedipal on my eyes when I see the idiocy that has passed for politics in the world's greatest democracy, ever since, well, you know...)
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Skip to about 3:00 to get to the meat of it. Assuming you can stand a full meal deal of idiocy. If you didn't already know about the stupidity of R members of Congress -- on the Science committee, no less!! -- be prepared. It's taking stupid to transgalactic levels.
I've actually seen the whole damn hearing. The guy who asks about levels of CO2 that are toxic to humans, Steve "I'm the dumbest guy in Congress next to Louis Gohmert" Stockman, never gets it. Never acknowledges that what's happening over the last few decades has nothing to do with a phenomenon that takes a hundred thousand years. Dana "Hey-wait-a-minute-I'M-the-dumbest-guy" Rohrabacher thinks he had a major gotcha. Because he got the science guy to admit that 400 ppm is, in fact, NOT harmful to human health. Per se. Dontcha know.
Note the smug self-satisfaction on the face of the guy who points out that melting ice in a glass doesn't raise the level. And, no, the science guy didn't have time to point out the obvious, the way Jon Stewart did.
This is what we're dealing with. These are the people that represent today's Republican party, the ones happily elected by their teabagging Foxolimbeckifed bought-and-paid-for-by-the-Koch-brothers deliberately-and-willingly-deceived voters. This is why the 400,000 people who marched Sunday were wasting their time. They're agitating for the obvious. Those suckered voters are being kept oblivious. The people in Congress who have the power to block climate change action are the perfect combination of on the take, in the tank, too stupid to understand, and too greedy to give a shit.
Monday, September 22, 2014
I've forgotten most of what I learned in medical school. What was valuable to me, as a surgeon, I learned during residency. With a gun to my medulla oblongata I couldn't conjugate a Krebs cycle or frabulate a benzene ring. Sure, I still know about the rudiments of certain organs' physiology, something about how a few drugs work. Anatomy? Most of it didn't really sink in until it mattered in the OR. The stuff duly memorized in front of a blank TV and excreted back into a quiz book is mostly gone. And I don't expect I'm entirely exceptional in my forgetting. We retain what's useful.
Yet it's hard to imagine anyone making it through medical school without at least some understanding of the scientific method rubbing off deeply enough to stick. It's, like, the foundation of all modern medical inquiry; and it provides the means, on one's own, to evaluate new concepts, to be able to distinguish good research from bad. Mediocrity, I guess, can be achieved and maintained by rote and uninquisitive learning; and it's certainly true that not everyone who has an M and a D and a couple of dots after his or her name is above the 50th percentile in intelligence. (Look at this guy. Read about him, too.) But it's an enduring mystery to me that so many R physicians elected to public office are lunatics. Pig-headed. Entirely refractory to the lessons of reality. Or, alternatively, conscience-free panderers and prevaricators.
Listen to this guy, and wonder if he's actually stupid enough to believe this shit, or if he's a deliberate liar who assumes his audience is. Congress is full of physician science-deniers, every single one of them a Republican. Here's another, a proud member of the House science committee (who, happily, overstepped his ego and lost a bid to become Georgia's next senator). (The guy set to replace him is even worse, but he's a man of god, not a doc.) Here's yet another. A Georgian, too, wtf.
They're not alone, of course, among their colleagues. But virtually every one of them is on the record denying global climate change, or making ridiculous claims about homosexuality. And Obamacare. A lot of them have flatly rejected the fact of evolution. Nor are there only one or two such split-brain creatures. There are gobs. And more in the pipeline. (What is it with neurosurgeons, anyway?)
On some level, I find it as embarrassing as I do mystifying. I feel a certain kinship with all physicians. When docs are uncovered as fraudsters (a lot of that, too, lately); when incompetence or shameless greed within the profession are revealed, I take it personally. It's degrading to us all. But this peculiar political idiocy is a special category, somehow, and beyond the usual sort of human insufficiencies. I get that many, if not most, docs are "conservatives," and mostly for the expected reason: don't wanna pay taxes. And maybe it's just as simple as the truism that human beings run the gamut from thoughtful progressives to hateful reactionaries, from brilliant to petrified (both senses of the word) and there's no reason to expect doctors to be different.
Now, I have many conservative colleagues with whom I've had enjoyable and reality-based conversations. And I have an extremely former friend of whom that was transiently true, before he mysteriously went off the deep end, claiming that the whole Seal Team 6 killing bin Laden thing was faked, that Obama is a terrorist plant, etc ad teabaggium. I have no idea what happened; perhaps it was just a natural progression. Maybe, within the conservative-medical brain confluence, such devolution is inevitable.
But it's bewildering nonetheless. It's one thing for Michele Bachmann or Sean Hannity or Louis Gohmert to reveal their cranial impenetrability every day, every hour, on national TV. But doctors? Elected to public office? Simply unfathomable. I think I prefer to believe they're just Foxolimbeckian liars and charlatans, on the take, in the tank.
Easier to comprehend.
Friday, September 19, 2014
Can't embed the video for some reason, so follow this link to watch Bill Clinton on The Daily Show. To me, it's beyond impressive. Sensible. Thoughtful. Deep. And elevating.
If only our screamers on the right were able to think in this way. This is the exact opposite of the bilge poured onto its viewers every day by Fox "news" and their co-conspirators on the radio. Not to mention virtually every elected R official in Congress and, for the most part, across the land.
Until our national conversations are like the above, and not like the vapors emitted from Lindsey Grahamoids and the people who elect and admire him, the future prospects for this country, and the world, are depressingly dim.
I'll refrain from comparing Clinton's post-presidency to that of that other guy, the one who spends his time painting pictures of his feet in a bathtub. (And, yes, I was thinking that long before J.S. brought it up at the very end.)
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
So the House of Whoever-It-Is-They-Represent is voting today on money to train and arm Syrian "rebels." I hope they read this first. And this.
What could possibly go wrong? Nothing, I guess; especially if we follow this advice. Which, no doubt, is based on clear-headed assessment, like this, from our most level-headed, clear-eyed US Senator.
And here's the not even slightly funny part: John McCain and Lindsey Graham, constant mongerers of war and praisers of exactly the wrong people, might well be facilitators of the very boogeymen that frighten them so:
“Thank God for the Saudis and Prince Bandar,” John McCain told CNN’s Candy Crowley in January 2014. “Thank God for the Saudis and Prince Bandar, and for our Qatari friends,” the senator said once again a month later, at the Munich Security Conference...
... Like elements of the mujahideen, which benefited from U.S. financial and military support during the Soviet war in Afghanistan and then later turned on the West in the form of al-Qaeda, ISIS achieved scale and consequence through Saudi support, only to now pose a grave threat to the kingdom and the region. It’s this concern about blowback that has motivated Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to encourage restraint in arming Syrian rebels. President Obama has so far heeded these warnings.
John McCain’s desire to help rebel forces toss off a brutal dictator and fight for a more just and inclusive Syria is admirable. But as has been proven repeatedly in the Middle East, ousting strongmen doesn’t necessarily produce more favorable successor governments. Embracing figures like Bandar, who may have tried to achieve his objectives in Syria by building a monster, isn't worth it...
And let's not even get into the suggestions that McGraham were pawns in the Saudi goal of annexing Damascus. Because that would be too painful to contemplate.
Oh. God. We will never learn.
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Read the names here; then, consider the impacts of (and, likely, a big part of the reasons for) the right-wing desire to stop immigration, even legal immigration, of non-whites. Consider where the future of our country lies, in whom the vestiges of the "American Dream" reside, the belief that hard work combined with good (i.e. non-bible-based) education will lead to success.
Fearing hoards of reality-based and motivated people, the leaders of our right-wing America-lovers not only want to close the doors to our country, but to our schoolhouses and voting booths. They may not be stupid themselves, because they're damned successful in their efforts; but those efforts are predicated on the stupidity of their voters, and are aimed at maintaining high levels of it across the prairies and beyond the mountains, from sea to warming sea.
If there's any hope for our country at all, it's in those kids and in the hints that they and the rest of their generation are not so hate- and fear-filled, so willfully ignorant as the one infecting our present-day body politic, like necrotizing fasciitis.
Monday, September 15, 2014
Someone forwarded another of those right-wing emails that makes an outrageous claim about the latest horror perpetrated on what's left of America by that black guy. As usual, it included the declaration "Snopes confirms!!" (This one was the well-worn warning about a "little known" part of Obamacare that mandates the establishing of free gas stations in black neighborhoods. Yeah. I'd believe that.)
So here's the rule: if one of those emails arrives and if it contains any variation of "Snopes confirms," you can be 100% certain the opposite is true. Without fail, without question.
Liberals, of course, are used to this, because the liberal brain includes healthy skepticism toward unbelievable claims. But it wouldn't hurt if the rare conservative who wanders by these parts would keep it in mind.
Friday, September 12, 2014
There was a time, way back before innocence died, when George W. Bush looked into Vlad Putin's eyes and saw his soul, somewhere down there along with the yellowcake he saw in Niger and the mobile biological weapons factories he saw in Iraq. We judge the character of presidents, after all, by the way they judge the character of others. Whether they pal around with terrorists, for example.
And so it is that we look similarly at presidential contenders, and their choices of pallsers-around. John McCain, in that context, comes to mind not only because he was the choice of a once-credible and still-major political party to assume the reins of power, but also because he remains the most sought-after voice by our media in their never-ending commitment to providing our citizens with the information they need from the best sources possible. So should we also consider the significance of the fact that that same fount of foreign policy wisdom sought to perpetrate upon us the least qualified, most poorly informed, most diseducated and dishonest charlatan and conperson ever to receive a vice-presidential nod. Convinced himself that she was just the ticket; or shamelessly shed what little remained of his honor, in the pursuit of power and ego. Dan Quayle? Thomas Jefferson Winston Churchill by comparison.
... “There’s some sort of unofficial birthday/Iron Dog-type/snowmachine party in Anchorage. A nice, mellow party, until the Palins show up,” Coyne wrote. “There’s beer, of course, and maybe other things. Which is all fine, but just about the time when some people might have had one too many, a Track Palin stumbles out of a stretch Hummer, and immediately spots an ex-boyfriend of Willow’s. Track isn’t happy with this guy, the story goes. There’s words, and more.”
“The owner of the house gets involved, and he probably wished he hadn’t,” Coyne continued. “At this point, he’s up against nearly the whole Palin tribe: Palin women screaming. Palin men thumping their chests. Word is that Bristol has a particularly strong right hook, which she employed repeatedly, and it’s something to hear when Sarah screams, ‘Don’t you know who I am!’ And it was particularly wonderful when someone in the crowd screamed back, ‘This isn’t some damned Hillbilly reality show!’”
“No, it’s what happens when the former First Family of Alaska comes knocking. As people were leaving in a cab, Track was seen on the street, shirtless, flipping people off, with Sarah right behind him, and Todd somewhere in the foreground, tending to his bloody nose,” she concluded...I'm not so naive as to think this incident would do anything but enhance Ms Palin's (any and all of the Ms-s Palin) cred with the baggiest of our teabagging Americans. But to those remaining conservatives able to recall -- and long for -- the days of intellectual rigor, one would hope that -- assuming they swallowed hard and pulled the lever or punched the chad anyway -- they might shudder in some mortifying combination of relief and shame. And work to bring their party back to one that valued people who knew what they were talking about and who considered open-hearted discourse a part of the process. Instead of whatever it is that Palin and McCain have come to be. Or, at least regarding the moose-huntress, always were.
Thursday, September 11, 2014
Hard not to have a sense of deja vu: a president telling of a direct threat to the US. At least he didn't promise a quick war that would pay for itself, or lie about WMD, or, far as we know, divvy up the oil fields in advance; but he eschewed troops on the ground, whereas we all know there are special forces there already.
No doubt ISIS/ISIL are really horrible people; in fact, calling them people strains the definition. And they're certainly a destabilizing force in a land where stability is vapor already. Do they, with their better quality videos and leftover US weapons, represent a greater threat to the homeland than any other insanely hate-filled group or individuals? Hard to see how.
Will this effort, as opposed to every previous one starting the day after 9/11/01, finally eradicate a named terrorist group, lowering the number on the planet by one, forever? Will this mole stay whacked? Will we be more successful this time around in identifying the good guys? As opposed to when McCain went to Syria and hung with pre-ISIS? Or when Reagan armed the pre-al Quedas in Afghanistan? Is there something I'm missing, a way in which this war won't engender more of the same? Will it actually, demonstrably, by recognizable parameters, make us safer?
Would we be doing this if our political system weren't so irretrievably broken? If the right-wing weren't intent upon (and depressingly successful at) painting our president as weak, or worse? If there weren't people at Fox "news" suggesting the president ought to get advice from the guy who screwed up everything he touched as Commander in Chief? (Yes, they did. No, it wasn't an Onion satire.) If the WSJ and other right wing organs weren't actually saying, without irony, that Dick Cheney is "still right?" (Somehow I'd have thought the use of the word "still" would refer to a person who'd been previously right about something, anything, regarding his own war adventurism. But I guess that's just me.)
In my bleeding liberal heart, there resides the belief that not every problem is solvable with American power, nor in need of direct American intervention. As horrifying as it is to see the despicable depths to which some humans are capable of descending, especially in the name of their sick perception of some religion or other, part of me says some things just have to play out across time. If the people most directly affected are unwilling or unable to root out the evil, then how are we to do it? (And what ever happened to the billions we invested in training the Iraqi army?)
"We're fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them here." I didn't buy it when Cheney and his puppets said it then, and I don't now, as President Obama seems to imply it, yet again. Is that how it works? Really? Do our interventions there really make us safer here? Is that what's prevented, so far, another 9/11-level attack, or is it the efforts at surveillance at home?
Clearly, I have no answers. I really don't know if what we're doing is good or bad, effective or damaging. I don't know if there are subterranean reasons for doing this, as there clearly were in our invasion of Iraq, or if it's the best decision of the best minds addressing real threats to the safety of our nation.
All I know is that I'm not very optimistic about it, and it's hard to shake a sense of gloom. To understand at least part of the reasons why, read the words of Georgia congressman and recently defeated (by an even more egregious teabagger) senate candidate, Jack Kingston:
“It’s an election year. A lot of Democrats don’t know how it would play in their party, and Republicans don’t want to change anything. We like the path we’re on now. We can denounce it if it goes bad, and praise it if it goes well and ask what took him so long."
The aforementioned bleeding heart says the military approach to international asymmetrical (and very real) terrorism hasn't ever, and won't work now. I hope I'm wrong. I think the way to maximize homeland security is by homeland security; and that our future is at much greater risk by those in Congress who'd stop paying for all the things it (our future) needs than by a bunch of undeniably awful people operating thousands of miles away.
And I think Dick Cheney and his demon spawn, spewing their highly remunerative war-mongering, and the screaming heads at Fox and all over the airwaves braying that we're moments away from imposition of Sharia law (how it happens, exactly, they haven't elaborated), are the greatest threat of all. They make a damn good living by scaring the shit out of people. Other than very nicely lining their own pockets, and those of their contributors, they got everything wrong last time around. But it worked like a charm, and it's working again.
Deja vu. Deja fucking vu. Let's hope, for reasons I'm too dumb to see, that this time is different.
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Gotta admit I was pleasantly surprised at the margin of victory, 79 - 18, for the vote on a constitutional amendment to end "Citizens United." Of course, all the "no" votes were Rs.
On the other hand, the vote in question was only to allow the bill to come up for a vote (the Senate rules are nothing if not arcane), and it remains to be seen if it'll get enough R votes at that point to pass the constitutional requirement of 66 on the final tally. (Update, 9/11: anyone wanna guess?)
Mitch "Up or down vote" McConnell is the archetype, the Platonic ideal, the very model of the modern major hypocrite, switching positions with the political winds and, most particularly, depending on who's in the majority in the Senate. His "nay" is not in question. And even if the Senate passes the bill, there's no way in hell the House, with its R majority, will. Their seats are virtually cast in cement, the same kind mobsters used to drown their victims; and whereas the people who elect them are the very ones losing the most in the march to plutocracy, their fully Foxolimbeckifed brains will never understand how they've been played for fools.
Mitch counts on it. He gets lots of money to count on it, from the tiny group of very rich men in whose thrall the R party has come to be; and they count on the deception to remain unquestioned.
Which, of course, it will. That's what their propagandist media machine is for. And it's never failed.
Friday, September 5, 2014
One of the curious things about Facebook is that if a "friend" leaves a comment on the page of someone unknown, I get notified. Recently that phenomenon sucked me into a "conversation" with the original poster, who'd claimed Barack Obama is the worst president ever.
I made the mistake of responding to some comments by people who were making fully Foxolimbeckifed claims about the horrors of Obamacare. What I did was post links to impartial articles, among which was one discussing the fact that several red states have recently decided to sign on. And one linking to a just-released study by Kaiser-Permanente, about premium rates, which were, shall we say, at odds with claims made on that thread.
Here's how the original poster responded:
People like you Sid make me sick to my stomach. Socialized
medicine is run by your Government and we the people don't
want the government to run any part of our lives. You Liberals
are so insecure that you have to have others making your
decisions mainly because your not smart enough to and your
too lazy to go out and make a life on your own. Go find some
more lie's that your boyfriend Muslim brother digs up, this is
what you morons feed on is lies. So go back to your Liberal
News and get your daily food serving. You creep.!!!And there, in a nutshell, is the reason I'm so depressed about the future of our country, and the democracy on which, at one time, it was based. (Side note: as seen somewhere else on Facebook: "You can teach people to hate, and you can teach people to spell. Evidently, you can't do both.")
There, in a nutshell, is the result of non-stop Foxolimbeckification. The end of discourse. The ingestion, without the benefit of digestion, of deliberate lies and disinformation, based entirely on the well-established certainty that the consumers of right-wing propaganda will take it in with unmitigated credulity.
Nor is it mysterious: clearly Foxolimbeckifed teabaggers like it that way. They prefer their hatred to information. They reject the hard work of addressing real issues with real commitment to finding solutions. Because that would require letting go of prejudice; because that would require mental effort; because that would require what the US is really about, and it's not zero-sum politics. Until recently, anyway.
So, what do you think represents a greater threat to the foundations on which this country is built, on the persistence of which it depends: someone willing to try to engage in conversation by providing facts on which to base it, or someone who responds like the above-quoted proud "conservative?"
And when will what's left of conservatism in the country demand better of their bedfellows?
Monday, September 1, 2014
This is Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse responding, based on reality, to a speech by Republican Senator James Inhofe after the latter blocked, based on bogosity, a resolution stating that climate change is real.
One can hope that Mr Whitehouse's confidence in a future wherein the Senate will finally act on the problem is not misplaced; and that if it's not, the time will come before it's too late.