Cutting Through The Crap

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tough Guys


It Begins To Make Sense



I've always assumed that the reason teabaggers, mainline right-wingers and their string-pullers support Israel is the evangelical view that it's connected to the return of Jesus. Silly me:
Israel has granted a U.S. company the first license to explore for oil and gas in the occupied Golan Heights, John Reed of the Financial Times reports.
A local subsidiary of the New York-listed company Genie Energy — which is advised by former vice president Dick Cheney and whose shareholders include Jacob Rothschild and Rupert Murdoch — will now have exclusive rights to a 153-square mile radius in the southern part of the Golan Heights... (Emphasis mine!)
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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Newspaper Screed


So the local newspaper published another of my rants today: 

It’s said, by whom I’m not sure, that the best contract is one in which both parties think they got screwed. By that measure, Barack Obama is surely among the best presidents we’ve had. He’s disappointed liberals by opting against single-payer health care, not closing Gitmo, continuing George Bush’s NSA abuses, doing too little to prevent Wall Street excess, letting certain war criminals off the hook, drilling too much, and more. Conservatives (nowadays I use the term advisedly) consider our president a power-mad dictator who’s also an ineffectual coward; a diabolical America-hater whose every action, no matter how moderate or previously advocated, deserves unrestrained, wild-eyed condemnation. Especially when he tries to get things done while they refuse to.

It’s hard to watch Congressional Republicans unfailingly defend corporate interests at the expense of regular citizens, or to see yet another expression of conspiratorial outrage at something President Obama said or didn’t say, did or didn’t do. And it’s not because I think people never have a point in criticizing the president. It’s that I see the mainstream anger on the right as carefully orchestrated, ginned-up by the same people who financed the Tea Party and convinced them to vote against their own interests. How else to get people to look the other way while their party protects tax cuts for the favored while ignoring the present and future needs of everyone else? The faster they take us to plutocracy, the more they misdirect voters to shiny objects. Prestidigitation. Worked for Houdini.

Barack Obama’s presidency has been far from perfect. People say he’s been in office long enough that he should take full responsibility for all outcomes. I don’t entirely disagree. But it’s inarguable that he’s faced unprecedented and unanimous obstruction from the other side. None of George Bush’s initiatives – none – failed to get at least some Democratic votes. Well, you say, that just means he was better at negotiating with Congress. And I might buy it, were it not for the fact that on the first day of Obama’s presidency, before the words of his speech had stopped echoing around the National Mall, even as those embarrassing inaugural balls were still bouncing, Republican leaders were meeting to plot destruction of his agenda before they’d even heard it, whatever it was, no matter the tax cuts he included in the stimulus, or the conservative origins of his health care reform.

But let’s forget that. I can’t, but let’s anyway. Let’s look at what’s going on today. The sad state of those children at our southern border is instructive. The only thing I know for sure is that it’s horrible, and that the solution, if and when it’s found, will involve much more than a bunch of even more horrible people shouting red-faced and righteous at busloads of frightened children; or Rick Perry sending a thousand Guardsmen to repel them; or Republican leaders claiming Obama is deliberately bringing them here, nevermind fleeing murder and mayhem, to achieve unspecified but definitely dastardly ends. Marco Rubio says the problem is the order Obama signed delaying deportation of some minors. Does he, does anyone who watches Fox “news” know that the order applied only to those that have been here since 2007? Or that it was George WMD Bush who signed the law preventing immediate deportation of children from non-border countries? How much easier to spin conspiracy theories, to create fear and resentment, than to do the hard work of finding real solutions. (Heroic Sarah Palin bailed on the hard job of governing in favor of more remunerative, consequence- and content-free bloviating and Foxidolitry.) 

Legislating, including the willingness, birthed in Philadelphia, to compromise for the common good, happens to be the job, much as they’d prefer to ignore it, of those legislators who’d rather rush to Fox “news” cameras than to their desks. Who are readying a vote-shopping lawsuit against President Obama for delaying implementation of a law they’ve voted fifty-some times to repeal, while ignoring the fact that their previous president did that very thing with his health care law. And demanding, without irony, that he not enforce the aforementioned immigration law that other guy signed.

I wonder if Republican voters will ever consider why and by whom they’re being motivated to scream at kids instead of legislators, or to believe there’s no climate change, or to ignore our crumbling infrastructure, to demonize teachers, demand spending on more wars, and who stands to gain from it. Not before it’s too late. Of that I’m certain.


Friday, July 25, 2014

Progressivism



Okay, I can see where some people might take exception to a couple of these, on some sort of principle of other; but for the life of me I can't understand why 95% of Americans don't consider virtually all of it to go without saying.

How, in other words, can anyone but a very wealthy and very selfish and very short-sighted person, one who fails to understand or figures he/she needn't care about the vital importance to a capitalist democracy of a vibrant middle class, vote for today's Republican party? For that matter, how can anyone who calls him- or herself a Christian; unless preventing same sex marriage, based on something Jesus never said, overrides everything else he actually did.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Fire With Fire


Joker



There was a time, if memory serves, when I had a certain amount of admiration for John McCain. He fancied himself a straight-shootin' maverick and, before he got beaten by a snot-nosed black guy, he sort of was. I'm sure I couldn't have withstood what he did in Hanoi, even though it clearly left him damaged in more ways than physically.

And so it is that, especially since being beaten by Obama made him feel small, after the desperate need to win led him to choose a running mate, the personal embarrassment from which he'll never admit, the man has had a hard-on for every possible war there could ever be.

Okay, so he has a need to be tough, a belief, maybe, that the best foreign policy is always based on lobbing missiles and putting on the occasional outright invasion. For whatever reason, that's who he is; or has become.

Far as I'm concerned he's made a fool of himself ever since 2008 as he runs to the nearest mike to make the latest outrageous statement about the guy who beat him. But his response to the shoot-down of the airliner is beyond the pale. It's despicable, even for him:
“It’s just been cowardly, it’s a cowardly administration that failed to give the Ukrainians weapons with which to defend themselves,” McCain said.

In John McCain's damaged mind, not responding to every event militarily is cowardice. But it's not just that: he's calling the President of the United States a coward. After the people he seems to revere armed Osama bin Laden back in the day, and the Contras, you'd think it might occur to him that arming one side of a foreign war doesn't always work out. After he palled around in Syria with the terrorists who turned into ISIS, calling them easily identifiable as good, you'd think he might recognize that holding off isn't necessarily cowardice. That it might, in fact, be wisdom. Were it not coming from, well, you know...

Any situation so complicated -- and, despite his and his sock puppet's nonstop claims that foreign policy is easy: all you need to do is arm people or attack people, international crises are always complicated -- will attract all manner of contrasting ideas from all manner of actual or self-appointed experts. But to call a president a coward for not possessing a hair trigger, let alone assuming that somehow, magically, arming the resistance in Ukraine would have prevented the shoot-down, borders on obscenity. From the other side of the dividing line.

I think it's time to call John McCain what he is: a bitter, damaged old man with one and only one arrow left in his quiver. He'll always deserve a measure of respect for surviving his time in Hanoi, and an unreserved pass for breaking down and signing a "confession" there (a big factor, I'd say, in his current psychic turmoil). But it's long past time for people, even the propagandists at Fox "news," to stop considering his opinion on anything worth seeking out and giving air time. He's become a joke. A nasty sick joke.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Revelation



So here's one right-wing religious icon and phony historian who may have decided if he looks stupid to deny climate change, he may as well use it to his advantage:

David Barton appeared on TBN's "Praise The Lord" program last week where he warned that America is going to suffer the wrath of God for not properly supporting Israel because "any time you go after the Jews, God comes after you." ...
... Countries like the United States that are not siding with Israel will suffer the consequences, he warned, as God strikes this nation with extreme weather, droughts, productivity declines, and agricultural disasters...

Gotta love it. I mean, is there a safer proclamation? For yea, ifeth not America doest become not Christian, lo will the lord bring forth upon us in winter crystalized skyfall yet also in spring will vegetation come forth and cover the land. And if it befalls that my words prove false, I'm dyin'.

Well, whatever it takes to get the idiots on board.

Oh. Yeah. It means it's the hand of god, not carbon emissions. My bad. You just can't win with these guys. Any of them.

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Monday, July 14, 2014

I Got Deer. How About You?


What Kind Of Animal Spoor Are You? Take This Quiz To Find Out.


[Yeah, I made this up. But if you're on Facebook much, you'll agree it's not all that far-fetched.]

And The Difference Is...


Friday, July 11, 2014

Never Mind, Say Cleveland Fans



LeBron "talents" James, shunning the spotlight, quietly announces he's returning to Cleveland. For the love of the game, presumably.

In response, Cleveland fans (fans of basketball, not of Cleveland qua Cleveland about which there was a joke contest, when I was in med school there, "first prize: a week in Cleveland; second prize: two weeks*) have said, "who, us?"
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* Well, I was there when the Cuyahoga River caught fire. It's better now. Not a very high bar, though.

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Newsflash



Another writing challenge from ReadWave; this one requests a satirical news report. Here's my entry:

CONGRESS ACCIDENTALLY REPEALS GRAVITY  
It was a mistake, says Boehner. 

An embarrassed John Boehner, Speaker of the House of Representatives, admitted in a hastily-called press conference today that his party had inadvertently repealed gravity. Speaking from the ceiling of the press room, as reporters bobbed against each other angrily, spinning away as they raised their hands to ask questions, Mr Boehner explained it had been their intent simply to vote to repeal The Affordable Care Act for the fifty-first time. Someone, he stated, had added a paragraph to the resolution, denouncing the science of gravity. 
Refusing to name the Congressperson, reportedly a long-serving member of the House Science Committee, the Speaker pointed out that since previous repeals of the so-called "Obamacare" law had accomplished nothing, no one could have anticipated such an outcome. 
As has been the case with the official Republican Party position on climate change, the paragraph in question pointed out that since gravitational pull between two objects has never been fully explained, it cannot be considered "settled science." But there'd been no expectation that as Mr Boehner gaveled the debate closed, the gavel itself, followed by the Speaker and the acting parliamentarian, would float up from the podium. The four congressmen on the floor at the time had appeared bewildered, and left hurriedly through the visitor door in the upper balcony, holding hands for support. 
Pointing to the fact that, as far as could be determined, the loss of gravity was limited to the space inside the House of Representatives, Speaker Boehner asserted that the event was yet another example of President Obama playing politics and bypassing Congress instead of doing his job. Mr Boehner promised a full investigation, announcing plans to form a select committee, just as soon as members could be rounded up and brought down.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Pattern Recognition



So I guess this is how it'll be, henceforth and forever, pending the awakening of slumbering reason in today's conservatives. Elect a Democratic president, impeach him. (And, I suppose, if that doesn't work, armed rebellion. Because freedom. Because democracy.) Then, lest they be seen as motivated by political revenge, looking the other way by Democrats when the following Republican president commits actual impeachable offenses, like war crimes and lying to Congress and the American people about justifications for unnecessary wars. Turning the Department of Justice into a political wing of his party. Stuff like that.

John "I'm-as-much-a-tool-as-I-am-not-a-scientist" Boehner would prefer to sue, make a show of ball-less whiffery. But he's got plenty of leading lights on his side of the Aisle of Separation of Reality From Fiction calling for the real deal: luminaries like Sarah "It's-only-lazy-when-someone-else-quits" Palin and Alan "Go-long-on-aluminum-foil" West.

The same people, along with Rick "Glasses-make-you-smart" Perry and Louis "Even-that-won't-work-on-me" Gohmert, plus every right-wing talker and each of the teabaggers in Congress, see the crisis on our southern border as deliberately engineered by our president for as yet unspecified or incoherent political reasons. Pretending something impossibly complex is trickle-down simple.

Continuous denunciations, conspiracy theories, blockage of progress, ignoring of crises of their own making (can't ever get too much of Charlie); this is what we get from today's Republican party. Unwilling to do the real work that's required of a democracy, interested only in the next election, blindly clinging to economic mythology and justifying it by blaming the poor for the unsustainable wealth gap in our country.

Pretty thorough; gotta give 'em credit for that. I wonder what their grandkids will say, if they survive.

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Phoning It In



I'd heard it more than once; think maybe it's been in the usual right-wing emails forwarded to me, and maybe on Facebook (hard to believe, huh?) making the rounds: The Supreme Court had issued 13 -- thirteen!! -- unanimous (unanimous!!) decisions declaring President Obama's executive orders unconstitutional. Overreach. Neo-dictatorship.

Well, I hadn't given it a lot of thought. These sorts of claims come by like rats at an open garbage pit, and at some point one stops paying attention. Didn't bother to look into it. But, it turns out, others have addressed it, and -- guess what? -- it's bullshit. Whoda thunk?

Steve Benen dissects it well:

... John Fund made an observation in a National Review piece that was accurate: “Did you know the Obama administration’s position has been defeated in at least 13 – thirteen – cases before the Supreme Court since January 2012 that were unanimous decisions?” It’s not altogether interesting – I think we knew that the Obama administration is to the left of the Supreme Court – but it’s nevertheless true. In 13 occasions, the Obama administration urged the court to rule in one way, but the justices ruled in another.  
But then the game of “Telephone” started. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) told Fox News that the Supreme Court has ruled unanimously on 13 occasions “that the president has exceeded his constitutional authority.” That’s completely wrong. Most of the cases, including the “buffer zone” case, had nothing to do with Obama at all.  
Soon after, former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) also told a conservative radio show that the Supreme Court issued 13 unanimous decisions that said “the president or the administration exceeded its constitutional authority.” Again, that’s plainly false...

So. Sorta like the outrage that Hillary Clinton defended a child molester when she was a young lawyer. The Justice Department argues some cases in the Supreme Court, and loses. In the former case, it means Ms Clinton is in favor of child molestation. In the latter, it's proof, despite having nothing to do with executive orders, of an out-of-control president. These guys. These lovers of America, wanting their country back except, you know, those pesky parts. Like our system of justice.

The only question, in the case of the thirteen rulings, is whether those who continue to spread the falsehood do so deliberately, knowing it's a lie; or whether they're just another example of the power of Foxolimbeckian brainwashing.

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Random Facebook Truths






And They Say Religion Is Under Attack



Well, I'm happy to report it's alive and well around here, anyway.
Seattle police said a nude man, apparently high on LSD, led officers on a chase along Lake Washington this morning after smashing into a home and sermonizing to the family inside. 
The family was asleep inside their home in the 400 block of Lake Washington Boulevard East just before 2 a.m. when they heard someone crash through their front door and begin loudly reciting Scripture, according to police...
Can't decide if the nudity adds or detracts from the turgidity of the message. Probably had to be there...

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Read This



Charles P. Pierce has discussed the long list of craziness in the platform of the Republican party of Texas, the state which brought us our previous president and which threatens to foist upon us another candidate of even lesser talents.

Read the piece. It's a hell of a list. Then hope to hell the demand in his last paragraph comes true (How likely? Zero likely! Because our media are useless):

John Boehner, and Mitch McConnell, and especially obvious anagram Reince Priebus, who nominally presides over Bedlam, need to be asked every day which parts of the Texas Republican platform they support and which parts they don't. They don't get to use the crazies to get elected and then hide behind fake Washington politesse when the howls from the hinterlands get too loud. We allow ourselves only two major political parties. One of them is completely out of its fcking mind. This is a national problem.
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A Thousand Words

This has been making the rounds on Facebook. It says everything.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Courting Disaster



For about a year, before giving up in frustration, I had a weekly column in our local newspaper. I've sent in a couple of pieces since then, which they've published. Here's one that appeared today (I admit it's a lot like something I recently posted):

By now I think we can all agree that judicial activism is defined as a decision with which one disagrees. Has there ever been a more activist or hypocritical court than today’s? Antonin Scalia has given up even pretending he’s an “originalist,” whatever that means. John Roberts “calls balls and strikes” the way Jim Joyce calls people safe at first base. (At least Mr. Joyce apologized.)

Where does our Constitution tell us that corporations are people? In which Article or Amendment is it said that money is speech? And how, might one ask, does the court justify declaring a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics an unconstitutional impingement on free speech while maintaining a 90 foot one around their own workplace? (Sorta like Georgia legislators’ “guns everywhere but the capitol building” law.)

Now we’ve learned that, in their personhood, the religious beliefs of certain corporations take precedence over the law of the land. (It’s worth noting that the particular type of organization so exempted represents over half of all small businesses in the US.) Far be it from me to mention that the renderers of that bit of wisdom were all male, and mostly Catholic. Not relevant. But consider this: in expelling this effluvium upon us all, the court chose to specify which religious beliefs are worthy of legal protection, and which aren’t. I find that the most amazing and dangerous part of their ruling: a stunning and egregious flouting of our Constitution. If that’s not an affront to all religions and the most basic tenets of keeping government out of it, and a sanctimonious step onto the slipperiest of slopes, I don’t know what is. People of all religious beliefs, even the ones now anointed with special deference by those elders of enlightenment, ought to be alarmed. And fearful. 

This is not a wise court. This is a regressive, self-important, ideological and cynical bunch of judicial activists. Not only that: regarding the science of contraception they’ve unashamedly embraced the denialistic copout championed by every leader of their party, as exemplified by John “I’m no scientist” Boehner.

It goes without saying that about half of our citizens would disagree with every word I’ve written, and most of the commas and periods. I’m not saying that liberal courts have never tried to wrap the law around their preconceptions. They have. But I can’t think of a decision -- no, not even Roe v. Wade -- that so adversely affected so many people; and not just women. People of all faiths. And people who might have to do business with them.

I grew up in the home of a truly impartial judge, with whose decisions he himself wasn’t always happy; yet the law demanded it. Oh how we need such people now on our highest court. Clearly, we all see the world through lenses of our own, and our decisions and views differ accordingly. That every tough case in recent years has been decided 5 – 4, with the participants on each side as predictable as the outcomes, confirms that. “Original intent,” without digging up the corpses and tapping into their skulls (although they left many writings that, particularly when it comes to religion, most conservatives prefer to ignore), is fiction. Which happens to be the very word Justice Alito used to describe the concept of corporate personhood on which the Hobby Lobby decision was substantially based. “Useful fiction,” to be more specific. I’m still pondering that one.

Today’s Republican Party, firmly in the grip of the farthest of the far right and based as it is on denialism and exclusion and discrimination and deference to corporatists in all things, rejoices in the recent rulings of the Supreme Court. But unless they harbor a death wish, they really ought not. Reality, whether regarding the climate, education, crumbling infrastructure, or our changing demographics, is not on their side. Wishing it away, or Foxolimbeckifying it, won’t change things. 

Significantly, the chairman of the Mississippi Federation of College Republicans just resigned and announced his intention to switch to the Democratic Party. His, he said, had become too beholden to the Tea Party, moving too far to the right. It’s way past time for reasonable conservatives – I can name one or two – to stand up and demand better of their party. Because if we get more judges and legislators like those calling the shots today, democracy is as doomed as shoreline property and minority voting rights. Younger people, evidently, are beginning to understand.



Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Law Of The Land



It goes without saying, no matter your political views, that when the Supreme Court predictably decides controversial cases by 5 - 4 votes, and when the five and the four are just as predictable, it's not about "originalism" or "calling balls and strikes," but about ideology. The law is what those supremely powerful people say it is. And what they say is based, among other things, on how they see the world. In the case of the Hobby Lobby ruling, it's undeniably about the religious filters through which they see it. It's not about the law.

Except that they won't, you'd think people of all religions would be frightened by what the court did. What they did, without even trying to hide it, is to declare that certain religious beliefs are more worthy of legal deference than others. And who'd have guessed: it's the beliefs of certain Roman Catholics to which they genuflected. Christian Scientists? Outta luck. Jehovah's Witnesses? Keep on doorbelling, but your claims are unworthy. And on it goes. My man Charlie, as usual, sees it clearly:

... Right up through the Court's decision today, in practice, the RFRA has been repurposed to establish a privileged position within the law to a certain set of religious beliefs—those beliefs curiously coinciding with the political movement in which several of the Justices were formed. And, again, it's not like nobody saw this coming, either. In his Memorial And Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, Mr. Madison warned against privileging one set of religious beliefs over the other:
... Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects? ... 
In their ruling, as explained by Justice "I make no effort to hide it" Alito, the court specified, as examples, religious beliefs that don't deserve the exclusions granted by the court. He's a smart guy (one assumes.) Can't he see what he did? There's people, and there's women. There's Catholicism, and there's everyone else. No holy enterprise like Hobby "Who us? Hypocrites?" Lobby should have to pay for certain women's health needs, because, well, first, they're women and, second, certain Supremes don't believe in it. Nor the science of it. Paying for blood transfusions, though, even if some Christians consider it against god's will? What a silly belief. Overruled. Underprivileged.

I won't argue that liberal judges have no history of bending the law to fit their beliefs and preferred outcomes. But the Supreme Court of today is clearly in the hands of hard-core religious conservatives who make noises about impartial interpretations of the law, while doing anything but.

Meanwhile, Christians are under attack.

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