Thursday, March 31, 2016

Stand Up Sit Down Fight Fight Fight


This is a good read regarding the fight against ISIS, its complexities, and the degree to which Americans are helping. Sounds like there are more Americans (no surprise) than we've been led to believe; they're using the trick they used when I was serving in Vietnam. Namely, troops are assigned there TDY, "temporary duty," and aren't counted. As if they're not there.

I recall the day Nixon announced that the last Marines had left Vietnam. On that day, my base in Danang was crawling with Marines, all TDY from the Phillippines.

An interesting takeaway is that it seems Obama would rather be criticized for not having enough troops in the fight, than reveal how many are actually there.

Still, no matter what the actual number of Americans is, it seems that the strategy is the one that makes most sense, Republican war-mongering notwithstanding: our troops are, indeed, in advisory roles, with the actual fighting being mostly carried out by Kurds and Iraqis. Who mostly hate each other.

From the article:
... The U.S. mission includes training and reëquipping the Iraqis, providing intelligence and airpower, advising and coördinating strategy, and, crucially, keeping the Iraqis united and focussed on Mosul rather than on each other. “We all know that if they do this on their own, it will be more longer-lasting . . . win for the future of Iraq,” Major General Richard Clarke, the commander of coalition land forces in Operation Inherent Resolve, told reporters last month. 
But the same problems that undermined the first American deployment now threaten the second. The prospects of liberating Mosul—and then stabilizing it—are already bogged down in internecine politics. The disparate factions don’t trust each other. The Peshmerga are wary of fighting alongside an army that killed tens of thousands of its people and gassed Kurdish villages with chemical weapons during Saddam Hussein’s rule. The reconstituted Iraqi Army virtually collapsed under the current government. Today, both sides are less than keen about fighting alongside each other or, together, forging a viable Day After...
This is pretty much how I see it, too: that it won't happen without American involvement, but that involvement needs to be, as the article says, too, like that of a coach of a sports team: provide the equipment, the knowledge, the training, and then watch from the sidelines as it plays out. Other than targeting and bombing, of course. Which they're doing. A lot.

If that's what it takes, it's by no means certain it'll work, with all the internecine tribalism and religious differences. Sorta like here: Trump might lose, but the people who could see him as the perfect leader will still be around. Same with Cruz. We'll always have Paris.

[Image source]

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Progressives Were Right, All Along


This is my latest newspaper column:

Republicans deny their party is racist. Suppressing minority voting, they’d argue, for example, is just common sense. But if the party isn’t, pretty much all American racists who vote will vote Republican, and they’re stepping to Donald Trump like geese. To the KKK, neo-Nazis, and nativists, he’s prayers answered. Slow to disavow them, Trump knows the game. His slogan may have substituted “g,” “r,” and “a” for “w,” “h,” and “i,” but the res is pretty much loquituring its ipsa. (Yes, I’m aware that Abe Lincoln, now spinning in his grave like a Frisbee, was a Republican and that before the Civil Rights Act the South was an asylum for racist Democrats. I also understand recent history.) 
Some conservatives are mystified that their party loves him. Really? The same ones flaunting their nonstop Point-A cynical and hypocritical obstructionism, the latest involving the Supreme Court, see no connection to Point-B? Trump is the predictable result of decades dedicated to creating exactly his kind of voter: angry, credulous, paranoid, government-hating seekers of simple solutions and people to blame for their scripted sense of victimization. How ironic: after hungrily swallowing the fabrication that President Obama is a dictator, Republicans are gobbling up a lying, petty, xenophobic, narcissistic, vindictive, thin-skinned, appendage-aggrandizing, wife-insulting, violence-encouraging demagogue. Which leads to the unavoidable argumentum ad Hitlerum: he just demanded a Florida audience raise their right arms and pledge loyalty (and blamed a Jew for disrupting his rallies!) And raise their arms they did. 
If Trump eventually loses, the people who voted for him will still be around. People who are okay with a candidate who threatens to “ruin the lives” of protesters; who bans and seeks vengeance upon reporters who criticize him; who demands that campaign workers pledge they’ll never disparage him. This isn’t “reminiscent” of Soviet- and Nazi-style suppression and punishment of dissent. It’s EXACTLY that. Do his supporters overlook his schoolyard immaturity, or is it what they like about him? Is their desire for scapegoats so great that they ignore the dictatorial implications or, buying up jackboots and dreaming of “punching them in the face,” do they welcome them? Do they care that Trump’s plans would weaken our democracy while strengthening those trying to purchase it (not to mention ISIS)? They believe they’re anti-establishment voters, yet they’d empower the party that’s dismissed them for decades, voted against every measure aimed at improving their lives and for every one making them worse.

A local high school just produced nine National Merit finalists, every one of whom is Asian-American. By contrast, Texas appears ready to elect to their state board of education a woman who claims Obama was once a gay prostitute, that school killings are caused by teaching evolution, the Civil War wasn’t about slavery, all Muslims are evil, and climate change is a hoax. (Based on emails I get, I’m sure some readers are saying, “Yeah. So?” 
It’s not just Texas. Across the country Republican legislators are proposing to ban teaching evolution, to rewrite history, to prevent even the mention of climate change. Were all branches of government put into the hands of today’s perversion of conservatism, America would go the way of Kansas, Wisconsin, Louisiana: failed economies, lagging job growth, downgraded credit, defunded schools, ignored infrastructure. Let’s hope Republican attacks on public education and immigration will fail; or if not, that current immigrants and their kids will continue to save us from ourselves. In those homes, kids are encouraged to learn. What do you suppose goes on in the homes of people who’d elect that Texan? To which party and what race and religion would you guess they belong?

No, Donald Trump is no surprise. Torture, bombing families, climate change denial, misogyny, mockery, economic policy that’s never worked, simplistic foreign policy. To cheering audiences, he’s simply articulating those things for which his party has come to stand, come Heil or high water. Trumpism confirms that liberals have been right about what’s become of the formerly credible Republican Party. As they abashedly turn to mendacious Ted Cruz, whose messianic lust for power is even scarier, shocked conservatives should consider their decades of silent acquiescence, the price paid for tax cuts, to understand what happened.



[Upper image source (lower image speaks for itself)]

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Leave It To Democrats To Blow It


I wish I could believe that Democrats won't, yet again, screw things up for themselves. Maybe I should stop reading Daily Kos.

I hope what I read online isn't reflective of enough liberals to blow the election: Hillary supporters sniping at Bernie's; and vice versa. Celebrities sounding like idiots, like they have no idea of the existential importance of keeping the White House; about the need for enough Democrats to turn out to vote Ds in and Rs out of the Senate. The House, too, were it possible, but it's probably not.

I worry that Bernie supporters, who seem mostly to be young, won't show up if he doesn't get the nomination. (My guess is that, Susan Sarandon aside, most Hillary supporters would still vote for Bernie. I hope so.) I'd hope they'd listen to what Bernie said because it's undeniably true. I'm not convinced they will.

During my political life I've seen Democrats blow it time and again; mainly because the "party," if it really is one at all, is a loose collection of single-issue voters who can't seem to see past their own particular concerns. I guess that's what happens when you're for stuff instead of against it. If Republican voters have differing interests, too, they're united (since the advent of right-wing media dominance, anyway) in what they're against, and it seems that's what motivates their voting: against homosexuals, against immigrants, against non-Christians (or some Christians) telling them this country isn't a Christian nation, against paying taxes that support anything but their own needs, and tanks.

Democrats, from where I sit, usually vote based on what they're for: education, alternative energy, equal rights, women's rights. And they tend to dismiss candidates who aren't as monomaniacal as they toward whichever of the cafeteria choices are on their plates. They'd vote for the Ralph Nader of their particular cause, even if it means losing. Based on history, and on what I read here and there, that's what I fear.

Either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz would be disastrous for our country and our species. That anyone who considers him- or herself thoughtful and world-aware would not vote, or would vote for a third party, or, out of spite, for T or C if his/her candidate doesn't get the Democratic nomination is shocking; and nearly as frightening as the prospects of Rs controlling all branches of government.

Sorry to tell you, Ms. Sarandon: if Trump were elected, whatever "revolution" he caused would be too damn late.

[Image source]

The Eyes Have It



There's no way to know how stonewalled Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland would have voted, of course; nor can we say he would he have been seated by now had his nomination been addressed in a timely manner. Still, there's a certain delicious irony that today's default decision in favor of unions, by virtue of a 4-4 tie absent a full house, is a giant poke in the eye to anti-union Republicans (i.e., all of them, with the possible exception of (not) Joe the (not) Plumber.)

[Image source]

Monday, March 28, 2016

Tough Call



Ammosexuals are outraged that guns won't, for the moment, be allowed at the Republican convention. And I gotta say, for the sake of consistency, they've got a case.
... “Policies of the Quicken Loans Arena do not supersede the rights given to us by our Creator in the U.S. Constitution,” the petition reads. 
Americans For Responsible Open Carry also want presidential contender Ohio Gov. John Kasich to use his executive power to override the so-called gun-free zone loophole in Ohio’s law. RNC Chairman Reince Preibus also must explain how “a venue so unfriendly to Second Amendment rights was chosen for the Republican Convention and have a backup plan to move the site if  the group’s demands aren’t met...
Nice touch, that creator thing.

It's sorta like the legislators voting to allow guns pretty much everywhere except their own place of work. Or like being a little bit pregnant. You make free-fire zones part of your platform, you can't draw lines for yourself but not for everyone else. It puts the lie to the whole good-guy-with-a-gun thing.

Plus, the prospect of hot-headed Trumpists who, so far, have only been armed with elbows, fists, spittle, and feet, confronting Cruz supporters, armed with religious certainty that God is on their side, when the conventional shenanigans begin, is, in the abstract at least, something forward to which to look. Assuming that's not too many commas.

So I'm of two minds. I don't wish actual death on any of them, but it could be apocalyptically entertaining. And think what the networks could charge for ads during the coverage. Which, in the end, is what it's all about to them. As opposed to, say, news.

[So the petition might have been elaborate trolling. The point remains, though: the official policy is no guns, which seems so un-Republican. And all the current R candidates have pledged to get rid of gun-free zones! So let 'em start by quickening the loans arena.]

[Image source]

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Friday, March 25, 2016

There But For The Grace Of God


Like any rational person, I'd prefer a world in which abortions were never necessary. But unlike most of those in today's Republican party, I don't think it's up to governments to decide when a woman is making the right, among incredibly difficult, complicated, and personal choices.

And so it is that I find the latest action of the party of small government, namely Indiana outlawing abortions based on evidence of disability, so repugnant. Particularly because, far as I know, whereas they'll force severely disabled children to be born into families that can't care for them, the state has provided no assistance for those families so forced, or for others who might adopt or otherwise care for them.
“I believe that a society can be judged by how it deals with its most vulnerable - the aged, the infirm, the disabled and the unborn,” Pence, a Republican, said in a statement after he signed the legislation.
I assume I don't need to spell out the irony, much less the cynicism, of that statement. If anyone knows of Indiana's plans to help care for and provide cost support for babies with spina bifida, or severe heart defects, etc, let me know.

At the heart of this, I suppose, is the concept that we shouldn't defy god's will. If he wants kids to be born with various disabilities, who are we to interfere? Glory be to him. Which, of course, means we ought to get rid of all doctors, hospitals, and hemorrhoid remedies.

[Image source]

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

It's Not As If We Weren't Warned



Seeing the guy behind Trump, at about 50 seconds in, cheering and laughing at "I'd like to punch him in the face..." tells you the truth in the rest of the video.

As Charles P. Pierce likes to say, "This is your democracy, folks. Cherish it."

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Great Alternative Speaks


Admittedly I haven't taken the days required to work through the entire list, but this might be the stupidest thing Ted Cruz has said yet:
Texas Senator Ted Cruz called for law enforcement in the U.S. to clamp down on Muslim neighborhoods in an effort to stop them from becoming “radicalized” after the terror attacks in Brussels.... 
... “Our European allies are now seeing what comes of a toxic mix of migrants who have been infiltrated by terrorists and isolated, radical Muslim neighborhoods.” ...
Cruz then made his proposal to single out Muslim neighborhoods in the U.S. for special — and likely unconstitutional — attention.“We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized,” he wrote. ... He added, “The days of the United States voluntarily surrendering to the enemy to show how progressive and enlightened we are at [sic] an end.”

Because what prevents radicalization better than having police swarm your neighborhood? And what would encourage cooperation from non-radicalized Muslims more than being stopped and frisked every couple of days?
[Image source]

Friday, March 18, 2016

File Under WTFingF



Our R congressfolk @ work:
Whereas magic is an art form with the unique power and potential to impact the lives of all people;
Whereas magic enables people to experience the impossible;
Whereas magic is used to inspire and bring wonder and happiness to others;
Whereas magic has had a significant impact on other art forms;
Whereas magic, like the great art forms of dance, literature, theater, film, and the visual arts, allows people to experience something that transcends the written word;
Whereas many technological advances can be directly traced to the influential work of magicians;
Whereas futurist Arthur C. Clarke claimed that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic;
Whereas one of the greatest artists of all time, Leonardo da Vinci, was inspired by magic and co-wrote one of the very first books on magic in the late 15th century;
Whereas modern cinema would not exist today without the innovative work of the accomplished magician Georges Méliès;
Whereas magicians are visual storytellers who seamlessly interweave elements of mystery, wonder, emotion, and expression;
Whereas magic is an outstanding artistic model of individual expression;
Whereas magic fulfills some of the highest ideals and aspirations of our country by encouraging people to question what they believe and see;
Whereas magic is a unifying force across cultural, religious, ethnic, and age differences in our diverse Nation;
Whereas magic is an art that transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary;
Whereas the American magicians Harry Houdini and David Copperfield have been the most successful magicians of the past two centuries;
Whereas David Copperfield, introduced to magic as a boy growing up in New Jersey, has been named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress;
Whereas David Copperfield, with 21 Emmy Awards, 11 Guinness World Records, and over four billion dollars in ticket sales, has impacted every aspect of the global entertainment industry;
Whereas David Copperfield, through his magic, inspires great positive change in the lives of Americans;
Whereas people consistently leave David Copperfield’s live magic show with a different perspective than when they entered;
Whereas Rebecca Brown of Portland, Oregon, left a David Copperfield magic show with a newfound inspiration to pursue her lifelong, unfulfilled passion for dance;
Whereas three months after Rebecca Brown attended the David Copperfield magic show, she performed her first choreographed recital in Portland, Oregon’s Pioneer Square;
Whereas programs such as Project Magic, created by David Copperfield, use magic as a form of therapy for children with physical, psychological, and social disabilities;
Whereas learning magic through programs such as Project Magic can help these children improve their physical and mental dexterity and increase their confidence;
Whereas learning magic through programs such as Project Magic helps these children realize that they are no longer less able than their peers;
Whereas programs such as Project Magic teach these children that they are more capable and have a newfound ability to do what others cannot;
Whereas cities such as Wylie, Texas, and its mayor, Eric Hogue, recognize and promote the art of magic with official proclamations, summer educational programs, and the first festival dedicated to the art of magic in the State of Texas;
Whereas Mayor Eric Hogue, who learned the art of magic as a child, continues to use those skills to teach elementary school students about the different roles and responsibilities of local government;
Whereas magic is timeless in appeal and requires only the capacity to dream;
Whereas magic transcends any barrier of race, religion, language, or culture;
Whereas magic has not been properly recognized as a great American art form, nor has it been accorded the institutional status on a national level commensurate with its value and importance;
Whereas there is not an effective national effort to support and preserve magic;
Whereas documentation and archival support required by such a great art form has yet to be systematically applied to the field of magic; and
Whereas it is in the best interest of the national welfare to preserve and celebrate the unique art form of magic: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the House of Representatives—
(1) recognizes magic as a rare and valuable art form and national treasure; and
(2) supports efforts to make certain that magic is preserved, understood, and promulgated.

So much to say, so little reason to do so. And yet.

I'd'a thought a "national treasure" was something or someone unique to the nation. Like Donald Trump, or those who support him. And what are "efforts to make certain magic is... understood"? Forcing magicians to reveal their trickery?

Well, okay then. If that's it, then I'm all for it. So, thanks, actual congressman and elected person Pete Sessions. Now you can be famous for something wonderful, instead of, well, this. Or this.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Face It


So Denmark is the happiest place on Earth. Turns out (who'd a' thunk it?) that, among other things, extreme wealth inequality makes people angry and unhappy:
... The report found that inequality was strongly associated with unhappiness — a stark finding for rich countries like the United States, where rising disparities in income, wealth, health and well-being have fueled political discontent...
Wise heads inform us Trump has tapped into the anger of the average American (where "average" means "white male, mostly.") Weird, isn't it: the candidate whose plans would most directly bern the source of their anger isn't the one those people are looking to. It's the one (either one of the Rs, matter of fact) whose proposals (such as they are) are guaranteed (because they've been tried, and they always do) to make it worse.

So not only are these people, these Trump voters, scary as hell in their overt racism, violence, and love for an autocratic demagogue, they're clueless. They've been carefully taught to be angry at the wrong things, so their "thought" leaders can keep doing what they've been doing. Trumpists will let everything get even worse for them, as long as they have a fuhrer leader who validates and encourages their desire to blame their problems on African-Americans and Jews and Mexicans. And liberals. Of course, liberals.

They don't want anything fixed. They just want to punch people in the face.

[Image source]

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Innocent As Lambs



Gee.

R leaders are appalled that Trump is gonna be their nominee. How could this happen, they ask, licking the pie on their faces. After which they proceed to behave in the very way that has produced the sorts of voters going for Trump: refusing to consider an obviously highly qualified, moderate, experienced, bipartisan-approved Supreme Court nominee.

Watching Orrin Hatch try to justify the stonewalling while implying there's precedent for it (there isn't, not at this point in a presidency) and that Ds have done the same thing (they haven't, not refusing even to have hearings for anyone), is to understand everything you need to know about today's R party and the reason it's produced such candidates as Trump and Cruz.

His lips were moving. What Hatch was actually saying was, "Listen. We hate everything about Barack Obama. Period. We're not gonna let him have another Supreme Court nominee. Period. Sure, the guy he put forward is supremely qualified, completely without partisan baggage, someone we'd all support if it were anyone but Obama. But we've been doing everything we can to obstruct and embarrass and impugn Barack Hussein Obama for over seven years, and we're not gonna stop now. You say this level of nasty dereliction and mendacious politicization is part of why our party is self-destructing in its presidential nomination process? What ever are you talking about."

Nope. Blameless as newborn lambs are they.

[Image source]

Patriotism


My latest newspaper column:
Recent discussions with fellow Americans of right-wing persuasion have made me think the word “patriotism” ought to be banished like a Guatemalan child at our Southern border. Either that, or people who use it should be required simultaneously to define it. Even though it’s not in my regular lexicon, I thought I knew the meaning. Now, observing the party that claims exclusive ownership, I have to ask. 
If patriotism means love of country, what, beyond declaration, constitutes showing it? Do we discharge our patriotic duty by saluting the flag? Are extra points awarded for shedding tears? Can we slap “support our troops” stickers on bumpers and call it good, or does patriotism require willingness to pay enough in taxes actually to support them? 
Is patriotism defined solely by risking death for our country, as I did serving in Vietnam, where I was awarded a Purple Heart for wounds received? What about ordering someone else’s kids to do the dying? If it’s all about the troops, does patriotism include voting for wars but against jobs programs for veterans? Is criticism of our country unpatriotic by definition? Would that include not only political dissenters but candidates claiming the US isn’t great while suborning violence against protesters? What’s the patriotism score for denouncing Barack Obama versus George Bush, and where’s the meter? The president just ordered another military pay raise. He said he wanted to give more, but budget restraints don’t allow it. Which way does the needle point on that? Are the restraints patriotic? 
Ought we define as patriots teachers who spend their own money to provide adequate supplies for their students? If so, does the term stop applying if they join a union? What about just showing up for work every day? If that’s not patriotic, what is Marco Rubio, record-breaking senatorial absentee? 
Do patriots hide income overseas? Is voting against school bonds and levies patriotic? I don’t love paying taxes, but I’ve never voted against school funding: love of country and hope for its future demands it. Some who claim more patriotism than me write letters urging voting against that funding. Does either of us deserve patriot points? In whose ledger? And what about science? Does accepting the evidence for manmade climate change mean you hate oil companies and, therefore, America? Must patriots deny climate change? A lot of self-described ones do. 
Does arguing for sensible gun laws demonstrate lack of patriotism and disregard for the Second Amendment? Must one accept the Ten Commandments in courthouses to confirm support for the First? Is demanding separation a position that affirms the ideal of protecting all forms of belief, or is it treasonous apostasy? For that matter, can only Christians be considered patriots? 
“I believe in patriotism,” a reader of my column wrote to me, in a way that suggested, because I’m a liberal, I don’t. He listed several other things he thinks separate conservative and liberal ideals: low taxes, support for the First and Second Amendments, limited government, strong military. Who, I wonder, prefers government bigger than necessary, or taxes higher than required to finance our needs? Who wants our military to be weak? We may differ in amounts and direction of spending, maybe even in definitions of weak and strong; but in patriotism? Only if the concept is wholly about how many wars we should be fighting, with how many unwanted M1 Abrams tanks and unusable F-35 fighters, or how many of whose boots should be on which foreign ground. 
Great riches have been made through defense spending. Might that play a role in the extent to which we’ve been taught to see patriotism only in the military light? Might it also explain the red-hot wedge of anger that’s been driven between citizens based on whether they identify as conservative or liberal? Most liberals think spending more on defense than the next ten countries added together is enough; that domestic spending protects liberty and enables the American dream at least as much as carpet bombing and reinvading the Middle East. Is that where lies the line between patriotism and lack thereof? If that’s not it, who keeps flogging the idea, and how did they manage to convince so many people? 
[Image source]

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Fiction?


February 1, 2016. Donald Trump tells a crowd:
There may be somebody with tomatoes in the audience. So if you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously. Okay? Just knock the hell—  I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise, I promise. It won’t be so much ’cause the courts agree with us too.
Not much later comes the famous sucker punch, after which Trump says he's "looking into" paying the puncher's legal fees. Shortly thereafter, he tells George Stephanopolous he never said any such thing, and he doesn't condone violence.
.....

Scene: Someone, somewhere -- possibly V. Putin, or the mayor of some small town in California -- says Donald Trump is a liar, several of his wives have been ugly, and he carries Viagra and a tiny condom whenever he travels. 

Trump: I'm gonna bomb that fucker back to the stone age. Get him when he's home with his kids. Gimme the codes. Gimme the goddamn nuclear codes and bring me the fucking button. Seriously, Chris, bring 'em. And if he won't do it, Ben, you child molester, you go get 'em. Now. Goddamn it. NOW!! Where's little Marco? Call General Boykin, you pipsqueak, and get his ass up here...

Trump, next day: That's a nasty question, Cokie. I've never condoned nuclear violence. That button-pushing didn't come from me, if someone pushed a button, I don't know. I'm a peaceful person, and everyone likes me. I haven't seen the pictures, so I don't know, but if there's a crater and if someone says there's nuclear contamination, I'd have to look into it. My people are good people. The best.

[The above conversations were translated from the original "Ingish" after being found in code, under rubble in the general location of what is believed to have been known then as the Pale Home of Amreekah, on the third planet in solar 839, many thousand circuits in the past. Whereas the recordings might provide insight into the disappearance of life on that planet, further investigations are unlikely, since researchers are pursuing evidence of intelligence at or above the level of our own, widely distributed throughout the galaxy. That life on one planet among so many thousands took such a singularly regressive turn is curious, but will not be investigated at this time. Obviously an aberration, it's not felt that useful information will derive from further study since contact with our equals holds so much more promise, and when there's no suggestion it could happen or has happened anywhere else.]

(The above is from the introductory paragraph of a six-volume essay written for a pre-school project by x2yå∂.)

[Image source]

Monday, March 14, 2016

Get Outta The Damn Building


This is a much better commentary on disruptions at Trump rallies than my recent one:
... I have a modest suggestion for all the groups working in rough alliance to keep the Republic out of the hands of a vulgar talking yam.
Stay out of the buildings.
Stop being played for such suckers. Stop enlisting yourself in his bloody vaudeville. Stop giving him stuff to lie about at all the rallies that actually do end up happening. Stop making yourselves part of the show, because it's not working. It doesn't affect him at all. In fact, his campaign gains strength from it, like some science-fiction monster that absorbs the energy of whatever attacks it and then uses it to destroy...
... My suggestion? Create a wave of non-violent protest outside the arenas. Close the streets. Fill the jails, if you must. Force the media coverage, which shouldn't be all that hard at this point. But stay out of the buildings because you can do no good in there. It gives aid and comfort to the forces you are trying to defeat, ... and it gives the other candidates from a party that long ago descended into madness one more hallucination to justify why it's eating bugs in public...
[Image source]

I Miss Him Already


Here is a very long, very comprehensive article about Obama's foreign policy, based in large part on direct conversations with him. It considers and gives voice to both the positive and the negative; in particular, the infamous "red line" decision. I'd suggest that whatever you might think about his policies and their outcomes, after reading this I doubt you'd believe, if you ever did, that our president is anything but a deeply thoughtful, smart, and complex thinker; and that he has only the best interests of the country at heart. Right or wrong, agree or not with the decisions he's made, this article makes it pretty clear.

One can't help but wonder if George Bush ever had conversations like this, or was capable of it. And to think that Donald Trump could be the next occupant of the White House, in this context, is simply too awful to consider.
...“Having said that,” he continued, “I also believe that the world is a tough, complicated, messy, mean place, and full of hardship and tragedy. And in order to advance both our security interests and those ideals and values that we care about, we’ve got to be hardheaded at the same time as we’re bighearted, and pick and choose our spots, and recognize that there are going to be times where the best that we can do is to shine a spotlight on something that’s terrible, but not believe that we can automatically solve it. There are going to be times where our security interests conflict with our concerns about human rights. There are going to be times where we can do something about innocent people being killed, but there are going to be times where we can’t.” 
If Obama ever questioned whether America really is the world’s one indispensable nation, he no longer does so. But he is the rare president who seems at times to resent indispensability, rather than embrace it. “Free riders aggravate me,” he told me. Recently, Obama warned that Great Britain would no longer be able to claim a “special relationship” with the United States if it did not commit to spending at least 2 percent of its GDP on defense. “You have to pay your fair share,” Obama told David Cameron, who subsequently met the 2 percent threshold... 
...The defense of the liberal international order against jihadist terror, Russian adventurism, and Chinese bullying depends in part, he believes, on the willingness of other nations to share the burden with the U.S. ... “We don’t have to always be the ones who are up front,” he told me. “Sometimes we’re going to get what we want precisely because we are sharing in the agenda. The irony is that it was precisely in order to prevent the Europeans and the Arab states from holding our coats while we did all the fighting that we, by design, insisted” that they lead during the mission to remove Muammar Qaddafi from power in Libya. “It was part of the anti–free rider campaign.” 
The president also seems to believe that sharing leadership with other countries is a way to check America’s more unruly impulses. “One of the reasons I am so focused on taking action multilaterally where our direct interests are not at stake is that multilateralism regulates hubris,” he explained. ... "...So we have to be mindful of our history when we start talking about intervening, and understand the source of other people’s suspicions.”...
 These are the words of exactly the sort of president I'm glad we have had for the past two terms. They stand in inexpressible contrast to those of the previous one; and to those we've heard from the pretenders on the right, the difference is like a redwood forest unto a patch of weeds.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Shouting "Fire"


I don't like protesters at gatherings who try to shout down the speaker, left or right. Signs, calls for boycotts, fine. Not letting someone be heard, not okay. But I gotta say there might be limits. When Donald Trump repeatedly goads and insults protesters, pledges to pay legal fees for anyone who roughs them up, regrets that protestors aren't hauled away on stretchers, announces he'd like to "punch them in the face," that's incitement to violence that has (or ought to have) no place in our political process. It's shockingly like the behavior preceding the rise of dictators throughout history.

So I'm gonna make an exception for those whose protests ended the rally for Trump in Chicago. His is the sort of speech, like the proverbial shouting of "fire" in a theater, that ought not be tolerated in a free society. It needs calling out, forcefully. If his fellow candidates are afraid to do it, (Rubio is sorta kinda maybe wavering) someone else has to.

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Friday, March 11, 2016

Presidential



"I'd like to punch him in the face." And, by golly, just a few days later, someone did. In the above video, look at the guy behind him when Trump says that. Thinks it's fabulous.

As I've said, these people that Trump has drawn out from under their rocks will remain no matter what happens to Trump's candidate. I wish I had the words to express how deeply depressing it is that a man like Trump, on the votes of people like that old guy doing the laughing, is the leading candidate of a formerly respectable political party.

I just watched a couple of minutes of his rally today, after the debate in which they all tried to act "presidential." It was the same: a protester thrown out, Trump mocking him. Compare and contrast: ever seen Obama with a heckler? See how he tells the crowd to let him speak? Engages in respectful dialog?

How many people like that guy laughing behind Trump claim, as does a person with whom I've had a recent conversation, that Obama doesn't believe in American "exceptionalism?" Well, if we're a country that can lionize someone like Donald Trump, who can deny that we're exceptional?

Values? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Values


So kindly Doc Carson, man of God, humble, who speaks softly and says people should try to get along, who abhors political nastiness, is endorsing Donald Trump.

So much for all that. For Carson, it's always been about the grift. About selling Ben Carson and his books, getting speaking gigs. Maybe now it's about becoming Surgeon General.

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Thursday, March 10, 2016

Who, Us?


This is one of the best pieces on the Trump phenomenon that I've read lately; it's mainly about Republican attempts to shift blame, pure, they are, as the driven snow.
...The same people who have long scoffed, often with reason, at the “root causes” theory of terrorism or crime or whatever—emphasizing, instead, individual responsibility for whatever it is we choose to do— have now become full-fledged rootsers. It isn’t Trump or his followers who are really to blame for his rise; it’s the circumstances that produced them and the guys, chiefly liberals, who they think created those circumstances. Or else it’s said that there is a “systematic rot” in American politics, of which Trump is merely a symptom. But in this case there is not a systematic rot. There is a specific rot. The rot was in a party and movement that never actually took the trouble to seal itself off from its own extremists. Yes, of course, there are nuts on all sides, but 9/11 “truthers” play exactly zero role in liberal electoral politics; “birthers” played such a central role in the right that the biggest and most rancid birther of them all is now the leading Presidential candidate of the Republican Party...
That last emphasis is mine because it's a point I've made repeatedly, and also in reference to liberal love of "alternative" medicine in comparison to "conservative" climate change denial. They're all an embarrassment to humanity; but the liberal lacunae are at the periphery, whereas for today's Republican party, birtherism and climate change denial are right there at the center of it all.

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Approval


So President Obama's approval rating is at a three-year high: 50%. One must wonder if part of it is the depressing spectacle of R candidates pissing on each other, having nothing useful to say, and, in the case of Trump, encouraging audiences to beat up protesters.

And maybe it could be the entire bunch of R elected officials. Did you hear the one about Chuck Grassley saying Democrats objecting to Republican blocking of any (and still unknown) SCOTUS nomination are just "trying to score political points." GMAFB!

Yep. It's a joke, alright. Except for the fact that the millions of people who think Donald Trump (or Ted Cruz) is just the kind of president we need will still be around, no matter what happens to his candidacy. So I guess it's kinda good news/bad news.

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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Hey There, Hobson


So I said, I said, "Well," I said, as they tightened the straps and shaved my head, I said, "Looks like my best bet to avoid the gas chamber is the electric chair."
... Republican elites are begrudgingly embracing Ted Cruz—and hanging Marco Rubio out to dry. 
Panicked at Donald Trump’s dominance and dismayed by Rubio’s continued inability to do anything about it, some top Republican power brokers are turning to Cruz, putting aside their policy and personal misgivings to back the candidate they now openly label as their best hope to stop Trump’s GOP takeover.
“He seems to be the only guy who’s got some momentum, and is probably the best situated if there is anybody out there to beat Trump,” said Austin Barbour, a prominent Mississippi-based GOP operative. “That’s why there are many people like me—Ted Cruz wouldn’t have been our first choice, but as we go through the process, we’re reevaluating our vote, and he seems to be the guy at the top of the list.” ...
Oh, they'll pour plenty of money into him if they figure out how to get him the nomination, and they'll hype him like the second coming (which shouldn't be hard, since that's exactly how Cruz sees himself.) My faith in today's Republican voters is pretty much shattered: their ability to wool their eyes is beyond reckoning. But I think -- I'd like to believe, anyway -- that there are enough of them who see Carpet-bombing Cruz as the dangerous, lying, egotistical, theocratic, messianic manipulator that he is, to keep him from being elected; that they'd find it impossible to vote for him even against Hillary (or, as now seems not entirely impossible, Bernie.)

If not, well, it's unthinkable. So I'll try not to.

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One More Example



Okay, I'm not gonna keep posting clips of Sam Seder, but, following on my previous post, this makes an additional couple of points. First, there's no way you'll hear a discussion like this -- thoughtful, controlled, detailed, searching -- on any right-wing radio I know of. And, second: it, yet again, hovers around the edge of the central question regarding Tea Partiers, people who love Trump, or ones who'd vote for Cruz: why? WHY?? For gods' sakes, WHY????

I get their frustration and anger. It's well-explained in the above clip. But why, why, why vote for the people and the party least likely to do anything about it, much less even care? It's like hating child-killers and moving in with John Wayne Gacy.

Bag. Cat. Out.



This video is important in a couple of ways. First, from the outset, you see why there's no left-wing equivalent to right-wing radio: Sam Seder is a smart guy, and very well informed. But he completely lacks the fluency of a guy like Limbaugh or Beck. Left-wing talkers (and how many are there, anyway?) appeal to people willing to listen for the message, and think about it. Takes more work to stay with it.

More importantly, though, is what Joe Scarborough is actually saying: Republican economics in no way benefits people who aren't among the very wealthy. To get enough votes, they have to gin up anger and religious paranoia and blame; and they have to lie, and to get people to deny reality. In other words, for a minute there, Morning Joe let the cat out of the bag.

It still doesn't explain, however, the ease with which they've been able to do it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

None Of The Above


They, who know him best, say no not only to Rubio (does he matter anymore?) but to the whole lot of them. And what thoughtful person, Republican or Democrat, could disagree?

The Sun Sentinel Editorial Board is not going to make an endorsement in Florida's March 15 Republican presidential primary because the kind of person who should be running is not in the race. (Emphasis by your friendly blogger.)
We cannot endorse businessman Donald Trump, hometown Sen. Marco Rubio or Texas Sen. Ted Cruz because they are unqualified to be president. Ohio Gov. John Kasich is the best of the bunch, but if you measure a candidate by the caliber of his campaign, Kasich's lack of traction and organization make a vote for him count for little...

Be sure to watch the video, too. Succint.

Of course, before the Great Winnowing, they endorsed Jeb (!) To me, pretty much from the start and with only the leastest inspection, he belonged in the NOTA category, too.

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Monday, March 7, 2016

Good Things Happening


Lest it go unnoticed (and, gonna guess here, unreported on right-wing "news" sources), benefits are accruing since the Iran nuclear agreement. Intuitive for all but the fully Foxified, opening talks and trade inevitably leads toward modernization (cf China and, already, Cuba. Putin is trying, but will fail to put the capitalism genie back in the bottle in Russia). Moderation in Iran can only be a good thing. Better, even, than bombing them to oblivion, contra every R candidate.
... Final election results released by Iran's Interior Ministry show that moderates have won a majority in parliament. 
The results broadcast Monday by state TV show that reformists, who favor expanded social freedoms and engagement with the West, won at least 85 seats, while moderate conservatives won 73 seats. Together, they have a majority in the 290-seat assembly. 
Hard-liners, who had adamantly opposed last summer's landmark nuclear deal with world powers, won just 68 seats...
And, yet again, one must ask the confounding question: what will it take for the gullible of our right wing to open their eyes, shed their knee-jerk and well-taught hatred of all things Obama and consider, at the very least, whether those who saw the agreement as tantamount to aiding the terrorists (Reagan tried it, after all, so maybe we shouldn't blame them for thinking it) could be wrong.

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Friday, March 4, 2016

I Get Letters


Stemming from responses to my newspaper columns, I've engaged in email conversations with a few people who wrote to disagree. I always begin respectfully, usually providing evidence for what I've said. Sometimes the conversations go on for a while. In a couple of cases we've met for coffee and actually become friends. More often than not, though, the writer usually storms off in a huff when he (or she, in only one case that I recall) finds the need repeatedly to confront actual facts to be too unpleasant. 

There are a couple of people who like to engage on religion. Boy, to the extent that I try to get them to see other ways of looking at things, is that a waste of energy! But I persist as long as they want to, or until I can't stand the repetition, the circular reasoning, the persisting inability to accept that belief differs from knowledge. Here's an email I just received, to which I responded at length. You can probably guess what I said. I do respect his earnestness and the obvious degree to which his belief gives him what's obviously much-needed comfort. But, geez, what passes for "thought" and cogent argument; and he does go on so...
My first comment would be on the Idea you have presented several times that the only difference between you and I is that I believe in one more god than you.  This is a perspective statement and not a statement of fact.  Let me explain.  Because you have an Atheistic method of looking at the world you also place, perhaps unknowingly, all other perspectives as being subservient to yours.  In your way of viewing the world you see forces or gods as imparting their "will" or "force" onto a given situation.  In your perspective Empathy is the overriding "force" or "impetus" driving the various gods to direct their "will" or "force".  I think then as you have explained it to me this in very brief is your Atheistic world view. 
Another Atheist may have and historically have had, other perspectives or world views.  For instance Stalin was also an Atheist but his overriding impetus or direction of his own "will" and "force" appears to be the establishment of a utopic societal order. You of course could view this in terms of Empathy in a Macro sense (establishing the best human management, i.e. government, system), but in the Micro sense (killing of millions of people) there was no Empathy there.  This then brings into play differences within the Atheistic framework of thinking. There are other Atheists of course that also have different ways of looking at the world while still holding on to a Non-Theistic view of Space-Mass-Time.  In other religions these differences are called "Sects".  I also view these differences within Atheism as "Sects" though nobody would understand what I was talking about if I did this without explanation.  These sects are different competing views of how the overall agreed upon assumptions of any particular religious system work out in real time.  The overall assumption of Atheism is, Secular Naturalism,  or any other non-intelligent force driven explanation for existence.  
In a religion such as Christianity  I also have a perspective.  My perspective is different  than yours and I also place your perspective in a subservient position to mine.  My perspective is that there is one force easily identified by the word "God" but infinitely misunderstood but such a simple title.  That single God-Force brought into being all Space-Mass-Time at his discretion and without impute or assistance from any other.  That single God then created among other things a being he entitled as "Man".  Man was different than "Animal" and different than "Matter".  God Placed Man into a perfect but non-infinite location (Garden of Eden) and gave Man limited Knowledge (knowledge of Good) about his situation/condition.  That God also gave Man the ability to choose to have Knowledge of evil (evil is anything opposed to God) by conducting a singular forbidden choice (Eating the fruit).  Man chose to know evil or know that which is opposed to God, which brought on the current paradigm in which I live.  That is Knowing both Good and Evil.  Through a bunch of events (Bible) God, by words and deeds, explained and was explaining to man both that he, God, was going to provide a way for man to be in right relationship with God again, and that Man was not created with the ability to know evil and have that knowledge be of benefit to him.  Because God created Man I believe Man has intrinsic value, not empathy value, as God has placed that value upon Man and as explained in - of course - The Bible. In particular the facts of Jesus mission on earth and in particular his removal of sin, evil, as a factor in separating individuals from God (Himself) which came at a great personal price/sacrifice of himself who was simultaneously also the creator of the perfect world in the first place.

Within perspectives we can operate sometimes in unison and sometimes in opposition.  For instance:  There was a Christian, an Atheist and a Hindu standing beside a lake.  All three of them saw someone drowning in the lake.  The Hindu refused to come to the assistance of the person drowning.  He cited the fact that Karma ruled within the happenings of the world.  He agreed that drowning was bad but said that the person had done something very bad in a prior life and was being punished for it in this life.  This drowning thing was one method the Brahma was using to bring about balance within universal life.  If he were to save the person from drowning he would be interfering with the Brahma resulting in his own bad karma.  So for the good of the world as well as himself he will let the person drown.  The Christian and the Atheist dive into the water to save the person from certain death. However they have divergent religious reasons for the save.  Lets say the Atheist sees the world through the lens of Empathy.  He then saves the person because he perceives that the biological mass that is drowning will cause sadness in other biological masses (family, friends, community) if his biological functions cease.  The Christian also saved the person.  However he does this because he is given specific instructions by God regarding his relationship with other people.  In short he sees the person as having intrinsic value to God and so he also has intrinsic value to himself not because the Christian declares it to be but because God has defined it to be.
 
Now lets go further.  Lets just say that this Christian and this Atheist who agreed on the saving of a life were placed into a different situation.  Lets say the Kim Davis situation (Marriage certificate court order thing) previously discussed.  Regarding the morality of the decisions at play the Atheist says that there are many Gay-Lesbian people who what the title of being "married" conferred upon them by the state.  The Atheist decides out of Empathy that he does not want these Gay-Lesbian people to feel bad or feel out of community or of lesser value by being told by society at large that they can't have the title of "Marriage" applied to their relationship.  The Atheist founds his understanding of this relationship as a random attraction between two persons who just happen to be of the same sex.  The randomness of their attraction is based loosely on the same randomness idea of existence formulated in an Evolutionary understanding of a persons existence.  
The Fundamentalist Christian looks at the same situation and has a different take on it.  That person sees that God created Man Male and Female.  That God created both the Male and the Female aspect of Man incomplete in the boundary of it's own sex.  God created Male and Female to create one whole as a union.  Marriage itself is an acknowledgement before God of ones incompleteness as a self and wholeness as God created it to be.  Societies declaration of a different understanding of "Marriage" is but another instance of the outworking's of the Knowledge of evil.  So As part of Jesus admonition to be the "Salt" of the earth the fundamentalist speaks out against a non-God centered understanding of Marriage.  And so now we have the Atheist and the Christian who both participate in saving a life of a drowning person at odds over the source of correctness of ones attitude towards this specific marriage morality. 
Now on a personal not I don't think the Government should be issuing any Marriage Licenses.  It once was the case that mirages (sic!) were recorded in Churches not Courthouses. 
You say " it’s silly to think that without the Bible, or Koran, or Book of Mormon, etc, one can’t live a moral life".  This is apparently a proverb or axiom you live by.  What is the proof of the statement.  In particular what is morality and who determines morality.  I would disagree for instance that the Koran has the same moral scheme as the Bible as it advocates killing Christians as a class of person.  But then I would place Killing into a moral scheme.  An evolutionist (not you but others) may not wish to do the same.    The book of Mormon is similar to the Bible in personal morality though quite different in the Identity and Destiny aspects of religion. 
 How do you determine what is Moral?  What Process, scheme, science or rational do you use to determine morality?  If you do not need the Bible, Koran, Book of Mormon etc. to live a moral life what is it that you use to determine morality?  How  are you able to conclude that this thing is moral and this thing is not moral?  It seems to me that an Atheist mortality is arbitrary and random.  Is it?  Show me how it is or is not?  I presume you view yourself as living a moral life without these religious guides.  How do you conclude what is moral specifically? 
But more importantly how do you determine what is true?  You say you believe Evolution is true and is a groundwork for your Atheistic belief.  What are the specific repeatable, knowable, verifiable scientific observations/discoveries that lead you to atheism?  For instance I could go into a Cosmological Argument or a Teleological Argument for a designer/God/initiator of this Space-Mass-time Cosmos/Universe.  I don't know if you have any real interest in that.  But I am interested in what specific Science (not this or that person who has a doctorate or is head of a university program believes Evolution) information leads you to conclude that Evolution is the way it all happened.  What repeatable experiment, equation, or set of data lead you to the conclusion that Evolution is on the other side of the Equals sign.
Congratulations if you made it through all that.

This, folks, is the sort of thinking to which the R party has pandered for decades, in the knowledge that such believers will be the easiest of marks. It's this sort of absolutism (the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it) along with inability so see themselves from another perspective, that is the best explanation for the rise of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. And don't even start on what passes for logical argument. It's impenetrable.

Again, for providing comfort and a way through the world that would otherwise be intolerably confusing and threatening, I'm happy such people have found their religion. But when that sort of "thinking" (as opposed to the sorts of Christians I know) becomes the basis for political thought and action, it's deeply, deeply frightening.

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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Hitting Them Where It Hurts


This is a pretty interesting read. To hear R politicians tell it, not only is ISIS about ready to jump out of your closet and slit your throat while simultaneously imposing Sharia law at your local 7-11, President Obama isn't doing a damn thing about it. The article shows otherwise.

Of course, the R talking points are all about scaring the shit out of people, and lying about the president, because what else is there for them to run on? (Surely not Drumpf's "new" health care plan, which is a rehash of boilerplate R ideas, based, among other insignificant things, on tax breaks for people to whom tax breaks are meaningless.) It's always been ridiculous on its face to consider ISIS some sort of existential threat, even if they pulled off the occasional isolated attack somewhere. Nevertheless, the article highlights the fact that not only is Obama not doing nothing, the somethings he's doing are pretty effective, given the complexities, and the fact that "boots on the ground" will make things worse, other than as a Trump/Cruz/Rubio demonstration of testosterone-fuelled superficiality. From the article:

... If ISIS is weaker, why havent the array of forces on the ground, particularly in Iraq, backed by dozens of daily airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition, made more headway inten months? The U.S. goal is to shrink the core of ISIS in both Iraq and Syria,” but that still seems a very long way off. 
From where it was in the summer of 2014, ISIL has lost forty per cent of its territory in Iraq. It’s lost Tikrit, an iconic Sunni city. It lost Ramadi. It’s lost its connections between Mosul and Syria, losing Sinjar and a number of critical road connections. ISIL is increasingly shrinking. It takes time. It takes intelligence. It takes relationships. It takes ourselves getting established and reëstablishing networks, which we had to do...
And as to finances:

... We assessed that ISIL was taking in about a billion dollars a year: five hundred million dollars in oil and gas and five hundred million in other forms of revenue—taxes, extortion, antiquities, kidnapping. You have to go at it two ways. In the latter pot, you have to take away their territory. In the former pot, we have to determine how they are getting oil out of the ground, how they are moving it around, where it is going, and then how we can effectively target that. It took a great deal of very hard, very detailed intelligence work about how this is all working. It’s not as easy as, “Oh, let’s just go out and bomb the trucks.” That’s not going to be effective. We really wanted to rip out the spine of their ability to generate revenue...
It's a pretty good read. Not that there's no threat; still, as one who believes strongly that sending in troops, or carpet bombing, or "killing their families," as we hear from the nutjobs of the right, will only make things worse, it's reassuring.

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If You Can't Persuade Them, Threaten Them

Well, of course he was kidding . I mean, after all, it's not like his entire career was one of bullying, suing, threatening, and lyin...