Monday, January 14, 2019

Continental Drift

Republicans have found themselves a new boogieman this winter, in the name of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or “AOC” for short. I’m not sure if it’s because of her politics or that her name is so long (and Latin). They should consider themselves lucky because it could be worse. Both Ocasio and Cortez are relatively short. What if her last name was something like Rodriguez-Dominguez de Jesus?

Sorry, I don’t mean to lead with a tangent…

Ever since she won her House of Representative’s race, the knives have been out for her more than anyone else, even the Muslim woman who called Trump a motherfucker. She won by campaigning on income inequality and representing the needs of the middle and lower classes. For real, not just lip service, and that’s why conservatives are scared.
The last thing they want is for the country to start coalescing around a charismatic populist, then turning out in numbers to vote for their own financial interest. That would spell the end of Republican control of anything.

So naturally, anything she does becomes fodder for attack, from clips of her in high school dancing to what clothes she wears, to where she used to live.

Now, I don’t know that all of her ideas should be adopted right away. She campaigned as a Socialist and has a lot of grand ideas for how to reshape the country.

The country will not move easily or without a fight from those vested in the status quo. But hard-left politicians like AOC (and Bernie Sanders in the Senate) are necessary if we are to move to the left at all. (And by “moving to the left,” I mean focusing the government’s interest finding ways to benefit the many rather than the richest few.)

Like a seasoned negotiator, one doesn’t “open” with their final demand. There will always be push-back, and in this case, by those with the most resources. If progress is to be made, we have to accept that it might be one step at a time. No one is going to be allowed to sweep in and institute single-payer health care, free college, and a ban on coal mining.

For example, we may not be able to create, a single-payer health care system this term, but we can at least start moving incrementally to a more equitable system. The monied few are not going to give up their influence without a bloody fight so they will oppose any efforts to repair the ACA. And the better the ACA works, the less distance there is to jump to single-payer.

I think she’s going to be the more effective force for change in the long run, because she is a candidate of these times. She’s young, proficient with social media, and able to relate to other Millennials and Gen-Xers. She’s been handling the Twitter trolls with class, wit, facts, and a biting edge. If she can draw out more candidates like herself, then we have the basis of a movement.
And we all know how nice it feels after a good movement!

She is the living embodiment of what Trump pretends to be; with apologies to Coke, she’s the Real Thing. He poses as a populist but every significant action he’s taken has been to benefit the rich. (Or racists or religious zealots.) He acts like he’s a “man of the people,” while having his silver spoon gilded in Trumpian gold.

Speaking of the Current Occupant, did you see how he claimed that the Democrats “could solve the shutdown in 15 minutes” if they’d “come back from their vacations and get back to work.”

Yes, HE, of all people, is complaining about other politicians’ vacations. [massive eye roll]

Anyway, do you see how easy he’s making it for the Democrats? All they have to do is give in to his demands and the shutdown is over. What a dealmaker!

As Stephen Colbert once characterized the Republican negotiating philosophy, “You scratch my back… and I get my back scratched.

He doesn’t want a deal, he wants the fight, so he can be seen as a fighter by his base (and Fox “News”). I think having the longest shutdown on record occur on his watch is a goal of his, not a problem… that way he can go on about how his shutdown (that’s totally the Democrats’ fault) is the biggest and longest of all time.

And the Democrats can’t cave; they’ve got significant leverage for the first time in 2 years. They can’t just roll over, even to get everyone paid. Or else this will become the new normal.

That’s why I think we better buckle in because it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Meet the New Year, Same as the Old Year

Nope, not much different yet in 2019, still chaos. Let’s look at a couple of points of agitation.

A Couple of Pitches from the On-Deck Batters
I’m sure everyone knows about Mitt Romney’s op-ed in the Washington Post last week. Romney leveled pointed criticism at the president’s foreign policy and general character. It’s unusual that you’d hear that from an incoming senator; that’s more likely heard from legislators who are heading out the door. Yes, they were hard words, followed by falling in line with Trump’s wall, conservative judges and the rest.

The Salt Lake Tribune thinks it was because according to their poll, 64% of Utah voters and half of Romney voters wanted to see him stand up to the President. Romney is nothing if not a consummate wind direction checker, but I wonder if there’s more.

I think he might be thinking of running for President again. Now that Americans elected a crass silver-spoon baby, maybe he thinks he would do better as a smoother, more genteel silver-spoon baby. (Except where it comes to canine transport. I don’t think he’ll ever live that down.) But maybe he’s thinking, “I’ll give you all the upper-crust aura without the bothersome boastfulness and porn-star shagging.”

It would be a real pisser of a thing to do to his constituency though. Utah just elected him for a 6-year Senate term. He’d have to start running for president almost immediately, thus shortchanging everyone who voted for him. Maybe he’s hoping they’ll forgive if he makes it to the White House.

On the other side of the country, Lindsey Graham is suddenly frothing at the mouth and going all hardcore on the wall issue. He used to be one of the few level heads on the right, but hell, he’s been barking it up ever since the Kavanaugh hearing.

Maybe he’s having presidential aspirations again as well. Sounds to me like he knows Trump may not finish this term and is trying to commandeer his base racists, isolationists, and gun nuts for a run of his own.

I think he should turn his attention to his own state. Doesn’t he know he’s got 187 miles of unfenced coastline right under his nose?

Shutdown
The partial government shutdown really could go on for months, if the Democrats don’t cave. Trump and the Republicans? They live for this shit. A shut down government is a conservative pipe dream. They just needed some people who are impervious to public pressure, like Trump and McConnell.

They probably think that if things get bad enough, the private sector will take over some areas and rid the government of having to maintain national parks and such.

Forget Yellowstone, sell the land rights to the Koch Brothers, let them rebrand the place and turn it into a giant canned-hunt facility… at least in the parts they’re not digging up or using to store toxic waste. Hire one of those Haliburton defense contractors to run the TSA. With fewer active wars going on, they should have some spare mercenary personnel to scan bags. And anyone caught smuggling contraband can be shot on the spot.

The thing is, Republicans have demonstrated over and over that they don’t recognize empathy, especially the president. (Exceptions: Anti-rich sentiment and reverse racism. There’s plenty of empathy for that!)

Trump even thinks federal workers are happy to forego their paychecks in exchange for leverage on a wall. He has no idea about the hardship he’s applying to these Americans. He hasn’t had to want for a single thing during his entire life. He doesn’t understand not getting what he wants immediately.
So Democrats are caught in a bind. They want to end this thing and help federal employees get back in the game. But if they do, they only empower Trump to shut down the government again and again. Plus, we waste $5 billion on a vanity wall that doesn’t solve the problem it’s designed to address.

I’m hoping cooler heads can prevail with some kind of work-around and reopen parts of the government bit by bit via narrow legislation. I’m not optimistic, though. Any such action would have to be blessed by Mitch McConnell, who takes his orders direct from GOP donors. Maybe if the Koch Brothers start missing their social security checks, they’ll prevail upon Mitch to break the logjam.

In addition to empathy, the Kochs also fail to recognize the concept of “enough.”

Strictly Redistricting
The Supreme Court agreed to take on redistricting cases from North Carolina and (right here in) Maryland. I have extremely mixed feelings about this.

On one hand, I would love to see the districting process be taken out of partisan hands, (if that’s even possible.) Just draw the lines straight up, without political factors. And as a resident, I realize that Maryland is heavily gerrymandered in the Democrats’ favor, which is rare. I would be happy to give that up, under one condition…

Which brings us to the other hand… it has to be everyone, not just Maryland. That’s how you’ll know if the fix is in… if the court somehow finds that Maryland has to be ungerrymandered but North Carolina doesn’t. And that could be a likely result if they find narrowly in each case. I think that’s more likely than finding broadly and invalidating district maps all across the country. I don’t think you’ll see this court vote against the benefactors who installed them on the court for this express purpose in the first place.

A couple of years ago, the justices split 4-4 on the legality of North Carolina’s repressive voter ID law, which was found to have been drawn up with surgical precision to suppress minority voting. Now take away Kennedy and add Gorsuch and the frat boy, and what do you think we’ll get?

A Republican death-grip on power-consolidating dirty tricks.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Better Than a Sleeping Pill

Welcome to the last post of 2018! We’re sliding one in right under the wire to make it 52 posts in 52 weeks. (This last 5-Monday month lets me make up for the post I skipped in June.)

I’ve been off work since the 21st, so I’ve had a lot of time to hang around the house with my Sweetpea and occasionally talk about current events (that don’t involve the dog or household maintenance). One of the things she mentioned was wondering how Sarah Huckabee Sanders can sleep at night after a day of lying through her teeth.

Good question. How does one, who comes from solid evangelical religious stock, square her faith (or at least the Ten Commandments) with her job description of repeating and supporting her boss’s obvious, provable falsehood?

Then it dawned on me… It’s got to be the C-Street House doctrine.

Have you heard of the C-Street House? It made some waves back in 2009 when the reporter, Jeff Sharlet, emerged from years undercover in the C-Street House and wrote an expose. The group who runs the C-Street House has been around for 84 years and they’re basically a collection of religious fundamentalists who help other Republicans get themselves out of trouble. You know… hookers, mistresses, domestic violence, financial crimes, the usual. They provide shelter, moral support, money, and strategy to make the problems disappear.
The operating principle with these people is that they are in power because of God’s will; therefore anything they do while in power is His will as well and therefore excused. They feel they can get away with anything, no matter how depraved.


I know, creepy, right? In the Evil, Scary Power-Mad Maniac You See in the Movies kind of way.

Now I don’t know if they allow women into this den of thieves, but I’ll bet Mike Huckabee knows a thing or two from the C-Street House. And I bet that “knowledge” is passed right down to his daughter Sarah.

What are a few thousand lies when believe you have God Almighty backing you up and telling you that you’re doing the right thing? The lies are just Tinker Toys used in building the Lord’s favored domain.

I bet she sleeps like a baby, knowing that she serves a higher purpose than leveling with unwashed heathens in the press and the rest of the country.

I’m just not sure that’s going to work for the rest of us. Somebody pass me the Ambien…

Actually, I sleep pretty well, as long as I remember to turn my brain off before bed… which isn’t that hard now at my age.  I’ll be lucky to see midnight tonight. I probably ought to set my alarm for 11:45.

Here’s to a happy and progressively liberating new year!

Monday, December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas to All Ye Godless Heathens!

I sometimes get asked, "if you're such a non-believer, why do you even celebrate Christmas?"

Fair question, with a simple answer: Because it's fun! I have great memories of Christmases past, of giving and receiving presents, decorating trees, baking cookies and having fun times with friends and family.

When I was young, it was just what you did... what everyone did. Now, to me, it's just tradition. I'm not going to be the one sitting on the side, throwing poop at those who celebrate in earnest.

So let me take this time to wish you a happy Christmas, a happy holiday, and happy "whatever-you-celebrate." Just be happy.

And thank you for your visits this year, especially to those who found me recently through blogs like Infidel753Crooks and Liars, and Hackwhackers. Your visits have put a jolt in my motivation to continue recording my observations on the cultural mess we have on our hands.

Now, I'd like to take this opportunity to run a few of the graphics I've been sitting on, which I've never gotten around to posting, or whose story has already run its course.

Cheers!

Civility, like respect and restraint, is just something Republicans expect others to provide:

Amen!:

If the UAW functioned like the NRA:

Yes, maybe "both sides do it," but Republicans have run up the score on criminality 271 (and counting) to 11. Maybe it was that extra year and a half. Yeah, that's it!:

Fox "News," the unpaid communications arm of the GOP since 1996:

Yet another freakin' hypocrite who thinks "morals and values" are merely tools with which to beat your opponent, not things to live up to themselves.

They really could have made that bottom circle into just one piece made up of both sides:

An Ode to Wisconsin:

They should just put in on our license plates: "Me First."

Um, Merry Christmas?

In other words, everyone has the religious freedom to be Christian.

I can't see how anyone who's not in the 1% goes along with this scheme:

Who knew it was the salamander who was most favored by God?

Actually, the more days he's on vacation, the fewer days he's working against us:

Hallelujah! Maybe we should celebrate the day August Busch was born...

I've had this one in the vault for four years. Pretty much hits blogging right on the head.

And to all, a good night!

Monday, December 17, 2018

Someone, Please Set the Alarm?

I’ve never been a dewy-eyed optimist, but I have this dream that one day, people will come to their senses, throw off the knee-jerk tribalism, and realize that there are things they just cannot support, even when these things pervade their own team.

Look at the positions that people are forced into taking just to stay within party boundaries, like the anti-science, anti-environment, anti-consumer stances taken by the big business (or “controlling”) wing of the Republican party. Sky is green, grass is blue, up is down, left is right…

Company line is that there is no climate change threat (or if there is, it’s not man-made, and if it is, we can’t stop it). The party line contradicts mountains of evidence collected by experts in environmental sciences and are accepted by every civilized society in the world, but some business people think it will hurt their quarterly report, so they deny the science based on nothing but greed.

And the tribe laps it up and spews it back out, right up until Miami, Galveston and the Outer Banks are washed away. When are people going to realize that our children and grandchildren are going to have to find a way to live in a polluted, arid, country that makes the Mad Max world look like Utopia? Or makes “Waterworld” look like a documentary?

Why do people get worked up about deregulating government or banking or food preparation, etc.? The regulations are there for a reason… to keep large companies from compromising our safety or robbing us blind. Without these regulations, companies have free reign to take advantage of us in ever-increasing ways. No wonder they rail against regulations… they could be screwing us all the harder without them!
We had an entire recession, with people losing tens of thousands from their 401k’s, or losing their retirement funds completely, all due to banks playing fast and loose with OUR money. An entire set of regulations were put in place to make sure that never happens again and now the Republicans are getting rid of all of them, including the governing board put in place to enforce the rules.

So that becomes part of the party line and the people never question it. Republicans actually campaign on this topic. How are they not booed off the stage?

When you cut away the lies and double-talk, it goes like this:

GOP Candidate: We want to make it easier for the banks to steal your money!

GOP Crowd: YAAAAAAAAAY!

GOP Candidate: We want to let industries spew poison into the air and flush toxins into the water supply and then have the government bill YOU for the cleanup!

GOP Crowd: YAAAAAAAAAY!

GOP Candidate: We want to cut taxes on the richest people in the country and have your state make up the shortfall in services by raising taxes and fees on YOU!

GOP Crowd: YAAAAAAAAAY!

WTF?

Does no one realize the consequences of aggressively deregulating and passing massive tax cuts of which we barely taste?

Republican leadership plays their constituents for suckers and laughs all the way to the bank.

How did people get so brainwashed that they can’t see the damage their party’s platform does to the lower and middle classes?

Granted, Republicans do throw out the bait with social issues. Social issues like abortion, same-sex marriage and immigration are perfect for them because they can promise the moon and if they don’t deliver, hey, at least they tried. And if they do deliver, it’s not terribly expensive (to the ruling 1%). They know everyone needs someone to shit on and they’re for anything that keeps the base in line without impacting annual profits.

Conservatives love to rail at “Hollywood” for trying to force “their” morality on them (in the guise of tolerance and acceptance of people who aren’t straight, white, Christian Anglo-Saxons). When are they going to realize that they're doing the same thing when it comes to abortion? Will they ever realize that Person A pushing values on Person B is no different than Person B pushing their own values on Person C (and all the other Persons)?

It’s a raging hypocrisy that Republicans are forced to accept if they want to be part of the team.

I long for the day that people wake up and go, “The President is a lying, narcissistic, criminal and I’m not accepting it anymore. We can do better.”

Or “You know, those tax cuts for the rich didn’t hit my wallet at all. In fact, they haven’t hit anyone’s wallet that I know. We demand better.”

Or, “I love that stream back behind my house. I don’t WANT the coal company pouring sludge into it and ruining the fishing. Or polluting my well. We need someone in government who looks out for MY concerns.”

Or, “I support gun ownership but restricting ownership of military-grade weaponry, which not one citizen of this country needs for any purpose, is a rational response to the mass killings and not the destruction of the Second Amendment. Enough with the hyperbole, we need action.”

The list is almost endless. But still, here we are, with 40-some percent of the country cheering the harm being done to themselves.

I know that the rich, the evangelicals, racists and gun fetishists will never be swayed, but I dream that the rest wake up and maybe help change this back to the country that used to be a shining example.

It’s like the alarm is set but the only button on it says, “Snooze.”

Monday, December 10, 2018

The GOP's Bloodless Coup

Don’t look now, but the Republicans are having a second go at the Merrick Garland defense.

No, it doesn’t have anything to do with their stolen Supreme Court seat; it’s another naked, bold-faced power grab. This time they’re doing it in Wisconsin, Michigan and North Carolina, where the lame-duck Republican legislatures, in concert with the lame-duck Republican governors, are passing laws to change the state power structure and hamstring the incoming Democrat leaders.

They’re basically ignoring the will of the people, who swept the Dems back into power in a direct refutation of Republican leadership. Not only are they taking their ball and going home, they’re blowing up the ballfield behind them.
Wisconsin Governor, Scott Walker, is being lobbied extensively by the press and other politicians to veto the bills. As if there’s a chance that would happen. He was knee-deep in writing the damned bills. There’s zero percent chance he’s going to veto them because They. Have. No. Shame. The corporate money makes them immune to public sentiment.

Now that they’ve passed an egregious set of bills, designed to prop up the 1%, AND left them exceedingly difficult to remove, they can leave government office and be welcomed back into the private sector, where they will be rewarded for their obedience. They cannot be shamed on this. They’re basically flipping Wisconsinites the middle finger and dancing out the door. What do they care what the rest of the country thinks?
This is essentially what they did with the Garland nomination. They staked out a power-grabbing position knowing full well that it would be massively unpopular and clung to it like a pit bull on a pork chop. They knew people would howl and protest, and they did not care. They knew the Koch brothers wanted a business-friendly court to protect their environment-destroying ways.

They’re doing exactly what their corporate donors/overlords want them to do. They know there will be two more years before the next elections and that the public will likely forget all about it… especially in the wake of all the distracting negative ads they’ll be able to afford, courtesy of those same rich donors.

I pointed out this strategy back in February of 2016. Now here they are, breaking it out again. This time, the New York Times is pointing out the corporate greed behind the denial of democracy.

As long as the GOP has big corporate money behind them, they can flout any convention they care to, knowing they’ll retain their power in the end. As far as Republicans are concerned, principles are only things their opponents are supposed to have. Only Democrats need to be “civil.”

Meanwhile, the last time Republicans lost power, the Tea Party was born. Because they only care about national debt when some other guys are doing the spending.

The GOP Playbook has been to:
·        De-emphasize, under-fund, and ridicule education, and in particular, the critical-thinking skills necessary to see through their own campaign of misinformation and misdirection.
·        Pack state and local governments with their people, who can then influence political ground rules (and the item above.)
·        Get GOP nominees onto court benches all up and down the line, but especially in the Supreme Court. That protects their self-serving, big-business-slanted laws, from tax code to environmental code.

The only way to change any of this is to beat them at their own game.

Democrats must win back government offices from the ground, up. It’s not enough to win the US House or Senate, or even governorships. We have to win town halls, city halls, mayorships, zoning boards, boards of education, state legislatures, all of it. Only then can Democrats change the laws (and district boundaries) that cement Republicans into positions of power, which far outpaces the numbers that put them there.

We have to teach young people how to think logically and how to recognize a BS argument. Hell, Facebook memes alone can provide enough material for a full semester’s work. People need to know how to think, not just toss back memorized factoids on command.

And we must pull out all stops to regain the majority in the Supreme Court. This will be the hardest nut to crack because the age factor clearly works for the Republicans and against the Democrats. It has to be a long-term plan. And the other state and federal judgeships are important too. They decide the cases before they go to the Supreme Court. It’s more advantageous to have lower level court decisions in your favor than to be the one asking for an overturn.

This isn’t something we can solve in one or two election cycles. This is a quest that must be maintained over the long term or else the big money will prevail.

The thing that’s in our favor is that there are more Democrats than Republicans. And there are a hell of a lot fewer rich people than non-rich people. If we can get the non-rich to overcome the way many have been “programmed” and vote in their own financial interest, we might become again, a country of which we can be proud.

I know it’s a long shot. But I can dream…

Monday, December 3, 2018

Debunkery - The Vault Edition

In looking to make a dent in my vault of unused material, I uncovered a couple more conservative memes that, while a bit dated, still warrant a good debunking. The topics may change but the logical fallacies stay the same. 
The oh-so sly inference is that taxes deter making a living, aka “income.”

Really? Taxes really prevent people from trying to make more money? Show me one example. Nobody stops trying to earn more money, they just find ways, ethical or otherwise, to avoid the taxes.

Taxes are simply necessary if we want a government that does anything. Anything. Like, defend our country. Build roads, put out fires, plow the snow. Explore medical cures for illnesses that afflict the population. Educate children and young people (or at least keep them under adult supervision while parents are working). Ensure food is safe and drugs don’t do more harm than good. Clean up after natural disasters. Uphold law and order, and investigate crimes.

This everything on this tiny, non-comprehensive list are things that are paid for with taxes, which have to come from somewhere, right? Hence the income tax.

Now, as far as these other levies, aka “sin taxes,” these are passed in lieu of raising income taxes, to which conservatives and wealthy political donors are adamantly opposed. They’re basically SOG taxes, meaning to good, God-fearing conservatives, they’re what Some Other Guy pays. If you buy the optional product, you pay the tax. But you stack enough of them up and eventually they come home to roost. The taxes come from you one way or another.

I’m not sure what point the creator of this meme is trying to reach, other than the pipe dream of no one ever having to pay taxes (and yet somehow live in a functioning country). Or maybe it’s just to create animosity towards the government, which conservatives want to be as small as possible. (Big enough to protect corporate interests, too small to help anyone else.)

***

This chart is for when Republicans try to take credit for current economic gains, from any number of metrics. This particular chart shows the decrease in unemployment among black Americans, from 2010 to 2017. Yes, it has reached its lowest point under Donald Trump, but it has been heading that way all along. Today’s numbers are the logical extension of the numbers from the previous Administration. That means all he had to do was get out of the way.

Economies do not usually turn on a dime. The Trump Administration has done absolutely nothing to boost unemployment among minorities. The numbers were heading this way anyway. We should probably give him credit for not blocking it, but that’s about it. It’s not really something to base a campaign on. (Fortunately, the Republicans can continue to fall back on fear of foreigners, gays, and Muslims.)

This rationale also works with stats on the economy, like general unemployment, wage increases, the stock market, etc. There is a long, uphill run of increasing numbers, beginning when the Obama Administration reversed the Bush Recession. (Creating a momentum reversal in a graph line? That’s something for which credit (or blame) can be rationally assigned.)

***

This is one I meant to debunk earlier this year. It’s wrong on just about every level.

“Black people who were never slaves…” but still live under the cloud of poverty and oppression that began with their ancestor’s slavery. Becoming free from slavery did not mean they suddenly had means to become affluent or powerful.

“are fighting white people who were never Nazis…” But continue to espouse the same beliefs as Nazis, making the difference non-existent.

“over a Confederate statue erected by Democrats…” Technically true, but omitting the part where Democrats turned their backs on their racist, Confederate pasts. Those who did not became Republican, which is where they are today.

“because Democrats can’t stand their own history anymore.” Republicans claiming the mantle of Lincoln are rejecting their own history; of that time they abandoned the Democratic party all across the south, in protest of the Civil Rights legislation of the 60s. They need to look in the mirror.

“And somehow that’s Trump’s fault?” Absolutely. He didn’t invent racism but he aggressively uses it. He fans the flames of hate and adds gasoline. He uses racist fervor to convince simple, fearful, not-terribly-well educated white people to vote Republican and then goes on about the very non-racist business of siphoning every possible dollar into the country’s ruling business class.

***
Another heavily-promoted myth that white privilege means white people have never had to work for anything. Simplistic bullshit, designed to play on white people’s sense of self-worth.

I know that as a white person, I most definitely worked my ass off to get where I am today. However, I also know that I didn’t have to deal with a boatload of things that, if the average white American had to handle, every fucking one of them would be in therapy.

We may have worked hard, but we didn’t have to deal with:
·        Being presumed guilty of something when seen by law enforcement,
·        Having the car searched during a run-of-the-mill traffic stop,
·        Being beaten, shot or killed before we can even be arrested,
·        Being swarmed on by mobs and hung just for looking at a woman the wrong way,
·        Employers favoring other races,
·        Being assumed to be lazy before having our work habits observed,
·        Being mocked for physical attributes, real or imagined,
·        Having media ignore us for years, before eventually throwing in some tokens,
·        Having people cross the street before having to walk on the same sidewalk,
·        Being assigned separate, inferior services and facilities, for no rational reason,
·        Being sentenced to hard jail time when others arrested for the same crimes get let off with probation,
·        Being provided with subpar schools, then ridiculed for being poorly educated.

I could go on indefinitely. In a nutshell, whitey may have had to swim across the lake, and it was hard work, but we didn’t have to do it with a cinderblock tied to our foot like others have.

White privilege gave us that advantage. The least we can do is stop whining about it. Or help extend that privilege to everyone.

***

This doesn’t need debunking, because it’s balls-on true. Stupid is exactly how Republicans want the electorate. Convincing people to disbelieve what they see, hear and what can be PROVEN, in favor of a batch of authoritarian myths is integral to the Republicans’ methods. They frame scientists, experts, and highly-educated people to be feared… “Just leave things to God and a simple man’s elbow grease, and everything will be fine…” for the 1%.

Distrust of institutes of education and educated people in general is the first of three central tenets of modern Republicanism. People without critical thinking skills are more apt to fall for misdirection, logical fallacies and other propaganda, that look good on the surface and sound good when sitting around the bar. They’re pliable and easily persuaded to vote against their own financial self-interest.

The other two tenets are packing state and local government with their own people and filling the courts with those who will go along with their self-protection schemes like voter ID, gerrymandering, unlimited anonymous political donations, etc. Full post on my playbook hypothesis, from July.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Debunkery - The Turkey-Stuffed Edition

Happy Cyber Monday! I hope you’ve awoken from your food coma. I feel like I’ve just gotten up from a 4-day feast, (mostly because I have.) I was off work since Wednesday so it feels like all I’ve done was sit at tables and eat various arrangements of carb and calorie-laden dishes. That’s another reason I’m thankful to be employed. If I was home all day, I’d probably never stop eating. Maybe I should rethink retirement. Or eat more vegetables. (Nah.)

As I perused the social media sites over the break, I found a fresh batch of BS to pick apart. Leave it to Family Values Conservatives to repeatedly miss the point. Like with this one:

This is an easy one because only half of this is true. Guess which half.

That’s right, it’s the second half. There is nothing truthful about California banning the Bible, thus negating the entirety of the inferred message.

The root of the misconception came from a hard-right media outlet, who during a Q and A, twisted California’s banning of gay conversion therapy into banning the bible. The thinking goes:

Some religious people believe homosexuality is a sin. Sinners can be redeemed if they repent, so they must be able to pursue treatment. California banned gay-conversion therapy; therefore, California banned the Bible.

And then blaming a natural disaster like a wildfire on a piece of legislation meant to keep people from being tortured? Please.

Gay conversion is a barbaric system of abuse that results in lasting damage done to the object of this “therapy” and has been disavowed as quackery by professional medical and psychiatric organizations.

The creator of this statement is either a con-artist who knowingly published this twisted logic because he knows that people will believe anything if it aligns with their worldview, or he’s as gullible as he is mean. Let that sink in.
***

This is another well-traveled road, which always leads to the same place.
It’s always some kind of binary equation that doesn’t have to be. As if you can’t accomplish anything unless (X-issue, usually homeless vets but not necessarily) is addressed first.

What it really is, is a good way to avoid doing anything. Conservatives love to deny help to anyone unless something is done about homeless veterans. Yet they never actually do anything about homeless veterans or even propose anything to help.

Republicans have had unlimited power since Trump took office. Where are the bills to help homeless vets? Any riders tacked on to funding bills? Any bills to address the decades-long problems at the VA?

Nope. Just a lot of righteous indignation at the prospect of helping someone else, especially brown people.

Here’s a news flash: We could accomplish both if Republicans actually wanted to. But they’re afraid they might have to give up some tax cuts for the rich, so anything proposed to help these other two communities is a non-starter.

Then the rich, in order to keep the spigot of tax dollars flowing, spend millions via Fox “News,” talk radio, and social media to convince poorly educated Americans that a bunch of brown women and children are a threat to their own existence, who then go on to create cynical memes like this.

***

Let’s not forget the police and military fetishists, who think their heroes can do no wrong.
This is only a statement of opinion, so there’s no technical “debunking’ do to here, just a counterpoint that there are problem employees in every field and police and the military are not exempt.

Any familiarity with the news over the past 10 years clearly shows that there is a significant amount of police officers who are scared stiff of black men and others who don’t even see them as humans. The “shoot first and ask questions later” attitude is going to tear this country apart, as unarmed black men are being killed right and left, especially as conservatives keep throwing out “more guns” as the solution.

As this weekend’s news showed, a “good guy with a gun” is only the solution when it’s a “white guy with a gun.” Black men need not apply, lest they be immediately mistaken for the perp and fired upon.

Yes, I appreciate the dedication it takes to enter into the military and law enforcement. Yes, I appreciate the bravery it takes to excel at the job. But goddammit, they can’t keep killing innocent people and expect it to be taken as the cost of doing business.

I’ve said it before, but this problem will not go away until the people doing the policing are the same color as the ones being policed. As long as people of one color are fearful of and hostile to those of another, neither side can effectively police the other. We will have a tinderbox on our hands that will flame up and burn everything in sight.

I readily acknowledge that there are tremendous people doing dangerous work as police officers, who work long hours for insufficient pay. But there are also some jacked up, power-mad thugs who enjoy wielding their power over those with none.

And they must still be in the mix because these police killings of armed and unarmed innocent people just don’t stop. You’d think that with all the negative attention that goes to these killings, there would be a concerted effort to stem the flow of innocent blood. The news tells us otherwise.

***

To end on a lighter note, here’s something that made me laugh out loud last week. I probably should have saved it for Easter but I’d have forgotten about it by then.
 Bonzai!

Monday, November 19, 2018

Thankliness

Now that we’ve reached Thanksgiving Week, one turns inward, to navel-gazingly ruminate on those things for which we are thankful. No matter how awful things can seem, we should always take the time to acknowledge and express our gratitude for the good things in our lives.

I am thankful…

…that our current White House occupant is just about half-way through his term. Really, it only seems like it’s been 10 years of living under this orange cloud. May the second half seem to go by quicker than the first. (And I’m still not very enthused about impeachment. I’ve said it before, but I believe Mike Pence would be even worse, because he’d pass all the same noxious legislation, continue gutting financial and environmental regulations and providing tax “relief” for the rich, but he’d do it quietly, without stepping on his pecker three times a week.

…to that end, that we’ll see in a Democratic House of Representatives in January, to provide a brake on the damage Trump intends to inflict on the lower and middle classes, and the country in general.

…that there are organizations like Snopes.com and Politifact, to fact check the endless torrent of BS that spews from the political arena and help me with my occasional bouts of Debunkery. I know it doesn’t matter much, what with so much of the population who would rather believe a smooth lie than an ugly truth, but it makes me feel better that the truth matters somewhere.

…that I have a reasonable amount of job security. I’ve been with my current employer for over 20 years and I love my job. I’d like to do my current job for the next 10 years, or as long as they’ll have me. Then, retirement, here I come!

…that I live in a major-league city. Sure, Baltimore comes with its problems… drugs, STDs, rampant violence and 300 murders a year. But at least I can go see major league baseball and NFL football without the need for a long road trip. And when I’m not necessarily crazy about the hometown team, the teams I DO like eventually come here. As someone who spent most of his life living several hours from a major league stadium, I appreciate the luxury.

…that my family is alive, well, and relatively healthy. The fact that I still have my parents around, at my age, is amazing. We all may have our ailments, but we still trundle along none the worse for wear.

…that my city is also home to world-renowned Johns Hopkins Hospital, where I go for treatment for occasional a-fib episodes.  Had one just last month and they were able to put me back in rhythm without the electrical jolt this time; they just used medication. (They still tried to keep me overnight, but that didn’t work out well for them.)

…for modern technology, in that I can take my blood pressure and an ECG from home and use my phone to relay the results to my doctor. Seriously, the shit we take for granted now used to require a hospital visit.

…that I met the woman of my dreams almost two years ago, and for some reason, she still puts up with me. We’re getting married next June, so if she’s gonna opt out, she better make it soon. (After which I may or may not move out.) Meanwhile, I’ve had the happiest 2-year stretch of my life and she’s directly responsible. Happy Thanksgiving, Sweetpea!

...for this big, furry, beast, who takes very good care of his mommy.
I feel much better leaving the house, knowing that he's standing guard and will rage-bark at any disturbance, be it from neighbor, mailman, or plastic bag blowing down the street. Although if an intruder ever comes in bearing treats, his mommy is on her own.

…for the community of bloggers that produces such amazing insight, and occasionally comes here to look over mine. I appreciate your visits and occasional links more than I can say.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones. Now let’s eat.

Monday, November 12, 2018

The Week After

OK, it’s the week after the mid-term election and that wasn’t half bad!

Democrats resoundingly flipped the house, picked up a ton of state-level positions, but lost (maybe) a few seats in the Senate.

Sadly, the Senate was not really in play, not beyond the pipe-dream level. Democrats had to defend far too many seats, compared to Republicans, and several were in deep red states. The bright side was that some of those losing races were closer than they’ve been in decades. Without the massive voter suppression efforts in Georgia and Florida, who knows what could have happened.

Georgia disqualified or disenfranchised far more votes and voters than what made up the margin of victory. While not every vote would have been Democratic, I’ll bet it was a massive majority. They weren’t picking which votes to suppress by accident.

Shenanigans were in full effect in Florida as well, as people kept finding batches of uncounted votes. Any in what I’m sure is a huge coincidence, most of them were from overwhelmingly Democratic Broward County.
The President is inferring via tweet that there is malfeasance in votes suddenly “appearing.” He’s partially right. But the malfeasance is in why these votes were missing or uncounted in the first place.

Oops, now where did I put that trunk full of votes?  Hmmmm. Hey Cecil, go look behind that file cabinet for some votes. I just found a couple here between the cushions of the office davenport.”

So, the recounts are going on as we speak, despite Florida’s Senate candidate Rick Scott doing everything in his power to prevent any more counting, so to keep anyone from “stealing the election,” by having the nerve to count all the votes. The bastards!

It reminds me of the scene from the classic movie, “The Sting,” where Robert Shaw’s gangster character is beaten at his own crooked poker game by Paul Newman and rants to his lackey, “What was I supposed to do - call him for cheating better than me?

The thing is, it’s not cheating to count the votes. If there’s evidence of fraud, then lay it out. Naturally, there’s been zero proof of any voter fraud, other than the deterrence and disappearance of suspected Democratic votes. All the howls from the GOP about these races are appeals not to count the votes. Please explain the enhanced sense of patriotism in that notion.

Meanwhile, President 45 is pitching the story that the Republicans actually won. Best I can tell, that’s Trump-speak for “At least we didn’t get our asses kicked as badly as we could have.” Now he’s going to see what it’s like not to have a rubber-stamp Congress, and to have real oversight on all the shit he’s up to.

I expect he’ll relish the opportunity to create a new boogieman/punching bag and denigrate the House any chance he gets, knowing it will be picked up and amplified by his handlers at Fox “News.”

Did you see Hannity get up “on the spur of the moment and totally unplanned,” and get onstage to speechify at the President’s campaign rally? Yep, that appearance right there strips any claim the Fox is a legitimate news outlet. (As if there needed to be more reasons.) Did anyone ever see Walter Cronkite get on a stage and hype up JFK? Did Dan Rather ever campaign for Jimmy Carter? Of course not. Whatever they might have believed at a personal level, they wouldn’t be caught dead breaking their journalistic ethics by campaigning for anyone, ever, as long as they were on the air.

Trump kicked the hornet’s nest again with the Jim Acosta thing, but he knew exactly what he was doing. He and his staff knew what he was going to do before he even went out there; they knew he was going to go full bore after the press, no doubt to defer attention from the mid-terms shellacking they just took.

The accusations that the White House leveled at Acosta were disgusting as they were deceitful. Press flack Sarah Sanders forwarded an altered video from right-wing conspiracy theorist and integrity-free website, InfoWars, which showed a more severe altercation than that which was broadcast live on CSPANN. They made it look like the reporter chopped the arm of the intern who was seeking to swipe the mic from him, when it was, in fact, more of a brush off. They used this ploy to rescind Acosta’s press pass. 

Then, when confronted with the almost instant evidence from video experts around the country who claim the video was altered, Sanders doubled down on the lie to reaffirm their position that Acosta “laid hands on” the "young intern" (who is actually the Deputy Press Secretary).

This is what it comes to with this Administration. There is literal video proof that they’re lying, and yet they continue the lie. The live coverage from CSPANN was compared frame by frame to the InfoWars version and they found obvious tampering. It’s not even debatable in a normal world, but the White House presses on and the sycophants who follow this president go along with it, lest someone have to admit he was wrong. And we know how often THAT happens in conservative politics.

I hope the other reporters have Acosta’s back on this. I think they should boycott all press events until his credentials are returned. Try getting your message out to the masses without the willing participation of the press.

No, wait… on second thought, that’s exactly what they want. If Fox “News” was the only outlet covering the White House, we’d be fed nothing but shit sandwiches for the rest of the term.
What this administration doesn’t understand is that it’s the job of the press to take an adversarial position to whoever is in power and try to pry loose information regarding what’s really going on. It is not their job to be a cheerleader for any government official, ever. (I’m looking at you, Hannity.)

Unfortunately, Trump has been fawned over all his business life and now expects it from everyone else in government and the press. That’s not how it works.

Boy, did French President Macron ever stick it up Trump’s ass yesterday? With all the world’s leaders (and Trump) sitting there at the Armistice Day ceremony, he said, “Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism, nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism. In saying 'our interests first and who cares about the others,' we erase what a nation has that's most precious, what makes it live, what is most important: its moral values.”

If that’s not a direct refutation of everything Trump stands for, I don’t know what is.

He couldn’t have taunted Trump harder if he farted in his general direction and called him an “empty-headed food trough wiper.”