Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Conservatives Brexit, Conservatives broke it.
'It' being the UK.

The vote to leave the UK was along party lines, being overwhelmingly a vote by Conservatives both conventional 'mainstream' conservatives, and the more rabid UKIP crowd, comparable to our teabaggers and birchers. Conservatives not only were willing to cut off their noses to spite their faces, they were willing to slit their economic throats to express their hatred of immigrants.

Sarah Palin demonstrated her deep ignorance on financial and foreign policy matters, speaking as a surrogate for Donald Trump, peddling ridiculous conspiracy theories about the EU, and advocating even more ridiculous policy positions that are not even remotely similar, about the UN.  From FB

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another...
The UK knew - it was that time. And now is that time in the USA.
The Brexit referendum is akin to our own Declaration of Independence. May that refreshed spirit of sovereignty spread over the pond to America's shores!
Congratulations, smart Brits. Good on you for ignoring all the fear mongering from special interest globalists who tend to aim for that apocalyptic One World Government that dissolves a nation's self-determination and sovereignty... the EU being a One World Government mini-me.
America can learn an encouraging lesson from this.
It is time to dissolve political bands that connect us to agendas not in our best interest. May UN shackles be next on the chopping block.
- Sarah Palin
The WaPo covered it very well:
As the United Kingdom prepared to leave the European Union, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced his resignation, the value of the pound fell and HBO had to assure worried “Game of Thrones” fans that future Northern Ireland film shoots were going to be fine, Sarah Palin came forth with her own take.
On Friday, the former Alaskan governor and 2008 vice presidential candidate congratulated the “smart Brits,” likening the June referendum to the Declaration of Independence. After all, as she noted in a Facebook post, the citizens of the United Kingdom may have avoided nothing less than the end of the world.
Palin, a Donald Trump supporter, applauded the “leave” voters for outfoxing “globalists” who would bring about an “apocalyptic One World Government,” she wrote on Facebook. That is because the European Union, in her words, is a “One World Government mini-me.”
Palin’s comments marked a public embrace of a conspiracy theory popularly known as the New World Order. Palin did not elaborate what, exactly, the apocalypse would look like. But the details of who or what make up the New World Order depend on the theorist — it is a secret organization of politicians, banks, the Illuminati, the media or, perhaps, lizard people. Distilled, the main goal of the organization is a totalitarian regime that will emerge from the shadows: One World Government to rule them all.
So far as I can discern, the whole one world order nonsense is reminiscent of J.R.R. Tokien's lines from the Lord of the Rings saga:
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
Crackpot conspiracy theories like the One World Order play to the lowest, and basest common denominators of the ignorant, acting as propaganda to divert those it affects from rational and fact based thought to emotional thinking that ignores fact.  It plays as well on the worst tendencies and beliefs of those it affects, in this case promoting an evil form of nationalism and the worst of "Us vs. Them" thinking.  It is notably anti-immigrant, with people wanting to 'take back' their country from those bad brown people who are 'not like us'.

Beyond the political conservative vs liberal division, voters for Brexit were older, white, and less educated, and tended to be more rural, which has correlated with less educated generally.   In other words, the Brexit voters were the Brit equivalent of Trump supporters specifically, and more extreme right wing conservatives in the US generally.  They are the resentful and bigoted "I shouldn't have to know anything" scientist and other 'elite' hating folks.

What do I mean by 'breaking' the UK?  Financial decline, certainly.  The why and how of that is outlined here very well by the prestigious London School of Economics (and political science).

The British stock market has already faced serious losses, and foreign investors are talking about pulling out of the UK -- or at the very least, phasing out manufacturing and instead taking their new investment to the continental EU.  The Guardian article here addresses the example of the Japanese investors.

From the Guardian:
It echoed a plea in May by the prime minister Shinzo Abe for Britain to remain in the EU, pointing out that those Japanese companies employ around 140,000 people in the UK.
“There would be an immeasurable impact on their businesses” in the event of a victory for the Leave campaign, he said.

...Several Japanese firms have voiced alarm at the prospect of Britain leaving the EU.
Hitachi has said Britain’s membership of the EU had influenced its decision to open a train maintenance depot in west London last year.
“We built the plant because Britain is part of the EU and we are considering expanding into the EU,” the Asahi Shimbun quoted Toshiaki Higashihara, Hitachi’s president, as saying this week, adding that he opposed a Brexit.
Tatsuya Tanaka, the president of Fujitsu, whose information technology arm employs 14,000 people in Britain, has said that a vote to leave the EU would be “a huge negative” for the electronics firm’s business in the UK.
Abe has voiced support for David Cameron’s campaign to keep Britain in the EU, warning British voters that leaving could threaten Japanese investment and put more than 100,000 jobs at risk.
But more than that, Scotland where a close vote regarding independence failed, is looking at a new vote, with a change in support for leaving the UK now that the Brexit vote has succeeded.  Scotland voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU.  Looks like they won't vote to stay in the UK however.

It has begun, as reflected in this news coverage from France:

EU leaders meet without UK for first time in wake of Brexit

Cameron flew back to London after Tuesday's summit, as Scotland's first minister headed in the opposite direction to test the waters in Brussels for her country joining the bloc as a separate entity.
And we have this about Northern Ireland wanting to stay in the EU - even if it means leaving the UK, which it happens was provided for in a 1998 accord between the UK and Ireland.

Then there is the post-Brexit vote news about Australia wanting to leave the Commonwealth, for their own economic reasons.  This underlines how Brexit makes the UK less influential and successful.

Palin got it so very wrong, as she always does. Apparently a lot of anti-Brexit voters want to take back their respective countries, not from the EU or the UN, but from the UK, because Brexit so badly damages the UK both politically and economically in the world.  It is clearly an attempt by those other parts of the UK to dump the dummies, the crazy conservatives, the petty and fearful bigots, to go their own way without the conservative baggage that is an anchor dragging them down, down, down.

Once again, conservatives demonstrate that they are poorly informed on factual, substantive matters,, and that they cannot, or will not (same effective result), participate in mature, responsible, informed democracy.  Rather conservatives act like petty children badly in need of a time out until they can conduct themselves properly.

Long term, Brexit will no doubt do for the UK what the conservatives would not do for themselves, resulting in a massive breakdown of the conservative side of the political spectrum, leading to a purge of the destructive controlling factions and eliminating their influence for a period of time.

We can probably expect the same thing as conservatives in the US implode with the nomination of Donald Trump destroys the existing GOP.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

GOP Bigots Lie AGAIN about history, and about banning Muslims

Snopes debunked this claim.

Carter, briefly, denied visas on the basis of nationality, not religion, strictly during the hostage crisis. At the same time, he was allowing in many asylum seekers from Iran, including a number of non-Muslim Iranians, but also those who were Muslim Sunnis, seeking refuge from Shia Muslim persecution.

The ban was NEVER religious based, as is the ban proposed by Donald Trump.

As so often happens, from conservatives, who years after the fact try to revise history to put themselves in a better light (civil rights history is just one example), the right is now trying to link themselves to humanitarian Jimmy Carter, winner of the Nobel Peace prize for his work with the leaders of Israel and Egypt, with the Camp David accords. Those accords have held for more than 30 years, and appear likely to be in effect for some time to come.

Clearly Carter held nothing like the anti-Muslim positions and policies advocated by Donald Trump. It is a mark of their innate sense of shame, and fear of criticism and charges of intolerance and bigotry that make conservatives so desperate they are trying to leverage their reputations using Carter.

No one, not liberal or conservative at the time called Carter a racist, because he so clearly was nothing of the kind.  The same cannot be said of Trump or far too many of his supporters who are ignorant bigots.

Image result for Jimmy Carter banned Muslims, face book

Monday, June 27, 2016

Donald Trump is P.T. Barnum

The snake-oil Donald Trump really is only one note. 

Trump brings people into his camp by promising that he’s going the help defend “them”, those who have been looked over or disenfranchised by the movement of the nation away from caring about the middle-class.  He says he’s self-funded and so “not for sale.” 

Now of course, he’s taking money from big money donors, so I guess the “not for sale thing” is gone.  He's also trying to separate small money donors from their cash.
Over his entire career, Trump is exactly the type of Wall Street elitist who was raised in opulence; and he has been advocating for the tax changes, trade changes, etc. that made it easy and profitable for the elites to move jobs away.  Even more importantly, his solution to “bring back” jobs it to reduce wages for manufacturing sector workers so that we can be “competitive” with workers in places where the standard of living is both far cheaper and FAR below what the workers in the US, including our parents, worked hard to attain and so enjoyed for decades and expected to pass on to us. 
The bottom line of the economics landscape of the past 35 years has been that the rich cut wages but didn’t cut prices and instead pocketed the difference.  Any class on Macro-Economics will tell you that is a recipe for disaster as consumption power will fall over time while the wealth at the top will create an “asset bubble” (e.g. the real estate bubble).  

Those bubbles historically ALWAYS burst, in boom / bust cycles, and the economy suffers disastrous periods of volatile and violent upheaval where jobs are lost by the millions and savings and other asset accumulation is destroyed.  It is a form of calculated wealth extraction, redistributing that wealth to the already-wealthy.

Trump has been all-too-happy to take advantage of those changes

e’s employed thousands of meagerly-paid workers in China to make his shirts, ties, and the like.  He seeks to hide behind lawsuits to avoid having it disclosed that he pays nearly nothing in taxes and gives LESS to charity in actual cash out ofhis pocket – in short, he’s been an advocate for the exact changes he now says he opposes and opposed the changes he now says he’d make.   

So, do you believe a guy who only has ever acted to enrich himself, including doing things which were allegedly illegal, when he says he stands for you?   

Even if you do, do you seriously think chasing wages down the rabbit hole and making our workers live on the same meager salaries that are paid in Indonesia is what you think of when you hear him say he will “Making America” great? 

Great for him I guess, but not for you.

Barnum was famously quoted as saying, "There's a sucker born every minute."  The question is, are you a sucker?  Do you buy the crap coming from this man, a man who has made a career of (over)promising solutions in which EVERYONE is going to win, only to have those promises prove hollow and the only one who won was Trump as he pocked his millions, walking away laughing, shielded by our favorable corporate bankruptcy laws.

There is no question the west needs to figure out how to better manage the transition toward a more global economy, there is no question that simply letting the rich keep prices high while slashing jobs and wages is not working and will not work, but there is also no question that slashing wages further (Trump’s solution) is no solution and that Donald Trump is selling disaster and a worse life for you.  

Are you a sucker, or do you understand the bearded lady is a fraud?

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Honor, Integrity and Gun-Enabled Violence

There is much to reflect upon whenever a tragedy happens.  What we should focus on is easing the pain to the extent any easing can be done.  We should try to provide some justice so that the tragedy can be avoided if that is even possible. We should for a way to bridge the divide that caused the hate to develop.
When I look at the reaction of various groups to the Orlando massacre, I see most people wanting to do nearly all of this.  A few, like Donald Trump, seek to use it for political advantage, some others seek to use it to make false claims about “gun free zones.”  A number of others, like the NRA, seek to get ahead of any outcry and so make some false claims, using misleading statistics, about crime and gun violence.
I won’t compound the rancor with more of the same.  I will simply say that the NRA and its supporters in Congress are wrong to ONLY offer up that they’ll modify the law to include people on the “No Fly” list as those who can’t buy firearms.  That misses the mark by a long way.  It’s not just access to firearms, it’s the type.
The high capacity magazine and semi-automatic “assault” rifle are really more to blame than any hole in the “No Fly” list.  The gun-show loophole is equally a part of the problem in allowing for straw purchases for reselling firearms to criminals.  The weapon type and magazine point should be what we are discussing, not the political theater of the “No Fly/No Buy” bill.  That bill is pablum and would never have stopped Omar Mateen.  It would never have stopped the shooter at Sandy Hook, or San Bernadino, or Aurora Colorado, or Virginia Tech or Gabby Gifford's shooter. 
That said, it’s not a bad thing to do, but it’s far short of enough, enough to offer the victims justice, their families solace, and the nation some meaningful improvement in safety.
Instead it’s time to admit assault weapons and high capacity magazines are not needed by civilians for home defense.  It’s past time to close the gun-show loophole nationally.  It’s time to require the national database to be universally implemented and enough time for it to be accessed prior to the completion of a sale.

These aren’t even hard measures.   

They will curtail gun sales; so the gun lobby and their mouthpiece, the NRA, will hate it.  But, in response to a tragedy, we have the obligation to the dead and their loved-ones to stop pointing fingers and do that which we’ve known for a long time needed doing. 

We have an obligation to the living, to keep them safe from further mass shootings. 

We have an obligation to our first responders to minimize the number of both mass shootings and the frequency of smaller 'every-day' shootings that put their life and limbs in harm's way.  Other countries do not have the frequency of violent death that is experienced by our law enforcement and first responders, who should be the ultimate 'good guys' of our society, deserving of our protection through regulation. Instead we put them in an on the street weapons race of firepower.

This isn’t knee-jerk legislation, it’s finally pushing aside political resistance we should never have let stop us in the first place.   Honor requires it, decency pleads for it, and the memory of the dead demands it.  Our choice is intelligent pragmatism that addresses facts and uses logic, or foolish ideology that ignores and denies a violent reality.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Gun Free Zones and Conservative Sock Puppets

Pro-gunners, particularly of the rabidly conservative variety are irrational on the topic of firearms, particularly those used in mass shootings.  They would prefer to blame victims for being shot, or the absence of firearms, for shootings that clearly would not happen in the first place if access to those firearms were more strictly regulated.  They are one trick ponies for whom the only answer is more guns more guns more guns.

Gun free zones are defined by law.  Gun free zones are enforced by law enforcement or other appropriately legal authority, the kind who are armed.  Gun free zones generally tend to involve active measures to restrict firearms - like metal detectors and/or pat-downs, and actively asking people if they are carrying a firearm (or weapon of any kind). 

Simply posting that a retail establishment does not allow or welcome civilians with firearms (as distinct from law enforcement) without measures enforcing the request does not make the area a gun free zone.  It has no teeth; rather it relies on the good will of people entering to cooperate with the request.

Where a venue, like the venue in question where Christina Grimmie performed, simply has unarmed security looking in people's bags for contraband, which COULD potentially include firearms doesn't count.  For starters, most people carrying firearms use holsters, not backpacks or purses. Security was also checking for other contraband, like drugs and alcohol.  So far as I could determine, no attendees of the venue where Grimmie performed were ever asked if they were carrying, nor did anyone perform more than the most cursory glance into purses and bags -- because no one was enforcing a gun free zone.  Contrast this theater with, for example, the TSA at an airport, or most courthouses where people go through metal detectors under the supervision of armed deputies.

Right wing media, which likes to make up details that have no connection to actual events, claimed that Grimmie insisted on no firearms as a condition of her contract to perform.  That appears to be rubbish, since she was the opening act for the main performers, and does not appear to have the clout to demand special treatment in her contract.  Rather this appears to be a pro-gunner fiction where they seek to blame the victim for being shot.  Their fantasy is that had there only been lots and lots of amateur civilians around with little or no training but lots of firepower, the shooting would never have happened.

That of course does not fit the actual events; had someone been standing right next to the shooter with a loaded gun in their hand, and the safety off, they could not have prevented the shooting.

They consistently omit that the shooter, after firing, was tackled by the victims UNARMED brother, and shot himself (apparently so far, deemed accidentally).  No need for any NRA-style 'good guy with a gun'.

Those pro-gunners will look anywhere, do anything, no matter how torturous, to avoid looking at how it is that people who commit gun violence have such EASY access to firearms.  Without the guns, there would be no shooting, no death.  A similar attack occurred in Japan for example, where there was strict gun regulation; the attacker used a knife instead, and the victim survived, unlike Grimmie.

One of the most recent erroneously styled gun-free zone shootings involved Christina Grimmie, also in Orlando, Florida.  An allegedly deranged fan shot the singer as she was signing autographs in the lobby area of the theater where she had been performing.

We get the usual drivel that if there is gun regulation only criminals will have guns; rather we have overwhelming evidence that where there is strict, effectively executed gun control, criminals have FEWER firearms and there is less gun-related crime.  Law enforcement is safer, communities are safer; it is not a fact that is in question. Those states in the US which have the most rigorous state-wide gun control have the least gun crime, while those with the most pro-gun lax gun regulation have the worst problems with firearm violence.

For those conservative sock puppets that blog promoting pro-gunner propaganda, many are avoiding the topic of the Orlando massacre, but I have seen instead where they are pushing the standard party lie that gun free zones are somehow responsible for gun murders, for example the shooting of a minor celebrity in Florida who appeared on the TV reality show, the Voice.

What IS a gun free zone?  There is no consistent definition, rather there are patchwork of laws where each location is different.  The existing federal level law is the 1990's Gun-Free School Zones Act.  Look - it was bi-partisan!
The Gun-Free School Zones Act (GFSZA) is a federal United States law that prohibits any unauthorized individual from knowingly possessing a firearm at a place that the individual knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, is a school zone as defined by 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(25).
It was introduced in the U.S. Senate in October 1990 by Joseph R. Biden and signed into law in November 1990 by George H. W. Bush.
So.......that covers schools, but not other locations, like shopping malls or courthouses.

There was another Gun-Free School Zone act, but that was about zero-tolerance for students bringing guns to school.  While some students DO engage in mass shootings - notably for example, Columbine, one of the best known.  But the biggest gripe for the pro-gunners are other places that prohibit and penalize gun possession.
The Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994 (GFSA) was part of the Improving America's Schools Act of 1994 (IASA). The Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994 also amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.
In 1994, Congress introduced the Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994, which encouraged each state receiving federal funds for education to follow suit and introduce their own laws, now known as zero tolerance laws. President Bill Clinton signed the Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994 into law on March 31, 1994. The Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994 requires each state receiving federal funds to have a state law in effect requiring local educational agencies to expel, for at least one year, any student who is determined to have brought a weapon to school. The one-year expulsion is mandatory, except when a chief administering officer of such local education agency may modify it on a case-by-case basis. In addition, schools are directed to develop policies requiring referral to the criminal justice or juvenile delinquency system for any student who brings a firearm or weapon to school.
Here is the thing; private property can choose for whatever reason to ban firearms on their premises.  Often this is a choice based on increased insurance liability, because -- using Walmarts as an example - there are plenty of people carrying firearms, legal or otherwise, who are careless and outright dangerous, including going on shooting rampages.  Some retail establishments that offer food and alcoholic beverages prefer not to have firearms carried on their premises because alcohol in quantity doesn't mix well with firearms.  The annual Darwin Awards, year in and year out, are an excellent example of the epic and even fatal stupidity of firearms used where "alcohol was involved'.

There is no evidence that more guns reduce crime or make us safer.  They don't. Better, effective, restrictive gun regulation DOES make people safer and reduce gun crime.  It's time for the pro-gunners to quit doing their one trick pony act, and to pull the NRA and other gun crazies out of their behinds, and to start THINKING rationally, not just mouthing whatever propaganda is the current party line.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Encouraging and Condoning Violence - here is what is wrong with conservatism

It has long been my contention that it is the function of liberals and independents to prevent conservatives, through law, from doing bad things to other people they categorize as different from themselves.  Given the opportunity, they like to punish and even persecute people for not conforming to their conservative beliefs.  That is not just my observation, it is the observation of psychologists who study the Right Wing Authoritarianism, which operates on an "Us vs. Them" premise.  It relies on measurements such as the Rokeach dogmatism scale which measures closed mindedness.

In addition to the massacre, and near-massacre of gay pride events, June 12 was the anniversary of the court decision Loving vs. Virginia,  overturning anti-mixed race marriage laws.  That is a landmark event where the SCOTUS ruled against the sincerely held, religious based, and racist laws of the politically conservative segment of the nation commonly termed the Bible Belt.  In other words, the courts stopped conservatives from hurting people, again.  From Wikipedia
"The Bible Belt is an informal region in the southeastern and south-central United States in which socially conservative evangelical Protestantism plays a strong role in society and politics, and Christian church attendance across the denominations is generally higher than the nation's average. The Bible Belt consists of much of the Southern United States as well as parts of adjacent areas."

Over the weekend, before the news of the massacre in Orlando, I read an analysis that suggested Trump supporters were flocking to the candidate because they liked his anti-political correctness position.  It went on to posit that those conservatives were offended that people called them bigots....... for being bigots. 

For the purposes of this discussion, I use the definition of bigotry that:
1. it denigrates and demeans a group of people (as distinct from criticism or disapproval of an individual), and
2. that the substance of the belief that is bigoted is significantly inaccurate or factually flawed.

Those conservatives in the Trump supporter analysis were described as experiencing a very real mental distress because they adapted to social change more slowly than other people.  It argued that those experiencing such distress should be afforded the same tolerance as those who were the victims of bigotry.

The article actually made the argument that those people should be afforded the consideration argued by Martin Luther King Jr. to judge them on the content of their character.  That was an apparent attempt to assert that being a bigot is not a character flaw; I believe bigotry is in fact a very serious character flaw, one that unlike sexual orientation, is a choice.

I would argue that they are in fact refusing to adapt at all, and that without pressure to do so -- or even WITH social pressure to do so, gentle or otherwise, they won't adapt.  I would further argue that over time, without some influence to the contrary, bigotry tends to intensify, not moderate  Period. Full Stop.

The problem with all this concern for the tender feelings of offended conservatives is that conservatives are actively harming people with their bigotry, and encouraging the harming of those who are the targets of bigotry.  I would further posit that it is essential NOT to be tolerant of racists, and other bigots.  We cannot condone for example, someone refusing to serve a person on the basis of their race, or religion, just  because it hurts the feelings of the bigot, or because the bigot is a 'sincere believer' in their bigotry or a sincere religious belief justification for it.  That sincerity does not mitigate the harm done by the bigotry.

The LA Times noted that the man from Indiana, who surprisingly was apparently openly bi-sexual in orientation, was also a conservative who in his social media sites considered Hillary Clinton to be a modern Hitler.
The site includes political posts, including one in which he compares Hillary Clinton to Adolf Hitler. In another, he repeats conspiracy theories that the government was behind notorious terrorist attacks, including Sept. 11, 2001. That post shares a video claiming that last year’s terror attack on the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo was a hoax and attributable to the “New World Order.”
It has been my personal experience that conservatives are also routinely inconsistent in applying their 'rules', often pursuing a do as I say, not as I do lifestyle. We see that frequently in the examples of the anti-gay conservative politicians and organization leaders caught in gay sex situations, or the anti-abortion and family values figures caught with mistresses they coerce into having abortions, or racists who promote 'racial purity' have sexual liaisons with people of other races. So it does not surprise me that a conservative mass-shooter/bomber wannabee is also bi-sexual. What I do find both offensive, and encouraging of bigotry-driven violence however, is the approval shown by other conservative bigots for this kind of violence. Appalling as it is, the Proud Atheist blog provided a far too extensive list of examples of conservatives APPLAUDING and APPROVING of the weekend massacre.

Here are just a few examples (there were MANY more) of violent authoritarian bigotry collected by  Proud Atheist:


I fail to see the value in having too much concern for the sensitivities of bigots; although I will conceded that gay marriage proponents won people over more by a charm offensive than by direct challenge to prejudice.

I don't see how it will in any way improve their characters or ameliorate their beliefs to be less hateful or bigoted. Rather the choice seems to come to this, either concern that bigots are offended at being called out and criticized for their harmful beliefs, or you passively imply acceptance or approval for it, contributing to the harm that bigots do on some levels, sometimes violence, sometimes just encouraging violence.

If that means risking driving them into the arms of Trump, so be it.  Their candidate will lose, in part because of them.  And sadly that will no doubt contribute to the intensification of their bigoted world view and beliefs.......  but maybe not.  The arc of history shows conservatives consistently on the wrong side of progress; but as we have seen in the increasing acceptance of gay marriage on the right, SOME people are still capable of change, so long as there is some influence to encourage it.  Humoring bigotry does nothing to mitigate or reduce it.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Donald Trump, Classless Jackass

There is a saying that you can't buy class, no matter how hard you try.

Donald Trump, you are a no-class heel.  Trying to benefit politically from a mass killing is beneath contempt.  Today Trump tweeted, "Appreciate the congrats about Islam.."  What a self-congratulating ass.  As if anyone particularly cares about the "congrats" anyone gives Trump (underserved) on this horrific day.

Donald, show just a bit more taste, you know, that thing you spend opulently to try to have but fail completely to obtain.

Instead, your insecurity has you commenting about how "smart" you are to have "predicted" that there would be/will be acts of terror.  News flash Donald, that's not smart, it's obvious and EVERYONE understood it was very likely if not inevitable but taking credit for saying so on the day, doing an "I told you so" about something so plainly and painfully obvious on the day it happens is a new, disgusting low, even for you.

Perhaps instead, since you want to try to make it political, you could answer for the fact that YOU defend allowing someone as crazy as this whack job to have an assault rifle.  Perhaps YOU should take some responsibility for having attacked foreign Muslims, this guy was born in New York City after all.  Perhaps YOU should admit the policies of the NRA are wrong when they prevent keeping firearms from the seriously mentally ill.  But no, like the self-centered cretin you are, you attempt to twist this in a spew of venal snark into something about YOU.  You classless ass.  You should be ashamed.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Update: Katie Couric vs. Conservatives: the Under the Gun controversy

Update: The controversy over the "Under the Gun" documentary centers on an inserted pause during a question about terrorists being easily able to access firearms.

In the face of the incident early Sunday morning in Orlando, Florida, that question could not be more timely.

Conservatives are not factual, and conservatives whine, claiming they are victims when they are not, in fact, victims at all.  And conservatives are massive hypocrites, holding others to a more rigorous standard than they hold themselves (or other conservatives).

I would argue that the hypocrisy alone would be sufficient to disqualify conservatives from criticizing others, but that the additional factual deficiency renders them the ones who merit harsh criticism.

The latest controversy over a gun violence documentary in which Katie Couric conducted an interview is simply the latest iteration.

Katie Couric was a news personality on ABC in 2008, when she exposed the lack of qualifications of Republican candidate Sarah Palin for the position of VP.  That still gripes the behinds of conservatives, who will look for pretty much any pretext to jump all over her, fair or foul.  That Couic continues to enjoy some measure of success, while Palin is at best a marginal figure, only adds to conservative irritation, especially by those less successful conservatives in the media (including the blogosphere).

What is she doing now?  From the Wrap:
Couric is the current Yahoo global news anchor and a legend in her field. The former “Today” show staple is an anti-cancer advocate, documentary film producer and New York Times best-selling author of “The Best Advice I Ever Got: Lessons From Extraordinary Lives.”
Let's start with the facts; Katie Couric did not insert the controversial 'dramatic pause' in the documentary in question, Under the Gun. and did not agree with the insertion, but was over-ruled.
Continuing from the Wrap:
Katie Couric said she “didn’t feel comfortable” with the controversial edit in her recent documentary on guns, but hopes it starts a broader conversation about the gun control in America. “I can understand the objection of people who did have an issue about it,” Couric said at TheWrap’s Power Women Breakfast in New York on Thursday morning.

...Couric did not edit the interview herself, and said last week that she questioned director Stephanie Soechtig and an editor about the pause when she screened the film, “and was told that a ‘beat’ was added for, as she [Soechtig] described it, ‘dramatic effect.'”
I would posit that the dramatic pause was not particularly significant, that the controversy is a tempest in the proverbial tea pot. But I would add to that criticism that the pause should not have been inserted in a documentary; dramatic license belongs in dramatic productions, not in non-fiction features.

But to return to the massive hypocrisy of the right, who are kvetching about a lack of factual content by Couric, and/or 'fake footage', let's recall here for a moment the appalling actions of convicted criminal James O'Keefe when HE inserted footage of himself as a pimp in undercover interviews with ACORN, while actually appearing in the real interviews as a normally dressed boy friend of a woman appearing to be an abuse victim.

Not a peep out of conservatives, about deceptive editing, or fake footage when it is 'one of theirs', not then, not in the past year, not ever.

Rather they defended O'Keefe, trying to justify false claims as 'B roll' and other flimsy excuses. Again, as another example out of many, the insertion of fake footage from other sources, representing it as from Planned Parenthood, was deliberately misleading and unethical. Like James O'Keefe,who was convicted of illegal activity in his filming, those faux documentarians are also now facing criminal indictment for fraud. Did anyone here much criticism of these far more egregious examples of bad faith documentary making? Heck NO! Far from it, the right tried to find pretexts and excuses to condone THAT conduct.

Unless they drop the double standard BS and their whining, I would argue that conservative critics should sit down and shut up.  If and when they are willing to do the right thing, not just the right wing thing, then and only then do they have a legitimate complaint about others; in the successful PROFESSIONAL and more ethical media.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

What Made America Great, Again?

The television show, "The Newsroom" was a creation of Aaron Sorkin.  Sorkin has a well-deserved reputation for both being very liberal and for being bombastic.  The show presented a pro-Democratic or more correctly an anti-Tea Party bent and at times it did so in a very "Sorkian" style, hyperbolic/over the top.  It only ran for only three seasons probably in part because of Sorkin's take no prisoners style as a producer.  Still, it was clever at times and it was utterly brilliant at others.  It was very nearly always compelling even factoring in the "Sorkin effect."

I bring it up because the first 10 minutes of that show's pilot episode are about the best 10 minutes of television produced in the past 40 years or so (sorry All in the Family, Mash, Hill Street Blues, and a host of others).  Those 10 minutes are something every American should watch.  They were so great because they asked a very hard question and gave a very hard answer.  They were also great because they were prophetic and hit home on a very visceral and deeply held feeling in the United States.

At the beginning of that episode the host, Jeff Daniels, in his role as Will McAvoy (a supposed old school Republican and long-time news anchor), is moderating a town-hall style debate between a liberal and a conservative.  A college student stands up and asks each of the people on stage, "What makes America the greatest nation in the world?"

The liberal says, "Diversity," and the conservative says, "Freedom, Freedom and Freedom."  Daniels/McAvoy is also asked but he demures and then the questioner persists.  Finally, Daniels/McAvoy says, "It's not.  America is not the greatest country in the world.  It once was but it is no longer."  He then turns to the liberal and says, "Diversity???  Lot's of country's are diverse.  If you liberals are so damned smart, why do you keep losing elections."  He turns next to the conservative and says, "Freedom? Seriously?  There are 167 countries in the world and roughly 125 those have the exact same freedoms we do."  Finally, he turns back to the young woman who asked the question and (after mocking her a bit), says, "America is no longer the greatest nation in the world....  But it could be, again."  (Apologies for any mistakes here, I'm going from memory).

The irony of this episode should not go unnoticed.  This left-leaning show defined precisely what would become the campaign slogan of the Republican Party's nominee for President.  In fact, I sometimes wonder if "the Donald" stole his campaign slogan from Sorkin (a left-leaning radical if there ever was one).  How ironic that the right's champion has taken up a cry and given voice to a reality we all understood (that America ISN'T that great any more) but would would have gotten anyone on the left who said it eviscerated.  But, the real lesson isn't that Trump was smart enough to take advantage of a popular TV show's pointing out of the obvious, no I think the lesson is that what McAvoy said and meant is so ultimately different from what Trump means (and means to do).  It's not just different, it's appallingly, shockingly different.

First, ask yourself, when you think about "what makes America great?" most likely you think of some of our foundational freedoms, like freedom of speech or freedom of religion (though I'd argue that freedom of religion isn't so very free right now), and then you would very likely think of a couple other really meaningful things.  First, you'd likely think of our ability to change the course of World War II, of our ability help for the world defeat Fascism and then help the world recover from that war.  You might also recall the US doing something very similar in World War I.  We were the "arsenal of Democracy", and that generation which fought that war and helped to recover is often pointed out as reflecting our "greatest generation." Our actions in that decade and a half or so are seen as among our most significant accomplishments.  Last, many will point to the idea "land of opportunity," the ability of people from many nations to come to the "melting pot", stake out a life, and over the course of time (especially through the development of labor protections) creating our large middle-class, the large number of people who lived a good life and the high standard of living which we once broadly enjoyed.  

So, let's look at each of these points of greatness and I think through doing so, the difference between what "makes us great" (or made us) and what Trump represents will become starkly obvious. 

First, looking at "freedoms", the fact is the US has roughly equivalent freedoms to many other nations.  Nearly all have freedom of the press, freedom of religion (some more so than the US), and freedom of speech (again some with more).  Some do less to allow for citizens to carry around guns, but our freedoms are far deeper and far stronger when we protect freedom of the press, speech, and religion and so much so that the 2nd Amendment becomes a footnote when we do.  It's not needed and those freedoms are equally protected elsewhere. So, when Daniels' character said "we could be again" he wasn't thinking that our current freedoms were so strong that they made us great though he MAY have felt they weren't as good as they once were.  By contrast, Trump talks about and attempts to intimidate the press into inaction, he intends to pressure the press into silence. Further, and more chillingly, he talks about using unconstitutional police-state tactics, especially toward Muslims.  So it's not freedom that Trump wants to "Make Great Again", quite unlike the position of McAvoy who felt our freedoms aren't so special any more.

Second, "land of opportunity?"  Well, obviously Daniel's wasn't speaking to this as it wasn't the subject of his (or anyone else's) response in those 10 minutes.  Perhaps Trump means to be, but not for foreigners pretty clearly.  No, Trump if at all is only doing so in the guise of "bringing back jobs."  But how?  Trump has said repeatedly one method he'll use to make that happen is to eliminate labor protections to allow for broadly reducing wages in the manufacturing sector.  That's not enhancing the "land of opportunity." That's not helping people raise themselves up the socio-economic ladder.  Trump's other proposals, expanding tax cuts for the rich have nothing whatsoever with helping the middle-class.  He has no plans to help handle the exploding cost of college even though EVERY analysis of global competition points out that it is critical to have a well-educated work force which is to sustain the middle-class.  It has been that middle-class which was the engine of making America the world's pre-eminent economic power - and that power which made us able to come to the world's rescue and remain the world's pre-eminent super-power.  While Trump speaks to helping manufacturing (solely), his methods are either those of a protectionist, which would shrink our economy OR of someone saying the "people make too much" which ALSO would shrink our economy.  Notably as well , he, like the rest of the robber baron class he so ably represents, never says the rich should expect less as well.   His proposals would reduce, not grow consumption and his most favored method for increasing manufacturing would (reducing wages) would LOWER our standard of living for the average worker, hardly something which will "Make America Great Again."

Last, and this the one is to me the most important, let's look at our conduct in the world.  During World War II we put OTHERS first, we sacrificed money, sweat, and blood.  We sacrificed market position after World War II to help Germany and Japan rebuild.  We recognized our great fortune and our moral responsibility to help.  We saw that our economic strength carried with it a moral duty to help save the world during the war and afterward to bring the rest of the world back from the abyss.  We see THAT conduct, rightly, as representative of what it is that made us great.  We used our strength and we GAVE OF OURSELVES.   That selflessness and sacrifice (and success in doing so) is precisely the kind of thing we honor and herald and call individuals "Heroes" for doing.  We think of putting others first as a good and decent thing.  We saw our ability to turn our economic strength, borne of a vibrant middle-class and a nation of vast natural resource, into assistance and military might to fight against those who would destroy life and liberty, and then rebuild that world, as the quintessential example of that which it is which makes us great.  Other nations have high standards of living, but damned few had so many living so well, and so well that in fact we could come to the world's aid when needed, in defense of the defenseless, trying and succeeding in guaranteeing the blessings of democracy for ALL, not just our own people.

THAT is what most of us look at as our greatest moment, our greatest generation, and our greatest strengths.  That is what McAvoy meant and it is most certainly NOT what Trump means.  Trump means to "put America first" meaning, if he so desires, we will torture folks, sacrificing our moral high-ground with the world.  He means to bomb indiscriminately, killing innocents without regard to impact among the populations we bomb or our reputation around the world.  Let's remember that our indiscriminate bombing during World War II was one of the few blemishes on our honor and something we said we'd try very hard to avoid.  He means to demonize foreigners, especially those in the middle-east, Mexicans and Muslims.  That's not helping others, it's teaching us to hate.  Nowhere has Trump said he'd seek to reach out to help the world stop hunger, drought, or economic privation.  He does not seek to self-sacrifice and elevate our nation through good works.  No, he intends to have us act selfishly, ignorantly, and to strike out blindly and often.  THAT doesn't make us great, it makes us very much like the people we FOUGHT in World War II.   Further, he doesn't seek to expand the middle-class (he talks about jobs but not GOOD jobs), he seeks to shrink college opportunities.  He does not seek to empower us as a the world's greatest economy he seeks to isolate us and to restrict immigration.   That's not making us great, it's not offering the US as the shining city on the hill to which others should seek to aspire to be like, it's making us the distant, dingy house of the decadent and selfish baron which others will say they can never reach nor should ever want to do so precisely because the baron never helps and NEVER cares.  We will no longer be great (if we are now), we will be the selfish scrooge, waiting only to die, and with it, our reputation and place in history.

So, if you want to know what "Makes America Great", ask yourself what trait it is you think defines our greatness and then ask yourself whether it is/was the fact we could "kick the sh*t out of people", because after all, Germany and the Soviet Union could and DID do that, or was it that we did so only when needed, and with it brought liberty and kindness, generosity and hope to the world?  When you do, then ask yourself whether electing a demagogue who would cut us off from the world, pull back from helping, deny the realities of the impacts of pollution, torture people, kill indiscriminately, deny access to our country, ask yourself whether THAT America is one about which you could be proud, and whether THAT America is truly the greatest nation in the history of the world?

Friday, June 3, 2016

Rush to Shadenfreude

2003 statue of Humpty Dumpty,
by Minnesota artist Fiebirgir,
on display in Arizona
Almost 7 years ago today, back in June of 2009, I wrote about the resemblance between Rush Limbaugh and Humpty Dumpty.  Not only was there a distinct visual similarity, but the content spewed by Limbaugh was reminiscent of the earlier iteration of Humpty Dumpty, an exploding canon.
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in a rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less."

Used to be, in previous election cycles, anyone who crossed Rush Limbaugh (no matter how well deserved) sooner or later would kiss his ring (or his rear end).  Limbaugh was a king maker.  The majority of references to Limbaugh these days are not about deference to his political influence, but rather like Humpty Dumpty, about his "great fall".

Limbaugh is in professional trouble, trouble in part caused by 2012 candidate Mitt Romney's Bain Capital.  From March 2015:

Today, IHeart CEO Bob Pittman announced the company is closing its San Antonio headquarters. Pittman may never admit the company’s financial problems have anything to do Rush Limbaugh, even though Time Magazine, Wall Street Journal, and a Sponsor Boycott Petition which contains 125,000 signatures, confirm social media campaigns are working. It should be noted iHeart/Clear Channel picked up quite a bit of their debt via Bain ‘Mitt Romney’ Capitol.

Remember when conservatives wanted us to trust in the wisdom of Romney and his business acumen?  Where did THAT get anyone -- anyone other than those who profited at Bain?  The same claim is made for Trump and HIS business expertise; Trump of course, given his spotty track record of failures and bankruptcies, would be even WORSE than Romney and his Bain cronies for the nation and our economy, both domestic and global.

And from Politico, last month:
...there are signs that all is not well in the Limbaugh radio empire. Because even as his influence is sky high and his dominance at the top of talk radio remains unchallenged, as a business proposition, Limbaugh’s show is on shaky ground. In recent years, Limbaugh has been dropped by several of his long-time affiliates, including some very powerful ones: He’s gone from WABC in New York, WRKO in Boston and KFI in Los Angeles, for example, and has in many cases been moved onto smaller stations with much weaker signals that cover smaller areas.

And from Media Matters this week:
The former Clear Channel network owns 850 radio stations across the country and the syndication rights to right-wing stars such as Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity.
During the late 1990s and early 2000s the company, feasting on the fruits of media deregulation, gorged itself with profits. (It also bullied the music business for years.)
Since then, not so much. And what a brutal ride it’s been for investors:
Clear Channel stock price, January 2000: $90.
Clear Channel stock value, April 2007: $39.
iHeartMedia stock price, July 2011: $8.30.
iHeartMedia stock price at close of yesterday: $1.15.
The company hasn’t reported a profit since 2007. Today, iHeartMedia is busy selling off assets in an effort to shore up its bottom line. “It’s a case of burning your sofa to heat up the house,” Philip Brendel, a credit analyst recently told Bloomberg. “It’s not necessarily a good idea but you’re running out of options.”
The company’s woes date back to the Clear Channel leveraged buyout deal in 2008. It was overseen by private equity giants Thomas H. Lee Partners and Bain Capital, once headed by Mitt Romney. Coming just months before the U.S. financial crisis of September 2008, the Clear Channel deal couldn’t have been hatched at a worse time.
That influence appears to have changed, significantly if not suddenly.  Limbaugh is insignificant this election cycle, while conservatives, one after the other - most recently, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida - are sucking up instead to presumptive candidate Donald Trump the way they used to do to Limbaugh.  Limbaugh has conspicuously NOT come out either for OR against Trump, with speculation putting the reason for this as a fear on the part of Limbaugh that he will antagonize his listening audience, who appear split strongly for and against Trump.

We can only presume that the perennially financially strapped Rubio was bought off the way others have been by Trump.   Trump paid off the campaign debt of former rivals Christie and Carson; if not campaign debt, Rubio has been notorious for his perpetual person debt.  Although speculation, it is probable (imho) that money changed hands preceding the change of heart and position by Rubio.

However I can't find any mention of Rubio's capitulation, in spite of the fact that Limbaugh had referred to liking Rubio, and to Marco Rubio as recently as February 2016 with the following, after the Iowa primary: 
"I don’t see Marco Rubio as anything other than a legitimate, full-throated conservative,"
And Limbaugh has been an apologist for Rubio when the Florida senator was taking flak for debate comments.  It has become conspicuous when contrasting Limbaugh's promotion of Rubio and his absence of support for 'the Donald'.  From May of this year:

Pushed by a caller Monday to endorse the presumptive GOP nominee, Limbaugh said: “I think it’s a moot point now. … In the words of a famous and well-known politician: What difference does it make now?”

...The caller wouldn’t let up, saying: “He needs your endorsement! It’s that important! And it’s about time you did it!”
“It’s not what I do,” said the conservative talk-show host, who praised Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio in this primary season.

Apparently, like Humpty Dumpty, words mean whatever you want them to mean, and moot actually means self-serving and cowardly.  Or does moot mean it's usual meaning (to the rest of us)?
In United States law, a matter is moot if further legal proceedings with regard to it can have no effect, or events have placed it beyond the reach of the law. Thereby the matter has been deprived of practical significance or rendered purely academic.
Trump, left; Limbaugh, right
But is it moot, because the candidacy is settled.............or moot because it doesn't matter any more in the slightest if Rush Limbaugh is pro or anti-Trump?

Loss of influence, loss of platform to spew toxic opinions, loss of money; it couldn't happen to two more deserving men.  We can indulge in a little shadenfreude over Rush, and look forward to the same thing happening to Trump.