Archive for the 'Hypocrites' Category

May 24 2016

Blind squirrels and acorns

Do sometimes get together.

If you have been coming here for a decent interval you know that I hold both the National Review and the Weekly Standard in utter contempt. I read them to find out how the ill informed voter thinks and to find satire worthy materials. But every so often they produce something praise-worthy and they deserve credit where it is due.

So lets all take a gander at William "The Bloody" Kristol's gem of Shakespere quotes about He, Trump. Enjoy the acorn.

But as to the competition: I asked, "What lines of Shakespeare best characterize Donald Trump?" I stipulated that you'd get no credit for comparing Trump's campaign to "a tale/Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,/Signifying nothing." (Macbeth Act V Scene v) That one was just too obvious.

What did you all come up with? Lots of apt Shakespearean descriptions for Trump's campaign or the man himself. I feel I've done a good deed in enticing many of you back to Shakespeare (if you'd ever been away). In any case, here are a few apt and brief contributions (after all, "brevity is the soul of wit").

Regarding the outcome of New York's primary (and probably tomorrow's contests as well):

"Lord, what fools these mortals be!" (A Midsummer Night's Dream Act 3 Scene ii)

Regarding Trump's disparagement of John McCain and other POW's:

"He jests at scars that never felt a wound." (Romeo and Juliet Act II Scene ii)

Regarding Trump himself:

"An infinite and endless liar, an hourly promise breaker, the owner of no one good quality." (All's Well That Ends Well Act III Scene vi)

And:

"The empty vessel makes the greatest sound." (Henry V, Act IV Scene iv)

And:

"Masters, do not forget to specify, when time and place shall serve, that I am an ass." (Much Ado About Nothing Act V Scene i)

And regarding the appropriate response to Trump:

"Never, never, never, never, never!" (King Lear V iii)

 

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May 10 2016

Pour yourself a drink.

And watch ALL of this interview with Jon Stewart. It is awesome-especially his well crafted dissection of the talking yam, Donald Trump, and the worthless souls who support him.

In fact pour yourself two drinks-and watch the whole thing:

 

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Apr 30 2016

16 years in to the new century

And we have nothing to show for it. The great spiral downward of the United States of America continues.

Charles Pierce is one of my favorite writers. He pulls no punches in latest masterpiece of great writing to tell us how Donald Trump is the visible symbol of our failure as a country:

The first decade of the twenty-first century gave us a great deal to forget. It began with an extended mess of a presidential election that ended with the unprecedented interference of a politicized Supreme Court. It was marked early on by an unthinkable attack on the American mainland. At this point, we forgot everything we already knew. We knew from our long involvement in the Middle East where the sources of the rage were. We forgot. We knew from Vietnam the perils of involving the country in a land war in Asia. We forgot. We knew from Nuremberg and from Tokyo what were war crimes and what were not. We forgot that we had virtually invented the concept of a war crime. We forgot. In all cases, we forgot because we chose to forget. We chose to believe that forgetting gave us real power and that memory made us weak. We even forgot how well we knew that was a lie.?

Pierce is echoing my feelings directly. "I watch the presidential campaign this year, and I watch how the country has abandoned self-government and the idea of a political commonwealth, and I see a country that is voluntarily taking upon itself my father's disease. A vagabond country, making itself a stranger to itself, a permanent refugee country, unmoored from its history."

It is some great writing. You should be reading him every day, but particularly this day.

Remember, this passage said to the people of a tattered and bleeding nation. Bind up the wounds. Take care of him who has borne the battle, and his widow and orphan, too. Achieve a just and lasting peace between yourselves and all nations. But first, remember how this misery came to pass. Remember what we are capable of doing to one another if we lose faith in every institution of self-government, especially those into which we are supposed to channel our passions to constructive purpose. Remember, Lincoln said in this speech, which was his last warning to the nation he'd preserved. Remember that we can be killers. Remember that, and you can be strong and powerful enough to not allow it to happen again.

The late historian Michael Kammen likened even the newest Americans to Fortinbras in Hamlet, who declares that he has "some rights of memory in this kingdom." Even the immigrants most lately arrived can, Kammen argued, "have an imaginative and meaningful relationship to the determinative aspects of American history." In the campaign now ongoing, we see successful candidates running against the very notion of what Kammen was talking about. When Trump chants his mantra—"Make America Great Again"—the rest of the slogan is unsaid but obvious. The implied conclusion is "…Before All of Them Wrecked It." And that is what has been selling, all year long, because while the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting, there is no guarantee that either struggle will end in triumph.

 

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Apr 02 2016

An unintentional April Fool’s Joke

A traveling man is a happy man. Or should be anyway. Normally I would be happy to be on the road again-even if the trip is back to the Whining States of America. But not this time. Thanks to the machinations of the little psychopath, the meetings I am heading to will be filled with unnecessary conflict. That I do not like. After all:

 

Ah, but such is life. After all those frequent flier miles are not going to earn themselves you know-and I am within 20K of making 1 million.

It was with considerable bemusement that I noted this post, which documented a welcome development-namely a desire to have Universities return to teaching history of Western Civilization ( a staple class for many majors at my beloved alma mater) back in the day. Now, that I will admit is a welcome development and as I have argued before should be a fundamental part of a proper education , regardless of your field of specialization.

In 1964, 15 of the 50 premier universities in America — including Stanford — required students to take a survey of Western civilization. All 50 offered the course, and nearly all of them (41) offered it as a way to satisfy some requirement.

But in the 1980s, minority students and faculty at Stanford asserted that requiring students to take the Western civ survey was implicitly racist. Jesse Jackson marched with an army of protesters chanting “Hey hey, ho ho, Western culture’s got to go.”

In 1988, away it went. Stanford then began requiring a course on a non-Western culture. By 2010, none of the 50 top universities required Western civilization, and 34 didn’t even offer the course.

Stanford students want it back. And they don’t simply want to dust off a shelved syllabus.

The Review writers, led by editor-in-chief Harry Elliott, seek a new way to study old ideas. Students want to know the good — the legacies of reason, freedom and innovation. But they also want to know the bad — the skeletons of wars, slavery and the Holocaust.

They also recognize that we seek equal rights and individual choice because we have inherited Western ideas about freedom and human dignity.

Why study Western civilization? As these students argue in their manifesto, by knowing the West we can understand how knowledge has grown over time; how dictatorships rise and fall; how ideas we now presuppose took many years and much struggle to gain traction; and why these ideas matter. Without such knowledge, students will take the heritage of their civilization for granted and be unable, or unwilling, to defend it.

 

For now we will set aside the fact that this article comes from the New York Post, not exactly a beacon of intellectual integrity, and focus on the conclusions drawn from the development.

Phib, like many conservative "scholars", takes an admirable development and twists it to his own devious purposes. A knowledge of Western Civilization is a good thing, but its is a worthless development if leads you to draw conclusions like this:

The war against what binds us together is trans-generational. The kids of the Progressive Era used the children of the Greatest Generation, the Baby Boomers, as their foot soldiers. Gen X saw the fruits up close when they were in college in the 80s and 90s. Though advancing in some areas, the Diversity Industry has seen a few setbacks as the Boomers approach their dotage and Gen Y gets a footing – good news for all of us.

That last statement is as full of bias as anything the diversity bullies might have said, and in another news flash, most of them do not hate themselves, no matter how much you want them to. The Baby Boomers, of which I am proud to be one, are not to blame for your twisted interpretation of history. You might want to go back and check your bias at the door-there is another conclusion, you know.

The misdeeds of our current economic system are trans- generational. They screw millennials  and boomers alike. And as the parade of Western Civilization proves, when people are deprived of basic necessities and dignity, there is a only so far they will allow it to go. If your cherished vision of American political commonwealth is under attack, it is because the inherent selfishness that underpins your vision of economic justice and "structure to be bound by ideas and principals" is not sustainable in the long term. Government is not, as so many of today's "principled conservatives" believe, transactional in nature. The history of Western Civilization teaches us that.

Or it would teach us that if you had bothered to actually do the homework. At the end of the post, Phib seems to show us,  by his failure to comment on it, that he needs to go back to school.

No matter what field students enter, they are well-served throughout their lives if they know how we got here. They can understand Donald Trump more clearly if they’ve read Machiavelli. They can see why it matters that Bernie Sanders is an intellectual descendent of Karl Marx.

I am afraid you flunked the final exam sir, and will need to retake the course.

This is what happens when people read too much Victor Davis Hanson and Mark Steyn and therefore fancy themselves as "learned" on Western values. Bernie Sanders is nothing like Karl Marx, just as Trump is really not Machiavellian at all. That would be Ted Cruz. If Sanders does owe anything to Mr. Marx, it is his anger at the blatant unfairness that our pursuit of obscene wealth creates. I hate to break it to you, but plenty of other non-communist authors had equal disgust with that unfairness. The Enlightenment is built on it.

Sanders has more in common with Otto von Bismark and FDR than Karl Marx, and much of the ideas he champions had their start economically in the late 1700's and 1848. Sure, he believes in regulated and  taxed private enterprise, but he does not seem to want the state to own banks and make cars. He believes in social benefits for the same reason Bismark did-because they build a stable society. The Germans were also not the first to draw this conclusion. As for Trump, well you should be looking to Wendell Wilkie, not Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli for a historical example.

Stupid study starts tomorrow afternoon.

MjAxMS0yOWJkYWEwZjM2M2QxMWY5

 

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Mar 14 2016

News you can’t use

Yes, I was going to do a post today about getting good news outlets to you. But just as I was ready to start showing you how to be an informed news consumer, over in the fact free world that is Wingnuttia, this happened:

Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields and editor-at-large Ben Shapiro are resigning from the company over the site’s handling of Donald Trump’s campaign manager’s alleged assault on Fields, BuzzFeed News has learned.

Fields and Shapiro informed Breitbart News chair Steve Bannon of their decision Sunday night.

“Today I informed the management at Breitbart News of my immediate resignation,” Fields said in a statement sent to BuzzFeed News. “I do not believe Breitbart News has adequately stood by me during the events of the past week and because of that I believe it is now best for us to part ways.”

In his own statement, Shapiro said the episode was emblematic of how he believes the site’s management had sold out the legacy of its founder and namesake, the late Andrew Breitbart.

For Ben Shapiro to have a sudden out break of scruples is, as the girls at Wonkette put it,  "not such a surprise; Fields simply escaped before her literal-minded Brietbart bosses could obtain an actual bus to throw her under." This is the right wing blog equivalent of this:


 

 

And at that CAPT Renault had more ethics than Ben Shapiro does.

Now, long time readers here will recognize that even in life, Andrew Breitbart never found a warm welcome here at Skippy-san HQ.  Early on we recognized him as the vile slug that he was. You can refresh yourself on his lack of decency, journalistic integrity and overall allegiance to stupidity here and here. The man was truly vile and his "news" outlets reflected his complete lack of class and integrity.Never forget:

The guy was a hack, at best. More importantly, a steadily increasing number of conservative voices were willing to publicly say so over the last couple of years…………..When you get down to it, Andrew Breitbart was a guy who defamed a lady and trafficked in congressional cock shots. Those are the things that he was most famous for, and likely the things that he was proudest of.

 He was hardly a champion of conservatism, as evidenced by the fact that he almost never talked about its virtues. To be sure, he devoted the last years of his life to berating and humiliating liberals but that, in and of itself, is hardly championing anything, let alone a political philosophy. Having said that, Breitbart's well-documented fascination with Hebrew beef – and he did carry the only known picture of the fully exposed Weiner weiner on his phone to show off to disc jockeys – displayed an underlying support of Israel. So there is that, I guess. 

Indeed, his taking the likes of James O'Keefe to his bosom, engaging in highly selective editing to make some kind of a point, and calling entire popular movements rapists probably hurt conservatism far more than it helped.  As each of his stunts were ultimately discredited, he became harder and harder for serious people to defend. And because he identified himself so closely with the movement brand, the brand itself became identified with him when it refused to denounce those stunts. 
 

Poor old Ben Shapiro, he leaves because he thinks Breitbart's legacy was being betrayed. Too bad he forgot what Breitbart's legacy really was. 

Yep, that would be Andrew Breitbart, the guy who used deceptively-edited video to bring down that huge bully Shirley Sherrod from a minor position in the Department of Agriculture, thus defeating the racist NAACP forever. He also unleashed great investigative journalist and serial liar James O’Keefe upon the world, bringing an end to ACORN and its bullying of white America by registering black voters. Such a hero. Shapiro continues, explaining his disgust at the organization’s turn from good bullying to bad bullying. 

That would also be the same ethically challenged Breitbart that did this:

But I guess no homage is complete without a celebration of the whole man, and the whole man in this case was not just a guy who once said, “It’s all about a good laugh,” but also someone who liked to publish peoples’ personal information on the internet, hack into private web sitestell lies in an attempt to get his enemies fired, and incite readers to threats against his targets and their families, including death threats. I left all of that stuff out of my obit, but now, thanks to you readers, that’s all in there as well, leaving, for posterity, a much more complete picture of the man.

 

And as bad as Breitbart's "life's work" was, Shapiro actually made it worse. When Breitbart died I did not think that was possible. But I was wrong. Shapiro took that low bar and made it even lower after his mentor passed on to his reward. As senior editor-at-large he had a responsibility to set a journalistic tone, one at which he failed miserably. He is, if anything, even worse at providing fact based commentary then his mentor was.

There are many examples of Shapiro's shoddy brand of journalism. The most famous of which occurred here

Basically, what happened is that a Hill staffer repeated a reporter's question as fact to Shapiro and Shapiro published it as fact. 

Not only did Ben Shapiro not bother to get multiple sources, he didn't even Google "Friends of Hamas," which would have pretty conclusively proved that they don't exist. 

I get that there are honest disagreements about Hagel's views on foreign policy, and I'm not against an honest about them. But selective reporting – if Shapiro's "Friends of Hamas" story can even be called that – is something else altogether.

In a proper world, a guy like Shapiro would never find work on journalism's street again-even working to sweep it. But we both know that won't happen. He is already finding himself on Wingnut Welfare with the other hacks.

But the Breitbart "empire" is falling apart and that's a start. So to use one of his mentor's favorite words: "Good riddance, cocksucker.* Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.".

* From the Rolling Stone post: "See the following Breitbart quote: “I like to call someone a raving cunt every now and then, when it’s appropriate, for effect… ‘You cocksucker.’ I love that kind of language.”"
 

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Mar 13 2016

A convenient dodge

The forces of He, Trump conspired to tear apart a piece of Chicago, last night. Never mind that Trump has spent months and months stoking up his crazed supporters to be just this violent-somehow in the minds of many Americans it is the media's fault. Which is how we get such brilliant tidbits of local wisdom like this:

yeah, it's Chicago. Thug City

Not that the Democrats would instigate anything. Chicago politics. A Rahm & BHO special.

If the MSM can inflame it they will.

The media gave rise to Donald Trump simply because he's interesting. The news media have been forced into a 24 hour news cycle that needs to entertain as much or more than provide information. It’s all about ratings and advertising… Nothing better than a cat fight no??

 

It's an interesting point of view and I am quite sure the writers of those phrases have gotten a lot of mileage out of trite little sentences like those. At a minimum, it makes them feel better and it gives them someone to blame. There is just one major problem.

That point of view is 100 percent wrong.

It's wrong for a bunch of reasons and when one gives voice to it, they are showing a real lack of understanding of how news works in the 21st Century. It also shows a complete disregard for the history of journalism and how we got here to where we are today. As I said, its really a convenient dodge to avoid having to admit the truth. Namely, that it was people just like themselves that gave rise to Trump and the sooner they accept responsibility for that societal failure, the better off the rest of us will be. To borrow a phrase from 2012-you built this.

There is no Main Stream Media. Let me repeat that for the learning impaired, THERE IS NO MAIN STREAM MEDIA and there has not been for about 20 years. The term main stream media is just plain flawed. Lets replace it with a more accurate terms. 1) News outlets, 2) crossover outlets and 3) opinion outlets.  The marketplace of news expanded and enabled by the internet, is an immensely diverse place.  Its more like a giant COSTCO. You can get anything in this market. Its up to you the shopper to make intelligent choices. Or not so intelligent choices. Each news product being sold or posted has its strengths and its weaknesses.  Some outlets have quality. Many do not.

Since the dawn of the television age there have been three developments that have forever destroyed the idea of a monolithic news media, liberally biased. The first major development was the tearing down of the "firewall" that existed between News directorates and the corporate end of the broadcasting business. Now in the 50's and 60's there were a limited number of channels and there was a clear division between news and entertainment. The three broadcast networks did news because they understood that as custodians of publicly granted airwaves they owed a public service. Also too-there was still a great number of news reporters who had cut their teeth in print and radio and were committed to a certain set of journalistic standards. Even then there were outliers such as Hearst Papers, but they were few and far between and public opinion combined with a lawsuit or two could usually put them in their place. The key element of journalism, on the whole,  in the period from the 50's to the end of the 70's was the recognition of the idea that producing quality reporting was end to itself-regardless of cost. The quality of the story was what mattered, not the company bottom line or the audience level which, it was assumed would come if you produced a quality product.

This viewpoint began dying in the late 70's and the sickness spread in the 80's due to a number of reasons. One was the deregulation fever that swept the country under Reagan. The number of broadcast outlets increased as cable came online. A key development was the beginning of 24 hour cable news, which meant that speed to the screen became one of the key benchmarks by which is news outlet was judged. It had been that way earlier in TV, however technology, prior to the 80's had kind of acted as an "editor" if you will. The time lag also allowed real editors to correct misinformation and get copy right. All that went out the window in the age of CNN.

The final nail in the journalistic coffin was the advent of the internet, smartphones and the world wide web.  The latter gave rise to blogs and to social media. Suddenly, anyone could be a reporter or an opinion maker. Special training in the skills of writing and editing were no longer required.Coupled with that development was the creation of a news network that was "news" in name only. Its real mission, as Jon Stewart later pointed out to his audience and anyone else who would listen,  was to be a 24 hour a day propaganda delivery system. Thus the "crossover" outlet was created. A network whose business model was to lure advertisers, and to espouse a particular point of view. After a shaky start in 1996, the network took off in the administration of George Bush and pretty much left the "news" part of the business behind.  Because Fox was successful from a money standpoint, other networks like MSNBC followed their business model.

One other point about technology. Smartphones and social media meant that people took in their news in smaller and smaller chunks. The goal for many outlets was click bait.  Reading for content became to many Americans, something they no longer had time for-or they were no longer smart enough to do. Another ugly development in the early 2000's was the advent of news fabricators like Andrew Breitbart. Now it was acceptable to make up the news if it did not meet the criteria of what one wished to report. 

By the end of 2010 the whole mess had become a sad shadow of the journalistic world Edward R. Murrow had created.

So what does all of this have to do with the advent of Trump?

I'm glad you asked. While it is true that the quality of journalism has declined due to technology and the rise of a certain category of fact free blogs, mostly on the conservative side-but also on the left, and it has created a less discerning electorate; it would be wrong to cite that as a reason for Trump's rise to demagogic heights. The role of certain media outlets is merely a symptom of a much bigger disease.

First of all, the "blame it on the media" crowd ignores the reality of the Trump phenomenon. Like it or not-the fact that Trump has been able to make the hideous statements that he has made-and pay no political price for it at the ballot box- is news. And this turn of events has long term implications for the American political system. The news outlets have an obligation to report it. Some outlets do it well and a lot of others do it poorly. Some fan like Fox  the flames.

But the news media is not the ones making Trump successful. They don't have that power. Only voters do and when they vote for Trump they are squandering that power in a manner the Republican party has been fostering for a very long time. A very specific subset of the American people created Trump and they have no one to blame but themselves. They laid the foundations of Trump's no nothing beliefs back during the Bush administration with the "dissent is treason" lines regarding opposition to the Iraq war. They amplified in 2008 when many of them behaved like thugs at Sarah Palin's rallies and not one person in a leadership position stood up to brand it as the criminality it was.

From that point in time, it just went careening over a cliff. As John Cole pointed out in a rebuke to a National Review  worthless piece of shit columnist Charles Cooke:

Either they are too stupid to recognize it, or they don’t want to take the blame, or some combination of both, but they built Trump. It was decades of these stupid mother fuckers shouting about Obama being a secret Muslim or Hillary murdered Vince Foster and Dan Burton shooting a fucking watermelon to prove it to another melon based theory about Mexicans having calves the size of cantaloupes and women wanting to abort babies for shits and giggles and sending rock salt to Olympia Snowe and claiming there is no global climate change because LOOK RIGHT FUCKING HERE I HAVE A SNOWBALL IN FEBRUARY or convincing America that welfare and food stamps only go to young bucks buying t-bone steaks or welfare queens with big screen tv’s or that public transportation is totalitarianism or that the main cost cutting technique of health care reform will be Death Panels or that prison makes you gay or that man and dinosaurs lived together in harmony or that women can magically abort pregnancies created by rape or that scientists are genetically creating human/mice superbrains or that agribusiness is using aborted fetuses in soda or that if gay people marry pretty soon people will be marrying dogs or that Presidents Lincoln and Washington used electronic surveillance and actually writing, promoting, and believing a fucking book that said liberalism is fascism and running this person as a Vice Presidential candidate to claiming with no scientific evidence that vaccines cause autism.

My bad. That last one is a Democrat. Fuck you, Robert Kennedy, you fucking stain on our party and your family name.

But that list is real. I didn’t make any of it up. And that’s just a list of things they BELIEVE IN, and not a comprehensive list of the stupid shit they’ve actually done or the vile things they have said. That’s just too depressing to actually tabulate.

 

That, despite its profanity ( which I actually think helps make the point), is a pretty good summary of the descent of the modern GOP into madness over the last 20 years. And again, these points would never have gotten as much traction as they did, had there not been fertile ground to plant the seed in. The seeds of anti-intellectualism found purchase because a great many people stopped learning.

I am always amazed, that for people who claim to love the free market so much, conservatives never understand this particular reality. If the stupidities put forth by outlets like Fox News, the reprehensible dregs of the Liars Club-assholes like the not so dearly departed Breitbart, John Hinderaker, William Jacobsonworthless whore Michelle Malkin and the rest were not well received by a large audience, they would stop publishing them. If one or two of them actually got nailed in a multi-million dollar lawsuit ( as the estate of Breitbart has) it might make them think twice. One has only to read the slime that passes for their comment sections to know that is not the case. The media, with the exception of Fox is biased towards sensationalism and scandal-but it is the consumer ( yes that is you) who makes that possible.  A large number of people have joined the anti-intellectual bandwagon that the GOP has used to propel itself to electoral victories in areas where stupid people tend to thrive.
 

Could the "media" be better as a whole? Sure it can-but it does not have to be now because it's doing perfectly fine in the garbage pit that is American electoral discourse. That doesn't mean there are not quality news outlets still out there-but one has to be diligent about finding them. And few Americans these days  seem to have the knowledge or abilities to do so.

What about MSNBC or Daily Kos? It happens on the left too!

When someone says that, I know they have no real curiosity whatsoever. The facts just don't support the statement. Only one party is jumping like lemmings over the side of a cliff:

Yes, both parties have become more polarized, but one more than the other. Republicans are more conservative than they have been in over 100 years, have fewer moderates than Democrats, and have changed more, political science research shows — and it’s only getting worse.

While 54 percent of Republicans told Pew last month that their party’s leaders in Washington should be more conservative, most Democrats — 57 percent — say their leaders should be more moderate. Just 35 percent of Democrats say the party should be more liberal.

“While the Democrats may have moved from their 40-yard line to their 25, the Republicans have gone from their 40 to somewhere behind their goal post,” Norm Ornstein of the conservative American Enterprise Institute and Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution wrote in a Washington Post Op-Ed on congressional dysfunction titled “Let’s Just Say It: The Republicans Are the Problem.”

The current GOP is now well to the right of George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and even Richard Nixon.

 

Blaming the "media" is not just cop out by the folks who do it, it is a failure of people to accept responsibilities for their own actions. We The People-we created Trump by not participating in our democracy and by not being more selective in our choice of elected officials. In the aggregate, The United States of America has a selfish and ill-informed electorate that makes bad choices. And the results are on display this year for all the world to see.

The media didn't do it.

We did.

As the news industry evolves toward a new era, we could do far worse than looking to Ed Murrow again for guidance. Murrow believed that "to be persuasive, we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; to be credible we must be truthful." The hard fact is that truth doesn't come tailor-made for any one ideology or political party. More examples of independence and character might be what it takes for the news industry to again be trusted as the honest brokers of American politics.

 

Tomorrow: How to be a better news consumer like me. laugh

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Feb 21 2016

Whistling past the graveyard….

After almost 24 hours of travel back from the Whining States of America, I am back in definitely not sunny Germany. A week in Shopping Mall and  then a week out west. The second week was very frustrating from a work standpoint and makes me very, very, uncertain as to whether I have made the right career choices in my post Navy life. My now whacked out sleep cycle has me awake at 5 AM on a Sunday morning when I should be sleeping.

And to add to my apprehension, more than a little bit, was the time I spent back in the USA watching the insane competition for the highest elected office in the land. Regardless of your political affiliation you should be very, very concerned about what it says for the direction of the country.

Let's start with the fact that the construct of our system leaves a whole lot of qualified candidates unable to gain access to the arena in the first place. This is true on both the Republican side and the Democratic side-but for different reasons. On the Democratic side, the lack of victories at state and local levels, coupled with its leadership in Congress hanging on long past its "sell by" date,  has led to a bench that is not very deep and that situation is not likely to improve in the immediate future. On the GOP side, they have a lot of people available, but the ideological purge of the past ten years coupled with the dumbing down of the Republican electorate by its tea party crazed loons,  has made it virtually impossible for a reasonable man (or woman) candidate to gain much electoral traction.

And certainly we saw that in the recent election results, particularly New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Last night, South Carolina Republican voters turned their back on the two "moderate" candidates in the race. ( Lets be clear:Ben Carson is just a lunatic, hanging on only to burnish his credentials for Fox News). I put the term moderate in quotation marks because despite the folksiness of John Kasich or Jeb! Bush- their actual record on being reasonable is questionable.For example, one should never forget that Kasich was the father of REDUX retirement.

But they do come off as moderate when contrasted to the top three candidates, Trump , Cruz and Rubio-all of whom have spent the past three months arguing who is more able to cut taxes on the rich, carpet bomb the Middle East into a Christian conversion, flood the streets with even more guns,  and make America a corrupt third world plutocracy. All three are very scary and probably the worst thing about them ,  is that none of them projects a viable way to create a sustainable path forward for a country that is increasingly falling behind in both its abilities to take care of its own people,  and compete in a diverse world economy. Trump says nothing specific about what he would do, just repeating,  "Its going to be great". ( Trump will do whatever he wants and really cares little about the views of the average voter-whom he regards as rubes). Cruz and Rubio are both vying to be the next Reagan-without really understanding who Reagan really was. 

On the Democratic side, the outlook is even bleaker. Hillary is trying to position herself as the epic "first woman President" without understanding how much her past really hurts her.  On the other hand, Sanders is whipping up a lot of enthusiasm about fixing some really bad problems with America. He is the only candidate pointing out how much the average American gets screwed by the system. The problem is, for all his great rhetoric, much of what he seeks to achieve is not able to be passed by the current and likely future Congress. So while it sounds good,  and is definitely tapping into a movement of economic apprehension, I can see no way it translates into electoral victory in November. Even if Sanders were to win, the Congress would still be filled with obstructionists and the gridlock of the last eight years will continue. One could say the same thing about Hillary.

Of course, if Trump wins, the same thing could be said on his side. Congress will not be willing to go along with much of his agenda. That said, I am still greatly in doubt as to whether he can win the nomination. If Cruz or Rubio win, however, they will have no problem passing their vindictive agenda will both explode the Federal deficit and crush the average working American.

By the way, I am always amazed at the fact that these two goons get a lot of support from the very people who will be most victimized by the policies they support. I believe this happens because many Americans see themselves as self-reliant and waiting for their millions to come rolling in. They really don't think bad things can happen to them, even though in most cases, when you peel the onion back,  they have been greatly assisted by the government they profess to despise, or they have been the beneficiaries of someone else's money. Self-reliant, my ass. A question needs to be asked, why do working class, low and middle income families, continue to support a party that gives little to no benefit to them?

The Presidential race does not tell the entire story, however, of the peril the United States is in. The real terror comes when you look at the structure that supports the Presidential races, namely state and local contests. When you pull the string on what has happened there, you become genuinely afraid for the future of the United States.

The presidency is extremely important, of course. But there are also thousands of critically important offices all the way down the ballot. And the vast majority — 70 percent of state legislatures, more than 60 percent of governors, 55 percent of attorneys general and secretaries of state — are in Republicans hands. And, of course, Republicans control both chambers of Congress. Indeed, even the House infighting reflects, in some ways, the health of the GOP coalition. Republicans are confident they won't lose power in the House and are hungry for a vigorous argument about how best to use the power they have.

Not only have Republicans won most elections, but they have a perfectly reasonable plan for trying to recapture the White House. But Democrats have nothing at all in the works to redress their crippling weakness down the ballot. Democrats aren't even talking about how to improve on their weak points, because by and large they don't even admit that they exist.

One of the things that I think a lot of the young idealists "Feeling the Bern", have not come to grips with is, the oligarchs who are driving much of conservative ambitions these days, long ago abandoned the idea of getting their agenda in place from the White House. They have worked instead, to marginalize the Presidency and even the Congress- preferring to impose their Hegelian hell on us through the power of State legislatures. If you want a vision of the real future of the United States and your economic well being, you need only look  to the states of Kansas, Wisconsin, or even, South Carolina.

Essentially every state on the map contains overlapping circles of rich people who don't want to pay taxes and business owners who don't want to comply with labor, public health, and environmental regulations. In states like Texas or South Carolina, where this agenda nicely complements a robust social conservatism, the GOP offers that up and wins with it. But in a Maryland or a New Jersey, the party of business manages to throw up candidates who either lack hard-edged socially conservative views or else successfully downplay them as irrelevant in the context of blue-state governance.

One other factor political idealists are forgetting at great peril, is the destructive effect of the apathy of half the electorate that cannot be bothered to vote."The biggest mistake Democrats risk making again is imagining that polls showing voter disgust with Republicans, and a weak stable of Republican presidential candidates, guarantees an easy White House win; except that neither case accounts for the disparate voter turnout in Iowa and New Hampshire."  700,000 people turned out for the South Carolina primary. But remember this is against a total electorate of 2,888,768. South Carolina does not require voters to register by party affiliation-but even assuming a 65%-35% GOP vs Democratic split, that means almost a million people did not vote. That is a scary thought.

It is noteworthy that among one candidate’s supporters, 20 percent said if their hero is not the nominee, they will sit out the general election. With Republican voters already outpacing Democrats, and one faction willing to repeat the 2010 disaster that let the Koch brothers put the tea party in control of Congress, Republicans now have two very easy paths to the White House. It is something that Democrats and Republicans alike are aware of and if the left were not so arrogant and dysfunctional they just might know it too.


What we have now in America is a situation where a minority percentage of sometimes deranged, religiously motivated, economic extremists are able to impose their will on the majority of the population. The agenda they support is very dangerous, more dangerous than the external foreign policy threats to the United States,  in my opinion. South Carolinians just voted for a candidates whose expressed desire is cut off health insurance for 22 million people while cutting taxes for people making millions by an additional $500,000 per year. They seek to engage the country in a series of never ending wars in far off lands, with no real path to stability,  much less victory. If their vision for America succeeds, the Middle Class and the poor will be economically euthanized. Make no mistake about that. As an American I find that prospect very, very, disturbing. How can we believe in an America like this?

A basic philosophy of selfishness is being inculcated into our politics. It will render us incapable of reacting when our democratic patrimony is swindled out from under us. There are thieves abroad in the land, making off with the blessings of the political commonwealth, and their most basic alibi is that it never existed in the first place. Once we accept that as our true history, the future is pretty much lost.

 

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Apr 14 2015

Stateside things.

Well its day 2 on the other side of the Atlantic. Waking up in a hotel upper floor and having to make myself ready to go work and not having the usual things around. In an acknowledgement to advancing years, I went to bed last night at 10:40pm. My younger self would have me beaten with an empty Yingling bottle.

But then again, I am waking up at about 6 each morning-which means its about 8 hours sleep for the night. Which hopefully will keep me from falling asleep in boring meetings.

I am enjoying getting to listen to NPR at its "real" time. Instead of having to down load Podcasts and replay the following day.

Marco Rubio joined the growing crowd on the clown car that is the ranks of GOP hopefuls who want to become President. I found his rationale for running interesting-and it was appalling to see the softball questions he was thrown this morning on the morning shows. For example when asked why he was running he went into his usual spiel about how he was running to restore the American dream. He was asked a question, about his reasons for running and his response went along the lines of, "blah blah blah, American Dream, and American has rich people and anyone can achieve what these people have done. 'America is great because non rich people can own houses and build a life her'".   

Which was fine, except as with all the GOP nominees the details are in the fine print of what they say they believe. Take Mr. Rubio. He wants Americans to be able have a home, a car, and life. But what the interviewer failed to ask him was the important follow up question: " How do you propose to help Americans to do this when, for example, you say you want to strip millions of those Americans of health insurance, by repealing the ACA and allowing insurance companies to go back to screwing them."  They did not ask him the all important question of what was his alternative? Then in a segue, they should have asked this follow up: Senator, "how would address the fact that increasing numbers of them are not allowed to enter the housing market because their wages are stagnant and their buying power is less than it was last year?"

This is what galls me about most of the media, they don't sake hard nosed questions-primarily because they are slaves to their corporate masters. And corporate masters don't like their ability to screw average Americans out of millions of dollars to be effectively challenged.

And then there is the weird history Rubio would prefer you ignore:

In 2012, The New York Times Magazine asked Rubio about this; here was the exchange:

After you became the first Cuban-American speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, in 2006, your mentor, Jeb Bush, presented you with a sword. What was that about?
Chang is a mythical conservative warrior. From time to time, if there’s a big issue going on, you’d see Jeb say, “I’m going to unleash Chang.” He gave me the sword of Chang.

From which mythology does this conservative warrior hail?
I think it’s a Jeb Bush creation.

But it's not a Jeb Bush creation. It's a Poppy Bush creation — it's a preppy in-joke of his. As Timothy Noah explained in 2012, Bush the Elder used to say "unleash Chiang" while playing tennis, as "partly an expression of sincere competitive spirit and partly a self-mocking acknowledgment that he had what his daughter Doro Bush Koch, in a memoir, lovingly describes as 'a bit of a weak serve.'"



And note that the proper spelling of the name isn't Chang — it's Chiang,as in Chiang Kai-shek, who was the exiled leader of the anti communist Chinese in the Mao era. Poppy was mocking anti-communists in America who wanted to "unleash Chiang" in order to topple the mainland Chinese government. As Noah wrote:

 

Unleashing Chiang would not have been a good idea because Chiang could not win (he'd already been whupped once by Mao's army) without the U.S. dropping a few atom bombs on mainland China, and perhaps not even then. (You'll recall we had a hard enough time with the Chinese in Korea.)

When Rubio discussed "Chang" with the Times interviewer, Noah chided him for not understanding the history behind the reference:

This blog gives Rubio an F in post-World War II history….

Since Doro knows its real provenance, I assume Jeb must, too. Rubio clearly does not.

But I'm with Brad DeLong, who thinks Jeb didn't get it:

… George H. W. Bush’s sons — even the smart one, Jeb — never got the joke. They, you see, didn’t know enough about world history or even the history of the Republican Party to know who Chiang Kaishek was, or what “Unleash Chiang!” meant. Hence Jeb Bush’s explanation that twentieth-century Chinese nationalist, socialist, general, and dictator Chiang Kaishek was a “mystical warrior… who believes in conservative principles, believes in entrepreneurial capitalism, believes in moral values that underpin a free society.”

Precisely — Jeb took a joke about conservative zealotry and turned into a celebration of conservative zealotry.

It is going to be a long 18 months.

 

 

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Apr 03 2015

Coming full circle

Back in 2008, I wrote two posts about the subject of gay marriage, coming down rather firmly against the idea. The recent events in Indiana, coupled with the rather disturbing efforts of people like David Green to enforce their screwed up views of right and wrong have now convinced me that I was wrong and need to change my mind. Now mind you, I am really not a fan of any marriage, gay or straight-so completely useless is the institution in my humble opinion-but if we do have this screwed institution than who am I to care about sleeps with who and who marries who.  Watching the actions of that bag of hammers,  Mike Pence, made me a believer that I was on the wrong path.

Its especially a sweet revelation because it places me in firm opposition to others who should know better.

(By the way, prior to putting up that post-there was a Diversity Thursday post up taking the Secretary of the Air Force to task for something she should be taken to task for. But interestingly, in the comments, the supposedly egalitarian and oh so welcoming (sic) "front porch" got well and truly trolled by a commenter who brought up more than a few unpleasant truths, that caused them to have a collective fit. Kind of makes me wonder what the real reason for taking the post down was. A change of heart or not liking someone not backing down to the collective bullying that can go on in the comments section? Alas the post is down so we will never know).

But back to Indiana. 

I question the need to pass a law entitled "Religious Freedom Restoration". What, exactly, are they trying to restore? Is there something preventing the citizens of Indiana from going to church where they want? Are people not being allowed to voice their opinions? The answer to both questions is no-especially if one reads the garbage that passes for commentary over at say: The Federalist, Red State, or the Town Hall Harlot. Regrettably free speech, such as it were, is alive and well in those cesspools of humanity. "What problem are they really trying to resolve here?". Certainly its not about fixing gay marriage-its already legal in the state. 

As we saw in the Hobby Lobby case this is about one particular area, the outrage that a certain percentage of America feels when they can't dictate to others what they can and cannot do in life, by using the leverage of economics to hit them over the head. Hobby Lobby was trying to avoid his lawful responsibility as an employer. Indiana was trying to pass a feel good piece of legislation in order to allow discrimination, legal discrimination,  by zealots who were not content to leave a firewall in place between one's personal beliefs and one's public obligations.

The Indiana law was and is particularly egregious because as originally written it was designed to empower that type of discrimination. While not a license to discriminate-it does set the boundaries of the legal recourse against it:

These laws are instructions to courts on how to assess claims for religious exemptions to a wide variety of law. In general terms, they lay out (1) who can use the law; (2) what kinds of cases it will apply to; and (3) what standard the court will use to decide whether the claimant has a right to an exemption.

In two of these areas, the Indiana law as enacted and signed is broader than the federal RFRA or most other state laws. It provides religious protection to more businesses than the federal statute does, even after the Hobby Lobby case; and it explicitly provides a defense in actions between private parties, such as, let’s say, discrimination suits (the federal statute is silent on this issue, and federal courts are split). Beyond that, it allows businesses or individuals to challenge legal actions even before they happen—if they are “likely” to happen.

So when the “fix” is finally unveiled, read it carefully. And for a crash course in what shouldn't be there, look at the Arkansas religious-freedom bill that Gov. Hutchinson refused to sign on Wednesday. This bill makes the Indiana law look like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It begins with this reassuring finding: “It is a compelling governmental interest to comply with federal civil-rights law." But consider that federal civil-rights laws currently do not protect against discrimination by sexual orientation; the “finding” is not part of the actual statute; and, most importantly, the Arkansas legislature does not have and never has had the slightest power to set aside or reduce the scope of any federal law. It’s as generous as a “finding” that “in Arkansas, light is given permission to travel at 186,000 miles per second.”

I've seen a lot of writers argue that by requiring people to deal evenly with all people in the market place it somehow makes them "accomplices" in sin they disapprove of. That's complete and utter crap. When you enter the commercial arena you enter a legal world where you must live by your corporate responsibilities. Unlike what Mitt Romney said- corporations are not "people too my friend"-and thus don't have "free exercise" rights.  As Charles Blow wrote in the NYT, "I would argue that when you enter the sphere of commerce in America — regardless of your “deeply held religious beliefs” — you have entered a nondiscriminatory zone in which your personal beliefs are checked at the register, and each customer is treated equally."

I mean really, if you as a hotel clerk rent a room to a couple wanting to revel in some adulterous sexual delights, does that make you a participant in the act? Certainly not. All you care about is whether their credit card transaction was approved and that they don't damage anything in the room. What they do inside that room is their business-not yours. 

It is refreshing to me to see certain corporations recognize that they cannot sit idly by on the sidelines while this type of things goes on. When Tim Cook, CEO of arguably the most powerful corporation on the planet speaks out publicly, may be it is time for the worthless idiots like Allahpundit and Erik Erikson to stop and listen. (By the way,  just being on the same side as these guys should make you examine your own positions carefully. ).

This is where we are coming to what really offends the conservative side. They hate seeing their own tactics being effectively used  against them. Indiana is being justifiably made to suffer consequences for its own stupidity-and people like Tim Cook are hitting these people in the one area that really matters to them and their beliefs-their money. I hope it continues and I hope it really comes to hurt Indiana. When you find yourself to the right of NASCAR, maybe, just maybe, you have gone a bit too far.

 

And, for those of you keeping score at home, the following is a partial list of the institutions that are more progressive and that make more sense on this issue than Mike Pence does.

The NCAA.

Dan Quayle's Old Family Newspaper

NASCAR

Walmart

The state of Arkansas

Which gets to the point I wrote 7 years ago, "-marriage, like it or not, s evolving. And it should evolve because its current construct, as well as the demographics of those who practice it,  are changing dramatically. And if there are people who “want to be childless and partner less”- well they have their place too……..But in the end, short of a radical return to the 50′s, its coming. How we really live with it will be another story. If it makes marriage and divorce laws evolve to ones based on fairness and not entitlement-well then I guess I’ll have to welcome that change."

And so I have. Keep up the pressure, you Godless heathens! You are always winning if Mike Pence is losing.

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Mar 16 2015

Prior service does not guarantee future results.

Published by under Assholes,Hypocrites,Military

The last week has been full of news of Sen Tom Cotton (douche bag-AR), the freshman Senator from Arkansas who seems not to have a very good understanding of his place in the United States government.  Worse yet is the fact that my two Senators proved themselves every bit as worthless as I knew them to be, by signing on to his stupid letter-instead of fulfilling their purpose in the Senate, namely to tell the young man to take a seat and shut his freshmen mouth until he is spoken to or asked to vote on something. 
 

A sure sign that Cotton is on the wrong side of history is the glowing endorsement he got from William "The Bloody" Kristol. Kristol, who never met a war he did not like, and could not be bothered to actually serve in the armed forces, has been wrong just about , no I take that back, has been wrong EXACTLY,  100% of the time. 

What's truly astonishing is Kristol's total obliviousness to why self-criticism might be warranted in foreign affairs: For the last decade, even the places where Republicans earnestly did want to spread liberty have turned into costly debacles. They had dubious notions of what the military could accomplish. They failed to execute. They stubbornly denied anything was amiss for far too long. And as a result, Republicans, especially neoconservatives, lost the trust of American voters.

But still there are folks who want to tread in Kristol's misbegotten path-and our boy Tom Cotton, geographically challenged though he may be, is just the latest of Republican politicians to head down the wrong path with Kristol leading the way.

Thomas Friedman, who I have a love hate relationship with-did a pretty good job of explaining why Cotton was and is wrong in his column of March 3. Specifically he points out the very cogent points that our boy from Hicksville seems oblivious to.:

Netanyahu never made a convincing argument as to why walking away from Obama’s draft deal with Iran would result in either a better deal, more sanctions or an Iranian capitulation — and not a situation where Iran would continue to build toward a bomb and our only two choices would be to live with it or bomb it, with all the mess that could entail. In that sense, Bibi’s speech was perfect for Congress: I’ve got a better plan, and it won’t cost a thing or require any sacrifice by the American people. The guy could be a congressman. The U.S. position — shared by China, Russia, Germany, Britain and France — is: Given that Iran has already mastered the techniques to make a bomb and managed to import all the components to do so, despite sanctions, it is impossible to eliminate Iran’s bomb-making capabilities. What is possible is to demand that Iran roll back its enrichment and other technologies so that if Iran decided one day to make a bomb, it would take it a year — more than enough time for the U.S. and its allies to destroy it.

Tom Cotton does not seem much interested in answering that question-something some very astute political columnists have pointed out. 

But Cotton's supporters don't seem to think he has to correct himself or answer a question. After all he did, something that neither Friedman or Kristol did, he served in the armed forces.

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To hear some people tell it, that's the end of the story. Tom Cotton cannot be criticized because he served in Iraq. Even by other people who actually did not leave the service to make money as a lawyer and start a political career, but stayed on active duty for some 30+ years

Lets put aside for a moment how basically flawed Cotton's ideas and his methods are with the letter.  It strikes me as more than passing odd,  that people think Cotton gets a free pass when he is wrong because he once wore Army green. Besides the fact that there are also veterans with a Democrat next to their name who have taken the erstwhile Senator to task, and it is quite clear that no one on the conservative side of the aisle is willing to take that into account when making criticisms; but the key issue in politics is not, "what did he do back then?", but rather "what have you done for us lately?". And Cotton is a Senator who has only been on the job for 65 days. He really has not done very much except show that he needs to take some remedial lessons on geography and history.

( Oh and for what its worth Tom, despite your valiant efforts in Iraq, the place is still a basket case and the invasion of Iraq was still the worst foreign policy disaster of the last 40 years).

Honorable service is not a "get out of jail free" card for poor decisions made subsequent to the service.  It's probably worth pointing out too that there are plenty of strident people who served honorably who,  in hindsight,  were real dicks, both in and out of uniform. The evidence in the case of Cotton sure looks that way.    

He's proving with each passing day to have some pretty bad ideas of what government is and is not supposed to do-and his stated public positions, especially about Guantanamo, hardly square well with a man who portrays himself as being supposedly compassionate and a Christian. The more you dig with him the more you find out, he's probably a pretty bad guy. So I thank him for his service and now,  respectfully ask him to stop being such a dick.

As Andrew Bacevich has pointed out repeatedly, the fawning adoration of a guy like Cotton-based solely on his military service-misses a much deeper point. 

Soldiers have tended to concur with this evaluation of their own moral superiority. In a 2003 survey of military personnel, "two-thirds [of those polled] said they think military members have higher moral standards than the nation they serve Once in the military, many said, members are wrapped in a culture that values honor and morality." Such attitudes leave even some senior officers more than a little uncomfortable. Noting with regret that "the armed forces are no longer representative of the people they serve," retired admiral Stanley Arthur has expressed concern that "more and more, enlisted as well as officers are beginning to feel that they are special, better than the society they serve." Such tendencies, concluded Arthur, are "not healthy in an armed force serving a democracy."

In public life today, paying homage to those in uniform has become obligatory and the one unforgivable sin is to be found guilty of failing to "support the troops." In the realm of partisan politics, the political Right has shown considerable skill in exploiting this dynamic, shamelessly pandering to the military itself and by extension to those members of the public laboring under the misconception, a residue from Vietnam, that the armed services are under siege from a rabidly anti-military Left.

Bacevich's entire body of recent work has pointed out that this attitude can be dangerous-especially with a public that gives lip service to trying to understand the underlying issues at play in the conflicts that caused the United States to waste the first 15 years of the 21st century. Cotton, sadly tried to exploit this in his Senate campaign last year. His military service does not give him immunity from criticism, in fact it should invite the opposite question, "Why did you not learn anything substantial during your time on active duty?".

As the mutual fund managers will tell you all the time, past performance does not guarantee future results. And a sitting Senator does not get a free pass on current poor judgment , just because he once was in the infantry.

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