Category Archives: politics

It’s a joke, right?

kidswithguns

Sadly, no, but British news had to remind its viewers of that tonight as they played clips from Wayne LaPierre’s news conference, if by news conference, you mean “insane ramble about turning our schools into armed fortresses because the world is a scary place filled with bad guys just waiting to kill all our children.” Or something like that.

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And why would they need to do that? Read it here, if you like. Or, if you’ve the stomach for it, watch it:

By the way, the National Rifle Association has more web sites than the US government. OK, that’s an exaggeration. But their web site is really confusing, and finding any one particular piece of information is next to impossible without Google. Just sayin.

And if you’ve tried to read and/or watch some of LaPierre’s nonsense by now, you can go ahead and stop. Just read this instead.

I suppose the irony of all this is that the news conference was held today, of all days — December 21, the supposed end of the world. Obviously that didn’t happen, since I’m sitting here typing, and I never expected that it would.

But maybe, just maybe, this blatant display of pure mind-boggling insanity will help push us toward an end of the world as we know it — an end to the fear-based, insular ideology that so much of the fearful right insists that we all live under.

Oh, I know, plenty of people will buy such clever lines as “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” hook, line and sinker. Or maybe the correct analogy in this case is “lock, stock and barrel.”

LaPierre blames the media and the “political class” for all these shootings, and I’d actually agree with him, at least partly, if he didn’t say it’s because journalists and politcians are “so consumed by fear and hatred of the NRA and America’s gun owners.” And right after that he notes that “a lone, unarmed school principal” died to protect the children of Sandy Hook School from “evil monsters.”

See, that’s another thing. Adam Lanza wasn’t an evil monster. Adam Lanza was a sick kid, living in a gun-obsessed house in a gun-obsessed community. It’s not his mom’s fault either, although she really shoulda been thinking about having all those guns in a house with a son like that. But she was a single mom who probably really didn’t know how to deal with the situation — because as a culture, we stigmatize mental illness to the point that we’re all at least a little bit mentally ill.

But to Wayne LaPierre, the mentally ill are evil monsters, and it’s horrible that we don’t have a national database of mentally ill people because, you know, all mentally ill people are potential killers.

Think about that for a minute. And then think about Wayne LaPierre’s little speech. I have to give it to his speech writer. It was calculated to reach the most unevolved and fearful of us, to strike terror into our hearts, much in the same way George W. Bush et al did after 9/11, and, of course, using a lot of the same kind of lies, exaggerations, debunked theories, misquoted statistics and outright fabrications Bush et al used back then too.

“Incomprehensible loss.” “Unspeakable crime.” “For the safety fo our nations children.” “Insane killer.” “Utterly defenseless.” “Monsters and predators.” “Genuine monsters — people so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons that no sane person can possibly ever comprehend them. They walk among us every day.” “Add another hurricane, terrorist attack or some other natural or man-made disaster, and you’ve got a recipe for a national nightmare of violence and victimization.” “Copycats.” “Killers, robbers, rapists and drug gang members who have spread like cancer in every community.” “Vicious, violent video games.” “Blood-soaked slasher films.” “Ever-more-toxic mix of reckless behavior and criminal cruelty.” “Moral failings.” “Demonize lawful gun owners.” “If we cherish our kids more than our money or celebrities.”

And then, he said, because you’re terrified and can’t be bothered to actually think and discuss whether or not anything he actually said is true or even makes any sense whatsoever:

There’ll be time for talk and debate later. This is the time, this is the day for decisive action.

We can’t wait for the next unspeakable crime to happen before we act. We can’t lose precious time debating legislation that won’t work. We mustn’t allow politics or personal prejudice to divide us. We must act now.

People, being this scared just isn’t necessary. We don’t live in Deadwood. But if you think we do, by all means, arm yourselves to the teeth. But please, stay out of our schools, our malls, our churches, synagogues, mosques and temples, our doctors’ offices, our post offices and anywhere else sentient beings go.

Because you’re not one, and you haven’t been for a very long time.

Guns don’t kill people

bushmaster

More than 60 people have been killed this year by “deranged” gunmen in America — nearly half of them today — and there’s still a couple weeks left to raise that number. I’m talking the kind of shootings where someone walks into, say, a school, and starts shooting. Not counting the deranged assholes who decide to shoot their whole family up because, I don’t know, maybe they lost their jobs and are about to lose their houses. Or the ones who get the bright idea to rob a store, then freak out and start shooting when it doesn’t go the way they think it ought to. Or the ones who just thought it was a good idea to shoot somebody to death.

If I were counting those, the number would be well over 10,000. The number of firearm related homicides comes to about 3 for every 100,000 in population, which ranks the United States behind such peaceful countries as El Salvador, Jamaica, Swaziland, Colombia and Mexico but well ahead of such uncivilized countries as Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Belarus, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, Poland, Japan, Qatar and Chile.

Of course, what makes today’s senseless bullshit more painful is that 20 of the victims were children. Actual children, in elementary school. None older than 10. But ultimately, that won’t mean a thing. Because it was just some crazy guy, y’know. A crazy evil guy.

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And besides, and former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee reminded us, if you take away all the guns, somebody will just use a bomb.

If only those teachers had been carrying. Then it wouldn’t have happened. Just like in Aurora, Colorado, where if only theatre-goers had been armed, they could have shot down the black-clad, semi-automatic weapon carrying, kelvar dressed whack-job who opened fire on them in the dark. I can see teachers whipping out their guns in a classroom, can’t you?

Unfortunately, owning guns didn’t help Nancy Lanza. She owned three. The three her son Adam used to kill her and then go to Sandy Hook Elementary, where he killed those kids and a few more adults.

There oughta be a law.

I’m not stupid enough to say we should outright ban all guns, although I do agree with the sentiment. I’d rather we as a species would realize the futility of living in an armed culture and just.plain.stop. But that’s not gonna happen. Sadly. We’re just too enamored of our guns, and too scared to live without them, not realizing we’re scared because it’s too damn easy to get a gun.

It’s also too easy to decide that killing people is the answer to our problems, and too easy to pretend we don’t have any problems that might lead us to make that decision. Or that our neighbors don’t. Or our friends. Or our children.

We’ve got quite a volatile mix here. Mental illness is a stigma (or evil), getting decent medical care for it is next to impossible and guns are for sale at Wal-mart, while our politicians pretend that the National Rifle Association isn’t a bunch of crackpots with thick ties to gun manufacturers and regressive racists who fear we’re headed toward a New World Order. Hell, the NRA opposes legislation to require gun owners to report it if their weapons are lost or stolen.

Meanwhile, our children are targets in their schools, teenagers going to the movies are targets in their theater seats and mothers who own semi-automatic weapons are the first ones to go down.

I’m sure we’ll see a rash of metal detectors and armed guards in schools now, because that’s such a better answer than actually looking at the very real problems we have in this country. We’re awfully good at the bandaid method of problem solving, which is to say we never actually solve the problem because we never actually address it. That would require much deeper thinking, much more painful soul-searching than we’re willing to do.

Like, for example, why the United States, with less than 5 percent of the world’s people, owns nearly 50 percent of its guns. And to what “well-regulated militia” Nancy Lanza belonged that she had those guns her son so easily confiscated for his own use.

Now there’s a culture war at which we really should be taking a closer look.

Loser

Here’s why Republican pollster Glen Bolger says Mitt Romney lost the elections:

Mitt Romney put together a coalition that just eight years ago would have won the presidential election (hence the data comparisons to George W. Bush). However, instead of whites being 77% of the electorate, they were 72% of the electorate. Instead of Republicans and Democrats being equal, Democrats far outnumbered Republicans, and washed out Romney’s advantage among Independents. Bush kept it close with younger voters (under age 40), while Obama won them decisively….Underscoring that there are considerably more Democrats than Republicans, Romney was the first national candidate in exit polling history to decisively win Independents and lose the election (John Kerry won Independents, but by just one point).

Thus, to have a chance, Republicans have to appeal to Hispanics. It’s simple math, but it’s hard to do. We have to start today.

The Fix’s Chris Cillizza says he’s right. But they’re both wrong.

They’re both stuck in what I like to call “Dualistic Thinking.” Either/or. It’s doomed as an advanced society since Adam and Eve. Either Adam, or Eve.

It’s just not about demographics, which is the only thing pollsters understand, or think they understand. It’s the only thing politicians understand. Saying the right thing to get the right group of people to touch the box by your name on the electronic voting machines.

I have a better idea. How about we get our dualistic, either Republicans or Democrats to think about saying the right thing to get a human being to vote for them.

I know, I know. Wishful thinking. But focusing on demographics is so short term. What’s changing right along with the make-up of the electorate is how that electorate thinks. And THAT, my friends, is something Republicans have absolutely no clue about (and Democrats have only a slightly better clue about).

I will give you that both sides do it. But there’s a difference. Just to give you an example, here’s a little sampling of a political disagreement between a conservative and a liberal, from the comments section of an article on Politico.

E Be Rose · Top Commenter
Isn’t it interesting, how easily everyone over on Fox lies? As if people will not call them out on it, especially a real journalist like Ricks? Not an “on-air personality.” Right now, Baier, Celmente, Klinghoffer, Ailes & Murdock are all working on a response. It will be brilliant, for sure. It will somehow blame Ricks for making Fox lie in the first place. It’s never their fault.

Brett Richard · Top Commenter
ROFL! Like it’s NEVER obama’s fault!! His little, pointy blame finger must be getting worn down to a NUB by now!!!

E Be Rose · Top Commenter
People like you amuse me

Brett Richard · Top Commenter
Glad to be of service!
People like you disgust me…

Just so you know, the conversation was about a journo who was on Fox who said that Fox was an arm of the Republican Party and the Fox exec who said that said journo apologized for saying it, except the journo said he didn’t.

My point is found in the last two comments. “People like you amuse me” and “People like you disgust me.” If you see no difference in those two comments, you might be a Republican. I’m just sayin.

Or you might be like the dumbest of dumb Republicans, Erick Erickson — who runs RedState and sometimes spouts his idiocy on CNN — who wrote an entire column about how Republicans just needed to convince 6 percent or so of the population to vote for them in order to win. Of course, he used the wrong figures, beginning with the population of the United States.

Excuses, excuses. These guys all thought Mitt Romney was gonna win in a landslide. He didn’t. It wasn’t even close, and he even ended up with 47 percent of the vote. How’s that for a sign?

What these guys really need to understand is that they’re being left behind by the steady march of progress. Get on the clue bus, boys, or think long and hard about Neanderthals.

 

Gimme

Dontcha just love it when all the Republicans pile on Mitt Romney over his “gifts” gaffe?

Wait, y’know, I’m sick of this “gaffe” thing. That wasn’t a gaffe, any more than the 47-percent-of-us-are-moochers thing was a gaffe. A gaffe is when you say something utterly stupid that just didn’t come out right. What Mitt Romney said came out just the way he wanted to — and just the way a whole damn bunch of conservatives wanted it to.

So when Bobby Jindal says Mitt’s comments were “absolutely wrong” or when Newt Gingrich says they were “insulting and profoundly wrong” or any number of other GOP notables spouting similar sentiments, they are lying. Just plain lying.

If they weren’t lying, they’d be saying the same thing about Rush Limbaugh (“People are not going to vote against Santa Claus, especially if the alternative is being your own Santa Claus”), Bill O’Reilly (Romney was “right on the money”), Eric Bolling (“people voted to continue to get free stuff”) and the rest of the conservative media elite. But they’re not. Listen. Crickets. That’s all there is. Just crickets. But it’s good to pile on the guy who just got his ass whupped by the black guy.

What’s “wrong” isn’t what Mitt said, but that he said it at all. This batch of Republicans has spent billions selling the ignorant masses on the complete and utter bullshit that they and only they will make sure they get to the top of the heap, leapfrogging over all those heathens who just want a handout.

But those rich assholes running things know full well that the ignorant masses they convince to buy their putrid snake oil are really the ones who get the most handouts. Oh, they’ll say they don’t, but that’s because they don’t count things like student loans or small business loans or mortgage tax credits or, god forbid, Medicare. Handouts only go to the lazy, good-for-nothing poor who won’t do anything to help themselves.

Seriously, people believe this crap. Interestingly, of course, it’s those “red states” that eat up the most federal money. The five or six states with secession petitions got 23 percent of all federal money last year. Amazing, eh?

I won’t even point out … oh, yes I will. The folks who believe the bull are by and large the ignorant white masses, and folks who are the targets of the bull are everybody else. It’s not just about race, of course. It’s also about religion and creed and national origin and sexual orientation and education and whether you listen exclusively to Fox News and the radio repugnants or actually get your information from a variety of sources.

Just so you know, here’s what Mitt told donors after the election:

What the president’s campaign did was focus on certain members of his base coalition, give them extraordinary financial gifts from the government, and then work very aggressively to turn them out to vote, and that strategy worked.

Um, I kinda thought that was the strategy for most elections … promise folks shit and then get them out to vote. But this thing about “extraordinary financial gifts from the government” …

Yeah, the only moochers I know are the rich folk who don’t want to pay their share of taxes and go to extraordinary lengths to avoid it, who lie through their teeth telling us how they are the job creators when the truth is they sock all that cash into off shore bank accounts and cut employees’ salaries when they think they might have to treat them like actual human beings. Those guys are the moochers. As Andy Serwer put it:

Political parties reward their constituencies, and Romney would have pursued goodies for GOP backers had he been elected. Financial institutions would have been very happy with a Romney administration that repealed Dodd-Frank, military contractors would have been delighted with Romney’s plan to raise military spending to astronomical levels, and Romney’s wealthy donors would have been delighted with his tax cuts for high earners. These are all “extraordinary financial gifts,” and unlike student loans or health care coverage, they do nothing to help ensure that being born into a family of modest financial means doesn’t prevent a person from succeeding. Help with student loan debt doesn’t mean you didn’t have to work hard to get good grades. A better example of an unearned “gift” is being born the son of a wealthy, famous politician so that you’ll never have to worry about student loan debt.

Yeah, these folks get rich off everybody else’s backs, and we’re too damn scared to point out that they are the cultural and political descendants of the robber barons and the plantation owners from the 19th and 20th Centuries.

And by we I mean my colleagues in the “mainstream media,” really just the Washington press since media long ago forgot that anything outside the beltway actually exists.

If that weren’t true, we’d all know what these Republicans know: that they prey on gullible people who want desperately to believe that some day they, too, can be rich and powerful, and that for the vast — and I do mean vast — majority, it’ll never happen.

But here’s the real kicker. We don’t have to be rich and powerful to be happy, or even comfortable. There’s more to life than amassing material wealth, and life is much more satisfying when we work to bring us all closer together rather than push us further apart with unrealistic fantasies.

Too many of us have forgotten that the American Dream was never about bank accounts.Wrong

 

The Delusional Party

A Facebook friend of mine — a young man I once thought was bright and thoughtful for a Republican — turned out to be a drama queen on Wednesday, when he posted this:

With a heavy heart, I announce that I will be shutting down my family’s 32 year old small business. We have suffered plenty under an Obama economy and it’s not fair to my young family for me to expect them to endure another 4 years of struggling to keep our heads above water. I close up shop with zero debt and a new job waiting, so I have plenty to be thankful for, but I am sad. I love what I do. What I did. God help us all.

I wanted to reply, I really did. Plenty did, most telling him they knew God has a plan for him. But I just couldn’t. I wanted to say

I’m really sad that you’ve drunk the bullshit Koolaid the conservative media’s been laying on you all these years. It breaks my heart to see you blame Obama for the economic downturn that has screwed with your business instead of Republican policies, starting with the Reagan administration, that finally came into their own during the GWB administration. I remember, you see, your talking about the drop in business you were suffering six years ago, a bit before Barack Obama came into office. I’m sorry you don’t.

I didn’t say it though. I just didn’t want to get into it with another delusional conservative. And so many of them are very, very delusional. Karl Rove, for example, had a meltdown on Fox News when their decision desk called Ohio for Obama. He later said Obama won  because he suppressed the vote. Mitt Romney waited way too long to concede, and he actually already had his transition website live when the voting started on Tuesday. It was taken down late Tuesday night, but I guess he just liked seeing himself called “President-elect” online.

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A sucker punch? Yeah, I guess when you’re completely deluded, it would come across that way.

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Haley Barbour announced before the election that Hurricane Sandy cost Mitt the election, but if you ask me, conservatives need to re-think that one. If God uses hurricanes to express his wishes, then She was endorsing Obama with this one. Others have been a little less celestial about it, blaming New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie because he dared to compliment Obama’s handling of Sandy. And then there’s Donald Trump.

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I remember way back in 2008, when Obama/Biden beat John McCain and that paragon of political perfection Sarah Palin, the Republicans weren’t quite so shocked. They did, however, immediately jump into a very short round of soul-searching, trying to figure out what they did wrong and how to fix it. When no answers came, they stopped trying.

They’re doing that again. The tea party is again saying that Romney wasn’t conservative enough. The Donald Trumps and Steve Forbeses are saying Romney didn’t push his business acumen and the free market enough. The punditocracy says the Republicans need to emulate the Democratic election “machine.”

Liberals were certain the Republican Party would split in 2008. It didn’t. Quite a few are certain that’s gonna happen now. It might. It will, sooner or later. Because here’s the thing: The one constant in this world is change. Conservatives, by their very definition, are all about the status quo, not changing, and, if possible, reversing any change that has happened.

It’s a fear-based ideology. The future is scary. Change is scary. The unknown is scary. A black president is scary. It’s also an unrealistic ideology. And if one insists on holding fast it it, it’s a delusional one.

Change happens. I like thinking of myself as progressive because it’s about, well, progressing. Anything else is regression. Change isn’t always good, but it’s only not good when it’s resisted and altered in a vain attempted to keep it from happened.

More women than ever will serve in the Senate this next term. One of them is a lesbian. And for the first time, voters supported same-sex marriage — not in one state but in four. Hell, Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana, although that promises to run afoul of federal drug laws.

So, in the social realm, Republicans need to ditch the conservatives. If they want to have any chance of enacting any of their fiscal policies (not all of which are terrible, by the way), they must jettison the crazies. Quit pandering to them. Let them go. If they want to form their own party, let them. They’re pretty damn delusional themselves, thinking that the rest of the world revolves around their narrow world view.

And yeah, that probably means the Republican Party will be a little smaller for a while. But it can grow once it drops the dead weight that is holding it back from the 21st Century.

Democrats, you should probably stop counting on your crazies too. You remember them — the ones who voted for Ralph Nader and gave us George W. Bush for eight years. They’ve been hatin’ on Obama almost as long as the racists have. He isn’t liberal enough, y’know, as if a president can just waltz into office and completely change the mindset of Washington by waving his Jedi hands in front of the faces of all the politicians. Doesn’t work that way. I’d love it if it did, but reality is quite different from idealism.

Sergey Brin, one of the co-founders of Google, had a great idea. On election day, he posted on Google + a call for all election winners to abandon their parties and govern as independents. Damn, that’d be swell. That’s idealism. Not gonna happen. That’s reality. I think I’ll just hate all the politicians for not doing that. That’s crazy.

House Speaker John Boehner is promising to cooperate with Obama. He says immigration reform is “long overdue” and Obamacare is “the law of the land.” It won’t be long, though, before we’re right back to business as usual politically. And if John Boehner keeps yacking like that, his tea party colleagues will pick somebody else as speaker. Maybe Michele Bachmann, since Allen West lost his re-election bid.

I just don’t have much faith that the Republicans will do any kind of useful soul-searching. Too many of them are just too far afield from reality. Republitarians are threatening revolt in a variety of manners, from secession to shunning Democrats to armed insurrection. Brit Hume is still spouting that “America is a center right country.” No, it’s not. America is progressing, slowing and steadily. It’s progressing toward adulthood, a country where the people don’t take all their toys and run home when things don’t go their way. A country where people who believe different things don’t believe the others are anti-American, traitors or worse.

One day, we may progress into something that I’ll find too hard to grasp and then I’ll dig my heels in and try to prevent change. But this is a progressive country. Just like life.

And the earth is more or less round.

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It’s delusional to deny it.

 

We’re sorry, you’ve been disconnected

At least that’s how it feels to me. Everywhere I turn, I’m hearing my colleagues talk about the momentum of Mitt Romney, up until today, that is, when Haley Barbour said that Hurricane Sandy put a stop to it.

My colleagues can’t get enough of it. The polls are getting closer. Romney’s on a roll. The race is a toss-up. Obama’s losing ground.

There’s just one problem.

I don’t see it. Not anywhere.

There’s this one crazy poll that has Romney up six points in Florida, and maybe that one’s right — but it’s the only one.

It’s like the whole “Obama hasn’t created any jobs” thing. Well, presidents don’t actually create jobs, any more than governors do. But the facts get in the way of what they mean when they say that. Somewhere around 750,000 jobs have been added to the rolls so far under Obama, compared to a loss of more than a million in the same time under George W. Bush, whose policies, by the way, Romney wants to bring back, only worse.

I can’t tell you how many conservatives I’ve seen utterly convinced Mitt Romney is gonna win this thing in a landslide, presumably because all the polls are conducted by liberals and biased toward Obama. That the polls may be biased toward Obama could be true, but not because they’re conducted by liberals. It’s all in the samples. It’s just as possible the polls are all biased toward Romney, and it’s Obama who’s gonna win in a landslide.

Frankly, that he isn’t likely to win in a landslide says nothing good about our electorate and probably is as strong an indictment of the criminal neglect given to our education system as is possible, not to mention the perfectly lousy job my colleagues do covering elections of any kind.

And that brings me to Nate Silver. Unless you’re a political junkie, you may not have heard of him. But Nate is a numbers junkie who has concocted a mathematical way of prognosticating the presidential election using all the polls and a few other things. He is a liberal, but that’s the thing about numbers — they’re not particularly political. And unless it really is true that all the polls are hopelessly biased against Romney, Obama is highly likely to win re-election.

Romney has a chance to win. About a 15 percent chance — but that is a chance. It could happen.

Right now, Nate Silver forecasts Obama will win 307 electoral college votes (270 are needed to win), and that number has gone up 11 votes in the past week. Romneymentum? Where?

The popular vote, overall, is still looking pretty close, but it’s not the national popular vote that counts, now is it? No, it’s not. It’s the vote in the states, and which states. And that, my friends, doesn’t look like a toss-up. Here’s what Nate said yesterday, when Obama was leading in 19 of 20 swing state polls and Romney still had a 16 percent chance of winning the electoral college:

My argument, rather, is this: we’ve about reached the point where if Mr. Romney wins, it can only be because the polls have been biased against him. Almost all of the chance that Mr. Romney has in the FiveThirtyEight forecast, about 16 percent to win the Electoral College, reflects this possibility.

Yes, of course: most of the arguments that the polls are necessarily biased against Mr. Romney reflect little more than wishful thinking.

Nevertheless, these arguments are potentially more intellectually coherent than the ones that propose that the leader in the race is “too close to call.” It isn’t. If the state polls are right, then Mr. Obama will win the Electoral College. If you can’t acknowledge that after a day when Mr. Obama leads 19 out of 20 swing-state polls, then you should abandon the pretense that your goal is to inform rather than entertain the public.

But the state polls may not be right. They could be biased. Based on the historical reliability of polls, we put the chance that they will be biased enough to elect Mr. Romney at 16 percent.

That’s 16 percent (now less than 15 percent) likely that the polls being biased toward Obama is little more than “wishful thinking.”

But go ahead and listen to my colleagues, all of whom are pundits at election time. It’s just too close to call.

 

Shark jumping

After this week, anyone who thinks this current batch of Republicans has an ounce of legitimacy left is either a rich asshole or a damn fool. That’s it. No other choices.

I just read a tweet that says … well, here it is:

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Seriously? So Paul Ryan lies all through his speech at the convention, Todd Akin goes on about “legitimate rape,” and now this? “Debunked and selectively edited?”

OK, so it turns out he’s only talking about the part where he said Palestinians have no interest in peace and that peace in the Middle East is impossible. Seems Mother Jones, in its initial posting of snippets of the whole little chat Mittens had with his rich friends, left out the part where he said that peace was actually possible, but only if the United States got in there and showed those Palestinians who’s boss.

But I always keep open: the idea of pushing on the Israelis to give something up to get the Palestinians to act is the worst idea in the world. We have done that time and time and time again. It does not work. So the only answer is show them strength. American strength, American resolve, and the Palestinians will some day reach the point where they want peace more than we’re trying to force peace on them. Then it’s worth having the discussion. So until then, it’s just wistful thinking.

Yeah, Mitt always keeps open that the United States will someday have another belligerent idiot president who is ready to start Armageddon.

Oh, and Anne Romney says Mitt’s remarks about the poor are taken out of context.

Audience member: For the last three years, all everybody’s been told is, “Don’t worry, we’ll take care of you.” How are you going to do it, in two months before the elections, to convince everybody you’ve got to take care of yourself?

Romney: There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. And I mean, the president starts off with 48, 49, 48 — he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. And he’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean that’s what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people — I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to do is convince the 5 to 10 percent in the center that are independents that are thoughtful, that look at voting one way or the other depending upon in some cases emotion, whether they like the guy or not, what it looks like.

Hard to figure how that’s out of context. Only people who pay no income tax vote for Obama. That’s weird. I will vote for him. I pay income tax. Then there’s the whole implication about who it is who’s dependent on the government, you know, like veterans, the elderly. And about 4,000 really rich people who don’t pay income taxes.  And never mind that there are plenty of other taxes everybody pays (including actual PAYROLL TAXES, which contrary to popular belief are not the same as taxes on income).

The New York Post had some kind of headline on this about “the truth hurts.” And in a really odd sense, this is the truth. It’s the truth about how these greedy motherfuckers really feel about the rest of us. The unvarnished truth.

And just in case, Matt Drudge dredges up a 14 year old audio of Obama saying something about believing in “redistribution,” which is conservative code for dirty commie and which Mitt himself is talking about, most likely to (a) confuse the issue and (b) make more inroads with his rich friends. I don’t need to tell you that a guy like Mitt Romney really shouldn’t be talking about what somebody else said he believed in 1998.

They’re not even pretending anymore. They’ll tell ya flat out that facts don’t matter, just the lies they keep on telling, the lies that way too many keep on believing.

But have they jumped the shark this time? And more to the point, will my beloved colleagues wake up from their stupor and realize what’s been going on?

If this election isn’t a landslide, I give up. We really are doomed.

 

Sneakin’ Sally through the alley

Back in June 1983, NASA did something rather unusual. A couple of things actually. For one, they sent a woman up into space, 20 years after the Soviet Union did it for the first time and a year after they did it for the second time.

For another, they set up a toll-free phone number for us space junkies to call and listen to the astronauts talk. I did that, several times. Just to hear Sally Ride. I mean, wow. The first American woman in space. Space, the final frontier. A woman astronaut.

A woman astronaut who got asked ridiculous things like, “do you cry when things go wrong on the job” by my beloved colleagues after she was named to STS-7, never mind she had a Ph.D. in phucking physics. From fucking Stanford. And she helped develop the robot arm. My colleagues can be such idiots.

OK, but that was 1983 you say. How really different is it now? Quite, actually. For one thing, the United States doesn’t even have a shuttle program anymore, and depends on the Soviet Union … erm, I mean Russia, to get astronauts to the space station. And my colleagues pretty much ignore the whole thing anyway. I can probably count on my two hands how many know that Suni Williams is up there right now, and probably on only one hand the number who know she’ll be the station commander in September.

But Sally. Sally Ride. The name, the woman. Space. Sally was the ground communicator for the 2nd and 3rd shuttle flights, flew for a second time in 1984 and was set to fly for a third time when Challenger — the very shuttle she flew in both her space missions — exploded. NASA named Sally to the commission to investigate the accident, and then later to do strategic planning in Washington.

But politics and science don’t mix very well. Kinda like religion and science, actually, so Sally left and went off to do science, with a particular aim at bringing more kids, particularly girls, on board. She still worked with NASA on the side, and was named to the commission investigating the Columbia accident in 2003 — the only person to serve on both.

Oh, and she was a lesbian. We found out about this because the obituary that she and her 27-year partner, Tam O’Shaughnessy (also a scientist) wrote mentioned Tam as her first survivor. Hell, we didn’t even know Sally had cancer, and now we find out she was a lesbian too?

Good thing they wrote that obit, though, because NASA used its own. It doesn’t mention Tam.

But damn, some of us said, why the hell did she wait until after she was dead to let us in on this secret? Isn’t Sally Ride the very kind of person we want to show the nutjobs that we are not only just like everybody else, but in some cases we are way better than everybody else?

Well, yeah. But Sally didn’t see it that way. I don’t know what discussions went on behind closed doors between her and Tam (although I’m sure there were plenty), but I can guess at what kinds of things may have helped her decide not to come out publicly. Do you cry when things go wrong at work?

Sally wanted to do science, not give lessons on how it is that a lesbian can be America’s first female astronaut and be so fucking brilliant the rest of us should just fall down at her feet. Sally wanted to promote science in a country where half of it — oddly enough the same half that would condemn her to hell for her “lifestyle choice” — doesn’t get that science isn’t a matter of what you decide to believe. Sally wanted to get more little girls interested in science, not fend off ridiculous accusations that she’s a dyke child molester — accusations that my colleagues were bound to take just as seriously as anything she could say to the contrary.

In short, an out lesbian Sally Ride could never have accomplished what she accomplished because she would have been too busy dealing with both the idiots who think lesbians are women who hate men and those of us on our side who think famous lesbians should spend all their time in the spotlight talking about how great it is to be gay.

And that, my friends, is just so fucking sad it hurts to think about it.

WWWMD?

Leave it to The Onion to publish the definitively cynical, black humor journalistic piece on the Aurora theatre shooting. It was so funny it wasn’t.

According to the nation’s citizenry, calls for a mature, thoughtful debate about the role of guns in American society started right on time, and should persist throughout the next week or so. However, the populace noted, the debate will soon spiral out of control and ultimately lead to nothing of any substance, a fact Americans everywhere acknowledged they felt “absolutely horrible” to be aware of.

With scalpel-like precision, the American populace then went on to predict, to the minute, how long it will take for the media to swarm Aurora, CO, how long it will take for them to leave, and exactly when questions will be raised as to whether or not violence in movies and video games had something to do with the act.

The Onion did leave out the teddy bear and flower memorial at the theatre. And of course, it wasn’t violence in movies and video games my colleagues obsessed over. This time, they got down to the gun control battle almost immediately, with the usual, emotion-driven, completely unreasonable results.

Can’t we just mourn the tragedy without one side immediately blaming lax gun laws and the other, equally quickly, calling for more concealed weapons in public?

asked one of my colleagues on Facebook, and the answer was quickly clear, from another: “No, we cannot.”

Well, I know one cable television news anchor who wouldn’t take part in the usual bullshit. Will McAvoy. Will McAvoy would be sensitive to the victims in the tragedy and still not get bogged down in the either/or, emotionally charged garbage that passes for news in this country anymore.

Yeah, Will McAvoy, my beloved colleagues. The guy on Aaron Sorkin’s new HBO show The Network that you keep laughing about. Nervous laughter maybe? Because you are the very ones decrying the bullshit that the fictional McAvoy is taking head on. The bullshit that you complain loudly about and never lift a finger to stop.

Hey, I know it’s hard. You’ve got Jane Fonda to think about. Oh, wait. Jane Fonda would be right with you if you really wanted to change things. It’s Fonda’s character on The Newsroom who worries about the money. And threatens to get rid of employees who won’t play the game.

See, here’s the thing. Sorkin, who is not a pleasant fellow but nevertheless does entertaining television, doesn’t give us real life. I’m sure none of you think The West Wing was remotely true to life. It was idealized, the same way The Newsroom is idealized. It’s what we wish would happen but not a damn one of us will do anything to create.

So I’m gonna go out on the proverbial limb here and talk about this like I think Will McAvoy would, and Will — he wouldn’t shy away from the gun arguments.

But he also wouldn’t get into the he said/she said of the pro and anti gun lobbies. Neither will I. Full disclosure: I do not like guns. I do not own one, and I won’t own one. I do not hunt, and I am not so afraid that I feel I must protect myself with a weapon that is much more likely to end up hurting me or someone I love than anyone else. I have fired guns, however, and am a pretty good shot. But I’m older now, and wiser. Guns don’t kill people. People with guns do.

The United States has a pretty high per capita of gun murders, suicides and accidental deaths. It’s significantly lower than, say, South Africa or Colombia, but only slightly below Mexico, and way higher than a whole bunch of countries that have sane gun laws.

Sane gun laws like people should not be able to buy assault weapons. For what earthly reason do you need an assault weapon? It is not a hunting rifle. And 6,000 rounds of ammunition? Seriously? It’s even easier to buy ammo, y’know, than a gun. Except maybe in Colorado or Texas. Obviously. That picture, by the way, is of a couple of SWAT dudes with AR-15 assault rifles and 90-round drum magazines. The Aurora shooter had 100-round drum magazines.

I don’t begrudge anybody who wants to buy a gun for protection, although I do think you shouldn’t oughta do it. I think we need fewer guns, not more guns. We have too many already, and it’s not helping. But no, I’m not for laws banning guns. We need to turn away from them voluntarily.

So naturally, after this tragedy in Colorado, I waited patiently until someone said

If more sane, law-abiding citizens were carrying guns, this guy might have thought twice.

Or at least less innocent people would have been hurt.

Actually, the correct word is “fewer.” Fewer innocent people. Less innocent people — well, maybe the writer actually did mean that — as in, maybe the shooter is “less innocent” than the other people — but I really don’t think so.

Either way, it’s absolutely wrong, unless the “sane, law-abiding citizens” carrying the guns were special ops forces, trained to work against some dude in a gas mask who tossed tear gas into a darkened theatre and then proceeded to use multiple weapons, including the aforementioned assault rifle and its drum cartridges.

No, if “more sane, law-abiding citizens were carrying guns” at that theatre, there’d be a lot more people dead.

But we won’t talk about sane gun laws. We’ll talk about either/or. We should have no gun laws or no guns. Yeah, I’m all for no guns, but not laws to make it so. Just sane laws to keep some of the crazy shit out. But it’s so much more fun and emotional to take extreme ends and pit them against each other on network news. And that’s what the news has become. Emotional appeals. Scare people. Freak them out. Make them cry. But for god’s sake don’t temper that with any rationality.

Yeah, temper it. Not overcome the emotion with impeccable reason. That’s the problem here — and it’s why people like James Holmes and that guy at Virginia Tech go all batshit and shoot up people. It’s simple: We don’t know how to balance emotion and reason. We think it’s supposed to be either/or, and it’s not.

And here, we typically think of emotion as something less — y’know, women are more emotional, and women aren’t as important or valuable as men, who are so much more rational. But what happens when you suppress your emotional side and do nothing to integrate it with your rational side?

You shoot up a movie theatre. Or overdose on drugs. Or become an alcoholic. Or beat your wife. Or kick a puppy. Or put on weird make-up and wear black all the time. Because sooner or later those icky old emotions will show up. Or Wolf Blitzer and a bunch of politicians will punch your buttons and your insides will open up and they’ll just spill out.

We need to learn that heart and mind are the same thing, not two different “parts” of us that can never be reconciled. They ARE reconciled. We’re the ones who keep forcing them apart.

Cuz when you let them be the same … you focus like a laser. You’re unstoppable.

Just ask Will McAvoy.

It’s no use

OK, here’s the thing. It’s not gonna work. None of it. It doesn’t matter how many facts we have on our side, how much truth we have, how honest we are … it just doesn’t matter. It’s not gonna work.

We’re not gonna sway one single person to see it our way. In fact, just the opposite — we’re going to harden their positions against us. Make it worse (as if that could happen — trust me, it can).

And here’s why: The conservatives own the emotional end of this. In our dualist, either/or world, emotion trumps reason every time. They do that because only two emotions are given any credence in this world: Fear and it’s flip side, anger. And those two — need I say it? No mere proof can move ‘em.

Fear’s an old emotion. An awful lot of action is born from fear. Ack! Storm! Lightning! Rain! Find cave! Ack! Dinosaur! Make pointy stick!

Oh, sorry. That’s the conservative version. We know dinosaurs and mankind did not coexist.

There’s nothing wrong with fear and anger, of course. It’s all in what you do with ‘em. In Conservative Bizarro World, if you’re afraid (and you are because you’re leaders have made sure of it), you must have a scapegoat to blame and be angry with. Fortunately, your leaders take care of that for you too.

This makes things much easier. No thinking involved. The poor souls who have been convinced by billionaires that it is progressives who are elitists never have to make a single decision for themselves. They don’t want to do that because their conservative overlords have told them it’s a big, bad, scary and complicated world out there, but the overlords alone have those poor souls’ best interests at heart, because Socialists! Black militants! Gays! Anti-American! Traitors!

And here we sit, palms up holding our paltry “evidence” in hand as if it makes a difference. It doesn’t. They don’t care. No, they don’t. Not one iota. Because we are the enemy. The strange beings who want to destroy them and everything they know and cherish. Why, we probably have horns and tails … oh, wait. That was Jews. Well, the rest of us probably do too!

You know why Scott Walker won in Wisconsin last week? I mean, besides the billions the Koch brothers poured in. It wasn’t because they thought Walker was a great guy. It was because they didn’t think a governor should be removed from office for anything less than criminal behavior. You and I may not like what the jackass did, but it wasn’t criminal, any more than any other regular piece of political bullshit is just that. You did notice that in the exit polls, the majority backed Obama, right?

We talk a lot about the right wing echo chamber, but we fail to understand what it’s actually doing. It’s entire purpose is to reach that primal reptilian part of our brains, to stir the pot of the emotions and send their minions out torch and pitchfork in hand. In short, to create exactly what we have: Mob mentality.

Surely you’ve noticed. There’s no civility. It complete viciousness. There’s not even a pretense of honest political debate, as if there’s ever been any such thing.

And here’s the real kicker — this behavior is not limited to conservatives. I’ve seen it alive and kicking in liberals too, when their deeply held beliefs are threatened. They too turn into vicious pack animals and try to rip apart anyone who stands in their way.

It happened right here in my little liberal city, when some of us learned that our beloved mayor was stealing us blind. We had the proof. The mayor’s supporters wouldn’t even look at it. “I don’t go on facts,” one guy told me. “I go on feelings.” Hey, great, your feelings are gonna cost the city its charter when it goes bankrupt.

Almost happened. Half a million in debt, which is huge for a city with only 800 residents. We got him out of office, but at a terrible price to the peace of the city and to many friendships.

Those of us who worked to save the city were rewarded by having various county and state agencies called to investigate the most middling of things, and some serious and untrue accusations were thrown about. Ugly, very ugly. Just as ugly as what we see now in our national debate, except the lines weren’t drawn between conservative and progressive because that’s not where the real line is.

The real line is between reality and delusion.

Our current crop of conservatives deal in delusion, and they are masters at it. That’s why they name a bill that guts environmental policy the Clean Air Act.

And that’s why our attempts to fight delusion with truth aren’t going to amount to a hill of beans. Delusional people cannot be dissuaded. It’s too emotional, too raw, too primal.

Too unevolved. Really, they might as well just grunt and point, cowering in the back of a dark, dark cave. The stuff they say makes no more sense than that anyway.

Saw a Tweet tonight for a moronic woman who fancies herself a conservative journalist. She’s been hanging out a Netroots Nation tweeting inanities that she thinks make sense. They do, to her fellow delusionals. The best one was her utter incredulousness when one of the speakers mentioned Virginia’s attempt to mandate an ultrasound with a vaginal probe before a woman could have an abortion. “WTF?” she tweeted. Guess she was still under her rock when that all went down.

So what do we do, you may ask. Hell, I don’t know. Do what you think is best. But know this: We’re not gonna create an enlightened society by fighting. A violent revolution does little more than change the names of the assholes in charge. And an election in the toxic atmosphere we have here is only marginally better.

But it is better. It’s better because we can pick a rich fucker who belongs to a cult, a black guy who belongs to a different cult but doesn’t make such a big deal out of it and who probably wishes he stayed in state politics or community organizing even, or any one of a number of other folks who have zero chance of winning and every chance of throwing the election to the rich fucker if we do the wrong thing. Hell, we might get to vote for Roseanne fucking Barr for president — not that I think she’d do any worse job than any of the others, but the rich fucker will definitely finish what George W. Bush started, and I can guarantee you won’t be happy about it.

So think about it, come November. And hey, I’m all for breaking down this tendency toward tribal allegiances humanity seems reluctant to let go of. It is gonna happen. I’d just rather we chose that path rather than forced it to happen. Forcing it puts us all back at square one, and I just don’t think we have that many do-overs left.