A Novus Incipit Annus

Unlike those who refuse to hold the Bush Administration accountable for their many sins and transgressions, I recognize that nothing exists in a bubble; every circumstance we deal with today was affected by previous events in some way.  For whatever failings Obama may possess, he hardly came into his presidency with a clean slate – no one ever does.  A new year does not eliminate the previous year, there is only the changing of numbers.  There are celebrations of hope for the new year and my hope is that we finally get serious about what we, as a nation, are doing.

I had the mixed pleasure of travelling back to my home of origin and spending a few days with my father and stepmother during Christmas vacation.  My father was a biology professor, long retired now, and the opportunities to see him in relatively good health are naturally coming to a close.  We invariably talk politics, he an old George Wallace-democrat, now Republican; I, a left-leaning don’t-bullshit-me anti-Republican.  Our conversations are ofttimes civil, but they can get heated.  What I didn’t expect, on this Christmas holiday, was to be yelling at my father because of obvious Republican chicanery.  Our topic was one I covered over three years ago.  Here’s how it went down:

My father, stepmother, and I were discussing varying aspects of Washington politics and I tried to not let some of the ignorance light a fuse in me because I understand from where that ignorance comes.  My father was born in Mississippi in 1927.  He is Old South.  He thinks derogatory jokes about black people are funny – because they are derogatory, not because they are funny.  My father is rarely funny.  For all his education, my father is a bigot and it serves no purpose to deny  that.  That’s not to say he is a sheet-wearing, cross-burning yahoo, but the racism is there.  He recognizes achievement and little else.  He is not against people of lower economic situations getting opportunities, but he is against affirmative action.  His answer to reconcile this would likely be “work harder”.  Sometimes that works, sometimes not.  I believe the reason for affirmative action to exist at all is that too often working “harder” was not working.  Perhaps you have a clearer picture of him now.

After I had explained my position on the uselessness of term limits in a party-politics system and that the reason the presidential term is limited is because of FDR’s ability to appoint eight of the nine Supreme Court justices before his death, my stepmother went off to do something else.  My father now had his opportunity to set me straight about Obama.  I don’t know why he has an affinity to world almanacs, but he dug one up and turned to the entry for Obama.  He sat on a footrest in front of me and showed me the book and I saw that many things had been underlined.  I heard the quick intake of air and the stern timbre in my father’s voice as he muttered in low tones, “First, he was not born in this country…”

“What!?” I cried.  I was incredulous.  The fuse was lit, but I tried to delay the detonation by calmly replying, “The State of Hawaii would disagree with you.”  I smirked and turned my attention back to the almanac.

My father was halted and sputtered, “He hasn’t proven he was born there.”

“You’re welcome to your opinion, but the State of Hawaii would disagree with you.”

“Well, then, they’re liars!”  This was usual for him when arguing from weakness or simply to hear the sound of his own voice.  But my fuse was short and detonation was imminent. I had had enough of this crap.

“Well, you just go ahead and toss out the facts you don’t like and make up your own and you can live in that little reality – but that’s insane!”  He fell to an uncertain silence, perhaps shocked that I may have been accusing him of being insane.

I stood up.  “I didn’t vote for Obama and don’t particularly like what he’s done, but I’m tired of this nonsense.  Is this about that PDF file of his certificate that people were saying was faked?”  I looked down on him with a nasty jut in my jaw.  “Because if it is, that is BULLSHIT!”

My father’s expression was blank and the fire he had been summoning in his rant was extinguished in meekness.  “I don’t know.”  Not exactly the answer I was expecting.

I began pacing and my father returned to his seat across the room.  “I am tired of reading about this and watching people on television prattle on about this because what they are saying is BULLSHIT!  Is this about that Orly Taitz garbage?”

“I don’t know know who that is.”

“She’s one of ‘em.  Fox News will trot these people out all day long and they are liars and they have agendas!”  Fox News, surprise!, is watched with interest in that household because, as my stepmother says, “They respect the troops.”  Of course they do.

“Who signed his birth certificate?” My father continued.

“I don’t know,” I groaned, “I don’t have the thing with me.”

“I haven’t seen it.”  This may have been my father’s way of trying to turn the conversation back to a “conversation”, but the topic was too far gone and way too stupid by now.

“Well, I have a copy of it and I know more about how that file works than any of those clowns!  And Donald Trump said he had guys over there and he was going to show evidence.  Well, he never did!  You know, why?  Because it was bullshit!  There was nothing to show!”

I couldn’t let it go without one more point to make:  “These are the same people who accuse Obama of being a Muslim without acknowledging that a Muslim can be president.”

“I know they can be,” was his subdued reply.

My father really had little else to say for the rest of the night.  Whatever other tripe had been force-fed into his brain by the Fox propaganda machine would be internalized until it was safe to spew again, out of my presence.  I am under no illusions that I can change his mind, but he raised us to educate ourselves about things and that is what bothers me the most about this conversation.  My father is a man of science, an educator and PHd, and he allows his own bigotry to take for truth the lies that are part of the Obama smear campaign.  He demanded no proof, no evidence, and didn’t even think to research the topic for himself to be better informed.  I am seriously disappointed in him.  Above all, I trusted he valued knowledge over all else.  He failed that trust on a Christmas holiday.

Ignoramuses + Rants = “Ignorants”

Ignorants

        I can’t say I have a solution to the influx of children fleeing the barbarism of their home countries, but watching the ginned-up zealotry over… what exactly is the outrage here? Regardless of the motivations – real or contrived – of the protestors, what is being done in the name of “anti-immigration” is an embarrassment to this nation. Don’t these people have better things to do, like go to their jobs or complain about people who are still looking for employment?

        I could write these protests off as just another incident of “we still don’t like how the past two Presidential elections came out”, but I think these types of demonstrations – and the professional people in politics and media who encourage this garbage – are emblematic of what I’ve always felt is the Republican Party as it exists in this day and age. Make no mistake about it, they are Republicans even though they still want to play “tea party”; they’re just kidding themselves the same way Bill O’Reilly doesn’t have the guts to come out and say he’s a Republican. The underlying mantra of these people: Sucks to be you.

        Compassion? They don’t have it because it might involve somebody else getting something and that may cost them some money. That’s their fear: somebody’s going to get something they didn’t “work” for. They can get off their asses to protest, but they can’t get off their asses and help. While I have no doubt the vast majority of these people would call themselves “Christian”, living in a Christian nation, their enmity shows their true selves.

        And whether or not you want to call it “immigration” and whether or not these folks like it, asylum is still a thing and these children deserve to be heard and they deserve protection. But, hey, sucks to be them, right?

Iraq: Who Couldn’t See This Coming?

©2014 James Montgomery Studios

©2014 James Montgomery Studios

        Yeah, there’s trouble in Iraq and it looks like the country is going up in flames. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. But at the same time, if you couldn’t see, as Bush bullshitted his way into an unnecessary war, that events were inevitably going to take this turn, you are either willfully blind or stupid. There really is no middle ground. I have been saying this was going to happen since long before Bush was out of office; the “surge” couldn’t change it, but the apologists have come out of the woodwork, nevertheless, to rationalize their lies and placate their jingoistic base. Without a constant American presence in Iraq, a lasting peace was not sustainable and who wants to maintain a constant U.S. presence? What was fomented in Iraq was dishonest and futile and – let’s say it – in vain; the blood and treasure spent to prosecute this war was wasted. All that was accomplished was the fanning of the flames of unrest and only an arrogant fool thinks that can be controlled.

        So now the usual suspects, John McCain, the eternal warmonger, and one of my unfortunate excuses for a senator, Lindsey Graham, are among the number of Republicans making excuses for Bush’s actions while, at the same time, playing the tired old game of blaming Obama for being unable to avoid the sequence of events as they headed to their obvious conclusion; that conclusion being Shia versus Sunni violence aided by Al Qaeda insurgency from the very same Syrian factions these Republicans wanted Obama to support. Talk about wanting to have it both ways. I wonder if these guys even keep track of what they say and stand for anymore. Anyhow, let’s go back and see how we got where we are.

        Of course, as the apologists will point out, Saddam Hussein was a bad man, an oppressor of his people, an unstable presence in the Middle East, and desired a nuclear weapon capability. These accusations may be true, but they were not unique for various world leaders in 2001, just as they weren’t unique in 1988, just as they aren’t unique now. Assad, Mubarak, Qaddafi could meet most of these accusations, as well, except Mubarak was a U.S. ally, so he got a pass. And what about Saudi Arabia and Iran? Those two countries practice institutionalized oppression against their people with impunity – and let’s not forget that the World Trade Center attacks were led by Saudis, not Iraqis. The Saudis, as well as the Israelis, are our allies, so they, too, get a pass, unlike the Palestinians. Because when you’re talking about the Middle East, you inevitably have to talk about the Israeli-Palestinian issue.  If you’re a Palestinian, I wonder where the governments of Sharon and Netanyahu rate on the scale of oppressive regimes? Of course, the Arab and Israeli animosity may be so entrenched and so long-lived that the question becomes irrelevant. While maintaining a constant presence in the center of rationalizations for Mideast violence, these are two sides that continue to stalemate themselves at the negotiating table over Jerusalem by an unwillingness to compromise. Sounds like a certain political body in Washington, doesn’t it? And it is this same political body that thinks the factions in Iraq were going to get along just because we removed a “bad” man? The only roses in this scenario that Dick Cheney thought would be “thrown at the feet of liberators” are the tint of the glasses these idiots are wearing if they still believe that democracy is something that can just be shoehorned in on any group of people – especially people who have deep-seated resentments against one another. Iraq wasn’t a fight to be pursued and no amount of wishful thinking was going to allow a military solution that would keep Iraq peaceful indefinitely. Bush made the mess by creating a political vacuum and Obama was expected to clean it up with an infinite occupational force? Keep dreaming, morons, it was never going to work out the way you wanted – unless sowing chaos was what you were shooting for.

        “Congress approved it,” the apologists will say, “including the Democrats with few exceptions.” Yes, they did. That is their moment of ignominy. They should have stood up and opposed it instead of being cowards afraid of the old “unpatriotic” slur that gets thrown around so carelessly. They should have known better. They were fed a pack of lies, especially the ones Bush told in his State of the Union address, but they still should have known better and pursued the truth more diligently. Colin Powell now knows he was the point man for the circus of horseshit at the U.N. The British, French, Russians, and Israelis all reached the same conclusions? So fucking what? The U.S. was leading the intelligence charge and the intelligence didn’t pan out, so just how good was that collaboration? The results speak for themselves. To say that not confronting Hussein over U.N. sanctions would lead to further instability is pretty damn specious. Iraq, after the Gulf War, was a shell of its former self – and its former self wasn’t that great – and represented a very beatable opponent. Why not attack them over U.N. sanctions violations? Most ironic, though, is that the Republican party is the one with the constant “get out of the U.N.” mantra and they wanted to use upholding sanctions as an excuse for war? The indolence of Congress was obvious when no one called bullshit on this. I will have to give ol’ Dubya credit for playing Congress the way he did, because that’s exactly what he did. To cite U.N. sanctions as a basis for issuing threats but not having the backing of Congress would put the president in an ineffectual situation. Well, the Congress couldn’t have that – we’d look weak and stupid! So, they supported Bush and maintained their “patriotic and strong against terrorism” façade. Look where they ended up. They were weak and stupid!

        I’ve heard the cowboy boots that have the pointed toes referred to as “cockroach killers” – you can get into the corners with them. That’s all Bush, the cowboy president from Texas, was doing: taking his boots and kicking at the cockroaches. The problem is you never get many roaches and they scatter – just like Al Qaeda did – and you still have cockroaches. The Republicans want to accuse Obama of playing politics? They’ve all been playing politics all along.

Whenever A Bell Rings, An Angel Gets A Job.

Now that the Republicans have taken the electoral pasting they so “richly” deserved, I get the impression that a lot of people in this country weren’t buying the line about tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations creating jobs.  So, I feel like talking about job creators.  This is the promise: we let the richest portion of the American business community have their tax cuts and everybody will benefit!  This is “trickle-down” economics.

Except that reality doesn’t work that way.  The aim of the capitalist is to get rich.  The aim of the rich is to stay rich.

What they are proposing is merely a continuance of making wealthy people wealthier and the rest get to suffer and starve on the false promise of prosperity that will never come because the system is rigged against the worker.  The disparity of executive to middle-class wages has continued to widen ever since Reagan was in office.  How many businesses have moved to foreign countries whose only promise was a low-wage workforce?  When was the last time you got a cost of living raise that actually kept up with the cost of living?  Have you ever asked yourself where all that money for the lobbyists and campaign donations came from and if they could have been put to better use elsewhere?

I find that Grover Norquist’s arguments against Warren Buffett to be laughable.  Warren Buffett is a businessman who knows how the business game is played and if he says that the richest of us can afford to pay more in taxes, I would be inclined to believe that he knows what he is talking about.  And what I really want to highlight is when Buffett says, “if I call you and ask about investing in a new business, you don’t ask me what the tax rate is.”  That is what is missing from the Republican argument and why what they are saying is so dishonest.  The wealthy get a portion of their money from capital gains, that is, investments.  That is the difference.  Investors aren’t job creators, they are… investors.

Now, it can be argued that without the investment, there won’t be jobs.  That is true, in part.  But an investment is just money: it isn’t the decision-making to run the business or the work it takes to make a business successful.  An investor doesn’t invest money because it will create jobs, an investor is looking for a return on his investment.  That’s it.  If the investment in the business creates a hundred jobs or only five, it doesn’t matter to the investor.  It doesn’t matter if the jobs created are even in the U.S.!  The only thing that matters is the bottom line.  This is probably why so many people saw through what Romney was trying to sell: it didn’t matter if he saved a business or not, he was determined to make money regardless for his investors.

Look at it another way.  We’ve all seen the commercials for organizations promising that for a certain amount of pennies a day, a child in a third-world country can be fed and educated.  What we are being asked to do is to throw money at a problem.  We aren’t being asked to run the charity or how to feed the children or anything else about accomplishing the work of the charity.  We are merely investors in the charity’s mission. We don’t expect a return on our investment other than the hope that we have made a difference in helping improve someone’s life.  This is the same condition that the so-called “job creators” find themselves in.  They are just throwing money at a business.

Now all of this isn’t to say that we shouldn’t demand responsible spending of tax revenue and cutting where cuts need to be made.  But let’s stop with the nonsense of looking at tax increases for the wealthy as a bane to business in the U.S.  If there is a chance that there will be a payoff, investors will invest.  Job creation is someone else’s responsibility.

Wailin’, Flailin’, and Failin’ for Palin

There is some nonsense that got published recently in The Los Angeles Times that is remarkable only in the fact that it is difficult to discern if the op-ed is genuine or well-crafted satire.  I shall not dignify the article other than to mention it and to say that it resurrects the misbegotten notion of a Sarah Palin run at the Presidency and also a line of thought that I have heard before: she is electable, in part, because she is attractive.

I remember back when the McCain campaign was foundering and Palin first hit the nation’s consciousness, various comments were circulating about how good she looks, even to the point of some remarks that Republican women looked better than Democratic women.  I don’t know what had me more perplexed, that some were even going so far as to lump Ann Coulter in with the “attractive” meme or that people thought that attractiveness made any difference at all.  These are, of course, the same people who would fall over themselves saying what a great leader Margaret Thatcher was.  They are also the same ones who will make comments about Michelle Obama’s ugliness.  The truth is that nobody is in a beauty contest here nor should they be; that is not what defines a great or even good leader.  Even though nearly every Miss America contestant ever asked has wanted to see “world peace”, who wants to actually put any of them in charge of achieving it?  There has to be more to a suitable leader than looks – a lot more.

If I was going to elect someone based on looks and leadership, I would gladly vote for Dennis Kucinich.  Have you seen his wife?  She is the kind of woman who causes one to ask, “how did a guy who looks like that land a woman who looks like that?!”  He must have all the persuasive ability a head of state must possess to negotiate the best deals for his country.  What a First Couple they would be!  Let’s extend the silliness even further: how about George Clooney?  He is consistently on the best-looking lists and is reasonably interested in politics.  He might even get the country to rescind the 22nd Amendment!

But let’s get back to Palin.  She is supposedly qualified because she called a corrupt administration corrupt and played hardball with the oil companies – not as an environmentalist would play hardball, but as someone trying to squeeze as much money out of them as possible – by raising taxes on their profits.  In her own way, while she played politics in Alaska, she wanted to be “mavericky” like John McCain until Karl Rove got hold of him in 2000 in South Carolina and McCain has acted like a whipped pup ever since.  Palin, for her part, has been less of a maverick and more a tool of the neo-cons and spews the party line even if she still can’t quite articulate just what the hell she’s talking about.  But the bottom line is that she is, indeed, the “Half-Term Governor”: she quit on Alaska.

But if others want to jump on their bandwagon of bad ideas, I’ll play along and design a bumper sticker for ’em.  I’m sure they’ll love it because it gets to the heart of what every red-blooded American Republican male is thinking, right?  So here we go, the 2016 Sarah Palin for President campaign:

“A wink’s as good as a nod to a blind bat,” she said, knowingly…

Not A Surprise To Me

Ha! Ha!  I just witnessed one of the biggest puss-outs I have ever seen as the Democrats begin their second day of the convention: an introduction, by former Ohio governor Ted Strickland, of an amendment to the party platform addressing the issues Paul Ryan raised about the lack of  mentioning “God” in the platform or the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.  I’m not going to get into why I believe this to be nonsensical political theater at this time, but to witness the utter capitulation by the Convention Chair Antonio Villaraigosa as he took a voice vote, which was clearly not a two-thirds affirmation, and declared the motion passed.  Unbelievable! 

This is why I don’t support the Democrats: they will knuckle under rather than stand up to some potentially bad PR.  I’m sure there are some Republicans laughing their asses off right about now.  They should.