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High Plains Grifter Redux

 

I had hoped to post nothing more about our High Plains Grifter Cliven Bundy. He is, after all, an inconsequential little man with a petty grievance against the Federal government—a grievance about which he is clearly wrong, as decided several times in various courts. Most people were not at all charmed by his cowboy hat, homespun dialect, and his inability to string together two coherent sentences. Except for Sean Hannity, of course.

Once again, he is, quite inadvertently, illustrating something important that we need to pay attention to. The important part of this circus are the “militia” men who have found something to do other than tromp around the woods on the weekends playing soldier.

They have flocked to Nevada to protect our grifter from the tyranny of the rule of law, due process, and the property rights of everyone except for the grifter himself. After all, who needs laws when you have guns?

They have stuck with him even after he revealed himself to be a deeply ignorant, racist buffoon (who could have seen that coming?).

But now they have gone a step further. They have set up “check points” to verify the local residence of any citizen who happens to be travelling down a road that they are blocking. Again, who needs laws when you have guns?

So we are left to wonder what happens when a person decides not to comply with their orders or not to stop at their “check point”?

Do they open fire? Do they kill an innocent citizen for the crime of not recognizing their self-proclaimed authority to decide who is allowed to travel freely on a public road?

Fun Fact: since 9/11, right-wing extremists have killed more Americans than jihadi extremists.

(Note: Word Press is having some trouble connecting to the embedded link. Gere it is:

http://digitaljournal.com/news/politics/since-9-11-right-wing-violence-has-killed-more-in-us-than-jihad/article/381055)

It is time for legal authorities to end this circus and send the soldier-boy wannabes back to the woods.

Resisting Tyranny–Right Wing Extremist Style

In a prior post I posed a rhetorical question—with all of the bluster coming from the NRA and extremists gun owners about the need to have their little arsenals to combat government tyranny—what would the resistance actually look like if it ever had to leave the realm of empty chest thumping posturing and actually be put into practice?

Recently, the extremists provided a not so rhetorical answer. Enter Cliven Bundy, and his chief cheerleader, Sean Hannity.

Cliven is a dyspeptic angry white guy with a cowboy hat and some guns. That makes him a “good” guy by definition among right wing extremists. Also, he is a Nevada cattle rancher who denies the existence of the Federal government and appears to have no regard for property rights, other than his own. He does not mind having the benefits of being a citizen of a government that he denies exists. He will take the benefits–but the obligations that go with it? NO SIR!

Cliven owns a 160-acre ranch out in the brush land—a plot too small to support the grazing needs of his cattle. Like thousands of other ranchers in these same circumstances, he grazes his cattle on vast tracts of Federally owned land. Unlike most other ranchers in the West, Cliven refuses to obtain permits and pay the required fees for the commercial use of the public property.

In other words, Cliven is a either freeloader, welfare cheat or a thief. Take your pick. One thing he is not is a patriot.

But Cliven is more than a little savvy about public relations and media management—especially in the manipulation of right wing media like Fox. So with a little help from the ever-gullible Sean Hannity, this little land-use dispute (which has been going on for decades) erupted into a media firestorm, which brought the militia-type gun nuts streaming to the scene to protect this poor farmer from the tyranny of the Federal government.

What is interesting is not Cliven, who is, after all, just an inconsequential little man with a petty grudge against the Federal government. What is very interesting, however, is the response of the gun-nut militia loonies.

THIS is the issue that provokes them to rush to Nevada and take up arms against tyranny: to protect the God-given right for Cliven to appropriate land that he does not own for his own commercial gain.

Fortunately, the Bureau of Land Management deescalated the situation, knowing full well that a few hundred trespassing cows was not worth bloodshed. They, after all, have other means.

Not so the self-appointed “militias”. As I watched them “deploy” on the highway overpass with their (presumably) loaded weapons trained on sworn Peace Officers, it occurred to me that they had answered my rhetorical question from last summer. The Revolution will be televised.

And this is what it will look like.

We will have the gun nut manly men standing around a microphone “protecting” the right wing hero de jour, with their arms crossed, scowls, store bought camo pants, sunglasses, faux-military badges (Pretorian Guard! Scared yet?) looking all bad-ass. They will be signaling that yes, they are quite willing to shed blood over this or that petty grievance against the tyrants. Especially if the tyranny involves some land use regulations that keep free loaders from stealing from the rest of us.

Then there will be the snipers who will transform themselves from patriots to cop killers.

The tactics they would employ take a page from Saddam Hussain (putting civilians in high value bombing targets): Former Sherriff Richard Mack advocates putting the women between the tough bad-asses and the constabulary.

Why, one might ask? Because it would make great TV of course. Former Sheriff Mack proclaims::

We were actually strategizing to put all the women up at the front,” he said. “If they are going to start shooting, it’s going to be women that are going to be televised all across the world getting shot by these rogue federal officers.”

Hannity must beside himself anticipating the ratings bump.

Not to worry. Former Sheriff Mack is no coward. He promises that when the women are killed on TV, he would be right behind:

I would have been next. I would have been the next one to be killed. I’m not afraid to die here, I’m willing to die here. But the best ploy would have been to have had women in front…

A grateful nation sighs with relief.

But this would be just the opening act. I think we all know what the closing act will be, especially if one of these sacrificial women manages to kill a police officer. How long would these tough guys and their sacrificial women hold their concrete barricade on the overpass when the helicopters negate whatever protection they think they have shooting through the narrow slits in the concrete? My guess it will take less than two minutes before the tough guys with their AR-15s, scowls, store bought camo pants, sunglasses, faux-military badges take for the hills.

Maybe they will leave the women behind in a rear guard action so they might escape.

Of course, they could go out Symbionese Liberation Army style and all die in the great confrontation. But they don’t appear to have that kind of motivation. I could be wrong.

I will close with another rhetorical question: What would the country be like if these bad asses showed up to protect an inner city kid from out of control police?

The family of Oscar Grant knows government tyranny.

 

Update April 24, 2014

Now that Cliven Bundy has shared with us his views on “the Negro”, he has revealed himself to be not only a crank and a grifter, but a deeply ignorant racist as well. The conservative media, who had lionized him a week ago, are fleeing like the devil flees holy water.

Especially Hannity, who tried to exploit this delusional old fool for a ratings bump. All of this was predictable, interesting, but ultimately, not important.

The fascinating part of this turn of events, is the response of the “militia” loonies who remain on the scene, guarding this fraud from government tyranny. It looks like they are standing by their man, freedom lovers that they are. Now we know why these bad asses do not rush to the defense of young inner city people who suffer government tyranny every day in the form of abusive police power.

They will not admit it, but their actions speak far louder than their words. Race matters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://benswann.com/truth-did-bundy-ranch-protesters-put-women-between-themselves-and-armed-federal-agents/

 

Biblical Literalists Have Picked the Wrong Fight

The Biblical literalists are again making fools of themselves for choosing to be in the wrong fight. Because they are trapped by the ideological chains of the literal truth of every word in their version of the Holy text, they have managed to frame the discussion, that they started, in such a way that there is only one outcome: they lose. They keep insisting on trying to answer how questions with why answers. More on that later.

They are reacting badly to the reboot of Cosmos, hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Cosmos is a brilliantly conceived and beautifully produced revisit of the original brainchild of Carl Sagan. Both the story and the science are compelling, and anyone graduating from high school should be at least conversant with the basics of the series.

But noted Biblical literalists are unhappy because it does not conform to what they consider to be the teachings of their religious faith. They are upset that the series does not give their views equal time, or even a mention.

But they are wasting their time on the wrong fight. No serious or educated person is going to debate or even discuss Creationism (except for Bill Nye, who only managed to add false credence to their stubborn insistence in believing non-facts). They can push as hard as they want about Intelligent Design (the teaching of which in public schools has been ruled illegal) or smugly point out that Evolution is merely a “theory” (showing that they completely misunderstand the meaning of the word when used in a scientific context.) There is a cottage industry on the web devoted to promoting Creationism and trying to debunk science.

Although they don’t quite yet get it, but scientific knowledge and progress is happy to keep moving forward without them. Although they can retard this progress at the margins by teaching pseudo-science in the various Christian academies and other private schools (and surprisingly, at taxpayers expense in some schools), the only thing they are really accomplishing is not preparing their unfortunate students to compete in a modern, globalized, information-rich world. They are however, preparing their students for a life of poverty and isolation. Fortunately, the smart ones will eventually find a way to overcome this handicap.

The more they try to defend Creationism, the more ridiculous they sound. Here are two arguments for Creationism that I have come across on the internet in the wake of the Cosmos kerfuffle:

  • In trying to “prove” that a vessel (Noah’s Ark) of the dimensions described in the Bible could, in fact, hold two of every animal on earth including those not indigenous to the immediate area: God probably miniaturized the animals and miraculously had them all lined up and ready to go! Microbes are not mentioned, even though they are the basic building blocks of life. But then, Bronze Age story-tellers did not know about microbes, did they?
  • In trying to reconcile the fossil record with the Young Earth Creationists story: Jesus put those dinosaur bones in the various levels of the Earth’s crust to test our faith!

This, of course, is the kind of groan-inducing, head-slapping nonsense that makes the ardent Biblical literalists appear to be nothing more than home-schooled, ignorant rubes. If their prime mission in life is to spread the Gospel, then turning themselves into clowns with size 24 shoes is not going to help.

When fundamentalist Christians get wrapped around this axle, they are doing their faith and their message a great disservice. This nonsense does not invalidate their primary message, only obscures it and makes it especially difficult for the young, the educated and the reasonable to even see it. We are starting to see genuine declines in religious affiliation, in no small part due to this incoherent gibberish.

That’s why I think they have picked the wrong fight.

Stephan Jay Gould, in his 1997 book Rocks of Ages, offered an elegant way to reconcile scientific fact with religious belief. He introduced the concept of Non-Overlapping Magisteria.

His solution? Don’t try. They are irreconcilable. But that does not mean that one invalidates the other. I cannot do his formulation justice in a brief blog post, and I admit that I may have some things wrong. But I will offer my take-away, in the hope that it may be thought-provoking for some people.

There are two fundamental questions essential to the human spirit. Wrestling with both questions is fundamental to not only our existence but to our progress. They are also required to keep our big mammalian brains busy. The questions are how and why. Science concerns itself with how. Religious belief systems (should) concern themselves with why.

The two should not cross, thus Non-Overlapping.

Take for example, global warming (if you are one of the dwindling minority who deny global warming, or question our agency in it, then read no further. This part will only piss you off and I am not in the least interested in your ignorant hate mail. Science does not require your endorsement to be true.) Scientists have done a very good job of documenting and explaining the how of global warming. We all know the story—carbon emissions, rising average global temperatures, ocean acidification, charting the time until the collapse of various ocean ecosystems and the rest of it. But even when they try to explain why—industrial revolution, burning fossil fuels, increasing worldwide affluence, etc., they are still stuck in the how.

Getting to the why requires reflection on the nature of man, our place in the Universe, our destructive and wasteful nature and even sin itself. Honest reflection on these matters requires an intellectual, moral, philosophical and spiritual framework that science cannot hope to provide.

Another example is the Biblical story of Noah’s Ark, and another mini-kerfuffle because of the movie Noah. The Biblical story is an extinction story. We know from the fossil record there have been five great extinction events in the Earth’s history (the Permian extinction came terrifyingly close to wiping out all multi-celled organisms on the planet.) Some scientists are becoming convinced that we are in the midst of a sixth great extinction, this one caused by us. But that’s the how part of the extinction story.

But isn’t the Noah story also about the why? Isn’t the story ultimately about the destructiveness of sin and the power of redemption? Science cannot answer these questions-but these questions are every bit as important to the human experience as the scientific how.

So when Biblical literalists get into these fights about the plausibility of the Ark actually holding two of every animal on Earth, or how an ancient wooden craft could withstand rainfall of six inches per minute for 40 days and nights and survive, they are obscuring, in fact missing altogether, the deeper spiritual questions of why. After all, Bangladesh goes through periods of rains lasting 40 days and 40 nights every year and we are all still here.

The Noah story could not possibly be literally true, any more than God created the universe in six days (the sun wasn’t created until day four, after all) and the Earth is not 6,000 years old. But there is spiritual truth to all of these stories. A truth that will remain obscure as long as the Biblical literalists continue to stubbornly cling to this demonstrable nonsense.

The Biblical literalists should stop trying to make their faith answer the how questions. It is a losing game for them—and besides, we have science for that.

Why Vladimir Putin Should Enter the 2016 GOP Primaries

Vladimir Putin could make a credible run be the Republican nominee for President n 2016. In some ways, he would be a near perfect candidate for the non-Paul Republicans and he should consider it seriously.

There is the problem of his non-native birth of course. But don’t we already have a precedent set by the current occupant of the White House? The Evil Liberals and their compliant lap dogs in the Main Stream Media have already installed a Kenyan as President, haven’t they? They have concocted an amazing conspiracy including obviously phony stories of birth announcements in the local Hawaiian newspapers, doctored birth certificates and so forth. And hasn’t Donald Trump told us that his investigators have turned up information that even they can’t believe?

If the Evil Liberals can pull this off, imagine what all of the truthful, righteous, fair, balanced and completely unbiased right wing media outlets could do! Is a Putin presidency really so far-fetched?

If Putin could enlist Fox News, Brietbart, Matt Drudge, PJ Media, Orley Taitz, Donald Trump (of course), Red States, the Koch brothers and the thousands of drooling right wing bloggers who are right now sitting in front of their Internet machines sputtering and fuming about the Kenyan-Marxist-Communist-Nazi-Satan Incarnate and Destroyer-of-Liberty, then anything is possible, right? He does have a funny name, but certainly no funnier than Barak. And he is, after all, white.

I know that Putin would have some trouble with the English-only crowd, but Putin’s English is already better than Sarah Palin’s and they love her.

And then there is gun control. The NRA is not going to be very happy about this, but given his other compelling attributes and qualifications, I am sure something can be worked out.

So let’s consider Vladimir’s qualifications.

First of all, he is trustworthy. George W. Bush said so.

Secondly, he is a manly man. He doesn’t wear mom jeans! He wrestles bears! He drills for oil (drill, baby, drill)! Sarah Palin swoons.

He is anti-gay. He has unleashed violent thugs to commit violence against LGBT people, all with government sanction! He is a Lion of Christianity! We await with glee the fate of the Muslim minorities in Crimea.

He does not tolerate freedom of speech or any form of dissent. Pussy Riot goes to jail! Journalists disappear and are killed 

He is unconcerned with income inequality. In fact—he enables it. The Russian Oligarchs rule with impunity, pay no (or very few taxes) enriching themselves beyond imagination, while the Russian economy delvers a staggering 1% growth rate! In that Russia is a rotting kleptocracracy, Putin has already delivered the kind of corrupt state that we are heading for—only he got there first. A man truly ahead of his time.

The Koch brothers must be weeping with with envy.

Putin is a real leader. Matt Drudge, Rudy Giuliani, Matt Barber, Pat Buchanan, Sarah Palin and Sean Hannity say so.

I will close this post with two observations that should seal the deal: Franklin Graham, the scion of the revered evangelist Billy, wishes that Obama were more like Putin. And Bryan Fisher with that “Lion of Christianity” business. That should settle down the religious right.

Finally, Austin Ruse, a Catholic lay leader of some sort, believes that liberals should be taken out and shot.

Sounds like a Putin voter to me.

So get on board! Do you feel the momentum?

Putin Makes Fools of the American Right…Again

This story starts with George Bush’s invitation to Vladimir Putin to visit the family ranch in Crawford in 2001. As Bush noted at the time, “If I didn’t trust him, I wouldn’t have invited him to the ranch.” Even at the time, it was hard to make sense of this. Did he convince himself that Putin was not going to make off with Laura’s good china? But in the next sentence, we go down the Bush rabbit hole (the first trip of many): “I looked into his eyes and got a sense of his soul.”

In 2008, Mr. Trustworthy Soul Mate launched Russian troops and armor into the independent republic of Georgia, Czechoslovakia-style. The world was outraged. “We are all Georgians now!” bleated John McCain.

Did the American Right excoriate President Bush for being feckless, indecisive and weak? Or even being a bad judge of character (he certainly was that, among his many other flaws)? No. The American Right was really, really mad at Mr. Trustworthy Soul Mate. But they eventually cooled down and Mr. Trustworthy Soul Mate did not care. Russian troops are still there to this day.

When we all got used to the idea that Russian troops were not going to leave Georgia until Mr. Trustworthy Soul Mate said so, the American Right resumed their love affair with Putin. Why not? In prior posts I have commented on the deep authoritarian streak in the American Right. No need to rehash it here.

Pat Buchanan: Putin is the leader of a world wide conservative movement

Sarah Palin (to Sean Hannity):

Well, yes, especially under the commander-in-chief that we have today because Obama’s — the perception of him and his potency across the world is one of such weakness. And you know, look, people are looking at Putin as one who wrestles bears and drills for oil. They look at our president as one who wears mom jeans and equivocates and bloviates. We are not exercising that peace through strength that only can be brought to you courtesy of the red, white and blue, that only a strengthened United States military can do.

Note: I included the quote instead of just a link because Palin’s butchered syntax is just as hilarious as ever.

Liberty Counsel’s Matt Barber: Putin is the world’s moral leader

Sputtering Evangelical lunatic Bryan Fischer: Putin is a Lion of Christianity especially because of use of violence against gays, appearently.

Matt Drudge: Putin is the leader of the free world

The list goes on and on.

Which brings us to, you guessed it, Ukraine. When Mr. World’s Moral Leader (I upgraded his title) sent his troops into Ukraine the world again was outraged. But this time, the American Right blamed…wait for it…

OBAMA! Of course, all of this was caused by Obama’s fecklessness, cowardice, indecisiveness, immorality, Muslim-ness and the plain fact that he has never been photographed wrestling bears.

Hannity (predictably) This is Obama’s 

John (We’re all Ukrainians now!) McCain blames the Mr. World’s Moral Leader’s move into Ukraine on a 1983 college essay of President Obama’s:

And Lindsey Graham rolls his eyes. This was actually caused by Benghazi 

Rudy Giuliani believes that, unlike Obama, Mr. World’s Moral Leader is a real leader

Of course, the American Right cannot for a moment consider that perhaps the fact that Russian troops are still in Georgia, in spite of all our pissing and moaning, played any part in Mr. World’s Moral Leader’s cynical calculus. That would be simply to hard to pin on Obama.

The Religious Right and the Corruption of Christianity

My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right. ― Abraham Lincoln

The dangers of religion corrupting politics was well-known by our Founding Fathers. Although six generations removed from the first English settlements in the New World, they knew that the early colonists, fleeing religious persecution in Europe, lost no time in establishing their own form of religious persecution once they ran things. A form of persecution that was, in some ways, more oppressive, bizarre and cruel that the persecution that drove them to the New World. In the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the punishment for having a different point of view (religious or otherwise) could result in painful, public and humiliating punishment. In extreme cases, one could be tied to a pole and burned alive.

Hence the Establishment Clause of our Constitution which forbids an official State religion, and outlaws any proscriptive religious test to hold public office. Of course. The Tea Party extremists who are outraged because they believe President Obama is a Muslim have not read this part of the Constitution that they claim to love so passionately. Regardless of the Religious Right’s constant bleating about how this country was founded on “Christian” principles, nothing could be further from the truth. Our country’s Constitution is more a product of the intellectual elite of the day trying to apply some fundamental ideas of the Enlightenment than it was Jesus writing the founding documents through the hands of the Founders.

Since the day’s of the Reagan administration, we have seen the corruption flow the other way. Right wing politics is corrupting religion in general  and Evangelical Christianity in particular. There has always been this corruption of course. The Ku Klux Klan has always claimed to be a Christian organization, for example.

Jesus saves, but the Klan kills.

But this trend is accelerating at an alarming rate in the modern era. The hate-filled ranting of the Evangelical right bears resemblance to neither the Christianity of my youth, nor the Christian ideals that I was taught. Let’s start with the Conservative Bible. It turns out, the Bible that has been the single source of truth for Christians for over a thousand years, and has been defended as the infallible Word of God by the faithful, especially Evangelicals, turns out is a deeply flawed document—wrong in many ways, but in particular, it is just too damn liberal for today’s conservatives.

The idea is to make the Good Book more palatable to today’s conservatives. For example, they change Jesus saying “Blessed are the meek” to Jesus saying “Blessed are the God fearing”. “Meek” does not sit well with today’s chest thumping Christian Right. They have taken the passage describing the women about to be stoned for adultery out altogether, because the admonishment of Jesus to let the person without sin cast the first stone is just too squishy and liberal for today’s blustering, he-man conservatives. When Jesus says “Peace be with you”, it is rewritten as “Peace of mind be with you”. Jesus was certainly no liberal pacifist. No sir! The list of conservative revisions goes on and on.

These revisions are not based on any knowledge of ancient Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic. Nor are they based on any genuine scholarship of the original texts. The only purpose of these modern day revisions is to take out the annoying liberal slant of the Bible we have all used for over a thousand years. The surprising thing is that these non-scholarly revisions have not provoked howling outrage from the Evangelicals, who after all, claim that the Bible, particularly the King James version, is infallible and perfect as written. But as we know, right wing politics trumps religious faith.

Now that the Evangelicals are peeing in their pants in outrage because Arizona will not implement a law that out would allow them “religious” exemption from civil statutes that bar discrimination against fellow citizens, its time to step back and examine this issue in some detail.

They love to trot out the old Leviticus warhorse about homosexuality being an abomination, even as they sit down for Easter dinner to gorge themselves on ham (also a Leviticus abomination). There are many evils in the Old Testament that would not be tolerated in a pluralistic and free society: genocide, polygamy, slavery, and the slaughter of perfectly innocent people, to name just a few. There are even rules about infanticide.

Fun fact: the one rule you expect on infanticide—don’t do it!—is not in the rule book.

When I ask Evangelicals about this, their standard response is that we have a New Testament, Praise Jesus! This frees us from all of the Old Testament rules and replaces them with a message of love, forgiveness and eternal life. Except for that one tiny part of Leviticus, which seems to remain in full force and effect. This is a circle that cannot be squared and they do not even try. But no matter. Evangelicals are quite accustomed to turning a blind eye to their own flabbergasting inconsistencies and hypocrisy. Yet another example of how their political/social agenda corrupts the very message of love, forgiveness and eternal life that they say they advocate.

Another fun fact: Jesus was so perturbed by homosexuality that it is never mentioned in the entire New Testament. Yet these people are working overtime to deny American citizens equal rights and protection under the law. They are trying desperately to perfume the pig of bigotry with the pleasant scent of religious faith. But a pig is a pig—and it still smells now matter how much perfume they try to apply.

Then of course us their feverish attempt to rewrite history to conform to their social and political agenda. Here are but three examples: Tom Delay proclaims that the Constitution was written by God. Even the slavery parts I suppose. Maybe not the Establishment Clause. But if God is infallible, how do we explain the Amendments? Did God make a mistake in the original draft, and are the Amendments are just a rewrite? Or does Rev. Tom think that all the amendments should be repealed to bring it back in line with God’s original purpose? If one believes, as the Evangelical do, that the Divine is infallible, there are some thorny questions ahead.

The Christian right has convinced themselves that the Founders were fundamentalist Christians just like just like the fire and brimstone Baptists and snake-handling Pentecostals just down the street. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the Founders came from a variety of religious traditions, none of which even remotely resemble today’s Evangelicals.  Franklin and Jefferson were deists, Washington was pantheistic, to offer but three examples. During one difficult session during the drafting of the Constitution, some delegates suggested that the assembled stop to offer a prayer. Hamilton noted that he saw no reason to call for foreign aid.

The one thing that they all agreed on, however, is that religion is a private matter and the State should stay out of it. How else do you explain the Establishment Clause? Oh, right—this crowd has not read the that part of the Constitution.

Thoroughly discredited “historian” David Barton (he has no training as an historian. He does, however, have a B.A in Christian Education from Oral Roberts “University”) continues to push the strange idea that the Constitution is based on the Bible (why not? Tom Delay believes it was written by God—see above). Yet, the only mention of religion in the Constitution requires the State to stay out of it. Nothing he says or the “evidence” he provides has been validated by anyone who actually has been trained as a scholar or historian. In fact, these scholars and historians have debunked everything he has said on this topic.

Yet these myths and falsehoods persist, because this is what Evangelicals want to believe. They never let the truth get in the way of a either a good story or a warped ideology.

Report From the Fever Swamp

Lately, I have been spending some on-line time in the extremist “conservative” blogosphere and discussion forums. I put the word “conservative” in quotes because their expressed attitudes are far from conservative. More on that later.

I know I was dredging through the depths of the right wing Fever Swamp but I did it for two reasons: first of all, I was genuinely curious about what, why and how they think. Secondly, lighting up these characters  was not only easy, but also fun! Fun for a while anyway, but it did get tiresome quickly.

The first thing to report is that they HATE liberals. Not actual liberals, mind you. They hate the cartoon liberals of their fevered imagination. The liberal that they have invented for themselves is what I call the Great Mythical Evil Liberal—the Destroyer of All That We Hold Dear (to save some keystrokes, I will use the abbreviation of GMELDATWHD).

The GMELDATWHD is responsible for everything wrong in the Universe. In addition to turning the actual word “liberal” into an epithet, they have even found ways to make the slur worse (or more comical, depending on one’s perspective)—Libtard-get it? The combination of “liberal’ and “retard”, or another fun variation, DemocRATs. In these circles, this passes for clever.

This is one of my favorite sites—a perfect example of the Fever Swamp (full disclosure—its run by a friend of mine.

Here is an example of the deep thoughts on this site:

Expose the Limousine Liberals?

Do you think that the Limousine Liberals are going to try to integrate San Francisco or Marin County? Why? They already vote reliably Democrat. No they intend to mix it up in Republican neighborhoods.”

This is typical. Other than not having a clear idea of what he is talking about (who knew there are Republican neighborhoods in San Francisco?), or his connection to San Francisco politics, there is no reasoning, no critical analysis, or even evidence. The evidence that is posted on this site is just cross-posting to others that agree with him already. Just a fact-free incoherent blast at the GMELDATWHD.  Or this:

 It’s okay for progressives to keep secrets

That, by the way, is the only commentary. This is a strong implication that the GMELDATWHDs are hypocrites when it comes to privacy. But the primary link is to a New York Times article arguing for transparency and the secondary link takes one to the author of the original argument by a professor who is not necessarily a GMELDATWHD, nor does it in any way even come close to supporting the notion that the GMELDATWHDs are hypocrites. The reasoning path that goes from this article to GMELDATWHDs are hypocrites must be tortured indeed.

On a discussion forum, the preceding commentary was about how awful it is that oppressive Islamic regimes were persecuting Christians. The discussion was fairly rational, even with the blatant Islamophobia, until a genius added this:

I blame the liberals.

Of course, that got the Fever Swamp crowd hooting and snorting. But there was never any consideration to what should have been the obvious questions:

  • How are liberals responsible, especially since Wahhabism emerged several hundred years before our country was even founded?
  • Why would liberals support in any way, the most repressive and right wing regimes on Earth?

Obviously, critical thinking is in very short supply in the Fever Swamp.

The second thing to report is that they HATE Obama. This is a little different from HATING the dreaded GMELDATWHDs. This is personal, visceral, and unthinking (of course). Also, this hatred feeds on itself, in that it appears that residents of the Fever Swamp rarely interact with anyone outside of the Swamp, preferring to interact with only themselves. This creates a closed loop information cycle, and the more they talk with each other, the deeper this obsessive hatred becomes. The more they smell only their own fumes, the more poisoned they become.

This closed loop is impermeable to independent fact checking or evidence. Whenever I attempted to offer sourced evidence that was counter to their prejudice, I was dismissed out of hand as a GMELDATWHD.

What they commonly believe about Obama is well known. According to the collective judgment of the Fever Swamp, Obama is a Marxist, Communist, Socialist, Nazi, Muslim, Arab, Not Born in the United States, Trying to Destroy America and the Anti-Christ. One can Google “Larry Klayman” for some over-ripe examples. And what kind of man sues his own mother? Answer: A Tea Party guy!

None of this nonsense is based on anything that could be conceivably considered a fact. But in the Fever Swamp, facts are a low priority compared with the irrational exuberance for the articulated hatred of this President.

I noted with some curiosity that nothing will make this crowd wet their pants faster than Benghazi—the non scandal that just will not die. They are ready to impeach Obama for this tragedy, while paying no mind to the 13 attacks on our embassies and consulates under George Bush. Our diplomatic facilities are often attacked under both Republican and Democratic administrations. Yet this one is grounds for impeachment.

What’s different about this President from all of his predecessors? Anyone want to take a guess?

Anyone?

The third thing to report is that there is ZERO tolerance for differing points of view. And they really, really do not like to be challenged. Whenever I offered an alternative point of view or a direct challenge to the poisoned buffoonery, I was subjected to all manner of juvenile and hyper-sexualized insults and called all names imaginable. The only thing they know about me is that I had a different point of view, yet I was attacked for my lack of intelligence, education, family ancestry, drinking habits, screen name, drug use and of course, being nothing but pond scum, just like all the other the GMELDATWHDs. I was even threatened once.

Threats and insults are easy when one can hide behind a screen name. A perfect platform for cowards.

This unthinking intolerance is a strange and ironic parallel to the Islamic regimes that they hate so much, and are, after all, the fault of the GMELDATWHDs.

The fourth thing I can report is that there is a deep and wide anti-democratic and authoritarian streak in the Fever Swamp. This was highlighted during the discussions over last fall’s government shutdown opera.

Here we have a law, duly enacted by an elected legislature, signed by the President, and upheld, in all material respects, by the Supreme Court. Most of us learned in junior high Civics that this is exactly how a bill becomes law. But not in the Fever Swamp.

In the Fever Swamp, such a law can be invalidated by a parliamentary stunt, and if they don’t get their way, then they are willing to shut down the government, harming everyone. They take this path in spite of the fact that the President was reelected against an opponent who ran against him on the promise to “repeal Obamacare on day one.”

In the Fever Swamp, those pro-Obama votes are to be disregarded. Apparently, the right to vote is entirely dependent on agreeing with the Tea Party and the other denizens of the Swamp. Don’t agree with us? Then no vote for you!

This is consistent with aforementioned intolerance of people who do not agree with them, invented narratives to discredit groups of people they despise and obsessive hatred of same. These attitudes and bullying are alien to any concept of an open, decent and free society. This is, however, entirely consistent with almost every authoritarian and autocratic despot the world has ever seen.

There is something about democratic process that just pisses them off. These are not conservatives. They are radicals willing to disregard and undermine our long held traditions and values to simply get their way,  and insult and bully those who disagree. In the Fever Swamp, I am the conservative.

So now I will take my leave of the Fever Swamp. I will check in from time to time, if for no other reason to see what is currently making the howler monkeys jump. The Fever Swamp is, after all, an endless source of material

More Room in the Clown Car!

It was bound to happen sooner or later. I would have bet on later—but sooner it is. Just as the 2016 Republican hopefuls are piling into the GOP Primaries Clown Car for another hilarious run, the darling of the GOP moderates (the few of them that are left), Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) is stepping (or being dragged) out. Not that Gov. Christie knows it just yet, but the Clown Car is leaving him by the side of the road. Next stop—Crazy Town!

The George Washington Bridge scandal should have surprised no one—especially those that have followed his career. The pettiness of the revenge, the naked abuse of the public trust, and the complete disregard of the people (including their safety) who entrusted him with this office is signature Christie.

Its hard to believe that this was the Republican’s best hope of winning the White House. But he was, and he is no more. Farewell Gov. Christie, the sane will miss you.

So the Clown Car still has several passengers. The most prominent are Ted “Shutdown the Government Tail Gunner” Cruz, Marco “Flip-Flopping” Rubio (this should provide some happy memories for former Romney supporters), Jeb “Really, I’m Not THAT Bush” Bush and  Rand “Not Quite On This Planet” Paul. Not surprisingly all three have been dropping in the polls like gangsters with cement shoes on their way to sleep with the fishes.

There are second and third tier riders, of course, hoping for their opportunity to drive. Rick “Church Lady” Santorum and Bobby “I Have No Idea What the First Amendment Means” Jindal can hardly wait to get their hands on the wheel. But the deeper Republicans dive into the barrel, the more likely the rodeo of 2012 will repeat itself.

As in 2012, each will get their turn, and every new driver will be more hilarious than the one before. I can only hope that Herman Cain sees his great opportunity for the prize and jumps back in. It’s just not quite as crazy without him.

So to the other delusional extremists who not have figured out that the country has moved beyond their garden variety lunacy, and also have not figured out a way to gerrymander the entire nation, I say welcome! Plenty of room in the Clown Car. 

Christmas Comes Home From War

In two days, an armistice will be in effect for the War on Christmas.

Christmas will come home at last, released from the annual six weeks Fox News pageant known as the War on Christmas. A war perpetrated by [insert your favorite villain here]. At least the War accomplished one thing: Santa is white. No one died in vain.

On Christmas we can overstuff ourselves on vast amounts of food that we do not need, while scarcely thinking of those among us who have little nothing to eat.

We will open our presents of cheap Chinese baubles that have become the modern day substitutes of love, while thinking nothing of the hordes of underpaid retail workers who were forced to work on the Holidays and put up with our crap so we could get our hands on those cheap Chinese baubles. And of course, we will not think of the violence that erupted in several retail stores as we trampled over each other to get to those towels on special.

We will spend the day dozing through football, without a thought of those who have died from hypothermia, no farther away from us than a bicycle ride.

There will be a ticker tape parade in New York to honor the Fox News personalities who went to war on our behalf. And we will all join in on a rousing chorus of When Christmas Comes Marching Home Again, Hurrah! Hurrah! 

The nation rejoices.

Deficit Reduction-A Modest and Conservative Proposal

A common Republican theme is the need to reduce the Federal deficit. In fact, they were willing to shut down the government and default on our financial obligations over the issue (at least that became the big stalking horse after the “defund Obamacare” ran out of steam.

Deficit reduction should be a priority—but a long term one. Keynesians  argue that governments (including central banks) should be counter-cyclical to the business cycle. Austerity in boom times-deficits in recessions.

But the Republicans have proved very poor stewards of the economy. They squandered the surpluses inherited from the Clinton boom years in ill-conceived tax cuts while launching wars (kind of reverse war bonds). They left the economy a smoking hole in the ground at the end of the last Republican administration.

Now, in times of recession and slow-growth recovery, they are insisting on government austerity. They believe this, in spite of very recent experiences in Europe. Go here for the Irish experience. Other countries in the Euro zone had (or are having) very similar experiences. It is Bizzaro World economics.

It is hard to imagine why they are not only so insistent on fixing the deficit right now, but why they are so obsessed with it. Inflation in the economy is 1.7% (below the Fed’s target of 2%) the US dollar is still the world’s reserve currency, and most of the debt is owed to ourselves. And any speculation of moving away from the US dollar as the word’s reserve currency is motivated, not by our deficits, but because of the crisis-to-crisis management of our economy caused by Republicans.

But there is a way to satisfy the Republican obsession with immediate deficit and not ruin the economy. This is an appeal to the right-wing core beliefs of superiority of the self sufficient, paying your own way, and their natural disdain for what Mitt Romney called the “47%” in the last election.

There are some States that pay more in Federal taxes than the benefits they receive. Lets call those the Maker States. On the other hand, there are some States that receive more in Federal benefits than they pay in Federal taxes. Lets call those the Taker States. There a total of 18 Maker States that are paying the freight for the Taker States. Traditional Republican thought would hold the Makers in high esteem, and the Takers would be regarded with disdain.

So, let’s start with the premise that the Maker States should be in charge. That should be an idea that the Republicans should love.

One idea is that Federal spending should be reduced across the board in the Taker States until all States contribute at least the amount of the benefits they receive. The advantage to this is that it would result in an immediate and dramatic reduction of the Federal deficit. The problem with this idea is that it would further impoverish the Taker States and perhaps condemn them to a permanent, welfare class. The goal, after all, it is to take all the Takers and turn them into Makers. The elimination of Social security payments, Medicare supports, SNAP assistance would hurt only the already poor. Elimination of farm subsidies and defense contracting would hurt the already rich.

Another, more compelling idea is this: Only the Representatives of the Maker States could cast votes in Congress. The Taker States could still send their Representatives to Congress, they could still make speeches, sit on Committees and press their cases. They just could not vote.

What could be more conservative than that? Only the ones paying the bills get to decide stuff.

But here’s the rub for Republicans: It turns out that 17 of the Maker States are Blue (they voted for Obama in the last election). Only one is Red (voted for Romney in the last election). Most of the Representatives and Senators who are in a dead panic about the deficit are from Taker States.

A reconfigured voting Congress would like this (presented in order of relative fiscal contribution to the nation):

House Senate
Dem Repub Dem Repub
NJ 6 6 2 0
NV 2 2 1 1
CN 5 0 2 0
NH 2 0 1 1
MN 5 3 2 0
IL 12 6 1 1
DL 1 0 2 0
CA 38 15 2 0
NY 21 6 2 0
CO 3 4 2 0
MA 9 0 2 0
WI 3 5 1 1
WA 6 4 2 0
MI 5 9 2 0
TX 12 24 0 2
FL 10 17 1 1
OR 4 1 2 0
RI 2 0 2 0
146 102 29 7

The immediate advantages to this are apparent:

  1. The number of votes in the Senate to break a filibuster would be 22. Problem solved.
  2. The grown ups are back in charge and partisan gridlock disappears. This Congress wishes to raise the debt ceiling or extend unemployment benefits, or not default on our obligations, then they have the power to do it. After all, who is paying the bills?
  3. If the Taker States want a voice in the affairs of the nation, it will become obvious quickly that they need to unshackle themselves from the Tea Party and the Religious Right. They would have to stop spending so much time and energy on inconsequential issues like gay marriage, women’s right to choose their own health care options, and easing gun control laws. They could either focus on economic development so that they can get their economies into a Maker status (this is the key to deficit reduction) or they continue as wards of the State, forever imprisoned by the Tea Party.

It is hard to know what the Takers would choose. My hope is that rationality would prevail.