Tuesday, June 22, 2010

SOUTHWEST OF FASCISM


It didn't start with Barry Goldwater though his 1964 presidential campaign began the realignment of racists, Klansmen, and similar bigots to the Republican Party consolidating them with the fascists of the American First Movement, the neo-fascist McCarthyites, the John Birchers and the militia movement's progenitor, the Minutemen. No, Arizona grew its own species of racism, bigotry and fascism that, honestly, Goldwater was less a part of than he was a symbol for.

But now Arizona has followed Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the contemporary avatar of Birmingham, Alabama's Jim Clark, off a cliff with its immigration legislation. Despite much blather to the contrary, Arizona has adopted a racist law under the influence of fired con-man, Lou Dobbs, the looniest ultra-right wing members of the Republican Party and it's Frankenstein monster, the Tea Party Movement.

 The right wingers object to "aliens" because they are "illegal" as if "illegal" were a quality that is genetically determined, like hair or eye color. As always we can divide those with this opinion into two groups: the sheep/fools/idiots who are too incapable of reflection to understand that they have been sold some snake oil and the scum who manufacture and sell the snake oil for fun and profit (e.g. Lou Dobbs). No person is born an "illegal" anything. Immigrants to America are those who have documents issued by the United States Government under a series of laws that favor wealth and power, white Europeans and suspect cronies of some dubious Americans and the corporate and governmental agencies who employ them. No one ever called Rupert Murdock an illegal alien even before he became a naturalized citizen in order to consolidate his media empire though he is certainly the most vile and destructive immigrant to American since Al Capone. Our laws make people, primarily black and brown people from neighboring countries, "illegal" and afford them little or no avenues to "legality". In fact, few of the parents and grandparents of those screaming about the threat of "illegal" immigration and none of their ancestors who came to America before 1879 would be "legal" under today's laws.

Plenty of people, governments and organizations are contemplating or have already instituted boycotts of Arizona on some level or other. The Arizona legislation has also energized the movement for immigrant rights while presenting President Obama with a dilemma that he doesn't need.

A poll released this week by the Northwest Health Foundation, public radio stations of the Northwest and the polling agency Davis , Hibbitts and Midghall finds that the citizens of Washington state, Oregon and Idaho finds that 61% of residents of those states support Arizona's immigration law. Another 58% would deny government benefits, including schooling, to the children of undocumented immigrants and think that those children should be deported "back where they came from" ignoring the fact that most "came from" right here and are citizens of the United States by birth. Those might seem significant majorities and lead one to cite the Federalists on the "tyranny of the majority" along with reminders that an even greater majority of residents in states from Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas east through the rest of the old Confederacy supported segregation in 1954. But the poll contains its own analysis of those attitudes. You see some 73% of residents of the three states polled also state that immigrants of all sorts are honest, hard working people. Even more people state that they have no contact of any kind with immigrants, documented or otherwise. These people who have such clear and strong opinions on immigrants are utterly ignorant of the people who are the subject of those opinions.

What comes out of the survey and information from other polling is that people are insecure in an economy destroyed, not by immigrants or poor folks, not by Al Qaeda or some Islamic fanatics but by bankers and businessmen, by the greed of executives motivated solely by profit. Yet rather than focus on the true predators in our midst, we're out with torches and pitchforks in great numbers after the people who sneak across our borders to do unskilled day labor in building our homes or to empty the bed pans of our neglected and ill elders.

British Petroleum has destroyed the livelihood of thousands if not millions, besides the 11 they initially killed, along our Gulf and Atlantic coasts in the name of saving, relative to their income, a vanishingly small amount of money. And yet we have the spectacle of Republican Representative Joe Barton apologizing to BP executive Tony Hayward in a flirtatious wave to the man as he endured a day's grilling by angry Democrats before spending a weekend relaxing at yacht races off the Isle of Wight. There has not been a more perfect display of the Republicans' true allegiance. They care nothing for the nation that suffers from their greed and malfeasance. They have no patriotism for they have reduced that to wearing a flag lapel pin and given it no more thought. Their oft spouted concern for the intent of the "founding fathers" ends the moment that the express intent of those same men runs counter to corporate interests.

No the Republicans are true fascists in Mussolini's sense of the seamless marriage of corporatism and government. Their only allegiance is to the people who pay their bills. Send Sarah Palin to Bloomingdales and pick up her bills? She'll spout any nonsense the script writers can ink on her hands. Drop an acknowledged million on Joe Barton's campaign fund and probably much more in unacknowledged perks and he'll apologize to satan for Christianity if you want him to.

Yet we allow these frauds and the scum who thump for them on Fox News to misdirect popular ire toward immigrants and the poor. No one questions these con artists when they pontificate about the injustice of passing huge national debts down to our grandchildren when the obvious answer is that they should accept the "personal responsibility" they so often trumpet and decide that we will pay higher taxes now to relieve that burden on our dear grandchildren. That's too hard to do. Besides, the corporations have legions of flacks who will trot out to disparage any attempt to fairly tax the rich and corporations, confuse the ignorant already, like the people in the Northwest survey, fearful for their continued livelihoods and squelch the true solution to our debt: pay the bill ourselves.

We are left with fear for our abilities to provide for ourselves, ignorance of the cause, confusion and ridicule of anyone who points out the real villains in the piece. Confused and ignorant we gather to the loud screeching of a Tea Party rally that becomes a lynch mob looking for someone who might be an undocumented immigrant. Sheriff Arpaio will provide security for the lynching and several Tea Partiers will bring the rope. Full coverage on Fox.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Suitable Unintended Consequences

So we now have health care reform legislation that provides for many good things in the effort to make health care accessible and a right for every American. The corporate sock puppets of the Republican Party continue to rail against it and have made destroying the reform an article of faith. Because blind, lock-step opposition to any program proposed by Democrats, especially President Obama, is the litmus test that every Republican must pass, those Republicans bent on keeping their positions (vide David Frum and the American Enterprise Institute) or advancing scramble to find ways to ingratiate themselves with the looniest, neo-fascist mob members (e.g. The Tea Party Movement) while simultaneously supplicating themselves to their corporate oligarch masters.

In my home state of Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna wants to be governor some day. He is a Republican who has rather good moderate, centrist credentials. Those are exactly the kind of credentials that will keep him from ever winning a Republican primary while Fox News is marshalling the Tea Party zombies. So McKenna has joined a gaggle of Republican Attorneys General who are suing to declare a key provision of the health care reform bill unconstitutional. The Provision they have chosen to attack is the mandate that individuals must buy private medical insurance.

First off, let me state that I think that McKenna is not just positioning himself to be acceptable to the Glenn Becks and Rush Limbaughs of the Republican Party. I think he's positioning himself as one of the adults in the case and trying to form a plausible legal argument while the neo-fascists from other states blather about nonsense on which even Antonin Scalia and his ventriloquist's dummy, Clarence Thomas, will be unable to hang a favorable decision.

After listening to a rather detailed interview with McKenna I suspect that he may be able to fashion a winning argument, one, at least, that will get a 5 to 4 decision striking down the mandate to purchase private medical insurance. In the time that it will take to get this suit to a Supreme Court decision many things will happen not least of which may be a new Justice on the bench. Some of the events intervening include the multiple provisions of the law that directly affect the lives of a majority of citizens, provisions such as students remaining on their parents' health insurance plans, a halt to recensions of health insurance coverage for the ill and a prohibition on denials of medical insurance for preexisting conditions, first for children. As those provisions take effect more and more people will come to like and depend on the reform law. Therefore, when and if the Attorneys General and Sonny Purdue's special hit man get a decision in their favor, the reform bill unravels and health care unravels.

Yet the reform will then have a constituency, a big constituency. Despite the false claims that the neo-fascists are not attacking the positive provisions of the bill, they will have done it in...not. Rob McKenna and the whole neo-fascist crew he's courting have gambled their entire future on destroying health care reform. They learned nothing whatever from running headlong into an epic defeat in Congress. Worse, even if they had the capacity to learn, their constituents, both the oligarchs and the mindless rabble, will not let them act on that learning.

The economy is improving. Better yet, the perception that the economy is improving grows stronger daily. As the economy improves President Obama and the Democrats gain strength because they gain the argument that the Republicans destroyed the economy and the Democrats saved it. If that perception continues into November and the Republicans keep goose-stepping rightward, the Democrats may retain their legislative majorities or even increase them.

So we get to the 112th Congress in January, 2011. The Democrats retain majorities in both houses of Congress perhaps even sending Scott Brown back to his pickup truck in Massachusetts and the health care reforms now have a clear majority of Americans pleased with the outcome. McKenna and the other ultra-rightist Attorneys General remove the only provision that guarantees insurance coverage to all Americans. The result might very well be the longed for and much more sensible "single-payer option" probably achieved through a universalization and broad expansion of Medicare. Thus McKenna and the loony ultra-right may achieve for us of the left what we could not achieve without their mindless opposition.

Should my preferred outcome manifest itself, look for Rob McKenna to claim credit. We already know that Republicans are more craven than your average politician in leaping, as if they were playing jump-rope, from one side of an issue to the other. I expect that Rob McKenna will try to salvage his political career in Washington by claiming that he knew it all along, that he guided the law suit specifically so that the courts would force Congress to enact the single-payer option.

A lot of speculative events would have to combine to bring about the result I've outlined but in the interim we have already had the insurance companies working hard to make our arguments for us. You see, one of the primary arguments for a government run, single-payer health plan was that it created competition for the insurance companies and forced better behavior on those insurers. Of course, the neo-fascist defenders of "free market" economics suddenly argued that in this one case competition would destroy rather than improve the market. Right-wing fanatics have never had a problem with being on both sides of an issue at once. Still, the brazenness of the insurance companies hasn't been on more transparent display than when, less than a week following signing of the health care reform legislation, they decided that they had found a semantic, quasi-legal way to circumvent the provision that they must cover children - in case you did not catch that: CHILDREN - with pre-existing medical conditions. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sibelius, quickly issued a directive that the evasion that the insurers proposed using was not only incorrect but would result in vigorous opposition from DHHS. Yet the insurers in this announcement clarified the impression that they will not accept reform quietly and are working overtime to find ways to circumvent the reforms. So much for the arguments from the American Enterprise Institute and insurance trade groups that they need no oversight or competition to enforce their providing high quality medical insurance coverage.

So cautiously I look forward to insurance executives' greed, right-wing fanaticism, and mindless opposition to any Democratic proposals creating the atmosphere in which government run health care with not only be inevitable but popular and enacted into law.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Newt and the Pope: Responsibility has been Shifted

So first there was this issue with sexual abuse of children by a number of Roman Catholic priests in the Boston Archdiocese over many decades but that was just a function of the decadent, permissive society in America. And anti-Catholic propaganda. Don't forget that any negative publicity about the behavior of the Church of Rome is always just anti-Catholic propaganda regardless of how true and accurate it may be.

Then it seems that the same thing happened in Canada and it even had implications for the government of Quebec because they lack total separation of church and state. But that was simply infection from the decadent, permissive society in America which didn't have adequate border controls to prevent French or other Canadian Catholics from independently abusing children. Just more anti-Catholic propaganda inspired from south of the Canadian border even though it mostly occurred before the first story about such abuse appeared in a U. S. newspaper.

Then, horror of horrors, the same behaviors showed up in Ireland. Ireland! Saints preserve us! The Americans have infected the people whose monasteries "saved civilization"! And those horrible anti-Catholics have infiltrated the Irish press too!

And then some German choirmaster named Ratzinger seems to have physically abused choirboys. And those anti-Catholic newspaper people, clearly non-Aryan, not echt Deutsch, and probably under the influence of the Elders of Zion have constructed the falsehood that this choirmaster is the brother of Pope Hitlerjugend I, alias Josef Ratzinger, Benedict XVI.

And worst of all, those decadent, permissive Americans have reared up again, this time in Wisconsin to put forward the obviously contumacious and defamatory charge that Pope Hitlerjugend I himself, as Cardinal Ratzinger, covered up the abuse of deaf children by a priest. These anti-Catholics have gone so far as to dress up some hired shill to pose as the retired Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland to falsely confirm the pope's involvement.

Clearly there is a vast conspiracy of Jews, atheists, Protestants, apostates and (fill in the name of the group that you, as a good Catholic, hate most here) to defame Pope Hitlerjugend I.

So, let me get this right. The Roman Catholic Church covered up sexual and physical abuse of children for decades. Any insinuation that the current pope while Archbishop and then Cardinal of the Munich Archdiocese may have known about the actions of priests, choirmasters or his own biological brothers is clearly defamatory. The current pope, whose portfolio as one of the most powerful cardinals in the Vatican at the time, was the ultimate Vatican official overseeing complaints such as those of the magnitude of the Wisconsin situation against priests had no knowledge of these cover ups. The current pope who, as cardinal, engineered the exit from the Boston Archdiocese to a sinecure in Rome far from the reach of American laws and victim lawsuits of Bernard, Cardinal Law was unaware of any of these egregious abuses. And it necessarily follows, as day follows night, that any doubts about Pope Hitlerjugend I's story are biased and unwarranted attacks on his office and the Roman Catholic Church.

We can't call this "blaming the victim" exactly because the Roman Church has avoided doing so. They leave that to various radical Catholic lay organizations for the sake of plausible deniability. However, it is certainly an absolute evasion of responsibility and a craven form of misdirection.

Simultaneously with this continuing tale of a Roman Catholic Church we have a very similar tale in American politics. Former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich, perhaps the person who best typifies the cravenness, fraud, deception, vileness and lies what are the core of the Republican Party has gone the whole hog. Rather than taking the Vatican route of farming out blaming the victims of abuse, Newt has embraced that role himself.

The lunatics of the Tea Party Movement, whipped up to a frenzy by neo-fascists like of Michelle Bachmann, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Tom Tancredo, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, started making threats against and vandalizing the offices of Congresspersons who voted for the Health Care Reform Bill. They sent envelopes of white powder (hopefully inert) to at least one Congressperson, Faxed and phoned in threats against not only the Representatives but against their families and even grandchildren, all for having the temerity to extend a basic right to health care to all Americans. At this juncture one might think that a group of cool-headed adults might step forward to discipline the out-of-control children before someone really gets hurt. Falsely presenting himself as such a grown-up, Newt came forward to insist that the Democrats who enacted the bill were responsible for the frenzy.

Of course! It should be obvious to everyone. The victims of the lunatics he and his cohorts have been whipping into a frenzy since November 4, 2008 were at fault because they weren't Newt. I expect that his excuse for his adulteries with his employees resulting in his second and third marriages had nothing to do with his ego or psychopathology but rather with the fact that wives 2 and 3 wore provocative clothing or gave signals that they wanted him to violate his marriage vows.

People listen to Newt, this neo-fascist scum bag, because of his position and the cash that ultra-rightist plutocrats keep funneling to him to keep him in the limelight. Yet ultimately he's in the same position as the current pope. Gingrich and Ratzinger are both attempting, through propaganda that might even give Josef Goebbles pause, to misdirect the focus from their own immoral, dishonest and, in some cases, criminal acts to save their own skins. Their standard enemies receive their blame because their egotistical self-absorption cannot admit of the least fallibility on their parts.

And, frankly, I am pleased, even ecstatic in both cases.

Newt and Pope Hitlerjugend I both are bent on the marginalization of their institutions. They are moving farther and farther into the ultra-fascist right both in political and religious doctrine. They reflexively excuse their worst followers while refusing to reform in ways that might gain them broader power. The scandals in the Church of Rome will continue to multiply and fester. Over 30 years of right wing popes have skewed the curia and the College of Cardinals toward fundamentalist hard liners making serious reform of the church all but impossible. The fanatics and con men that Rupert Murdock and Roger Ailes promote on Fox News along with scum like Newt Gingrich, John Bolten, Dick Cheney, Bill Kristol and the Tea Party lunatics are dragging the Republicans so far to the right that they can't even see the territory of Conservatism any longer. Even some of those who watch Fox News are inevitably going to find this extremism distasteful.

Within the Republican's corporate controlled hierarchy the purges have already begun. I have not the slightest mote of sympathy for David Frum. He's an amoral ideologue with no loyalty to anyone but the person who pays his bills. Still Frum's fate this week demonstrates that the Republican's circular firing squad has loosed its first volley. That he is, so far, the only one not to kowtow quickly enough to evade the whizzing bullets indicates the absence of anyone amongst the Republicans who isn't somewhere to the right of Benito Mussolini.

Senator John McCain, one of the very few Republicans who can fool people into thinking he's a moderate even after he opens his mouth, has claimed that Democrats will get even less cooperation from Republicans following the passage of Health Care Reform than they got before passage. How he figures that Democrats will have less than zero cooperation and even more unreasoning opposition I don't quite know but I'm sure that the neo-fascist opposition will figure it out. President Obama this week challenged the Republicans to "bring it on." I sincerely hope that they do.

If the Democrats are smart (always an iffy proposition) and emboldened (which they now are) their next legislative priority will be Senator Dodd's Banking Reform Bill. I eagerly await the spectacle of Republicans tying themselves in knots to defend their masters in the biggest banks.

The Tea Party Movement is an arranged marriage of ultra-rightists, the lunatic Libertarian fringe and some confused and worried people gullible enough to be suckered in by Republican fearmongering. Quite a substantial portion of those folks didn't like giving taxpayer money to big banks and investment houses that had just fleeced them of their retirement funds. Some will be dumb enough to stick with the right wingers but a substantial number are going to walk, run or just drift away as the Republicans insist that this isn't the right time or way to reform the banking system. The status quo in financial markets is a disaster for the small investors, homeowners, parents trying to save for a child's college education and middle-aged folks looking hard toward retirement. I fervently hope that the Republicans will defend that status quo. Such blocking of financial reform will dissolve the Tea Partiers leaving only the hardcore fully brainwashed by Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck. I only hope that the Democrats can time exposure of the Republican's suicide pact so that it falls after their lunatic fringe has picked slate after slate of unelectable ultra-rightists giving the Democrats say, 67 Senate seats and about 300 House members.

I wish I could say that I thought that the Roman Catholic Church could save itself. As an institution and as currently organized I wish it the same quick, dramatic, self-inflicted and painful demise I wish upon the Republican Party. Still it saddens me to say so because of the many, many decent, caring priests, nuns and brothers I have known to work and sacrifice for those in need of comfort and of the most basic needs for food, shelter, clothing and respect. I know that those people of sincere and deep religious calling are pained by and ashamed of the actions of their church hierarchy. Most are attached to their church in ways I respect even as I fail to understand them. Still I can feel that pain and shame and wish they did not have to go through it. I'm sure that they know far better than I that they are the source of any vitality in their church and sole hope for its survival if, it manages to survive rotting from both head and core. Pope Hitlerjugend I and his curia and College of Cardinals are the cancer that is killing their church just as Newt and his neo-fascists are the cancer killing the Republican Party.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Oiling The Cogs Of Cognitive Dissonance II

BBC listening provides me with a lot of material lately.

First, let me say that there are two uses for the term "holistic". The first definition simply means considering the whole. If we are discussing medicine - which we will be momentarily - the most benign version has the doctor considering interactions of medications, how diuretics might aggravate a patient's tendency to form kidney stones and the like. In that sense, holistic anything is wise practice and a clear boon. But the second definition is a popular one that involves a raft of New Age nonsense about auras, spiritual healing, crystals, copper bracelets, herbalism and the like. It is largely hype, sympathetic magic and con-artistry giving a bad name to those who would practice the first type of holism.

Let me also note that I have some qualms about lumping herbalism in with the other scams. As the existence of Taxol, to cite just one famous instance, proves chemicals naturally synthesized by plants can have beneficial effects on human diseases. Plants from lowly molds (e.g. penicillin) to trees (e.g. Taxol) have provided us with some effective treatments for human disease. That said, however, it give no pass to all the extremist herbalist nonsense put forward by con men looking to separate the gullible and the desperate from their cash. I saw this foolishness first hand some years ago. A very dear friend suddenly collapsed one day. She had a particularly aggressive and nasty cancer. Her doctors told her that this cancer was inevitably fatal. She might live 6 to 12 months longer, sometimes people survived a bit longer. Someone in her circle convinced her that a macrobiotic diet was the answer to surviving longer so she rejected conventional treatments with chemotherapy and radiation. The disease ran its course and she was dead in 11 months. The macrobiotic nonsense did nothing for her. It was a placebo. It neither hastened not slowed her cancer's progress. It was simply worthless though a macrobiotic counselor and "holistic health practitioner" made some substantial cash by peddling their worthless trash and nonsense.

What brings this subject up is a recent report by the BBC that the British National Health Service is considering discontinuing payment to holistic medicine con men in a money saving move. A double blind study found no effect of any kind on any medical condition studied by holistic practitioners' efforts.

The radio report brought together a person involved in the study for Britain's National Health Service  and a holistic practitioner from Germany. What struck me immediately was the German holistic practitioner's insistence that his form of medicine must be valid because it has a more than 200 year history. He also insisted that "school" medicine has a bad track record because 200 years ago it promoted treatments that have since been discredited. Both statements are independently verifiable and true. What he did not say is that the quackery of times past in large part involved exactly the quackery he practices today.

A dear friend of mine has an adult daughter who has a "practice" in Southern California, an area that's almost a cliche for its eager adoption of all manner of quackery and lunatic nonsense. His daughter is a very sweet woman. She styles herself, however, as a spiritual healer and is currently making a nice living by charging clients $150 per hour for "healing" them over the phone. It is flat out quackery that persists because the one positive thing that anyone can say about this con is that no one is poisoned as frequently happened in centuries past. The hurt is simply the extraction of cash from someone stupid enough to pay for foolishness that he or she believe has more than a placebo effect.

But back to our German con man/holistic healer. I would suggest that he cannot argue that his form of medicine is effective and valid because it has been practiced continuously since the 18th or 19th Centuries and in the next breath argue that "school" medicine is less effective and valid because medical practices of the 18th or 19th Centuries were unenlightened and have been shown to be quackery. The fact is that the very practices which modern medicine from Harvey and Pasteur onward have relegated to the dustbin are the practices that our German practitioner, my friend's daughter and others like them who are either dishonest or delusional perpetuate today.

I can't applaud the British National Health Service loudly enough for their decision to call a con a con and stop wasting scarce health care cash and resources on garbage. But don't look for that to happen in the United States. Two decades ago some very well connected con men bought Robert Dole, senator from Archer, Daniels Midland, as their front man in removing many of the restrictions the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had on these snake oil remedies. In the guise of speeding drugs to the market we limited the review functions of the Food and Drug Administration. Much as Phil Gramm shilled for rapacious bankers to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 giving us the multiple banking frauds whose destructive consequences continue to ripple through the world economy, so Dole shilled for Big Pharma (you didn't think he became a viagra spokesman because he was so sexy, did you?) in pulling the teeth from FDA regulations and attacking then FDA Administrator, David Kessler.

Thanks to Dole, the FDA can report that scams like "energy" drinks, cosmetics that can cause permanent damage while effecting unnecessary and minimal changes and snake oil "breathing" remedies are ineffective but can't remove them from the market until and unless they kill people. Thanks to Dole and his corporate sponsors we now have "pro-biotics", the current manifestation of the American fixation on laxatives, that correct the problems that the processed foods with which those corporations stuff us by stuffing us with the bacteria removed from the processed foods. In short, we have less protection from scams, more crap on the market and waste more money on it both in tax dollars and out-of-pocket.

With a reform of the American health care system now enacted into law, we need to take a long, hard look at the British National Health report and start shutting down some of these scams if for no other reason than to control our health care costs. The first step in the process of putting an end to the "holistic" nonsense is to stop assuming that simply because a practice has been going on for hundreds of years it has any validity whatever.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Republicans of North Korea

Yes. I admit it. I an Un-American. I listen to the BBC. The BBC offers a look at the world beyond the United Kingdom. That view is not entirely free of prejudice but it is almost entirely free of limitations. Partly I presume that that larger view is a legacy of the British Empire on which the sun never set as opposed to America on which, to look at our Teapartiers and other neo-fascist lunatics, one would think that the sun never rose.

I have just finished listening to a report of a BBC correspondent who visited Pyongyang, North Korea's capital for my geographically challenged fellow countrymen. He attended an open meeting with college students in the North Korean capital. One young woman confronted the correspondent and asked in fluent, nearly unaccented English if she seemed uninformed about the world, malnourished, oppressed or ignorant? Clearly she was none of those things. What she was is part of North Korea's supremely entitled and privileged ruling class. Of course she was not ignorant. Of course she was not malnourished. Of course she was not uninformed about the larger world. And of course she was not oppressed because she is part of the elite that oppresses the rest of the nation.

Hearing that report I was struck by the correspondences between that North Korean student's view of her nation and its place in the world and that of our own Republican Party.

In the Republican view, they still have jobs and are very comfortably off thanks to their unconscionably enormous bonuses paid by companies they've driven into the ground at the expense of the less privileged classes. They need no "stimulus package" and, therefore, in their blinkered reasoning, no one else does either.

In the Republican view, they have health care or can afford it if they don't. They need no public option and in fact want to stifle the competition for the insurance companies which they run or on whose boards of directors they have lucrative sinecures. So what if some people they don't know die sooner of preventable diseases or have their families impoverished so their doctor friends can buy that new titanium putter and drive up the the golf course in the newest BMW?

In the Republican view, taxes, any taxes at any level, are too high because they want all of their money. Let the rest of the population make soup out of bark or grass or dirt. After all, the Republicans great-great-grandfathers pulled themselves up by the bootstraps of slaves or non-union workers or exploited immigrants to create the trusts, family foundations and dummy corporations from which the current generation draws a comfortable living.  Therefore, the rest of the nation, every single one of them, should be able to do the same even after the Republicans have repossessed those boots, straps and all.

The Republicans pooh-pooh the disintegration of society...except when they need to do so for fear mongering purposes to distract the attention of the hoi poloi. After all, things are quite civilized in their country clubs and gated communities and they can always hire additional armed security if things amongst the lower classes get more unruly. After all, why should they put their (great-great-grandfather's) hard-earned cash into things like education, health care, jobs programs and social services that only make the great unwashed...uppity and less suitable for service.

The terrible thing about these attitudes shared by the privileged ruling classes in North Korea and America is that the attitudes arise from a lack of empathy and willful ignorance. It matters not in which country these oligarchs live they share and retain power through a pattern of lies designed to maintain their own privileges regardless of the viciousness visited on their fellow citizens.

The Teaparty movement here in the United States is only the latest manifestation of the fact that lying loudly and long enough will always convince one third of the population of your rightness and confuse another third sufficiently to provide an opening for the oligarchs to regain or maintain control.

And oh, if you are worrying about your health, unemployment or mortgage payment those of us who profit from your predicament think it's really all your own fault, but never mind...look over here...there's the Super Bowl...er...Olympics...Final Four...er...some starlet not wearing panties is scooting across a limousine seat.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Miscellany, January, 2010

To paraphrase Benjamin Disraeli, "There are four kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, statistics and Fox News."

The people who are most violently opposed to abortion are those whose parents could have gotten the greatest benefit from the procedure.

Similarly, I completely agree with Barney Frank who observed a couple of decades ago, "Republicans believe that life begins at conception and ends at birth."

Religious fundamentalists and rabid sports fans are living proof that evolution doesn't hold true...in all cases.

Orly Taitz was not born in the United States. Her hair color and grasp of the law are equally honest.

The louder, more often and more emphatically you say you're a "CHRISTIAN" the less likely you are to be one.

If the people who believe in "The Rapture" are the people who will be populating Heaven, being left behind is going to be a picnic. Besides, I'll have my choice of cars.

If the neo-fascist ultra-right thinks Sarah Palin is a leader why haven't we just won by default?

I just adore protesters opposed to single-payer, universal health care who chant, "Hands off my Medicare!"

Shouldn't we ask the police officers murdered from October, 2009 in Washington State whether they think that the Second Amendment conveys an individual right to own firearms? Oops! My bad. They were shot so we can't ask them.

I have ancestors who served in the American Revolutionary Army including at Lexington and Concord. The current groups calling themselves "Minutemen" are an affront to all those who fought for American independence though they fit right into the traditions of Italian Black and German Brown Shirts.

Ditto for the Teaparty Movement.

The essence of Libertarianism is, "Do unto others, grab as much as you can for yourself and get out of there before you're caught."

Nobody needs to undermine the authority the Roman Catholic Church while so many its priests, bishops and cardinals are doing such yeoman service in undermining it themselves.

Nobody does enough work or works hard enough to justify salaries, let alone bonuses of more than $1,000,000.00 per year.

Stupid us! We give sports, movie and rock stars multiple millions of dollars while they are still in their teens and twenties and then we are shocked (SHOCKED!!!!) when we find they're using drugs, alcohol and screwing everything that passes within reach. Exceptional talent doesn't mean that the person is any brighter than the guy mumbling to himself while dumpster diving.

Not everyone can be President of the United States nor should be. We just spent eight years under the administration of criminals and fools, hopefully putting that idea to rest.

The Bush family is living proof that the British Royal Family isn't the only one suffering from in-breeding.

That Newt Gingrich still speaks about "traditional family values" is irrefutable proof that the right-wing hasn't a single shred of integrity or honesty.

As a cynic and lover of irony, I am delighted that the party of Mark Foley, Larry Craig, Mark Sanford and David Vitter is the party of "family values".

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Facing Satan

If we atheists didn't already have Pat Robertson we would have to invent him.

Actually, fundamentalism is the best thing that ever happened to atheism. It's far harder to rip apart a Prince of Peace or a god whose embodiment is love than it is to piss all over blinkered idiots whose god spouts war on unbelievers and hate generally. As I've written before here, fundamentalism is not religion; it's religiosity. That doesn't keep some of the people who are foolish or stupid enough to adhere to it from being pleasant generally and even decent under narrow circumstances. But narrow is the active word here.

I don't believe in either a Big-Imaginary-Friend-In-The-Sky or Satan. I believe that what good there is in the world comes primarily from people being kind and decent to one another in living this life as if it were the only one they will ever have (because I think it is). I also believe that the bulk of evil in this world - and there certainly is evil even without a satan - comes from people being hateful and selfish and narrow minded toward others while living this life as if it were a rehearsal gone wrong as they wait for some reward in another life that will never come.

But let's, for a moment, postulate  universe in which both that Big-Imaginary-Friend-In-The-Sky and Satan exist. If I were satan and wanted to drag as many fools to hell as possible, I can think of no better Pied Piper for the task than a neo-fascist hatemonger disguised as an avuncular fellow who professes himself to be a CHRISTIAN. You want proof? The 700 Club's name derives from the number of the Beast, 666, and Pat Robertson's official age in 1964, the year Barry Goldwater was defeated for the presidency and the year that Lyndon Johnson decided to make sure that Pat's father was defeated in his next senatorial campaign. That's right, folks, Robertson's own program identifies him as an agent of satan.

Want more proof? It's a "club", right? And what color are clubs in a pack of cards? Right! Clubs are black! And satan is the prince of darkness and darkness is black. It's right there in the name.

Ridiculous?

According to Pat Robertson today, January 13, 2009, "Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French ... and they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, 'We will serve you if you'll get us free from the French.' True story. And the devil said, 'OK, it's a deal,' . Ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after another."

How would Pat know it's a "true story"? He couldn't...unless he was there! He has admitted it. In 1804 Pat Robertson himself was in the meeting between the rebellious black slaves of Haiti and satan. Now, we know that Pat certainly is not black...of African descent, I mean. So if he's not a former Haitian slave that only leaves one other presence in the meeting...satan. There you are, boys and girls, proof positive or certainly good enough for Pat Robertson and Glenn Beck, that Robertson is, himself, satan and no other.

You want more proof?

Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere and not because its people lack industriousness or invention. It is poor for a variety of reasons that range across the natural, personal and political spectrum over two centuries. Someone who controls such things must hate Haiti, right? But Jesus loved the poor. Jesus comforted the poor and afflicted so whoever is harming Haiti must be working counter to Jesus. And who is the adversary of everything CHRISTIAN and religiose?

Whoever said, "Richard Dawkins" should just close this blog now. You don't get it.

No, silly, it's satan again. Satan has visited on Haiti this massive earthquake. It killed the Archbishop of Port au Prince, didn't it? Or would Robertson say that's simply because he was a Catholic? I'm not sure on that one. Still, obviously this is satan's handiwork and satan himself, Pat Robertson, is trying to throw everyone off the track.

Or, perhaps we could look at things a little differently.

Isn't it possible that the Haitian slaves of the 18th and 19th Centuries felt that slavery was an injustice counter to every decent Christian religious principle? Isn't it possible that they were inspired by the revolutions in America and France to seek their freedom and independence? But then again, isn't that another proof that Pat Robertson is satan? After all, who but satan would ascribe to satan a yearning for freedom and independence? Or is it, perhaps, that Pat Robertson is really saying that in 1775 a group of delegates from colonies met in Philadelphia and made a pact with the devil. John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and the rest said to satan, "We will serve you if you will free us from the English." and the devil said, "It's a deal." Perhaps that is what Robertson is saying, after all, he was there. He would know.

Monday, January 11, 2010

E-Klan Robes

The argument is utterly absurd on its face.

Here in my home state of Washington and now in Federal Court in California right-wing bigots are claiming the right to wear virtual hoods over their heads. The ironic and absurd contention is that if these terrorists are identified in public they may be subjected to ridicule and intimidation. On its face their argument is that we bigots have an inalienable right to intimidate others but no one else should dare to assert a phony right to intimidate us.

The issue here is not race hatred but rather hatred of gays, lesbians and transgendered individuals who are seeking equal rights with their heterosexual peers.

Back in May of 2009 the Washington Legislature finally gathered the courage to pass what we refer to as the "Everything But Marriage Act" allowing domestic partners of either sex the full benefits of marriage but without legalizing same-sex marriage per se. This act skirted an issue in Washington created by the bigots themselves. In 1998 a voter initiative passed creating a Washington State "Defense of Marriage Act". Marriage, which has had a sad and checkered history throughout time, has been an institution used briefly and, sometimes often, for a half century in America but the threat from which the red-neck bigots and fundamentalist loonies found it needed defending was the possibility that couples of the same sex might marry. Their hysterical rant claimed that heterosexual marriages were somehow threatened by homosexual marriages. How and to what effect they never could coherently specify. The best argument they could muster was that their Big-Imaginary-Friend-In-The-Sky said it was a no-no. This, of course, came from people whose direct antecedents claimed that Afro-Americans were an "inferior" race based on the advice of that same Big-Imaginary-Friend-In-The-Sky. With the Washington "Defense of Marriage Act" on the books, legislators had to tread a bit lightly. Thus they did not do the obvious and correct thing in having the "Defense of Marriage Act" declared unconstitutional followed by passage of a bill extending full marital rights to same-sex couples.

Light tread or not, the bigots marshaled their night-riders and set out to terrorize the state. On September 1, 2009 the Republican Washington Secretary of State certified initiative petitions containing enough signatures to put Referendum 71 on last November's ballot. The bigots are not without lawyers. After all Kenneth Starr and Antonin Scalia are, sadly, still breathing. They managed to couch the petition in language sufficiently obtuse that a Yes vote retained the "Everything But Marriage Act" while a No vote would have repealed it. Thanks, in part, to the bigots' efforts to confuse voters about their purpose and their success in doing so, Referendum 71 was defeated in the 2009 state elections. But what is relevant here is the history between September 1 and November 5, 2009.

Initiative petitions are public documents. That is and has been settled law in Washington State and throughout the United States. But when a pro-gay rights group in Washington announced plans to create a public, on-line database of the signers of the Referendum 71 petitions, all hell broke loose amongst those awaiting The Rapture. Good heavens! They were simply trying to deny equal rights to others and now they might face discriminatory treatment themselves! Horrible! That is, after all, why Klansmen wore hoods!

The courts, up to the U. S. Supreme Court in the person of "Justice" Anthony Kennedy, decided to punt on the issue. If I am being charitable, and, being a dyed-in-the-wool Lefty, I must be even when it grates, I suspect that the punt was meant to split the difference between the settled law that the petition signers' names are public records and the worry that they would be targeted for some unspecified violence (burning rainbows on their front lawns?). In any case, election day, 2009 came and went. The odious Referendum 71 went down to well deserved defeat and the case became moot.

Now we have a trial in Federal Court in San Francisco, California raising the issue of the even more odious Proposition 8 which actually amended the California Constitution to outlaw same sex marriages. Judge Vaughn R. Walker presiding over the case, a Libertarian-leaning appointee of Poppy Bush, wanted to televise the proceedings. Once again the right-wing night-riders objected to having their hoods removed for a broad public claiming that they might be subject to witness intimidation. A compromise went for nothing and now the Supreme Court, once again in the person of Anthony Kennedy, has punted but this time with a level of unabashed absurdity that exponentially exceeds the Washington case.

Indeed, the bigots won't appear in inglorious color on YouTube but there is nothing to prevent any person attending the court proceedings from reporting their names and other identifying information in any public forum available. In short, the Supreme Court injunction will do nothing but turn a video record into verbal reportage.

Yet the very real issue is one of darkness and light. Light, whether sunlight or scrutiny, disinfects. Lots of noisome things grow in the dark. The bigots who promote gay bashing, whether in individual, physical attacks or in public legislative attacks on our gay brothers and sisters, need to be brought out into the light to disinfect our society. The real issue is that these bigots are ashamed of their vile bigotry just as the Klansmen that they resemble needed hoods to hide their identities from the larger public. When we turned over the racist rocks under which Byron dela Beckwith, Cecil Price, Lawrence Rainey, Sam Bowers, Robert Chambliss and Thomas Blanton cowered, the killings and bombings stopped and Afro-Americans could go about their business in Mississippi and Alabama with far less fear than when the hate of those monsters festered in the darkness. It's now time to expose the current crop of night-riding bigots to the light so that their public shame and native cowardice ends this odious chapter of American bigotry.

We had to wait thirty years for the play and subsequent movie Inherit the Wind publicly showing the vacuousness of the fundamentalists in the Scopes Monkey Trial. I doubt that we will have to wait so long for the public display and discrediting of this new subset of bigots. It won't do away with the bigotry in itself just as we are still battling over evolution eighty-five years after William Jennings Bryan discredited himself and fundamentalism in Dayton, Tennessee. However, dragging the bigots into the light will quiet them and purge the public forum of their hateful viciousness.

We need this publicity not only for ourselves but for our world as well. The fundamentalist bigots are now financing and promoting gay bashing legislation in Uganda that is only slightly different from that in Hitler's Germany. Their churches and the overflowing, tax-free offerings on which their ministries of hate depend operate in darkness. They preach that they "hate the sin but love the sinner" while sponsoring the death penalty for the sinner. Public exposure of their bigotry will necessarily cut into the offerings in the plates passed on Sunday mornings as people unwilling to be publicly associated with such odious policies opt for other, less extreme places of worship.

So I am cheerfully awaiting the first reports of the names, addresses and even cell phone pictures of the bigots who want to deny that most American belief that "all men are created equal" and the fulfillment of that in the assertion that we all have equal rights regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, or who we love.