Sunday, October 04, 2015

Orange Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye (With the Usual Idiotic Poo Flinging by the Right Wing Monkeys)

The Pilot Newspaper: Opinion

On Friday, Sept. 25, Speaker of the House John Boehner stunned everyone (including, it seems, members of his own staff) when he announced that he was resigning not only his speakership, but also his seat in Congress, effective at the end of October.
Perhaps the most revealing thing about Boehner’s resignation was the way he approached the podium to announce it. The man best known for bursting into tears at the slightest provocation strode jauntily to the podium, nearly skipping, smiling as he literally sang, “Zip-a-dee-doo-dah.”
“I used to sing that on my way to work every morning,” he added.
From the way he said it, it’s clear he hadn’t done so in a long time. And who can blame him? I’ve frequently slammed Boehner for being the most ineffective speaker of the House in that body’s long history. But I’m not sure that there is any way to actually lead a caucus that’s contained such egregious looney tunes as Michele Bachmann and that still plays host to paranoid whack jobs like Louie Gohmert and Steve King. Not, at least, without a tranquilizer dart gun and a 55-gallon oil drumfull of antipsychotic medication, both of which I’m pretty sure are against the House rules.
I mean, how do you realistically lead people who sincerely tell themselves and each other that “even though it’s never worked before, if we shut the government down this time, the Senate will go along, Obama will cave in and allow Planned Parenthood to be defunded, and everyone will love us. And after that, we’ll hold yet another vote to repeal Obamacare”? If insanity is defined as doing the exact same thing over and over and expecting a different result, then this Congress is indeed the country’s best-dressed lunatic asylum.
Then again, maybe I’ve been exactly as hard on Orange John as he deserves. Compare his leadership, for example, with that of former Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She has had some wild-eyed, die-hard fanatics in her caucus. Dennis Kucinich and Bart Stupak come immediately to mind. And yet, when the crucial vote for the Affordable Care Act came up, Pelosi could get her people lined up and deliver the votes for a bill some of them had previously said they hated and wouldn’t vote for.
Whether you like Pelosi or loathe her, that’s what an effective speaker does. In fact, I strongly believe her effectiveness is exactly why the right-wing howler monkeys start screeching and flinging poo at the mere mention of her name. Boehner, in contrast, can’t get his people to stop grandstanding and posturing long enough to vote for things as simple as keeping the government open and paying the debts the country has already incurred.
So what happens now? Well, as the old song goes, “freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.” Since Mr. Boehner will soon shake the dust of the place off his feet and put the crazies in his rearview mirror, it looks like he’s going to dare to work with both Democrats and the few sane Republicans in the meantime to pass a “clean” funding bill that keeps the government running for a little while longer. You know, do some actual governing.
After that, however, things might just get ugly. There don’t seem to be any candidates for the speakership, at least as of this writing, who have the gumption to sit their people down and go, “Look, we’re not going to do another show vote to repeal Obamacare, we’re not going to shut down the government again because that just makes us look stupid, and let’s face it, if the longest special committee investigation in congressional history hasn’t hung the Benghazi murders around Hillary Clinton’s neck by now, it’s not going to happen. So can we actually try to get some stuff done, even if it means trying to get some Democratic votes?”
No, I fear that the Republican-“led” House of Representatives is going to sink further into delusion and anarchy. There’ll most likely be another threat of a government shutdown and maybe even default when the next funding bill runs out, just in time for Christmas. They may actually figure out a way to drive Congress’s approval rating into negative numbers.Yeah, that’ll show that rascal Obama.

THE HOWLER MONKEYS SHRIEK AND PROVE MY POINT: The idiot who calls himself "Lenny Bo" once again weighs in to tell an uncaring world how much he hates the column he faithfully reads every week:
I am one of millions that loathes the mindless Nancy Pelosi. If she is your model of a good leader, then we are all in trouble.
As usual, the howler monkeys prove my point with every comment.
Obamacare was cited as an example where she got all the dems in line for a vote. How exactly did she do that? Well, she herself said that the bill had to be passed before they read it! Some leadership skills - keep the sheep in the dark and feed them BS.
And get ready Dusty - when the committee busts the lid off of 'ol Hellery's antics, I expect you to write a similar column on her leadership skills.
You know, the wingnuts have predicted Hillary Clinton's downfall since 1992. She's been investigated and investigated and investigated again, over "Travelgate," Vince Foster, Whitewater, Benghazi etc, etc, and...nothing. But with the conviction of the truly obsessed, they tell us THIS one, by God, will get her.  As I said above, they're "doing the exact same thing over and over and expecting a different result." And that's why I call them wingnuts. 

Frequent fuckwit "fugitiveguy" weighs in: 

DR doesn't seem inclined to write about Hillary. If I remember correctly he supported her over BHO in the early going in 2007.

What utter bullshit. I supported Obama from the beginning, and I've written a lot about Hillary, not a lot of it complimentary. Once again, it seems that "conservatism" is a form of brain damage wherein they lose the ability to remember anything. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Ben Carson: Gump Republican

The Pilot Newspaper: Opinion

Dr. Ben Carson is not a stupid man.

 He’s a world-class pediatric brain surgeon. He’s a graduate of Yale University, the University of Michigan Medical School, and the residency program of Johns Hopkins Medical School. He’s been elected into the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine. The list of his honors goes on and on.
No, Dr. Ben Carson is not a stupid man. So why is he talking like one?
For instance, although he’s obviously had rigorous scientific training at some of this country’s finest institutions of higher learning, Carson continues to publicly embrace what’s called “young Earth creationism,” a theory which asserts that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old, despite the fossil records and the fact that there are observable objects in the universe (such as long-period comets), all of which are clearly much older. He’s described the Big Bang Theory as “part of a fairy tale.”
I’m reasonably sure the good doctor is talking about the generally accepted explanation of the origin of our observable universe, not the TV show. The TV show, which tells the story of brilliant but socially awkward nerds who end up having smoking-hot women fall in love with them, is definitely a fairy tale. But I digress.
Dr. Carson has also described the Affordable Care Act as the “the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.”
Now, we know that Dr. Carson is far too intelligent a man to really believe that a law that keeps insurance companies from denying you coverage based on pre-existing conditions is exactly like being forced to pick cotton from sunup to sundown under the threat of brutal flogging if you don’t do enough, having your wives and daughters subject to constant rape, and living under the pervasive fear of having your family broken up and sold to someone hundreds of miles away. Only a stupid person would believe those things are even remotely comparable, and we know Dr. Carson’s not stupid.
Just lately, Dr. Carson told NBC’s Chuck Todd he didn’t think a Muslim should ever be president. “I absolutely would not agree with that,” he said. Later, he told the online magazine The Hill that a president should be “sworn in on a stack of Bibles, not a Quran.”
Now, I’m sure that Dr. Carson, a highly intelligent man who claims to revere the U.S. Constitution, is aware of Article VI of that precious document, which states explicitly that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” I mean, he has to have read the Constitution, right? And understood it?
So why is Ben Carson saying all of these silly things? Well, he’s not simple-minded, but the rise of Donald Trump shows us that a substantial number of the GOP primary voters apparently are. They’re what I call the “Forrest Gump” Republicans. Remember that movie? It was another in a long line of stories that have fed and bolstered the uniquely American mythology of the na├»ve half-wit who’s yet somehow more “wise” than the clever but wicked people all around them. (You can probably tell I’m not a fan of the movie.)
Rick Santorum, who you may be surprised to know is also running for president this year, served up that trope with an extra side order of resentment back in 2012 when he told the Values Summit, “We will never have the elite, smart people on our side.”
At one point, it seemed that the GOP was trying to shed that image. It was Bobby Jindal — who, you also may or may not remember, is himself a presidential candidate — who said that the GOP needed to stop being “the stupid party.” We all see where that attitude’s gotten him. He’s polling slightly lower than toenail fungus. So the upper tier of Republican candidates has apparently given up and decided to go full-out Gump.Ben Carson is not stupid. But he needs stupid people to vote for him. And that’s why he says the things he does.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Ready To Do What It Takes? Not Hardly

The Pilot Newspaper: Opinion

Folks, I am going to tell y’all a secret, something that will shock and amaze you. It’ll rock your world and possibly cause you to question everything you thought you knew. In fact, if you’re not sitting down while reading this, maybe you should.
Sometimes I actually agree with Robert M. Levy.
I know, I know, it surprises me too when I look across the page at my staunchly Republican fellow Pilot columnist, read the piece next to mine, and go, “Hmmm, he may have something there.”
Oh, it doesn’t happen all the time — in fact, probably not most of the time. But I agree, for example, that we shouldn’t be undercutting the president’s nuclear deal with Iran, even as we disagree on how bad it is. Bob seems to think it’s terrible; I find it merely mediocre. But we both agree that the alternative of no deal at all is worse.
I also agree, to a point, with his assertion in last week’s column that there’s a power vacuum in the Middle East that’s making it easier for ISIS to commit atrocity after atrocity, and creating a refugee crisis of a size and urgency not seen since World War II.
The question I’d like to address in response however, is why. Bob seems to blame President Obama. I don’t think that tells the whole story. And no, I’m not blaming George Dubbya Bush, either — at least not entirely. I think the problem is bigger and wider than any one president or party.
Bob’s column recalls the spectacle of “American and Allied forces liberating Paris” and of the days when “America became the liberator of the free world as kisses were exchanged in Times Square.”
So far, so good. But remember what it took for us to do all that. The attack on Pearl Harbor shocked America almost overnight onto a war footing. As civilians lined up to sign up, our homeland standard of living changed drastically. Auto plants switched from making cars to making tanks and other war machines. New tires became nearly impossible to get. Kids collected scrap metal. Gas and foodstuffs were rationed. Buying war bonds became a patriotic duty.

And then, when the last German and Japanese soldiers had laid down their arms, we poured hundreds of billions of dollars into rebuilding their countries, because we knew that impoverished and broken countries were ripe pickings for the Soviets.
Can you imagine something like that happening now, in response to ISIS? Dear Lord, when the president endorsed a voluntary national public service program, he was accused of trying to create a new SS. His wife endorsed healthy eating and exercise, and suddenly right-wing pundits were screaming about “tyranny” and declaring it a sacred American right to raise a generation of roly-poly little couch potatoes.
We can’t even conduct a military training exercise in the Southwest without a pack of loonies — some of them in the U.S. Congress — taking to the airwaves and Internet to declare that it’s an invasion of the U.S. by its own Army. Oh, and support for “foreign aid”? Fuhgeddaboutit.
You want a World War II level response to ISIS butchery? You’re going to need a World War II level of citizen participation, sacrifice, and yes, money. And We the People haven’t been ready to do that for a long, long time.
It didn’t begin with the Obama administration. It didn’t even really begin with the George Dubbya Bush reign of error, although we did see quite a bit of the same unwillingness to even ask the people for sacrifice. Even after 9/11, Dubbya suggested we should just go about our lives, go shopping even. In the run-up to Dubbya’s Wacky Iraqi Adventure, we were assured, falsely, that “Iraq will pay for its own reconstruction” (Paul Wolfowitz), and that it was doubtful that the war would last six months (Donald Rumsfeld).
But, no, it didn’t start with them. It took years of short, easy-to-win conflicts against laughably weak opponents like Panama and Grenada to lull us into the feeling that the projection of American power and leadership is something that can be done on the cheap, something we could watch from our La-Z-Boy recliners before flipping over to watch “Jeopardy.”So the next time someone compares ISIS to the Nazis and demands that “American leadership” be used to defeat it, take a moment to think about what it took last time and ask them: Will you, personally, make the kind of sacrifices Americans had to make to defeat that enemy? Are you willing to pull together, even under a president you didn’t vote for, to make that happen? If not, then maybe in the words of the old saying, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Scott Walkback's Comedy Circus

 The Pilot Newspaper: Opinion

Scott Walker hasn’t been getting a lot of attention lately, even from the people who once touted him as a serious contender for the GOP nomination.
No one’s really paid a lot of attention to what he has to say, because let’s face it, when the circus (i.e., Donald Trump) is in town, no one wants to go to a boring lecture on policy. His poll numbers have been slipping into the low single digits, so it seems that Walker decided he needed to strap on his own clown shoes, stick on the big red nose, and get some attention from the hoopleheads.
First, he began suggesting to NBC’s Chuck Todd that maybe we don’t just need a fence on the southern border, to keep out the Brown Horde the Republicans have been using as the bogeyman in this election cycle. We may need one along the even longer northern border with Canada, to keep out the terrorists.
Asked, almost facetiously, by Todd about the possibility of a northern wall, Walker suggested with a straight face that that might be a fine idea.
“Some people have asked us about that in New Hampshire,” he said. “They raised some very legitimate concerns. … So that is a legitimate issue for us to look at.”
Doggone right. We really should look at putting up 5,525 miles of concrete, barbed wire and guard towers to keep those syrup-sucking back-bacon-eaters from pouring across our sacred northern borders and forcing single-payer health care and Rush albums down our throats.
Confronted with widespread derision, even from his own party, on the issue, Walker, fresh off his performance a couple of weeks ago in which he took three different positions on birthright citizenship in two days, began the Romneyesque tapdance of denial and evasion that’s caused me to begin referring to him as “Scott Walkback.”
“I never talked about a wall to the north,” he claimed, two days after he’d done exactly that.
Then Walker fell back on the time-honored tactic of, “Let’s find something terrible and horrifying and try to blame it on Barack Obama.” He pointed to the murders of police officers Darren Goforth  of Texas and Charles Joseph Gliniewicz of Illinois, and blamed the “disturbing trend of police officers being murdered on the job” on Obama’s “anti-police rhetoric.”
It should be noted that, as usual, Walker failed to provide any specific statements from the president that are “anti-police” or any evidence whatsoever that these terrible crimes were a result of anything other than plain criminality.
“This isn’t the America I grew up in,” Walker claimed.
Thing is, though, the America Walker grew up in was actually more dangerous for cops than it is now. There have been fewer shooting deaths of police officers during the Obama administration than there were at this point in the George Dubbya Bush administration, just as there were fewer shootings of cops under Dubbya than there were under Clinton.
The trend has been going down, significantly, for years. The Washington Post’s Radley Balko analyzed the numbers and found that “between 1971 and 1975, when Walker would have been between age 4 and 8, an average of 125 police officers were feloniously killed per year. Between 2006 and 2010, the average was 50. In 2013, just 27 officers were feloniously killed. In 2014, it was 51. So far this year, the number of cops killed with firearms is down 16 percent from last year. Two of those officers were killed by other cops.”
So why does it seem like there’s a big jump in people killing police officers when the actual number is trending down? The same reason we have a huge shark scare every summer. The sensation-driven national media can make anything look like an epidemic if they report every single instance of it as part of a “disturbing trend” — where before, the individual stories would have been left to local news.
The national media profit hugely on fear. And, not coincidentally, so do Republican demagogues like Walker. His only problem is that Trump’s doing it bigger, and with a total lack of boundaries or shame.
Maybe Walker can pull himself out of his slide. But if you’re going to try to get the spotlight off Trump, you gotta go big. You’ve got to do something to get the rubes excited. Maybe he could remind us of his track record in Wisconsin by punching a teacher in the face. Wingnuts hate teachers, but they hate Mexicans more. So find a Latino teacher to clobber.

Do that, Governor, and you can get back in there.

THE GOBSHITES SPEAK: As he does nearly every week, Pilot commenter "Lenny Bo" can't wait to tell everyone how uninteresting he finds the column he reads every week:

Walker won't last another couple of months as his poll numbers are dropping fast - he will simply go back to being governor of Wisconsin.

Hey Dusty - how about a similar piece on Hillery - her poll numbers are dropping fast too. Plus she imitates Walker by saying one thing, then doing another (learned this from Bill), she flip-flopped on the emailgate scandal, the list goes on an on. In fact Dusty, if you think about it, there is plenty of material for a dozen pieces on 'ol Hillery.
Well, I've done quite a few pieces on Hillary Clinton, and I've managed to spell her name correctly. This is yet more evidence that wingnuts suffer from that weird kind of brain damage portrayed in the movie "Memento" where they can't form memories, since they're constantly bitching "Why don't you write about [insert obsession here]" when I already have.  It's the same form of brain damage that causes then to demand why President Obama hasn't said anything about violence to law enforcement officers when he has done so, repeatedly. 

Monday, September 07, 2015

A Constitutional Inconvenience?

The Pilot Newspaper: Opinion

Right-wingers love to talk about how much they love the Constitution. But while they may love it, sometimes it seems like they don’t like it very much.
Bring up the protections of the Fourth through Eighth Amendments, and they’ll tell you that “we give too many rights to criminals.” They’re not all that crazy about the 16th Amendment, which establishes the government’s right to levy income taxes.
In fact, the only Amendment they seem to like is the Second, and they treat the first half of that (about the “well-regulated militia”) as if it were an embarrassing relative whom they don’t like to talk about very much.
The latest thing the wingnuts don’t like about the Constitution is the 14th Amendment, which provides that “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”
That “all persons” provision means that if you’re born here, you’re an American. Period. This Constitutional principle, commonly known as “birthright citizenship,” has become problematic for people who spend most of their waking hours terrified of the tide of Scary Brown People Who’ve Come to Take Our Stuff.
Donald Trump, as the current de facto leader of the Republican Party, brought the issue to the forefront. Following up on his famous “they’re rapists” comment, he laid out his plan for dealing with the estimated 11 million people already here illegally: “They have to go.”
Asked about what happens to those whose children were born here, Trump, a good family man if ever there was one, claimed we’d keep families together, but “they have to go.” When Bill O’Reilly pressed him on the question of deporting actual U.S. citizens, Trump blithely hand-waved away 147 years of 14th Amendment precedent, telling O’Reilly that “very good lawyers” had told him calling them citizens is “not going to hold up in court.”
Yes, folks, you heard right. The 14th Amendment, which clearly states that if you’re born here you’re a citizen won’t survive constitutional scrutiny, according to unidentified “very good lawyers.” In other words, Donald Trump apparently thinks the Constitution itself is unconstitutional.
This is, of course, utter claptrap, and deserving of nothing but scorn and derision. But since the majority of the Republican field are like rudderless sailboats that blow hither and yon in the wind that emanates from Donald Trump’s wherever, they began rushing to assure us that they, too, either didn’t believe in birthright citizenship at all or that they thought it needed to be done away with.
“We need to end birthright citizenship for illegal immigrants,” Gov. Bobby Jindal’s campaign declared on Twitter. Dr. Ben Carson told that “it doesn’t make any sense to me that people could come in here, have a baby and that baby becomes an American citizen.” Sen. Lindsey Graham took a moment off from gibbering about Islamic terrorists under everyone’s bed to say, “I think it’s a bad practice to give citizenship based on birth.”
Former Sen. Rick Santorum insists that we don’t have to amend the Constitution to do away with birthright citizenship. We “merely have to pass a law.” I guess this is true if by passing a statute we can change the literal meaning of the words “all persons born” to “all white persons born.”
For his part, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker seemed to be vying for the coveted Mitt Romney Ribbon for Campaign Weaselry. Walker told NBC reporter Kasie Hunt in response to a direct question that we should “absolutely” abolish birthright citizenship. Later, however, he said to CNBC he is “not taking a position on it one way or the other.” Still later, he took a third stance with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, answering “no” when asked if we should “repeal or modify” the 14th Amendment—but only after Stephanopoulos had asked him three times.
But remember folks: Only Democrats flip-flop. Republicans “evolve.” Walker’s “evolving” before our eyes like something that came out of an egg in a bad horror film.
I well remember the screaming tantrum the Republicans threw when it was revealed that Barack Obama once called the Constitution as originally written “an imperfect document … that reflects some deep flaws in American culture, the Colonial culture nascent at that time.”
He was, of course, talking about the way the original document embraced slavery as an institution, but from the way Rush Limbaugh and others reacted, you’d have thought the president had proposed using the sacred text to line the White House birdcage before setting it on fire.
Amazing, though, how disposable the beloved Constitution becomes when it comes to getting at the Scary Brown People — and their children. Principles you discard when inconvenient to your prejudices are not principles at all.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Drone Menace, Redux

The Pilot Newspaper: Opinion

OK, this whole drone thing is getting out of hand.
You may recall that, back during the U.S. Open, I wrote with some amusement about the Pinehurst Village Council’s attempts to ban drones from the event. Seems they might have been more prescient than I thought. A recent spate of news stories makes one think that drones are moving from the category of “expensive toy for people with more money than sense” to the category of “menace.”
Take, for example, an item from fire-ravaged Southern California. According to NBC Los Angeles, the efforts of firefighters battling the so-called “North Fire” were hampered when planes deployed to dump water and chemicals on it were forced away from the blaze by no fewer than five drones of unknown origin hovering in the area (no doubt to take pictures or videos).
“This is serious,” said John Miller of the U.S. Forest Service. “[Aircraft] can strike one of these things and one of our aircraft could go down, killing the firefighters in the air.” One fire captain said the drone-caused delay “definitely contributed” to the fire’s jumping of the 15 Freeway.
On a less catastrophic but still disturbing note, there’s the story of William Merideth, from Hillview, Kentucky. Merideth apparently took exception to someone flying a drone over his property (and, according to some accounts, ogling his teenage daughter sunning herself on the deck).
“When he came down with a video camera right over my back deck, that’s not going to work,” Merideth said. To illustrate just how much that wasn’t going to work, he blasted the little buzzing nuisance out of the sky with his shotgun. A few minutes later, according to Merideth, a carful of angry men pulled up, with one demanding if he was “the [bad word] who shot my drone.” In traditional Kentucky fashion, Merideth met the group with his Glock on his hip, declaring, “If you cross that sidewalk onto my property, there’s going to be another shooting.”
Unfortunately, Merideth ended up being the one arrested, charged with “criminal mischief” and “wanton endangerment.” He’s vowed to fight the charges in court. “What other recourse do we have?” he asks.
This is one of those areas in which the law simply hasn’t kept up with issues raised by modern technology. We’ve never really had to deal, for example, with the question of just how high up your property line goes. No one would seriously claim an airliner flying at 10,000 feet over your house is trespassing. But what about a drone hovering over your yard at 50 feet, snapping pictures? Exactly how much force are you allowed to use to keep some jackass from annoying, harassing, or otherwise being a jerk with his new $1,500 quad copter?
Not much, it appears, since the National Transportation Safety Board recently ruled that even private drones are considered aircraft, and therefore subject to FAA regulation. As you might imagine, shooting down an aircraft is a pretty serious crime, with penalties of up to 20 years in prison, and the law doesn’t currently seem to make any distinction if said “aircraft” is some dude-bro’s expensive toy.
No one’s been prosecuted yet under federal law for dronecide, and an FAA spokesman has opined that that would be more of a “destruction of personal property issue and out of our jurisdiction.” However, we are talking about a federal bureaucracy here, so anything’s possible, especially if it’s stupid. Meanwhile, the California legislature is trying to catch up; they’re considering a bill to allow firefighters to “disable” drones that are getting in their way.
In light of the Drone Menace, a variety of companies have jumped in to answer Mr. Merideth’s question, “What recourse do we have?” Idaho’s Snake River Shooting Products has begun marketing a special “Drone Munition” shotgun shell. “Prepare for the Drone Apocalypse!” their advertising blares, alongside pictures of threatening drones hovering nearby with glowing red “eyes.”

A company called Droneshield can sell you a “net gun” to snag drones out of the sky. If you really want to go whole hog, the German company MBDA has tested a “laser effector to acquire, track and defeat a free-flying mini-drone.” It’ll probably only set you back a few million. It should be noted, however, that the FAA also frowns on you turning a flying object into a couple hundred pounds of flaming wreckage over populated areas.
As few as five years ago, if you’d told me that clueless goobers flying hopped-up toy helicopters controlled by their cellphones would even be a thing, let alone a societal problem, I’d have laughed in your face. But these are the times we live in. What next?