Posts tagged ‘Lawrence O’Donnell’

In Other News…

The news channels I watch, mostly CNN and MSNBC have a fix on the VIIC (Village Idiot-in-Charge).  The lies and inconsistencies are starting to cascade so I thought I would turn to other news while the VIIC is in Saudi Arabia and Israel.  I mean, what harm could he possibly do there?  Obviously we need to sell them more arms to keep our war machine happy, but does anyone  then wonder why peace is so hard over there?  I just hope when he goes to Israel he doesn’t try to plant an American flag at the Wailing Wall.

So my first thought is on driverless trucking of the very near future.  As I drove back from Monterey yesterday on I-5, it occurred to me that there is so much trucking traffic that the drive could be described as cruising between truck passing zones.  Truck passing zones are those places where one truck must pass the other and for the next seven or eight miles they block both lanes as one creeps by the other.  So what happens on our two lane interstates when massive lines of trucks, driverless, chug along, I assume in the right lane actually doing the speed limit, so that the only available lane for travel is the left lane (pretty much as it is now)?  I would think we would need a massive building project to add another lane so that traffic is not totally controlled by trucks as it is now.

My second thought is the new study of the Antarctica ice sheet.  Did you know that it contains 60% of the fresh water on the earth and if it completely melted it would raise sea level by 160′.  Did you know it is melting much faster that we thought so what does that do to our predictions of a foot or two in the next 50 years?  Scientists are studying what is happening there so they can make better predictions.  Meanwhile our government under the VIIC and idiot minions are removing scientific data from websites so we won’t know what is coming until it is up to our…

On MSNBC, WTF.  First they bring in Greta to attract maybe more conservative listeners, but her bias is so pronounced conservative that she has a hard time processing all the stuff coming out about the VIIC and tries to make excuses. Chris Mathews processes information like it was still the 1990s, and Chris Hayes tries to present both sides to be fair and balanced when there is only one side. I switch over to CNN which seems more realistically in the hunt.  Now I hear they want to move Lawrence out of his prime time spot so they can give Brian William’s a better time slot. Lawrence is not having it.  Lawrence and Rachel are the heart of intelligent and thoughtful coverage.  Brian Williams’ coverage is fawning and lacks a there, there.  So we are again what, trying to dumb down news so we can dumb down America and make conservative palatable for idled brains?   Goodbye MSNBC if you pull that one off.

Finally, just a thought about the special counsel.  He, like the FBI, will be doing his investigation in the back room.  We still need to continue to dig in the committees if the Republicans will let them.  Last night it was reported that there were 18 more contacts with the VIICs campaign than earlier reporting.  You know there are recordings of those conversations somewhere.  How long does this take?  We the people need to see the truth, the earlier the better.  And as Bernie Sanders reminded us yesterday, focusing on the VIIC as Hillary did in the campaign as unfit to serve, does not provide an alternate path that most voters who don’t read this blog really care about.  It is still, was, and eternally about the economy.  Democrats have to pay attention and attack Republicans for their ideological necrophilia:  passionate love for the dead, ineffective political ideas. America needs options.

Oh, and one final back to the news of the day:  Joe Lieberman for FBI.  Yuck!  My first thought was the VIIC picked someone who was a member of the Senate Club, like Sessions, who would get a free pass.  No smell check required. Apparently that is not the case thankfully.  Why keep putting these old politicos in these positions and expect that anything will change?  Aren’t there professional/non-political people in either the Justice Department (think of all the U.S. Attorneys) or the FBI?  Lieberman is another political hack with a political agenda.  I wonder what those people who voted for change, think about this.  Oh, wait, they don’t think.

Job Creators, Immigration, Crazy, and real Conservatives

It is reported that Cheeto-Head is meeting with “job creators” this morning.  Oh, how to approach this?  The “Economism” theory is that if you reduce taxes and regulations making it cheaper for firms to operate, they will hire.  It is supply side economics.  If we build it, they will buy it. Now for reality.  They won’t buy it unless they have disposable income.  That is demand economics.  Further even with lower costs, if there is no market, why produce?  You can make more money investing in financial instruments. If Cheeto-Head wants to meet with job creators he would meet with those who support a livable minimum wage, a real infrastructure bill, and institute a single payer system for health care producing more disposable income for the majority of us.

On immigration reform, we have Cheeto-Head’s roundup program.  If you are going to deport the criminals, well great right?  However they “vastly expand the definition of ‘criminal aliens’ and warn that such unauthorized immigrants ‘routinely victimize Americans,’ disregard the ‘rule of law and pose a threat’ to people in communities across the United States.”  Hey, that works right?  Well, Deamers and others will not be targeted unless they commit crimes.  Ah, there’s the rub.

President Obama’s edict was “serious crimes”.  Getting a social security or a driver’s license (in states that don’t issue them to undocumented persons) means assuming a false identity.  Out you go.  So basically if you are an undocumented person and you work requiring a social security number, and you did not get one through one of the exemptions President Obama issued for Dreamers.  You committed a crime.

Oh, and here is the real linch pin in this mess.  Cheeto-Head will need tens of billions of dollars approved by Congress and then years to hire and train new legions of enforcement agents.  Most of what you are going to gather at first are innocent law biding undocumented workers and their families in an act of what only has to be described as inhumane and approaching the roundup of the jews.  It will legitimize violence toward immigrants, and it will pit state and city against the federal government.  And the impact on our economy to do this is estimated to be around $381.5 billion to $623.2 billion. This translates to a 2.9 percent to 4.7 percent reduction in total annual output from the private sector, not to mention the billions to actually ramp up to do this.  So it is all insanity.

Speaking of insanity,on Lawrence O’Donnell last night were were two psychologists, Dr. John Gartner, a psychotherapist affiliated with the Johns Hopkins University Medical School,  and  Dr. Lance Dodes,  assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, who wrote the letter signed by 34 other psychotherapists to the NYT saying Cheeto-Head was mentally unfit for office. They first demolished the gag rule of their professional organization that says they should not comment on anyone they have not personally interviewed.  Dr. Gartner made the argument that this was crazy, and in fact personal interviews are more misleading than observing actual behavior, and there is plenty of behavior to observe. Further, they have a overrididing responsibility to warn us.  Here is what they had to say:

Dr. Gartner:  “I would argue to my colleagues that those who don’t speak out are being unethical. If we have some knowledge and understanding about the unique danger that Donald Trump presents through our psychiatric training and don’t say something about it, History is not going to judge us kindly…If we could construct a psychiatric Frankenstein monster, we could not create a leader more dangerously mentally ill than Donald Trump. He is a paranoid, psychopathic, narcissist who is divorced from reality nd lashes out impulsively at his imagined enemies. And this is someone as you said who is handling the nuclear codes.”

Dr. Dodes:  “He lies because of his sociopathic tendencies that Dr. Gartner was talking about. He lies in the way anybody who scams people does. He’s tried to sell an idea or a product by telling you something that is untrue. … There is also the kind of lie he has that in a way is more serious; that he has a loose grip on reality. We can say that because he lies about things that aren’t that important… I think what that indicates is that he can’t stand an aspect of reality that he doesn’t want. So he rejects it. His grasp of reality, his attention to reality is loose, an extremely dangerous trait in a president. It actually makes him unqualified.”

Enough said.  You have been warned.

Finally Conservatism. George Will, who drives me crazy, was on Lawrence O’Donnell last night to explain why he left the Republican party last summer as it had become a party that no longer embodied conservative ideals.  George was quite willing to lambast Cheeto-Head way back when, and then watched the whole Republican machine be turned over to him, including the Murdock enterprise from which he was fired.  Now I could argue with George about his conservative beliefs, but it would be a real argument because George is a real intellectual.  I think he is wrong, but he is worth listening to.  Basically he wants small government, free market places, andno deficits, and he sees neither with what George sees as a political sociopath.  Here is the video and it should raise in you mind what the Republican Party has become, a pandering mob to power at any cost:


So just another day where the members of the asylum are now running it.

Our Stupendously Bad Press

I am still processing the VP debates and the chattering class’s take on it.  Now before I launch, I just want to say that there is a lot of good journalism out there, but most of it in print which nobody reads anymore except old guys like me.  When we get to pundit world of TV news, it is a knuckle dragging experience.  They are all looking to make their mark and be on the edge.  If there isn’t an edge, they create one.  Thus the thrashing of Hillary by equivalence comparisons to Donald Trump.  

But what got me thinking again was Lawrence O’Donnell last night on Last Word putting into concise words my impression of the VP debate.  It was judge soley on demeanor and poise, not on facts or policies.  Here is what Lawrence said:

The pundits were giving the debate to Pence for his calm and collected manner while he lied.  So let’s elect a really good liar.  They gave it to him on getting back to good old conservative ideas which they loved although they seem to forget that these good old conservative ideas were totally rejected in their primary.  Nothing has changed and Mike Pence couldn’t win his governor’s seat in Indiana, and he won’t be the future for the Republican Party.  They have cleaved into two parts and the likes of Mike Pence would go nowhere in a primary.  They gave it to him because on economics he calmly reiterated the economics of flow down with no thought about how that had failed or that the Tax Plan they have is George Bush on steroids that ran up a giant deficit.  And they gave it to him because his faith tells him to ban abortion across the country and let women not own their own bodies.  Good old conservative values.

Once again in none of these debates are we looking at the policies proposed and having a real discussion about the pros and cons.  He looked calm and Presidential, he interrupted more politely than Tim Kaine so wow, he is not Trump.  He must have therefore won.  Thankfully the American people are not as shallow as our National Enquirer press as Trump continues to fall in swing states.  Most people, and I direct this at the moron Chris Mathews who keeps trying to give the Republicans strategy tips, don’t care about strategy or poise or calm demeanor, they care about what the candidates are going to do.  So far, as near as I can tell, we have not had on intelligent comparison of policies except in the print media.  We are a dumbed down nation because we have a dumped down television news media who has no idea how to talk about the merits of policy, only the merits of strategies and demeanor.  Hell, if we actually talked about policies they would have to do some homework of their own.

Republican Shameless Denial

Lawrence O’Donnell on his Last Word show was discussing the potential for riots at the Republican Convention and how Trump is really messaging to his supporters to riot if he does not get anointed.  But this exchange between Maria Teresa Kumar, founding President and CEO of Vote Latino, Jonathan Alter, a columnist and journalist for the Daily Beast, and Tim Pawlenty, ex-governor of Minnesota and maybe somewhat moderate Republican (or at least somewhat rational), kind of gets to the heart of both Republican denial and their ability to choose power over principles in approving of the Donald.  The spectrum of politics here is that Alter is basically a Democrat (and rational), Kumar appears as an independent who still hasn’t given up on Republicanism and is in partial denial about what the party has become, and Pawlenty, in total denial about what they have created and rationalizing somehow legitimizing supporting him over Hillary for President (Note I will add my commentary at certain points):

Pawlenty:  I think that Donald Trump is on his way to the nomination.  I think if he is a little over or a little under and he gets denied the nomination you are going to have a political civil war in the Republican Party that won’t recover from by November and you will hand the election over to Hillary Clinton (so is this his justification for voting for a moron?).

Kumar:  …I also think the Republican party is already currently in a civil war. Even though they don’t like Trump, they definitely don’t like Cruz, so who is their nominee going in.  It is interesting today,  Boehner basically allude that the problem with Cruz is that he equated him to Lucifer.  There is a serious problem today with who is the identity of the Republican Party is, and the fact that they can not even identify a third-party candidate within their ranks that they can say we should all get behind, Kasich as an example.  That’s a problem.  You know one of the reasons Rubio dropped out was so they could coalesce around Cruz, but they just don’t like Cruz.

Commentary by Me:  So far both of them are speaking mostly about reality.

Alter: This is not the way we do things in this country and I think we haven’t yet absorbed , internalize the assault not just on the Republican Party, but on our system that this guy (Trump) represents. So this is the time for moral reckoning for every American, especially every Republican.  They have to decide what are they going to do.  What are they going to tell their grandchildren as Mitt Romney said, “Grand dad, what did you do when this man took over your political party?  So my question to Tim Pawlenty is what will they do.  Will they bolt? This has been done at other political conventions.  People who can’t stand the nominee leave and then start another party to maintain their honor and integrity.

Commentary by Me:  Good question and is the pivotal question about who Republicans really are.  Now let the equivocating begin.

Pawlenty:  Well I have always supported the nominee and I would be inclined to do that here, but I haven’t made a final decision in that regard, and I want to see to what extent he can improve his behavior between now and July.  He has got a big track record here, but these are big tectonic plates that are shifting underneath us and I do want to say one thing.  The Republican party has some responsibility on its own in this regard because these candidates have been running around for years we are going to get spending under control, we are going to get the debt under control, we are going to get the deficit under control (it is), we are going to reform entitlements, we are going to repeal and replace Obamacare, we are going to fix immigration, we going to do pro growth tax cuts, we are going to do a variety of other things, and none of it has come true.

 And finally I think , in addition to the other things that are going on, there are a bunch of party activists said we are sick of the BS and we are going to try something radically different.  So this has been brewing for a lot of reasons for a lot of year, but I think that one ingredient of many is the fact that tradition politicians saying the same things that the activists have hit the point of we don’t believe you and Donald Trump is out there, he is different, they are not even sure they believe half the stuff he is says, but they know they want to try something dramatically different. and frankly the party and the leaders have to take some responsibility for how we got here.

Commentary by Me:  He did not answer the question other than saying he had not made a final decision, which kind of says, how much evidence do you need, and if you fail to act now, later will the irrelevant. Then he launches on the failed promises.  But here I want you take a deep breath.  He assumes any of these things would help the white middle class and there is no realization that much of conservative ideology actually has been delivered and it is benefiting rich guys.  Then, and this is really important, he seems to be justifying Trump supporters acting as an out of control mob without any rational analysis of what or who Trump is.  He is just different kind of like Mussolini or Hitler was different so let’s try it.  Try xenophobia, racial hate, nativism, denying others their rights, religious tests, silencing the press.  This is the dramatically different that they won;t distance themselves from?

Kumar:  Governor, I also see that for the last 10 years you have basically been hearing the fact that there is no skill when it comes to politicking, but in fact if you know how to negotiate, if you look at someone like Senator Reed, Mitch McConnell, if you look at individuals who actually understand the workings of Washington, that have leadership that know that you can’t always have what you want otherwise you are going to change your models of government.  That policy is not sweeping, that policy is incremental.  That is when we have policy change.  But what we have is basically  a junior class of Congressional members who have never held a political office, and if so for a very few years and now they don’t want government to work, but they also don’t know how to negotiate and as a result we have a broken system, but because they are breaking it.

Commentary by Me:  Kumar takes a different tack here and says basically Pawlenty’s view of their frustration has really been created by their own forces who will not accept any compromise and have shut down government if they can’t get their way.  Now you are justifying Trump with this obstructionism by your own party.  Sadly, here Kumar does not recognize that this is not just the junior class.  It is also Mitch McConnell and the senior class.

Alter:  So those are great diagnosis but what I am interested in who will stop Trump at this time of moral reckoning. So Governor Pawlenty said well maybe he will improve his behavior between now and the convention. Character is destiny.  We know who he is. We know he cannot be trusted with the Presidency.  Everybody knows this.  The question is what action will they now take.  So you had Marco Rubio at a debate recently calling Donald Trump a con man, and he was asked if you would support him if he is the nominee and he said yes.  He essentially said I will support a con man for to be president.

Commentary by Me:  Thanks Jonathan.  Get back to the basic question, whatever the cause and who you blame, Trump is a nut case that could ruin the country and are you going to go along or draw a line in the sand?

Pawlenty:   I think the thing to be careful about, with all due respect, you have a process where actual people at the grass-roots level get to show up and vote. You and others may not like the outcome, but they are speaking, and they are speaking by saying we are choosing by a fair process and showing up and voting in a form of democracy, for their candidate.  And then for the party elite or others who are moralists, or establishment types, or whatever you want to call them to say, the process has spoken and we know better, therefore we are going to take over results at the convention.  Win it or lose it, but don’t steal it.

Commentary by Me:  Okay, Pawlenty is not answering the question except by saying if you love democracy you have to honor its outcome.  So, if a majority of Democrats vote that Rand Paul should be our leader, I would just say, well thats what the mob wants, and the mob gets what it wants.  No, I would have to walk away.  His argument her is misdirection.  If the mob wants Trump and he is bad for the country, what is more important, the mob or your country?  Or have you conflated the two?

Kumar:  But Governor, the Party has created these rules, it is not like they are making them up as they go along, these are actual rules, and other candidates, as Lawrence said in the beginning, actually abide by these rules.  So part of the problem if you are not speaking to the education to your population, not explaining the rules are brokered, that they are not being made up as you go along, then yes you create chaos and yes you actually make people feel like they are vulnerable and there is nothing for them to abide by.  But you actually have an opportunity to stand up in the leadership and say this is not okay.  Trump may not win the nomination, but what he has unleashed in the country, I can tell you from being on the ground, is actually something that is stomach churning.  You have children coming home being pointed out by their classmates, “Mommy Trump is telling, I have kids in my class telling me that I going home because of the color of my skin because of what Trump is saying. The instability that is being created in local communities cannot be under sold and it is an opportunity for the Republican Party, for the leadership of the Republican party to say this is not the country we live in.

Commentary by Me:  Kumar’s argument here is a little confused.  I don’t think she is talk rules of the convention, but maybe she is.  Maybe she is talking about a brokered convention and that those are the rules, not just for Trump but for every one so they have to play by the rules, not riot (which they will).  But then she gets back on topic with the kind of hate he has released in the country and she still thinks the Republican Party has values and should stand up to this rhetoric.  This is where her independence is in total denial.  With this kind of Republican Party you can’t be an independent anymore, you have to pick sides.

Lawrence:  …What I was struck by was when you said (to Pawlenty) they are turning to Donald trump “because we don’t believe you”, the very first thing you said tonight is that you don’t believe Donald Trump meant what he said this morning about rioting.  And I know when you were backing Marco Rubio, you were backing a candidate who was saying Donald Trump was a con man and Donald Trump lies all the time.  So the people you are saying have been let down by politicians are now embracing the most rampart liar in the history of American presidential campaigns.

Commentary by Me:  Lawrence is basically pointing out that Pawlenty is not making sense.  The people (mob) are frustrated about being lied to so they are going to back the biggest liar in the history of Republican Politics?

Pawlenty:  Well Lawrence, let’s acknowledge this reality:  Politics is a reflection of our culture and at some level we get the  politics the culture demands. And the culture has been reduced in part, not just by Donald Trump, but by candidates across the board (both sides do it?) Incrementally moved toward cartoon proportions for a number of years.  Number 2, people sick of traditional politicians for good reasons and the establishment for good reasons.  I think they are saying we know this guy has all kinds of flaws and warts, but at least he sounds and looks strong and perhaps creating the likelihood of something getting done.  On the Domestic side you are still going to have Congress and you are still going to have the courts so he is going to have some bumper rails or guard rails. On the Domestic (foreign policy) side of issues I think the real risk potentially is his lack of interest in detail on foreign policy and national security that I wish he would bone up on. He has been at this for over a year, he should be studying and much more informed and detailed on this issues.

Commentary by Me:  Culture demands denying our Constitution and our basic values and that is okay.  Yes people are sick of traditional politicians because nothing changes, a lot of that being that the stuff conservatives believe in won’t help anyone but the wealthy.  But Donald sounds strong and tough so the hell with rational though or American principles, lets go with the tough guy.  Then he kind of equivocates to say the Donald is Okay, and he will get better, he just needs to do some homework and work out his policies.  This is the worst equivocation for in the end, we will support a pathological liar, con man, and demagogue because he must be better than Hillary.

There you have it.  Lawrence and Jonathan described the problem as a pathological, uninformed liar, who uses hate and violence to political ends.  That would be reality.  So the question is will Republicans finally stand up and repudiate him.  Maria still thinks Republicans can be worked with if they would just get a little more reasonable, but then asks the same question, why won’t Republican leaders stand up and repudiate him loud and clear.  She is still in denial that there are two Republican Parties, one rational and one out of control.  She got her answer if she was listening when Pawlenty never answer the repudiation question and told us we have to go with the flow even if the flow wants Adolph Hitler.  In other words, there is only one Republican Party left and it is the Party of Trump, and they will all go along to toddy to power using equivocations that a four-year old could see through.  It is all right there people.

 

 

Tuesday Morning

It’s the Ides of March and you had better beware.  Voting is going on in critical Midwest states and Florida and you just may get what you wished for and be very sorry.  At any rate the major media can cover the race as I am sure they will ad nauseam.

I have been kind of watching the brouhaha at Breitbart News as a mini series reflecting the brouhaha in the Republican Party.  If you will recall, Michelle Fields, a Breitbart reporter accused Mr. Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, of grabbing and shoving her at a Florida rally last week.  When Breitbart did not stand behind her, several of the staff have resigned with Ms. Fields.  Note, at least one reliable reporter witnessed the incident and reported it.

Now Breitbart is redder than red and many of its millions of followers also are Trump supporters. As one ex-reporter put it:  “The site’s ethos is everyone should unilaterally be held accountable — whether it be Donald Trump or someone else.”  Now, I find most of their conservatives beliefs highly troubling in the world of reality and fact checking, but everyone is entitled to their own self delusions.  But the Republican Party has “true” conservatives who believe this stuff and when there are outliers, point them out.  Then, there are the rest of the mob that is just a mob.  So the question is do you go with the mob to get elected (or readership) or do you stay faithful to your principles, no matter how demented they are?

As Ms. Fields opined, she believed superiors questioned her account in exchange for more access to Mr. Trump. Of course that is what is going on and it is not just Breitbart, but major media in general.  More about that in a moment.  But this tussle with ideals over populism is what is playing out at Breitbart and that that is what is playing out in the Republican Party.  Expect a lot more fire works, maybe not a Breitbart where the paycheck rules, but in the Republican Party as they have to face their future with a pathological lair in Donald Trump.

Speaking of pathological liar (the Donald), Lawrence O’Donnell had a Politico reporter on his show Last Word, who had listened to the Donald’s speeches and with all that aimless blubbering, he told a whopping lie every 5 minutes.  None of it fact checked by the way.  Lawrence pointed out what I have been pointing out, mainstream media is not prepared to deal with a pathological liar in the assumption that if you flat-out lie on TV you will get buried.  So they broadcast one of his 40 minute speeches and then don’t fact check it, or when interviewing him, stick to their pre planned questions when confronted with an outright lie.

Then he noted one of my favorite pet peeves, they want to be neutral so they avoid challenging him on his outright lies to avoid appearing partisan.  You have to wonder if they know the difference between standing up for facts and partisanship?  Of course they don’t which is why we have such a dumbed down public who could actually think Donald Trump could solve anything.  News should be partisan, but partisan toward the truth.  The sad fact that that will make them appear liberal in the eyes of the public is not the Democrat’s fault.  That lies squarely with conservatism.

Lastly, I noted this morning where President Obama had reversed himself on drilling off the Atlantic coast.  According to the story, “The Obama administration is expected to withdraw its plan to permit oil and gas drilling off the southeast Atlantic coast, yielding to an outpouring of opposition from coastal communities from Virginia to Georgia but dashing the hopes and expectations of many of those states’ top leaders.”  Now, I find this telling.  People don’t want the pollution and maybe are worried about global warming.  Leaders don’t want to raise taxes to pay for what the state needs and would much rather ruin the future of our children than risk their political careers doing the right thing.

Do you have any other questions about why we are where we are?

Troubling Thoughts

Last night on The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, Lawrence kind of nailed it on the Trump phenomenon.  A man who is a consummate liar, who says one thing then another, has a good chance of being president:

Lawrence wonders if our education system is failing to teach people how to think or know history. I wonder the same thing. But of course the top contenders for the Republican Party are all against common core* which is critical to bringing our education into the 21st century. But then he had another guest, Isabel Wilkerson, on to talk about race.  I guess Bernie got in trouble with his remarks about race in the debate Sunday night

It was, according to some, dated and a stereotypical view of blacks especially using the term Ghetto.  I understood him perfectly or at least what he was trying to convey since I too am from his era, but as Isabel tried to point out, black experience is much more profound than our stereotypical view of blacks in the Ghetto and being poor (she pointed out that only 26% of blacks are in fact below the poverty line).  They were both disturbed, as I am, of the videos of black people being pushed and shoved at a Trump rally.  It was like we were back in the 60s trying to integrate schools in the South and there was this uncontrolled hate spewing out.  As they and I thought, aren’t we as a people passed all this?

Apparently not if you watch a Trump rally and that says something about racism and the fact that maybe we have not come very far.  Institutionalized racism doesn’t quite capture it.  There is still something deep in the humane psyche that is very dark and troubling.  Isabel and Lawrence were unsuccessful at explaining it to me, as I think they are as troubled as I am that it is possible to so degrade and hate our fellow-man.  It is something I have never experienced**.  But it is something maybe we all ought to think on.  One thing is for sure.  Donald Trump has shown us our dark side.

* From the NYT:

He (Donald Trump) hates the Common Core State Standards. They are, he says, a “total disaster,” and he promises to abolish them upon assuming the presidency, because education “has to be at a local level.”

This is revealing, and not just because it shows Mr. Trump’s ignorance of how American education actually works. He is promising to solve a problem that doesn’t exist by using power the president doesn’t have. His plan may also have the unintended effect of stultifying American greatness.

The president can’t end the Common Core, because the federal government didn’t create the Common Core. Governors and state boards of education developed and voluntarily adopted the standards in reading, language and math. Some states subsequently un-adopted them, as is their right. When Congress passed a new version of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act last year, it prohibited the secretary of education from requiring or even encouraging states to adopt any uniform standards, Common Core or otherwise.

Mr. Trump has another claim about education: that America’s weak educational results will be improved by returning power to local school districts. That’s a notion, widely held, that is at odds with research, common sense and the education agenda of every president, Republican and Democrat, for the past 40 years.

**Even during the Vietnam War that I was part of, I could never hate the other side because somewhere in there in a common humane condition.  Sure there are evil people in the world that deserve our hate, but not a race, not a people, not a religion.  I do not understand how you can think this way.  Maybe that is a flaw in my character.  I have no idea how to irradiate it but to simply not tolerate it anywhere.

Oh My Brain Hurts

So I open up the NYT editorial pages and there is an op-ed about how it is the Democrats who have moved too far to the left.  It was written by a Republican of course (Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, served in the last three Republican administrations and is a contributing opinion writer).  His argument is the Republican Party has been fairly stable since the Newt Gingrinch days while the Democrats have moved to the left.

To see just how far the Democratic Party has moved to the left, compare Barack Obama with Bill Clinton. In 1992, Mr. Clinton ran as a centrist New Democrat. In several respects he governed as one as well. He endorsed a sentencing policy of “three strikes and you’re out,” and he proposed adding 100,000 police officers to the streets.


In contrast, President Obama’s former attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., criticized what he called “widespread incarceration” and championed the first decrease in the federal prison population in more than three decades. Mr. Obama, meanwhile, has chosen to focus on police abuses.

I guess he misses the entire point that most of us now admit (even some Republicans) that these “moderate policies” have been failures.  Wehner sees the world through conservative high filter glasses.  At one point he points out that Mr. Clinton lowered the capital gains tax while Mr. Obama proposes raising it.  Is he oblivious to the mass transfer of wealth that is occurring in this country?  Is he blind to our failing infrastructure and no tax base to support the financing to rebuild it?  Has he not noticed that trickle down has produced a lack luster economy?

He seems to claim that conservatives are no more conservative today, yet Democrats have moved left.  I am thinking Ted Cruz, massive movements in the states to disenfranchise workers, limit a woman’s choice, an attack on voting rights, not to mention a total denial of science.  We have seen the Republican Party become the Party of no over the last 6 years even when stuff they wanted was offered up.  So on the first part what universe is he living in?

On the second part, when policies don’t work it is time to try something else.  We are moving left because moving right failed us.  See more jobs?  How that trickle down working?  Is the middle class gaining ground.  Obamacare, a giant “move to the left”, is controlling cost and insuring more people, but that is bad right because by definition it is moving left?

Here is what it really looks like to me:  They are making argument to move back to the middle like Clinton did because it worked for Clinton (not the real reason) and because they are terrified that populist policies just might win the day.  I have even heard Democrats make the Eugene McCarthy reference that Democrats ought to be careful because if they pull the party too far left, they could lose*.  They are all missing the point.  In the first case, this op-ed is an attempt to have Democrats fear left policies and once again take a strategy of the middle ground that has proved their down fall in 2010 and 2014.

In the second case, Democrats need to quit worrying about what Republicans call left and radical.  They need to propose strategies that work.  People today want solutions.  What we do know and is easy to show, is that the conservative ideology of status quo (that is what Wehner is really arguing) is simply failure for most of us unless you like a stagnant economy, a collapsing infrastructure, where the middle class loses ground, but the 1% get wealthier. Instead of labeling policies as left, show how they will work for the majority of Americans and make America a fairer place.  If that is moving left, could we build a high speed train to get there?

*Lawrence O’Donnell was making that argument last night as Bernie Sanders enters the presidential race.  I think they all underestimate Bernie.  He is the real deal and he knows his issues.  It seems many want Hillary to have an unchallenged trip to the nomination and most of us want a real debate on real change.  This seems to be an argument to stradle the middle and be safe when it is now clear we are on the wrong path.  The safe middle is what puts voters to sleep.  So let’s really discuss where we are going and have a real battle of ideas instead of another 10,000 focus groups so we can say the most inoffensive things and most people will stay home.

UPDATE:  There are a ton of comments to this editorial that took what I consider offensive false intellectualism apart.  But my favorite was the one that asked if the Democrats had moved left and the Republicans right, what time period are we considering that over:

How about we compare the Democrats to their long historical base, decades before Clinton — to LBJ, JFK, FDR, Harry Truman, Hubert Humphrey, Ted Kennedy, Tip O’Neill? How about we compare the Republicans to those who came before ALEC and the Great Shift — Eisenhower, Nelson Rockefeller, innumerable legislators and governors whose names no longer ring a bell, even Nixon? In fact, the sainted Ronald Reagan would be way too left-leaning for many of today’s Republicans. 

Islamic Terrorists, Terrorists, or What is a Religion Anyway?

There is an interesting debate going on between mostly conservatives and President Obama on whether we should be at war with Islamic terrorists or just terrorists. Conservatives argue that to just call them terrorists is to ignore the bigger problem and not state the obvious. President Obama is arguing that we are not at war with Islam, but with radical extremists who are not the real Islamists To his credit, he recognizes that ISIS is a small fraction of all Islam and why, by using the term Islamic terrorists, alienate or implicate all Muslims. Conservatives and others (maybe me) would counter that most of the terrorism in the world is not coming from other religions, so what is the issue with Islam? Said another way, is or is not ISIS trying to establish an Islamic state and what is “real” Islam?

Lawrence O’Donnell on The Last Word on MSNBC last night took this on in a very interesting way. He reviewed President Obama’s speech to the National Prayer Breakfast yesterday and called it one of his worst speeches of his tenure, pandering to religious leaders.  He played exerts of the President’s speech which had him calling for us and Muslims to stand up for their faith instead of betraying it.  He went on to describe ISIS as carrying out unspeakable acts of barbarism in the name of religion, decrying claiming the mantle of religious authority for such actions.  Then he told Christians to not get on their high horse and blame this violence on Islam as the Crusades and the Inquisition carried out terrible deeds in the name of Christ.  And then he called on “people of faith” to push back against those who try to distort our religion, any religion.

There is a problem of logic in all of this and Lawrence took it on*.  It has to do with what is a real religious belief or what is the “true” religion.  He had three people on, two Muslims (Zainab Salab and Asra Nomani) and a University Professor (Jerry Coyne), all probably liberal which took different sides.  Lawrence asked the question to the panel about the issue that the speech implied that radical Islam (ISIS, al Qaeda) is not true Islam, and is a perversion of their beliefs.

There were some interesting responses.  Zainab took the moderate Islamic approach that this was a perversion of her religion and was not “true Islam” basically agreeing with the President, ” I don’t think Islam is a violent religion as I don’t think any religion is a violent religion

Asra took the oppossite point of view, “There is a very serious interpretation of Islam that is wreaking havoc on all of us we have to take it on and be honest about what the problem is.”  Bingo!

Professor Coyne agreed with Asra and took exception with the whole assumption that faith inspired terrorism is a perversion of faith.  “The President claimed that faith doesn’t justify the massacre of innocents when in fact the Bible says exactly that in the Old Testament and in fact this particular sect of Sunni faith says that. He has to admit this is a religiously motivated horror. “

Lawrence then paraphrased President Obama, suggesting this kind of thing happens in all religions and pointing out that Catholicism was the most murderous force on the face of the earth for hundreds of years , but that was hundreds of years ago and to make a comparison to the Islamic state he has to reach back hundreds years in Catholicism to lecture other religions to not get on their high horse.  “He seems to be saying he knows what real Islam is and ISIS is not it. He can tell you what it is and that is a frequent mistake with people who have not been highly educated in religion make, thinking there is a real identifiable version of any religion.”

Asra responds to this with: Well that is why I think it is a version of sitting on a high horse to pretend what we are seeing in the world today isn’t real, when you are just standing in a hall of mirrors” … (She describes how the narrative describing the execution of the Jordanian pilot is fully justified by Islam) … “To pretend that this isn’t a reality of Islam in the world today and there is a true Islam that is the reality of our world is to me is a dance we are playing to our peril.”

Lawrence then makes the point that no one can tell us what real Catholism is since so many Catholics reject one teaching or another, or what real Judaism is, the one with a female rabbi, or the one that prohibits that?  “How can President Obama tell us what real Islam is“?  Here is where it gets really interesting.  What is a real religion, the true belief.  This is where most religious people hide behind a giant blind spot in their faith.  “The one I believe in is the true one.”  That is what Zainab basically says when she counters that ISIS’s beliefs are not true Islam, which Asra countered with “To pretend that this isn’t a reality of Islam in the world today and there is a true Islam that is the reality of our world is to me is a dance we are playing to our peril.”  In other words, this is one interpretation of Islam that is a “real” as any other.  In fact you can say that about any religion. Then the question was put to Professor Coyle:

There is no true version of Islam that you can put your finger on. If you want to be legalistic about it you can say, well, the true religion is what is in the scriptures, and in that case Christianity, even though you have to reach back to find it committing things like inquisition. Even Christianity has an Old Testament that explicitly sanctions and approves of terrorism, of terrorism of innocents, of adultery, rape, genocide. How do Christians write that off as not being true Christianity when it is in the Old Testament in black and white?

The problem with saying that there is a true faith and the true Islam has been hijacked by ISIS is not true. What has happened with Christianity is that it has become tamer over the centuries because it was hijacked by the Enlightenment values, the secular Enlightenment values that have gotten rid of all these horrible statements in the old testament. That’s what needs to happen to Islam. It needs to be hijacked by Enlightenment values. In fact ISIS does not hijack Islam at all.

What is the real religion and what are the basic true beliefs?  The argument above takes you along a path that shows you that religious beliefs are evolving.  So who has the true truth? If the rape and murder in the old original documents was justified, who is to say this is not the true religion?  The answer is that there is no true religion.  This whole discussion drives a clear path through all the nonsense of religion to the conclusion that religion is nothing but a philosophy that must be adapted to our awareness of goodness and justice as we see it today.  As a philosophy instead of a religion, it is subject to examination and change.  As a faith it holds us back.  That is not exactly what they are saying above (except maybe Professor Coyle), but the conclusion is undeniable.  There is no one truth, but the one held in the mind of the holder.

Of course radical Islam is as true a religion as any other and we are at war with it.  All religions come to you with a two-edged sword.  One edge brings you the calming influence of a purpose and meaning in life, the other brings you unquestioning certitude in your beliefs.  As Professor Coyle points out, we tamed our violent religious impulses by becoming more secular and turning to logic and reason instead of unquestioned faith.  But to say that radical Islam is a perversion of Islam is to fail to understand that it is just another view of religion, just as “true” as the more moderate one.  You can say that about any religion.  If we are going to have a world living in peace, religion is not the answer, logic and reason are. Any argument based on faith and religion will fail because religion is in the eye of the beholder. ISIS belief based upon their faith is as valid as your belief they are immoral based upon your faith.

*Note:  The logical problem is that he assumes what having faith means and what is the “true” faith.  He fails, as most religious people do, to understand that religion, any religion and belief, by its very nature is the true religion to the believer.  If ISIS does not have the true belief, what is the true belief?  What defines a true religion or a true faith?  The contradictions in this idea are pointed out in the discussion above.

Here is the segment:


 

The American Sniper Debate

The debate is raging on whether the movie American Sniper is pro or anti-war, and whether the movie paints a false morality play.  Of course the usual suspects are lining up on both sides and I have written a little about this in Movie Time and Trash Talk.  But to tell you the truth this debate is one of the most important debates we can have as a people.

Did you know that less than 1% of our population have ever fought a war?  We make these difficult decisions and we ask so much from those who do, and most of us haven’t the foggiest what we are asking. The complaint about this movie is that it paints war as black and white and sides on the man character’s justification of his actions in this good guy, bad guy morality play.  It never really questions his assumptions and in doing so simplifies our view of war, getting into one, and the character himself.  My major complaint about this discussion is that we needed to hear from those who fought this war or understood war the way most of our nation only fantasizes about it.

Well I got my wish when Lawrence O’Donnell on Last Word had former American sniper Garrett Reppenhagen on his show to discuss just these issues.  I was riveted by Mr. Reppenhagen’s experiences and comments because in a very humbling and thoughtful way, he brought the issues of this war into focus without the decisive politics.  Below is the interview which I think is one of the best ever.  His answers and thoughtful opinions rang so true to this veteran of a war nobody even thinks about anymore.

For those who won’t watch it, I have tried to capture Mr Reppenhagen’s final response to a question that I thought framed the whole argument:

Lawrence reading from Chris Kyle’s (ghost written) book American Sniper: “Growing up, I wanted to be military. But I wondered how would I feel about killing someone? Now I know. It’s no big deal. I did it a lot more than I’d ever thought I would, or for that matter, more than any American sniper before me. But I also witnessed the evil my targets committed and wanted to commit, and by killing them, I protected the lives of many fellow soldiers.”

Garrett, I would like to get to get your reaction to that line in there where he says I know what it is to kill people, it is no big deal.

Garrett Reppenhagen: Yeah, it is certainly a big deal to me. Um, You know when you take another person’s life whether in combat or not, it would have to be a really introspective thing. I question every day whether I will be going to heaven or hell.

I have been working to repent ever since. One of the reasons I work so heavily to help other veterans is to bring a little good back into the world because of life I have taken away. Um, and you know, it is something that has really affected me in my whole personality and how I have been ever since.

You know, I think that that is pretty crazy. I know as a sniper doing counter IDs, counter mortar, overwatch missions, countless nights, 180 combat missions without the use of a military vehicle on sniper missions, I know, you know, they were planting EIDs to kill my friends, but you know it is not always like I said, a black and white world, and the real enemies are not the ones who always die in combat. There is a lot of collateral damage and there is a lot of really getting your target identification wrong and killing innocent people and so um, you know, it is hard. I can’t compare my self with Chris Kyle or any other service member out there. But for me, uh, for me personally it is a very difficult thing.

No, war is a very grey thing and we had better understand that because those we send into combat will have to cross a line that there is no going back from. And we had better be sure about why we are doing this or we are going to hurt the very people we depend upon.

 

Death with Dignity

I think it was on Wednesday I saw the Lawrence O’Donnell (Last Word) interview with Brittany Maynard, the young woman with terminal brain tumor who had chosen to move to Oregon so she could decide when it was time to die. It is one thing to discuss it in the abstract, but to listen to a young woman face this terrible decision was heart wrenching.

Her choices were stark. Decide a time and place to end her life or face the certainty that one of the strokes and seizures now plaguing her daily would make that choice impossible, and then to live out her life in pain, paralyzed, and probably so heavily sedated as to be in a coma. It is one thing to think about it when you are in your 70’s another when you are in your 20’s.

We all delude ourselves. Death is not something we dwell upon. It happens to other people, but, well, mine is far in the future. I cannot fathom how hard it must be to pick a date and how precious is that time until it arrives. She picked a date. 1 November. After I saw her interview I thought about her every day. I thought about her husband and her family. And then I read yesterday that she had ended her life. She made her choice and moved before events could overtake her. I cannot imagine how hard that was or how brave.

Thank god for places like Oregon, Washington, New Mexico, Montana, and Vermont who have come to realize that that final decision should be left to us. Too bad California couldn’t have come to that realization so she wouldn’t have had to move to Oregon. In the end, it should be our choice and no one else’s. Of course there are those who would push their religious and political choices on the rest of us by denying this basic right. The group Priests for Life said:

“We are saddened by the fact that this young woman gave up hope, and now our concern is for other people with terminal illnesses who may contemplate following her example. Our prayer is that these people will find the courage to live every day to the fullest until God calls them home. Brittany’s death was not a victory for a political cause. It was a tragedy, hastened by despair and aided by the culture of death invading our country.”

Here is an arrogance of their religious belief that is insufferable. They wanted to choose for Brittany and the rest of us because of their religious beliefs. I guess knowing is antithetical to religion. When we know the end, and we know that at this point hope is futile, we want to make our own decision on how those final days and hours are spent. Maybe that is what scares them the most, it is not in God’s hands, but ours. I only know this. Listening to Brittany make what was in her mind the best choice for her, I know how hard and brave that must have been, and no one but she had the right to make it.