Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A win for hate and nonsense


Well, after losing Indiana, Ted Cruz has dropped out of the presidential race, so it's smooth sailing for Donald Trump to win the GOP nomination.

Wow! Hard to believe, isn't it? Republicans have actually chosen that clown to be President of the United States!  Who could have predicted this?

Of course, it's not that Ted Cruz would have been any better. In both cases, I'll refer you to my earlier post about how the Republican Party's hate and nonsense debt has come due. (And no, that's not my phrase. I was paraphrasing Josh Marshall at TPM.)

That's still my opinion, so I won't repeat myself here. I've done that often enough, already. But now, we'll see Republican Party leaders changing their tune about Trump, don't you think?

And really, he just does Republican hate and nonsense better than they do. They might be unhappy about that, but they'll get over it.


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Caucuses are voter suppression on steroids?

(TPM)

From Josh Marshall at TPM:
You know that I've been saying over and over that to the extent that the Democratic nomination process is 'rigged', the rigging has been a huge advantage to Bernie Sanders. As I've noted, that's mainly because of caucuses. It drives me crazy, candidly, when Sanders claims on the stump that where voter turnout has been highest, he's done best. That's not remotely true. Indeed, where it's been lowest, he's done best. Almost entirely because of caucuses, which are really the most effective voter suppression method in politics today.

And now here's a good visualization of this fact.

Jeff Stein at Vox highlights this study prepared by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law which captures a lot of what's wrong with caucuses. Read the study itself because it goes into specific issues with complaints about disenfranchisement, complaints, reasons for the problems, etc. But the bare numbers tell the story clearly enough.

As you can see, with the single slight exception of Idaho, no primary state had a lower turnout than any caucus state. Most primary states were in the 30% or 30%+ ballpark, with two states (which Sanders actually won) around 50%. Most caucus states were under 10%.

If you care anything about voter participation or making sure people can vote even if they have a job or don't have a free evening to spend at the local YMCA or school gym, the case against caucuses is simply overwhelming.

That image probably isn't easy to see, but there's a larger version here. Or maybe this image will work better:

(Vox)

This isn't about the current election, not really. Caucuses have apparently helped Bernie Sanders this year, but both sides knew the rules before the election even started. No, this is about our democracy.

This is about encouraging more participation in our political process, rather than suppressing the vote (even if that's not the intent, it's still the result).

And here in Nebraska, where the Democratic Party has had a caucus since 2008, party leaders are struggling to get voters to show up at the primary, where other offices are at stake, but not the presidential election. That can't be good.

In state after state, the Republican Party has been trying to suppress the vote, especially the vote of Democratic-leaning constituencies. It's time for the Democratic Party to stand up for increased participation. Caucuses are not the way to go.

Angel

(BBC)

OK, this is weird:
Indonesian police have confiscated a sex toy from a remote village after its inhabitants and some on social media mistook it for an "angel".

The doll was found in March floating in the sea by a fisherman in the Banggai islands in Sulawesi province.

His family took care of the doll, and pictures soon spread online along with claims it was an angel.

Police investigated amid fears the rumours would cause unrest, and found it was in fact an inflatable sex doll.

Indonesian news portal Detik said photos of the doll dressed demurely and wearing a hijab spread on social media shortly after its discovery.

Rumours then began to spread that it was a "bidadari" [angel] along with unverified stories about how it was found "stranded and crying", prompting the police investigation.

OK, as the local police chief noted, "They have no internet." No doubt they find the whole concept of an inflatable sex toy to be bizarre. So do I. But it's the 21st Century, and they still believe in angels?

Well, so do most Americans, I suspect. It's crazy, but it's not limited to primitive people in Indonesia. (I do think it's funny that the doll was dressed "demurely" and wearing a hijab, but it was probably dressed that way by the villagers, don't you think?)

Furthermore, the belief in this "angel" did spread on social media, apparently. It wasn't just poor fishermen, not at all.

But you know what's most interesting to me? Stories were already spreading about how this angel was found "stranded and crying." But according to Christians, we're supposed to believe the magical stories spread by primitive, superstitious people 2,000 years ago?

This doesn't just show how superstitious people can be when they don't understand something. It also shows how people make up and spread stories about the supernatural. And this is the 21st Century, with widespread literacy even in Indonesia and far better access to news and information than existed in biblical times.

Well, I thought this was both interesting and instructive. And quite funny, too. :)

Sunday, May 1, 2016

2016 White House Correspondents' Dinner




I always enjoy these. As usual, Barack Obama is a hard act to follow:





Larry Wilmore's speech is almost painful to watch, not because it isn't funny, but because the audience was not amused by much of it.

Well, he certainly didn't pull any punches, did he? And he deliberately kept it black, too.


Saturday, April 30, 2016

Non-binary gender/sex



I'm not a young guy, but there are still a lot of things I'm learning for the first time. (And I'm grateful for that.)

Maybe kids learn this stuff in school these days - if they're lucky enough to have a good school - but we didn't even have sex education when I was a kid. (That's what recess was for.) And I took just one biology class in college.

Luckily, it wasn't a problem for me. I'm lucky enough to be a straight white man in a society where straight white men have enormous advantages. But what kind of society would we have if we didn't care about other people?

To be perfectly selfish, it would affect me if we turned into the hateful, bigoted, xenophobic kind of nation the right-wing has been pushing us towards. We would all do worse in that kind of society.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Best comment ever


You probably saw that John Boehner, former Speaker of the House, called his fellow Republican, Ted Cruz, "Lucifer in the flesh" and "a miserable son of a bitch."

Of course, Boehner has been a big part of the problem. He, and other Republican leaders, have long tried to use the crazies for political advantage. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are their fault, and the fault of earlier Republicans who started down this path of using racism, sexism, religious hysteria, and xenophobia for political advantage. (Don't get me started!)

But as amusing as that was, I had to note this comment by "Mike" on a Yahoo article about it:
Prince of Darkness to Sue Boehner for Defamation!
Gates of Hell (AP)

Lee Atwater, Chief Legal Officer for Lucifer, Scratch, Mephistopheles, Diabolus and Associates has just confirmed that the Prince of Darkness will indeed be suing former Speaker of the House John Boehner in the State of Ohio for Defamation.

"You learn to tolerate a whole lot of bad press on our line of work, but enough is enough" Mr. Atwater said reading from a prepared statement.

"We don't mind our names being dragged through the mud whenever there is a natural disaster, act of terrorism, or pointless loss of life on a massive scale just like what the previous Republican Administration gleefully delivered in Iraq and Afghanistan."

"Or even when a Former G.O.P. Speaker of the House turns out to be a child-molesting waste of flesh from way way back. That stuff all comes with the territory and we accept it. But getting characterized as being as low as Ted Cruz is a horse of a different color as far as we are concerned."

"Therefore we will be seeking the souls of both Mr. Boehner and Mr. Cheney (if he ever had one,) as direct compensation for being slanderously compared to the likes of Mr. Cruz in a public forum plus Rush Limbaugh's weight in gold bullion six times over in punitive damages."

"This demand automatically escalates to twenty Limbaugh weight units of fine gold should Ms. Failurina ever even once open her mouth in public again...."

I don't know anything about "Mike."  And I don't normally read the comments at Yahoo Finance. I just happened to notice this and had to give it some love.



Friday, April 22, 2016

Samantha Bee: Team Cruz



I've only just started watching Full Frontal with Samantha Bee (YouTube clips, only), but she's been very good, with the same kind of political humor she showed on the Daily Show. This one, for example, is great, don't you think?

Donald Trump and Ted Cruz - can the Republican Party get any worse? Sure, they can! Remember, a few years ago, we were saying the same thing about George W. Bush, too. And you have to admit that he's looking... almost acceptable, compared to this latest crop of Republicans.

Samantha Bee: Bernie "Bros"



What can I say? I thought this was funny, mostly because I find so many Bernie Sanders supporters to be just this naive.

The rest of it,... well, this is a comedy show. It's written for laughs, and it's easy to get laughs from any panel of human beings. If you don't want to be laughed at, don't agree to be interviewed by a comedy show! But I don't take any of that seriously.

Still, how can you be this naive? Samantha Bee is right to ask them, "Have you met people?"

Monday, April 18, 2016

SNL skit: God is a Boob Man



Of course, this is a parody of God's Not Dead 2. But the movie's target audience is beyond parody, I suspect. (One reviewer there calls it "essentially 'Reefer Madness' for paranoid fundamentalists.")

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Voting for Bernie,... on one condition

John Judis at TPM is voting for Bernie Sanders, though he wants Hillary Clinton to win the nomination. Weird? Actually, I'm not sure, but I think I might agree with him...

Here's what he says:
“He’s not going to get the nomination, is he?” my wife asks anxiously as she gazes out of the kitchen window at the Bernie for President sign on our front lawn. No, I assure her, and he certainly won’t win Maryland on April 26. I’m voting for Bernie, and my wife may, too, but we’re doing so on the condition that we don’t think he will get the nomination. If he were poised to win, I don’t know whether I’d vote for him, because I fear he would be enormously vulnerable in a general election, even against Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, and I’m also not sure whether he is really ready for the job of president.

Why, then, vote for him at all? For me, it’s entirely about the issues he is raising, which I believe are important for the country’s future. Hillary Clinton and her various boosters in the media have made the argument that it’s impractical and even irresponsible to raise a demand like “Medicare for all” and “free public college” that could not possibly get through the next Congress, even if Democrats eke out a majority in the Senate. They presumably want a candidate to offer programs that could be the result of protracted negotiations between a Democratic president and Speaker Paul Ryan – like a two percent increase in infrastructure spending in exchange for a two percent reduction in Medicaid block grants. I disagree with this approach to politics.

What Sanders is proposing are political guideposts – ideals, if you like – according to which we can judge whether incremental reforms make sense. He is describing, whether you like them or not, objectives toward which we Americans should be aspiring. That’s a central activity in politics. Should it be confined to issues of Democracy or National Affairs? Or is it the kind of activity that is entirely appropriate for a nominating contest? Ronald Reagan and the conservatives thought so during the 1970s. And I think Democrats should be thinking this way now. So I applaud Bernie Sanders for not limiting his proposals to what might appear on a President’s often-ignored budget requests.

I, too, disagree with the typical Democratic politician's approach to politics. Well, in part, at least. It's exactly the opposite approach that Republicans typically take, and that's not all bad. Still, Republicans might be crazy, but they strongly push their own ideas. Unfortunately, they consider compromise to be evil in itself.

Democrats, on the other hand, are often so eager to compromise that they push Republican ideas themselves (and then are astonished that Republicans still won't work with them). Here in Nebraska, Democrats try to out-Republican the Republicans - and then still lose the election. If you're going to lose anyway, why not at least stand for something? There will be future elections, after all.

OK, I'm getting off-track here. My apologies. But I want Democratic politicians to strongly, confidently, courageously push Democratic ideas, even if there isn't much chance of getting them enacted against hysterical Republican opposition. I'm fine with compromising. Compromise is absolutely essential in a Democracy. But don't start compromising until you've actually started negotiations with the other side.

Democrats typically compromise away half or more of their position before they even start negotiating,... and then compromise away the rest of it during the negotiation. Of course, today's Republican Party won't compromise at all. (Oddly enough, that's saved us from some terrible 'compromises' Democrats have attempted to make. OK, OK, I'll try to stay on track here.)

Judis mentions the president's "often-ignored budget requests," and that's a good example. Republicans in Congress have refused to even let President Obama's budget director testify about his budget. Barack Obama is the Anti-Christ to Republicans (sometimes, that's even literally what they think), and no Republican in Congress is going to pay the slightest attention to the president's budget proposal. Heck, they'd probably have to fear a primary challenge from within their own party, if they did.

So why not make bold proposals? Why not stand up for Democratic values? Yes, progress is usually incremental. Yes, we won't accomplish anything unless we compromise. But you can still stand up for what you believe. You can still encourage your own side by showing them what we could accomplish, if only we worked hard enough to get Democrats elected.

If Republicans won't accept even incremental progress, then we're not going to be any worse off, certainly. And at best, we might scare them enough to actually get them to compromise. Or get progressives enthused enough to actually vote, so that maybe America can accomplish things again.

Judis looks at several specific issues. Are they practical? Well, they're not practical now, when Republicans control both houses of Congress. But politics is not just about what's practical now. It's also about our vision for the future.

And yes, I agree with him that Hillary Clinton is better prepared for the presidency. Experience matters. Would she be the stronger candidate? I suspect so, but I'm not sure.

Hillary has faced nonstop Republican attacks for two decades now. Those attacks have done considerable damage to her approval ratings (which is exactly why they do it), but it's hard to see what more they could do. And as I say, she's learned how to fight back. During that 11-hour Benghazi hearing, she made the Republicans look like complete morons, while sounding very presidential herself, which is why the GOP pretty much dropped 'Benghazi' like a hot potato after that.

But they haven't even started on Bernie Sanders yet. An atheist socialist Jew? (I don't know how much of that is true, but the truth won't matter to Republican political operatives.) I have to think that they can't wait.

I don't know how much of an effect it will have on Bernie's approval rating, but it will certainly have some effect. All too many voters are complete idiots. And he doesn't have much experience facing those kinds of attacks. Hillary Clinton pulls her punches a lot more than the Republicans will (mostly because Democrats wouldn't stand for it, I suspect).

Of course, yes, there seems to be this hysterical desire for an 'outsider' these days, in both political parties. I don't quite get it, although I can't say that I'm overwhelmed at the thought of Clintons in the White House again, myself. But given the alternative, well, there's just no question, to my mind. And I do think that Hillary Clinton would make a very capable president.

So I don't know. I don't know which candidate is going to win the Democratic nomination, and I don't know which candidate would be the stronger in the general election. I just don't know.

I do think that Democratic politicians should behave more like Bernie Sanders, though. We need a vision of the future, and we need to stand up for that vision. We need to present a real alternative to the GOP. We need to push our values, and when we win the presidency, we need to use that bully pulpit. (My biggest problem with Barack Obama is that he hasn't done that - or not until quite recently, at least.)

And then we need to compromise. Because that's what democracy is all about. But we need to negotiate that compromise starting from a strong stance on our own side, knowing what we want and why we want it. No amount of appeasing Republicans is going to make them like us, and no amount of appeasing Republicans is going to make them eager to return the favor.

Just the reverse, in fact. If we Democrats don't stand for anything, why should anyone support us? And if we give away half of what we want even before we begin to negotiate, why won't Republicans see that as an opportunity to negotiate away the other half, too?

I hope this is something Hillary Clinton is learning from Bernie Sanders. I don't know if it is. But if this hasn't done it, nothing will.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Neil deGrasse Tyson



Note: This isn't the original video I embedded here. That one quickly disappeared from YouTube. I would have deleted this entire post, as it contained little but that video, except that I'd already received comments by then.

I couldn't find the same video, but after searching a bit, I found one that includes the part criticized below. (That segment starts at 13:25 and ends at 24:18.) Apparently, as Tyson himself acknowledges, he was wrong when he paraphrased George W. Bush - not about Bush saying it, but about when. But Tyson's overall point still seems valid. Well, you can decide for yourself about that.

Note that this is part of a Neil deGrasse Tyson playlist, so there's plenty more where this came from. Now, here are my original comments:

I'm pretty sure I've posted part of this talk before, but Neil deGrasse Tyson does such a good job, it's worth repeating. (His point about the Arabic names of stars is particularly good.)

I'm not sure where or when this talk took place. This isn't the original video, and there's nothing about that in the description. It is good, though, isn't it?

Non-Belief, Pt. 16: The Maximally Great Ontological Argument

As William Lane Craig puts it:
1. It is possible that a maximally great being (God) exists.
2. If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.
3. If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.
4. If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.
5. Therefore, a maximally great being exists in the actual world.
6. Therefore, a maximally great being exists.
7. Therefore, God exists.

As I understand it, that's basically Plantinga's version of the ontological argument for the existence of God. I don't know if it's become more popular these days, or if I've just happened to run into it more often lately, but I thought I'd post a few comments.

Note that I'm not a philosopher, and I've had absolutely no training in philosophy. Still, that's never stopped me. Heh, heh. Anyway, I previously commented about "Proving God through Philosophy," and I stand by what I said there.

Frankly, it sounds ludicrous to me that there's an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent Creator of the Universe - a god who really, really wants us to believe that he exists - but you can find zero evidence of that, no evidence that he does anything at all in our universe, and all you've got are word games to convince people otherwise.

How can this even make sense to you? If that god existed, we wouldn't be arguing about it. If that god existed, we've have abundant evidence to that effect. If that god existed, he'd make sure that we knew it and that we knew which god it was. (We could still reject him, so don't give me any of those ludicrous 'freewill' arguments.)

However, today I'm going to comment on this particular argument - again, from my layman's perspective. I make no pretense to be an expert here. Far from it!  But I've been hearing this argument a lot lately, and it just makes no sense to me at all. (If you disagree, please comment.)

1. It is possible that a maximally great being (God) exists.

Right from the start, I disagree with the premise because Craig, and other apologists, haven't demonstrated that it's true.

To begin with, how is he defining "great" here? If we look at two different people, which one is "greater" than the other? Do you think that any of us would agree about that? "Great" in what way? No one is greater than every other person in every possible way. (That would be an extraordinary claim requiring extraordinary evidence, certainly.)

Obviously, "great" is an extraordinarily vague word. "Great" can mean many different things. Unless you define it in such a way that we could come to a consensus about who is the "greatest" person on Earth, for example, isn't it too vague to have any real meaning at all?

After all, this is supposed to be a proof. How can you prove anything at all when we don't even know what you mean (not with any kind of precision, at least)? Craig is just defining his god as the "maximally great being," but that doesn't actually tell us anything. It certainly doesn't demonstrate that it's true.

But there's an even bigger problem with that statement. Craig hasn't demonstrated that it is possible that a "maximally great being," whatever that means, exists.

Human beings regularly confuse the word "possible" with the more accurate statement, "I don't know if it's possible." Not everything is possible.

Personally, I don't know if the existence of a "maximally great being" is possible or not. Partly, that's because I don't know what is even meant by that, not with any precision at all, but also, it's because he hasn't demonstrated that it is possible.

So, right from the start, I can't accept his premise. And thus, there's really no reason for me to continue here. If his premise is flawed, the argument fails. But I'll continue, anyway. I won't let you off the hook that easily. :)

2. If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.

How does he know that?

Craig doesn't go into that (not at this link, at least), but only says that "a being is greater if it exists necessarily rather than contingently." In other words, a being is "greater" if it actually exists. (Of course, if it doesn't exist, it isn't a "being" at all, so that's a meaningless statement.)

This is just playing word games, isn't it? I don't grant the premise, but if I did agree that it was possible, that would only mean that it was possible for a maximally great being to exist... somewhere in reality.

It wouldn't mean that such a being did exist. And it wouldn't mean that there are necessarily multiple worlds, either.

Note that we don't know if our universe is the only universe, and it's very common to confuse different meanings of the word "universe" (sometimes, we use "universe" to mean "everything that exists," which may or may not include more than our own universe).

A "possible world" is,... what, a universe that may or may not exist? Again, he hasn't demonstrated that other universes are possible. They might be possible, or they might not be possible. I don't know, and he doesn't, either.

I don't know. I suppose I might accept "hypothetical universe" as a substitute phrase? That, at least, indicates that such universes are pure speculation.

If, on the other hand, he means "world" to mean "everything that exists," then he hasn't said anything that he didn't already say in statement #1. He's just repeating what he claimed then, and I'll refer you to my response to that.

3. If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.

This seems to make absolutely no sense whatsoever. He's saying that, if it's possible for a maximally great being to exist, then a maximally great being does exist? That's just ludicrous.

Of course, I haven't agreed that it is possible, since I don't know if it's possible or not. But if it's possible for leprechauns to exist, does that mean that they do exist, then?

If it's possible for unicorns to exist - and it is possible, as far as I can tell, since we could probably genetically-engineer horses using technology that exists today - does that mean that unicorns do exist? Of course not!

This makes so little sense that I have to wonder how anyone can make such a claim. I assume that it's based on his definition of "maximally great," but again, that's just defining a god into existence, not demonstrating that a god really does exist.

4. If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.
5. Therefore, a maximally great being exists in the actual world.
6. Therefore, a maximally great being exists.
7. Therefore, God exists.

The rest of these are just conclusions resulting from those first three flawed premises. Since I don't accept any of them - for the reasons I stated above - I certainly can't accept the conclusions based on them.

But how can anyone  takes this argument seriously? That's what I wonder. I suppose it sounds impressive, if you don't think about it much (and you really, really want to believe that your god exists). But I just can't imagine how anyone can take it seriously. How can even William Lane Craig take it seriously? (Admittedly, he doesn't have anything else, huh?)

Besides, note that, even if it were true, it wouldn't get Christian apologists very far. For me to accept Christian mythology, they would have to demonstrate (1) that a god exists, (2) that it's their particular 'God' which exists, and (3) that they know what that god thinks and wants from us human beings.

So, even if this argument were valid, at best it would only get them one-third of the way (and that's putting it generously!). Even if this were true, it would only get them to deism, not Christianity. A generic 'god' isn't what any of them really care to prove - it's certainly not what Craig wants to prove - and it wouldn't have any implications for our world and our society, anyway.

***

Hmm,... just for fun, maybe I'll try my own ontological argument:
1. It is possible that a maximally great turd exists.
2. If it is possible that a maximally great turd exists, then a maximally great turd exists in some possible toilet.
3. If a maximally great turd exists in some possible toilet, then it exists in every possible toilet.
4. If a maximally great turd exists in every possible toilet, then it exists in your toilet.
5. Therefore, you need to flush your toilet.

___
PS. Note that my other posts in this Non-Belief series can be found here.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Richard Carrier: Mythmaking in the Gospels



This is an excerpt from Richard Carrier's 2009 debate with William Lane Craig. (The full debate is here.)

Interesting, isn't it? Nothing you probably ever heard in church, huh? :)

The party of sexual repression and hypocrisy

The news about Dennis Hastert, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, really brings back the hypocrisy of the 1990's Republican Party, doesn't it? Josh Marshall reminds us about all of that, here:
Denny Hastert, the longest serving Republican Speaker of the House in history, second in the line to the presidency for eight years, was a serial pedophile who preyed on adolescent boys in his charge when he was a high school wrestling coach before entering electoral politics. What is worth remembering is that Hastert's improbable rise to the pinnacle of political power in Washington was a direct consequence of Republican party efforts to exploit and eventually criminalize Bill Clinton's extramarital sex life in order to overturn the 1992 and 1996 presidential elections. The chain of events is clear and straightforward. ...

Clinton's mind-bogglingly reckless and impulsive relationship with Lewinsky did come to light in early 1998. And after it became clear that the mere revelation was not enough to drive Clinton from office, congressional Republicans grew increasingly determined to find a way to fashion it into a crime which would justify Clinton's impeachment. (It is worth remembering that Clinton's vaunted second term approval ratings only truly hit their highs after the Lewinsky scandal broke.) And that they did. ...

What we would learn only later was that while driving the country toward impeachment Gingrich was himself carrying on an affair with a twenty-something congressional aide named Callista Bisek. Gingrich would later divorce his wife Marianne and marry Bisek - they remain married - just as he had years before married Marianne after carrying on an affair with her while married to his first wife. ...

Meanwhile, the Republican conference quickly settled on Rep. Bob Livingston as Speaker Designate for the next Congress and de facto leader as the House moved toward impeaching the president. But then news broke that Hustler's Larry Flynt (yes, it was all really weird) was preparing an article on affairs conducted by Livingston and other members of Congress. This pushed Livingston to admit his own history of adultery and then - the very day the House passed articles of impeachment - in effect resign the Speakership even though he had not actually become Speaker.

Livingston resigned from the House and was succeeded by David Vitter, who would continuing paying for sex with prostitutes after moving to Washington to take his seat in the House and later in the Senate. In 2007, Vitter's phone number emerged from a published list of the phone records of "DC Madam" Deborah Jeane Palfrey. Vitter nonetheless survived the prostitution scandal and was releected to the Senate in 2010. He failed in his bid to become Governor of Louisiana in 2015. Palfrey later committed suicide, aged 52, shortly after being convicted of money laundering tied to running the prostitution ring. ...

Various names were at first mooted to succeed Livingston. But consensus quickly formed around a man little known even in Washington, let alone in the nation at large: Dennis J. Hastert.

Newt Gingrich, Bob Livingston, David Vitter, Denny Hastert - all Republican 'family values' hypocrites who pushed to impeach Bill Clinton for sexual infidelity. (And they are far from the only ones, too. Remember Larry Craig? Mark Foley? Mark Souder? The list goes on and on.)

Republicans aren't the only people to cheat on their spouses. (For the record, what Hastert did was far, far worse than that. I certainly don't mean to trivialize pedophilia.) But they take the world record for being hypocrites about it, don't you think?

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Seth Meyers: Wisconsin voter suppression



I blogged about some of this earlier today, but Seth Meyers at least makes a tragic situation funny.

Republicans are still doing their best to break our system of government, to break America's democracy. Voter suppression is just one small part of that.

Stealing the election



This is a Republican congressman admitting that Wisconsin's new law requiring voters to show a photo ID is politically motivated.*

Of course, everyone knows that's the case. Republican politicians are supposed to pretend that it's about combating in-person voter fraud, but since that doesn't exist (and it would be very, very easy to discover if it did exist, not to mention being ludicrously useless in affecting elections), even they have trouble sometimes remembering that they're not supposed to tell the truth.

This is about trying to win elections as a minority party. This is about stealing elections through the manipulation of voting laws (not just gerrymandering, which Republicans have also been shameless at pushing), because you can't convince the majority of American citizens that you're the person they want representing them.

This has been happening all over the country, wherever Republicans have the political power to push it through and the political need to do it. (Here in Nebraska, Democrats aren't going to get elected, anyway.) But here's another example from Wisconsin:
A former top staffer for a Republican legislator in Wisconsin suggested this week that GOP legislators were motivated to pass the state’s tough photo voter ID law because they believed it would help them at the ballot box, an account he expanded on in a Wednesday interview with TPM.

Todd Allbaugh, who served as chief of staff for state Sen. Dale Schultz (R) until the legislator retired in 2015, first made the claims in a Tuesday Facebook post that caught the attention of national voting rights experts.

In the post, Allbaugh recalled a 2011 caucus meeting of GOP state senators about the voter ID legislation. Allbaugh said during that meeting, some Republicans were “giddy” over the legislation's "ramifications" and the effect it would have on minority and young voters.

Once he left politics, Allbaugh opened a Madison, Wisconsin, coffee shop, where TPM reached him over the phone and he elaborated on those claims.

“It just really incensed me that they started talking about this particular bill, and one of the senators got up and said, ‘We really need to think about the ramifications on certain neighborhoods in Milwaukee and on our college campuses and what this could do for us,’” Allbaugh said. “The phrase ‘voter suppression’ was never used, but it was certainly clear what was meant.” ...

“It left a pit in my stomach to think that a party that I had worked for for years and years and years was literally talking and plotting to deny someone, a fellow citizen, their constitutional right,” Allbaugh said.

That's a Republican, sickened by what his own party is doing. And rightly so.

___
*PS. Frankly, I'm mad as hell that the reporter in the video above didn't even ask a follow-up question when Rep. Grothman accidentally admitted what their new voter ID law was meant to accomplish. What has happened to journalism in America?

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

What a beautiful baby...


And Trump's argument is that other people are worse. Funny, isn't it? In some ways, he's such a typical Republican. That's the argument I hear from Republicans all the time, about nearly everything. They don't even attempt to defend themselves, but simply claim that other people are just as bad, if not worse.

Of course, Donald Trump takes it so far that no one is worse. But that's how he's taken the lead in the Republican primary contest. He says the same things other Republicans say, but just doesn't try to be subtle about it.

That's why Republican Party leaders are aghast at his candidacy. Of course you can be racist, sexist, religiously bigoted, and xenophobic. Indeed, that is the Republican Party these days (plus tax cuts for the rich, of course). But you're supposed to be subtle about it, so that non-bigots can pretend.

Still, even for Trump, this clip is astonishing, isn't it? Donald Trump is a clown. It's embarrassing to our entire nation that he's a serious candidate for any political office in the land, let alone leading in one of our two main political parties for President of the United States.

Monday, April 4, 2016

John Oliver: Congressional fundraising



God, this is just depressing, isn't it?

Keep in mind that you can get $1,000 (or more) from one person, or you can get $50 from 20 people or $10 from 100 people. So of course you're going to work on the wealthiest of your constituents, and those are the people you're really going to listen to.

You still need votes, of course, and 100 votes from poor people will help you out a lot more than one vote from a wealthy person. We are not entirely helpless here, not at all. But as long as money is critical in our election system - and it is critical - we'll be waging an uphill battle.

Money is not speech. Money is money, and some people have a lot more of it than other people. If money is speech, as the right-wing claims, then that means rich people have the right to a lot more speech than the rest of us, and that's just wrong.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Make American grapes again



If the presidential election were good for nothing else, at least it's good for comedians. In particular, it lets SNL be funny, for a change. Yeah, I'm not a big fan, normally. But their political humor is often pretty damn good.

Maybe we should elect a president every year. :)