Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The cult of the 2nd Amendment

From Ed Kilgore at TPM:
Nowadays this revolutionary rationale for gun rights [that the main purpose of the Second Amendment is to keep open the possibility of revolutionary violence against the U.S. government] is becoming the rule rather than the exception for conservative politicians and advocates. Mike Huckabee, a sunny and irenic candidate for president in 2008, all but threatened revolutionary violence in his recent campaign book for the 2016 cycle, God, Guns, Grits and Gravy:
If the Founders who gave up so much to create liberty for us could see how our government has morphed into a ham-fisted, hypercontrolling “Sugar Daddy,” I believe those same patriots who launched a revolution would launch another one. Too many Americans have grown used to Big Government’s overreach. They’ve been conditioned to just bend over and take it like a prisoner [!]. But in Bubba-ville, the days of bending are just about over. People are ready to start standing up for freedom and refusing to take it anymore.

Perhaps the most surprising statement on this subject from a Republican presidential candidate was by a rare figure who dissents from the right-to-revolution talk, per this report from Sahil Kapur at TPM a few months ago:
Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz's argument that the Second Amendment provides the "ultimate check against government tyranny" is a bit too extreme for potential 2016 rival and fellow Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

"Well, we tried that once in South Carolina. I wouldn't go down that road again," Graham said, in an apparent reference to the Civil War. "I think an informed electorate is probably a better check than, you know, guns in the streets."

Graham joked about this, but liberals generally are not amused by the suggestion that “patriotic” Americans should be stockpiling guns in case “they”—it’s not clear who, of course—decide it’s time to start shooting police officers and members of the armed forces in defense of their liberties, which in some cases are perceived to be extremely broad. Indeed, a lot of Second Amendment ultras appear to think the right to revolution is entirely up to the individual revolutionary. Here’s Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, the darling of the GOP Class of 2014, talking about this contingency in 2012:
I have a beautiful little Smith & Wesson, 9 millimeter, and it goes with me virtually everywhere...But I do believe in the right to carry, and I believe in the right to defend myself and my family — whether it’s from an intruder, or whether it’s from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important.

You can wonder, as I often do, how people like Ernst would react to such rhetoric if it were coming from a member of a black nationalist or Islamist group. But clearly, there’s no point in progressives seeking any “compromise” with them on gun issues. They can only be defeated by a true mass social movement supporting reasonable gun regulation. But it’s important to understand that according to the Cult of the Second Amendment, opponents of gun measures have every right to fire back, literally.

So who decides when a police officer needs to be shot and killed, or a president, or any other government official?

In 1776, we didn't have a democracy. No one had a democracy. Today, we do. Today, we can vote. If you lose a vote, is that when you decide that police officers should be killed? Or politicians, elected by the majority of voters, whom you dislike?

And how is this different from ISIS? What makes Christian terrorists any better than Muslim terrorists?
PS. That picture above? You've probably seen it before, I'm guessing. It was popular for awhile. But I never heard the sequel, myself. Holly Fischer, that right-wing Christian gun nut who bragged about her morals and integrity, was later found cheating on her husband.

Because nothing says "moral Christian" like adultery, right?

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Making history fit the Bible

Funny, isn't it? Of course, reality doesn't matter to the faith-based, even when it's this easily demonstrated.

Where were you when the world ended?

What were you doing September 23rd, when the world ended? Oh, you didn't notice? Me, neither. Huh! I'm not surprised I wasn't raptured, but I wonder why I didn't even notice the asteroid strike? I'm not usually that absent-minded. :)

This is why a prophet should never be too specific. Of course, it won't make the slightest bit of difference to the faith-based. Failure never does. They'll still believe what they want to believe.

Oh, and did you notice the guy with the blackboard, giggling about the end of the world? Religious nuts just can't wait until the world is destroyed. How many of them would hurry it along, if they could?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The great mammogram farce

From Amanda Marcotte at TPM:
Over and over during the farce that was supposed to be a hearing on Planned Parenthood, Republican representatives attacked Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards because her organization does not provide mammograms as part of its core set of services. (They do sometimes pair with organizations for programs that offer them to low-income women.) Over and over again, the fact that Planned Parenthood doesn’t offer mammograms was held out as some kind of proof that the organization doesn’t provide women’s health care.

Marcotte points out that most gynecologists don't do mammograms, but instead refer their patients to radiology centers or hospitals with mammogram facilities. (I don't want to copy all of her column here, so I'll keep this short.)

Also, mammograms aren't recommended for most women under 50, and Planned Parenthood is a family planning clinic. "Think 20s and 30s, not 40s and 50s. The overlap between the women who need birth control pills and the women who need mammograms is pretty small."

So why the big focus on mammograms at Planned Parenthood? Are Republican men just that ignorant about women's health?
This obsession with mammograms belies the real agenda here, which has nothing to do with “fetal body parts” or even abortion, but with delegitimizing health care that exists so that people, particularly women, can have healthy and safe sex lives. The implication was clear: Mammograms are real health care, and all those other services—contraception, STI testing and treatment, Pap smears—are not. After all, virgins can get breast cancer, but you aren’t going to get the clap or an unintended pregnancy if you don’t have sex.

Republicans are smart and know they can’t just come right out and denounce the use of health care services in order to have recreational sex, because recreational sex is a nearly universal behavior. Ninety-nine percent of women who have sex have used contraception. Ninety-five percent of Americans had premarital sex. So the slut-shaming is being done sideways, by focusing heavily on non-sexual health care—or prenatal care—while pointedly ignoring the health care people centered around having sex. The omission speaks volumes.

If you thought the religious right had given up on the mission to push abstinence-until-marriage, this hearing should be a reminder that they very much have not, and instead are eager to undermine any care for the non-abstinent out of fear that it gives permission to have sex. Abstinence-only programs haven’t gone anywhere, either. As Erica Hellerstein of Think Progress reported over the summer, most programs were just renamed something like “abstinence-focused” or even, falsely, “evidence-based,” but they are pushing the same message: The only legitimate life choice is to refrain from having sex until marriage.

Why they don’t think married women need contraception is another question entirely, but we are talking about politicians who think you need a mammogram machine in a family planning clinic that primarily serves women in their 20s. Expertise on what women actually need in their health care is not a strong suit.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The limits of crazy

Here's an excellent article about John Boehner's resignation as Speaker of the House of Representatives and why a room full of right-wing Republicans erupted in cheers and applause when it was announced.

Why such contempt for someone who's a right-wing Republican himself? John Boehner vigorously opposed everything Barack Obama has tried to do, whatever it was, even when America's economy was in freefall. (And even while America was - is - at war. Can you imagine the outrage if Democrats had done that during the Bush Administration?)
... numerous Republicans (even presidential candidates) list not only Boehner's (non-existent) failure to stop Obamacare, but also his supposed enabling of Obamacare. As Mike Huckabee explained, "When people sent [Republicans] here, they didn't send them to give the president more power on Obamacare[.]" Think about that: after total legislative obstruction, a government shut-down, more than 50 votes to repeal Obamacare, an ensuing presidential election, two Supreme Court lawsuits, and other pending litigation - - Republicans are livid with the belief that John Boehner has worked with the President to strengthen Obamacare.

No sane political observer could think that. So, what gives?

Let's go to John Chait:
Boehner has never supported any important aspect of the Obama agenda. Even at the outset of the Obama administration, with the president soaring in the polls and the economy plunging into the abyss, he rallied his entire party to withhold support from the stimulus and never seriously considered negotiating. He not only voted against Obamacare, but he repeatedly punctuated his speech denouncing it with shouts of “hell no!” The positive “accomplishments” of the Boehner Era were limited to avoiding a series of brinksmanship-induced catastrophes. The limits of conservative power extended to the ability to block all legislative progress or compromise. Boehner successfully delivered that. He even joined in several creative efforts to expand his institution’s power by using threats of shutdowns or debt-ceiling crises to coerce Obama into enacting portions of the Republican agenda, giving up only when Obama had beaten him back repeatedly.

It was not enough. Three quarters of Republicans believe, incredibly, that their party leadership has not done enough to oppose Obama. Three fifths feel “betrayed” by their party. “In the last seven years Barack Obama has successfully recruited, or corrupted, or hijacked — however you want to describe it — John Roberts of the Supreme Court; John Boehner, speaker of the House; Mitch McConnell, Republican leader in the Senate; and, some might even say, the pope,” ranted Rush Limbaugh the other day.

This discontent runs much deeper and wider than Boehner. It has driven much of the support for Donald Trump, whose “conservatism” rests in his affect, radiating power and contempt for Obama, rather than in his policies, which actually lie to the left of the party platform overall. Boehner had the misfortune of leading, or attempting to lead, his party in an era when it had run up to the limits of crazy, where the only unexplored frontiers of extremism lay beyond the reach of its Constitutional powers.

Republicans are faith-based. Reality doesn't enter into their thinking at all. When Fox 'News' held a poll, asking Republicans why their leaders failed to stop Barack Obama, the real reason wasn't even an option:
It finds that 60 percent of Republicans feel betrayed by their party, and that 66 percent of Republicans don’t think their party did all it could to block Obama’s agenda. The poll asks why respondents think their party leaders failed at this: they didn’t really want to stop Obama; they weren’t smart enough; they would rather fight each other. The Fox poll doesn’t even offer respondents the option of choosing the real reason — that Republicans structurally lack the votes! No wonder voters are easily seduced into thinking Trump is “telling it like it is.”

But again, Republicans are faith-based. If they accepted reality, they wouldn't be Republicans.

Back to that first article at Daily Kos:
It sounds crazy, I know, but this represents the true "dark side" of Boehner's resignation: it is another significant step in the Republican party's shocking withdrawal from our system of democratic governance. Specifically, it presages a doubling-down of the Republicans' intentions to assert "negative control," where government shutdowns, hostage-taking, and (the immensely dangerous) debt-ceiling fights threaten to become more determinative than electoral outcomes and a functioning government. As one Republican writer put it, the emerging Republican belief is that threats of government destruction combined with the inherent rightness of Republican beliefs "could be so strong (as Ted Cruz was of his proposal to defund Obamacare) that Senate Democrats, the Obama White House and the mainstream media would, for once, finally, this time, cave in and let the House Republicans have their way." (And the use of the words "for once, finally" means "rightly," "appropriately," consistent with the "true" distribution of power.) ...

What we have here is one of two major political parties increasingly disengaging from the democratic process. Did you know that President Obama is an illegitimate President because he is not a "natural born citizen"? Or that he won election by promising "free stuff" to minorities? That minorities and illegal aliens are engaged in massive voter fraud? Or, that popular elections of U.S. Senators should be taken away? That some "Boehner Rule" or "Hastert Rule" exists which neuters any Democratic House votes? Or that is OK for Republicans to filibuster every proposed law while in the minority, but the filibuster should be repealed now that Republicans have a Senate majority? Or that the Electoral College should be reformed to provide proportional votes only in "Blue States"? . . . or, that policy outcomes should not be determined by elections but instead by holding hostage the federal government or the "full faith and credit" of the U.S.?

Most importantly, did you realize that all of the above are necessary to enact the majority will of the people? Because - believe it or not - that is what the Republicans believe.

The conclusion of Congressional scholars Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein has been widely quoted, but not sufficiently absorbed:
One of the two major parties, the Republican Party, has become an insurgent outlier — ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

I thought the Bush Administration was about as low as we could get. After that complete debacle, after than unending series of disasters and unmet promises, I figured the Republican Party would at least have to turn back towards sanity a bit.

Instead, they did just the reverse. Before Barack Obama had even taken office, when we were still at war and our economy was crumbling down around us, in the worst economic crash since the Great Depression, they agreed to do nothing that Obama wanted, no matter what it was, no matter what its effect on our country.

John Boehner did that. Mitch McConnell did that. But because they couldn't, as the minority party, prevent everything, they are despised by their own party.

Republicans are faith-based. Reality doesn't enter into their thinking at all. But they've got billionaires on their side, so they've got lots and lots of money. And they control the Supreme Court (thanks to previous bad presidential decisions). And now, unbelievably, they even control Congress.

What is wrong with my country? Are there any limits to crazy in America? Look at the Republican presidential campaign. And that's after the complete disaster that was George W. Bush!

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah

Last night was the premiere of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. This was the beginning, which makes me optimistic.

I wasn't wild about the latter part of the show, but I'm not a big fan of celebrity interviews. Even when Jon Stewart was running the show, I often skipped them. And it might take awhile for Noah to hit his stride.

But The Daily Show will continue without a big format change, it seems. I'm glad of that.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Today in racism and guns

From TPM:
A South Dakota man is in custody for lying to police about how he landed in the emergency room with a gunshot wound to the penis.

Donald Anthony Watson, 43, told police he was shot by “a black guy (who) tried to rob” him while he was taking out the trash at his apartment, the Argus Leader reported Friday.

But police weren't able to corroborate Watson's story of an attempted robbery after a search of his apartment, where they found blood, bullet fragments, and an empty gun case.

Watson eventually admitted he had made the story up, and had instead placed a handgun he was considering purchasing in his pocket, where it fired and hit his genitals.

Luckily, this guy doesn't really need a penis, because that's what the gun is for, right? His penis-substitute? Isn't that what most guns are for? Handguns, at least.

You know, I don't think I've ever seen a news story about someone lying to the police and inventing a crime without that imaginary criminal being described as a black man. And I've seen lots of stories like this. (Well, not exactly like this. Shooting his own penis is an interesting GunFail, to say the least.)

A few years ago, here in Lincoln, there was a prominent news story about a woman attacked on the bike trail near me, when a 'big black man' jumped out of the bushes and grabbed her. A week or so later, I happened to notice a tiny retraction buried in the back of the paper. She'd made the whole thing up, apparently just for attention.

Why was the imaginary man who attacked her black? Well, who else would she pick to slander? And she probably didn't even consider herself to be a racist, either (few racists do).

But I had to wonder how many people had seen that first story, prominently displayed in the newspaper, but never noticed the tiny little retraction later. Well, that's not 'news,' huh? The first story was sensational. The fact that it wasn't true was just a minor detail.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Best of Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll does a great job in these debates, doesn't he? His arguments are so easy to understand.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Republicans want to ban religion,... just not their own

Incredible, isn't it? It's the 21st Century, but even Americans don't fully accept and affirm freedom of religion, one of the founding principles of our country.

Oh, sure, they want their own religious beliefs to be sufficient excuse for doing... whatever they want, even for oppressing other people. But that's not freedom of religion. After all, every theocrat wants that. The Taliban wants that. Al-Qaeda wants that. ISIS wants that.

How can Americans not even understand what freedom of religion is - or not support it, if they do understand? Yeah, Republicans have become batshit crazy in recent years, but this crazy? I shouldn't be surprised by this, especially since I'm continually surprised by this kind of thing, but I still am.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Unicornstitution


Josh Marshall at TPM explains the Unicornstitution:
Seeing so many stories like this one I've become increasingly convinced of the existence and the importance of what I will call the Unicornstitution. Related but by no means synonymous with the US constitution, the Unicornstitution exists as a sort of ersatz Platonic ideal form of the Constitution which exists in the ether and is ready at hand to give a big thumbs up and attaboy and 'you go girl' to whatever crazy bullshit thing you already decided to do, especially if you're really angry and stupid and fundamentally see life in America as as matter of other undeserving people taking away your stuff and your not being able to do anything about it.

This is related to a point I made earlier this year ("No. Sorry. You're not a constitutional conservative.") But it goes a bit beyond that - the desire to wrap every completely nutball idea you have onto the Constitution. Because generally because ...

Ritzheimer is a somewhat extreme example, I grant you, but the Unicornstitution has become increasingly prevalent among high-ranking elected leaders who for instance really really think Obamacare is socialism and Kenyan and therefore unconstitutional. You just have to look hard enough to find out how. But you don't need to look all that hard because the Unicornstitution is always right there at hand waiting, sort of like an imaginary friend.

Take a look at that first link. In an America where crazy bullshit is common - indeed, where it's basically the Republican Party - that's still shocking in just how crazy and just how big a pile of bullshit it really is.

But in a land where crazy bullshit is so widely accepted (just look at the GOP presidential primary), there really is no limit. If you're OK with crazy bullshit, how can you say that anything is too insane or stinks too badly?

You either care about reality or you don't. If you don't, you're faith-based. If you don't, you believe whatever crap you want to believe. That's why most Republicans think that Barack Obama is a Muslim (and most of the rest are "unsure").

That's crazy, sure, but it's not the craziest. In fact, there is no 'craziest.' There's just what's the biggest pile of bullshit so far. Once you no longer care about reality - or you have a financial/political reason to push crazy, and no ethical qualms about it whatsoever - there's no limit.

Limits exist in reality, but not in fantasy, not in batshit crazy. That's the problem with faith-based thinking. No matter how crazy you get, someone can always out-crazy you. If crazy bullshit is acceptable at all, it will just get crazier and crazier.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The GOP's Muslim strategy

You know, I've become more and more impressed with Amanda Marcotte. Here she is again with a great post at TPM:
This week has epitomized the bizarro world American politics has become. It’s a week during which the media and politicians have been enraptured by a debate over whether or not a Muslim could become president. ...

Why? Well, Ted Cruz’s answer to a question about this new controversy hinted at what is really going on here. After affirming that he can read by noting that the constitution requires no religious test for office, Cruz said, “The broader question, and what I think Ben was trying to get at, is what are the consequences been in the last six and a half years of the Obama presidency?” ...

Obviously the answer is that both Carson and now Cruz are referencing the widespread belief amongst conservatives that Obama is secretly a Muslim but is concealing his true beliefs for nefarious reasons, possibly to impose sharia law on the nation. (Any day now.) The last public poll on this belief showed that 86 percent of Republicans are warm to it, with 54 percent believing that Obama is a Muslim and 32 percent saying they are unsure. Only 14 percent of Republicans correctly describe Obama’s religion as Christian.

In other words, the belief that Obama is a Muslim is an entrenched “fact” on the right, much like the belief that global warming is a hoax or Planned Parenthood is a for-profit company that makes its money selling fetal parts. Carson and Cruz aren’t really talking about a hypothetical Muslim president in some future world. This is all a coded way to talk about Obama.

In that light, the discussion makes more sense. When Carson says that “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation,” he’s aligning himself with right wing forces that don’t accept the legitimacy of Obama’s presidency, even going so far as to float conspiracy theories that Obama faked his birth certificate to conceal his Kenyan origins. ...

No one is going to come right out and accuse Obama of being a foreign invader—or maybe just a secret Muslim—who comes to ruin Mom and apple pie, because they want to be taken seriously by the mainstream media. So they just talk in coded language that their conspiracy theorist supporters understand but which coats their discourse in plausible deniability. If confronted, they can just say they aren’t talking about a specific person who happens to be a Muslim in the White House who is out to destroy us all through nefarious means. Just a hypothetical one, wink wink.

There are a couple of major benefits to this game, beyond just being able to demonize political opponents without being called out by the media for lying. For one thing, it reinforces the conservative narrative that they’re victims of a liberal elite suppressing their great truths through the almighty power of political correctness. After all, they have to talk in coded language like they’re all in some spy network! Clearly, they are being oppressed and censored by people who can’t handle the truth. ...

There may be a silver lining with conservatives increasingly relying on coded language and ever more complex rhetorical traps. Yes, the strategy helps conservatives communicate radical ideas to each other under a blanket of plausible deniability. Yes, they drive liberals up the wall while they do it. But they’re starting to sound like a bunch of jabbering idiots to people who aren’t already well-versed with the various conspiracy theories and coded beliefs. Pissing off the liberals is fun, but it might be at the expense of making sense to voters who don’t speak fluent Right Wingese.

This is perceptive (note that I butchered her column pretty badly so I could post just an excerpt here), but I'm not so sure I agree with that last paragraph. Republicans have been using coded language - racist dog whistles - since they began their 'Southern strategy' of deliberately wooing white racists, decades ago.

It worked great then, and it still seems to work. The mainstream media rarely call them on it, because it is in code - easily deciphered code, but there's still that plausible deniability. And voters who don't completely understand the code, and don't fully agree with it, aren't hit over the head with blatant racism and other bigotry.

The whole point of using coded language is because it works. If it didn't work, the Republican Party would stop using it.

The Hungry for Power Games - another one bites the dust

I would have bet on Scott Walker, if I'd had to bet on the Republican primary. He seemed to have the Koch brothers backing him - and other billionaires, too. And he was a right-wing loon governing a rather blue state. How did that happen, if he wasn't electable?

Oh, well. Who could have predicted Donald Trump?

This is the second drop-out in the past week or so. (At this rate, they'll all be gone in a few years, huh?) Maybe I should post Stephen Colbert's tribute to Rick Perry, too, since this seems to have become a series...

I suppose they won't all drop out, huh? Too bad. This is the party of Abraham Lincoln, after all, and the party of Teddy Roosevelt.

Well, no, it isn't. This is actually the party of Strom Thurmond. It's the Dixiecrat Party in GOP clothing. They did that to themselves with their 'Southern strategy' of deliberately wooing white racists.

But it worked so well. That's the depressing thing. And the fact that it's still working, with a disturbingly large part of America, is even more so.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Outsourcing America

I really like Stephen Colbert, but I think he's got the wrong idea here. This campaign ad wasn't a mistake. Jeb 'Don't-Call-Me-Bush' Bush is a Republican. He was just trying to demonstrate to the wealthy (his base) how easy it is to outsource jobs in America.

The lack of an exclamation point is more worrisome, though. Someone might see that and accidentally add "Bush" to "Jeb," which would be disastrous for his candidacy. Then again, maybe not, since so few people seem to remember that he's even running.

Half the support of Donald Trump in his own state? He's toast.

Sorry, I mean he's toast! (Let's not forget those exclamation points!)

Monday, September 21, 2015

Ben Carson not Christian enough

This is from TPM:
Dr. Ben Carson was left out of a Christian pastors' conference earlier this year in part because his own religious beliefs deviated too much from Christian orthodoxy.

The snub was ironic in hindsight, as Carson is now under fire for saying over the weekend that he didn't believe a Muslim should be President of the United States because his or her religious beliefs would be in conflict with the Constitution.

Willy Rice, the pastor of Florida-based Calvary Baptist Church, invited the retired neurosurgeon to speak at the Southern Baptist Pastors' Conference earlier this year. The invite for the June conference came before Carson was a declared Republican presidential candidate.

However, several organizations and individuals within the Southern Baptist community publicly expressed their displeasure with having Carson, a Seventh-day Adventist, address the conference. Those complaints, in addition to Carson's expected presidential campaign launch, led Carson and the conference organizers to mutually agree to not have him speak at the event.

Funny, isn't it? This particular Christian bigot isn't Christian enough for other Christian bigots.

This is why we have the separation between church and state. This is why there's no religious test for any political office in America, why there's no state religion, why our founders wrote into the Constitution of the United States that your religious beliefs, if any, are your own fucking business, no one else's. (I'm paraphrasing a bit.)

You know something. In my entire life - my adult life, at least - no president has ever shared my own opinions about religion. Not a single one. So what? In presidential elections, we're not voting for pope. We're electing the secular leader of a secular country.

Five stupid things

You know what's really sad? Steve Shives does these regularly. Yeah, this degree of stupidity isn't even unusual in America these days. In fact, it's common as dirt.

Isn't American exceptionalism great?

Saturday, September 19, 2015

GOP debate - who was the biggest liar?

"Goddamn it, do journalism! Do journalism!"  Yeah, Cenk, I feel the same way.

CNN didn't fact-check the debate, didn't object to even the most obvious lies, because if they did that, they'd never hold another Republican Party debate. Ever.

They had the biggest audience in CNN's history. They'd never had so many people watching CNN. That's hugely important to their corporation's profits. There's no way in hell they'd risk that. So of course they let these politicians lie with impunity.

Now, sure, you can always find out the truth later, if you want, on websites and in videos like this one. But all of those combined won't receive as many views as the debate. And what's the narrative afterwards? Are these politicians forever after branded as liars, then?

When it comes to Carly Fiorina, TPM puts it well:
Press failures, especially massive ones, tend to be right there in plain site and yet totally invisible, entirely ignored. And yet we have a massive one coming out of Wednesday night's Republican debate that the press seems inclined or insisting on totally ignoring. Commentators are toasting Carly Fiorina as the break-out winner of the debate. And yet she not only made a string of false statements, or claims that showed a willful disregard for or ignorance of reality, she almost certainly manufactured a bogus memory entirely out of whole cloth. And all of this is cast into particularly high relief since Fiorina went into the debate intent on branding Hillary Clinton as a liar. "Her track record of lying about Benghazi, of lying about her e- mails, about lying about her servers," is something Hillary will have to answer for, Fiorina bellowed in the debate.

Now it may seem odd to call this a press failure when I'm about to cite several press organizations that quickly noted all these distortions and outright lies. But this is always the case with a press failure of this magnitude. Someone is always making the point here or there. But it doesn't take shape as part of the narrative of what happened in the debate or the campaign. That's certainly the case here. Vox, ABC News and Esquire have each in one way or another been all over this. But the reality of what Fiorina did in this debate and a number of earlier press encounters is totally absent from the basic themes of the post-debate coverage.

Fiorina has a habit of simply making things up. In the case of the parts of the Planned Parenthood videos, the way she made it up seems to verge on the pathological. Again she says she saw something in these videos that completely wasn't there. And she doubled down on it the next day. This is just lying through your teeth or just being so indifferent to whether things are true or not that it amounts to the same thing.

The narrative, which you see everywhere, is that Carly Fiorina won the debate. Her ratings went up. The fact that she said nothing but lies doesn't seem to matter in the slightest. It certainly doesn't seem to matter to the mainstream press. That's not part of the narrative at all.

If there's no downside to lying, then politicians will lie. Well, successful politicians will lie, anyway. Why wouldn't they?

Remember when Al Gore claimed to have invented the internet? That was a lie. Of course, it wasn't Al Gore's lie, because Al Gore didn't say that. He didn't even come close to saying that. The lie, from the Republican Party, was that he said it. But that lie became the narrative. That lie successfully tarred Al Gore with something completely untrue.

Lying works, especially if you have enough money and enough propaganda outlets like Fox 'News' and enough people willing to repeat the lie. There's no downside to lying, especially in a debate broadcast to millions of people, if the media won't immediately call out lies.

Or even make a big deal about the lies. The established narrative of the debate isn't that Carly Fiorina lied through her teeth, but that she 'won' the debate.

Why do we let this happen? Personally, I think it's mostly about money. The Republican Party won't let a media company hold one of their debates if their candidates can't get away with lying.

Similarly, if a journalist asks tough questions in an interview (like asking Sarah Palin which newspapers she reads!), that journalist will get no more interviews. Indeed, the journalist's employer would be punished for that. Some other company would get access, not theirs.

But TMP says it's laziness:
Why is the press ignoring or hushing this up? It's almost always a matter of laziness. Hillary is the shifty-eyed liar, Rick Perry was the dolt, Obama is stand-offish and cerebral. Everybody has their cliche or caricature through which all their actions are understood. Confirmatory news is kept; disconfirmatory news is tossed aside. To an important degree, this is simply human nature. We all do it to some degree in our daily lives. But journalists have special responsibilities to look past caricatures and the familiar. In this case, they're failing that test. You should not be able to tell a slew of small fibs in a big debate and one mammoth one and not have it become part of the campaign discussion at all.

Of course, all politicians lie, right? That's the other excuse you'll hear. If everyone is tarred by the same brush, then it doesn't matter how outrageously you lie. There's no downside to lying if the response is that 'everyone does it.'

That's how we get politicians we can't stand. That's how we get a dysfunctional Congress. When a politician does something outrageous, the common response - and not just by that politician's supporters - is that 'they all do it.' Thus, there's absolutely no downside to being exceptionally bad.

In a democracy, we get the kinds of politicians we deserve.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Muslim hysteria

I meant to post this earlier (it's a couple of weeks old), but now turns out to be a good time.

Why would you call the police even if the sign had been in Arabic? (It's Hebrew.) How stupid can people get? How timid? How cowardly?

Here's another incident, from Texas (naturally):

This bright 14-year-old kid made an electronic clock. But because he's brown - and Muslim - he was arrested and taken in handcuffs to juvenile detention.

Here's the article in the Dallas Morning News.
Police say they may yet charge him with making a hoax bomb — though they acknowledge he told everyone who would listen that it’s a clock.

Trickery dickery Fox, phony war on cops

Larry Wilmore is pretty good here, isn't he? I don't particularly like the format of the rest of his show, but the opening is always great.