The Watering Hole, Monday, July 27th, 2015: The (R) Debates

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A little over a week from now, the first of the planned nine 2016 Republican Presidential debates, this one being held in Cleveland, Ohio, will kick off the start of the season. Fox will be airing the August 6th debate, which will be limited to the the top ten candidates, their inclusion being based on an average of several national polls.

Wait a second, that’s not exactly true. Fox will also air, prior to the ‘main event’, an hour-long debate amongst the second-tier candidates, according to AP via YahooNews. As of yesterday, those ‘also running’ will be: Carly “I tanked Hewlitt-Packard” Fiorina, Piyush “Bobby” Jindal, Elmer “George” Pataki, Rick “Frothy” Santorum, Lindsey “The Vapors” Graham, and possibly John “Republicans don’t like to wait in line” Kasich, Chris “Sit down and shut up!” Christie, and Rick “Oops!” Perry.

A few excerpts from the article:

Frank Luntz:

“If you’re not on the stage [in the first-tier debate] you’re irrelevant, you don’t matter. Unless you have some serious ad dollars, it’s not a glass ceiling. It’s a concrete ceiling.”

Well, we all know that if there’s an election coming, Frank Luntz is always going to be involved.

Rick Perry:

“Perry unloaded on Wednesday when he called Trump’s campaign a “barking carnival act” and “toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness and nonsense.”

OMG, I think that’s the one time we can all agree with Rick Perry on something!

Jindal campaign:

“Curt Anderson, a strategist advising Jindal’s campaign, wrote in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal that the Republican Party was sabotaging itself by controlling the debates too much, after concluding that marginal candidates dragged 2012 nominee Mitt Romney too far to the right.”

Now hold on there, Anderson, Romney wasn’t pulled ‘too far to the right’, he tanked his chances all by himself with his own words.

I think that both debates should be highly entertaining. However, one thing I’m wondering: with all of the recent racial issues that have occurred in Cleveland, in particular the “Black Lives Matter” conference and protest, during which a white cop decided to pepper-spray protesters, will ANY of the candidates be asked about race relations and/or police violence? I don’t know who the moderator will be in either debate, but if they’re airing on Fox…well, we’ll just have to see.

All I can say is, after the 25+ debates during the 2012 election season, I am SO glad that there’s only supposed to be nine this time!

This is our daily Open Thread–go ahead, discuss things!

The Watering Hole, Saturday, July 25, 2015: We Told Us So

In January 2009, the Strategic Analysis Group, Homeland Environment and Threat Analysis Division of the Department of Homeland Security issued a report on Left Wing Extremism. The purpose of the report was to “to facilitate a greater understanding of the emerging threats to the United States. The information is provided to federal, state, and local counterterrorism and law enforcement officials so they may effectively deter, prevent, preempt, or respond to terrorist attacks against the United States.” It said that the primary concern over the next ten years would be non-violent cyber-terrorism targeting chiefly economic entities. The report clearly stated right at the beginning that it was one of a series of reports on threats to homeland security. Nobody appeared to pay it much attention. In fact, DHS had to remind people of its existence when they followed up three months later with a report on Right Wing Extremism. And in typical right wing fashion, Republicans and Conservatives went ape shit and bullied the DHS to retract the report (as if that would make the words in it go away.) Because that’s what bullies do – they scream and shout and stamp their feet and threaten violence if they don’t get their way. They mischaracterized the report’s recommendations in a number of ways. One was by taking the suggestion that disgruntled military veterans (note the word “disgruntled”) were prime recruiting targets for extremist groups looking to use violence. It did not in any way, shape or form say that ALL veterans were candidates for extremism, but that is how the right wing portrayed the report’s findings. They demanded an apology to veterans (which Secretary Napolitano eventually gave) even though she insulted none of them (except, perhaps, the extreme white nationalist, anti-immigration kind – IOW, people just like today’s Republican Party). And they demanded that the report, the one that said people just like them might resort to physical violence, go away because they said it wasn’t true. Except it was. And the fallout was that DHS eventually reduced to one person the number of people following left or right wing extremism in America. Way to keep us safe, Republicans.

The straw man argument is a tactic the right wing uses a lot in political discourse, especially when they’re wrong from the beginning. They made it seem as if the report was saying that every veteran returning from war was going to commit acts of terrorism. Nothing of the kind was true, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone with an IQ in the three-digit range. When the Affordable Care Act was being debated, the right decided that the section which said Medicare would pay for your doctor’s time to sit down with you and discuss your end-of-life options really amounted to a “Death Panel.” This, BTW, was one of several things they referred to falsely as a Death Panel – you and your doctor discussing what happens if you get a terminal illness. Another was a board that would look for ways to spend taxpayer money more effectively and efficiently. That was also a Death Panel. That there is nothing even remotely describing a Death Panel in the PP/ACA never once deterred them from saying there were several. In his dissent in the recent Obergefell v. Hodges decision, Justice Thomas said, “It appears all but inevitable that [civil marriage and religious marriage] will come into conflict, particularly as individuals and churches are confronted with demands to participate in and endorse civil marriages between same-sex couples.” Again, this is a straw man argument. In the first place, marriage in the United States is a civil arrangement, not a religious one. You can be married without it having any connection to any religion. (As in the case of my marriage by a Justice of the Peace at the restaurant where we held the reception.) Second, no individual has to participate in any wedding if he or she doesn’t want to participate. And third, in every state where marriage equality was enacted by a state legislature, an exemption was written into the law stating that no religious entity could be forced to perform a same-sex marriage if it violated their religious beliefs. Not one state was going to force churches to perform same-sex weddings if they thought gay sex was icky. Yet here’s Justice Thomas (who, BTW, ought to be removed from the bench for voting on issues before the court where he had a clear conflict of interest, such as one side paying his wife to be their advocate) claiming that churches were now going to be forced to participate in same sex weddings even if they don’t want to do it. Totally untrue. Conservatives seem to have a hard time with options. They act as if the choice to do something is equivalent to it being a government mandate to do that something. They have a binary way of thinking that tells them everything is one way or the other, there’s no in-between. Except life is filled with in-betweens and there’s rarely that many black-or-white, yes-or-no options. As former President George H.W. Bush once said, “Either you’re for it or you’re against it.” I forget what the “it” was but it makes no difference because that’s how the right feels about everything.

So because the right was all butthurt over the Right Wing Extremism report, they demanded that it not only be retracted, but that no further discussion of the subject by the government could take place. And so insufficient resources were devoted to tracking the rise of right wing extremism, and more and more people died as a consequence. The same month the report was released, Joshua Cartwright (who was “severely disturbed” that Barack Obama was elected president) shot and killed two sheriff’s deputies. The next month Scott Roeder (an anti-abortion extremist connected to the sovereign citizens movement) shot and killed Dr. George Tiller in the entrance to a church. The very next month James von Brunn (a neo-Nazi and white supremacist) walked up to the Holocaust Museum and shot and killed a guard. And the violence by right wing extremists continued month after month. Since the criminal attacks of 9/11 (they were crimes, not acts of war), anti-government, racist and non-jihadist extremists have killed nearly twice as many people as those by Islamic jihadists, yet the right would have you believe ISIS is more of a danger to us than they are. It is simply untrue. As this last Thursday showed.

John Russell Houser, who Little Green Footballs’ Charles Johnson described as “an anti-government loon who admired Adolph Hitler, Timothy McVeigh, white power groups, the Westboro Baptist Church and the “scientific racism” of Charles Murray’s “The Bell Curve,”” opened fire inside a Lafayette, LA, movie theater using a hand gun he legally purchased from a pawn shop, killing two women and injuring nine others. It’s exactly the kind of violent act our own government warned us was likely to happen. But did we listen? No. Even worse, the right wing told us to shut up and act like it couldn’t happen. Except it did. If only we had listened to ourselves.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss the dangers of right wing extremism or any other topic you wish.

The Watering Hole; Friday July 24 2015; Tidbits of Political ‘Pottage’

“[Man] was born and equipped as an excellent animal,
but he sold his birthright for a mess of pottage called culture
and took on fear and a whimper as a part of the bargain.”
~John C. Van Dyke

Below is one of the most bizarre things I ever recall reading (and I’ve read LOTS of bizarre stuff over the years). This one has to do with Frank Gaffney’s National Security Action Summit in New Hampshire this coming weekend (at which some Republican Clown Car candidates will be in attendance, namely Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, Carly Fiorina, Rick Santorum and George Pataki). One of the scheduled speakers is a guy I’ve never heard of before; his name is John Guandolo, himself a former FBI agent who got canned because of a bit of an over-anxious libido with a Virginia businesswoman, an FBI “confidential source.” Among others.

I’ve run across some weird and perverse accusatory theses before, but not sure I’ve ever read or heard anything quite as wild as Guandolo spits out. This an excerpt from a RWW blog entitled GOP Presidential Candidates Will Appear Alongside Disgraced Conspiracy Theorist John Guandolo — baseless garbage all, but undoubtedly part and parcel to this country’s ascendent Ignoramus Ignoranus political pottage.

According to Guandolo, [former CIA Director John] Brennan decided to “convert to Islam” in Saudi Arabia as “the culmination of a counterintelligence operation against him to recruit him.” He alleged that Brennan is now aligned with Saudi Arabia and the Muslim Brotherhood, despite the fact that the Saudi government is one of the region’s chief opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood and bankrolled the Egyptian government’s suppression of the group.

While speaking with conspiracy theorist radio host Rick Wiles, Guandolo said U.S. government officials like Brennan want to “aid and abet the enemy, and that is a criminal act,” adding that Obama is similarly “an individual who is significantly sympathetic to the cause of our enemies.”

Guandolo has repeatedly called for Obama and Brennan to be removed from their offices for their “treasonous” ties to Saudi Arabia, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. In fact, Guandolo even believes that Obama is actively aiding Al Qaeda.

Guandolo wants the police to arrest members of Muslim-American affinity groups, claiming that anyone associated with such groups are “terrorists,” and believes Muslims “do not have a First Amendment right to do anything.”

As the myth-busting outlet Snopes said, “Guandolo markets the idea of an imminent, pervasive threat to security in the United States [that] has resulted from a conspiracy by Muslims to infiltrate the government at its highest levels, and [Guandolo] is paid for his ‘expertise’ through his being hired to provide lectures and training classes on the subject.”

All I can say is those Muslims must be really cool to have found the means to pull all that off! Either that or Guandolo is one more stupid and ignorant American who is willing to effectively offer “aid and comfort to our enemies” via his preposterous theories.

Speaking of bizarre, I decided the other day to get a better look at Donald Trump’s hair (I have no idea as to why, actually), so I googled Donald Trump Photos. Came up with a site that had a bunch of them, and wow, was I surprised with what I found there! Both of these are identified on that site as “Donald Trump,” but with no info as to date or circumstance, etc. Still, talk about bizarre!Trump3Hard to believe those are two pics of the same dude. Still, the eyes, mouth, and ears all seem to fit. I do have to wonder how much he spends on hair each month, and how many servants it takes to keep it looking exactly the same every time he goes out somewhere. Oh, and I wonder how often must they do the bleach job on his topknot and his eyebrows?

Maybe we’ll find out all about the hair thingee once he’s our POTUS. I, of course, will never learn the answer, whatever it might be. I’ll be too involved in learning how to get along in whichever country I happen to wind up in if “Hair Trump” should happen to prevail in 2016.

Enough of the bizarre — I’m about up to my tear ducts in political horse hockey. Thank all gods for “out there” — pictured here in a couple of brief “episodes” from the last week.

Sunflower and buds

Sunflower and buds

Reflections

Reflections

There. I feel better already.

OPEN THREAD

The Watering Hole; Thursday July 23 2015; Ignorance in Politics

Courtesy of dictionary.com:

Ignorance: “lack of knowledge, information, or education.

Politics: “use of intrigue or strategy in obtaining any position of power or control.”

In other words, neither politicians nor their brand of politic need be motivated exclusively by ignorance (politician ignorance not disallowed, also not a requirement). Ignorance does remain, however, a primary tool in the task of making their perceived “position of power or control” politically popular enough to become the political norm. To accomplish that goal, an appeal to and support from those who are otherwise burdened by lack of knowledge, information, or education is mandatory. Bottom line: Politicians who promote FALSE premises as their platform (no matter their own level of ignorance) NEED a mass of ignorant voters who willingly accept the lies and falsehoods before they, the political aspirants, can ever succeed.

One could  critique for days on end the lies and untruths politicians typically spout in order to tap the vast reservoir of ignorance that defines a substantial percentage of ‘we the people.’ It’s also not difficult at all to pull most any political (or religious) needle out of most any political (or religious) haystack and use it as an example. So with that in mind, here’s but one incidence of a political Appeal to Ignorance, based on the fundamental thesis that “whatever has not been proven false must be true.” Mike Huckabee provided the near perfect ‘lesson’ when he recently said, in re the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage (highlights added):

When people say the train left the station, it’s the law of the land, there’s nothing we can do, let’s move on. I want to say, ‘Have you guys read the Constitution, did you pass 9th grade civics?’ The court can’t make law. We pretend that it can and I’m convinced that a lot of people give that sort of response because they don’t want to have to deal with the complexities of the constitution, which says that there are checks and balances. If we surrender to the judicial branch as if it is the last, final and ultimate word, then we have surrendered to judicial tyranny which is what Jefferson warned us about and the reason that he rejected some Supreme Court arguments as simply being something he couldn’t accept and he didn’t…as did Jackson, as did Lincoln. This notion that the Supreme Court ruled it and therefore it’s the law of the land bypasses the only entity in our government that can make the law of the land: the legislative branch, and it’s not even law until the president signs it and agrees to enforce it. And first of all, a president, if he’s not going to uphold that part of the constitution, get out of the race because you’re going to be lying when you take the oath and say you’ll uphold and defend the constitution because on its face, you’re not defending it, neither are you upholding it when you surrender to the god of judicial supremacy so we’ve got to start there and I certainly would start there.

Huckabee’s premise is that the Supreme Court violated the Constitutional separation of powers by ‘making law’ when it ruled in favor of, essentially, equal access to the ‘rights’ guaranteed under the Constitution to all citizens, regardless of sexual preference. His resentment of the decision is, I suspect, primarily motivated by his religious beliefs which, to his mind, disallow equality to people that are not biblically correct in their behavior. He apparently believes (in spite of the Constitution’s total and complete avoidance of the issue) that America was founded upon biblical principles because Pilgrims et al. sailed to the New World in search of religious freedom. And his (and other religiously-motivated) inferences of that particular topic essentially constitute the old and overused Appeal to Ignorance thesis that whatever has not been proven false must be true; ergo since there is no proof anywhere that our founders did NOT intend this to be a Christian nation that clearly means we ARE a Christian nation. The first Amendment was written to deny only the establishment of OTHER religions. Maybe.

That argument does have wide appeal, however, especially amongst fundamentalist/evangelical Christians of whom there are many, most of whom are apparently ignorant of Constitutional context on virtually any issue. The consequence is, then, that even IF Huckabee is ignorant enough of the Constitution himself — or IF he knows full well that NO religious protocol is ‘established’ in the document — the appeal of his argument to the susceptible, to the ‘ignorant,’ will most certainly take hold and gather in huge numbers of votes.

And therein lies the ‘secret’ of the usefulness of massive ignorance in a given population who are unaware of Constitutional mandates, including the following (highlights added):

Article III. Section. 1:

The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.

Article III. Section. 2. Clause 1:

The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution . . .

Huckabee is correct when he says the Supreme Court can’t make law. He’s also incorrect when he implies that the Supreme Court, when ruling on a Constitutional issue in what to him is the wrong fashion, IS ‘making law’ even though it’s simply carrying out its Constitutional duty and evaluating a point of Law . . . arising under this Constitution.

Which ‘point of law’? There are at least two amendments that clearly apply:

Article IX.

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Article XIV.

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall . . . deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

ALL citizens have equal rights, and No State is permitted to selectively violate the Constitutional rights of citizens. It is written.

It should also be pointed out that, in spite of what numerous political and religious voices suggest, marriage is NOT defined in the Constitution as the union of one man and one woman; the word ‘marriage’ is not, in fact, even mentioned in the Constitution, as amended. The definition of marriage is therefore NOT a Constitutional issue on any plane, and in its decision the Court did NOT redefine the word. The issue considered and ruled upon was, rather, equality of rights for ALL citizens. So clearly, the Supreme Court did NOT ‘make law’ in its decision; it simply honored the Constitution’s foundational precepts.

Is Huckabee too ignorant to know and understand Constitutional reality? Or is he speaking lies and falsehoods in order to attain the support of the ignorant, of the uninformed? Both? Not that it much matters, given that in either case Huckabee’s theses are incorrect, that the Supreme Court did NOT “make law.” Period.

In my considered opinion, Huckabee and his ilk (himself an ordained Baptist preacher) were all perfectly described (defined?) by Emily Dickinson more than 150 years ago when she wrote:

He preached upon “Breadth” till it argued him narrow —
The Broad are too broad to define
And of “Truth” until it proclaimed him a Liar —
The Truth never flaunted a Sign —

Simplicity fled from his counterfeit presence
As Gold the Pyrites would shun —
What confusion would cover the innocent Jesus
To meet so enabled a Man!

Ignorance in Politics is most certainly one of the most expansive “industries” in today’s USA. Huckabee is admittedly little more than a fleck of dust on an otherwise dirty window, but in that sense he (unfortunately) defines politics in general, and the Republican 2016 Clown Car occupants in particular — even as the word “ignorant” defines a huge portion of the American electorate. My guess is that if this ignorance epidemic is not contained and eventually curtailed, the country’s survivability will very soon emerge as an extremely debatable prospect.

OPEN THREAD

The Watering Hole, Monday, July 20th, 2015: Iran Nuclear Deal Fallout

Last week, it was announced that the long-awaited Iran Nuclear Deal was finally agreed to by the negotiating parties. The EU High Representative and the Iran Foreign Minister issued a joint statement, which included the following:

“With courage, political will, mutual respect, and leadership, we delivered on what the world was hoping for: a shared commitment to peace and to join hands in order to make our world safer.’

Apparently conservatives don’t understand most of the words and phrases in that statement. As we have seen throughout the Obama presidency, their idea of “negotiation” means “you give us everything we want, or else.” FoxNews gives a rundown on the ‘highlights'(?):

Jeb Bush: “This isn’t diplomacy – it is appeasement.”

Ted Cruz: This is a “fundamental betrayal of the security of the United States.”

Ben Carson: “A historic mistake with potentially deadly consequences.”

Scott Walker: “Will be remembered as one of America’s worst diplomatic failures.”
[According to Raw Story, Walker also stated that:

“He would terminate it as soon as possible and persuade U.S. allies to join Washington in imposing more crippling economic sanctions on Tehran…

He would dramatically increase U.S. military spending after budget cuts that military officials have complained about…

“The United States needs a foreign policy that puts steel in the face of our enemies,” Walker says.”]

Marco Rubio: The President made “concession after concession to a regime that has American blood on its hands.”

Now, the above presidential wannabes mainly focused their criticism on the ‘evil’ Iran, with a minor mention of our bestest friend ever in the whole wide world, Israel. Huckabee, on the other hand, is pretty much all Israel, with barely even a mention of OUR country, the United States.

Mike Huckabee: “Shame on the Obama administration…

“Shame on the Obama administration for agreeing to a deal that empowers an evil Iranian regime to carry out its threat to ‘wipe Israel off the map’ and bring ‘death to America.’
John Kerry should have long ago gotten up on his crutches, walked out of the sham talks, and went straight to Jerusalem to stand next to Benjamin Netanyahu and declared that America will stand with Israel and the other sane governments of the Middle East instead of with the terrorist government of Iran.

As president, I will stand with Israel and keep all options on the table, including military force, to topple the terrorist Iranian regime and defeat the evil forces of radical Islam.”
[emphasis mine]

Mike, why don’t you just move to Israel and run for president there?   ‘Cause there will be no “As president” for you here.  You do realize that this agreement is about limiting Iran’s ability to acquire a nuclear weapon, not the unHoly war you’re salivating over.

Donald Trump: “Iran gets everything and loses nothing.”

[The Donald was also quoted by FoxBusiness as saying, without elaboration, “I think the deal is absolutely horrible for us, but it’s really, really bad for Israel”]

Rick Perry: If elected, I will “fully rescind this accord.”

“President Obama’s decision to sign a nuclear deal with Iran is one of the most destructive foreign policy decisions in my lifetime. For decades to come, the world will have to deal with the repercussions of this…”

Seriously, Rick? You think that signing a deal that means peace, that signals a willingness to negotiate instead of starting WWIII, is more destructive than deliberately and cavalierly lying our country into a wasteful quagmire of an unnecessary war?

Perry also stated: “As President, one of my first official acts will be to fully rescind this accord.”

There’s more, including comments from the lower-tier lineup of Carly Fiorina, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, and…wait, is that it? Oh, yeah, and Elmer Pataki. But there’s no need to continue wallowing in the their ignorance, I think you get the idea.

Do any of those responses reflect “courage, political will, mutual respect [or respect of any kind], and leadership”? I think it’s abundantly clear that the (R) presidential field has none of those qualities.

This is our daily Open Thread – have at it!