Easter Egg: Sunday, March 31, 2013

This Easter is going to be soooo different. Well not the food, see above. Some nice lamb stew with polenta will be on for dinner. It already prepared and warmed up, in my book, even tastes nicer than freshly done. But here’s where tradition stops. It is snowing, cold and miserable. They stole an hour of my sleep. So I’m grumpy and after having watched the Papal “Urbi et Orbi”, the family goes rogue.

Our list of movies to watch today and tomorrow:

Life of Brian



We will all go to hell, I’m afraid. But not on an empty stomach.  😀

This is our open thread. Happy Easter!

The Watering Hole, Saturday, March 30, 2013: Is the U.N. Really Coming to Take Our Guns?

To hear some people on the Right tell it, the United Nations is going to be sending troops with light blue helmets door to door to confiscate your guns. But is that even remotely true? Well, I did start this post with “To hear some people on the Right tell it…” so that should be a clue. The answer is a simple “No,” but if you want something more complicated than that, then “No, and can I have some of what you’re on?” The United Nations is not about to do anything of the sort. In fact, it would be just as accurate to say that the Wicked Witch of the West is sending her flying monkeys to everyone’s house to confiscate the guns of law-abiding citizens and to fling poo at them. Let me be as clear as I can be: The United Nations is NOT going to take your guns, nor are they going to fling poo at you. Period. Anyone who tells you differently is either deliberately lying or sadly misinformed. Speaking of deliberately lying or sadly misinformed, Fox News Channel is helping to spread the fear that the U.N. is coming for your guns. And they are joined by, who else, the National Rifle Association (which, contrary to what any of their leadership says, actually lobbies on behalf of gun manufacturers, not gun owners.) But more on that later.

Back in July of last year, the United Nations met to discuss the international arms trade and how they could help keep guns from getting into the hands of bad people (like, you know, terrorists.) Contrary to early reports from the right, flinging poo was not on the agenda for these meetings. From that meeting emerged the Arms Trade Treaty, “to elaborate a legally binding instrument on the highest possible common international standards for the transfer of conventional arms.” And it makes sense. If you want to stop guns from getting into the hands of bad governments and international terrorists, you need the cooperation of everybody involved, otherwise the bad guys could just go to the country that didn’t sign the treaty and get their guns from them. This negotiation would have started sooner if not for the Bush Administration, which opposed the treaty on the illogical and unsubstantiated claim that “national controls are better.” Fortunately, the Obama Administration reversed that position. So the U.N. did meet but were unable to come up with an agreement. So they agreed to meet again this past week to conclude the work done in July. It’s important that the United States be a part of any such treaty because we are, by far, the largest exporter of arms in the world.

Much of the opposition to the treaty (and it didn’t all come from the U.S.) was over the issue of national sovereignty. There are some countries that have constitutions guaranteeing their citizens certain rights. (Quick quiz: Name one such country.) The fear was that an international treaty would override those rights. Well, I can’t speak with any authority on what other countries’ constitutions say, but I can promise you that no international treaty can ever supersede the United States Constitution. If it did, it would be struck down by our own Supreme Court (and then be forced to gay marry a treaty from another country.) But, to make sure that wasn’t an issue, our own State Department issued, what they call, “red lines.” According to the dictionary, red lines are “lines that are colored red” (well, that was no help), but they are also what you could call “deal breakers.” To allay the fears (real or imagined) that this treaty would empower the U.N. to send their famed “blueberries” to your door, the United States State Department issued these key red lines:

The Second Amendment to the Constitution must be upheld. There will be no restrictions on civilian possession or trade of firearms otherwise permitted by law or protected by the U.S. Constitution. There will be no dilution or diminishing of sovereign control over issues involving the private acquisition, ownership, or possession of firearms, which must remain matters of domestic law.

The U.S. will oppose provisions inconsistent with existing U.S. law or that would unduly interfere with our ability to import, export, or transfer arms in support of our national security and foreign policy interests.

The international arms trade is a legitimate commercial activity, and otherwise lawful commercial trade in arms must not be unduly hindered.

There will be no requirement for reporting on or marking and tracing of ammunition or explosives.

There will be no lowering of current international standards.

Existing nonproliferation and export control regimes must not be undermined.

The ATT negotiations must have consensus decision making to allow us to protect U.S. equities.

There will be no mandate for an international body to enforce an ATT.

So you’d think that would satisfy those “gun enthusiasts” (a/k/a “gun nuts”) who fear the U.N. is going to be coming for your guns. But, sadly, no. You see, removing the controversy by explicitly stating that the United States will not be party to any treaty that takes away your Second Amendment rights is too inconvenient for a network that wants you to live in fear. And that’s why the folks at Fox News Channel conveniently ignored that statement and pretended it didn’t exist. Instead, they reported the opposition to the treaty as if its rationale was based in facts. They reported the lies that the treaty could be interpreted as giving the U.N. the right to come to your home and take your guns as if they were old, settled issues (which is a common tactic of theirs.) That the industry that stands to lose a lot of money is opposed to the treaty should come as no surprise, nor should the fact that you’re not hearing their chief lobbyists, the NRA, explain it that way. Instead we get the lies. But we also get surprises.

For example, the National Rifle Association and Fox News Channel are vehemently (dare I say “violently”?) opposed to the Arms Trade Treaty. You know who else is, to the point of possibly thwarting the whole effort? Iran, North Korea, and Syria. Yes, you read that right. Fox News is on the same side as Iran, North Korea, and Syria. And they say we’re the ones who are un-American. And that we fling poo.

This is our open thread. Feel free to discuss the Arms Trade Treaty, Fox News, the NRA, poo-flinging, or anything else you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole; Friday March 29, 2013: “It Was A Dark and Stormy Night”

"It was a dark and stormy night"

“It was a dark and stormy night” . . .  over, under, and around Mount Bushmore

Sometimes the only way to reduce the risk of blowing another mental gasket via continuous immersion in the swamp of political vapidity is to back away from the dark side (which is most of it) and instead spend a few moments laughing egregiously at convenient exposures of its obtuse witlessness. And while I admit to having struggled to find just those perfect words to describe what I’m up to here today, my assignment has become clear, and it is this: toss out tidbits of levity in order to lighten the load and to minimize the fray. So here we go, bowing as we do so in the general direction of a few very silly ‘parodies’ penned by (1) a quintessential Wingnut, (2) some VERY creative minds, (3) a former President of the United States, and (4) moi.

Last weekend, thanks to a Daily Kos Abbreviated Pundit Round-up, I happened upon an opinion/editorial piece in the Denver Post entitled “Heterosexual marriage is, like, so uncool” written as a ‘guest commentary’ by a Coloradan named Sarah Huntzinger. DK’s succinct comment was followed thus by Ms Huntzinger’s opening paragraph.

Sarah Huntzinger deserves an award for her piece in the Denver Post. Maybe two awards. After all, it’s not every day you see someone combine a staggering persecution complex with writing worthy of Bulwer-Lytton.

“A perfect storm has gathered over Colorado. The prevailing winds of value-free politics, the decline of authentic debate, and the increasing global warming of relativism will collide with the upslope of secularism and the denial of religious liberties to converge with individualistic notions of freedom absent responsibility, producing powerful thunderstorms of hypocrisy, and the rain of radical liberalism.” [Bold highlights added]

Her entire essay proved to be every bit as nonsensical as did that opening paragraph, but what really caught my eye was DK’s reference to Bulwer-Lytton. That’s a reference, of course, to nineteenth century English author Edward George Bulwer-Lytton who wrote, in 1830 in the opening paragraph of his novel Paul Clifford, words which were eventually immortalized by cartoonist Charles Shulz’s character, Snoopy, who regularly quoted the book’s opening line in the Peanuts daily comic strip:

“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.” [Bold highlights added]

Note that Sarah Huntzinger did indeed begin her essay with a more than reasonable parody of Bulwer-Lytton’s “immortal” first line, and then followed it with a mention of “wind’, just as did Bulwer-Lytton — almost as if t’were a conscious effort on her part. She may indeed, therefore and thereby, be the perfect fit in the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (BLFC) which is, as noted in Wikipedia,

“. . . a tongue-in-cheek contest that takes place annually and is sponsored by the English Department of San Jose State University in San Jose, California. Entrants are invited ‘to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels’ – that is, deliberately bad. According to the official rules, the prize for winning the contest is ‘a pittance, or $250.'”

The “official rules” recommend that submissions be a single sentence, and note that 60 words are plenty; entries can be sent by either email or snail mail, but they must be received no later than April 15th. Now, Sarah Huntzinger actually used two sentences in her opening paragraph, but she could easily remedy that problem simply by mirroring Bulwer-Lytton’s solution, i.e. by placing a semicolon rather than a period following her opening phrase. If she’d do that and then submit by April 15th, she’d be a definite candidate for winning ‘a pittance’!

Speaking of pittances, here are a few of The 2012 Lyttoniad Contest Winners:

WINNER: As he told her that he loved her she gazed into his eyes, wondering, as she noted the infestation of eyelash mites, the tiny deodicids burrowing into his follicles to eat the greasy sebum therein, each female laying up to 25 eggs in a single follicle, causing inflammation, whether the eyes are truly the windows of the soul; and, if so, his soul needed regrouting. — Cathy Bryant, Manchester, England

Grand Panjandrum’s Special Award: As an ornithologist, George was fascinated by the fact that urine and feces mix in birds’ rectums to form a unified, homogeneous slurry that is expelled through defecation, although eying Greta’s face, and sensing the reaction of the congregation, he immediately realized he should have used a different analogy to describe their relationship in his wedding vows.David Pepper, Hermosa Beach, CA

Winner. Crime: She slinked through my door wearing a dress that looked like it had been painted on … not with good paint, like Behr or Sherwin-Williams, but with that watered-down stuff that bubbles up right away if you don’t prime the surface before you slap it on, and – just like that cheap paint – the dress needed two more coats to cover her. — Sue Fondrie, Appleton, WI

Dishonorable Mention: The blood seeped out of the body like bad peach juice from a peach that had been left on one side so long the bottom became rotten while it still looked fine on the top but had started to attract fruit flies, and this had the same effect, but with regular flies, that is not say there weren’t some fruit flies around because, after all, this was Miami. — Howard Eugene Whitright, Seal Beach, CA

Another equally grand “parody” was spoken back in February, 2005, by none other than that most articulate American President in all of American history, George W. Bush. Could the transcription of his “statement” on Social Security become a possible Bulwer-Lytton winner?

“Because the – all which is on the table begins to address the big cost drivers – for example, how benefits are calculate, for example, is on the table; whether or not benefits rise based upon wage increases or price increases, there’s a series of parts of the formula that are being considered and when you couple that, those different cost drivers, affecting those – changing those with personal accounts, the idea is to get what has been promised more likely to be–or closer delivered to what has been promised . . . does that make any sense to you? It’s kind of muddled, but look, there’s a series of things that cause the . . . like, for example, benefits are calculated based upon the increase of wages, as opposed to the increase of prices. Some have suggested that we calculate . . . the benefits will rise based upon inflation, as opposed to wage increases. There is a reform that would help solve the red if that were put into effect. In other words, how fast benefits grow, how fast the promised benefits grow, if those . . . if that growth is affected, it will help on the red. OK, better? I’ll keep working on it.”

On closer examination, it becomes apparent that even though what he says makes absolutely NO sense whatsoever, and even though he makes grand use of his linguistic talents in making NO sense whatsoever, and even though his words were clearly fiction designed to make NO sense whatsoever, he is, nevertheless, in direct violation of two fundamental BLFC rules: he used more than one sentence, and also more than sixty words. He clearly needs an editor, one willing to work late on any given dark and stormy night, someone who could rid the thing of any remnants of substance, leaving only the gobbledegook of incoherence (at which point the challenge definitely becomes finding the means to fall within that excruciating sixty word limit).

Speaking of blowing the sixty word limit, it was back in 2005 when, duly inspired as I was by the GWB linguistic skills, I thought I’d give the BLFC thing a try. My thesis involved a woman named Delilah who was employed by the Bush government and, because of her name, was obviously assigned to assist war efforts in the Middle East by analyzing implicit political issues.

“While acting in her official capacity as a highly placed United States
Government Middle-Eastern political analyst, it was never a secret to
Delilah that oligarchy and anarchy could be considered as substantive, albeit fractional, constituents of both monarchism and capitalism, especially when religious fervor was a part of the equation; but even though all of her professional colleagues realized she was intellectually capable of discerning that capitalistic and monarchistic tendencies remain linearly undiminished by even subtle numbers of disestablishmentarianists in a typical Mid-East Kingdom, the effect of antidisestablishmentarianists on either monarchists or capitalists, not to mention oligarchists or anarchists, remained to her a matter of the most bizarre speculation and, in fact, puzzled her so much that she found herself spending more and more nights alone at home with her faithful old dog Sampson–himself a blind and somewhat ridiculous looking long-haired Dachshund/Poodle cross–but nevertheless one who never asked for more than dinner and a kiss, a fact that Delilah found easy to appreciate given all the sexual pressures she felt at work.”

As you can see, I also blew it. Unlike George W. Bush’s multi-sentence effort, mine has only one sentence; but like George W. Bush, I, too, used way too many words. Not as many as HE did, but still, enough to disqualify me. So, I never bothered to submit it. Wasted the entire seven or eight minutes it took to write the damn thing. Still, I did something I’ve always yearned to do: use the words “disestablismentarianist” AND “antidisestablishmentarianist” in the SAME SENTENCE, and I’m willing to bet that NO President has ever done THAT before!

Next up, I’ll see if I can figure out how those two words — you know the ones I mean, disestablismentarianist and antidisestablishmentarianist — really are defined (a good trick, given that neither word formally exists, and thus is NOT listed in any dictionary, unlike their parallels disestablismentarianism and antidisestablishmetarianism, both of which DO exist, for whatever reason . . . confusing world, this one!). Maybe if I could locate (fellow Coloradan, according to the Denver Post) Sarah Huntzinger she could advise?

Ok, enough silliness. Your turn! 😆

This is today’s open thread. All Parodies–fiction and non-fiction alike–are welcome! (along with anything else, of course).


Twitter, The Zoo's Top Investigative Journalist

Twitter, The Zoo’s Top Investigative Journalist

Twitter listened in on the closed-door conversations at the recent CPAC Conference regarding re-branding the Republican Party.

Mittens was the first one to speak up: “47% of the country won’t like us no matter what we call ourselves.”

Ryan: “You and you’re 47% speech cost me the election!”

Mittens: “Oh, and like your lame-brained budget proposal had nothing to do with it.”

Queen P: “Boys, boys, pipe down. If anybody knows anything about losing elections, I do.”

McCain’t: “You can say that again.”

Queen P: “If anybody knows anything about losing elections, I do.”

Herman C.: “He didn’t mean that literally. Look, why don’t we try something that’s never been done before?”

Ron P.: “What did you have in mind?”

Herman C: “Truth!”

Michelle B gagged on a corn dog. Gov. Christie tried to give her the Hemilich but couldn’t reach any further than her bosom, at which point her eyes popped even wider than they normally look. Just then, Larry Craig walked in and sized up the situation.

Larry: “Stand back, wide guy. I know how to handle this.” Larry strode over, tilted Michelle’s head back and extracted the long meat sausage from her throat.

Queen P: “Wow, that was just like a pro!”

Larry: “Thanks. Just doin’ what I do best. Now, can anybody direct me to the restroom?”

Michelle: “Go out, go to your left, it’s just past the closet.”

Larry left, but being a staunch Republican found it impossible to go to his left.

Mittens: “Truth? Truth? I spoke the truth about 47% of the population and look where that got me.”

Herman C: “No. Not that kind of truth. Truth about us. About what we stand for.”

Ryan: “You mean the Rich and Powerful? Call ourselves the Rich And Powerful Party?”

Queen P: “And Evangelicals. We can’t fergit our Christian Base.”

Rove, who had been sitting in a corner in a fetal position stood up: “Rich And Powerful Evangelical Party. I like the sound of that. It rings true. It sums up everything we stand for in a few words. It’s bound to catch on.”

And with that, the R.A.P.E. Party was born.



The Watering Hole, Monday, March 25, 2013: Are We Getting Carried Away?

Do you know how many aircraft carriers the United States has? Would it surprise you to know the answer is ten? Would it surprise you even more to know that under U.S. law, the military is required to maintain eleven aircraft carriers (and their associated vessels)? That’s right, eleven. And just to put that in some kind of perspective, no other country has more than one aircraft carrier. We’ll get our eleventh one, a new class of carrier, in about four more years.

From an article published by Raw Story,

“After 100 years, the carrier is rapidly approaching the end of its useful strategic life,” wrote Captain Henry Hendrix in a report published this month by the Center for a New American Security, a Washington think-tank with close ties to President Barack Obama’s administration.

Changes in naval warfare mean that carriers “may not be able to move close enough to targets to operate effectively or survive in an era of satellite imagery and long-range precision strike missiles,” Hendrix wrote.

With huge cuts in defense spending inevitable (either because of the sequestration or because everyone on the planet will be dead), the cost of these humongous vessels is under greater scrutiny.

The new carrier carries a prohibitive price tag of $13.6 billion, double the cost of the last aircraft carrier. And that does not count the $4.7 billion spent on research and development for the new class of carriers.

It costs about $6.5 million a day to operate a single carrier strike group, which includes five other warships, an attack submarine, an air wing of 80 fighters and helicopters, and a crew of 6,700.

But not everyone agrees that we should get rid of the carriers.

Pete Daly, a retired vice admiral who once commanded the USS Nimitz carrier strike group, defended the ships as a vital element of US military might.

To hit deeply buried targets, fighter jets flying off a carrier were more effective than Tomahawk missiles, and knocking out a super carrier is “very, very hard,” said Daly, now head of the US Naval Institute.

This is a conversation Americans need to have. Unfortunately, the vast majority of us know absolutely nothing about the US Navy, or the difference between a ship and a boat, or why the Seven Seas need eleven aircraft carriers to patrol them. One thing is for sure: We can’t afford to keep paying the enormous costs of running these things. A new way of thinking is needed. Luckily for me I’m exactly the wrong kind of person for the job. I can’t even swim.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss our over-bloated military or anything else that comes to mind.

Sunday Roast: March 24, 2030 – Future Edition

Karl Rove- The Architect of the Republican’s Downfall

May I venture a guess? A few years down the road, say in 2030, the current state of the GOP will be seen by political scientists and historians as follows:

By opening up the GOP right wing to the Evangelicals Karl Rove achieved a short term victory, which brought the defeat of the Republicans in its wake. The Bush Presidency, Rove’s biggest strategic achievement, and its costly illegal war in Iraq, in addition to its unchecked supply side economics, unbridled spending, while lowering revenue, led to a deep recession which left Millions of Americans on the brink of destitution.

The conflicts within the party were glossed over by a victory in the 2010 mid-term elections, which came at the height of the economic fall-out and was aided by inherent racist tendencies against a black President. Tendencies in constituencies which have been tapped years before, when Rove’s strategy opened the GOP to the right.

In the aftermath of this “victory” the “purists” in Congress managed to bring Government to a virtual standstill, thus enabling the sitting President to win re-election. A victory won not on policy in the first place, but on a deep seated division in the country mostly about “social issues” brought to the forefront by some contenders for the nomination, which have to be counted as candidates for the Rove constituency.

The loss in 2012 brought about a prolonged battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party, which showed victories of both sides, but left relevant policy making on the sidelines for years to come. Meanwhile, the society and economy in the United States evolved and modernised, while the conflict left the GOP without any discernible answer to economic and /or societal problems. It took the Republican Party another 16 years to regain their footing and be competitive again.

The name of Karl Rove, highly acclaimed in the early 2000s has by now become synonymous for self-defeating strategy among GOP politicians.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: A draft of the above post was found near the Way-Back Machine. We post it now for your reading pleasure.]


The Watering Hole, Saturday, March 23, 2013: Perchance to Dream

As happens to everyone at one time or another (or several others, for some people), this hasn’t been a good week for me. I wasn’t feeling great last weekend, and as I headed into work this past Monday morning, I could tell I was only getting worse. I left work early on Monday in the hopes of getting some rest and staving off this cold, but, alas, not only did I awake Tuesday morning to several inches of snow on the last full day of Winter (thank you very much, Mr. Very Old Man Winter), but my cold had worsened and I needed to stay home for the day. So I did. I couldn’t have gotten much work done that day because I was sneezing or coughing violently approximately every other minute. I’m a serial sneezer. I don’t usually just sneeze once, I sneeze many times in a row. In fact, it’s very rare that I only sneeze once, and not that often that I only sneeze twice. For me, sneezing twice just means the next one has been delayed by up to three minutes. No, for me, a “lighter-than-usual” sneezing fit is only three sneezes. Typical is more like seven or eight sneezes, sometimes even going more than ten in a row. If you’re one of the unlucky ones, you know that sneezing fits can sometimes lead to physical injury, such as throwing your back out or possibly even fracturing a rib. On the other hand, there is the belief out there that if you try to suppress a sneeze, you could rupture a blood vessel in your head or neck, which could lead to death. Hmm, which would I rather suffer? A broken rib or back, or death? Let me get back to you on that one.

The next day I felt better in the sense that I wasn’t sneezing or coughing every other minute, but I felt worse in the sense that I could not think straight and sometimes found myself “blanking out.” After getting showered and dressed anyway in order to make a go of it, I drove down to the local deli to get my mother’s newspaper and decided that it would be safer for all concerned if I got myself back home and stayed in bed. So I did. After seeing Jane off to work, I went back to bed and slept for several hours. I woke up around 1:30 in the afternoon, watched a little “NCIS” (great show, BTW), then went back to bed for another four hours of sleep. I was up for a few hours after Jane got home, but then I turned in early again and slept some more. (I had to, as I could not stay home one more day without falling seriously behind in my work.) In all, I probably slept about 17 hours that day. And it did help. But then I had to return to work the next two days.

I’m still feeling some of the remnants of that cold, so I’m going to go back to bed and try to sleep as much as I can today, for I will probably have to go into the office tomorrow to catch up on some things that have to be done before Monday. So, please, enjoy your day without me. I’ll feel much better after I get some more sleep. Ah, sleep. To sleep perchance to dream. Maybe even dream of winning the Powerball Lottery drawing tonight, with an estimated jackpot of $320,000,000. By my rough calculations, when you take the cash value payoff – which is the cash value of the annuity they would buy to pay you the $320 million over a 25-year period – you get, after taxes, roughly 25% of the total jackpot prize. Roughly. Still, $80,000,000 would be nice to have. I’ve dreamed of winning the Lottery just so I could give an answer I’ve always wanted to hear someone tell reporters when they ask on what will they spend their winnings: “Hookers and blow.”

This is our open thread. Feel free to discuss being sick, sleeping, prostitutes and cocaine, or anything else you want. I’m going back to sleep.

The Watering Hole: Friday March 22, 2013; CPAC Defined

The annualized nonsense of last weekend’s 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (aka CPAC) was stimulating, although probably not in the way the country’s far right wingnuts hoped it would be. I didn’t pay that much attention, of course, caught only a snippet here, a blog there, comments now and again made by obviously sane people, plus a handful of stupid comments made by attendees. Oh, and yes, I did see that photo of Sarah Palin sipping a giant soft drink of some sort — her attempt to mock New York City Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal to limit the size of sugar-laden soft drinks. Also saw a shot of Donald Trump wearing that squirrel pelt skull cap as he spoke to a giant crowd of three or four attendees. I heard a brief clip of Romney clarifying once again — in case anyone missed it in the last two years — what an ass he truly is. And somewhere, I ran across a snippet of Rand Paul trying to sound as upside down as his father always did (and, from what I could tell, he succeeded perfectly). Oh, and I almost forgot (actually, I DID forget, till just now) — the NRA spokesperson (he is NOT a spokesman, not by any stretch of anyone’s imagination . . . in fact, using the word ‘person’ even bothers me) Wayne LaPierre was there too, spouting his incessant thesis that real men need assault weapons, ’cause if you wanna BE impotent you gottta LOOK impotent and ACT impotent! As I said: last weekend offered a brief encounter with annualized CPAC nonsense — which pretty much sums the extent of my involvement. Lucky for me, for my sanity.

But the main impact of the silliness came late last Sunday night (or maybe it was early Monday morning — I wasn’t wearing my glasses so couldn’t see the clock). In any case, I caught myself recalling something I’d read once, so I looked it up to see if it was as close to a ‘definition’ of CPAC-style conservatism as I thought it might be and lo, yes indeed it was exactly that. Here it is, a (slightly modified) summary of today’s CPAC/Tea Party/Republican/Right Wing politics, aka the conservative agenda:

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism

Conservatives tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights

Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in conservative regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause

The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

4. Supremacy of the Military

Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

5. Rampant Sexism

The governments of conservative nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under conservatives, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay legislation and national policy.

6. Controlled Mass Media

Sometimes the media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

7. Obsession with National Security

Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined

Governments in conservative nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.

9. Corporate Power is Protected

The industrial and business aristocracy of a conservative nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

10. Labor Power is Suppressed

Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a conservative government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts

Conservative nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts is openly attacked, and governments often refuse to fund the arts.

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment

Under conservatives, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in conservative nations.

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption

Conservatives almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in conservatives for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

14. Fraudulent Elections

Sometimes elections in conservative nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Conservative nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

OK, so by now the ‘slight modifications’ I’ve made to the original document are, most likely, painfully obvious. And yes, it’s true, I did indeed make a pair of very simple adjustments: I changed every occurrence of the word “fascist” to conservative”, and every occurrence of the word “fascism” to “conservatism”. Aside from those two details, the entire balance of the original document, entitled The 14 points of Fascism, is reproduced verbatim. For those interested in further defining details, a second article on the same topic entitled What is Fascism? may also prove worthy of review.

Fascinating it is how simply changing two words can result in a detailed synopsis that most ably summarizes the obvious aims, goals, intents, and methods which are clearly implicit in and often even spoken by today’s Republican Party. The GOP was once — and not all that long ago — far less extreme in its political philosophy than it is today. In fact, today even such “conservative” political stalwarts as Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan would very likely be cast off as traitors to the party’s current . . . umm . . . fascistic philosophy.

One of the more curious aspects of today’s conservative movement in the US is its loudly professed and complete disdain for “government” — even as its adherents attempt to USE government at all levels to impose official restrictions on a wide variety of every day activities. They have, for example, gone after women’s reproductive privacy via their attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, to either restrict abortion or ban it completely, to impose totally unnecessary medical procedures (e.g. transvaginal ultrasounds) when a pregnancy termination is sought, and even to attempt either restricting or outlawing completely hormonal contraceptives, all such actions parcel to their attempt to ultimately declare the fertilized egg to be “a person”  and thereby endowed with full constitutional protection.

Meanwhile, they also work diligently to eliminate anti-poverty programs which feed children already born, along with other programs designed to provide such children (and their families) with the means of obtaining medical care; and speaking of children, conservatives refuse to work toward the banning of military-style assault weapons even as they ignore the recent murder, by military-style assault weapon, of twenty school children, each of whom was six or seven years of age, students at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut (along with six adults). Guns are more important than children, after all, except when the “child” is but a fertilized egg — at which point both gun and fetus enjoy apparently equal Constitutional protection, a protection which clearly does NOT apply once the child is born and reaches the age of, say, six years. Or so.

And on yet another front there is the movement’s attempt to overturn a major provision in the 1965 Voting Rights Act via a case which is currently under consideration by the US Supreme Court. At the same time, of course, conservatives work feverishly at the state level to pass bills which they hope might even further suppress the voting rights of minorities (who traditionally vote Democratic). They’re also attempting virtually every means possible to either destroy labor unions or to minimize their usefulness; they’re trying to defund public education even as they work to fund private school enterprises with public tax revenues; they promise to leave no stone unturned in their efforts to deny equal marriage rights to the LGBT community; and lest we forget, the conservative majority of the Supreme Court has ruled that “Corporations are people, my friend” — and are therefore free to contribute virtually unlimited cash to election campaigns, the vast majority of which is ‘invested’ in those candidates who fully support unlimited corporate power and freedom from government regulation.

So much for their “keep the government off our backs” thesis. A fascist-style government has proven to be, in fact and across the historical spectrum, far more intrusive in the lives of ordinary people (see above) than is any form of government (socialistic included) that places the needs of ordinary people FIRST, and the needs of the powerful, the wealthy, and the corporate “people” on the bottom rung.

The World English Dictionary defines fascism as:

1.     any ideology or movement inspired by Italian Fascism, such as German National Socialism; any right-wing nationalist ideology or movement with an authoritarian and hierarchical structure that is fundamentally opposed to democracy and liberalism
2.     any ideology, movement, programme, tendency, etc, that may be characterized as right-wing, chauvinist, authoritarian, etc. (boldface highlights added)

Sounds like classic American (so-called) Conservatism to me. Maybe it’s high time we start calling a spade a spade? I suggest changing the name of the Conservative Political Action Conference to something more appropriate and descriptive, maybe something like Fascists United by Conservative Know-how — Y’all come now . . . Y‘heah?!

This is today’s open thread. Speak your mind . . . I just did!

The Watering Hole, Thursday, March 21, 2013: Free Dumb


Oddly the tea party still believes it will control the Repubican party.  CPAC held a straw poll and the winner for the 2016 primary is Rand Paul.  While that’s not really much to worry about the fact that so many current members of congress legislate with an eye to avoiding a tea party primary challenge is.

Tea Party Leader Defends Membership In Fascist Group


Nothing says patriotic like good old-fashioned Fascism, at least according to the president of the Greater Fort Bend County Tea Party, James Ives. As reported by the Texas Tribune, Mr. Ives’ title before he joined the Tea party was quite different: the director of propaganda for the American Fascist Party (AFP). When confronted with this information, he wisely did not deny, but what he did say was far more revealing:

“From my point of view, it was all pro-Constitution, pro-America.

I never did anything. There really weren’t enough people involved to be a gathering, let alone a rally. It was basically a scattering of people across the continent just complaining.”


Obviously we can’t afford to ignore Rand Paul and the Tea Party types while they continue to force their beliefs on the rest of us.


The Watering Hole, Monday, March 18th, 2013: Ezra, Budgets, and Photographic Wonders

I’m hoping to hear that Ezra Klein will be taking over the “UP with Chris Hayes” weekend show. Ezra has his own wonky way of explaining things so that a topic which would normally make one glaze over becomes understandable and interesting. His ‘I can explain blank in 20 seconds or less (sic)’ bit is something that I now look forward to when he subs for one of the other MSNBC regulars. Ezra’s writing is just as eloquent as his speaking: here’s an excerpt from one of his recent WP posts regarding the Paul Ryan budget proposal (once again called “The Path to Prosperity”):

“Ryan’s budget is intended to do nothing less than fundamentally transform the relationship between Americans and their government. That, and not deficit reduction, is its real point, as it has been Ryan’s real point throughout his career”.

Speaking of budgets, both Bill Maher and Chris Hayes recently brought up the Congressional Progressive Caucus’s Budget Proposal, which previously hadn’t had much mention anywhere. That fact is surprising to me, as the CPC’s budget is one that every liberal would support. Matthew Yglesias has a good article about it in Slate; here’s the pdf of what the CPC calls the “Back to Work Budget.” For the rest of the budget options: you can check out the official White House budget page here; the Senate Democrats’ budget, prepared by Patty Murray, can be reviewed here.

In the meantime, on a local level, the Brewster School District (which all of Wayne’s family attended), despite a budget increase (to be paid for by a school tax increase), is cutting staff, programs, etc., partly due to the loss of stimulus funding, the effect of sequestration, and unfunded State mandates. Too bad that the only budget proposal from Congress which really invests in education is the CPC’s.

Enough about budgets…time to look at some spectacular photos, brought to you by The Weather Channel: first, a slideshow of unusual landscapes by photographer Marsel Van Oosten; then photographer Martin Rietz captures volcanic lightning in this group of photos.

This is our Open Thread. What’s on your mind today?

Sunday Roast: March 17, 2013 – Including NSFW

So what is going on this Sunday, not much, and that’s not always bad. I picked a fews reads for you, I hope you all slept in 😉

President Obama will be in Israel next week. The so-called peace process, was there ever a real effort (?), is not only stalled, it is at it’s lowest point since I remember. The Economist picks up the topic:

IN 1942, as the Holocaust in Europe was entering its most horrific phase, a pacifist American rabbi called Judah Magnes helped found a political party in Palestine called Ihud. Hebrew for unity, Ihud argued for a single binational state in the Holy Land to be shared by Jews and Arabs. Its efforts—and those of like-minded idealists—came to naught. Bitterly opposed to the partition of Palestine, Magnes died in 1948 just as the state of Israel—the naqba, or catastrophe, to Palestinians—was being born. Decades of strife were to follow.(read more)

Cyprus needs a bailout. That’s not really news, but the account holders will get a haircut, oops:

Cypriots reacted with shock that turned to panic on Saturday after a 10% one-off levy on savings was forced on them as part of an extraordinary 10bn euro (£8.7bn) bailout agreed in Brussels.(read more)

Formula 1 is on, finally, The Lotus Effect:

Kimi Raikkonen proved he and Lotus have what it takes this year to become Formula One world champions after storming to victory in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.(read more)

And, kids, you look the other way now:

Close your eyes and ears,” warns an off-screen voice, “because here comes a sex comedy that’s all about bonking and banging.” Then Bavarian character Sepp appears on screen. As he assumes a wide-legged stance in an Alpine pasture, a cow gazes awe-struck at the fly of his lederhosen. Thunderbolts shoot out of his tight leather shorts, bulging with excessive man-power.( read more)

Again, there’s not much going on really, I could have brought you ‘She Who Must Not Be Named’ and her CPAC speech, but I am not cruel.

This is our Open Thread. All Yours!

The Watering Hole – Saturday, March 16, 2013: At The Speed of Light

In an interview with StarTalk Radio host Chuck Nice, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson explained why photons (the particles that carry light) exist outside of time. “…As you increase your speed, time ticks more slowly for you than it does for anyone who is watching you,” he said on StarTalk Radio. “This is the relativity of time. This is well known. We have measured this. It is not just your clock that is clicking slower, your metabolism is unfolding more slowly, your brain synapses are firing more slowly, everything about you is slowing down.”

“Photons, which is the carrier of light, exists at the speed of light. It doesn’t accelerate from zero to speed of light in 3.4 seconds. It exists at the speed of light, and because of it exists at the speed of light, any watch that it is carrying never ticks, which means if you are the photon… you will slam into whatever you are destined to hit, as far as you are concerned, instantaneously.”

He went on to explain that they know neutrinos travel slower than the speed of light because they change states between two different kinds of neutrinos, which would only be possible if neutrinos experienced the passage of time. Just thought I’d blow your mind for a change.

This is our Daily Open Thread. Feel free to discuss Relativity, photons, Neil deGrasse Tyson, or anything else you want to discuss. The Zoo is timeless, like a photon.

Music Night, the Ides of March

Not everything that came out of the late 60s was great — or even good — although it pains me to admit it. Blue Cheer, for instance, had two things going for them: really long hair and a huge stack of Marshall amps so they were reallllly loud. I could do some research to learn “where are they now?” but I’m afraid they’ll be doing a reunion tour stop at The Alladin here in town. As to this video, at least it’s got a bit of Dick Clark.

The Watering Hole; Friday, The Ides of March, 2013; Requiem: America

“Beware the ides of March,” said the Soothsayer to Julius Caesar in Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, (Act I, Scene ii):

Caesar: Who is it in the press that calls on me?
I hear a tongue, shriller than all the music,
Cry ‘Caesar!’ Speak; Caesar is turn’d to hear.
Soothsayer: Beware the ides of March.
Caesar: What man is that?
Brutus: A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.
Caesar: Set him before me; let me see his face.
Cassius: Fellow, come from the throng; look upon Caesar.
Caesar: What say’st thou to me now? speak once again.
Soothsayer: Beware the ides of March.
Caesar: He is a dreamer; let us leave him: pass.

According to Plutarch’s historical Life of Julius Caesar, “. . . when the day had come and Caesar was on his way to the senate-house, he greeted the seer with a jest and said: “Well, the Ides of March are come,” and the seer said to him softly: “Ay, they are come, but they are not gone.” And thus it was that two thousand and fifty-seven years ago this day, on the Ides of March in the year 44 BCE, Julius Caesar was, as the Soothsayer had predicted, murdered. He was at the Theater of Pompey where he was stabbed to death by his ‘friend’ Brutus, himself parcel to an extensive conspiracy of Senators built around the growing suspicion that Caesar’s intent was to do away with ‘republican’ Rome and instead create a Monarchy with himself as Monarch. Shakespeare’s epic play, Julius Caesar, written circa 1599, takes a few liberties with the details of the moment as recorded by Plutarch, but still it accurately portrays the anxiety implicit in leadership succession, a reality both in 44 BCE and on the horizon again in Elizabethan England at the time the play was written.

A year or two later, in what has proven to be Shakespeare’s most enduringly popular and oft-performed Tragedy, Hamlet speaks of similar fears, though in completely different context:

Hamlet: To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them.
To die—to sleep,
(. . .)
To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there’s the rub:
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pausethere’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th’oppressor’s wrong . . . the law’s delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th’unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin?
(. . .)
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action.

More than 400 years have passed since Shakespeare penned those masterpieces, but the implicit human dilemma remains constant. Here in the United States of America, as well as in various elsewheres around the globe, people of serious mind and conscience find themselves concerned with the political evolution: the ‘succession’, if you will, of that well-known and constant tyranny, invariably designed to further empower the powerful, to further enrich the wealthy, and always at the expense of the common folk, the children, and the already poor.

In the United States this day, on 2013’s Ides of March, the government is, in effect, hostage to the immense wealth — and the power implicit in such wealth — held by the smallest handful of people in consort with their bought-and-paid-for lackeys in the US Congress. Thus the House of Representatives, marginally controlled by a (gerrymandered) ‘republican’ majority, patently refuses to do ANYTHING to help solve the nation’s current (and of their own devise) financial dilemma. Instead, they stand in the way of virtually every proposal, preferring to exacerbate rather than address the fiscal problems in order to find the means of blaming everything on their Democratic opposition, including especially the President. They refuse to take ANY actions which might assist in job creation, or education, infrastructure maintenance, health care, dealing with climate change, etc., et al., through and including ANY action that might help ANYONE other than their already rich and powerful owners, and themselves. They have proven to be exceptionally willing, however, to fabricate and vote on myriad bogus proposals designed to eliminate such horrors as contraception and pregnancy terminations; to defund Planned Parenthood; to weaken and eventually destroy labor unions; to prevent any effort to legitimize full and equal rights for the LGBT community; to never allow passage of any and all gun control legislation; to halt any effort at reasonable immigration reform; to inhibit the voting rights of selected ethnic groups typically loyal to the opposition; to defund by any means possible each and every human assistance program; to NEVER allow any tax increase on the already wealthy and/or corporate profits. They have, however, demonstrated unusual alacrity when it comes to finding clever ways of increasing military spending, and of officially naming Post Offices and other federal buildings; with this regard their currents turn awry and lose the name of action.

The Senate is no better. There, the Democrats hold a working majority but thanks to insidious filibuster provisions, they’re unable to pass more than the occasional (and typically unimportant) legislation even as significant proposals seldom if ever even make it to the floor for a vote. Meanwhile, Senate ‘republicans’ support virtually the same regressive agendas as do House ‘republicans’ — all the while the whips and scorns of time, Th’oppressor’s wrong . . . the law’s delay, the insolence of office, and the spurns that patient merit of th’unworthy takes, when he himself might his quietus make with a bare bodkin continue unabated. How did Hamlet know? How could he predict the antics of today’s US Congress?

Perhaps because their intent is eternally simple — to do whatever might be necessary to ensure the failure of their opposition’s goal of assisting the poor and the middle class, to force the failure, in effect, of the President and the nation that elected him twice — a repeat of those “leadership succession” events in Rome, 44 BCE, and again in Elizabethan England, circa 1600 CE. One is forced to ponder, yet one more time, the question that has plagued mankind since it first evolved: where are the people of Conscience when we need them?

This day, the Ides of March are come yet again, for the 2057th time since the death of Julius Caesar, but they are not gone — as yet another proscribed death appears to be on the horizon: the death of a nation. This nation; the nation where — thanks in no small part to the efforts of its ‘republican’ faction, the political movement which values ONLY the accumulation of wealth and power as means of accession to the throne — the predictable consequences of her errant politics are slowly  becoming perceivable, because:

Requiem, as dirge of sophistic love,
Exposes destinies which nations earn.
Quoth Hamlet: “conscience does make cowards of
Us all – that is, till We the People learn,
Implicitly, that human Cowardice
Exudes contempt for Rationalities.
Meanwhile, mankind’s destiny – Avarice –
Appears in service to those Vanities
Most shallowed minds presume to be their right,
Enabling failure thus of Self, of State.
Repression blooms and quickly dims all light
Intrinsic to the heart of Freedom’s Fate –
Consumed – whilst words of Truth, now specious, Moan . . .
And stand as lifeless slogans . . . etched in stone.

R E Q U I E M      A M E R I C A

Footnote: On the Ides of March, 1945, Adolf Hitler’s Minister of Armaments, Albert Speer, had become aware of Hitler’s pending edict that, as the Allied armies approached, everything that remained within Germany was to be destroyed via a genuine scorched earth policy. Hitler saw such destruction as a means of denying plunder to the Allies, also as punishment of the German people for losing the war. Speer took serious issue with the thesis, and on March 15 1945 he penned a 22 page document to be delivered to Hitler by Colonel von Below. In the document he wrote, “No one has the right to take the viewpoint that the fate of the German people is tied to his fate.” Or in other words, ‘just because you’ve failed as leader doesn’t mean the people have also failed.’ Hitler did still make the decree that Germany be destroyed, but he also put Herr Speer in charge of carrying out the order. Speer purposely ignored it, and though Germany was soon defeated, the scorched earth policy was avoided.

Hamlet said, “conscience does make cowards of us all,” but he doesn’t define “coward” beyond his embedded context. Causes one to speculate a bit: was, e.g., Albert Speer’s action to deny the destruction of Germany an act of conscience’, and was his refusal to carry out his leader’s orders and the policies embedded therein what one might expect from a ‘coward’ driven by ‘conscience’? Could it be that, in Hamlet’s context, the actions taken by a ‘coward’ made by ‘conscience’ are, in reality, potentially heroic acts?

The Ides of March are come again, and the beat goes on, and on, and on. Perhaps We the People should, as an act of ‘conscience’, contact our own “leadership” in Washington, D.C., and in the various states . . . and explain that we, as ‘Cowards’ who do NOT respect our “leadership’s” disdain for the poor, the elderly, the infirm, minorities of every kind, as well as the common man, will have no more of it, that we are thus prepared to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing, end them, that we are also willing (and able) to, in Hamlet’s words, their quietus make with a bare bodkin.

I suspect the ‘republican’ majority in the Congress, acting as the Cowards WITHOUT Conscience that they constantly prove themselves to be, would immediately  pass legislation demanding that each and every sale/purchase of a bare bodkin requires both a background check AND licensing . . . followed immediately by an order for a truckload of fresh Depends.

This is today’s open thread; ‘words of Truth’ are welcome, or:  “Cry ‘Havoc!’, and let slip the dogs of war”!