The Watering Hole, Saturday, May 21st, 2016: Contents Under Pressure

Yesterday at work, after glancing at my calendar, I did a mental double-take, thinking, ‘holy jeez, it’s May 20th already, 2016 is going by too quickly!’ Later, after some Trump BS refocused my attention on the upcoming election, my thoughts changed to, ‘holy jeez, there’s still nearly six months until the election, I wish we could just jump ahead to November and get it done and over with!’

I doubt if any of us, during the campaign season that led up to King George being anointed by the SCOTUS, and even during the eight years that we (and the rest of the world) suffered through under the BushCo maladministration, ever thought that any candidate for the Presidency could come along who was even more unqualified than Dubya, and just as amoral as Darth Cheney. The stress of those years pales in comparison to what we, and everyone else in the reality-based world, are experiencing during this unbelievably mind-numbing Trump campaign.

A continual state of stress is unhealthy for an individual both physically and mentally, as we all can attest to. Is it any wonder that the heightened stress of these last several months is having an even worse impact on so many Americans than that of the Bush years, even with the never-ending war(s), the “you’re either with us or against us” mantra, and the economic crash that affected every American except those who caused it?

And after BushCo, the undercurrent of American racism, which slowly became ‘acceptable’ when President Obama won in 2008, turned into the norm in an ever-growing and ever-more-violent tide that has eroded the foundations of the Republic nearly to the point of collapse. Even if Donald Trump doesn’t win the Presidency, will the added pressure and stress of the national and international turmoil brought about by Trump’s – and his followers’ – jingoism, ignorance and hatred be too overwhelming to keep this Union intact?

Personally, I think something’s got to blow under all of this pressure, because it’s not going to ease anytime soon. It only leads one to question: when, how big, and how toxic will the fallout be?

This is our daily Open Thread – what’s on YOUR mind?

The Watering Hole, Monday, May 16th, 2016: Wrong, As Always

Recent opinion pieces at The Christian Post website demonstrate that the “Christian” right – and these aren’t all what I would consider to be real RWNJs – continues to steadfastly ignore reality.

On Earth Day, Dr. Richard D. Land posted “Earth Day: How Environmentalists Hurt the Environment”. Some excerpts:

Many advocates for drastic measures to combat climate change (i.e., global warming) assert that human caused global warming is now “settled science.”

And yet, recently published data from the Department of Energy reveals that the U.S. has reduced carbon emissions for the past fifteen years by more than 10%, more than almost the entire rest of the world combined. How did America accomplish such a feat? The answer is hydraulic fracturing or fracking, which involves releasing fossil fuel (oil and natural gas) trapped in rock formations by injecting millions of gallons of water and chemicals into the formations.

As a result of widespread usage of this controversial technology, the U.S. has become the world’s No. 1 oil and natural gas producer. As a direct consequence of fracking, the price of natural gas is one-fourth what it was a decade ago, and since America has a virtually inexhaustible natural gas supplies, people keep using more and more of this environmentally clean and very inexpensive fossil fuel. [Will someone please explain to me why anyone would want to literally undermine the land to access what is, by definition, a limited energy source?]

EPA studies declaring fracking can be done safely and cleanly moved U.S.A. Today to declare that “to help the environment and economy, keep on fracking” (4/19/16). U.S.A. Today also observed in the same article that fracking “has spurred a remarkable U.S. energy boom and . . . this boom has created jobs, boosted manufacturing and brought the USA closer to energy independence.”

Still, environmental activists on the left continue to oppose fracking, as well as the only clean energy “technology with an established track record of generating electricity at scale while emitting virtually no greenhouse gases: nuclear power.” In fact, in a “Pew poll of members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 65 percent of scientists want more nuclear power” (Eduardo Porter, NY Times 4/19/16).

Apparently Dr. Land is completely ignorant of WHY environmentalists – and any humans with a fairly basic knowledge of science and some critical-thinking skills – are against fracking and nuclear energy. Has he not heard about the earthquakes being caused by fracking? Is he somehow privy to exactly which chemicals are being used in fracking? The “EPA studies” that declared “fracking can be done safely and cleanly” did not say that fracking IS BEING DONE “safely and cleanly”, more simply that it “can” be done. (Here’s the Christian Science Monitor’s take on this.)

And “nuclear”?! Does “Fukushima” ring a bell? Sorry, but Indian Point is way too close for me to want any part of nuclear power. Not to mention disposal of nuclear waste, which has already been an environmental problem for decades. Or that nuclear facilities make lovely targets for terrorism. Where the hell has Dr. Land been?

Then there’s Ken Blackwell’s ridiculous drivel, “Trump is Bad But Not Worse Than Hillary”

[The blurb says “Ken Blackwell is the Senior Fellow for Family Empowerment at the Family Research Council. He serves on the board of directors of the Club for Growth and the National Taxpayers Union. He is also a member of the public affairs committee of the NRA. Mr. Blackwell is also the former Mayor of Cincinnati and a former Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission.” As Blackwell says in a different context below, “What more needs to be said?”]

“…no one should doubt Hillary Clinton’s determination to expand the state at every turn.
Trump the businessman has experience in confronting bureaucracy, and the Democrats are prolific regulators. President Barack Obama has imposed costly new rules at a rapid pace. Clinton likely would set new records.

Then there’s the judiciary. Antonin Scalia’s death has upset the delicate balance on the Supreme Court. Turning those appointments over to a liberal Democrat would lose the court for a generation, undermining any future conservative political victories.

America’s international security and standing also are at stake. Clinton had a disastrous hand in her husband’s presidency, noteworthy for the debacle in Somalia, unnecessary war in the Balkans, and broken agreement with North Korea. Then she was the first term Secretary of State for President Obama. What more needs to be said?”

1) What exactly has Hillary Clinton said or done to indicate a “determination to expand the state at every turn”? What is your definition of “expand”, and the vague phrase “at every turn”?
2) Trump the con-man has minions, er, “people” – the “BEST” people – to “confront bureaucracy” for him. And those minions don’t always win, either: it’s probably not a good idea to mention “Scotland”, “golf course” or “windmills” in front of The Donald.
3) Hillary Clinton is not a “liberal” Democrat.
4) WTF did First Lady Hillary have to do with Somalia, the Balkans, and North Korea? How does being “the first term Secretary of State for President Obama” disqualify her? And finally,
5) “What more needs to be said?” A whole hell of a lot more!

Donald Trump’s expected nomination comes as a disappointment for many Republicans. However, by every standard Clinton is worse. Conservatives might reluctantly vote for Trump. But, they should consider a vote
for him nevertheless, if he becomes a standard bearer of our platform. A platform that has made us the majority party in the United States.

Is Trump smart enough to do the right thing and are we smart enough to beat Hillary?

Politics is the art of the possible. That doesn’t mean abandoning principle. But if the good is unavailable, it means preferring the politically unattractive to the politically ugly. Too much is at stake for conservatives to treat the presidential election like a kamikaze mission or for Trump to be dumb.”

Two pieces about “Christian” megachurch pastor and devout Trump supporter Robert Jeffress demonstrate the extremely hypocritical and morally reprehensible “values” of religious conservatives. In one piece, Jeffress defends Trump’s childish tweet in response to criticism of Trump by another Evangelical, Russell Moore, with the equally childish (and un-Christ-like) argument that “Moore had it coming because he provoked Trump.” In the second piece, Jeffress calls Christians who won’t vote for Trump “fools”:

“Pastor Robert Jeffress, leader of the influential 12,000-member First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, declared Wednesday that Republicans who have vowed never to support Donald Trump if he becomes the Republican presidential nominee are “fools.”
“It is absolutely foolish to do anything that would allow Hillary Clinton to become the next President of the United States … at least Donald Trump has voiced a belief in a pro-life movement, he has at least talked about religious liberty as he did last Friday, you don’t hear either things coming from the lips of Hillary Clinton,” he continued.
“I believe any Christian who would sit at home and not vote for the Republican nominee … that person is being motivated by pride rather than principle and I think it would be a shame for people to allow Hillary Clinton four or eight years in the White House,” he said.

So much for ‘separation of Church and State’ – I’d like to see the IRS have a little talk with ‘Pastor’ Jeffress.

This is our daily Open Thread–talk about whatever you want.

The Watering Hole, Monday, May 9th, 2016: Are We There Yet?

Here’s two (well, sort of – you’ll see what I mean) predictions about frightening futures, which we seem to be fulfilling here in the largest superpower on the planet.

First, an interesting article entitled “Neil Postman Predicted Trumpocalypse 30 Years Ago”, by Dr. Richard D. Land at the Christian Post. Dr. Land discusses a 1985 book by Neil Postman called Amusing Ourselves to Death. Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. An excerpt:

Postman started off his book by contrasting the two most dystopian visions of modern civilization’s future, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932).
Postman’s contrast of the two dystopian visions of the future is chilling:

“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies . . .”

The Internet has changed the basic DNA of our culture, including our social and personal relationships and our information access. It has radically democratized communication, while at the same time condemning any effective editorial or verifying filter as the unwelcome control of a hated elite. Consequently, we are being engulfed not only in a sea of moral relativism, but information relativism as well. The immersion of our culture in Internet speak has brought us perilously close to a denial, if not a revocation of the late, great, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s statement that “you are entitled to your own opinions, but you are not entitled to your own facts.” Now, opinions too often masquerade as facts, and fewer and fewer know the difference and increasingly fewer care.

As Postman pointed out, Huxley was trying to warn the future “that what afflicted people in Brave New World was not that they were laughing instead of thinking, but that they did not know what they were laughing about and why they had stopped thinking.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Now a more pithy prediction in a similar vein, from Carl Sagan’s 1996 “The Demon-Haunted World”:
sagan hauntedHave we arrived at any – or all of – these future visions?

This is our daily Open Thread – you know what to do.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, April 30th, 2016: The View from Outside

We’re all tired of the U.S. media’s love/hate minute-by-minute coverage of The Donald, so I thought that ThinkProgress’s article on Trump’s international coverage might be interesting.

Occasionally humorous, i.e.:

MEXICO: “…the man who managed to make us miss the Bush clan” and “El Deforma, a satirical news site similar to The Onion…has included articles about Canada building a wall in case of a Trump victory and Pink Floyd building the wall if Mexico doesn’t pay for it.”

SOUTH AFRICA: “South Africa’s the New Age called Trump “arguably the most successful internet troll in today’s political spectrum,” noting that much of his social media commentary “reads like a laundry list of troll tactics.”

Sometimes insightful:

CANADA: “…the Globe and Mail’s conservative columnist Margaret Wente noted that a majority of Americans “would rather swallow arsenic than vote for Mr. Trump” and predicted his fall. “If Donald Trump were a stock, my advice would be to sell it now,” she wrote. “The one thing that has to happen is that Mr. Trump will have to change. And he can’t. His most deadly foe is himself. Mr. Trump has no situational awareness. He has no ability to take advice, or build bridges, or learn from others, or direct a team.”

Some surprisingly self-serving and hypocritical:

ISRAEL: ““As an Israeli Who Loves America, I Am Worried by Trump,” wrote Ari Shavit in the liberal publication Haaretz after a series of Trump victories in February. “After the astounding victories of the vulgar populist in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, it is clear to all that America is no longer the country we have known. It is no longer a nation with a prudent economic establishment, a contented middle class and a stable political system. It is no longer a nation confident in itself, its identity and its future. It is a frightened, angry America. An America that has lost its way,” he wrote. “To an Israeli who spends considerable time in debates about Israel between Boston and San Francisco, Trump is a relief. Suddenly Israeli politics seem a little less embarrassing.”

“…in March, Naomi Zeveloff published a piece in the Forward on how Trump’s offensive style was actually winning many Israeli admirers. “If America elects a person who advocates discrimination and condescension and even resentment toward minorities, maybe we won’t be so criticized by the West,” Yaron Ezrahi, a professor emeritus of political science at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, explained to Zeveloff regarding Israeli right-wing thinking on Trump.”

The TP article is very long with loads of links, and overall it’s pretty disturbing. But I recommend wading through it.

This is our daily Open Thread–okay, it’s the now-usually-Late-Afternoon Saturday edition. Go ahead and talk about stuff.

The Watering Hole; Thursday April 7 2016; Wage Peace, Not War part II — “Defense” Budget;

“We’re run by people that don’t get it. I don’t know, it’s a lack of street smarts,
it’s a lack of intelligence, to be honest with you, but it’s just a horrible situation.”
(Donald Trump)

A revolting statistic: The US military outspends the next 13 top-spending nations combined.

Military spending, WaPo

(▲Courtesy Washington Post▲)

Not sure why it is, really, but stats like that MAKE ME MAD!!! Can anyone come up with a better and more efficient means for a nation to piss away its wealth and sustenance than blowing the better part of a trillion dollars on its war machine? What exactly has that philosophy bought us US since, say, Sept 2 1945, aka the end of the last truly defensive war in which the US (necessarily) engaged? What’s been our gain in Korea? Vietnam? Grenada? Panama? Bosnia? Kuwait? Afghanistan? Iraq? And today, Syria? How many global “friends” have we acquired courtesy of our military adventurism? None? How many enemies have we made? Lots? To what end?

Are we safer now? Is the M.I.C. better off?

The answers to those last two questions are, of course, NO and YES, resp.; and therein lies the rub: it’s the MONEY, stupid.

Here in Amurkkka we loves us some military. Cuz there’s MONEY in it, dontcha know! OK, so there’s also wanton death, destruction, murder, insanity, etc., but what the hell, the MONEY trumps all of that, right? Right. So we continue on our wayward path of always spending more, more, more! on war (aka, to the uninformed, “Defense”) than the rest of the civilized world COMBINED! — and we leave nothing but death, destruction, and insanity  — and hatred of us — in our wake even as we accomplish only what the billionaires want most: more MONEY handed them by we the people. Conclusion: as a nation, we ain’t worth — to the rest of the world — much more than the powder it would take to blow US all to hell.

No worries, though; I have an idea.:)

We currently spend $711 Billion per year on what we call “defense.” The world’s second biggest spender on “defense” is our (arch enemy?) China who spends, according to the chart up top, around $145 Billion (make it $146B for easy figuring). Suppose we, US, would agree, in the interest of global sanity, to spend no more than that on our war machine. That would leave $711B minus $146B, or $565B that could be invested elsewhere, maybe even on PEACEful enterprises!

Wow.

Think of it. More than half-a-TRILLION bucks left over! Half a trillion bucks once allocated for ‘defense’ but no longer wasted on bombs and bullets and stuff. Is it really necessary that our “leaders” forever continue to presume that their own reality must remain focused on and be governed by that line from Herman Wouk’s masterful tome The Winds of War, words attributed to Adolf Hitler?

“. . . I have never stopped building planes, planes, planes, U-boats, U-boats, U-boats! . . . I have piled bombs, bombs, bombs, tanks, tanks, tanks to the sky! It has been a wasteful, staggering burden on my people, but what other language have great states ever understood? It is out of a sense of strength that I have offered peace! I Have been rejected and scorned . . .”

That’s an able summation of what’s defined the US “defense” prescription for the last 70 years at least, but a quick look around serves to dismiss the thesis that a great state and its sense of strength can collectively serve to support peace anywhere among us before its leader(s) become rejected and scorned. So why do we continue to follow that self-destructive path? Why do we so love war? What’s so wrong with peace and with caring for others? What is it that forces us to insist on the always-failed military non-solution?

Simple. It’s the MONEY.

So, OK, we in the US currently piss away budget $711 Billion annually for “defense,” and a handful of “important” people (see Dick Cheney, e.g.) get rich off the process even as millions around the world suffer and/or die in result. That essentially spells out, seems to me, what could be described as an able summation of a genuinely nasty setup and policy.

I recommend a few simple changes; here’s a quick summary:

  1. Reserve $146 billion for “defense” in order to keep us on par with China.
  2. Of the (annual!) remaining $565 Billion, we can begin by allocating $100 Billion (annually!) to assist and provide for the needs of refugees who are fleeing the explosive (thanks mainly to US) Middle East — Syria, Iraq, etc.
  3. Of the remaining $465 billion, allocate $75 Billion (annually!) to assist and support refugees(?) from Central America and Mexico, also to enable each and all to obtain legal assistance that enables them to apply for and gain US citizenship, should they so desire.
  4. $390 billion remains. How about $100 Billion (annually!) to be invested in the maintenance and rebuilding of infrastructure here at home?
  5. Of the $290 Billion remaining, $75 billion could be invested (annually!) in anti-poverty programs/initiatives in cities and states everywhere across the country.
  6. Next, apply $100 Billion (annually!) on scientific program(s) designed and developed to help SOLVE the human-caused global climate change dilemma/crisis, both here at home and around the world.
  7. Invest $75 Billion (annually!) wherever needed in domestic Public Education.
  8. Invest $35 Billion (annually!) in a rejuvenated Peace Corps, dedicated to helping the needy in countries everywhere.
  9. And finally, use the remaining $5 Billion (annually!) to pay the salaries and office costs required by those who will work endlessly to devise the mechanisms of forever CLOSING and inverting the tax loopholes that benefit Corporations and billionaires everywhere!

There. A skeletonized recommendation of the means to relieve this country of its never-ending (annualized) planes, planes, planes, bombs, bombs, bombs, tanks, tanks, tanks piled to the sky (!.!.!.) philosophy, and to erect in its place a series of well-financed (each and every year!!) programs that will benefit people both at home and the world over; programs that will reduce (rather than accelerate) hatred of the US by people both at home and the world over. Consider all of this to be the latest incarnation of the

WAGE PEACE, NOT WAR!

domestic and global MOVEMENT!

Or —

We can go the other way, elect Donald Trump as our President, and wallow in the swill that his tremendous acumen on all such matters has already suggested:

I know how to fix it, so easy, that aspect of it. And even, you know, the nuclear.
I am doing so good on nuclear by people that are fair. What’s happening now is
we’re paying for the world’s — we’re like the world’s policeman but they don’t
pay us for it. We lose a fortune on the military. You know, our military budget is
phenomenally higher than any other budget but it’s not for us, we’re protecting
everybody else and we lose a fortune.

(Donald Trump)

Nice choice, right?

OPEN THREAD

 

 

Sunday Roast: 1968

In 1968, my family was living outside of the U.S., in a little place no one has heard of since, namely Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  I was nine years old and only beginning to become aware of the world outside family, neighborhood, and school.

I was the kind of kid who was outside from morning ’til the street lights came on, so television — especially the news — was way down my list of interesting things to do.  Dad turned on the six o’clock news every night, and I began to realize that the world (the U.S., my world) was burning — literally.

By the time we left Gitmo, I was going on eleven years old, and I knew two things for sure:

  1.  War is bloody and horrible and fucked up, and we need to find a better way to deal with our disagreements.
  2.  People need to be able to stand up for themselves and their rights — civil or otherwise — and speak their minds, without being beaten, fire hosed, or killed.

I was a naive child who thought we’d have these things figured out by the time I had children.  Ha!  Said children are 28 and 33 years old, and just look at what we’ve done to this country…hell, the world.

I am ashamed.

This is our daily open thread.