Saturday, November 28, 2015

America: One of the Most Violent Nations on Earth

On Monday, I visited my doctor (thanks Obamacare) to make sure my inoculations were up to date for a bucket list trip to Israel next Spring. My doctor's first question was, "Aren't you afraid of all the violence?"

My answer was the same as every other time I've been asked that question since I first considered the trip. I am far more likely to meet a violent end in the United States than any other civilized country. The per capita murder rate in the US is five times higher than Israel.

Following the terrorist attack on a Colorado Planned Parenthood building by a white, middle-age wacko, President Obama said, "We can’t let it become normal." I'm sorry, but mass killings in the US are the norm. Nearly every day in the country there is a incident where at least four people are killed or wounded in a gun attack.

So, no I'm not at all afraid of visiting Israel. I am a little afraid about coming home.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Parable for Our Times

In 1943 Walt Disney turned a 100 year-old fairy tale, "The Remarkable Story of Chicken Little" into a cartoon short. He choose to underplay the fascism reference so it is a useful story for our Trumpism times.

Quotes from the book:
Foxy Loxy reads from a Psychology book. The quotes are drawn from Mein Kampf.
  • To influence the masses, aim first at the least intelligent.
  • If you tell a lie don't tell a little one, tell a big one.
  • Undermine the faith of the masses in their leaders.
  • By the use of flattery insignificant people can be made to look upon themselves as born leaders.
My question, is Donald Trump Foxy Loxy or Chicken Little?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Initial Thought on the Turks Shooting Down a Russian Jet

This is the list of candidates who have advocated shooting down Russian planes in Syria.

Jeb Bush - "We need to have no fly zones. The argument is, well we’ll get into the conflict with Russia, maybe Russia shouldn’t want to be in conflict with us."

Ben Carson -  "We need to stand our ground with the airspace. I would establish a no-fly zone along the border with Turkey. In no way would I back off."

Hillary Clinton - "I personally would be advocating now for a no-fly zone and humanitarian corridors to try to stop the carnage on the ground and from the air."

Chris Christie - "My first phone call would be to Vladimir, and I’d say to him, listen, we’re enforcing this no-fly zone. And I mean we’re enforcing it against anyone, including you."

Carly Fiorina - "This is a tricky maneuver, it’s a dangerous maneuver, but it’s a maneuver that we must undertake. The Russians do not get to move into the Middle East and become the dominant outside power."

Lindsey Graham - "I don’t know if there’s anybody left to train, but a no-fly zone would be a great relief to the Syrian people."

John Kasich - "You enter that no-fly zone, you enter at your own peril. No more red lines, no more looking the other way. If any hostile aircraft should enter that, there will be a great consequence to them."

Marco Rubio - "The United States should work with our allies, both Arab and European, to impose a no-fly zone over parts of Syria."

Friday, November 20, 2015

A Test of Courage

Trump went there. "Absolutely" would he establish a database of American Muslims.
On January 21, 2016 President Donald Trump will issue an executive order requiring all Muslims or people with at least one-quarter Muslim heritage to report to their local post office and be registered with the federal government.

Here is your test. Would you go too? Christian, Jew, Buddhist, atheist - would you register along side your friends and neighbors? This is no idle act. Quite literally, it would put your lives, fortunes, and sacred honor at risk. I don't know that I would have that kind of courage. I like to think I would but there would be genuine fear once Trump's Thugs inevitably are given the registry.

But, yielding to the fear would only postpone the same result. In the eyes of Trump's Party, I am also a traitor. My time will come. Trump used to be a joke. He no longer is. Trump is now a genuine threat to the very concept of Americanism.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Is Trump Going There?

"We’re going to have to do things that we never did before. Some people are going to be upset about it, but I think that now everybody is feeling that security is going to rule." (source)

Donald Trump said that in answer to a question if he would support requiring Muslims to carry special religious identification with them and allowing warrantless searches of Muslim homes, businesses, and mosques.

I know I've violated Goodwin's Law repeatedly regarding Trump and not without reason. But this is as close to going full National Socialist as he has ever gone. What is more frightening (yes, some things frighten me) is that even the mainstream Republican National Review readers fall mostly into two camps: defending the stance as a negotiation ploy and saying it's a great idea.

I expect Ted Cruz (Trump's Mini-Me) to imply support for the concept in coming days.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Fear Itself

nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. ~ the rest of the sentence from FDR's famous "fear itself" speech
I am no more afraid of being killed by terrorists now than I was last week, which is to say not at all.  I am far more likely to die violently at the hands of a drunk driver. There is a tiny chance a mugger will kill me, but it is still greater than a terrorist. A nervous cop shooting me? Very unlikely but still more likely than a terrorist. A terrified concealed carry gunist popping a cap in me by mistake is improbable but more possible than a terrorist offing me.

Terrorists want to instill terror - the occasional random attack is just a means to that end. The pants pissing reaction of Republican governors and legislators is their submissively yielding to the terrorists. It is pathetic, cowardly, and shows all the emotional maturity of a three year-old screaming in horror at the sight of a birthday clown.
Actually, this makes more sense.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Great Nativist Competition

Republicans are battling each other to absurd degrees to be crowned the most intensely racist nativist and thereby win their party's nomination for President.
1903 - "The Unrestricted Dumping Ground" opposed immigration from southern and eastern Europe, calling them criminals and terrorists. Familiar?
Nativism has a long history in American politics. The target of the xenophobia changes with the times. Protestants hated Irish Catholic immigrants. Irish hated Italian and Jewish immigrants. Just about everybody hated Chinese immigrants.

Ben Carson, the only African-American in the race, has hired a notorious white supremacist to chair his Mississippi campaign. Carson has stated that Islam is inherently incompatible with the US Constitution. This is a clear echo of the 19th century Know Nothing Party accusation that Catholic immigrants would follow the Pope's orders to destroy America.

Circa 1900 - "Pauper" immigrant labor will inevitably steal food from the table of the American working man.

Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are two second generation Americans with Spanish surnames who are locked in a battle over who will keep more Spanish surnamed immigrants out of the country. Both use the argument that poor Mexicans are stealing the jobs of hard working Americans.

1919 - "Put them out and keep them out." Keep terrorist Europeans out of the US.
Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz both recently suggested a religious test for refugees - Christians in, Muslims out. Religious exclusions are a recurring theme in American history. The Know Nothings were anti-Catholic. The Red Scare in the 1920's excluded and even expelled Eastern European Jews suspected of socialist beliefs.

Operation Wetback was one tenth the size of the Trump deportation plan.

Donald Trump is, of course, at the top of the dung heap. Most recently he has suggest closing mosques to curtail terrorism, like that wouldn't just radicalize more people. He wants to engage in the greatest mass deportation of humanity since Nazi Germany, but do it "humanely." Even the right wing Federalist has called Trump's plan hardcore pornography for nativists.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Paris Terror: Winners and Losers

Wiser people than me will decided on the whys and responses to the horrible attack on Paris last night. I will look at a simpler question.

Obviously. They successfully struck back at one of the nations fighting their den of thieves and rapists. Also, they may be able to stop the depopulation of their Caliphate.

10,000 attend anti-immigrant protest in Dresden, Germany
They are the biggest winners, to the point I briefly considered that Marine Le Pen's National Front was behind the attacks. They are still a tiny factor in French elections, just two seats in the national assembly, but these attacks will greatly increase their appeal.

Other anti-immigrant parties that will get a boost are UKIP and BNP (United Kingdom), Freedom Party (Austria), NDP (Germany), National Revival (Poland), and the Northern League (Italy). So far, most of these are insignificant legislative parties, Austria is an exception, but the combination of terrorist attacks and the flood of refugees could change that.

In the United States we can expect another bump in Donald Trump's support.

Yeah, here too. France, especially, is going to want bloody revenge.
Tremble, tyrants! and you, traitors,
The disgrace of all groups,
Tremble! Your parricidal plans
Will finally pay the price!
~ lyrics of La Marseillaise not usually sung
Syrian Refugees
The doors are being closed to new refugees and there will be great agitation to expel those already in Europe. Thousands of innocents will be punished for the sins of a handful if the refugees are sent back into the jaws of ISIS.

Muslims as a Whole
The Charlie Hebdo attack in January triggered anti-Muslim protests. This attack is exponentially worse and will probably bring more violent protests.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

What a 'Deportation Force' Looks Like

Donald Trump recently said he would have a "deportation force" to "humanely" remove eleven million Mexican "rapists." This has been done before so we know what it will look like.
"The Spider," an evil ethnic rapist
Here, a uniformed deportation official humanely directs undesirable aliens into comfortable railroad cars.
Alien women preparing to enjoy the scenery in a wonderful open-air transport under the care of humane deportation officials. Making deportation fun!
Deportees arriving at their destination. Note the joyful expressions on their faces.
Children being loaded onto trucks for a fun deportation journey.
Criminal aliens being escorted by watchful deportation officials
Deportation agents greeting illegal aliens on their arrival. The truncheons will be used to gently and humanely urge them to their final solution destination.
And, because Trump mentioned it directly, armed deportation officials during Operation Wetback in 1954.
While Operation Wetback did not have extermination camps as such, thousands died. A key component of Operation Wetback was to leave people without assets far from any population centers so they could not ever get back to the United States. In just one incident in July, 1954, 88 people were deposited in the Mexican desert without provisions and died from the heat. Hundreds of US citizens of Hispanic descent were rounded up, stripped of the possessions, and expelled from the United States to die in poverty in a foreign country.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Would You Kill Baby Hitler?

The real baby Hitler.
Killing baby Hitler is a test of ones ethics. Jeb Bush stupidly choose to answer this hypothetical, he said he would butcher a toddler he though might grow up to commit genocide.

A Man of His Times
There are thousands of psychopaths walking around all the time. Some of them make great CEOs (Al Dunlap) while others turn to a career in law enforcement or become Vice-President. The best way to keep Hitler from killing would have been to prevent World War I from ever happening.

Deprive Hitler of the economic devastation and social angst that Germany suffered following the Versailles Treaty and little Adolph might have spent his life wandering the streets of Vienna content with killing the occasional stray dog.

His Replacement Could Have Been Worse
Okay, we killed baby Hitler but didn't change the cauldron of post-war Germany that cultivated him. The German Socialist Worker's Party existed before Hitler joined. It was already nationalist and antisemitic and had all of the philosophies Hitler later embraced. Any number of future members like Ernst Rohm, who organized the SA into a force of two million thugs, or Heinrich Himmler might have risen to leadership in the absence of Hitler and done a much better job of it.

Both were far better organizers than Hitler. When British Intelligence proposed assassinating Hitler in 1944, Churchill canceled the project because Hitler's battlefield decisions were so incredibly stupid it was decided he was an asset to the Allied military cause.

Karmic Disaster
Not real baby Hitler.
You've considered the options. You know it probably won't make a difference and if it does it might just make things worse. You've decided, the hell with it, you are going to smother baby Hitler in his crib.

You've decided to kill someone whose greatest crime, at that point in his life, is being fussy about going to sleep. For a pro-life advocate, like Bush, you've committed a horrific sin.

For a pro-choice person like me who believe life begins when you draw your first breath, killing a baby on spec is an ultimate evil. It is the sort of thing someone gripped with schizophrenic delusions might do.

So, Jeb, just saying, you are one sick son of a bitch.

But I would have assassinated him in 1933 and not thought twice about it even if that meant I'd have to go back and assassinate a half dozen other German leaders that followed him.And it probably still won't have made a significant difference

Saturday, November 07, 2015

When the Lunatics Run the Asylum

Many years ago (early 1973 to be exact) I read an essay by Susan Sontag that I remember to this day. Susan had gone out to watch a movie. At some point she realized that many, even a majority, of the people in the theater with her that night had voted for Richard Nixon. It was an inconceivable concept that was also undoubtedly true.

It was a couple of months after Nixon had won reelection by a huge majority. A majority so large supporters were considering repealing the 22nd Amendment so Nixon could be President in perpetuity. The country was full of Nixon voters and people like Songtag and me couldn't wrap our minds around the bizarreness of that fact.
The fact that Ben Carson and Donald Trump combined have the support of half the Republican electorate is similarly baffling. Yes, I know a substantial percentage of Republican voters have brains the consistency of tapioca pudding, but even during the madness of the 2012 primary season lunatic Michele Bachmann peaked at just 16%. While Herman Cain has a brief sojourn at the top of the polls nobody thought he might actually get nominated.

Things are different today. There are really just five people at this point with a chance at the nomination. The only one with a resume (Bush) is hated by his party's base. A rookie Senator (Cruz) is hated by his party's elites. The guy with the best chance, another rookie Senator (Rubio), may be a childlike toady but at least nobody hates him.

Then we have two men who have commanding leads over everyone but each other. Carson is a straight up loon with a world view so distorted it would be unbelievable as fiction. Trump thinks knowledge is a dangerous thing so he refuses any association with it. In the latest FOX poll, Rubio, Bush, and Cruz combined have less support than Trump. If it were not for Carson he'd be running away with the nomination.
The lunatic asylum of Bedlam
I live in a conservative enclave of Southern California that once elected to the state legislature a man who ran on an anti-witchcraft platform and we have a megachurch just a few miles up the road. I know I must have neighbors who are enthusiastic supporters of Carson or Trump. And that terrifies me. I have long ago accepted that I am surrounded by Republicans but this, this is too much.

I don't understand it and I don't want to understand it. Understanding it leads to madness.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Grifters, Conmen, and Other Presidential Candidates

There are many reasons people choose to run for President, probably the rarest is a dedication to public service.

Ben Carson - Grifter
Carson is the clearest example of a grifter candidate I've ever seen. Most of the millions of dollars donated to his campaign have disappeared into a black hole called "fundraising." It is being laundered into various pockets with Dr. Ben, as the mastermind, certain to get the largest share. Carson's runs the God Scam to perfection, I expect there are several televangelists green with envy. Greenest of all is Mike Huckabee who expected to fleece the faithful as well as he did four years ago only to see Carson steal his flock.

Donald Trump - Egoist
I'm not the only person to see the Mussolini-Trump nexus. Trump's campaign is based on a cult of personality. There is no issue more important to Trump than Trump. It is quite literally all about him. Throw in extreme nationalism and more than a hint of racism and you have, well, a political movement Benito would have been proud of.

Marco Rubio - Conman
It's really hard to figure Marco out. Everything about Rubio is a bit off, a bit phony, like he can't quite keep his stories straight. He feels to me like the character Elmer Gantry (picture), someone who has told so many lies all his life he doesn't even know what the truth is anymore. Rubio sells out to billionaires like Norman Braman like a common toady. Marco is a just cheap carny conman.

Jeb Bush - Disappointing Son
One thing is clear, Jeb doesn't want to run for President. It clear in every statement, every appearance that he'd rather be doing anything else. He's running because daddy told him to and he always does what daddy says. It's a sad thing to watch, embarrassing really. You get the feeling Jeb could have a happy life if he didn't have the family obligation burden.

Carly Fiorina - Huckster
She wrote a book published in May, 2015 that nobody was buying (it is currently ranked #21,336th on Amazon). She ran for President trying to juice sales. It hasn't worked but maybe if she gets picked as someone's Veep sales will finally take off. Carly's just trying to hawk books.

Ted Cruz - Ghost Grifter
Yes, Cruz is a grifter and he will use any tragedy for money. But he is after so much more. Cruz wants to have power over people. Power so he can make them suffer. Cruz is a stealth candidate, he refuses to say exactly what he wants to do. Like Sauron, he will do whatever he has to to gain the power to rule us all.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Fixing the Debates

I hate presidential debates. They are group press conferences where, if we're lucky, a pro-wrestling interview breaks out. The revisions demanded by Republicans would make them worse, turning them into group infomercials. 

Gotcha Questions
If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. ~ Harry Truman
Republican want an end to "gotcha questions." While loaded questions (When did you stop beating your wife?) are unfair, "what newspapers do you read" shouldn't be a tough question. When Becky Quick asked Ben Carson about his financially insane 10% tithe tax plan that was not playing gotcha, it was a tough question that needed answering. If you want to be President you should be able to handle tough questions.

Stupid Questions
Elvis or Johnny Cash? ~ Asked by CNN's John King during a 2012 Republican debate
The bane of American debates. For some reason TV talking heads believe in asking questions so dumb Entertainment Tonight would reject them. They are a waste of time and brain cells.

How I Would Change the Debates

Limit Participants
Two candidates are perfect, three and four are okay. Five on a stage is getting crowded. Ten? That's a mob, not a debate. Break the Republican horde into groups of four or five. Scatter the polling leaders among the groups so there is not one major debate with minor satellites. The leaders can be gathered in 2016 when the bottom dwellers are winnowed out.

Two Hours with Chairs
Let them sit at tables or desks. Lincoln and Douglas stood during their debates in 1858 but that was so people in the back could see them. Chairs make more sense in a television age. In the first Kennedy-Nixon debate of 1960, Nixon injured his knee prior to the debate, prolonged standing made him visibly uncomfortable. Should presidential decisions depend on not having an infected toenail? The Kennedy-Nixon debate was one hour long. Ninety minutes to two hours is plenty of time, this is not an endurance contest.

No Commercials
Are we choosing the leader of the Free World or boner pills? The networks have civic responsibility to offer their time without commercial breaks.

Fewer Question, More Answers
The Kennedy-Nixon debate had one moderator (Howard K. Smith) and three questioners from different news agencies. The format allowed for two and a half minute responses with ninety second rebuttals. Each question allowed for five minutes of substance. The CNBC rules were one minute responses with thirty second rebuttals only if allowed by the moderators.

For a five-handed debate, each question could have a two minute response with up to four one minute rebuttals. That would allow for at least three questions for each debater.

A two-handed debate could allow for two minute responses, one minute rebuttals, and thirty second responses to the rebuttal.

Limit Topics
One debate on foreign policy questions only. Another on domestic policy. A third on candidates specific policy positions. I like the idea of asking candidates about their opponent's policy positions.
None of these things will happen. Campaign consultants live in a soundbite world. Long answers and rebuttals are poison to their quick quote world. Television stations want excitement and conflict not policy discussions. They want the candidates to personally attack each other. Most candidates don't have well thought out policy goals (Trump and Carson) while those that do (Ted Cruz) want to keep them secret. So we will continue to get these circus performances masquerading as debates.