“Tarp Gate”: A Sign of the Times

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Just when you thought you’d heard EVERYTHING that ANYONE, ANYWHERE could POSSIBLY blame on Barack Obama, along comes… the bungled suspension of a major league baseball game because of rain. No, seriously. Well, it did happen in Chicago, so surely the prez must have been involved somehow or other, eh what?

On the night of Aug. 19, the Chicago Cubs were hosting the San Francisco Giants when a downpour interrupted the action in the middle of the fifth inning, and a grounds crew clumsily covered Wrigley Field with a tarp. Then everyone waited until after 1:00 a.m., when the game was finally called off because the field was too wet. Since the Cubs were leading 2-0 at that point, they were awarded the victory.

But the Giants protested (They wanted to play until 3:00 in the morning?) because they maintained the crew did not adequately protect the field. Officials ruled in their favor, and the game was resumed a couple of days later. The Giants still lost, them bums, but they claimed the consolation prize of the first successful protest of a major league game in 28 years. End of story, right?

Well no, this is where it really gets interesting. And weird. It turns out that the reason the grounds crew was so inept at covering the field was that they were drastically shorthanded. And the reason for that was that some of them were sent home early. And the reason for that was that the bosses didn’t want the lowly laborers working too many hours. And the reason for that reportedly was that they didn’t want to shell out a few more bucks as required by “Obamacare”.

Now there was no real damage because of any of this, except maybe the sore butts of the fans sitting in the bleachers so long — the Cubs even got to keep their mark in the win column. But for some people (notably those at the ever-entertaining National Review), it was another catastrophic failure of the Affordable Care Act — oops, that should be “Obamacare”, of course. Another failure right up there with… well, you know, death panels and stuff.

It’s a sign of the times for a couple of reasons. First, the craze involving blaming any and all problems on President Obama, somehow, anyhow. Second, the trend toward corporate directors being Scrooges and squeezing the underpaid workers at the bottom of the food chain — and then blaming their Scrooginess on President Obama. But there’s yet a third reason.

It turns out that the big cheeses for the Cubs were rather misinformed about the ACA. (What? Someone misinformed about “Obamacare”? Say it ain’t so, Rush.) The dreaded provision of the law requiring them to treat their workers like human beings isn’t even in effect this year. They could have had the full complement of tarp spreaders on hand without having to pay a penny in penalties. As Dean Baker at the Center for Economic and Policy Research bluntly observes, “This is yet another example of the skills gap that is preventing managers from operating their businesses effectively.” In other words, maybe this is why the Cubs suck so much.

It’s another sign of the times. Few if any of the attacks leveled at “Obamacare” are totally accurate, and most have no basis in reality whatsoever. You’d think that if people were going to criticize a law, or anything else, they’d at least want to avoid making fools of themselves by learning a little bit about it first. Just a tad, a smidgen, a modicum, a crumb.  But for the Cult of Obama  Hatred, this would only spoil the fun.

So far, Republicans in Congress have not cited Tarp Gate as grounds for impeachment. But it’s surely just a matter of time.

 

Bill Maher and “Zombie Lies”

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Bill Maher was in fine form, as he often is, on July 11 when he coined the much needed term “zombie lie”  for a lie that keeps coming back and making the rounds even after it has been thoroughly killed. He is referring specifically to GOP lies about the ACA (or, as it will be forever branded, “Obamacare”), but he quotes other notable examples. And makes some pertinent observations:

Look, I get it. Neither party has a monopoly on lying. And in fact they all do it so often they invented their own word for it. “I misspoke”. .. But how come the rule for one party, the Republican Party, is that when they get caught in a lie, they don’t have to stop telling it?

It’s a question worth asking. And a video worth watching.

Obama Haters + Benghazi + Iraq = More Spinning Than a Dervish on a Carnival Ride

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A couple of brief but worthwhile articles by Steve Benen at MSNBC highlight the dizzying heights of lunacy to which the cult of Obama hatred has ascended. One is about the capture of Ahmed Abu Khattala, the suspected terrorist mastermind behind the attack in Benghazi in 2012. Remember Benghazi? It’s one of the many “scandals” that the Obama Haters hoped would spell the end of the guy in “their” White House.  Terrorists attacked an American consulate in the Libyan city and killed 4 Americans, so somehow President Obama must have been to blame for something or other, right?

But now that the Obama administration has bagged the suspected mastermind of the assault, they’re all ready to give the president credit for at least trying to compensate for his (as yet unidentified) misdeeds, right?  Well, about the best they can come up with (Courtesy of fairandbalanced Fox)  is that the capture of Khattala is “good news, I guess”.  The rest of the radical wingers have kept piling onto their already massive heap of hatred, hyperventilation and hilarity, ever striving to come up with fresh and inventive ways to embarrass and humiliate themselves.

Benen’s piece lists a “top ten” of right-wing talking points on this development, including the claim that the whole thing is a publicity stunt to promote Hillary Clinton’s book tour. And an especially amusing twist is that, after frequently alleging that anything and everything the president does is a “distraction from Benghazi”, they’re now saying that his focus on Benghazi is a distraction from the (other) phony IRS “scandal”. You have to wonder at this point if there’s a limit to how far they’re willing to go, or if they’ll continue to “reach the bottom of the barrel,  (then) drill deeper.”

That phrase comes from another piece Benen wrote about Obama’s critics (and I use the term as an overwhelming understatement) on Iraq — quite often including many individuals who not only have  been themselves tragically and catastrophically wrong about Iraq in the past but, in at least one case, was among those responsible for creating the Iraqi nightmare that Obama is now trying to clean up. That would be one Richard Bruce Cheney, who for some reason is still not behind bars, and was, according to the Supreme Court at least, vice president for 8 years.

It’s a sort of unwritten rule of civility among members of former administrations that they don’t badmouth current administrations. For one thing, it generally just makes the former appear petty and puerile.  But Dick Cheney, as always, is the epitome of class, as witness his suggestion on the Senate floor that a colleague “fuck yourself”. Accordingly, he has made disparaging comments about the current president not just once but numerous times. That’s particularly galling from someone whose own ascension to his office was, to put it charitably, highly questionable.

And now he and his daughter Liz (who, one gathers, is another foreign policy expert of equal caliber) have co-written a diatribe in the Wall Street Journal about the Iraq quagmire which opines that

Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many.

But ironically enough, it’s not a confession about the administration he served. It’s another sleazy attack on the current administration.  In Benen’s words:

Yes, the failed former vice president, a man whose catastrophic failures and misjudgments are the stuff of legend, has decided the president cleaning up Cheney’s messes has been wrong about everything – according to the man who was wrong about everything.

Just how much credibility has Mr. Cheney earned on Iraq? About as much as George W. Bush on the English language. Or Sarah Palin on American history. Or Bill Clinton on marital fidelity. Or Alex Jones on mental health. Not just because of his incompetence, which lord knows is considerable, but also because of his dishonesty, which he’s served up in equal doses. He and other members of his administration repeatedly lied and pushed fraudulent evidence to make a case for the invasion of Iraq.

My favorite instance of Cheney chutzpah was when he appeared on Meet The Press in 2002 and solemnly declared:

There’s a story in the New York Times this morning — this is — I don’t — and I want to attribute the Times,” said Cheney. “I don’t want to talk about, obviously, specific intelligence sources, but it’s now public that, in fact, he has been seeking to acquire, and we have been able to intercept and prevent him from acquiring through this particular channel, the kinds of tubes that are necessary to build a centrifuge.

Was he possibly referring to the “ultra-liberal” New York Times, the kingpin of the librulmedia cartel that controls what we see and hear, and is never to be trusted?  Well, it turns out a little skepticism would have been in order, because the article by Judith Miller turned out to have been based on phony intel — supplied by the administration itself. That’s right: the Cheney administration first supplied fraudulent information to a journalist, then cited that journalist’s obedient parroting of that phony information as justification for its plans to invade Iraq. Classier and classier. Somehow, this guy reminds me of the anecdote about the kid who killed his parents and then implored the court for leniency on the grounds that he was an orphan.

This man’s colossal blunders and duplicity have cost thousands (possibly hundreds of thousands) of lives, and trillions of dollars — but coincidentally have made a tidy profit for Halliburton. And he expects people to lend him an ear as he savages the current president. Don’t look now, but the media are doing just that.

At the conclusion of his essay about the Cheneys, Steve Benen asks,  “Is the nation comfortable with a degree of political madness this severe?” The answer, alas, appears to be yes.

Gay Activism and the Christian Persecution Complex: the Mask of “Religious Freedom”

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If you live in the U.S., you’ve no doubt heard that the state of Arizona recently issued one of its periodic warnings to the rest of the world not to drink its water — this time in the form of SB 1062, a bill that would have allowed businesses to deny service to gays for “religious” reasons. The measure was vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer, and it’s no big secret that she likely did so on the basis of economic rather than moral concerns. And as you might expect, fundamentalists now claim that her veto was a slap in the holier-than-thou face of “religious freedom”. Some even refer to the torpedoed bill as the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” — as if religious freedom needed to be “restored”. As always, the spin is that prohibiting discrimination against other people by religious fanatics constitutes “religious discrimination”.

“Religious freedom” is a very predictable defense that some people offer for bigoted behavior. It’s also a very bullshit defense, because it can be used, and has been used, to mask just about anything and everything — from slavery and racism to child marriage to capital punishment to genocide to beating the crap out of little kids. But while true religious freedom means that you have the right to belong to whatever religion you choose (or, we hastily and emphatically add, to no religion at all), it doesn’t automatically mean that you have the right to practice whatever any religion preaches; it’s a case-by-case consideration that always must balance the freedom to indulge in a behavior with its impact on other people. Your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins. You’re perfectly free to adhere to a faith that maintains some sectors of the population are second-class citizens (or “sinners” in fundie lingo) but that doesn’t mean you’re entitled to actually treat some people as second-class citizens.

Contrary to what the “religious freedom” crowd might have you believe, the United States government has always provided special dispensation to persons with strong religious convictions. Among other things, this has appeared in the form of exemption from military service, from property taxes, and now from certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Since such programs require mass participation to be effective, allowing some individuals to opt out places an undue burden on those who do participate; yet this has been deemed perfectly legal and constitutionally defensible from day one. Far from being the victims of discrimination and persecution, as they so often proclaim, Christians have been and still are the beneficiaries of reverse discrimination and even extraordinary privilege.

Likewise, the government has been, if not supportive, at least indifferent to, misguided and misinformed efforts by pharmacists to deny women access to medication on “moral” grounds. Many states have even passed legislation specifically authorizing such campaigns. And as despicable as it may be to contribute to the inconvenience, distress and even suffering of individuals in need of medical services in order to bolster one’s sense of moral superiority, it appears that such a position does not clash with constitutional ideals. Why? Because the “moralists” generally are tendering smug condemnation of individuals for their actions rather than smug condemnation for their demographic groups. (We say “generally” because in some cases women are prescribed birth control for medical conditions rather than for contraception. And we can’t help noting that sometimes, as in the case of Hobby Lobby, the “morality” dictated by Christian arrogance takes a backseat to Mammon.)

Homosexuality is another matter altogether. While the anti-gay factions try to portray homosexuality as something one does rather than something one is — to depict being gay as a “lifestyle” that one chooses — the fact is that one has no more control over one’s sexuality than one does over race, gender or age. That makes discrimination against gays as much prohibited by law as discrimination against Asians or women.  Interestingly — and ironically — there has always been a virulent, overreaching protection against religious discrimination — even though religion, unlike age, race, nationality or sexual orientation, is entirely voluntary.

If someone operated a business that did not allow Christians on the premises, that would be religious discrimination. But it’s perfectly fine to prohibit religious activities — e.g., baptism, foot washing, pot smoking, circumcision, or snake handling. Similarly, a restaurant certainly could forbid patrons from engaging in overt displays of amorousness, whether gay or straight. But just because you can prevent customers from brushing their hair or applying makeup or wearing bikinis at the table doesn’t necessarily mean that you can bar women from entering.

Why should the government get involved at all? Why can’t we just adopt a Libertarianoid invisible hand policy and let those customers whose business isn’t wanted in one place just take their trade elsewhere (which they probably will anyway)? Get the government off our backs and let the markets decide. Live and let live. Cool and groovy, baby.

Ah, if only things really could work that way. But alas, ideological solutions work perfectly only in a perfect world. And in this particular world, people will not conduct themselves consistently in a civil manner if left to their own devices. Of course, it would be equally fallacious to suppose that government intervention is always the best answer. But it is, all too often, the only answer — it is frequently the only available mechanism by which the best of humanity can pull everyone else up, or at least prevent the worst from dragging everyone else down. Without it, we risk sliding into what “moralists” like to call (at least when condemning the actions of other people) a “slippery slope”.

By allowing some businesses to discriminate against a demographic sector, we invite an avalanche of such exclusions, which very well could result in a situation such that this group and others would find it difficult if not impossible to obtain certain services at all — at least in the “red” states. This is discrimination, oppression and persecution, no matter how many Bible verses you quote while doing it. And there is the very real risk that such exclusionary discrimination will escalate into persecutional discrimination and even violence. This isn’t just idle speculation; it’s gleaning from the shameful pages of history.

Many people are alive today who can remember when African-Americans were not allowed to attend the same schools, eat in the same restaurants, sit on the same park benches, or drink from the same water fountains as Caucasians.  It was bad enough that black baseball players were confined to “Negro leagues” instead of major leagues; what made it even more undignified is that after playing their hearts out in a game and traveling by bus to their next destination, they often were denied lodging at hotels, and even the use of restroom facilities en route. And even worse still, they were subjected to endless harassment, threats and physical attacks.

And guess what? “Religious freedom” was the rallying cry of many who indulged in these evils. Going back even farther, slave owners used select biblical passages to justify the ownership, oppression and brutalization of fellow human beings of a different complexion. (And I won’t go into detail lest I be accused — quite inaccurately — of running into Godwin’s Law, but there was also a Christian ethnocentric dogma underlying Nazism.)

But things are very different now, you say? You bet. And if you believe that the changes just “happened”, you’re living in cloud cuckoo land. Social evolution is generally much too gradual to effect such a drastic difference in such a relatively short time. For kids growing up today, it may be hard to imagine there was ever a time when racism was so prevalent, so officially sanctioned. That’s because we’ve had a couple of generations for equality (relative if not total) to become the norm. But before that, there were many, many generations in which blatant, extreme racism was the norm. And overturning that norm required legislative, judicial and executive intercession — goaded, to be sure, by persistent and courageous activism.

Today, “faggot” is the new “nigger”; gays are the target of choice for Good Christians (and others) who feel that they absolutely must target someone, and no longer can get away with overt racism. In the past few years, American civilization (or what passes for it) has made tremendous strides toward respect and equality for gays. Now, the legislators of Arizona, among others, are trying to turn back the calendar. If they succeed, there almost certainly will be more Matthew Sheperds. And more Fred Phelpses saying they got what they deserved.

If even one person criticizes the religious right for its bigotry — or makes a vitriolic comment about them even in tasteless jest — then that individual will become an icon of “religious persecution” . And, of course, “proof” that “liberals” are intolerant and hateful. Meanwhile, when World Vision (which, lest we forget, is itself a Christian organization) announced that it would begin, in one measure at least, treating gays like human beings, it was bullied into reversing that decision by the reactions of hundreds of thousands of Good Christians outraged by its support for “immorality”. This even entailed cutting off financial support for World Vision’s programs that fight global poverty and greatly benefit children.

And what do we call this kind of reaction? Christian Love, of course. With a heavy dose of “religious freedom”

(See previous posts on Gay Activism and the Christian Persecution Complex:  Playing Chikin, A Tale of Two Legal Judgments,  The Kirk Cameron/ Anita Bryant Delusion, and Ducking Responsibility.)

 

The Great American “Scandal” Scam, Part 3: The Benghazi Boogie

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They’re mad as hell, and they’re not gonna take it anymore. Yes, the Obama Haters Inc. have made it clear that they won’t stand for the president’s audacity in getting himself elected (twice, no less), and they’re gonna do whatever it takes to put him in his place. Sooner or later, they’re going to reach the holy grail of impeachment, even if it takes 20 years.  And they’re not the least bit deterred by having no actual grounds for impeachment; they’ve been known to suggest that they can impeach now, and come up with a reason later, and they know how to generate “scandals” until the cows come home. Surely one of them will eventually stick.

They’ve previously brought you the NSA “scandal” and the IRS “scandal”, among many many others. (For the record, the NSA has indeed indulged in behavior that might be considered scandalous, but it was going on long before Obama came along; and it’s not a matter of the agency “spying” on the American public, though it’s almost always spun that way. And the real scandal with the IRS is not that it has targeted “conservative” groups, but quite the reverse; it has allowed them excessive leeway to flout rules and guidelines — and in the process viciously malign their Public Enemy Number One, The President of the United States.) Both of these “scandals” failed to topple the guy who has “stolen” THEIR country; so now they’re really pinning their hopes on Benghazi. STILL.

It doesn’t matter how many times their myths are debunked, how many documents are declassified to show that the “scandal”  is bogus; every new scrap of information is twisted and spun as “proof” that Obama lied, covered up and/or collaborated with terrorists.

The myths they love to perpetuate about the Benghazi attack include these:

1. That the Obama administration ignored terrorist threats.

(Nope. Perhaps they’re confusing him with George W. Bush. But intelligence found no evidence of any imminent threat in Benghazi.)

2. That the Obama administration issued a “stand down” order to forces in Libya.

(Nope. There’s no evidence such a thing ever happened, and nobody actually involved has ever made such a claim.)

3. That the Obama administration abandoned personnel to die.

(Nope. The president ordered all available assets dispatched to the scene post haste.)

The T-word

An especially silly (and therefore especially popular) tack is the obsession over when exactly the president called the assault terrorism.  You’d think that after Mitt Romney so thoroughly humiliated himself on this point in a presidential debate, having to be schooled by moderator Candy Crowley, that they’d give up this narrative. But they seem absolutely impervious to self-embarrassment, so they keep hammering away at it, even though it’s a matter of public record that the president used the T-word within 24 hours.

Romney also had made a fool of himself on the day of the attack by echoing another popular right-wing talking point, saying:

“It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”

Contrary to what the Haters frequently assert, the president has never “sympathized” with nor “apologized” to or for terrorists. Moreover, the statement Mr. Romney chose to label “sympathizing” was actually issued by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. And it was issued before the attack. Other than that, I suppose Mr. Romney was fairly accurate. While he was willing to take great liberties with the facts himself, he indulged in the pettiest of semantic hair-splitting with regard to the timing of the president’s denouncement of terrorism.

When confronted with the evidence, however, the critics insist that Obama wasn’t explicit enough that he was specifically referring to Benghazi (even though his first use of the word was in a Rose Garden speech especially presented to address that attack), or that he used the words “act(s) of terror” instead of “act(s) of terrorism”. They also spin and twist subsequent remarks by Crowley into some kind of admission that she’d been wrong at the debate. For example Breitbart,com (the man is gone, but his brilliant legacy lives on) ran a blog post with the title “CNN’s Crowley Admits Obama Didn’t Call Benghazi A Terror Attack”, but the ensuing text delivers no such blockbuster; it merely mentions that someone else at CNN asserted she was wrong. Even the Washington Post Fact Checker jumped on the bandwagon, awarding the president FOUR Pinocchios — a rating normally reserved for the most blatantly bald-faced falsehoods — for insisting that he used the T-word immediately.

The V-Word

Doubling down on the asininity, the Haters have really gotten their thong in a bunch over the administration’s suggestion that a video may have played a role in motivating the attack. What they’re systematically ignoring (or, to put it in their terms, lying about, downplaying or covering up) is that it appears the video indeed did play a role. Eyewitness accounts to that effect were reported in numerous media sources immediately. And not just the fabled librulmedia, either.  Even Rev. Moon’s beloved Washington Times, a revered Beacon Of Truth for faithful “conservatives” from Ronald Reagan to Glenn Beck, got it right:

But in telephone interviews with The Washington Times, several residents in Benghazi said there had been two distinctly different groups involved in the assault on the U.S. diplomatic post.

The residents described a scene that began as a relatively peaceful demonstration against a film produced in the United States that had been deemed insulting to the Prophet Muhammad.

The situation did not turn violent until a group of heavily armed militants showed up and “hijacked” the protest, the residents said. The original group of protesters was joined by a separate group of men armed with rocket-propelled-grenade launchers. (Emphasis added, rather emphatically.)

But wait. Can it be… is The Times possibly suggesting that an incident like this could have more than one cause? While such an idea has been known to make small brains explode, it appears that yes, that could indeed have been the case.  But the Obama Haters are ignoring/ lying about/ covering up such a possibility. They’re also ignoring/ lying about/ covering up the obvious fact that in the first days after the violent outbreak, things were rather confusing, and what few facts were available might have seemed contradictory. You hardly can blame the president and his administration for being cautious about drawing conclusions before all the pieces were assembled.

If it had turned out that the assault had not involved terrorism, I unconditionally guarantee that the Haters would have insisted that he had unequivocally declared it had.  And they would have raked him over the coals for that just as they have been doing for supposedly trying to avoid saying it. The moral of the story is that there is absolutely nothing this president can possibly say that these people will consider the right thing to say.

Wherefores and Whys

Chances are that if anyone else were president, nobody would give a big rat’s ass about his timing of the T-word. But the Obama Factor makes it somehow a matter of cosmic importance. And the official spin, you see, is that he had a good reason for trying to downplay/ lie about/ cover up the terrorist element: he was afraid it would impact his chances in the upcoming election. Which is patently absurd for at least three reasons.

First, the election was still a couple of months away; and the voting public, as it has demonstrated repeatedly, has the memory span of a gnat. Second, even the Haters acknowledge that the president ultimately did use the T-word — the standard spin is that it took him at least 2 weeks to do so. And according to the calendar I use — the same calendar commonly in use throughout North America — 2 weeks is even closer to the election date. Third, if Obama’s predecessor is any indication, a terrorist attack would not have damaged his electoral fortunes at all; on the contrary, it would have enhanced them greatly.

On the watch of George W. Bush — who, if anyone cares, seized The White House without being elected — there were 13 attacks on U.S. consulates and embassies, killing at least 98 people and injuring dozens; two of these sites were attacked TWICE during this time. But far from clamoring for investigation and impeachment, the punditocracy  rhapsodized endlessly about the commander-in-chief’s “leadership”, “courage” and “resolve”.

And then there was that attack on American soil in September of 2001 — the exact date eludes me — in which a mere 3000 or so Americans were murdered. And unlike the victims in Benghazi, who accepted a certain amount of risk as part of their government jobs, the victims in the U.S. were mostly civilians going about their daily business. At the time terrorists struck, Bush was attending at photo-op at a school in Florida. Keeping his priorities straight, he appears to have continued attending the photo-op for at least half an hour after getting the news (not merely 7 minutes, as Michael Moore suggested), and didn’t lift a finger while hundreds of Americans were roasting alive in Manhattan. (There is evidence that he even knew about the attack before he went into that classroom.)

His eventual “response” was to invade a country that had nothing to do with the attack, and that was ruled over by one of Osama bin Laden’s enemies. This little undertaking has cost thousands of additional American lives (the vast majority of them during the Bush years) as well as the lives of probably hundreds of thousands (nobody’s really keeping count) of Iraqi men, women and children. The end result was that, according to terrorism experts, the U.S. was left even more susceptible to terrorism.

Bush and members of his administration fabricated evidence to support their scheme and persecuted those who dared try to expose the fraud. They lied about the siege of Iraq dozens (if not hundreds)of times, and repeatedly changed their story about the reason for initiating it. The company that was awarded a no-bid contract to rebuild Iraq just happened to have a cozy relationship with Dick Cheney. And George W. Bush continued to maintain cozy relations with Saudi Arabia — one of the world’s most brutal dictatorships — which supplied 15 of the 19 hijackers.

And how did all of this impact Junior’s standing with the public? Well, for starters, it scored him (heavily aided by media manipulation) the highest presidential approval rating in polling history. Nice. So obviously, President Obama should embrace the T-word lustfully, eh?

But wait. How silly of me. We’re talking apples and oranges here. George W. was a whitebread Republican from the beefsteak-red Republic Of Texas (actually lilac-blue Maine but shhh! don’t tell his supporters) while Obama is an ethnically challenged Democrat from surf-blue Hawaii (which the Haters keep mistaking for Kenya). And those differences totally turn the world on its ear.

Just look at what happened when the Obama administration brought down Osama bin Laden — who, lest we forget, was the suspected mastermind of the terrorist strike that gave Bush his biggest PR godsend. The punditocracy went absolutely bonkers (well, even more bonkers than usual) trying to discredit the president. They claimed he waited too long to kill bin Laden, they claimed he tried to claim he’d killed bin Laden singlehandedly, they claimed he didn’t kill bin Laden mercifully enough, they claimed bin Laden wasn’t really dead. But at the same time, they must have considered bin Laden’s killing a great accomplishment, because they did their best to credit it to George W. Bush — who had been out of office for more than two years, and had long ago said he was not concerned about bin Laden.

If Islamic radicals attack Americans when a Republican is in The White House, then Muslims — all Muslims — become The Enemy. If it happens when a Democrat is in The White House, then the president and his fellow Democrats become The Enemy. This “scandal” is not about Benghazi. It’s not about terrorism. It’s about Barack Obama. Or more accurately, it’s about Obama Derangement Syndrome.

The Red Herring of “Settled Science”

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It has become very popular among climate science deniers to say that “the science is unsettled”, as if such a statement settles anything. It doesn’t. Of course the science is unsettled. Science is almost always unsettled. That’s why they call it science instead of religion. But just because scientists don’t know everything doesn’t mean they don’t know anything. There’s still much they don’t know about global warming, just as there’s much they don’t know about cancer and Pluto. That does not mean they’re uncertain that any of them exists.

“Settled science” is a straw man suggesting that scientists claim to have all the answers. How could they when they usually don’t have their own radio talk shows? And I’ve never heard a one of them claim to know everything. What you might hear them claim, however, is that they know more about the field they work in every day than does someone who’s never worked in it at all. Fancy that.

Charles Krauthammer (pictured) recently paid tribute to the “settled science” decoy with an article in the Washington Post titled The Myth Of Settled Science. He prefaces his remarks with the insistence that “I’m not a global warming believer. I’m not a global warming denier.” But he certainly uses the tactics of a denier, including cherry picking, misinformation and distortion. And he follows the Golden Rule of today’s rabid ideologues: When All Else Fails, Attack President Obama.

He quotes a statement by the president that “the debate is settled … climate change is a fact” , for which he believes the president deserves the appellation of “propagandist in chief” — an irony too thick to cut with a chainsaw– and pontificates that

“There is nothing more anti-scientific than the very idea that science is settled, static, impervious to challenge.”

Scientists, of course, subscribe to no such credo, nor does Obama. He didn’t say that the science is settled, but that the debate is settled — i.e., the debate over whether global warming is a fact. And on this point he was all too accurate.  The debate indeed has been long settled among competent and disinterested scientists. Plenty of people still contest that conclusion, of course, just as plenty of people contest that a landing on the moon really occurred. But neither is really a debate in any meaningful sense.

Such individuals often cloak themselves in the mantle of “skepticism”, as if a skeptic would be more likely to doubt scientists than crackpots and ideological fanatics with little or no scientific background. You can also doubt gravity if like, and test out your conviction with as many leaps from tall buildings as will support your thesis.  In the words of physicist and advocate for scientific literacy Neil deGrasse Tyson, “the good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” One might argue that the leapers from buildings hurt nobody except themselves; but sometimes before they leap they get themselves into positions of power and influence. And they have a habit of vilifying and ridiculing people who do support science. (See Gore, Al.)

Are scientists sometimes wrong? You bet. But that doesn’t mean science itself is wrong. And you need a lot more to establish that scientists are wrong than ideological fervor and cherry-picked details.

Krauthammer likens global warming to mammograms, which have been used for many years to prevent breast cancer but which, according to one study, are more or less worthless. It’s a weak analogy because mammography research is experimental and remedial, whereas climate research is purely observational.  A more appropriate analogy would be: “The certainty that global warming exists is like the certainty that breast cancer and x-rays exist.” Or, if Krauthammer’s assessment is correct: “The idea that mammograms prevent breast cancer is akin to the idea that global warming can be dispelled by flapping your bedsheets at the moon.”

Krauthammer can speak with some authority about mammograms, having been trained as a physician. But to the best of my knowledge, he has little to no expertise in climatology. Which doesn’t seem to make any difference to the cult of denial.

It’s interesting to note that Krauthammer is generally considered a “conservative” — which may not be entirely fair, since he holds certain positions (i.e., pro-choice) that are antithetical to contemporary boilerplate “conservatism”. But he is a regular contributor to Fox “News” and The Weekly Standard. And he certainly follows the winger playbook on this one.

“Conservatives” — whether they’re genuine conservatives or modern neocons fraudulently wearing the badge of conservatism — have a long, long history of being on the wrong side of science. You’d think that just once in the long, long history of the human race, they could get it right. But they seem very, very determined not to.

(See previous posts,  Myths, Misconceptions and Mindless Misinformation About Global Warming and NASA Data, Computer Projections, Opinion Polls and Them Dang Libruls.)

 

Obama Derangement Syndrome and the Government Shutdown

rushmore

Just when you thought Obama Derangement Syndrome couldn’t possibly get any more deranged.  The competition was stiff, but the photo above is surely the silliest  to come out of the shutdown of the federal government.  This blatantly (and comically) Photoshopped image purports to depict how the evil Fuhrer in the White House was being “spiteful” by closing up national parks like Mount Rushmore.  What it really exhibits is the extreme extremes to which ODS victims are willing to go in order to embarrass and humiliate themselves.

There are at least a couple of different versions of this image in circulation, accompanying various and sundry blog posts devoted to the furtherance of Obama Derangement Syndrome. At least one of them ran a disclaimer to the effect that “the photo is fake, but the story is real”.

Despite the disclaimers, it’s certain that many ODS sufferers will interpret the photo literally, and figure that black copters from DC did indeed drape those enormous stone heads on the mountain. But that’s a relatively minor point. The important thing is that the story itself is only marginally less phony than the photo. The essential claims are that (a) President Obama (or “Hussein”, as such ODS blogs tend to call him) blocked all public views of the famed monument; (b) that he did so out of “spite” — or, for some reason or other, to “punish” the American people for something or other; and (c) that he defied requests from the state to remove some of the cones blocking the roads.

But the National Park Service (not the president) closed the access roads for reasons of safety rather than “spite”. It also isn’t true that the NPS thumbed its nose at the state’s request to remove some of the cones; in fact, the NPS complied with this request. Moreover, the federal government even made an arrangement with states to reopen this and two other national parks during the shutdown. Oh yeah, and the closures did not totally block the view of the monument.  Other than that, I suppose the story is somewhat in the neighborhood of accurate.

I wish I could say that rumors like these are rare occurrences.  But with the ODS invasion of our planet in full swing, no rumor is too bizarre to be cranked out; and no rumor that is cranked out is too bizarre for the masses to believe. And the government shutdown was yet another golden opportunity for such rumors to erupt. (Of course, a butterfly sneeze would be construed as a golden opportunity to tack some sinister plot on The White House.) The era of the Obama presidency will be remembered as the age when lunacy became not only acceptable but chic. And the media will have played a huge role in making it happen.

It has become standard procedure for the media to invoke the “both sides do it” refrain every time Republicans or “conservatives” exhibit childish, hateful or arrogant behavior — while in contrast, whenever a Democrat or “liberal” does something wrong, it tends to be characterized as exclusively Democratic or “liberal”.  Right-wingers say the president is a communist socialist Nazi Muslim atheist dictator who tramples on the Constitution and operates behind a veil of secrecy. The president says we need to overcome our differences and work together. The media report that both sides have indulged in partisan bickering.

The shutdown is no different.  The mainstream media consistently referred to it as “an impasse”, ” a stalemate”,  lack of “compromise”, “a game of chicken”, etc., etc., etc.  Which is to say, both sides were doing in it.  Well, to be fair, not all  media outlets said this. Some of them just cut to the chase and ascribed the whole debacle to the president’s  supposed refusal to “negotiate”.

In fact, the president bent over backward and tied himself into knots to compromise and negotiate (to an absolutely alarming degree for many of his supporters) in getting the Affordable Care Act (almost  universally ridiculed as “Obamacare”) passed into law.  But passed into law it was. It was signed by the president. And its constitutionality, which allegedly was in question. was upheld by a stridently “conservative” and shamelessly activist Supreme Court.  Of course, if you point out to ODS victims that the ACA is law, they have a very ODS response handy: slavery was once the law of the land too, and helping people to live and stay healthy is comparable to keeping them in chains, torturing them, and forcing them to do hard labor — in fact, it’s the same thing. No, really.

The time for negotiation and compromise has come and gone. Now it’s a matter of following the law or doing everything in your power to thwart it out of a political an/or personal vendetta. The GOP chose the latter. Not only did Republicans engineer the shutdown, they plotted and threatened to do so for months, and even changed the rules to make such a shutdown inevitable. They were quite willing not only to hold the American public hostage, but even to hold Congress itself hostage. And despite their avowed concern for fiscal responsibility, they have voted to repeal the ACA at least 42 times, though they knew perfectly well they had no chance of succeeding, at a cost of at least 55 million. And they show no signs of ever stopping the stupidity. They also knew damn well that this attempt at extortion via shutdown would not derail “Obamacare”, but they were quite willing to subject countless Americans to the pain and inconvenience anyway in order to express their all-important, lemming-brained contempt for the guy in the Oval Office — as if people weren’t already well aware of it.

But couldn’t Obama and the Democrats also have done something to prevent the shutdown? Well, sure. They could have caved in 100 percent instead of only 80 or 90, but that would have set a very dangerous precedent that likely would have had greater long-term consequences than the shutdown itself.

Even some hard-right Obama haters admit that the GOP masterminded the shutdown — before resuming their regularly scheduled hard-wired programming of just laying all the blame at the feet of Obama and the Democrats. Jonah Goldberg of the ever-entertaining National Review, while conceding that the GOP started it, still insists that nonetheless, “President Obama and Democrats deserve the lion’s share of the blame for not only prolonging it but also making it as painful as possible”, whatever that means; and that the president’s putative refusal to “negotiate” is due to a “vindictive streak” that causes him to “punish his enemies.” How many head scratches can we work in there, Jonah?

Or some of them tried to tango around the blame game by arguing that even if the Republicans are to blame, they had some kind of Constitutional authority for their actions, so they’re really not to blame. Cute. Maybe we should point the finger at Thomas Jefferson instead.

Many of them, however, just skip the preliminaries and get right to the Obama blame impulse. When in doubt, blame Obama. The symptoms of Obama Derangement Syndrome, after all are: (a) a passionate conviction that absolutely anything the president says or does stems from sinister motives, and (b) the passionate conviction that anything that goes wrong in the U.S., if not the entire world, is directly traceable to the 44th chief executive. 

Lest we forget, Barack Obama was democratically elected president of The United States. Twice. Indeed, he is the only president since FDR to be elected twice with a majority of the popular vote. And one thing he was elected to do was reform the healthcare system. But to the ODS crowd, he is a tyrannical dictator who somehow has unlawfully seized control of “their” country, and is now working his evil plan to control the universe — by, among other things, helping to ensure affordable healthcare. When there is, for example, a turnover of military brass in his administration as in any administration, it must be a “Stalinist purge” to install commanders “willing to kill Americans.” In other versions of the tale, he’s specifically purging Christians from the miltary. Or his critics. Or Romney supporters. Or all of the above.

And once the shutdown had ended, the president urged that saner heads prevail:

And now that the government is reopened, and this threat to our economy is removed, all of us need to stop focusing on the lobbyists, and the bloggers, and the talking heads on radio, and the professional activists who profit from conflict, and focus on what the majority of Americans sent us here to do.

What? Focus on facts more than propaganda? What a radical suggestion. And to the ODS brigade, it was more than just a recommendation. It was an imperious “demand” that you “ignore” anyone who “disagrees” him.

Okay, ODS sufferers, listen up: I’m really tired of having to defend President Obama, or any other politician, from wacky rumors and accusations. I really and truly am — there are other, far more important things I’d rather be discussing here. Can we just agree that you’ve made fools of yourselves enough for the time being and give it a little rest? Mind you, I’m not asking you to abandon hatred and delirium permanently; I realize they’re what gets you out of bed in the morning. But can you just allow a little time for both yourselves and me to catch our breath a little? Pretty please?