Here's proof that there is a reflexive attack - in favor of Republicans, and against Democrats.

I'm not sure if I wrote here that Comey deserved to be fired - but I was of that opinion once the letter about the Clinton e-mails went out. Let's keep in mind what happened.

The FBI found they had a bunch of Hillary Clinton's e-mails. This, by itself, was no evidence of wrongdoing. They wanted to search them - why? In order to see if there was any evidence that Hillary Clinton had deliberately shared classified information with others who weren't cleared for it.

No one has any reason to believe she'd do that, nor that she did that. There's no evidence that she might have. One can defend asking for a warrant just to show no stone was left unturned... but in keeping with that, it's even more inappropriate to take any risk of this search being made public.

So: Comey sent a letter he knew would be leaked, that made it sound as if there was reason to believe Hillary Clinton might be guilty of a crime, when he had no evidence of wrongdoing, and no real reason to suspect he might find it.

Yeah. He deserved to be fired.

And while many people did discuss how wrong it was for Comey to deliberately interfere with the election, you can recall a fascinating tidbit: none of them bothered to point out that the law was such that he was all-but guaranteed to find nothing damning.

Right then and there was the time for honor to show: an honorable person would not only have denounced Comey, but also point out that he was conducting a baseless investigation in the first place. Honor was absent.

Now, when Trump fires Comey, suddenly people are acting all "he deserved it" when they didn't give a damn months ago? When the reasons for the firing are the same reasons that have been present since October?

Listen: it's one thing to say "I'm sure Trump had a good reason to do this, and was just completely tone deaf in doing it now." But to defend the act, rather than admit it stinks on ice? Give me a break. This is a deliberate and clear attempt to run interference, and I hope people remember this a few months down the road as more, and worse, comes out.

Because remember: this is the fault of the entire Republican establishment, and most emphatically the right wing media. All they had to do was admit that Trump is incompetent and the Presidency is too important. Some of them had the decency to go "NeverTrump" but all too many of them simply tried to distance themselves, while hoping to hitch a ride on his star.
Last entry, I suggested that the Republicans had taken a position of total opposition to Democrats. Today, I want to provide some support for this.

Example 1: While Bill Clinton was in office, many soi disant conservatives railed about how he could spy on Americans with nothing but a rubber stamp from the FISA court; this is most important because it shows that the issue was known, and was of concern, earlier. When George W. Bush violated FISA, by going around the court, many of those self-same "conservatives" insisted that his actions were lawful and necessary.

Okay, but in all politics, isn't there a kind of "well, sure, my side engages in a few pecadillos,but yours engages in major corruption"?

No, not in a healthy political society. In a healthy society, actual corruption is attacked and condemned from both sides, and actual pecadillos are blasted during election season as corruption, but afterward, it's admitted that they really weren't that bad.

Moreover, George W. Bush was supposedly an MBA President. If there was anything an MBA should be able to do, it's to simplify and improve a process, especially when the process is well understood (like generating warrant applications!). At the very least, there should have been some scorn, or from virulent Republican partisans, some admission that it doesn't look good that he presumably could have gotten warrants and didn't.

Ah, but Democrats were attacking a Republican, so the Republicans circled their wagons.

Example 2: Torture. Call it what you will, the US engaged in torture. People were tortured in black sites, in Guantanemo, and in Abu Ghraib. This is a non-partisan issue - everyone agrees that torture is stupid.

Wait, can't torture work? Sometimes?

Well - I'll grant you this. If you know that I know a specific fact - say, my password - and you can quickly check if that something I tell you is true or false - "password didn't work, he lied!" - then yes, you can probably break me and make me tell you that thing.

In reality? This doesn't happen. Interrogators are generally asking broad questions to a broad range of people. Torturing people is far more likely to get them to say whatever it takes to get the torture to stop... and that means false positives. False confessions, false leads, and blind alleys that intelligence is searching down.

Well, what about the ticking time bomb scenario? Doesn't that merit the use of torture?

I hope you mean "doesn't asking that question merit the use of torture?" :-) but even if so, the answer is still no! In fact, the ticking time bomb is one of the absolute worst cases for torture.

Where else can you imagine a situation in which a person should have a lie memorized, and hold out as long as they can, so when they finally "reveal" their memorized lie, it's too late to mount a second response if and when the real location is discovered?

Torture doesn't work, and only rank, immature, emotionalism leads one to think it's a useful tool.

And yet... when Obama brought down bin Ladin, it wasn't enough to downplay the achievement on the Republican side - they also had to trumpet that torture must have worked!


Seriously, the threat of torture trials was over. Ah, but again, we see the right wing strategy: draw a distinction, make the liberals bad, and the soi disant conservatives good, and hammer away. So they did.

This also illustrates one of the dangers of the strategy. Tactically, bringing up torture was a pointless exercise when bin Ladin was killed... a careful general would caution against it. Thing is, once you have people excited enough to be on the winning side, they're not all about tactics, they're about living that excitement, so of course torture comes bubbling back up!

Nowadays, FISA has been shown to be able to be violated with impunity - if it's a Republican in control. Nowadays, torture is seen as good, and tough, and strong. We can't walk these back... not easily.

For a third example, I'm going to go on a bit of a stretch. Bear with me.

Time was, the gun-rights folks were fond of saying "I should be able to own guns and use them peacefully and lawfully if I want to. Tell me: even if I had a fully automatic AR-15, what could I do with it that doesn't already violate the law?"

They also had a saying that I felt was a good one: "It is better to be judged by 12 (i.e., jurors) than carried by six (i.e., pallbearers)." It's better to go to court, and defend yourself against charges, than to be killed by an attacker.

Tell me: how can you go from there, to "stand your ground" laws?

The concept of "Stand Your Ground" is a nasty one: if you kill someone, and can claim self defense, and your story doesn't completely fall apart, you are to be presumed innocent. In fact, in Florida, if someone attacked me, if I then I wrestled them to the ground, pinned them, and popped them a good one in the nose to show them that, when I let them up, they don't want another tussle - that person is now legally allowed to kill me.

No, I'm not kidding. They are unable to retreat (pinned down), they are in fear for their life or great bodily injury ("how did I know he just wanted to give me a bloody nose, and thus, a good scare?"). The Florida legislature explicitly refused to change the law to emphasize that their attack on me removed their open-ended right to self-defense, once they wanted to retreat but were prevented.

Listen: I'm a reasonable person, but I'm also aware of reality. If I used a gun to protect myself, I'm fully aware that, unless someone sees the whole encounter, the police, the prosecutor, and the courts, don't know if I acted lawfully. I might go to jail - but I'll be alive.

Okay, but, but, if I defend myself, I shouldn't have to go to jail, right?

Sure, I shouldn't have to, not if it was self defense. But you know something? Let's pretend I'm not the man I am. Let's pretend I'm perfectly okay with killing someone in self defense. (I'm not opposed - but there's a lot of distance between "not opposed to" and "okay with".)

It might well be that the awareness that I might go to jail, even in a perfect, spot-on, textbook example of self defense, that causes me to flee an encounter if it's safe to do so, and that keeps me from escalating the threat until I'm fairly certain the risk is real. You see what I'm saying? If I'm just a bit scared of jail, then my first thought is "how can I get out of here, to stay both alive and free?"

If I know I'm covered by Stand Your Ground, and just have to say "Oh, I was afraid for my life and/or great bodily injury!" that fear of jail doesn't hold me back.

If Florida could show me a large number of generally good, innocent people who are in jail just because they used force, including lethal force, in defense of their lives or bodily integrity, then I'd say Stand Your Ground would make some sense. But it doesn't.

So: how does this tie into Republicans attacking Democrats?

Well, remember the strategy: draw a distinction, make it a clear distinction, and then say that the Democrats are the bad guys (for whatever reason).

The NRA has been successful to the point that even the most ardent gun-control supporter is going to be wary of attacking gun ownership for recreation or hunting. They've been attacking politicians who want to ban certain weapon types and accessories (guns modeled after military rifles, high capacity magazines, etc.), but the fact of the matter is, even the NRA is forced to admit that these bans are mostly about cosmetic features, not functionality, so it's hard to rile people up.

Ah: but Democrats are far more likely to worry about people killed needlessly in self-defense. For example, if a man walks away with really minor injuries, and says he had to kill his attacker, Democrats are more likely to be suspicious, especially if his story ("I was pinned to the ground, yet somehow managed to draw a gun kept over my left butt-cheek!") doesn't quite add up.

Democrats are more likely to see the world as less threatening - sure, they admit, you might run into a dangerous situation where an attacker is attacking, but it's awfully rare.

And they're far more likely to want justice. If a young black man is killed, they're less likely to assume he must have brought his fate on himself, and are far more aware that, since he can no longer speak for justice regarding his own life, we must speak for him.

So there is a distinction, and it can be hammered home hard, and loud. "We must be able to defend ourselves! Liberals don't want us to! Liberals are BAD!"

The law already allows self-defense; prior to Stand Your Ground, self-defense was an affirmative defense. "Sure, I shot him, but let me present a preponderance of evidence showing that it was probably self-defense!" Now, if a prosecutor can't prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that it was self defense, a killer can skate.

There was even a story of a person who recorded an encounter, and declared out loud that he was "standing his ground" before shooting someone. Officially, we're not supposed to find that suspicious!

Now, here's what I want you to think about. Maybe - maybe there was some reform needed of self-defense law. I don't know - I'm sure some people who deserved to be found not guilty were in jail; it's the nature of the beast. But to decriminalize killing, unless there's evidence "beyond a reasonable doubt" that the killing wasn't self-defense, is not reform; it's insanity. So, what was Stand Your Ground?

I say it was an attack vehicle. A good law would not have gone so ridiculously far.

Keep looking around. You'll find other issues.

"Obamacare failed" - it insured 20 million people, costs are rising slower than before, Medicare is better funded than before, and yes, there are pain points, most of which can be fixed using the tools the law suggests.

"The Iranian deal is terrible" - experts at the time described Iran's actions as "capitulation". They gave Europe and the US everything they wanted - full inspections and monitoring, in return for an end to sanctions. Sure, the US would return frozen assets - that's why they're called "frozen", not "confiscated". Sure, after a time, monitoring would end; Iran is a sovereign nation, and no sovereign nation would permit monitoring endlessly. So, strangely, everyone, except the Republican party and fans, thinks it was a great deal.

And I'm sure you can keep going (I started listing others, but they weren't quite as supportive of my next point). The point is, these things not only draw distinctions, create soundbites, and electoral slogans.

They also set up ridiculous points of view, and ask people to support them.

1) FISA isn't a big deal.
2) Torture is actually a good idea.
3) If we can't kill people any time we feel scared, freedom is damaged.
4) Obamacare is bad, and failed, because it only accomplished its broad goals; so throw it out!
5) The Iranian deal was terrible, even though it gave negotiators everything they asked for.

While the Republicans are demanding support of nonsense, they're damaging the country - to the point that their own faithful couldn't see through the fraudulent, uninformed BS that Trump was taught by the right-wing.
Blogging during the Trump administration is not easy for the low energy. I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and where can I spend my energy? On a ridiculously stupid ban on people from majority Muslim countries? On "no one knew health care was so complicated?" On "although we Republicans refused to hold so much as a hearing on a Democratic nominee to the Supreme Court, the Democrats are being partisan for filibustering a man who said it's okay to fire someone who took action to save his life, rather than needlessly die to protect company property"?

What hurt me so badly about the election was not that Hillary Clinton lost - it was that it showed that some of the worst people in the world, doing some of the worst things in the world, could be rewarded for those things. And it's hard to explain that without the benefit of history.

So let me try to tell you a story. If you're a left-leaning person like me, you probably won't learn anything explicitly new. If you're a right leaning person, I'm not going to ask you to trust me implicitly, but I'll ask you to do me a favor.

I want you to try to think about whether what I say is reasonable. Could it fit? Not "do you agree", just, could you make this fit? Once you're doing that, once you're actually thinking critically, I think you'll agree with me more than before.

Oh, right, and if you don't just lean right, but are a hard-core rightwinger... why bother? If you haven't engaged your brain yet, it ain't likely to happen. But I won't kick you out if you're polite.

Okay: what's the history I want to relate?

It starts in the 80s with Ronald Reagan. What did he do? Why is he revered so much? A lot of people think it's that he made this big cut in taxes, and was President over huge amounts of economic growth. Well, that's an important part of the myth (and like many myths, it's not well supported by reality), but the biggest thing he did was he put a lot of ideas into the open. Before, if you talked about welfare queens, people would tut-tut and say that you're heartless. But he would talk about it, and he'd be friendly and seem perfectly reasonable, and sound like a fine, upstanding person... while pushing a narrative that was mostly fiction centered around a single case of fraud.

With Reagan in office, people would talk happily about trying to help the rich, and slagging the poor (welfare queens and lazy bums) and because he was President at the end of a long set of interest rate increases intended to break the back of inflation, the GOP could pretend that their "supply side economics" was a roaring success.

The Republicans have been the party of the rich for a long time - but now they could just flat out announce that they wanted to cut taxes on the rich, and slash worker, environmental, and anti-trust protections and it was a winning message, because St. Ron was leading the way. This is important... but let's take a detour.

In addition, Ronald Reagan was great at dog whistling - he could cheerfully speak in code that sounded to the ordinary person, like it was just common sense, but sounded to others like he was in agreement with them. This was in line with his endorsement by the Moral Majority, which is perhaps the original "dog whistle" group. The drive to mix religion with politics occurred most strongly as religion was being pulled from education. Students couldn't be forced the pray (because that would be the state establishing religion), and were taught actual science (even if you believe the Abrahamic creation myth, the science still points to evolution, and therefore should be taught as science), and those annoyed people, but then some Christian universities were told that they couldn't enact racist policies and still receive federal funding.

What's important to understand about this is that, for a great many years, Protestant Christian sects believed that the bible was clear on abortion: it was not murder, especially among fundamentalists. This wasn't really a question; sure, Catholics thought abortion violated the "thou shalt not kill" commandment, but only a few lone voices thought that abortion was wrong, much less murder.

This changed with the Moral Majority, and now, you won't find many public faces of Christians - especially evangelicals - who aren't taught that abortion is murder. Well - but don't interpretations change, sometimes? Kind of... but the reason Fundamentalists said abortion wasn't murder was that it was spelled out in Biblical law: kill a pregnant woman, you die, for committing murder; make her miscarry, you don't. They now say it isn't murder by weaving together various bits of the bible, and insisting that their original belief about the law was mistaken.

This happened as the Moral Majority was being formed and taking its first steps. Which, interestingly, happened just after Christian colleges were being told they couldn't be racist. One might suspect that "we can't keep blacks out" or even "we can't keep blacks and whites from dating" was just not a good rallying point, but "we must stop the murder of innocent babies!" was a good rallying point, and that was the reason for the change.

But gosh, when people are discussing deeply held religious beliefs, should we be so suspicious? It's rude to question people's beliefs, because, gosh, doesn't everyone who cherishes religion have an oddball belief or two?

What if it was a naked attempt to game civility and respect? What if they invented that belief as a good rallying point, knowing that it made a good rallying cry, and knowing they could hide behind a shield of "you must respect my Deeply Held Beliefs!!!" if someone pointed out the naked opportunism?

It's still used today, you know: people are glad to say that abortion is murder. This is a big deal - it really matters! It matters because there is one clear, shining star in Western jurisprudence: a small harm may be performed to prevent a greater one. If one believes abortion is murder, one either believes that it's not okay to use violence to prevent murder, or, believes that violence is okay to prevent abortion. And yet, one doesn't have to say either, they just have to say "I have a deep reverence for human life, at all stages" and then bemoan the lack of civility of those who point out the obvious implications.

So: in the 80s, the Republicans found that you needed a shiny spokesperson, who could glibly discuss helping the rich, and they'd started finding ways to separate the clear implications of their statements from the statements themselves.

This, alas, is politics in a democratic society. People will find a way to market messages, and do so with no real respect for honesty. But this was also a time when a particular choice was made. At this point, a big part of the Republican faithful was now openly calling their opposition supporters of murder.

As the 80s wound down, so too did the economy, and ordinary people were now starting to hurt, and with good reason. Lower tax rates make workers more expensive. You see, a company gets to deduct wages for workers from their bottom line before paying taxes. When the tax rate is 70%, a worker costs half as much as when the tax rate is 40%. When each worker is taking twice as big a bite from the money you take home, you want fewer workers!

It also made predatory capitalism more valuable. There might be a way to engage in a hostile takeover of a company, and squeeze money out of it. But if the tax rate is too high, the actual return is too low, and people are less willing to take risks with the costs of the initial takover. But when the tax rates are lower, there are more, and bigger, risks a person might take, because there are more, and bigger, rewards to be taken.

By the end of the 80s, it was no longer as possible to cheerlead for the rich. Oh, there were still some attempts - "if you don't like the rich, next time you want a job, go ask a poor person!" would get tossed around, but while a person wouldn't be shamed for saying it, it was no longer a way to look better and smarter than your opponent. And worse, Bill Clinton had defeated Republican President George Bush I, and the Democrats controlled Congress, so the Republicans were out of power.

But another thing was happening at the end of the 80s. Rush Limbaugh had become popular. Rush Limbaugh was billed as an entertainer, and his schtick was to throw out conservative talking points taken to extremes and to harsh on liberals and liberal ideas, with a claim that he's just kidding, don't be so serious, it's just *entertainment*. Remember, while this is happening, we've already got a Republican bloc cheerfully accusing their opposition of supporting murder of innocent babies!

I'm not sure which is cause and which is effect, but with these two factors operating in tandem, there was no longer any real outrage that could be summoned. If someone is famous for saying something foolish, or nasty, day after day, and someone else says it, well, now it's old news, don't be so naive as to think this is shocking. And if someone is saying that liberals are trying to enslave society through taxation and regulation, well, they're already supporters of murder of innocent babies, right? And that's when Newt Gingrich decided to engineer a takeover of Congress.

Newt was the political equivalent of Rush Limbaugh. Rush found that it didn't matter what you said, so long as you billed it as entertainment. Newt realized that this could be dialed up a notch. If it doesn't matter if you call liberals baby-killers or would-be slavers, or economic overlords, then why not pump up the rhetoric, and the volume? Not just for himself - but for Republicans in general?

Newt's GOPAC memo is quite famous by now; if you haven't heard of it, it's when he said that one should use language to differentiate themselves from their opponent. For example, describe yourself as "pro-family" and describe your opponent as "anti-family".

Why? Because you're going to vote in favor of things that help families? Of course not! Because people want to vote for someone who says they'll help families. Okay, but you should only call your opponent anti-family if they're trying to hurt families, right? Uh... no, you seem to be missing the point here! You call yourself "pro-family" because people want to vote for someone who is "pro-family" and you call your opponent "anti-family" because people might want to vote against someone who is anti-family. Duh!

Remember: liberals are already supporting murder! Now, if a Democrat is supporting four weeks of unpaid leave for employees with family medical issues, and only for companies that have more than 500 workers, while the Republicans are rejecting any sort of job protections - go ahead and fire someone who's ten minutes late for work because they couldn't juggle their infant's chemotherapy schedule enough to get to work precisely on time - the Democrat is "anti-family, and strangling employers with harmful regulations" but the Republican is "pro-family and pro-business".

This is important to understand: if Newt, and only Newt, was doing this, he'd be singled out as a toxic individual. If he, and 20% of the Republican caucus did this, they'd be called extremists. But if he, and 80% of the Republicans agree on these things, now it's a mainstream belief. And sure, it's nasty, but, hey, politics ain't beanbag!

This is a key component to the issue. There's a known logical fallacy, argumentum ad populum - an idea is right because a lot of people believe it. Most people understand this - they know that if everyone claims the emperor is clothed, but is clearly naked, reality trumps what people say. The thing is - what if everyone says that the emperor was wearing a fine suit of clothes, too elegant to be described, and you weren't there? You'd probably assume the emperor was dressed in fine clothes. Why would so many people say something if it wasn't true?

This gets even better when it comes to beliefs, right? Because I'm the only person who can tell you what's in my mind. If I tell you I think a 2.3% excise tax on medical devices is destroying American jobs, you have no way to prove I don't believe that. You can think it's a dumb idea, unsupported by evidence, and you might think that I'm far too competent not to notice there's no evidence that it's happening, but... you can't exactly prove whether or not I think a 2.3% excise tax is killing jobs.

So: if enough people profess to believe that Democrats, and liberals, are literally destroying America and American values, no one can say that they're just a bunch of bullshitters, playing a nakedly transparent game to win political power.

Going to war is always popular, and this particular war was very popular. Republicans picked up control of Congress. And if it had ended there, the world might be a very different place... but it didn't.

At this point, with a huge success brought about by going on full-out offense on Democrats, the next step was obvious: keep going. If a single season of attacks yielded control of the Congress, couldn't continued attacks win them more?

At this point, it doesn't really matter what they said, so long as they all said it in unison, and so long as they could find some way of translating into a soundbite. Like, they want to make sure that people who work 31 hours a week won't obligate employers to give them insurance - so the propose a bill that says "if you don't work 40 hours each week, your employer doesn't have to care about whether you have health insurance or not" and they say they're "bringing back the 40 hour workweek!" Of course, the "anti-jobs, anti-family" Democrats would oppose this, but it's hard to argue against "the 40 hour workweek".

The attacks worked - or, if they didn't always work, they seemed to help. So they continued.

Okay, but, hey, am I not now laying a lot of blame on just the Republicans here? Isn't electoral politics inherently nasty? And wouldn't Democrats be just as corrupt if they had the opportunity? And, really, don't both sides do similar things?

This is one of the best bits of cover the Republican party has. It's true: electoral politics is nasty, and it's pretty inherent in any democratic system. And yes, people are corruptible, and if there's enough money and power, there will be people who are corrupted by both. And yes, both sides will use all the tools they have available.

But the Republican Party has had to keep upping the stakes to keep blood hot and rage fresh. Such as?

Well, "Bathroom bills" are a great example. Republicans want to make it illegal for transgender people to use public bathrooms that conform to how they present. A person has an F on their birth certificate, and has started living as a man, and taking testosterone, and sporting a full beard... they want this person to choose between walking into the ladies' room (causing no end of fuss) or walking into the men's room, and facing arrest if anyone knows they're trans. You can swap the sexes if you like, too.

A good "conservative" would call this a ridiculous intrusion into private life, and say that it's a solution in search of a problem. What are people afraid a person will do in a public restroom, that isn't already punishable under the law?

Ah, but transgender people aren't very common, and their cause isn't very popular, you see. And liberals are going to point out that this isn't fair, and it isn't justice, and it should be fought. And so they can be painted as trying to let pervy men into the ladies' room with your daughters!

Similarly, if you recall, it was none other than beloved icon Ronald Reagan who signed a treaty agreeing not to torture... but once George W. decided that "playing rough" was better than "playing smart" it was another great wedge issue. Although it's completely non-rational, it plays into saying that the Republicans are strong and nasty and can win wars, while Democrats are too weak to do so.

So Republicans have been having to take on ever more extreme positions to stake out territory over Democrats. But you can't just stake out these positions to win elections - if you don't start harshing on Democrats for hating torture early, it's going to sound crazy when you bring it up during election season! So these attacks have been going on, to the point that now, 20+ years after this whole mess started, you have people who know no other way.

You have people who grew into political adulthood being told, and believing, that liberals are evil, anti-family, anti-religion, pro-tax, pro-regulation, pro-baby-murdering. You have people who grew into political adulthood thinking Muslims were evil terrorists, and torture was a necessary part of warfare, that people would voluntarily label themselves as another gender to be able to use public restrooms of the opposite sex, etc.. You have people who saw Republican leadership smugly say that it was good to question whether President Obama had been born in the US even though they knew damn well he was. You have people who saw Republican leadership gleefully slime a good man with a brain damaged wife, just to have the chance to ask why liberals wanted this poor woman to die (never mentioning the woman's clearly stated wishes to be allowed ot die in such circumstances).

And now, you have partisans who are experienced prosecutors, who will even push lies claiming that their opponents are criminals - knowing full well they're slandering an innocent person, and using the power of law enforcement to do so.

That's the history - Republicans started as the party of the rich, and found their hero in someone who let them smugly talk about being the party of the rich. When that started working, they'd already had a custom made base of people to help fan the flames of hatred at Democrats. This has gone on so long, that the hatred of Democrats seems so natural and obvious that even some of the most outrageous of behaviors are considered acceptable.

And they can get away with it too... if people had made up criminal charges out of a trumped up legal investigation over a partisan witch hunt intended to cripple an opponent back in the 80s or 90s, it would have been front page news. But now, it's normal; worst case, it's "red meat for the base" - you know, they're not really doing this because they want to, but because they have to excite their base, and both sides do that!

They've been doing this for so long, and finding good ways to cover what they do with sound bites, that when Donald Trump showed up, he was pretty immune to them. He out-Republicaned them, and since he was saying the same things, working the same sound bites, if they dared attack him by pointing out he was a bullshitter, they had to acknowledge that they were bullshitting all along too.

Of course, for those who've grown up in this toxic stew, they might not even know he's bullshitting - because it does sound reasonable, from the principles Republicans had campaigned on for years.

And now, we have today. Most people oppose Trump, but the Republican faithful still support him. And the best case is, after causing huge amounts of damage, his basic incompetence causes a disaster that shows the GOP's platform is nothing but a house of cards. The worst case is? Things keep evolving as they are now. And I'll go into that in another post.
So, there was this problem. People like AT&T and Verizon and Comcast felt that it was unfair - if they were providing you with internet access, and you *chose* to use Google, or Facebook, Google and Facebook could sell all the information you gave them. But ISPs were about to be told that, no, they can't just steal a copy of all the data you're using them to send to others, and keep a copy of it, sell it, and use it any way they desire.

Frankly, this kind of problem makes me think AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast need to be given a cookie and read a nice bedtime story about how bad it is to steal. (("Steal"? Yes, and if you disagree, please feel free to have the big record labels and movie producers tell me how it's not stealing if you're just taking a useful copy of bytes that weren't intended for you, and keeping it as long as you want, giving it away, or selling it for a profit. Good luck with that!)

But remember, I'm not a Republican! To a Republican, this is a big problem.

Someone wants to make money. And all they need, in order to make money, is to have the Congress and the President say "It's true, people value privacy and are not given any benefit by removal of privacy rights; but corporations want to make money, and that's more important."

And free money, in return for saying ordinary people have no rights is a slam dunk: the Republican Congress passed it, and the Republican President said he'd sign it. And don't worry!

They said that this was good, that it would, I dunno, create jobs, grow the economy, unleash the creative power of data thieves - oh, wait, they wouldn't say "thieves".

But they'll say it will do good things, and really, isn't that what *matters*?

It's like saying you'll make the best deals ever, and bring back jobs - why spoil a good illusion with the truth?
So, see, the plane was going down. Um. Let me back that up.

Due to a crazy situation, we were being evacuated on Air Force One, see? But it had taken damage in the firefight and it just wasn't going to make it. The autopilot was set to take it safely out to sea, but first, the evacuation.

It had been a fascinating flight - Pope Francis had been visiting the warzone, too, see, and giving comfort and spiritual help, and I'd had to draw him away from the suffering, explaining that he was too valuable as a hostage. He reluctantly agreed, but I could see the pain in his eyes at abandoning those in need.

He needed some comfort himself, so... well... so I started an argument with him.

Really, it was a theological discussion. I asked him about the nature of good and evil; I pointed out that if "good" meant following God's will, that means if God woke up cranky one morning (yes, metaphorically speaking, we have no reason to believe God sleeps) and decided that geese should be enslaved (they *are* pretty evil!) then that would become good - even though it doesn't seem to have any moral basis now.

This is a tricky thought for some people - they think "but God would never do that!" And I'll prod them - "why not?"

If they're self-honest, they'll admit that, okay, God wouldn't do that because God is "good" and that means that "good" doesn't mean "whatever the heck God wills it to be."

He knew the trick response, though: he explained that, for humans, following God's will was good, because God wanted us to be good - he knew goodness better than we.

Whether "goodness" was a quality that could be separated from God - if God could be, objectively, good, was a question we humans couldn't really fathom. And that is a good answer. It's not my answer, but it's a good one, and we had fun kicking these sorts of ideas back and forth.

He told me that this is why heaven would be so amazing - think of having discussions like this with all the great philosophers (and yes, some of the great comedians... and think of the overlap!) so I was forced to confess that I'm not sure if there is a heaven (though that *is* a good vision of it). I explained to him that, yeah, I won't call myself *Christian* any more, but, you know, I like to think that I'm doing what that Jesus fellow said - to love what is good and loving, and to love other people. I even went further, mentioning that, wow, if God existed, and came to me, and said I had to die, horribly, but if I went through it willingly, it would serve a great purpose, well, I'd like to think I would. But, I said, (and he quickly agreed with me) no one really knows if they can do that until the choice is before them - and sometimes their answers are a surprise.

We talked some more, and eventually, he said that, since I was born Catholic he could hardly say that I was right for abandoning the church, but asked me if I was sorry for any sins - if sins they were - that I had committed. And I'd told him, yes, any that involved causing harm or failing to do what was right.

Or heck, I added - any rules broken that were truly given out of love and a desire for people to do what's right and best. He nodded, and granted me absolution.

I don't know how I feel about that; "sin" and "absolution" are his standards, not mine. If I had a view of heaven, it would be that, in an afterlife, you'd continue to seek what you sought on earth - so if you sought love, and goodness, you'd continue to seek it after, and you would find it.

Still, the look in his eyes, the kindness in his gesture, they spoke to me. This meant something to him. He wanted to think that I, long-ago ex-Catholic, could join him in his vision of the afterlife, because he cared about what was good for me. It was an act of unselfish love and I could only thank him, warmly and sincerely, for that. It doesn't really matter if he was wrong, see - what mattered was he was reaching within himself to give of the best he had.

But that felt like ancient history as I was helping hustle people with parachutes out of the plane.

Until I realized with a sick feeling that counting noses was the wrong strategy here - it's hard to see your own nose after all! We were one short.

Two parachutes, three people, on Air Force One.

Those of you in the know realize this means it was me, Pope Francis, and Donald Trump (because otherwise, it would no longer be "Air Force One", you see - it'd be the plane most commonly using that designation).

"One of us... " I said, and I saw grim determination in Pope Francis' eyes, as he started to fumble with the straps of his own 'chute. But I was interrupted.

"MINE!" Trump said, as he ran up to me, and yanked at my shoulderstraps to strip me of my own precious cargo. "I'm the smartest man in the world and President of the United States, and you're a two bit loser! The pope gets the last one!" and he was out the door, free falling before I could say anything.

The pope hands shook slightly as he tried to undo his, and even started to say "my beloved son..." because he was sure I'd shove him out the door if he gave me a chance, so he had to convince me. I, in turn, had to interrupt him quickly.

"FORGET IT FRANKIE!" I yelled, "the smartest man in the world just jumped out with my carry-on bag."

He was a pro - he got over his shock quickly and helped me get my chute on, and I checked his, and we leapt out. I mumbled something as we did, and I didn't tell him what. Frankly, it pains me that I was so petty. So now, I suppose I have to confess the shameful truth.

What I mumbled was "damn, I'm going to miss my good laptop."

I suppose I should have a more cogent comment on the failure to repeal Obamacare. Or maybe I should come up with some brilliant snark to needle a gasbag for saying he was going to make health care so much better and then had to confess that "nobody knew health care was so complicated."

Maybe I shouldn't be so mean-spirited and maybe I should do more outreach to Trump voters.

But I can't. Because, you see, he claimed to be worthy of the Presidency, while grabbing the metaphorical equivalent of a carry-on bag (which, yes, is a backpack, but looks nothing like a parachute) and diving out of the plane. Problem is, he brought us with him. And while I'll fight to the death for his right to be a blowhard and a braggart and flame out spectacularly, I can't show much kindness for a man who asked for leadership of an entire nation when he knew durn well that he couldn't handle the job.

(post edited to flesh out the storyline.)
Bill O'Reilly is a pretty nasty piece of work. He calls a doctor a "baby killer" a bunch of times, and then acts shocked that one of his fans decided the world would be better off with a dead "baby killer". A man - not just a physically mature male - would admit that calling people baby killers would certainly incite violence against them. O'Reilly? Not so much.

This is a good example of the kind of lies he likes to tell.

First, let's look at the title - "a stunning display of dishonesty". Hey, "he reports, you decide", right? He calls it "stunning" which is clearly an opinion. It's not his fault if you end up agreeing that it's "stunning", any more than it's his fault if someone takes the phrase "baby killer" to mean "a bad person who kills babies and should be stopped from killing more".

But at least he'll talk about lies, right? Um... once again, not so much. "The coordinated raids targeted aliens who had committed crimes in the USA -- mostly felonies," he says. Note that he doesn't say that the raids picked up these "aliens" who had committed crimes - merely that this was the official target.

People were picked up who weren't targeted, and criminal or not, the Trump administration isn't shy about deporting people. A truly thoughtful conservative commentator would remember the old bit about how "the road to hell is paved with good intentions" - people who are trying to do right, can do evil. Face it: if the Obama administration did something reasonable, with thoughtful "targeting" that caused some damage, O'Reilly would attack the results, not the targeting. The converse would be true, too, probably - but the Obama administration was a tad too competent to have much bad "targeting".

Political correctness would dictate that I pretend that O'Reilly's different treatment of Obama was based on policy differences and the actual outcomes that occurred - but refusal to be politically correct is "in" these days, so I won't bother with pretense: Obama was a Democrat; Trump was a Republican. That explains why one is attacked, and the other given a pass.

Let's continue: "Seventy five percent of those taken into custody had convictions, including homicide and rape." So, 25% were not convicted - so much for "targeting" being the whole story. But notice how he doesn't say that some had convictions for crimes like crossing the border illegally, or using a fake social security number so they could earn money to survive, and send back money to Mexico to help their families. He doesn't want you to think of status offenses, or piddling crimes. He wants you to think about - what's the term? Was it something like "Bad hombres"? Some BS like that.

He gives an example of a nasty crime committed by one of these people, and then says "Many of the arrested non-felons were associating with the criminals." Isn't that a cute little lie? The best way to tell a lie is to tell the truth in a way that it leads the listener/reader to believe a lie. These people were "associating with" - meaning, they were near those people, interacting with those people, possibly as co-workers or customers, or casual acquaintances. Sure, possibly friends or lovers or family, but there's nothing wrong with "associating" with someone who has committed some crime in the past. When a murderer is brought to justice, friends, family, and lovers of the murderer aren't punished - even though they were "associating" with a murderer!

Later, we have this part. This beautiful. Please excuse the punctuation abuse - O'Reilly doesn't seem to believe in setting off complete sentences.
There were newspaper headlines screaming things like "The Trump deportation regime has begun," "Immigrant community on high alert fearing Trump's deportation force." “On Devon Avenue in Chicago, news of immigration raids intensifies fears.”
We could find no headlines in major newspapers. None.  That bannered the fact that raids were targeted at illegal aliens who had committed serious crimes. Committed them. That is not press bias. That is blatant dishonesty.

Poor O'Reilly. He's in the news biz, he knows that headline writers write eye-catching tidbits, so he wants to use the eye-catching, click-baiting, headlines as proof of dishonesty, when many journalists have no control over the headline used for their story. Oh, and Bill? "we could find no headlines in major newspapers - none! - that bannered...". You can also drop the exclamation point, because there's no real need for emphasis that "I couldn't find any headlines that went into a policy discussion, and okay, that never happens in the first place".

So, no, it's not dishonesty which also destroys the claim that it's "blatant". O'Reilly also quotes Obama saying that you shouldn't try to separate families, but makes sure the most dangerous people are deported quickly. And he says "And that is exactly what President Trump is doing. Exactly." But didn't O'Reilly just admit that 25% of those rounded up had no criminal convictions? So, no, that's not "exactly" what Trump is doing. Oh, and, uh, Bill? Second sentence no verb. Just sayin'.

So: Obama had a policy. He can't deport everyone, so, as the person charged with overseeing it, he did his darnedest to deport the most dangerous people. O'Reilly is furious that people were mostly okay with that, but are now angry that ICE raids are sweeping up their targets, and one-third again as many people who weren't targets, but are being deported anyway - and now people are kicking up a fuss!

This means that, although there's a huge difference, O'Reilly insists. Insists. That it's unfair that the coverage is different, and it must be blatant dishonesty. (Yeah, that writing style really isn't very natural, and doesn't seem as "punchy" as I'm sure O'Reilly feels it is.)

Let's read his blow-off in all its glory:
As for the far left, they are people who do not want any immigration enforcement. They want open borders. They want alien criminals protected. They want anarchy.
Why? Because they don't like America as it stands now.
So, it is very important for all honest citizens to know you are not getting accurate information. And that there is a radical element in this country that wants to destroy it. If this continues, there will be a breaking point.

Wow. "The far left" - he's not going to name anyone or give examples - wants open borders and anarchy. And we know this because... help me out here... um... because Bill O'Reilly says it? This is the guy who called a doctor a baby killer, and acted shocked when someone decided to plant that doctor six feet under? I'm sorry, if he can't even see that he played a role in shaping the notion that it's okay to murder to prevent the "killing of babies," he's not exactly able to trace cause and effect for something more subtle.

This part, though - this is beautiful, like a coral snake: "there is a radical element in this country that wants to destroy it." Note that he didn't exactly say that "the far left" or "the left" are trying to destroy the country. He just put "the far left" and "radical element...that wants to destroy it" in proximity. He probably thinks he's clever - he probably has no knowledge of any radical element that wants to destroy this country, but figures there must be such a radical element. And maybe he can get you to tie that to "the left" if he mentions "the far left" and such hypothetical radical elements.

This tactic was made famous by George W, you might remember. "They attacked us on 9/11, and the next front in the war on terror is Iraq!" Get people to think of one real enemy, and try to hate another group because of it. It didn't work out well then, and it's sure not helping the nation now.
For me, the word "regulation" is neither good nor bad - but George Lakoff points out that there is a better way to look at them:

And it is true; while the Republicans love to talk about "slashing regulation" that is precisely what they mean - cutting protections for the people, the labor force, the environment (which, remember, includes stuff like fresh air and clean drinking water), and more. Without regulations, drugs can be unsafe and tainted with potentially toxic impurities; without regulation, the food you buy can make you sick or kill you, and we might not even be able to track the source of the food to recall it; without regulations, your boss can steal your paycheck and fire you for complaining about it (which, okay, yes who wants to work for a thief? Ans: someone desperate - and desperate people deserve protection too!).
One thing that a lot of folks may not know is why "charter schools" are such a big deal. Couldn't it be a good thing to have people with fresh ideas opening up schools, and competing with public schools, and, if they have really good ideas, maybe the public schools can copy some of them?

Well, the thing you need to remember is that this is corporate America. The reason charter schools are a big deal is that education is one of the top line items in state budgets. There's a lot of money being spent! And charter schools are a way to skim some of that money off.

Okay, but how can a charter school compete with public schools, if they don't have better ideas and methods?

Well, they may not have to compete in the standard sense, by providing an equal, or better, education - it can be hard for a parent to know if their child is getting a good education. And there's more, of course.

First, public schools have to educate everyone - every student is entitled to a free and appropriate public education. Charters don't necessarily have to follow this.

Second, public education usually includes public employee unions that demand decent pay for the work they do, and reasonable working conditions. Charter schools work well when they skip out on all union requirements. Face it, jobs are getting plentiful, but good jobs are still scarce! So it's a buyers market for labor - there are enough people who want a job, just a bit better than their last, or at least better than their other offers, that one can wring some savings out of employee salaries and benefits. Without union protections, people can be fired if they want annual cost-of-living increases in their salary.

Third, Republicans are big on privatization and deregulation. In some school districts, charter schools are given free reign over spending, and operate without transparency. A connected business with good contacts in the educational community can make a killing.

Hm? What's that? Rather than say "well connected," as in, knows lots of legislators and local officials, I said "connected" which is used to describe someone who's in the mob? Why, yes, yes, I did say that. I certainly didn't want to imply mob ties, though... just the legislative/executive equivalent. Just because a business says that they're interested in children and education doesn't mean that they actually care about anything other than the bottom line!

In a just society, where charter schools had to compete on an even footing with public schools, I'd certainly be in favor of experimenting a bit. But I have a feeling it'd be like Medicare Advantage - if you have to provide the same services as the government, and still bring in extra money to satisfy stakeholders, you'd probably find that it's not economical - then you'd have to wait for the Republicans to find a way to make things work better for you.

With Devos as education secretary, there's a better than even chance that will happen - except for the part about charters competing on an even footing, of course! That would be bad for business.
The word for today is "cowardice", and, as I say in the subject, it's one that fits the word of the millennium-so-far for the US.

What is cowardice? It's that character flaw that causes a person to do something wrong, or to fail to fulfill their duty, because they are afraid. The GOP has embraced cowardice as part of their party platform for a long time now.

They favor "stand your ground" laws, which, contrary to their name, are not about "standing one's ground" but about "killing people who scare you." Without such laws, "self-defense" is an affirmative defense - you admit you used force, and now must present evidence that your use of force was justified. If you succeed, you walk; if you don't, you go to jail. This, of course, is why scared folks want laws that prevent this risk, but let's make one thing perfectly clear.

If you're not willing to risk going to jail when defending yourself, then you are not really all that afraid of the situation. Face it: if you're afraid that you may be murdered, you are perfectly willing to risk going to jail. It won't be pleasant or fun, but when courage was a virtue, the old saying used to be "it's better to be judged by 12 (i.e., jurors) than carried by 6 (i.e., pallbearers)". If you're truly afraid of dying, you recognize that you might face a trial, and imprisonment, if you kill an attacker. But that's okay, because you'll be alive to face that trial, and get through that imprisonment.

"Stand your ground" laws remove the threat of imprisonment, and let's remember that they don't actually require that you be afraid of death, or serious physical injury, merely that you can reasonably claim to be, and that the prosecutor can't prove you weren't, beyond a reasonable doubt.

Such laws are awful, but they're nothing compared to the fear of terrorism, Muslims, and foreigners. Yes, terrorism killed 3000 folks on September 11th, 2001. And yes, people were reasonably afraid. But to start torturing people, to start vanishing people to black sites, to start wars with bottled-up enemies so you can waste hundreds of billions of dollars bringing about enough chaos that Daesh can arise, because of that fear? That's what turns "reasonable fear" into "cowardice."

The GOP would like to insist otherwise, of course. "We're just being as nasty, as tough, as strong, as we need to be!" they might say. "It's not cowardice to do terrible things out of fear of what might happen if we don't!" Alas, that is, in fact, the precise definition of cowardice.

And now, we have another incompetent President - remember, Trump is following George W. Bush as the last Republican President! - who's saying we have to cancel the visas of tens of thousands - maybe 100,000 - people who we've already said can enter. We can't accept refugees who've gone through an exasperatingly thorough vetting process. Why? We need "stronger vetting." This is like how Republicans say we need "lower taxes" - lower than what? Just "lower," always "lower".

There's nothing wrong with the vetting of refugees. I'd say "...and the Republicans know this" but I don't reckon Trump could be bothered to check. I reckon he assumes that vetting has to be poor because... well, because. Because otherwise, he'd be an incompetent blowhard on the issue. If that's the case, I have some bad news for you, Donnie....

America is a strong nation, and it can afford some courage. Alas, it won't display any, not while Republicans are in power, and not while fear sells so well.
One of the things I've seen some whining (and to be fair, some reasonable pondering) about is that women who are ardently pro-life aren't being accepted as feminists in the broader movement for women's rights. Isn't that terribly unfair? Well... no.

This gets long, so I'm going to break it into multiple pieces.

First: a key thing to remember is that "pro-life" means something very specific in political circles. It doesn't mean "personally opposed to abortion" and it doesn't mean "wanting to reduce the number of abortions performed" - it means "wanting to make abortion illegal for everyone, except in excruciatingly limited circumstances."

Whether a woman becomes pregnant or not, and whether she must carry the pregnancy to term, are big issues affecting a woman's day to day life; and any pregnancy, even a healthy, minimally-burdensome one, may, in fact, kill a woman. While a great many women, feminist or not, might be personally anti-abortion, to declare that abortion should be made illegal is to set yourself in opposition to a necessary component of women being free and equal. If you oppose women's freedom and equality, then, no, you don't get to call yourself a "feminist" and have that label broadly accepted.

See, this is the major, fundamental point about abortion: Pregnancy is a huge burden, both physical and otherwise. And it carries a significant risk of death. (Significant, in the statistical sense. It's clearly, certainly, not 0 risk.)

Although this wasn't always true, abortion is far, far, far safer than carrying a pregnancy to term and delivering a baby. It wasn't always this way - it used to be pretty risky. This is one of the reasons why early suffragists and other women's rights supporters might have opposed it - they didn't want women to risk being harmed or killed if a husband didn't want to support another child. Some surely had other reasons - Catholics have always opposed abortion, for example, and it's hardly a nice, happy-making topic in the best of times. Just keep in mind that circumstances change - for example, Protestants, including evangelicals, used to preach that abortion was in no way murder, and that this was biblically obvious and absolute truth. Many of them now say the exact opposite (except they still say it's biblically obvious and absolute truth; it's almost like they use the bible to justify their decisions, rather than studying the bible to learn their 'absolute truth').

There's another important issue to consider. "Pro-life" doesn't mean "opposed to abortion" - not in today's politics. Pro-life means trying to make abortion illegal, and to throw whatever barriers one can in the way of legal abortion. There are left-leaning folks who call "pro-life" folks "pro-forced birth" instead, which is fairly accurate, if not very nice.

You can be opposed to abortion - you can be a woman who would never, under any circumstances, have an abortion, and one who would be bitterly disappointed if a friend or family member chose to abort a pregnancy, and still be a feminist. What you can't do is, proclaim you want to take away women's rights, and expose them to civil and criminal charges inconsistent with life in a free society, and nevertheless claim you're in favor of women's rights and equality.

Of course, this idea falls apart if the right to have an abortion isn't a fundamental right. But it is, and that's a subject of my next post.
A lot of complicated fuss is made about abortion, but at its root, the issue is very simple.

First and foremost: we live in what we like to call a "free" country - one where another person's discomfort with your choices doesn't get to restrict them. If there's damage caused, directly, and obviously, your actions can be forbidden, or punished criminally and civilly. But as the activity becomes more protected, the damage less direct, and the linkage less obvious, the right of the state to restrict or punish your actions should fade. That's what freedom means; that's what the US nominally stands for, that the law serves us, not we the law (on paper, or as embodied by a king).

(Yes, there are people who are tasked with upholding and serving the law; that's an entirely different sense of "serving the law than I'm discussing. The point is, laws exist to make things better for us all; we are not to meekly accept unjust, unfair, or just-plain-wrong, laws.)

So: if preacher A.S. Shole decides to preach that he hates gay people, that does increase the risk of people attacking gay folks. But speech is a vital freedom, the damage is completely indirect and, in fact, we can't be sure that Shole's words specifically led to harm. Spilling toxic waste and having it found in drinking water, and finding children who may have been sickened by it, is not entirely a direct line, but then, engaging in industry using (or a disposal company dealing with) toxic waste is less protected than speaking - proper regulation is essential to ensure that businesses add to the community.

So where does having an abortion fit in?

First, bodily autonomy - "this is my body and you don't get to tell me what to do with it" - is a huge deal. Second, pregnancy is a big. It's a substantial physical burden (even nearly-symptom-free pregnancies lead to weeks of extra weight pressing down on internal organs in uncomfortable ways). And there's a statistically significant chance of death, even in the healthiest moms and the most normal seeming of deliveries.

Given that, it's clear that if we weren't talking about pregnancy, if it were a condition that mimicked pregnancy, but didn't lead to childbirth, there'd be an absolute right to deal with it medically. So now we have to ask, where is the harm?

And this is where the sticky point comes in. Abortion is not a clean, happy making thing. Catholics have always believed that abortion was wrong. Evangelicals have ever since the Moral Majority needed a wedge issue (and to be fair, at least some believed it beforehand, but most didn't). And when you get right down to it, who wouldn't want to see the miraculous seeming growth from a single cell - microscopic? Or just barely visible? - into a 6+lb baby, awake and aware, and learning about this wondrous world it's been born into.

But that's purely into discomfort zone. That's not harm. Being icked out by something isn't enough to make it illegal or restrict access.

Okay, but - what about the teeny tiny baby? That's harm, right?

See, this is where Roe vs. Wade showed good judgment. They chose to create a bright line at viability - once viability came along, the state would have an interest in the developing fetus. Until then, the state shouldn't have an interest. Now, third trimester may or may not be the perfect place to draw the line. "Viability" has gotten more squishy, due to advances in medical technology, but I will urge one to remember that until the third trimester, a new born's survival is pretty dicey, and there's a very high risk of later difficulties. Still, "if the baby was born, it would survive to be a human with rights, so the state has an interest at that point" is a reasonable line to draw.

Keep in mind that this is not an argument for morality or absolute truth! The law shouldn't try to muck with those issues. But "if it was out of the womb, in normal circumstances, doctors could keep it alive, so it is now protected by the state" is a very sound, nearly objective, standard. That's a great standard for the law to shoot for!

One thing is clear: at conception, no matter how many heart-achingly poignant speeches are given, or essays are written, we have no meaningful standard to claim there is harm. However much a person considers the little zygote to be A Full Fledged Human Being, it's still just one or more undifferentiated cells. While it's perfectly okay by me if you consider those cells A Real Live Boy-or-Girl, cells aren't a person.

Side note: Even if they were, a "person" doesn't hae a right to connect to another person, and demand use of the other person's body and nutrients. People who are angry about pregnancy prevention that might (and it is only "might" - the possibility is only hypothetical) cause a zygote (technically, blastocyst) to fail to implant don't have any legal leg to stand on. Also, to sound off about a personal annoyance, such a method of birth control is not inducing "an abortion". Pregnancies are aborted. Until the zygote implants, there is no pregnancy.

Where was I? Right. So: we know that pregnancy will go through three stages. One stage where it's clear that there's no legal basis for claiming harm - there is only discomfort, which is not supposed to matter in a free country. And there's a stage where there's clearly a pre-born infant, recognizably and objectively human. And, finally, because this development happens gradually, there will be a harder, more uncomfortable area where people will have differing feelings.

Under these circumstances, in a free nation, the vitally important right to bodily autonomy clearly shows that there's a right to an abortion in the earliest stages, at least. Somewhere along the line, different people will become uncomfortable, but viability is a good, bright line where it's hard to dispute that the state should have an interest in protecting the child.

I started these two posts discussing why a person couldn't be widely accepted as a feminist and be "pro-life" and again, this depends on the political meaning of the term. A "pro-life" political figure wants all abortions outlawed. Not "discouraged," but outlawed. And if you feel that woman should not have bodily autonomy enough to have a very early stage abortion lawfully, then you are demanding that women put their bodies in service to the law - demanding they serve a "written king" rather than a physical one. And that's not what this country is supposed to be based on.

I do want to emphasize, if you say you are "pro-life" meaning, you won't ever have an abortion, and would immediately volunteer to adopt a close friend's or family member's child to prevent them from having an abortion, but you do, grudgingly, admit tht abortion should be legal, that doesn't mean you can't be a feminist. But I'm afraid the phrase "pro-life" doesn't mean that in the most common, and most important, arena. Truthfully, "anti-abortion" is a better name for "I won't have one" stance, which sucks, because a nice phrase like "pro life" shouldn't be about criminalizing abortion. But phrases get defined by usage; I can no longer call myself "pro-gun" because it no longer stands merely for lawful, responsible use of firearms. And, in point of fact, I no longer call myself Christian, though I'd bet that if I met a certain rabbi, we'd get on better than he would with a lot of soi disant "Christians"!

There's a lot more that I could write about on this topic, and I may. But for now, I just wanted to hit that particular issue: that, yes, it's fair that a "pro-life" person won't be accepted in the greater group of "feminists" because the most frequent use of "pro-life" means supporting the criminalization of a vital part of bodily autonomy. That's not supporting women and womenhood, and saying that denies one the title of "feminist" is fair.
If you don't know The Rude Pundit, let's just say that his nom du blog is probably even more accurate than mine. His words are not work-safe (though, as mostly text, the site tends to be), and I'm sure he has things that he just won't say, even in satire or parody, but if so, I really don't want to know anything about them, because, ew. He goes there. (He's also funny. Let me warn you: you don't get to support Rush "Liberals are evil" Limbaugh, claiming he's just an entertainer, and dis The Rude Pundit; use of naughty words and rude imagery are protected by the same First Amendment that protects Limbaugh.)

Anyway: credit where it's due - - this sounds like an awesome, awe-inspiring idea that I haven't heard about, despite breezing through a bunch of lefty blogs. A tip of the hat to warmth and wonder from a source you might not expect it from. (I'm not surprised at his plugging of this project, mind you; weirdness sees stuff that normal doesn't. I just said that you might not expect it!)
Rick Perry finally realizes that the Department Of Energy has value Yeah, I know, it's old, so, sue me.

As I said, this is one of the most Republican (Party) things I've ever seen. He didn't have any idea - none whatsoever - of what the DOE did. But he was agin' it. Because he wants to cut the Federal Government, which, as you know, is a festering, ravenous beast unless and until you can get to control a piece of it.

It's really pretty crazy, how often the Republicans or individual Republicans, try to do something that's stone cold, bone headed, amazingly stupid, but throw up enough high falutin soundbites to make it sounds good. "We just want to shrink government" they say, "so let's get rid of the agency responsible for maintaining our nuclear weapons arsenal! Oh, wait, we didn't bother to learn that's a fair chunk of what the DOE does before flapping our yaps, but please forget about that and let us run the durn thing!"

Trouble is, we put an incompetent Texan in charge of something important before, and George W brought us 9/11, Iraq, Daesh (aka ISIS(?)), and the response to Katrina (and not the fun one - this was the one with the waves that killed people, not the one with the Waves who sang Walking On Sunshine)... oh, right, I forgot. That last is supposed to be the fault of Ray Nagin, for not using buses to evacuate people, and, I dunno, leave them on the side of the road or something, in the face of a Cat 4 hurricane, where they all would have died outside of New Orleans.

(I'm sorry - I shouldn't mock them. Oh, hell, who am I kidding, of course I should! The only thing they're worse at than governing is covering up their own stupid mistakes. I mean, I hate to insult a box of rocks, but....)

Where was I? Right, let's put Rick "Oops" Perry in charge of nuclear weapons, even if he is the sort of guy who flaps his yap and is forced to admit that he was completely and totally ignorant of the subject later. In GOP-land, we can wait for the terrible "oops" that comes in the shape of a mushroom cloud... just not the peaceful resolution to Iraq, when it was known by all informed parties that Iraq had no nuclear program.

What's scary is, Perry is probably a lot better than some of the other bozos Trump could have chosen... heaven help us all!
First, Trump claimed he'd met Putin; then, later, he said, no, he'd never met him, he'd been on 60 Minutes with him, and probably in different countries at the time.

He jokes about Russia hacking and asks them to hack his opponent - and as it turns out, he knew that the Russians were likely trying to subvert our democracy. But he still made the joke.

He claims during the debates that he has no ties to Putin, and Hillary would be "the puppet" - and while the latter claim is simply because he's not quick witted enough to come up with a better rejoinder than "I know you are but what am I?"

He responds to Congressman Lewis' feelings that his election wasn't legitimate due to the Russian interference with a pure-D racist tweet - since Lewis is black, he must be representing a crime ridden, burning, inner city, that is clearly the responsibility of a Congressman to fix (rather than, say, the mayor and city council, with Lewis stumping for them in Congress).

Let's skip the racism, and the complete lack of knowledge of how political power works... that's not really important right now. (What? So why did I include them? Well... I guess I like pointing out Trump's numerous flaws. To be fair and balanced, I will admit that Hillary Clinton used a e-mail server that was likely far more secure than Colin Powell's, and discussed confidential information in e-mails, which is not a crime.)

The point is: Trump has a Russia problem. And since the GOP is supporting him, and trying to hush up questions about Russia, the GOP has one too.

And here's the thing: there's one way to show that all of this speculation is complete nonsense. Demand a full, fair, investigation, with a non-classified report issued to everyone. He has no ties to Russia or Putin, right? So they'll dig, they'll find some suspicious connections[1], follow up on them, and find no proof.

As is common in all such investigations not involving Bill or Hillary Clinton, the lack of any hard evidence will establish to all reasonable people that nothing is wrong.

So: why won't he investigate? Hell, he'll be the boss of the investigators! Unless there's something seriously amiss, they won't tick off their boss by leaking innocuous, meaningless connections!

The GOP is fond of saying "why are you so afraid if you have nothing to hide?" I never agreed with this - I actually do have some perfectly legal, perfectly ethical, and perfectly moral things I like to keep personal. Nevertheless, turnabout is fair play: if Trump has nothing to hide, why is he afraid?

This raises my biggest fear about Trump. I think he's in contact with Russia, and thinks he can play them. But Trump is far too easy to play - and worse, he doesn't realize it. Any weakness is ten times easier to cover for if you acknowledge it and try to work around it - but one you deny is that much more vulnerable.

When there's a simple, easy, and obvious way forward, Trump seeks obscurity. Why? If America is to be Great, we need to know that Russia isn't pulling any strings.

[1] Trump has friends who work in/with Russia. With that, there will be some suspicious connections. "Suspicious" is not a nasty word - it means that a thorough investigator must follow up on it.
I have to admit, this is the sort of thing that confuses me.

One of the big quotes:
He went with the candidate he thinks will make America stronger.
"I did what I thought was correct for the overall good of the country," he said. "Economic strength cures a lot of things."
A better economy, he hopes, will free him from needing subsidies.

First, this is a person who found that Obamacare was helpful and good for him. And he voted for the party that fought it tooth and nail, and has sworn to repeal it. Let's assume he simply can't vote for a Democrat - why isn't he pushing his local representative and lobbying his friends to make sure that the Republicans know that they're on the spot?

But more importantly: why do people like this think that the economy is going to be "stronger" when we put a blowhard in charge of it?

Look, I might have an advantage here: I've seen a lot of BS artists in my time. I've seen lots of braggarts who swore they were better than everyone, who never have any actual ideas, just applause lines. And you might ask me, fairly, how I know Trump is one of them: he's a billionaire, right? Well, when you start with a big stack of money, and have big piles of old money backing you, it's not that hard to amass a fair chunk of money. A brilliant businessman won't have large quantities of people who never got paid for work they did.

You see, anyone can get caught with a dispute over whether the work performed measured up to the standards demanded... once. But only a fool gets caught over and over again, without having set up a better process to prevent those dispute - contracts with specific goals for payments and an objective standard for when those goals are met. For completeness, I should mention that only a cheat would keep using the old process with the intention of deliberately failing to pay their bills.

A good businessman doesn't make promises he can't keep, as he did in Trump University - a fake business school with no credentials, that did not deliver on its promises to its paying students. Note the interesting turn-around - he doesn't pay contractors saying that their work was terrible, but doesn't mind taking money from students while knowing that he can't provide what he promised. This is really not the mark of a good businessman! He'll take money from you when he know he can't provide what was promised, but he may refuse to pay you, even if you have provided what you promised!

And finally, Trump even turned a private disaster into a a public company to make sure he got paid and someone else took the losses. This is also not the work of a brilliant businessman. Other adjectives may be used instead, and "cunning" is one of the most complimentary ones.

So I know Trump doesn't know how to be a good businessman. And he's leading a party that I know isn't composed of good businessmen. Why?

Because when unemployment was high (and labor was cheap), they refused to borrow money at 0% interest to do work on vital infrastructure that has to be fixed sooner or later. To any good businessman, being able to borrow for free, now, so that you can do stuff you'll have to pay for anyway, and do it more cheaply than if you wait, well, that's a no brainer. If your "business" is the welfare of a nation suffering because of too few jobs, and you could put a bunch of those people back to work, it takes a bit of stupidity to skip the chance.

That, and their repeated, and continued, insistence that there's no reason to add regulations to the industry that nearly destroyed the US economy, shows that they simply aren't good businessmen.

It's often said that liberals like me accuse people like Mr. Ruscoe of voting against their own self interest. That's not quite what I say, though. I'm sure he wants a good business environment, and I'm sure he voted thinking that he was supporting that. But it's much like the George W Bush administration in 2004... I could see someone supporting the war in Iraq - but why support the commander who'd blown it so thoroughly, and more importantly, so predictably?

Well, it's similar to now. The Republicans claim that we need "lower taxes," and that doesn't even make sense under the Laffer Curve model.

The Laffer Curve shows the obvious: at 0% taxes, the government is broke. At 100% taxes - or *higher* and, yes, people have tried a marginal tax greater than 100%! - no one wants to earn any money to just hand over to the government, so, again, the government is broke. So if taxes are too high, reducing them might increase revenue. Except, remember: the Laffer Curve tends to 0 both when taxes are too high, and too low. So no one can sensibly be for "cutting taxes" for 30 years or more, and multiple rounds of tax cuts, including the huge cuts introduced in the Reagan era! Eventually, you know that it's got nothing to do with economic models! No, the model that fits best is promising the wealthy tax cuts so they win the support of the big money boys.

Continuing: the Republicans claim we need "fewer regulations" but can't quite manage to cite any that are holding back business. And that's because they aren't really trying to unleash the power of the free market. They're trying to shower favors on their wealthy buddies, getting rid of irksome requirements to keep their employees and the general public safe. Why not? A fertilizer plant blows up in Texas, kills several people, and discussion about regulating dangerous business doesn't even last for a day. But robust regulatory agencies, even the most business friendly of them, could have found and highlighted the risks. Let's be clear: no one thinks that Republicans, or business owners, want to gut the regulations needed to keep us safe. But as I'll repeat often, the cause of much evil in this world isn't malice, but indifference.

Rather than put hypothetical lives in front of real dollars, too many people picked the dollars until those lives were no longer hypothetical. This is why Jesus said that one can't worship both God and Mammon - sometimes, the right decision, the one God wants, is the more costly one. Worship Mammon, you'll put the dollars first and, sooner or later, you'll be "unlucky" and people get hurt, or killed.

Not out of malice. Not even directly out of greed. Just out of indifference - a lack of concern for the risks, before (and now, even after) those risks are shown to be real, and horrifying.

That's what confuses me. Why don't more people see this, and reject the failed policies that don't unleash economic growth, and instead cause harm, sometimes even killing people?
How brittle can a man be? Whether Russia helped him or not, Donald Trump won the election. But he flat out refuses to acknowledge that the US spying community might be correct. Why?

Look: People try to shift this aside, "look what they did with WMDs in Iraq!" The problem here is that while the intelligence agencies did feel that Iraq had WMDs, that is their job: to overestimate risks that may play a crucial role in protecting the nation. And it wasn't the intelligence agencies that said that the aluminum tubes (used to reverse engineer rockets) had to be centrifuge components; and the intelligence agencies tried to stop Bush from claiming there was an active attempt to procure uranium from Niger. They also were free with the admission that they didn't have any hard evidence - the UN inspections had ceased so they couldn't confirm their suspicions.

Ah, but here they have hard evidence; hacking leaves traces. Now they only have to figure out who. With that, signals intelligence can correlate various conversations on the matter, and figure out the likely suspects; then human intelligence can be gathered and allow corroboration.

While I'm not privy to the evidence, this is something that's far more easy to track than whether there are active weapons programs in Iraq; and the Obama administration is not looking for a war with Russia, in the way the Bush team sought war with Iraq; Obama is looking only to protect the nation. This information can't change the results of the election, which, as one might notice, is over and done.

Ah, but Russian hacking - that would look like Donald J. Trump didn't win the election all by his lonesome. And he is thin-skinned that way, he doesn't like anyone casting any shadow on his accomplishments. Still... is that enough? Does that explain his reluctance to investigate?

Let's be honest: if his talk about Russia hacking his opponents was all a big joke, he'd feel stung by how bad that looked, how the Russians turned his innocent joke into something terrible. He'd probably feel vengeful - the Russians did him wrong, now he wants to do them wrong. So we can't rule out that he knew what was happening, and believed what was happening, and was probably still joking (would he really invite cyber-attack on the US?) but now, he has to fear that his foreknowledge will look bad. He might want a cover-up, just to avoid embarrassment. That might be reason enough - there aren't enough rage-tweets in the world to cover up that bit of embarrassment!

But it could be worse than that. We know that he wants better relations with Russia; his Secretary of State pick, the person who is supposed to look out for America's international interests, is someone who loves getting him some Russian oil. And that's not an inherently bad thing; friendly relations and trade are far better than a cold war! Nevertheless, this opens up a serious problem.

Donald Trump is either the world's biggest, stupidest liar - and he might take "biggest" but I don't think he's that stupid! - or he thinks he's an incredible negotiator. And he could think that he's helping smooth the way for better Russian relations, and being clever enough to ensure that if anyone gets played, it will be Russia, not him, and overlooking just "a tiny bit of hacking that didn't do any real harm".

But we have no idea if it was "just a tiny bit of hacking". We need to know everything we can about what happened. We need to know what has been compromised, and where our weaknesses are. We need a President who will put the protection of our nation's security, both physical and cyberspace, far ahead of his own interests. We need to know that, when a threat arises, he'll chase it down, in spite of possible embarrassment, and in spite of whether it will ruin his plans for Russia.

And in under two weeks, we can't be sure we'll have that; heaven help us.
As you know, the House GOP has a serious stance regarding accountability over ethics and corruption. They're against it

And the media has a serious stance about holding politicians accountable. They report that the House GOP leadership "spoke against it" - without noting, of course, that the ballot was secret, and those same leaders could have voted in favor.

Some also jumped on how Trump sent a tweet and they backed down. And the Post, at least,
tells the story better than others. Some insisted Trump's tweet was key in defeating this ploy.

It would be politically incorrect, and quite rude to point out that Trump could have orchestrated his tweet with Republican House members who knew they'd have to reverse course.

Oh: Did you realize Trump could have orchestrated this with other Republicans who realized that it was doomed? So, this could be a bit of kabuki theater where no one can get blamed for the vote (remember: secret ballot!) but they can help cover Trump in glory by convincing people that he gets things done.

Let's look over Trump's wins. He got his Veep-elect to bribe Carrier to keep some (but certainly not all!) jobs they'd planned to move (and took credit for saving jobs they never planned to move in the first place!).

He's gotten some people to make announcements regarding jobs - here, there is no direct evidence of bribery, but remember the President is in charge of regulatory agencies. They get to decide if people are following the regulations that keep the American people safe. And we know every big business whines about how they could make so much more money, if they didn't have to worry about harming people... so, I'll call it a bribe. "The President owes you a favor" is a big deal even if you don't plan to use it to escape penalties for lawbreaking.

And he sent a tweet that happened to mirror public opinion, just as people were already deciding to scrap a bad idea.

I'm probably being viciously partisan, or maybe "shrill" when I point out that this looks a lot like the GOP is trying to seize the news cycle rather than trying to do anything to help the American people, or American workers.

If so, I'll cop to that accusation - because that's what the Republicans do! They try to seize the "narrative". And if you don't watch out for them, they just might suck you in.
One of the nastiest, and stupidest, memes that cropped up on the right wing concerned the cause of the "Great Recession". The problem was poor, and working class people, they said - buying houses they couldn't afford. Presumably, these poor and working class people also went into banks with guns, forcing them to grant sub-prime mortgages to applicants who qualified for prime mortgages - just so when "fixed rate" mortgages turned out to be ARMs, they could go broke. They also went to the financial industry, with guns, to force the financial industry to purchase those loans, singly or in large swaths, and repackage them in complicated financial instruments, and to sell vast quantities of "derivatives" - financial products whose value was derived from the health of those financial instruments.

Presumably, we just needed some "good guys with guns" to protect us, eh?

Well, there's a couple or so problems with that scenario.

First, poor and working class people don't have enough assets, not even with overly-appraised houses under mortgage. That's kinda why we call them "poor, and working class," rather than "upper class, and wealthy."

Second: no, they didn't force anyone to extend them a loan, prime or sub-prime. Yes, it's true, banks had to show that they were making an effort to invest in local communities. "Making an effort" means making good loans, and being able to show why rejected applicants were refused for good, solid, financial reasons - the color of their money, not the color of their skin! Also, remember, the Republicans had been in charge of regulatory agencies for years by then: there was no need to fear that the wealthy would face the wrath of regulators.

Third, no one forced the banks, the financial services industry, the credit rating agencies, etc., to engage in such widespread delusion and mutual enrichment. The banks made loans they knew were bad, and in some cases, loans they couldn't know were good (aka "liars' loans"). Why not? They just wanted the origination fees; some other poor sucker would then buy the loan and be stuck with it! It's possible each individual bank thought that their own tiny piece of the pie wasn't a big enough problem to cause devastation to the US and the rest of the world. Or it's possible that they just didn't care! The root of most evil in this world is not malice (i.e. wanting to cause harm) and is instead due to indifference ("I got mine, with no provable or indictable criminal activity, so who cares if someone else gets hurt?")

The credit ratings agencies knew they had to produce "reasonable" evaluations of the risks, that would nevertheless guarantee return business. They did this with a fine trick, in some cases: they would use the price of a credit default swap (basically, insurance against a bond or other financial product defaulting) as evidence of the safety of the financial products: the price of a credit default swap was low, so the bonds produced must be low risk. Of course, the price of a credit default swap was low because the credit rating agencies decreed the bonds produced were low risk. If this sounds circular to you, thats becuase it is, and we should be suspicious there were back channel, unofficial, communications, or egregious lack of oversight and prudence (or both, naturally).

And of course, the financial services companies would sell bundled products and use the cash flow to make leveraged buys of more products that gave them have bigger, fatter balance sheets, allowing them to leverage themselves further. In engineering terms, you might think of this as them trying to build a huge skyscraper on a foundation appropriate to one of those overvalued houses that formed the basis of this ridiculous speculation adventure. And this all works until some tiny tremor triggers a drop in valuation, and someone gets a margin call.

"We loaned you a billion dollars for securities worth 1.025 billion. But now those securities are worth 998 million; we want you to come up with the 27 million dollars in collateral to balance things out."

No biggie, if it's just a single leveraged loan... you don't borrow a billion if you can't come up with 27 million by using some of your fast food budget (for buying stock or restaurants, you probably don't know or care).

But if you're leveraged on stuff that you only have because you're leveraged on other stuff, which you only have because you're leveraged on other stuff... you don't have any more collateral. But worse: once that margin call goes out, you have three things happening.

No one wants to buy from you - they know you're trying to dump the worst stuff you can - hey, it's what they'd do! No one wants to lend to you - if you go bankrupt, the last few loans are the last in line in a bankruptcy. And everyone who has assets you're managing wants them back, now(!!!) for fear of not having access to them in a bankruptcy. Just like a bank run, only the financial industry wasn't well regulated or insured, as banks are.

Boom, down goes one, which means someone else has lost a lot of money they lent, or invested in, the first, so down goes another and soon, it's like dominos falling.

It was a hideous failure of the "let's cut (or is that "gut"?) regulations!" idiocy of the 80s and 90s. Ah, but that would mean the answer is "regulation". And we can't have that!

So voila! It had to be the poor people, even though that's ludicrous on the face of it.

I think I've said this before... there are times I envy the Republicans on the gravy train. If you have no compelling need to be honest, you can make quite a killing by bamboozling and bullshitting and, on top of it, you get to pretend to be patriotic and moral, while basically prostituting your integrity. (Or is that pimping? I guess it depends on whether you still have integrity of your own to prostitute.)
This is a great article. It shows off propaganda wonderfully.

Despite the emphasis by many on preserving secondary parts of the law like maintaining children up to age 26 on the parent's coverage, Americans should understand that the ACA indeed must be eliminated. Why? Because its misguided amalgam of regulations generated skyrocketing insurance premiums, reduced choice of doctors, funneled millions more poor people into substandard programs and accelerated consolidation throughout the health care industry-- serious consequences directly harmful to patients.

"Americans should understand" - and you're a good American aren't you?
"...indeed must be eliminated" - poor writing style, but note the double emphasis - "I'm not just saying that it must be eliminated, but, in fact, even if you consider other options, it must INDEED be eliminated".

Why? It has a "misguided almalgam" - boy, that's a high falutin way of saying something's a bad mixture! He must be a DOCTOR or something!

"of regulations generated..." - stop right there. He's insisting, with no evidence presented, that Obamacare caused premiums to increase. Premiums have been skyrocketing for many years, and he knows it. But once Obamacare is in place, he wants to blame it for everything. Why not? No one's going to call him out, except some no-name blogger. Insurance companies have had narrow networks for many years to save on costs as well - Obamacare didn't start restricting doctor choice, and he presents no evidence that it accelerated it.

"It funnelled millions more poor people into substandard programs" - this is an odd way to state that it provided health insurance to millions of poor people. Maybe those programs are substandard - if so, the answer is not to eliminate standards, but to improve them. "...and accelerated consolidation throughout the health care industry". Gee, it's almost like, when medicine isn't a cash cow any more, people look to cut costs through, for example, consolidation. This is an issue that can be managed.

What's our good DOCTOR's real beef?

When combined with invisible health care prices as well as doctor qualifications, most patients have virtually no incentive and lack sufficient information to consider value; similarly, providers don't need to compete on price. The consequences are the overuse of health care and unrestrained costs.

See, people don't have any incentive to look at the various hospitals to see who is the best value for the emergency appendectomy! And when they might have laughed at their doctor for prescribing an expensive antidepressant ("thanks, doc, first good laugh I've had in months! I can't afford that!") under Obamacare, they can go to the pharmacy and pay a co-pay, and get the treatment they need to massively improve their lives and the lives of their family and friends... rather than having to "consider value" and try an older, more dangerous antidepressant, or forgoing treatment entirely.

This particular boneheaded idea is one that irks me: people "overuse" health care. People tend to go to doctors because they are sick or are trying to stay well; they don't tend to go there because it's fun to have things stuck in your ears, your mouth and possibly other, less pleasant places.

Richard Mayhew, who blogs at has some excellent discussions of health insurance, and here's a good one to look at: The illusion of value in ER diversion . Check out the graph: the bottom 70% of health care consumers spend just 10% of the health care dollars. Tell me: how is squeezing the poor out of more of their hard-earned, to make them "better consumers," going to help here? The big jumps in the graph show an ever-increasing number of more expensive conditions - not people deciding they want to PAR-TAY by going to the doctors for invasive, uncomfortable procedures, and noxious drugs with unpleasant side effects.

Nevertheless, our DOCTOR has a great "prescription": more HSAs, which are great for the wealthy, which is what soi disant conservatives in this nation care about. But they're lousy for the poor and middle class; working class folks don't get as much value from a tax deduction, and they don't tend to have big piles of money sitting around to handle minor medical emergencies.

"Oh, but if they save their money in an HSA..."

...then they have less to spend on day to day living - and too many working class folks are living paycheck-to-paycheck already!

None of this is a surprise; the issue has never been that Obamacare is bad; it's that it's not centered around helping the rich at the expense of the working class.
I just saw, to my great relief, that the War On Christmas is over!

Thank heaven. The idea that people must say "Merry Christmas" or they're in a war (but thankfully, only "insurgents", now) fighting that horrible, evil "Christmas" is... well.

Look, political figures lie. And O'Reilly is a political figure - he wants to boost the right wing. But it's always bothered me.

It's like, Democrats tell lies like, if unions become easier to join, workers will be in better shape. That's true: I saw some nurses unionize because they were unable to provide the excellent level of care their patients required. This has a strong likelihood of making their lives easier and their jobs better and their patients better cared for. But while a union can push back when a corporation tries to run its employees over, they're not a panacea, and everyone knows that. Still: it's comforting. When unions are strong, big corporations have to treat their employees a bit more fairly, and pay attention to the actual jobs done (such as patient care!!!) to see if the employees have the resources (including human resources - enough employees to provide that care!) to do them.

So: that's a comforting lie. But, oh, my, dear, LORD, a war on Christmas because the words "Christmas" don't appear in the advertising? Doesn't that make your blood boil? That they think you can be sucked in with such a cheap, and, frankly, stupid, lie?

Alas, it doesn't, not for many people. This is what happens when you have a big megaphone and a lot of loyalists repeating the words, and kicking up a fuss. "Be angry!" they say, and too many people... do? are? too many people choose to be angry. For Christmas. A time when we should all put aside differences, and hope for peace on earth, and good will toward all.

Merry Christmas[1] everyone.

[1] Statement made as one of my normal December 25th greetings, of my own free will and from my own desires, completely divorced and separated from any idiotic statements made by Bill O'Reilly. A man doesn't let himself be controlled - to give, or withhold, a greeting - by the actions of an anger-generating "Christmas warrior".
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