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".
So there's this toxic meme going around. "Why did Hillary Clinton lose?"

The answer is simple: the Republicans are very skilled liars about a lot of issues that truly matter to people. For example: they talk about a "war on coal" as if government regulations were costing coal jobs. Bzzt! Wrong answer. When you don't need to dig mines (you can just level mountains, and dump the diggings any-old-place), and when mining machinery has advanced to the point that few people are needed to mine coal, and when new, cheap, supplies of natural gas are discovered, coal jobs are going to drop through the floor, as they did. But the Republicans get to say that there's a "war on coal" - and they don't get shut down for telling a bare-faced lie. (And I say "faced" because I'm in a polite mood this morning - also, the visual of their as...tronomically ugly buttocks is bugging me.)

Look: everyone knows what the Republicans want. They've wanted it since Reagan, and they've wanted someone who can provide Reaganesque cover for it for a long time. They want to help the rich and powerful. How else can you end up with rich and powerful friends and supporters, and pick up big, fat, sinecures when you're ready to retire? Some of them probably also think that what's good for the rich is good for America... if so, well, I'm sorry, but there's no cure for stupid.

I don't want to suggest that what's bad for the rich is good for America - but focusing exclusively on every petty desire of the rich is what makes the GOP the party of offshoring and layoffs - and, yes, the destruction of coal, steel, and other decent, jobs. If you want what's good for America, you need balance - you need to think about what's good for all Americans, and sometimes that means telling the wealthy and poweful that they need to pitch in, and help out. Sometimes, the smart rich folks will even realize this is a good way to get even richer!

Okay: but, didn't Hillary Clinton say that "we are going to put a lot of coal workers out of jobs so we need to find a way to bring other jobs into those areas"? Sure she did - we are. By "we" I mean whatever grouping you like - America, the world, the people who realize that, in China, it's cheaper to build solar panels than fuel a coal-fired power plant... heck, even those too slow to realize that coal mining is a dead field are going to be part of the "we" putting coal workers out of jobs.

But the Republicans don't care - they'll back Trump, who will claim coal jobs are coming back. They won't; he knows it, the Republicans know it, but they figure that they can find a new issue to distract us in two years when they have to face re-election. Maybe another pointless war... or heck, maybe Donald "I don't really need to hear boring intelligence briefings" Trump will have his own 9/11-style event so they can claim "he kept us safe!" Ol' straight talk Trump will probably even say that he was wrong to berate Bush for being asleep at the wheel!

So: why did Hillary Clinton lose? Because she wouldn't lie like the cheap rug you suspect tops Donald Trump's head.

Sorry. "Lie like a cheap rug" became one of my favorite expressions in my 20s. And while The Donald swears it's his own hair, I honestly would try to live proudly bald before letting my hair look like that! Okay, sure, I'd have to change my nom du blog, but consider the alternative!

Anyway: Hillary Clinton didn't BS her way through life, talking blah blah jobs, blah blah trade deals, blah blah manufacturing, because while all politicians lie a bit, she knew she couldn't deliver on those things, so she wouldn't promise to do so... so she lost. And while it's a damn shame she lost, it's a good thing she didn't try to win through such blatant BS wizardry. One political party lies a lot about really important stuff. They lie to the people that follow them; they lie to the people that don't; they lie to the media; they lie to themselves, a lot of the time. I'm not sure they don't lie about anything, just to keep in practice! But if both parties lied like that, we'd truly have no way forward as a nation. One party has to care enough about honesty to tell a few of the hard truths.

What's a shame is that this honesty cost the nation the chance to ride the brake on this bunch of liars. The Republicans are a nasty piece of work. They looked at health care reform that was about as conservative as you could make it, and deemed it a government takeover - and they want to throw millions of people off of health insurance because, hey, they can't let a Democrat accomplish something good. People might remember that Democrats make people's lives a bit better.

Oh, sure, they say they'll replace it - good luck with that! They've had 6 full years to discuss replacements, and their best ideas include "throwing out all state regulation of health insurance, since it's cheaper to provide health insurance that doesn't actually pay for the majority of health care costs" and... um... help me out here? Oh, yeah, health savings accounts!

What are HSAs? Well, see, what they are is a way for the wealthy to sock away big bucks, tax free. Nominally, you can use them to pay health care costs, but that's not the goal. Remember: the Republicans love the wealthy - and the wealthy don't need to pay for basic medical care with tax free dollars. That's the point; that's why HSA are so good for them! They can sock the money away into investments that can grow tax free. Plus, face it: a large percentage of people don't pay any federal income taxes - so having HSAs that don't require payment of federal income taxes are, quite literally, of no use to the poor and much of the middle class.

But hey, they can lie, call it a government takeover, ignore its successes, and get the health insurance companies to put up big rate increases during a Presidential election year, to bolster their chances of winning, and... who's going to call them on it? Certainly not the news media; they're so bound to political correctness that they can't bother to point out that Trump's nothing but a BS artist who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. They won't point out that the Republicans want to end Medicare so that they can give big bucks to insurance companies, or that Trump knows nothing about running an economy, and that a boatload of the jobs he created were the kind where people quickly got fired because he won't pay their boss for the work they've done!

And in a sense, how can you blame them? I mean, frankly, there have been many times I kind of envied the people on the GOP gravy train. You get to pretend you're a brilliant, wonderful, patriotic person, revering the bible and the Constitution, whatever you actually do - you can cite the bible as a justification to avoid feeding the hungry, avoid sheltering those in need, and avoiding helping the sick or imprisoned; and for this, people call you a "good Christian!"

You get to make friends with the people who can do things for you - as long as you're popular, and advance the cause of the wealthy at the expense of everyone else, you make out like a bandit!

The problem is... well, then you have to say Medicare is bad - because the insurance companies don't get to take a big, fat, bite.

You have to try to privatize infrastructure so that corporations can take a big, fat bite.

You have to say that public schools are bad, so set up charter schools, to let corporations can take a big, fat bite.

Heck, you even have to say Obamacare is bad because insurance companies can only make a 25% margin on health insurance in return for a massive boatload of new customers - 25% margin is a big, fat bite, and it's still not enough! So much for the free market finding efficiencies!

You have to push trade deals that hurt US workers, except when pretending that your Presidential candidate is going to fix some of that, and try to hide the snickers when people buy it. (No, I mean, the laughter. They want you to have small unimportant lunxuries like candy bars.)

You have to say that regulations that keep the air and water from being poisoned, or that keep employers from stealing wages, or the lives or health of their workers, are bad. Well - technically, you just have to say "regulations" are bad, because who's going to bother reporting that regulations prevent poisonings, theft from, and harming of, employees, etc.? It would be politically incorrect to point out that the working folks take it up the tailpipe when regulations get slashed!

(I of course refer to people stuffing potatoes up car tailpipes, causing a confusing and possibly costly disruption to the car's operation. But other people might be using this in a more... colorful manner.


"Why did Hillary Clinton lose?" Because we can't have an honest conversation in this country. We're too politically correct to admit that the Republicans are the party of the rich, of the layoffs, of offshoring, and hoping to have nice, happy mushrooms voting for them for a good, long time.

(edited to change the link to allow start and stop time. Still can't get the Spock quote cleanly, alas!)
So, I saw this, the latest in a host of articles about Trump's business entanglements.

I want to be clear about this: I don't exactly blame Donald Trump here. For years, the Republicans have viewed the President as being two parts: The id, where you get to speak as per the id in psychoanalysis - speaking to fears and other uncivilized urges - and the "present" - the gifts you get to give out to the wealthy and big donors.

Oh, wait: it's not politically correct to say that they're "presents" - we're supposed to pretend that the Republicans are Really Trying To Help The Nation, not just the wealthy.

Well, I'm sorry - they're presents. And what do you get when you put the id in the middle of the presents? "President" - and there you have it.

Anyway: I can sympathize with Trump's position here. If the purpose of being President is to give nice gifts to the wealthy, why should those gifts only go to the wealthy non-politicians? Why shouldn't he get in on the game? Why shouldn't he be able to massively profit from his actions as President? And the law does explicitly exclude the President from the normal conflict-of-interest laws.

So why should he have to refuse to get nice things - by which I mean, huge gobs of unearned money - just because he, and James Comey, and Vladimir Putin, won the Presidency?

Well, it is unconstitutional, but the Republicans view the Constitution as something like they view the bible - in their mind, there's an idealized version of it out there that says "let the Republicans do what they want". So I don't expect that to be a barrier - you haven't noticed the Republicans kicking up a major fuss about it, have you? Of course not!

So, looking at it from Trump's perspective, I really can't blame him for wanting to rake in big, unearned, bucks from his time in office.

Now, here on earth, from any reasonable perspective, it's terrible - but not from Donald Trump's. And that's why I can't blame him. If there's someone to blame, it's the Republicans for creating this mess in the first place!
Hello, and welcome to my blog. You can call me the LongHairedWeirdo; you can also call me "LHW" or "Weirdo" for short.

What's the point of this blog? Well, November of 2016, a real tragedy occurred. An incompetent, blowhard, bullshit artist was elected President of the United
States. He's a mean spirited person with no understanding of our government - for example, he feels that you should use the power of the Presidency to persecute (and attempt to prosecute) a political oppoent when any good prosecutor can tell you she's done nothing meriting criminal charges. He has no understanding of how to run an economy; he has no understanding of how the Constitution works. He has no sense of how to run foreign policy. He's petty and vengeful, and will have control over America's military power, including the ability to launch a nuclear strike.

This is a tragedy and it's enough. But there's a greater tragedy in place, already... one that has allowed this to happen.

First, many of my left-leaning friends are scornful of the people who voted for Trump, many of whom have been doing things, like chanting "lock her up!" - i.e., to jail Hillary Clinton - or espousing white-supremecist views, or who just plain hate liberals and the liberal mindset. Of these, scorn should be reserved for:
The white supremecists, and,
the people who know the law, and still demand that Hillary Clinton face charges.

What about those who hate liberals, and the liberal viewpoint? Look: when a group of people spend many years, and billions of dollars, trying to sow hatred using lies, who do you blame? The people who hate, because they believe the lies? Or the people spreading the lies?

Even some of the people leaning toward white supremacy often believe what they believe because of he carefully sown lies that have been bearing fruit. But if you can't peel away from being a white surpremecist, that's far worse than thinking that liberals would destroy the economy because blah blah blah. (That's intended as a translation, but it's frightfully close to transliteration in some cases. "Liberals will destroy the economy because they're liberals" is a pretty direct transliteration.)

Second, the news media have also been bamboozled. Heh. I remember watching a TV version of The Blues Brothers. When Elwood (in the movie) says "I took the liberty of bullshitting you," it's turned into "bamboozling you" - a much better bit of voice-over than the time a bowlderized movie tried to claim the actor said "FORGET this!" while his lips showed only two distinct syllables! Bamboozling and bullshitting are close, but bamboozling refers to explicit deception. A bullshitter may not care about deception.

Let me pause here - I do that a lot! "Bullshit" is when you say stuff that sounds good, not caring about the truth. It's what some high school students do on essay questions - they don't remember the material, so they 'bullshit' - say stuff that they think sounds reasonable and convincing. Bullshit isn't always wrong - it can be useful, and/or fun, in situations where everyone is aware it's bullshit. Want to grouse about an evil ex- or your too-strict boss, to some friends? Bullshitting can be good for you. But in situations where truth is needed, bullshit is even worse than lies. Lies are far more easily discovered to be untrue because the lie is deliberately intended to deceive; figure out what the lie might be hiding, and you're halfway to discovering the truth. Bullshit might be part true, part false, or entirely meaningless. Where do you start?

Okay: so, liars sow lies, and the media is bamboozled. But there's a bit more.

I know some good people who vote Republican. But the Republicans have done a lot of evil things, and they are putting our nation in danger. If they hadn't done these things, while constantly lying about how they're right and reasonable, they wouldn't have opened the door to an incompetent bullshitter like Trump. Such as?

Well, they've put the full faith and credit of the nation in danger, taking the economic well being of the US and the rest of the world as a hostage, and threatened to (metaphorically speaking) shoot it. The goal wasn't to shoot the hostage, but they set up things so well there was a real danger that it could happen anyway. And they said it was a good thing - that it wouldn't crash the economy, that it would merely get spending under control. (It would crash the economy, by the way. It's a fundamental truth of economics: one person's spending is another person's paycheck. Money doesn't fall from the sky! Removing 500 billion-with-a-b dollars from people's paychecks would leave them unable to spend to provide other people's paychecks, and it would ripple out from there.)

So: they lie. They've lied about truly important things. They've failed the most fundamental task of leadership, telling the unpleasant truths so that people know the stakes. This is how a bullshitter like Trump could operate - without a sound foundation of truth, there was instead a foundation of sand... and to quote another person often depicted as a long-haired weirdo, when you buildon a foundation of sand "The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."

Lies are pretty common. No politician is perfectly honest - at the very least, to a politician, the truth is like a ladder, and needs a bit of a slant, or they can't stand upon it. But the Republicans have done worse. They have, on occasion, acted with sociopathic disregard for decency, as well as truth. And here, I refer to the Terri Sciavo fiasco.

You know what's horrifying about the Terri Schiavo incident? The President, and the Republicans in Congress, lied to the people, giving them reason to question some of the most fundamental protections we all enjoy, when the truth was super-easy to obtain for anyone with the resources of a congresscritter, or the President... or some random guy on the internet who chats with a few friends online! And why did they do this?

Precisely so they could get on the news media and opinion airwaves asking why liberals want this poor woman to die. They lied, and forsook their duties, for the sake of spreading a vicious, hateful slander against their political opponents.

But what about those who may have had deeply held beliefs, beliefs precious to themselves and to many others? Well, that should be even scarier. You see, this was so simple that a layperson could collect all the data needed to collect a complete story of what was going on. And even that layperson would learn that, even if one disagreed with the courts, those who supported the courts were not bad people.

You see: Michael Schiavo asked the Florida courts to render a finding on what his wife would have wanted. If they found, to a clear and convincing standard (this is right next to "beyond a reasonable doubt" in legalese) that she would choose to end medical treatment, then they could order that medical treatment be ended. Otherwise, to be safe, they would have to decide to keep her alive, as best as possible.

The judgement written is not very nice to Terri Schiavo's birth family - the judge found them to be entirely unconvincing, and explicitly pointed out that their changing stories, the reasons they gave for their changes in stories, and how they looked and acted while giving testimony - most judges see a lot of people lie, and get moderately good at reading the signs! - rendered them unreliable. On the other hand, it found that Michael Schiavo's witnesses were ideal - they seemed to be honest, their stories didn't change much, and they readily admitted to facts that weakened their case. In short: they seemed to be trying to help the court discover truth, rather than trying to get the court to come to a particular decision. The court ruled that it had clear and convincing evidence that Terri Schiavo had made statements that she wanted to die without long term medical care that supported nothing but the meat machine, not actual living. (As an interesting side note: Michael Schiavo was offered some big bucks to give up guardianshp of his wife. If he did, the next guardian would still be under court order to end medical treatment for her. He refused to give up guardianship. This is an unsurprising fact, given what we learned about him during that situation - but I bet it surprises a few people who never bothered to learn the facts!)

You know what? Even if there was doubt about the decision, it's easy to see that they tried their damnedest to do what Terri Schiavo wanted. This was clear, and established perfectly. To refuse to mention this is either dishonest, or the worst sort of incompetence - the kind of incompetence where you don't care about the truth, or the damage an untruth can cause, and therefore don't even try to learn anything. Such a person, in a position of power, is the proverbial bull in the china shop - not deliberately trying to wreck things, but nevertheless, the wreckage would bring tears to your eyes if you care about the fine china - or, in this case, freedom and human dignity.

Was anyone pilloried for this? (The "pillory" was a form of forced public humiliation - so it's an apt term.) Of course not! To punish people with unkind words after they've done such a thing is unthinkable in US journalism.

But it should be "thinkable" - it should be a constant fear. This is what should protect us from enemies of freedom doing such horrible things. Today, those same people can do more terrible things - and they will again be treated as reasonable people making reasonable claims, for reasonable purposes. No one will remind us that this is the same sort of person who would violate a helpless woman's wishes, and vilify her husband, so we should take their claims with a grain of salt the size of an iceberg.

At least, the "news media" won't. John Stewart (and John Oliver - or probably other fine hosts, though these were the only two I saw regularly) of The Daily Show, might have. How damaged is our nation when the news media can't speak the truth, and only our comedians can do so?

We need to heal that damage. We need to put our country right.

How? I don't know - think of a train called America.

We have to fix things, and, I suppose you could say that is me deciding to "try dragging my feet".
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