Archive for June, 2012

ACA Upheld by Supreme Court; NPR Obfuscates on The Takeaway
June 29, 2012

The Supreme Court did uphold the ACA yesterday, with Chief Justice Roberts voting with the ‘liberals’ to uphold the law on the grounds of tax law rather than on the commerce clause. The consensus of the talking heads is that he did this in order to preserve the appearance of the Court’s integrity, apparently not realizing that all three people who believe the Court actually has any integrity left are locked up in an asylum somewhere in northern Maine.

I still hold that the Republican branch of the court is corrupt and that they have not the best interests of the people. Their interests are political, almost solely political, aimed at increasing the power of the right wing, the so-called conservatives who are rapidly morphing into authoritarians modeling fascism.

Immediately following the ruling the congressional Republicans announced that they would do everything they could to repeal the law, starting with a vote in the House July 11 to repeal, a vote that will undoubtedly succeed, and will do nothing other than set the stage for their assault of lies and deceit for the next four months. They have nothing to offer Americans that would contain the howling rise in health care costs or that would give everyone a fair shot at getting good healthcare. The Republican prescription is to let the insurance companies continue their vile predation on the people. That fellow from Florida, former Representative Alan Grayson, said it best: The Republican health care plan – Don’t get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly.

That’s pretty much the sort of thinking that Romney uses in his plan for the country. Cut taxes on the wealthy, raise taxes on the middle class and the working poor, cut social and medical programs and benefits, and spend trillions more on the already bloated military. Oh, yeah, and one more thing – pick a fight with Russia, because they’re, you know, the real enemy. There’s no room in the Republican mind for providing for the common good of all the people – just the rich people. So their plan for the first glimmer of a program that moves toward universal health care, which every other advanced society on the planet has in place, is to kill the program – and any number of people who might otherwise live useful, productive lives.

One might expect a serious and useful discussion of this matter on National Public Radio, and perhaps somewhere on NPR such discussion occurs. But not on their morning flagship show.

NPR’s inept morning show, the Takeaway, performed its usual useless stunt of bringing in a liberal supporter and a conservative opponent of the law, letting hostess Celeste Headlee breathlessly bounce them against each other, thus guaranteeing we would hear spin and opinion rather than dispassionate, informed discussion of the facts of the law and the situation. Fortunately her co-host, John Hockenberry, was off today so we didn’t get both barrels of thoughtless, breathless nonsensical broadcasting. I do wish NPR would dump that show and provide some useful news and discussion in its place. The show is a waste of air time and bandwidth, fit for adolescent mindsets at best. With a little bit of effort, just the tiniest bit, the producers could tip the show into a bad parody of shows that parody news shows. The Takeaway is just another reason why the country has tipped into a civil war. It’s only a matter of time until the shouting and name-calling are replaced with bullets, at which point the complete inadequacy of health care in this country will be fully apparent.

Of course the Republicans, mindless and vicious in their pursuit of power and their worship of wealth, would welcome the sort of violence some of their members propose. The Republicans figure they can count on the blithering insanity of Wayne LaPierre’s NRA to provide them with the manpower and the weaponry to fight an actual shooting war, while the Democrats will spend their time blithering nuances and policy distinctions while they’re being lined up in sports arenas to be shot.

Perhaps Headlee and Hockenberry might provide bullet by bullet commentary. Or perhaps they might commentate on cage fights featuring liberals versus conservatives. That’s more their style, seasoned with reading tweets and emails which they pretend are actual useful news.

One can only hope that NPR decides to take them away. Perhaps with a nice severance package that includes health care.

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The Persecution and Assassination of Democracy as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Washington Under the Direction of the Supreme Court
June 28, 2012

The Supreme Court decides on the Affordable Care Act (‘Obamacare’) today – well, they’ve already decided, they’re just going public today. I suspect they’ll uphold it because the ‘conservative’ justices are intellectually corrupt, if not in fact corrupt in other ways. It would have been better for the country and the world if the right-wing justices had been strangled in their cradles and never been allowed to hold high office. They crossed the Rubicon into corruption when they savaged the 2000 election to put their choice in office. That decision cost thousands of American lives and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghani lives and the loss of trillions of dollars from the U.S. treasury.

Later, their Citizens United decision broke the back of democracy in this country. The supporting Montana decision Monday sealed the fate of freedom and sold the United States to its most venal, morally bankrupt citizens, people like the Koch Brothers and the financial backers of the Tea Party, as well as the corporate barons whose only interest in America is how to corrupt democracy to line their pockets.

It is likely that the Court will support the ACA, if for no other reason than that it puts vast sums of money into the pockets of the insurance companies and the already wealthy elites who will then buy more politicians and judges, ensuring that corruption will become absolute. These so-called conservative justices curry favor with the wealthy and the powerful. Their corruption ensures that their decisions conserve nothing of democracy, conserve nothing of liberty, conserve nothing of the Constitution, conserve nothing of what it means that the United States has existed at all.

At some point these, or other, justices may decide that Citizens is a bad decision and seek to overturn it. By then it will be too late. Their decision will be ignored by the corporate lackey government that Citizens is right now creating. Future justices who seek to right the wrongs of Citizens will either be ignored or they will be spoken to harshly by the new barons ruling the country or they will be assassinated, either physically or in reputation.

Fair repayment indeed for the Supreme Court’s persecution and assassination of democracy in America.

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Falmouth Enterprise: Head In The Sand While Life Goes Extinct
June 27, 2012

The local news rag for Falmouth, Massachusetts on Cape Cod is called the Falmouth Enterprise, a small publishing empire comprising several towns on the west end of the Cape. The Enterprise, an old family concern, tends to be provincial in style – though perhaps parochial would better describe it. Though they do a decent job of covering the local news, I tend to suspect that they also manage to cover up things they deem it better for the public not to know. Selectmen driving drunk perhaps. Incompetent police chiefs maybe. Rich residents pulling political strings in town hall perhaps. The sorts of things local papers tend to do everywhere. The usual sins. And the writing is too often… well, a few of their writers could use a copy of Writing With Precision by Jefferson D. Bates – but on the whole they’ve gotten much better at writing than they used to do.

I should fully disclose that I’ve lived here, on and off, in the same house, for fifty-five years, and once worked for the Cape’s daily newspaper, now called the Cape Cod Times. And that I regard the Cape as a place utterly destroyed by the song stylings in 1957 of Patti Page, whose warbling, though pretty, encouraged hordes of tourists and settlers to overrun the place and destroy most of the beauty and charm. Ultimately greed destroyed the place. It ain’t pretty no more. It has pretty spots and it has the National Seashore on the Lower Cape, but on the whole, no, it ain’t pretty.

Be that as it may, the bigger issue is that Cape Cod is a low-lying seaside resort peninsula sticking out into an ocean that is, by all scientific accounts, dying, swelling, and rising. The science is in: there is no legitimate debate – this biosphere is dying, life is going extinct at an accelerating rate, the temperature is rising, and the seas are rising. And humans are responsible. Questioning the science is, at this point, irresponsible, if not criminally stupid.

The climate is a great planetary flywheel. Humans have put energy into that flywheel by filling the atmosphere with greenhouse gasses, and now the flywheel is energizing itself through feedback loops. To wit, the Arctic icecap melts, the open sea warms, thus melting more ice, warming the sea further, which warms the atmosphere, and soon the warmer planet begins to melt permafrost and release methane which increases planetary warming which melts more ice, and so on. We’ve kicked the system into runaway motion and other than a drastic and catastrophic curtailment of the use of fossil fuels nothing will stop it. It’s accelerating. Scientists discover that the predictions of  last year, indeed of last month, are no longer valid, that last years foot and a half sea level rise in this century has become six feet, or more, and sooner than any of them thought possible. And life in the sea is at risk, serious, deadly risk of massive extinction: in case you might think that, well, you’ll just eat cows and corn instead of fish, you might want to recall that one-third to one-half of our oxygen is produced by bacteria in the sea.

We might also keep in mind that scientists are notoriously conservative when making public pronouncements and predictions. So it would be fair to believe that right now the scientists are screaming ‘Fire!’

Obviously little is being done to mitigate global warming. Political will is lacking, crippled not only by politicians fearing for their jobs if they tell the truth and take appropriate actions, but also by corporate and wealthy elite interests doing their very best to sabotage not only any mitigative action but even any responsible discussion. In sum, the rich are willing to kill most life on the planet in order to line their pockets with more money gained from producing goods and services which are responsible for creating the greenhouse gases that are killing us. One might consider that the rich already have more money than they can spend in a hundred lifetimes, but they want, as the rich always do, more. I believe these people should be regarded as criminals.

We have also, of course, a culture of people who demand gewgaws and gimcracks like tablet computers and big cars and five hundred different models of cellphones to choose from, thus feeding into the whole system that is crashing down on their heads.

Then we have newspapers like the Enterprise that contribute to the childish and magical thinking that stifles the outrage people should be feeling, that would drive actual change for the good of the biosphere. Which brings me to the genesis of today’s rant in Grumpy Lion, that cause being an editorial appearing in the June 26, 2012 edition, on page five, said editorial titled ‘Planning For Sea Level Rise’. I’ve reproduced the editorial in full below.

A little context: Surf Drive is a beach road that is only a couple of feet above sea level. It is very pretty in an old Cape sort of way, or would be if the town had refused to allow people to turn private bathhouses into actual houses right on the narrow strip of beach sand between Surf Drive and the sea. The houses, sitting on stilts, are picturesque in one sense, and ugly, very ugly in a more profound sense. And the Cape, as noted, is a low-lying peninsula which depends for drinking water on lenses of underground water which are subject, should the sea rise somewhat, to saltwater infiltration.

Herewith the grand editorial of the Falmouth Enterprise on sea level rise:

Planning For Sea Level Rise

Sea level is rising faster along the Atlantic Coast of the US and globally, according to a study released this weekend by the US Geological Survey. And based on the data, USGS reported, the rate of sea level rise on the East Coast will continue to increase.

The rise is incremental – measured in millimeters a year – but significant. Cities such as Boston are taking the situation very seriously. The Boston Globe reported yesterday that the city has already begun mapping low-lying areas and the Boston Water and Sewer Commission will begin inspecting sewers, storm drain connections and pumping stations in order to assess what needs to be done to prepare for the rising sea level.

Sea level rise will obviously have the greatest impact on coastal cities and their billions of dollars of infrastructure, but coastal communities, including Falmouth, will have to plan for the eventuality as well.

As a Jeff Williams pointed out in an article published in the Enterprise last month, Falmouth is already experiencing the effects of sea level rise with increased erosion, and over wash of low areas such as Surf Drive and West Falmouth Harbor.

Falmouth officials have begun planning. Last year the town took part in the state StormSmart Coasts program.

But that program focused largely on emergency management systems. While that is good because it will help the town qualify for FEMA funding in the event of a large storm, it doesn’t address the larger issues. And some are large indeed. Low-lying roads will be affected. Many will remember that parts of Surf Drive were washed away during Hurricane Bob. Eventually it might be that it will take a lesser storm than a hurricane to do the same damage. How can such roads be protected? Or should they be abandoned? The answer to the latter is almost certainly not.

These are big questions, too big to be answered behind closed doors at Town Hall. Eventually the community will need to be involved with the planning process.

Aside from virtually ignoring real sea-level rise by pointing at occasional storm surges, the writer of this magical editorial chooses to engage in high-school cheerleading when he writes, “How can such roads be protected? Or should they be abandoned? The answer to the latter is almost certainly not.”

Really? Surf Drive is likely to be permanently under water within a few decades. It is likely that Main Street, less than a mile away in the center of the town, will follow soon after. In due time, by which I mean considerably less than the thousand years some predict, and considering the rate at which climate is changing, the town will be uninhabitable, if not entirely under water. It is not inconceivable that Falmouth could be uninhabitable, along with much of the Cape, within this century or the next. But the best the editorial board of the Enterprise, and papers like it around the country, the best they can come up with is ‘Rah! Rah! Rah! Let’s save Surf Drive!’

I find it interesting that a corollary discussion, that of sewering the town to protect five or six coastal ponds from nitrogen pollution at a cost of a half billion (yes, billion) dollars, has entirely avoided the issue of global warming and sea level rise. Those ponds will soon belong entirely to the ocean and those sewers, off which some people will make a considerable amount of money, will be utterly useless. The Enterprise has yet to produce a serious, ongoing discussion of that matter in relation to global warming.

I would suggest that perhaps the reason for such a pathetic piece of editorial work is that the powers-that-be at the paper seek to protect the commercial interests who might be upset that speaking truth might keep tourists away and money out of the merchants’ pockets; or perhaps some of those rich people who want more and more and more have had a word with the publishers, suggesting that they tone down any mention of the coming catastrophe, for the, you know, good of the community. I could, of course, be wrong. It could simply be that the combined weight of editorial thinking at the paper amounts to little more than what it seems – high school cheerleading in the face of madness.

But it doesn’t matter. The sea will rise no matter what the editors of the newspapers think, no matter what the politicians do or don’t do, no matter what the rich think they can get away with. The seas will rise, humanity will fall. The Enterprise and its ilk just insure that the fall will come faster and harder and that the survivors will be screaming, “Why didn’t you tell us the truth?”.  Said survivors would likely burn down the Enterprise offices if said offices were not by then well under the sea. Besides, given the availability of legitimate information on planetary warming these days, no one has the right to ask that question, now now, not in the future. But people do have the right to demand of the Enterprise and its kind why they focus on Surf Drive when civilization, indeed humankind itself, verges on extinction.

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Musings on Murder and Contempt
June 21, 2012

The Drone Murders

The Pakistanis make much of the fact that the United States is sending military drone aircraft into its airspace to kill Pakistanis, including women and children who inconveniently happen to get in the way of Obama’s murderous toys.

The Pakistanis bluster and complain and threaten, but they don’t do the one thing any rational government might do. Shoot the damn things down.

Pakistan has an air force. It has radar. It has air defense. It has missiles. The drones are military aircraft of a foreign nation invading Pakistani airspace and killing civilians. Drones are not the most nimble or speedy craft. Start shooting them down. Yemen, similarly besieged by the D.C. killers, should take similar action.

Otherwise some among us might be tempted to think that these countries enjoy being the killing ground for the primary terrorist state in the world today.

Contempt of Congress?

How amusing is it that a committee of Congress has decided to hold the Attorney General in contempt of Congress?

That would be a House Committee chaired by one of the uglier Republican partisans, Darrell Issa. The short version is that he and his treacherous friends have decided to attack the Presidency for doing pretty much the same thing the last Republican President did. To add to their hypocrisy, it was their Attorney General under that last Republican President who corrupted the entire Department of Justice, but Issa and his crew of thugs (that would comprise the entire Republican Party as it commits a street mugging of American democracy in broad daylight) had nothing to say about Republican corruption of the Justice Department.

But the amusing thing is that any committee of Congress would hold anyone in contempt of Congress.

Some eighty percent of Americans hold Congress in contempt of the American people.

I’d go further and say Congress is in contempt of the American people, the Constitution, the laws of the country, international law, and reason itself.

These people should be running for the hills and hiding under rocks. Unfortunately the people who sent them to Washington are not smart enough to chase them out. In the end there’s just plenty of contempt all around and hardly a bit of functioning brain matter in American politics, especially the Washington version of politics.

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First They Came For The Little Debbie Snack Cakes And I Did Not Speak Up…
June 12, 2012

That was a line on the National Public Radio show Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, which is probably the most fun you can have with news on radio.

But it brings to mind the original quote, by Martin Niemoller:

“In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.”
Martin Niemöller

A little history: According to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, "Martin Niemoller was a Protestant pastor and head of the anti-Nazi Confessing Church. Arrested for ‘malicious attacks against the state’, he spent seven years in the Dachau and Sachsenhausen [concentration camps. He was] released in 1945 by the Allies."

We might well keep his words in mind these days in the United States. Maybe a little like this:

First they came for the immigrants, and I didn’t speak up because they did dirty jobs I wouldn’t do and they didn’t dress well and, well, they’re really not like us.

They they came for the unions, and I didn’t speak up because I don’t belong to a union and who needs them anyway and you can’t trust those people because a lot of them are immigrants and a lot of them are just people looking for cushy jobs, you know?

Then they came for the firemen, and I didn’t speak up because I’ve got enough money to pay for private fire protection, and public firemen mostly just sit around the fire house playing cards anyway, right?

Then they came for the policemen, and I didn’t speak up because I’ve got private police protection, but we need some public police to keep the lower classes in line.

Then they came for the teachers, and I didn’t speak up because my kids go to private schools, and the public schools are terrible and always whining about money and class size and teacher training, so let them go work for a living at a real job.

Then they came for the public service workers, and I didn’t speak up because they’re a bunch of leeches and I can never get anyone to answer my demands at town hall and they’ve got these huge pensions, you know?

They won’t ever come for me, though, because I’m just like them, a Republican, I’m one of them and I’ve got money.

                                                                   — Willard Mitt Romney

(My apologies to Martin Niemoller, but it’s got to be said again and again, generation after generation, because humans are a stupid species with short memories and shorter attention spans.)

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Christians Teaching Bigotry, Hatred, and Murder To Children in Public Schools–Your Children
June 2, 2012

In after-school ‘religious clubs’ Christian evangelists are teaching children how to be good little killers of unbelievers.

Literally. No metaphor, no figurative intent.

From an article in Daily Kos:

Paraphrasing the Old Testament scripture I Samuel 15:2-3, the Child Evangelism Fellowship’s new lesson plan teaches, "You are to go and completely destroy the Amalekites (AM-uh-leck-ites) – people, animals, every living thing. Nothing shall be left." The manual then instructs the teacher to tell students, "That was pretty clear, wasn’t it?" Stewart continues,

"Even more important, the Good News Club wants the children to know, the Amalakites were targeted for destruction on account of their religion, or lack of it. The instruction manual reads:

"The Amalekites had heard about Israel’s true and living God many years before, but they refused to believe in him. The Amalekites refused to believe in God and God had promised punishment."

The instruction manual goes on to champion obedience in all things. In fact, pretty much every lesson that the Good News Club gives involves reminding children that they must, at all costs, obey. If God tells you to kill nonbelievers, he really wants you to kill them all. No questions asked, no exceptions allowed."

Stewart emphasizes, it doesn’t stop there. As I Samuel describes, Saul was not fully compliant with God’s orders to kill every last one of the Amalekites and their livestock – he let the king and some of the animals live. The lesson repeatedly hammers the point to students that Saul did not pass the "test" of obedience to God’s word.

The Kos article takes off from the work of Katharine Stewart, writing in The Guardian, quoted above. (Interesting we have to hear this from a British newspaper.)

These are the people who will tell you about the peace and love of their religion, and if you don’t believe them they will beat you until you do or just flat out kill you. Or have one of their children do it. Or have your child do it.

There is no moral distance between what Christians are doing and what warlords in Africa are doing when they kidnap and indoctrinate children to murder, to hack off limbs, to kill indiscriminately.

There is no moral distance between what Christians are doing and what the Taliban is doing, what Islamic fundamentalists are doing, what murderous thugs around the world are doing.

And if these perverts gain political power in this country, they will create a hell on earth that makes Hitler and his legions look like saints. Lest you forget, Hitler and his legions were Christians to the core.

Christianity is a moral sewer of lies and hypocrisy and willful delusion. Any religion that breeds the psychotic sickness that Stewart writes about is a moral sewer, and all religions breed this foulness, this moral stench, this bloody, putrid stain on the heart.

And when some Christian says that it’s just a small minority, that they don’t really represent Christianity, ask them what they are doing to stop their brethren from indoctrinating children into murder and hatred. And when they mumble some defensive bullcrap, which they will, spit right in their face.

The disgusting perverts of the Child Evangelism Fellowship and the New Apostolic Reformation represent the logical outcome of Christian doctrines. (Sarah Palin is one of these cretins.) They have one goal and that is to bring this country down into their moral sewer, to turn the United States into a mindless, murderous, hate-filled theocracy. Pol Pot and his ideological killers had their torture prisons and death camps, and the Christians will create the same in the United States, and wherever else they spread their stench.

And right now they are spreading their moral stink, their emotional evil, their mental sickness in your public schools, among your children, with the blessing of the United States Supreme Court, and the blessing of every Christian who does not act against these hell-filled teachings of their brethren.

Are they active in your schools? Do you want to find out?

Or maybe you should wait until your child comes into your bedroom spouting Biblestink and wielding a machete.

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