Monthly Archives: September 2015

Lies, Damned Lies, and Edited Videos

I watched most of the first Republican debate (the “grown-up table”), and all of the second (again, the leading contenders). It’s all so very depressing. You may think otherwise, but here is my take-away:

  • Donald Trump is a schoolyard bully and, amazingly, a self-professed know-nothing who says he’ll learn what he needs to learn when he’s elected and get all the right people together to solve the country’s problems. And people actually support this guy?
  • Ben Carson seems like a nice man, but he espouses a religiously rooted radical conservatism that’s frightening, especially for a black man. Anyone remember Clarence Thomas?
  • Jeb Bush can’t decide whether he wants to defend his brother or not. He wouldn’t have gotten us into Iraq but he says George W. kept us safe. Does he recall that 9/11 happened on his brother’s watch, and how late to act he was after being informed that the country had been attacked?
  • Carly Fiorina came prepared and loaded for bear but, unfortunately, she spouted the big lie like red meat to the faithful. How, you ask? Well, there is NO Planned Parenthood video of a live aborted fetus, “…heart beating, legs kicking, while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.” The video simply doesn’t exist, although one of questionable origin does exist that shows a fetus with some movement. It’s important to remember, however, that research demands fresh tissue and, as uncomfortable as some may be with this fact, research into Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and other devastating diseases depends upon obtaining this tissue. If fetuses are to be aborted, at least we can gain some positive outcomes by using the tissue to further medical research.
  • There is no Planned Parenthood video indicating that the organization is selling fetal body parts. Such payments as are made are reimbursement for expenses incurred in harvesting, preserving, and transporting tissue. The videos may show some Planned Parenthood staff making casual or insensitive statements, but there is no evidence to support the allegation that the organization is selling body parts for profit, suggestively edited videos notwithstanding.
  • The contenders leap onto the anti-abortion, anti-Planned Parenthood bandwagon may represent their opposition to abortion, but their sanctimonious statements come across like pandering to the religious right.
  • Mike Huckabee is an idiot. See my recent blog entry for more on this but, suffice it to say, the man’s statements simply prove that he has never read the Constitution or, if he has, he didn’t understand it.
  • Scott Walker. Scott Walker? Really?
  • John Kasich seemed the most moderate of the group, but even he seemed a times to pander to the extreme right. At least, he was the only one who didn’t say that he’d try to kill the Iran anti-nuclear agreement.
  • Rand Paul actually made some sense at times, which rather surprised me, but he’s so far behind the pack that any sense he made won’t make a difference.
  • Ted Cruz is a lunatic. No more needs to be said.
  • Chris Christie is an aggressive blowhard who sometimes sounds reasonable. Then, he blocks traffic on the George Washington Bridge. He doesn’t have a chance.
  • Marco Rubio was impressive. Too bad I’m a Democrat. I could never support Rubio, but at least he’s articulate and doesn’t come across as either an idiot or a lunatic. He could be President someday. I just hope he’s not next.
  • On balance, the current crop is frightening for what they believe. Worse, the luster seems to be off Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders doesn’t have a chance even though he’s the one saying all the sensible things (Bernie, please stop calling yourself a socialist. It ain’t helping), and Biden, were he to run, would likely lose. So, look at those guys who were at the podium this week. One of them could be taking office in January 2017.       In the words of the late William Bendix in The Life of Riley, “What a revoltin’ development this is!”
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Mike Huckabee is an Idiot

MIKE HUCKABEE IS AN IDIOT

Mike Huckabee is an idiot. As the most vocal, active supporter of Kim Davis, the County Clerk in Kentucky who was jailed for a time for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gays, he (as well as Ted Cruz and several other prominent Republicans) has demonstrated at least four major dysfunctional behaviors: hypocrisy, action from ignorance, bigotry, and creation of false equivalency. Allow me to elaborate.

Hypocrisy: Republicans believe in the strict rule of law as well as individual autonomy. Unless, it seems, someone wants to act in a manner incurring their disapproval. Thus, any act to stop the unwanted behavior is justified. In this case, Huckabee et al. throw out the rule of law in support of an elected clerk who, in accepting her position, agreed to uphold the law and now says she won’t. That’s hypocrisy.

Bigotry: Huckabee’s and his cohorts’ basis for supporting Davis is rooted in fundamental Christianity, In other words, their religiously based antipathy toward homosexuality is being used as the justification for supporting Davis’ flouting of the law. Worse, the self-righteous Huckabee says that one only needs to obey a law “if it’s right”. Apparently, he can justify anything if, in his opinion, it’s not “right”. In the present circumstance, that’s bigotry, exercised discrimination against homosexuals through illegal action.

Action from ignorance: Conservative Republicans always like to stress their adherence to the Constitution. The problem is that they neither understand the Constitution nor the history that has flowed from it down from the time of its adoption. Thus, they seem completely unaware of the Constitution’s position with respect to religion, and the consequent long history of separation of church and state that has been so critical in fostering American cultural openness from the very earliest days of the country. That’s ignorance in action.

Creation of false equivalency: Huckabee seems to think that there’s no difference between Davis’ situation and that of, as one example he has given, a pastor in church. He’s apparently too stupid to understand that there is a big difference between what is required of a public servant (performance in accordance with the law) and the position a pastor may take in his own church. There is no equivalency here. Mike, that’s separation of church and state. Duh.

Hypocrisy, bigotry, action from ignorance, and creation of false equivalency: bulwark thinking of the modern Republican party as it pushes ever harder to create a Christian theocracy little different in character from the Taliban. And given these extreme positions that are not being repudiated by most Republican politicians, it may even be worse than the Taliban. Does ISIS ring a bell? It should. White supremacists are having a field day with the current crop of GOP idiots and, chief among them, Huckabee. If that doesn’t frighten you into placing your support elsewhere, perhaps nothing will.

Book Review: The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern

Book Review: The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern, is a difficult book to describe. At least, I find it so, even if other reviewers have not seemed to have any problem characterizing it. Furthermore, the book seems to have polarized reviewers and, I would presume by extension, readers as well. Let me, therefore, state where I come down on it up front: I really enjoyed it, even though I did find it occasionally unfocused and digressive.

So, what is The Night Circus? Well, it’s part fantasy, part romance, part mystery, and a curious mix of adult, and young adult fiction. The story’s main protagonists are two individuals innocently bound into competition with one another, one by his guardian and one by her father, in early childhood. The venue for their competition becomes a circus, Le Cirque des Rêves, but one unlike any conventional circus. The competitors are at the outset unaware of each other’s identity, and the circus, beyond some of its basic physical characteristics, is mostly created, energized, and sustained through the magical abilities of the two competitors. The circus only opens at night, and its movements from venue to venue are not published or advertised. Only certain followers, self-described rêveurs, receive enough information to follow it wherever it goes; the remainder of the public is simply surprised by any local appearance.

To describe specifics of the multifaceted plot would be to spoil much of the fun that’s to be had as the reader becomes progressively more deeply involved in what develops into a complex set of events with many interacting characters.

From the outset, the writing takes on a somewhat mysterious, almost Gothic tone which inconsistently appears throughout the book. Somewhere about three quarters of the way through, the writing takes an unexpectedly and unabashedly romantic turn which I found a bit jarring but, in reality, not altogether inappropriate to the overall tone of the tale. The specific scene in which this occurs never sinks to the level of bodice ripper, but little is left to the imagination during the brief and isolated episode.

Toward the end, I found a chapter or two to be somewhat digressive from the slowly developed but ultimately linear stream of the tale, and it seemed as if perhaps Ms. Morgenstern felt that the story needed some additional padding, although it’s unclear why she should have felt so given the 400 page length of the book and extreme detail in the book’s every scene and set piece.

As an absorbing, escapist read, The Night Circus certainly fills the bill despite its few shortcomings and, as I noted, one or two editing misses. You may find, as did I, that you wonder why you can’t seem to put it down even as you question why you’re spending the time to read it in the first place.

Bottom Line: Worthy escapist fare.