Tag Archives: politics

Of Mobs and Demagoguery: The Republican Convention of 2016

The 2016 Republican National Convention has now (thankfully) passed into history, but its effects are likely to be long-lasting. In no particular order, here is a listing of some relevant aspects of its frightening legacy, along with some observations of my own (of course).

  • The initially unlikely nomination of Donald Trump, a bloviating, bigoted, xenophobic, nationalistic, verbally abusive egomaniac has become a reality, the result of the Republican takeover by right wing extremists and evangelists. The party is now, de facto, the party of white supremacists, religious nut cases, and those with no understanding of the actual history of the United States and its founders.
  • The virtually complete takeover of the Convention’s proceedings by Trump forces resulted in trampling dissent and led to a mob mentality with behavior of the delegates that all too often (e.g., during Chris Christie’s kangaroo court performance), resembled that seen during the rise of the Third Reich. Personally, I found all those raised arms pretty terrifying.
  • Although one expects negative hyperbole denigrating the candidate of the opposing party, the behavior of the delegates as egged on by many speakers transcended the bounds of decency. Instead of being a celebration of the Republican nominee, the convention became an ugly hatefest, and if all that unites the base is hate, one wonders what Republicans will be voting for, rather than against in November.
  • We learned that Melania Trump is, as reported by the L.A. Times, an admirer of Michelle Obama, certainly an embarrassment of sorts for The Donald and others who have spent such an inordinate amount of time hating the Obamas.
  • The honesty, hard work, and dedication to principle so touted by Melania in her plagiarized speech bears no resemblance to the actual conduct of the candidate. In fact, listening to her, one would have been more than hard pressed to identify whom she was speaking about if she weren’t the candidate’s wife.
  • Every time the camera panned to the Trump family and showed his beautiful children, the only thought I could entertain was “Stepford”. In fact, so many of the women, in particular, in the arena had the same blond appearance of the Trump women that I considered the possibility that they were all programmed robots. Of course, an awful lot of the men on the convention floor looked more like beer swilling knuckle-draggers than intelligent specimens of the human species. Just sayin…but we know that Trump’s major appeal is to the white, poorly educated of our country. Just those whom we want to choose our leaders, right? And it is worth noting that this convention reportedly had fewer minority attendees than any other recent Republican convention despite the Party’s sticking some minority speakers on the program for show.
  • After the 2012 re-election of President Obama, the Republicans held that much touted autopsy on their stunning failure and came up with some reasonable conclusions about the Party’s wrong direction and what needed to be done to redirect efforts to broaden their base. The current outcome is the result of the party’s total failure to channel their own findings toward any sort of remedial action and a demonstration of how moderate influences within the party were completely overrun by the darker forces of radical religion and what now passes for conservatism but is really a complex mixture of paranoia, fear, bigotry, and a foundational philosophy anchored in preserving an American caste system.
  • Trump’s final address to the convention on Thursday night was simply raw meat for the already converted. It was a classic example of playing to white fears, denigrating the opposition, and offering no specifics while throwing out a few barely acknowledged platitudes in the vain attempt to convince a wider audience to support the ticket. And, boy, did he sound angry.
  • Neither Trump nor any other speaker acknowledged the overt bigotry and radical, chauvinistic nature of the Party’s platform, suggesting either total hypocrisy or an overt intention to deceive. In fact, if one looks at the history of VP nominee Mike Pence (Mike Pence???), one can see clearly through the deception. He is, in fact, the embodiment of the platform: a radically conservative, angry white guy out to “restore” the country to an idealized state that, in fact, never actually existed. If he and all the others of his ilk get their way, millions will lose their health care, women will once again begin dying from septic illegal abortions, climate change will be ignored, environmental degradation allowed to proceed unchecked, quality education reserved only for those who can afford it, and voter suppression will continue to run unchecked, among other “conservative” delights. Oh! Wait! It really is the Republican Party’s platform!
  • The funniest thing I heard anyone say all week came from Stephen Colbert, who commented, “Mike Pence was born after a bolt of lightning struck a jar of mayonnaise.” (See prior bullet point…)
  • In the final analysis, the 2016 Republican gathering accomplished only one thing. It played successfully to the already committed base without expanding support among elements of the public it needs to attract to have any chance of winning in the November election. Pundits say that the Party is losing more voters than it has been gaining, resulting in a net loss. We can only hope.

Unroofing the Polluted Well

Anyone who has read my blog over time knows my political views, so it will come as no surprise to read of my dismay over what the candidacy of Donald Trump has revealed about a substantial minority of the American populace. The deep dark, polluted well of bigotry and intolerance which Trump has unroofed has led to the cockroaches feeling empowered to creep out into daylight, and it has not been a pretty sight.

First, let’s review a bit of history. The founders of our country were both brilliant and selectively blind. Their brilliance, as reflected in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and its appended Bill of Rights, is evident for all to see. These documents have enshrined the highest aspirations for society, including certain specific rights we hold most valuable of all. And yet, these same founders permitted slavery and other forms of discrimination which, in today’s world, are seen to be totally unacceptable by most thinking, educated individuals. Unfortunately, however, it is only “most” and not all.

Within the country, bigotry exists: racial, ethnic, religious, and all tend to be generalized. Whether its anti-black, anti-Asian, anti-Latino/Hispanic, anti-Jewish, anti-Catholic, or anti-Muslim, the tendency is to paint with a very large brush. For those individuals and groups of individuals holding such views, no amount of logic or reason, education, shaming, or objective example can so much as dent their internalized biases.

Many of those harboring these belief systems understand that to reveal them to the larger public would result in significantly adverse social consequences, so they keep their views to themselves. Increasingly, however, they and their more vocal counterparts have come to feel empowered  to express themselves.

The largest, but perhaps not the only, enabling force in this has been the Republican Party which, for years, has drifted increasingly rightward under the influence of religious fundamentalists, white bigots (the so called “angry white men”, although there are many angry white women, too), and those with money buying their way into government for their own gain. Republican philosophy has become increasingly based upon policies that maintain a rigid social structure in which there is a permanent underclass that is always slighted in legislation and preyed upon by those who continue to benefit and exert ever increasing influence over legislation.

Donald Trump has become the almost inevitable end product of the Republican Party’s acceptance of, and conquest by, these expressive and controlling forces. The party of Lincoln has been co-opted by the radical right, the business elite, the NRA, intolerant religious fundamentalists, and white supremacists. One need only take the most obvious example of this over the past 8 years: the racially motivated, unending campaign to discredit President Obama by labeling him as a foreign born Muslim. As recently as immediately following the Orlando mass shooting, Donald Trump (who still supports the “birther” movement), strongly implied that President Obama was complicit in the attack. Examples abound, but who needs more than this to understand the nightmare that the Republican Party has unleashed.

The most disheartening aspect of this, aside from the fact of Trump’s ongoing support by those who feel as he does, is that influential Republicans are continuing to support him: Ryan, McConnell, Perry, Rubio(!), et al. are all placing “party unity” and irrational hatred of Hillary Clinton above their previously expressed opinions regarding Trumps behavior. This could mean one two things. Either their feelings haven’t changed about Trump but they’re simply morally bankrupt, or despite their criticism of Trump, they actually see him giving vent to their own views, which is just another way of saying they’re morally bankrupt. Either way, it’s pretty damned depressing. In the end, though, one thing is clear: the Republican Party has become neo-fascist, racist, class-conscious, angry, and militant, and has adopted a punitive attitude toward all with whom they disagree or toward whom they harbor deeply seated bias. It does not bode well as it serves to empower other elements in the country holding similar views. One can only hope that changing demographics along with an increasingly secular, humanistic orientation of the highly educated in our county will ultimately overtake and drown out the voices of anger and intolerance. It’d sure be nice.

So Shall Ye Reap

As of today (3/5/2016), it looks as if Donald Trump (whose ancestral surname was Drumpf) is steamrolling his way to the Republican nomination for President of our now dis-United States. To quote William Bendix in The Life of Riley, “What a revoltin’ development this is!” But, then, people generally get what they deserve, and the Republican poohbahs, now all with their panties in a bunch over what, to their horror, is perhaps the impending implosion of their beloved party, catalyzed by a boorish lout with bad hair, are simply reaping what they’ve sown.

Yes, friends, I repeat: what they’ve sown. For years Republicans have worked tirelessly to undermine governmental process and inculcate anger and intolerance in segments of the population too stupid and sheep-like to know better. Pushing the notion for years that government not only is not working but is actually bad, the geniuses of the Republican hierarchy have failed to recognize that people might begin to see them as part of what’s not working. Which leads us to an understanding of why Donald Trump can (and does) say anything and people won’t (and don’t) care because he’s not an “insider”. That he’s an arrogant, misogynistic, politically ignorant, bigoted lout matters not one bit. He’s not one of them, and that’s all Republican sheep with IQs less than their ages care about.

So what’s a Republican insider to do? Probably not much that will derail the Trump juggernaut, it being too late to reverse years of sowing the seeds of discontent in people too dumb to realize that by voting for Republicans all this time they’ve been voting against themselves. Remember the guy who bitched, “Keep the government out of my Medicare!” Yeah, well, reason with that, Reince.

Is there any hope? Well, there’s despicable Ted Cruz and the pathetic hack, Marco Rubio. John Kasich at least behaves like a grown-up but, like the other two, is mired in a sort of socially repressive and punitive frontier Puritanism , apparently oblivious to, or rejecting, the validity and urgency of domestic needs that are being met in all the developed western nations except ours. So, no, there is no hope in sight for Republicans. No matter who wins the nomination, the party will continue its headlong rush into irrelevance in a changing American society. In truth, it’s hard to know which of these clowns would make a worse President for our times. Each in his own unique way reflects the mean spirited foundation of currently dominant Republican philosophy, a mindset that takes as gospel the need for enforcement of a rigid class structure with the dominant, white rich on top and everyone else oppressed below: women, nonwhites, non-Christians, and even poor whites too stupid to know they’re being scammed. Yes, scammed. Modern Republican philosophy continues to promote long discredited trickle-down theory like the hucksters of a national pyramid scheme. Give us your support, let big business bleed you dry, and we’ll make you rich. Rich, I say! Right.

So, again, I would ask whether there is hope. Well, perhaps in the other court. Let’s face it, though. Even Hillary, as smart and relatively liberal as she is, is part of the establishment. But she, at least, is not likely to deepen the hole the Republicans keep digging for the country. And Bernie? Minimal chance either for the nomination or, if lightning were to strike, the Presidency. And Grampa Bernie probably wouldn’t get very far with Congress even if he were elected. So, Hillary really is our best hope, and if we don’t see a big turnout for her in November, if we end up with one of the current crop of GOP Neanderthals in the white house, well, despite being an atheist I’ll be hoping for divine intervention.

A Few Words about a Supreme

The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on 13 February came unexpectedly. Far be it for me to speak ill of the departed but, having said that, I fully expect there to be many critical opinions voiced regarding his philosophy and tenure, and I suppose that mine will be counted among them.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think Justice Scalia was a “bad man”. I just think that despite his purported brilliance, he was a Constitutional Neanderthal. After all, this is a guy who reveled in his view of the Constitution as a “dead” rather than a “living” document, a severely myopic view that supported the assumed perfection of the 18th Century society and minds that created our core document. Scalia refused to face the simple reality that time brings change and, with it, the need to adapt to evolving mores, priorities, and advances in knowledge. The Founding Fathers may have been brilliant and perceptive within the context of their era and, in some respects, beyond it, but we are now well over two hundred years farther along, and American society, not to mention the world in general, has grown more complex, sophisticated, and dangerous. Justice Scalia wished to preserve the nascent state of America despite overwhelming evidence that we simply are not the country that we were at our founding..

Scalia’s domineering personality, sarcastic wit on the bench, and reactionary philosophy combined over the three decades of his service on the Supreme Court to wreak havoc on established and evolving law. Bush v. Gore, Citizens United, a blow against voting rights for minorities…in his votes in these and other cases he as well as his conservative brethren vomited their contempt in large, discrete chunks for any semblance of social equality and fairness. Out of step with his time, he helped to fuel the fires of intolerance and made a travesty of those values and privileges that most Americans, and certainly most minorities, accept as the core of what makes America America.

I believe that the long historical view of Scalia will be that he had a markedly negative but fortunately transient, dramatic impact on the legal and social environment of the country, and that ultimately his efforts failed. He will be seen as a man out of his time attempting to use his position to reinstate an imagined era he felt was better than the one in which he lived. It will be broadly recognized that, paradoxically, his strict constructionist views actually favored far less freedom rather than more. As it is with other conservatives, Scalia was a man who believed that freedom was paramount as long as it didn’t conflict with his own biases. In an era in which the conservatives who supported him rail against activist judges, Scalia was one of the worst.

And so, I will not miss Justice Scalia, but I understand why Republicans, even before rigor mortis set in, trumpeted their desire to stonewall any – any — replacement nomination that will be made by President Obama. All of which leads me to believe that we truly need a Democrat as our next President, because another angry, reactionary, sarcastic, ultra-conservative driven by a right wing political agenda (don’t forget Bush v. Gore) is the last person this country needs on the Supreme Court. It’s critical to recognize that the country is speeding headlong towards a minority majority population, and radically conservative political views are ultimately doomed, no matter what happens in the short term. The fear, however, is that a lot of bad stuff can happen in the short term. History tells us that, at some point, events simply cross a line, and people rise up, unwilling to take it anymore. If Republicans don’t allow that uprising to take place at the ballot box, they may forever regret their unswerving support for the Second Amendment. Their behavior in the wake of Justice Scalia’s death suggests, however, that they don’t yet understand what they are risking. I’d like to think they’ll come to their senses, but based upon the recent behavior and pronouncements of those seeking the Republican presidential nomination, my hopes aren’t high.

Preaching to the Converted

Regular readers of this blog are pretty well onto my politics and so are probably expecting me to get into regular rants against what has become of the Republican mindset and, specifically, the ignorant and bigoted blather coming from the nomination seekers as they each try to outdo one another in their rush to the lunatic right. Well, I hate to disappoint, but I’m not going to do it, at least right now. Why? Because those who’ve read the 89 prior blog entries on seductivepeach.com are pretty much the converted. People who might perhaps gain some perspective from the liberal (educated?) view of things aren’t my readers, and my simply blowing off steam to those who already agree with me seems a waste of my time at the keyboard. Oh, I’m sure that despite this I’ll have more to say as we go through the primary season, but I’m going to try not to be the creator of a weekly harangue, even if venting my frustrations is somewhat therapeutic for me. So ‘nuff said for now.

It’s the holiday season once again, and Decembers seem to come and go at a furious pace as I get older. As always at this time of year, it’s time for the wife and me to catch up on all the recent movies we’ve missed, to visit with some friends, to eat (and eat and eat), and to wonder over why, in the words of the famous philosopher, Rodney King, we can’t all get along.

As I’ve often said in my postings, I’m not religious. I was raised in a secular environment (although my mother was a wishful agnostic who did send me to Sunday school for awhile – it didn’t “take”) and classify myself as a secular humanist. Perhaps because of this, religious intolerance and racism simply failed to resonate at any level with me. And so, instead of talking about the horror that just transpired in San Bernardino – incomprehensible in and of itself – I’d like to take the rest of this week’s entry to address what’s happened since the mass terror attack.

And what has happened? On one hand, there has been much caution urged by saner voices, pleas not to generalize feelings about the two terrorists responsible for the massacre to the Muslim community as a whole, the majority of whose members are as appalled as the rest of us and who, in addition, are coping with feelings of guilt and shame over what they see as a perversion of their beliefs. On the other hand, however, are a motley crew of gun supporters, Republican politicians who offered nothing but an exhortation for us all to pray (and in some cases, most notably that of Donald Trump, have suggested barring any further immigration by Muslims), and radical right religious bigots who, predictably, are venomous in their expressions of hatred toward all Muslims.

Those who express their hostility toward Islam – primarily right wing Christians – seem conveniently to forget that Christians’ behavior over time has often been as lacking in virtue as what we are seeing now. Just to name one example, the Inquisition wasn’t exactly a shining moment in the history of Catholicism. And are white supremacist Christians any more admirable than Islamic fundamentalist terrorists? Those filled with anti-Islamic hate tend to forget that most mass shootings and assassinations in the U.S. have been committed by white male Christians. I’m no Bible scholar, but it does seem that some have forgotten the injunction about not casting the first stone.

I’m not religious, and some would say that I therefore am not qualified to give those who are among the faithful any advice. Still, I would ask those of all faiths (and of none), to look deeply and honestly within themselves, to look at history, and to consider that those who committed the recent San Bernardino shootings constitute a lunatic fringe and not the larger body of Muslims in the U.S. who actually deserve tolerance and support in what has become a very painful time for them.

So, I’ll end by wishing happy holidays to all, and my hope for progress toward peace in the new year.

Paris: Where to from Here?

The civilized world has been seized with revulsion over the recent slaughter in Paris, and there has been no shortage of pundits pontificating upon the motivations of the human monsters who planned and executed the attack. At the risk of offering just another opinion among the many, I am going to be arrogant enough to offer my own take on the situation.

First, I am struck by the political correctness that I have seen, the bending over backwards not to blame Islam as a whole for the events, and by the Democratic nomination seekers in particular not to call the perpetrators radical Islamists. Instead, they’ve simply referred to them as “jihadists”.

The specific, trigger motivations of the attackers probably span a spectrum, but the core of it all clearly and indisputably is religion. Let me be clear, however, that I do not single out Islam as the only cause of such behavior. Far from it, in fact. Consider the holy warfare of the Crusades, the self-righteous persecution of Jews by Christians during the Inquisition, and the Christian bigotry of the Ku Klux Klan, not to mention the increasingly bigoted and incipiently dangerous pronouncements of some on the religious right, who would create an American theocracy. This time, however, it is radical Islamism, and to soft pedal it in the interest of political correctness is to avoid confronting the larger issue of behavior committed in the name of religion, in general.

Lest anyone get the wrong idea, let me state clearly that I am not indiscriminately anti-Muslim. What I am, however, is adamantly against radical religious behavior regardless of its sect of origin. Thus, in the present case, radical Islam has become the justification for ISIS and Al Qaeda and their regional offshoots to commit aggression and atrocities on levels that demand both condemnation and active countermeasures. To see rape as a holy rite, to commit widespread and indiscriminate murder, and to glorify ignorance and bigotry is an obscene throwback to the dark ages warranting no sanctuary the modern world.

There are those in our country who now would have the U.S. engage much more actively in another hot war in the Middle East. If the lesson of Vietnam taught us nothing about involvement where we do not belong, however, then the Iraq war certainly should have. It most definitely has led us to the mess we’re seeing now, namely, a war unwinnable by us against committed forces fighting on their own ground. The answer, then, must come from nations in the region, with technical and material support from us. After all, we did lay the groundwork for the current chaos, and so have a degree of responsibility now for helping to end it. But we must not impose the clear provocation of placing American combat troops in the region, which will only make things worse.

What happened in Paris was barbaric and only the latest warning to humanity about the evils which can be justified by repressive, dogmatic, fundamentalist religion and the poverty, ignorance and bigotry it fosters. Our response, however, needs to be thought through carefully. Both political correctness and wholesale reactive and aggressive actions have no place in determining where we go from here, so let’s all take a deep breath and think this through, carefully and responsibly.

Debate Follies

Did you watch the recent Republican presidential debate? Yes? No? Well, I did, and I sure came away with some definite impressions.

First, let me get the matter of the questioners’ conduct out of the way. Let’s just say that they won’t be getting any awards for brilliance: “What is your biggest weakness?” This is a question worth asking? What was the expectation? That each of the participants would admit to being an idiot? The answers, such as they were, were no more intelligent than the question. While things didn’t get much worse than that, they certainly didn’t get a lot better.

Still, the real issue is what we heard from the nomination seekers. Let’s start with Jeb Bush.

Bush, in the face of falling poll numbers and correspondingly falling contributions, decided it would be a good idea to attack fellow Floridian Marco Rubio. It was a mistake from which he never recovered, as Rubio’s response demolished him. Already lackluster, Bush did nothing during the debate to make himself attractive as the party’s nominee.

Carly Fiorina didn’t so much as flame out as, well, not flame in. Her problem is that she was an awful CEO at Hewlett-Packard, presiding over the disastrous acquisition by HP of Compaq and watching HP stock tank as a result. No matter what she says, she obviously couldn’t manage HP effectively, and as a result can’t convince people that she can manage the country.

Ben Carson? Wake me when he wakes up. I swear, listening to him is better than Ambien. If, however, you do listen to him, what you’ll learn is that a) he’s a religious nut and b) he knows nothing about taxation, budgeting, or how he’d work with Congress.

Donald Trump wasn’t even very entertaining. Maybe he was depressed over the fact that Carson leads him in several polls. Or maybe he was just tired. Or maybe he’s so far out of his league in terms of knowledge of how to govern that he simply couldn’t say anything substantive.

John Kasich was more animated than in his prior debate exposure, but every sentence out of his mouth seemed to start with, “In my state of Ohio,” a repetitive mantra that ultimately was boring. John, we know you take credit for everything good about Ohio, but how the hell will you do it all for the country?

Ted Cruz, who all the political pundits say is a great debater, seems to be great only at not answering the questions he’s asked. One may give him credit for his diatribe against the media, but it’s old hat. All Republicans complain about the media, the War on Christmas, welfare cheats, Planned Parenthood… So, Ted, tell us something we haven’t heard from the Tea Party. Do you really want this whiny guy to occupy the White House? And given his background, analogous to that of President Obama, why aren’t other Republicans asking for his birth certificate?

It’s hard to know where to begin with Mike Huckabee. Personable, articulate, and somewhere out there beyond left field. Just listen to what he says. You want to live in a Christian theocracy? He’s your guy. Well, unless you want to be even more fundamental with Carson.

Chris Christie comes across like a charging, belligerent bull. He’s the steamroller in the competition, attempting to roll over the issues with aggrieved bombast. Yes, just what we need in the federal government today: more bombast.

Rand Paul often says things that seem to make a lot of sense. Then he veers into the ditch saying stuff that makes no sense at all. He didn’t say much of anything to stand out from the crowd during the debate.

Marco Rubio, came across as the most capable and presidential of the participants. Not, you understand, that I would support him. No, I’m still a card-carrying, ACLU and Planned Parenthood supporting, unreconstructed liberal, and proud of it. But Rubio, in fact, behaved well, was articulate, and didn’t come across as a nut case.

Mostly, the nomination seekers all laid out grandiose plans that ignore the fact that the Presidency isn’t a monarchy. If you believe that any of them can singlehandedly make the changes they’re proposing without a peep from Congress – even a Republican Congress – I’d like a few of whatever pills you’re swallowing. My advice: don’t dive into the rabbit hole with any of these guys.

Some Thoughts on Returning from Cuba

It’s been several weeks since I’ve blogged. Most of that time my wife and I were on a People-to-People cultural exchange visit in Cuba, a place not many Americans have been privileged to visit over the past fifty-plus years. Perhaps like most Americans, my view of Cuba was pretty black and white: a communist country under the iron thumb of Fidel Castro until more recently, when his somewhat more enlightened brother, Raul, took over the reins. And, like most Americans, I was wrong.

Fidel Castro came to power in 1959 as the result of the Cuban Revolution tthat ousted Fulgencio Batista, a corrupt dictator supported by the U.S. At that time, Castro was a young man, politically inexperienced and highly averse to dealing with a country that had thrown its support to Batista. Enter the Soviet Union. If Castro wasn’t a committed communist, the deep need for economic support offered by the Soviet Union clearly made an association a marriage of convenience as well as a contrast to the prior U.S. supported corruption, aided and abetted by the extensive Mafia presence in the country.

Moving ahead (and well past the Cuban missile crisis) to the collapse of the Soviet Union, Castro’s Cuba suddenly faced economic disaster. With no support from the defunct Soviets, the country entered disastrous economic times. The U.S. failed to make a case for assistance acceptable to Castro, and so the economic hard times have largely persisted to present day. Well, except for some two billion dollars that annually enters the otherwise failed economy from Cuban Americans who in addition bring in a variety of consumer goods, from other countries (including England, Spain, and Israel) who provide tourists, and from a gray and black market that just about every Cuban knows how to access to advantage.

Fidel has done some good things over the years. The population is well educated and has guaranteed health care for all (U.S., take note). Of course, by educating the public, and through information that is only now beginning to penetrate into the population via the internet, the country is beginning to emerge from its dark years of relative isolation. Fidel’s advancing age and poor health have resulted in ascension to power of his more liberal-minded brother, Raul, and Cuban society is now beginning to open up. People feel free to express their opinions, to associate with an increasing number of American visitors, and to sit at hotspots in public parks with their cell phones, surfing the net.

We wanted to visit Cuba before Starbucks contaminated the country with an outlet on every corner, and our visit enabled us to do just that. We found the people to be open and friendly, the scenery to be wonderful, and our visits to all sites free of the watchful authorities we thought we might see. Cuba is not black and white; it’s a many shaded place that’s negotiating its place into the global economy. We look forward to seeing those changes, even knowing that some of what makes Cuba unique is likely to vanish. Progress, and the people, are demanding it, and it’s time for the U.S. to recognize the need to engage with this hemispheric neighbor only 90 miles from Key West.

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!”

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.