Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Republican candidates in a race to the bottom of the intellectual barrel

There are days, actually a lot of days, when I feel as though I’m living in a nightmare of collective insanity. Everywhere I turn in this dark theatre, there is someone on stage saying things that are incomprehensibly stupid, but the audience applauds as if he or she is the president of MENSA. In my nightmare, ignorance is rewarded and knowledge debased.

I feel that way after reading a quote from Republican presidential contender Ben Carson. In a CNN interview, he said that homosexuality was absolutely a choice. How does he know this?

"A lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight — and when they come out, they're gay. So, did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question," he said.

This may sound like something one of the Duck Dynasty hillbillies might say, but Ben Carson isn’t some backwoods hick with a microphone, he’s a freaking neurosurgeon!  A brain surgeon! Here is a highly educated man, a serious contender for the most important job in America espousing views that make Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne sound like Harvard professors.

Of course, he’s only doing what he has to do to win the approval of the intellectually stunted, rage-filled Tea Baggers who have taken control of his party. That fact alone tells you a tremendous amount about the quality of political discourse in America in the twenty-first century. One of our two major political parties has forsaken reality for a fantasyland built on a foundation of wishful thinking, anger, superstition and bigotry. It’s their dream world, but to everyone else it’s a living nightmare.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Cleveland blames 12-year old boy for his own death at the hands of cops

It sounds like a sick Onion article, but the City of Cleveland is claiming that the death of 12-year old Tamir Rice at the hands of police officers was his own fault. Tamir was playing with a replica gun at a park when police pulled up and, within seconds, shot the boy to death. Here is the argument made by the city:

“Plaintiffs’ decedent’s injuries, losses, and damages complained of, were directly and proximately caused by the failure of Plaintiffs’ decedent to exercise due care to avoid injury.”

In other words, Tamir died because he didn’t have superhuman powers to get out of the way of bullets fired in his direction. On top of that, the city says that the suffering of Rice’s family is also his fault in a cynical attempt to derail a lawsuit filed by the family.

Before they knew the incident was videotaped, the officers clamed there was a group of boys in the park and Tamir was waving the gun around threatening to shoot someone. The video, however, reveals the boy was alone and he was shot almost immediately after the squad car came to a stop.

Racist, violent, out-of-control cops are a serious problem, but equally problematic is a justice system that allows them to get away with murder. We see this happening time after time and then we still ask ourselves why minorities in America are so distrustful of the police.

The City of Cleveland’s attempt to convince us that Tamir was responsible for his own murder would be hilarious if it wasn’t such a tragic issue. Place a white boy in Tamir’s shoes, and we all know the sequence of events would have been much different. American cities need to spend less time and money on military paraphernalia and more on quality training for cops on the streets. And the justice system has to start treating the police like anyone else who breaks the law.

Addendum:

Cleveland mayor Frank Jackson issued an apology this morning for the "very insensitive response" to the family's lawsuit and the city is drafting a revised document. There was no apology for the shooting death of Tamir Rice.

Monday, March 02, 2015

More Republicans Saying Stupid Things

The fight against ignorance is daunting, and in America, an uphill battle. Although Washington is without a doubt the epicenter of know-knothingism, Republicans in statehouses around the country (predominantly red states) routinely display a shocking lack of basic knowledge about science, history and the Constitution. Here are a few choice examples from last week.

The right to let your kids die

Idaho Republican state representative Christy Perry says that the state has no right to protect children from their parents who refuse them needed medical treatment in favor of faith healing. Apparently it’s okay with her if Idaho children die in the name of God. Perry says that a proposed ban on faith healing would violate the religious rights of her constituents.

So the stomach and the uterus aren’t connected?

Republican state representative Vito Barbieri argued with a doctor on a bill that would ban doctors from prescribing abortion-inducing medication through telemedicine. Dr. Julie Madsen, a doctor testifying against the bill, was explaining that colonoscopy patients sometimes swallow small cameras to let doctors examine colons.

“Can this same procedure then be done in a pregnancy? Swallowing a camera and helping the doctor determine what the situation is?”

No, replied the incredulous doctor.

It’s a miracle. Texas Rep has the cure for cancer

Texas state representative Michele Fiore (R) is keen on allowing people to take drugs that are not FDA approved. As an example, she said this:

“If you have cancer, which I believe is a fungus, and we can put a pic line into your body and we’re flushing with, say, salt water, sodium cardonate [sic-it's "biocarbonate"] through that line and flushing out the fungus. These are some procedures that are not FDA-approved in America that are very inexpensive, cost-effective.”

Republicans hate science and the Constitution

A new Public Policy Polling poll just released finds that:
  • 49 percent of Republicans say they do not believe in evolution. Only 37 percent say they do.
  • 66 percent of Republicans say they do not believe in global warming. Mind you, even the most science-denying Republicans in Congress have said they "believe" in global warming, they just don't think we should do anything about it. Their base has not yet reached this enlightened state.
  • 57 percent of Republicans would support establishing Christianity as our "national religion."
Don’t mess with Texas toilets

Texas State Rep. Debbie Riddle (R) has introduced two new bills that seek to criminalize the use of bathrooms by transgender people. Not only could trans people face jail time and fines for using gender-segregated facilities that match their gender, so too could businesses who make their facilities open to trans patrons.

Your facts are not stronger than my stupidity

Despite being proven bogus and dangerous many times over, the Oklahoma House Children, Youth, and Family Services committee passed a bill allowing parents to utilize gay conversion therapy along a 5-3 vote, ensuring that it will advance to the full House.

Friday, February 27, 2015

2 New Short Scary Stories

I've posted two new short scary stories at "They're Only Shadows." Check 'em out.

O'Reilly Was There!

Dawn of Man.

“All of a sudden this guy just jumps out of a tree and starts running across the Veldt on two legs. I scribbled my thoughts on a stone, but someone picked up the damn thing and threw it at the running guy.”

Crucifixion of Christ.

“It was a moment all journalists face at some point in their careers. Do I record the event or do I intervene? I decided it was more important that the rest of the world hear this amazing story than get stabbed by a spear. Those Roman soldiers didn’t play around.”

The American Revolution.

“I was embedded with colonial troops under the command of William Prescott at Bunker Hill. We put up a valiant effort against the pesky Brits, but eventually had to retreat. That’s what I was told, as I had retreated to the Cock and Hound pub earlier to gather my faculties.”

The Civil War.

“Bullets whizzed by me as I crouched behind a tree stump at Gettysburg. Fortunately, General Grant was hiding with me and I got one of the best interviews of my life. He was drunk, of course, but so damn genuine.”

World War I.

“I was in the trenches on the Western Front. The Germans were lobbing grenades and insults from a nearby position when I suddenly found myself at the wrong end of a bayonet. Fortunately, it was one of our guys accusing me of being a coward. When I explained I was a journalist covering the war, he laughed so hard and so loud he was picked off by a German sniper.”

World War II.

“Although I covered the war from a fortified bunker in Manhattan, I can tell you that I saw pictures of dead and wounded soldiers that would rip your heart out.  I wrote a dispatch about one of my tears falling on a grainy photo taken at the Battle of the Bulge.”


Watts, Selma, Vietnam, Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan…yeah, that’s right. O’Reilly was there!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Right’s war on education is actually a war on democracy

Just a short note urging you to read an article in today’s Salon; “Why the Right Hates American History,” written by Thom Hartmann. It’s a lengthy, but accessible article that looks at why education is so important to the health of American democracy, and why Republicans fear an informed citizenry and are waging a war on education. One of the more interesting points that Hartmann makes, and one that every American should understand, is this:

The Declaration, the writings of many of the Founders and Framers, and no shortage of other documents made amply clear the Founders’ and the Framers’ sentiments that human rights were solely the province of humans, and that governments don’t grant rights but, rather, that in a constitutionally limited democratic republic We, The People—the holders of the rights—grant to our governments whatever privileges our government may need to function (while keeping the rights for ourselves).

This is the fundamental difference between kingdoms, theocracies, feudal states, and a democratic republic. In the former three, people must beg for their rights at the pleasure of the rulers. In the latter, the republic derives its legitimacy from the people, the sole holders of rights.

That’s the theory at any rate. Read the article, it’s illuminating.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

It can happen here: CIA-style Black Site revealed in Chicago

There’s a shocking story that came out yesterday about the Chicago Police Department using an unmarked warehouse called Homan Square on the West Side to hold certain suspects without arrest, without charges being filed and with no access to an attorney. It is essentially a CIA-like “black site” where cops could hold and interrogate someone without putting that person into the criminal justice system.

You’ll find an excellent article in the Guardian about Homan Square here, that provides a much more in-depth look at this unconstitutional travesty.

My first thought is, if Chicago has a place like Homan Square, isn’t it reasonable to assume that other large city police forces have similar facilities? Can Chicago be the only one? I doubt it.

As people interviewed in the article say, it sounds as if Homan Square was modeled after CIA black site interrogation facilities in the Middle East, although the practice of taking suspects “off site” for interrogations has been going on as far back as the 1970s. Why haven’t we heard about this before? One, the practice is generally reserved for poor people of color who are essentially voiceless in America. Two, those people detained at Homan Square understood that if they did talk about it, they could be taken back and disappeared.

Finally, this is one more glaring example of the militarization of America’s police forces. From combat gear to armored vehicles to black sites for off-the-record interrogations, the lines between keeping the peace and a police state grow blurrier by the day.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Bill O’Reilly: A profile in courage

Some are saying that Bill O’Reilly lied about his past, claiming he was in life-threatening war-time situations as a journalist when he wasn’t. I find this hard to swallow. How can a man who maintains such sterling moral standards, who is an example to everyone of sincere compassion and tolerance, who epitomizes the humble humanitarian, be a liar? This makes no sense.

The Bill O’Reilly I know is a man of unquestionable honor and decency, one of the good guys on cable TV. He’s known throughout the industry as an interviewer who treats his guests with the utmost respect, allowing for a free and open discussion of all viewpoints, even those with which he disagrees. And his fact checking is vigorous and goes far beyond industry standards. It’s a rare day at FOX when O’Reilly gets something wrong.

And when O’Reilly champions an issue, you know it is one of great importance to the country he loves with all his heart. Unlike others who will remain nameless, this humble host would never dredge up controversy where there was none before, or blow up minor issues into worldwide battles pitting good against evil. That’s just not who he is.

Now under attack from liberal extremists, O’Reilly is handling the controversy in his usual steady handed way, keeping calm and under control, while his enemies hurl their lies and insults. Stoic, standing tall and proud against the tide of accusations, Bill O’Reilly is without question a profile in courage.