Pour one for our surrogate homies

Last week Anderson Cooper made an interesting comment:

Jeffrey Lord (one of Trump’s Surrogates) was explaining why he doesn’t care that President Donald Trump called James Comey a “nut job,” and AC retorted back saying, “If he took a dump on his desk, you would defend it.”

It got me thinking about what it must be like to be a surrogate to a petulant child that changes his mind so much that it must be white noise inside that head. I really feel for them. It is like a 24/7 thankless “polish the turd” job that they have voluntarily accepted. Think about how the sequence typically plays out with the most recent news cycle example:

  • Trump fires Jim Comey, Director of the FBI and his surrogates are out defending the decision
  • Each one of them goes into the various news outlets stating that there is ZERO connection between Trump’s decision to fire Comey and the Russian Investigations. Some of them even get smug about it when they are pressed for information. To the point, they look at the anchors and go, “I really cannot believe that you are not believing this”
  • And then the next day…………..their boss comes on the air and completely contradicts everything. I mean literally everything (and says that he moves too fast for his staff).

Too fast? Too fast? having the attention span of a gnat; an ego that doesn’t fit the White House and a brain that is constantly changing is not the attributes of “moving too fast”. Our President is like the dog in the movie “Up”….Squirrel and he is gone. It is like trying to grab a wet bar of soap.

I really wonder how these surrogates feel. Do they go back home and sit in the shower in a fetal position and weep? Do they go home and take off their “optimism” mask and just let loose (a la Kate McKinnon in the SNL skit – LINK ).  At some basic level, I am assuming these are smart people who have “opted in” to get on board on the Crazy Train for some gains.

How does one become and get trained to be a surrogate? Is there is surrogate boot camp? Funny or Die speculated this in their hilarious bit here: http://FunnyOrDie.com/m/anen.

I realize most surrogates take these roles both on the Democratic and Republican sides so that they can get plum assignments after their candidate has won. Wonder if Chris Christie is thinking that he is always the bridesmaid and never the bride?  But this crop of Trump surrogates have their work cut out for them. Which makes me wonder whether it is really worth it? Day after day like mummified zombies to keep hitting the talking points even when (in real time) you boss is completely contradicting you. Who knows…maybe it is worth it.

Which brings me to the mother of all Surrogates for Trump…..Fox News and the Right Wing Media. They have had a “little bit” of difficulty in spinning all the crap that has hit the fan over the past few weeks. As AC noted it is “deny; deflect; downplay” on all things related to the Trump scandals. As Trevor Noah puts it – “They (FoxNews) are basically his Snapchat filter. Whatever the reality is they always make him look better than he is.”

So much for fair and balanced. Everything bad that has happened to the President is either:

  • Fake News
  • Liberal Media bias
  • Liberal Media witch hunt
  • Obama was worse than Trump
  • Trump won the elections – Dems are sore losers

Check this article – “Limbaugh on Comey Firing – “What An Epic Troll” Trump pulled on the Democrats”.  Wonder how it feels living inside a bubble 24/7:

Trump’s surrogates are thrown under the bus by him so frequently that they can start writing a new book called, “Memoirs from Under the Bus”. So on a somber note – Pour one for our surrogate homies!

Advertisements

GOPocracy

Wow! The past week has been one of the craziest weeks in recent history. The 24 hr news cycle; comedy shows and late night shows cannot keep up with the series of events that have transpired. What is happening is surreal. It is unprecedented, unbelievable and plain uncouth.

Fareed Zakaria said it best on his show – GPS: ” It seems all checks and balances have been removed by this President, we have two remaining  – The Judiciary and The Free Press”. 

I agree with him to a point i.e. till the midterms. We, the people still matter. We have a President who is pretty much stating what he has done,  out in the open, no tact, no backroom dealings….  he is throwing it open and literally daring everyone to say or do anything:

  • He admitted to the fact that he wanted Comey gone since he felt that Comey was not right in pursuing the investigation on his campaign ties to Russia
  • He asked Comey to swear a loyalty to him and warned him that he “may have” wiretapped conversations with him and Comey in the Oval Office
  • And he invites the Russian ambassador to the White House, bans our press from covering it and we get the photo ops from the Russian state media

You can’t make this shit up folks. As at least two shows referenced it this past week (GPS and Real Time) – we have fast becoming a banana republic –  Nicaragua or Americagua.

We are a country of checks and balances. We have three forms of Government and two parties for precisely this reason. However, what do you do when one party which has the majority is sitting and watching and is COMPLICIT to what is going on. I am reminded of a Seinfeld episode where George Costanza in the need to quickly come up with a return zinger goes, “The Jerkstore called and they are out of you”.

To my fellow GOPers we need to modify this to,” The Spine store called and they are out of you”. You people are the worst hypocrites ever. Period end of story. Can you imagine of Hilary Clinton did even one of the 10,000 things that Trump has done since January? The nutjobs on the far right would be moving their chants from ‘Lock her up’ to ” Impeach her” to just plain “Get rid of her”.  The current GOP has the moral fortitude of pond scum. You folks sit there like little juveniles waiting for your little special interest handouts

  • Maybe if I look the other way I will get my tax package
  • Maybe if I look bury my head in the sand I will get my Supreme Court nominee
  • Maybe if I cover my head with a sandwich bag I will get my infrastructure package

Meanwhile, the foundations of our democracy is being shaken so hard that it feels that we are sitting on an old washer during spin cycle. What happened to you GOP? You were supposed to be the party of Reagan; the party of principles and conservative family values; the party that stood for the “Real America”…what happened? Do you even see your reflection in the mirror these days? do you have a friggin soul left or have you all collectively sold it to the Orange Crush?

Where are the GOP leaders that went up against Trump in the primaries? When they interviewed Ryan and Rubio after Comey’s firing they both said it was justified by the President. Again, I would love to hear them say this if the shoe was on the other foot and it was Hilary firing Comey for investigating her on her email scandal. This is what hypocrisy looks like today. A bunch of toadies, psychophants and yes men who have consciously and unconsciously given cover to what is the worst attack on our democratic values.

You guys are Giant Old Pussies. Your party symbol should be a picture of a human spine with a line across it. Or this:

\

You have the majority in both houses and yet he is playing you like a fiddle. You have had disagreements and dissension with the Democrats and even taken turns to screw each other. But come on, everyone knew there were lines that would not be crossed – cause country came first. It was country, then party and then the platform. But now you have let the mental patient take over and you are doing zilch to control anything. You are choosing impotence!

In his book – RatF**ed: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy, David Daley, The Editor-in-Chief of Salon reveals activities by Republicans—including Karl Rove, Ed Gillespie and Chris Jankowki—who organized the REDMAP to provide unofficial state-race funding to reshape districts and legislatures in favor of Republican interests. This was done via partisan gerrymandering.

David Daley, in his Salon Article (LINK) goes to say that “the Republicans have almost guaranteed the house till 2021 but it came with a price – Donald Trump and an empowered” base. This is the state of our GOP today!

We need to remind ourselves that while there are tumultuous events like the President firing the head of the FBI and cozying up to the Russians in the Oval office there are other events such as the President’s son in law’s sister literally selling American citizenship in China (yes! I realize it is legal but Trump actually rejected the bill to close this program and ended up extending it till August 2017). We cannot get complacent as this has now become a 24/7 vigil of this administration. They are counting on the fact that if there are 20 scandals, people will get sensitized to them

So yes Fareed Zakaria is right that only two checks are left – Free Press and the Judicial system. Both of whom have been attacked constantly and consistently by our President.

But don’t forget us. We can still make this matter in 2018, we need to flip one or both houses. We need to continue to resist and do our part to keep all these shenanigans front and center so that the next election matters.

Else we will be all be wearing babushkas and eating borscht!

100 days & the Dunning Kruger Effect

I had learned about the Dunning-Kruger Effect back in school strictly from an academic perspective. Time to time I would meet people or notice some behaviors and invoke this cognitive bias to see if I can actually spot it (fully aware of my own intellectual limitations). So let’s break this down. The basic definition of this cognitive bias, based on the work done by David Dunning and Justin Kruger at Cornell is as follows (LINK):

This effect occurs where people fail to adequately assess their level of competence — or specifically, their incompetence — at a task and thus consider themselves much more competent than everyone else. This lack of awareness is attributed to their lower level of competence robbing them of the ability to critically analyze their performance, leading to a significant overestimation of themselves. 

In simple words, it’s “people who are too stupid to know how stupid they are”.

As Charles Darwin said, “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge”.

I started to reflect more about the DK Effect over the past couple of days, especially since our newly minted Leader passed the important 100 days milestone.

Now having watched him in the primaries and seen him govern over the past 100 days I am convinced we have the first Dunning Kruger President elected by a mass of voters who gravitate to this bias and hence also suffer from it. Let’s look at a few examples:

During the Primaries: 

Example-1:“So we have to get very, very tough on cyber and cyber warfare. It is — it is a huge problem. I have a son. He’s 10 years old. He has computers. He is so good with these computers, it’s unbelievable. The security aspect of cyber is very, very tough. And maybe it’s hardly doable.”

Example-2:

“That makes me smart”…wow! It is as if he is supremely confident that he is smarter than everyone else.

Quotes from the first 100 days (Reuters, Washington Examiner & AP Sources)

” The administration is running like a fine-tuned machine. Despite the fact that I can’t get my cabinet approved. And they’re outstanding people.

“I guess it was the biggest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan.”

“I would say communication would be a little bit less than an A because I don’t think we’ve gotten the word out what we’ve done because I think we’re so busy getting it done that we’re not talking about it.”

“I think we’ve done more than perhaps any president in the first 100 days.”

“I’d give us an A.”

“I thought it would be easier.”

So what do you think? Classic case of Dunning-Kruger Effect right?. And by the way, this is not just the President but it extends to the people who STILL thinks he is doing a great job. He has an overwhelming majority of support amongst Republicans. He has given his audience every reason that he is supremely clueless – not knowing what is the nuclear triad; utterly confused about foreign policy; not understanding how the bond market works; consistently saying things that are misogynistic utterly clueless…..but for his supporters, the most important thing is – HE APPEARS CONFIDENT!.

The feedback in his rallies is always the same – he knows what he is doing and he is confident and he speaks for us. Even though facts directly contradict this AND he is directly saying things that are in direct contradiction with reality. How do you take him seriously when he proclaims to know more about our generals on ISIS?

So yes  – it is possible to be too clueless to realize that you ARE actually in fact clueless.

David Dunning penned an article in Politico (LINK): But why now? If voters can be so misinformed that they don’t know that they are misinformed, why only now has a candidate like Trump arisen? My take is that the conditions for the Trump phenomenon have been in place for a long time. At least as long as quantitative survey data have been collected, citizens have shown themselves to be relatively ill-informed and incoherent on political and historical matters. As way back as 1943, a survey revealed that only 25 percent of college freshmen knew that Abraham Lincoln was president during the Civil War.

All it took was a candidate to come along too inexperienced to avoid making policy gaffes, at least gaffes that violate received wisdom, with voters too uninformed to see the violations. Usually, those candidates make their mistakes off in some youthful election to their state legislature, or in small-town mayoral race or contest for class president. It’s not a surprise that someone trying out a brand new career at the presidential level would make gaffes that voters, in a rebellious mood, would forgive but more likely not even see.

We are now living in a DK Effect presidency spawned by hyper-partisanship, low information, and alternate facts. Buckle up folks…..going to be a fun ride and ….

and……………………………………………………………….thanks for nothing Fox News!

 

#MASA? – Make America Smart Again?

Or I should really say #MADA – Make America Dumbassless Again. Cause I really want to know who these people are? The silent dumbority……….

Exhibit-1: Bill O’ Rielly’s new book “Old School” has become an instant bestseller selling almost 70,000 copies in the first week alone. The book is supposed to be a defense of traditional values with advice on how to respectfully treat women and not as sex objects.

Seriously? Who are these people buying these book? 

Exhibit-2: I never listen to right wing radio, but a friend of my pointed me to this doozy. According to Limbaugh most of the country does not understand Donald Trump. Apparently, Trump does not adhere to typical conservative or liberal norms. So when he changes a position (or completely lies) it is because he never created a “baseline”. Here is the link to the Limbaugh Show transcript – LINK

Direct Quote from the show – So the idea that one day he can be anti-NATO and then after certain things happen become pro-NATO, it doesn’t wash with people. “That doesn’t make sense. He is not being true to his principles.” Yes, he is, you just don’t know what they are. He lives and operates in a political world, but he’s not political. This is what people still don’t get”

Huh? Who are these people listening to this?

Exhibit-3: The number of Flip Flops our illustrious President has made over the past 3 weeks. Take this article from Huffington Post – LINK

6 Issues in 2 days!!! Now it is perfectly fine for him to change his mind as new facts are presented. However, he is changing his stance on a lot of key campaign promises. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary expectations in behavior. So, now a lot of Trump voters are having buyers remorse on their choice.

Everything, in the world of Trump, is a negotiation — up to and including facts. This quote, from “Art of the Deal,” is deeply revealing about that Trump philosophy:

“I never get too attached to one deal or one approach. For starters, I keep a lot of balls in the air, because most deals fall out, no matter how promising they seem at first.” (LINK)

Really? Who are these people? He was literally telling you who he was and still…….

I always viewed this video (below) in the past…saying to myself  – “You know what! this is a small sampling of people” and there is no way it explains all the innovation, products and creativity that has come out of our country…but now maybe there is more to it:

Journalist Charles Pierce, author of Idiot America, wrote, “the rise of Idiot America today represents–for profit mainly, but also and more cynically, for political advantage in the pursuit of power–the breakdown of a consensus that the pursuit of knowledge is a good. It also represents the ascendancy of the notion that the people whom we should trust the least are the people who best know what they are talking about. In the new media age, everybody is a historian, or a preacher, or a scientist, or a sage. And if everyone is an expert then nobody is, and the worst thing you can be in a society where everybody is an expert is, well, an actual expert.” (Link)

Here is some Data Samples to ponder (from the same link above):

  • The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs commissioned a civic education poll among public school students. A surprising 77% didn’t know that George Washington was the first President; couldn’t name Thomas Jefferson as the author of the Declaration of Independence, and only 2.8% of the students actually passed the citizenship test. Along similar lines, the Goldwater Institute of Phoenix did the same survey and only 3.5% of students passed the civics test.
  • Fox News, the most-watched news program in the U.S., has on numerous occasions recommended that school science classes be “fair and balanced,” meaning by the teaching of biblically-inspired creationism alongside Darwin’s’ scientific theory of evolution.
  • In a Newsweek poll, of U.S. citizens, 29% couldn’t identify Joe Biden as the Vice President, and 44% couldn’t describe the Bill of Rights.
  • According to another poll, the average American voter believes that U.S. foreign aid consumes 24% of the Federal budget when it is only 1%.
  • 18% of Americans still believe that the sun revolves around the earth, according to a Gallup poll.

These are people that are voting and electing leaders that are making policy changes that impact the rest of us.

 I did not sign up for teaching “creationism” as an alternative in schools or the revival of the coal industry.

And yes I get it! democracy won, the people have spoken and this is what they want. But seriously? if these are the people voting on squishy facts, low information and are easily manipulated, are we not having a DUMBOCRACY?

OR

Maybe George Carlin was astute in saying – ” Selfish ignorant voters give rise to selfish ignorant leaders – garbage in, garbage out” this is the best we can do”

 

Eve Teasing

During the campaign cycle, there was example after example of our President’s peccadillos and perverted actions. As I had stated in a previous blog post, most of his voter base chose to ignore or “normalize” this behavior for other attributes or issues they felt were more pertinent. For example, women chose to ignore his misogyny stating that he speaks his mind; will drain the D.C. swamp and has done a great job at raising a family. Cognitive dissonance aside, now we are seeing an all-out attack on women’s issues and these people who voted for this President are COMPLICIT!

Take these quotes for example (link):

  • “You know, it doesn’t really matter what [the media] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.”
  • “I would never buy her any decent jewels or pictures. Why give her negotiable assets?”
  • “Beauty and elegance, whether in a woman, a building, or a work of art, is not just superficial or something pretty to see.”
  • 26,000 unreported sexual assaults in the military-only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together?
  • all women hate prenups because they are gold diggers.

These are all from our current ‘Leader of the Free World”.

Just so that we do not fall into the confirmation bias hole, it is important to note that Bill Clinton was no picnic either. A helluva lot of his behavior was extremely egregious and should not be condoned. But he did not bring this behavior into policy. Yes, he was a hound dog and not a shining example of what the moral compass a President should have ..but come on..the equivalency is not even close!

For example, take a look at the above photo….I keep staring really hard at the photo above for some semblance of logic. This is the photo of Trump signing the anti-abortion bill called the Mexico Rule. Which  It prohibits giving U.S. funding to international nongovernmental organizations that offer or advise on a wide range of family planning and reproductive health options if they include abortion ― even if U.S. dollars are not specifically used for abortion-related services (Link). An issue that is so profoundly impacting women ..but not one in sight!

Then there was this cringeworthy headline from HuffPo – “Donald Trump Kicks off sexual assault awareness month by defending Bill O’Rieilly

And there was the story that Mike Pence does not dine alone with any woman unless his wife was present.

Finally, there was this – An executive order from President Trump, signed on the eve of Equal Pay Day, has canceled an Obama policy that directed companies with federal contracts to afford equal treatment to women in the workplace (link)

Not to paint with a broad brushstroke…what is the issue with Republican representatives and this insane war on women’s issues?

Let’s take the Pro-Life issue. Republicans would love to abolish Roe vs Wade and dance on its grave. They may actually get their wish if they continue to stack up activist right wing Supreme Court judges. How would these righteous men of the Congress and Senate react if a committee of women decided that all men over 30 must have mandatory vasectomies or mandatory removals of prostates?

My thought is should this not be a woman’s issue? I view this as …we all should be Pro Life for the woman which means should this not be her choice? See here is where the logic falls apart for me – for every issue (taxes; health care; guns etc.) the drumbeat from the right is – “Government cannot litigate my choice, I will decide what is good for me”. How come this is not applicable to abortion? For some reason, government intervention is OK on this issue. And yes the irony is not lost on me when progressives who support choice say they want a “single payer” health insurance system.

Another hot button issue is Planned Parenthood that has riled up the right ever since the (now debunked video) came out stating that they were selling baby parts for research.

Here are five myths that have been proven false (Link):

  • Abortion comprises most of Planned Parenthood’s services
  • The Planned Parenthood videos show a fetus being harvested for its brain
  • Planned Parenthood is selling fetal tissue for profit
  • Defunding Planned Parenthood is a guaranteed way to save taxpayer money
  • Planned Parenthood doesn’t really help advance women’s health

All proven wrong with clear data and facts to support. However, did it stop the mother of all overreactions? Nope!…this resulted in the aforementioned executive order on the Mexico Rule.

What is with Republicans and women’s issues? every election there is some new crap that comes up that makes you wonder what motivates these people? Personally,  I think it comes down to when you were brought up. They idealize a time in the past where the man went to work and the woman stayed at home and had dinner and a drink ready at the end of the day. It was a time the woman knew here place and her role in society. Your neighborhood had the “right” amount of ethnic representation. It was a glorious time for men. They controlled everything – media, wall street, businesses.

Bill Maher had a very interesting line in his recent show –And then the 60s came and screwed it all up! Bill Maher had a very interesting line in his recent show – If you loved the 60s there is a good chance you are progressive and if you hated the 60s there is a good chance you are a conservative. 

Obviously, we cannot paint everyone with a broad brush, but if you consider that these are no longer beliefs but are now getting made into policy it makes you wonder.

There is one bright spark  – Trump has single handedly done what NO Democratic President has done before…….piss off the entire women’s voting demographic. The silver lining is now we have more and more women actively engaged in the political process and a significant increase in candidates running for elected office. As Maher, puts it lets hope that this President is the LAST of the 50s Man!

Media Bias? – that’s news to me

Is there a liberal media bias? Of course there is a liberal media bias. You are thinking, “Wait,  have those nut job talk show hosts been right all along?”.  Well…kinda yes. The reason there is a liberal media bias is cause diversity of political views amongst journalists is very low with  only 7% of media journalists state that they vote Republican.

However, our problems are much deeper that just a liberal media bias. It is really how we consume our news. In a prior article, I argued that our country is one giant block of confirmation bias. How we consume absorb and assimilate information has fundamentally changed over the past twenty five years. We used to “trust” our newsmen and newswomen. There was a sense of comfort and stability that the news was the news and not opinion.

But thanks to the internet and social media all that has changed. With multiple inputs fighting for our eyeballs and our decreasing attention span to really understand issues, we are left with news feeds that tailor to our needs. I am left leaning so I listen to MSNBC, get my alerts from DailyKos, Huff Post and follow progressive voices and leaders on FB and twitter. Or I am right leaning I listen to Fox News; get my alerts from conservative outlets and follow conservative voices online. And so we end up creating one giant confirmation bias. Now, in my past posts I have specifically called out the republican bubble and I stand by that. It is one thing to have biased news and views of the world and a totally different matter if you live a fact free life.

This confirmation bias has polarized our country and it can be seen in our election cycle. Twenty years ago there was a bigger swath of independent/undecided voters. Now, once you are past the primaries the wonks can pretty much tell you which 3-4 states are the battleground states. The left and the right had a small loyal base and the middle was always up for grabs in each election. Now that middle has shrunk to the point that people vote based on ideology and NOT what the candidate stands for on key issues. 

Here is an example of how our Facebook/Social Media feeds are fundamentally impacting our objectivity. The quote from candidate Trump made it’s rounds on all the social media sites and it was proved to be Fake News. He never said the quote below. And, similarly there was a ton of fake news on Hilary Clinton.

Fivethirtyeight.com had a postmortem article on liberal media bias and a few key points of note are as follows:

The political diversity of journalists is not very strong, either. As of 2013, only 7 percent of them identified as Republicans (although only 28 percent called themselves Democrats with the majority saying they were independents)

Diversity of opinion? For starters, American newsrooms are not very diverse along racial or gender lines, and it’s not clear the situation is improving much.

Decentralization? Surowiecki writes about the benefit of local knowledge, but the political news industry has become increasingly consolidated in Washington and New York as local newspapers have suffered from a decade-long contraction.

Pew did a research of the most trusted and least trusted news outlets in the US and the results ….well it comes down to how you look at the data:

There is definitely something to be said about objectivity in the media but the bigger point is,  we the consumers are also accountable. We need to play a bigger part as consumers in seeking and demanding information with minimal bias. While we may never get a truly unbiased media and journalists we can definitely try to do our part:

  • no feeds from bat shit crazy left or right wing sites
  • left wing and right wing talk radio are NOT objective news sources. They are opinions and points of view.
  • You can glance at your Facebook feed but it would do you a world of good to read a proper newspaper or magazine (either print or online)
  • If you do want to seek editorial or opinions find voices that are both center left and center right
  • Facts matter! Remember the only way to break confirmation bias is to look via a different point of view to see if the conclusions still hold up.

We as consumers need to take more accountability, else the polarization will continue to increase. Between information bias and “alternate facts”, the very foundation of what we use to make and shape our decisions is being compromised. And we are now ending up like this…………

Maybe we need more Marsupials??

The Year 2015 has been a horrendous year for deaths due to gun violence and mass shootings. There have been one mass shooting every day in Yr-2015 and the statistics are saddening – 2015 Mass Shooting Deaths

We have been having this debate for a while now and the talking points for the gun ownership side is really getting stale. Same talking points same reactions but the number of Mass Shootings continues unabated.

After this most recent horrific shooting if we would like to revisit the gun control issue, the overwhelming answer from gun advocates is:
a) This is NOT the time to talk about gun control this is the time to grieve (as stated by Louisiana Governor Jindal when questioned after the Lafayette shooting)
b) We should not politicize the issue as it it is the time to mourn

So let’s unpack that:
– “When”? is it the right time to talk about gun control? At 372 shootings in YR-2015 is our  leadership saying that we literally don’t have any time to have a conversation since we are in “constant” grief and mourning mode? That is ridiculous beyond any realms of rationality.
– How come the horrific Bengazi killings CAN be politicized with not one, not two but NINE hearings and counting but we cannot have a meaningful conversation in the Congress about gun control?

President Obama in utter frustration actually called for the politicization of this issue. I guess this was his way of telling people that he cannot do it all alone, the public must exert their influence in the voting booth. (LINK)

I have covered the whole issue of how the NRA influences this issue Link to Blog Post . But the broader issue is how do we do what Australia and Great Britain have been able to do with sensible gun control (granted they did not have a “Second Amendment” to deal with). The statistic below is very sobering and should really put the gun debate in perspective:

 

NBC News summarized the data this way:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 153,144 people were killed by homicide in which firearms were used between 2001 and 2013, the last year that data are available (that number excludes deaths by “legal intervention”).
The Global Terrorism Database – which uses a criteria to determine terrorist attacks but also includes acts of violence that are more ambiguous in goal – estimates that 3,046 people in the U.S. died in terrorist or possible terrorist attacks between 2001 and 2014.
The top number doesn’t even include suicides and legal police killings (which boost the number to 394,912). Still, just counting homicides alone, 11,780 Americans were killed by guns a year on average, in that time period, while 219 on average were per year killed by terrorism – although of course the 9/11 attacks are the bulk of the deaths.

Obama in his address – ““We spend over a trillion dollars, and pass countless laws, and devote entire agencies to preventing terrorist attacks on our soil, and rightfully so. And yet, we have a Congress that explicitly blocks us from even collecting data on how we could potentially reduce gun deaths.  How can that be?”

So why can’t we do what Australia did after the mass shooting in Tasmania. How was a conservative President in Australia able to mobilize a national cause and address this issue in one fell sweep?

We need a social movement on gun control. The second Amendment gives us the right to bear arms. But we also have the right to NOT bear arms.

In this article here the author references a colleague who states – This is not about the government saying you cannot own a handgun. This is about society saying you should not have a gun, especially in a home with children.”

Source:http://otherwords.org/automatic-congressional-allegiance/

The bottom line is we need to do something fast as trusting our elected officials to mobilize a solution has been a bleak proposition for quite sometime.

(bad pun intended) – we need a call to arms!

Pope Music

The new Pope has been on a tear for the past two years. If ever the term “Hope and Change” can aptly be used, it would be for His Holiness. He is fundamentally transforming the Roman Catholic institution’ thinking (not doctrines but attitudes) with some of the most liberal and progressive views. Here are a sample of his recent stances on various issues:

a) Global Warming – Pope Francis has blamed human selfishness for global warming in his long-awaited encyclical calling for action on climate change (Reference – Link )

b) in July 2013,  “If a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge… it is not right to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.” (Reference – Link )

c) On Atheism – Pope Francis rocked some religious and atheist minds when he declared that everyone was redeemed through Jesus, including atheists (Reference – Link )

d) Abortion – Pope Francis opened a special, temporary, “mercy” window to make it easier for women who have abortions and confess to get back into the full good graces of the church (Reference – Link )

Don’t get me wrong he is NOT a liberal, and the softening of his positions on key issues opens up an opportunity for a conversation regarding change within an institution that has been long criticized as anachronistic. He still has to make significant changes in multiple areas such as improving the response to the pedophilia charges, contraception, female priests to name a few. As Jorge Ramos of Univision put it, ” He has delivered style but not substance (yet)”

That brings me to Free Market Capitalism. Here is a quote from Yr-2013:
[S]ome people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacra­lized workings of the prevailing economic system.”

Over the past two years, on numerous occasions the Pope has been very vocal of the “evils of capitalism” and the “Free Market” comparing “Unbridled Capitalism” as the “Dung of the Devil”

So what does all this mean to our stateside Conservatives. Clearly such positions are in conflict with our country’s conservative pro capital viewpoints. From a fiscal standpoint clearly his positions on Free Market makes our conservatives squirm, but his take on social and environmental issues really has them in an uproar.

As an outside observer of this there is a certain element of schadenfreude in watching this unravel. For years the conservatives felt they had the backing of the Church on key social issues (read – marriage, abortion, contraception etc.). Now here comes a Pope who is no longer interested in having the traditional conversations on social issues but rather would like to bring wealth inequality and climate change to the forefront of the conversation. In other words (quoting a particular right wing talk radio person) he is a “Marxist”.

So here is how a typical conversation goes:
– “Climate change is a fact” there is a broad consensus amongst almost all scientific institutions around the world
– ” How can u say that? there was a scientist in the UK who was “fudging” his research and it has been proven to be a hoax
– “Yes! that was one person and he was discredited BUT there still remains the fact that there is broad consensus”.
– I don’t believe it for the following reasons – a)climate has changed before so this is cyclical; b) it has actually been colder in the past few years; c) increasing CO2 has no effect; d)they said we will pass point of no return but we didn’t”..and so on
– “OK but let me reiterate – consensus is broad; proof is real and even the Pope has called it out as one of the most important issues of our time”
– (quoting Santorum)” “The pope ought to stay with his job, and we’ll stay with ours,”

Rick Santorum, a devout Catholic and a once long-shot contender for the Republican nomination, told a Philadelphia radio station: “The church has gotten it wrong a few times on science, and I think we probably are better off leaving science to the scientists and focusing on what we’re good at, which is theology and morality.”

So riddle me this:
– We cannot take direction from the Pope on matters related to science since that should be left to the scientist.
– We cannot take direction from the Pope on matters of wealth and free markets since that should be left to the Economists
– But we should take direction from the Pope on contraception related matters since that cannot be left to the doctors or health care specialists?

The answer cannot be cause it is in the good book?….cause the good book is very specific about charity; greed and wealth. So then where does this hypocrisy originate from?

The answer – it is the “Conservative Bubble”. The beauty of this bubble is it is impenetrable to logic, reason and rational thought. The bubble is fed by a steady diet of talking points from the right wing radio and television outlets. While the so called pundits are getting rich pandering the same weak talking points, the folks who listen to them are struggling to enter or stay in the middle class.

Actual Example (s)

– One of the conservative talk show hosts allege that Boehner’s resignation was timed to coincide with the Pope’s arrival so he can spend the last month of his term executing Obama’s remaining Marxist agenda. All this because Boehner was instrumental in bringing the Pope stateside.

– Sarah Palin trying her best to equate her son’s domestic abuse to Obama’s policies (Link to Story). You just cannot argue with this kind of lunacy.

Maybe the Pope’s visit to the US was a positive harbinger of change to conservative attitudes. Or maybe I should look out the window and see if pigs are flying.

Eysis, Spieses a Davises

The 2015 Davis phenomena has given us a lot to think about. On the one hand we have Huckabee who implored to put himself  in jail instead of Davis and on the other hand we have the right wing cavalcade making statements that “God’s Law supersedes the Supreme Court Laws” (Mike Huckabee Article )

Now let’s ponder on that point for a moment – “God’s law supersedes the Supreme Court Laws”. I wonder….wonder if this parallels another group in the middle east that is currently on the quest to create a Caliphate. So how is this different from the implementation of Sharia Law? (realize I am being a bit flippant with the generalization)

Ah! but I am sure I will get the “sanctity of marriage” argument. Am sure her three ex husbands agree with her on the sanctity of marriage. For Pete’s sake we let Michael Jackson get married (not to speak ill of the dead)
I love the internet meme on Kim Davis – Sorry we can’t give our marriage licenses, I used them all on myself!

But I come to a broader point..religious persecution. Christians constitute the majority of this country’s population and yet if you listen to Fox News or the right wing apparently catholisim is under attack. Further more Christmas is under attack! Marriage values are under attack! being able to practice religion is under attack!
My question is where? For a majority group why do they always feel the victim?

In a recent Real Time with Bill Maher episode Salman Rushdie nailed this as follows:

” It is the classic trope of the religious bigot.While they are denying people their rights they claim that their rights are being denied. While they are persecuting people they claim that they are being persecuted. While behaving colossally offensive they believe that they are being offended”

Rushdie continues, “But everybody does this. In India right now, which has a 85% Hindu majority, leaders are always saying Hinduism is being threatened. In the Islamic world, the paranoia is routine; ‘The world is anti-Muslim.’ and so this is a trope that they are stealing from other bigots”.

For me Rushdie summed up a feeling that I have had for years. Back to the original point how can anyone even state that God’s Law rules over Supreme Court law? The egregiousness of this argument is mind boggling.(Louie Gohmert weighs in).  One wonders if these people really believe this or is this grandstanding to pander to the base that can get them the vote.

Interestingly when the Pope weighs in on Gay Marriage; Atheism and Climate Change …that is NOT God’s Law. So at best what we have here is God’s (Selective) Law that goes something like this:

– Marriage has to be between a man and a woman (or many men and many women OR as the Bible stated one man and many women). But just not between man and man or woman and woman.
– There is no choice and abortion under any circumstance is evil
– This is a Christian Nation built on Christian values

It is very difficult to debate this. Specifically if you consider the last point. While no one can argue against the impact of Christianity in the formation and development of this country, the founding fathers went to great length to separate church from state for the very same reason.
(A great article breaking down the details of our founding documents can be found here – LINK )

Oh well…… as long as the “trope” continues to be perpetuated, the likes of Davis will have a fan club.

Cash Rules Everything – Dolla Dolla Bill y’all

Yeah reminds me of the Lil Wayne/Akon/Wycleaf Jean Song – Sweetest Girl – “Cause I’mma tell you, like Wu told me, Cash Rules Everything Around Me….singing dolla dolla bill y’all”

I am not for one to take my cue from a rap song especially from one that that has a controversial subject like the “Sweetest Girl” song. But somehow this chorus line kept ringing in my head recently after the Supreme Court decision on campaign finance.has left a LOT of citizens shaking their heads.

“The government may no more restrict how many candidates or causes a donor may support than it may tell a newspaper how many candidates it may endorse,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote in the majority opinionn.

This is illustrated below from the NY Daily article

So this is basically become a PAY & PLAY democracy. The Supreme Court’s decision was based on ensuring the protection of the First Amendment i.e. Free Speech. But as described by this article  there is strong reason to believe that the judges are out of touch with reality.

Even though this ruling will affect a few HNW (high net worth) donors, here are specific reasons why this is really really bad for our democratic process:

a) The Golden Rule – the man with the Gold makes the rules. Agree this is a bit of an oversimplification but as the above article quoted, the person with the most money gets to “buy the most free speech that is often enough to drown the opposition”.
Exhibit A – All GOP candidates flying to Las Vegas a few days ago to court Sheldon Addleson (including the apology of one Mr. Christie).
From Jon Stewart Friday April 04th Episode: I would respectfully like to approach the bench, and remind the Court that when the media refers to Sheldon Adelson as a super-donor, they’re not talking sperm. 

b) More money means more lengthy primary cycles. As much money can be given to campaigns that much will be taken by them. With no more limits there there is a possibility of a huge list of candidates who could all be potentially well financed and drag the primary out.

c) Refer to my previous post on One Percenters. This ruling has a lot of unintended consequences. A major one being the impact to income and wealth distribution. More money buys more speech which in turn buys more money and the wealth continues to get concentrated within a small slice of society.

It is going to be very interesting to see how the 2016 elections play out especially from a spending perspective. How much super PAC and lobbyist money will be  spent and how will that influence the electoral process remains to be seen.
Maybe the answer is with how our Supreme Court works?
– Why do Judges have to be partisan? and if that is the case why aren’t Libertarian or Progressive judges ever nominated.
– Why do we need appointments for life which results in these judges who are not in step with the times? (yeah yeah I am aware of the obvious reasons).Obviously none of that is going to change anytime soon.
As stated in the same Jon Stewart episode……..

JEFFREY TOOBIN (4/2/2014): Basically, it gives people who have a lot of money at their disposal the chance to spread their influence even more widely.  If you have a million dollars now, think how many chunks of $5,200 that makes.  It’s a lot.  You could write a lot of checks.

Yep!  Lots and lots of $5,200 checks.  The last great hope of preserving our democracy from the corrupting influence of money is carpal tunnel syndrome.

Maybe like the Legislative section our Judicial section also needs a reboot.  I for one am hoping to win the lottery cause I badly need the “speech” to stop the idiots from teaching intelligent design in our school curriculum.