Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Donald Trump Obliterates Godwin's Law

Godwin's Law: (or Godwin's rule of Nazi analogies) is an Internet adage asserting that "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1"—​that is, if an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Hitler or Nazism. -- Godwin's Law - Wikipedia

Godwin's Law has moved beyond internet message boards, and is now generally used as a discussion-ender in general. You invoke a Hitler or Nazi analogy, and you lose the argument. Nothing, the feeling goes, is on par with Nazi Germany. It's the ultimate in lazy and/or hyperbolic comparisons. Trump broke that rule, but in a different way than he tends to break all others: He himself negates it by himself becoming his own Hitler analogy. And it's difficult to argue with. Especially when his own GOP opposition thinks so too.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Trumpgasm in Ohio: Details, Facts Don't Matter

I'm greatly distressed by the state of our politics, particularly as it applies to the GOP race for the presidency. The continued success of carnival barker Donald J. Trump has just beaten me down. As bad as Trump himself is, I'm actually more concerned about his true believers. I'm somewhat bolstered by the fact that he has a 25% hold on the portion of primary voters of a portion of the electorate that boils down to a significantly smaller number of people than it appears on the surface. But I'm worried that America has become enough of an Idiocracy that he'll convert enough xenophobic, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-gay, anti-liberal, anti-Hillary people to actually do damage.

Trump is a buffoon, and always has been. He's played fast and loose with the truth* to his own advantage in business and celebrity, since we've known who he was. He has roughly a third-grader's vocabulary and oratory style. And a third-grade bully's at that. His vocabulary is so stunted, that even after one of his huge applause lines, rather than expounding on what he's said, he just repeats the same words again and again, with his limited set of bombastic adjectives. But worse than his relentlessly negative and abrasive style, is his tenuous grasp of basic facts.

In just the last couple of days, Trump has unleashed a stream of easily disproven statements. Sometimes badly conflated and distorted memories, sometimes wildly exaggerated claims, sometimes just stream-of-consciousness lies. And none of it matters. None of it shakes off his true believers. Not the open racism, not the untruth of his claims, not the vagueness of his promises, not the true horror of having this reactionary, thin-skinned bully in control of the nuclear football. The same people who decried President Obama's "lack of experience" and "celebrity," are eating up every horrifying utterance of this braying egotist.

Even Ben Carson--once thought to be supplanting Trump as front-runner (a horror in itself)--briefly jumped aboard Trump's recent big lie about Muslims celebrating 9/11 in New Jersey, as the buildings fell. He quickly had to issue a "my bad!" retraction, which I suppose should be heartening. After all, Carson has had his own string of easily disproven statements recently. And they initially didn't seem to matter to his own base. But Carson has been slipping since then. Maybe that should cheer me up?

But I come back around to distress. How can such a large group of Americans be so vaguely pissed off, so ready to win, that they'll gladly make this cult-of-personality, reality TV star made of pure id the most powerful man in the world? Can the GOP really let this happen?

*Perhaps the most baffling claim in all of this, is the Trump supporters' claim that "Trump speaks the truth." He doesn't. He speaks what ever crosses his mind, often changing direction mid-sentence, often several times. He speaks in parentheticals--sometimes within parentheticals--wherein he more than occasionally contradicts the point he started out making. He is the embodiment of "truthiness," Stephen Colbert's "gut feel" explanation for believing something that feels right, even if the details are all wrong. And his supporters--who are almost to a person, Hillary haters who love to throw out that she's a "liar"--simply don't care. Yes. I'm distressed.


Trump wastes no time bashing Kasich during Columbus speech

The day began and ended in a fight over Donald Trump’s incursion into the home turf of 2016 presidential rival John Katich. In between, Trump tweeted that the Ohio governor is a “dummy” and “one of the worst presidential candidates in history.” And in a speech before 14,000 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, Trump pointed to polls showing the billionaire re-establishing his lead both nationally and in early voting states — with Kasich far behind. . .

Read more at: The Columbus Dispatch

Monday, November 23, 2015

John Oliver Explains the Refugee Vetting Process

The chief fear regarding Syrian refugees seems to be that somehow terrorists will sneak in amongst the incoming flow of refugees. How this same fear doesn't apply to terrorists infiltrating Christian refugees (that the right wants to let in) isn't clear, but that's not important right now. What is important is, that the acceptance of refugees into this country is not a simple process, and would be possibly the least likely route a terrorist would take to get here. So, could we please just calm the paranoia just a bit?


Watch John Oliver Explain the Vetting Process for Syrian Refugees

In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris, 31 U.S. governors now oppose the resettlement of Syrian refugees in their states. On Last Week Tonight, John Oliver described this as “pretty extreme, but also pretty meaningless” due to the fact that governors actually don’t have that power, as well as the fact that Syrians could simply walk across state borders, which Oliver noted “are not crocodile-filled moats. . .”

Read more at: Time

John Oliver: The Uselessness of the Penny

Last Week with John Oliver has quickly become a favorite in our household. The freedom that HBO affords over network or cable is a nice element. But I can't help but wonder how Oliver would have done as a replacement for Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, rather than Trevor Noah (who has been hit-or-miss since his debut). Here is Oliver's featured bit from Sunday night's show. I will share his take on the Syrian refugee crisis if it becomes available, as it was truly well stated.

SNL: FOX & Friends on Syrian Refugees

Saturday Night Live's spoofs of the oddly named FOX & Friends show are generally a highlight for me, mostly because it's amazing they can make that show seem any more ridiculous. Saturday's edition was no exception, though I missed the "corrections" they usually run. The Debbie Wasserman-Schultz bit didn't amuse me, because it doesn't ring true, but the Ben Carson stuff is gold.

SNL: Adele Saves Thanksgiving

Isn't it funny how the "difficult" family members at Thanksgiving dinner are almost universally accepted as being your conspiracy theory spewing Uncle Ned or your anti-gay Aunt Maude, or some other hard-right conservative relative? Oh sure, there may be the belligerent college kid, back from school, being negative and morose, but it's the crazy conservative trope that pops up the most. Small wonder. Bobby Moynihan's "Drunk Uncle" is based on a similar premise. Here, Adele saves the day.

Over Time with Bill Maher, November 20, 2015

Bill Maher, and guests Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Sen. Angus King, MP Chrystia Freeland, Ben Domenech and Andy Cohen, in the last show of the year.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Bobby Jindal Piyushes Himself Out of the 2016 Clown Car

Aw, Bobby! I was hoping Jeb! or Rand would bail before you, so you might squeak into one of the big-boy debates. Alas, it is not to be. Jindal, one of the God Warrior contestants, has elected (hah!) to bail out. So much for predictions of him being the "next Ronald Reagan".


Bobby Jindal ends GOP presidential campaign

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal ended his long-shot campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination on Tuesday, saying on Fox News that "it's not my time." While Jindal's campaign showed some progress in Iowa — site of the Feb. 1 caucuses that open the Republican nomination contest — he had trouble gaining traction in other states. . .

Read more at: USAToday


Monday, November 16, 2015

SNL: Young Ben Carson

After a lackluster, politics-heavy Donald Trump episode last week, this weekend's Saturday Night Live (this time hosted by Elizabeth Banks) mostly backed away from political sketches. But one (save the somber cold opening by Cecily Strong, quietly acknowledging the Paris attacks) skewered Ben Carson pretty thoroughly. And--bonus!--it was funny!

Over Time with Bill Maher, November 13, 2015

Bill Maher and guests Asra Nomani, Jay Leno, Michael Steele, Dylan Ratigan and Paul Reiser answer viewer questions after the show.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Right Wing World's Response to Paris Attack: Impeach Obama!

Whenever something awful happens (except for the wide berth given the Bush Administration following September 11), things inevitably get political. And each side declares that the other is "politicizing" the tragedy, usually while simultaneously politicizing it themselves. Sadly, such is the case with Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris.

And right after this left-right thing (which frankly comes with far more volume and crassness from the right*), comes the inevitable blame game. Regardless of how they get there, it's a) the fault of Democrats in general, b) the fault of President Obama, c) the fault of John Kerry, or d) the fault of Hillary Clinton. They're also apt to pick any or all of the above, and the funny thing is, it doesn't have to make sense or have any basis in reality. It's the "Thanks, Obama" punchline, except they're for some reason, serious. And then, inevitably comes the calls for impeachment. The charge? No idea, outside of "presidentin' while black."

Here's a post from Right Wing World Ground Zero,, and not just from the page, but from site creator Rim Job Jim Rob himself.

[Excerpted entirely due to short length]

Jim Robinson of Free Republic with succubus alien being demon seed
Ann Coulter, from source.
Impeach Obama NOW!! Before the Islamofascists attack US again!!

Posted on 11/13/2015, 10:04:58 PM by Jim Robinson

Obama's wanton lawlessness, criminal incompetence, willful neglect, refusal to enforce the law, refusal to secure the borders, refusal to even recognize the obvious enemy, refusal to take Islamic terrorism seriously, etc, leaves us wide open to terrorist attack. Our borders and nation must be secured! All Islamics here on temporary visas must be rounded up and deported now! Recent Islamic immigrants should be suspect. Obama's treasonous policies are inviting ISIS to attack us!!

Don't let it happen again.

And here are just a couple of responses, just to give you some flavor.

"This is just another reason of many for Obama to be impeached."

"I agree completely except it is too late. The radical left has taken over the country and are now consolidating their power.We will never give up and maybe we can take our country back but the only way I can see that happening is an act of God."

"I believe 45 percent of the country would support a democrat even if they were brain dead on a ventilator. We MUST win the presidency with either Trump/Cruz or both."

So much for hoping that a serious event might shake loose some sense on the right.

* If you don't believe me, check Michelle Malkin's or Ann Coulter's recent Twitter feeds.

ISIS Claims Credit for French Attacks

As an atheist, coming up with a response to religious extremism can be difficult. On one hand, I'm all for religious freedom (which entails freedom FROM religion), so I'm not about to come out assailing everyone of a particular religion. On the other hand, I find all religions to be at best a waste of time, and at worst (and provably) downright dangerous. So, I am simultaneously not Islamaphobic, but also pretty much anti-theistic.

Image from source, Huffington Post
That's not to say I don't condemn--across the board--violence in the name of religion. I'm against violence in general, actually. But in the name of religion, it is particularly vexing. If your religion calls you to violence, backs up your actions, and rewards you for it? It's clearly a fucking dangerous religion. Presently, Islam has more vocal and active adherents who wish do harm to random, innocent people (not that specific, less innocent people would be better), and as such, "Islamophobia" is an inevitable result in people who would not ordinarily harbor it.

Whenever Islamic extremists create mayhem somewhere in the world, many will decry "moderate Muslims" for not speaking up, and condemning the actions. This is somewhat unfair, as it isn't difficult to find prominent Muslims doing exactly that. But I'm ready to say that it isn't enough. However badly some Muslims feel--and I do feel for your average, ordinary Muslim who is now eyed suspiciously--there isn't enough outcry. I think they need a pope-like figure, or coalition of religious and state Islamic leaders, prominently decrying at top volume, and for a sustained period of time, any violence in the name of their religion. They need to forcefully excommunicate groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda, denounce them as heretics, shame them from the faith entirely. Divorce "radical Islam" from anything approaching the actual religion.

Short of that, it seems to me we should pull up stakes. Get the heck out of dodge. Can't we do that?


Islamic State Claims Responsibility For Deadly Paris Attacks

Islamic State claimed responsibility on Saturday for attacks that killed 127 people in Paris, saying it sent militants strapped with suicide bombing belts and carrying machine guns to various locations in the heart of the capital. The attacks, described by France's president as an act of war, were designed to show the country would remain in danger as long as it continued its current policies, Islamic State said in a statement. . .

Read more at: The World Post

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Ben Carson West Point Story, Fact or Fiction?

Image from source, Esquire
I love deductive reasoning, puzzle games, investigative journalism, forensic evidence gathering, the lot. If the CBS slate of programming can be used as evidence, most Americans do as well. But it doesn't seem to be applied to much more than procedural dramas, certainly not much in real life.

That's why I love it when someone actually puts brain to task, and puzzles out, what is true and what is not true in a given story. You get at that by finding out what can't possibly be true, what is undeniably true, and then fitting in the plausible connective tissue, and disregard the fantastic and the dubious. When this is done, the Ben Carson West Point story comes down to this: Ben Carson lied.

Did Politico do a bit of shoddy journalism? Looks that way. But they weren't wrong.

Don't believe me (ahem, Dan)? Check it out.


Ben Carson Debunked: Inside His Made-Up West Point Story

Let's re-cap what has happened in the last few days since that first explosive story came out in Politico…and was observed here by our own Charlie Pierce on Friday. To wit, the Tale of Cadet Ben Carson. On Friday, Politico posted a sensational, but sadly incomplete, evaluation of some of Dr. Carson's claims about his past. Specifically their story asserted that Carson had not been given a "scholarship" to West Point, as he claimed in his book(s) and in multiple accounts of his past in speeches and interviews since 1990, when his first co-written autobiography appeared. . .

Read more at: Esquire

Monday, November 9, 2015

The SNL: Democratic Forum with Rachel Maddow vs. Reality

Cecily Strong and Kate McKinnon as Maddow and Clinton
Saturday Night Live will mine any political event or happening for humor, irrespective of political party, this has been true since the beginning. But, quite honestly, the conservative side tends to provide more fodder for laughs, most of the time. And also, quite honestly, comedy more often comes from a liberal perspective. If you don't believe me, rattle off a list of conservative comedians, and see how many fingers you have left when you can't think of any more.

Because of this, I'm not used to SNL skewering the left as much as I am the right, particularly when they're taking pains to attract a right wing audience, as they surely were with Donald Trump's appearance. So, I'll plead guilty for having my armor up for this sketch, lampooning the Rachel Maddow "first in the South" Democratic forum from Friday night.

I watched the real forum, and found it to be very, very good. It gave Martin O'Malley his biggest chance to date, to introduce himself to America, and he did well. Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders also did well, and Maddow herself was simply terrific, I thought. I marveled through the whole thing that it was the best event of its type I could recall since. . .well, ever. And I simply couldn't imagine a similar GOP event occurring, either form the perspective of the participants, or the host. [Story continues below]

The SNL version was put together amazingly quickly, and visually hit the mark. Cecily Strong does a great Maddow (and pronounces the name correctly), and all of the candidate impersonations were strong (particularly Larry David as Bernie Sanders). The problem was the humor, both in execution and in theme. Humor has to ring true to be funny. This was like the typical right-wing centered humor that starts with exaggeration (often of a skewed perspective in the first place), and then exaggerates it more. Clinton contorting herself to "appear" comfortable, for instance. I don't know, I thought it was all technically proficient, but not particularly funny. Except for some of the Bernie material, and that's because it rang true. And there you have it.

As for one of the not funny to me (but hilarious to conservatives) joke about MSNBC's ratings*, that doesn't ring true either, after the ratings came out.


2.3 Million Watch Democratic Forum on MSNBC

The joke on Saturday Night Live last night about the MSNBC Democratic Forum went like this: “In case you’re wondering what a forum is it’s a debate no one watches.” But not quite. According to Nielsen overnight ratings, MSNBC was No. 1 in the A25-54 demo averaging 417,000 viewers Friday night. 2.332 million total viewers watched the 2-hour Democratic Forum, giving MSNBC second place from 8-10 p.m. ET behind Fox News which averaged 2.435 million. . .

Read more at: TV Newser

*The ratings for all of cable news are typically very low, with MSNBC garnering roughly a third the ratings of FOX "News." So, when they crow about FOX's ratings, and say "nobody" watches MSNBC, ask them what three times zero is.

SNL: The Big Trump Fiasco

I've written many times that I'm a Saturday Night Live fan from episode one (live). I've mentioned that the show was never really as funny as we remember, having always had dragging skits and scattershot laughs in any given episode. It is also never as bad at any given moment as people say it is. People have been saying that it "hasn't been funny in years" for literally decades, even as it makes stratospheric stars out of countless comedians and actors. It is what it is: a late night variety show, which is at the mercy of current events, pressured writing and acting, divaesque (though often terrible) musical acts, and guest hosts that span anywhere from terrific (Roseanne, Melissa McCarthy) to absolutely terrible (Louise Lasser, Milton Berle). Donald Trump was not the worst, but he was closer to the latter than the former.

I expected very little from Trump, and he (and they) delivered. He couldn't get too risqué, he couldn't get too political, and I knew he wouldn't get too self deprecating. They also didn't use him very much, in comparison to say, Miley Cyrus, who was in almost every sketch. The Donald's time amounted to about 12 minutes. SNL got a bump in the ratings, Trump gets. . .not much, other than a footnote in SNL history. He gained zero new fans or converts. He may have patched some sore spots with NBC, but I can't really see what else he'd get from such a lackluster performance.

Over Time with Bill Maher, November 6, 2015

Bill Maher and guests David Frum, Jillian Melchior, Anthony Weiner and Quentin Tarantino.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Right Wing World: Ben Carson Caught an Unspinnable Lie, Now What?

Ben Carson has told a series of whoppers that had little effect on his sudden rise past longtime, improbable juggernaut Donald Trump. But just as Trump could seemingly say or do nothing to dent his support, Carson shrugged most of them off, in that borderline narcoleptic way he's got. The base didn't care. But this latest one? They care. I checked.

Some choice quotes from, Right Wing World's bell weather.
"This is the end for Carson. Where will his white guilt GOP supporters go?"
"This ones bad for Carson... We have 'rights' to our own opinions, but NOT to 'our own' facts."

"This will be his undoing."
Image from source, Poltico
"You lie, you wither and die. Bye bye Ben."

Before you give them too much credit, realize that it's not the fact that he lied, so much. He's done that before. It's that he lied about a core section of his biography. And there wasn't a nifty way to spin it.

Now, the question is, who will reap the spoils? Back to Trump, or onto the next hot thing?

Ben Carson admits fabricating West Point scholarship
Ben Carson’s campaign on Friday admitted, in a response to an inquiry from POLITICO, that a central point in his inspirational personal story was fabricated: his application and acceptance into the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. . .

Read more at: Politico

Monday, November 2, 2015

Ohio’s Confusing Marijuana Fight: Why Do Some Progressives Oppose?

Adding to my previous post on the marijuana vote in Ohio on Tuesday [Vote Yes on 3, No on 2], Bob Cesca has this outstanding piece in Salon. Check it out.


Ohio’s head-scratching marijuana fight: Why do some progressives oppose legalization?

While Ohio politics are normally unremarkable unless in a presidential election year, the midwestern swing-state will vote this week on the “Marijuana Legalization Initiative, Issue 3,” a ballot measure that would legalize recreational and medicinal marijuana use. This is a controversial constitutional amendment that’s almost evenly split across supporters and opponents. The most recent polling shows supporters barely outpacing opponents by one percentage point, 44 to 43. . .

Read more at: Salon

To Weed or Not to Weed? Ohio Voting on Legalized Pot on Tuesday

2015 is my first election back in Ohio, after 20 years away. And though there isn't much on the ballot in this off-year election, short of some local municipalities, Ohio does have a short list of ballot initiatives on the slate. One has to do with voter redistricting, and seems like a no-brainer. The two others seem to have Ohioans rather confused. And have created some odd alliances on both sides.

Marijuana decriminalization--both medical and recreational--is on the ballot, specifically the "Yes on 3" side. It has attracted all sorts of medicinal marijuana supporters, from many different walks of life, not the least of which are the families of patients who could greatly benefit by both the legalized sale of marijuana pharmaceuticals and from the installation of the International Cannabinoid Institute, a medical research facility that would be built only if Issue 3 passes. It's also supported by a large number of people who enjoy recreational marijuana, would like to try it if it were legal, and those of us who simply think pot prohibition is silly in this day and age. In addition, it has the support of those who think that law enforcement and prisoner incarcerations ought to be focused on "real criminals."

Proposed medical marijuana research facility in central Ohio,
International Cannabinoid Institute (ICI).
So, who are the "No on 3" people? That's where it gets a little weirder, and even a little opaque. Some are prohibitionists, oft-times conservative people who adamantly oppose the legalization of marijuana in any form. Some are pro-medical, but anti-recreational (though they rarely give reasons, are scarcely asked why). Some are undoubtedly from the shadowy network of people who currently supply illegal weed to the masses. It's not too much of a stretch to think some are probably also decidedly less savory folks who deal in scarier drugs than weed. Oh yeah, and it includes idealistic stoners.

"What?" you might wonder. Why would (one would think, ordinarily liberal) pot smokers be against legal weed? That has to do with how Issue 3 came to be, who came up with it, how it was funded, how it is worded, and who stands to get rich. It also--oddly, to my way of thinking--hinges upon the word "monopoly." But how did it come to this?

Boiled down, it goes something like this. Advocates have attempted many times to get a legalization plan before the voters, and they've always come up short for one reason or another. This time, a group of investors came together, and devised the 2015 plan, and they got the signatures. The details of the plan are complex, but amount to initially allowing the investors--those who devised the plan--to own the initial grow sites, 10 in all around the state. These grow sites are to be vast, indoor, year-round growing facilities, and they will distribute the product to the various dispensaries around the state. And every citizen over 21 can apply for a license to home grow a set amount for themselves.

By definition, it's not a monopoly, though many have likened it to an oligopoly. This is because the assorted investors (apparently 50 or so individual for the grow sites, many more likely involved in each site) are seen as a cabal, as a single unit. I personally think this is a stretch, and don't see how there would be a lack of competition with so many sites and people involved. And I certainly don't think it sets up any more dire of a situation than we have with virtually any industry, commodity or service in the United States.

Which is why I come back around to wondering, why do pot aficionados suddenly care so much about monopolies? And that makes me wonder even more, who was behind getting that concept, that word, so ingrained in the opposition toolbox? Particularly when you find out that Issue 2, a state-written proposition, was created using the word monopoly, and was crafted to thwart Issue 3. This sets up the strange scenario where Issue 3 could decriminalize pot, and Issue 2 could nullify issue 3 in the same election. Or some other combination of pass/fail, depending upon how the vote goes.

Inside the proposed research facility.
It's got a lot of people confused. Matters aren't helped by the fact that the prohibition side has co-opted the graphics and messaging of the pro-legalization side, down to copying their (possibly ill-advised) cartoon mascot! And let's face it, any time you tell voters to vote "Yes" on one thing and "No" on another, in the same election, you're going to cause some confusion.

Here's my take: Vote Yes on 3, and No on 2. This will legalize medical and recreational use in Ohio. It will decriminalize home grow. It will come with restrictions and guidelines, true. Yes, my friends, to get this on the ballot and through a vote, it had to. Is it perfect? Probably not. But let's not let the perfect be the enemy of the good, here. Get it legal. Get it moving. Find out what works. Find out what doesn't. Rather than waiting around for a "perfect world" proposition that may never come, put your energies into tweaking and retooling this plan in the future, if necessary. It would be a much more realistic way to go.

Meanwhile, small-time users and home growers won't go to jail. Sick people can get relief, whether they are the doctor-going type or not. Ohio gains tax income, and a potential boon to the economy. And yes, some people will get rich off it. Someone gets rich off of every industry. Be one of them! There will be ample job opportunities, and countless ways to get involved. Were there great odds you were going to own a facility capable of doing this anyway? Would you rather enrich drug dealers and cartels? Really?

Vote Yes on 3, and No on 2

That's my take.

[Full disclosure: I have family members involved in the effort to pass Issue 3, most notably on the medical side. While this has certainly helped sway my opinion on the matter, it has also allowed me to become informed on it, to the point where I believe I'd hold this opinion regardless. Thanks.]
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