Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Saturday, May 31, 2014


Eric Shinseki got Iraq right before it even happened.  He is a smart, capable general.

But the VA would tax even the finest administrator even without the added thousands of broken men and women that the Bush Administration created through the Iraq debacle.  If that is combined with the overall existing inefficiencies in the VA, you have a recipe for what happened in Phoenix and perhaps elsewhere.

Interestingly, the wait times at VA hospitals are not longer than those of private hospitals according to one metric I saw, but I can't find it now, so trust me.

The problems at the VA will not be solved by Shinseki's departure.  They will be solved when we quiet mangling the bodies and souls of young soldiers in misbegotten wars.  And more importantly, they will be solved when we face the fact that "thanking veterans for the service" means more than bumperstickers and "likes" on a Facebook page.

It means paying more in taxes to fund a system that can hire enough medical personnel to adequately staff our VA facilities.

The VA does a lot well.  It provides top quality care, free at the point of service, with waits not that different from some private hospitals.

But if it wants to be what we say we want it to be, then it needs more money for salaries.

What say you to that, Republicans?

Friday, May 30, 2014

West By God Virginia

Drove through West Virginia, home of John Cole's pets.

Have to say, it was a stunningly beautiful drive today.  Worth driving to the AP reading?  Time will tell.  But while the roadwork in NY and PA recovering from the winter was a drag, the drive through West Virginia was indeed gorgeous.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

RIP, Maya Angelou

She spoke at my grad school graduation.  It was a small group, under a 100.  But everyone of us felt she spoke directly to us the whole time.  The only other time I've felt that way was when I heard Bill Clinton speak.  (What is it about people from Arkansas?)  I remember her saying she thought William Shakespeare was a black girl from Arkansas, the way he spoke to her.  I remember her saying how she didn't speak until she was six.

And what a voice she developed.

Here are a few of her more memorable poems

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The GOP Has An Assholes Problem

Along with Caribou Barbie, the Quitta from Wasilla, Joe the Not a Plumber is one of McCain's toxic legacies.

TBogg eviscerates him here.

GOP Politics In A Nutshell

Who's at fault in the Veteran's Affairs scandal?

Veterans of course!

Not the congressmen that first created a new wave of wounded and mutilated veterans by giving a blank check to C+ Augustus and then shortshrifted the budget in the name of austerity.

No, it is veterans who are responsible for the crisis.

Friday, May 23, 2014

So Trigger Warnings Are A Thing

In the last 48 hours, suddenly "trigger warnings" are everywhere.

Basically, trigger warnings are designed to warn a reader that there is something graphic or upsetting in a book that might trigger flashbacks or PTSD.  Let's say you were raped, and you read a book with a graphic rape in it.  This could be very upsetting.

In some ways, trigger warnings are no different than the rating systems used in movies and now TV.  It's helpful to know if a movie is too intense before you watch it.  I'm sure many people would've appreciated some warnings before watching Bambi.

Part of the problem is that these trigger warnings are used in academic.  Presumably, you might buy a book with a "trigger" without knowing it, but that seems unlikely.  If the book is assigned to you, then that becomes more problematic.

On the other hand, in college, you are supposed to grapple with things that aren't easy for you.

I'm incredibly torn about this concept.  I recognize the desire to shield people from things that will really hurt them emotionally.  Yet I also worry that we are creating a generation of emotionally stunted young people who are incapable of navigating the vicissitudes of life.

The other day, the Senior class had their prank.  They basically walked around school wearing sombreros with some mariachis, disrupting classes.  It was designed to be harmless fun.  But there were some people who found it offensive to use Mexican culture as a crude, stereotypical punchline, especially in a school where Hispanic students are very much a minority.

Both sides are right.  It's just a joke, but don't make other people into a joke.  This also means both sides are wrong.  Don't be mean, and lighten up.

All humor offends someone.  And the great curse of political correctness is its humorlessness.  And one of the reasons we create humor, why we laugh, is to cope with the things that worry or hurt us.  If you shut yourself off to that humor, you prevent yourself from healing the things that hurt you.  But you also don't need other people laughing AT you.

When my students brought it up, I said the important thing is that both positions have validity, but the important thing is the discussion that comes afterwards.  If someone says they were offended, try and understand why.  If someone sincerely was not being malicious, then don't read into every joke an attempt at oppression.  But most of all, talk to each other.

We have enough problems if our jokes and literature wind up being used to divide us into ever smaller and smaller islands, until finally we stand alone on a strip of sand, wondering where the world went to.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Curse Of The Totebaggers

Really well done summary.

Clinton Fatigue

I like John Cole, but sometimes he can be politically naive.

It doesn't matter who the Democratic nominee is in 2016.  I remember one reason why I supported Obama in 2008 was because I wanted to move beyond the Clinton Drama.  So, the GOP gave us Obama Drama instead.  If you think nominating Martin O'Malley or Elizabeth Warren is going to allow you to skip the Vince Foster/Benghazi/Whitewater nonsense, then you haven't been paying attention.

Bill Clinton is rightly derided for tacking too far right after '94, especially with his Wall Street deregulation.  But if he had had a Democratic Congress, I doubt he would've been so eager to embrace welfare reform or the repeal of Glass-Steagall.

If you want a Progressive President, you need to have a Progressive Congress, and Hillary is the most likely person to turn the House Blue.  As Republicans hamfistedly attack her, they will lapse - inevitably - into misogyny.  And that will flip more and more women voters - white working class women voters - into the Democratic column.

I'd rather have Elizabeth Warren and Kristin Gillibrand running Senate Committees than one of them being President, while the other is a ranking member.

Still, it would be nice to see Hillary avoid some of the more odious of her former pack of Clintonistas.  No more Mark Penns or Lanny Davises, please.  That could be a deal-breaker.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

This Is Good

Police State

A California cop blasts crowd control pepper spray into a woman's face, blinding her.  He gets a hung jury.

In Chicago, cops raiding a salon on suspicion that there's some prostitution going on, decide to issue slurs and threaten to tase a woman ten times.

Meanwhile, an Occupy protester gets grabbed by the breast from behind, elbows the cop and gets three months in prison.

Greenwald has promised us his bestest, most awesomest revelation about the NSA for this June.  While I agree that the NSA is gathering too much data and needs more oversight, every day in America, the police are violating the rights of Americans in very real and tangible ways.  Not a hypothetical violation like the NSA could maybe, possibly illegally listen in on your phone sex, but physically beating people, shooting people's dogs and harassing people because they can.

I also realize that the police spend all day dealing with the worse segments of humanity, and that is bound to effect how they interact with everyone else.

But the problem is not meta-data, the problem is cops who abuse their privileges.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Fine Trollery

It is fun watching the nation's judiciary troll Antonin Scalia.

The guy is turning into a joke, I'm glad others are finding a way to laugh at it.

Monday, May 19, 2014

America's Finest News Source

The Onion has provided many laughs over the years.  Their post-9/11 issue was a national exhalation of relief.  Their books and one offs are hilarious.

But this probably takes the proverbial cake.  Josh Marshall was trying to figure out where the character of "Joe Biden" came from, the outlandish character who shows up in White House correspondent's dinner videos.

Looks like it was almost entirely drive by The Onion, though I think Amy Poehler on Parks and Rec may have contributed a bit.

And perhaps, too, it's such a jolly foil for the previous Veep that it just makes people feel better.

It's sad to say, but it's progress when we turn the VP into a joke and not a nightmare.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

New Addition

Welcome, Ishmael.  (The dog, not the kid.  We had the kid already.)

Look at the size of that guy.  We should've named him Moby Dick.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Alumni Day

The end of the year can be draining.  AP exams, final assessments, comments, a ton of administrative work.

But it's also nice to have days where graduates come back and tell you how much it meant to you that you yelled at them and threw their shoes out the window.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Somehow We Are Failing Our Boys

I just had what felt like the fiftieth conversation with a friend whose boy is having real trouble in school.

What was interesting, is that both her husband and I recall being miserable in school, but we didn't act out the way boys do today.  School has always been hard on kinetic young boys, but what I can't tell is why boys are struggling more in their response to those difficulties.

Is it because we are expecting more from all kids at younger ages, and that is harder on boys, who begin to feel like failures?  Is it because we have a zero tolerance for boyish hijinks - which can often be somewhat violent or dangerous?  Could it actually be that boys are now spending TOO MUCH time with their fathers and picking up all the bad aspects of manhood without the governor of maturity?

Whatever the cause, I'm beginning to see well adjusted young boys as the exception, not the rule.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Shocking News From Wall Street

It turns out - quelle surprise - that the good folks at private equity funds (smile, Mittens!) are a bunch of crooks.  They routinely - as in about 50% of the time - cook their books to charge their investors more than they should.

We know this because of Dodd-Frank.

The GOP is determined to end or undermine Dodd-Frank because...freedom?  Because markets worked SO WELL in 2004-2008?

Sometimes it's hard with the Republicans to know if they are ideologically opposed to something, if they are opposed because they are simply whores to their corporate pimps or if they are just so oppositional defiant that they can't help themselves.

Either way, a sane electorate would not trust these yahoos with the keys to a Chevy Impala much less the keys to power.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Worst People In The World

The fact that conservatives have been mocking Michelle Obama and others who have taken up the Nigerian social media protest over the kidnapped girls in Nigeria, really goes to demonstrate the sociopathy of the modern GOP.

Yes, Michelle Obama is guilty of being a Democratic First Lady, and we know how uncomfortable that makes them.  But seriously, quite a few conservatives have seemed to come out as almost objectively pro-Boko Haram.

I have some experience (too much perhaps) dealing with Oppositional Defiant kids.  I know it when I see it.

The Minimum Wages Of Sin

Look at those polling numbers.  Maybe they hold up, maybe they don't.

But if Democrats win Senate seats in GA and KY and hold on to seats in NC, AR and LA, it will be because a lot of white southerners work minimum wage jobs and the GOP isn't helping them.

Sunday, May 11, 2014


Michael Sam was drafted by the St Louis Rams yesterday, making him the first openly gay athlete drafted by a major sports league.  (Sorry, WNBA...)

I was shocked and sickened by this.

What has this country come to?  What happened to our traditions and valuable past?

It should either be the St Louis Cardinals or LA Rams.

Wake up sheeple!

It WOULD Have Been A Good Mother's Day

So, Thing One and I hung Most Wonderful And Caring Mom's hanging flowers from the post we placed her birdhouse on.  Then spread some mulch for her.  Then laid a slab and tried to cleanup the driveway.  Then fixed the garage door (that she broke).  Then cleaned said garage.

But she's on her way to Boston with Thing Two, so all I am is sore and tired.

Happy Mother's Day to all.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

My New Favorite Song

Had a rough stretch of days.  Tired, cranky and did I mention tired?

Anyway, this song makes me feel good.

(Warning: profanity)

Friday, May 9, 2014

About Damned Time

Another nail in the coffin of a "post-racial" America was not so much Cliven Bundy's eloquent thoughts on the Negro.  It was the idea that these militia yahoos could blatantly intimidate law enforcement with automatic weaponry and not get shot at.

Reverse the races in "Bundystan" and you get a bloodbath.

I do think the authorities took the right tack in letting things cool off.  But they HAVE to prosecute people who threatened law enforcement.

This reminds me of the lesson of Libya.  Qaddafi gave up nukes in a negotiated settlement with the West.  Look where it got him.  Meanwhile Kim is still in power in North Korea.

The lesson becomes to engage in MORE destabilizing behavior, not less.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Well, No, Bill. But It Would Be A Good Start

Would You Waterboard A Terrorist?

The answer, of course, was 27% said, yes.

Why is that obvious?

NATO Supreme Commander

Former NATO Supreme Commander Admiral Stavridis came and spoke out our school.  When asked what the pre-eminent security concern of the 21st century was, he said it was poverty and the related issue of health.

Think about that.

Not terrorism, cyber-terrorism, energy, Russia, China, North Korea, global warming or zombies.


It's because poverty creates violence. It creates violence, because poverty is linked to ignorance, helplessness and fear.  Poverty creates wars and revolutions.  It's what creates Al Qaeda and Boko Haram.  It's what creates Pablo Escobar and the Sinaloa Cartel.

The guy who launched air strikes over Libya and oversaw combat operations in Afghanistan is a Dirty F-ing Hippie.  Long live the Dirty F-ing Hippies.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Please Proceed, Dipshits

I am not terribly optimistic about the 2014 congressional elections, because it's a midterm election and so on.

But I am also not terribly pessimistic, because the GOP continues to get mugged by reality whenever they stumble across it.

Fox News created the perfect Republican voter, but it also created a crazed alternative universe so pervasive that they literally don't know what to do when reality kicks them in the teeth.

Curious About Benghazi?

I know I was.

I'm not anymore.

That article is the reason we still need a New York Times.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Causation Or Correlation?

The above question is one that scientists - including social scientists - struggle with all the time.

Which brings us to this.

Evidence suggests that Romneycare has reduced mortality rates by about 3%. If we take that as a standard, we might expect Obamacare to reduce mortality rates by about 3%, too, though we will have to wait for all states to implement it.

It certainly seems intuitive that more people having access to medical care would lead to less people dying.  And this looks like a really good study.

So if it is true - and it probably is - then ACA becomes not just an electoral issue and an economic issue but a moral issue.

And that means it is not the same as the frakking Holocaust.

Monday, May 5, 2014

The New Normal?

How long will we have divided government?  And how divided will it be?

The problem is - as Marshall notes - that either party has a structural advantage in different branches of government.

The Democrats have a structural advantage in Presidential elections, as they control California, New York, New England, the Upper Mississippi and the increasingly Hispanic West.  Democrats simply have an easier road to 270.

Republicans have a structural advantage in the House.  Democrats tend to congregate in cities, so while Democrats will win the majority of votes for the House, they will not win a majority of seats.  As we saw in 2012, this advantage is coupled with gerrymandering to produce House majorities in defiance of popular vote distribution.

The Senate somewhat tilts GOP, with the advantage of small population states, but state-wide constituencies tend to be tough for ideological Republicans.

And then there is President Black Oblacka and his effect on the electorate in places like West Virginia.  Booman seems to think that Hillary can mobilize voters that Obama couldn't.

What effect will a successful ACA have on working class white voters?

Where will the inevitable scandal fall?  Despite Republican efforts, #Benghazi simply hasn't taken off.  But the Clintons seem to court scandal.  And there are some sketchy dudes in the House who could open a can of worms that ousts marginal GOP congresspeople.

Personally, I think two years of Democratic control of the House, Senate and White House could cement important reforms in immigration, marriage equality, the environment and maybe even tax reform and wage fairness.

There is no way that Obama winds up with working majorities for his last two years, but it is fun to imagine what he could do with them.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

More Benghazi!

Apparently the GOP has selected a Targarean to head the investigation into Benghazi:
Unless he has access to dragons, I don't think this strategy will work.


Vacation (n) - When you stop working at your job so you can work at your home.

Thursday, May 1, 2014


I have to admit, I haven't given two shits about Benghazi.  I mean, please proceed, Governor..

The article does give me a glimmer about what the nontroversy seems to be about.  Republicans seem to think that the Obama administration covered up that the Benghazi attacks were by an Al Qaeda affiliate.  I think that's what's bugging them.  The email that has sent them into another paroxysm of rage says...well, I'm not sure, because I don't have a secret Benghazi decoder ring.

There has not and was not - to the best of my knowledge - been any effort to say that the Americans killed in Benghazi were not killed by Muslim extremists.  There has not been any effort to say that security was sufficient.  (Of course, the lack of security could be tied to Republicans consistently cutting State Department security budgets.  Frankly, I would like to see a Senate committee investigate THAT.)

All, apparently, that Republicans are saying is that the Obama Administration didn't understand and convey to the American people the motives of the attackers.

Is that it?

Am I missing anything?

And then we get the whole, "It's not the crime it's the cover-up."

What I see in Benghazi is a mass of projection.

- Four Americans died in Benghazi because security was not good enough.  Four thousand Americans died in Iraq because intelligence was cooked and decisions were made based on wishful thinking.

- The "War on Terra" was relentlessly politicized, including raising terror alerts before elections.  So therefore the lack of administration statements about the motives of the terrorists must have been political.

- The administration linked the attacks in Benghazi to protests surrounding an anti-Islamic film that were happening around the Muslim world.  In other words, they jumped to conclusions.  Unlike, say, WMD, they eventually changed their conclusions when new evidence came in.

Frankly, the motives of the attackers is largely irrelevant in the short term.  Were they Al Qaeda or were they just angry about the film?  Eventually, you need to know the answer to that, but in the short term... who cares?  But for Republicans, calling the attacks "acts of terror" instead of "acts of terrorism" could very well lead to impeachment if these idiots get control of the Senate this fall.

I just taught the Clinton years to my AP kids, and the irrationality of Whitewater still staggers me to this day.  Despite years and years of investigation and millions of dollars, all we found out is that Bill Clinton is an artful liar about his extra-marital affairs.  And yet this is enough for impeachment.

Why a rational voter would hand these clowns power is beyond the powers of my understanding.