Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Egad. Just ... Egad.

So I posted an article in which I tried to dispassionately delineate the differences between perception and reality vis-a-vis liberals and conservatives. For example, I stated that not all liberals are atheists, and not all conservatives are money-grubbing plutocrats. I think I did a fairly good job of stripping away the caricatures of both sides as portrayed by the other and getting to the basics of what each side actually stands for.

Apparently I did not do as well as I thought. In one of the Facebook groups of which I am a member, there are a couple of guys who are the arbiters of all that is good, and decent, and who are the sole judges as to the level of objectivity anyone brings to the table. And woe be unto anyone who dares dispute their authority, for they shall reap the whirlwind.

(For the benefit of these "authorities," who clearly have a problem understanding things, that was a literary device known as sarcasm, in which the surface meaning is pretty much the opposite of the actual intent.)

I would like to point out at this point that I am not going to divulge the identities of these brainstems, because the level of mockery they would be subjected to is, I'm pretty sure, a violation of the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Moving right along ...

Anyway, these two idiots decided that the article was yet another example of the "hatred on the left." Never mind that it was not critical of anything, or that it did not overtly take one side or the other. In their minds -- such that they are, anyway -- because I didn't immediately fall to my knees to genuflect at the Really Big, Amazing Altar of trump, The Biggest Altar, Really, People Are Always Saying How It's The Best, Believe Me, then the entire article must therefore have been a liberal hatchet job intended to disparage the fine name of conservatism the world over.

So they commented. And I responded. And they responded to my response. I responded again, and then realized that I would probably get better results by arguing with a tree stump -- and it could be argued that the tree stump would have given more coherent responses. But I'll let you judge for yourself ...

So, with all that being said, I am going to give them exactly that of which they say I am guilty: a lengthy, invective-ridden, spittle-flecked diatribe against trump, the Republicans, and conservatism in general. That way they can get their rocks off decrying my "lack of objectivity" (an idiot accusation for an opinion blog ... just sayin'), and the people in the Facebook group who know who they are can roundly pelt them with mockery and derision. Let's begin, shall we?

The level of stupid that comes from the Republican Party, and trumpeters in particular, is staggering. So much so that if stupidity had mass, trump never would have gotten elected because the dumbassery at one of his rallies would have collapsed in on itself until it was a black hole of idiocy, a "moron singularity," if you will, and taken every single one of the knuckle-draggers who supported him with it.

The thing is, the Republicans know they can't win on the merits of their platform, which is why they resort to various dirty tricks:
  • Voter ID laws to address a problem of in-person voter fraud that doesn't exist, and which -- purely as a matter of coincidence, I'm sure -- affect primarily Democrats.
  • Gerrymandering House districts to gain a majority in that chamber even though registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans across the country (for example, in the 2012 Congressional elections in Pennsylvania, Republicans won 13 out of the 18 House seats -- 72% -- despite only garnering 48.6% of the vote statewide).
  • Colluding with Russia to alter the 2016 election. That's right, I said it. I think Mitch McConnell was in on it from the beginning because, let's face it, trump and his gang of idiots aren't bright enough to locate Russia on a map -- even though it's the biggest country in the world.
If a real, fair, and honest election were held in 2016 instead of Crazy Vlad's Puppet Show, trump would still be in Trump Tower, cheating contractors, lusting after his daughter, and scarfing down Big Macs until the turgid sludge that serves as his bloodstream completely coagulates and his carcass is trucked out of the building and dumped in the East River.

In 2018, I predict that Turtle Boy McConnell and Eddie Munst -- I mean, Paul Ryan -- are both going to lose their majorities because, in the past ten months, they have shown the Republican Party matches P. J. O'Rourke's description in "A Parliament of Whores" perfectly: "The Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work and then they get elected and prove it." The GOP has the White House. It has a very solid majority in the House. It has a majority in the Senate -- slim, but with Closet-Case Pence as the tiebreaker they do have a little breathing room. Yet they have not been able to advance any significant legislation at all. And people are starting to take notice.

When your side is behind the wheel and you can't even get the car out of the driveway without killing all the neighbors' pets, it's a pretty good sign that you aren't to be trusted with anything more dangerous than a burnt match. This is why, in 2018, y'all are going down. Hard.

And I will laugh, and dance, and sing, and gloat shamelessly. I gotta lie down.

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The Bickering Needs To Stop

Today I want to discuss the difference between "liberal" and "conservative" in the context of modern American politics. There are a lot of epithets flying in both directions, so I would like to try to dispel some of the misconceptions about both groups.

To begin with, I am not going to be dealing with the extremes at either end of the spectrum. Far-right white nationalists, far left anarchists ... these are smaller subsets of the broader "conservative" and "liberal" labels respectively, and are often so removed from mainstream thought that they deserve to be handled separately. Moving on ...


Liberals are delicate little flowers who are easily offended by ... well, everything.


The truth of the matter is that liberals are not that easily offended. If they were, they would be huddled in the fetal position the world over after the relentless attacks by many on the far right.

What liberals are concerned about in this context is accuracy of speech. It's not that they were particularly offended by the term "Indian," for example, it's just that native peoples aren't from India and the nomenclature should be adjusted to reflect this (the fact that Native Americans themselves were offended by the old term, while a very important consideration, is not germane to this argument).


Conservatives are rigid, unfeeling monsters.


Conservatives are not necessarily rigid. Most are capable of great flexibility in thought. However, they do tend to live up to the promise of the root of the label (to conserve, meaning to preserve). Often this puts them at odds with modern society ... for example, a conservative who values "traditional" marriage highly naturally is going to be concerned over allowing gay marriage.

On the other hand, a true conservative is one who hews more closely to a libertarian philosophy (boiled down, basically it means "let me live my life the way I see fit and leave me the hell alone") than the modern definition of conservatism (which, in recent years, has become more about resisting anything done by liberals).


Liberals are all looking for handouts.


Liberals do believe welfare should be used as a means of getting a leg up. However, they do not espouse welfare as a way of life. The main concern here is that everyone be given an equal opportunity to succeed, not (as many in right wing media claim) that everyone be guaranteed success.


Conservatives are racists.


There is actually some internal logical consistency to this claim. Conservatives, as a group, tend to glorify the "good old days," and to promote ideas that may seem antiquated to some. Given this tendency, and the fact that racism (while still very prevalent) has been in a more or less steady decline since the era of Jim Crow, it makes sense to make the claim that people who favor older ideas also favor racism ... after all, it is also an older idea.

The reality, though, is that many conservatives are not overtly racist. Sure, they may be covertly racist (keeping their racist views to themselves), or even subconsciously racist (not limited to conservatives, by the way ... but a topic for a different column), but by and large conservatives view racism the way most liberals do: as a sad, sordid, tragic part of our history that (unfortunately) we still need to work toward eradicating fully.


Liberals are atheists who hate Christians and love Muslims.


Relatively few liberals are atheists (I happen to count myself among that number, FYI). Of those, I have only met a couple who actively hate religion, and they were both assholes anyway. The vast majority of atheists take the view that religion is fine for some, but not for them, and as long as people respect those boundaries then everyone will get along fine.

However, the majority of liberals do affiliate with a religion, and of those most are Christians.


Conservatives are all bible-thumping zealots.


Yes, there are some intolerant religious extremists among conservatives. However, they are fairly few and far between; most of them take the same view as liberals do: I have my religion, you have yours (or lack thereof), and as long as you don't crowd me about it we'll get along fine.

The problem is that the Kim Davises and Franklin Grahams of the world are much more visible, thus fueling the perception that they represent all of conservatism instead of the far-right nutjob fringe.


Liberals are all socialists.


The truth is that liberals acknowledge that a) the United States is already very socialistic in some ways (Medicare and Medicaid, Social Security, infrastructure spending, emergency services, etc.) and b) there are some aspects of socialism that can be implemented to be of benefit to all without stifling free enterprise. However, they are not, as many on the right would claim, devout Marxists who advocate marching in the streets and shrieking "Das Kapital" at the top of their lungs.

Conversely ...


Conservatives are cruelly greedy and money-hungry.


Yes, conservatives largely favor capitalism (as do liberals, for the most part). No, they do not favor unfettered capitalism, which is what we had during the Gilded Age (late 19th and early 20th centuries). Conservatives do not advocate for a return to the era of robber barons, child labor, monopolistic practices, and Tammany Hall. In actuality the conservative viewpoint on this topic is that capitalism should be left alone to innovate, but sensible regulation and oversight is needed to prevent the sort of rampant speculation and corruption that led to the Great Depression.

Both sides have their good and bad points. Both sides are guilty of distorting the statements and views of the opposing ideology as a way to score political points, and of blowing minor events out of proportion -- again, to score political points. Neither side is particularly adept at actually listening to the opposing point of view ... which is something we need to work on, and fast, if we want to get this country back on a stable footing.

We need to get to a place where conservatives can accept that kneeling during the anthem is kinda what the whole "free speech" thing is about. We need to get to a place where liberals can accept that religious objections to the moral quagmire of abortion right are as valid as scientific viewpoints in favor of them.

Above all, we need to start talking to each other, instead of yelling at each other.

I gotta lie down.

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Come At Me, Bro

So the latest stunt from Ron DeSantis and the Floriduh GOP -- and that's all they are is stunts -- is SB 1316, a particularly odious and...