Vote Invite, Anti-gay Invite, O’Reilly on Black Youth

Because Political Faith Demanded It

Some grade school lessons remain in place, long after memory has been overtaken by age. I do not recall which teacher taught or textbook contributed. But I remember the facts as I learned them.

The Roman Empire was built on water, war, and roads. Military innovations of tactics, organization, and technology subdued opposing populations, turning them from hostile adversaries to hostile subjects. Technology made roads possible. Military might made travel on them safe. Roads brought trade and a degree of prosperity, even to those who were subdued.

Water made this empire different from all that had come before. Giant aqueducts were the source, and the new idea of plumbing divided and subdivided the gushing flows into useful streams. Irrigation and cleanliness became a cultural signature. Barbarians were worse than uncivilized. They were dirty.

The water technology that produced that civilization finally helped to bring it down.

Lead was the primary byproduct in refining silver. You’d get a small bit of silver separated from a ton of lead. That’s a lot of dark metal. Finding where to put it had to be a major task.

Somewhere along the line, someone looked into the unique properties of lead. Lead was easy to soften in heat or even to melt. You didn’t need a blast furnace. A campfire would do. You could shape it into useful things.

Like pipes. For running water.

When I was a kid, parts of school were what you might call uninspired. Rote learning had little appeal to me. A classmate came up up with novel ways to get around having to memorize the spelling of common words. George-Eastman’s-Old-Grandmother-Rode-A-Pig-Home-Yesterday is about all I still remember of his technique. To me, it was less tedious simply to sound out how to spell “geography.” Still, entertainment in learning has value.

Science was a little better. But even there, memorization ruled. The periodic table was mostly rote. Most elements were easy. Hydrogen, Helium, Oxygen did not tax the memory or bore the synapses. Some atomic symbols were annoyingly unintuitive. I do remember gold making a transition from rote to reason as some wit bestowed upon Barry Goldwater his own molecular formula.


So gold, Au, began bumping up my score by a point on pop quizzes. Thank you, Senator.

Tin was easy. I had no idea how Sn made onto the table, but it was kind of onomatopoeic. Sn. Snip for tin.

Lead was obvious. Pb – you know – for plumbing.

And, somehow, somewhere, some teacher told me about Pb, about lead poisoning.

The aqueducts helped make Rome an empire. Pipes helped bring it down. Over time, lead made people weak, made people sick, made people die. Plumbing.

Perhaps it was the same voice or textbook that told me about cosmetics in and after the Middle Ages. Aristocratic use of white paint – white lead paint – helped inaugurate social change as those in the top economic strata slowly poisoned themselves and their families.

As Republicans like to say when confronted with science, I’m not a scientist. But, I dimly understand that one reason lead poisons is that the human body cannot tell the difference between it and other metals, metals that are needed. Minuscule amounts of calcium produce wonderful effects in the brain. Intelligence, self control, and overall mental health are somewhat dependent on calcium.

Lead is the great counterfeit. Brain cells glom onto lead as if it’s calcium, and calcium that is useful gets displaced by lead that is not.

I understand there is some scholarly resistance to the contribution of lead to the Roman decline and collapse. The case against lead as a culprit rests on research into what survives of Roman literature. It may have been widely known in ancient times that lead tended to make healthy people less healthy. Lead was used in plumbing, but clay was preferred where practical.

So the phenomenon of lead poisoning is not only well known, it has been well known for a long, long time.

The harm from even tiny amounts of lead is permanent. Children are the most vulnerable to that permanent damage.

That knowledge, knowledge that goes back to ancient times, the knowledge of the dangers of lead, adds a touch of tragic mystery to the poisoning of the children of Flint, Michigan.

As those of us with homes and bank accounts may especially recall, we were hit in the financial head with the frozen boot of a great recession that began the year before Barack Obama became President Obama. A lot of Michigan depends on the auto industry, the same auto industry that almost collapsed into a cosmic black hole. The city of Flint was hit especially hard, and was struggling to pull itself into recovery.

The new Governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, had the answer. Just push out local officials and let a conservative former businessman take over. Rick Snyder knew just the man, which is to say himself. He got the legislature to pass a law giving him the authority, then put his own, competent, hard-nosed, conservative people in charge. They reported directly to him.

One of his cost cutting moves was to change the source of drinking water for Flint from the Great Lakes and the Detroit River to the cheaper Flint River. Water from the Flint River is corrosive and tends to eat away the lining of pipes. A lot of underground pipes in Flint had a base of lead surrounded by copper. The corrosion ate enough copper to leach lead into the bodies of unsuspecting men, women, children, and babies in Flint.

It was avoidable. Early corrosion control would have been inexpensive, but someone didn’t think to arrange it. Even if they had, levels of bacteria were toxic and inadequately treated. There were later outbreaks of Legionnaire’s Disease.

Okay, so mistakes, even tragic mistakes, happen. It’s part of life and death.

Documents show that officials soon realized that lives were in danger. And they did act quickly:

By putting out bogus reports and false assurances to the public. Don’t worry, they told anxious parents, the water is completely safe.

What the hell?

It is often hard to fathom what may be in the hearts of others. I suspect a very human, very corrupt, tendency was at work.

Those committed, heart and soul, to an ideology are tempted to embrace and defend that ideology no matter the facts, no matter the cost.

I suspect the Governor and his staff knew, right down to their socks, that their conservative revolution would work. All they needed to do was reassure a panicky public and wait for their policies to take hold.

Upton Sinclair once observed of human frailty, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”

What is at stake for these folks is more, much more, than mere salaries. It is a way of looking at the world. It is a governmental philosophy that has gone deep into the soul. It is a political theology, quite impervious to reason, evidence, or the effect on the lives and families of the financially vulnerable.

On the shores of the Great Lakes, near the flow of the Detroit River, even the health and safety of little kids had to be discarded, a sacrifice on the altar of conservative faith.

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Trump, Hillary, Panama, Racism, NY Primary

WOW! Nancy Hanks is back in the internets.

Did you notice that Nancy Hanks is making an appearance?

Would You Believe…

“A drop of water on the forehead every minute for three hundred gallons. Three hundred gallons, Mr. Brown. Would you believe it?”

“That’s pretty hard to believe.”

“Would you believe a quart?”
“What if they came by once a day with a glass of water and an eyedropper?”

Lets be charitable and call it vintage humor. Not all beverages age to fine wine.

Half a century ago, the routine was funny enough to be a constant, repetitive, endless, everlasting part of the Get Smart television satire of Bond films.

I thought of Maxwell Smart a couple of weeks ago as I read new anonymous claims, sourced by the Washington Post to federal lawmakers, presumably Republicans, with access to classified information.

The FBI was devoting an astonishing level of resources to investigating Hillary Clinton and her email messages. The sole duty of nearly 150 federal agents was to find criminal wrongdoing in the activities of the former Secretary of State and the messages she sent and received.

The number of agents was greater than the number assigned to any investigation since World War II.

More than the Abscam investigation of decades ago that resulted in 7 high level convictions.

Move even than the massive effort of investigating every aspect of the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001.

Then the story shrank. Some exaggeration had been at work. The actual number was somewhat less than the originally reported 147.

How much less?
130? 120?

No. The Washington Post issued a correction. It was less than 50.
Oh, okay.

So perhaps 49? 40? 30?
Well, no, really. It was less than those guesses.

Other sources came forward. In fact it was less than a dozen.
How much less?
My bet is that “fewer than 12” will not turn out to be 11.

This is not an isolated case. Since Barack Obama was inaugurated, the pattern has become so entrenched it is now the Charlie Brown football of Republican opposition.

A couple of years ago, Republicans solemnly revealed that a smoking gun document had been discovered. The highest levels of the Obama administration had been involved in a massive cover up, and now there was ironclad proof.

It was all about Benghazi.

It is disturbing and perhaps criminal that these documents, that documents like these were hidden by the Obama administration from Congress and the public, alike.

Darrell Issa (R-CA), May 1, 2014

To say that this wasn’t trying to shape the Benghazi story is inconsistent with the document itself, flies in the face of the facts, and yet another insulting, misleading lie.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), May 1, 2014

To me, it’s the equivalent of what was discovered with the Nixon Tapes.

Charles Krauthammer, Fox News, May 1, 2014

It turned out that the smoking gun document that proved a cover up reaching into the Oval Office was simply a memo by a speechwriter. It offered a list of proposed answers to possible attacks by Republicans, if they decided to take partisan advantage of the Benghazi tragedy.

So. The widely reported document, as leaked by Republicans, turned out to be partisan fiction. There was no there there.

Before that came documents, partially released by lawmakers, showing the IRS had been directed by the Obama White House to target conservatives for audits.

The lawmakers who partially released the documents turned out to be Republicans.

The documents, when they were entirely released, turned out to indicate that both conservative and liberal groups had been targeted, but only if they engaged in political activities while filing legal statements claiming that they were not so engaged.

Republican members of Congress had known this, even as they sliced and diced what they leaked to the press. The FBI later reported that no evidence could be found of the targeting of political enemies.

So why do mainstream news organizations continue to fall into the same trap?

Partly it is the evolution of a journalistic ethic that favors balance over verification. He accuses, she denies, we won’t verify, you decide. It is an ethic that once was the unique province of inexpensive tabloids that were found on supermarket shelves.

But as retractions mount, we can hope a new work ethic will also evolve. Journalistic acceptance of whispered accusation might become skeptical documentation, perhaps accompanied prominently by a history of previous untruths.

At very least, news organizations might even exhibit the same level of wisdom shown over 50 years ago by comedic spy villains.

147 FBI Agents.
“Would you believe it? A hundred cops with Doberman Pinschers.”

Okay, then. Almost 50 agents.
Would you believe ten security guards and a bloodhound?

Alright. Under 12 Agents.
How about a Boy Scout with rabies?

Wouldn’t it be a blast from the past, from the days of Cronkite and Murrow, if reporters would respond, maybe even in their reporting:

I find that hard to believe.
That’s pretty hard to believe.
I don’t think so.

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Cuba, News Bias, Conspiracy, Missing Molly, Superheroes

  • Libertarian Michael A. LaFerrara at Principled Perspectives endorses a Democrat’s self-described rebuke of President Obama. Senator Robert Menendez (NJ) objects to the blame that our President puts on the United States for Cuba’s suppression of political freedom. LaFerrara cheerleads the rebuke.
    Age takes its toll. Saddened by my own mental lapse, failing to recall “blame America” rhetoric on the part of President Obama, I tried to refresh my aging, mushy, liberal memory.
    Michael is a great help, thank you Mr. LaFerrara. He links to the good Senator who, in turn, links to a National Review article by Elliott Abrams. In that piece, Mr. Abrams conducts research by consulting his own reasoning powers. He cannot imagine any reason for a relationship with Cuba other than a “‘blame America first’ view.”
    So it turns out that Michael LaFerrara joins Senator Robert Menendez who joins Elliott Abrams in rebuking President Obama for Mr. Abrams’ lack of imagination.
  • At Crooks and Liars, Frances Langum seems to have developed a bit of skepticism about the liberal views of MSNBC.
  • It isn’t just Ted Cruz. Other anti-immigrant conservatives also quote the FBI saying that Syrian refugees can’t be vetted. Tommy Christopher, at the Daily Banter, takes a closer look and wonders why media interviewers don’t do the same.
  • Jack Jodell at The Saturday Afternoon Post holds irresponsible media coverage of fake debates at least partially responsible for a Republican campaign that has become an international embarrassment.
  • Jerry Wolfe at Dog Bless Us One And All has tracked down the real motivation behind the obtuse anti-abortion outburst from Donald Trump that has ticked off pro-lifers. It seems it is a planned distraction from the Hillary plot to steal the Democratic nomination from Bernie. Yeah, that’s what he says.
  • The Big Empty has another new conspiracy theory about Republican implosion this one more plausible than most.
  • Yellow Dog at Blue in the Bluegrass articulates how and why we miss Molly Ivins.
  • NOJO at Stinque explains how Netflex and Marvel comics have joined to satisfy our basest violent impulses and our deepest moral ponderings. That was once a job for Superman.

Trapped in the Palace of Cows – Who Killed the GOP?

Click for Radio Podcast:
Trapped in the Palace of Cows (8:02)

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All eyes are on California. The Republican establishment struggles to keep the Presidential nomination from the most extreme candidate in a generation. A win on the west coast will put him over the top, but he can’t quite put a majority together in that state. For most of the primary season a cadre of moderate candidates has divided the opposition. But now there is only one left, and California looks like it will go for establishment moderation.

That is, until voters are reminded of the long simmering scandal about sex, marriage, and adultery.

The nomination will be decided before the opening of the Republican convention at the famous San Francisco Cow Palace.

It was 1964 and the primary campaign was a little meaner than most of us, even those of us who had been born in time to remember anything, remember about those days. Analogies with that campaign may be easier for some in my generation. Most of today’s voters think of Henry Cabot Lodge as a motel chain.

By June of 1964, everyone had known for a long time that Happy and Nelson Rockefeller had divorced in order to marry each other. But scandals sometimes dim with time. The announcement that Happy was now pregnant was a vivid reminder, and it all came back. Barry Goldwater did not need to press the issue. He went from substantially behind among California Republicans to a resounding victory.

The most conservative of conservatives loved the Senator from Arizona. Voters not in that camp had a different view.

The harsh judgement most Americans formed about Senator Goldwater and his supporters has mellowed since those days. He is now viewed as a principled conservative with moral objections as Soviet hegemony went to brutal dominance. His leadership against civil rights laws is now seen as libertarian opposition to federal statism, not as anything approaching race hatred.

But in those days, he was seen as simply extremist. His opponents were moderates. Extremists are thought of as irrational, moderates are reasonable.

I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.

Senator Barry Goldwater, July 16, 1964

His intemperant statements about nuclear weapons were scary just two years following the Cuban Missile Crisis. Americans were mindful of how close the world had come to thermal nuclear destruction. Goldwater campaigned against American tolerance of Iron Curtain tyranny. The nuclear threat had clouded American morality. Americans, he felt, had an unhealthy fear of death, when the freedom of others was at stake.

It wasn’t just about war and peace. The Republican candidate did not seem to mind the excesses of his supporters.

1964 was the year black Republicans were forced out of the party of Lincoln in Georgia and Tennessee. It had been less than a century since President Lincoln had been killed. For the last half of that century, Tennessee had included black members in every delegation to every national convention. There were no exceptions until the anti-black purge of 1964. The convention accepted an all white delegation from Tennessee.

After the Goldwater defeat in 1964, Republicans underwent a painful reassessment. How could they maintain a principled conservatism without scaring the hell out of Americans, without appearing to be the willing accomplices of the worst parts of the white hooded underside of American history?

Richard Nixon was the unfortunate choice to carry the new banner of reason. Watergate has pretty much overcome any other role Republicans imagined for him. But Nixon’s Southern strategy, his alliance with Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond, began a muted sort of racial politics. An international policy of death squads and overthrow became a semi-open secret, easily denied.

Nixon was a sort of precursor to Ronald Reagan’s more artful adaptation of the same strategy. Much of white America was resentful of the sudden advancement of minority rights. The conservative lexicon had adapted. Racial code words combined with interracial handshakes. Death squads went below radar as nuclear deals dominated headlines.

Democrats faced their own crises after the McGovern wipeout in 1972. How could they hold to a principled line on equal rights and international peace in the face of an angry white electorate frightened by both?

And so it went as it had always gone through history. Political parties strayed away from the electoral center at the cost of votes. Election defeat brought a painful introspection as those at the helm reconciled core principle with core strategy.

Facing the abyss is nature’s way of focusing attention. Political parties pretty much always found their way back toward the center of public opinion.

That historical pattern seemed to stop in 1992, at least for the Republican party. It is worth asking why.

  • Was it the Southern Strategy of President Nixon that set the party on the slow decline into the irresistable whirlpool of racial anger?
  • Was it the result of careless elites stoking religious paranoia, as the faithful saw themselves surrounded by an increasingly secular society?
  • Was it a conservative elite more loyal to abstraction than the real economic decline of its constituency?
  • Or were the undercurrents of xenophobia and tribalism always there, ready to rise like some monster lurking in the depths?

All may be true, to a point. I suggest a neglected answer is simpler.

It was not strategic error, although mistakes were profound. It was not simple religious, racial, and ethnic bigotry, although lost souls do seem incapable of escape from the dark underbelly of American hate.

The Republican Party is caught in a new sociological vortex. It began when non-liberals forced out liberal Republicans. So the party shrank and grew more conservative. The new conservatism meant that conservatives could make life unbearable for moderates. And so the party shrank a little more, and grew yet more conservative. Conservatives who were not extreme enough followed, and now extreme conservatives who consider even talking to Supreme Court nominees have reason to worry. Some will eventually leave voluntarily. Some will hang from electoral scaffolds.

Why now?

Republicans have lost the majority of voters in 5 of the last 6 Presidential elections. Next November does not look promising.

Donald Trump and his sibling rivals differ only in how explicit they choose to be in articulating the same baseline of resentment and hatred. Why is the party not returning to the center?

This generation of conservatives has encountered a new and deadly addiction. It is the comfortable cocoon of technology. Internet and cable alternatives combine with our old friend, talk radio, to offer a new virtual reality. The message is no longer the necessity of reexamination. It doesn’t have to be.

The restraint that was once forced by approaching political abyss is no longer scary. The message of choice is one of comfort. You need not change. You need not even consider changing. Except to become more like you are.

The Republican party will soon be a regional force that will keep shrinking, will keep diving to new extreme depths.

The culprit is hidden in plain sight.
We see it on our desks. We watch it after hours. We hold it while we talk and text.

The Republican Party is dying.
The microchip is the killer.

Resurrection, Brussels, Che, Trump