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Showing posts from December, 2015

The Ministry of Reconciliation

John Danforth thinks that if President Obama had just invited members of Congress to dinner we wouldn't have all this acrimony we have in Washington.  He imparted these thoughts and others in a lengthy interview for Salon, mostly to plug his new book, The Relevance of Religion, in which he thinks religion can serve as a reconciliation force in politics.  Late in the interview, he points to George Bush being an example of this, saying "I don't see him as being an in-your-face, full-of-himself type," which is apparently how he sees Obama, who is too arrogant to invite Congresspersons to dinner.

Obama had been accused of aloofness before, so at the beginning of 2015 he made a New Year's resolution to have a drink with Mitch McConnell and let John Boehner beat him again at golf.  Typically, dinner time is family time, which he said would be the case when he entered the White House with his young family.

At 79, I suppose we can forgive former Sen. Danforth for forget…

New Faces, Same Old Message

The oddest thing about the Republican Party today is that it has become more diverse despite becoming increasingly conservative.  It now has a number of young Latino, Indian and Black leaders pushing its rigidly conservative agenda at the local, state and national level.  The staunchest opponents to immigration and expanded social services have been Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and Bobby Jindal, despite the fact their parents were immigrants and relied on social services at one time.  It really is hard to figure what draws them to the Republican Party other than an opportunity for quick promotion up the ranks.

The GOP's outreach has been nil since recognizing its shortcomings in 2012.  The House purposely held up immigration reform legislation despite there being the votes to carry it in 2013.  Its leaders felt there would be enough backlash in the 2014 midterms to run the Democrats out of town.  Since then, immigration reform has been a dead issue and so too any attempt by the Repub…

The Science of Conservatism

This article is from last year but it popped up on my facebook page this morning.  Scientists have been trying to figure out if there is a biological imperative to conservatism and it seems they found one from the Pleistocene period 12,000 years ago.  Basically, it seems conservatism is a recessive gene that is a throwback to earlier years as hunters and gatherers.  It allows us to to sense danger and react quickly, which would help explain the gun cult that has arisen in America, if nothing else.

John Hibbing calls it a "negativity bias," which makes some persons more attuned to threatening or disgusting stimuli in their environment.  These persons respond more rapidly to aversive stimuli like spiders than apparently do more liberal respondents, who probably just say, "oh spider."  This experiment would definitely put me in the second group as I've learned to live with spiders and feel no threat at all.

However, my daughter is particularly adverse to spiders…

Cold Comfort

We made it through another Christmas without too much anxiety.  Donald managed to eat most of the Christmas pudding with his attacks on Hillary, giving Fox little time to trot its usual stories of how Christmas was hijacked by the politically correct police.  We were treated to the great news that Bristol Palin gave birth to Sailor Grace.  This is her second child out of wedlock, although some think it is her third.

While we react to the "disgust" of Donald Trump and wonder if Bristol still considers herself a virgin in the eyes of the Lord, spiteful legislators managed to slip in visa restrictions on Iranian nationals into an omnibus visa bill, which Obama signed.  This has Iran screaming foul in regard to the nuclear deal they signed with the US and other countries earlier this year.  John Kerry tried to smooth things over by saying the President can bypass the law for high-ranking officials, but the whole purpose of this deal was to open Iran up to the West.  The new law…

Schlonged!

"You can't con people, at least not for long.  You can create excitement, you can do wonderful promotion and get all kinds of press, and you can throw in a little hyperbole.  But, if you don't deliver the goods, people will eventually catch on." -- Donald Trump from The Art of the Deal

Donald Trump has now officially inserted his "schlong" into this political campaign.  Just when you thought the bar couldn't be lowered anymore, Trump finds a way.  His comments concerning Hillary Clinton come after she claimed ISIS was using him as a recruiting tool in their videos.  No such video could be located, just like that one of Jersey City Muslims cheering in the streets, but the Donald wasn't letting Hillary off lightly on this one.  Not only did he deride her for her long bathroom break during the last Democratic debate, but said that she got "schlonged" in the 2008 primaries by Barack Obama.

Bernie's response was probably the best, as he que…

Dawg Pound Blues

One can only imagine what Jim Brown felt watching the Browns take on the Seattle Seahawks this past Sunday.  The young Cleveland quarterback Johnny Manziel offered some hope on an opening drive that led to a touchdown, but after that it was all Seattle and the Browns may wind up with the worst record in the NFL.

The Cleveland Browns have always bit a bit of an enigma.  The history surrounding their nickname is shrouded in mystery.  Some say the team was named after Joe Lewis, the legendary "Brown Bomber," who dominated heavyweight boxing for many years.  Others say the team was named after its first owner Paul Brown.  One might be forgiven for thinking the moniker belongs to Jim Brown, who carried the team on his shoulders back in the late 50's and ealry 60's, but the Browns' best run was a few years before when they were led by Otto Graham, winning the NFL Championship in 1954 and 1955.

The team came up through the All-America Football Conference, replacing the…

Look away, Dixieland

I imagine the folks of Riviera Beach had been wanting to take down Old Dixie Highway for a very long time.  This is a vestige of history that doesn't sit well with the predominantly black community of 30,000 residents near Palm Beach, Florida.  In its place is President Barack Obama Highway.

Florida has been phasing out the old Dixie Highway system.  It's kind of odd it stretched so far south, as there wasn't much connection between North and South Florida during the antebellum era, or even in the early 1900s when this highway system was inaugurated as a long corridor between the Midwest and Southern states.

Henry Flagler was the first to connect the two halves of Florida back in the 1890s with his East Coast Railway, connecting St. Augustine to Palm Beach.  It had less to do with rekindling Southern pride than it did exploiting the Atlantic coastline with resorts.  The Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach was one of the jewels along the new rail line.  Still, development was sl…

Bernie feels the burn

I guess if Bernie has a soft spot it is guns.  O'Malley and Clinton both tried to draw him out on the issue, but the Bern was having none of it.  On the campaign trail, his opposition to gun laws hasn't seemed to hurt him.  In fact, it rarely comes up.  It is only at the debates where his opponents challenge him on his apparent soft stance.  Yet, Bernie proudly boasted of his "D- rating" from the NRA and noted that he was for the assault rifle ban.  What he wants is "common sense gun legislation."

Bernie has a more pragmatic view of gun control than his opponents, particularly Martin O'Malley, who trumpets the tough gun laws Maryland adopted when he was governor.  At a previous debate, Bernie shot back saying how difficult it is to get any gun legislation through Congress given the demographics of this country, noting that it is a rural v. urban issue, and the rural votes outstrip the urban votes.

Maryland has become a favorite target of the NRA.  Des…

Bombs Away

Trump scores his biggest endorsements yet in Tom Brady and Vladimir Putin, while Ted Cruz has the blessing of Sarah Palin, who looked like she was going to have an orgasm on national television.  Putin was less emphatic than Sarah, but nonetheless heaped praise on the Republican front runner, calling him, "a bright and talented person without any doubt."  Oddly enough, this endorsement might drive a wedge between Donald and Ted, as Ted is ardently anti-Russian, and we all know what Sarah thinks of Russia.

The Republican nomination process has now become a veritable cluster fuck.  This was just the capstone to a crazy week that saw the Republicans go at it again on the Las Vegas strip, pitching limited nuclear war, cluster bombs and any and all means necessary to bring ISIS (or ISIL) to heel.  Ben Carson compared fighting ISIS to taking a tumor out of a child's head, some lives will undoubtedly be lost but Syria will thank him in the end.  Assuming there is any Syria lef…

The Savannah Plan

Alan Taylor doesn't describe the Oglethorpe plan for Savannah in much detail, as it is worthy of a book in its own right.  From the start the British social reformer imagined something different for Georgia that would set it apart from the other colonies.  Part of that was comprehensive town plan that remains the predominant feature of Savannah today.

Oglethorpe was probably the first of the transplanted English nobleman to be a product of the Enlightenment, unlike the religious Puritans, the unscrupulous speculators and land barons that came before him.  As such, he imagined a colony built more on a strong ethical philosophy rather than religious dogma or speculative interests.  Key to this vision was a distinct city plan that encouraged the kind of fraternity he imagined among the new colonists.

The Oglethorpe Plan is simple in concept.  Each super block was essentially designed to support itself, looking a bit like a Chinese trigram.  Over the nearly three centuries since its i…

Inside Man

What began as a begrudging respect for Vladimir Putin has grown into a full blown bromance.  The Donald thinks he is the only one who can communicate with the Russian strongman.  It's hard to say whether this great admiration is reciprocated, but there are signs that the Kremlin is pleased with its new point man, who has mostly good things to say about the Russian president at the expense of President Obama and other "weak, ineffective" leaders around the world.

Trump had dealings with Putin in 2013 when his Miss Universe contest was staged in Russia, claiming an intimacy that he has echoed repeatedly.  It's unsure whether they have each other's private cell phone numbers or whether Putin has privately invited Trump to his mystery mansion on the Black Sea.  We can only speculate at this point.

It is equally hard to say who is using who as a wedge in this election cycle.  It suits Trump to play the strong, resolute Putin off the weak, ineffective Obama to drive h…

Money for Nothing

Citizens United v. FEC unleashed a flood gate of money into the election cycle that had many fearing that the little guy no longer stood a chance with corporations pouring in millions to their favorite candidates and causes.  But, who would have thought billionaires could be so stupid?

To read this article in New York magazine, you have to be a complete idiot to put your money behind Newt Gingrich, as Sheldon Adelson did in 2012, giving the former House Speaker a blank check.  Sheldon outdid himself this time around by initially bankrolling Lindsey Graham.  Sheldon has since auditioned other candidates, but apparently it is pretty easy to find your own billionaire, as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have done, so you don't need the Las Vegas gambling mogul behind you to win.

With so many billionaires looking for a would-be President to have in their pocket, it has become a field day for Republican strategists and pollsters cobbling together Super Pacs in the name of one presidential cand…

First Class to Cuba

After 50 long years, direct mail between Cuba and the United States is returning.  As a stamp collector I like this.  For Cubans it is a brand new day, as it makes communications with friends and relatives a whole lot easier, as they no longer have to go through third-party countries.  Still, there are restrictions.

No doubt, our GOP candidates will jump on this latest bit of warming.  However, it may be too late for any of them to turn back relations, assuming a GOP candidate were to win the White House in 2016. The path to normalization between the countries is moving so rapidly that Discovery even has a show, entitled Cuban Chrome, that has become a popular favorite.   Who knows, even the Castros may be gone by 2017, rendering all the Republicans' bellicose words on the campaign trail moot.

Of course, Marco Rubio believes he represents Cuban exiles in residence.  He wasn't even born in Cuba, but loves to tell the story of his father, ignoring the awful injustices committed…

The Girls of the UFC

Putting women into the ring is nothing new, but with the UFC format it has taken on a new level of viciousness, previously only hinted at in the faux fights of World Wrestling Entertainment.  I admit I'm drawn to it, but it makes me cringe at the same time.  I probably shouldn't worry as these "girls" are well trained, coming from boxing or some form of competitive martial arts.  But, the UFC is basically an anything-goes format, which includes choke holds, and brutal kicks like this one Holly Holm laid on Ronda Rousey in route to her upset victory.  That kick has since gone viral.

When two strawweight girls stepped into the UFC octagon last night, it took on a level of titillation given that Paige Van Zant has become America's sweetheart.  She's only 21, barely old enough to drink. She started out in ballet and switched to martial arts in high school to defend herself against bullies, according to her bio.  She goes by "12 Gauge," a nickname besto…

Throw the Republicans Down the Well

Borat was on Jimmy Kimmel the other night, warning everyone that Sacha Baron Cohen had a new character in his repertoire -- Donald Trump.  How else to explain that person with an orange "jimmy" on top of his head?  Just when you think the Donald couldn't lower the bar any lower, he says he will get on the phone with Bill Gates and see if there is something they can do to keep Muslims off the Internet.  What Sacha Baron Cohen is saying in his Borat-like way is that Trump stole his shtick.

Unfortunately, Republicans have shown time and again that they have little sense of humor.  Ron Paul found himself being punked by Bruno back in 2008, and wasn't very happy about it.  Trump loves to dish out the nasty barbs, but whenever someone takes a pot shot at him, he gets very testy.   It's kind of like Kim Jong-Un, who got all upset with the movie The Interview, giving the tepid comedy far more attention than it deserved.  At least his father could take a joke.

Lindsey Gr…

The President's Speech

The President tried to get us back into the Christmas swing with his speech Sunday night, but that didn't appear to calm too many persons' nerves.  Many Americans still seem to be in a red state of alert, with Trump calling for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States, as he stated in his tweets on the President's speech that we are at war with radical Islamic terrorists, using caps to drive the point home.

The folks at Fox were also upset with the President's speech.  Ret. Lt. Col. Ralph Peters called Obama "a complete pussy," and "Clueless" Stacey Dash said Obama doesn't "give a shit" about terrorism.  Both were rebuked by Fox and given two weeks suspension.  Trump was chastised by Dick Cheney no less,, but at this stage of the game it will have little bearing on his candidacy, as it seems a large segment of conservatives have shut out the media and politicians, preferring to live in their own fundamentalist world divorced f…

Living in These Apocalyptic Days

With over 300 mass shootings this year, it is not surprising that one quickly supplants the other in terms of media attention, especially when Muslim terrorists are suspected.  A mass shooting is defined by shooting tracker as any attack where there are at least 4 wounded or killed.  The San Bernardino shooting managed to achieve the biggest body count of the year, but is it anymore heinous than the mass shooting in Colorado Springs by Robert Lewis Dear the week before, who similarly had a "religious agenda?"

Where it took GOP candidates 48 hours to formulate opinions on Dear, they were quick to respond to Farook and his wife, claiming it as an act of terror before the FBI had made that determination itself.  This of course led to Benghazi-like chants against Obama for waiting to hear the official police report before declaring it an act of terror.  Like it does anything to alleviate the pain and suffering taking place in San Bernardino.  However, this is an election hear a…