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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Why I Talk to Loons

 

Over time, I have developed a particular habit here on Stonekettle Station.

In certain posts I tend to use comments from other websites and media to illustrate certain points of view.

Under the previous post, commenter Wez asked:

Just curious Jim, why respond to the insane posts by the fringe so often? I realize it helps to spotlight those A-holes who actually do think that way, but aren't you catering to the idiot element a little too much? The story of the lunatic in your office who made that comment was relevant, but were the multiple quotes of the ravings of those who can't even spell or construct a sentence a worthy use of your time?

That’s actually a couple of questions.

I’ll answer them in reverse order.

Why use quotes from Yahoo, Fox, RedState, WSJ, HuffPo, and so on? 

Because these comments often duplicate the tons of hate mail I get or the obnoxious comments that I won’t allow to post here on Stonekettle Station.  In some cases those comments are an exact match because commenters on Yahoo troll the web making the same type comments wherever their particular psychosis happens to lead them, sometimes they end up here. Take obnoxious Yahoo News regular “Tex Taylor” for example, who also showed up under my America Explained post, and then made himself a general nuisance around here for several months under a variety of pseudonyms. You can find some of his comments under this Yahoo article. Comments he makes on Yahoo and elsewhere are nearly identical to the ones he made here.  Now, if I only used quotes from my email and/or unpublished comments or if I quote a guy who made a verbal comment outside my door – as I do upon occasion – you just have to take my word that those people exist. And not only that they exist, but that they are exactly as lead-paint swilling ‘roid-rage crazy stupid as I make them out to be.  Since only I can see what’s in my moderation and email queues, you have to take my word for the veracity of any published examples I use from those sources. Some of you are perfectly willing to do that, and I appreciate your doe-eyed childlike trust.  However, inevitably what happens when my posts get shared (or just plain stolen) and published elsewhere, particularly on blogs with less restrictive commenting rules or on discussion forums, is that commenters immediately accuse me of making things up because, so they say, there simply isn’t anybody on their side (whichever side that happens to be) who is that stupid, hateful, ignorant, and/or illiterate. Then typically, they accuse me of being part of some grand media elite conspiracy to overthrow democracy, destroy freedom, kill Jesus, stir-fry babies, implement Sharia Law, and gayify Chuck Norris.  So, I commonly use comments from popular news sites to illustrate whatever point I’m trying to make, comments that are easily accessed by anybody with an internet connection.  If I want to you see the exact comment I’m quoting, I’ll include a link to that website and page.  If I want to you look it up for yourself so that you can see for yourself that the comments I’m quoting are a common trend and an easily determined one at that, such as in the previous post, then I’ll simply point you in the right direction and let you do the searching.  I leave clues in the text, as I did in the previous article, i.e. you “don’t have to look very far or very hard” under Yahoo News to find the comments I quoted – and thousands more exactly like them or worse, much worse.  I didn’t even have to give you a specific article yesterday, you can pick any post on the subject at hand and find thousands of comments similar to the ones I quoted.  I typically use Yahoo as a source for this kind of thing because a) it is unrestricted and unfiltered, b) it is a primarily a news aggregator and its articles come from a variety of sources, left and right, c) it is commented on equally by Liberals, Conservatives, sane and insane, male and female, Americans and non-American (though, granted, it does tend to the, um ,  less well educated portion of the spectrum), and d) because Yahoo articles typically have thousands of comments providing a very, very large sample range.

Are these raving loons worthy of my time? 

Yes. For a variety of reasons, the most important of which I’ll address further below. In the meantime rest assured that whatever effort I devote to these loons will in no way impact my Jonathan Goldsmith-like ability to discover heretofore unknown civilizations, memorize the timeless sagas of ancient Viking skelds in the original Icelandic, cure cancer through the power of Facebook coordinated group meditation, engineer free unlimited energy from the zero-point quantum foam, perfect the timeless art of erotic balloon animal sculpture, or work towards world peace through the magic of classic 60’s rock and roll.  Also, I read really, really fast.  I read a lot.  I read everything, from the back of milk cartons to a dozen science journals per week to any news source that will hold still long enough and from as many facets of the political spectrum as I can manage.  With acquisition of my internet enabled tablet, I read even more and from an even wider range of sources. I use a variety of data search and management tools. Information gathering, processing, and interpretation was my job for all of my adult life, I was highly trained in it and I helped to design some of the techniques used in modern military intelligence systems. I’m a generalist by training and inclination.  I’m an information junkie.  And I’m fascinated by crazy people, for a number of reasons.  From a “worthy” standpoint, I’d be reading the comments from these raving loons even if I wasn’t using them as cannon fodder.  If you’re in the information business, then all information is worthy.  

Why go digging for comments beyond the one guy outside your office?

Because you can’t plot a curve from a single point – well, ok, you can, but it’s generally considered a bad idea.  Under the previous article, a commenter suggested that I shouldn’t paint all members of a political ideology with the same brush. Point taken.  One loud mouthed guy in the hallway is one asshole engaged in ignorant jingoism.  One corpulent impotent pundit who calls a college student a whore is one asshole engaged in ignorant misogyny.  One governor who thinks he can make it rain through prayer is one asshole engaged in ignorant malarkey.  But, when tens of thousands of rain dancing fuzzy-wuzzies join the governor in his religiousity, when mindless millions join the pompous windbag in his slut shaming, and when millions more call a murderer a hero, well, then you’ve got more than enough data to plot a complex surface in three dimensions.  I use comments to illustrate points of view.  I use multiple comments to show that the illustrated point of view is not an isolated position. 

Yeah, but why do this at all?

Aside from the fact that these silly buggers should be ridiculed publically, you mean? Because, I was trained as a intelligence officer. Because I was trained as a military leader.  Nothing drives you to disaster quicker than assumption.  You must know the battlespace, the failures of intelligence and assumption should be glaringly obvious to every single American in these post-911, post-Iraq days. You must know the adversary, how he thinks, how he sees the world, what matters to him.  There is no substitute for boots on the ground, i.e. direct observation. Comments like those I used in yesterday’s post convey layers of information beyond the obvious opinion expressed by the commenter. Taken as a whole they show trends, memes, the spread of viral concepts though the public mind. In the previous post I used the noxious example “the only good Muslim is a dead Muslim.”  You’ll find that sentiment or similar expressed thousands, millions, of times across the internet.  Go look for yourself.  But, while you’re looking through the Yahoo and FoxNews and RedState forums, also look to see how many times that position is challenged – and not just challenged by people from the opposite side of the political spectrum, but from the same side.  Look at that statement in context. What do you see beyond just the obvious?  It’s bad enough that one person publically calls for genocide, but what does it tell you when tens of thousands do so routinely?  And they’re comfortable doing it. In a public forum.  And it is those who don’t agree with genocide who are embarrassed to object, or too intimidated, or just don’t care enough. What does it tell you when sixty percent of conservative voters in Mississippi publically believe, and aren’t embarrassed to say so out loud, that their president is lying about his religious beliefs and birthplace?  What does it tell you when a significant fraction of Americans on the other side of the political spectrum still believe that George Bush actually bombed the World Trade Center? And they’re not embarrassed to do so in normal conversation? What does it tell you when  a significant fraction of Americans, a fraction numbering  in the millions, actually believes that they personally really heard Sandra Fluke demand that they pay for her sex life?

Why do this at all?

Why indeed.

Because far too many of us allow this kind of nonsense to go unchallenged.   Far too many allow the Rush Limbaughs and the Glenn Becks and the Oprahs and the Yahoo commenters to go unchallenged. We allow the Louis Farrakhans and the Reverend Wrights and the Billy Grahams and the Bill Donohues to go on without rebuttal.

We do this because while we may not agree with it, well, we sort of think these silly bastards have the right to say it anyway. 

And we shouldn’t.  Not, we shouldn’t allow them to speak, we shouldn’t allow their silly bullshit to go unchallenged.

Oh sure, freedom, right? Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of belief. 

Yes, of course.

We have a saying in the military, rank has its privileges.  This is a true statement.  What gets senior folks into trouble though is the unspoken portion of that statement.  The part that is implied.

Rank has its privileges, true, but it also has its responsibilities.  Forget that at your peril.

As an American, you have certain rights. But if you want to keep those rights, and freedom and liberty and a workable civilization, then rights must come with responsibilities. 

Folks, allowing this kind of nonsense to go unchallenged has very real consequences.

For example: today, Arizona legislators have advanced a bill that would allow an employer to fire a woman who doesn’t want to have a baby.

Yes, you read that correctly. 

Arizona House Bill 2625, passed by the state House two weeks ago and endorsed by the state Senate Judiciary Committee last Monday and advanced to the full Senate today would require that any woman who wants the cost of her birth control pills covered by insurance (any insurance, not just that provided by religious organizations, and not to mention insurance that she herself must pay for) must submit a claim to her employer providing evidence that it’s not for contraception.  Now, if that wasn’t bad enough, the law would allow an employer to fire a woman for taking birth control pills to prevent pregnancy.  This in order to, and stick with me here, protect the religious freedom of the employer. The woman’s religious freedom shall be protected only so long as it agrees with the religious doctrine of the crazy religious loons in the Arizona state government. This bill is different from other similar legislation at both the state and federal levels in two ways, 1) it specifically differentiates between birth control used for contraception and that used for medical reasons, and 2) it requires a woman to disclose that reason to her employer – not doctor, not insurer, her employer.  I want you to take a minute here and think about that, think about a woman being required to discuss in detail her reproductive medical decisions with her boss – including her intentions to have, or not have children.  Remember, her boss can then use that conversation to fire her.   No. Stop reading for a minute and think about that in detail, think about all the vindictive small-minded pointy-haired religious freaks you’ve ever worked for.  Think about a woman having to discuss her period with a boss like, oh, let’s just say Rush Limbaugh, or her sex life with Bill Clinton, or the results of her last OBG/YN exam with Newt Gingrich. Think about it.

No, really think about it. 

Now, flip the coin and think about being that boss. Of having to screen the women under your authority, even if you don’t want to, because otherwise you could be fired for not enforcing company policy with regards to her reproductive system.  Bad enough if you’re a man, but what if you’re a woman?  If you’re the boss, and a woman, wouldn’t you always be under suspicion for any medical procedure you approved for other women? Would your company ever really trust you to make unbiased decisions when it comes to enforcing their reproductive health policies?

But, of course, nothing like that would happen where you work, right?  No chance of, say, your company being bought out by a Christian investor?  How about an Arab

This entire thing is contrived.  It’s the result of mass hysteria, of mass insanity. Laws like this weren’t even on the radar screen six months ago.  And now?  Now Arizona House Bill 2625 is likely to pass and be signed into law by governor Jan Brewer.

It’s the result of a political party gone mad with rage and fear and bizarre hatred. 

It’s the result of religion gone insane with lust for power and control.

It’s the result of pundits and politicians and professional fear mongers who serve only themselves.

It’s the result of illiterates, and the righteously ignorant, and the vitriolic haters who call for genocide and the enslavement of women and are let off the hook unchallenged.

 

That, right there, is why I write what I write. 

And why I do it the way I do.

And why I will continue to do so.

77 comments:

  1. Amen, Jim, and keep on keeping on!

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  2. Um... don't married women use birth control?

    Um... isn't prohibition of birth control a Catholic thing?

    Um... do women ever, y'know, vote?

    I just don't get that crazy country of yours.

    PS, I would personally love to hear some information warfare stories from your career.

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  3. Excellent post, Jim. You always knock it out of the park. Just today, I found myself wondering why I continue to butt heads with morons because "someone one the internet is wrong". But your post reminds me why I do it, although not nearly as direct as you. Keep it up, sir.

    New joke for you: what's the difference between a fetus, a corporation, and a woman? Conservatives only consider the first two to be people.

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    1. Just a little reference, in case anyone doesn't already know it:
      xkcd: Duty Calls

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    2. Well put, Daniel. Also Jim, of course.

      May be stolen to be used as a sign for the Women's Rights Protest in Trenton, N.J. 4-18-12.

      Hope you don't mind.

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  4. Excellent post, Jim. You always knock it out of the park. Just today, I found myself wondering why I continue to butt heads with morons because "someone one the internet is wrong". But your post reminds me why I do it, although not nearly as direct as you. Keep it up, sir.

    New joke for you: what's the difference between a fetus, a corporation, and a woman? Conservatives only consider the first two to be people.

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  5. My thoughts exactly!Only you articulated them way better than I. 100% better!!!

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  6. Thank you is not enough. I am fearful of the direction some persons in this country want to steer us. I try, and try, and try to do exactly what you state- often with maddening results. Trying to reason with these people is impossible, since they only deal with the facts as they see them. Rationality has no effect upon their beliefs; facts have no effect upon their faith; reality has no effect upon their world-view. They emphatically refuse to even attempt to see things as they really are, nor do they concern themselves with the repercussions of their deeds. I am ... frustrated.

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    1. Remember that Jim says he "talks" to loons. He doesn't say he argues with them. Jim is a pretty good judge of when the horse is dead, and doesn't deign to continue beating it.

      He does say that we shouldn't let loons remain unchallenged, but I don't think it's because he wants us to try to change their minds. It's to let them know they don't have a pass to say stupid shit without being called on it. It's to let others know these loons aren't the only ones out there.

      Note, though, that he will sometimes argue with people here. Sometimes a seed planted does actually bear fruit. Just know that some minds have demonstrated that they aren't open. When people show you who they are, believe them.

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  7. Son of a bitch, that was the best damn answer I EVER heard anybody give to a commenter. Where in verbal hell did you come from, and why aren't you being read or listened to by millions. YOU should have a fucking radio show!
    Really!

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    1. yes--radio show!!!! or, even better--tv show. But, why would someone so interested in all of life want to tie himself down?

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  8. I won't stop marking "I cried" while Jim keeps writing these awesome posts. Awesome is my daughter's word - most good things in her world are awesome - I use it sparingly - perhaps because I grew up not needing "awesome". Who knows - but Jim earns Awesome (capital A) with this blog entry.

    "What does it tell you when sixty percent of conservative voters in Mississippi publically believe, and aren’t embarrassed to say so out loud, that their president is lying about his religious beliefs and birthplace?"

    This can only be answered by saying, 60% of conservative voters in Mississippi cannot believe the country elected a black President. No black man could possibly have earned this position - so rather than say we are racist we will simply say he is a Muslim born in Kenya and not elibible to be President.

    "What does it tell you when a significant fraction of Americans on the other side of the political spectrum still believe that George Bush actually bombed the World Trade Center?"

    To me, this one indicates the paranoia that sets in when a political view takes over your life - and that the lack of education is on both sides of the political divide.

    Sandra Fluke and the war on women is a whole different game (perhaps because I am a woman), which to me needs a separate reply

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  9. The GOP and women

    Believing what Rush said Sandra said, rather than listening to what Sandra said, is obviously the easy option when many radio listeners did not hear the full version of Sandra's speech - Much of the later discussion concentrated on "birth control". If you thought Sandra spoke of birth control, not a leap to believe Rush. If Rush had omitted the vitriol and simply said "Sandra Fluke thinks the Government should pay for her birth control" there probably would have been no outcry from anyone. He just can't help going overboard with stupidity. We are lucky that the loud mouths in the GOP don't understand that being calm about inciting people against their own self interest can win much more than being loud mouth objectionable.

    The current war in state legislatures against women is being used as a way of embarrassing women into submission. I don't think it has occurred to the Arizona legislature that a woman could ever be a boss - in their minds it will always be the man intimidating the woman.

    After WWII there was a concerted effort to get women out of the work force and back in the breeding program (We don't need you anymore, you are stealing jobs from veterans). Given that the current situation has high unemployment and troops returning from Iraq a good way to reduce unemployment claims is to force women, one way or another out of the workforce.

    I lived through a time when women could be sacked because they were married and were definitely sacked when the boss found out they were pregnant. To have a "reverse" situation where you can be sacked because you are not pregnant makes it so alarming it easily answers the question asked of Jim "Why do you do this at all"

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  10. Thanks for keeping up the good fight Jim (I remain hopeful that the bill, if signed into law, gets thrown out because of all the HIPAA violations but who knows).

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  11. Thank you, Jim, and please keep doing what you do. I was starting to think that maybe I am being too angry and outspoken about the crazy going on, but you have reminded me of why I must keep speaking out.

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  12. Most interesting man in the world huh? Well, can you whistle the Battle Hymn of the Republic while riding a bull moose backwards in October while wearing hip boots? If so, then you've got a running chance. ;-)

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    1. Pretty sure Jim could. And without spilling his coffee, to boot.

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  13. Kinda late here, but this post of Jim's been going around my brain a bit. I want to add an additional thought. My mother was born & raised, and spent her teenage years in Germany. Nazi Germany. For her, Hitler wasn't some scary caricature drawn up in garish colors on a poster to frighten the kiddies with; he was her Führer. Not that she or her family felt particularly loyal to their brushy-'stached potentate; they lived in a very small (even to this day) town in Bavaria, and my grandfather was the Methodist minister there. They didn't much care for the policies of their elected dictator; they also didn't have much say-so in the process. I didn't grow up learning about the rise of Hitler form dusty textbooks; I heard it from someone who had witnessed his rise to power with her own eyes. The question that always ran through my mind was, 'how could an entire nation let someone like that come to power?' I mean, did everyone wake up one day & collectively say, "Enough with these statesmen! What we need is a drooling bipolar madman at the helm!"

    You want to know what 1936 Germany looks like? You want to know how the really historic bat-shit apocryphal stuff begins? Take a good long look around you, folks. You're living in it. But, I can hear you saying, Ken, we have a legislative branch. We have the Supreme Court. We have a by-God Constitution! We have a stirring National Anthem; there isn't a monster born who could betray that! Y'know what? Germany had all of those things in 1935 as well. Their national anthem was written by Joseph fucking Haydn, and it's a pretty damned catchy tune.

    While you're pondering all that & looking up the German National Anthem on Youtube, think about this. Think about Hitler with a Navy that would be able to reduce the rest of the world to rubber dinghies in a matter of days. Great Britain & China are about the only two powers left with blue-water fleets that would even sortie against us. If you don't believe me, ask Jim; those tussles would be decided in a matter of hours of initial engagement. Bloop. Buehler? Buehler?

    Picture, if you will, Adolph with just shy of 10,000 nuclear warheads at his disposal. Or, picture the guy who keeps predicting every goddamned six months that the rapture is going to happen, only this time it's damned well gonna happen because he has the toys to make for fucking sure it does. Let that thought percolate for a few.

    Why does Jim talk to loons? Because - and this is just my opinion - he's one of a very rare breed of men who raised his right and had the wherewithal to comprehend what it meant when he swore to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I thank him for this service, every bit as much as I do for everything else he's done.

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    1. Wow, I hesitate to bring up the nazi comparison but my gut always reminds me that it did not take very long for them to get there.
      My first real ww2 version was from a french family and the stories they told my parents of what it was like, and later it was a coworker who was in the German Navy, a person my Grandfather sponsored to this country in 1951. Gave me a whole new insight on how the common German felt before and after the war.
      Your post and Jim's thoughts only reinforces the idea that by speaking up in a timely manner and not letting the batshit crazy rule, one might keep things that are bad getting a whole lot worse. Thanks

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    2. I've had to teach some of my friends and family basic history by reminding them that Adolf Hitler was elected, first. It makes me very nervous to think about how many people don't actually know that. Many people think that he had come to his position via a military coup. I had to tell them that they were getting Hitler confused with Mussolini. Their response: "Musso-who?"

      I wish I was joking.

      The old phrase that kept getting repeated when I was growing up keeps echoing in my head now: Those that don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it. I'm seriously afraid that this is happening now.

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    3. While I understand the alarm, I do not think the situation is quite dire enough to start worrying about a new Hitler rising in the US.

      However, I do believe that the steady, rightward drift of the GOP is leading them some of their most extreme members to have begun flirting with the lesser evil of fascism, at least in part. Granted, fascism is the most over-used charge, along with communist, in the current US political discourse (witness how often the charge of a fascist/nazi/communist bent has been levied against President Obama), but there are several very worrying trends in the current rhetoric coming from the GOP presidential contenders and some senators.

      What defines fascism? According to Wikipedia's article on fascism:
      1) Fascism typically seeks rejuvenation of the nation.
      2) This is to be accomplished through various mean, such as reminding people of their "[...]suprapersonal connections of ancestry, culture, and blood".
      3) It typically seeks to establish a singe-party state through mass-mobilization and "[...]discipline, indoctrination, physical education, and eugenics." Though eugenics isn't a strict requirement.
      4) The more important point, however, is the goal of "[...]purify[ing] the nation of foreign influences that are deemed to be causing degeneration of the nation or of not fitting into the national culture."

      and finally

      5) Fascism seeks to use "[...]political violence and war, as forms of direct action that create national regeneration, spirit and vitality."

      (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism#Definitions)

      I reiterate: The GOP is not a fascist party, by any means. But the rightward drift is taking certain individuals perilously close to dangerous territory, from which it will be difficult to extricate oneself. The current attack on women, immigrants, Muslims, LGBT persons, and any other group that are deemed to stand in opposition of "traditional American values" or "not true Americans" fits a pattern that should make people sit up and take notice.

      While I doubt you share my conclusions, Jim, I do applaud your efforts to speak up and call the idiocy out before it can become truly dangerous.

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    4. Kenneth, that was really well written and thought-provoking, thank you. And bless you for saying that the UK has a blue-water navy that would sortie against America. Last I heard we're changing our mind on building new aircraft carriers because we won't have any planes to use them...also, you own our nukes ;).

      A note of caution about the comparison to Hitler's rise to power: while there are similarities you can draw, the US is not in the same place as Weimar Germany was. You still have a strong currency. You haven't experienced massive inflation, and you don't have the same propensity for multiple govt'l elections in a short period of time (recall that Hitler was only given the Chancellorship after practically everyone else had failed, on the basis that the wiser heads would be able to restrain his crazier ideas. Oops).

      So the correct lesson to draw is that a power vacuum, a failure of leadership, and an abdication of the responsibilities of citizenship, always provides space for the crazy. It's not simply that USHitler is inches away from the levers of power. But attention should be focussed on ensuring the legislative branch of govt is sufficiently pragmatic to solve problems and not get mired in eternal gridlock...

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    5. sibusiodan: Well, that said what I wanted to say rather more eloquently than I managed. ;) And you are, of course, correct.

      If I may add to what you've already said, unlike Weimar Germany, the US has not recently deposed a monarch with significant influence over its politics, so there is no tradition for strict authoritarianism that a potential totalitarian/fascist movement can exploit. Which, honestly, is why the rightward drift of the GOP is so troubling to me.

      While I don't think even a hypothetical, openly fascist candidate could do too much damage (relatively speaking), even if they did become president, I also think that the steady drift towards, and embrace of, the most radically right-wing segments of the GOP makes true authoritarian ideas more likely to take root among at least parts of the electorate. If that were to happen, and if the rightward drift continues along its present trajectory, we could see a small, but vocal core of true authoritarianism enter the national American political landscape.

      This thought does not exactly fill me with comfort. Then again, I'm a pessimist.

      (As an editorial note: I managed to mess up the source-link in my post and there is a nasty error in the second paragraph. The correct source is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism and I apologize profusely for the error.)

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    6. To several above, Hitler was not elected. He was never elected to anything.

      He was appointed Chancellor of Germany by the then President Hindenburg. If I recall correctly from Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, the election following his appointment was very violent and bloody and still resulted in the Nazi party having barely a third of the vote, a smaller party with similar views however gave him a majority in the Reich stag.

      Every act of Hitler was legal under the German Constitution.

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    7. Olav & Sibusisodan: I readily-acknowledge that there are a great many circumstantial differences between now & the time of Hitler's rise in Germany. Most of his speeches during the period of his rise in the very early 30s were dominated by the events of that time (E.G.: The Bolshevik revolution taking place in Russia). If you take some of his earlier speeches, though, and translate out some of the ideological movements he was referencing & replace them with some of the broader ones we are experiencing in the world today (much of which is now based on religious difference), and take his rants against Jews & substitute 'Muslims,' or 'illegal aliens,' you can start to draw more concrete parallels between the rhetoric of that time and the rhetoric of ours. What concerns me is the rather dramatic evolution of the Christian rhetoric working its way into Conservative platforms over the past 30 years here. Compare the GOP in 1980 with what you're hearing out of Bachman, Palin & Santorum this year. Now continue to extrapolate that out a few more years. That party has only to become so nutty that it rebels against itself (I can hope) or openly-advocate theocracy in this country.

      I would still submit that, despite the differences between this age & that of Adolph Hitler (when in history have dictators ever risen to power under the exact same circumstances as a historical precedent?), there are only three essential elements that really need to be in place for a country to dive down the rabbit hole:

      1. The People need to be in crisis, of some sort.
      2. The current government needs to be ineffective at addressing the needs of the People.
      3. There needs to be a cohesive ideological foundation for the authoritarians to rally around.

      Ponder the fact that all the droolers that Jim cuts & pastes into his articles are going to step into a voting booth in November. It's not just Jim who needs to talk to the loons & speak out. We all do.

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    8. I would like to say that after re-reading what I wrote while I was totally messed up on night meds last night, I am wrong about Hitler having been elected. Somewhere along the line that particular piece of information got stuck in my brain.

      Normally(especially now with specific things happening with my brain and memory functions)I am better about double checking my facts. However, I am not joking about having to explain who Mussolini was.

      My apologies once again. >.<

      <--- my own sort of loon.

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    9. Kenneth,

      Yes, agreed. It's just that 'Godwining' tends to short-circuit any useful discussion of the dangers of totalitarianism in a storm of emotion.

      I'd push back a little further about the reasons for the GOP's rightward drift vs post-Weimar Germany.

      From my hazy school memories, early 1930s Germany was increasingly polarised in response to the political failure at solving the various key problems, like the economy (the untimely death of Stresemann didn't help here). Political polarisation was both left and right - and the centre was a vacuum.

      That doesn't seem to be quite the case here. The GOP's going rightward at a fair lick. The Dems in response are also going right, not left. Which makes me think the argument that for the GOP's lunacy being a demographic issue has some basis in fact: their natural base is shrinking, and they've decided to double down on teh crazy instead of remodel their base.

      So while you're right to be on your guard, this is more of an intra-party problem with significant consequences for the country, rather than a pan-party issue with terrible consequences for the country. Which is bad, of course, in itself.

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  14. I heard mention (don't remember where) incorporating a vagina/uterus. I feel I may need to do just that, that way I will have some rights in the future, because if we keep heading in this direction, I feel doomed...
    Abstinence only mandated sex education in schools (this worked so well in the past) and anti-abortion legislation being debated and voted on in all night sessions in Wisconsin.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/14/wisconsin-abortion-sex-education-bills-pass_n_1345873.html
    http://prospect.org/article/abstinence-only-education-may-well-come-wisconsin-and-utah
    http://www.addictinginfo.org/2012/03/15/wisconsin-gop-votes-to-ban-private-abortion-insurance-coverage/
    TS-are we heading back to the days when women stay home from work once it is obvious they are pregnant? Back to hiding it as long as possible with mumus rather than being proud of and rejoicing in pregnancy and birth? Or the flip-side, women having children simply to fit a company philosophy or a local government's ideology?
    Jim-I give my friends a similar explanation. Rather than "know your enemy", I tell them it is the only way I have to stay in touch with the (un)reality of the tea sac vote/mentality. Your explanation is more concise and eloquent, I both envy and respect your precision with words.
    Profereydelnorte

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  15. Another great post, Jim. I'll be here for the duration, following along and rooting you on.

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  16. This is what I have been trying to get across to my friends and family. If people who disagree don't actively voice our disagreement with the idiocy that has taken over the public discourse of, well, everything, then we will all ultimately pay for it. Bills like Arizona House Bill 2625 are what happens when too many of the sane people have remained silent for too long because they just didn't want to cause waves.

    Once again, I clicked the, "You are my God," button. Thank you for being so eloquent.

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  17. Jim, thank you for bringing up the issues of birth control again. I am married with four children. As much as I love them, I don't want more. I have three daughters so this issue hits close to home for me. My 11 year old daughter is disabled...meaning that when she begins menstruating, I need to make some decisions. My options are, cleaning her up when Aunt Flo visits, or she uses birth control so we can have a little control over what is happening to her. I am dreading the day she starts because it will freak her out. My choice for her is to have an IUD. My insurance will cover this, but I guess Rush will get to call her a slut and a whore because she is using birth control on his dime (WTF?).

    Now, once we get through her teen years, hopefully she will be able to "work" somewhere. The direction of the AZ bill scares the hell out of me. A boss will be able to fire her for being on birth control pills so she won't have a period...or fire her for not being pregnant (whichever way they believe, I guess). If anyone thinks this would be going too far to make disabled people comply with the birth control reasoning...well look around and read the post again. The crazies are on a roll to control every aspect of birth control. Disabled young women will come up at some point. Are they sluts because of a medical need for not having periods?

    I am willing to bet money that if Rick Santorum's family needs to make this decision for Isabelle, they will go the birth control route.
    Holly

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  18. Jim, thank you for this article, you must be psychic. I had this very subject on my mind and was going to ask your thoughts on it. I have at turns been dismayed, angry, distressed and sickened that this could even be cosidered. You expressed all that I was feeling. I have been telling everyone on websites and blogs about this abombination. I would so love to be able to write like you, but somehow when it comes out of my head either to paper or spoken, I make word salad sally sound like an English major. Anyway now I can share your post in additions to any thoughts I might have.

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  19. And here I thought you were writing about birds.....

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  20. "fuzzy-wuzzies join the governor in his religiousity" - Totally had a FIREFLY flashback on that one, thanks!

    Sixteen years ago and employer fired me because I was pregnant (after having me train my replacement, BTW). He sat me down, told me that I was the best employee he'd ever had...and then fired me. The reason he gave was, "I really don't want to deal with maternity leave." Then he told me to come on back when the kid was born. The maternity leave he spoke of was going to be a matter of a couple of weeks - I couldn't afford to be out of work any longer than that.

    I was married, with a two-year-old boy. Our family relied both my income and my husband's income to pay our bills. Oddly enough, other employers in our area were not exactly interested in hiring a woman who was 5 months pregnant by that time. We ended up on food stamps (and THAT'S a special level of hell, I'm here to tell ya).

    But see, what he did was against the law, it turns out. I went to the EEOC, and filed. Six months later (the wheels of justice turn slowly), an investigator came out. My former employer helped me out by shooting off his mouth--bless his heart--and they found in my favor. It took us years to dig out of that financial hole, all because one misogynistic ass decided he didn't want to "deal" with me being out of work for a couple of weeks.

    So when I see things like this law in Arizona pop up, I get worried. Really worried. I'm not one to beat the "women are under attack" drum as a rule, but...suddenly I'm reminded of the phrase, "It's not paranoia if they REALLY ARE out to get you."

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    1. Amen. When I was pregnant in 1975, the male personnel manager insisted that I tell him when I was taking leave at the end of my pregnancy. I told him that my leave (unpaid) would begin when I went into labor (I was dept head and had arranged for coverage to start whenever). Legally he could not set a date nor force me to do so, but he held the grudge for several years and fired me as soon as he could find a way to manage it.

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  21. Well said Jim. I am always questioned about the "why" I pay attention to, and respond to some of the craziness out there. For some reason people keep saying that if you ignore it, it will go away. That is pure fantasy bullshit. In my experience if you ignore it they will find like minded people who will agree with the shit they are spreading which makes them even more crazy. "I must be right because everyone agrees with me." If you can catch a loon at a more rational time in their lives and make them think about what they are saying, perhaps, a little niggling doubt will begin to grow in their heads. I know that may be hoping for too much, but I know that the right suggestion at the right time has helped me see some of the errors in my thinking in the past.

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  22. What's the saying? "No single raindrop believes it is responsible for the flood"? Something like that. That is how I view those 'fringe' loons. They're individual raindrops. Possibly harmless enough, but get enough of them together and it can get nasty.

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  23. Aha! When I saw the link on Twitter, I just knew you weren't writing about waterfowl.

    Thanks for doing the dirty work so I can keep my blood pressure in check.

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  24. The governor of PA says if the woman doesn't want to see the ultrasound picture, she should just shut her eyes. Really? Where do these people come from?

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    1. They used to say the same thing about rape - "don't fight lay back and enjoy it" - and they say this is about right to life, religion - it is a vicious attack on women - and I surely believe the GOP will realize this after the elections.

      I've had ultrasounds on parts of my body NOT related to reproduction. They all look the same to me - like waves in the ocean - so this whole concept is not only related to demeaning women it is seriously pointless. Where are the doctors' opinions in this war against women?

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    2. I certainly hope so. Right now I'm in Alabama because my father is very ill. However, I've learned there is an Obama Campaign HQ in Fredericksburg, VA not far from where I live. I've never been much of an activist but when I get home I'm going to volunteer and suggest strongly that people vote democrat. I am 58 years old and I can remember when women either took some godawful concoction or went to some back alley quack to get an abortion. I don't want to see that happening again.

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    3. I don't know, TS ... I have to share your hope that the GOP (at least that portion of the GOP who have, you know, mothers ... sisters ... wives ... daughters ... aunts ... female friends) will come to recognize that their loudest members are behaving in a totally Paleolithic, deeply offputting way, but have you been following Doonesbury at all this week? The theme that Trudeau started on Monday and has continued through the week has attracted a number of the "raawwrg, Bloop! HELLFIRE!! scrweck ... Ooog. BABIES!" commenters who also seem to frequent Jim's blog. Even more depressing? How many of them are female. Hard to fathom.

      http://www.doonesbury.com/strip/archive/2012/03/12

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    4. @CGL - I don't think the loons will change their view as to putting women out in the wood shed - but my position is they will lose so badly in the election, the remaining sane members of the GOP may attempt to rejoin the human race. Doonesbury, as usual, gets it right. Rape by any other name is what is happening to women. What is unbelievable is that a % of female legislators are part of the problem.

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  25. Thanks again Jim. The direction of the AZ bill scares the hell out of me. I am a mom to three daughters, one that has "global" disabilities. She is 11 now and puberty will kick in very soon. When it starts, I have discussed what my options are with her doctors. My first option is to guess as to when she will have a period and clean her up (ugh). Or, I can use birth control to regulate her period or stop it all together (hopefully). I am choosing the birth control route. Now what really pisses me off is that Rush will consider her a slut because of this. Not bad enough for you? Her future will consist of state insurance as an adult (the drag on society) and will birth control be available to her on the "state dime"?
    Here is where the AZ bill is headed for all of us if we don't wake up. If she is able to be a working adult, she can be fired for using birth control, or fired for not using it (WTF?)! Don't think this is a real possibility? Think again. If I don't stand up for my daughters, their choices will be at stake. I will not allow that to happen, and I will not allow some uterus crazy loonie to determine how my daughter will function every month.
    Here is another thought. With the bills passing for drug testing for unemployment benefits, don't think that birth control will enter the picture soon. Who wants to pay for those druggies who collect state benefits and have more children.
    How about those high school girls who are having babies? Lets get them on something so they don't drop out and go on welfare (oh wait, that would mean they get an education...those snobs).
    Finally, I wonder what the Santorum family choice will be when Isabella reaches puberty.
    Thanks for letting me vent Jim.
    Holly

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  26. It is with remarkable irony that Arizona is one of 13 states to introduce bills that would ban Sharia law (even though our Constitution already protects us from such silliness). That they would then implement the equivalent of Sharia law with this birth control/insurance nonsense speaks exactly to the batshit crazy element of which you so passionately speak. Just as the latest in abortion/ultrasound laws are surely un-Constitutional, the 1st and 4th amendments must protect a woman from her government insisting on this patently invasive religiously motivated bull.

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  27. Thank you for this Jim. Sometimes I take a sabbatical from engaging people who choose to twist the logic of things to their own agenda. Mainly because I grew up in that culture of "just tow the line, and you'll be fine," and I am fully aware of the delusions they choose to live under. And I tire of throwing effort after foolishness. Then I realize...they are NEVER going to shut up...maybe because they are narcissists, maybe because they have been so inculcated they know their job is to keep the word salad train going. "Socialism! They Kill Babies! Communists! Fake Birth Certificate! Government Supported Birth Control" A thought substantiated by REAL facts will never know the threat of residing in their minds. Ever.

    I have never minded that people disagree, but when they start spewing forth utter nonsense, I must step up with a rolled newspaper in hand, whack them on the nose, and say "No! Bad human! No!"

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  28. Thank you and keep writing, I too and worried about the lazy reaction to the out of balance extreme "religious". It will be our undoing. Our freedom is in deep trouble and we should take notice and stand up.

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  29. Ok I'm trying to be fearless so I'm going to submit my poem inspired right after I read this post!
    It is MY body.
    It is not yours to take
    To rape
    To legislate.
    It is MY right.
    It is not yours to confiscate
    To invalidate
    To use to placate.
    Don’t tell me
    when to have a baby
    how to act like a lady
    or that if you can watch,
    you’ll pay me.
    I am not a slut.
    My husband knows
    That birth control
    doesn’t mean
    Keep your legs shut.
    What happened to
    freedom of religion?
    Does it only work
    In one direction?
    My conscience
    Is offended
    By your insistence
    On my abstinence.
    I don’t burn candles.
    I don’t say rosaries.
    I don’t get down
    On my knees.
    When I pray
    I do it by myself
    Or when I need help
    Or to get me through
    The day.
    I won’t tell you
    What you should do
    You pray
    Your way
    I’ll pray
    Mine.
    I don’t have the right
    To decide
    I want to have kids
    When it makes more sense?
    My God doesn’t
    Tell me
    It’s immoral to choose
    how many kids I want,
    I don’t agree with Blunt
    So keep your laws
    Out of my…

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    1. I just wanted to say: I <3 this. :D

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    2. Like our host, you should write more often! ;)

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  30. This response will be too long because I can feel my 15 seconds of fame streaking by me...

    Great response Jim, not arguing with any of it. Couple points I'd like to clarify though....in reverse order.

    The Arizona Bill:

    It's passing is a reflection of how many hardcore religious vote and how few people of reason don't. I'm involved in local politics and everything we do come down to voters. When you want to be re-elected, you get a list of the people in town who vote, you walk to their house (most voters are home owners) and introduce yourself. Its minority rule. About 1/3 of our population votes, so everything we do is catering to them. Doesn't matter what the other 2/3 think, if their opinions aren't worth a vote, they aren't worth dick.

    I know you realize this simple concept as I've seen you pound us over the head with the concept of voting a few times.

    You framed the Arizona Bills passing in a way to get and keep people interested, as all good bloggers must do:

    "today, Arizona legislators have advanced a bill that would allow an employer to fire a woman who doesn’t want to have a baby."

    You could have said:

    "today, Arizona legislators have advanced a bill that allows employers to choose if they want to pay for contraception for their employees. If the employee lies and says the birth control is for medical purposes (required coverage) in order to get the birth control paid for by the employer, they can be fired."

    Just an observation, your version is inflammatory, but if I didn’t appreciate it, I wouldn’t be sharing your posts on facebook. 8)

    There is no doubt the Bills inspiration is religious in nature, which again....speaks to how powerful a small passionate population can be if it just marks a ballot. As I listen to the endless (and I mean endless) Republican nomination coverage on NPR, they speak in terms of “the Southern States”….why; because the South has hordes of hardcore religious conservatives who vote. I’m pretty sure “the South” has liberals but their presence apparently is not felt in the voting booths.

    Good God, I thought societies go less religious over time, not more. Now we know why religion pollutes our political process, zealots vote.

    Speaking to Loons:

    I get it; don’t give the loons an inch. Call bs on them at every turn.

    My comments were more along the lines of the concept of “adverse selection”. In the insurance industry, it means “only people who need insurance, buy it”.

    On the internet, only those who care enough and have the time to read and post comments, do. This eliminates most of our population. What does that leave us with?

    1. Those who like to write shit just to get a reaction.

    2. Those that care and have time and ignorance on their side.

    3. The rest (fairly rational people who either agree or disagree with your point of view).

    By constantly responding to random internet comments, IMHO, you are giving 1 & 2 too much credit.

    /rant off

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  31. "What does it tell you when a significant fraction of Americans, a fraction numbering in the millions, actually believes that they personally really heard Sandra Fluke demand that they pay for her sex life?"

    Sadly, people don't listen in general. Heuristics also means that people tend to blend things, which is why a good number of people can't tell the difference between things Sarah Palin said and things Tiny Fey said.

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  32. I've been lurking for a few months now. I live in the oft-maligned (and often deservedly so) state of Texas.

    I have moved from "shaking my head" to "banging it against a wall" because of the escalating acceptance of hatred. It is less fringe than mainstream these days, and frankly it scares the s#!+ out of me.

    I actually remember when a Republican incumbent for governor actually lost an election because he compared bad Texas weather to rape - "As long as it's inevitable, you should lie back and enjoy it."

    Too bad his successor - the wickedly smart Ann Richards (RIP) was defeated by GW Bush. And that, my friends, was the beginning of the end.

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    1. Hey, Veronica! Another Texan here. Just to quibble a little. The beginning of the end was the election of Richard Nixon. It was just the beginning, though; by today's standards Tricky Dick comes off as moderate to progressive, probably because of his relationship to and respect for Eisenhower. if it weren't for that whole Watergate thing he'd probably be pretty well remembered today. The real middle of the end was Reagan.

      In Texas-specific terms, the beginning of the end would have been the election of the lunatic Bill Clements as governor when the traditionally Democratic power base eroded and Big Oil decided they needed to throw their money around.

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  33. A friend quoted me a passage recently re: American politics. It went something like: "The United States is the only country in the world so self-centeredly arrogant in the stability of their own government that it treats its own political unrest as entertainment."

    I haven't been able to stop thinking about that. Posts like this only make me think about it more.

    Thanks, Jim.

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  34. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  35. I came across this book by accident. In light of today's post I kind of forgot that I was reading fiction. Scary Stuff.

    Check it out if you're interested. It is a free Kindle Book.

    The Seventh Seal By J. Thorn

    Thorn, J. (2011-05-06). The Seventh Seal (Kindle Locations 5-7). . Kindle Edition.

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  36. Hmm, when Americans banned alcohol, quite a few of my fellow Canadians became rich selling booze to Americans. Perhaps there is a coming opportunity in stockpiling birth controls pills ...

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  37. Jim, Thank you for high lighting the idiotic legislation in AZ. I have no clue why some feel that religion or the unquestioned claim to "faith" should trump ALL other rights but as a female AZ resident, it pisses me off to no end. The sad thing is that the bill you mentioned was actually written by a woman!!! Her name is Debbie Lesko and in my opinion she is a scourge upon humanity. I am left wondering why she didn't add a mandatory maternity leave pay coverage clause to the bill. You'd think an employer who felt so strongly about forcing women to breed would support that decision huh?

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  38. Just got back from sculpting Civil War battle dioramas from fresh lava when i read your post - glad you took some time off from doing "erotic balloon animal sculpture" (good thing I'd swallowed my coffee before reading these lines)

    anyways, thanks for fighting this particular fight. Confederate-flag-waving misogynist climate-change-denying birther Limbaughite extremists need to hear back from someone whose credentials confuse their chicken-hawk fatasses.

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  39. I stopped reading the Yahoo comments. They were shockingly creepy. Then I realized it was a unfiltered forum. Occasionally I will select the “popular" button and it makes me feel better as the hate is somewhat moderated. I sense a lot of the population is poorly prepared for adulthood, let alone able able to understand how a democracy works (or doesn’t).

    I know it is almost a cliche to speak about how Hitler was able to gain the support of the general populace by fanning the fear and allowing the hate full rein; but, there are many similarities regarding that era and the problems we encounter today. A poor economic climate allows the fear to gain a toehold and looking for somebody to blame is a poorly evolved aspect of human nature. It takes an unusually intelligent person to create solutions.

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  40. Good ole Tex. I didn't find any unusual gifts under my tree this past Christmas, so I "assume" I'm forgiven for sending him your way. I do so hate to assume, but have to go there every now and then.

    Yahoo comments? My wife reads those. I cannot tolerate that much inanity.

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  41. I'm going to be 60. In our neighborhood growing up, every family had 5-6 kids each. Don't these women understand that they are looked at as nothing more than "breeder pigs". What the current crop of vacant-eyed women fail to understand is that they could be pregnant constantly (for 20 years or more if they live). Back in the day, the women did not work outside the home. Every woman needs to know that if the man walked out, they had no income, a lot of mouths to feed. The women around our neighborhood had to take the beatings, the affairs, or whatever came their way because there was no way out. Evidently, there is a family with 19 kids running around promoting Santorum; they must have their own reality show from what I saw. My jaw dropped. How in the hell can any average family support that with dropping wages, loss of good union jobs, little or no benefits?

    Becky

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  42. The B.S. card needs to be thrown often these days. Warrant, thank you for putting into words why I find myself explaining how the world really works to fools, risking being thought of as a fool myself since it frequently devolves into an argument.

    And that's why I drink and call myself Wine Guy

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  43. Not apropos of anything really, but when the Right's War on Women comes up the mandatory trans-vaginal ultrasound issue isn't far behind, usually with the word "rape" used. I'm not in favor of coercion or even condescension, but one distinction that is way too under-reported is that in very early pregnancy the trans-vag ultrasound is medically desirable and commonplace for all abortions. It's necessary to confirm pregnancy, as home pregnancy tests can give false positives. It's also the only way to identify a tubal pregnancy that early. Where the Texas and Virginia laws go off the rails is by forcing doctors to discuss the details of fetal development with the patients under the "justification" of "informed consent." Most sensitive doctors figure the patient has already come to terms with her decision before coming to the clinic and don't want to play psych games with her emotions, as these laws clearly are intended to require. But it is misleading to imply, as many on the Left seem to, that trans-vag ultrasound always is tantamount to rape and is rarely medically justified.

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    1. Where the TX and VA laws go off he rails is mandating BY LAW that a TVU be done, rather than leaving it to be a decision between a woman and her health-care provider.

      To insert an object (be it a penis or a dildo or an ulrasound wand) into a woman's vagina without her consent IS the legal definition of rape.

      Note that the law seeks to make it mandatory, based NOT on the patient's consent or the doctor's recommendation, but based on STATUTE. The proposed law makes it so that THERE IS NO CHOICE. And NO CHOICE = COERCION.

      And unless you are an OB/GYN treating THAT WOMAN you are not qualified to say whether or not a TVU is indicatred IN THAT CASE.

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  44. I certainly disagree with that. The trans-vag would be used if there was an indicator it may be needed. The fact that it is a required procedure no matter what the doctor says should be a clue. If it were a normal routine, they wouldn't have to force the doctor to perform it. The law was for women who were planning an abortion, not a full length pregnancy. It's quite transparent was the motivation was behind it. To say that the woman had no choice either? How many clues does it take?

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    1. I completely agree with you that the intention of the law is simply to create another obstacle to abortion, and there are certainly times that trans-vag would not be medically necessary, such as when a pregnancy has advanced far enough that there's no question about it being tubal. And of course I agree that it should be the doctor's call, and there are some people who feel that it is certainly possible to achieve the same diagnostic results with additional blood tests and jelly-on-the-belly sonograms.

      I'm slightly impressed (but only slightly) that the Right has the stones to say that this is a way of responding to or improving the patient's "right to information." Some people will believe anything, I guess, or say anything anyway. My only point is that there sometimes is a definite medical justification for very-early-pregnancy trans-vag and it's inaccurate to say there never is, as some on the Left have been saying.

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  45. I'm kinda backed up on my reading and late to the party on this thread but I just wanted to say thank you.....again. Spot on Jim. Spot on.

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  46. I'm a bit behind in my reading and therefore late to the party on this thread but wanted to echo "thank you." I'm glad you read, I'm glad-er you write. There is a phrase about standing silently by and doing nothing while others commit atrocities. You'll never be one of those people. I call people out on occasion but I'm not nearly as articulate as you are nor am I as informed, so it's good to know there are guys like you out there. Thank you.

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  47. Can I click "You are my God" like 18 times, or is that cheating?

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  48. Can I click "You are my God" like 18 times, or is that cheating?

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  49. I've had this page up in my browser for days now and finally got around to reading it. I'm glad I took the time.

    Jim, as with everything else I've read by you, I can't help but applaud. You see and state things with a clarity I wish was far more prevalent in today's America. We wouldn't be in such a sorry state.

    I also have to commend Kenneth Head for his comment. I'm hoping we can somehow head off the herd before they run off the cliff they're careening so blindly toward, but I'm having my doubts. Your comment, Kenneth, states something anyone living in this country should be able to see the potential of. Kudos to you as well for putting it so succinctly.

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