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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Inertia

 

As I’ve said previously, I don’t have much use for political debates.

I think that debates are worse than useless.

I think that they’re dangerous.

I think that in general, the majority of the herd allows themselves to be easily manipulated and easily led and that they don’t give their own politics or ideology any actual thought whatsoever. Far too often their positions are based on inertia. Many people belong to a particular political party for the same reason they root for a particular sports team, or belong to a particular religion for that matter,  i.e. they were born into it and therefore it’s the best, it’s the only right way to believe, and everybody else is wrong. Period.

I know a number of folks who belong to religions that they completely disagree with.  I have variations of this conversation all of the time:

Me: You believe women have the right to choose?
Him: Yes.
Me: You believe that gay people should have the right to marry?
Him: Dude, WTF? I am gay. As you know, I’ve been in a committed relationship for twenty years, goddamn right I think I ought to be able to get hitched.
Me: You believe in evolution, right?
Him: Hello, biology teacher here.
Me: So why are you a Catholic again?
Him: Well, uh, see…
Me: You don’t agree with anything your religion preaches. Nothing.  You are emphatically not welcome in your own place of worship. You can’t even go to church on Sunday as yourself and sit in a pew and hold hands with the person you love for fear of being thrown out. Right?
Him: Ok, look, uh, see what you don’t understand is, um, well…  Ok, you know what? Fuck you.

I know a number of folks who belong to political parties that they completely disagree with. I have variations of this conversation all of the time:

Me: You believe women have the right to choose?
Her: Yes.  I don’t like abortion and I would never have one myself, but I believe women should choose for themselves.
Me: You believe gay people should have the right to marry?
Her: I don’t see what that has to do with me. I don’t care what they do.
Me: You believe in evolution? Global climate change?
Her: It’s pretty hard to ignore the evidence. Yes.
Me: You think we should go to war with Iran?
Her: I think we’ve had enough war. We should find a different solution.
Me: You still in the Union?
Her: What do you have against unions? Unions built America. As a woman, it’s the only way I’m getting a decent paycheck and retirement and maybe a promotion.
Me: So then you think you’re lesser than men? That you should be subordinate to men? That you should make less money than men for doing the same job? That you should be barefoot and pregnant and more ladylike?
Her: Fuck you, Buddy.
Me: And why are you a republican again?
Her: Because liberals are baby eating communists who hate America. Also, Nazis.

And so on.

I know folks who vehemently disagree with every single plank in the GOP platform, and yet they will only vote Republican. Period. They can’t even conceive of voting for somebody who isn’t a conservative. I don’t understand this.  It’s like Slaves Against the Cotton Gin or PETA for More Animal Experimentation or …well, Log Cabin Republicans.

For these folks, the labels are what matter. 

Even if it means voting repeatedly against their own interests.

It’s not the ideology. It’s not the beliefs. It’s not the messages. It’s the label.

They were born one thing or the other, their parents and grandparents were one thing or the other, and so that’s what they are.  Period. 

The labels are more important than the details.  It’s not an intellectual position, it’s an emotional one.  That’s why these people get so angry when the wrong labels are applied to them. That’s why they see labels as such an affront and why they hurl labels as insults.  Somebody calls you gay and you’re not – what the hell do you care? Really? So what? Somebody calls you a liberal or a conservative, and you’re not – again, what do you care?  Except, of course, a lot of people do care.  Furiously.  Check out any IMDB, 4-Chan, Wall Street Journal, or Yahoo! comments forum, hell, check out the troll who showed up on my previous post and called me a “socialist fuck.” I’ve been called everything here on Stonekettle Station, from “a Bush Republican” to gay to a Nazi.  I’m not insulted, I’m amused, because labels from anonymous haters that I don’t know just don’t mean shit to me.

But for a lot of people, labels are everything.

I suspect that debates primarily pander to the dumbed-down Reality TV mentality that has become so pervasive in recent American society. It is my considered opinion that debates pander to exactly this mentality. To the label makers and the label takers and the label throwers.

Political Debates are spectacle for the small minded.

And the problem with spectacle is that it’s designed to take the population’s focus off what really matters, it distracts from the real issues.

But it’s worse than that.

While spectacle can, and does, distract from the real issues, it can also cause the country as a whole to blunder off into completely new conflicts.  Conflicts that are not only utterly stupid and don’t make a damned bit of difference one way or the other, but also serve to further divide the country.  America is one of, if not the, strongest nation to ever exist.  No outside force can destroy it. But like Rome, like the British Empire, like the Soviet Union, it can crumble from the inside. Spectacle can distract the population from that course, but it can also add to it.

Take Thursday’s Vice Presidential debate.

Today there are the usual dog whistles and smoke screens.  Folks who loved Romney’s little smirk during last week’s debate, just couldn’t stand to see the same expression on Joe Biden’s face. Those that applauded Romney’s aggressiveness, denounced the same in Biden.  Those that chastised last week’s moderator for not interrupting and being more forceful, condemned Thursday’s moderator for interrupting and being forceful.  Bill O’Reilly said, “Joe Biden blew it!” Fox News said Biden’s parents might have taught him many things, but not manners – and yet when Obama was polite last week, both sides roundly condemned him for not being more blunt.  Fox’s website had a banner across their lead story on Friday that said, “Biden needs to grow up before he grows older” and Michelle Malkin called it “the return of Smirky Malarkey McSmirk.” – because that’s the kind of adult commentary conservatives like right there. 

These people couldn’t go after the substance of Biden’s message so they attacked his age and his parents and his expression. 

That’s about par for the course.

That’s the same rabble rousing and pandering to the stupid and the ignorant and the simpleminded haters we always see and by next week it’ll all be forgotten.

That’s bad enough, but what should concern you is this:  the theme that has emerged from the hair pulling and name calling and is now being considered with serious expressions by pundits and politicians across the nation is that the US embassy in Benghazi, Libya asked for more security, Obama and Biden were apparently oblivious and four Americans died including the Ambassador. Also, the White House lied about the situation – i.e. it was terrorism, not a riot.

That’s the message that emerged from Thursday night’s debate.

And that message is driving a wedge further into an already artificially divided country.

Show of hands, how many of you actually think that the President and Vice President personally review every request from every section under every department in the Executive Branch? C’mon, how many of you think that the president reviews each and every security plan, along with all the millions of other details necessary to run this nation and its interests here and abroad each and every day. Hell, how many of you think that even sounds like a good idea? Now don’t be shy, put your hands up if you think that.

Is that everybody?

You there, in the back with the drool on your chin and the confused look on your face, covered in cat hair and Pop Tart crumbs, you wanna put your hand up? Go ahead. It’s OK. Anybody else?

 

All of you with your hands in the air? Yeah, you people are fucking idiots.

 

Seriously. Put your hands down, you’re embarrassing yourselves and your stupidity is screwing up the country for the rest of us. Knock it off. People next to the people with their hands up? Smack your neighbor, hard, right in the ear.  Keep doing it until you’ve managed to pound some goddamned sense into these simpletons.

Let me explain a couple of things that should be obvious to everybody.

First, it is not possible for the president, no matter what his party or ability, to manage every detail of every unit of every division of every department of the United States of America.  It is just not possible.  Expecting him to do so is idiotic and demonstrates a bizarrely over simplified understanding of reality.  In fact, it is very likely that the United States has grown so large and so complicated that it is exceeding our ability to manage it in any useful fashion without some significant changes to the way we do things. But that’s a different essay.

The President doesn’t decide how many security guards an embassy has, he doesn’t review the watch schedule or the guard-post rotation or how many piss breaks the Marines are allotted in each shift. 

Who does that?

Well, typically it’s the Ambassador, delegated to his chief of security. They’re the people on the scene.  If the Ambassador thinks he needs a plus-up in the security force, he goes up the chain with it – to somewhere in the State Department.  It’s a process. It takes time. And it’s just one of many such requests working their way through the system And unless military intervention is indicated the President is very unlikely to see anything about it – other than maybe, maybe, as a minor bullet point buried in the dozens, if not hundreds, of reports he sees every single day.

Addendum:  something else I’d point out, increasing security isn’t free.  It costs money. A lot of money. Every additional security measure costs money. Every additional State Department guard, Marine, or local rent a cop requires a renegotiation of the host country agreement, approval by the State Department, and a dozen other clearances – most for very good reasons.  But mostly, it costs money, and that money is currently fixed, it’s tied up in a continuing resolution because our worthless shitty broken Congress has so far refused to do its goddamned job and pass a budget.  Even if Obama had personally authorized an increase in security, Congress would have to approve both the funding and the change in the Status of Forces and Embassy treaties.  You’ll note that neither party has mentioned this, in or out of the debate.

And security is only one of a thousand similar things that need attention, every single day.

Should somebody have done more to protect that embassy?

Well, yeah, obviously.

Should we have seen the threat coming?

Well, yeah, obviously, if only it was that easy.

Should the President have been briefed and made a command decision to bulk up security or withdraw the embassy staff?

Well, yeah, obviously, in a perfect world, of course he would have nothing to do but manage every detail personally.

In hindsight, sure, we should have done more.

Hindsight is like that – oh so blindingly obvious.

Which brings us to the second thing: military intelligence.

This is something I know a great deal about. I was a military intelligence specialist for more than twenty years and I worked in the Middle East and in and out of warzones all over the world.  I was a force protection officer. I know more than a little about threat assessment – and how in hindsight it’s just so, so obvious, especially to commenters on Yahoo and the Wall Street Journal and from the political party that doesn’t happen to be in the White House when the bubble goes up.

Everybody is an expert.

Everybody could have done better.

Except, of course, they aren’t and they didn’t.

Any idiot can predict the past, it’s the future that’s difficult.

If we had pulled out, these same “experts” would have seized on it as evidence of cowardice on the White House’s part, and don’t bother to tell me they wouldn’t have. Ditto if we hadn’t gone into Libya in the first place.  If we had put Marines on the ground, it would have been a waste of money, or an unauthorized invasion, or more heavy handed military action. Again, don’t bother to tell me otherwise, because that’s exactly what these same critics said. Go back and read the Fox News’ archives, you won’t have any trouble finding the criticism.

The simple unvarnished truth of the matter is that it’s goddamned difficult to predict the future.

It happens.  I don’t want to sound cavalier about it, but it happens.  We lose people. The world is a dangerous place. We in the intelligence community do everything we can to prevent it. If we’re successful, you never hear about it. You only see our failures.  And it happens, those failures. The world is just too complicated, there’s just too many moving parts, too much information and too many threats and it’s goddamned difficult.  And it happens. We lose people.  It happened to Jimmy Carter in Iran. It happened to Ronald Reagan in Beirut. It happened to George H. W. Bush right in front of CIA headquarters.  It happened to Bill Clinton a month after he took office in the first World Trade Center attack. It happened to George W. Bush on September 11th, 2001.  And it will happen to whoever comes after Barack Obama. That’s how it is.

Could we have done more?

Sure, but I don’t think you’re really willing to do what it takes, because you won’t like the society you end up living in – and it will still happen.

I find it ironic that the folks who are perfectly willing to accept a theater full of dead kids as just the price you pay for the right to bear arms and thus Freeeeedom! are the very same people who don’t seem to think that our kind of foreign policy is something that can be executed without human casualties. 

Of course, the argument today is that the White House lied about the attack that killed Ambassador Stevens, that the White House keeps changing its story and that Joe Biden and the State Department are advancing fundamentally different versions of the events.

Again, welcome to intelligence work.

Again, it’s complicated.

Again, It takes time to figure out what actually went down and when. 

There are dozens of conflicting reports and the people who were there are dead.  Hell, even in something as simple and common as a car accident, there are differing reports and differing interpretations and that’s the reason police investigators (and intelligence experts) hate eyewitnesses – because human beings are just about the most unreliable sources of information there is.  Throw politics into the mix and you might as well not even bother.

In the event that killed Ambassador Stevens, there were multiple assaults going on, against multiple American interests,  in multiple locations, all at the same time.  There appeared to be a common triggering event.  It’s human nature to string these things together.  Later it turned out that those events were unrelated.  But was several weeks of hard work on the Intel Community’s part before that became more than just a guess, before there was enough hard intelligence to prove it.

Again, I find it ironic that the people who reject climate change and evolution because they feel those things are “just theories,” are the very same people who were willing to immediately and wholeheartedly decide that the attack on our embassy was a terrorist event before there was any hard evidence whatsoever. As long as the event makes Obama look bad, well, we don’t need proof, right?  Then again… well, you know, creationism. But I digress.

There was enormous pressure to get the word out.  The same people who are condemning the White House now for initially reporting bad information seem to forget that they were the same people who were demanding immediate information during the attack, who condemned the White House for not speaking up sooner. 

Look, you can’t have it both ways, if you want instant answers, most of those answers are going to be wrong. 

If you want accurate information, you’re going to have to wait.

That’s just how it is. 

And when it turns out that you’re wrong, you can either man up and correct yourself or you can stand pat on bad information – say like continuing to insist on the existence of yellow cake uranium purchases by a certain dictator that never happened or his involvement in 911 that never happened or his vast stores of Weapons of Mass Destruction that didn’t exist. 

Again, you can’t have it both ways, either you want people in charge who are willing to admit error and provide correct information when it becomes available even if it contradicts previous information … or you want smoke blown up your ass.  Make up your goddamned mind.

The problem today is that the Vice Presidential debate did more than just distract us from the real issues.

The problem is that the debates set us to arguing over things that we cannot change.

The problem is that the debates continue to set us against each other and widen a divide that already cripples America.

The problem is this: debates are a piss poor way to choose our leaders.

But just like people who cling to a religion that they’ve long outgrown, I suspect that we’ll continue this farce for a long, long time to come.

 

Today people are arguing over who “lost” the debate.

The answer to that is easy: we did.

93 comments:

  1. "So why are you a Republican, again?"

    Alice laughed. "There's not use trying," she said: "one can't believe impossible things."
    "I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

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    1. Perfect reference!

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    2. You are so right. Believing impossible things is part and parcel of the average citizen's self-identifying label. The thing that cracks me up is how many people (Republicans mostly) think they've chosen their label based on reason.

      Really they've just bought what was marketed to them.

      http://iamthewill.wordpress.com/2012/08/26/now-we-can-start-the-party-2/

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  2. Exam Question 1. Contrast and compare the following:

    “I don’t see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith.” – Paul Ryan

    “My religion defines who I am, and I’ve been a practicing Catholic my whole life… But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews, and I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the — the congressman.” – Joe Biden

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  3. Should somebody have done more to protect that embassy?

    Well, yeah, obviously.

    Should we have seen the threat coming?

    Well, yeah, obviously, if only it was that easy.

    Should the President have been briefed and made a command decision to bulk up security or withdraw the embassy staff?

    Well, yeah, obviously, in a perfect world, of course he would have nothing to do but manage every detail personally.

    In hindsight, sure, we should have done more.


    Jim, I think I disagree with you because I agree. I.e. the problem I have with Romney/Ryan attacking the President on this issue (and the problem I have with some of Biden's attempts to deflect the issue, to be honest and fair) is that I think we don't know whether or not mistakes were made or what mistakes were made. Which is why the rational thing you do in this kind of scenario is you conduct an investigation--and I don't mean the kind of silly partisan exercise that happened on the Hill this week--and you determine what happened and what (if anything) can be done to make sure the next catastrophe is a different kind of catastrophe.

    The Administration's initial response was mostly the right one. The biggest problem with what they initially told the Republic was not repeating the erroneous intel they had, it was throwing the Egyptian embassy under the bus. Romney's initial response remains unpresdential and irresponsible--turning it into an opportunity to attack the Administration before any facts are in.

    While the gut instinct is to say, "Obviously, something went wrong, because four Americans are dead," the truth--I suspect you'd agree, though I may be wrong about that--is that we don't know yet whether this was simply an unavoidable disaster or whether it was a massive bureaucratic or intelligence failure (or, as is likely the case, something somewhere between those poles). And if there was an intelligence or bureaucratic failure, we don't know what level it occurred on (as you very rightly point out, any failure most likely occurred many desks beneath the President's, Vice-President's, or Secretary Of State's). It may be that someone's head needs to roll, or it may be that shit happens, or it may be something in-between, but it's awfully early to start putting your money down on it.

    Ryan and Romney are focused on it out of desperation, of course--traditionally, foreign policy has been considered a Republican strength, but the current Administration's foreign policy has been nearly unimpeachable with only a few missteps. (This was one of the ironies of the Wikileaks exposure of gazillions of State Department documents: despite efforts from various corners of the left and right alike, what they seemed to mostly reveal was a functional State Department doing its job reasonably well.) That they are choosing this line of attack, however, strikes me as evidence Romney and Ryan don't merely represent policies I disagree with, but that they aren't even ready for the Big Chair at all.

    As I say, I think my "disagreement", such as it is, is based on similar premises or isn't really something I disagree with. And this is another excellent post, by the way, Jim; lately, you seem to be knocking them into the bleachers.

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  4. Jim, I do believe this is one of your best yet! Well done!

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  5. Any idiot can predict the past, it’s the future that’s difficult.

    Speaking as a professional historian who has watched with slowly mounting horror the ways idiots have tortured this nation's history ("we're a Christian nation!" "slavery was benign!" and so on), I would have to disagree with you.

    The past can be just as difficult to figure out as the future, and less controllable.

    This does not take away from the basic accuracy of your main argument, however.

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  6. I can only think of two words: Stockholm Syndrome.

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  7. The label thing has always baffled me. I've heard "I'm not a feminist, but..." so many times from people who, indeed, ARE feminists, but refuse the label because they've heard it's "bad". *sigh*

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    1. Contrast that to "I'm not a racist, but...", which is usually followed by a comment that disproves that statement.

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    2. Okay, I have no idea why anyone would want to say "I'm not a feminist." Definition: "advocating social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men." Who would want to admit they're NOT for equal rights for women? Oh yeah...

      Sorry, off-topic to the blog post. But related to the comment.

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    3. Not off topic at all, it's definitely related to the basic theme underlying the post. I don't mind this topic as a subtext to the larger conversation.

      In fact I just had this exact conversation with somebody a day or so ago. I know an older woman who has spent her entire life railing against those who limited her choices, who told her that "girls can't do that" or "that's not the proper thing for a lady" and so on. She grew up in the 30's and 40's and hated the limits put on women back then.

      But call her a femnist? And blam! Feminists are evil liberal baby eating Nazis. And no, she doesn't get why this should be a facepalm moment. Basically, I think she bowed to limits and she resents women who don't.

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    4. I have found this one to be one of the most frustrating aspects of modern political conversations. Rush Limbaugh did such an incredible job vilifying feminism in the 90s that people truly do not believe any definition of feminism that doesn't involve actively hating men. The face palm moment for me is when someone who is a feminist in everything but their own self image talks about not being a "feminazi," not realizing that every time that word is used seriously, Rush wins another little battle.

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    5. It's amazing how crazy people are about the labels. I know plenty of people who are very liberal, but lose their heads if you refer to them as "liberals."

      I think it's because they're worried about the common image of the granola-crunching, Birkenstock-wearing, long-haired wimpy liberal being applied to them.

      But being a liberal is a label they should wear with pride. For Christ's sake, Teddy Freakin' Roosevelt (aka America's most badass president) was a liberal!

      I'd like to see the liberal label marketed with that image.

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    6. I am a proud liberal, and I call myself that.

      I work for a publicly-traded corporation, so no Birkenstocks for me. I'm hypoglycemic, so most granola is a bad idea. Oh, and I have a concealed carry permit and do know how to use my weapon.

      I do have longish hair, though. But not hippie-style.

      I'm also a proud feminist, being female and all.

      I'm a former trial attorney. Go ahead, call me wimpy! I'll eat your lunch.

      And I am a liberal. :)

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    7. Good on ya, slavicdiva! Glad to know there are other proud liberals (read: people who can think and act with both reason and compassion) in the world.

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    8. Yeah liberals. Around here that means the people who decide that our 100+ degree August weather is too cool so they back up and spend the last week of the month camped on a salt flat with sandstorms and 49,000 other people that have no means of proper bathing. Called "Burning Man" or something like that.

      Also lesbians, gays, artists, hippies and other irresponsible types. They may be crazy but you can't say they aren't tough.

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  8. What scares me the most about R&R is that they seem to think the only way to deal with any thing is to go in and beat ''the enemy'' (which they determine without rhyme or reason) to a pulp. That will show them not to mess with us. The problem with that kind of thinking, in my opinion, is that you get a like minded ''enemy'' and it's like two bullies in the school yard. The problem is these bullies or the people they care about aren't doing the fighting. They delegate that to those they consider expendable so that their and their loved ones entitled asses don't get dirty.

    The other problem that I've seen is that so called liberal media has become as bad as Faux news in being the story instead of reporting the story. I noticed this especially in the media's so called coverage of said debates.

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    1. In my own awkward way I am trying to point out why not having te necessary information worries me. I am in total agreement with what you said in the above post.

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  9. It's theater, it's the stage, it's the coliseum. Our football, WWF, 'Survivor' culture wants on hands and knees mud wrestling, ass-kicking, mano a mano, ear biting, wrist crunching, gator wrastling contests with lots of fireworks, airguns shooting tee-shirts, big tittied human placards and cheerleaders givng us 'THE SHOW". It apparently has nothing to do anymore with what they say, or how they act outside of the debate anymore. I keep trying to convince myself that this is no different than the mud-slinging, politics as usual, we have seen over almost 250 years, but this time it just doesn't work for me. I am disgusted with the idiocy of my fellow Americans, and I fear for the actual Union at this point. I would love to believe it is as easy as 'shut the fuck up', but I think and feel it is deeper than that. I see an eloquent leader, who has been extremely analytical, who has tried his damnedest to get a cohesive government, and has been defiled, vilified, accused of malfeasance and even treason! What insanity and madness has gripped our country? How do we rectify it short of bloodshed and the centuries long animosity that will come with it? I grieve for my country in this present insanity, and pray daily for some kind of deliverance from the ugly inevitability that seems to be ahead of us. I've said enough. We need the tune to get back to the greatness that exists within the people of this country. Your opinions are so spot on Jim. And I know you have no desire to get 'political' (can't blame you on that one). But what are your suggestions to deal with this crap, these idiots, getting our country back on track. I think the frustration has reached a point where this country is ready for a very pro-active solution, it's just that the trust has gone so far south, what do we do? (And damn it all, the Yankees are losing to Nazis from Detroit!!) MSD

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    1. I feel the same way. I feel like I'm watching my country die.

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    2. Nazi's in Detroit. Looks out window. Nope don't see any here.

      Go Tigers.

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    3. "We need the tune to get back to the greatness that exists within the people of this country."

      The what that exists in whom? I think you're engaged in your own myth-making here. We are fundamentally no different from the people of any other failed state.

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  10. Your post explains why I don't attend church or even identify with any particular religion. I say I have "Buddhist tendencies" but that's as far as I will go. When I mentioned to friends that I stopped going to a church where the pastor was persecuting people who he said "chose the gay lifestyle," or when I asked female friends about the "obey your husband" doctrine of their church, they said they didn't believe EVERYTHING their church taught, but there was still good to be found there. Well, I think acting as if you believe the doctrine, when you don't, is living a lie - and living a lie kind of cancels out whatever "good" comes from the church, in my opinion.

    Sorry, Anonymous - 12 innings! Go Tigers! (I'm in Michigan.)

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  11. Thanks for putting my thoughts regarding the asshattery of the debates and the discussions of same by the various news networks into coherent words. When did discussions of who sneered and who interrupted who (whom?) become more important than the important issues of the day?
    For the record, since I'm a newbie, I refuse to register with a political party because I think they are both much more interested in power and money for the party rather than doing what is best for the country. Pandering to whatever interest will put the most money and votes into their pockets. Disgusting. This campaign season does feel different somehow, nastier than the past in an insidious way. I agree with MSD above - I truly believe our country is in danger of collapse from within. So, what do we, the little people, do to move our country back from the precipice of total collapse? How do we stand up and say "enough" so that persons in power actually listen and change direction? Is it even possible, or is it too late? "We have met the enemy and he is us".

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    1. Unfortunately, the only answer is to work inside the system. Pick a party, join, bring in other moderates, and haul it back to helping people. It'll take decades, so be prepared.

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  12. Look, you can’t have it both ways, if you want instant answers, most of those answers are going to be wrong.

    If you want accurate information, you’re going to have to wait.

    That’s just how it is.

    .... either you want people in charge who are willing to admit error and provide correct information when it becomes available even if it contradicts previous information … or you want smoke blown up your ass. Make up your goddamned mind.

    The problem today is that the Vice Presidential debate did more than just distract us from the real issues.

    The problem is that the debates set us to arguing over things that we cannot change.

    The problem is that the debates continue to set us against each other and widen a divide that already cripples America.

    The problem is this: debates are a piss poor way to choose our leaders.

    Jim....you have (again) hit the nails on their heads. Thanks for putting into very readable form what I and I am sure others in the country are also thinking but just not as good at expressing.

    Not entirely off point, I saw Argo (movie set in 1979 during Iranian hostage crisis) tonight in the movie theater. I remember getting ready to deploy on my first Westpac that year. Watching the movie reminded me of how little the citizens at large (or for that matter those in uniform without the appropriate security clearance and need to know) understand of what is happening behind the scenes when things start blowing up around the globe.

    There are just a huge number of people who seem to be making up their minds of who won a debate and who they will vote for on the basis of who "looked" or "sounded" Presidential enough and who don't seem able to think things through in a logical fashion and instead adhere to whatever label afflicts them and vote accordingly. How we work on fixing that.....not so sure.

    Old Navy Comm O

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    1. "...continue to set us against each other and widen a divide that already cripples America"

      Spot on, ONCO. Last year I watched as Wisconsin (and some other states, but Wisconsin is what was predominate)pit Union against non-Union, and I watch here in Oregon as the battle is between public and private employees. Another battle raging is that of religion, encompassing the abortion/equal marriage rights and of private vs. public education along with all the other trappings that are being made to be more of a divide than they really are. Once "We the People" have had the battles against each other that I firmly suspect are orchestrated, we will have a nation of uneducated serfs.

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    2. True - these things are more often than not judged by who looked or acted more "presidential". Some folks come right out & say so. Always reminds me of that scene from "The American President".

      Bruce

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    3. Greg - ETC(SW) - retiredOctober 14, 2012 at 9:21 AM

      Hijack (w/my apologies to Jim) - Old Navy Commo, I served my first tour on USS Kitty Hawk, which had deployed to WestPAC around that timeframe, though I joined her in 1980 just after she'd returned and we did a WestPAC in 1981. Since this is a "small Navy", can I inquire about your tour?

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    4. Just to throw my Dixie Cup in, I joined the Nav in 1980, and joined ships company on the USS Forrestal CV-59, Xmas of 1980.

      3 tours.

      AO3.

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    5. Don't be gettin' no aviation cooties on my blog.

      Delete
  13. ANYTHING that can get the masses talking is a good thing. Without it we get folks like Akin and Braun on the Science Committee. What kind of government would put people who would worship the tooth fairy if a book told them to on a *Science* committee?
    Simple answer: The government of a country whose education system is failing so badly that 46% believe in creationism.

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  14. Oh, man, lost my draft comment. Kraw!

    Anyhow, what I said was, this election more, I think, than any other election since 1860, is about identity. Typically 45% or of the country that votes on identity--"I'm a Democrat." Or, "I'm Catholic." Or even, "I hate blacks." But now I think it's more like 60%. The Republicans are now the party of conservative rich old white guys. The Democrats are the party of everyone else.

    This is human, but it's exploitable and, especially in our two-party state, heavily exploited. If the party of the ROWGs wins this election, everyone else will be shut out, possibly even denied the vote.

    Formal debates are ways to delineate thinking. But debates like the networks run are used to establish identity. And--identity is the story in this election.

    As to Benghazi you're making sense to me, anyway. BTW, you might be interested in former military interrogator Terry Karney's blog: http://pecunium.livejournal.com/

    As to who votes and why, the seminal reference is Philip E Converse, “The Nature of Belief Systems in Mass Publics,” reprinted in Critical Review: A Journal of Politics and Society 18, no. 1 (2006): 1 - 74. You can find it online in any good academic library, or your local public library can get you a copy. The original work dates to the late 1950s or early 1960s. Reading it comes as a rattling shock to almost any political activist. For a somewhat snarky, but more easy to find and shorter introduction to aspects of voting behavior, see Menand's "Unpolitical Animal."

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  15. Really enjoy reading your writings and the commentators below. :)

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  16. Thank, Jim, for this posting. I've commented a lot about our addiction to labels and the zealotry that goes along with it. You are absolutely right. It is dangerous. Our judgment is clouded and the inability to come to compromise for the greater good erodes as each side is demonized more and more. You wrote a post about hubris a while back. I cannot remember the title, but I think that single word hits the nail right on the head when it comes to identifying the single issue affecting American politics today.

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    Replies
    1. *Thank you...it's too early to be typing on my ipad this morning.

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  17. Another great post Jim. You need to be a star. Really!

    How about a five minute show, The Face Palm Moment, brought to you live from Stonekettle Station, Alaska. A five minute weekly rant.

    An early Sunday morning time slot just before the rest of the news shows would be good.

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  18. Good job here-- also, Nazis! One correction, though (and not necessarily in your grammar or spelling, though I did see that one word...)

    Benghazi doesn't have an embassy with Marines performing the main security. It has a Consulate. Thus, there is private security such as the retired Navy Seal whose name has been bandied about more than enough lately.

    It may be easier to increase security by members of our Armed Forces than it is to go through private contractors and local governments' needed paperwork. And not to belabor the point, but there isn't much of a local government in Libya yet.

    That is all.

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  19. Jim, here is what galls me. I'm a Masshole. I live in MA-6, which has a contested race between our incumbent D, John Tierney, a good man with bad in-laws, and Richard Tisei, the Republican.

    10 years ago or even 5, I would have respected Tisei, even though I have voted D for years. Tisei is openly gay.

    Worse yet, he's married. (MA is one of the few states that have legalized marriage in this way. The world hasn't ended here.)

    I wish I didn't have to say what I say next. We used to take homophobia for granted, as well as all kinds of racism, when I was littler. But I never want to say on my deathbed that I wish I could call someone a faggot or a kike or a wop and that I miss those days.

    But I cannot believe, if Tisei is elected, that he won't be made to hide in the closet. I know that he will get marching orders from Limbaugh, Priebus, and a whole host of others.

    What those orders will be, I'm sure, are orders and bills not good for my state or those in it. No doubt he will only have to sign what ALEC presents him.

    It will be a very long two years if Tisei is my congressman.

    And it didn't have to be. I respect Tierney, but had the Republicans not been totally farking nuts, I'd welcome Tisei and wish him well.

    Instead, the national GOP will hate him for what he is and where he comes from.

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  20. @marykmusic:
    Your comment is giving me a chance to put out a thought few seem to have touched upon.

    Mr. Stevens was the Ambassador to Libya and a career diplomat who was intimately involved with affairs in the North African/Arabic speaking region.

    As the highest representative of the US, the fateful decision to travel from the much more protected confines of the Embassy in Tripoli to the less important and thus less defensible Consulate in Benghazi was his own, as was his decision of how much of a protective cordon he felt was required for his safety.

    His Curriculum Vitae show that he had previously taken risks with his life during his tenure in the North African political sphere in order to serve the aims of this Nation. This is a calculated risk, which is taken innumerable times by the military, secret services and the diplomatic corps of all nations.

    He and the other men lost that risk and while these deaths are deplorable, they are no more so than other lives lost in the course of any conflict.

    Am I indulging in political realism?
    You tell me.




    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Reality does indeed have a distinctly liberal bias. I admire and appreciate people such as Stevens for voluntarily holding the line.

      Delete
  21. I have given up even looking at political commentary right now, except you, because I decided it was bad for my cortisol levels. I found myself getting angrier and angrier. I was wanting to go put on my feminazi boots and kick some shrinking gonads to the moon. Then reading your last post I realized I was falling into the crazy. Running a country or a household or anything on roadrage is stupid. I wish they would just send me my ballot(we mail ours) and let this spectacle of bad manners and worse morals be over. I still have my scots-irish schoolteacher grandmother in my head and she would be appalled by everyones lack of civility.

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    Replies
    1. I know exactly what you mean...I have to come here to Jim's site for my own sanity...Jim is a rare find in the blogoshpere...sincere, smart...and owns a great sense of fairness, and humility...plus he is freakin' funny at times. I always leave here slightly less angry...and always thinking about what ol' Jim has said...I think we should let Jim moderate a debate...that would be a hoot...I think he would put the "nazis" into their rightful place in the dustbin of history...wait...what would we do without proper nazis?

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  22. Great post as usual. The Biden/Ryan debate was Tuesday not Thursday. Just want yo to be historically accurate. :-)

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    Replies
    1. not to nitpick, but the VP debate WAS Thursday. The next P Debate is this Tuesday.

      http://www.2012presidentialelectionnews.com/2012-debate-schedule/2012-presidential-debate-schedule/

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    2. I know, I couldn't delete it. Good thing I was anonymous. :-)

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  23. Memorable phrases: "Any idiot can predict the past, it’s the future that’s difficult." Jim Wright

    No matter how smart you are, when predicting the future the money is on that you will be wrong.

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  24. Truth seems to be a virtue of the past. Fear seems to be the directing emotion. People with a strong fundamentalist bent, seem to be ruled by fear. They seem unable to hear what is really coming from their inner knowing. They take the dubious wisdom, coming from political, church and group leaders as truth. They disregard their own inner knowing, meld into a crowd of non-thinkers for safety.

    Harder to go it alone and find the courage, to live an authentic life. That is what is often missing in this country. We disregard the common sense and wisdom we innately have. How can one be a good 'Christian' and vote to reduce food stamps for hungry children?

    How can one claim humanity and vow to destroy Social Security, which people have paid into, their entire working life? How can Congress, not pass a bill, to help returning vets?

    How can anyone take from the poor, to give tax breaks to those who will never go hungry or homeless? They do not feel the pain they heap, on our people. That is the problem. Fear of not having enough for themselves, blinds them.

    Those who do those things are fundamentalists, of whatever belief system sooths their fear, ruled by fear and unaware of it. They will never have enough to ease their fear, of not having enough. Fear disables their ability to make wise decisions. They claim all sorts of titles, memberships, religions, yet have at a deep level abandoned their gift, of become authentic human beings, capable of serving a greater whole and instead have descended into some vulgar cocoon of false safety, for Themselves.

    No reason in Congress, lies on the campaign trail, needing to be top dog, ignore suffering. Koch brothers and Adelmen sorts, trying to buy their way into more power, to feel safe.

    We can learn to not 'need' so much, as a way to dispel the desperate inner fear. We can learn to value sharing and relax the mania, to 'have'. We will be less afraid and more rooted in our truth. WE can put off instant gratification and claim our own integrity! WE can be less programmed by others, who wish to exploit our fear.

    WE can stop judging ourselves by others standards and discover who we really are!!

    Fear is a disease in this country. Our leaders reflect, what we have become. Anger, over who wins a debate... hold that up against the 19 Northern Cheyenne families, who just lost their homes in wild fires, all the things they need to survive this winter! No blankets, vehicles and cooking tools... while we are fixated on the dance of fear being presented on media? What is real? We are being defined by our fears, not our hearts and compassion.

    How is someone who does not consider 47% of our poeple worth worrying about, even seeking the office of President?

    The solution is personal responsibility, teach children critical thinking, need less materially, none of the 'stuff' or the anger born of fear, will bring happiness. Sit by a creek, instead of watching reality shows, take a walk in the evening.. get real, quiet. Fear has to stand back a bit, we can learn what is real, hear the voice of our hearts.

    The political scene, people who need to control because they are unreal. Need to lie, because their faith, masks fear. No respect for self or others, they create separateness between us. As Jim points out..all fear.... mind stuff without heart.

    All change begins within. Without the accumulate STUFF, to push away the fear, we would have enough to be debt free. It has to matter, that people live on the street, our people need decent medical care. Start with a hard look at who we are, what we buy into and what we are willing to do, to become who we are meant to be... no church can give that to us, no politics, no organization... WE do that, by moving from the head to the heart... without it, we will continue to descend as a nation, as people continue to suffer.
    Little steps become giant leaps that make a difference!

    Thank-you,

    Mitakuye oyasin... we are one

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  25. Jane Yolen said it better, in her poem "Malarky," but she said it on Facebook, and didn't grant permission to reproduce it elsewhere. So here's the first four lines, and a link for people who have FB accounts:

    "I have trouble watching a debate
    where the world is a rubber ball
    between a pit bull and a pekenese,
    shredded either way."--https://www.facebook.com/jane.yolen/posts/10151993961691953

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  26. Also not mentioned in your excellent screed is the Republicans voted AGAINST increased security. thats right, they refused to spend money for extra security that might (Although I've yet to see a soldier that could stop an RPG with an M4) have kept the Ambassador alive.

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  27. Jim, and I admit when I read what I'm going to comment on, I skipped the rest (will go back and read it when I have time). I believe VP Biden DID mention that Congress (including Ryan) voted against increases of $$$ for embassy security. I also admit that I didn't watch the entire debate (because I'm SO fried about this election season - for the reasons you list in this post.) All for now.

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  28. Dear Jim,
    Thank you for hitting me over the head with the obvious paddle and reconnecting addled synapses so I can think straight once again. I have had a serious problem with 'my' faith for many years now. Sixteen years of Catholic education has given me all the necessary faculties to make an educated decision, but also created a huge blind spot to, you guessed it, the Catholic Church. I haven't participated in years because i cannot in good faith believe that half of what they condemn has anything to do with the message of JC. I pray often, in my own way. I believe JC had the right philosophy. The argument you wrote about might as well have been with me. Right between the eyes! I actually feel relieved finally walking away from that organization. I don't need to enumerate all the things that are so wrong with what they push on their congregants, superficial reading illustrates those points quickly enough. I wonder how the Episcopalians are doing these days? Respect and equality for women, Married ministers, acceptance of alternative lifestyles and families, vibrant and proactive communities. And their service reminds me more of the Catholic Liturgy I grew up in than anything I've attended in the last 30 years! I really don't think God cares what House I walk into, just as long as I say hello once in a while. Thanks again for the slap upside the head! MSD
    PS. And isn't the current Pope of the RCs an old Nazi? why can't we get away from these guys?

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    Replies
    1. The Episcopal Church may (or may not) be the right answer for you. The joke line is that it is Catholic Lite, all the liturgy but only half the guilt. Besides the points you noted, the Episcopal Church has a strong commitment to social justice and does not believe that any one political issue is make or break. Hey, they put up with me and I am only about 10 steps this side of agnosticism.

      Getting back to the topic, I think that both the RC church and the Republican Party have people who stay forever because they have them snowed into believing that the alternative is a greased chute to hell. Very intelligent people can have a very hard time getting past that early indoctrination. This appears to be true for a lot of fundamentalist sects. These are the groups behind "no thinking allowed" attitudes that are taking root. They all have a "you are with us or you are evil" attitude.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous,
      One solution is to do like I do, and remember that The Management (i.e., bishops, cardinals and popes) are NOT the head of the church. That job is located much higher on the chain of command.

      I've been disgusted for years by the political interference and the criminal actions of The Management for years. But that doesn't stop me from embracing my Catholicism. I also had 16+ years of Catholic education, including learning all about the reforms of Vatican II which included the proclamation that WE are the body of the church, not just the hierarchy. And no single impermanent, backward-looking, quasi-monarchical pope can change that.

      And to Jim Wright - I'm a pro-choice, pro-equality, evolution-believing Catholic, and would be happy to explain at length how this is not only easy but theologically sound. Catholics are allowed to disagree with The Management about a lot of things - they don't like it when we access that particular bit of the catechism, and some of them even try to deny it, but that doesn't make it go away.

      At the very least, you should have been aware of the well-known fact that belief in evolution is completely uncontroversial among Catholics, the only exception being a few who are exceptionally ignorant about their own religion or who know better but pretend otherwise in order to cement a political alliance with fundamentalist Protestants.

      My claim to be a Catholic is based on the totality of my theological and ethical beliefs, not on the answers I give to three very limited questions of civic law or science. Yet in the opening of your essay, you kinda-sorta insulted me by reducing my something I take very seriously to a herd instinct.

      Whether you think that my faith is incorrect or even irrational is entirely up to you. I actually agree with the main points you make in your essay. But in the future, you may want to avoid alienating a big chunk of your audience before you get a chance to make those points.

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    3. I'm a Episcopal priest's son, and often heard him call the Episcopal church the "thinking" persons church.
      Just stay away from any REFORMED episcopal congregations.
      The church has undergone a schism in the last few years, over all the things you've enumerated as reasons to leave catholicism.

      Delete
  29. Once upon a time, there was a system in which the Autocrat had to approve everything, from major military actions to people's divorces. Individually. Seriously. That's part of the reason that the leader of the country was called an "Autocrat" and not a "President" or a "Prime Minister" or even an "Executive." That's what it means to be an Autocrat, and that's not the system that we have.

    The country that had that system? Imperial Russia - the one that existed before the 1918 revolution.

    The Tsar was the Autocrat, period. He was responsible for everything - EVERYTHING! - in the country, including personally signing off on divorce papers.

    Can you imagine what-all would not get done if our President had to personally sign everyone's divorce? By which I mean, every decree, everywhere, in every state.

    It part of the reason that very little got done in the old Imperial system. We don't have that system, and I don't think we want it. Yet far too many people seem to think that's the system we have.

    I completely "get" what you are talking about vis-a-vis religion. I was raised Catholic. Along about high school, I started wondering why I was Catholic. DId I believe what the church taught? Not so much. I came to the conclusion that I was Catholic because my parents were - and that wasn't good enough. Not then, not now.

    I especially never believed, try hard as I did, that I was somehow "less than" for having been created female. Although there are people who will tell you that that's not the official message of the church, the misogyny is so pervasive that I believe most people are blind to it. My view was reinforced when I attended a Catholic college, starting in 1977, and the overarching view of the Administration toward women was essentially, "We have to let you in, but we don't have to like you." Much less, treat you as equals, or even human beings.

    So - did I believe what the church taught? No. Having realized that, I could not call myself a member of a faith whose teachings I did not believe.

    And still, the first time I said I was not Catholic, I sort of expected that lightning bolt to smite me right there. It didn't, and I'm still here, about 35 years later.

    Thank you so much for this column! As always, you nailed it.

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  30. I don't watch debates, I don't donate to campaigns and I vote early when I can.

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  31. I think that debates are worse than useless as well.
    Like you, more people should realize this and act
    accordingly. After all, how can someone "win" a debate
    simply because they recited their lies louder and more
    vociferously than the other guy? Here in the swing
    state of Virginia, we've seen all of these lies ad
    nauseum as tv ads and they've all been debunked by the
    print media's truth squads so why is it that these lies
    still have any viability anywhere-no matter how loudly
    they are told?

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  32. I'm going to largely mirror a thought contributed by Anonymous, up above. It's not just that the American People have fallen into the habit of looking at the debates with the mentality of 'who won?' What really sticks deep under my craw is that the press has cheerfully led them there. Who won the debate? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, people. If you have to ask such a moronic question, your time would have been better-served keeping your idiot box tuned into the football game that night.

    The purpose of any debate is to give politicians the opportunity to directly compare & contrast their values, plans & ideas. It is supposed to be a means for voters to become better-informed about the men & women who are asking for their vote. Americans - right up to and including CN-fucking-N - only care to tally-up the score & determine, definitively, who won. Americans do not want to listen to thoughtful discussion, cannot be bothered with evaluating divergent, cohesive plans for dealing with the challenges that face our Nation.

    We want to tune in, watch their body language, their mannerisms. Make a determination that they were either being too timid or professorial, or too overbearing & smug. Then we want to tune into our respective 'news' enclave & see a re-cap of who 'won', replete with slow-motion highlight footage. And the press, the very people who should know better, who should have the professional dignity to at least be ashamed of the WWF Fight-Night they just foisted off onto a democracy, are the ones driving that mentality.

    You know what? Just build a damned cage, already. Issue them gloves (or not, there is nothing on television for which the addition of a little bloodshed doesn't improve the ratings) and let them go at it. Bring out a 5-deck shute and let's watch an hour of Texas hold-em between the candidates. There at least will not be any question of who won.

    And a candidate's ability to suss out their opponent chasing an inside straight will tell me at least as much about how they will handle themselves in a G-8 summit than anything I saw transpire during either of the debates, so far.

    Who lost the debate?

    We all did.

    Indeed, Jim, indeed.

    But the teacher has left the room, in this great Country. It's gone all Lord of the Flies in here. Not the American People, not the press, not even the candidates anymore have the faintest clue as to what transpired during that debate, nor what should have.

    Euchre, anyone?

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    Replies
    1. Lawrence O'Donnell had a very interesting idea as far as that goes. He noted that the president NEVER makes a decision on the fly - so we shouldn't expect him/her to give an unscripted answer. We also don't need a Memorizer-in Chief (otherwise, we should elect actors who master Hamlet) - so candidates should be allowed to bring notes with them. And no president makes decisions alone - so candidates should be allowed to bring an aid who can hand them relevant fact-sheets.
      http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/45755883/ns/msnbc-the_last_word/#49397942

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  33. If debates are the wrong way to pick a candidate, what is a good way? I know it's not the lie filled propaganda that is clogging the airwaves currently. I like the mock debate format on HBO's The Newsroom.

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    1. Absolutely! That would be a debate worth watching!

      Delete
    2. Hethrow: I never said that debates are the wrong way to pick a candidate. They should be a valuable tool for finding out specifics about a candidate's stances & plans, one that allows voters to see them directly contrasted against their opponent's. That isn't what we voters are getting. We are getting the reality-tv spectacle of two candidates trying to convince us that the other is the devil.

      Oh. And Nazis. We can't forget that part, can we?

      The part that chaps me is that the press is eager to egg-on the sport-stunt atmosphere.

      The only thing we've learned, thusfar, from Ryan & Mittens is that they want to slash taxes and increase military spending. They want to abolish the first law in the history of this country that gives people with pre-existing conditions a good shot at not dying from the lack of access to the best treatment plans for their illness & in a mountain of personal debt. They appear to be quite keen on the notion of sending men & women who have spent half their military careers into Syria & Iran. They're not sure yet, but Russia is looking more & more like making their ass-kick list as well; they'll get back to us on that one. Oh yeah. Let's all sign up for that.

      They don't want to take any benefits away from the largest (and most expensive) boom of retirees that this country is likely to see for the next century. But if you're under 50? Retirement is for pussies, bitchez.

      And as for Barack Obama's plans? He's going to spend another 4 years wishing that he could get Congress & the Senate to vote on anything & try to hold this Country together by sheer willpower. Yes, we could hope for a Democratic landslide in this election, and the one in two years, and finally see some stuff done. But that's banking on districts where a man can claim womens' uteruses have magical abilities & still remain a viable candidate for office. Let's all hold our breath.

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  34. I just want to say: I love you man. You keep me sane in an insane world. Thank you.

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  35. I guess I am one of the "lucky" ones. I lucked into a church at 10 that in the last 50 years has, for the most part, kept up with my social beliefs. I still remember arguing with the minister for the right to serve as an acolyte. Now my church has women ministers and gay ministers. The rest of my family found the changes too "liberal" and left. At 18 I "found" a political party whose platform has evolved in the same direction has my opinions and beliefs. My GOP parents have wondered where they went wrong. Then in my 30s, I found a man who agreed with majority of my beliefs, so I married him.

    What I have found mind-boggling are people who become so upset over disagreements with the minister of their church, that they sue to get rid of him. In the south, there is a South Baptist Church almost on every street corner - move to a new church -- but no they want to sue for the power to run their church, never mind they cause a split.

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  36. I love all the folks complaining that Biden was too aggressive.

    Folks, the previous Vice President shot a guy in the face.

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    1. It has been fairly said that "Joe Biden is the only Vice President in the past 11 years that hasn't shot a friend in the face." I like that in a guy.

      That said, the whole campaign season has turned into "reality" TV. The media, including TV, act only to keep "controversy" alive and line their pockets with advertising dollars. The "debates" are only the culmination of this effort and have not illuminated anything, except maybe the eyes of the money-counters.

      I'm with Jim all the way.

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  37. The things that help win a debate aren't the things you need in the real world presidency, no. In fact, the entire circus doesn't emphasize the best of anyone, IMHO. I've been watching the circus from afar for a long time, and have come to the conclusion that a brainwashed public has installed administration after administration that is far to the right of their own beliefs, and far to the right of anything that comes across as logical.

    The only hope I see is to get private money out of politics and shorten the election season...but I have no idea how to achieve that.

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    Replies
    1. James Lipton - the guy who works with actors had an interesting take on Romney on Hardball w/Chris Matthews, "Romney is that boss, who tells lame jokes and waits for everyone to laugh, or else."

      http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3036697/

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  38. Been reading a few weeks now, and i just want to thank you for being a stabilizing influence in a time of chaos. Seriously, the signal to noise ratio is at maximum warp and every once in a while you find yourself getting hypnotized by the very same bullshit you commonly decry. I've started reading you and referring you on Facebook whenever I can because the antidote to the madness is to keep talking sense right here at the grassroots level. I won't keep gushing, I just want you to know I feel saner because of what you write.

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  39. The first example is crappy.
    These are not the core of Catholic teaching. They are issues of the day. It isn't surprising that someone might think that they are the core though. They get most of the airtime outside of church. The Catholic Church is a community and most people won't throw out their community over a disagreement no matter how much you badger them.
    Also please see http://www.catholic.com/tracts/adam-eve-and-evolution. I can't remember ever hearing the word evolution in church. (outside, yes, with varied opinions.)
    The second example is better because political parties largely are the issues of the day, not so much communities. You're still badgering but in some circumstances maybe that's appropriate.

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    1. I'd agree that the Catholic Church is not the best example of a religion that is incompatible with a belief in evolution. Professor Ken Miller is a well-known defender of evolution, including his testimony at the Dover trial. He also a Catholic and sees no conflict in that. He's written "Biological evolution fits neatly into a traditional Catholic understanding of how contingent natural processes can be seen as part of God's plan." The full essay is at http://www.millerandlevine.com/km/evol/catholic/op-ed-krm.html.

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    2. Badgering?

      Oh please.

      I asked a couple of questions, that's hardly badgering.

      Karl, your accusation makes me laugh, both the church and the GOP would shamelessly presume to tell me how to live my life, but it's persecution when I ask for a few details from their disciples? Ain't that rich.

      Religion and Politics constantly question my beliefs and accuse me of all kinds of horrible things and condemn me each to their respective versions of damnation, but both get their back up when I ask a few questions of my own. Believers, Politicians, and Priests have used that logical fallacy to divert attention away from their bullshit since the Dark Ages and frankly it's wearing more than a little thin. If your faith or your politics can't stand a couple of simple questions, maybe it's time for you to start asking few questions of your own.

      Here's the thing, karlsoap, I don't give a shit what you believe, you want to get naked and roll around on the floor speaking holy gibberish and fondling snakes while awaiting the End Times, I don't care. But when you attempt to foist your stone age beliefs on me then you're making it my business and I'm going to ask some blunt questions. If you don't like that, then stop pushing your religion down my throat.

      Frankly I'm sick and tired of people who continue to make excuses for their religion and their political party. The Catholic Church (and not just the Catholic Church, religion in general) and the GOP can whore it up however they like, but at the end of the day the pinched face little old pedophile up there in the pointy hat is preaching fear, hate, bigotry, and intolerance and don't bother to tell me it's not because that's exactly what it is. You can smile with false humility all you like, but it's still hate, fear, bigotry, and intolerance. And there's a reason why the hate, fear, bigotry, and intolerance get most of the airtime outside the Catholic Church, and the Mormon Church, and the Baptist Church, and the evangelical Church - a damned good reason.

      If religion doesn't like that kind of attention then they should stop bringing it up.

      Both religion and the GOP could use a good badgering.

      ____________________

      pdicamillo: I didn't say it was the "best" example. However, that said, I would refer you to, oh, let's say Paul Ryan's growing version of American Catholicism, which resembles Evangelical Protestantism in its denial of all flavors of science. In fact, from where I sit, frankly I'm having a hard time telling the two apart.

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    3. One has a guy in a pointy hat (who at one time supported Vatican II when it suited his aspirations and at another denounced liberation theology and supported the censure of conscientious nuns when *that* suited his aspirations -- Mitt's Vatican doppelganger) and the other doesn't listen to the guy with the pointy hat (though they both give lots of money to give teh gayz a hard time -- no pun intended).

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    4. They have labels that you want them to drop. If you weren't pushing, they wouldn't be telling you to fuck off. Perhaps they come back later and tell you that although you pissed them off, it gave them something to think about but the title suggests they entrench. Hence, badgering. Perhaps not always inappropriate.

      As for religious and political people being hypocritical when they're beliefs are challenged, guilty as charged. There are a lot of people busy evangelizing who need to stop and think whether they actually want free speech or a homogeneous society in their own image. I'll take the former and that means that being exposed to other people's beliefs. Simply, if you don't want to be exposed to other's people's beliefs, you don't want free speech. That goes for your kids too.

      Your first question was “You believe women have the right to choose?”
      Life begins at conception. We should try to save those lives. I'm a science fiction fan. I imagine a day when abortion means to move the fetus or embryo to an artificial womb and killing the baby is unthinkable. In the meantime, real enforcement of a ban on abortion would require a big loss of privacy. Freedom isn't free and sometimes it isn't volunteer soldiers like you and me who pay the price. Don't agree? Talk to me about gun control. There's got to be a middle ground between endorsing abortion and invasion of privacy.
      That's theologically in line with the Church and every Catholic is different politically, including bishops. I went over abortion to point out that it took a while to put down. If pushed for a quick response, maybe it would be “Fuck you.”

      The topic is labels and they do seem to be a problem. Anything can be a label. Liberal and conservative might be more than that but I can't think of what. Democrat and Republican are more but they're wrapped so tightly in labels that it's hard to tell. Religions are more than labels and I'm not going to stop calling myself Catholic any more than you're going to stop calling yourself American. Maybe you could start telling people that they can be a member of a group and still think for themselves instead. Anyway, you don't seem to be trying to stop him from hating non-Catholics. You seem to be trying to get him to stop being Catholic. Hence, crappy example.

      Since you brought up intolerance, I'll go over gay marriage too.
      Gay marriage is morally equivalent to straight marriage if a vasectomy happens beforehand. Just because they're doing something wrong, doesn't mean that you're not prejudice. If you ask, gay marriage opponents, they will say they oppose that too, but they're not up in arms about it. Straight people can get married solely for companionship and have it protected by law. Naturally gays want that too. In the end, it's about government's roll in marriage and, again, privacy. I would say the government should protect freedom of association, subsidize whatever we think has value, and otherwise get out of the way.

      As for the Church, when Jesus ascended, it was a coming of age. He left people in charge. Sometime they screw it up, sometimes royally. You have the right and moral obligation to criticize. The Church needs to pick the criticism out of the hate and make itself better. If you think dissolving the Church would end cover-ups of abuses, you're right. Without a community, there's no need for a cover-up.

      Anyway, thanks for bringing up a valuable point about how labels can inspire hatred but example one is still crappy. Is that where you want people to stop reading?

      Karl

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    5. I didn't ask anybody to drop anything. I asked a couple of simple questions.

      You keep moving the goal posts here, but I suppose I should thank you since that's a form of inertia too. Next time, I'll use you for an example.

      I asked a Catholic acquaintance to explain the, apparent, conflict between his life and beliefs with the position of his professed religion. He could not. He wasn't the only one. I've had that conversation many times, and not just with Catholics. I simply used my Catholic friend as an example because he was handy and he didn't mind. Though I'm not Catholic myself (nor any type of religious for that matter) I come from a very large and diversely religious family, many of whom are Catholic, including my father (who was excommunicated 50 years ago from the Irish Catholic church for marrying my mother, a Dutch Protestant, against the express orders of the clergy). I have nothing against the Catholic Church in particular, no agenda other than a desire to see the Church acknowledge its ongoing pedophilia and actually do something about it (but then I have the same feelings about the Boy Scouts). I simply asked questions. Perhaps you could answer them for yourself, but the person I put the question to could not - i.e. he was operating on INERTIA. If I was just making a rail against Catholics, I would have used a different title for the essay.

      You're attempting to turn my simple example into an attack on an entire group of people, it was neither an attack nor a condemnation of an entire religion - it was simply an observation of one individual used to illustrate the underlying point of the essay. Nothing more.

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  40. Just discovered your blog. Love it. That is all for now. ;)

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  41. Thanks for this; I like hearing about military stuff from someone who has done time on the ground.

    Also thank for "also Nazis." Just as an observation: seems to me to have a lot more punch here than when it's the title of the post.

    I'm fine being a Texas liberal--flipflops instead of Birkenstocks, but liberal all the same. And feminazi.

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    1. I think you meant "also, feminazis."

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    2. Me too, nice to 'meet' you Darla.

      In my case, also a progressive Evangelical Christian...which I realize makes me sound like Ex 1, but I am thankful I have been able to find like minds online (I got here from Fred Clark's Slacktivist blog).

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  42. In 2016 I think we should skip presidential debates and have the presidential candidates face off for Haka contests. You know, that shouting, chest thumping, stomping and grimacing thing they do before New Zealand rugby matches.

    Great post Jim.

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    1. All noticeably less intimidating when performed by pasty, flabby white guys in suits.

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    2. Dear lord, I just snorted coffee through my nose. Now I must find the brain bleach. The thought of Mittens doing Haka is just precious.
      Hippie in the Hollar.

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    3. Hee. I misread that as "Haiku Contests." Well…at least the candidates would talk less.

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  43. I'd be interested to read what you think our response to the Benghazi incident should be.

    I have a political science professor friend -- a very conservative gent -- who claims that at one time the price to pay for fucking with our embassies was death, usually carried out by the CIA or their associates and proxies. He actually gives Hillary Clinton a lot of credit for re-establishing the connection between bad behavior and drastic consequences with respect to the State Department's overseas staff.

    Now, I have no idea if this guy is right about that, but it seems plausible. And since this avowed libertarian is willing to give credit to Hillary for changing the dynamic, I'm inclined to credit the statement.

    So if that's all accurate as far as it goes, what do you think we ought to do about what happened in Lybia? Is there any action we can take within the context of the so-called Arab spring that would both enhance the regard for our diplomats and lend benefit to our potential sympathizers in that region? What can or should be done?

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  44. As usual, thanks for slap upside the head, and an intelligent statement of where your country stands.

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  45. In a post that i read to be against label makers, -takers and throwers he took and threw labels. I am not sure if he made one.
    But i either did not adjust my satire glasses right or the post was a bit off.
    Polemic is nice and i come here to read good polemics but when a polemic writes a poloemic (the person the thing, you know...) aginst polemics (the things) it gets a bit weird.

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    1. See my reply to Karlsoap above. You read it wrong.

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  46. The Russian plan to create 25 million jobs by 2020. http://sptimes.ru/index.php?action_id=2&story_id=36380

    danny

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  47. Jim,

    I have a quick question about the debate on Tuesday and, in particular, Romney's answer to the Benghazi question. Putting to one side his understanding of facts, I wondered what your opinion was of the actual substance of his complaint about time. He said that five days was too long to get an answer to the reasons for the attack on the Consulate and that 14 days was way too long. To me, 14 days didn't seem like that long a period of time considering that (a) it was a really complicated situation; (b) it was happening thousands of miles from the US; (c)Libyan infrastructure probably isn't great and (d)difficulties investigating a group which you have no authority over and may not speak the same language as you. As an intelligence officer, what would be the general time frame involved in these sorts of situations? (I'm assuming it might be context dependent but I'm hoping you might be able to give some sort of general idea.)

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  48. I am angry that people in the media keep talking about or repeating comments about "the attack on our embassy in Benghazi", when in fact it was NOT a part of the official embassy at all...it was NOT a consulate either. It was in all likelihood a "dark" site, run by the CIA. As such, it would NOT have had a State Department security detail assigned to it, for any number of reasons including it would have drawn attention. What the Ambassador was doing there we do not know. BUT, and here's the REAL issue, as an intelligence site, the President would NOT discuss it in those terms, and what has evolved is a bad cover story that has had to be modified and changed, pure and simple. Additionally, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have undoubtedly been receiving intelligence briefings since they were nominated, and as such know a great deal of the issue behind the scenes. I suspect they KNOW Obama can't talk about it, so they are able to criticize, knowing he cannot explain the truth. I speculate about this, as from the examples they have shown of their character (Romney- lies and prevarications abounding; Ryan- ditto...plus his recently cynical use of pictures of himself [and his wife!] in aprons "washing" clean dishes in a clean kitchen, in a shelter that didn't want him there) they are clearly capable and willing to do such things to the great detriment of the US and the Truth.

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    1. Unless I've missed something this was, indeed, a Consulate. There's a pretty good timeline at the Washington Post here -

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/whitehouse/timeline-of-events-comments-surrounding-attack-that-killed-4-americans-in-benghazi-libya/2012/10/19/4a9d3c2c-1a2f-11e2-ad4a-e5a958b60a1e_story.html

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