_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Canary

 

Are gay people born gay?

Or is sexual orientation a choice?

Well? What do you think? Which one is it?

That question, that one right there, is the first question I want asked of each and every candidate for President of the United States in 2016. I want this question put to every candidate and put to them hard. No evasion, no dissembling, no moving the goalposts, no changing the subject. Look into the lights, face the camera, and answer the question: Is sexual orientation something you’re born with or is it a choice?

Wait. What’s that, Jim? That’s the first question you want put to the candidates? You don’t maybe think there are more pressing issues?

Oh I think there are many significant issues we as a nation and as a people will face in the coming years. Conflict in the Middle East and elsewhere. Civil rights at home. Energy. Resources. Trade. The changing climate. Technology. Immigration. Education. The list of challenges is endless and growing.

And that’s why it is imperative we know exactly what we’re getting in a president.

So why do I think this particular question should be first on the agenda?

Well, take a minute and think about it.

Think about it in the context of rights and liberty, in the context of the ongoing debate over the role of government, in the context of society and individuals and where the line between the two is drawn.

Why?

Why this question?

Because it’s the perfect test.

As an American, an American, how you answer that question tells the rest of us everything we need to know – well, if we’re paying attention, I mean.

That question, that one right there, is the little chirping bird deep in the coal mine.

There is only one correct answer for someone who wants to be president.

As an American, there really is only one correct answer.

Is sexual orientation something you’re born with or is it a choice?

 

Now think carefully before you answer. It might be a trick question.

 

Last week Jeb Bush shot himself in the foot repeatedly when asked the following:

Knowing what we know now, would you have launched the Iraq war?

Knowing what we know now, would you have invaded Iraq?

That’s a fluff question.

It’s an easy high lob, on the order of “So, what do you read?” 

Any competent politician worth his anonymous Wall Street donor money should have been able to field that with a non-committal “If you’re asking me to second guess a previous president, I’m not going to do that. To answer your question: obviously any person equipped with the infallible benefit of hindsight might have done things differently. Next question.”

Instead, Bush had his own Palin Moment. 

“Yes,” Jeb declared confidently. Knowing the intelligence was wrong, I still would have invaded Iraq.

The nuts don’t fall very far from the bush in this dynasty, do they?

Yes. Knowing the intelligence was wrong, I still would have invaded Iraq.

If you listen to the video of Jeb Bush’s interview, you can actually hear his public relations people soiling their underwear just off camera.

Of course, Bush began to backpedal the same day. Because while there are many correct ways that question could have been answered, “yes” is not one of them.

With the iceberg suddenly before him, Jeb threw the rudder hard over and declared he would have made “different decisions.”

You have to assume his cellphone rang shortly thereafter and Jeb felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up, like it does when Dick Cheney offers to take you quail hunting in some remote Texas cornfield.

So Jeb then tacked hard to port and blamed the US Intelligence community (i.e. people like me) for steering his big brother wrong. 

And if you listen carefully, you can actually hear Jeb’s public relations people whimpering in the background, because blaming the military, as a Republican, might just not be the best strategy – especially when it’s provable bullshit.

It took a week, and no doubt being called onto the plastic in front of the GOP Brain Trust, but eventually Jeb got it right: He blamed Obama.

And that works for Republicans.

And what does that tell you about Jeb Bush? He couldn’t manage a simple fluff question without making a mess of it, without prep and handling.  And in fact, Bush’s first impulse was to cover for his family instead of putting responsibility on The Decider where it belongs.  Then he blamed the military and the intelligence community instead of their Commander In Chief. Despite the very provable fact that the intelligence was anything but definitive and that hundreds of red flags were thrown on it before George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and especially that arrogant little runt Donald Rumsfeld shut out all debate and declared their version of reality absolute. And that tells you exactly what you’d get in president Jeb Bush, a guy that will spend the next four years covering for his family and friends.

But a bigger problem is this: Knowing what we know now, would you have invaded Iraq?

Seriously? That’s the question?

Say, Mr. Candidate, knowing what we know now about Imperial Japan, would you as Commander in Chief have done anything different on December 6th, 1941?  Knowing what we now know about the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, would you have sent America into Vietnam? Tell us, Jeb, knowing what we now know, would you in fact have chased the Iraqi army up the Highway of Death straight back to Baghdad in 1991 and just killed Saddam then instead of wimping out like your pop?

Look, I don’t care what Jeb might have done if he was magically transported into the past like Biff Tannen and his 2015 copy of Grays Sports Almanac.

I don’t care if Jeb Bush might or might not invade Iraq in 2004, I want to know if he’s planning on invading Iran in 2017.

It took Jeb Bush nearly a week to get his answer straight and in the end, what did you really learn?

Bush’s final answer is wrong and idiotic, but leads directly to one obvious follow-up question that the media has so far failed to address.

The interviewer let Bush dig his own hole, and then let him climb out instead of shoveling dirt on his head, instead of asking this:

Governor Bush, you blame incorrect intelligence for your brother’s decision to send Americans into a decade-long war that has actually made things worse and directly created the very enemies we now face.

You blame President Obama for not staying the course, for allowing Iraq to disintegrate into chaos and civil war. 

As such, please tell America how you as president, would yourself not fall into such a trap.

Describe in detail how you personally would ensure accurate, timely, and comprehensive intelligence and exactly how you would keep your own cabinet and advisors from making the same mistakes Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, et al made. Using Iran as an example, describe in detail and provide verifiable sources that support Republican claims of Iranian nuclear ambitions to a degree that justifies preemptive war (unless of course you don’t agree with the calls for war from your own party, in which case please look directly into the camera and clearly say so). Describe in detail your comprehensive plan for the invasion of Iran, how many lives you expect to lose on both sides, the total cost to the American taxpayer to include post-war reconstruction and the resulting increase in the national debt, the length of time you expect America to be involved in this conflict both in actual combat operations and post-conflict occupation and stabilization, and finally your detailed and fully developed post-war reconstruction plan that will bring Iran to peaceful non-nuclear stable Western style democracy.  Please be specific on all counts.

But no, that’s not what happened. Instead the press let Bush blame Obama. And at this point, as a voter, you know nothing more about President Jeb Bush than you did two weeks ago – other than he needs some serious prep time with his puppet masters.

And it’s important, because this question really isn’t just about past wars or possible future ones.

How a candidate answers the question of “Given what we know now…” tells you how as president they’ll form their strategic and tactical worldview – and whether or not they will take the steps necessary to ensure that worldview approximates reality even if it’s not what they want to hear.

The answer tells you whether the candidate is the dog or the tail.

Bush’s answer puts him right in between the two - and I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to figure out what part of the dog that is.

It doesn’t take a political genius to see the big issues in 2016.

War in the Middle East is one of those issues. 

Another is Climate Change.

Every single candidate should be pressed to define their position on Climate Change directly and without equivocation.

Like that first question I asked you to think about, and like the question of Iraq, how a candidate answers the question of Climate Change speaks to a far, far larger issue. 

Combined with the question of war and intelligence, how a candidate answers the question of climate change tells you very, very specifically what kind of person you’re dealing with, one who operates in the real world or one that is motivated by blind doctrine. These two issues, war and climate change, seem like two different things, but from the Oval Office they are simply two aspects of the same issue.

If you tend to dogmatically see what you want in strategic intelligence even though it repeatedly leads to disaster and death on a massive scale, then you are very likely to do exactly the same when it comes to science – with exactly the same results.

This is crucial.

It is crucial because everything else depends from this point.

Energy. Food. Trade. The price of goods. The availability of resources. The Economy. Taxes. Opportunity. Peace. War. Population growth and displacement and the resulting refugee and immigration issues. Education. Crime. Stability. And even religion.

Everything you see in the headlines of your news media every single day depends from this point: whether or not the leader of the largest and most powerful nation on earth operates from pragmatism based reality or from political dogmatism.

And that takes us right back around to where we began.

 

Sexual orientation. Are you born that way or is it a choice?

 

Well, what is your answer?

Careful though, I warned you it might be a trick question.

Don’t know? Not sure? Tempted to answer with dogma and sound bites?

Try this: if you adopt a child are you any less a parent simply because you chose parenthood instead of the child being born to you naturally? How about this: If you’re drafted, are you more of a patriot because you didn’t get a choice than a veteran who volunteered?

Not helping huh?

There is a correct answer to the question, you know. Just as there were correct answers to the questions posed above. And just as with the questions of war and science, this is really about something else.

It’s about freedom.

It’s about liberty.

It’s about the very things that make us Americans.

We Americans used to say this of our country:

I don’t agree with what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it.

And that, that right there in no uncertain terms, is the correct answer.

Whether we come to it through the accident of genetics and environment or by choice, the freedom to define who we are, each of us personally, is the only truly inalienable right.

Men can take away your freedom and your guns and your speech and your religion, they can beat you down and lock you away in a deep dark hole, but the only thing that neither gods nor men can take away from you is the ability to define yourself. This is precisely what our ancestors were saying when they declared they were founding a nation based on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This was the entire point of our nation, from the Revolution to the Civil War to Women’s Suffrage to the Civil Rights Movement to same sex marriage and equal protection under the law regardless of race, creed, color, age, ethnicity, origin, or orientation.

Whether we are born the way we are or whether we choose it is a bullshit question.

But the answer does matter.

In the context of rights and liberty, in the context of the ongoing debate over the role of government, in the context of society and individuals and where the line between the two is drawn, among the ongoing issues of war and conflict, energy, climate, education, trade, resources, technology, immigration, it is imperative that we not lose sight of who we are and what our country is supposed to be.

Just like the question put to Jeb Bush up above, how someone answers tells you far more about who they really are than the actual answer itself. It tells you whether they will stand up for liberty, for freedom, for justice, for all Americans, for all human beings, regardless, or if they are slaves to dogma and ideology. 

And if they won’t do that, if they won’t stand for all, even the ones they disagree with, then the rest is irrelevant.

That’s why the question should come first.

Americans today often lament politicians no longer listen to them.

Maybe it’s time for us to start really listening to the politicians.

101 comments:

  1. I believe some people are born gay. Some are born straight. Most are bisexual may not know it. I know women for whom the first same-sex desire was shocking and amazing, when it hit in their forties. I know people who have started with a straighter orientation and moved more to the middle of the scale. For a while in the 70s, it was politically trendy to be a lesbian if one was a feminist.

    In short, rights for everyone. For the 13 year old who is out as a pansexual furry to the 40 year old Activist byke mom to the 55 year old in the closet because of AIDS to the 80 year old public figure just now coming out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you might have missed the point of the essay.

      Delete
    2. I think this is one (of many) of your finest pieces of writing, and I agree with you about this. Strongly. I, not knowing what I was seeing yet, watched a press relations person come in and teach a couple of leadership individuals in the art of responding to questions like this. Here is what they were taught: hear the question, ignore whatever it is, don't respond to it, and put your own agenda out there. After learning their technique, interviews and press questions became much more interesting and had a wealth of clarity :) I agree with you. Answer the question, directly, so that I truly know where you stand as a human being. And as a leader, and, are you a leader in the true sense of that word. Do you take the power you hold and hold it responsibly for the good of everyone and not for self. I want to know you will hold the course of this country, period end.

      Delete
  2. Well done, jim. But the real question is why we've let politicians get away with this, dumbing their answers down to some lowest common denominator "average voter" that is more focus group than actual. WE'VE made the choice to let this happen, and the Media-tainment industry plays right along.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We, as individuals, DON'T let them get away with it. However, those who are supposed to be our voices, who are supposed to have an adversarial relationship with the politicians, who are owned, in their multitude, by a mere SIX corporations who have their own political agendas, THOSE people let them get away with this crap daily, because if they don't they might not get invited to the next Villager soiree. They've sold us all out for pate', cheap champagne, and jumbo shrimp cocktails.

      The bastards.

      Delete
  3. Jim, I love your mind. I love the way you cut right through the bullshit and get to the meat of the matter. I am patiently waiting in the queu of folks to be added as friends so that I, too, may add my smart ass two cents worth some day. In the meantime, keep speaking truth and in your own unique and clever way!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Same here on the FB friends thing. I had to stop following Jim because it was too frustrating not to be able to participate in the conversation.

      Delete
  4. I believe that it is none of my personal business whether my good friend Rob, married to my good friend Sandy, is gay because of nature, nurture, or a sober adult decision. I have no reason or right to render an opinion on this question, and I firmly believe that nobody but the individual in question

    Further, I think any answer which arrogates to any individual not part of the relationship the right to make that determination is arrogant and ignorant. I have told people that to their faces, and I will do so again when I feel it's called for.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sigh, missing a bit of text there. The last sentence in the first paragraph should end:

      ... and I firmly believe that nobody but the individual in question and their SO or SOs has the right to such an opinion.

      Delete
  5. Hi Jim

    Excellent post in every regard. I would add that anyone who says that sexual orientation is a choice is implying that they also chose their sexual orientation - all the current crop of Republican presidential contenders having chosen heterosexuality. But in their own words, they chose heterosexuality even though they could just have easily chosen homosexuality or bisexuality. It kind of implies that they might not be as straight as they claim. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but the hypocrisy is starting to get on my last nerve.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I agree that this is an important question and agree with your analysis of why it is important. However, the one question I want for every candidate to answer is, "Do you believe there is any place for the use of torture in interrogating prisoners of war?" I refuse to vote for anyone answering yes or hedging on an answer to that question. To advocate for torture is to deny virtually any moral position our nation has stood for in the past. All other issues have some degree of negotiation available but not torture.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I agree with where you're going, but I think you don't adequately account for the bad faith of your opponents. The question perhaps needs to be "Do all citizens have the same rights at law as all other citizens?"

    The question of born/made doesn't really address legal standing. There's no question that our countrymen with darker skin were BORN THAT WAY, and yet you can find a few million citizens who are quite certain that they are, as a result, less equal than others. Likewise those who have chosen to commit all manner of felonious acts and profited thereby are certainly More Equal than those of us who, through honest effort and ethical behavior, are of lower socioeconomic status.

    These are crooks. Even when they lie they don't play it straight.

    ReplyDelete
  8. What you're getting at is the extent to which fundamentalist Abrahamic religion influences a candidate's policy decisions - if it's inborn () then there's no religious fault, therefore no reason for discrimination in law or policy, or conversely, if it's a choice, then there is reason for discrimination in law or policy. This comes up in patently unconstitutional legislation such as the Defense of Marriage Act, where the State sets itself up as the defender of the sanctity of a religious rite of a particular set of religions, and in so doing, violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I spent my career working in State government, writing environmental regulations. And I saw that too many people don't like facts, if they prevent them from doing what they want. I wrote an analysis about privatizing a certain function. Because we were statutorily required to perform that function and it only took about 0.5 person years, I concluded it was not cost effective to privatize it. My managers said they were "disappointed" in the result. Darn those facts, They couldn't dispute any of the facts, they just didn't like that the facts didn't support doing what they wanted.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Missing scientific reference: http://www.nimbios.org/press/FS_homosexuality ooops. Sorry.

    ReplyDelete
  11. No one will "press" any of them. On any question. The "talking points" will rule. The networks are afraid of losing their advertising revenue.
    ....... and if they say it's a choice, ask "how exactly did you chose to be "straight?"

    "Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations." George Orwell

    ReplyDelete
  12. That's where I hoped you were going with that.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Editing: "You have assume his cellphone rang shortly thereafter..." should be "You have to assume..."

    Nice post, and nice insight into the thought process (or lack thereof) involved in these press junkets. As usual, you cut through the BS and misdirection well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Got it. Thanks for the assist. Fixed // Jim

      Delete
  14. Jim, to borrow from a certain movie; "I think we're gonna need a bigger ballpark." 'Cause you keep hitting them out of the one we have. I can't analyze and then succinctly and coherently write this stuff down a tenth as well as you. Thank you for your words.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was thinking the exact same thing; You took the metaphor right out of my cliche!

      Delete
  15. I really do love these. My answer to the question about being gay tends to be that I believe a person is born that way. I know I was attracted to both sexes from the time I was old enough to experience sexual attraction. But this essay made me step out of that one-sided camp and realize something important. That I'm as entitled to my assessment of what causes something as anyone, but when it comes down to brass tacks and freedoms? It doesn't MATTER how I think someone came to be who they are. It's their right to be that person and identify themselves. Thank you for reminding me of that. I think I already knew that, but sometimes it gets forgotten. :)

    ReplyDelete
  16. William PetersenMay 22, 2015 at 12:08 PM

    Excellent blog post, Jim. The only fault I can see is a spelling mistake when you called Donald Rumsfeld a runt. Maybe it was just a typo but I've always had a similar sounding word for him.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sure it wasn't a typo. If your 'similar sounding word' is cunt, some research on the term would provide some interesting ideas.

      Delete
    2. Some runts are also cunts. Some cunts are also runts. Rumsfeld is runt and cunt. But, weirdly perhaps, he is also a dick. Which means, banish the thought, he might actually be able to reproduce himself. There's a nightmare scenario for you: a whole new crop of little runty Rumsefeld cunts.

      Delete
  17. People in general don't want to take the time to listen. Had people listened to what Dubya was saying as governor and later during his campaign, there'd be no question of "bad intelligence" other than his own. He telegraphed his intention of invading Iraq for months and months before the final excuse presented itself. Yet to this day I find relatively few people who will believe me when I tell them that I had heard him saying this from the beginning. If they didn't hear it themselves, it didn't happen, and if they couldn't be bothered to listen, well too bad.

    Currently, I find too many folks who want to have someone spoonfeed them opinions that they're comfortable with. They are constitutionally unable to give credence to anything that does not fit their delusional view of the world. They're actively hostile to uncomfortable facts and their messengers. That's why I have little hope that the US is going to survive the next few decades without major periods of unrest and repression. I fervently hope that I'm wrong.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bush2 surrounded himself with advisers/handlers who were members of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) (now named something else). That group of chickenhawks signed an open letter in 1997 calling for an invasion of Iraq. There was no subtlety.

      Delete
    2. The problem is less about people actually listening than it is our media never getting the question OR the follow-up right, thereby keeping us uninformed.

      Read the last three paragraphs on page 66, starting with, "But most importantly," and continue reading through the last full paragraph on page 67 here: https://books.google.com/books?id=7eiDaor37gsC&pg=PA66&lpg=PA66

      Did you know that at any time during the 2000 election? I did. I knew it was a lie the minute it spilled from his lying pie hole. But I don't have an audience, so I certainly don't have the power to let the country in on it. And almost no one who did have that power made mention of it. See how many contemporary articles you can find that call out that lie. You'll be able to count them on half a hand.

      But it's more appalling than that. You see, if it had been a lie of no consequences -- for instance, if he actually went on to support a national Patient's Bill of Rights and get one passed through Congress -- no harm, no foul, right? But that's not what happened.

      While he said in the debate, "But we did something else that was interesting. We're one of the first states that said you can sue an HMO for denying you proper coverage," once sworn in as President, Bush fought tooth and nail against the twice-passed bipartisan bill precisely because he was adamantly opposed to patients being allowed to sue their HMOs.

      And in the end, Bush actually got the authors of that bill NOT to introduce it again! So we got bupkis. Not a goddamn thing.

      http://www.salon.com/2001/02/07/patients/

      That lie mattered. It mattered a lot. It mattered to very real people whose lives were at stake.

      But our ignorant, ass-kissing media thought it would serve us better to make jokes about the bill's sponsors' names following the debate, than to talk about its actual substance.

      http://www.newrepublic.com/article/politics/yuck-yuck

      Delete
    3. Glad I'm not the only one who heard him telegraphing his invasion intentions.

      Delete
  18. Neither of those answers is right. The only correct answer is how one comes to an understanding of ones sexuality is irrelevant, what is important is that it is none of my business. Christ's perfect rule was "Do unto others as you would be done by". That takes care of EVERYTHING!

    ReplyDelete
  19. While I do agree with you on all of these points, I think what worries me most about this next election is what can happen with the Supreme Court should the Republicans win. They could tilt it perhaps as high as 7-2 and make the last few years seem easy and fun in comparison.

    ReplyDelete
  20. You have some very intelligent readers, Jim, and you challenge them in very intelligent ways, but this time you may have left a few behind. "There is only one correct answer for someone who wants to be president," and that answer is, of course, that it doesn't make one goddamn bit of difference. Choosing either of the options suggested by the question misses the point you were making. But if some of your readers can miss this, what hope is there for the field of candidates now forming up?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It does make a difference -- to some people personally. Jim doesn't miss the point at all. People who subscribe to the idea of denying equal rights to others are dogmatic and they shouldn't aspire to be leaders of our country.

      Delete
  21. The point that you make in this essay is sound, reasonable, and accurate. However…

    You are really addressing individuals who are amenable to a systematic analysis: Facts, Evidence, Consistency and Completeness, Logical Analysis, and only then, Conclusion.

    What percentage of the population even in the USA do you think understand such an approach? The vast majority (again, even in the USA) base their conclusions on belief, perception, instinct, gut level feelings, and statements from whack jobs on the radio, TV, and internet. Most of those who follow you understand that experience and instinct et al are starting points for analysis, not finishing points.

    Now, carry this thought to the rest of the world. Hmmm. The shattered state of Iraq? The reasonable population of Afghanistan? The balanced government of Saudi Arabia? North K… oh, well.

    Here’s a terrible proposition: Rational thinking individuals are an anomaly in human behavior. ISIL and conspiracy morons in Texas are actually the norm. A simple walk through of history should be convincing. The first emperor of China in 221 BC? Burned books he didn’t like and buried (alive of course) scholars who didn’t agree with his strict interpretation of Confucian Legalism. Ancient Egypt, Rome, Greece? Lots of butchery. Nazi Germany, Soviet Union, 20th century China? Millions dead. Forbidden ideas crushed.

    This is humanity.

    Years ago I was a Math professor in University. In every class there were several students who would sit in defensive postures (arms and legs crossed, clenched jaws, you know the drill). After a while I started asking them to help me understand the problem. “I hate Math!” OK, do you hate me? “No, you’re fine, I just hate Math.” After lots of questions I finally determined the primary reason: at some point in their young lives they had been ridiculed and made to feel stupid by someone(s) associated with Math or Science. I saw this in action by a professor who was a known asshole. When I questioned him, I realized he abused students because it made him feel superior.

    The individuals who need to be attacked are the creators of these conspiracy theories, the leaders of brutal gangs such as ISIL, and the heads of States who either condone such brutality and stupidity or remain silent in the face of it all.
    Rather than ridicule the ‘tards who buy into stupidity, ask them, nicely of course, where they got their “research”. If a website, tell us, and we can all go post questions and challenges.

    Ridiculing the stupid only causes them to become even more entrenched. Remember that old CIA maxim: Fish rots from the head first.

    ReplyDelete
  22. The point that you make in this essay is sound, reasonable, and accurate. However…

    You are really addressing individuals who are amenable to a systematic analysis: Facts, Evidence, Consistency and Completeness, Logical Analysis, and only then, Conclusion.

    What percentage of the population even in the USA do you think understand such an approach? The vast majority (again, even in the USA) base their conclusions on belief, perception, instinct, gut level feelings, and statements from whack jobs on the radio, TV, and internet. Most of those who follow you understand that experience and instinct et al are starting points for analysis, not finishing points.

    Now, carry this thought to the rest of the world. Hmmm. The shattered state of Iraq? The reasonable population of Afghanistan? The balanced government of Saudi Arabia? North K… oh, well.

    Here’s a terrible proposition: Rational thinking individuals are an anomaly in human behavior. ISIL and conspiracy morons in Texas are actually the norm. A simple walk through of history should be convincing. The first emperor of China in 221 BC? Burned books he didn’t like and buried (alive of course) scholars who didn’t agree with his strict interpretation of Confucian Legalism. Ancient Egypt, Rome, Greece? Lots of butchery. Nazi Germany, Soviet Union, 20th century China? Millions dead. Forbidden ideas crushed.

    This is humanity.

    Years ago I was a Math professor in University. In every class there were several students who would sit in defensive postures (arms and legs crossed, clenched jaws, you know the drill). After a while I started asking them to help me understand the problem. “I hate Math!” OK, do you hate me? “No, you’re fine, I just hate Math.” After lots of questions I finally determined the primary reason: at some point in their young lives they had been ridiculed and made to feel stupid by someone(s) associated with Math or Science. I saw this in action by a professor who was a known asshole. When I questioned him, I realized he abused students because it made him feel superior.

    The individuals who need to be attacked are the creators of these conspiracy theories, the leaders of brutal gangs such as ISIL, and the heads of States who either condone such brutality and stupidity or remain silent in the face of it all.

    Rather than ridicule the ‘tards who buy into stupidity, ask them, nicely of course, where they got their “research”. If a website, tell us, and we can all go post questions and challenges.

    Ridiculing the stupid only causes them to become even more entrenched. Remember that old CIA maxim: Fish rots from the head first.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Interesting way to come at it.
    That paragraph that asks one to describe in detail a comprehensive plan of cost to the American taxpayer to include postwar reconstruction were we to invade Iran may be, alas, presumptive.

    ReplyDelete
  24. The real issue is getting any politician of whatever stripe to say *anything* "directly and without equivocation." T'ain't gonna happen. Ever.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know about that. Bernie Sanders is certainly willing to give straightforward and clear answers about his beliefs and policies.

      I would agree that most certainly won't. But I find it hard to believe that Bernie is -completely- alone in the profession.

      Delete
    2. Bernie Sanders is joined by the likes of Alan Grayson, and Elizabeth Warren, neither of which is running, which is a damn shame. I hope at least one of them gets tapped as Bernies running mate.

      Delete
  25. I am gay and I had crushes on girls since before I knew what gay or crush meant.

    Still, I am not going to say I know or care the science behind homosexuality. Frankly, it does not matter to me, and has no real relevance to my rights.

    Really. There is no requirement that something be an inherent characteristic to be protected under the Equal Protection Clause.

    I don't expect Jeb Bush to be able to make hide or hair of that kind of reasoning, though, especially if he could not handle the Iraq question.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I don't know how you do it, but you are able to get right to the heart of the matter on every issue and state it so beautifully! Thank you once again- Every American needs to see this essay-maybe it will reach enough people to make a difference.
    Barbara Schneider

    ReplyDelete
  27. I get your point, but I would't have given the same answers to both questions. But I would definitely judge someone's intelligence by their answers. Iraq? No. Next question. Gay? Don't care. And our county IS the reason for that.

    (Brain slides off subject.) Somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't anyone, while within our borders, subject to our laws as well as afforded rights and privileges? I seem to recall that right to legal representation is extended to illegal immigrants. (Kind of.)

    ReplyDelete
  28. My answer to the first question would be "I don't care who is having consensual sex with whom, or what kind of sex, and it doesn't make a darn bit of difference if they are born that way or not. It's none of my business, and it's none of your business either."

    As for Climate Change, it is clear it is getting warmer. Since doing anything about it would require world-wide co-operation from all of humanity, and since humanity can't een stop killing itself large numbers, we'll have to focus on dealing with local problems as they come up."

    ReplyDelete
  29. Great again! My question is, if they gave the correct answer would they have a chance of winning? The wrong answer in many cases gets them votes. So many of the voters thoughts are directed by the media. How can that ever be changed? Many people also vote their emotions rather than their intellect. When they do use their intellect, it is to rationalize their emotions.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "My question is, if they gave the correct answer would they have a chance of winning?"

      That's the big question all right. The answer to it, I fear, is the same as the answer to the question I ask my teenagers what would happen if, when the toilet paper runs out, one of them changed the empty roll for a new one?

      Of course the only true answer, to either question is: No one knows because it's never been tried.

      Delete
  30. Dogma - one of my favorite movies. Good post Jim - as usual right on point. If only politicos were capable of thinking about whats best for others (all others) rather than trying to ensure they win the day what a great future mankind could have had. (Sorry I have to post as anonymous cause I am at work)

    ReplyDelete
  31. Wanna bet none of the candidates get the answer right? Even with the answer posted on the Internet?

    ReplyDelete
  32. born that way... just like I was born straight..not a choice I made at 6 or 16 or 60..born that way...

    ReplyDelete
  33. You nailed it, Jim, but no one in the media (left, right, or center) will ask that question or hold their feet to the fire if it is asked. There's a finite probability that the reporter or organization that gets a reputation for not playing ball (i.e., not lobbing softballs to the candidate and smiling and moving on when they don' answer) won't have access to the candidates.

    The only ones asking the brutally honest questions (usually without the ability to actually get a follow-up question or to point out that the candidate didn't answer with anything other than total BS that had nothing to do with the question) are the independent citizens during the early stages of the race. The young lady who confronted Jeb and pointed out that Dubyah created ISIS is a good example.

    I'm often tempted to move to New Hampshire just so I can make a career out of being a gadfly to be avoided at all costs by the candidates.

    ReplyDelete
  34. This is a perfect essay, Jim.
    Sadly, no one campaigning is likely to ever actually answer these questions (though Bernie might take a shot at them).
    But I'd sure like to know the answers.

    But I think I have a pretty good idea of what they'd be for most of the circus.

    ReplyDelete
  35. "As an American, an American, how you answer that question tells the rest of us everything we need to know – well, if we’re paying attention, I mean."

    Brilliant!

    ReplyDelete
  36. The questions I would ask include:

    Will you move to make Christianity the official religion of the USA?
    When you make decisions, how often do you ask your god for direction?
    Do you believe your god talks directly to you?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You won't get very far with those questions. Every one of the mainstream candidates will always answer: No, Always, and I wish. And we won't be at all the wiser about the truth about any of them!

      Delete
    2. Did God tell you to run for president? He did?

      Immediate disqualification.

      Delete
  37. It. Makes. No. Difference.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Now it is up to all of us to hold them 'squirmy lil worm/suckers' accountable so we can make informed decisions based on this level of scrutiny.

    ReplyDelete
  39. It doesn't matter. Whether it is choice or genetics, it is any American's inalienable right to fuck the consenting adult of same or opposite sex or both (I guess) as long and often as he or she wishes as long as it's not out in the street where they can scare horses or small children. As long as it's consenting adults, it's None. Of. My. Business.

    I don't know that any of the current Presidential candidates would answer the question that way, though. Huckleberry might say "It doesn't matter, homosexual behavior is a sin regardless of whether it's choice or genetics", and I have absolutely no idea how Hillary would try to triangulate the question but saying "it doesn't matter" probably isn't it, but the rest of the Republicans? Maybe Rand Paul would respond "it doesn't matter." If he's being Libertarian and not pandering to the religious zealots at the time he's answering. Other than him... well.

    ReplyDelete
  40. "Do you support the TPP?"

    Without economic justice, there is no justice, Jim.

    Just corporatist Dems passing the baton to corporatist Goopers, election after election.
    ~

    ReplyDelete
  41. Why disguise the question if what you really want to know is whether the candidate would deny a person the "... the pursuit of happiness."?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Disguising it is a "sting" operation. No matter which door they choose, they lose. If they are a callow politician trying to do what their handlers tell them to do, they will probably dodge it with the "I'm not a scientist" ploy. If they are a sentient human being who thinks for him/herself, they'll get it right. The question is a red herring. The issue of equal rights for all has been muddled by bringing in that pointless debate. Just as the issue of a woman's right to control over her own body has been muddled by the "rape or incest" qualifier. If she does not want the fertilized egg to spend 9 months as a parasite in her uterus, she has a right to get rid of it, NO MATTER HOW IT CAME TO BE THERE. There can perhaps be reasonable debate over when in the 9 months it reaches the point of no return, but that's it.

      Delete
  42. I'm not sure most people are able to express an opinion that deviates from their belief system very far. Pattern matching is the mode most people get into when evaluating a politicians remarks: do their opinions match my belief system? If so, I'll support them. Gay is just wrong in so many belief systems. It took many years to build the tenants of their beliefs and they don't intend to change them now. War? If it means defending my country or No if you believe in peace as the only method to resolve differences. Global Warming? Not if it means I have to change my belief system that free enterprise is all that matters. Welfare? Not if I made it without it. Both Liberals and Conservatives have strong beliefs systems. My opinion is that the well educated and those fortunate enough to be raised in a home where questioning everything was OK results in citizens able to listen and decide. That's a good motto...LIsten, analyze and then decide. Great piece of writing. Keep us on our toes, Jim.

    ReplyDelete
  43. I disagree somewhat. The problem with political thinking is that opinions are equated to facts, when they're not at all the same. People are entitled to their opinions, but those opinions should be based upon reality. When those people are politicians, it becomes even more important for them to have a firm footing in reality, not fantasy. If someone's assessment runs counter to the current set of known facts, our common knowledge and model of reality (i.e. science), then that opinion has to be presumed wrong. Idiots have said "But Galileo!" to justify "maverick" ideas, while totally ignoring the fact that Galileo had observations, not just hopes or opinions. The scientific community eventually came around to Galileo's side because (a) he was right, and (b) that's how scientific (as opposed to political) thinking works. If a presidential candidate engages in wishful fantasy style thinking, then he or she is simply unqualified to do the job. Too bad that 20% of our electorate, the far right wing and religious theocrats, would vote for that person due to agreeing with their delusional thinking. But the facts should matter to the remaining 80% of us. Again too bad that only about 40% of eligible voters get off their backsides to vote.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm afraid it's way more than 20% of the electorate that's delusional.

      Delete
  44. Another superb essay Mr. Wright! I love the many ways you combine broad knowledge, thought processes, and style to deliver thought provoking material in an entertaining and readable form. Bravo!

    A minor typo in the middle of the paragraph following the single line "And that works for Republicans." Should be provable in "Despite the very provably fact ..."?

    ReplyDelete
  45. Inalienable rights are not something to be voted on. We are born with them in this country. But we've let politicians control who has what rights and when. As Mr. Wright said: We need to listen to the politicians and then let them know what WE think.

    ReplyDelete
  46. I agree Jim. Liberty and justice for all. It really doesn't matter whether one is born gay or not.

    ReplyDelete
  47. Another terrific essay, Jim. We can only hope the only way any of those clowns in the GOP running for president get anywhere close to the White House is by tour or invitation and not through election.

    ReplyDelete
  48. Your query of the politicians indeed becomes a trick question if they are unable to properly separate their religious views from their secular ones. A lot of the public hue and cry over same sex marriage is because the churches think they control the act of marriage. If that were true, applicants would need a license from the government, but there are many who think otherwise. They of course are wrong, but they persist loudly in their folly. In the same fashion, they deny global warming. Sad to see so many with their heads in some holy sandbox.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. edit: applicants wouldn't need a license from the government,

      Delete
  49. "Whether we come to it through the accident of genetics and environment or by choice, the freedom to define who we are, each of us personally, is the only truly inalienable right."
    this is the other answer that is needed from these folks as well...

    ReplyDelete
  50. I truly appreciate your unique voice and views, Jim. Thank you! I never really thought about how the "nature or choice" debate is of absolutely NO pertinence when it comes to human and civil rights! I only inarticulately avoided the debate with an uncomfortable feeling about it, which your very well put points have clarified for me...because it doesn't MATTER!!! The reality is that either way it came to be, the only pertinent issue is why some Americans feel they have the right to deny human and civil rights, as well as freedom of choices, to consenting adults, whose choices, or lifestyles, or customs are not the same as their own!? It's like saying "well being Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist or non-Christian is ultimately a choice, since that's not MY chosen religion, you don't deserve MY freedoms and rights". That is SOOO anti American, that, oh wait, riiight. Sigh. I look forward to your essays and posts. Do I need permission to share the link to any? -
    Merrilee (stuck in AZ)

    ReplyDelete
  51. As usual, I love reading what you have to say, sir. This is a fact correction, not to detract from your point here. It is now known that the "intelligence" that led to the attack on Iraq was not just mistaken. It was fraud committed, made up out of whole cloth, by Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, George Tenet, and a few others. See Seymour (Sy) Hersh May 21, 2015. It is not a fun fact, but in my humble or not-so-humble opinion we should face it directly even though it is not fun.

    There is a war on over that publication, but my understanding is that Mr. Hersh is holding his own.

    Be well, sir, and all of you, please.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. While I understand what you're saying and do to some extent agree and have said so here, Seymour Hersh is NOT a credible source. His Pulitzer days are FAR behind him and he's gone far down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories nowadays.

      Partial Disclosure: I was an Intelligence Officer during this period and one of the primary tactical intelligence folks on scene during the run up to war and during the invasion itself. I don't think Bush et al set out to lie to the American public, not exactly. I think they fully expected to find WMDs in Iraq once we kicked in the door and they cherry picked the intelligence in order to get that war fully believing they would be proved right. They were as surprised as anybody else when it turned out they were wrong.

      Delete
    2. I don't intend to re-litigate the run-up to the war, but my gut feeling was that Hussein had learned the Castro/Qaddafi lesson: Just be cool and we'll let you die of old age. Worked for Castro and almost worked for Qaddafi, well it did for about 25 years anyway. I never understood why the same men who managed Desert Shield/Storm so well ignored their own counsel from 1991 and went hell bent for regime change, and I'm a Republican.
      My strongest suspicion is that the administration did not believe there were any WMDs, but had to go to war before the UN found nothing. If the UN had found nothing first, there would have been no "coalition of the willing", and the administration policy of "reforming" or whatever the heck you call what they wanted to do in the Middle East would have been dead before it even began.

      Delete
  52. Bush was not led into war by faulty intelligence.
    Bush LED us into war with fabricated intelligence.

    ReplyDelete
  53. P.S. My understanding is that Colin Powell, who had a reputation as a truth-teller, was not part of the fraud when he spoke to the UN. He said later that he had been careless in believing what those guys had fed him.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't make excuses for Powell. He better than ANYBODY else, should have known the folly of putting the words "absolutely positive" on ANY intelligence report. Powell more than anybody else in the Bush administration should have questioned the intelligence, should have checked and double checked and thrown a flag on the play. Instead GENERAL Powell became a politician with an eye on the Oval Office. He is absolutely accountable, maybe more so because he's the one more than any other who should have known better.

      Delete
    2. I completely agree with you about Powell...though I would actually go further. He had such standing that if he had publicly come out against the US going into Iraq, I believe it would not have happened. He sold is soul....and sold out the US

      Delete
  54. What I said about the so-called intelligence behind the attack on Iraq not being "a mistake" but, rather, an outright fraud, comes more directly from 27 year CIA veteran Ray McGovern in a May 15, 2015 Consortium News article "The Phony ‘Bad Intel’ Defense on Iraq: Jeb Bush’s stumbling start to his presidential bid has refocused attention on Official Washington’s favorite excuse for the illegal, aggressive and disastrous war in Iraq" Actually, the two sources, Sy Hersh and Ray McGovern, fit together.
    Again, please be well. Again, I do not mean to detract from your seriously good point, sir.

    ReplyDelete
  55. Thank you, sir. I totally believe that Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and George Tenet spread their fraud throughout the rest of the intelligence community, or most of it so that the majority of the members believed it and built upon it.

    I understand what you've said about General Colin Powell's mistake having been too huge for such a man with such responsibility.

    P.S. You are saying what I am completely aware that many have said about Mr. Seymour Hersh. That allegation is vociferously disputed, for whatever that might be worth. But please allow me to reference 27-year CIA veteran Ray McGovern for the facts I have stated other than as concerns Colin Powell. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  56. I continually regret that you are not considering a political career because what you say needs to be spread much further than this great blog.

    ReplyDelete
  57. The answer is it doesn't matter; they have the right to live their lives any way they see fit as free and equal citizens.

    ReplyDelete
  58. This may be my favorite thing of yours that I've read, and I'm a BIG fan. Just DAMN! Awesome!!!

    ReplyDelete
  59. Levon MarcescantMay 24, 2015 at 2:02 AM

    “At the heart of liberty is the right to define
    one’s own concept of existence, of meaning,
    of the universe and of the mystery of human life.”

    Justice Sandra Day O’Conner

    ReplyDelete
  60. At the risk of double posting, (my first post was my FIRST post and I may not have submitted properly). If I were asked the primary Presidential question, my answer would be that it doesn't matter whether homosexuality is chosen or not. As far as I am concerned human sexuality is complex enough that I don't think there is a fundamental, unique answer to such a question. I guess people are attracted to various attributes, for better or worse, and sometimes those attributes are part of somebody of the same gender. I may not completely understand it, but I can certainly accept it. From B.B. King:
    "I don't care if she
    Weigh thirty-two and a half pounds wet or five hundred and fifty pounds on her feet. if she's
    Your lady and you dig her, than she's your pretty little thing"

    ReplyDelete
  61. Thanks for an inspired essay, Jim.

    ReplyDelete
  62. And note that Ireland just voted by a big margin to legalize gay marriage.

    ReplyDelete
  63. But....wouldn't it be fun to have a GOPer say sexual preference is a choice and then the followup question could be please share with us why you chose to be straight? I know that won't happen but I worry about a whole range of things should the GOP manage to get their person in. From Supreme Court picks to the environment, personal liberties and the probability of another war...for some reason Republicans love to go to war they just don't want to pay for it or protect the people who they send to war because you know none of their nearest and dearest will be anywhere dangerous.

    ReplyDelete
  64. You wrote about:
    "the freedom to define who we are, each of us personally, is the only truly inalienable right. our ancestors were saying when they declared they were founding a nation based on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This was the entire point of our nation..."
    And then you wrote:
    "it is imperative that we not lose sight of who we are and what our country is supposed to be."
    The late great United States of America is no longer what is was "supposed to be..."

    ReplyDelete
  65. Every post you write is so absolutely spot-on in my view that I wonder if you are my better-prepared and talented alter ego. By the way, I knew the answer immediately.

    ReplyDelete
  66. I wish that we had more politicians and TV commentators who held your unassailable, rock-solid-logical, well-reasoned and well-expressed perspective.

    God, our country is in dire need of common sense.

    ReplyDelete
  67. Wonderful essay. As usual. One correction/clarification:

    "whether or not the leader of the largest and most powerful nation on earth"

    The US is not the largest nation on earth in neither land mass nor population. If you were referring to economy, then yes. It's a small point and I may be missing something but there it is. Otherwise awesome.

    ReplyDelete
  68. I started reading your blog/FB page in the last few months on the recommendation of a friend. I really enjoy reading your posts and the intelligent (mostly) commenters. It really helps me from sinking into complete cynicism about our future. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  69. A properly coached answer to that question would be: there's still some scientific debates regarding that. Yet, either way, "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" applies to all, doesn't it?.

    Took me close to a week to come up with that answer, I guess my handlers are not much better than Mr Bush's.......

    ReplyDelete
  70. Jim, I love this question as a litmus test for all aspirants to the Oval Office. It is a total trick question to people who tie themselves into entertaining pretzel knots in order to wrench reality into a shape that will fit into their predetermined, dogmatic world view. It matters not whether orientation is encoded in the DNA, whether it comes about because a special contingent of naked purple lizard people from the giant invisible planet Nibiru circle the globe on a daily basis, zapping every 5th human child born with their glittering gaydar rainbow generator, or if orientation results from the interaction of DNA, environment, and life experience. All of that is immaterial. All of that is a distraction. If you truly are an American, and you have taken the trouble to attempt to understand our founding documents, even on a cursory basis, there is only ONE correct answer. It's a yes/no question even. Do you believe that all human beings stand equal before the law, or do you not? Yes, or no. I cannot wait to see how Sanders and Clinton respond to this question. The gyrations that the right-wing clown car occupants will perform will be at the same time both immensely entertaining, and deeply depressing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Politics is Show Business for Ugly People"

      Delete
  71. Jim,

    This essay belongs in the Top Ten Stonekettle essays of all time. I love the way you may me think. Brilliant. Just brilliant!

    Sheesh

    ReplyDelete
  72. Jim--

    My Dad, rest his soul, was a cop, and a good one. He had the same kind of tricks for busting liars you have described here: you HAVE to listen to what they say, and never ask a question unless you have the answer. Except maybe in class ...

    Thank you for this post; it really is simply brilliant.

    ReplyDelete
  73. the only thing that neither gods nor men can take away from you is the ability to define yourself

    And that's a problem for the Right. "Democrat party", indeed. No, it's the "Democratic party", and it's registered that way with the Secretaries of State and Election Commissions of this country. Republicans don't care, because they want to define us, and they've never been much for letting facts get in the way of their childish little desires. (Which is another problem for the Right, but I left my couch and tweed jacket with the elbow patches in my other suit, so, maybe later).

    And wile I'm here, is there perhaps a radio station near you that could use a Reality Based commentator? because it would certainly benefit this country to have your voice on the airwaves, as well as the internet. The Age of Limbaugh is drawing to a close in America, and radio stations are gonna need something/someone else to sell Gold Bond itch powder for 'em. (Or whatever non-Rightwing stations advertise). America is no longer majority-Conservative, and talk radio, if it survives, is gonna have to reflect that. How's yer speakin' voice?

    ReplyDelete
  74. That is SOOO anti American, that, oh wait, riiight. Sigh. I look forward to your essays and posts. Do I need permission to share the link to any? -
    Merrilee (stuck in AZ) inspirational quotes

    ReplyDelete

Comments on this blog are moderated. Each will be reviewed before being allowed to post. This may take a while. I don't allow personal attacks, trolling, or obnoxious stupidity. If you post anonymously and hide behind an IP blocker, I'm a lot more likely to consider you a troll. Be sure to read the commenting rules before you start typing. Really.