Thursday, July 31, 2014

Circling the Conservative Echo Chamber Wagons...

In the wake of the electoral defeats  they suffered  in 2012,  the  Republican Party  has struggled to find a path  to broaden its appeal  beyond their base.     Many pundits at the time,  commented on how the  "Conservative Echo Chamber"  contributed to  the actual losses  the GOP suffered at the voting booth.

The American Conservative movement, has a relationship with facts  that could charitably described as "complicated",  and by that  I mean,  they really really  don't like facts.   Because since the early days of the  Presidency of Barack Obama, facts have had a pesky habit of not agreeing with  Republican talking points...

Yet the rise of this Conservative media bubble has been a remarkable phenomenon. Rather than deal with reality of America's changing demographics, social attitudes, environmental and economic challenges; Conservatives instead, have opted to do what amounts to sticking their fingers in their ears and going "la la la la!" as loud as they can.

The most recent examples of this can be found on the wonderful world wide web. Social Media is the one part of the internet that Conservatives have struggled with. They have embraced the blogosphere, and even online giants like the Huffington Post, Poltico and Buzzfeed , are essentially the modern day evolution what uber-conservative closet case, Matt Drudge started doing way back in 1998.
Yet unlike conservative safe spaces such as  Fox News, online social media with its inherent freedom of speech (for the most part... ) has proven to be a difficult place to get conservative talking points across, unchallenged. So for many on the far right,  the problem with platforms like Facebook is, it wont let you lie with impunity,  and allows your talking talking points to be debunked by people armed with those pesky facts.

The solution? One Ohio GOP activist has moved to create an outlet that can be for online social media what Fox News is for Television. A place where the message is completely conservative and blissfully fact-free.

Internet? Say hello to Reaganbook!

Right Wing Watch’s Kyle Mantyla had this report on the creation of the site
Get Ready For ReaganBook: The 'Facebook For Patriots'

Last weekend, the Ohio Liberty Coalition hosted a "Reload 4 Liberty" event at which Janet Porter spoke about her never-ending push to get her anti-choice "Heartbeat Bill" legislation passed in Ohio. But apparently that is not all that Porter is up to these days, as she also revealed to the audience that she'll soon be unveiling something called ReaganBook, which aims to become "the Facebook for patriots."

Because Facebook is run by the sorts of people who march in gay pride parades and supposedly censors messages from anti-gay activists like Peter LaBarbera, Porter explained that she decided to launch ReaganBook as a conservative alternative.

"We're tearing down walls, get it?" she said. "We're tearing down walls of tyranny, or censorship"


Yet the internet does tend to have a will of its own, as well as a sense of humor, as Porter found out. As of today, the site is offline because Janet Porter is really not happy that non-true believers have been able to join and post on the site. 

As fun as it may be to laugh at efforts like this, it clearly puts the state of the modern American Conservative movement into perspective.

Conservatives in the US are faced with a reality is a far cry from what they remember as the "glory days" of Ronald Reagan. When all those annoying minorities knew their place, and when conservative evangelicals essentially ran the Federal Government. (Well, for except for those key Presidential decisions that were  based on  astrology...)

After the defeats of 2012 it briefly looked as if the Republican Party and the broader American Conservative Movement were going to try to move beyond the fact free bubble they were living in. Yet as we move to the mid point of President Obama's second term, we see the reverse is in fact what is happening.

Rather than face reality, they have instead opted to double down on delusion. For some Conservatives, even Fox News has become too polluted by non-conservative  facts.   Former half-term Alaska Governor and GOP Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin as opted to create her own online media channel.  Where you can get her (and only her..) unique view of the world,   for only  ten bucks a month!   How could any resist?

The brilliant Stephen Colbert  gives us  the details...

As we approach the 2014 mid-term elections expect more of this sort of thing.  After all,  facts apparently have a "liberal bias".

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Is the Future Worth Half a Penny... ?

A brilliant  take on how we are short changing our own future by  Neil deGrasse Tyson

Monday, July 21, 2014

Social Media's Power to Connect Us...

Social Media is a funny odd thing... You are never quite sure who out there is paying attention to whatever you lob out into the netherworld of the internet. This past weekend has been an amazing and at times overwhelming reminder of power of this digital realm to keep people connected . Not just across miles, but across years...

Since last Friday, no fewer than 156 people took time out of their day to post birthday greetings and wishes on or via, my Facebook profile page.

Detractors of social media claim that these interactions are somehow "less than" because of the ease with which we are able to send them, thanks to social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram or whatever else people are logging onto these days.

I disagree. The fact that so many people, many of whom I have not seen in person in decades, and some who I see "offline" on daily basis; all took the time to post a greeting to me, I find to be  nothing short of amazing.

It seems cliche'd  to say things like  "it is a testament to the power of social media."  But in  fact,  it is.   It has changed how we get in touch, how we stay in touch and with whom.

I am humbled and tremendously grateful to everyone who took the time out of their busy non-digital life to reach out and do something as simple, and yet incredibly powerful, as to just wish me a Happy Birthday. It truly did make my day.

Thank You!

(Poke... Poke... Poke..)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The definition of Poignant....

The following piece has been making the re-posting rounds on social media, I stumbled across it on Facebook. I don't know what the original source is, but most posts link back to here.

If you were in any way a fan of Bill Watterson's brilliant comic strip this will seriously tug at your heart strings....

In the Final Minutes of His Life, Calvin Has One Last Talk With Hobbes..

"Calvin? Calvin, sweetheart?"
In the darkness Calvin heard the sound of Susie, his wife of fifty-three years. Calvin struggled to open his eyes. God, he was so tired and it took so much strength. Slowly, light replaced the darkness, and soon vision followed. At the foot of his bed stood his wife. Calvin wet his dry lips and spoke hoarsely, 

"Did... did you.... find him?"
"Yes dear," Susie said smiling sadly, "He was in the attic."
Susie reached into her big purse and brought out a soft, old, orange tiger doll. Calvin could not help but laugh. It had been so long. Too long.

"I washed him for you," Susie said, her voice cracking a little as she laid the stuffed tiger next to her husband.
"Thank you, Susie." Calvin said.

A few moments passed as Calvin just laid on his hospital bed, his head turned to the side, staring at the old toy with nostalgia.
"Dear," Calvin said finally. "Would you mind leaving me alone with Hobbes for a while? I would like to catch up with him."
"All right," Susie said. "I'll get something to eat in the cafeteria. I'll be back soon."
Susie kissed her huband on the forehead and turned to leave. With sudden but gentle strength Calvin stopped her. Lovingly he pulled his wife in and gave her a passionate kiss on the lips. "I love you," he said.
"And I love you," said Susie.
Susie turned and left. Calvin saw tears streaming from her face as she went out the door.

Calvin then turned to face his oldest and dearest friend. "Hello Hobbes. It's been a long time hasn't it old pal?"
Hobbes was no longer a stuffed doll but the big furry old tiger Calvin had always remembered. "It sure has, Calvin." said Hobbes.
"You... haven't changed a bit." Calvin smiled.
"You've changed a lot." Hobbes said sadly.
Calvin laughed, "Really? I haven't noticed at all."
There was a long pause. The sound of a clock ticking away the seconds rang throughout the sterile hospital room.

"So... you married Susie Derkins." Hobbes said, finally smiling. "I knew you always liked her."
"Shut up!" Calvin said, his smile bigger than ever.
"Tell me everything I missed. I'd love to hear what you've been up to!" Hobbes said, excited.
And so Calvin told him everything. He told him about how he and Susie fell in love in high school and had married after graduating from college, about his three kids and four grandkids, how he turned Spaceman Spiff into one of the most popular sci-fi novels of the decade, and so on. After he told Hobbes all this there was another pregnant pause.
"You know... I visited you in the attic a bunch of times." Calvin said.
"I know."
"But I couldn't see you. All I saw was a stuffed animal." Calvin voice was breaking and tears of regret started welling up in his eyes.
"You grew up old buddy." said Hobbes.

Calvin broke down and sobbed, hugging his best friend. "I'm so sorry! I'm so sorry I broke my promise! I promised I wouldn't grow up and that we'd be together forever!!"
Hobbes stroked Calvin's hair, or what little was left of it. "But you didn't."
"What do you mean?"
"We were always together... in our dreams."
"We were?"
"We were."
"Yeah, old buddy?"
"I'm so glad I got to see you like this... one last time..."
"Me too, Calvin. Me too."

"Sweetheart?" Susie voice came from outside the door.
"Yes dear?" Calvin replied.
"Can I come in?" Susie asked.
"Just a minute."
Calvin turned to face Hobbes one last time. "Goodbye Hobbes. Thanks... for everything..."
"No, thank you Calvin." Hobbes said.

Calvin turned back to the door and said, "You can come in now."
Susie came in and said, "Look who's come to visit you."
Calvin's children and grandchildren followed Susie into Calvin's room. The youngest grandchild ran past the rest of them and hugged Calvin in a hard, excited hug. "Grandpa!!" screamed the child in delight.

"Francis!" cried Calvin's daughter, "Be gentle with your grandfather."
Calvin's daughter turned to her dad. "I'm sorry, Daddy. Francis never seems to behave these days. He just runs around making a mess and coming up with strange stories."
Calvin laughed and said, "Well now! That sound just like me when I was his age."
Calvin and his family chatted some more until a nurse said, "Sorry, but visiting hours are almost up."

Calvin's beloved family said good bye and promised to visit tommorrow. As they turned to leave Calvin said, "Francis. Come here for a second."
Francis came over to his grandfather's side, "What is it Gramps?"
Calvin reached over to the stuffed tiger on his bedside and and held him out shakily to his grandson, who looked exactly as he did so many years ago. "This is Hobbes. He was my best friend when I was your age. I want you to have him."

"He's just a stuffed tiger." Francis said, eyebrows raised.
Calvin laughed, "Well, let me tell you a secret."
Francis leaned closer to Clavin. Calvin whispered, "If you catch him in a tiger trap using a tuna sandwich as bait he will turn into a real tiger."
Francis gasped in delighted awe. Calvin continued, "Not only that he will be your best friend forever."
"Wow! Thanks grandpa!" Francis said, hugging his grandpa tightly again.
"Francis! We need to go now!" Calvin's daughter called.
"Okay!" Francis shouted back.
"Take good care of him." Calvin said.
"I will." Francis said before running off after the rest of the family.

Calvin laid on his back and stared at the ceiling. The time to go was close. He could feel it in his soul. Calvin tried to remember a quote he read in a book once. It said something about death being the next great adventure or something like that. He eyelids grew heavy and his breathing slowed. As he went deeper into his final sleep he heard Hobbes, as if he was right next to him at his bedside. "I'll take care of him, Calvin..."

Calvin took his first step toward one more adventure and breathed his last with a grin on his face.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

When The Monsters Get Out of the Lab...

The brilliant  blog  The Daily Kos,  features a great  op-ed piece  this week, by Jesse La Greca .. The article entitled "An open letter to the people who hate Obama more than they love America", is an outstanding take on the current state of not just the Republican Party but the entire conservative movement in the United States.

It prompted me to revisit a blog entry I wrote in August of 2010 on the rise of the American "Tea Party" as a force in GOP politics. Updated here and offered as  a retrospective on how the Republican Party found itself in the state it is currently in....

Fear & Fundamentalism: How the GOP & FOX Made, then Lost Control of the Tea Party.

Back in the mid 1980's  there was a political cartoon that came out that depicted a map of  "The World According to Ronald Reagan".   I am not sure who the artist was, but  it was a delightful  tongue-in-cheek satire  of  the  conservative Republican world view in the late  20th Century.

Some thirty years or so later,  it  all seems  so sweetly naive in  its simplistic  humor.   The over the top nature of the joke is what made it funny.   Now,  if you were to  erase Reagan's name and substitute say....  Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz  or  Rand Paul,  then  the cartoon is not so much funny as it  would be a frighteningly accurate summary of  how the American conservative movement of the early 21rst Century  really does see the world .

I have written about how the Republican Party has lost its way. How it has abandoned its core principles and ideals in exchange for campaign cash from religious social conservatives. The GOP platform could be summed up in three words; God, Guns and Gays.

It was strategy that served the GOP well in 1994, 2000 and 2004. Yet in 2006 and 2008 the strategy fell apart as the impact of the Republican Party's disastrous choices became clear. And in 2008 it didn't just fail but it actually backfired and drove millions of independent voters away from the McCain Palin ticket and straight to the Democrats. Creating blue states in Colorado, Nevada , Iowa, Virginia and North Carolina.. Places where once such a thing would have been unthinkable Like many people I was curious to see what the Republican Party would do in the wake of back to back electoral wipe outs.

There was a real sense that  the GOP needed to  retool,  rethink and  adapt to a new political landscape.   And  early on, it seemed the Republicans  had figured that out too.   They appointed  Michael Steele  their new  National Chairman.  There was now, an African American at the helm of the Republican Party, the Party of Lincoln, and emancipation for the first time in its history.

Regardless of  your politics  you had to admit  that  in  principle  at least,  that was pretty amazing. Republicans talked of the need for  a "big tent". and  used words like  "inclusion" and  "diversity".   For the first time since 1994,  it looked like the GOP was going break out beyond it's  base.   But interestingly enough.   something quite different happened.   Instead of learning  from  past mistakes,  the GOP  doubled down.   They became the rabid right wing party of  "Hell No!"   But what is significant  is WHY that happened.

The base of the GOP, which has, for the last two decades, dutifully sent checks to the Republican Party, is not intellectually conservative. It is socially conservative. These folks are not reading the American Spectator or National Review Online. They are older, overwhelmingly white evangelicals who in every election since 1992 have met in church basements and were told they needed to help fight the "Liberal attack" on America and her families.

At first social conservatives were riled up to show their indignation at the moral and marital failings of Bill Clinton. Then in 2000 they were told told to dig deep to counter the threat posed to our system of free market capitalism by that tree-hugging hippie Al Gore. Who was said to be plotting to turn our nations very sovereignty over the United Nations. (gasp!)

And,  truth be told, in 2000 it worked. but just barely.   It took a helping hand from  the U.S. Supreme Court to win the Presidency.  But starting in  2000,  that same  GOP Base began asking what  were they going to get in return for their time, effort and money?   The holy grail to  the social conservatives  was and still remains,  the  overturn of  Roe v. Wade.    The GOP,  knowing that this  was really not "doable"  at least in a first  GW Bush Term, struggled in early 2001 with  how to  placate a now very active and  riled up GOP base.

Then of course, in September of 2001, everything changed. Like the Germans and Japanese in the 1940's , like the communist in the 1950's through the 1980's. Fundamentalist Islam provided a new enemy to fight, and (more importantly for the GOP), 911 gave America something to fear. In 2004, the Republican Party went into full -throttle "be afraid" mode.

In 2004 the GOP successfully waged a campaign based almost entirely on fear of the Middle East. A campaign that was able to convince a majority of Americans that a former college cheerleader who went AWOL from the Texas National Guard loved America more than a decorated war hero. But, also that they needed vote against their own economic self interest and give massive tax breaks to the top 2% of Americans, and massive deregulation to Wall Street and the Energy Sector.
And it worked, for the most part. But the  Republican base, while sufficiently afraid of "Islamo-facists". Was still restless and cranky, and the economy was starting to tank. As it became clear that even a giving Bush a second term wasn't going to deliver on eliminating a woman's right to choose, GOP needed a bone to throw to this now very scared, very angry, and increasingly unemployed group of Americans it had worked so hard to rile up. The answer? Give them the Gays.

Then in 2008 the Democrats nominated Barack Hussein Obama. and the GOP base went berserk . The McCain-Palin Campaign played the fear card as hard as they could. with catch phrases like; "He Pals around with terrorists", he has "suspicious associations". "He doesn't love America!". The results were as disturbing as they were predictable.

Towards the end of the 2008 Presidential Campaign even John McCain had to step in and correct his own supporters in the GOP base. People who were now convinced. that the Democratic Nominee for President was nothing less than a Muslim Manchurian Candidate. Planted here over 40 years ago to eventually bring about the total destruction of America and our way of life.

On election night 2008 the GOP Base was pretty much all The Republicans had left. People who in the middle of Senator McCain's graceful and eloquent concession speech,  couldn't hold back jeering at mention of the President Elects' name.   The Republican Party entered 2009 with an angry, and impatient base, convinced they had been victims of a global conspiracy to "steal their country from them".

As a diminished opposition party the GOP could do little more than just try to obstruct the new Administration at every turn, It was just a matter of time before this group of voters went looking for something new. Something that spoke to their world view, and affirmed their fears.

This was a job for FOX News.

Like all good Media organizations. FOX News knows who their viewers are. And where political parties have a goal of getting voters to the polls every two years, a T.V. network's goal is to get people to tune in every day. Rupert Murdoch and Company saw the door and ran through it. They would "Give the people what they want." They would throw the angry GOP base a party, and not just any party...

They would throw a Tea Party.

One of the first rules in marketing is not just that endorsements create sales, but also that sales create endorsements. Soon a whole flock of "B" and "C" list Conservatives like Sarah Palin, Representatives Joe Wilson, Michelle Bachman, and Tom Tancredo. Talk show hosts like Glen Beck and Michael Reagan were all hitching their wagons to the Tea Party Express. Soon even "A" Lister's like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hanity, and Bill O'Reilly hopped on not daring to risk being left behind.

In 2010 we had a midterm election  where the  Republican Party was desperate to harness the anger, energy and fear of the Tea Party  in hopes of  turning that into  numbers at the polls that  November.  Fox News helped to create  the  Tea Party out of  the GOP's own scared  angry  social conservative base.  But the Republican Party  quickly discovered this monster  has a mind of it's own,  and could turn just as quickly on Republicans  as well as  Democrats.  In a number of states,   incumbent  Republicans  have found them selves the target of  Tea Party  primary challengers.  Claiming the Republicans are  not conservative enough.

The Tea Party  says  they "want their country back".   The  vision of  America  they hold  as  "their country" is one where  an  ultra-conservative religious based social agenda  is enacted into Civil Law.  Abortion, Affirmative Action,  Gay and Lesbian Rights,  Separation of (their) Church and State, the social safety nets of  Medicare/ Social Security  and Public Education   are all  abolished.   Victory for  the Tea Party means  turning the  United States of America  into  Teabagistan.

The Tea Party is the American Taliban.   Granted, their methods are not same.  The American Taliban does not use  violence like  their Afghan equivalent.  (Though the family of  Dr. George Tiller might disagree with me on that.)  Yet the American Taliban with their  "don't tread on me" and  "watering the tree of liberty  with the blood of tyrants" rhetoric,   all while brandishing side arms at  rallies, certainly carries  the implied  threat of  violence.   The American and Afghan Talibans are alike in terms of their aims. Which is to take a narrow extremely conservative, even fundamentalist ideology, codify it into law and force it on everyone else.

The GOP is completely dependent upon and beholden to a bunch of lunatics, who hate the U.S.Constitution. To win the Tea Party back, the GOP has to promise things the Tea Party wants. Things like the overturning of Roe v. Wade. A constitutional Amendment banning same sex marriage. Repeal of the 14th and 17th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. That's just for starters, we haven't even scratched the surface in terms of the every man for himself- screw the poor - to pay the rich, economic ideas the Tea Party likes to toss around. Stuff like, completely deregulate Wall Street , THEN turn Social Security into Goldman-Sachs' personal stack of casino chips.

The Republicans and the Tea Party monsters they, and the Conservative media bubble,  have spawned are nothing less than completely and utterly anti-American. The Tea Party likes to wave around copies of the U.S, Constitution, but aside from a few selected lines from the 2nd Amendment, they don't actually believe in it. I know President Obama, as a former professor of Constitutional Law, has actually read the rest of it.

Then in 2012 we saw something really interesting. The GOP's conservative base, along with the Tea Party wrote the narrative that Republicans chose to believe. They collectively decided to believe that facts were wrong, that facts clearly had a liberal bias. All the polling data that clearly indicated re-election for President Obama simply HAD to be wrong.

Anyone who said different was a liberal plant who was trying to make conservatives "feel bad" and consequently suppress GOP/Conservative voter turnout. The "lame stream media" was clearly in the tank for the Obama campaign and was desperately trying to spin their denial of the inevitable GOP/Romney-Ryan landslide that was most certainly coming. It made cable news on the day after the 2012 election, must- see viewing..

Now as we head in to the the 2014 midterms and the half way point in Barack Obama's second term, we see the GOP desperate to tame the monster it, along with FOX news has created. Tea Party primary challenges to well known establishment Republicans are becoming the norm, not the exception. The GOP is now faced with the reality of demographics, and the fact that gerrymandered districts, and blatently racist voting restrictions enacted in ultra-conservative states will only help so much, and won't help at all when the insurgent political threat comes from the Right, instead of the Left.

We see a Congress where Republicans will literally allow the governing of the nation to grind to halt, lest any actions they take in any way help the President to do his job, and thus enrage the Tea Party faithful to label them all "RINOS" (Republicans In Name Only).   I was never a big fan of Aaron Sorkin's "The Newsroom", his follow up series to the brilliant "The West Wing", but in one episode he captures perfectly the cul-de-sac of hate fueled ignorance the GOP has been painted into by its own creation.

What started as a gimmick on FOX News, now may very well be the death knell of the Republican Party. Transforming the Party of Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan into a splintered, fragmented mob of ageing paranoids. With the only thing holding them together is the fact their hatred of other Americans, (be they Liberals or "not true" Conservatives), outweighs their love of their own country.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

We Hold These Truths.....

Happy Independence Day to my fellow Americans where ever  in the World you may be...

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Happy Canada Day

For  our  Canadian Readers...

Or  perhaps more  accurately ...