Krugman: “In Defense Of Obama”

Paul Krugman, of all people on the left, has done what should be done. He has actually come out with an in-your-face defense of President Obama.

The subhead for the excellent Rolling Stone piece is,

The Nobel Prize-winning economist, once one of the president’s most notable critics, on why Obama is a historic success

If you are a regular reader of Krugman you know very well that he has, at times, been fairly critical of the Obama administration. And I actually mean “fairly” critical. He hasn’t just taken cheap shots, as so many on both the right and left have done.

Now, after first admitting that he has “always been out of sync” with the President, Krugman says,

Obama has emerged as one of the most consequential and, yes, successful presidents in American history.

Yes. And here is why in a quick summary:

His health reform is imperfect but still a huge step forward – and it’s working better than anyone expected. Financial reform fell far short of what should have happened, but it’s much more effective than you’d think. Economic management has been half-crippled by Republican obstruction, but has nonetheless been much better than in other advanced countries. And environmental policy is starting to look like it could be a major legacy.

It’s too bad that other Democrats, including Allison Lundergan Grimes, who wants to unseat Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, don’t feel free to embrace Obama’s achievements, if not Obama himself. Grimes, famously now, couldn’t even bring herself to admit to the Louisville Courier-Journal editorial board that sgrimes obama vote answerhe actually voted for the President, even though she was born and raised a Democrat, and even though some 500,000 Kentuckians are benefiting from the Affordable Care Act, the same law that has driven Republicans nuts and the same law that McConnell wants to kill.

Yes, I understand she is running in Kentucky. I understand that Obama is very unpopular in that state. But Grimes didn’t help herself by being so obviously frightened to admit she voted for The Scary Negro. She even went so far as to say that she was a “Clinton” Democrat. We all know what that means, of course. There’s no mistaking either Bill or Hillary for an African-American.

But abandoning President Obama has become quite fashionable among Democrats and liberals these days, even if you don’t live in the Deep South and even if you’re not paper-white. Krugman mentions Cornel West, a black professor at Union Theological Seminary, who this summer was the subject of a Salon interview by lefty Thomas Frank. Frank, who wrote the influential book, What’s The Matter With Kansas, introduces West as,

one of my favorite public intellectuals, a man who deals in penetrating analyses of current events, expressed in a pithy and highly quotable way.

That being said, let’s look at what this public intellectual offered as penetrating analysis of President Obama:

Dr. Cornel West…the thing is he posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit. We ended up with a Wall Street presidency, a drone presidency, a national security presidency. The torturers go free. The Wall Street executives go free. The war crimes in the Middle East, especially now in Gaza, the war criminals go free. And yet, you know, he acted as if he was both a progressive and as if he was concerned about the issues of serious injustice and inequality and it turned out that he’s just another neoliberal centrist with a smile and with a nice rhetorical flair. 

The black public intellectual actually called Obama “a brown-faced Clinton. Another opportunist.” And Thomas Frank baited him with elitist nonsense:

FRANK: There’s a lot of disillusionment now. My liberal friends included. The phrase that I have heard from more than one person in the last year is they feel like they got played.

WEST: That’s true. That’s exactly right. What I hear is that, “He pimped us.” I heard that a zillion times. “He pimped us, brother West.” That’s another way of saying “we got played.”

That’s just a sample of criticism coming from Obama’s left. Krugman answers it:

They’re outraged that Wall Street hasn’t been punished, that income inequality remains so high, that ”neoliberal” economic policies are still in place. All of this seems to rest on the belief that if only Obama had put his eloquence behind a radical economic agenda, he could somehow have gotten that agenda past all the political barriers that have constrained even his much more modest efforts. It’s hard to take such claims seriously.

No, it’s not hard to take such claims seriously. It is impossible.

“It Is Enough To Make You Swear”

Last night I was researching yet another piece on the disgraceful Republican effort to suppress the vote (I have written about it many times because it profoundly pisses me off, and in the mainstream press Republicans mostly get a pass) and, voilà, on comes Rachel Maddow with a segment on the same thing. Oh, well. I will go on with what I was doing and steal some of St. Rachel’s stuff, including noting the success Republicans have had in reducing voter participation. But first, here are a few headlines and information from the accompanying stories:

Republicans Are Trying to Make Sure Minorities and Young People Don’t Vote This November

In a way, Barack Obama can be blamed for this. In 2008, his historic campaign inspired record turnout, drawing more people to the polls than the country had seen in 40 years. Almost all of the record increase came from black, Hispanic, and young voters, who tended to vote Democratic. Republican governors and GOP-controlled state legislatures, not surprisingly, saw this as a problem. They responded by throwing up a host of new obstacles to voting that disproportionately affect black, Latino, and low-income voters.

Chart of the Day: Kansas Successfully Reduces Voting Rate of Blacks, Young People

Here is a graphic Rachel presented on her show that helps explain the motivation of muck-the-vote right-wingers behind those preceding stories:

2012 exit poll on young voters and blacks

You can see why Republicans went to a lot of trouble to make it harder for young folks and black folks to vote. And we must not forget that Hispanics gave President Obama 71% of their votes in 2012, after he received 67% of their votes in 2008. It was, of course, the 2008 election that first put the fear of Obama’s Allah into Republicans, who saw how powerful those young people, blacks, and Hispanics can be, when it comes to electing Democrats and shutting the door on reactionary politics.

In 2010, capitalizing on a backlash against The Scary Negro in the White’s House, Tea Party-energized Republicans took control of the entire legislature in 25 states, for a gain of 11. The last time they controlled that many statehouses was in 1952. Republicans decided to put to use their new-found state political power by throwing electoral spike strips in front of constituencies who would surely flee from the right-wing governance the GOP was about to unleash. And, as Saint Rachel pointed out, they have been successful. Here is a map she presented:

voting restriction states since 2010

Regarding that depressing reality, Maddow said this:

This is meant to be a Republican-tilted system of voting. If you care about small “d” democracy and the right to vote and everything that went into securing it, it is enough to make you swear.

Yep. I have done a lot of swearing since 2010. I can’t think of anything Republicans have engineered, and they have engineered a lot of bad things—including now politicizing Ebola, for God’s sake—that is worse than their attempts to make it difficult for people to vote. Obviously, they know their message doesn’t have majority appeal. But rather than tailor their message to attract a majority, they would rather retain their parochial vision and use raw and rare political power to discourage their political enemies from exercising what should be, in a still-experimental democracy, their sacred right to vote.

There is some good news in terms of the court battles over these dishonorable and anti-democratic tactics adopted by Republicans. On Thursday night, the U.S. Supreme Court—over the objection of its most committed reactionary members, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito—blocked Wisconsin’s voter ID law from going into effect for the upcoming election. The same night we learned that a federal judge in Texas—an Obama appointee; it matters who gets to appoint judges—struck down that state’s voter ID law, known as SB 14.

Noting that the right to vote “defines our nation as a democracy,” U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos didn’t shy away from describing what Republicans in the Texas legislature were doing when they passed their squash-the-Democratic-vote law:

The Court holds that SB 14 creates an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote, has an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans, and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose. The Court further holds that  SB 14 constitutes an unconstitutional poll tax.

One day, perhaps not too far in the future, we won’t have to battle the kind of reactionary nonsense that Judge Ramos struck down. But for now, the fight must continue because Republicans have no shame. They fear young people, blacks, and Hispanics. They see them as their enemies. And they will, apparently, try anything to keep their enemies from the battlefield.

The What If Game

counterfactual

1. (Logic) expressing what has not happened but could, would, or might under differing conditions

—from the Free Dictionary

Leon Panetta, who has served his country marvelously well, is now out selling books. That means he is required to go to reputable places like 60 Minutes, as well as to cognitive sewers like Bill O’Reilly’s show. All in a day’s work, I suppose.

What you are not likely to hear discussed, especially if you watch a lot of cable television news, is the following, which is found in Panetta’s book, Worthy Fights:

President Obama revamped a nearly broken economy, waged an aggressive campaign against terrorism, extricated the United States from two wars, and refocused the mission of our military; the result is a safer nation and a more prosperous one.

Nope. You’re not likely to see much about that glowing assessment of the Obama presidency. What you will most likely see are interviewers and pundits obsessed with these two questions:

1. Did Obama make a grave mistake in 2011 by not leaving troops in Iraq? 

2. Did Obama make a grave mistake in 2012 by not arming the so-called “moderate Syrians”?

I have become sickened by the amount of bad-mouthing and second-guessing and ass-covering that has gone on relative to those two issues. Don’t get me wrong. I expect right-wingers to bad-mouth and second-guess President Obama. You can make a fine living in the conservative media world doing that. What I am a little surprised at, though, is the amount of ass-covering that has gone on among former Obama officials, including former U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, as well as Hillary Clinton and now Leon Panetta.

So, let’s deal with the two main issues one at a time:

1. Did Obama make a grave mistake in 2011 by not leaving troops in Iraq? 

We all should remember that back in 2011 the biggest fear associated with not leaving troops in Iraq had little to do with the potential spillover from the budding conflict in Syria, which at the time had not turned into the completely chaotic mess it is today. The biggest worry was over whether our military departure would strengthen the hand of Iran, not only in Iraq but across the region. Keep that in mind as you hear all the know-it-alls today talk with certainty about what we should or shouldn’t have done in 2011. In our bombing of ISIL, both Syria and Iran are on our side. That’s how screwed up the whole thing is and I don’t know of anyone who predicted such a thing.

On this particular issue, Hillary Clinton, who was there at the time, had the president’s back. When asked about it in June, she said:

Let me say on Iraq, because it’s in the news and it’s a dreadful deteriorating situation, the deadline on Iraq was set – was set by the prior administration, that if there were not a status-of-forces agreement, which is the agreement under which American military forces can be positioned in a country to provide services that are agreed to or asked for by the host country … there would not be American troops.

And when President Obama came in, he was obviously not an enthusiast about the Iraq war from the very beginning, very strong critic of it, both its initiation and its handling. There was a lot of effort to work through with the Maliki government what such a status-of-forces agreement would look like.

At the end of the day, the Maliki government would not agree. So the decision was made, in effect. There could not be American troops left, without such an agreement.

On this point, Panetta, echoing criticism from Republicans, says that Obama should have pushed harder against the former prime minister of Iraq because keeping 10,000 troops there would have given us “leverage on Maliki to keep them in the right place.” I guess it never occurred to Panetta that the reason Maliki did not want to be pushed is because he did not want us around to keep them in the right place. That was sort of Maliki’s whole point.

In any case, all of that speculation makes for good Monday-morning commanding, but it is gross speculation. People should remember that when we were negotiating with Maliki about leaving troops there, we were talking about a residual force of some 3,000 to 5,000 to 10,000—depending on your source—which, in Panetta’s words, “could provide training and security for Iraq’s military.” Get that? After more than a decade in Iraq, it was still necessary to train and secure Iraq’s military as sort of a counterterrorism insurance policy. Exactly how long were we supposed to keep doing that? How long were we supposed to keep paying the premiums?

But beyond that, I will ask a better question—since I have yet to hear one journalist ask it—of all those who claim, either with certainty or something less, that we should have left thousands of troops in Iraq: What would have happened when ISIL came across the border? Where would we have gone to get our counterterrorism insurance check?

I’m listening.

Oh, some will say that if we had kept thousands of troops in Iraq that ISIL wouldn’t have dared come there to fight and to conquer in the name of Allah. You know, all that “peace-through-strength” stuff, the kind of stuff that only works to deter rational people. ISIL leaders, who use beheadings to send messages to Westerners, hardly qualify as rational people. They really do want to set up an Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and elsewhere, and the presence of U.S. troops would likely have made their resolve stronger not weaker.

That leaves us with the likelihood that had we left troops there in 2011, they would today be engaged in on-the-ground battles with ISIL. They would be fighting and dying. And there would likely be many thousands more U.S. troops there to fight and die with them. Is that what Obama’s critics really want? Huh? If they do, they should say so.

Finally, as I said, I have never heard a single journalist ask anyone, anyone who claims we should have left a residual force in Iraq,  just what that force would have done when ISIL invaded. Please tell us. What?  Panetta wrote in his book:

To this day, I believe that a small U.S. troop presence in Iraq could have effectively advised the Iraqi military on how to deal with al-Qaeda’s resurgence and the sectarian violence that has engulfed the country.

On what evidence can he base his belief? We already know that many non-Kurdish Iraqi military forces left the battlefield—and left a lot of our equipment behind for ISIL to use later. Is it conceivable that a few thousand U.S. troops could have stiffened their spines? And would ten thousand troops wearing American flags have been able to tame sectarian violence that has been a feature of life in the Middle East since 632 A.D.? Is there even a shred of evidence to support such a claim?

If President Obama had done what Panetta and others asked him to do, if he had insisted on leaving thousands of our soldiers in Iraq, we would probably now be involved in a war that no one would have to go to the trouble of parsing. As it is, we are only using airstrikes to attack ISIL, and somebody else, somebody who has much more at stake at the moment, is doing the hard fighting and dying. From an American perspective, that doesn’t exactly sound like a grave mistake to me.

2. Did Obama make a grave mistake in 2012 by not arming the so-called “moderate Syrians”?

This one drives me out of my mind.

Hillary Clinton recently went out of her way to let the world know she was in favor of arming those mystical moderates in Syria, suggesting, but not insisting, that had Obama done so things would look a lot different now. But if you read the actual interview she did with Jeffrey Goldberg (misleadingly titled, “Hillary Clinton: ‘Failure’ to Help Syrian Rebels Led to the Rise of ISIS”), she actually said something very sensible. Goldberg had asked her if she agreed with former ambassador Robert Ford’s contention “that we are at fault for not doing enough to build up a credible Syrian opposition when we could have.” At the end of her reply she said:

I totally understand the cautions that we had to contend with, but we’ll never know. And I don’t think we can claim to know.

No. We will never ever know. And we sure as hell can’t claim to know. But there are a lot of people who, now that things have gone really, really badly, do claim they know. Leon Panetta has added some fuel to that mostly right-wing fire of certainty on this point by saying to 60 Minutes:

Scott Pelley: In retrospect now, was not arming the rebels at that time a mistake?

Leon Panetta: I think that would’ve helped. And I think in part, we paid the price for not doing that in what we see happening with ISIS.

Maybe we did pay a price for not doing something. Maybe ISIS would not have grown so strong if we had flooded the battlefield with our weapons. But we will never know what kind of price we would have paid for doing something, for doing what Panetta thought, in good faith, we should have done. That’s what makes all this stuff so hard for leaders and so easy for after-the-fact critics. Panetta slapped President Obama on this issue by saying in his book:

Hesitation and half steps have consequences as well—and those remain to be determined.

Let me say here that Panetta is right to say that hesitation and half steps do certainly have consequences. Just like rushing in and taking full steps. That’s not exactly a profound claim. Both action and inaction have consequences that cannot be confidently known in advance. But if you listen to some folks talk today, they claim to have known exactly what the consequences of Obama’s hesitation to arm some Syrian rebels would turn out to be. Hooey.

The truth is that, forgetting what little we knew two years ago, we still don’t know today if there are really any Western-style moderates on the Syrian battlefield. We only know that, given what has developed, we have to take our chances and hope that the ones we think might be moderates don’t end up turning against us at some future point. It has come to that in Syria and Iraq. But we don’t know if it would have been better or worse if we had taken another course of action in 2012. One can easily imagine any number of scenarios, including one in which ISIL ends up with tons of American weapons that we shipped into Syria. Imagine how Fox “News” would have reported that, even as that network is fast to condemn Obama for his “dithering.”

To all this, I will here cite the words of our wise, if freethinking, Vice President:

We Americans think, in every country in transition, there’s a Thomas Jefferson hiding behind some rock or a James Madison beyond one sand dune. 

Given what has happened across the Middle East over the past two years or so, given how Islamic belief systems in the region are mostly incompatible with our idea of democracy and our expansive conception of human rights, any Jeffersons or Madisons over there are more likely to be beheaded than to lead a revolution that ends with a secular republic.

And that should make everyone at least a little sober in their judgments.

__________________________________

[Getty UN photo; Haider Al-Assadee/EPA Iraq photo]

The Slow Triumph Of Secularism

The main reason that gay people have been second- and third-class citizens in this country, let’s face it, is because of religion, mainly the Christian religion. And today, with the Supreme Court deciding not to decide the issue of gay marriage (at least for now), we have not only witnessed a big win for our gay citizens, we have also witnessed a big, big win for secularism.

Religious conservatives can jump up and down and shout all they want about what they call the sin of homosexuality; they can scream from their Sunday pulpits about how America is in moral decline; they can shake their fist at the various federal courts that have found their legal arguments wanting. But their real beef is with the Founders, even though most of the Founders might have been as homophobic as they are. Jefferson’s Virginia, for instance, required castration as the punishment for “sodomy.” The original colonies and eventually all of our states, at one time, criminalized homosexuality, some of them making it a crime punishable by death.

But the Founders, despite themselves and their own hangups about homosexuality, gave us a Constitution that, eventually, led to this glorious map, provided today by MSNBC:

same sex marriage by state

That’s a bunch of states, people, and some of them are as blood-red Republican and Christian conservative as you would ever want to imagine. Secularism is winning and that means the American experiment is working.

I Spent 30 Minutes Watching Fox Today

You have to hand it to Fox. There is an amazing coordination of messaging, from morning to night and night to morning. In about thirty minutes today, I watched three segments that serve to demonstrate how that special brand of Fox journalism works.

First, I have to start with last night. Charles Krauthammer said on Special Report that the Obama administration is suffering from a “crisis of competence,” and that when you take all krauthammer on foxthe problems with the various government agencies, the IRS, the VA, and now the Secret Service, and put them together, “you get a sense that things are out of control.”

This morning on America’s Newsroom, “journalist” Bill Hemmer hosted a segment about the problems in the Secret Service. Just before Hemmer introduced Krauthammer’s comments from last night, he said this:

A lot of this now raising questions about whether the Obama team is simply capable.

In case you don’t watch Fox that often, that “now raising questions” trope is very common on the network. It is a way of disguising as news what simply is tendentious speculation and commentary. The questions being raised about the capability of the “Obama team” are, of course, all coming from conservatives like Charles Krauthammer. It’s pretty slick how it works. Slick, I mean, if you consider Fox’s target audience, most of whom think they are watching real news develop right before their eyes. Krauthammer makes a provocative and obviously biased statement on a so-called straight news program in the evening, and on another so-called straight news program the next day, his commentary is presented as news, via that “raising questions” device.

After his intro, Hemmer then plays a clip of Krauthammer’s comments, which sets up an interview with Rich Lowry, editor of the right-wing National Review. And Lowry is not appearing on Fox so he can provide a fair and balanced look at Krauthammer’s “crisis of competence” claim. No, sir. He is there to reinforce the message:

LOWRY: This is the central irony of the Obama administration, Bill. These are people who believe in government, who want to make government bigger, and more complex, and yet they have presided over a series of astonishing government failures. And it just makes you wonder what other failures are lurking in government agencies that we haven’t heard about yet. 

HEMMER: Hmm. Like what?

LOWRY: [Surprised] Well, we don’t know. But Charles made a very good point, Bill…

Yes, a very good point, indeed.

In yet another segment, about 8 minutes later, the Obama-hating daughter of Dick Cheney, Liz, also referenced the Krauthammer comment and spoke of “the incompetence of this liz cheney on foxpresident across a whole range of issues.” Krauthammer should get a special commission for providing so much chatter fodder for Fox. (As an aside, Liz told us that Obama and his political allies “are not doing their job in terms of trying to keep this nation safe.” That coming from the daughter of a man who was Vice President during the worst terrorist attack against this country in its history, while President Obama has in fact kept the country safe.)

My final example of this kind of phony Fox journalism came from a third segment this morning on the utterly misnamed America’s Newsroom. This time the host of the segment was Martha Maccallum, who also pretends to be a straight journalist on Fox. The organizing principle of this segment was something Karl Rove said on Greta Van Susteren’s program last night. Maccallum began the segment this way:

Some critics are saying that President Obama needs to take more responsibility for his handling of the growing ISIS threat. Here is Karl Rove on that last night:

Before we get to what Rove said, notice that intro: “Some critics are saying.” That is another way for Fox producers to present commentary as news. With an introduction like that, one rove on gretacould offer up anything, absolutely anything, and the gullible folks in the Fox audience will think they are actually watching real news. The entire segment was based on and focused on Rove’s comments from the night before. The entire thing.

What Rove said was the usual stuff about how the President could no longer “skate by” with blaming Bush for all his troubles. He also said that the President could “get bigger” and “look stronger if he takes responsibility on himself.” You get the idea. Referring to Obama’s interview on 60 Minutes on Sunday, Rove said Obama should not have “thrown James Clapper under the bus” and instead shouldered the blame himself for underestimating ISIL.

Now, I can’t go any further with my presentation of coordinated phony Fox journalism without bringing to your attention what President Obama actually said about James Clapper on 60 Minutes last Sunday. Obama did not throw Clapper, who is the Director of National Intelligence, under the bus. Here, in fact, is what he said in response to a Steve Kroft question about ISIL:

obama on sixty minutesKROFT: How did they end up where they are in control of so much territory? Was that a complete surprise to you?

OBAMA: Well I think, our head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria.

KROFT: I mean, he didn’t say that, just say that, we underestimated ISIL. He said, we overestimated the ability and the will of our allies, the Iraqi army, to fight.

OBAMA: That’s true. That’s absolutely true. 

As you can see, Clapper had no tire tracks on him after that rather mild claim. But Obama was accused, based on that short exchange, of denying all responsibility. Fox has been particularly focused on that comment about our intelligence community underestimating ISIL, especially since some “top U.S. intelligence official” leaked to Fox a memo to staff” that supposedly exonerated Clapper and our intelligence apparatus. The problem is that Clapper did actuclapper and obama via Inter press serviceally say that our intelligence analysts underestimated the strength of ISIL, as well as overestimated the capability of the Iraqi army. But why let facts get in the way of the message you are peddling to the gullible?

With that out of the way, we can now proceed to more of Fox ignoring reality. After playing Rove’s comments, Maccallum brings into our living rooms Doug Schoen, who gets paid by Fox to pretend to be a Democrat, and Monica Crowley, who gets paid by Fox to look good and to pretend to be an insightful right-winger. As the segment proceeded, Schoen said that his take on what Rove said was,

that we are all Americans. This is not about assessing blame or parsing responsibility. It’s coming together for common purpose to take on a common enemy. I think that’s what we need to do and that’s what the President should have done.

Yes, Karl is the perfect guy to lecture us about not assessing blame. Good ol’ Turd Blossom would never do anything so, uh, un-American. Beyond that, though, if you bothered to look at that 60 Minutes interview, you would see that not only did President Obama not do what Rove accused him of doing, but he did do what Schoen accused him of not doing. Confusing stuff, yes. But as I said, facts and Fox don’t mix.

For her part, Monica Crowley did what she is paid to do. She looked good and she pretended to offer us insights from a right-wing perspective. One of her insights was this gem:

I think this goes back to his original mission when he entered the presidency, which was…the fundamental transformation of the nation, which had two basic pillars. One, socialized medicine, which he got through. And, two, retrenchment of world power, of American power in the world, which he also got through. And now you have the sense that he believes that since he’s done both, at least both are rolling along nicely for him, that his work here is done. That he can essentially sit back for the next two years and say, “Well, I’ll tinker at the margins and manage it, but, you know, the big work is already over.”

Instead of laughing at that bit of doo-doo, instead of apologizing to her audience for presenting to them such lunacy on what is billed as a fair and balanced news program, how do you suppose “journalist” Martha Maccallum responded to that nonsense? She legitimated it by saying:

MACCALLUM: Unfortunately we’re not living in a “tinkering at the margins” moment in history.

Yschoen and crowleyeah, unfortunately we’re not. Nor are we living in the Golden Age of Journalism.

The final right-wing insight provided by Monica Crowley in this segment came after a question about who was giving advice to President Obama about his “legacy.” This led Crowley to assert that Obama has never had any “wise men or wise women around him” to tell him what he needs to hear. He has limited himself to his wife, Valerie Jarrett, David Axelrod, and “maybe one or two other people.” This, she said—and I kid you not—was,

a direct result of Barack Obama’s essential narcissism, where he believes that nobody is smarter than he is, nobody knows better than he does, so therefore he really doesn’t have to listen to anybody else.

And there you have it. This “news” segment began with, “Some critics are saying.” It featured Karl Rove’s comments last night mischaracterizing something President Obama said. Then, based on Rove’s erroneous comments, claims were presented that Obama is a narcissist who has socialized medicine and weakened the nation and is now resting from his work. Finally, the segment ended with the phony journalist who was hosting this madness again validating all of it by saying this:

MACCALLUM: As Karl Rove says, you can make a change. You can take the bull by the horns and you can become bigger, as Karl believes the President needs to do. We’ll see what the American people think and how he responds. Doug, Monica, always good to talk to you both. Thanks very much, guys. See ya next time.

Yep. There will most certainly be a next time. All day, every day. All night, every night.

It’s Your Fire Truck, What Are You Gonna Do With It?

A commenter, King Beauregard, wrote the following in response to my piece, “What Some Liberals Get Wrong About The Fight Against ISIL”:

If I have a history of arson and then I ironically find myself in a position to rescue someone from a burning building, shouldn’t I rescue them? What sort of moral idiot would think that I should let them burn? If anything, I am morally obligated to put myself more at risk than the average citizen to atone for my past crimes.

That got me thinking.

Let’s imagine that the fire department here in Joplin once hired a fire chief who turned out to be an arsonist. But before he was found out, he and a few of his fellow firefighters started a rather horrendous fire inside a community several miles from Joplin that ended up consuming several homes and killing several people. Soon after the fire started, most of the Joplin fire department was called out to help fight the raging fire, since our chief started it, and after several days most joplin fire stationof the fire was under control.

Meanwhile, the fire-happy fire chief retired and a new fire chief replaced him, promising he would properly use the fire department from now on. The new chief, after a few more days, decided that the Joplin fire department had done enough to put out the fire his predecessor had started, and he turned the rest of the job—tending to the smoldering ashes—over to the local community. He brought the Joplin fire trucks and the Joplin firefighters back home.

Soon enough, though, the local leaders in the fire-ravaged community, instead of concentrating on putting out the smoldering ashes, began to fight with each other. And not long after, a raging fire was again consuming their land, threatening to spread to other cities and towns. The new Joplin fire chief had a decision to make. He had promised Joplin residents that he would wisely use their firefighting resources. But through his upper-floor office window he could see on the horizon the smoke from the newest out-of-control fire. Should he send in equipment to help the locals put out the fire? Should he, God forbid, send in Joplin firefighters once again? Or should he do nothing, since the fire was far from Joplin and Joplinites felt they had already sacrificed so much for people in the other community, with much of that sacrifice highly resented by some who still remembered that first fire chief’s arsonous behavior?

What should the new Joplin fire chief do?

Here are some of the ways Joplin citizens have responded to this scenario:

1) Many folks say that the first fire chief wasn’t an arsonist at all. Yes, he started the first fire, but it was because he was just trying to clear the land and make room for a new development that would improve the fortunes of everyone around, including people in faraway Joplin. The chief intended no ill will, they say, despite all the destruction and death. And they further assert that the second fire chief is the one who started the second big fire by not following the plan laid out by the first fire chief. They say if the new chief had just stayed with the program, the scorched acreage would be much prettier than it is today and all the death and destruction would not have been in vain. But they will grudgingly applaud the new chief if he sends Joplin firemen and equipment back into the community to put out a fire they blame him, not the first chief, for starting.

2.) Some other Joplinites say that because the first fire chief was obviously an arsonist, because he set a horrific fire that killed so many and destroyed so much, he should have been prosecuted for his crime. They spend a lot of time talking about that around their kitchen tables. They further say that sending more Joplin firefighters and equipment to the burning community will only make things worse, since some of the locals resent it when outsiders come into their towns, some of them so resentful they would even shoot at the Joplin firefighters as they try to fight the fire. These Joplin residents even go so far as to say that it is the nature of any fire department, especially the Joplin fire department, to want to start fires, since it keeps the firefighters busy. And they add that since the first fire chief started the fire on purpose, it would be stupid to think we could trust the newest chief to do any better. Fire chiefs just aren’t happy unless there is a fire to fight, these folks say, and if we don’t stop them the whole world will be in flames.

3.) There are still other Joplin residents who say that even though our fire chief started the fire, it is now the problem of the local community. No more Joplin resources should be wasted on it. We’ve spent enough, they say, trying to help these people put out the fire. Heck, even if we put out this fire, someone will just start another one for the simple reason that some people in that community have come to love the flames and the smell of smoke. We can never bring enough bodies and equipment from Joplin to ever put out all the fires, so just let it go. Should this current fire spread to our town, we’ll deal with that when it happens. For now, it is their problem not ours. In fact, from now on we should only worry about fighting our own fires here in Joplin and not concern ourselves with other communities.

4.) But there is another group of Joplinites who say this: Yes, the first fire chief shouldn’t have started the fire in the first place, no matter what his motivation was. And maybe he should have been held to account for his actions, but that would have taken a lot of time and consumed valuable political and civic resources, when there were other more pressing matters that needed our undivided attention at the time. And, yes, we have spent way too much, in terms of human and material resources, putting out fires in that other community, even if our fire chief started the first one. But he did start the first fire. And that has led to others, including the big one going on now. Sure, it is the case that some small group of locals in that other community hate it when they see a firefighter with a “Joplin” patch on his or her uniform. They hate it when they see our big fancy firetrucks pull up and start dousing the fire. They hate it so much they will try to kill our firefighters. But beyond the fact that our previous fire chief did a bad deed in our names, one we simply can’t morally walk away from, we Joplinites have two other good reasons to send help, this group of citizens say.

First, we have some values we claim we live by, including protecting innocent people from harm, when there is something we can do to help. It is clear that many innocents, including women and children, are perishing in the flames and it is equally clear we can help them. In fact, we are the best trained and best equipped to help. To not do so would be to forsake our values. To not do so would mean that many more innocent people would needlessly die or be forced from their homes forever.

Second, we can see the smoke from this fire, even if some of us have to squint to see it. And if we can’t see it, we can faintly smell it. It’s in the air. That means that if this fire isn’t brought under control, it will spread; it will threaten our city. And by the time it is a direct threat to Joplin, it will be so large we will have to devote many more resources to fight it. Right now, all we need to supply is firefighting equipment to the locals in that other community, as well as drop highly-effective flame retardants from the sky. There are those on the ground, most of whom are begging for our help, who are willing to do the dirty work of actually putting out this fire.

This last group of Joplin citizens would ask everyone a question: If you saw a mom holding her little girl out the window of a burning building, smoke engulfing them 100 feet from the ground, would you sit in your fire truck with its 110-foot ladder and watch them die?

“The Language Of Force”

As the fight against ISIL continues, we are greeted with this headline from The Washington Post:

U.S. and Arab aircraft attack oil refineries seized by Islamic State in Syria

The story reports a rather remarkable fact: “U.S. fighter jets and drones, alongside warplanes from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, struck the refineries in remote parts of the Syrian desert.” It is quite extraordinary that we have partnered with Arab nations to attack the source of much of ISIL’s funding of its uae female pilotjihadist brutality. Quite extraordinary. As NPR reported this morning, “the Saudi’s released photographs of the pilots” involved—two of them “sons of senior princes”—because “the royal family wants to show they are ready to put their own sons on the front line.” The UAE even released a photograph of a woman who is flying missions, which may strike additional fear in the minds of some of the religious fanatics connected to ISIL, because apparently some of them “believe they’ll go to hell if they die at a woman’s hands.”

I know most of you have by now heard President Obama’s remarks in New York yesterday, but I want to highlight two passages that pretty much say it all about terrorism in general and ISIS in particular. First the general statement President made at the United Nations Security Council Summit on Foreign Terrorist Fighters:

Resolutions alone will not be enough.  Promises on paper cannot keep us safe.  Lofty rhetoric and good intentions will not stop a single terrorist attack.

The words spoken here today must be matched and translated into action, into deeds — concrete action, within nations and between them, not just in the days ahead, but for years to come. For if there was ever a challenge in our interconnected world that cannot be met by any one nation alone, it is this:  terrorists crossing borders and threatening to unleash unspeakable violence.  These terrorists believe our countries will be unable to stop them.  The safety of our citizens demand that we do.  And I’m here today to say that all of you who are committed to this urgent work will find a strong and steady partner in the United States of America. 

That last sentence should be emphasized. Without the United States, without a general American commitment to remain a strong and reliable partner with other world nations, the fight against specific terrorist groups will be a feeble one. And as for the specific terrorist group we are fighting in Iraq and Syria, the President made a few things clear, as he spoke before the U.N. General Assembly:

…the terrorist group known as ISIL must be degraded and ultimately destroyed.

This group has terrorized all who they come across in Iraq and Syria.  Mothers, sisters, daughters have been subjected to rape as a weapon of war.  Innocent children have been gunned down.  Bodies have been dumped in mass graves.  Religious minorities have been starved to death.  In the most horrific crimes imaginable, innocent human beings have been beheaded, with videos of the atrocity distributed to shock the conscience of the world.

No God condones this terror.  No grievance justifies these actions.  There can be no reasoning — no negotiation — with this brand of evil.  The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force.  So the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death.

That line, “The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force,” may disturb some people who think our actions to degrade and destroy what President Obama called “this network of death” will only perpetuate the violence and breed more terrorists in the future. But the President is right. And for those who think he is wrong, they are obliged to tell us just what alternative language will work to stop the advance of ISIL, to stop the raping of mothers and sisters and daughters, to stop the murder of children, to stop the public beheadings.

In the mean time, here’s to hoping even more women will be dropping bombs or firing missiles at those ISIL bastards. Hell, I hear, has plenty of room.

What Some Liberals Get Wrong About The Fight Against ISIL

Whenever I want to check out what anti-Obama lefties are saying about anything, I first go to Firedoglake. There you will find some committed, if sometimes immature, left-wingers assailing the President and his administration for all kinds of failures to live up to the purity of liberalism, at least as it is defined by Firedoglake contributors.

After today’s announcement of the necessary and justified attacks on the Islamist murderers in Iraq and Syria, I turned to Firedoglake for a quick look. Here’s a little of what I found:

Yesterday the US began bombing yet another country in the Middle East with strikes targeting ISIS forces in Syria…The most obvious beneficiary of the new strikes is Syrian President Bashar Assad who has been locked in a struggle with ISIS and other rebels for control of Syria…Given the flexible and congealing nature of ISIS it is highly questionable as to whether the militant group can ever really be destroyed as long as Iraq and Syria remain war zones. Though that is of no apparent concern to the Obama Administration which has launched America into another war in the Middle East that even officials admit will take several years.

In another post by the same author, DSWright, we find this ominous opening:

Remember when the reason for expanding this military campaign from Iraq into Syria was because ISIS was in both countries? It wasn’t so long ago. Well, now President Obama has announced that he also targeted a non-ISIS group in Syria. Mission creep in real time.

Let me quickly address the concerns in these two articles (and something Glenn Greenwald wrote, which I will get to later), concerns that I have heard expressed elsewhere by left-leaning folks:

1. “The most obvious beneficiary of the new strikes is Syrian President Bashar Assad…”

Yes, I hear that a lot. And it may be obvious. It certainly seemed obvious to Assad, who welcomed our attacks by doing nothing to stop them. And it may seem obvious to us, even if we don’t want to say so out loud. But so what? The mission is not to aid Assad but to send as many ISIL fighters on a one-way visit to Allah as our air strikes can facilitate. If doing so actually helps Assad in the short-term, then so be it. In fact, it could be argued that it is only a short-term help for the Syrian dictator. It could be, somewhere down the road, that weakening ISIL enough to make it vulnerable to other groups in Syria opposed to both Assad and ISIL means that Assad’s short-term gain will turn into a long-term loss. In any case, ISIL needs our attention and to stand paralyzed for fear we will help a man whose country is disintegrating before his eyes would be foolish and short-sighted.

2. “Given the flexible and congealing nature of ISIS it is highly questionable as to whether the militant group can ever really be destroyed as long as Iraq and Syria remain war zones.”

This one is easy. It may be questionable, it may even be “highly questionable,” if we can really destroy ISIL under the present circumstances, but it is a near certainty that we will never destroy ISIL if we sit and wait for Iraq and Syria to become something other than war zones. Those who oppose what Obama is doing never address that reality. Sitting and waiting for peace to break out in the region, while ISIL gains power and territory, and while killing untold numbers of innocents, would be not only strategically unwise, but a moral outrage. And besides that, it isn’t that questionable whether ISIL can be defeated in Iraq. In time that is likely to happen with U.S. support, if Iraqis have the will to make it happen. In Syria, of course that is much more difficult. But doing nothing makes it not only more difficult still, but quite likely impossible. Is that what liberals want? Huh?

3. “…the Obama Administration…has launched America into another war in the Middle East that even officials admit will take several years.

Not really. Yes, it will take a long time, maybe even “several years,” to reduce ISIL to a relatively inconsequential player in the region, but Obama hasn’t really “launched America into another war in the Middle East.” Part of what he is doing is continuing a war against terrorist groups that began in earnest after 9/11. The other part of what he is doing, which some folks seem to have forgotten, is attempting to clean up a mess that neoconservatives in the Bush administration began with the colossally stupid invasion of Iraq in 2003. Yes, it is too bad that we once again have to aggressively attack another terrorist group in the Middle East. We all wish it weren’t the case. But it is a legitimate and moral use of American power, even if it is largely made necessary by a once-illegitimate use of American power.

4. “President Obama has announced that he also targeted a non-ISIS group in Syria. Mission creep in real time.”

I get real creeped out by the overuse of the phrase “mission creep.” For some journalists it has become something they inject into their reporting to make it clear they have learned their lesson from the disastrous, media-championed Iraq invasion in 2003 and will not be duped again by an administration wanting to drop bombs and fire missiles it has no business dropping and firing, even in the name of fighting terrorists.

The problem is that some missions need to creep, as the attack on the al Qaeda-related Khorasan Group demonstrates. If liberals won’t support an attack on a group of terrorists—whose existence is dedicated to developing creative and undetectable ways to kill Americans using airplanes—then it is hard to understand what use liberals will ever have for the U.S. military.

“Mission creep” claims, which normally are necessary and proper to consider, are in this case simply one way for people queasy about the general use of military force to fight terrorists to say that this specific mission is, as DSWright claimed using italics (and contradicting his claim in his other article; see 3. above), the opening “of another front in the perpetual War on Terror.Some of us agree that we shouldn’t call what we have done and are doing a War on Terror. We should simply say, when the need arises, that we are fighting terrorists, those who have essentially declared war on America. But leaving aside the semantics, using mission creep worries as an excuse to do nothing, or next to it, in Iraq and Syria means—let’s be honest about it—ISIL will continue to conquer and kill.

Related to this point is a particularly reprehensible article by Glenn Greenwald, who has become quite famous on the left for championing Edward Snowden’s illegal leaking of sensitive information that hasn’t made it any easier to track terrorists. The article was titled, “SYRIA BECOMES THE 7TH PREDOMINANTLY MUSLIM COUNTRY BOMBED BY 2009 NOBEL PEACE LAUREATE,” and in it Greenwald, conspiracist to the core, makes a claim that others on the left make: we are only producing more terrorists by fighting ISIL. Except Greenwald makes the point with a nice little twist:

Six weeks of bombing hasn’t budged ISIS in Iraq, but it has caused ISIS recruitment to soar. That’s all predictable: the U.S. has known for years that what fuels and strengthens anti-American sentiment (and thus anti-American extremism) is exactly what they keep doing: aggression in that region. If you know that, then they know that. At this point, it’s more rational to say they do all of this not despite triggering those outcomes, but because of it. Continuously creating and strengthening enemies is a feature, not a bug. It is what justifies the ongoing greasing of the profitable and power-vesting machine of Endless War.

He ends his blame-America-first piece with this:

…the U.S. does not bomb countries for humanitarian objectives. Humanitarianism is the pretense, not the purpose.

It is hard to contain one’s anger at such conspiratorial nonsense. According to Greenwald, the entire effort to stop anti-American terrorism, an effort that began after essentially ignoring terrorism resulted in the deaths of 3,000 Americans on 9/11, is just a way for the defense industry to make a buck. Just a way for America, pretending to care about the deaths of innocents slaughtered by jihadist killers, to keep the “machine of Endless War” going. America, in Greenwald’s eyes, is nothing more than a nation run by greedy imperialists. That’s all we are. Obama is no different from Dick Cheney. Our attack on ISIL is no different from the invasion of Iraq. There’s no room in Greenwald’s conspiracy-poisoned mind to entertain the idea that, despite plenty of monumental mistakes in the past that have actually strengthened anti-American sentiment, the present situation calls for what most Americans see as legitimate and moral action.

Meanwhile, Greenwald offers us nothing condemning ISIL or explaining what he would do about the bloodthirsty bastards in Iraq and Syria who would, if they had the chance, saw off Glenn Greenwald’s head as quickly and brutally as they sawed off the heads of other journalists. The only difference would be that the ISIL bastards wouldn’t have to write an anti-American script for Greenwald. They could just make him read his latest article.

Having said all that, there are legitimate questions about the constitutional propriety of President Obama’s actions in Syria, as he continues to authorize attacks on ISIL with neither the permission of the Syrian government nor the official permission of Congress. Those questions have been raised by various congressional voices, including Democratic voices, and it is obvious that if there were a will in Congress to stop what is going on, those voices would be turned into legislative language constitutionally tying the hands of the president. For now it appears all that is being offered is an official authorization of what Obama has already started, with some restrictions placed on its scope, and the requirement to come to Congress periodically to defend continuing the effort against ISIL—and whoever else decides that Allah is on the side of psychopaths waving black flags and beheading innocents, including innocent Americans.

The Embarassing Things That Hating Obama Will Make You Do

Three Tweets from Newt Gingrich this morning, after President Obama confirmed the first strikes on ISIL in Syria, demonstrate not only what is wrong with Newt Gingrich’s mind, but what can go wrong in the age of instant communication when an Obama-hater says something critical of the Commander-in-Chief before the Obama-hater took the trouble to find out if his Obama-hate got the best of him:

gingrich tweets

 

How Anti-Obama Republicans In Congress Have Effectively Poisoned The Country—In Two Sentences

There it was right there in a Reuters story about how 24% of Americans—24 bleeping percent—“strongly supported or tended to support” their particular states leaving the union. There it was right there for all of us who have followed politics since the age of Obama to see. Right there in two sad sentences from the story:

I don’t think it makes a whole lot of difference anymore which political party is running things. Nothing gets done.

That was said by a confused man named Roy Gustafson, from Camden, South Carolina. Roy, the story goes, is “on disability payments” and is quoted as saying, “The state would be better off handling things on its own.”

I will try to ignore the utter ignorance behind the idea that any state in this union would be better off “on its own.” And I will try to ignore the sad misapprehension of reality that a man on federal “disability payments” possesses when he says things would be better if there were no federal government to which his state owed its allegiance, a state, by the way, dominated by Tea Party Republicans who would most surely cut off his disability payments faster than old Roy could say “secession.”

Just look at those first two sentences: It doesn’t matter “which political party is running things. Nothing gets done.” That, my friends, is the product of years of Republican obstruction and obfuscation (despite the recent legislative endorsement of part of President Obama’s ISIL strategy).

And you have to hand it to Republicans. For all their tactics in Congress, for all their vacations and filibusters and wasted time on doomed-to-fail legislation regarding ObamaCare and abortion, too many people still don’t recognize whose fault it is that “nothing gets done.” In fact, a large number of folks will run, not walk, to the nearest polling place in November and attempt to put even more Republicans in Congress.

Amazing.

Apple Just Made The World Safer For Terrorists

Has it become un-American to want to catch the bad guys? Think hard about this lede from a Washington Post story titled, “Apple will no longer unlock most iPhones, iPads for police, even with search warrants“:

Apple said Wednesday night that it is making it impossible for the company to turn over data from most iPhones or iPads to police — even when they have a search warrant — taking a hard new line as tech companies attempt to blunt allegations that they have too readily participated in government efforts to collect user information.

I would guess that bit of news warms the hearts of terrorists everywhere, not to mention other criminals who can now avail themselves of the latest technology knowing there is a greatly reduced risk of getting caught via the use of smartphones. Apple, and no doubt other tech companies will follow its lead, couldn’t help the good guys even if it wanted to. To hell with law enforcement, we Americans demand our privacy!

Or do we? We routinely give corporations, like Google and Facebook, lots and lots of information about ourselves, which they use to make money. Most people don’t think twice about sharing that information. And once it is in the hands of these non-government entities that exploit our generosity, then we no longer have control of it. And we do all of this voluntarily.

Yet, many people almost lost their minds, not to mention their faith in good government, when it was revealed, through illegal leaks by Edward Snowden, that the National Security Agency was conducting electronic surveillance and going to court to force tech companies to turn over data that might help take the terror out of terrorism. I argued with some of those people on this blog. One would have thought all hope for the future was lost just because the government was doing what it is supposed to do: helping to protect us against bad people.

It is certainly true that since the dawn of smartphones, more than five years ago, people have increasingly used them to store all sorts of information, some of it intensely private. And it is certainly true that Americans should expect such information to remain invisible to government eyes, unless there is a compelling reason to examine it. The Supreme Court earlier this year rightly decided that the police had to have a search warrant to gather data from mobile devices. Now, after Apple’s announcement, that ruling will soon be as out-of-date as, well, landline phones. Ten thousand court orders won’t do any good. Apple has blinded itself and done so on purpose. And its inability to see means the government can’t see either:

Ronald T. Hosko, the former head of the FBI’s criminal investigative division, called the move by Apple “problematic,” saying it will contribute to the steady decrease of law enforcement’s ability to collect key evidence — to solve crimes and prevent them. The agency long has publicly worried about the “going dark” problem, in which the rising use of encryption across a range of services has undermined government’s ability to conduct surveillance, even when it is legally authorized.

“Our ability to act on data that does exist . . . is critical to our success,” Hosko said. He suggested that it would take a major event, such as a terrorist attack, to cause the pendulum to swing back toward giving authorities access to a broad range of digital information.

Given what Apple has done, it is hard to see how that pendulum can swing back. The world is now a lot safer for the bad guys, especially terrorists who use smartphones for recruitment and planning attacks. Those wonderful little devices we all carry around with us are now, for a select few, much better weapons than ever.

isis phone

Spare The Rod And Ignore The Bible

The Minnesota Vikings’ owner has admitted that he made a mistake when his team reinstated Adrian Peterson, its star running back and one of the league’s best, after first deciding to keep Peterson from participating in team activities, when it became known he had been indicted last week for injuring his 4-year-old son by beating him with a “switch,” aPhotos from the Houston Police Department showing injuries of Adrian Peterson's allegedly abused son. slender tree branch often used for disciplining kids.

My dad used a switch on me now and then when I was growing up in southeast Kansas in the 1960s, and it is, apparently, still fairly common in some parts of the country to beat children with them.

I heard Goldie Taylor, an often insightful African-American pundit, on public radio this morning explaining, in a way that partly echoed Charles Barkley’s comments on the issue, that for a lot of black folks in the South, beating their kids is a part of their culture, some of it stemming from the phrase used in black churches, “Spare the rod and spoil the child,” a phrase that most people think is in the Bible. Actually that phrase isn’t in the Bible, but what is, from Proverbs 13:24 (King James Version), is this:

He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.

That seems clear enough, no? Beating your kid with a stick is a way of showing him (or, presumably, her) love. But Goldie Taylor, parting ways with Charles Barkley, tried to explain that the “rod” in that phrase was not an instrument of punishment, but something shepherds used to gently guide their sheep, not beat them. It was, she said, a source of comfort not pain (“thy rod and thy staff comfort me,” from the 23rd Psalm), and the misinterpretation of that Bible-inspired phrase was erroneously used to justify the whipping of children by their parents, parents like Adrian Peterson, who, he said, had parents that beat him in the same way.

Hooey.

Here is the King James Version of another passage in the Bible, Proverbs 23:13-14:

Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.

Nothing in the Bible is clearer than that. No amount of sugar-coating the Bible can alter the meaning of that passage. Beating your kids is not only okay, says the God of the Bible, it is part of a divine strategy to keep them from going to hell (a place which, oddly, the God of the Bible created as punishment for the disobedient). And, for those of you who are not familiar with such things, that stuff is taught in evangelical and fundamentalist churches all over America, not just in the South and not just in black churches. I was taught it and I, on rare occasions, practiced it on two of my three children, acts for which I am now utterly ashamed.

We know better these days. We have learned something about the effects of trying to beat obedience into our kids. We are evolving culturally. Violence against our children doesn’t do any real good, but does do a lot of real harm. In this case, given the publicity it has received, it may be that some unintentional social good can come from what happened to Adrian Peterson’s 4-year-old son, namely that it is no longer acceptable, anywhere, to beat kids with a rod, a stick, a switch, or even the hand.  And more than that, perhaps another good is in sight: more people will realize that the Bible is full of bad advice, a strong indication that the much-revered book is a product of ignorant and narrow-minded men, and not an infallible Word from the God of the universe.

_______________________________________

[photo: Adrian Peterson’s son and his injuries, from Houston police department]

Obama And The World’s White Blood Cells

The world is in the midst of the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history. Ebola is a rare virus that infects and eventually kills a majority of its victims. Some species of Ebola are more deadly than others, with one species killing almost 8 in 10 of the people it infects. There is often a lot of bleeding associated with an Ebola infection, like bleeding “from the eyes nose, ears, mouth, and rectum.” Here is one description of why Ebola is such a killer:

One of the main things that seems to make Ebola viruses especially deadly is that they seem to be able to evade much of the human immune system. Among other problems, white blood cells from the immune system are often seen to die off in patients. And if the body can’t fight fully back, the virus can just keep taking over.

In order to beat Ebola, bodies need a strong immune system—especially white blood cells—to fight back.

We, the United States of America, are part of the immune system of another fight against a deadly virus infecting a part of the world: Islamist terrorism. Currently its most deadly species is ISIL.

I have heard a lot of talk since Obama’s speech on Wednesday, outlining his approach to confronting the phony “Islamic State.” Some of that talk focused on the strategy, some of it focused on the legality, and some of it focused on whether we actually have a real coalition of nations, especially Arab states, sufficient to warrant going forward with any hopes of ebola flagsuccess. But despite all the debates, both legitimate and otherwise, we should never lose sight of the fact that if we fail to act against this spreading infection, no matter who is with us, it will have consequences we won’t like.

Right now, the Ebola virus is attacking people in West Africa, far, far way from the United States. There is little chance, at the moment, that we will be impacted by Ebola here at home. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have an interest in helping fight it in West Africa. The world is connected by airplanes. Everywhere. Ebola can have a first class ticket to nearly any destination in the world. And even though the United States doesn’t have much to fear from Ebola directly—we have the resources and technology necessary to keep a widespread outbreak from happening here—we do have national interests, both economic and moral, in not allowing Ebola to spread its infection to other parts of the world.

It’s the same way with the spread of the ISIL virus.

That’s why I was shocked to hear Jeffrey Sachs, a liberal, say on television this morning that he thought President Obama’s plan to attack ISIL was “absurd.” Not misguided or unconstitutional or insufficient, but absurd. Sachs was on television because he wrote an article for the Huffington Post titled, “Let the Middle East Fight Its Own War on ISIS,” in which he says:

…Obama is leading us into a prolonged trap; the fight against ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIL) is a fight that the region itself should lead…Yet again, as with George W. Bush, Obama will needlessly set the US up as the leader of a crusade against Islam…President Obama is getting us still deeper into this never-ending battle with monsters stoked by our own ill-advised policies…So why is Obama leading us further down this failed path? The US fights these failed wars mainly because of domestic politics….We can’t win this war any more that we could win the Vietnam War, but Obama dare not “lose” the war on terror before the next election…These wars are therefore as open-ended as they are futile…If the US had a real strategy for national success, we would let the Middle East face and resolve its own crises, and demand a UN framework for action.

Those kinds of sentiments are voiced by people who don’t view ISIL as a deadly virus that can spread to other regions of the world. But at the heart of those sentiments is a dangerous isolationist idea. It is a dangerous thing to say to countries in the Middle East that they are essentially on their own in the fight against ISIL. It’s not really our problem. We don’t have to worry about it here at home, so to hell with the rest of you. We’re tired of fighting your battles.

flag and cellsYet, just a moment’s thought would reveal what would happen, if we, and other nations around the world, felt the same way about Ebola, if we told the governments of Liberia, or Guinea, or Sierra Leone that Ebola was their problem, that if they wanted to fight it they should fight it themselves without our help. Ebola would spread. And kill.

Thankfully, we are not abandoning West Africa in its fight against Ebola. We, along with Great Britain, are even sending troops and other resources there to fight the spread of that deadly virus. And now President Obama, having begun the fight against a similarly deadly virus in Iraq, is poised to act against ISIL in Syria.

The world of nations is one body now. Islamist terrorism is a deadly, deadly pathogen that has infected a part of the world body. It’s current and most bloodthirsty strain is ISIL. We, the people of United States, are an integral part of the world’s immune system. We are its white blood cells. To ignore that reality is to invite more death and devastation, not less.

 

Poll Junkies

Yesterday I was discussing public polling and how the results don’t always reflect an understanding of the facts. Since then, we have had MSNBC all morning fussing over the latest polls, including this one:

NBC/WSJ/Telemundo Poll: Latino Voters More Sour On Country, Obama

Even as pissed off as some Latinos are over President Obama’s unwise decision to postpone his promised executive actions on immigration, they still have some grasp of what is going on. But you wouldn’t know it from the headline above. That headline, and others like it, reflect the way the poll was introduced on MSNBC this morning. It was mostly about Latinos “souring” on the country and on President Obama. The headline, though, could have been,

Latinos Disappointed with Obama, But Still Very, Very Sour On The Republican Party

Why? Because of these two paragraphs near the end of the story:

Over six in ten Latinos prefer to see a Democrat-controlled Congress, compared to 28 percent who want to see the Republicans in charge. This is seen in their take on which party handles issues better; 53 percent think the Democratic Party looks out for the interests of women, compared to 11 percent who say that about Republicans. 

On immigration, 41 percent think the Democratic party looks out for their interests as opposed to 19 percent who favor the Republican party. Still, immigration is one area where the majority of Latinos – as opposed to other groups in the country – favor legislation or executive action to change the current laws and policies.

So, I suppose the problem is not so much with the polling, but with the presentation of the results. If a reader only read that “Latino Voters More Sour On Country, Obama” headline, he or she would get one message. But reading the entire article, the reader gets a different one. And we shouldn’t kid ourselves. The way a headline hovers over a story affects how people read it, if they bother to read it at all. Some folks just scan the headlines, thinking they’re getting the “news.”

NBC and the Wall Street Journal also have a new poll out that they find worthy of our attention:

The latest NBC/WSJ poll shows that the past few months of foreign-policy crises — especially regarding ISIS and Ukraine — have taken a toll on President Obama and his party. Just 32% approve of his handling of foreign policy, an all-time low in the survey; the GOP has an 18-point advantage on which party deals best on foreign policy, an 11-point jump from a year ago; and Republicans hold a whopping 38-point lead on which party best ensures a strong national defense, their largest lead on this question in more than 10 years.

If that depressing paragraph doesn’t tell you why snapshot polls during certain world events mean absolutely nothing, besides merely registering frustration and ignorance on the part of many Americans, then nothing will. The idea that the obstructionist Republican Party “has an 18-point advantage” over Democrats on any issue, much less foreign policy, defies explanation, unless one resorts to chalking it up to ignorance.

And please, someone, anyone, tell me why Republicans have enjoyed “an 11-point jump from a year ago”? Or how could Republicans, who brought us the sequester that has cut into the Pentagon budget with a blunt ax and who committed trillions to an unnecessary war in Iraq that started most of the messes we see, possibly “hold a whopping 38-point lead” on ensuring a strong national defense? Can people be that ignorant, that tuned out, not to say that stupid? God, let’s hope not. We’ve suffered enough.

That “exclusive poll” presented by NBC and The Wall Street Journal also, “reveals that 47% of Americans believe the country is less safe now than before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.” Really? Based on what? Ten or fifteen thousand ISIL fighters in Iraq and Syria now worrying every day about where the next American missile will fall and take out a few more of the bastards? Nothing, absolutely nothing, has happened here in the homeland recently that would lead a rational person to conclude that we are less safe now than when George W. Bush and Dick Cheney was ignoring Osama bin Laden in the summer of 2001. We are much more safe, in terms of terrorist attacks. That’s not even arguable.

Oh, and do you want a good headline based on a poll? Try these beauties:

newsmax

bloomberg poll

Wow! Really? Man, that is big, big news. The Europeans have abandoned and deserted the most powerful leader in the world! What do we do now?

Well, let’s begin by reading the actual article, originating with the respectable Bloomberg News, that those ridiculously false headlines announced, including this little finding:

Obama’s European approval rating dropped to 64 percent, sliding for the fifth straight year from 85 percent when he took office…

Oh, so Europeans have abandoned the President, they have deserted him, yet 64% of them still approve of the job he is doing? Get that? Sixty-four percent think he’s doing a good job! That is a strange kind of abandonment and desertion. Actually, if you bother to go look at the poll itself, you will find that President Obama’s approval rating regarding his “international policies” only dropped from 69% to 64% since 2013. Considering all that has happened in the world since then, I find that utterly remarkable. Thus, the headline should have been:

President Obama Remains Very Popular in Europe, Despite World Events

But that headline just doesn’t fit in with the fashion of the day, which is, right now, to pile on President Obama as he struggles through some tough times on the foreign front. Let me be clear, though. Journalists shouldn’t be cheerleaders for any president or political party. They should tell it like it is. But neither should they be cheerleaders for pessimism, especially when they have to go out of their way to create it themselves.

TV Media: Don’t Let The Facts Get In The Way Of A Pessimistic Poll

If you watch a lot of cable news, you know that whenever there’s a poll that comes out it is suddenly “news.” Networks spend a lot of money on polling and they aren’t going to waste it by ignoring the results. I have even heard news channels report on rivals’ polls, such is the need to fill air time with mostly meaningless snapshots of public opinion.

Most of the snapshots lately have shown some bad news for President Obama, both regarding foreign policy and things here at home, including the economy. But that’s not surprising considering the trouble in the world and the relentless beating he takes on Fox and its creepy companion, talk radio, 24 hours a day, every day.

The right in this country, because it has a theological conviction that the media are on the side of the devil, Barack Hussein Obama, thinks the networks are actually protecting him from the results of their own polling. Breitbart, one of the papal outposts of right-wing paranoia, posted a piece today with this headline:

STUDY: NETWORKS BURY OWN POLL RESULTS TO PROTECT OBAMA

The “study” was done by The Media Research Center, which is an outfit designed to intimidate journalists and networks into practicing “both sides are equally guilty” journalism, a strategy that works quite well for the right I might add. The story ends with this:

The media is not dumb. During the Bush years, the media knew that pounding these numbers to death would only serve to sour the public even more on the Bush presidency. A frenzy of pessimism breeds pessimism.

This same media is obviously willing to go to extraordinary, even absurd lengths, to protect Obama from that same feeding frenzy.

While it is obviously absurd to think the media (it’s not really one thing, but let’s pretend it is) is/are protecting the President, I can agree with the writer that “pessimism breeds pessimism.” That is why the country, fed a steady diet of pessimism for so long, is so down on itself and the President, despite the good economic news. Oh, you didn’t know there was good economic news? That’s the point. You may not have known about it, since news reports, especially on cable news channels, tend to focus on all the negative aspects of the economy (which there are too many, to be sure), while ignoring the reality of what has happened since President Obama came into office.

On that note, here goes, courtesy of Adam Hartung at Forbes (you should really read his entire post, “Obama Outperforms Reagan On Jobs, Growth And Investing”) and his guest, Bob Deitrick, CEO and author:

“Jobless claims [for August] were just over 300,000; lowest since 2007.  Despite the lower than expected August jobs number [142,000 jobs were created], America will create about 2.5 million new jobs in 2014.”

♦ “This is the best private sector jobs creation performance in American history”:

Unemployment Reagan v Obama

♦ Here is a chart from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing labor participation since 1948:Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics - Databases, Tables and Calculators by Subject“As this chart…shows, as the Baby Boomers entered the workforce and societal acceptance of women working changed, labor participation grew.

“Now that ‘Boomers’ are retiring we are seeing the percentage of those seeking employment decline. This has nothing to do with job availability, and everything to do with a highly predictable aging demographic.

“What’s now clear is that the Obama administration policies have outperformed the Reagan administration policies for job creation and unemployment reduction. Even though Reagan had the benefit of a growing Boomer class to ignite economic growth, while Obama has been forced to deal with a retiring workforce developing special needs. During the eight years preceding Obama there was a net reduction in jobs in America. We now are rapidly moving toward higher, sustainable jobs growth.”

♦ “…the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) released its manufacturing report, and it surprised nearly everyone.  The latest Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) scored 59, two points higher than July and about that much higher than prognosticators expected.  This represents 63 straight months of economic expansion, and 25 consecutive months of manufacturing expansion.”

♦ “As the last 15 months have proven, jobs and economy are improving, and investors are benefiting”:

Investment Returns Reagan v Obama“While most Americans think they are not involved with the stock market, truthfully they are.  Via their 401K, pension plan and employer savings accounts 2/3 of Americans have a clear vested interest in stock performance.

“As this chart shows, over the first 67 months of their presidencies there is a clear “winner” from an investor’s viewpoint. A dollar invested when Reagan assumed the presidency would have yielded a staggering 190% return.  Such returns were unheard of prior to his leadership.

“However, it is undeniable that President Obama has surpassed the previous president.  Investors have gained a remarkable 220% over the last 5.5 years!  This level of investor growth is unprecedented by any administration, and has proven quite beneficial for everyone.

“In 2009, with pension funds underfunded and most private retirement accounts savaged by the financial meltdown and Wall Street losses, Boomers and Seniors were resigned to never retiring.  The nest egg appeared gone, leaving the ‘chickens’ to keep working.  But now that the coffers have been reloaded increasingly people age 55 – 70 are happily discovering they can quit their old jobs and spend time with family, relax, enjoy hobbies or start new at-home businesses from their laptops or tablets.  It is due to a skyrocketing stock market that people can now pursue these dreams and reduce the labor participation rates for ‘better pastures.”

The next time you hear some journalist on the telly talking about how Americans don’t approve of Obama’s handling of the economy (and by and large they don’t), remind yourself to do a better job of explaining to your family, friends, and co-workers that things are much, much better than they think. And if you really want to piss off right-wingers you know, don’t forget to tell them that:

“Obama Outperforms Reagan On Jobs, Growth And Investing”

_________________________

h/t: Drew Graham

 

How Washington Journalists Think

During his interview with Chuck Todd on Meet the Press, President Obama said the United States is now ready “to start going on some offense” against ISIL. He announced that on Wednesday he will “make a speech and describe what our game plan’s going to be going forward.” He said that his planned action “is not the equivalent of the Iraq war.” And this time he says we have “a broad-based coalition internationally and regionally to be able to deal with the problem.”

But apparently, according to some critics, he shouldn’t have dared utter the following about his message to Americans on Wednesday:

But this is not going to be an announcement about U.S. ground troops.

Later Mr. Obama said:

The notion that the United States should be putting boots on the ground, I think would be a profound mistake. And I want to be very clear and very explicit about that.

No, no, no, these critics say. Obama shouldn’t be “tipping his hand to ISIS” that way. Such an announcement is “priceless intelligence” that cost them nothing. And presumably because he is such a dumbass, Obama just gave it away for free. What’s wrong with that guy? Why doesn’t he know better?

Leaving aside the obvious point that ISIS gets exactly zero benefit in knowing that its fighters probably won’t be seeing the boots of Americans as they die for Allah, I want to call your attention to the person behind the critical notion above, a journalist named Ron Fournier.

He is the Senior Political Columnist and Editorial Director of National Journal, a publication for Washington insiders like, well, Ron Fournier. He appears often on Morning Joe and elsewhere on cable and presents himself as something of a non-partisan, non-ideological voice for common sense who is willing to criticize both sides. In this case, however, his criticism of Obama sounds like, well, Bill Kristol or Mike Rogers or Rick Perry.

Fournier, though, along with most of the other people who think Obama should not take off the table the possibility of American combat troops fighting in Iraq and Syria, don’t actually say they want those troops inserted into that mess. Most of Obama’s critics are very, very careful to say, as Fournier did,

I am not advocating the deployment of ground troops.

How courageous.

Because Fournier is a Washington insider, he can’t help but look at Obama’s no-boots assurance to the American people as a political move:

Is the no-troops-on-the-ground pledge an effort to satiate antiwar Democrats in the run-up to congressional elections in November, when control of the Senate is at stake? Or is less-cynical thinking afoot?

That’s the way insider types talk when they want to accuse Obama of something without actually accusing him of it. Since Fournier never actually answers the question he asks (and never names those “anti-war” Democrats who need satiated, likely because there just aren’t that many of them around), he gets to have it both ways. He does, though, offer us his Washingtonian explanation for all this hand-wringing over Obama’s alleged gift to ISIS:

Obama’s motive is important, because it goes to the durability of his promise. This should concern doves as much as hawks. If a factor as wispy as politics is driving the president’s thinking now, it stands to reason that Obama could, one day, consider the promise pliable. What happens if his fledgling coalition doesn’t stop ISIS? What if public opinion shifts a bit? This is how slippery slopes are built.

Notice that handy little “if” in that sentence. There is no evidence that Obama is trying “to satiate antiwar Democrats in the run-up to congressional elections in November,” as Fournier suggested he might be, but that “if” gives him license to suggest something dark and sinister is going on or, worse, might go on in the future that Fournier can claim he saw coming. If all that happens, if Obama changes his mind due to changes in the fight against ISIS and actually uses combat forces in a big way, Fournier is practically guaranteed a spot on all the cable shows as the sage of Washington journalists.

The truth, however, is likely as simple as this: President Obama said what he said about not putting American boots on the ground because he doesn’t think it is necessary or wise to put American boots on the ground, especially when there are other boots available, boots worn by people who have much to lose if they don’t aggressively take up the fight against the barbarians who have invaded their homelands.

But simply saying that won’t get a Washington insider a gig on cable TV.

C. S. Lewis, The Selfless Brain, And The Rational Approach To Spirituality

When I was an evangelical Christian, my thinking on spiritual matters was very much influenced by C. S. Lewis, who was the most famous Christian apologist of the 20th century. In fact, people, and not just evangelical protestant people, still buy and read both his fiction and non-fiction books in this century, a tribute to not only his writing ability, but his endurance as a respected Christian thinker.

His most popular apologetical work is the classic Mere Christianity, many parts of which I have read dozens and dozens of times. The book, essentially a compilation of BBC radio talks he gave during World War II, presents arguments for Christianity that the average person can understand. The reason I mention C. S. Lewis and that book is because of a fascinating interview with Sam Harris that appeared yesterday on The New York Times’ “Opinionator” page. That interview, which I will get to in a minute, made me think of the following passage from Mere Christianity, which I edited for brevity:

At the beginning I said there were Personalities in God. I will go further now. There are no real personalities anywhere else. Until you have given up your self to Him you will not have a real self….

But there must be a real giving up of the self. You must throw it away “blindly” so to speak. Christ will indeed give you a real personality: but you must not go to Him for the sake of that. As long as your own personality is what you are bothering about you are not going to Him at all. The very first step is to try to forget about the self altogether….

The principle runs through all life from top to bottom. Give up yourself, and you will find your real self.

That’s a fairly orthodox way of stating what “following Christ” means, or should mean, to serious Christians. So, with that in mind, let’s move on to that Times interview of Sam Harris.

Harris, a neuroscientist and philosopher and one of the most interesting thinkers in the country today, is mostly famous for critiquing, often mercilessly, the central claims of fWaking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religionundamentalist religion, especially its Christian and Islamic forms. Like Mere Christianity, I have also read parts of Harris’ first book, The End of Faith, many times. He followed that up with Letter to a Christian Nation, and has expressed his science-based criticism of fundamentalism and theistic religion in several debates, discussions, and interviews that can be found on YouTube and elsewhere. (He also has written two excellent books on free will and the intersection of science and morality, which I urge those interested in those subjects to read.)

Harris has a new book out (which I have not yet read), this one on a subject that might surprise many people, but shouldn’t if you carefully read his other works. In Waking Up: A Guide To Spirituality Without Religion, he tries to demonstrate, “that a certain form of spirituality is integral to understanding the nature of our minds.” The shape of that understanding, and its relationship to that Lewis quote above, can be glimpsed in the interview that Gary Gutting, a professor of philosophy at Notre Dame, did with Harris for the Times. Here is part of it:

G.G.: You deny the existence of the self, understood as “an inner subject thinking our thoughts and experiencing our experiences.” You say, further, that the experience of meditation (as practiced, for example, in Buddhism) shows that there is no self.  But you also admit that we all “feel like an internal self at almost every waking moment.” Why should a relatively rare — and deliberately cultivated — experience of no-self trump this almost constant feeling of a self?

S.H.: Because what does not survive scrutiny cannot be real. Perhaps you can see the same effect in this perceptual illusion:


It certainly looks like there is a white square in the center of this figure, but when we study the image, it becomes clear that there are only four partial circles. The square has been imposed by our visual system, whose edge detectors have been fooled. Can we know that the black shapes are more real than the white one? Yes, because the square doesn’t survive our efforts to locate it — its edges literally disappear. A little investigation and we see that its form has been merely implied.

What could we say to a skeptic who insisted that the white square is just as real as the three-quarter circles and that its disappearance is nothing more than, as you say, “a relatively rare — and deliberately cultivated — experience”? All we could do is urge him to look more closely.

The same is true about the conventional sense of self — the feeling of being a subject inside your head, a locus of consciousness behind your eyes, a thinker in addition to the flow of thoughts. This form of subjectivity does not survive scrutiny. If you really look for what you are calling “I,” this feeling will disappear. In fact, it is easier to experience consciousness without the feeling of self than it is to banish the white square in the above image.

Later in the interview, Harris expresses in another way his argument against the notion that there is a self or an “I”or a “sense of being a subject” inside our bodies:

The moment that you truly break the spell of thought, you can notice what consciousness is like between thoughts — that is, prior to the arising of the next one. And consciousness does not feel like a self. It does not feel like “I.” In fact, the feeling of being a self is just another appearance in consciousness (how else could you feel it?).

Breaking that “spell of thought,” cutting through the illusion that there is a little “me” or “soul” inside our heads or elsewhere, is really what meditation—the kind without “invisible entities, spiritual energies, other planes of existence and so forth”—is all about, Harris insists:

Consciousness exists (whatever its relationship to the physical world happens to be), and it is the experiential basis of both the examined and the unexamined life. If you turn consciousness upon itself in this moment, you will discover that your mind tends to wander into thought. If you look closely at thoughts themselves, you will notice that they continually arise and pass away. If you look for the thinker of these thoughts, you will not find one. And the sense that you have — “What the hell is Harris talking about? I’m the thinker!”— is just another thought, arising in consciousness.

If you repeatedly turn consciousness upon itself in this way, you will discover that the feeling of being a self disappears. There is nothing Buddhist about such inquiry, and nothing need be believed on insufficient evidence to pursue it. One need only accept the following premise: If you want to know what your mind is really like, it makes sense to pay close attention to it.

Recall that C. S. Lewis’ said the first step in truly becoming like Christ “is to try to forget about the self altogether.” But then he says, “Give up yourself, and you will find your real self.” Undoubtedly, Harris would say that such a notion of expunging one’s self in favor of another self in Christ is as misguided as simply sticking with the illusion of the first self. And, also undoubtedly, not many people predisposed to believe in the idea of a soul or self at the center of their consciousness will be convinced by Harris’ arguments.

But before one rejects Harris on this subject, one should remember that he is a neuroscientist. He knows a thing or two about the brain and what science has discovered about how it works, after more than a century of examining it. And I will quote something he said in that Times interview that everyone should consider, especially those folks among us who are inclined to make “faith-based assumptions about what exists outside of our own experience”:

...claims of this kind are generally suspect because they are based on experiences that are open to rival interpretations. We know, for instance, that people can be led to feel an unseen presence simply by having specific regions of their brains stimulated in the lab. And those who suffer from epilepsy, especially in the temporal lobe, have all kinds of visionary experiences.

Think about that. A doctor poking around in your brain can make you feel like We Are Not Alone. Mind-blowing stuff.

As for more on our experiences of the metaphysical and how they appear to be generated, researchers at the University of Missouri “have found a neuropsychological basis for spirituality, but it’s not isolated to one specific area of the brain,” according to a professor of health psychology, Dr. Brick Johnstone. He added,

Spirituality is a much more dynamic concept that uses many parts of the brain. Certain parts of the brain play more predominant roles, but they all work together to facilitate individuals’ spiritual experiences.

As far as that disputed “self” we have been discussing, Dr. Johnstone said,

Neuropsychology researchers consistently have shown that impairment on the right side of the brain decreases one’s focus on the self. Since our research shows that people with this impairment are more spiritual, this suggests spiritual experiences are associated with a decreased focus on the self.

Leaving aside the temptation to snarkily associate “impairment” with enhanced spiritual experiences, I will close by noting that other studies, involving non-impaired people, those who devotedly practice meditation and prayer, have shown that they can purposely reduce the influence of the right side of their brains and thus enhance their spiritual experiences. That seems to me what Harris is essentially arguing.

From all of this the question arises: Is that a good thing? Is earnestly pursuing experiences of self-transcendence or spirituality something all of us should do? Beats me. I’ll have to spend more time thinking about it. But I will let Harris have the last word for now:

A rational approach to spirituality seems to be what is missing from secularism and from the lives of most of the people I meet.

 

Fanaticism In Missouri

Let’s start today’s adventure into the strange world of fanatical belief with Pat Robertson of 700 Club fame. As Daily Kos reported, Robertson, who is 84 years old, took a question on his program from a woman who, along with her husband, is also in her eighties. She said the couple had an old car that had just broken down and they had to borrow the money to fix it. Plus, they “both need dental work, but can’t afford it.” Add to that the claim that they have to use their “credit card to pay for medical needs.” They wonder what they could be doing wrong, since they have demonstrated their faith by declaring “that this is our time of prosperity”—a confessional requirement in the so-called “prosperity gospel” business movement. She said they also “have no unforgiveness” in their lives, which answers an excuse prosperity gospel preachers offer to their followers who don’t experience any promised prosperity.

Oh, and most important, she says she and her husband “give willingly and our tithe is over 10 percent.”

Got it? These older folks love Jesus, give a helluva lot of their income to God, and have a junky car and no money of their own to pay for their health needs. So, naturally, Robertson, who specializes in giving wise Godly counsel, gave these desperate folks some wise Godly counsel:

Ask God to show you some ways of making money. There are many ways of making money, even at 80 years old. You know, you can get on the telephone, people are hiring.

Words fail me.

Our next adventure in fanaticism, though, deserves many words. It is happening here in Missouri.

Mother Jones published an article today (“Missouri Republicans Are About to Pass One of the Harshest Abortion Laws in the Country“) that reports on the fact that next week Missouri legislators, most of them fanatical Republicans, will meet in a special session to attempt, among other outrageous things, to override Governor Jay Nixon’s veto of their fanatical legislation that would essentially rob Missouri women of their right to exercise what reproductive rights they have left in this state. As MJ notes, that legislation “would force women seeking an abortion—including victims of rape and incest—to wait 72 hours between their first visit to a clinic and the procedure itself.”

Yes, even victims of rape or incest would have to wait three days—currently they are forced to wait 24 hours—to avail themselves of their fading constitutional right to not be further violated by having to bear the offspring of rapists or relatives. But that is only the latest restriction on reproductive rights here in this state:

Missouri lawmakers proposed more than two dozen abortion restrictions this year, all of them targeted at the St. Louis clinic. Missouri already has more abortion-related restrictions on the book than almost any other state in the country. Abortion providers must offer women the opportunity to view an ultrasound of the fetus, and abortion clinics in Missouri must meet the requirements of an ambulatory surgical center; these requirements are expensive to meet and they are not medically necessary for most abortions. These laws have resulted in the closure of all but one of the state’s clinics.

The sponsor of the bill in the House, a man—I repeat: a man—from nearby Nixa, Missouri, said,

Taking it from one day to three days? I don’t think it’s creating an extra obstacle for the mothers.

I wonder if this man, whose name is Kevin Elmer and who was elected in 2010, the year that just keeps giving and giving, would want to wait for three days if he had been raped and impregnated? Oh, sorry. Not applicable. And that is the point. But it doesn’t stop Mr. Elmer, and apparently nearly every Republican man (and woman) in the legislature, from taking it upon themselves to force their fanaticism on Missouri women.

Elmer says:

I believe that life begins at conception. And I’m not to discriminate against any life because of how it was conceived. I don’t disregard the significance of the tragic events that those women suffer from. But we’re still weighing that against the right of the unborn child to live…We’re asking all mothers just to give it another 48 hours to think about what is it they’re doing when they kill their unborn child.

First of all, Republicans aren’t “asking” the “mothers” to do anything. They are forcing them. Forcing them to “think.” Forcing them to think about killing “their unborn child.” Now, it seems to me that if you really believe in your bones that zygotes or embryos or fetuses are unborn children, then allowing women—”mothers” in Elmer’s certainty-plagued eyes—one day or three days or thirty days is too many days. They simply shouldn’t be allowed to kill their kids at any time, for any reason. It is absurd to say that mothers have permission to kill their children—if they take sufficient time to think about it. But that is what these confused zealots are actually saying.

Let’s be clear. What Republicans are doing, all over the country, is using the power of government, through various restrictions on female reproductive rights, to essentially force women, even women who have been impregnated by rapists, to become mothers.

Oddly, when Mr. Elmer was running for office, he said the following:

I believe in smaller government that is limited in its taxes, regulation of businesses and controls of local communities…People know what is best for their families and businesses not the collective thought of a government. 

Okay. Now, again, words fail me.

 

 

Remarks And Asides

A guy named José Zamora was having trouble landing a job. For months he sent out hundreds of résumés via email and received no responses. Then he decided, with a stroke of practical brilliance, to alter his resume to fit cultural norms in 21st-century America. He became Joe Zamora. Needless to say, Joe got a lot of responses.

No racism in this country, my friends. Just a fondness for Joés, uh, I mean Joes.

_____________________________

To further prove there is no racism in this country, someone calling herself Xena of Amphipolis, commented on the YouTube video where José told his little American story:

I don’t care what this asshole’s name is.  I would never hire a gangbanger – especially one who talks like that.

The best reply, though, was a truth-teller named Cyan Rivera:

If you’re tired of hearing about the race issue in America, imagine how ex[h]austing it is living it.

______________________________

Speaking of exhaustion, how tired are we of reading stories like this:

Russian Bank Hires Former Senators Trent Lott, John Breaux To Lobby Against U.S. Sanctions

Those Russians are pretty smart folks. They know that hiring current vacation-happy legislators would be a waste of time. So, bypass the do-nothings and go right to where all the action is in Washington. Lobbyists apparently never take time off.

______________________________

Speaking of Washington, we, the American public, have spent nearly 30 years living with Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court (thanks, Reagan fans!). But as bad as that has been, and it has been really bad, it is not as bad as what happened to Henry Lee McCollum, an African-American with an IQ no higher than 70,  who spent almost 30 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit:

A North Carolina death row inmate exonerated by DNA evidence on Tuesday was once held up by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia as an example of someone who deserved to die.

Not only was McCollum the victim of a horrifically zealous prosecutor and a flawed justice system, he became intellectual fodder for a flawed Justice of the Supreme Court.

_______________________________

Speaking of zealots:

Black LGBT Activist Arrested For Distributing Voting Rights Information

The activist should stop whining, of course. He’s lucky to be alive to tell about his encounter with white policemen, especially in Charlotte, North Carolina.

_______________________________

Henry Kissinger, who, yes, is still alive, wrote a piece in The Wall Street Journal that included this:

A world order of states affirming individual dignity and participatory governance, and cooperating internationally in accordance with agreed-upon rules, can be our hope and should be our inspiration.

Uh-oh. Yep, you guessed it:

kissinger

 Yes, because there is something terribly wrong with the world’s nations affirming human dignity and democracy and cooperating with each other. Can’t have that. One Breitbart commenter wrote:

Kissinger is Bilderberg EVIL!!

I’m not sure if Bilderberg EVIL! is worse than Obama EVIL! but I am sure it is pretty bad stuff.

_________________________________

From London’s The Telegraph comes this surprising headline about 26- to 35-year-old Brits:

Half of young women can’t ‘locate their vaginas’

Now, I don’t consider such news from Britain all that disturbing. After all, here in America half of our legislators don’t know their asses from holes in the ground.

I’ll leave it to you to figure out which half.

__________________________________

Finally, on a happy note, I will leave you with this from Rolling Stone:

The Arab World’s Version of the Ice Bucket Challenge: Burning ISIS Flags

No “Dispassionate Analysis” Here

dispassionate: not influenced by strong feeling

The Huffington Post published today a short piece by Jack Mirkinson (its Senior Media Editor) titled,

Geraldo Rivera Thinks The US Should ‘Behead’ ISIS Beheaders

The author was, apparently, taken aback by Geraldo Rivera’s reaction to the beheading of journalist Steven Sotloff:

geraldo rivera tweetsI guess I should say that I stand second to nobody in my distaste for Mr. Rivera, a regular on Fox “News.” And I suppose I should say that it is obviously not acceptable that any U.S. policy involve beheading even “the ISIS butchers.” Of course that is ridiculous. But the HuffPo piece ended with this advice:

Anyone looking for dispassionate analysis would be wise to look elsewhere.

I thought about that for a minute. Two American journalists have had their heads crudely and savagely sawed off by a psychopathic Islamist terrorist, who then posted the acts on the Internet with mocking commentary and threats of killing more Americans, and the suggestion is that there is something wrong with an analysis that includes a little passion, a little emotion? Huh?

And just what would “dispassionate analysis” look like in this context? How is it possible to analyze this situation without accounting for the brutality of the acts? Without having strong feelings about them?

A leftish commenter wrote in, remarking on my last piece on the murder of Steven Sotloff, to say:

Here in America, our barbarians use drones and planes.

Talk about a dispassionate analysis. Is that what some on the left think of their own country? That our leaders are on the same moral plane with people who do such things as were done to James Foley and Steven Sotloff and thousands of others in both Syria and Iraq? Surely it matters what motivation was-is behind the use of those American drones and planes, doesn’t it? And surely it matters that those ISIL killers couldn’t care less about the civilian population of any country, much less make huge efforts to avoid civilian casualties, as the U.S. does in its fight against terrorist groups like ISIL?  And surely it matters that there is a glaring qualitative difference between psychopaths and those trying to bring the psychopaths to justice, right? Should I even have to write that sentence?

Obviously we want those who are planning the attacks on ISIL in Syria (we are already attacking ISIL in Iraq) to analyze the situation carefully, thoughtfully, deliberately. Nobody is saying that the U.S. military should just start carpet bombing the entire region out of some kind of collective anger or national pride or simply frustration. But I, for one, hope like hell the civilian and military planners are also doing their planning with strong feelings that what they are doing is the right thing, is part of what it means to bring justice to psychopathic killers. Passion and planning don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

Finally, I hope President Obama has strong feelings about what he is certainly thinking about doing, and, more than that, I hope he expresses those subjective feelings to the American people, as well as the objective purpose of any actions. It is proper, even necessary in times like these, to do both.  This isn’t a time for the President to play it cool in public or worry about whether it looks like the terrorists got under his skin. Goddammit, if this doesn’t get under his skin then it is hard to see what would. All of us, especially our leaders, ought to be passionate, damn passionate, about justice, especially when we have it in our power—deliberatively applied power—to provide it in this case.

“To Follow The Example Set By The Prophet Muhammad”

Despite public pleas from his desperate mother, journalist Steven Sotloff was apparently murdered by fundamentalist thugs somewhere in Syria. And as 21st-century Islamist terrorist freaks are prone to do, they published a video of his grisly execution.

Steven’s mother Shirley Sotloff had just recently asked the ISIL bastards to release her son, even calling Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi—who laughingly thinks he is head of an “Islamic State”—by his self-bestowed title, “caliph,” which is the name given to the head of state in a Caliphate. I don’t blame her for trying. I don’t blame her for saying anything to get her son back. I would have called that murderous Baghdadi bastard the Islamic Mother Theresa if that would have secured my son’s freedom. Like Mrs. Sotloff, I would have tried to appeal to Baghdadi’s Islamic faith and ask him “to follow the example set by the Prophet Muhammad, who protected People of the Book” and “to be merciful and not punish my son for matters he has no control over.” Yes, I would have said all that, and more, including what the now-grieving mother offered up to Baghdadi last week:

Steven has no control over the actions of the U.S. government. He is an innocent journalist.

Of course none of those words mattered to Baghdadi or the piece-of-shit thug with a British accent who did the dirty work, perhaps murdering Sotloff before his mother made her appeal, an appeal that included an insistence that her son “traveled to the Middle East to cover the suffering of Muslims at the hands of tyrants.” None of that mattered because there is no such a thing as an “innocent” person outside the theological tribe these people belong to. If you are not one of them, if you don’t follow their version of Islam, then you are ipso facto guilty and subject to execution in the name of a strangely unmerciful Allah.

I am confident that President Obama, even has he continues an air assault on ISIL in Iraq, will soon expand the effort into Syria, where, hopefully, one day that blood-loving zealot who murdered Steven Sotloff, along with the delusional leader of ISIL and the rest of his Allah-invoking fighters, will look up and, just for a sweet, sweet moment, see a missile coming their way with a big American flag painted on it.

Steven Sotloff is a freelance journalist being held captive by ISIS militants.

Tased And Confused

Yet another video has surfaced that shows that being a black man in America comes with special responsibilities, like, say, staying out of public spaces so as not to arouse the suspicions of white policemen. Depending on the day and the city, arousing the suspicions of white policemen may get you tased and arrested or, well, killed.

Fortunately for the guy in the video below, Christopher Lollie, he was only tased and arrested. I guess it was his lucky day.

I suspect that most of the readers of this blog will find the video quite disturbing, as it not only demonstrates how stupidly reactionary some cops can be, but how racial profiling works in the real world and why it is un-American. But I also want you to think about something else. Tea Party enthusiasts and sympathizers say they hate big government. Some of them even went so far as to defend militia types earlier this year when they took up arms against federal agents in Nevada, after Cliven Bundy decided he was entitled to graze his cattle for free on federal land and then would not recognize federal authority to stop him. Many people made the point at the time that had the New Black Panthers taken up arms to defend a black freeloader, the Bill O’Reilly’s of the world would have declared the end of civilization. But the Bundy case was a white man standing up against, let’s face it, a not-very-white Barack Obama. Thus, in that case big government police were the bad guys and gun-toting government-haters were the good guys.

To be at least somewhat consistent, if Tea Party conservatives—and they do most of the talking for Republicans these days—were genuinely disturbed by big government and its overreach, they should be outraged at what happened to Christopher Lollie at the hands of St. Paul, Minnesota, cops, who are, after all, government employees. But I doubt you will find too many of them who are willing to express outrage. My guess is that most of them will say that Lollie should have just done what he was told by the police and nothing would have happened to him. Because, ya know, black people have no rights that white policemen are bound to respect, and Lollie should have known and understood that reality and been willing to live with it. For his own good.

The truth is that when it comes to most conservatives, they don’t like big government when it is dispensing food stamps to black people. Oh, they hate that kind of government. But they like big government when it is dispensing Taser-powered electricity to black people just before hauling them off to jail. Or, as in Ferguson and elsewhere, shooting them dead in the streets.

Watch:

Beware Of Dogmatists

dog·ma·tism: the tendency to lay down principles as incontrovertibly true, without consideration of evidence or the opinions of others.

When writing critically about religion, it is sometimes hard to adequately convey both the idea that fundamentalism is undesirable and dangerous and that other, less dogmatic, forms of spirituality can be, and often are, forces for good. People often conclude from some of my criticisms of religious faith: “You hate religion, period.” Well, I don’t. There are many religion-motivated people who do a lot of good in our communities. Each and every day. Thus, allow me to explain, in more detail, where I’m coming from. Then, I promise, I will resume my blogging on politics.

What I don’t like, and what I believe all thinking people should aggressively attack, is any form of religion that does not admit to what a couple of commenters on my latest piece (“‘Without God, I Am No One’—Bullshit That Needs Our Attention“) called “humility,” the idea that one’s vision of God is not necessarily the correct one and that “the next person may understand God even better than I do.”  I have no quarrel with anyone who holds religious views in that context.

My quarrel is with the dogmatists. I believe, and I think the evidence from history supports it, that religious dogmatism is mostly a destructive force, even if it isn’t (these days) always manifested in violence against others. I ambrose biercehappen to think that dedicating precious time and minds and other resources to discussing or settling dogmatism-inspired controversies is a colossal waste, a form of destruction. (And I am one who has spent a lot of time exploring the meandering contours of Christian theology.) So, I want to be clear that the form of religion I dislike is not the kind that admits to uncertainty or doubt. With increasing passion, I am attacking the kind of religious dogma expressed by people like Douglas McCain, whose fanaticism and dogmatism may have finally led him to Syria to kill and be killed in the name of his religion, but who first began by embracing incontrovertible beliefs and essentially enslaving himself to his unquestionable notion of God.

Evidence should always be our guide, wherever it leads. As a former evangelical Christian, I am now open to evidence that God exists or that he doesn’t exist. I have to admit that most of the evidence is for the latter, but I’m not dogmatic about it. I have before described myself as a theist, even though my faith is really a hope that there exists a being who will enforce common notions of justice at some point in the life of this universe or beyond. Really, I suppose, I am an agnostic. I don’t know if it is even possible to discover the existence or non-existence of God. But I do know that I don’t have much faith that a collection of old writings, written by ignorant and bigoted men, has anything at all to do with finding God. In fact, in so many ways, they lead the other way.

One commenter wrote,

It is entirely possible to be a serious, devout Christian and still maintain an awareness that, however binding you may personally find the Bible, the next person is entitled [to] view things differently.

Of course that is true. Most serious, devout American Christians do believe people are entitled to view things differently. After all, we live in a country with a secular Constitution that values no religion over another, and most of us have been taught to respect the religious views of others.

But my argument is not about whether this or that religious dogmatist thinks others are or are not entitled to hold one view or another. I am not saying that zealous believers necessarily want the government to step in and demand that people become fellow fundamentalists and fanatics. My argument is with the zealotry, the fundamentalism, the fanaticism itself. It is about whether we should continue to leave unchallenged the views of people who say things like, “Without God, I am no one,” or, “The Bible is all I need in this life,” people who enslave themselves to their necessarily imperfect idea of God. And I especially think we should challenge the views of people who teach their children such dangerous and injurious ideas. Deliberately closing the minds of children, essentially drowning their imaginations in dogmatism, shouldn’t be something our 21st-century culture accepts in silence. We should object to it, and loudly.

In addition to all that, I think we should challenge religious dogma because—and this may be painful for some to hear—there is an element of narcissism involved in its expression. If you think about it, it is an amazing expression of egotism, even if it is in our culture a regrettably acceptable expression of egotism, to say after some personal escape from calamity, “God blessed me today.” Let me give you an example.

The Christian medical missionary, Dr. Kent Brantly, was recently released from the hospital, to much fanfare, after he was apparently cured of Ebola. No one can say for sure that it was the experimental drug he was given or whether it was his own immune system or some other treatment or mechanism that made him well. It even may have been the prayers that people offered up to God that did the trick. That is certainly what Dr. Brantly claimed:

…there were thousands, maybe even millions of people around the world praying for me throughout that week, and even still today…what I can tell you is that I serve a faithful God who answers prayers…Through the care of the Samaritan’s Purse and SIM missionary team in Liberia, the use of an experimental drug, and the expertise and resources of the health care team at Emory University Hospital, God saved my life—a direct answer to thousands and thousands of prayers.

“God saved my life.” How often have we heard people say that? After the 2011 tornado here in Joplin, I heard that a lot. And I always wondered what those other people, those who didn’t survive the tornado, did to not deserve God saving their lives. And I wondered, when I heard Dr. Brantly talk, why those other people, now in the thousands, who have died or will die at the viral hands of Ebola, did to not deserve God’s blessings? Is Dr. Brantly’s life worth more to God than those others? Are those who survived the Joplin tornado worth more to God than those who didn’t?

People who claim that “God saved my life” should be challenged to explain why others were undeserving of such salvation. They should be challenged to explain why they were so special to the Creator Of The Universe. We would certainly challenge them if they said, “God exempted me from income taxes,” or “God has a plan for my life that includes being President of the United States.”

I submit to you that in any other context what Dr. Brantly said, and what some of those who survived the Joplin tornado said, would be taken as expressions of an unhealthy narcissism. But we don’t bat an eye when people talk that way about God saving them after an illness, a car wreck, or a horrific storm. And my argument is that we should bat an eye. In fact, both eyes, and say, “How do you know?” Or, more to the point, “How can you know?”

I will end this with a YouTube video that was put together by someone named Devon Tracey, an atheist (unfortunately, a much too dogmatic atheist) who took a presentation by Sam Harris and cleverly matched it with images and other video to make Harris’ speech on God and morality much more entertaining. Although there are some points I would quibble with, I urge you to watch with batting eyes:

“Without God, I Am No One”—Bullshit That Needs Our Attention

Fundamentalism kills. In more ways than one.

NBC News has reported that an American—a 33-year-old who was born in Illinois, raised in Minnesota, and studied in California—has now died in Syria, as a fighter for the barbaric jihadist group, ISIL. He was killed by another group of anti-Assad fighters, the Free Syrian Army.

Douglas McAuthur McCain, according to those who knew him, was a “a good guy who loved his family and friends,” a smiling joker who loved music, liked to dance and play basketball. “He was a goofball in high school,” one of his classmates told NBC.

Sometime in 2004, though, Douglas McCain apparently started taking religion seriously, as many Americans do. He posted on Twitter in May: “I reverted to Islam 10 years ago and I must say In sha Allah I will never look back the best thing that ever happen to me.”In sha’Allah” essentially means “God willing.” Lots and lots of people, especially Christian people, say “God willing” and say that their faith is “the best thing that ever happened” to them. It’s pretty common and not all that radical, unfortunately.

McCain also posted a picture of himself holding a Quran, with the caption,

The quran is all I need in this life of sin.

If you replace “quran” with “Bible,” then you have a typical statement from many American Christians, a statement I have heard countless times in one form or another. Again, although it is unfortunate, there is nothing all that radical about someone claiming that an old, old book is all they need in this life, of sin or otherwise.

Another social media posting from McCain expressed what he believed was the source of his existence:

Allah keeps me going day and night. Without Allah, I am no one.

Let’s remember that “Allah” is simply the Arabic word for “God.” In other words, what McCain posted was this:

God keeps me going day and night. Without God, I am no one.

Again, I have heard that same idea expressed numerous times by Christians I have known. Right now you can check out your own Facebook page, if you have one, and probably see a version of it someone has posted. It is all too common to hear people, people who live in your neighborhood and share space in your community, say such things. As I said, it is unfortunate that such sentiments are so prevalent among us.

It isn’t exactly clear how Douglas McCain went from expressing such things, such things that a lot of people express on any given day in America, to actually joining a group of bloodthirsty jihadist killers in Syria. It’s not clear Image: A Facebook profile photo of man identified by NBC News as Douglas McAuthur McCainhow he became “Duale ThaslaveofAllah,” which reportedly was his Facebook name. We will probably never know the mechanics of how that transformation happened, even though it would help us all to know.

Fortunately, the overwhelming majority of people who say the things that Douglas McCain said don’t end up either killing for, or dying for, their deity. Those who think their religion is the best thing that ever happened to them, or who believe an ancient book is all they need to guide them, or who believe that they are nothing without God—a being they have never seen and can’t possibly “know”—most of the time live their lives relatively peacefully, many of them even doing a lot of good in the world.

But I have come to believe that we, those of us who have not utterly surrendered our minds to an unseen—and presumably unseeable—deity, those of us who maintain that any religious views should be accompanied by some degree of doubt and uncertainty, must call out those who say things like Douglas McCain said.

It is time that we make people—especially our young people—uncomfortable when they say things like, “Without God, I am no one.” It’s time we call bullshit on such sentiments. It is time we take on parents who teach their children that they are nothing without God. Or teach them that an ancient, pre-scientific book is an infallible source of information, especially about God, or history, or morals. It is time we stop being afraid of criticizing people’s religious beliefs, if those religious beliefs include offering up their minds, or the minds of their children, as slaves to some Bible- or Quran-revealed divine being.

Because even though we don’t know what exactly led to Douglas McAuthur McCain giving his body to a radicalized and militarized incarnation of Islam, we know that it began with him seriously surrendering his mind to Allah, to God, to a bloodthirsty being first brought to us by ancient and ignorant people who told us their God once murdered “every living thing on the face of the earth” (the Bible) and who told us that God will punish unbelievers “with terrible agony in this world and in the Hereafter” (Quran).

We should do our best to make sure that people understand what it means to completely turn their lives over to the very flawed star of a faith that first came into being in the Bronze Age. Perhaps, and only perhaps, we may be able to prevent more Douglas McCains from wanting to kill and die in the name of God.

A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall On “The Worst People On Earth”

“Oh, what did you see, my blue eyed son?
And what did you see, my darling young one?”

“I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it
I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin’
I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin'”

“I saw a white ladder all covered with water
I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain a-gonna fall”

—Bob Dylan

At times they cut the throats of children, or hang them or shoot them. At other times they, quite literally, saw off with dull knives the heads of men, women, and children, or hang them or shoot them. They rape. They rampage. They slaughter. And they openly teach their own children that such bloodthirsty acts are noble and godly, and a necessary and proper way to praise and honor Allah.

Example:

This photo, of a seven-year-old boy clad in a kids’ Polo golf shirt and struggling to hold up a severed head, was posted on Twitter by a proud dad. That proud dad’s name I won’t share with you. That’s exactly what this sick creep, a loser who left Australia with his family to become a jihadist in Syria, wants. This proud dad represents the kind of people I have described. In a very rare moment of agreement with a conservative columnist, I second Charles Krauthammer:

These are the worst people on earth.

These “people” are, of course, members of ISIL. And as Krauthammer said,

These are not the usual bad guys out for land, plunder, or power. These are primitive cultists who celebrate slaughter, glory in bloodlust, and slit the throats of innocents as a kind of sacrament.

And trust me, after doing some research on what ISIL has done in the past year or so, all of that is a serious understatement.

Speaking more clinically, General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently said of these jihadists,

This is an organization that has an apocalyptic, end-of- days strategic vision and which will eventually have to be defeated.

“Eventually” has already started. And those limited U.S. air strikes against ISIL have done a lot of good. More, many, many more, need to follow. And follow.

I heard someone say the other day that, when it comes to going after the ISIL bastards, he would countenance a hefty raise in his taxes. Me, too. I would gladly pay much more in taxes, if I knew the money was going toward missiles and bombs that would rain down hard, like a land-cleansing monsoon of justice, on the heads of these fundamentalist Islamists. On the heads of anti-humans who, in the name of Allah-God, commit intolerable, and I mean intolerable, acts of terror against not only Christians and people of other faiths, but of fellow Muslims.

President Obama, very soon, needs to address the country and make the case that the United States should, along with the Iraqi military who would provide the foot soldiers for such an effort, make a decisive war on the so-called “Islamic State.” We should also undertake air strikes in what used to be Syrian territory in order to hit ISIL there. No need to worry about borders at this point. They have essentially been erased. If other nations around the world want to join us, and they should, that would be better still. If they don’t, if they continue to tolerate these barbarians and continue to pay them ransoms for hostages or otherwise support them, then to hell with them. We can still act.

I would ask my fellow liberals again, many of whom are confidently balking at such a move by President Obama, just what the hell is our military for, if not to protect the interests of our own citizens right now—one of the best of them was just openly and barbarically beheaded by these bastards, after a failed mission to rescue him—and in the future, when a stronger ISIL may in fact, rather in the poisoned imaginations of these jihadists, actually have a real state? Not to mention help protect the interests of our friends, the Kurdish people? And help protect the rest of the Iraqis, to whom we owe at least something, after we destroyed their country and raised up and supported Nouri al-Maliki, who then helped make Iraq a place where ISIL could do its demonic work? And, finally, what is our military for if not to help ensure that the word civilization retains its meaning in this century?

Now is the time to rid the world of these, its worst people.

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