Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Last outpost of crazy: Bring out your guns

It's show time for gun owners who want to carry openly and everywhere. Texas seems to be ground zero for these guys, so it's not surprising that there are two stories out of Texas. First, the Chipotle fast food chain is requesting that people leave their long guns at home or in the car--hand guns only in the restaurant, please. One of their restaurants was overrun with rifle and AR-toting customers who wanted a bite to eat and complete acceptance of the open-carry lifestyle. Perhaps we should consider it. We found out that people being openly gay wasn't dangerous, and maybe it's the same with large, semi-automatic weapons.

Earlier this month, this open-carry group scared the bejeezus out of the employees at a Jack-in-the-Box, who thought they were in for a robbery/murder/rape scenario. Gosh, what would make them worry like that?


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Painful realization: Honesty is less important

My  review of the Benghazi incident spurred me to reevaluate the role of lies in a political campaign. I've rather unhappily discovered how much you may have to lie, not just to win, but to deny victory to a scarier opponent.

It's strange to be thinking this way because I really believe that most Americans see through the lies. So if the lies are transparent, why do you need to make them in the first place? On the other hand, I don't see more honest candidates doing very well. Ron Paul is probably the most honest candidate I've seen, and lots of Republicans can't stand him because of it. (Note that even Honest Ron doesn't mind using obscure election rules to grab higher numbers of delegates than his share of the vote.)

So if too much honesty is a liability, how much is 'just right?'

What the hell is going on here? That question about honesty is disgusting, and so antithetical to what ethical people.usually have to consider. Have I finally converted from believing in honesty to putting my lot in with realpolitik? God I hope not.

But maybe I have. I expect candidates to lie and pander most of the time. My pride is in being able to see the lies, read between the lies, and find out what they are hiding. I think I'm good at lie detection, and all those lies keep me busy and proud of my handiwork. I've thought politicians were hacks for not lying well and revealing what they actually thought.

Maybe I'm part of the problem. However, I can't pretend what isn't true, and the truth is that there are no honest politicians. I can't change that fact, so I have to deal with it. And if honesty isn't going to be the yardstick, what is?

Maybe these: Good judgment, the ability to get important things done, effectiveness, avoiding the big mistakes.

This is what I want most in elected officials. And looking at this list, I think it's the same list I've used for years. I've been making pragmatic choices, picking who's going to do the best out of the available options.

It's not that I've changed and gotten too jaded. It's just that I'm more aware of how politics works, and particularly the unavoidable underbelly of lies. Well, that's a relief. Or is it?

If lies aren't so bad, what place does honesty have in politics? Here are some of my initial ideas: Be honest with yourself. Don't settle for a convenient story just because it supports the party you prefer. Be honest in your discussions. When you're not a politician who has to get elected, you don't have the excuse to lie that they do, so stay away from the talking points and take a hard look at reality.

And everyone, especially politicians, should remember that lies get found out and the truth usually emerges eventually. If the truth is going to come out, why bother with the lie? Take your lumps early, admit the mistake, learn the lesson, and move on.

This would have saved a lot of the trouble with the lingering Benghazi issue. It's not too late to find a way to acknowledge that the Benghazi story wasn't the truth and to reveal all the truth that isn't a security problem. Are you listening, Hillary?

Yeah, sure, I believe that.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Massacre NOT averted

Last year I wrote a brief post about a massacre that was averted. This time we weren't as lucky. The parents tried to stop their crazy son, but his demeanor fooled the police. Now six people are dead, 13 are injured, and countless are traumatized.

We should do something about keeping guns out of the hands of people in questionable mental states. We should be able to heed the warnings of friends and family and prevent the potential murder sprees that people are aware of. Here, despite the awareness, despite the actions of the concerned parents, the murderer was able to carry out his plans.

Maybe Senators Toomey and Manchin will resurrect their intelligent bill on gun purchase restrictions. However, it was a failure last year, and the NRA and knee-jerk idiot gun-rights nuts all over the country probably aren't any more reasonable this year. So we should do something, but we won't... because we live in the Land of the Free to be Idiots-With-Guns. This is one of the taxes we Americans pay, but it's a tax in blood and lives.

One of the many fathers

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Benghazi redux, Part I

Just before vacation, I finally realized that there is something worth exploring in the Benghazi brouhaha. Now I'll start that exploration.


Salient Point A. I think we can all agree that the Benghazi consulate wasn't well enough protected. The deaths at the consulate clearly demonstrated that on Sept. 11, 2012, so I don't think there's any controversy over that opinions.

Salient Point B. I hope we can also agree that the Obama administration explanation for what happened at Benghazi changed between its first explanation and ones in the following weeks.

I can't really say that much about Point A. I don't know how we provide security in rougher parts of the world, or how we could or should do better.

Plausible Reasons

Point B, on the other hand, intrigues me. The Obama administration had to change what it was saying about the attacks. There could be many reasons for this. Here are a few obvious ones:
  1. The attacks were so sudden and violent that communication was disrupted. The people in charge of talking about it lacked accurate information about what happened. They made mistakes that they then had to correct. (Notice how much benefit-of-the-doubt is given in this explanation.)
  2. The administration felt that attack would reflect very badly on them so close to the election, so they tried unsuccessfully to offer an explanation that made them look less to blame.
  3. The administration wanted to cover up the situation in Benghazi, but they were caught in their lies. After being caught, they've tried to minimize the cover-up and have deflected questions about the reasons for the attempted cover-up.
More Plausible, Less Plausible

Although Option 1 could be true or partially true, I'm not believing it at this point. It's true that the situation was volatile and communication wasn't normal. However, it seems strange that some in the administration (Hillary Clinton, then Secretary of State and direct boss of the ambassador who was killed) didn't participate in delivering this mistaken message. It seems possible that she knew parts of this story weren't true, and she didn't want those lies on her resume. I'm choosing this as the likeliest explanation for why Clinton wasn't delivering the administration talking points, but that job fell to Susan Rice.

Option 2, that the administration concocted a story that made them look less bad is very likely. However, it ignores whether the people formulating the concoction knew what they were trying to hide. I think they did. It wasn't campaign operatives involved in sorting out the talking points, it was the State Department, the White House, and the CIA.

So I think Option 3 is closest to the truth. The WH, State Dept, and CIA wanted to cover something up, so they figured out a cover story, but that story failed within several days.

There are other aspects that support Option 3. The administration has muzzled the survivors almost completely. That takes a lot of power or persuasion, so it's probably not within the capabilities of campaign people. I have to wonder what the survivors could tell us, and why the administration is working so hard to stop them from talking. The muzzle on the survivors is Salient Point C. I don't know what it means, but it sure seems significant.

It will take me plenty more research and several more posts to unpack my thoughts about Benghazi. I'm going to have to read some of those official reports, and that's not going to be fun. Wish me luck...


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Away on vacation

I have very happy news. My youngest child (code named Sparky)  is graduating from college. So I'm taking some time off for the event (in Los Angeles) and to roam the wine country near there. When I come back, there will be some bombshells.


P.S. I hope I forget about politics, enjoy the surroundings, and count my blessings for the entire trip.

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Empire RINOs Strike Back!

The Tea Party supporters threatened to primary establishment Republicans. Then their supporters warned the establishment not to fight back. I had read so many comments telling the Chamber of Commerce to stay out of the primaries, telling other groups not to endorse, etc.

Well, what do you know? The establishment has decided not to sit down and let only the Tea Party campaign. Instead, they are doing what professional politicians do--making deals, lining up supporters, buying airtime for spots attacking opponents, and generally trying to win their primaries. Oh, the infamy!

This long article talks mostly about the primary race in North Carolina, but uses that race as a template for what is being repeated in lots of GOP primaries. The strategy doesn't sound complex--just use the usual tactics. It isn't clear why the establishment candidates weren't doing this in prior primaries, but it's evident they aren't holding back this year. Well, OF COURSE. You shouldn't come to a fight unarmed. And your opponent shouldn't expect you to. That's how it's done in the real world.


Extra. Palin isn't endorsing yet in North Carolina or Kentucky despite pleas for her to. Why not?  Because she stands on principle. (The principle that she wants to smell like a kingmaker, not a loser.)

Update 5/6/14. This is a great rundown of other races with a listing of what groups are supporting which candidates.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Fact checking comparison

I read the following in a comment about requiring ID to vote:
"In fact the Republican chairs in both Pennsylvania and Florida ADMITTED that this was why they were doing it."
That shouldn't be hard to check. Fire up Google, search for "party chair admits reason for voter ID" and I get this:

Are there any conservative sites that covered this issue? Not in the first 100 hits. Let's try the conservative alternative to Google called yippy:

Zip on getting this information from the conservative search engine. One more try, this time I'll take the search directly to a conservative site, The Daily Caller:

What's funny is that there's video for both Pennsylvania and Florida party officials talking about this. My God, video.

God I love technology. Remember, whatever you try to hide, it isn't going to stay hidden.


Short: Suspicious white person

A white high school student planned to outdo the Columbine and Sandy Hook shooters. But he was thwarted because someone became suspicious about why he went into a storage unit and closed the door.
There's a person who shouldn't be getting out of custody for a while.

I'm not sure I would have noticed closing the unit door as strange, but maybe it is. It's very dark without the door open, so why would you have it closed? Wow. Good catch. Someone saved a lot of lives. God bless that person.

Short: Voting fraud results: 491 vs. 10

One of the tropes of loony right-wingers is that there's "massive voter fraud." Supposedly Obama won in 2012 by such fraud. Anyone who has done the slightest bit of independent research finds that the biggest area of voter fraud is with absentee ballots, not voter impersonation. This article puts a number on that: 491 cases of absentee ballot fraud versus 10 cases of voter impersonation.

I don't know where the idea came from that demanding certain ID gave Republicans an edge in close elections. There is certainly an elections/campaign industry that researches this sort of information-- for the benefit of paying clients, mind you. There are also partisan think tanks that come up with rationales that cover up the partisan reason for changing voting rules. So, the GOP finds that they win elections by requiring specific IDs, and they enact these requirements on the false pretense of MASSIVE VOTER FRAUD.

It's nice to have a good post to refute this claim.


Extra. A much better conservative rundown of the evidence. Outright lies are debunked, stronger evidence presented, and innuendo fills out the roster.