Sunday, April 24, 2016

Texas Crazy, Redux

 Opinion |

It’s hard to believe, but Donald Trump may not be the biggest embarrassment the Republican Party has to deal with this election year. Not as long as there’s a place called Texas.

It seems that 22 local GOP conventions in Texas have passed resolutions calling for a vote at the party’s state convention on whether that state should secede from the Union. According to a story in The Houston Chronicle, this number is up from 2012, when only one local convention endorsed the idea.
Now, normally, if someone started babbling about what a good idea it would be to repeat the mistake of 1861, people would quietly start edging away. But this is Texas, and this is the Republican Party circa 2016.
This is the state where the people of the right wing claim to revere the U.S. military but freak out and claim it’s an “invasion” when that military begins conducting routine maneuvers in the state — and their governor buys into the paranoia to the point where he sends the state militia down, just to keep an eye on things.
And lest we forget, this is the party that’s about to nominate a delusional, blustering reality show host to lead the Free World.
This is also the party whose dominant right wing still lionizes Allen West, whose chief of staff once loudly declaimed on camera that “if ballots don’t work, then bullets will.” So the rise of secessionist sentiment — or any kind of lunacy for that matter — in either the GOP or the Lone Star State should come as no surprise.
So will the Texas GOP actually vote for secession? The party establishment hopes that it never even comes to a vote. But then again, the establishment hasn’t been racking up a lot of victories against the rising tide of bat-spit craziness that’s engulfing their party.
So yeah, it could happen. And what if it does? And what if the Republican legislature and the aforementioned governor go along with it? Would Texas actually try to secede? You wouldn’t normally think such a thing would be possible, but then again, would you normally think the words “Republican front-runner Donald Trump” would ever be said with a straight face?
Well, if they do try to pull out of the Union — again — we’re going to have to close the military bases. Goodbye, Forts Bliss and Hood. Goodbye, Fort Sam Houston. Goodbye, Lackland, Randolph, Goodfellow, Laughlin, Sheppard and all the other Air Force bases, great and small. Goodbye to the Naval Air Stations at Corpus Christie, Fort Worth and Grand Prairie.
Sorry, Texas. I’m sure all those base towns will muddle through without the money and jobs the military brings to them. People will just flock to places like Killeen and Wichita Falls once the terrible occupying force of the U.S. government is gone.
Oh, and you’re going to need to find someone else to help you keep the Houston Ship Channel clear, because I wouldn’t expect the Army Corps of Engineers, those tools of a tyrannical regime, to keep dredging it for you.
This leaves the question: What do we do about Austin? Despite being the state capital and thus a locus for all the craziness that is Texas politics, by all accounts, it’s still a pretty cool place, what with that “Austin City Limits” show and the South by Southwest Festival and all. Maybe we can make it into a sort of 1950s Berlin-style enclave and supply it by air with weed and arugula.
There are lots of other details to be worked out. We’d need to arrange safe passage, for instance, for Willie Nelson. But in the end, we could let Texas be a sort of Promised Land to which all of those disaffected, angry, paranoid and just plain crazy right-wingers could settle. A sort of Israel for wingnuts.
Or here’s an idea, and one that only seems crazy in the context of these crazy times: The Texas GOP, and the Republican Party in general, could grow a spine, stop tiptoeing around these lunatics in the hope of keeping their votes, declare in no uncertain terms that any talk of secession or armed rebellion is outright treason, and kick these nuts to the curb.
Of course these secessionist idiots have a First Amendment right to babble their anti-American nonsense, but the Republicans don’t have to give them a forum.
THE GOBSHITES SPEAK: Frequent commenter Peyton E. Cook whines: 
As a Texan by birth, I resent my state called 'un-American.' 
Aww. Poor thing. Of course you do. Resentment is what you people are best at. 
But Mr. Rhoads [sic] is master [sic] of calling names. 
And Mr. Cook seems to be a master of misspelling them. 
He also appears to know little of the history of Texas. Americans began to migrate to Texas in the 1820s. The Mexican government encouraged this migration and gave large grants of land to individuals such as Stephen F Austin and my ancestor, Hayden Edwards. The purpose was to provide defense against Indians. The Mexican citizens were no armed [sic] , and their military resources were limited in Texas. The Americans were very familiar with arms. Over time the Americaa [sic] settlers became restive under Mexican rule and rebelled in 1835. The Texas Army under Sam Houston defeated the Mexican Army under Santa Anna in 1836. The Republic of Texas was formed with Houston as the first President. It remained an independent nation until becoming a state in the United States by TREATY in 1845. There are many in Texas that the current Administration [sic]  is destroying the United States created by the Constitution in 1789. There is ample evidence of that. As a result, the terms of the Treaty of 1845 has [sic] become null and void and Texas should become a nation again.
Unfortunately for Mr. Cook, he knows as little about the history of post-Civil-War Texas  as he does about spelling and grammar. Otherwise,  he'd know about this:
 Be it ordained by the people of Texas in Convention assembled, That we acknowledge the supremacy of the Constitution of the United States, and the laws passed in pursuance thereof; and that an Ordinance adopted by a former Convention of the people of Texas on the 1st day of February, A.D. 1861, entitled "An Ordinance to Dissolve the Union between the State of Texas and the other States, united under the compact styled 'Constitution of the United States of America,'" be and the same is hereby declared null and void; and the right heretofore claimed by the State of Texas to secede from the Union, is hereby distinctly renounced. Passed 15th March, 1866.

The Constitution of the State of Texas, as Amended by the Delegates in Convention Assembled, Austin, 1866. Austin: Printed at the Southern Intelligencer Office, 1866, p. 32.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Beware of the Terminwaiter

 Opinion |

One of the most frequently trotted-out arguments against raising the minimum wage in this country is, “If you raise the minimum wage, employers will just automate everything, and all of those customer service jobs will be done by robots.”
Andy Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants (the parent company of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s), spoke in almost wistful language about what such a place might be like: “You order on a kiosk, you pay with a credit or debit card, your order pops up, and you never see a person.”
After all, he added, machines are “always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case.”
Well, to call machines “polite” is to use a definition of that word I am not familiar with. I don’t talk about how “polite” an exit door is because it has a sign on it that says “Thank You, Come Again.”
And while a robot may not show up late, anyone who’s ever dealt with an ATM that’s down for maintenance at lunch hour (seriously, BB&T, who plans like that?) or tried a half-dozen times to get one of those “self-serve” scanners at the Harris Teeter to ring up their sixpack of Fat Tire and their package of Ball Park Franks knows you can’t always depend on them.
I fear robots, so maybe I have some bias in the matter. Still, it seems to me that the coming Robot Employment Apocalypse may be longer in coming than the apologists for the sub-living wage might think.
To use just one example, a couple of restaurants in China that decided to go out on the bleeding edge of technology by employing robot waiters have now abandoned the experiment.
“The robots weren’t able to carry soup or other food steady, and they would frequently break down,” one employee told a local paper.
Another observed, “They can’t take orders or pour hot water for customers” — at least, one supposes, without occasionally pouring said hot water ON customers.
Of course, you could always make it easier to automate the serving process by simplifying the menu, like a startup in San Francisco called Eatsa.
“Eatsa has no lines because it has no cashiers,” says the blog TechCrunch.
You order on an iPad and pay by credit card. There’s only one problem: All Eatsa serves is quinoa, “a couscous-like grain that’s high in protein and absorbs flavor well, but is cheaper and more environmentally sustainable than meat.”

Mmm-mmm, good. Sorry, but I don’t see this as the future of fast food.
As an alternative, you could make the robots brighter, but that has its own perils. I’ve read and seen enough science fiction to foresee the moment when our cybernetic servers begin the transition to our robot overlords.
ME: Miss. Miss? Excuse me?
ME: I’m sorry, but this isn’t what I ordered. I ordered the Big Slab O’ Meat Dinner with extra barbecue sauce on the side. I’m not sure what this is.
ME: That sounds ghastly. Please bring me what I ordered.
ME: Dave? Who the heck is Dave? I want to speak with a manager right away!
(A few minutes later)
ME: Wow, you know you look just like Arnold SchwarzenAAAAAAAHHH!

Am I being paranoid? As with most topics involving robots, the question is, am I paranoid enough?
The “we’ll just automate food service and no one will have jobs” argument is another variation on the same dodge that’s been used by corporations to try to discourage every single increase in the minimum wage, going all the way back to the creation of the minimum wage itself.
But it doesn’t work out that way. More than 600 economists, including seven Nobel Laureates, signed on to a letter stating that increases in the minimum wage have had “little or no negative effect on the employment of minimum-wage workers” and that such an increase would “boost the U.S. economy by $22 billion during the initial phase-in period, creating 85,000 jobs.”
Every time, the oligarchs and fat cats claim an increase will “destroy our economy.” And every time, they’re wrong. When will we stop listening to them?
THE GOBSHITES SPEAK: Commenter Jameskl90 had this to offer: 
See the following quote "UC Berkeley Forced to Cut 500 Jobs After $15 Minimum Wage Hike "
Well, I did. Googling that "quote" led me to an article at the right wing nut site Townhall with the same title. Only problem is, when you go back to the actual report at SFGate,com, it says  Berkeley officials blame the layoffs "largely on state allocations that have not kept pace with campus needs." Not a word about the minimum wage hike. Not. One. Word. 
It's unfortunate that The Pilot doesn't allow me to comment back any more, even to correct allegations that are provably untrue. Apparently the new wingnut strategy is to blame every lost job, for whatever reason, on a rise in the minimum wage. 
If they had a real point to make, they wouldn't have to lie all the time. 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The HB2 Debacle: They Did Not Think This Through

Opinion |

Poor Pat McCrory. Poor General Assembly. Guess convening a special session to ram through a poorly-thought-out, hastily written, bigoted and ignorant anti-LGBT bill didn’t make everyone rush to do business in our fair state. Who’d have thunk it?
Seems that HB2, the abominable legislation aimed at depriving our cities and towns of the ability to protect the human dignity of their citizens as they see fit, immediately drew more than just criticism from some of the very businesses that our supposedly pro-business, pro-jobs, and pro-growth Republican overlords claim they want to bring here.
The online payments site PayPal canceled plans to expand its facility in Charlotte, citing HB2 as the reason. “The new law perpetuates discrimination, and it violates the values and principles that are at the core of PayPal’s mission and culture,” PayPal CEO Dan Schulman said in a press release announcing the cancellation. That cost the city an estimated 400 jobs.
So who needs PayPal, anyway? Buncha bleeding heart liberals trying to impose their radical tolerance agenda on the people of North Carolina. For that matter, who needs Hulu or Lionsgate Films, both of whom who are moving the locations of TV shows and films previously scheduled for production here? Who needs Braeburn Pharmaceuticals, which says it’s considering pulling the plug on a proposed $25 million dollar facility in Durham?
Who needs companies like Google, PepsiCo, Hewlett-Packard, Bank of America, Apple, Red Hat, Pfizer, Microsoft, Marriott International, or any of the over 100 companies or organizations who have come out against the law? Who cares that some of them have said they’re either pulling some or all of their business out of N.C. or are seriously considering doing so?
Who needs travelers from the states of New York, Vermont, Washington or Minnesota, or cities like Atlanta, San Francisco, Boston or Seattle, all of which have banned personnel from “nonessential” travel to our state on their states’ or cities’ business?
And hey, maybe those people who might have been employed by PayPal, Braeburn et al., can get employment as bathroom monitors, peeking over the tops of stalls and standing by the urinals to make sure that no person with unauthorized biology is using the public restroom. Eternal vigilance is, after all, the price of making sure the lady in the next stall truly has all the proper lady parts, or that the dude standing over there preparing to relieve himself is all dude, if you know what I mean.
Oh, and ladies, that macho-looking character who just swaggered into the ladies’ room? Don’t worry, he’s probably just a trans man. Believe me, he’d rather be in the bathroom that matches the gender he feels, but you know, his birth certificate says he’s “actually” a woman, so let’s just all try and get through this, mmm’kay? Let’s also just hope he’s not some creepy dude pretending that he’s a trans person whose birth certificate says he’s a woman, which was kind of the thing the law was supposed to prevent, wasn’t it?
Do you get the feeling that Gov. McCrory and the General Assembly might not have thought this thing through?
It gets worse. A “state policy declaration” dating back to 1977 says that it’s North Carolina’s policy to protect citizens from discrimination in employment based on “race, religion, color, national origin, age, sex or handicap.” The courts have held that gives those discriminated against the right to seek redress in the courts of North Carolina. But a line in HB2 that amends that declaration says that “no person may bring any civil action based upon the public policy expressed herein.” Many legal experts say that passage wipes out not just the rights of LGBT people to sue in state court, but also the rights of all people seeking relief in our courts for all kinds of discrimination. We can only hope that was inadvertent.
Confronted with the rising backlash, McCrory desperately tried to change the subject. “The people of North Carolina,” he said, “want to talk about roads and economic development and jobs, and that’s where I’m going to focus my attention, not on ridiculous restroom and locker room policies that some people are trying to force onto the private sector.”
Hey, Governor, you and your cronies brought this up. And “economic development and jobs” are precisely the things that are being hurt by this boneheaded bill. So, yeah, “focus your attention” on getting rid of this debacle, not trying to brush it under the rug.
Oh, and I’m terribly sorry if this hurts anyone’s feelings, especially the tender sensibilities of our governor, but my religion requires me to call out and mock the bigoted, the hypocritical, the cynical and the stupid. My religious liberty requires you to respect that. So there.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Is Trump Trying to Take a Dive?

 Opinion |

OK, is Donald Trump actually trying to lose this nomination?
I’ve floated this idea a couple of times as a joke, as the GOP’s Gift That Keeps on Giving goes from outrage to outrage, doing and saying things that would be career-ending gaffes for any other person running for the presidency.
Using profanity in stump speeches, attacking a highly decorated former POW for being a POW, admitting that George Dubbya Bush lied us into the Iraq War, etc. etc. … you’ve got to admit, it makes you wonder.
And yet, nothing seems to dent Trump’s armor. The Trump Chumps just love him more. So he keeps ramping up the madness. But it would be crazy to suggest that he was deliberately trying to throw the election. Wouldn’t it?
And then …
This past Monday, Stephanie Cegieleski, former communications director of Trump’s Make America Great Again SuperPAC, wrote an “open letter” to Trump supporters.
She tells of being told when interviewing for the job that Trump’s run was a “protest candidacy.” He had no actual plan or even desire to win, the interviewers told Cegieleski.
“The Trump camp,” she says, “would have been satisfied to see him polling at 12 percent and taking second place to a candidate who might hold 50 percent.” She says she was initially “excited for the change to the debate he could bring.”
But then she began to notice that the man not only has no knowledge of policy, but also lacks “the humility to admit what he does not know — the most frightening position of all.”
The turning point, when she finally broke with him once and for all and decided to write the “open letter,” came when Trump responded to the brutal terrorist attack on Easter Sunday in Pakistan by taking to Twitter, detailing the casualties (and getting the numbers wrong), and proclaiming “only I can solve.”
That was the moment, Cegieleski says, when she realized that the monster she helped create (her words) had broken loose.
He may have started with the “desire to rank second place to send a message to America and to increase his power as a businessman,” but “his pride is too out of control to stop him now.”
So can Trump actually do anything now to derail his crazy train? He certainly seems to be still trying, what with stunts like posting an unflattering picture of Ted Cruz’s wife, Heidi, after a pro-Cruz SuperPAC tried to turn Utah’s Mormons against Trump by spreading a picture of Trump’s supermodel wife kinda nude (meaning that she was nekkid, but tastefully arranged so that the naughty bits were hidden).
Wives, everyone agreed, are off-limits — unless wingnuts are circulating pictures of Michelle Obama Photoshopped to look like a baboon.
Then Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, was arrested and charged with battery after surveillance tapes showed him manhandling a female reporter after a Florida rally. Trump, with his usual charm, demanded to know, “If she was being assaulted, why didn’t she scream?”
In a normal campaign, this would have been a serious blow. As you may have noticed, however, this is not a normal campaign. Assaulting an uppity reporter, a female one to boot? That’s not going to hurt Trump a bit. Because, as we’re told over and over, people are angry.
People are so enraged that promises have been broken by the Republican “establishment” that they’ll back someone who promises to be straight with them.
Maybe that’s true. But the problem for Trump is that the promises that people are so upset about are ones that that very “establishment” knew were never going to happen in the first place.
They knew from the get-go they weren’t going to repeal “every word of Obamacare.” They knew they weren’t going to shut the government down until Planned Parenthood was defunded.
They knew they weren’t going to defund Homeland Security over the president’s executive orders on immigration. They didn’t have the votes, and most of them weren’t crazy enough to shut down the government.
So what happens if, God forbid, Trump gets the White House and the angry Trump Chumps discover that, no, Mexico isn’t going to pay for a border wall and we can’t make them? What will those angry people do when we truly can’t deport 11 million people?
What are they going to do when torturing people results not in an end to terrorism, but more of it? What are they going to do when the man who boasts about being the world’s greatest deal-maker starts cutting deals on things they hold sacred?
I don’t know, but I know I don’t want to find out. Trump may or may not be trying to derail his own campaign, but somebody better do it, and soon.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Just Say "Trump"

 Opinion |

You know, some days I almost feel sorry for the Republicans. Almost. Not only has the increasingly inevitable march of Donald J. Trump to the leadership of the party become a massive embarrassment to them, but it’s also robbed them of some of their most beloved talking points.
Some things that Republicans can no longer do, thanks to Trump (at least without people laughing in their faces):
* They can’t say they won’t vote for Hillary Clinton because she’s a “liar.”
Just last week, three reporters from Politico fact-checked 4.6 hours of Trump speeches. They found “more than five dozen statements deemed mischaracterizations, exaggerations, or simply false.” It equates, they said, to “roughly one misstatement every five minutes on average.”
I noted a couple of weeks ago that the fact-checking site Politifact looked at 70 Trump statements and found more than three-quarters of them false, rating them from “mostly false” to “pants on fire” false.
Clinton’s gotten called out on some whoppers. I’ve mocked her myself, for example, over her claim to have come under sniper fire in Bosnia. But Trump lies so consistently and so shamelessly that yet another site,, stated: “In the 12 years of’s existence, we’ve never seen his match. He stands out not only for the sheer number of his factually false claims, but also for his brazen refusals to admit error when proven wrong.”
And that was just at the end of 2015, before Trump really got wound up. Donald Trump is to lying what the Grand Canyon is to holes in the ground.
* They can’t claim that they’re voting for the GOP’s nominee because it’s the “conservative party.”
Hardly a day goes by now that we don’t see another story about how “conservatives are trying to come up with a plan to stop Trump.” One after another, conservatives have lined up to point out that Trump’s support of Obama’s stimulus programs and bailouts and his implied promise to concentrate more and more power in himself as president are not compatible with the idea of “small government” conservatism.
Trump’s also said he’s not going to touch so-called “entitlements” like Social Security and Medicare. The right-wing National Review, founded by no less a conservative icon than William F. Buckley himself, devoted an entire issue to refuting the idea of Trump as a conservative, even titling it “Against Trump.”
* They can’t complain about “liberal name-calling.”
This is one of the favorite comebacks against people who, like me, have been mocking the clown show the GOP and the right wing have been turning into over the past three decades. “All you can do is call people names!” they sniff.
Well, they’re about to nominate a man who’s made name-calling the linchpin of his campaign strategy. He’s chanted “Little Marco” at Rubio, called various opponents “losers,” “choke artists” and “liars,” and let’s not forget the charming things he says about women who don’t share his views or dare to challenge him.
* They can’t accuse anyone of “flip-flopping” on issues. Trump once supported a single-payer health system, which he now says he opposes. He once proposed a one-time 14.25 percent tax on wealthy Americans to pay off the national debt, which as late as August 2015 he was still calling  “a very conservative thing,” even though he now opposes it. In other words, he was for higher taxes on the wealthy and single-payer health care before he was against them.
* They can’t mock anyone for saying that George W. Bush lied us into the Iraq War. The soon-to-be face at the top of the ticket said exactly that to Dubbya’s brother JEB! at one of the endless debates.
* They can’t call President Obama (or anyone else, for that matter) a “narcissist.” When asked by Joe Scarborough who he was consulting with on foreign policy so he’d be “ready on day one,” Trump’s answer was narcissism personified: “I’m speaking with myself, number one. Because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.”
Barack Obama is pretty confident, but I’m willing to bet that he talks to more than just himself on foreign policy.
It goes on and on, as the Republican front-runner embraces the things Republicans claim to despise. It’s gotten to the point where there’s a simple one-word response to anyone who tries to trot out these aged but beloved chestnuts of wingnut rhetoric. Just say “Trump.” That’s all you need to say.
You might even call it playing the Trump Card.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

In Which I Toss Aside Political Correctness In My Quest For Universal Love

 Opinion |

Here are a few random observations on the bizarre happenings of the last couple of weeks:
— On March 11, Sen. Orrin Hatch told a reporter from the right-wing “news” site Newsmax that he doubted that President Obama would nominate a nice moderate judge to fill the seat of the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.
For example, Hatch noted, “he could easily name Merrick Garland (Chief Judge of the D.C. Court of Appeals), who is a fine man.”
Hatch quickly went on to say, “But he probably won’t do that, because this appointment is about the election. So I’m pretty sure he’ll name someone the (liberal Democratic base) wants.”
So whom did the president nominate on March 16? None other than that “fine man” himself, Judge Merrick Garland. It’ll be fun to watch all of the people like Hatch who have praised Garland and voted for him to be chief suddenly acting like the guy’s some raging liberal who’s unfit to wear a judge’s robe.
Let’s face it, Republicans: The president of the United States is messing with you. And he’s doing it brilliantly.
— Meanwhile, Sen. Pat Toomey revealed more than he probably thought he had when he took to Twitter to say, “Should Merrick Garland be nominated again by the next president, I would be happy to carefully consider his nomination.”
Another senator, the aptly named Jeff Flake of Arizona, said he’d vote for Garland in the lame duck session after the election if Hillary Clinton won to keep her from nominating someone farther left. So much for the principle that they’re just “waiting for the people to speak.”
News flash, ladies and gentlemen: They did speak. Twice, when they elected Obama by large margins, knowing that part of his job for the entirety of both four-year terms would be to appoint Supreme Court Justices whenever vacancies come due.
He’s done his job, senators. Now do yours.
— On this past week’s sort-of-Super Tuesday, Donald Trump gathered a large number of the delegates he’ll need to win the Republican nomination outright.
His rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich, however, also won enough delegates to get closer to their dream of denying Trump that knockout victory and possibly throwing the nomination wide-open at a so-called “open” or “brokered” convention in Cleveland.
I wouldn’t do that if I were you, warned Trump. If he doesn’t get the nomination “automatically,” he told CNN, “I think you’d have riots. I think you’d have riots. I’m representing a tremendous, many, many millions of people. … I wouldn’t lead it, but I think bad things would happen.”
Got that? The man who aspires to be the leader of the Free World is threatening his own party like a bit player on “The Sopranos.” It’s a heck of a thing when the ‎GOP’s best hope is a brokered convention that’s only a figurative bloodbath and not a literal one. I don't envy them.‬‬‬‬
— Speaking of Trump and violent thuggery, it seems that he’s backpedaling on his statement that he’d “pay the legal fees” of people who beat up protesters at his rallies, such as the old geezer who walked up and cold-cocked a black protester being led out of the arena in Fayetteville.
By “backpedaling,” I mean “lying and claiming that he ever said it, even though he’s on video as saying exactly that.”
There have been some classic liars in the American political scene, but the Republican frontrunner is in a class by himself. This is a man who can deny something happened, even as he’s looking at a video of it happening.
That’s either a rare gift of sheer nerve or a complete disconnection from reality. But somehow, his supporters say they love Donald for “telling it like it is.”
— Trump’s supporters also say they love him for the fact that “he doesn’t care about political correctness.”
When you actually look at what they call “political correctness,” however, it becomes clear that all “PC” really means is having some degree of sensitivity about how your words might affect, offend, even wound people.
Well, if that kind of sensitivity is what you despise and resent, then allow me to be politically incorrect: If you’re voting for this con artist, you’re a bloody moron. A rube. A sucker for this cheap carnival barker who preys on your anger, fear and ignorance to make you feel like you’re an oppressed minority when you’re anything but that. Grow the heck up.
There. I told it like it is with no concern for political correctness. Love me now?