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Things I Want To Know (11)

Why was I banned?

Am I more dangerous than the Russians?

I’ve commented here occasionally about my addiction to Powerline — a right-wing blog I’ve been reading for years. I comment there and am attacked for being a communist, for being clueless, for being paid by George Soros, for being anti-Semitic, for hating America.

It’s one of the habits I want to get rid of in my daily life.

But I struggle with that. When I first started reading Powerline, there was the occasional post that was reasonable and rational. I think it’s important that anybody who wants to be informed about any country’s politics should read and listen and talk to people who represent other views, including those diametrically opposed to yours. It’s a concept I think fewer and fewer Americans consider to be a valid exercise. As far as I’m concerned, if we can’t talk to each other, we are doomed as a country. When I first started reading Powerline, I thought it was a place where there might be an opportunity for an rational exchange of ideas. A discourse.

Something happened once Obama was elected President. Ever since, the four guys who write the posts on Powerline have become more and more extreme and more and more one note in their obsessive distaste and hatred for all things Democratic, liberal, and progressive. And their commenters are even more so.

It is impossible to comment on Powerline without being attacked as an American-hating communist, so all I do now when I comment on the site is point out their hypocrisy and foolishness.

Today, there was a comment on a post that I wanted to respond to. I was actually going to generally agree with the comment. But when I started to type my comment, a note popped up indicating that I had been banned by Powerline.


Here are my last three comments made over the last week on Powerline:

When you start posting about the over use of “communist,” “unpatriotic, “anti-American,” and “anti-Semitic” to describe anybody who is left of center, you might actually demonstrate that you care about something that is real and meaningful to the rest of America. Until then, you’re no better than the MSM and others you criticize.

This was a comment in response to a post that catalogued the decades of Democrats referring to Republicans as Nazis and fascists. The general response I got was “yeah, but, Democrats are communists and they hate America.”

In response to a couple of those comments, I stated:

That somebody disagrees with you doesn’t make them a communist, anti-American, etc. But then I’ve asked you multiple times to put or shut up and provide specifics about what I’ve said to fit any of those labels and you’ve never come up with anything at all.

You’re an empty suit and a lot of hot air.

This comment was in response to another commenter who at least occasionally tries to be reasonable in acknowledging that some of Trump’s habits are worthy of scorn and concern. But she has consistently said that she believes I hate America. When I ask for the evidence she either says “you say things that are similar to other people who I believe hate America” or she simply doesn’t respond. The last time she did it, I asked her for specific things I had said that justified her belief. She did not respond. Hence, the last line of my comment — she’s fake.

And finally, my third comment:

Criticism of Israel does not make one anti-Semitic and even if it did, criticism of Israel by some Democrats does not make them all anti-Semitic.

Please provide the evidence that Omar supports Hamas. Supporting the BDS movement is not the same thing.

Powerline is a website that has an image of the Israel flag right next to an image of the United States flag. It is a website, with a commenter base, that truly believes any criticism of Israel is anti-semtic. And they now have a President who is more than willing to play that card to enhance his support amongst his base. I have been accused repeatedly of being anti-Semitic on Powerline and when I pointed out that I married a Jewish woman and raised my kids in the Jewish faith, I was accused of lying about my family.

There you go … my comments on Powerline from the last few days. And today, I’ve been banned. Occasionally the site posts about their “commenting rules.” As far as I know I haven’t violated any of those rules with the comments above, or other comments I’ve posted over the months and years. I refrain from expletives. I might occasionally call somebody a name, but it’s only after first being drawn into the dirt by another commenter attacking me inappropriately — like calling me an American-hater without foundation.

So, why was I banned? I’m pretty certain that is a question that will remain unanswered forever.

As for the second question I asked at the outset …

One of the other frequent commenters on Powerline who challenges the orthodoxy over there is a guy who describes himself as a Rockefeller Republican. In other words, he is a moderate, establishment Republican — the kind of person that the current Republican Party and the pro-Trumpers simply cannot stand. He has been called a “libtard” by commenters on Powerline.

Over the years, he and I have occasionally communicated via AOL Messenger about things going on at Powerline. Today, I messaged him that I had been banned. We had a subsequent conversation via Messenger about Powerline and America.

At one point, I commented that

What is most frustrating to me is that the Russians, and others, have figured out how to use social media to sow chaos and division in our country. And all of these smart people on the left and right who could unite and put an end to it are instead allowing it to continue because they think they can use it to their advantage. A hostile foreign power has figured out how to weaken us from the inside and nobody is doing anything about it.

His response was incredible and spot on:

Most readers of Powerline honestly see you as a greater threat to America than Kim or Putin. That genuinely astounds me.

Here’s a lifelong Republican, who told me during this back and forth on Messenger that his soon to be former wife was a “Fox News Babe.” He is embedded in the conservative community.

And yet there is so much truth behind his comment. The right-wing in this country has decided that other Americans are more dangerous to their way of life than Kim or Putin. On Powerline, there is never a post about the threat of Russian interference and what America should do about it. But there are literally dozens and dozens of posts and thousands of comments about how dangerous Americans on the left are.

It’s stunning.

And the other truth? If you delve into the liberal/progressive blogosphere — they are concerned about Russian interference and meddling and want to do something about it.

It’s such an odd conundrum. For decades Republicans were so in lock step against the Soviet Union. Anti-communism defined the Republican Party for all of those decades. Now, for some reason, they don’t seem to care about Russia (the descendant of the Soviet Union) to our country, while the left is up in arms about this threat.

It’s all just amazing. What is going on in this country.

Where is my shack in the woods so I can escape all of this.





Instead of Impeachment

I’ve had a lot of different thoughts about things I’ve wanted to write leading up to yesterday’s election. I haven’t written any of them down. Maybe I’ll come back to those ideas later.

But what I would like to suggest is this. With the Democrats now in control of the House, instead of impeachment, I’d like to see them focus on putting forward legislation that offers a clear alternative to Republican destruction.

Legislation that reinforces and improves the Affordable Care Act.

Legislation that moves America towards a more sane tax structure and begins to reduce the massive annual federal budget deficit.

Legislation that puts forward a comprehensive plan for immigration reform that deals credibly with the millions of illegal immigrants already in this country, reforming our existing immigration practices to encourage legal immigration, and, yes, strengthening security at the border. Not a wall per se, but taking measures that will reduce illegal immigrants crossing the border.

Legislation that speaks to the middle of America instead of to the leftist extremes of the Democratic Party.

Legislation that offers America a view of a positive, optimistic governing strategy that could replace the divisiveness and destruction of Trump and his Republican acolytes.

And I’d like to see a mainstream media that steps away from its own hyperpartisanship and away from its fervent, breathless reporting on every stupid thing Trump says and does and focuses on what the two parties actually are doing to govern in America today. (By the way, if you don’t believe the MSM is engaged in “its own hyperpartisanship” you don’t read the twitter accounts of MSM actors.)

Am I optimistic that any of this will happen?  Absolutely not. I have absolutely no hope that either Democratic leaders or the MSM will grow up and act like the adults in the room. They haven’t for the last two years.

One Person’s Extremist is Another’s Moderate

I’d like to take a moment to talk about the political divide that exists in America today. It is a topic I have thought about a lot over the years. It is a thing that keeps getting worse. It is a thing that I see every single day because I read a couple of liberal blogs and a couple of conservative blogs every single day. What I see are two sides of the same coin of clueless, mind-numbing hypocrisy and closed-mindedness.

The latest evidence of this … An op-ed from Leonard Pitts. I don’t necessarily disagree with Pitts’ primary thesis which is that the Republican Party has achieved maximum meltdown. The thing is that it really started when Bill Clinton was elected President. The accusations that the Clintons participated in drug smuggling, killed Vince Foster and Ron Brown among others, and so many other ridiculous conspiracies. All of which still make regular appearances in the right-wing blogosphere. The meltdown continued with the Swift Boaters and other similar conspiracies that failed the basic test of reality and honesty.

Obama’s election sent the Republican Party even deeper into what appears to be a brain freeze like the kind you get when you eat something cold too fast. And Trump’s election has only accelerated the thing.

Do any of you remember this?

This was from the White House Correspondent’s Dinner a few years back. Obama took no small pleasure in poking fun at Trump and watch the video for Trump’s reaction. I’m convinced that we are seeing the most successful act of petty revenge the world has ever seen. Trump ran to destroy the Obama legacy. You see it in his petty tweets attacking anybody who attacks him. He does not let any slight go. He holds a grudge and he seeks to destroy. You see it in all of the things he has done to take whatever action he can to reverse any and every success Obama achieved as President.

And the Republicans are ignoring all of his immaturity, damaging actions and words, and evidence of his incompetence to further their extremist objective of rolling this country backwards about 70 or 80 years.

So, yes Mr. Pitts, the Republican Party has descended into a realm of unimaginable extremism, but for a portion of this country, the Democrats aren’t far behind.

In your op-ed you state the following:

We are not, after all, divided because Americans pulled back from the center and retreated into extremism.

No, we are divided because one party did. And it wasn’t the Democrats.

I say this as a lifelong Democrat, a liberal, somewhat of a progressive. I say this as somebody who hasn’t voted for a Republican since the 1980s. Your center-based policies, isolated by your liberal ivory tower views, are viewed as extremist by millions of Americans. Having the federal government force states and local governments to allow transgender or gender-confused individuals to use the bathroom of their choice is an act of extremism. No matter how much you may believe that is a necessary policy. Providing a free public college education for all may just be viewed as an act of extremism by many Americans. No matter how much you may believe it is a wise idea.

The problem in America these days is that both sides have descended into their own echo chambers and are incapable of seeing their ideas and policies through the eyes of others. They are unwilling to consider that anybody but their chambermates have legitimate ideas. The right believes every liberal lies and hates America. The left believes the right is racist and prone to violence. Each side believes that the other is the extremist.

Mr. Pitts’ op-ed is a perfect example of the problem from the left. Look at all the horrible things the Republican Party is now engaged in! They are juvenile and unhinged and horrible!! Whew, it’s a good thing us Democrats are so reasonable and level-headed.

It’s really just kind of ridiculous as far as I’m concerned. Neither side is entirely right, but they both think they are. Neither side is entirely wrong, but they both think the other is.

Barry Goldwater once famously said that “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” He’s right, I think. What the right-wing and left-wing have become, however, are extremists in the battle for every little thing. The result is a frozen democracy incapable of moving forward as any common ground disappears in the endless war they fight with each other.






Is it November 2016 Yet?

Yeah, I’m addicted to the stupid thing.  Yet another of my addictions that I can’t seem to kick.  As I’ve written before, a few months ago I swore off the Presidential election, but then the debates started, the stupidity level rose, the tos and fros rose to a fever pitch, and I’m right back in there.  I’ve watched every debate and posted about them here and on Facebook.  I’m reading my political blogs almost hourly to see what’s new out there and it’s all just really quite stunning to me.

Last night, MSNBC hosted a Democrats Presidential Forum that I didn’t know about until I saw something about their replay of it.  So, like a moth to a flame, I watched.  Turns out the Democratic Party controls the number of debates the candidates will be allowed to expose themselves to.  And MSNBC’s event last night was outside of that controlled environment.  So, they called it a forum and had Rachel Maddow interview each candidate separately.

Two sidetracks to go down here.  First, political debates these days are far from what I think a debate actually is.  I would love to see these candidates actually debate each other through a discussion and challenging of their views and ideas for where to take this country.  Instead, the moderators feed them questions that are either meant to hurt or help them.  And there’s very little actual debating going on.  What I wouldn’t give for a real debate in which the candidates control the flow and direction of the discussion and are able to pose real challenges to each other.

Second, I rarely watch Rachel Maddow, but when I do, I always come away from the experience impressed by her.  She’s one of the smartest, wittiest, most down-to-earth news commentators out there.

So, they had this candidates forum last night and it was, as far as I was concerned, much better than what passes for a debate these days.  There was at least some give and take, some back and forth, some dialogue between Maddow and each candidate and the questions and answers were far more substantive than anything we’ll see in any of the debates.  I came away from it more impressed by Martin O’Malley than I had been before.  I would be comfortable with him as President of the United States.  I continue to be a fan of Bernie Sanders — I believe he is America’s most popular curmudgeon these days.  The reality is that he is speaking to a fundamental reality in this country — the rules of the game have changed over the last few decades from rules that were directed at creating a system that lifted all of us up, that built up the middle class, and helped create this massive, consumer driven society that provided benefits and opportunities to all … to a system where the rules have been re-written to benefit the few, most of whom have blinders on and have lost sight of the basic concept that we will fail as a society unless we take care of each other as brothers and sisters.  The golden rule has been lost on far too many these days.  I have little hope that Sanders could win a general election, but it would be truly fascinating watching him take this to the end of the line and see what might happen.

As for Hillary … she wasn’t bad, but I simply will never be a fan of hers.  There is something unreal and inauthentic about her and I just would prefer somebody else.

Which leads to the fun part of this post.  At least for me, anyway.

Could the Republican primary get any more loony than it already is?  I mean seriously.  The frontrunner now is Ben Carson.  Who believes the pyramids were build by Joseph as gigantic granaries, regardless of the archaeological evidence that suggests otherwise.  Who seems to feel the need to create his own personal mythology that has little basis in fact.  Who claims to have been offered a full scholarship to West Point, even though West Point doesn’t give out scholarships, he never applied to West Point, and, therefore, was never accepted to West Point.  Who claims to have been a violent child who apparently was violent in a vacuum because nobody who knew him then has come forward to confirm that yes, in fact, he was a violent child.  Who claimed he had no connections with Mannatech, a company for whom he gave a number of paid speeches to and which helped fund his endowed chair at a medical school.  Who has admitted that he basically doesn’t know anything about foreign policy.  Who buys into some of the looniest theories and conspiracies of the right-wing.

For instance … He equates Obamacare with slavery and the United States under Obama as comparable to Nazi Germany.  He believes being gay is a choice and that people choose to be gay when they go to prison.  He believes the climate debate is distracting and irrelevant.  Who believes that political correctness, particularly on college campuses has gone overboard, but believes it is appropriate to suggest controlling or limiting the speech with which he disagrees.  He believes the President can ignore the Supreme Court.  And, of course, the best one out there … Obama is a communist who is trying to destroy the country.

Let’s talk about this last one because I think it goes to the core of the right’s inability to deal with facts and reality.  When Obama took over as President in January 2009, the country was in a free fall.  If he really wanted to destroy America, he could have sat back and did exactly what the Republican Party wanted him to do … nothing.  Instead, he didn’t.  President Obama did everything he could to rescue the country and now, seven years later, the national unemployment rate is at 5%, it’s lowest level since before he took office, the federal budget deficit is at its lowest since before he took office.  All sorts of good things are going on in this country and all we hear from Republicans is how he hates America and wants to destroy the country.  All we hear from Republicans is doom and gloom and how horrible things are.

And Ben Carson is the somnambulent, happy-go-lucky, brain surgeon who believes in all of those whacko theories while also refusing to acknowledge the fundamental dishonesty of the life story he has spun for himself.  And he’s the leader in the polls for the Republican nomination.

This is just far too fun for me to avoid.

What’s Wrong With The System

From today’s Sacramento Bee.  Candidates running for President raised $144 million in direct contributions in the third quarter of 2015.  Federal law caps individual donations at $2,700 per donor.  But there is no such limit for donations to political action committees and most of the candidates have what are called super PACs.  During the first six months of 2015, $211 million was donated to those super PACs.  Only 158 people accounted for $176 million of that $211 million.  Only 47 people have accounted for $103 million raised for Jeb Bush’s super PAC.  5 people accounted for $37 million donated to a super PAC for Ted Cruz.  And 16 people accounted for $17 million donated to Hillary Clinton’s super PAC.  There is more data in the editorial, but I don’t think anymore is needed.  We know who controls our elections and our candidates.  Except when they don’t.  Bernie Sanders refuses the help of a super PAC.  84% of the money he has raised this year has come from people donating $200 or less.

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