Tuesday, December 6, 2016

BIG MEDIA IS MORE LAPDOG THAN WATCHDOG TO DONALD TRUMP

By Ronald T. Fox


TRUMP IV


Throughout the presidential campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly railed against the mainstream media (MSM), which he claimed was biased against him. He called them "dishonest,' "disgusting," and "scum,” among other things, and threatened lawsuits against media outlets he said libeled him. He wasn’t alone in his media indictment; more than four in 10 Americans agree, according to a recent Huffington Post survey, that he faced unduly negative coverage. The survey also found that a majority of Trump voters believe his version of the truth over what is reported by a national media outlet.
 
TRUMP IXTrump’s campaign team responded to the perceived media negativity by denying access to a number of news outlets, including Univision, Politico, The Daily Beast, and the Huffington Post, Washington Post, and Des Moines Register. As president-elect, Trump has continued his assault on the media, berating two dozen TV news anchors and executives in a private tete-a-tete for their "outrageous" and "dishonest" coverage.  In the meeting, he allegedly called CNN a "network of liars."

Shortly after the election, Trump’s buddy Sean Hannity declared on Fox News that the MSM was fundamentally incapable of treating Donald Trump fairly. Hannity claims CNN attacks on president-elect Trump are getting worse every day (he liked to refer to CNN as short for the Clinton News Network). Accordingly, he is pushing to have CNN banned from having access to the White House. Trump’s contempt for the freedom of press, speech and expression, when he dislikes what is being said or written, was further underscored when he recently called for severe punishment for anyone who burns an American flag, despite the fact that such an act of free speech is constitutionally protected.  

Has the MSM in fact been unfair to Donald Trump?  And if so, will he predictably retaliate in ways that jeopardize our time-honored democratic principle of freedom of the press? Should we be bracing for the worst—a closed executive branch that provides media access only to friendly outlets which remain friendly?  I've devoted much thought to these questions. There's much on the line.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

NOVEMBER 2016 BONEHEAD ABSURDITY OF THE MONTH

 

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1. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill. Merrill, Alabama’s top election official, thinks that making it easier to vote would “cheapen” the legacy of civil rights leaders who fought for voting rights:
 
"These people fought—some of them were beaten, some of them were killed—because of their desire to ensure that everybody that wanted to had the right to register to vote and participate in the process. I’m not going to cheapen the work that they did. I’m not going to embarrass them by allowing somebody that’s too sorry to get up off of their rear end to go register to vote," he said.
 
Merrill’s statement translates as: “if you’re too sorry or lazy to get up off of your rear and travel to where you can get voter ID, which may be in the next county or in your county but only open one day a month, then you don’t deserve the voting privilege.”
 
This from the top elections official of a state that enacted a strict voter ID law and then announced it was closing dozens of locations where people could get those voter IDs, with heavily black areas hardest hit. Seriously, the logic that black people are no longer risking death to vote, so making it any easier would be disrespectful to the people who fought to get to this point and really the most respectful thing is to make black people work extra hard to vote is the logic of racism, which, by the way, happens to benefit the Republican Party.
 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

SHAMEFUL BEHAVIOR AT THE RYDER CUP

 By Ronald T. Fox


RYDER CUP BAD BEHAVIOR II
Disruptive Spectators
As a former college golfer who played in numerous team competitions, I can attest to the excitement and raw passion that accompanies such events. Perhaps no event more puts these features on display more than the biennial Ryder Cup matches. I intensely anticipated this year’s matches to see how the various story lines played out: Could the U.S. team return to the winner’s circle after losing eight of the last 10 matches? Would the Mickelson-inspired reform of team captaining prove itself? Who would emerge as heroes and villains? Would there be any “incidents?”
 
Story lines aside, viewers witnessed extraordinary golf, probably the best I have ever seen in a Ryder Cup. Can you recall seeing better shot-making and clutch putts made? Par took a serious beating, although it must be acknowledged that US captain Davis Love set up the course for scoring: the rough was kept short and pin placements favorable. It was designed to be birdie friendly, which it proved to be, as evidence by the 19 birdies made by Phil Michelson and Sergio Garcia in their riveting singles match.
 
RYDER CUP MCILROY
McIlroy Tries to Quiet Crowd
Amidst the excitement and superb golf, however, were some ugly displays of fan behavior. Golf crowds who understand the game tend to be generally aware of proper golf etiquette, which above all means being quiet while a player addresses a shot. Cheering for one’s team is part of the Ryder Cup ritual, but booing an opponent or loudly celebrating a bad shot or missed putt is decorum at its worst. Harassing an opposing player or making noise while they play a shot is strictly a no-no in professional golf. Sadly, demonstrations of such bad sportsmanship were vividly on display at the Hazeltine golf course. I was surprised not to witness any physical confrontations between unruly fans and European players, though one almost took place when a member of the gallery yelled something particularly vile at Rory McIlroy, to which McIlroy shouted back, "If you want to back that up, I'm right here.".
 

Monday, October 31, 2016

OCTOBER 2016 BONEHEAD ABSURDITY OF THE MONTH

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I tried to disregard Donald Trump absurdities this month, but it’s impossible. So, I included some at the end.

1. Former Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. Bachmann dismissed Donald Trump’s comments bragging about sexually assaulting women by bizarrely claiming Hillary Clinton’s election would “lead to even more sexual assaults.” Speaking with American Pastors Network President Sam Rohrer in a radio interview, Bachmann claimed that the Clinton campaign is trying to drive a wedge among evangelicals by focusing on Trump’s “grab their pussy” tape.
 
“There’s no similarity between what Donald Trump said 11 years ago and what Bill Clinton did,” Bachmann said. “Is sexual assault against women a big issue? You bet it is. And the best thing that Christian men can do is make sure that Hillary Clinton does not become president and the best thing that Christian women can do is make sure that Hillary Clinton does not become president.” And more:
 
“Donald Trump has already released a list of only pro-life judges that he will support. Hillary Clinton will set a standard in this country that will lead to even more sexual assaults against women because she will be setting an anti-biblical agenda.”
 
Bachmann went on to claim that billionaire George Soros is looking for “ways to get into the Christian community to divide us.”
“We need to wake up and resist these lies.”
 
Leave it to the evangelicals; God endorses Trump. With that endorsement, how can he lose?
 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

WHY DID THE U.S. DROP ATOMIC BOMBS ON JAPAN? (Re-Posted)

By Ronald T. Fox

This is a re-posting, with some modifications, of my original August 20, 2015 essay.


(NOTE: This is Part II of my three-part essay scrutinizing the Hiroshima Myth and Legacy)

Aftermath I
Hiroshima Destroyed

When Harry Truman became president on April 12, 1945, upon the death of President Roosevelt, he had little knowledge of international affairs and knew virtually nothing about the Manhattan Project that was developing an atomic bomb. On the first day of his presidency, Truman said in his memoirs, he was told by Roosevelt confidant James Byrnes that the U.S. was building an explosive “great enough to destroy the whole world.” He would be fully briefed on the bomb project on April 25 by Secretary of War Henry Stimson and General Leslie Groves, who had been put in charge of the Manhattan Project. Truman had only a rudimentary understanding of what an atomic bomb was, but what he did grasp was its potential for unlimited power. The idea of its omnipotence was engrained into his consciousness early in his presidency.

As president, Truman, who had been selected by Roosevelt as his vice-president running mate after the nominating convention was deadlocked between Henry Wallace and Byrnes, inherited issues of momentous significance-- foremost of which were to lead the victory over Japan and decide what to do with the atomic bomb, which was nearing completion.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

AMERICA’S CULTIVATED WAR AMNESIA

Many times in Phronesis posts I’ve expressed both astonishment and deep regret at the failure of our political leaders, and much of the American public, to learn lessons from our history of foreign policy blunders, of which there have been many. Why do we repeatedly plunge into ill-conceived wars of choice that prove to be utter disasters?  Why is our penchant for using military force so unshakable?  Why do the American people, who invariably pay the highest price for our military disasters, not hold our leaders feet to the fire and say: no more!  I’ve pointed to the usual suspects--imperialist motives, hubris, the national security state, neo-conservative and Wilsonian-interventionist ideologies and their associated think tanks, and the complicit role of the established media in peddling the unshakable militaristic Washington line—but have always felt that despite the relevancy of such factors something was missing. 

A recent essay by Michael Brenner, which I’m including below as a guest commentary, identifies what might be missing from my analyses: the complicity of American culture; specifically, the persistent capacity of the American people to cultivate amnesia over the consequences of our military follies.  Why don’t we learn from the lessons of history?  Brenner offers an answer.  


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

RESPONSE TO JIM DUBBS ON SOLDIER’S LIVES DON’T MATTER

I received the following comment from loyal Phronesis reader Jim Dubbs on my recent post on the continuing Air Force campaign to retire the A-10 Warthog, which I argued represented a lack of concern for the lives of our troops. Jim always brings a valuable historical perspective to my posts, for which I am grateful.

You just have to wonder where any political leadership is on these issues. Ike may have issued the warning about a military-industrial complex, but successive Secretaries of Defense have decided that their survival depends on providing our various military leaders with the newest toys. I recall that McNamara -- who I believe was a car industry executive (Ford), like his predecessor Wilson (GM) -- was touted as this great efficiency expert who was going to make sure of strong civilian management of the armed forces. Indeed, he became lauded as a rather "strong" Defense Secretary. Not hard to understand. Of course, he was: Kennedy's military budget tripled that of Ike's as I recall. However, I think the bigger problem than the toys controversy (A-10 v. F-35) is that, in general, the military always seems to be preparing for the wars of the past, not the likely ones of the future. I would agree that A-10 is best for support of ground troops, but how much of the conflicts facing us now and in the future are likely to involve a significant commitment of troops on the ground? That may be one of the only things Rumsfeld was kind of right on, and he got castigated for tying to fight war on the cheap, right? 

My Response:
 

Monday, October 3, 2016

SOLDIER LIVES DON’T MATTER: THE AIR FORCE STILL DETERMINED TO SCRAP THE A-10


By Ronald T. Fox

A-10 Attacking
An A-10 On Mission

Give the Air Force credit for persistence. Undeterred by a Congressional prohibition on retiring the highly effective A-10 Warthog, the AF is continuing its campaign to scrap it. Its latest scheme is to reduce the number of Warthogs that are combat ready. Manipulating Congress is nothing new to the AF; what is different this time is that the lives of many soldiers hinges on what the Congress ultimately decides to do about the A-10.
 
As I’ve written previously (see links below), the A-10 is a highly effective aircraft that has proven its value in all wars the U.S. has been involved in since 1990.  Designed primarily to support troops on the ground, which remains its main mission, it has also been used effectively for air defense suppression, interdiction, search and rescue, armed reconnaissance, forward air control, and air-to-air combat against helicopters.  Troops on the ground swear by it, its pilots and former pilots taut its virtues, and Congressional supporters on both sides of the aisle, aware that there is no viable alternative (it is far superior to the Army's Apache helicopter), continue to support its deployment. Despite these accolades, and its proven track record in combat, the AF wants to retire it, replacing it primarily with the problem-plagued F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), the most expensive weapons system in history. 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

SEPTEMBER 2016 BONEHEAD ABSURDITY OF THE MONTH

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NOTE:  It seems media sorts are only interested in Donald Trump these days. As a result, it has been hard to find bonehead absurdities from other prominent figures, although I'm sure there were many that didn't get wide coverage.  Though I’d like to avoid boring Phronesis readers with yet more Trump absurdities, I couldn't help but include the following dillies. With apologies, I offer this month’s Trump-dominated selections.

1. Former Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann. Bachmann warns of an “impending apocalypse” in which godly moral principles will no longer be defended if Hillary Clinton is elected.
 
“I don't want to be melodramatic but I do want to be truthful,” the evangelical Christian said in an interview on the Christian Broadcasting Network’s “Brody File.” “I believe without a shadow of a doubt this is the last election. This is it. This is the last election.”
 
Bachmann, who advises Donald Trump on religious issues and foreign policy (go figure), explained that demographic change in the United States posed a disadvantage to Republican candidates since the country’s growing share of minority voters were more inclined to vote for Democrats.
 
“It's a math problem of demographics and a changing United States,” she said. “If you look at the numbers of people who vote and who lives in the country and who Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton want to bring in to the country, this is the last election when we even have a chance to vote for somebody who will stand up for godly moral principles. This is it.”
 
Bachmann said that if Clinton were elected, she would offer “wholesale amnesty” to undocumented immigrants “so that Republicans will never again have the chance at winning Florida or Texas” and therefore be unable to secure the White House. "She's going to change the demographics of the United States so that no Republican will ever win again," Bachmann insisted.
 
What’s absurd is her insinuation that brown people don’t stand up for “godly, moral principles, not her prediction of future doom for the white-only GOP-- an intriguing prospect, indeed.
 

Friday, September 23, 2016

PENN STATE’S COMMEMORATION OF JOE PATERNO

by Charles Snow

I have been closely following the Sandusky scandal at Penn State since it erupted in the fall of 2011. The latest chapter in this sad, ongoing saga occurred last Saturday when Penn State commemorated the 50th anniversary of Joe Paterno’s first game (and victory) as the head football coach. The planned celebration was preceded by an editorial in the school newspaper questioning the wisdom of such an event, followed by a torrent of angry e-mails from Penn State alumni and Joe Paterno fans.
 
The Sandusky affair has been poorly handled by the Penn State administration from the beginning, including the firing of Paterno in a classic rush to judgment. Those who have been following this story can see no pattern in the decision-making by Penn State’s Board of Trustees, as well as by Presidents Erickson and Barron, unless that pattern is incompetence. I, myself, am convinced that the university administration is tone deaf when it comes to dealing with Sandusky’s crimes and the career of Joe Paterno.
 
To be fair, there is nothing that Penn State can do – or not do – that will please everyone. The hole that was initially dug in this affair is simply too deep. So I would like to simply offer my opinion on the Paterno commemoration given the context that has developed over the past five years.
 
It’s a fact that Joe Paterno was a great football coach. He is the winningest coach in college football, and all of his teams’ victories came as the coach at Penn State. Certainly, this individual’s record should be commemorated. Moreover, Paterno contributed to the university in other ways – as a fundraiser for the library and as the face of a model football program of student-athletes. Perhaps Paterno should be commemorated for these leadership characteristics as well.
 
But is Joe Paterno a moral role model as well? I don’t think so. I lost a lot of respect for Paterno the individual when I learned of how he handled the report by Mike McQuery in what is usually referred to as the “shower incident.” It didn’t then, and it doesn’t now, sound to me like Paterno had that young boy’s interests at heart. His bureaucratic passing of the information to the athletic director the next day bordered on being heartless. Now we’re hearing from depositions in one of the endless lawsuits that Paterno may have known more about Sandusky’s behavior than he ever acknowledged.
 
Should Penn State commemorate Joe Paterno before the full story of his role in the Sandusky affair is known? I realize that we may never know the full story even when the remaining lawsuits and trials are over. Therefore, I would wait – years if necessary – to honor Joe Paterno, and I would limit that commemoration to his role as football coach and the creator of a model college football program. The event that was held last Saturday is repugnant – especially in the eyes of Sandusky’s victims and those who are trying to increase awareness of the sexual abuse of children.












Thursday, September 1, 2016

AUGUST 2016 BONEHEAD ABUSRDITY OF THE MONTH

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1. Republican Senator Snowball Jim Inhofe. The lunatic, Imhofe has become infamous for the ridiculous arguments he offers to deny climate change science, like tossing a snowball on the floor of the Senate in an effort to prove that the globe isn’t warming. Recently he recounted a story of his granddaughter asking him why he didn’t know anything about climate change. His response: kids are being “brainwashed.”
 
During a radio interview, Inhofe stated:
 
“You know, our kids are being brainwashed? I never forget because I was the first one back in 2002 to tell the truth about global warming stuff and all of that. And my own granddaughter came home one day and said ‘Popi . . . why is it you don’t understand global warming?’ I did some checking and Eric, the stuff that they teach our kids nowadays, you have to un-brainwash them when they get out.”
 
I’d like to think Imhofe could be “un-brainwashed” when he leaves the Congress, but his anti-science brain has not only been washed, its been dried and bleached. The saddest thing is that he and his climate-science-denying colleagues probably won’t live to see the full horrors their ignorance has wrought on the earth.
 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

SCRUTINIZING THE HIROSHIMA MYTH AND ITS LEGACY (RE-POSTED)

By Ronald T. Fox


NOTE:  While I was traveling in Italy, President Obama's visit to Hiroshima was a hot topic among political and social commentators of all sorts.    Most of the comments I read remained deeply entrenched in the Hiroshima Myth I wrote about last August: the use of the bomb was necessary to end the war and save lives, both American and Japanese, which according to the myth it did.  Despite strong evidence to the contrary, and the fact that far fewer Americans today believe nuclear weapons are a good thing, this widely-believed rationale for why the bomb was used remains unshakable.  In light of the latest round of rationalizing, I've decided to re-post my original pieces on Truman's decision to use the bomb and why the Japanese surrendered.  I have made a few modifications to the original.  (For an excellent, comprehensive history of the atomic bomb decision and why Japan surrendered, see: Paul Ham, Hiroshima Nagasaki: The Real Story of the Atomic Bombings and Their Aftermath.)    

The original posting, as modified:

Atomic Bombs Over Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Atomic Bombs Dropped on Hiroshima (left) and Nagasaki (right)

August 6th, 2015, marked the 70th anniversary of the dropping of the “Little Boy” atomic bomb on Hiroshima. As has been the case on every decennial anniversary of the bombing, the bomb’s use is currently being celebrated by politicians, media sorts, and most Americans as being responsible for ending the war and thus negating the need for an invasion of Japan’s home islands that would have caused enormous losses on both sides. This belief has achieved numinous status in the United States; most Americans accept it as an article of faith. It has become, as historian Christian Appy put it, the most successful legitimizing narrative in American history. There’s only one thing wrong with the Hiroshima narrative: it's not factual. There is perhaps no greater myth in U.S. history than the belief that the atomic bomb was the "winning weapon" that ended World War II. It’s what I call the Hiroshima Myth.

Despite doubts about the necessity to use the bomb expressed by a number of top military and political leaders at the time (and later in their personal reflections), challenges to the traditional Hiroshima narrative by several historians, and declining overall American attraction to nuclear weapons, the Hiroshima Myth remains deeply embedded in the consciousness of the overwhelming majority of Americans. How did it get so embedded? Why didn’t the highly authoritative 1947 U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, which concluded that the Japanese would have surrendered "certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to November 1 1945--even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, the Russians had not entered the war, and no invasion had been planned or contemplated," establish a different narrative?

Were the bombings instrumental in ending the war? Did they avert an invasion of the Japanese homeland and thus save lives? There’s much at stake in the answers to these questions, for if the bomb wasn't necessary to end the war, then its use on Hiroshima and, especially Nagasaki, was wrong, militarily, politically and morally, especially when one considers that these two cities were not vital military targets.

At the risk of being called unpatriotic, un-American, or worse, because the issue still touches raw emotions (Americans don't take kindly to questioning the morality of our country's purposes), I will attempt to refute the Hiroshima Myth. Fortunately I am able to draw upon information that wasn’t available when early histories of the bombings were written. This information includes a declassified paper written by a Joint Chiefs of Staff advisory group in June 1945, the personal accounts of a number of top Japanese leaders, and various bits of documentary evidence uncovered by enterprising historians. These discoveries enable a more accurate picture of bomb’s role in ending the war.

In a three-part essay, I will argue that use of the atomic bomb was not the main factor inducing Japan to surrender and Truman’s bomb-use decision was not primarily based on a desire to save American lives.  I will also argue in Part III that our enduring belief in the bomb as “the winning weapon” has had a profound impact on American culture and on how we approach national security.


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

PRESIDENT OBAMA’S NUCLEAR MODERNIZATION PROGRAM RAISES THE RISK OF NUCLEAR WAR

By Ronald T. Fox

LRSO Concept Design
Is This the Future?
Barack Obama began his presidency with a firm pledge to rid the world of nuclear weapons. In an oft-quoted speech in Prague, he said that as the only nuclear power to have used nuclear weapons, the United States had a moral responsibility to take “concrete steps” to begin to build a world without nuclear weapons. He reaffirmed his vision of a nuclear-free world during his recent visit to Hiroshima. Lofty rhetoric aside, his current nuclear modernization program promises to spur a renewed nuclear arms race and increase the risks of nuclear war.
 

Monday, August 1, 2016

JULY 2016 BONEHEAD ABSURDITY OF THE MONTH

 

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1. U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis), you know-- the guy who got rich (net worth over $24 million) by finding someone to support him, has a pearl of wisdom for all the working single moms out there:  If she wants to "increase her take-home pay” instead of having yet "another child out of wedlock" to increase her welfare windfall, she should instead "find someone to support her."
 
Johnson is quick to admit that he stole this incredibly sexist riff from his uber-misogynist pal, U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman.  But some things are so awesome, that you just have to use them yourself! Some variation of this single mom marrying the government instead of a marrying real man has become a central talking point of Johnson's stump speech as he gears up for re-election 2016.  
 
As anyone who works and has kids would expect, Johnson and Grothman's modern redux of the "welfare queen" has been rated "Mostly False" by Politifact and was given "Two Pinocchios" by the Washington Post's fact checker. Why?  Because it is a ridiculous notion to suggest that when you’re a single parent, working below the poverty line, you would intentionally have another child to get more government assistance and "increase your take-home pay."  Obviously, food stamps, health care and other government assistance don't come close covering all the expenses that come with having a child and what Johnson and Grothman fail to grasp in their misleading calculations of "income," is that children actually eat and children actually get sick-- the "increased income" they're talking about comes in the form of increased benefits that all (in most cases literally) get eaten-up by the children.
 
Besides, most single women with children don't receive government assistance that we typically think of as "welfare."  And, most single women are in the workforce. Most new college graduates today are women and there are even more lady lawyers and lady doctors coming down the pike than men!  
 
Of all the statements that demonstrate that Ron Johnson doesn't live in the same world as the rest of us, this one really takes the cake.  Of course, what would we expect from someone who has never had to worry about job security and making ends meet, as he coos from the protective cocoon that his wife's wealthy family has built for him? 
 

Friday, July 8, 2016

FROM MAD TO NUTS: THE MILITARIZATION OF US NUCLEAR WAR PLANNING

By Ronald T. Fox


NOTE:  This is Part II of my three-part series on nuclear weapons and strategy.


Soviet Union First A-Bomb Test

" First Lightning," The First Successful Russian 
A-Bomb Test, August 29, 1945 

The U.S. emerged from World War II with a monopoly of nuclear weapons. Facing no credible security threats, there was little reason to think strategically about how best to provide for our national defense. Who would fool with the owner of the “winning weapon?” The situation changed in 1949 when the Soviet Union exploded its first atomic device. With Communist dominoes falling in Eastern Europe and the Russians building an atomic bomb delivery capability, the US now faced what was perceived as an existential threat. How would we respond? It would be up to the Dwight Eisenhower Administration to chart a course.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

JUNE 2016 BONEHEAD ABSURDITY OF THE MONTH

 
1. Linda Storm, Chairwoman of the Delta County (Colorado) Republican Party. On her facebook page, Sorenson had the absurd, racist wisdom to share the following John Frank Pelicano’s photo.

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I thought this was the kind of thing Republicans talk about behind closed doors, but going public? The Delta Country Republican Central Committee jumped into action blaming the posting on hackers, saying :
 
“This whole thing is a hoax. Someone got into the Facebook somehow,” said Vic Ullrey, vice chairman of the committee. “It was hacked and somebody got into it, definitely . . . someone trying “to damage the Republican Party, no doubt…. Just to make us look bad”
 
They went on to point fingers at Media Matters. Damn liberal media! Sorenson, however, told a different story to Jason Salzman, who broke the story of the shared meme on his blog, Bigmedia.org, last week, telling him the post was a joke, and, “I really don’t care if people are offended by it.”
 
Sorenson, who has been the chairwoman of the DCRCC for 4 years, seems a prime candidate for Trump’s running mate. Birds of a feather.
 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

COUNSELORS OF WAR

By Ronald T. Fox


Dr. Strangelove
Dr. Strangelove

“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”
-- Albert Einstein


“A nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought.” The speaker of these words was not an anti-war activist or a utopian dreamer. He was none other than Ronald Reagan, who uttered these words in 1985 in a face-to-face meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev.

Reagan was not an expert on nuclear weapons--far from it. He came to this conclusion through simple common sense. So did a number of notable scientists who were experts on atomic weapons. J. Robert Oppenheimer, the widely-acknowledged “father of the atomic bomb,” mused after watching the explosion of the first atomic bomb in the New Mexico desert: “Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.” Noted physicist Albert Einstein famously said: "Our world faces a crisis as yet unperceived by those possessing power to make great decisions for good or evil. The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.”

What these men shared in common was an understanding that nuclear bombs were not weapons that could be used to fight wars.  Unfortunately the brilliant men who have shaped US nuclear weapons policy did think of atomic bombs as usable weapons; apparently so do our current crop of strategic planners.  We are living the consequences of their folly.
 
The fundamental truth about atomic weapons was stated early in the nuclear age by the pioneering Rand Corporation nuclear strategist Bernard Brodie, who wrote in 1946: “Everything about the atomic bomb is overshadowed by the twin facts that it exists and that its destruction power is fantastically great.” The story of the nuclear age from that moment on has been a story about intellectuals trying to outmaneuver this fundamental truth, trying to make nuclear bombs manageable, controllable, usable for military purposes. They developed esoteric theories and war-fighting strategies that belied common sense, and in the process moved the United States closer to Armageddon.  

Saturday, June 4, 2016

MAY 2016 BONEHEAD ABSURDITY OF THE MONTH


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NOTE: I’ve been in Italy for the month of May, so this month’s absurdities are being posted a bit late.  Despite my Italian preoccupation, I was still able to find some worthy candidates.
 
1. GOP Representative Louie Gohmert. America's Dumbest Congressman is still alive. We hadn't heard from him in a while, so I was worried we were going to find his corpse in a snowy parking lot somewhere, his tongue still firmly frozen to a lamppost.
 
Last month on “Washington Watch,” Gohmert railed against “the hate crimes by this administration” against conservative Christians, such as the nuns of the Little Sisters of the Poor. "Washington Watch" is a program of the Tony Perkins hate group Family Research Council, and yes Republicans still continue to genuflect to the hate group leader because it's the right kind of hate group. The kind that will host America's Dumbest Congressman to fret about how this administration is rounding up Christians and, hell if I know, taking their good Christian ammo. He's not exactly the most coherent of our legislators.
 
The two also blasted an Obama administration's effort to fight hate crimes directed at Muslim-Americans. Gohmert dismissed concerns about such hate crimes while saying that the White House is ignoring crimes against Christians and Jews throughout the world because “we have a United States leadership that will not protect Christians [and] puts a real prize on protecting Muslims.”
 
For those of you who don't remember, our primary purpose in highlighting the stylings of America's Dumbest Congressman is to point out that this person is actually in charge of writing our nation's laws. And he, like a great many of his compatriots, is a stone-cold moron. A lunatic. A crackpot. A man who in any other country would likely have to be content holding up badly spelled rants on cardboard signs--but in America we elect these people to Congress, apparently because states like Texas think it’s funny.
 
The congressman then quoted from the book of Hosea to suggest that America is facing God’s wrath because “nations are made to account when they put leaders in place that persecute those who are trying to follow the words of God.”
 
It’s always fun to look in on Rep. Louie Gohmert from time to time to make sure he is not sticking forks in wall outlets or trying to swallow one of his own socks. Phronesis will continue to watch over him as best we can, at least until the eventual Republican nominee declares him their vice presidential pick. After that, he's their problem.
 

Monday, May 2, 2016

APRIL 2016 BONEHEAD ABSURDITY OF THE MONTH

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I decided to organize this month’s absurdities around the theme of women’s rights, which have come under frequent attack during the current GOP presidential campaign season. Lest you think we’ve made notable progress on women’s rights, take a look at the following:

 
1. New Hampshire Republican Representatives Josh Moore and Al Baldasaro. Moore and Baldasaro support a bill in the state legislature that would make it a misdemeanor for women to purposely expose their nipples publicly without regard to whether it might offend or alarm someone. Noting that it had only male sponsors, Democratic representative Amanda Bouldin, strongly condemned the bill, which brought crude comments from Moore and Baldasaro on Facebook.
 
Moore, a co-sponsor of the bill, wrote that women who want to expose their breasts should have no problem with a man’s inclination to stare at it and “grab it.”
 
Baldasaro chimed in to disparage Bouldin’s appearance:
 
“No disrespect, but your nipple would be the last one I would want to see… “You want to turn our family beach’s (sic) into a pervert show?”
 
Public outrage forced Moore to withdraw his name from the bill, but Baldasaro was not to be deterred. He accused Bouldin of trying to quash free speech, saying:
 
“We have a constitution… It’s there for a reason, and I’ll never be silent.”
 
No comment necessary.
 

Monday, April 25, 2016

FORMER NFL PLAYER RELATES HIS NIGHTMARISH CONCUSSION STORY

By Ronald T. Fox

I have now posted eight commentaries on the subject of head injuries in football. The information I used in writing these pieces came from secondary sources, based on what I learned from reading various writings on Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). With an expanding body of research on CTE and thousands of concussion lawsuits against the NFL, there is a wealth of information to scrutinize. Not being a football player who experienced blows to the head or a neuroscientist who has actually looked into a diseased brain, I can only offer a layman’s view of the brain injury problem. This is OK as far as it goes, but it is important to also hear first-hand accounts. I recently received such an account from a Phronesis reader who was a former NFL player.
 
In past posts on head injuries in football, I've criticized the NFL for its shoddy research on the long-term effects of concussions,  tardiness in admitting that CTE was a problem, belated implementation of a concussion protocol, and, most recently, for its possible collusion with Big Tobacco and its failure to provide medical care for retired players suffering from traumatic brain injuries.  My recent post, Deadly Deceit: Did the NFL Borrow from Big Tobacco's Script? drew a response from George Visger, who played for the San Francisco 49ers in the early 1980s.


Sunday, April 24, 2016

THE NFL STILL WON'T OWN UP TO THE BRAIN INJURY PROBLEM

By Ronald T. Fox


The following is a re-worked version  of my April 20th response to Phronesis reader Vito D'Albora. It is based on some new information I found that is relevant to the points I wanted to make.  I changed the title to more closely reflect my thesis.   My apologies if much of this is what many of you previously read.  Stay tuned for more on the NFL's despicable behavior over the brain injury issue; tomorrow I will post a comment I received from a former NFL player.


The original D'Albora comment:

Thanks for your well thought out article. I heard a report on NPR that youth participation in football is down by almost 20%. My son has said that he will not let his boys play football.  On the other hand football is so ingrained in the American culture that people will actually watch the NFL combine and a NFL pre-season game will draw more viewers than a MLB playoff game!


My re-formulated response:

I fully understand how deeply ingrained football is in American popular culture. Further revelations about the risks of permanent brain damage are unlikely to diminish the popularity of the game. As long as fans continue to value "big hits" and tough-guy players who shake off injuries, players remain addicted to the huge money they can make, and the NFL persist in prioritizing its bottom line, we can expect neurological risks to be accepted by most fans, players, and league executives. This doesn't mean, however, that the game can't be made safer and the league can't do more to provide medical treatment for players with traumatic brain injuries. An NFL player shouldn't leave the game knowing that there's a three in 10 chance he will develop Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), which he will have to face mostly on his own.  Below I offer some suggestions of changes I would like to see implemented.  

Saturday, April 16, 2016

DEADLY DECEIT: DID THE NFL BORROW FROM BIG TOBACCO’S SCRIPT?

By Ronald T. Fox



Back in November of 2014 I posted the first of a series of essays on head injuries in football. In that first post (Head Injuries in Football: The NFL Fumbles), I criticized the NFL for what appeared to be a disingenuous campaign to discount scientific evidence that blows to the head in football could have lasting neurological damage and for its character attacks on scientists who presented the damning evidence. I suggested that league-sponsored research on the question of brain injuries was designed to play down the risks of head hits rather than find out what was really going on. A recent investigation by the New York Times sheds new light on the questionable science employed by NFL in researching the head injury problem.  The Times found that NFL researchers omitted numerous documented concussions from its data bank over the five-year period of its investigation, and—even more troubling—it may have borrowed its deceitful script from the tobacco industry: delay, deflect and distract. The key question in all this remains: did the NFL connive to cover up the risks to player’s health or did its committee of doctors and executives simply err on the side of caution?
 

Friday, April 1, 2016

MARCH 2016 BONEHEAD ABSURDITY OF THE MONTH

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1. Rock and Roller Ted Nugent. I’m used to Nugent’s angry screeds against liberals, but his latest outburst against American Jews ramps his hate up a notch. On his Facebook page, Nugent posted a graphic which pointed to American Jews as being responsible for the push for more gun regulations in the United States.  Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt was quick to respond:
 
“Ted Nugent has a long history of being an equal opportunity offender. But his latest share on Facebook, making the outrageous suggestion that Jews are behind gun control, is nothing short of conspiratorial anti-Semitism. Regardless of one’s views on gun control, this kind of scapegoating of an entire religious group is completely unacceptable and completely divorced from reality.”
 
It should go without saying that anti-Semitism has no place in the gun control debate. Nugent should be ashamed for promoting anti-Semitic content, and we hope that good people on both sides of the gun control debate will reject his tactics and his message. We hope that Nugent will have the good sense to remove this share immediately so that it does not spread virally across the internet. No chance!
 
Not only did Nugent refuse to remove the graphic, he doubled down:
 
“Just when you thought that mankind couldn’t possibly get any dumber or more dishonest, superFreaks rise to the occasion. What sort of racist prejudiced POS could possibly not know that Jews for gun control are Nazis in disguise? "NEVER AGAIN!" Anyone? Anyone?? RUFKM! The founder of Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership called me his 2nd Amendment/Freedom hero. The NEVER AGAIN battle cry was universally embraced by all good people who will make sure another Holocaust never happens again. Freaks have plummeted to whole new low. Plummet on punks. Plummet on. Meanwhile I adjust my yamika at my barmitzva playing my kosher guitar. My dad killed Nazis & saved Jews in WWII. Eat me.”
 
Ted Nugent has been on the board of the National Rifle Association since 1995.
 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

FEBRUARY 2016 BONEHEAD ABSURDITY OF THE MONTH

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1. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. After the US Supreme Court struck down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, Abbott wasted little time in filing a brief to re-institute the state’s discriminatory redistricting plan, the same plan the Supreme Court had ruled as unconstitutional. When US Attorney General Eric Holder denied Abbott’s request, Texas filed a lawsuit under Section 2 basing its claim on the following arguments. Give Texas credit for honesty. From the filed brief:
 
DOJ’s accusations of racial discrimination are baseless. In 2011, both houses of the Texas Legislature were controlled by large Republican majorities, and their redistricting decisions were designed to increase the Republican Party’s electoral prospects at the expense of the Democrats....The redistricting decisions of which DOJ complains were motivated by partisan rather than racial considerations, and the plaintiffs and DOJ have zero evidence to prove the contrary. It is perfectly constitutional for a Republican-controlled legislature to make partisan districting decisions, even if there are incidental effects on minority voters who support Democratic candidates.
 
You know, having them actually come right out and say it--that they wanted to restrict potential Democratic voters--is long overdue. But wait!  There's more. To address the actual accusations of racial bias and discrimination, Texas is using the argument that "Yeah, there may be an isolated incident or two, but it's NOTHING like it was in 1965".  
 
Texas claims that even if it did discriminate, and it stresses that it did not, it was nothing as bad as “the ‘pervasive,’ ‘flagrant,’ ‘widespread,’ and ‘rampant’ discrimination that originally justified preclearance in 1965.”
 
So as long as Texas skies aren’t alight with flames from burning crosses, what’s the big whoop? So, Texas is arguing that Section 2, and in fact the entire reasons for preclearance are all based on conditions in 1965.  And that since "things are better than in 1965" then Section 2 is null and void. Better than 1965? With Texas strict registration rules disenfranchising an estimated nearly one million voters in the 2014 election, this assertion is highly questionable. The only thing lacking is a literacy test.
 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

CALLING RONALD REAGAN; YOUR PARTY NEEDS YOU

By Ronald Fox


REAGAN II
The Eternal Optimist

I ran into Ronald Reagan in a dream last night.  The Senate GOP vow to not hold confirmation hearings on anyone President Obama nominates to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court had him shaking his head in frustration at what’s become of his beloved party.  This latest case of Republican intransigence underscores once again the sharp contrast between Reagan and the current crop of party leaders.  It angers me to no end that the Republican elite continues to cite Reagan as their model conservative. It is an insult to the Reagan legacy. 

Don’t get me wrong; I was no fan of Reagan during his era.  My values for a more inclusive, egalitarian, and diplomatic America didn’t square well with his core beliefs in lower taxes, limited government, and a robust military presence, not to mention his support for repressive dictatorial regimes throughout Latin America and the Greater Middle East.  Contemporary Republican ideological dogmatism, political obstructionism, and war-mongering, however, have made me look at Reagan in a new light.  Oh how I wish today's Republican leaders shared Reagan’s pragmatism, penchant for compromise, sunny political optimism. and broad appeal.  Sadly, these are current GOP taboos.

Since 2013, I have posted three commentaries counting the ways Reagan the politician differed from the image held by most Republicans today:  What Would Ronald Reagan Do? Conservatives Are Clueless; Ronald Reagan and Contemporary Republicansand, Response to "Anonymous" Regarding Reagan and Contemporary Republicans. The 2016 GOP presidential campaign has furthered sharpened the distinction between Reagan and the Republican contenders, all of whom have dropped his name as their role model. I only wish it were true.    

Firmly entrenched as the party of “no,” it’s hard to envision a bright future for the GOP.  New York Times Opinion writer Jacob Weisberg touched on this theme in an op-ed in yesterday's Times.  I’ve decided to post it as a guest commentary.

Friday, February 19, 2016

THE TRUMP PHENOMENON: REPUBLICANS HAVE CREATED THEIR OWN MONSTER

By Ronald T. Fox



Republican establishment leaders are scratching their heads over the Donald Trump phenomenon. They seem shocked that so many party faithful would gravitate to such a reckless demagogue whose acidic rhetoric has managed to alienate, among others, women, Latinos and young voters--constituencies the party needs to attract if it hopes to win in November.  Worse yet, perhaps, it has confounded the billionaire fatcats that have been bankrolling the party.  The Trump insurgency is threatening to unravel the GOP and the conservative principles it holds so dear.  Try as they have, party leaders and many of its deep-pocketed supporters have so far not been able to stifle the Trump juggernaut.

Many Republicans leaders see the insurrection among traditional party faithful mainly as a product of Trump's unique, larger-than-life personality, his ability to dominate the airwaves, and his deftness in appealing to voter anger with tough-sounding promises.  They're not seeing the bigger picture.

What explains the rebelliousness among the GOP ranks?  For an answer, the party's establishment needs to look in the mirror.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

JANUARY 2016 BONEHEAD ABSURDITY OF THE MONTH

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1. House Speaker Paul Ryan. The new House Speaker, who insists on lots of family time for himself, explained his opposition to paid family leave for other people:

"I don't think people asked me to be speaker so I can take more money from hardworking taxpayers to create some new federal entitlement. But I think people want to have members of Congress that represent them, that are like them," Ryan said. "Don't you want your member of Congress to be a citizen legislator who lives with you, among you, who has your own kinds of concerns, who wants to spend time with his children on Saturdays and Sundays? "That I think is what most people want in their life, a balance. So if you're asking me because I want to continue being the best dad and husband and speaker I can be — getting that work-life balance correct — means I should sign up for some new unfunded entitlement, that doesn't make any sense to me."

He doesn't want to take money from hardworking taxpayers ... to give those hardworking taxpayers paid leave if they have a child or need to care for a sick family member. He opposes an unfunded entitlement ... except that "unfunded entitlement" is, in California for instance, actually a small payroll deduction that's helped 1.8 million Californians take paid leave, 90 percent of them to care for a new baby, over the law's first decade, without hurting businesses or killing jobs.

In short, Paul Ryan does not care about the facts. He cares about spending time with his family while standing in the way of you doing the same. He has a job that lets him make that kind of demand, and if you're not so lucky and powerful, screw you. Basic rights for you—the kind of thing that three American states and virtually every other country on earth can somehow provide—can be boiled down to meaningless Republican buzzwords for "no."


Monday, January 25, 2016

A EULOGY FOR AL JAZEERA AMERICA


By Ronald T. Fox 


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Al Jazeera America, the cable network that has been repeatedly recognized for excellence in journalism by industry peers, I wrote so glowingly about back in November (see: Investigative Journalism in America: Rest in Peace) announced on January 6 that it will be shutting down by the end of April.  The only cable news option in the US that offered thoughtful, in-depth, contextual journalism from an international rather than an American-focused perspective, will be gone.  I guess it had to be. Serious journalism is a poor fit in the highly competitive, profit-driven US media marketplace.

With the US also lacking an extensive national public news option not captive to profit, similar to, say, the BBC, Agence France-Presse or Sveriges Television (Sweden), Americans thirsting for serious global news coverage will now have to turn exclusively to web sources.  (I understand public networks have their issues, but I would take any of the above listed offerings over the private networks or limited public broadcasting we have in the United States.)

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

IMAGES OF A DESTROYED RAMADI

By Ronald T. Fox


The back-slapping and self-congratulation has been deafening: with assistance from American special operation forces and air support, Iraqi military forces retook the city of Ramadi from the Islamic State, which had controlled it since May. This was good news for most Americans, even if 600 air strikes from the US-led coalition, along with destruction caused by retreating ISIS booby-traps, left 80% of the city destroyed.  Chalk up one more "liberated” city with an uncertain future. Up next, Fallujah, followed by Mosul and then Raqqa, the Syrian "capital" of the Islamic State.

Ramadi is yet another example of the scorched-earth reality that passes for victory on the ground in Iraq and Syria. Call me naïve; I just can’t seem to figure out how the utter destruction of towns serves any long-term purpose for achieving stability and order, let alone political and economic viability.   Military victories can be won, but the political challenge of reconstruction, meeting humanitarian needs, and reconciling Sunni-Shiite animosities remain illusive, if not intractable.  When will we learn that military gains must have a political program to back them up?

Previously I posted images of Kobani, Syria, which was similarly “liberated.” Below are some images of Ramadi.  Draw your own conclusions.

Monday, January 4, 2016

DECEMBER 2015 BONEHEAD ABSURDITY OF THE MONTH


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1. Colorado State Republican Representative JoAnn Windholz. Windholz issued a statement on the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood attack that left 3 dead and 9 wounded last week. The Colorado Independent published her jaw-dropping statement:​
 
“The freedoms we enjoy in the United States include those that were made up to fit the audience and unsubstantiated numerical support, specifically the right to an abortion. When a violent act happens at a Planned Parenthood (pph) facility (most recent in Colorado Springs) the left goes on “auto-pilot” blaming everyone in sight when they should be looking in a mirror. Free Speech has brought to light the insidious selling of baby body parts (PPH has no shame). These facts and overall mission of the abortion industry would easily send anyone over the hill who wasn’t rational.”
 
Oh, but wait—there’s more. Rep. Windholz was just getting started:
 
“Violence is never the answer, but we must start pointing out who is the real culprit. The true instigator of this violence and all violence at any Planned Parenthood facility is Planned Parenthood themselves. Violence begets violence. So Planned Parenthood: YOU STOP THE VIOLENCE INSIDE YOUR WALLS.”
 
Blaming an organization that provides vital legal and medical services to women, including abortions (3 % of its funding), and circulating false information about what PPH does, has become the stock in trade for far-right conservatives. They have no qualms about making up facts to push their sick notions. Worse, though, are the gullible people who believe their lies.
 
Windholz won her seat in 2014 by only 106 votes. Let us hope her outrageous statement will seal her electoral doom.  The full statement from Rep. Windholz can be read at the Colorado Independent.