The Pardu

Mike Victor: Perspective, Analysis and Opine

Mike Victor
February 8, 2015
To borrow from Shakespeare ( Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 17-28)) , this occupation was indeed a “tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

As the last “fools” leave property that was never theirs muttering grandiose death pacts they never meant to keep – “out, out, brief candle!” – we are reminded that these were indeed poor players who strutted and fretted their hour upon the stage and then are heard no more.

They pretended to be cowboys and soldiers and tough guys. In the end, they were just racist bullies and thugs. And cowards.

The last activist who sounds positively unhinged in the audio I heard, can’t even predict the next few minutes of his life. He was going to surrender until he waffled, declaring that he would “die a free man.” 

“If they attack me, I have to defend myself,” Fry said in a live streamed vow made with all the earnestness to fellow government-haters and gun nuts. “I’m a man, I’m taking a stand. … A stand means you’re willing to risk your life.”

Except of course that he did no such thing. Life, even in the gulag archipelago of Obama’s America, seemed preferable to the alternative. 

This is a good thing because he would have sacrificed his life for a pack of right wing lies.

How embarrassing upon his arrival at that place where terrorists go after martyring themselves to be told that his tax dollars were never, in fact, funding abortions. 

What a sad, pathetic, and mean-spirited thing to kill yourself rather than be forced to pay health insurance premiums to protect yourself and your family. Dying to free ride – whether healthcare or grazing – just doesn’t have the same ring to it as dying to fight Nazi occupation or end communism or a military dictatorship, does it?
The sad thing is that these misguided souls will spend the rest of their lives trying to cast their pathetic exercise in idiocy and visceral, reflexive hatred of “the Negro” as Clive Bundy called them as something noble and meaningful. 

It was a tale told by an idiot.

And it signified nothing.

Three of the last four armed occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge had surrendered earlier this morning. The last man has now given himself up, bringing an end to the 41-day occupation.

Mike Victor
December 6, 2015

Jihadist terrorism since 9-11 hasn’t been a rounding error in total gun deaths. Terrorism is designed to get our attention, to give us the false impression that a rare but horrible event is actually common enough for is to worry about (and change our behavior in a significant way). When afraid, we stop calculating odds (if we ever did), instead responding reflexively and primally to colorful, graphic anecdotes. 
Ideally we should devote resources (including emotional resources such as worry) to risks in proportion to their expected loss (probability of occurring times magnitude of loss). We should be much more worried about our neighbor or spouse with a firearm than about an unarmed Syrian refugee or even a radicalized American religious extremist, since the former is far, far more likely to kill you.

November 25, 2015

100 years ago this Thanksgiving, the KKK, the post-Civil-War white supremacist terrorist group that had died a sort of natural death, was revived as an enormous fiery cross was lit on the top of Stone Mountain, just outside Atlanta, Georgia. 

Stone Mountain is a shrine to white supremacy (although the many visitors there probably don’t think through what the massive carvings of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis really means), but this night marked a turning point for the KKK. It was back under new management, with an expanded mission. Henceforth, they would not hate only African Americans but also Jews, Catholics, immigrants, and anyone who was not what they considered pure American (meaning WASP). 

It was an uglier, broader campaign of hate, but it managed to attract a mainstream following. Joining the KKK was a bit like joining the Rotary Club or the Chamber of Commerce. It was not a white trash, trailer park kind of organization of disgruntled whack jobs as it is now, but a middle class cultural staple and not just in the South (Indiana, for example, had one of the most active KKK branches). 

Like Trump, the existence of the KKK should not dishearten us as much as the receptive audience nativist, racist messages found then and now. When 80% of Georgians today support denying sanctuary to refugees fleeing ISIS – excuse me, as Ted Cruz emphasizes, “MUSLIM Syrian refugees” – something is rotting in the core of America. 

The silly hoods and burning crosses are mostly gone (although the Charleston mass murder and a dozen black church burnings since then indicate that not all racists wear “Make America Hate Again” shirts and only beat up African Americans when they speak up at a Trump rally), but the legacy lives on. 

We have a lot of work to do. 

Happy Thanksgiving to you too.

One hundred years ago, the Ku Klux Klan, dead for some 40 years, touched a lit match to a kerosene-soaked cross, and resurrected a terror from America’s past. It’s a moment we shouldn’t forget.

November 7, 2015

What’s interesting about this case is how quick so many (white) people were to blame this death on the black lives matter movement (that is by definition against violence and has never been responsible for a single death). Many police who have murdered unarmed citizens walk free and unmolested. The idea that protecting black lives somehow endangers white cops is insulting and illogical.
The officer’s death triggered a lengthy manhunt that cost taxpayers well over a quarter of a million dollars and fueled a broader narrative of a “war on cops” erroneously linked to the Black Lives Matter movement. 

That narrative has little supporting data. According to an analysis by the American Enterprise Institute, 2015 is actually on track to be “the safest year for law enforcement in the US since 1887.”

Despite what many claimed, Black Lives Matter had nothing to do with the Illinois officer’s death.

October 30, 2015

I have never heard anyone whine as much as the GOP about the messenger instead of addressing the message. This idea that the “liberal media” or “lamestream media” (I never thought I would quote Sarah Palin, but there you go) is engaged in a conspiracy to make rightwing extremists look like rightwing extremists is getting old. The truth is that certain ideas are less valid than others. Certain policies are more harmful. Certain assumptions are either absurd or offensive (or both). Certain positions are morally and factually wrong, based on assumptions that have been repeatedly demonstrated to be false. If the media occasionally (and they certainly don’t always) does its job, pointing out when candidates or politicians say things that are simply not true, then this is only biased if you believe that truth-telling should be valued no more than lying. Yes, there is a bias, and hopefully it’s a bias against those who don’t do their homework, who go for the cheap sound bite instead of the more nuanced truth, who say things that are demonstrably false (then repeat them loudly and often, as if snark and volume could make something untrue true). 
Other biases I would like to see the media show more of: peace is preferable to war; torture is always wrong; the rule of law is preferable to selective rule-following; tolerance is preferable to intolerance; democracy is generally preferable to either authoritarianism or chaos; education is preferable to ignorance; access to health care is preferable to dying for want of it; a scientist’s opinion about science, a physician’s opinion about healthcare, and a teacher’s opinion about education are all preferable to a politician’s opinion about anything.

Liberal media and mainstream media are synonymous, generally defined by Republicans as “any media outlet that presents facts that prove we’re lying.”

I am sorry to have to do this, but as a representative of the mainstream media, I hereby declare war on GOP presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz. In the…

Mike Victor 
October 27, 2015

Why is it a “dodge” to answer a question about whether one believes in god by referring to a belief in the importance of helping the least among us? Jesus frequently made such a dodge, by the way, one of the reasons perhaps that he drove the religious authorities of the time into a homicidal rage against him. 

In fact, Jesus frequently said that it was meaningless to say that you know, believe in, or follow god, while failing to help the homeless, the incarcerated, the poor, the hungry. How can you really believe in a god you don’t see, he asked, while neglecting or mistreating the brother that you do see? 

I do not believe that most of the first presidents of this country would have passed the de facto religious test that Fox & Friends have since imposed on American presidential candidates, forcing them all to parrot a certain religiosity. Washington did not ask for a religious person to come to his bedside when he was dying and later Andrew Jackson refused to join a church while president, feeling that this would show religious preference incompatible with a secular republic and its values.
John Quincy Adams and Franklin Pierce took their oaths of office on a book of law (they were following the Constitution, not the Bible), and Theodore Roosevelt did not use a Bible when taking his oath in 1901.
As a trivial aside, Lyndon B. Johnson also did not use a bible when sworn in, but instead used a Roman Catholic missal on Air Force One.

October 26, 2015

The Democratic candidate declined to say this week whether he believes in God.

It’s ironic that those opposed to science adopt the language and tools of science to make their case, including the modern public museum (whose invention was surprisingly recent – 19th century England). A museum is the interface between a trusting public and the otherwise inaccessible, dry world of science, with carefully vetted and researched displays illustrating digestible morsels of truth as it is understood at the time. 

Museums carry a certain authority, the imprimatur of a curator or committee who have done their research so you don’t have to do much of your own. Just marvel, dear public, read a few captions, study the cool.displays and specimens. Go home a bit wiser.

So when bronze age myths are presented not as subjects of medieval art but as scientific truth in a museum purporting to be scientific, visitors are duped and deceived by this anachronistic presentation, ancient pre-scientific guesses as to the origins of the earth and our species presented as still credible explanations despite the wealth of evidence refuting virtually everything the authors of Genesis made up, perhaps never realizing that they would be caught fabricating or, more kindly, that they never intended their rambling, internally contradictory account to be read literally as we today might read a history or physics text. 

Yet these guests I imagine are a self-selected lot, the 40% of Americans who believe the earth was created in 6 days 6,000 years ago, who feel under siege by a world that has passed them by, that ridicules and marginalizes them, that gives their children to learn science in schools. Here is a sanctuary, a place they can bring their children and for a day feel just a bit less absurd, maybe even validated. Why, we have our own museum! Surely our ideas must be true if we have a museum, captioned and carefully arranged just like any other museum.

At some level, it’s harmless, like believing in Elvis sightings or the healing power of crystals. Our lives are not diminished that much if people really believe Jesus rode a dinosaur or that light could exist before light-creating objects such as the sun. 

But it’s sad that the American fundamentalist right has created its own parallel reality, complete with their own news station, radio programs, home school curriculum, and now a museum. This parallel, self-perpetuated universe can become infected with plenty of other nutty ideas that do have real world consequences. Abortion is murder and causes breast cancer. Planned Parenthood sells baby parts. Our president is a Muslim (which is bad). His predecessor was a born again Christian (because he said so, which is good, so good that he can be forgiven for starting an illegal war of aggression, torturing innocents, or abandoning the least among us). Global warming is a hoax (once you unmoor yourself from one established scientific theory, why not reject another?) Christianity in America is under attack. There is a War on Christmas. School shootings occur because we don’t force prayer in Christian schools. Guns are great for protecting your family. Palestinians have no right to their land (because the bible says it belongs to a different tribe). Jesus wants you to think and grow rich. Etc, etc.

It’s easy to mock and criticize the Creation Museum. We also need to understand the worldview of those who visit

Mike Victor
The Benghazi Select Committee
It’s interesting that this committee, in defending itself against charges of obvious political pandering, says it is better than all of the other previous committees that failed to show Clinton did anything improper because, unlike those committees, this one would interview “everyone.” 

Oh really? 

Here are some folks who are NOT being interviewed by this committee:

CIA Director at the time of the attack David Petraeus. The consulate was probably attacked because the CIA had been using it as an interrogation center. At least 2 of those killed were CIA employees, not State. They were guarding CIA assets and their link to the CIA at the time was so classified that Petraeus could not attend their funerals and he gave Clinton the bogus cover story that it was a demonstration run amok rather than a military attack. 

Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey. He already had testy exchanges with Senator McCain over this issue; perhaps they would not like him back because he shot down Republican talking points so well and his testimony was strongly in defense of Secretary Clinton and the Obama administration. 

Defense Secretary at the time Leon Panetta who a year ago said that “nobody” should be faulted for the Benghazi attacks that left four Americans dead, charging that Republicans will “continue to try to beat that issue up… I don’t think anybody intentionally made a decision not to help these people. We did everything possible to try to help them. And it just didn’t work.”

The detailed talking points he ordered up went far beyond a House panel’s request, led to bureaucratic fight.

It’s sad to see the Party of Lincoln brought down to this. Have today’s Republicans no shame? 
There is a point after which you have gotten caught with your pants down that you should stop and move into damage control. The GOP way these days seems to be to keep going as though Americans don’t see through what they are doing. Whether it’s trying to shut down healthcare reform, denying poor women access to family planning and cancer screening, engage in ugly nativist immigrant-bashing (Kate’s Law, my ass), or their simple mind-numbing inability to decide what it is that they are really, really, really mad about today, they seem a broken party. But even if leaderless, rudderless, and stripped of principles or direction (we know what they are against, but can anyone tell me what they are for?), they are extremely dangerous. They have demonstrated that they are incapable of controlling their most extreme fringe. Between 20 and 40 of the most extreme tea people managed to shut down a government that is supposed to be representing 310 million people and they are making plenty of noise about doing it again. Although almost everyone understands – and Republicans have admitted – that this latest Benghazi committee has nothing to do with 4 dead Americans and everything to do with Hillary Clinton’s presidential aspirations, we seem powerless to stop this embarrassing costly colossal waste of time. 

We need some kind of mechanism to take the reins of Congress back from this broken party. Elections would help but gerrymandering makes it very difficult. Sparsely-populated, mostly white, rural flyover countries filled with churches and Walmarts and gun shops are sending lunatics to Washington again and again and although there are more of us than there are of them (over half of all votes cast for Congress were cast for Democrats, but far fewer than half of Congressional House seats are held by Democrats), we seem stuck. Without a functioning law-making body, we risk becoming a lawless country, lurching from crisis to crisis, holding endless Congressional Hearings About Nothing while real-world problems remain unsolved or even unaddressed. 

Surely we can do better than this.

Media outlets condemned the House Select Committee on Benghazi’s October 22 hearing that featured testimony by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, calling it “counterproductive,” “unfortunate,” and saying the panel fell “flat on its face.”

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