I worry about the harsh, judgmental, blinkered brand of politics that Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson represents. I worry about his opposition to equal rights between heterosexuals and homosexuals. I worry about his eagerness to encourage panic about infectious diseases. I worry about his animosity to atheists, and his embrace of Creationist junk science. I worry about his involvement in spreading absurd conspiracy theories about Barack Obama’s birth certificate.
I’m not worried about Ben Carson becoming President, though. The reason I’m not worried: Ben Carson will have to speak in public in order to campaign for President. When Ben Carson tries public speaking, garble comes out.
Below a passage from Ben Carson’s speech at an event organized by the secretive theocratic organization that calls itself The Family. This is the speech that Republicans point to as the reason Carson would make a good presidential candidate.
Carson said, “My role model is Jesus, and he spoke in parables, and one of our big problems right now, like I said, I’m not politically correct, but our deficit is a big problem. Think about it, and our national debt, sixteen and a half trillion dollars, you think that’s not a lot of money? I’ll tell you what. Count one number per second, which you can’t do, because once you get to a thousand, it takes longer than a second, but one number per second, do you know how long it would take you to count to sixteen trillion? Five hundred and seven thousand years, more than half a million years.”
What does this mean? Did Jesus like to count? Did Jesus tell parables about the perils of debt?
No, Jesus is not recorded as ever having counseled fiscal discipline. Instead, he urged people, in the book of Matthew, to forgive the debts owed to them, whether literal or metaphorical. Jesus wasn’t an comptroller.
So, what was Ben Carson babbling on about? It’s hard to say, and a candidate who can’t be clear about his own ideas won’t succeed in attracting many voters’ support.
The reason that Republicans enjoyed Ben Carson’s speech is that he loudly criticized President Obama. For them, the lack of focus in Ben Carson’s speech didn’t matter. The rest of us, however, are looking for something more coherent.
This advertisement for a video game is currently making the rounds on Facebook: “Only the strong survive in Game Of War. Are you up for the challenge? Realtime. Worldwide.”
This description, accompanied by the image of a blood-soaked soldier, is all-too close to reality – realtime – worldwide. Only the armor on the soldier creates a hint of fantasy.
Why would anyone want to survive, after soaking themselves in the blood of the people they kill?
War is not a game.
In October, at the height of the Ebola Panic, Dr. Ben Carson wasn’t speaking reason. He was part of the panicked crowd, fanning the flames of fear.
Instead of speaking in measured tones about the precise risks to public health from Ebola, Ben Carson encouraged Americans to fear the worst. “We should be thinking about worst-case scenarios, and we need to be putting into place the kinds of mechanisms to deal with it before it happens,” he said.
The extreme measures that Ben Carson prescribed for the United States included a ban on travel from west Africa. He demanded to know, “If other countries have seen the wisdom in doing this, why are we the last?”
Of course, the United States is not the last country to prohibit travel from west African countries. Most nations on Earth have never instituted a travel ban in reaction to the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
There’s good reason for that: The threat of the significant spread of Ebola due to cross border travel is extremely low, except in nations immediately bordering Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. In the United States, reasonable measures to prevent an Ebola outbreak are already in place, and they are working. There’s no need for outlandish reactions such as a travel ban.
Dallas, and indeed all of Texas, is now completely free of Ebola. The nurses who caught Ebola from the patient there are now virus free. Ebola has not spread throughout New York City. There is only one person with Ebola currently within U.S. borders, an American doctor who is being treated appropriately and is on the mend. The nurse Kaci Hickox never had Ebola, and is now planning to leave Maine, where the state government indulged in Ben Carson’s advice for immediate extreme anti-Ebola measures by attempting to force her into quarantine, in spite of the fact that she had tested negative for the Ebola virus.
There is no Ebola outbreak in America. There never has been one.
It is Dr. Ben Carson’s responsibility as a medical doctor to be accurate in his communication about disease. However, the truth is that Ben Carson doesn’t know much more about Ebola than can be learned by watching television news.
Ben Carson trained as a surgeon, not an epidemiologist, or a specialist in infectious diseases.
America can’t afford to have a President who panics at the least provocation, and encourages Americans to indulge in their darkest fantasies. That’s why America can’t afford to elect Ben Carson as President.
How would politics change if we stopped talking about party candidates?
Oh, I don’t mean that we stop talking about candidates who are running with the Libertarian Party or Green Party or Americans Elect Party or Democratic Party or Republican Party, or what have you. I mean something different. What would happen if we stopped referring to such candidates as “third party” candidates? There is no natural, Allah-ordained ordering to the parties, 1…2…3…, and if there really were we’d have a heck of a row as to which party gets to be first. Nope, someone just made that “third” party business up. So what if we ignore it?
Come to think of it, what would happen if we started ignoring party identifiers altogether in members of Congress and candidates for Congress? What if we stopped referring to Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN 9) and just started referring to Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-9)? What if Rep. Martha Roby was not a Republican representative of Alabama District 2 but just a representative of Alabama District 2?
One objection to this shift is trivial: that party allegiance is available information and available information ought to be reported. But we certainly don’t report all available information about candidates on a regular basis. Although a minority of Americans do fixate on the religion of congressional candidates, for example, neither the press nor bloggers refer to Rep. Martha Roby (Presbyterian-TN 9).
A second objection is that political parties drive campaigns by serving as a significant source for candidates’ campaign contributions. This is decreasingly the case. Consider spending on congressional campaigns over the past three election cycles. I’ve gathered data from Open Secrets and the Federal Election Commission and measured trends in inflation-adjusted 2014 dollars:
In 2010, the party committees (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, National Republican Congressional Committee, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and National Republican Senatorial Committee) spent more on House and Senate races than independent expenditure groups did. But in 2012 and 2014, the pattern reversed. Obscurely funded independent groups are nudging political parties aside.
A third objection is that party membership should be indicated because members of political parties support the same legislation. That certainly is an assertion — but what if we assessed that pattern empirically rather than assuming that this is so? What if we looked at who votes with whom in the Congress and used that information to generate descriptive labels, as many as there are groups of similarly-acting parties? What would change if we do this?
Dr. Ben Carson has no experience in government. He has never been elected to a single public office.
Ben Carson’s lack of experience doesn’t in itself disqualify him from the Presidency, of course. Carson could make up for his inexperience by demonstrating a command of information and ideas relevant to the office of President of the United States – a familiarity with American history, for example.
Unfortunately, Ben Carson appears to be ignorant of the most basic facts of American history.
At the end of his rambling, incoherent political speech at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2013, Carson told a version of the origin of the national anthem, written by Francis Scott Key, who observed part of the bombardment of Fort McHenry.
Carson said to the audience, “Bombs bursting in air, missiles, so much debris, he strained to see. Was the flag still there? He couldn’t see a thing. All night long, he couldn’t. At the crack of dawn, he ran out to the banister, and he looked, straining his eyes, but all he could see was dust and debris, and then there was a clearing, and he beheld the most beautiful sight he had ever seen: The torn and tattered stars and stripes, still waving, and many historians say that was the turning point in the War of 1812. We went on to win that war, and to retain our freedom, and if you had gone to the grounds of Fort McHenry that day you would have seen at the base of that flag the bodies of soldiers who took turns propping up that flag. They would not let that flag go down, because they believed in what that flag symbolized. And what did it symbolize? One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
It’s an inspiring story. It’s also almost completely bogus.
The United States didn’t win the War of 1812. It was a draw. The Americans were unable to keep the lands in Canada they attempted to succeed. The antagonistic British practices that had, in part, provoked the war, also continued as before.
There wasn’t a pile of dead bodies of American soldiers at the bottom of the flag pole in Fort McHenry. Only four Americans in the entire fort died that night, and the British ships were mostly unharmed as well. The cannons of two sides were simply too far away from each other to be very effective. Besides that, the flagpole at Fort McHenry was too thick and heavy to have been held up by American soldiers.
Ben Carson’s suggestion that the soldiers in Fort McHenry saw the flag there as a symbol of the the Pledge of Allegiance, with the words “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” is particularly astonishing. The Pledge of Allegiance was not written until 1892, and the words “under God” were not inserted into the Pledge of Allegiance until the 1950s. The idea that soldiers during the War of 1812 would have ever even heard the words “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” is absurd.
Ben Carson seems to have replaced genuine American history with a form of vague mythology, in an incoherent attempt to justify his right wing ideology. His understanding of our nation’s political foundations seems to be no more sophisticated than the tales told to children around the campfire at Boy Scout meetings.
In order to serve effectively as President of the United States, a person needs to have command over basic facts. In the context of his complete lack of experience in elected office, Ben Carson’s historical illiteracy shows him to lack the fundamental competence we need in the Oval Office.
Rumor has it that Dr. Ben Carson will declare his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 this weekend, as part of a self-promotional extravaganza. Carson has paid to have a documentary made about his life, called “A Breath of Fresh Air: A New Prescription for America”, and is paying to have it televised in 22 states and the District of Columbia this weekend.
Who is Ben Carson, and what has he done that would qualify him to be President of the United States? Carson has never held any elected public office. He’s been a medical doctor, a member of corporate boards, and more recently, a speechmaker.
One speech in particular has given Ben Carson the national platform of popular Republican support he needs to construct a presidential campaign: A speech at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast.
The National Prayer Breakfast isn’t just a breakfast at which people gather to pray. It’s a political event which religious leaders use to exert their influence over public officials. It’s a speechmaking event during which non-Christians are made the targets of vicious accusations.
Ben Carson made one of these accusations when he opened his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast with these words, “With his mouth, the godless destroys his neighbor.” It isn’t difficult to understand what Ben Carson was getting at with this line: He thinks that freedom of speech for non-Christians is a threat to society. Ben Carson isn’t comfortable in a diverse society, where people are at liberty to express a variety of ideas. Ben Carson wants non-Christians to either convert to Christianity or else shut the hell up.
This attitude toward non-Christians is one shared by the organizers of the National Prayer Breakfast: A shadowy group of Christian fundamentalists who call themselves The Family.
What is The Family? We can only know so much, because the members of The Family are sworn to secrecy. Here’s what we do know:
The members of The Family describe themselves as dedicated to spiritual warfare, and give each other swords, sharpened for battle, as symbols of the violence of their zeal.
The original members of The Family drew inspiration from Benito Mussolini’s fascists and curried favor with Francisco Franco.
The form of government The Family views as most ideal is not democracy, but Christian monarchy.
The Family focuses on recruiting people in high positions of political power, or people who can work for people who have political power.
In Uganda, the political maneuverings of The Family culminated in an effort by the government there to make homosexuality a crime punishable by death.
In the United States, The Family has a history of helping Republican members of Congress cover up their extramarital sexual affairs.
The Family has provided the opportunity for Ben Carson to rise to prominence within the Republican Party. What does The Family expect from Carson in return?
In the wake of the 2014 elections, I return to a perennial puzzle for me: do I only support political candidates who I feel are the best match possible, or do I recognize that some politicians are better than others, and that better is good enough? I’ve been voting for a quarter of a century and I still can’t figure that one out.
Some choices aren’t so hard to make, though. Whenever we sell a sweatshop-free liberal shirt at Skreened, we set aside a dollar for a good domestic political cause. It’s time to make a donation from that fund, and this time around our donation goes to the organization that doesn’t shift, that consistently advocates for the civil liberties of American citizens and against unconstitutional abuses of power by the government. We are sending a donation to the American Civil Liberties Union.
The latest contribution by the ACLU comes today with the release of its new Mobile Justice App for Android smartphones. The Mobile Justice App lets people make videorecordings of questionable behavior by police officers and, with the touch of one button, send the video automatically to the ACLU, who will review the video for rights violations. What if the police demand the video recorder be turned off, a classic demand? No worries: as soon as the recording is stopped, it is automatically sent to the ACLU, so the video record can’t be easily destroyed.
King John was the very first of Shakespeare’s plays to be adapted into a movie, in 1899. 115 years later, there is only one complete film version of King John available to watch online. It’s an outdoor production by a group of volunteers in Wichita, Kansas – and it’s about what you’d expect… including the minute-long discussion discussion by the cameraman and a companion about the best way to take care of a shirt in the laundry. It begins at two minutes and forty two seconds into the video below.
As corny as this version is, at least the folks in Wichita are showing up to put on a show. What gives, BBC?
Sam Rolley at Personal Liberty Digest writes that, “Popular former New Mexico Governor and 2012 Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson has announced that he plans to launch another bid for the Oval Office in 2016, which could be a year for unprecedented libertarian success in the presidential contest.”
Unprecedented Libertarian success? What would that look like?
Last time, Gary Johnson gained 0.99% of the popular vote. Maybe this time around, he’ll aim to double his previous success, and go for 1.98%.
Seriously, things could go more smoothly for a Gary Johnson for President campaign in 2016 than they did in 2012 if only because Gary Johnson has set up a Super PAC through which wealthy individuals can bid for control of the Libertarian Party.
Pay-to-play politics has worked well for the Democrats and Republicans. Why couldn’t it work for the Libertarians too? Who wants to buy a candidate? Exercise your property rights over American democracy, while the prices are cheap!
Here at Irregular Times, you may have noticed our many articles dripping with skepticism about the so-called “Ebola crisis” in the United States. There simply is no Ebola crisis in the United States — there are a few people who have been infected and a stellar public health infrastructure that has successfully kept Ebola from spreading.
There is, however, an Ebola crisis in three small countries in Africa — Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia — and the health care infrastructure in those three countries is simply not up to the task of handling the Ebola epidemic there.
Doctors Without Borders is working to change that, sending medical staff to these countries to fight the Ebola epidemic. This is vital work, not only to keep people from dying but to help these nations more broadly move forward.
Every time we sell one of our sweatshop-free liberal shirts at Skreened, we pledge one dollar to do some kind of good in a nation that is not our own. This month, our donation goes to Doctors Without Borders. If you can spare a dime, would you consider a donation, too?