Thursday, December 31, 2015

What to Expect in 2016

This IS after all A Year of Election, this coming 2016.

Predicting how it will all play out is ridiculous, because the future isn't set yet from our perspective and anything can change everything else. The best we can say for certain is that the Tampa Bay Bucs are going to draft in the top ten spots of the April rookie draft.

What I can say about 2016 with regards to politics is that:

What I can say about 2016 itself is that:

  • Batman vs Superman Dawn of Justice better NOT SUCK.
  • Also, I really think the NFL is making a big mistake forcing - and they are - the San Diego Chargers to relocate to LA. Let the Raiders have that market, okay? Sheesh.
  • Also, I need to market my ebooks better. 

Happy New Year to ye, and hope to see you in 2016.

A Tale Of Two Books (2015)

I need to get this review done before the year does.

I bought these two books at the same time.

This was back in July, when they were released to the public at roughly the same time.

Harper Lee's book was the more promoted and anticipated work. If you lived through high school American Lit, you read To Kill A Mockingbird. It was unavoidable: Lee's magnum opus about growing up in 1930s Deep South, a searing indictment of racism and cultural violence. It'd been rumored for decades that Lee wrote a follow-up book - it was in fact her original work, but her publisher talked her into re-writing with a focus on her main character's childhood and on father Atticus Finch - that had disappeared. It had actually been misplaced, and when it popped up there had been a bit of a legal and public scuffle over whether or not to publish Go Set a Watchman at all. Once the crying and the thou-shall-nots subsided, it went to market and broke several sales records... and quickly stirred up a whole new hornet's nest of trouble, which I shall discuss in short order.

Ta-Nehisi Coates' book had received some fanfare before release, due to Coates' growing reputation in the political punditry circles from his years of writing for The Atlantic and other publications, but his fame was nowhere near Lee's and his book Between the World and Me was a modest success compared to Watchman. But it received near-universal acclaim, won awards, and became the most-talked-about political essay - with people praising it or debunking it - of the year.

I bought both, and wanted to read both, and want to discuss both at the same time because both works deal with perhaps the key issue of the American idea of itself: the issue of racism, observed from differing points of view. From Lee's perspective as a liberal southern White of the then-Civil Rights struggle of the Fifties, and from Coates' perspective as an urban Black of the post-Civil Rights / Reagan era enduring the realities of a still-racist socio-political system.

Go Set A Watchman opens on the return of an adult Scout (aka Jean Louise) to the backwoods home town of Maycomb, Alabama. On a visit to see her aging father Atticus, Jean Louise confronts some of the still-standing cultural norms - the Jim Crow segregation - of the Deep South in the mid-1950s.

Watchman turns on a pivotal moment - Chapter 8 in fact - where Jean Louise discovers a shocking truth about her own father, someone she had viewed as a paragon among lesser mortals. Page 100 (of the hardcover) in fact, and Lee even gives us the time of hour when all illusions are shattered:

...Jean Louise was snatched from her quiet realm and left alone to protect her sensitive epidermis as best she could, on a humid Sunday afternoon at precisely 2:28 PM...

She discovers a pamphlet hidden among Atticus' reading materials. It's titled the Black Plague, and she takes some time to read it:

When she had finished, she took the pamphlet by one of its corners, held it like she would hold a dead rat by the tail, and walked into the kitchen. She held the pamphlet in front of her aunt.
"What is this thing?" she said.
Alexandra looked over her glasses at it. "Something of your father's."
Jean Louise stepped on the garbage can trigger and threw the pamphlet in.
"Don't do that," said Alexandra, "They're hard to come by these days."

That sound you heard when 500,000 readers got to those pages were a lot of hearts and souls getting broken all at the same time finding out that Atticus, dear old Atticus of To Kill A Mockingbird who stood up against the injustice of racism, was really racist all along.

It gets worse for Jean Louise as she hurries off to sneak into the meeting Atticus and his law partner Henry - and would-be suitor for Jean Louise - had scheduled that afternoon. She discovers it's a Citizen's Council meeting, and they're listening to a racist preacher espouse hatred to a nodding crowd. Confronting both Atticus and Henry about it, her outrage grows to the point where she plans on leaving the small town - and her family - forever.

Watchman has its flaws as a novel. You'd expect that from a publication that went to print without any editorial controls - we're essentially reading a rough draft because Lee's legal guardians were likely wary of having anyone "tweak" the novel and face accusations it wasn't really Lee's work - and with little realization how Watchman has continuity errors with Mockingbird. For starters, the centerpiece of Mockingbird - the rape trial involving Tom Robinson - turned out differently in Watchman where Atticus won the case - in 1930s Alabama?!?! - by arguing the "rape" was consensual. Someone with an eye towards making both novels fit their same histories would have fixed that to fit the more tragic ending in Mockingbird.

Where Watchman has a strength is its frank revelation of how pervasive racism was - still is - in the American Deep South.

One of the darker parts of the book is the final confrontation Jean Louise has, this time with her uncle - a doctor no less - who physically slaps her and then chews HER out for being prejudiced and narrow-minded judging her father. Domestic violence issue aside, a modern reader would notice the practice of "blaming the victim" here as Dr. Finch points out how Jean Louise has her own biases blinding her to how everyone has their own watchman, their own conscience, and that despite her realizations that Atticus is racist he still raised her to "set her own watchman" (hence the book title). The book ends with that tone, with Jean Louise reaching some kind of rapprochement with her father - Atticus expressing that's proud of her for standing her ground, Jean Louise admitting that Atticus has a point about the civil rights movement "moving too fast" and that she still loves him - although the events of the weekend have changed warmth to wariness.

It's a weak ending, but it's one that fits within the context of the 1950s when it was written. Racism was so ingrained into the cultural norms not only of the Deep South but across much of the nation. And it's not the blatant racism - the burning crosses, the hanging nooses - that Harper Lee is focusing on in this novel, it's the unthinking and reflexive kind that she brings up: the sharing of racist literature among the community, the public meetings of "councils" to discuss how to keep "outside" agitators like the NAACP from disrupting their segregated towns, the small-town mindset to "keep it in the community" and do things the way they've always been done.

To the modern reader, one who's lived through - been born after in a lot of cases - the civil rights movement of the 1960s and into the post-Jim Crow world of the late 20th Century, Watchman has a nostalgic aura but one that shines a light on the hypocrisy of that era. But it's also a light that shines on the hypocrisy of our own modern decade of the 21st Century... because Ta-Nehisi Coates' book highlights how all those sins Harper Lee wrote about back in the 1950s are still with us.

Between the World and Me is slightly misleading in that while the book is written in the style of letters from a father to his young son, BtWaM it's really Coates writing to the rest of us about how it was - how it still is - for a young Black child to grow up a Black man (or woman) in a United States where nearly every institution - the schools, the police, the law, the government, the businesses, the communities - viewed Black Americans as "property"... and how that property can be destroyed by the whims and needs of those institutions:

The new people are not original in this. Perhaps there has been, at some point in history, some great power whose elevation was exempt from the violent exploitation of other human bodies... But this banality of violence can never excuse America, because America makes no claim to the banal, America believes itself exceptional, the greatest and noblest nation ever to exist... I propose to take our countrymen's claims of American Exceptionalism seriously, which is to say I propose subjecting our country to an exceptional moral standard. This is difficult because there exists, all around us, an apparatus urging us to accept American innocence at face value and not to inquire too much... (p. 8)

Coates' work is coming at a pivotal time in modern America, as awareness to how Black lives are suffering at this very moment:

I write you in your fifteenth year. I am writing you because this was the year you saw Eric Garner choked to death for selling cigarettes; because you know now that Renisha McBride was shot for seeking help; that John Crawford was shot down for browsing in a department store.  And you have seen men in uniform drive by and murder Tamir Rice, a twelve-year-old child whom they were oath-bound to protect. And you have seen men in the same uniforms pummel Marlene Pinnock, someone's grandmother, on the side of a road. And you know now, if you did not before, that the police departments of your country have been endowed with the authority to destroy your body. It does not matter if the destruction is the result of an unfortunate overreaction... Resent the body trying to entrap your body and it can be destroyed... And destruction is merely the superlative form of a dominion whose prerogatives include friskings, detainings, beatings, and humiliations. All of this is common to black people. And all of this is old for black people. No one is held responsible. (p. 9)

Coates details for his teen son his own horrors of growing up, his own childhood fears, fully aware of the psychological breakdown that haunted his black community then and since. One incident in particular haunts Coates and appears often in BtWaM: the death of fellow Howard student Prince Jones, whose only crime was to drive through an affluent neighborhood in the DC metro and ended up shot to death by a county policeman (and outside of his jurisdiction). Angered by the injustice, Coates then had to come to terms with the facts that the cop who shot Jones was black, worked for a county government and chain of command with black leadership, and yet it all still marginalized and destroyed black lives. To this Coates sees a nation and a world of rules designed to take rather than liberate or restore:

This need to be always on guard was an unmeasured expenditure of energy, the slow siphoning of the essence... So I feared not just the violence of this world but the rules designed to protect you from it, the rules that would have you contort again to be taken seriously by colleagues, and contort again so as not to give the police a reason... this is how we lose our softness. This is how they steal our right to smile... It struck me that perhaps the defining feature of being drafted into the black race was the inescapable robbery of time, because the moments we spent readying the mask, or readying ourselves to accept half as much, could not be recovered... (p.90-91)

Where Lee's two books provided the view of America from the White perspective - where the American Dream of quiet neighborhoods with picket fences and happy singing birds, no matter how benign the intentions are to make this so - Coates' book provides the view from the Black perspective where the American Dream was founded, funded and built upon the destruction of black neighborhoods where intent does not matter, only the destruction does.

This is where racism becomes and remains the great original sin of the United States. Willing to divide ourselves, by those who profit and achieve power by those institutions that enforce such divisions, the United States cannot claim the purity of exceptionalism the nation claims as its identity.

Halfway through Watchman, Atticus takes on a case for a young black man charged with vehicular manslaughter who turns out to be Calpurnia's - the housekeeper for the Finches in Mockingbird - great-grandson. However, Jean Louise finds out he's only doing so to stop the NAACP from coming in and taking over the defense. Dismayed, she visits Calpurnia's family on her own to offer some form of condolences and try to put a positive spin on her father's taking the case, but the meeting becomes strained because Calpurnia knows why Atticus is doing what he's doing:

She looked into the old woman's face and she knew it was hopeless. Calpurnia was watching her, and in Calpurnia's eyes was no hint of compassion.
Jean Louise rose to go. "Tell me one thing, Cal," she said, "just one thing before I go -- please, I've got to know. Did you hate us?"
The old woman sat silent, bearing the burden of her years. Jean Louise waited.
Finally, Calpurnia shook her head. (p.160)

Calpurnia has to think it over before giving her answer. SHE HAS TO THINK ABOUT IT.

That's what racism does to this nation. It makes people like Jean Louise have to ask if she and fellow whites were/are hated, it makes Calpurnia have to sit there and think through the slights and wounds she had endured because of it, it's left Prince Jones and Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin dead before their times, it's put a warning sign on Ta-Nehisi's son that all of this will happen to him.

This is a tale of two books. It is a tale of one nation divided into pieces over our nation's deadly sin.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Things We Learned in 2015

As the year comes to a close, these lessons:

Oh, and I'm thinking of putting some of the blog articles I've written into print format as a book. Think there'd be a market for it?

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Another Thought About the 2016 Primaries: Numbers and Chaos

Having worried about the Winner-Take-All states like Florida and Ohio looming soon on the primary schedule for the Republicans, I got to wondering about how exactly the Proportional Win states like Texas would work out.

(I'm going with Texas because it's one of the largest delegate counts using Proportional methods, and it has a rather complex mechanism involving "thresholds")

Part of it is pure curiosity: the dangers of the WTA states are pretty obvious, but how much damage would a large-scale Proportional state do to the convention delegate chances of -  17 14 12 are we at 11 yet? - the remaining candidates trying to stop Trump from, you know, DOOMING ALL OF CIVILIZATION.

Part of it is trying to understand exactly how the Proportional states assign delegates: there's an At-Large section, a District-Win section, a No-Dogs-Allowed section, a Buy-Two-Get-One-Free section, a Clearance rack, and a partridge in a pear tree. In short, the rules look confusing.

So I went and emailed the Green Papers blog. I've linked to them from before on a few topics, and they are focused like a laser on how the primaries and our overall elections are working. They have set up pages for each state primary for parties, as well as the delegate rules for each, so they might be able to answer the questions I had.

The questions went like this:

Hi. I write a blog called You Might Notice a Trend, and I recently blogged about how the polling numbers tended to match up to primary results. I still have a question or two about it, and I hope you at Green Papers might have an answer.
For the Proportional delegate states like Texas that require Proportional, 20% threshold–If a candidate wins more than 50% of the statewide vote, he or she is awarded all of the state's at-large delegates. If a candidate wins more than 50% of the vote in a district, he or she is awarded all of the district's delegates, how would the delegation count look like if Trump gets 27 percent, Cruz gets 23, Bush gets 18, Rubio gets 17, Christie gets 10, maybe Rand gets 5, nobody else (if they all stay in) over 1 percent? It would then depend on who wins each district (which refers to Congressional district, right?) over 50 percent or at least plurality of that district?

The answer came back prompt and courteous:

Dear Mr. Wartenburg-
Yes, you are correct-- in a State doing things in the manner of Texas, a candidate who receives at least majority of the popular vote in a Congressional District would get all that District's delegates (3 total); where at least one candidate receives at least 20% of the popular vote, that candidate would get 2 District delegates and the second-place finisher in that District (even with less than 20% of the popular vote) would get the remaining District delegate; and, where no candidate gets at least 20% of the popular vote in that District,  the top 3 vote-getters in that District would split the 3 District delegates amongst themselves.
The 20% Statewide vote threshold has no impact whatsoever on the distribution of Congressional District delegates amongst GOP presidential contenders (thus- in your own hypothetical percentage breakdown of the Statewide percentages- Bush, Rubio, Christie [and even Rand Paul] might well gain the pledges of at least some Congressional District delegates)...
as for the Statewide percentages you have hypothesized themselves: only Trump and Cruz would get at-large delegates (Trump would- if we so simplify things here- get 26 of the 47 at-large delegates from Texas, with Cruz gaining the remaining 21 of these).

I went with those polling numbers for Texas because I vaguely recalled Trump and Cruz being in the high-20s but wasn't sure about the others. So I went back to Real Clear Politics for their polling tracker and found that the last tallied poll (in November) for the Texas primary showed:

Polling Data

RCP Average9/8 - 11/823.319. +4.3
UT/Texas Tribune10/30 - 11/82727134942411100Tie

(hey, copying the table seemed to work...)

If the RCP average ends up as the actual Texas Primary result on March 1, I think that means Trump gets ALL the At-Large state delegates having passed the threshold while Cruz at 19 percent misses out. If the last poll (UT/Texas Tribune) is correct, Trump and Cruz would split the At-Large delegates even-stevens at 23 each with a hanging Chad split down the middle like an apple pie. Mmm, pie. If NONE of them get over the statewide threshold, it looks like the At-Large get proportioned out.

That is a huge incentive for the Republican Party to keep as many candidate choices as possible to pull away from Trump's numbers and get him (and Cruz) under the 20 percentile.

No matter what, the bulk of the delegates depends on the individual districts, which the GOP uses Congressional districts to determine. In those cases, the party has to hope that no one gets over 50 percent of the vote in any district lest he/she claims all three delegates. That may not sound like much for one, but if one candidate does well in enough of those districts that's fewer delegates to share.

Just to note: Any Proportional state for delegates with thresholds will cut off a lot of the low-percent candidates, which may hasten their departure and make it easier for the high-percent - currently Trump, maybe Cruz and Rubio, maybe Carson and Christie somewhere in the middle of what's left of the pack, Jeb if he's stubborn enough to waste all his PAC money and luck into Third Place for the later rounds - candidates to cross those thresholds anyway. Those states cover Texas, New York, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and a few others with low enough delegate counts to be of minimal value (for now).

The states of highest value regarding Proportional are going to be the ones that won't set any thresholds: those will allot delegates by high enough percentages in the results. That means the mid-pack candidates REALLY need to focus on states like Virginia, North Carolina, Oregon, Missouri.

The key thing overall I'm seeing is that the Republican establishment has a vested interest in keeping at least six candidates running in the field well into June. If a brokered convention is the only thing that can stop Trump, they need those delegates divided.

For the Winner-Take-All states, expect the party leaders to try and get the primary voters in them to throw enough support to one of the non-Trump candidates. For the Threshold states, expect that as well with a focus on splitting those At-Large numbers between Trump and the non-Trump. For the Free For Alls... well, expect a free-for-all because it'll be Every Candidate for Himself (forget it Carly).

With thanks to Mr. Berg-Andersson for answering my question and clarifying things. If you read this and see my reasonings are wrong, please correct. Good luck, and happy holidays.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Primaries That Should Scare Everyone Including Republicans This 2016

I mentioned earlier getting into an argument with a Twitter-Troll over Rubio's lack of chances this 2016, and pointed to how the polling was currently going for the candidates and how previous election cycles demonstrated how the polling numbers tended to line up - give or take a switch of positions by candidates running close to each other - with the actual voting results.

That means: if the candidate is polling well leading up to the actual primary in that state, that candidate is going to get those results where it matters (actual delegates). Polling does include actual voters as well as likely voters, dontcha know.

In that regards, considering how Trump is leading in nearly every state, we ought to be f-cking sh-tting the beds and rioting in the streets. This is not a good thing to consider, is it?

This is where and how the delegation counts come into play. A lot of Republican primaries and caucuses tend to be proportional, so that if Trump only gets about 23 percent of a primary result, he'll get the plurality of delegates but not a solid majority. Hence the thinking we can see a brokered convention in Cleveland this 2016 since Trump may not garner enough delegates to cross the finish line.

Except for one fact: some states are Winner-Take-All, where the top vote-getter gets ALL (or most) of the state's delegates. There are certain rules that allow other candidates to get a few delegates from a WTA state, but the key word there is "few".

One other thing about that fact: some of the largest delegation states - Florida, Ohio, California - are WTA. Granted, some states' rules do break down to allow candidates to win selected districts if they can - California in particular - but the odds are whoever wins the whole state is winning a lot of districts as well.

If we look at my home state - Florida - the delegate count is 81 District, 15 At-Large, 3 RNC for a total of 99. The rules are "Winner-take-all: At-large and district delegates are both allocated based on the statewide vote," which I think means whoever wins the statewide polling gets both District and At-Large (RNC gets delegated another way). Meaning whoever is leading in the polls by March 15 2016 can well win Florida, and that's a guaranteed 96 delegates. If you're Second Place, you don't even get a set of steak knives.

Look at who's leading in Florida right now in the polls. Donald Trump, with no sign of major drop in support over the last two-three months. Ted Cruz may be polling now in Second, but he's on average about 10-14 points behind, not enough margin for statistical error to consider he's even got a chance. (If there is any satisfaction from this polling, it's that Jeb is so far behind in Fourth Place that there's no way he can cheat his way to win his "home" state)

It'd be helpful to look at each state's polling for candidates, to get a clearer picture of who's winning by how much, but there doesn't look to be - unless I'm looking in the wrong spots - a lot of polling going on outside of battleground states. I'm currently looking at Real Clear Politics for tracking the numbers, which only gives me a lot of Iowa and New Hampshire, some South Carolina and Florida results. The last poll for Ohio they've got is from Quinnipiac for October, which doesn't help. That shows Trump in a bare lead (+5) over Carson, and we know Carson has slipped nationally since then.

All we have for certain are the nationwide polling results, with Trump garnering on average 36 percent of primary voters: he's leading double-digits over everyone else, which may mean he's leading - at least polling in the Top Three - in every state, meaning he's leading in the delegate counts as well.

March 1 may be when a lot of states poll their caucuses and primaries, but they're mostly Proportional wins with threshold requirements: They may give the candidates grinding out Second through Sixth Places hopes of snagging enough delegates to matter in July. But March 15 is A Day of Reckoning: that's when Florida and Ohio both chime in with their WTA results, and with large enough delegate counts to put one candidate - Trump, OH GOD NO - well ahead of the others.

And like it or not, momentum from February and March carries a lot of weight even into June during primaries regardless of what the party's leadership - and deep-pocket backers - wants.

Florida and Ohio are key. He who controls the spice controls the universe those two states get a huge lead in the horse race heading into California in June.

Which is why I'm begging the residents of Florida to drop out of the Republican Party and switch to NPA. I don't want my state to screw over the nation AGAIN if it ends up being Trump. I'd like to think there's...

Wait a minute. I'm being told if I talk people out of the GOP, I'm likely getting the sane voters whereas the insane voters will stick with Trump. Okay. Okay, gotta go the other way then. Gotta convince 4 million registered Florida Republicans to put their support in a sane candidate for the GOP. Okay, sane candidate... (looks at Kasich as the only sane one left) Oh, c'mon John, you gotta AT LEAST be winning YOUR own home state...!

Friday, December 25, 2015

The Hero's Journey Redefined

(say hello to my 200th post in one year. I will be going over that number, so my OCD is gonna kick into overdrive and force me to round up to 250 or something...)

There is apparently still a need for SPOILERS: so if anyone doesn't want to find out how much of the movie turns out, please stop here and go SEE THE MOVIE RIGHT NOW IN 3D. (points in the direction of the nearest IMAX theater) GO NOW.

Okay, for the rest of you... no excuses.

I could spend this post geeking out over how GOOD (not great, I will grant you that) the latest Star Wars movie The Force Awakens is.
An orphaned Heroine with her Herald

Or I can go all academic and offer a half-baked analysis of one of the key reasons I love the movie. I love the movie because it takes the core element of what made the original - New Hope, Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi - Star Wars trilogy great - the Hero's Journey - and tweaks it in a way that makes it recognizable yet still fresh.

The Hero's Journey - proposed by Joseph Campbell using Jungian psychology emphasis on Archetype - is a description of a near-universal narrative throughout human mythology that evolved into modern story-telling. It details the origins of a heroic figure (the isolated childhood in an ordinary, hidden place), the Call To Adventure (a herald arrives, or a mission needs undertaking), then the Crossing of Thresholds (barriers to the Adventure, sometimes in the form of adversaries), the gathering of allies and friends (Avengers Assemble, or Seven Samurai style recruiting), more Trials (fights, betrayals, tests of character) leading up to a symbolic death (Belly of the Whale) and rebirth (Resurrection), a final confrontation (Apotheosis), the granting of a Boon (not always a gift but usually some Insight or Wisdom Achieved), and a Return (usually back to the boring corner of the world the Hero left, but returning with the Boon as a gift to the community that they may prosper afterward). Closing with a Celebration of sorts (either a memorial to Absent Friends or a life-affirming activity such as a wedding or child-birth) in which the Hero achieves emotional closure (and sets up the cycle for the next Hero).

As noted, it's a near-universal narrative: it covers the rise (and fall) of various mythical heroes from Perseus to Beowulf, it covers the religious awakenings of Moses and Jesus and Buddha, it covers even the histories of real-world documented kings and Presidents and political figures.

It's a common theme in fantasy literature, which is why Star Wars does so well with it. And yes, for all the trappings of Science Fiction - other worlds, spaceships, aliens, Faster-Than-Light travel - this series is actually Fantasy: switch out planets for magic kingdoms, spaceships for flying pirate ships, aliens for monsters, FTL for mirror teleporters.

I mean, come on, there's a lot of overlap between the two genres. Here, take Tolkien's Elves, put them in space with phasers and tricorders instead of arrows and scrolls, and you get Vulcans (aka SPACE ELVES). Jedi are merely MAGIC SPACE WIZARDS.

Even as Sci-Fi, the Hero's Journey has a place in that genre, but it so often follows the tropes and rules for Fantasy story-telling that it invariably gets labeled as Fantasy.

With that, Luke Skywalker - farmboy turned war hero turned Jedi turned Redeemer - of the original trilogy became one of the recognizable Heroes of our modern myths. And one of the reasons why George Lucas' prequel trilogy - Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith - remain flawed yet under-appreciated classics is how the prequels deconstructed the Hero's Journey by showing how that Journey could turn dark and create the Villain.

But one of the things - one of the problems - about the Hero's Journey - no matter the genre it's being used - is how gender-specific the narrative cycle has been.

It's almost always applied to young men: Boys growing up from obscure origins to become celebrated heroes and even kings ruling over all.

Part of the problem is the source: Campbell developed his monomyth and Hero's Journey templates based on earlier existing myths. As previous earlier cultures were all patriarchal and male-dominated, his theories ignored the role women could play in the narrative either as support, ally, or even the Hero(ine) herself. Women in these tales tended to be princesses or girlfriends waiting at home, not destined for action but designed to be rescued or redeemed. It gets a little demeaning, and the wrong kind of cliche.

But the past is not our present, and should not trap or define our future. We don't HAVE to be stuck with the Hero always being a man. Sure, it works for Harry Potter, it works for Frodo Baggins, it works for Kal-El and Steve Rogers... why can't it work for Katniss, or Buffy, or Hermione, or Ripley, or Furiosa?

Which is why The Force Awakens is so powerful a film. Because it takes the story most closely associated to the Hero's Journey - Star Wars and the legend of Luke Skywalker - and proves the narrative can work with a young girl as The Hero.

Into the new trilogy - thirty years after Luke claims his destiny as a Jedi and ends the rule of the Sith - the audience discovers that the sixth movie did not really end well. Luke's attempt to rebuild a Jedi academy for Force-sensitive students ended in betrayal and destruction, driving him to flee the known galaxy and denying the stabilizing presence of Jedi as a means of justice and peace. The New Republic that tried to rise in victory after the Battle of Endor has to contend with the First Order, the remnant of that dreaded Empire still looking to impose a dark rule. Unwilling to continue the war, the Republic instead allows a Resistance to impede the First Order's efforts in a kind of Galactic Cold War.

What starts the story proper is the quest for Luke, as the Resistance wants him back as a symbol of good and as the First Order's Dark Side agents want the Jedi wiped out forever. A map has been found on a desolate desert world - not Tatooine but Jakku, a scavenger planet littered with the debris of the galactic conflict - and the possibility of finding the last Jedi sparks the birth of a new war.

We're actually presented with two possible Hero candidates at the start of the movie. Poe Dameron is a hotshot pilot sent to retrieve the map for the Resistance. While he's certainly brave, and more than a little cocky... Poe doesn't fit the Journey's cycle as Hero. He's already fulfilled his destiny as the best pilot of the Resistance, and is more of a Mentor/Ally as the episode progresses. Indeed, he disappears with little explanation between the First and Second Acts - having played his part lining up the second candidate - and doesn't re-appear until he's needed for the Big Damn Heroes moment closing the Second Act and completing the Third.

The second candidate is Finn. While some critics note he's a new variant on the Hero's narrative, he's actually fulfilling established checkpoints for the Hero to follow. Introduced as one of the many faceless soldiers that make up the Stormtrooper forces for the First Order, Finn begins as a novice in the war engaged in his first battle that turns into a massacre of innocents. The only one of the troops to show an individual's response to the atrocities - indeed he's the first Stormtrooper we meet who voluntarily removes his helmet to show his face - he's someone we're meeting halfway down the Hero's path: already forced into the Call to Adventure having been abducted by the fledgling First Order as a baby and conscripted to serve as a soldier. However, his personal instincts of right over wrong compel him to reject that imposition: he rescues Poe in order to rescue himself and attempts a rather blunt Refusal of the (false) Call. Yet every other step during that Refusal - he wants to flee the war altogether, knowing full well what the First Order is capable of - keeps Finn on the Journey's path - it's known as The Call Knows Where You Live - and his instincts to protect others make him answer the True Call to Adventure.

He doesn't qualify as The Hero, however, because he lacks the true key, the otherworldly gift / actual skill The Hero secretly possesses. Every time Finn rises up to face the challenges on the Journey, he gets his butt kicked. Not out of any ineptitude on his part: Finn still is a heroic character for genuinely caring and trying. But any battles he survives are due to the aid of other Allies and Mentor figures, as well as the Hero herself. Finn is more an Ally archetype. Actually in this post-modern narrative reality Finn is our Audience Surrogate.

The Hero is Rey, and we should be aware of that the moment we meet her (it helps that John Williams gives her an identifiable leitmotif). Introduced third of the new Power Trio characters, without any spoken exposition we discover she's living by herself, abandoned as a young child and forced to survive as a scavenger. Essentially she's an orphan (major identifier for the Hero) still convinced there's a family for her that will come back... someday... and take her from this desolation.

Even as someone hardened by a harsh existence, Rey still has Faith and dreams of a better life: she believes in the stories of heroes and Jedi and the mystic Force - to her they are legends - and because of that she lives by a moral code that makes her all-loving (a key element of the Hero figure is empathy and willingness to help others). She rescues and befriends Poe's lost droid BB-8 (the Herald and her first Ally), she quickly accepts the trust of Finn (her second Ally and fellow Journey taker), and joins in the fight against the First Order troops (one of her first challenges, although the Threshold Guardian she needs to confront comes later) as the Journey propels her to Mentor figures (Han, Chewie, Leia... the heroes of the previous trilogy), revelations (that she is a Force User with a powerful connection to Luke via a family heirloom: the lightsaber of Anakin Skywalker), confrontations with a Shadow figure (Dark Force User Kylo Ren), passing of tests (discovering her own power with the Force), and confrontation (defeating Kylo with Anakin's saber as she wills herself to feel the Force).

Some of the buzz/complaints that came in the wake of the movie's release is how Rey appears as a Mary Sue figure - too competent, too nice, too quick an access to powers that would take other characters entire movies to learn - which angers up a lot of the film's defenders and for good reason. A Mary Sue - not the website, mind you, even though they love the movie and especially Rey - is a flight of fantasy character even in a fantasy work: an author's egotistical attempt to insert herself/himself into an existing narrative as a flawless character. Rey isn't that: she does make mistakes and she does Refuse the Call at a key moment, something a Mary Sue would never do.

Rey's virtues and powers in the narrative are from her being the Hero of the story. What's happening is that the critics aren't used to seeing the Campbellian Hero be female, even with the likes of Buffy and Katniss sitting there in the cultural pantheon of hero figures since the 1990s (when Girl Power and the rise of feminine heroes like Scully opened up the Grand Narrative to diversity). They never really saw female heroes as such, not until this situation where Star Wars - the touchstone of Archetype - made it clear that a woman CAN fit the Hero mold and make it work.

To quote that article from the Mary Sue website by Teresa Jusino:

...And to those who are skeptical about her abilities and think that they came “too easy,” I want to remind you that it’s because of this hardscrabble existence that she’s been forced to be good at so many  things... She’s had to learn how to fight and carries a staff wherever she goes, because she is a lone female in a seemingly male-dominated trade, and has to protect not only herself, but the goods she intends to sell. It’s likely that, in the course of her scavenging career, she’s had to learn to drive and/or fly any number of vehicles to transport them, or goods, to be bought or sold. So, it didn’t seem to come “out of nowhere” that she’d be a decent pilot. She’s no Poe, but she’s good... 
As for the Force, I love how subtly her increasing ease with it evolved over the course of the film. After meeting Han Solo on the Millennium Falcon, she expresses a fangirlish glee when he says that he knew Luke Skywalker. What’s more, when they talk about the Force, she is such a Mulder—she WANTS TO BELIEVE. So, clearly the Force is something that’s already been on her mind and in her head. This is not new information for her, merely a confirmation.
When Kylo Ren first tries to get into her head to find the location of the map to Luke, Rey looks afraid, and she obviously doesn’t want Kylo Ren to have this information. In a brilliant, wordless moment, we see that Rey’s strength in the Force happens pretty much by accident. At first, she doesn’t seem to realize she’s doing it, and it’s the look on Kylo Ren’s face that leads her and us to believe that he’s having trouble...

The moment Rey uses the Force to make Anakin/Luke's blue lightsaber fly into her hands - after her gaining the knowledge that she CAN use The Force - so she can battle Kylo is a powerful and transformative moment in cinema. It takes the power of being the Hero out of the grasp of male characters - even the ones who can fit the role - Finn - but really can't - Kylo, who's the Shadow and potential Dragon/Big Bad - and presents us with a new Narrative reality that both genders can fit the role.

This is a very big reason why The Force Awakens deserves a lot of repeat business in the theaters and massive love by fans when it comes out on DVD/Blu-Ray/Streaming.

Well, that and the fact that the movie is genuinely funny and FUN (things sorely lacking from the prequels and haven't been seen out of a Lucas-based production since, well, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade).

(Edit: for the two of you who viewed this article while I added more updates to tweak my thoughts and add more links and quotes, please refresh the page and re-read the new stuff, thanks).

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Honest Bumper Stickers 2016, Episode VIII: The Farce Awakens

(Update: Hello Crooks and Liars audience, welcome back! Sorry for the shape of the place, I've been off to see The Force Awakens for the third time in theaters. Please check out the other recent postings, leave comments if you want. There are other bumper stickers on earlier postings, just click the label for bumper stickers and they should pop up.)

So there I was after the last GOP debate session engaging in a Twitter battle - yeah, I've been told not to, but dammit there's a war on! - with a pro-Rubio backer trying to patronize me. Emphasis on trying, because he was really bad at it ("New at this"? Muthafu--- I've been living this sh-t since I was ten...)

So I dig out the track history of how polls tend to match up to actual results, focusing on the most recent example of 2012. I pulled up Real Clear Politics' polling info and looked at the early primaries, specifically New Hampshire (Iowa is more an aberration to final results because of its wonky caucusing methods). If you follow that link and look at the numbers, the candidates that were First (Romney) and Second (Ron Paul) place stayed that way. Third place (Huntsman) wobbled a bit but garnered Third with the voters. Fourth (Newt) and Fifth (Santorum) also bounced between each other in the polls but the end results were statistically in line with how they finished.

Look to 2016's polling for the same state. There's chaos here with the also-rans while Trump claims a solid lead well into December, and Rubio currently holds the Second spot, but for October Rubio was barely holding Third, and right now he's got Cruz AND Christie rising up to challenge for Second. By the time of the actual primary, Rubio may well be back at Third, maybe even Fourth.

Nationally, Rubio's sitting at Third behind Trump (polling for him is more than double what Rubio has) with no sign of even challenging for Second (which is now Cruz, which is another level of OH GOD NO). Some of this deserves further attention in another blog entry, just to note...

So yeah, I stand by what I said about Rubio. I even went back into my CorelDraw editor and came up with a brand new bumper sticker to say it:

Not just a taunt at that pro-Rubio tweeter, but to the entire media elite that KEEPS backing Rubio despite the obvious lack of actual voter support.

Man, it's been awhile since I've made these bumper stickers. What the hell, America, it's Christmas Eve and I got time to make them. Hold on.

IO SATURNALIA, Americanum!

(that translates to "Party hard, my peeps!")

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Looking Forward At the Coming GOP Madness, Looking Back To See How Long The Madness Has Already BEEN Here

So I'm reading Driftglass' blog today and come across an article where he calls to task David Frum - conservative pundit of intraparty renown - for Frum's refusal to own up for causing the modern Republican Party to slide into batshit insanity:

As a former Dubya speechwriter and author of such books as The Right Man: The Surprise Presidency of George W. Bush and An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror (with the monstrous Richard Perle)  Mr. David Frum is well-positioned to write a long article for The Atlantic (where he is now employed as a Senior Editor, because that is how the world works) about how fucked up the Republican party is...
...without any unpleasant or inconvenient references as to how it got that way.
Mr. Frum's article gives the reader a decent snapshot of what is happening right now inside moldering corpse of the Party of Lincoln, but it is also carefully calculated to leave the impression that the GOP just wandered in from out of town sometime around 2009, fully formed and neatly bisected between a hapless, out-of-touch donor class... and just-plain-white-folks who have grown intractably bitter and cynical for some reason.
Driftglass then pulls up a commentary he left on another blog back in 2005 as an example how far back in current history the progressive left has been screaming about this oncoming storm of racist logic-defying ignorance:

For the Suburban Gated, the non-deranged gunnies and the Tax Cuts Uber Alles Republicans, it’s all jolly good fun having a romp with the Fundies…as long as they keep delivering the 20% margin the GOP must have to win anything and as long as they stay the fuck away from my house and family, its all just good kinky fun…
…until the sun comes up, and you realize that the Electoral Candy you were offered was just bait to get you into the Windowless Fundy Panel Truck. Oops.
And now you’re waaaay out in the country somewhere you don’t recognize without your pants, and you start to figure out that all the Burning Crosses and Swastikas and Apocalyptic Paraphernalia that tricks out the inside of the van isn't tatted-up Goth Chick posturing.

Which got me remembering, Hey back in 2004 I had been pointing out some of this crazy stuff myself.

I wasn't blogging back then, but I had been paying for webspace with an address and had posted a page or three about my political leanings (I let it fall to disuse because I lost my employment in 2008 and am still too poor to re-fund the domain ownership). During the run-up to the 2004 Presidential election, I made a two-column chart about who should and who shouldn't be voting for Dubya and the Republican platform. If I go to the Wayback Machine, let me pull that page up and copy it here:

Those With Reason to Support Bush
Those Who Want Bush Gone (or ought to)
Religious/Social ConservativesGays
Bush projects a public image of devout religious belief, using that to define his position of fighting as Good against the Evil of terrorism. He's promoting an amendment to define marriage as between a man and woman only (meaning gays/lesbians will be denied). He pushes a lot of 'faith-based' initiatives, and pushes for more church interaction with government services. He's on their side of the Culture War being fought in this country.Are you kidding me? He's practically declared war on you! His Defense of Marriage amendment doesn't really defend marriage at all (uh, guys, where's the provisions on stopping adultery and divorce and domestic violence?). His pandering to social conservatives on this issue ought to let you realize which side of the Culture War he's on (hint: it's not yours). You're his favorite target outside of Saddam (you probably rank higher than that one guy whose name he doesn't even mention anymore). There's a reason why the Log Cabin Republicans openly refused to support the GOP candidate this year: they've backed the others even when they were being lambasted, but boy-o this time....
Religious/Social Liberals
There are faiths in this country that agree to the idea of the Separation of Church and State, and a good number of churches were appalled when the Bush/Cheney campaign recently asked them to forward their parish directories to the campaign for fund-raising purposes (seeming violation of that Separation concept). Not all Christians, and certainly not all faiths, are comfortable with the way Bush expresses his beliefs when it comes to political decisions (Muslims were outraged when he called the War on Terror a 'Crusade': it's still a sore point between Christians and Muslims).
The Immensely WealthyFiscal Conservatives
"I call you my base." Bush was only half-joking, or even not at all, when he said that: he plays to and receives a lot of support from this particular group. His tax cuts benefit the wealthy most of all, and he pushes for more cuts (especially cutting taxes on dividends) that would generate more wealth. This group has already proven their devotion by helping raise more money for his campaign than any other Presidential campaign ever.Fiscal Conservatives take one look at that deficit Dubya's been running for 4 years and suddenly start thinking socialist. While Fiscals like the tax cuts that Bush pushed, they abhor the massive spending that SHOULDN'T HAVE OCCURRED with the cuts that were made. Fiscals are thinking about how the economy is going to be affected 10 years, even 5 years down the road thanks to all the uncontrolled pork It's this group within the GOP party faithful that has been making the most griping noises without openly questioning Bush's competence, but it's there and the discontent is brewing (when Fortune magazine starts op-editing that the Dems should control either the White House or Congress to re-establish a balance of power with the checkbook, that's a huge honking sign of discontent among the Fiscals).
'Neoconservatives'Pat Buchanan ('Paleoconservatives')
And why not? This has been their administration. 9/11 their Pearl Harbor. Aggressive foreign policy backed by the US War Machine. Who cares for subtlety and diplomacy? Old Europe, that's who. Meanwhile, WE'RE getting the bad guys: Iraq (done), Iran (next), Syria (on the list), North Korea (okay, so China's a bit of problem on that one), and...and...Well, Pat's always been a bit bitter, but still... This group should actually be known as the Isolationists, the ones who think America shouldn't go empire-building/nation-building (in their minds one and the same). While they wouldn't have sat still after 9/11, they would have only stopped at Afghanistan and securing Osama's sorry butt for execution. They recognize foreign policy as a more demanding requirement in assuring the US doesn't get hurt again (an America First position), and actually do respect the Old Europe governments (on which they believe our government should be modeled). Buchanan has been the biggest non-Democrat to openly and consistently question Bush's war in Iraq, and clearly shows no love for the guy.
Ann CoulterDemocrats
Her position: Anything not Republican should be executed for treason. No, really, read her stuff, then wash your eyes with holy water.Let's see: Bush steals the 2000 election thanks to a GOP-controlled Supreme Court; he claims to be a 'uniter' but shuts you guys out from providing any input; his buddies in Congress hack into your records and find out your talking points on issues, giving them an advantage in any debates you can muster; his buddy DeLay openly redraws the congressional voting districts in Texas to give the Republicans the advantage (in some cases drawing gerrymandered districts that would give mapmakers hissyfits); you've been labeled traitors and liberals and un-American by third-party proxy. Sure you don't want to vote Kerry all the way...?
Al Sharpton is a blowhard, but he did get one thing right at the Dem convention: the Republicans have abandoned and ignored this voting block for years. The GOP's Southern Strategy has essentially turned the Republicans from the Party of Lincoln into the Party of Thurmond. Civil rights and social issues that are of paramount concern to Blacks are not on the list at all for this administration. Government spending has gone up (see deficit) but social services that minorities rely on have been slashed.
SaudisIraqis / Arabs
The specifics of this relationship are classified and deemed 'NATIONAL SECURITY'. Any attempt to request this data will have you identified as a threat to our security. You have been warned.Sure. Saddam's gone. But there's a lot of people still dying in Iraq, either from bombing raids by US troops or from the inter-community fighting between various militia groups rising up to seize control of this city and that. Bush didn't really do a good job liberating your country, did he? In the meanwhile, if you're Arab in this country, expect your phones to be tapped, your refrigerator wired for sound, your job under surveillance, and your cousins and brothers locked away without warrant and without access to lawyers (unless you are already there in the undisclosed 'detention center'...but then you wouldn't be able to read this...or anything else while that potato sack is over your head...). Just keep the image of the Iraqi Soccer Team telling Bush not to use them for getting re-elected (and these guys really suffered under Uday) as a reminder of how Arabs REALLY feel.
Of the groups here, yours is the hardest to nail down as either/or. Hispanics tend to be more socially conservative than other minorities in the US. However, there's still a lot of Hispanics needing social services that Bush's administration doesn't take care of. There's also that illegal immigration policy he supported a while back that most illegal immigrants (as well as immigration experts) claimed made things worse. Of this group, when broken down to nationality, only the Cubans can be counted on to vote Bush/Republican (and even then, guys? He got rid of Saddam. Castro's still sitting there. Until Havana starts drilling up oil, Shrub ain't interested).
Families of the Military and National Guard
Bush has assigned your men and women, your sons and daughters, your mothers and fathers, into war zones. That was expected, after all, it's the military, it's their job. But the administration's mismanagement of the Iraqi invasion has forced your loved ones to extended tours far longer than expected, has brought shame on the image of the military by encouraging torture of Iraqi prisoners, and for National Guard families cut hard into your home budgets because those serving were also the primary bread-winners in most families (National Guard was/is reservist duty: these guys have other jobs and responsibilities after all). That same mismanagement of the war and occupation also means your loved ones are undersupplied, running out of vital materials or not even garnering access to needed equipment. The administration also isn't doing or saying much in the way of respect for the dead and wounded: the Bush admin is actively hiding the coffins of our honored dead, and when was the last time you saw Bush or Rumsfeld or Cheney or even an undersecretary visit the wounded for a photo op?
There are now reports of troops being threatened to re-up with the army or else find themselves immediately transferred to units being sent to Iraq, which means they'll be forced to stay in the army anyway. Any surprise there? This will be much like the draft, when you had guys in the service not wanting to be there being forced to do stuff they didn't want to do. The resentment levels will be off the charts, and the quality of service will suffer. All because Rumsfeld and his 'experts' underplanned the war effort, believing they could do with less manpower than more, and now that they're stuck needing more manpower they're overusing the troops getting tired of it all.
Oh, yeah, Bush has been showing the love, hasn't he? He's shown a lot of respect for McCain and Cleland and Kerry for the service they committed in 'Nam, hasn't he? And to top it off, there's been, what, how much money cut from veterans' benefits? Oh, yeah, he's really taking care of you guys...Dad, you're a veteran. Haven't YOU noticed anything wrong with your benefits yet...?
SadistsTorture Victims
Hey, any administration that condones torture in some way ain't all that half-bad. By the way, are they hiring...?Abu Ghraib. Plus the fact that evidence has shown the men photographed during torture turned out to be either common criminals (not terrorists) or utterly innocent (again, not terrorists). Plus the fact that his administration showed no respect for national/international law by finding ways to condone and encourage torture.
This one isn't so much directed at Bush as it is his administration, specifically AG John Ashcroft. His campaign to classify government documents and pull them from gov't depositories and libraries ticks off a lot of librarians who believe open access to information is a right under the First Amendment. Especially when said documents aren't related to security issues but to litigation issues (why prevent people from knowing how to file civil suits?). But the fact the whole administration practices secrecy and evasion and refusal toward any information requests suggests this is a philosophy starting from the top dog himself. The biggest surprise is that there ARE librarians (???) supporting Bush's efforts to clamp down on knowledge. Sheesh. At least it's only 5 of em. The 100,000-plus rest of us are not amused by this shrub...
Halliburton EmbezzlersThe Middle Class (what's left of it)
More no-bid contracts. More getting troops to spend money on food and supplies already paid for. More billing to the government on things done once but paid for thrice. More talking to other companies providing services into kicking back some fees to us. More money. More money. More money. Hey, let's hire that guy who used to work at Enron! He's good for business...!See that tax cut Bush promised you? It's pretty much $800 per year, right? Considering the top one percent of the wealth holders get about $50,000 in tax cuts, you're getting bought off awfully cheap by this administration, aren't you? Oh, and by the way, we're going to have to let you go because it's cheaper to hire...nobody, we'll just get another tax break and corporate credit from Bush and live off the embez...uh, profits for a few years. Good luck using!
If there's class warfare going on, guys, the upper class is winning in a shut-out.
Job Hunters
Losing jobs is nothing new: it's a part of the economic system we use in this country. Outsourcing jobs to other countries is inevitiable and a well-known fact (oddly, the jobs were supposed to be outsourced to Mexico, not India, but I digress). The deal is, there's supposed to be a steady form of job growth to keep up with the level of job loss to ensure people can stay employed (at good wages). Under Bush, there's been very little job growth, far below the projected growth levels. Enough experts have declared this to be one of the weakest job markets in years. Yet Bush doesn't have a specific plan on job creation/job growth (he's more into promoting investing, private ownership, and self-sufficiency).
PharmaceuticalsThe Elderly (Medicare)
Pricing fixing? Nah, never heard of it. By the way, we're going to get Bush to close down the border to Canada to stop you cheapskates from crossing over and getting a $200 US bottle of aspirin for $2.99 Canadian.Wonderful Medicare package. Not only does it add more bloat to the deficit, it restricts your ability to shift to potentially cheaper or more reliable services, it adds more paperwork and card IDs to keep up with, does nothing to reduce the costs of pills and meds, and essentially ticks off everyone except for the drug companies. And that still doesn't include the fact that Bush's people LIED ABOUT THE COSTS when Congress considered the package...!
Victims of neurological disorders (stem cell research)
Bush's adamant opposition to expand the strict limits he imposed on stem cell research (he limited it to pre-existing strands, which turned out to be mostly useless) has hurt attempts to develop cures for Alzheimers and Parkinsons. His opposition comes purely from the fact that stem cells only come from fertilized eggs, meaning the extraction of stem cells a form of abortion. Other countries that do not share such concerns have begun work into stem cell research while the US, obstensibly the leader in science on the planet, has its collective thumbs tied. While a compromise of sorts is available (working with embryos from couples that have already successfully used artificial insemination to carry a child to term (thus fulfilling religious requirement to multiply), and that said embryos can only be donated to ensure people don't do it for money), his strict religious belief (and political support of that) refuses to let him even consider that.
Tom DeLayRepublicans in Congress who were repeatedly LIED TO over the Medicare package, Iraqi WMD, Abu Ghraib, and pretty much everything else
I'd include Zell Miller in this, but I don't want him challenging me to a duel so...Okay, don't you guys get it yet? He doesn't respect you or your input. Even as leader of the party he should still respect you enough to listen to advise and commentary from the ranks, but outside of his Inner Circle he doesn't hear a damn thing. All he wants you to do is rubber-stamp his pork and his tax cuts and his War on Countries That Have Oil Halliburton Can Steal. He doesn't have exchanges of ideas, he issues marching orders. Try to remember: Leadership and Loyalty are earned, not enforced.
The Kyoto accords: yes, it was unfairly tilted to already-developed countries such as the US, but we have yet to offer a reasonable alternative or stuck to our own environmental program. Scientific studies proving the increase of pollutants, and threat of such pollutants in our air and water, are routinely ignored, re-written, abused, shredded, filed under X for 'Lost', and then deemed classified by Ashcroft so that libraries can't shelve them. Then there's the arctic drilling that gets environmentalists into a tizzy. Bush makes James Watt look like a tree-hugger.
Scientists and Doctors in nearly every field of knowledge
See Environmentalists. Your studies into human health and psychology, the severe threat of Global AIDS, all of that...Bush won't read 'em unless you already tack to HIS view of things. Since a lot of experts DON'T tack to HIS view of things, said reports are filed under X for 'Lost' along with the environmental warnings.
Educators / School children
The No-Child-Left-Behind program seems to be leaving a lot of children behind. There is growing evidence that the school voucher system always promoted by Republicans isn't working the way they'd claimed, and even though Bush publicly supports his education programs he's been caught cutting funds to said programs (and yet we've got a big-ass deficit? Just where is the money going if not to our kids? Anybody got the accounting ledger?). Teachers wages' still stink, schools are still crumbling and outdated, and our kids kant speel anymore.
Those who abhor incompetence
The Bush administration makes far too many mistakes, shuffles the blame towards others rather than admit to their own, attack and accuse their critics rather than answer the questions, leak information on people to embarrass them (and in the process break the law), and claims effective leadership even when half the country, and most of the world, hates their guts for the bloodshed, misery and anger coming from all the mistakes they've made. Even Clinton never got accused of this level of incompetence. The last administration to look this sloppy, inept and corrupt?! Warren Harding's (hey, even Nixon did things right...well, other than Watergate...).
Here's something you should be asking yourselves. All sitting Presidents running for a second term always ask this question: "Are you better off now than you were 4 years ago?" Has anyone noticed that Bush/Cheny HAS NOT asked this question, or even answered it in any way? That's because we're NOT better off: the economy is too shaky, the job market too feeble, our military stretched thin, our national security weakened (and this is supposed to be their strong suit! The 'They've Made Us Safe' argument. Really? Are we? Just look at that Dept. of Homeland Security and its failures and understaffing...), our allies too few, and our future too dispiriting. And they're asking us to give them four more years of this crap?!?!

Again, that was what I wrote back in 2004, when I had become "disenchanted" with the Republicans and had dropped out to be NPA. Looking back, I really wasn't exaggerating about what I saw coming out of the GOP and their inept handling of nearly every issue - economy, social equality, environment, the war effort, the illegal use of torture, the sheer unpleasantness of the Bush the Lesser administration - and in some ways a lot of those sins have never been resolved.

And that was before the Katrina disaster truly exposed the Bush/Cheney people for what they were: uncaring, self-serving screw-ups.

And what I wrote in 2004 is still true today, only worse. Even in the face of gay marriage equality, the Republicans wage war against that. Even with the reality that our immigration policies need urgent reforms, the Republicans would rather pursue inhumane and wastefully expensive efforts in a racist, ham-fisted way. Even with our economy still shaky and our nation's personal debt woes left unanswered, the Republicans would prefer unleashing economic chaos that would bring back the horrors of the Great Recession of 2007-09. Even with the nation's citizenry becoming more left-leaning and progressive, the Republicans are convinced to go further right on every social and economic issue.

I'm looking at what I wrote for 2004 and see so much of it still applies in 2015: the Republicans are at war with immigrants and Hispanics, Muslims, women, the college-age, Blacks, the environment (hell, the totality of science and facts), our educational system, our civil liberties, our tastes in music and movies, our health care needs, our children's needs... hell, let me just list it as "The Republicans are at war with everything."

So why should it be any surprise to Frum - or to anyone else with the Republican establishment and media apologists - that their war is starting to cause blowback within their own ranks? That their war, using terms of absolute US vs. THEM, would devolve into shouting, racial slurs, and outright violence?

Driftglass is right about how everyone else in the Real World was calling this more than a decade ago. It's a pity we're facing a future of this all because now that the bill's come due Frum and his fellow conservatives aren't able or willing to pay the costs to fix their own wreckage.