Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Really? Are you frickin' kidding me? As a longtime American Idol watcher, I can honestly say that, until a couple of weeks ago, Ellen was the best thing on that show (until she stopped offering criticism and just started doing comedy and pretending to be Paula Abdul). The talent is thin this year; the two front-runners, Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox, don't have half the talent of David Cook, Carrie Underwood, Adam Lambert, Clay Aiken, Kelly Clarkson, or even fourth place finisher Chris Daughtry. Hell, AI had Adam Lambert on this season as a mentor! On top of that, there is the constant attention paid to back-stories, the judges' (particularly outgoing curmudgeon Simon Cowell) pimping their favorites while levelling baseball bats to the gut to contestants like Siobhan Magnus and Didi Benami who didn't fit the mold they were in the mood to see filled, and the general feeling among the public that the outcome is in the hands of the millions of little girls who watch the show religiously.
Anyway, I'm only pretending to be shocked. Comments like this are obligatory amongst the Christianist media.
And you know what they say about "fences make for good neighbors"? Well, we’ll get started on that tall fence tomorrow...
Well, I could go there and fault Palin for misreading the poem, failing to capture any amount of the irony, and reducing the multiple layers of meaning to something her many mouth-breathing followers can just about understand, but it'd be like faulting the sun for setting in the west.
West Wing genius Aaron Sorkin got there first, anyway:
When the President's got an embassy surrounded in Haiti, or a keyhole photograph of a heavy water reactor, or any of the fifty life-and-death matters that walk across his desk every day, I don't know if he's thinking about Immanuel Kant or not. I doubt it, but if he does, I am comforted at least in my certainty that he is doing his best to reach for all of it and not just the McNuggets. Is it possible we would be willing to require any less of the person sitting in that chair? The low road? I don't think it is.
Literally, I've had it up to here with sound-byte candidacy, something that politicians and the mainstream media co-created and have co-perpetuated. I want a president who goes on TV and reads a speech that quotes liberally from the greatest thinkers we've ever known in our history. But the hairy-backed, beer-belching Weebles with vestigial lower limbs who can't get around without their motorized scooters would simply glaze over: "Yeah, well what did some fudge-packing Greek like Socrates ever know 'bout aMERka? Go back to yer latte, Obama bin Laden!"
Friday, May 21, 2010
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Other than the defeat of newly-minted Democrat Arlen Specter, no other primary result has more potential impact on the makeup of the Senate. Bloggers are working overtime to weigh in on it, as covered by the ever-diligent Andrew Sullivan.
I am particularly struck by these comments. First by Matthew Yglesias:
The rise of Rand Paul and his securing the GOP nomination for the Kentucky Senate seat is one of the things that will spark divergent reactions in DSCC headquarters and in the minds of responsible liberals. By nominating a lunatic, Republicans have suddenly taken what should be a hopeless Senate race and turned it into something Democrats can win. At the same time, by nominating a lunatic, Republicans have suddenly raised the odds that a lunatic will represent Kentucky in the United States Senate.And by David Frum:
How is it that the GOP has lost its antibodies against a candidate like Rand Paul? In the past few months, we have seen GOP conservatives rally against Utah Sen. Bob Bennett. There has been no similar rallying against Rand Paul: no ads by well-funded out-of-state groups. Some senior Republicans, like former VP Dick Cheney, indicated a preference for opponent Trey Grayson. But despite Paul’s self-presentation as “anti-establishment,” the D.C. conservative establishment by and large made its peace with him. It is this acquiescence – even more than Paul’s own nomination – that is the most ominous news from tonight’s vote.My emphasis.
Yglesias is generously not applying the lunatic term to departing KY Senator Jim Bunning, or to Jim DeMint (SC), or Sam Brownback (KS), or Saxby Chambliss (GA), or Tom Coburn (OK), or John Cornyn (TX), or Jim Inhofe (OK), or Joe Lieberman (CT).
Frum's comment about Dick Cheney's endorsement of Grayson gives me hope that his "golden touch" will yield similar results for Carly Fiorina in the California Senate race.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Dog owners in a swanky Baltimore condo complex may find that owning a dog puts them (or their dogs' droppings) under a microscope.
The board of directors of the condo is considering fining dog owners $500 for not cleaning up after their pets. This is apparently not a small problem, as the story reports that 40 percent of dog owners fail to clean up after their pets.
But how do they figure out which dog did the dirty deed? Well, this is where it gets a bit messy: dog owners must pay $50 for DNA testing on their dog, the records of which are kept at a veterinary lab. They must also pay $10 more a month for staff to get the scoop on any unattended poop. Stool samples are sent to the lab where testing determines the guilty party.
I see a new Animal Planet series: CSI Baltimore (CSI standing for Canine Scat Investigations).
I wish I could say I made this up.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Softball! Well that must mean she's a lesbian! Right, Pat Buchanan?
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Gawker.com's Hamilton Nolan has this priceless comment:
The fact that so many American media and academic institutions have caved into the imagined fear of such religious fascists is shameful. If the free societies of the world can't stand up for a person's right to draw a fucking cartoon without becoming the victim of a multinational assassination plot, well, we lose. And if people's faith in their god is not strong enough to allow them to laugh off and dismiss an offensive little drawing, they lose.Agreed. We are a world with little control over our temper and no respect for free speech.
Hat tip: Sullivan
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
A perfect illustration of this dichotomy comes in this AP story about freshman senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina. He's become something of a kingmaker in Republican politics, throwing his influence (and money from his PAC) at candidates who he thinks embody his particular brand of conservatism. Here's a money quote from him:
I don't know that I'm always going to be right, but I do know this: I'm not going to sit on the sidelines again. When we tell people we're the conservative party ... I want to make sure we have people sitting in those seats who really mean it.
And here's one from Texas Senator John Cornyn, a Washington veteran:
My goal is simply to build our numbers so we can provide checks and balances to single-party power here in Washington. I think [DeMint] has a different goal, which is to try to move the Republican conference in a more conservative direction. If that were possible and we were able to win elections all around the country I would be all for it, but I think as a pragmatic matter we've got to nominate Republicans who can get elected in their states.
Now, I'm not going to lump Cornyn in with moderate Republicans, since he's been a clear obstacle to all things Democratic for a long time. In fact, to some degree, "moderate conservative" is an oxymoron. His words reveal clearly that the Republicans' sole objective is to regain power, to win elections. DeMint wants that too, but he wants party purity. (I suppose that's commendable, given that their other attempts to demand purity have failed so miserably.)
The really sad part of this is that debate about the issues has disappeared. I can have and have had discussions with reasonable people about hot issues, and we have disagreed strongly at times. But one thing that no one ever says is that the other person hates America, or is a communist/socialist Nazi. That kind of heated rhetoric gets us nowhere. I don't laugh it off because I realize how impressionable people can be, so those words are powerful and dangerous. Anything that cuts off healthy debate is bad for this country. I have been watching what's going on in the U.K. Their parliamentary system is at a stalemate, and there are some pretty stark differences between the three leading parties. One thing that is common among all three, however, is a demonstrated commitment to civility. You don't see Brits with placards calling any of the candidates Nazis, drawing pictures of them looking like Hitler or any other reviled figure. And the transition to the next government is going to go off without a major hitch, and that country, despite its obvious financial woes, will continue to thrive and grow. Of course, that's not to say that we're not growing, but it certainly hasn't been with the cooperation of both sides. The opposition currently has plans to undo all that Obama has done to move this country forward into the 21st century.
Monday, May 10, 2010
It's time we got over the myth that what a public servant does in his private life is of no consequence. We cannot afford to have another sexually abnormal individual in a position of important civic responsibility, especially when that individual could become one of nine votes in an out of control oligarchy that constantly usurps constitutional prerogatives to unethically and illegally legislate for 300 million Americans.
The stakes are too high. Social conservatives must rise up as one and say no lesbian is qualified to sit on the Supreme Court. Will they?
My emphasis. Substitute "Jew" or "Catholic" or "person of color" or "Muslim" and you get to see how low Christianism has sunk in this country.
Sullivan makes this interesting point:
The days are past when this could be brushed under the rug. Let's have an honest debate, can we? The way to counter prejudice is through truth - not avoidance. For the right to oppose Kagan merely because she is gay - if she is - would be one more step toward their self-destruction. By staying mum, the Obamites may be playing yet another rope-a-dope. I just cannot see how in 2010, ambiguity is an option. I mean: who would claim that John Roberts' heterosexuality is somehow private? It is a demonstrably reported fact that there would now be no Protestants on the court - just Catholics and Jews. Why is this not an invasion of privacy, if asking someone about their sexual orientation is?
Because, Andrew, Christianists use the bible to assert with certainty that homosexual behavior is the same thing as pedophilia or bestiality. And selecting a (potentially) gay person for a position on the highest court in the country means that Obama has sold America to Satan. I certainly don't believe that, of course, but if you're wondering why they want to keep that issue front and center, there it is. There can be no other.
Friday, May 7, 2010
Based on the evidence, it appears that for nearly 50 years, Republicans have done nothing to improve the economy for anyone other than corporations and the wealthy. Reducing taxes did not restrain government spending because while Republicans were busy cutting spending, they were creating massive federal corporate welfare programs, exploding defense spending, and expanding healthcare entitlements, all based on deficit spending and none of it paid for with corresponding tax increases. Under Clinton, government spending fell, the size of government fell, and we had a large budget surplus, which means we were actually SAVING money, putting it away, not spending it. We had the largest peacetime expansion of our economy in history during Clinton's term in office, confirming that business was not straightjacketed and Congress was not restrained in any way.
By 1981 STB was well-established Republican doctrine. In his first major address on the economy as president on Feb. 5, Ronald Reagan articulated the idea perfectly. As he told a nationwide audience that night, "Over the past decades we've talked of curtailing spending so that we can then lower the tax burden. ... But there were always those who told us that taxes couldn't be cut until spending was reduced. Well, you know, we can lecture our children about extravagance until we run out of voice and breath. Or we can cure their extravagance by simply reducing their allowance."
Unfortunately there is no evidence that the big 1981 tax cut enacted by Reagan did anything whatsoever to restrain spending. Federal outlays rose from 21.7% of GDP in 1980 to 23.5% in 1983, before falling back to 21.3% of GDP by the time he left office.
Rather than view this as refutation of starve the beast theory, however, Republicans concluded that Reagan's true mistake was acquiescing to tax increases almost every year from 1982 to 1988. By the end of his presidency, Reagan signed into law tax increases that took back half the 1981 tax cut. His hand-picked successor, George H.W. Bush, compounded the error, Republicans believe, by supporting a tax increase in 1990.
When Bill Clinton became president in 1993, one of his first acts in office was to push through Congress--with no Republican support--a big tax increase. Starve the beast
theory predicted a big increase in spending as a consequence. But in fact, federal outlays fell from 22.1% of GDP in 1992 to 18.2% of GDP by the time Clinton left office.
Although all of evidence of the previous 20 years clearly refuted starve the beast theory, George W. Bush was an enthusiastic supporter, using it to justify liquidation of the budget surpluses he inherited from Clinton on massive tax cuts year after year. Bush called them "a fiscal straightjacket for Congress" that would prevent an increase in spending. Of course nothing of the kind occurred. Spending rose throughout his administration to 20.7% of GDP in 2008.
Because of the massive spending increases under Bush43, increases that were not paid for in any way, two massively expensive, illegal wars that were off-budget and politicized to ensure more spending (and more money for the defense industry), unregulated speculation in mortgages and oil that rendered collateralized securities worthless and sent oil prices through the roof, the previous administration had to inject massive amounts of capital into the economy to prop up markets that under normal circumstances would have functioned normally but were rendered powerless and bankrupt. Obama has been forced to continue the spending until the markets showed strong signs of recovery. It was a huge gamble, one that the Republicans have fought tooth and nail, mostly because they're out of power and can't take the credit if it pays off.
And it has paid off. The TARP bailout funds are being returned by banks, with interest, to the point where the government is making a profit on it, the Home Affordable Refinance Program has allowed thousands of borrowers to refinance their equity-drained homes at current market rates and reduce their monthly payments, the Federal Reserve's program to purchase mortgage-backed securities (which ended March 1) kept interest rates so low that purchase and refi business was very robust, and the auto industry bailout appears to have had the desired effect. Recent unemployment figures show that there has been positive job growth for the past four months (even after factoring out temporary census workers), and that people who had dropped off the unemployment rolls because they had stopped looking for work are now looking for work, which drove the unemployment rate up to 9.9% (just in time, as worker productivity fell for the first time in a long time last month).
Many concerns still remain, however: healthcare reform is untested, the oil mess in the Gulf of Mexico could have a serious impact on the tourism and fishing industries in the Deep South, the European economy is teetering under massive debt loads, we're still spending way too much on war, and we still have too many people unemployed. Further, Congress is peopled with ideologues and others who are more concerned with keeping their jobs than with doing their jobs. But today, I still feel the hope that carried me through 2008, which was the worst year of my life professionally.
And I am a registered Democrat.
Do the tea-partiers really represent the solid conservative truths of the past - or just the discredited fads of yesterday?
I have wondered something similar, but all I can come up with is that they have no idea what they represent beyond anger with how shitty their lives have become (or have been told they've become). This is largely a racially-based backlash against a country whose diversity and modernity have left them in the dust wondering how they will ever manage to keep up. They grab onto touchstone politicians as their heroes (like Reagan, but willfully ignoring the fact that he raised taxes during his term and opposed torture in all forms) but really have no idea what those politicians stood for. They revise history, asserting unwavering certainty that this country was founded on evangelical Christian values (as if all the founders would have joined mega-churches like John Hagee's, followed the Prosperity Gospel, and railed against the wickedness of Islam).
After I read Thomas Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas? I understood these people more, and even still they are today far more incoherent and less focused than backlash movements of the past.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
"I'm being restricted from my religious rights, and from what I believe," Graham warned, as he complained of a growing “secularization” in the government.
Uh, yeah right.
Graham, an American citizen, just freely expressed his beliefs on a news outlet and millions got to hear him, and he wasn't stopped in any way. The Pentagon simply decided that his previous anti-Muslim comments made his appearance at the prayer breakfast "inappropriate."
In the interview he expanded his view of Islam to say, "I don't believe Muhammad can lead anybody to God," Graham said. "I love Muslim people and I care for them very much and I want Muslims everywhere to know what I know -- that Jesus Christ died for their sins."
Graham also believes that there is a coming persecution of people who believe in Jesus.
The central tenet in American Christianism is the belief that Christians are a persecuted group. Therefore, anything anyone ever says to criticize Christianity is proof that believers are victims. It's certainly not true, but you would think that after all these years of suffering at the hands of the secularists who lead this great country they would actually understand how it feels when they are told their religion is very evil and wicked. Too bad their compassion only goes one way.
So, if Shahzad had been American-born, like American Taliban John Walker Lindh was, he should be deemed to be no longer American? And then what? Can there be any more naked an attempt to circumvent the rule of law than this?
So I'm not really sure if the current outrage being expressed by Republican lawmakers about the suspect being Mirandized was with the full knowledge that he'd been interrogated once without being read his rights or without that knowledge. Either way, they're knee-jerking the administration's every move, but it still points to the neocon obsession with torture, since without Miranda the U.S. is essentially free to torture at will.
Next thing they'll be saying that, like Jose Padilla before him, the bomber needs to be held as an enemy combatant and tried in a military tribunal rather than civilian court. However, like Richard Reid and the Underpants Bomber, a civilian court is the best and safest way to ensure adherence to the Constitution (oh, yeah, thaaaaat old thing) and secure a fair trial, especially since the guy's an actual U.S. Citizen.
Should that shut the neocons up? Hardly. Next they'll be calling for his citizenship, which he got just a year ago, to be revoked so that he can fall into the black hole, get sent to Gitmo or Bagram, and let the military have their way with him.
And in Sullivan's corner, none other than Glenn Beck, who stunned his colleagues at Fox News with the following:
He is a citizen of the United States, so I say we uphold the laws and the Constitution on citizens. If you are a citizen, you obey the law and follow the Constitution. [Shahzad] has all the rights under the Constitution. We don't shred the Constitution when it is popular. We do the right thing.
Beck has a point. Huffpost blogger Sam Stein writes:
On Tuesday, the firm Resurgent Republic released polling data showing that: "Voters agree that civilian trials are a bad idea by a 56 to 36 percent margin overall, including a 61 to 32 percent margin among Independents and a 76 to 20 percent margin among Republicans (Democrats say civilian trials are a good idea by a 55 to 36 percent margin)."
Stein also points out that Beck's opposition to McCain shows just how far the Republican Party has strayed from any moral, political, or principled center. As a party, they have absolutely no standards, no positions on anything except to condemn automatically anything President Obama or his administration does in governing this country. Of course, McCain is fighting for his political life right now in Arizona, having just sold out his earlier stance on immigration (which matched George W. Bush on providing a clear path to legal status) in order to show conservative voters in AZ that he's just as hardcore on illegals as his primary opponent.
Monday, May 3, 2010
What the NPR story also revealed was that every single offshore drilling platform will be inspected for safety and soundness, making it highly unlikely that there will be any new drilling offshore for years to come.
Who's to blame? Well, certainly not the environmentalists who have longed argued against offshore drilling as too dangerous and too environmentally unsafe. Indeed, the NPR story revealed that most of these platforms do not have a simple safety valve installed which could have halted the flow of oil now pouring into the Gulf of Mexico. To me, there is no plausible explanation for not installing every conceivable device known to take into consideration the possibility that a rig could explode, collapse, or spring any kind of leak. Spokespeople for the oil industry would likely say that a full analysis of the risk was taken into consideration when the rig was designed and built, and that they'd done nothing wrong. But this is purely about economics. It probably would have cost too much to retrofit any of these platforms with the required safety mechanicals, and the downtime at the rig would have had disastrous effects on the cost of crude and gasoline, so it would have been politically unpopular as well.
I think, like Obama is doing with the banks, the government needs to demand that all major oil companies operating offshore or in other environmentally sensitive areas pay into a fund every year to bank enough money to pay for problems like this from happening in the future. To me, it's debatable whether banks are too big to fail, but the environment surely is.
Free speech is one of the main reasons why millions come here every year to live. Separation of church and state and equal opportunity for employment are too. We may have our dalliances with empire-building, but by and large we are where we are at the top of the world food chain because we have attracted the brightest and best minds in the world, who have gotten a taste of freedom, competitive markets, and limitless potential and have determined that there ain't no place like America. Of course, as an American I wholeheartedly agree. My fondest dream is that my children get to inherit a country that is less fucked-up than we are around fundamentalist religion and attempts to circumvent the Constitution. The best we can do is to shout down and isolate nutjobs of every stripe, and seek out people across the divide who can hold opposing viewpoints without feeling the need to shame and degrade each other, as President Obama so eloquently urged last week in Michigan:
[I]f you’re somebody who only reads the editorial page of The New York Times, try glancing at the page of The Wall Street Journal once in a while. If you’re a fan of Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh, try reading a few columns on the Huffington Post website. It may make your blood boil; your mind may not be changed. But the practice of listening to opposing views is essential for effective citizenship. (Applause.) It is essential for our democracy.
And so, too, is the practice of engaging in different experiences with different kinds of people. I look out at this class and I realize for four years at Michigan you have been exposed to diverse thinkers and scholars, professors and students. Don’t narrow that broad intellectual exposure just because you’re leaving here. Instead, seek to expand it. If you grew up in a big city, spend some time with somebody who grew up in a rural town. If you find yourself only hanging around with people of your own race or ethnicity or religion, include people in your circle who have different backgrounds and life experiences. You’ll learn what it’s like to walk in somebody else’s shoes, and in the process, you will help to make this democracy work.