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A Token of Gratitude December 22, 2010

Posted by monty in comedy, politics, pop culture.
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As if I didn’t already have enough reason to love Larry David (co-creator of Seinfeld and the man responsible for the brilliant Curb Your Enthusiasm), he’s now written a hilarious op-ed for The New York Times thanking Republicans for extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

The satire will probably be lost on most Republicans, but it perfectly encapsulates the absolute absurdity of the argument that those in this tax bracket would be in any way financially disadvantaged if the tax cuts had been allowed to expire.  It’s just another example of how the GOP has manipulated the dialogue to make the average middle-class American think it’s their patriotic duty to support an upper class that couldn’t give a shit about them.

Anyway, here’s an excerpt:

It’s also going to be a boon for my health. After years of coveting them, I’ll finally be able to afford blueberries. Did you know they have a lot of antioxidants, which prevent cancer? Cancer! This tax cut just might save my life. Who said Republicans don’t support health care? I’m going to have the blueberries with my cereal, and I’m not talking Special K. Those days are over. It’s nothing but real granola from now on. The kind you get in the plastic bins in health food stores. Did someone say “organic”?

Larry David: Thanks for the Tax Cut! (The New York Times; 12/20/10)


Current listening:

Balthazar – Applause

Last movie seen:

From Within (2008; Phedon Papamichael, dir.)


Stupid Republican Thing of the Day (12/20/10) December 20, 2010

Posted by monty in politics.
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In what is sure (and unfortunately) to become a regular feature, here’s the first in an open-ended series documenting how ridiculous and irrelevant the modern Republican party has become.  On a side note, anyone want to wager how many of these in an average week will involve Sarah Palin?


Sarah Palin: “Michelle Obama Wants the Government to Take Away Our Dessert!”

Okay, I’m paraphrasing, but not by much.  From CNN:

Sarah Palin is again taking aim at Michelle Obama over her anti-obesity campaign, taking the opportunity in Sunday’s “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” to land a diss against the first lady’s efforts to improve nutrition.

While making s’mores at one point during Sunday’s episode, the former Alaska governor proclaims the marshmallow and chocolate treat is “in honor of Michelle Obama, who said the other day we should not have dessert.”

It’s not the first time Palin has taken a job at Mrs. Obama over her campaign to discourage fattening foods, especially from public schools. The former vice presidential nominee told conservative talk radio host Laura Ingraham last month that “the first lady cannot trust parents to make decisions for their own children, for their own families in what we should eat.”

This is how bizarre the GOP’s anti-government rhetoric has gotten, where an observation that our country – and, increasingly, our children – has become dangerously obese can only be seen as an attempt by the government to control your life.  They may not be bright, but Sarah Palin has helped the Republicans corner the market on petty and mean-spirited.  Will someone please make this woman go away?


Current listening:

Asobi Seksu – Fluorescence (2010)

Last movie seen:

Ghostbusters II (1989; Ivan Reitman, dir.)

Early Christmas Present April 21, 2010

Posted by monty in news, politics.
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My friend Adam reminded me of something else I was going to mention in yesterday’s post about the Tea Party movement.  In that post, I discussed three recent articles that essentially prove that the Tea Party – for all its blathering about being a vital third party that stands in opposition to all government – is really just a bunch of typical Republicans who will protest anything Obama does for no reason other than they’re sore losers.  The details are here.

But one of the things rattling around in the back of my head yesterday that Adam reminded me of this morning is Monday’s armed protest in Virginia. A group of “patriots” held an anti-government rally on the shores of the Potomac River, ostensibly in opposition to health care reform, climate control, bank bailouts, and Obama’s insistence on “totalitarian socialism.”  So, in other words, it’s the same tired old bullshit.  The difference this time?  Well, here, from the article:

[Daniel] Almond plans to have his pistol loaded and openly carried, his rifle unloaded and slung to the rear, a bandoleer of magazines containing ammunition draped over his polo-shirted shoulder.

This anti-Obama rally (because, really, let’s stop pretending it’s anything different) holds the dubious distinction of being the first whose attendees carried loaded weapons in a national park.  It’s tempting to digress and discuss the truly frightening aspect of this rally, which is that so many on the right (including some in attendance at the rally) have threatened violence against the president and the Democrats in Congress.  The appearance of guns is just one more step on the path marked “armed insurrection.”

But what I briefly want to do is tie the rally to yesterday’s post by simply reminding you of a couple things.

1) At no time has Obama uttered even the slightest hint of a breath about repealing or limiting the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms.  So this protest can’t be about the simple exercising of a Constitutional right.  What, then, is the purpose of bringing guns to a rally in opposition to Obama?  It’s a threat, clear and simple.  A promise of violence.  Guns exist for one reason: to kill.  And I don’t care how you want to gussy it up, bringing guns to a rally that’s supposedly about health care reform is nothing more than a reminder to Democrats that those in opposition to you have the power to take you out.

2) The beautifully ludicrous aspect of this rally is that Obama defended the rule (originally proposed by Bush) allowing loaded weapons in national parks, and the law was passed during Obama’s presidency by a Democratic Congress.  So the protesters – because they’re such clearly intelligent, informed people – are protesting the policies of the President who allowed them to carry their guns in a national park in the first place.  Once again we see that those who stand in opposition to Obama will stand in opposition to him even when he does things that are in their interest.  It’s the good ol’ Republican way of doing business: obstruct, obstruct, obstruct, even when it makes absolutely no sense.


Current listening:

Kate Nash – My Best Friend Is You (2010)

Failed Suicide Club April 20, 2010

Posted by monty in news, politics.
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Sometime in the last couple weeks I made a conscious decision to stop getting so aggravated by the Republican Party and the Tea Party movement. For much of 2009 and the first few months of this year I feared for my sanity whenever I turned on the news.  I’ve never been one to talk to myself – or to inanimate objects – but recently all it would take would be an appearance by Sarah Palin or Eric Cantor or Michele Bachmann (or the unholy triumvirate of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, or Ann Coulter) to get me frothing and barking at the TV screen like … well, like a member of the Tea Party.

But at some point I realized it was a waste of energy and emotion to get so worked up over a party whose only purpose is to obstruct the Democrats’ agenda, and whose anger exists without any recourse to reality.  I could work up a self-righteous head of steam in an honest debate with someone who is genuinely informed on the issues and who holds an opinion that’s grounded in facts.  But all you have to do is listen to Mitch McConnell or Mike Pence or any of the wingnuts in attendance at a tea party rally to realize that you’re not dealing with sane people who genuinely want to constructively solve America’s problems.  It’s all about getting angry and fucking shit up – physically or legislatively, it doesn’t matter.

So even though my reaction now is to laugh whenever I hear or see virtually anyone representing the GOP or the Tea Party, there have been a few things coming across the wires in the last several days worth mentioning.  So bear with me as I try to pull them together.  I might be able to connect the dots, but I make no promises.

1) There’s a solid piece at Daily Kos comparing the current Tea Party to this country’s last viable third party movement: those who supported Ross Perot in the 1992 presidential election.  The gist of the article is that the two movements are nothing alike.  The third partiers in ’92 sprang up in support of Perot, instead of in support of a nebulous cause like “Give me back my country!,” which is really just anti-Democrat sentiment disguised as patriotism.  Perot’s supporters were truly bipartisan in nature, rejecting Republicans and Democrats alike.  For instance, over a third of those who voted for Perot voted for either Walter Mondale in 1984 or Michael Dukakis in 1988 (or both).  Today?  Only 5% of those in the Tea Party self-identify as Democrats.  Similarly, roughly 57% in the Tea Party view George W. Bush favorably (with only 27% viewing him unfavorably), but in ’92, Perot’s supporters viewed both George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton unfavorably.

The point?  It’s time to put an end to this myth that the Tea Party is a multi-hued, technicolor, rainbow coalition of concerned Americans who are peeved at government in general.  It’s not.  It’s a bunch of Republicans who are pissed that Obama’s in the White House, and are trying to brand their version of far-right craziness as ultra-patriotism.  Period.  Most of these people don’t give two shits about the Constitution, not in any real way.  They live in a fantasy world where the Constitution grants rich white dudes the inalienable right to do whatever they want, and the rest of us just have to deal with it.  That’s patriotism, Tea Party-style.

2) On a related note, the GOP is now clearly aware of some of the more virulent, violent protest signs at the Tea Party rallies, and are busy trying to point out that some left-wing protestors used similar rhetoric against Bush. Okay, first off, they’re absolutely right.  There were definitely some nutcases comparing Bush to Hitler and Satan, and calling for either his death or his incarceration.  You’ll get no dispute from me there.

The Democrats, as should be expected by now, are handling this all wrong. In the article linked above, the Dems’ response is to question the veracity of the signs.  This is profoundly stupid, and is akin to the Republicans’ current strategy, which is to claim any signs espousing violent or racist rhetoric against Obama is being done by liberal infiltrators who just want to make the Tea Party look bad.  In other words, rather than denounce the violent racists in their midst, the GOP would just rather blame the Democrats.  Again.

What the Democrats should be saying instead is this: “Look, we get that there were some idiots who said Bush was like Hitler.  And we know that Code Pink consists of a bunch of transsexual drama queens whose protests are annoying even to the people who agree with the issues in principle.  But the fundamental difference between those groups and the Tea Party is that these liberals protestors were the fringe of our party.  They’re the half-dozen lunatics and twerps that give all of us a bad name.  But the Tea Party is your base. These are, almost to a person, stalwart conservatives, who worship at the altar of Bush and Reagan, who festoon their bodies with American flag regalia, and who believe there’s nothing sexier than a firearm clasped by a blond-haired, blue-eyed Aryan in an Uncle Sam hat.  18% of Americans identify with the Tea Party.  Toward the end of his presidency, only 25% of Americans had a favorable opinion of Bush.  The margin of difference there is razor-thin.  The Tea Party is the Republican Party is the Tea Party.  They’re indistinguishable from one another.  Which means – guess what? – the Republican party is littered with violent racists who are primarily angry that there’s a black man in the White House.  We have our crazies, too, but our crazies are the disorganized fringe.  Your crazies make up the foundation of your party.  Job well done, Republicans.”

3) Much was made of the recent poll demonstrating that Tea Party members are wealthy older white males.  No shit.  Really?  Perhaps more surprising was the finding that, grammatically incoherent and rhetorically obtuse protest signs notwithstanding, they’re also educated.  One thing I’d like to point out, though, is that there’s a difference between being educated and being intelligent or informed.  I have a high level of education, but I’m not too swift when it comes to certain things outside my purview.  You don’t, for instance, often hear me spouting off about quantum physics.  If I don’t know much about something, I tend to keep my mouth shut.  I’m a good listener.  But the Tea Party, despite whatever level of education its individual members possess, don’t seem to know much about the government or taxes or Obama’s citizenship or, you know, any of the issues they’re supposedly protesting.  To wit:

  • Only 41% believe Obama was born in the United States (Hawaii: not a state, apparently).
  • 64% of them believe their taxes have been raised (despite the fact that the economic stimulus package contained the largest middle class tax cut in history).
  • Two-thirds are climate change deniers (because it snowed in the New England in February!).
  • 40% believe there should be no recognition of gay couples at all (depressing, but expected).
  • 92% believe Obama is moving the country toward Socialism (obvious, what with the Dow being way up and the tax cuts and people finally finding jobs and all).
  • A staggering 73% believe that government aid encourages people to stay poor (because being poor is fun!)
  • And, of course, 59% love Glenn Beck; %66 love Sarah Palin (also: 100% of these believe the sun revolves around the Earth).

The Tea Party may be educated, but does this really sound like the views of an intelligent movement?  What it sounds like to me is the standard GOP party line, and the perfectly understandable opinions of a bunch of people who use Fox News as their primary source of information.

At the top I said I’d try to connect the dots between these three articles, and the obvious picture that develops when they’re combined is this: the Tea Party is indistinguishable from the present-day GOP.  There’s been talk for months about the Tea Party becoming a third party, or wondering to what degree the Republicans should extend an olive branch to the Tea Party, melding the two in the sort of genetic experiment that should be illegal.  This kind of speculation is pointless.  To try and separate the GOP from the Tea Party, or to pretend the Tea Party would be a viable third party, is ludicrous.  The members of the Tea Party are Republicans.  They believe in the things Republicans believe in, support all the usual Republican politicians and pundits, hate all the usual Democratic causes and beliefs, and, when push comes to shove, will vote Republican straight down the ballot, no matter how much they swear up and down they won’t.

But it’ll be interesting to see how this conflict continues to play out.  The GOP surely realizes that the Tea Party isn’t exactly a model of civility and decorum, and will continue to be wary of embracing them whole-heartedly.  And the Tea Partiers, who’ve sworn until they’re blue in their jowly, porcine faces that they hate all government, will be slow to align themselves with the GOP, lest they reveal themselves as the hypocrites the rest of us know that they are.  So yeah, I used to get mad at all of this, but now I’m sort of grateful for this wonderfully hysterical gift that just keeps on giving.


Current listening:

The National – High Violet (2010)

Last movie seen:

Kick-Ass (2010; Matthew Vaughn, dir.)

I Don’t Know if This Is Ignorance or Transcendence April 16, 2010

Posted by monty in news, politics.
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Bob Cesca is one of my favorite writers, and for my money he’s doing the best job of anyone at unveiling the drooling, gibbering, psycho ward lunacy and racist dumbfuckery of the contemporary Republican party.

Cesca’s currently busy tilting, Don Quixote-style, at the Glenn Beck windmill, hell-bent on revealing him for the huckster and charlatan that he is.  I’ve long believed that Beck is engaged in a bit of quasi-Andy Kaufman performance art, and the only thing that keeps me from being completely in awe of him is the fact that so many of the people who watch him take him absolutely fucking seriously.  And that is, in a word, frightening.  Given a second word, it’s also irresponsible.  It’s one thing to spew lies with a nod and a wink, when your listeners know you’re not serious and are in on the joke. But it’s another thing entirely to do what Beck does, which is purposely deceive his fans, who choose to remain willfully ignorant, and who tune in to Beck because he gleefully pours gasoline on even their most unintelligible conspiracy theories.  Because, you know, fomenting anti-government violence and bigotry is fun.

Anyway, Cesca’s been writing some exceptional stuff about Beck recently.  Here’s a link to his most recent piece for the Huffington Post, which is, as usual, spot-on.

Bob Cesca (Huffington, Post, 4/14/10): Exposing Glenn Beck as a Dangerous Fraud, Part 2

And, for those who haven’t clicked the link on the right, here’s Cesca’s blog, which is full of goodies.


Current listening:

Gil Scott-Heron – I’m New Here (2010)

And This Is What We Call Progress April 11, 2010

Posted by monty in news, politics.
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I’ll be the first to admit that it hasn’t been easy being an Obama supporter.  While I’m ultimately glad that some kind of health care reform passed, I’m one of the few that disapproves of its current incarnation not because I’m frightened of death panels and government takeovers and squads of roving IRS agents and whatever other bogeymen the comically conspiracy-minded GOP can fabricate, but because the bill didn’t go far enough. Also, as I’ve written elsewhere on 3SODA, Obama’s current education policy is catastrophically simplistic and wrong-headed.

And that’s before you factor in the relentless GOP crybaby machine. Amazingly, all the right-wing vituperation during the 2008 presidential campaign has only gotten worse in the last year.  Newt Gingrich ( Obama’s is the “most radical” administration ever), Rush Limbaugh (Obama is “inflicting untold damage” on the U.S.), and good ol’ Sarah Palin (Obama’s recent agreement with Russia to reduce the number of nukes in each country is like a kid who says “punch me in the face”) have been launching their attacks on a nearly daily basis, and this doesn’t even begin to take into account the not-at-all-racist (nudge nudge, wink wink) Tea Party Movement, as well as the rank and file Republicans who swear that Obama has raised taxes and ruined the economy.

Long story short, it’s sometimes difficult to defend him when there are certainly aspects of his presidency with which I’m dissatisfied myself.

But it shouldn’t be difficult.  In the first year of Obama’s presidency:

  • The Dow is up from 7,000 to 11,000
  • The job situation has gone from 700,000 losses a month to 160,000 jobs created
  • The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has added 1.8 million jobs
  • The GDP (a measure of economic growth) has moved from -6% to +6%
  • Housing prices are up 20%

A pox on that radical Socialist for doing such horrific things to our country!

More unbelievable still is the fact that Republicans are actually angry about the fact that roughly 47% of American households in 2009 paid no taxes – not due to some sneaky dodge, but because they either didn’t make enough money, or because they benefited from tax credits that were part of the stimulus package.

You see the contradiction, right?

The GOP, so recently busy trying to position itself as the grass-roots party of the common man (remember Joe the Plumber?), is furious because A) people who are too poor to afford taxes aren’t being made to turn over their last $2 to the government, and B) the government is actually helping the middle class save money.  So the official GOP position on taxes is this: we hate taxes … except for when a Democrat’s in office, and then you’d better pay up or else you’re a no-good welfare case.

(And, come to think of it, isn’t that an interesting position for the GOP to take?  If they’re so concerned with appealing to the working class, why take this position on taxes, and why frame universal health care as an entitlement program?  What we’ve learned from the Republicans in the first year of Obama’s presidency is that people who need financial help are parasitic lowlifes mooching off the system.  You’re either self-sufficient, or you’re a liability.  There’s no middle ground.  And more puzzling still, why do the low- and middle-classes persist in allowing themselves to be tricked into believing that the Republicans actually care about them?)

Something else the last year (and especially the last few months) should have taught us is that, contrary to what the Republican powers that be would have us believe, there is no liberal media.  It’s inconvenient for the GOP, I know, but there’s simply no cabal of broadcasters whose sole interest is getting us to eat granola, wear clothes made from hemp, and read The Communist Manifesto. In many ways, it’s been entertaining to watch the Republicans cry about the “liberal media” because one of their most reliable talking points is that the Democrats are always pretending to be the victim.  Yet when it comes to the media, the Republicans make like a two-year-old who just got his binky swiped.  We’re supposed to believe that the “mainstream media” (translation: anything that’s not Fox News) has its jackbooted foot on the neck of the Republican Party, effectively silencing anything critical of the Obama administration.  But the important thing to remember is that the contemporary Republican party depends on its followers feeling like they’re being persecuted.  Just look at the way they approach some of their favorite issues:

  • The mainstream media wants to silence conservative voices.
  • Healthcare reform will make it harder for you to see your doctor and send IRS agents to your door.
  • The Tea Party Movement consistently uses “Take our country back!” as a rallying cry.
  • Obama wants to steal your money and “redistribute” it to people who don’t deserve it.

To the GOP, any ideas that are even remotely progressive exist only to persecute you and take what’s rightfully yours.  And that’s the stance they’ve taken with the media: it’s state-run, and serves a Democratic agenda.  But no one but the most blinkered, tunnel-visioned Republican really believes that, do they?  I mean, why, in this liberal media Utopia, am I subjected to the thoughts of Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, and the Tea Party?  Why aren’t the statistics I cited above common knowledge?  Why haven’t the myriad Republican hypocrisies detailed in this letter been playing in an uninterrupted loop on NBC, CBS, and ABC?  Why haven’t Newt Gingrich’s infidelities gotten as much play as John Edwards’?  Because the media is so liberal.  Right.  I keep forgetting.

One of the problems, of course, is that we’ve turned into a society that believes that just because there happens to be two sides to an issue, both sides are equally worth hearing.  This is why we’re so lucky to find out what Sarah Palin thinks about Obama’s qualifications to sign a non-proliferation agreement with Russia.

Make no mistake: when one of the sides debating an issue consists of Palin, Gingrich, and Limbaugh (not to mention court jester extraordinaire Glenn Beck and perpetual victim Andrew Breitbart), that viewpoint isn’t worth hearing, because that viewpoint doesn’t exist in the same reality as the rest of us.  It’s like someone arguing against gravity.  Sure, it’s polite to give the opposing perspective a chance to talk, but why bother? There’s a world of difference between making a principled objection against something, and just being a dick.  Too often, it seems like the GOP just wants to do the latter (see especially, Gingrich’s recent claim that, in a Republican-controlled Congress, the first order of business will be to defund and repeal all of Obama’s policies – again, despite all the evidence that they’ve worked.)

It’s all very confusing.  We have a president who has done some remarkably positive things for the country, and yet the opposition is unequivocally controlling the dialogue – to the point where some of his supporters are even reluctant to defend him.  Somehow, despite Obama’s successes, the GOP has managed to frame his presidency as the machinations of a radical leftist hell-bent on destroying the country.  But the truth, if one ignores all the Socialist fairy tales the Republicans are spinning about health care reform and the stimulus and arms reduction and green jobs, is that there’s mounting evidence that Obama has actually been quite good for the country.  How odd that we don’t hear about that from the leftist media that’s supposedly suckling at Obama’s Marxist teat.

And that means that Obama’s supporters have their work cut out for them. In order to garner votes in November, the GOP is going to continue to pretend to be a supporter of the working class (despite all evidence to the contrary), and, at the same time, paint Obama and the Democratic incumbents as Socialist Marxist fascist homosexuals who want nothing more than to see a Soviet flag flying over the White House.  It’s important for us to understand that an Obama presidency that doesn’t go quite as far as we’d like is still miles better than turning over Washington to Gingrich and Palin and Michele Bachmann and professional saddlebag John Boehner.  The more seats the Republicans take in November, the uglier it’s going to get for all of us.  And that means whatever reservations we have about Obama’s individual policies have to be squelched, and the not insignificant accomplishments of his administration have to be amplified, and amplified in a way that illustrates how they actually help the middle-class. The long-running (and entirely true) joke about the Democrats is that they always know how to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  Not this time.  There’s just too much at stake.


Current listening:

Raekwon – Only Built 4 Cuban Linx (1995)

We Are the Roman Empire January 4, 2010

Posted by monty in politics.
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In the last few days I’ve attempted to write about the attempted bombing of the flight from Amsterdam to Detroit approximately a dozen times.  Specifically, I wanted to write about the GOP’s predictably panicky spaz attack about the incident, and what it means for our own convenience when we travel.  Each time I gave up after a sentence or two because my frustration with virtually every Republican who opens his/her mouth to the media has reached the point where I want to stick my head in a blender whenever I turn on the TV.  I feel like I need to write about it, but the act might very well kill me.

But I’ll give it a try.

The right wing’s response to the Underpants Bomber (and could there be any purer articulation of this guy’s ineptness than the nickname he’s been given?) has been this:

1) Obama sucks!

2) We need to profile people, and we especially need to profile black males!

3) Obama sucks!

I’m not going to get into the attacks on Obama.  They say he’s soft on terrorism, that he dropped the ball, that he’s got a pre-9/11 mentality.  Whatever.  By this point, it should be clear to anyone with even rudimentary intelligence that the GOP will attack him no matter what he does.  The profiling bit frustrates me, though, because of the lack of cultural understanding it represents.  The right-wing soft-peddles its racism by saying we need to profile Muslims.  But they do understand that not all Muslims look alike, right?  There are African Muslims, Middle Eastern Muslims, Mediterranean Muslims, Eastern European Muslims, even – whisper it – American Muslims. So how exactly do they propose we profile Muslims?  It’ll be based, just like the guy above says, on skin color.  And that, friends and neighbors, is racial prejudice.  Welcome to the Republican Party, circa 2010.  Looks a lot like 1910, doesn’t it?

But here’s why this shit fit about the Underpants Bomber is completely unwarranted:

1) Accidents happen.  We can tighten security all we want, but airport security depends on humans (at the moment, of course, because I’m not ruling out some sort of science-fictiony invention that renders us irrelevant), and where there’s humans, there’s human error.  No one is perfect.  No system works 100% of the time.  Of course we want to make things as secure as we can, but it’s foolhardy to think we can ever be completely safe.  It’s just not that world anymore.  And when an accident does happen, all the hyperbolic finger-pointing in the world isn’t going to change anything.

2) The best argument against the GOP’s crybaby antics, however, relies on sheer numbers and not on my (or anyone else’s) cynical criticism.  Statistician Nate Silver wrote a terrific piece where he simply crunches the numbers based on official figures from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.  Here’s the most most salient part of his article:

Over the past decade, according to BTS, there have been 99,320,309 commercial airline departures that either originated or landed within the United States. Dividing by six, we get one terrorist incident per 16,553,385 departures.

These departures flew a collective 69,415,786,000 miles. That means there has been one terrorist incident per 11,569,297,667 mles flown. This distance is equivalent to 1,459,664 trips around the diameter of the Earth, 24,218 round trips to the Moon, or two round trips to Neptune.

Assuming an average airborne speed of 425 miles per hour, these airplanes were aloft for a total of 163,331,261 hours. Therefore, there has been one terrorist incident per 27,221,877 hours airborne. This can also be expressed as one incident per 1,134,245 days airborne, or one incident per 3,105 years airborne.

There were a total of 674 passengers, not counting crew or the terrorists themselves, on the flights on which these incidents occurred. By contrast, there have been 7,015,630,000 passenger enplanements over the past decade. Therefore, the odds of being on a given departure which is the subject of a terrorist incident have been 1 in 10,408,947 over the past decade. By contrast, the odds of being struck by lightning in a given year are about 1 in 500,000. This means that you could board 20 flights per year and still be less likely to be the subject of an attempted terrorist attack than to be struck by lightning.

Or, as Bob Cesca pointed out this morning, 45,000 Americans died last year due to a lack of health insurance.  Where’s the outrage there?  Perhaps the teabaggers would find their time better spent protesting lightning or ordering the strip-search of health insurance executives.


Current listening:

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Henry’s Dream

Last movie seen:

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009; Stephen Sommers, dir.)

Apologies to Insect Life January 1, 2010

Posted by monty in news, politics.
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Somehow I’ll have to overlook the fact that 2009 took John Hughes and Patrick Swayze (by all accounts, two of the kindest, most good-hearted men in show business) from us, but left Rush Limbaugh alive and kicking.  What I can’t overlook, though, is the statement he made about his recent hospitalization: “I don’t think there’s one thing wrong with the American health care system.  It is working just fine.”

This arrogance perfectly encapsulates everything that’s wrong with the position held by the opponents of health care reform.  They think that because their health care is just hunky-dory, that means it’s working for everyone else.  Let’s keep in mind that Limbaugh makes, depending on whom you ask, somewhere between $28 and $34 million a year, just from his broadcasting contract with Clear Channel.  So of course the health care system works just fine.  He could probably buy the hospital that treated him.

The important question to ask him, though, is this:

Rush, if you made $30,000 a year and didn’t have employer health insurance or weren’t wealthy enough to pay out of pocket, how well would you think the health care system is working?  If you were suddenly faced with a hospital bill that totaled more than you make in a year, would you think we have the best system in the world?

This is why a strong public option (or, dare I say it, a single-payer system) is vital: to protect those who can’t protect themselves.  But the GOP doesn’t see it this way.  Their health care bills are covered, and their salaries are healthy enough to bear the brunt of anything not covered.  The rest of the great unwashed, as far as the Republicans are concerned, can go fuck themselves.

And I don’t know if this is a piece of the puzzle or not, but I can’t help but wonder to what degree Limbaugh’s chest pains can be attributed to the fact that he’s a morbidly obese, cigar-smoking, ex-drug addict who peddles manufactured rage.  Shouldn’t these dangerous lifestyle choices somehow disqualify him from insurance coverage?

I know, I know.  In a perfect world.


Current listening:

The Clash – Combat Rock (1982)

Intermission December 3, 2009

Posted by monty in news, politics.
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Andrew Sullivan – Brit expatriate, homosexual, all-around smart guy, and staunch conservative – leaves the GOP.

I’m sure this will prompt hordes of Republicans to engage in deep and thoughtful self-evaluation about the direction of their party.


Wagers on which right-wing nutjob is the first to call Sullivan a traitor?

The Atlantic (12/01/09): Leaving the Right



Current listening:

The Hold Steady –A Positive Rage (2009)

The Neighbors Can’t Breathe November 23, 2009

Posted by monty in politics.
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1 comment so far

Okay, I know.  When someone shoots video of a politician’s fans at a rally or a speech or a book signing, it’s invariably slanted.  They chop it up and edit it so that only the most moronic or inflammatory or entertaining people make the final cut.  And I know that this is probably true of any politician.  I’m sure you could get a sample of stupidity at any political event … and yes, I’m including Barack Obama’s events in there, too.  Conservatives don’t have a monopoly on stupidity – they just seem to own more shares.

But, man.  A video taken during one of Palin’s book signings illustrates exactly why Sarah Palin’s fans are – yes, I’ll say it – dangerous.  Last week, Jon Stewart brilliantly and accurately called her a “conservative boilerplate mad lib,” her every speech peppered with  … oh, hell, just watch it for yourself:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Before I get to the video I actually wanted to show, it’s always interesting to see the GOP attempt to dissect exactly why the liberals don’t like Palin, and it’s always funny to see how wrong they get it.  They think it has something to do with her attractiveness or her religion or her outspokenness, when, as I’ve said here before, it has nothing to do with any of that, and everything to do with her being a vacuous, empty-headed twit.  Oh, I won’t deny that she’s a master of controlling her image, and in that respect she’s a savvy and brilliant entertainer.  But we should never mistake that for actual gravitas or intelligence.

Sarah Palin parrots exactly what her followers want to hear, and they parrot it right back to anyone who asks them about her.  As in this video.  It pains me that it was taken in my home state, but my consolation is that her fans would sound like this anywhere in the country.  Stupid knows no geographical boundaries.

One thing I believed following the 2004 election – and which I believe even more now – is that the red/blue divide in this country comes down to an ability to think critically.  Personally, it’s tiring to hear the all or nothing/love it or leave it/black and white rhetoric that consistently comes out of the GOP.  There’s never (or rarely, at least) an acknowledgment of the gray areas in an issue, or that ideology is often nuanced, or that it’s possible to support a politician without agreeing with his every issue.  You hear it in the responses in that video.  No knowledge of Palin’s specific policies or beliefs, no idea about what Obama or the incumbent Congress has actually done to steal their country from them – it’s just God and guns and drill, baby, drill.

And, I’m sorry to say it again, but that’s dangerous.  To so blindly support someone about whose beliefs you know nothing outside the empty platitudes she spews in her media appearances is irresponsible.  The Republicans harp consistently about not knowing Obama’s background.  Even if that were true – which it’s not, let’s go ahead and establish that right away – at least we know specifically what he believes in, and what kinds of policies he’d like to enact.  With Palin, we know everything about her past, but that still tells us nothing about the specifics of her ideology.

People are so enamored with Palin’s story (and I’ll admit, it’s a good one) that they completely ignore the crucial problem: she completely lacks substance.  And maybe that’s been the biggest failing of our schools: we haven’t properly taught people how to think critically.  We haven’t taught them how to look for substance, to dissect an argument, to look out for propaganda.  And I’m not going to deny that there isn’t an element of this same problem to Obama’s success.  He was a great speaker with a catchy message and a barrier-busting heritage – there were absolutely people who voted as blindly for him as there are those who would vote blindly for Palin.  Neither is right.  But Obama, at the very least, talked specifically about his beliefs and his policies, unlike the vice-presidential debate, where Palin simply ignored the moderator’s questions to mouth her talking points like the Stepford GOP automaton she is.  And it does seem, at least to this humble citizen, that, after eight years of Bush’s smirky arrogance, and with this current fascination with Palin, an inability to think critically often seems to be the province of the right wing.

But back on point: we need to better equip our students to think intelligently and critically.  Doing so goes some way toward ensuring that they won’t behave like the people in the video, who are apparently acting without any conscious thought whatsoever – like some bizarre Pavlovian GOP experiment, they begin salivating when Palin derisively utters the phrase “mainstream media.”  The final irony, of course, is that Obama’s current education policy – with its emphasis on standards and testing – will only breed more people who are unable to look beyond the rhetoric to the empty promises beneath.


Current listening:

Burning Airlines – Mission: Control! (1999)

That’s What You Always Say November 16, 2009

Posted by monty in news, politics.
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It probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone that Sarah Palin’s upcoming memoir, Going Rogue, contains numerous factual “inaccuracies.”  In a fact-check conducted by the Associated Press (I mean, “the liberal media elite”), Palin apparently distorts her own record, and either misunderstands or outright lies about events in Obama’s presidency (confusing Obama’s stimulus package, for instance, with George W. Bush’s federal bank bailout).  The AP is kind in saying that Palin’s book occasionally “goes adrift,” when what they really should be saying is that it’s just more of the same kind of paranoid, lunatic babbling that gave us death panels and Drill, baby, drill!

But just as unsurprising as Palin’s drift is the fact that she’s now accusing the AP of doing “opposition research” in fact-checking her memoir.

We’ve heard 11 writers are engaged in this opposition research, er, ‘fact checking’ research!  Imagine that – 11 AP reporters dedicating time and resources to tearing up the book, instead of using the time and resources to ‘fact check’ what’s going on with Sheik Mohammed’s trial, Pelosi’s health care takeover costs, Hassan’s associations, etc.

So this is what it’s come to.  Checking the veracity of claims made by a public figure – one of the most important tenets of modern journalism – is now spun by the GOP as just another attack by the opposition.  Apparently, in Palin’s perfect world, she could just run her mouth about any old thing and have it be taken as gospel by the universe as a whole.

It is, I have to say, a clever ploy aimed squarely at appeasing her base.  When you make your reputation as a small-town rube with the intellect of a mosquito and a mistrust of anyone who uses polysyllabic words, it’s just the next logical step to further adopt the role of victim and scream that you’re being raped by the big, bad liberal media.  The portion of the American population who actually thinks Palin’s got something to say – you can recognize them because they’re wearing aluminum foil hats and screaming about black helicopters – will fall right in line.

I really wish I had a gauge to figure out how seriously the rest of the country takes anything she says.  My first inclination whenever I see or hear anything on the news about Palin or Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity or any of these right-wing asshats is to laugh hysterically.  But then I remember that a lot of people take them at their word, and that’s a sobering thought.

Palin wants to spin the AP’s reporting as equivalent to the death of free speech.  The truth, however, is that it’s Palin – who claims that the media has no right or responsibility to verify her claims – who’s the real enemy of the 1st Amendment.  It goes back to the same point I made about Carrie Prejean last week.  The right to free speech means that, yes, you can generally say what you like.  What it doesn’t do is guarantee you the right to say what you like and have it remained unchallenged. That’s the beauty of free speech.  It cuts both ways.  You have the right to say what you want, and I have the right to challenge you.  In this case, Palin had the freedom to write a book that’s apparently as boneheaded as the interviews and speeches for which she’s already known, and now she’s angry that responsible journalists have an equal amount of freedom to make sure she’s not completely full of shit.

Sarah, just a word of advice: It’s not free speech if the only people allowed to talk are the ones who agree with you.


Current listening:

Saturnine – American Kestrel (1999)

Last movie seen:

Body of Lies (2008; Ridley Scott, dir.)

Ballerina Out of Control November 10, 2009

Posted by monty in news, politics.
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invisibleaffairs2I promise – absolutely, positively 100% promise – that this will be the last thing I say about this yammering doofus, but Carrie Prejean’s interview with Meredith Vieira on The Today Show this morning was just too priceless to pass up.

Let’s recap who she is first.  She wins Miss USA after saying gay marriage shouldn’t be allowed.  She goes on to become a darling of Fox News and other conservative media types.  She’s eventually removed from her position, allegedly because she failed to meet the commitments of the “office.”  Prejean sues.  Later we find out her boob job paid was paid for by pageant officials, and she’d taken some racy photos for a men’s magazine. Most recently, she dropped her lawsuit after the emergence of a tape wherein the GOP’s sweetheart was filmed practicing safe sex on herself.  In short, we have yet another example of a person of no consequence being elevated to a position of importance, essentially because she aired her bigoted views publicly, and then turned out to be a grade-A hypocrite.

The interview didn’t reflect any of this.  It was, in short,  a masterpiece of megalomanical delusion.  She’s convinced that her firing – and now this sex tape – is all part of grand liberal campaign to “silence” her.  Apparently she’s been diligently copying the notes she was given during her appearances on Fox News, because her talking points read like the How to Be a Young Republican Handbook. A few of the more exciting tidbits:

  • There’s a plot in this country to silence conservative women.
  • We have a liberal media.
  • Because she came under fire for her comments about gay marriage, free speech doesn’t exist.
  • “I’ve been Palinized.”
  • Sean Hannity would be off the air if he said the same things about Michelle Obama that Keith Olbermann has said about her.

I don’t even really know where to start. The easiest place, I guess, is the last point.  To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen in the 1988 Vice-Presidential debates: Carrie, you’re no Michelle Obama.  You’re not even Sarah Palin.  You’re a talentless dingbat whose fifteen minutes of fame are just about up.  And if Hannity did criticize Michelle Obama, he wouldn’t be off the air.  Why?  Because he’s on Fox News.  If anything, he’d get a raise.

As for her first point, I’d argue that it’s not a plot to silence conservative women.  It’s a plot to silence stupid people.  Period.  Prejean, Sarah Palin, Elizabeth Hasselbeck, Ann Coulter – what other conservative women could she be talking about?  Olympia Snowe?  Meghan McCain?  As far as I can tell, Snowe is enjoying increased prestige precisely because she’s a conservative woman who’s not a Stepford-esque twit.  She’s smart and principled, and that flies in the face of most current conservative rhetoric.  And Meghan McCain may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but people are willing to listen to her because she doesn’t stick to the accepted GOP talking points. If Prejean doesn’t want people to criticize what she says, she should stop spewing bigoted, hateful nonsense.

And that brings me to her point about the death of free speech.  It’s funny to hear her say this, because my response is the one I frequently hear conservatives give liberals.  Just because we have freedom of speech in this country doesn’t mean you can go around babbling whatever the hell you like without consequence.  You get to say it without being locked up in jail. That’s free speech.  If other entities want to criticize or sanction you because of what you said, well, that’s their prerogative.  Just ask the Dixie Chicks.  I think it’s great they had the courage to speak out against George W. Bush to their largely redneck, Bush-supporting fan base, but the ensuing backlash wasn’t censorship.  The fact that fans destroyed their records, and country music stations stopped playing their songs, struck me as a totally predictable, wholly reasonable response from that demographic.  If you’re going to have the balls to say something unpopular, then you’d also better have the balls to deal with the aftermath.

And that’s really the problem I have with Prejean.  She can’t own up to the fact that it’s not a plot to silence her.  It’s so much more convenient to turn herself into a victim – “I know I’m a homophobe, but look how mean everyone’s being to meeeeeeeee!”  She wants to live under this delusion that some huge lefty conclave gets together for coffee cake and decide who’s going to be blacklisted this month, rather than realize that if you say something bigoted and prejudicial on a national platform, there’s going to be a backlash.

Because, Carrie, some of us actually believe in gay marriage.  Some of us actually believe that whom you choose to marry isn’t going to unravel the fabric of the country.  Some of us believe in, you know, equal rights.  If you’re going to out yourself as an enemy of equality, Carrie, then the least you can do is have the self-awareness to realize what you represent.


Current listening:

drummer feel

Drummer – Feel Good Together (2009)

Current reading:


Michael Chabon – The Yiddish Policemen’s Union

A Fable With No Moral November 9, 2009

Posted by monty in news, politics.
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money tp

I didn’t grow up in a wealthy family. For a good chunk of my childhood, we lived on my dad’s income as a high school principal. It wasn’t until I was in 3rd grade that my mom went back to work as a substitute teacher, and a year or two after that that she was back in her own classroom full-time. In certain California school districts I came to know, it wasn’t unheard of for teachers and administrators to make six figures. But this was rural Ohio in the 80’s. When I graduated from college in ’95, I was offered a job in my hometown school district for just over $20,000 a year. My parents’ salaries ten years prior couldn’t have been much more than that, and, at least at first, were probably less.

Even so, my brother and I lived comfortably. My parents were frugal (a lesson I now wish I had learned from them better), saved religiously, and dabbled a bit in the stock market, and as a result, our family was financially secure. We didn’t always have the flashiest stuff, but there was always a bumper crop under the tree every Christmas, and we took a vacation every summer without fail – Disney World and Epcot Center; up the Eastern seaboard to Bar Harbor, Maine; the Grand Tetons in Wyoming; San Francisco up to Seattle and back again. There was money precisely because my parents were smart with it.

Their work ethic and frugality had an unintended consequence. As I look back at my life in an effort to make sense of who I am now, I think it’s having seen my parents work so hard, make relatively little money, and devote it all to making sure my brother and I were raised well, that directly contributed to the class warrior I’ve become.

I’ve always been suspicious and mistrustful of the wealthy, regardless of how kind they might seem. This has sometimes been to my detriment, when I’ve refused to give someone a fair shake simply because of my preconceptions about their money and how they came to have it. I can be standoffish even in the best of situations, and this is only exacerbated by my thinking anyone who’s well-to-do is a selfish, greedy pig.

The inevitable retort is that I shouldn’t be jealous of other people’s wealth. I’m not. Trust me. I live in a modest one-bedroom apartment, and I don’t really aspire to anything bigger. I drive a Toyota Yaris, and it suits me just fine. I travel occasionally, buy lots of movies, and purchase a yearly iPod update, but otherwise I simply don’t yearn for extravagance. And, in the instances where I do splurge on something flashy (like my TV, the one really nice possession I own), it’s after saving for months, which is as it should be. So I don’t look at other people’s ritzy lives and think, “Gee, I wish that were me.” I’m content with what I’ve got, and I know if I keep saving I’ll be able to afford the things that make me happy.

I say all of this as a long-winded and circuitous explanation for how rabidly, mouth-frothingly angry I get at just about any mention of Goldman-Sachs, Citibank, Chase, or any of the other banking institutions that represent some of the worst of 21st Century human nature. I don’t know enough about the financial sector to understand the ins and outs of everything these parasites are doing (and if you watch one key section of Michael Moore’s recent film, Capitalism: A Love Story, the bankers don’t understand it either), but I do know this: the wealth these people hold is disgusting and, dare I say it, immoral.

I can understand the anger some people feel toward the government, but it increasingly seems to me that they’re missing the more obvious culprit. The government wouldn’t have had to bail out the banks if the banks hadn’t willfully put themselves in that situation in the first place. They prey on home owners, account holders, card users, and then, after the bankers have fucked things up so righteously they need governmental assistance to prevent them from living in a box under the bridge, they go right back to giving themselves salaries and bonuses that are completely disproportionate to any good they’re actually doing.

And then in the last few days we’ve learned two other disturbing things:

1) Goldman Sachs employees got the H1N1 vaccine before schools and hospitals.

The excuse I’ve heard to justify this goes something like this: “We have high-risk employees that need to be protected from H1N1 too.” Yeah, I imagine Goldman Sachs has a large number of the elderly, the sickly, and small children on their payroll. The truth is, every Goldman Sachs employee who gets the vaccine represents another person in New York City who needs it but is unable to get it. The government, as always, bears some responsibility for once again reinforcing the idea that if you’re rich, you’re important, and if you’re not, well, you can get H1N1 and die.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

2) Goldman Sachs doing “God’s work”; chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein apparently agrees.

Do I even really need to comment on this? Some of the salient facts from the article perfectly underline the frustration I feel with these douchebags. Average pay for employees of the firm is $700,000 a year. How long will it take you to make that much, and how hard do you feel you work compared to an investment banker? I feel like I work my ass off, and it’ll take me the better part of two decades to come close to that average salary. Blankfein paid himself $68 million in 2007 – the highest salary of any CEO – and has $500 million in Goldman stock. The company has set aside $20 billion for bonuses. All of this – as well as playing a sizable hand in our current recession – and Blankfein has the balls to claim banks like Goldman have “a social purpose.” So do prostitutes, Lloyd. And maybe God has changed the nature of the work he likes people to do, but what was that thing He said about a camel and the eye of a needle? And how exactly did Christ feel about the money changers in the temple? It’s escaping me at the moment.

As usual, Matt Taibbi hits the nail on the head.

I think the reason I get so angry about all of this is that I really just don’t understand it, and so my only recourse is confused agitation. So many people in this country work so hard just to scrape by, and then these schmucks rake in multi-million-dollar salaries, destroy the economy, go crying to Papa Bush, get rescued, and then turn right around and rub it in our faces. It’s so selfish and inconsiderate it practically defies belief. A $68 million salary? Why is that even necessary? I hate to say it, but my gut tells me that if you really feel like you need $68 million to live your life, than your life probably isn’t worth living.


Current listening:

Super furry guerrilla

Super Furry Animals – Guerrilla (1999)

Waiting for the End of the World November 6, 2009

Posted by monty in politics.
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When did white people in this country get so angry?  Maybe it’s always been this way and I’m just now noticing it, but it strikes me as increasingly bizarre that the demographic that has been in control in this country since, well, ever, now seems to think they’ve lost their country, all because the Democrats want to make sure everyone has access to affordable health care.  How dare they?

I know I’m not the first one to point this out, but I think a lot of it has to do with – to put it politely – the darkening skin tone in this country.  I first became aware of this undercurrent of rage while living in Southern California.  The state’s reputation as being progressive, accepting, and forward-thinking is due primarily to the influence of San Francisco and Hollywood.  Venture outside those areas, though – to, say, Orange County or the desert communities in the central part of the state – and you’ll encounter racist rednecks that would have some Southerners smiling in admiration.  And they’re mad.  Boy, are they mad! They cover their cars with Confederate flags and iron crosses and bitch about Mexicans stealing their good jobs – because, you know, lots of white Californians are lining up to do yard work in Palm Springs.  But, again, it’s based in this weird notion that they’ve lost their country, despite the fact that white people overwhelmingly run the government, the insurance industry, the banks, and just about any other large-scale entity you’d care to name.

obamagrannyAnd now white folks are angry about health care.  The problem, of course, is that they’re not really angry about health care.  If health care was the problem, they’d trouble themselves to actually learn about the bill, do some research, figure out which specifics are most objectionable to them, and then launch a reasoned, intelligent campaign to effect change.  But no.  They repeat the same tired old lis that Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh and, sadly, Michelle Bachmann and other members of the Republican leadership have been spoon-feeding the more reality-challenged of the right-wing.  You know what I mean: death panels, Obama wants to kill your grandma, the government gets to choose your doctor, and the biggest bugaboo of all: SOCIALISM. Empty, meaningless catch-phrases all, and specifically designed by the right-wing to scare its followers into hating the Democrats more than they already do.

health-care-protest So now we get these hordes of angry white people descending on Washington every few weeks to protest something they don’t really understand.  It makes for good entertainment, and I guess it makes them feel better.  Chez, over at Deus ex Malcontent, does a nice job comparing the lunatic ravings of this week’s health care protest with the comparatively calm and rational protest last week against the meeting of the National Bankers Association.  But therein lies the problem.  How many of you actually knew there was a banking protest last week?  I didn’t.  Say what you will about the Republicans – both the sane and the insane among their ranks – they know how to get press and how to get things done.  While the left-wing splinters into the far-left, the moderates, and the Blue Dogs (who seem to just want to be Republicans but are afraid to come out of the closet), Bush, Cheney, and the GOP-controlled Congress at the early part of this decade would just ram any old thing they liked down the throats of the American voter.  Similarly, leftist protests are either veddy, veddy proper, like the banking one in Chicago, or they’re conducted by unabashed nut-jobs like Code Pink that no one can take seriously.  The Republicans, on the other hand, mobilize their supporters, get ex-politicians to craft strategies for disrupting town hall meetings and find billionaires to bus protesters to rallies. In politics – unlike athletics – the team that wins is the one that wants it more.  And the Republicans, simply put, don’t like feeling powerless.

I don’t know where that leaves us as a nation.  The irrational anger troubles me.  The fact that the number of threats against the president has increased 400 percent since Obama took office troubles me.  The fact that we don’t seem able to have a calm discussion about anything anymore troubles me.  I try – and try much harder than I’m used to – to be optimistic, but what this continually reveals about a large percentage of the American people is that they’re an ignorant, fearful, reactionary, easily influenced bunch.  I think things are only going to get uglier as we gear up for the 2010 midterm elections, and all hell is going to break loose in 2012.  I hope I’m wrong, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t already planning an exit strategy of my own.


And then there’s this.  I didn’t want to devote a whole post to it, but since we’re on the subject of angry white people, I thought I’d share this little bit of spooky anti-Semitic mail I received yesterday.  A few weeks ago I wrote a post about Sarah Silverman, and in the process of researching her I found a really scary WordPress site essentially devoted to anti-Semitic ramblings about the Jewish conspiracy, Jewish inferiority, blah blah blah.  I posted a few condemnatory words about it, and then didn’t want to give it any more attention than it deserved.  Yesterday, on that post, I received this comment, from someone going by the name Jackumup:

Wow you kikesters are true Americans. Free speech by kikester definition means the ability to produce porn for profit with out fear of retribution from the catholic church as they did to your parasitic fore schemers in the 30’s, free speech means to write any accusations against Christians then scream ant-semitism when you are prosecuted, using christian laws against the Christians to silence them by funding your Marxist groups such as the ADL, ACLU, JDL, NAACP
And you wish you didn’t have to hear us tell the truth well, very soon you and yours won’ t have to, The day of the kikester is coming to an end

So, yeah.  It’s good to know I’m part of the kikester conspiracy to take over the world.  At least I’m in good company.


Current listening:

Johnny grace

Johnny Foreigner – Grace and the Bigger Picture

Current reading:


George Saunders – “Bohemians” (in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2005, ed. by Dave Eggers)

Last movie seen:


Observe and Report (Jody Hill, dir.)

Wounded World November 4, 2009

Posted by monty in news, politics, TV.
Tags: , , , , , , ,

ParisHilton_Caulfield_8572072Part of me was ashamed to write about Jon Gosselin and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach the other day.  After all, a huge part of the problem with our celebutard-obsessed culture is that the media keeps giving them attention they don’t deserve.  Jon and Kate, Lindsay and Paris, the whack-job Mormon family who’ve mistaken Mom’s uterus for a broken gumball machine, the dimbulbs from The Hills, and the entire cast of the Twilight movies – they’d all be so much more bearable if their fame was proportional to their actual level of accomplishment.  That means I’d never know who Jon, Kate, Paris, or the Duggard family is, I’d know Lindsay only as the star of the Tina Fey-scripted Mean Girls, the Twilight cast would only appear in Entertainment Weekly articles I skip, and Heidi and Spencer and the rest of The Hills’ demon-spawn wouldn’t register on my radar until Joel McHale ridicules them on The Soup. There’s no earthly reason why any of these people show up on the news.  In a fair and just world, they’d be relegated to media oblivion.

sarah-palinThe same goes for Sarah Palin.  A full year after getting her ass handed to her by voters, she’s still hanging around, like the drunk who doesn’t realize the party’s over.  Her memoir, which we’re supposed to believe she wrote all by her widdle self in the space of a few months – despite the fact that she has yet to string more than three words together intelligibly in public – is currently ranked #3 on Amazon, which means that an unfortunate number of people actually believe she has something important to say about anything.  My guess is that the book will be good for either A) comic relief, or B) a literary drinking game, wherein the reader does a shot every time she uses the word maverick. Like all the names in the first paragraph, there is no reason, none whatsoever – and I’m quite serious about this – that she gets any media attention at all.  I don’t care if McCain chose her as his running mate in a cynical ploy to snatch vaginaed voters away from Obama.  She has yet to say anything of consequence about anything, and the fact that anyone is considering her a serious contender for the 2012 presidential election is testament only to how delusional a segment of this country remains.

There are exactly two choices for how the media should handle these people.  The first is to stop covering them.  It’s a simple solution, elegant and precise.  Don’t report on them, don’t show any photos or film, don’t tell us what they said.  They’re inconsequential, and every second you devote to them takes away a second you could be using to cover something that actually matters.

The other option – and I could conceivably throw the whole weight of my support behind this – is to reveal them as the buffoons they are.  If the NBC Nightly News were to include a 5-minute-long segment called “Daily Dickhead” where the likes of Spencer Pratt or Kim Kardashian were eviscerated through a montage of clips demonstrating their vacuous, selfish ways, I would tune in every night.  Seriously.  Any venture that encourages the American public to ridicule these self-involved twats is a worthwhile one, in my book.

And, incidentally, I would endorse this exact same handling of Sarah Palin.  Somehow we’ve arrived at the notion that being “fair” or being “objective” means treating both sides of an argument as equally valid.  As a result, we get serious news reporting of death panels and teabaggings and town hall meetings filled with angry white people who look like torch-wielding extras from Frankenstein. If the big news outlets were really worth their salt anymore, rather than report on these things as though they were legitimate news, they’d call bullshit on the whole enterprise.  The right-wing is going to paint the mainstream news media as a bunch of far-left pinko commie faggots anyway, so what would they have to lose if Brian Williams came to us on-air one night and said, “Sarah Palin said today in a town hall meeting that Barack Obama wants to kill your grandparents.  What a crazy bitch!”

I think it’s entirely fair to report on death panels and these teabag demonstrations or whatever else the right-wing concocts, but the Big 3 needs to have the smarts and the gumption to really report on them.  They need to show, for instance, how the right-wing is using lies and distortion and charged language to derail health care reform, as well as how Fox News and other Republican groups are organizing these supposedly “spontaneous” demonstrations.  The news bureaus feel, I guess, like they have to report on these things as serious phenomena, when the truth of it is, if they were really reporting objectively, they’d reveal all of it as a serious fraud to prey on voters’ fears of the U.S. turning into a grandma-killing noueveau-Cuba.

What we really need are more Matt Taibbis, the journalist who wrote the fantastic Rolling Stone article about the right-wing’s campaign against health care reform that I posted a month ago.  Taibbi wrote a terrific piece shortly after Palin stepped down as governor of Alaska, but he declined to publish it until now.  Here’s an excerpt:

Palin’s paranoid ramblings and self-pitying tantrums on the way out of office not only didn’t injure her chances for national office, they actually appeared to help, as polls taken in the week after her resignation showed that 71% of Republicans were now prepared to vote for her for president in 2012. Just as she had during the campaign last fall, Palin defied rational analysis by making a primal connection with the subterranean resentments of white middle America, which is apparently so pissed off now at the rest of the planet for not coddling its hurt feelings in the multicultural age that it is willing to embrace any politician who validates its insane sense of fucked-overness.

Nobody understands this political reality quite like Palin, even if she doesn’t actually understand it in the sense of someone who thinks her way to a conclusion, but merely lives it, unconsciously, with the unerring instinct of a herd animal. Palin’s supporters don’t judge her according to her almost completely nonexistent qualifications for serious office, they perceive her as they would a character in a Biblical narrative, a Job in heels with cross-eyes and a mashed-potato-brained husband who happens to spend a lot of time getting shat upon by Letterman and Maureen Dowd and the other modern-day Enemies of Christ.

On some level Palin understands better than any of us that what’s important to her base isn’t how well she does her job or even what she does with her time before 2012, but who her enemies are and how loudly she beats the drum against them – and when the news comes out that these foes have recently driven her to such distraction that she even started losing her hair (reportedly necessitating a recent emergency trip to personal hairdresser Jessica Steele), it elevates her conservative martyr credentials to previously unimagined levels.

As a national candidate she seems to us normal/rational observers mortally wounded, but as a conduit for middle American resentment she may actually have gained in stature, and don’t be at all surprised if she doesn’t emerge with the status of something like a religious figure when they roll the rock back for her inevitable candidacy three years from now.

This is exactly the kind of reporting we need now.  We need the news media to stop acting like every argument is pitched on a level playing field, and that every media personality needs to be treated with the same deference.  We need the media to do the heavy lifting and the critical thinking much of this country is unwilling to do itself.  And that means they need to be ready to point out the people, on both sides of the political fence and in all aspects of the media, that seek to do us harm.

True/Slant–Taibblog (11/02/09): Palinoia


Current listening:

Talking heads true stories

Talking Heads – True Stories

Current reading:


Rattawut Lapcharoensap – “At the Café Lovely” (in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2005, ed. by Dave Eggers)