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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)


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.)