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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)

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That’s When My Headaches Begin January 6, 2010

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The battle against terrorism has been a brutal one, and no one has successfully figured out how to win it.  Until now.  Turns out after all this time, Republican Pete King (NY) has the secret to getting rid of terror: just the say the word more often. This latest bit of Republican lunacy comes courtesy of today’s Good Morning America:

‘You are saying someone should be held accountable. Name one other specific recommendation the president could implement right now to fix this,’ host George Stephanopoulos said to King.

‘I think one main thing would be to — just himself to use the word terrorism more often,’ said King, the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security Committee.

They always say it’s the simple solutions that elude us, and it turns out that’s really the case.  I wonder if this works in other situations.  After all, if just saying “terrorism” makes it go away, I think I’ll start working the word “calories” into idle conversation.  And if you suddenly find me talking about Twilight a lot more, well, now you’ll know why.

Why am I still surprised by this stuff?  This is yet another example of the Republicans – apparently bereft of ideas of their own – deciding they’ll just repeat things often enough in the hope that repetition equals truth.  We’ve seen it with accusations of Obama’s socialism, the repeated suspicions about his nationality, the introduction of the death panel (thanks, Sarah Palin!), and now the claim that Obama doesn’t use the word “terror” often enough.  George W. Bush’s bumper sticker school of politics is still alive and well in the Republican party.  And yet people still take them seriously.  Unbelievable.

*****

Current listening:

Florence + The Machine – Lungs (2009)

How and Why Our Dads Lost the War January 5, 2010

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As usual, the Daily Show hits it out of the park.  In last night’s episode, Jon Stewart said everything I was trying to say in last night’s post … only, you know, funnier and more intelligently.  Fast-forward to 6:10 to hear more about one thing I only touched on briefly in my own post: the right-wing’s hypocritical attacks on Obama, which conveniently manage to forget everything they said in the last eight years regarding terrorism.Vodpod videos no longer available.

Intermission January 4, 2010

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Any time Fox News claims it’s a legitimate news channel, just remind yourself of this video:

We Are the Roman Empire January 4, 2010

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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.

Right.

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

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

hhhhhhhh

*****

Current listening:

The Hold Steady –A Positive Rage (2009)

The Wind is Blowing Like an Outlaw November 17, 2009

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A couple days ago I wrote briefly about being an optimist at heart.  Despite the pessimism that occasionally (often?) comes across in my writing, I genuinely believe in the good people can do.  I do believe that.  But sometimes I get a reality check.

There’s a story currently making the rounds about a 10-year-old boy in Arkansas who refuses to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance in school until gays and lesbians have equal rights.  My reaction to this is twofold.  First off, I think it’s a good and honorable thing this kid is doing, and I obviously commend him for taking a principled stand on the issue.  But my second reaction is this: I hope it’s his principled stand, and not his parents’.

I mean, think about it.  How concerned were you with social justice as a 10-year-old?  As for myself, not so much.  At that age, I spent my time daydreaming about Jo from The Facts of Life and flooding my mom’s garden so I could engage in swamp warfare with my G.I. Joe action figures.  Because we know that young children often just regurgitate whatever tenets they hear regularly in the home, my gut tells me this kid can’t be genuine.  Maybe he is.  I hope he is.  But the odds aren’t good.

But that’s all just the background for what I wanted to share here.  As I’m sure you can imagine, the right-wingers and homophobes are having a field day with this story, viewing it as just more evidence of how the commie pinko faggots have brainwashed America’s youth.  The Free Republic – a right-wing website that parrots all the predictable GOP talking points – ran a quick little story yesterday on the boy who refuses to say the pledge.  That’s all fine and good.  The troubling thing is the reader comments that followed.  Here’s a brief sample – and remember that they’re writing about a 10-year-old kid.

Wait till the kid undergoes his first prostate exam, that should change his opinion of gay sex! (AxelPaulsenJr)

Update: He’s now standing for the Pledge.  Some admiring gay men came to his town and had a party for him. Now, he can’t sit down. (Mac from Cleveland)
I think he should carry the protest even further, he should wear a plastic bag over his head until he gets his way! (SwampSniper)

Their tone might change when one of those “friends of the family” get the kid alone for a while. Then again, maybe they’ll be happy for him. (Republic of Texas)

Pledging allegiance to the Fag. (SpaceJunkie2001)

I’m just from the “old” school. In my day, this guy would have met up with his peers on his way home and had his mind changed. There have always been people that didn’t want to “get along”. They were kept in the minority or had missing teeth. (Chuckles)

Get the picture yet?  And these are just the comments that address the kid directly.  The rest of the comments are just as offensive – the usual stuff about gays already having equal rights, Obama indoctrinating America’s youth, etc.  It must be a bummer to be so full of hatred.

And, just as I wondered yesterday about the popularity of Sarah Palin’s particular brand of demagoguery, I can’t help but speculate how reflective these reader comments are of Republicans as a whole.  My optimistic streak urges me to believe that it’s just a tiny sliver of the party.  But then I remember California’s Prop 8, the recent overturning of gay marriage legislation in Maine, and all the other anti-gay laws on the books and I can’t help but feel that sometimes – and this is assuredly one of those times – my optimism is just a defense mechanism that prevents me from acknowledging the ugly reality of the situation.

*****

Current listening:

Stereolab – Transient Random Noise Bursts With Announcements