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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.)

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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.)

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)

Stuck in a Rut December 4, 2009

Posted by monty in news.
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I suppose it was only a matter of time.  Despite the incredible degree of lunacy Sarah Palin has demonstrated over the past year – repeating nonsensical GOP talking points as if they actually mean something and allowing her own addled “thinking” to contribute to the collective dumbing down of this country – she’s never weighed in on the issue of Barack Obama’s U.S. citizenship.

Until now.

That’s right.  The craziest lady in politics (runner-up: Michelle Bachmann) has cast her lot with the craziest movement in politics: the birthers.  It is, according to Palin, “a fair question” for the birthers to doubt the validity of Obama’s birth certificate.

This stuff just writes itself.

Salon.com (12/3/09): Palin: Birthers Have “Fair Question” About Obama

*****

Current listening:

World Party – Private Revolution (1987)

The Neighbors Can’t Breathe November 23, 2009

Posted by monty in politics.
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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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2 comments

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.)

Wounded World November 4, 2009

Posted by monty in news, politics, TV.
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2 comments

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:

BANR2005-full

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

Secrets at the Prom October 8, 2009

Posted by monty in politics.
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levi-johnston He does realize women don’t read Playgirl, doesn’t he?

MSNBC (10/7/09): Father of Palin’s grandson to pose for Playgirl

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*****

Current listening:

Husker zen

Hüsker Dü – Zen Arcade