Friday, August 28, 2009

Up ahead: a shocking notion

Supposed "grass-roots" pro-coal campaign Web site uses stock photos:



It seems to me that a movement so driven by the support of good ol' folks with no partisan or corporate agenda wouldn't have to use fake "real people" in their promotional materials. After all, aren't there plenty of REAL "real people" around?

When Cox Cable in Lafayette suffered from bad PR, they began using real employees in their ads.

When Fox News held its tea parties, plenty of real people showed up to be forever preserved looking ignorant.

When Dick Armey and freedomworks.org masterminded the health care obstructionist effort, real people showed up to town halls to scream and drown out intelligent dialogue.

So, as we see, it's not hard to recruit a few thousand citizens hopped up on Glenn Beck and the sweet freebase of fear to lend legitimacy to Spontaneous Uprisings, LLC. So FACES of Coal really blew this one. The coal showed up, but where are the FACES? To put it charitably, they're batting .500 with that name. Or, to put it my way, they're half-assing it.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Always an adventure of some sort

Why does the entire northern half of Louisiana both smell and taste like cadaver's poo after a last meal of sulfur quiche?

(And by taste, I mean you can taste the air. And not on purpose.)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Train of thought, derailed

Saw this on some YouTube video likening Obama to Nazi brownshirts:



Yeah! Obama is Hitler, and we're not gonna stand for this! It's time to TAKE BACK AMERICA!! But we gotta take it back in Clem's truck, 'cause mine's on blocks. Anyway, I cain't go 'cause that'd mean missin' Glenn Beck.

Who knew that all it took to stem the looming Revolution Against Fascism and All Things Anti-Teabaggish was inadequate transportation? Damn, that Cash for Clunkers is nefarious.

I'm glad these guys aren't mail carriers. Forget, "Neither snow nor rain not heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds" — this crew would flake out after the first paper cut. But then again, the Postal Service is socialist.

I think these comments say all we need to know about the true nature of this crowd. They're down and out from years of voting against their own best interests, and as of Jan. 20, 2009, they're mad as hell and not taking it anymore! Or they would be mad as hell and not take it anymore, were it not for ultimately minor inconveniences in the grand scheme of things.

Not to worry, guys. The trains will run on time soon enough.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sick

In my conversations with conservative and libertarian friends, no matter what the issue, their position boils down to one issue: how are we going to pay for it?

When they ask that, of course, they already know the answer. And if it doesn’t involve philanthropists or the benevolent private sector, then it not only isn’t worth doing, but it’s a great travesty to our republic.

Of course, streamlining expenses is a good cause. I doubt anyone really thinks tax money deserves to be spent in the worst and most inefficient way possible. In that sense, the con/lib stand on taxes is as unassailable as their stands on patriotism, life, mom, apple pie and Chevrolet. Especially Chevrolet. How could anyone be against any of these?

But like every other con/lib attempt to co-op universal attitudes for their own dubious principles, it’s best to read between the lines.

More than one of my friends has suggested that a fix to the health care crisis is tax breaks. I’ve also heard that the government should set up a panel to monitor insurance companies but stay out of the marketplace, the idea being that this would eliminate price gouging without giving the government an unfair competitive advantage. Others say leave the system alone - not because it isn’t broken, but because the expense to fix it isn’t worth it. Still others allege that many, if not most, uninsured citizens simply CHOOSE to be that way. All of these people agree that health care reform would be a costly, massive endeavor.

But again…does anyone think that it won’t be? That isn’t the point of disagreement; the end result is the real bone of contention.

If conservatives and libertarians share one defining issue, it’s the idea of streamlined spending. Both groups approach this in differing but equally flawed ways. In recent years, conservatives have largely abandoned any practical application of sensible spending (see war, Iraq and cuts, tax), but still espouse the notion whenever convenient. Libertarians, on the other hand, are loyal to this principle to a fault, which comes off as completely uncaring toward their fellow humans (which surely is an unfortunate misrepresentation). Either way, health care reform is seen as an unworthy federal investment.

And why would it be? Insurance is out there, and it’s no one’s job but the consumer’s to ensure that the coverage is fair. If not, don’t buy into it. If you do, and are unsatisfied, it’s your fault. Caveat emptor. Of course, this idea of a free-market insurance mall is mostly in their imagination, and people never choose to be sick, but at least they’re talking about it.

What’s most often left out is the fate of those too poor/sick to afford insurance. Some people have to be dragged into this territory like a screaming child to the dentist. All the tax incentives and anti-government arguments in the world aren’t going to help cover the uninsured. Of course, that could be the point.

As they say, hard work makes you self-sufficient. If you are not self-sufficient, you are not working hard, and thus don’t deserve support from anyone. Don’t have health insurance? Get a job that offers it! Nothing’s free in this world, pal, and if you wind up so sick from neglect that you need costly ER care, well, maybe that’ll give you pause next time, huh?

Combine that with the popular neocon argument that tax cuts are the answer to every problem, and you begin to see the problem here. It isn’t that they have inadequate or necessarily incorrect positions; it’s that they have what they feel is the best solution for them. And if it doesn’t address the problems of the poor, well, too bad.

I say “what they feel” rather than “what is,” because a lot of these positions are based on simple misinformation and ignorance. Middle-class and poorer conservatives do not vote for their economic best interests and haven’t for at least 29 years. Instead, they cling to the Milk and Honey myth that they will eventually be obscenely wealthy. To that end, they support policies that will pave the way for a comfortable existence once they get there. Only thing is, that doesn’t ever happen for 99 percent of the population. And even if it happened for everyone, it’s not a good idea. A tax base cannot sustain itself with a regressive scale, nor can a population stay healthy when health care is a function of wealth.

Of course, such concerns don’t bother those who are concerned primarily with their own lot. And that’s understandable in an economic climate where most people are barely hanging on. But it’s the very policies they support that lead them to this situation, which would be poignant if it weren’t outright outrageous.

Convincing the anti-tax camp that a public option is worth our tax dollars is, to put diplomatically, an uphill climb. They’re already convinced that the government never gets any bang for its buck, and even if they could see a healthy citizenry for themselves, they would not be moved, because all they see is money. But even if the system ultimately saved taxpayer costs in the long run and fostered true competition, they’d still be against it just on principle. After all, it’s Obamacare. And no medicine yet can cure such terminal demagoguery.

Monday, August 17, 2009

SOFA recap, 8/16/09

Coming back after a bye week, the Springfield Open Football Association braved a humid August afternoon in the sun…and the clouds…and the rain…and the wind…and the heat…and the coolness…and more sun…and even more humidity…essentially every type of non-catastrophic weather known to humankind, for an afternoon of - you’ll never guess this - football!

This week marked a pivotal moment for SOFA, as it represented the first-ever gathering under Commissioner Ian’s direction. As a token of his regime’s affection, he lovingly painted the practice field at Kickapoo High School to resemble a true game-day field. Someone remarked how well-painted the yard markers were, but in fact it was the grass that was white from dryness, and the green had to be painted in.

You’re welcome.

In another SOFA shake-up, Ian debuted an innovative concept called the play clock. As in, we’ll play with this “clock” idea a little bit. Due to this exciting, alternative way of approaching the inexorable march of minutes, the game had a roughly 40-minute first half and a 50-minute second half, with water breaks timed perfectly to keep everyone on their toes (because knowing what’s going on is for sissy intellectuals). Furthermore, the field had what appeared to be a 120-yard line, which was a valuable lesson in the metric system of the Canadian Football League.

I aim to educate.

Sunday’s matchup was like a George Carlin routine: heavy on the offense. It was different from Carlin in that no sudden death was involved. You know he would have found that funny.

Really burying the lead here, huh?

Anyway, the Team With Interesting Names (Ian, Jerome, Jessica, Chad, Clover, Blue) topped the Average Names Team (Jack, Emily, Kenny, Joe, Stephanie and later Clover) with a 61-46 nail-biter. I mean, blowout.

Actually, it was only a blowout in the beginning. TWIN punched early and often, taking a commanding 38-6 lead into the half. Or, the first water break, I forget. Damn commissioner. After scoring on the very first possession (Ian to Jerome, and then to Clover for an impressive two), TWIN liked it so much that Jerome made an interception on the very first defensive play, setting up another TWIN score. Excellent zone defense kept their offense at bay, bending but not breaking in the red zone. The time of possession itself was nearly a shutout. Man, TWIN just crushed the other team like the ANT they were. Hell, some members of TWIN were so bored on defense that we started talking about health care reform.

But then ANT began to self-reflect and decide that they wanted to play. TWIN, feeling sorry for their opponents, let them have a few plays to build up their confidence. A couple of scores here and there, what’s the diff?

That, and no other reason, is how ANT mounted a remarkable comeback in the second half that narrowed the score to 42-38. At no point in the game did TWIN ever relinquish the lead, but Jack’s and Joe’s flurry of short passes were more than enough to make that horrible prospect possible.

It was about this time that the rain hit. As the sky grew dark gray, we were all hoping for some sweet, sweet relief from the stifling, vein-swelling heat. We got that and more in what Forrest Gump would have called, “big ol’ fat rain.” This made the ball nearly un-catchable, except that everyone still caught it.

In fact, everyone played at nearly their peak. I’m pretty sure everybody scored, including all three spectators and a couple of people who weren’t even there.

Soon after, the rain and clouds disappeared and it was as if nothing changed, except for the humidity. TWIN finally answered ANT’s comeback with a pass from Chad to Blue, a pass so laser-precise that it had two targets, with Ian ready to catch it too. The confusion, er, precision, led to Blue pounding a cleat into Ian’s big toe on his way to a touchdown. Ouch. But also, yay!

After Blue’s lucky TD, the game was essentially a shootout. With fewer than two minutes to play, ANT scored a touchdown to narrow the deficit to nine. An onside jump ball went to TWIN, and so did the game with a long bomb from Ian to Jerome that led to a walk-off touchdown.

Good game, good game, good game.

Catch of the Game: Clover, for the PAT she nailed in heavy coverage, and for the long bomb she caught for a near-TD once she became an ANT. Jerome is exempt from this category for the same reason Devin Hester doesn’t return our kicks.

Tinactin® Injury of the Game: when Kenny slammed his throat into Jerome’s shoulder in a mid-air collision. Kenny coughed up blood and everything. I hope he’s still alive.

Field Goal of the Game: Joe, by default.

Best flag-or-no-flag confuser: Emily.

Best-timed departure: Stephanie.

Best observation about Springfield: Jack (“When is there anything to do?”)

Best new car: Jessica.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Running on fuming: Double standards

When talking about the tactics of desperate Republicans, a common rebuttal is that, “Democrats do it too.” Whether or not Democrats actually are guilty of the same actions depends on the specific circumstance and is another debate altogether. Suffice to say, if the Democrats rationalized a dubious tactic by saying, “But Republicans do it too,” that would be equally reprehensible. That, however, is less common as of late.

The double-standard conceit is a well-worn favorite of the right, who apparently believe that two wrongs, no matter how dubious the connection, cancel out each other. Thus, it comes down to finding enough liberal bugaboos to neutralize conservative transgressions. Scale, timeliness and circumstance are all irrelevant, as long as the scorecard fills up and tilts in their favor.

The operative word in “Democrats do it too” is “too,” the implication being that one can stoop to the lowest level of the opposition, even while decrying that level. That’s the stance of a petulant child, not a thinking adult. In that respect, the comment says much about the current conservative mind-set.

It’s similar to sentiment espoused on various issues. For example, the war on terror:

“The United States must follow the Geneva Conventions.”
“Why? Al-Qaida doesn’t play by the rules!”

But as far as I know, al-Qaida isn’t the barometer for how the United States behaves. In fact, isn’t the whole premise of the U.S. that we are much, much better than al-Qaida? We’re supposed to be on a higher road than our enemies. A nation of laws, not riled up into mob rule and prone to dropping our principles whenever convenient. If the idea is to win hearts and minds, as was the mantra in the early days of the Iraq war, then we should at the very least have something attractive and enduring to counter the worst elements of those we fight. If it’s same shit, different flag, then what’s the point?

And that’s something conservatives should keep in mind: employing the same cheap tactics you allege to hate so much from liberals gives you no high ground. The very same people who think Code Pink are ridiculous idiots also think misinformed and hostile hecklers at town hall meetings are real patriots. Real acts of protest spark critical thinking; everything else is drama. Bluster and aggression might kill with red-meat crowd, but to everyone else it comes off as bitter, vengeful and shallow. If you guys want anyone to take you seriously, you have to be better than that which you criticize.

If that’s even possible. As with the other tactics I’ve described, the double-standard tack attempts to deflect the real issue at hand, instead becoming a superficial fight over whether Democrats or Republicans do something the most. And that is never a productive conversation. Which I guess is the point.

“Conservatives are trying to obstruct the health care debate to the point of hostility.”
“What. Conservatives can’t protest? You never have a problem with liberals protesting.”
“They’re heckling and drowning out speakers and adding nothing of value to the conversation.”
“Liberals do that too!”
“When they do, it’s not productive. But most liberal protests are peaceful, grass-roots and have at least some message beyond reactionary opposition and hatred.”
“You’re such a hypocrite. And a partisan douche bag.”

It’s hard to even call it a double standard. You need to have standards first.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Running on fuming: The equivalency card

Conservatives play lots of cards these days. And, unfortunately, Texas Hold ’Em is not in their repertoire. Could have saved us all at least eight years of grief.

One of these cards that isn’t talked about much is what I call the equivalency card: basically, that any criticism of conservatives must be counterbalanced by a perceived liberal equivalent. If you are unable to do that, or didn’t see fit to criticize a similar event in the past, then your claim will be written off as invalid and hypocritical. If you can accomplish that, you’re asked what the big deal is if everyone’s doing it. Either way, it’s a convenient way for conservatives to frame the debate to where they don’t have to get their hands too dirty.

This tactic is nothing new, but it really became acute in the Bush era:

"The U.S. must not start a war against Iraq. Bush is being reckless."

"Well, why don't you also protest the recklessness of Saddam Hussein?"

Well, because Saddam Hussein isn’t preemptively attacking a sovereign nation over a strike demonstrably committed by an organization that not only has no ties to the sovereign nation, but actually hates said nation. But all of that is apparently moot, because I haven’t expended my energy protesting all injustice in the world ever.

The equivalency card helps conservatives turn any issue raised by liberals into a bout of persecution. It’s going on right now with the health care debate.

“A choreographed effort by the Republicans is ensuring that the health care debate is dominated by confrontational, angry opposition intent on shouting down any and all honest dialogue, sometimes to the point of physical altercation.”

“Why are you against freedom of speech? Liberals protested all through the Bush era. You were OK with that then!”

This particular argument ignores the comparative root causes of each side’s protests, as well as scale and intent. No one thinks conservatives have no right to protest; but it’s legit to question the methods. But again, the equivalency card is designed to crush any nuances in the conversation.

Some are almost pathological in their use of this tactic, rendering it one-note and useless. Even this very discussion can prompt it:

“Conservatives are using the equivalency card as a way of silencing all criticism of the questionable and desperate tactics of their campaigns.”

“Well, what about the questionable tactics all the liberals use?”

The sad irony is that, when properly applied, the equivalency card can actually be useful. One example:

“Under Obamacare, the government would have access to your bank account and your most sensitive personal information! That’s going too far! I don’t want some bureaucratic goon spying on me.”

“I don’t remember you protesting the Patriot Act, which unlike Obama’s health plan actually does that stuff and much, much more.”

But even that is a useful point only when followed up by a discussion of the Obama health plan itself, rather than a mere deflection to the Patriot Act.

The danger of the equivalency card is that a discussion about Issue A becomes a discussion about Issue B. For a Republican being forced to defend the tactics of the party’s worst elements, it’s understandable that they’d want to shift the subject to something more comfortable. But it can’t be allowed to happen. And that’s true for either side. After all, they’re equivalent.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Running on fuming: Desperate tactics at work

If the heated health care town hall protests prove anything, it’s that the conservative ideology is at the end of its rope. The twin frustrations of policy failure and losing has put their side, and the country as a whole, into a weaker position to improve our lot through bipartisan discussion.

I understand how it goes. I am one of the biggest sore losers who ever lived. I have a competitive streak that rivals that of any NFL Hall-of-Famer. I hate to lose anything I feel I can and should win, be it a football game, a video game or a trivia competition. My first grade teacher wrote on my report card that I was a poor sport who “cannot stand any sort of competition.” Which isn’t true; I love competition. But I suck at most sports and, of the sports and games at which I do excel, I always feel much worse when I get beat. So it isn’t even a double whammy; it’s like a triple whammy. Press your luck, players.

On the other hand, I’ve also won plenty of games, sometimes upsetting competitors who I have no business beating. Then, it isn’t a case of laughing off something for being completely out of my league; winning becomes possible.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m a pretty laid-back person when it comes to most things (cue everyone who knows me laughing at that). It takes a hit to any of my sore points to get me steamed and/or frustrated. There’s just a lot of them. I like to think they’re rational, and that I’ve reached them through reasonable means, but that isn’t always the case.

In any case, after a relatively short period of time, my rational mind kicks in and I get over it. That often doesn’t come in time to avert some very loud shows of frustration, but it comes. And in the end, how I feel depends on how well I conducted myself. It’s a constant learning process, and perhaps too slow at times, but I understand in the end that no amount of self-criticism or heated shows of desperation is ever productive.

Conservatives could use the same lesson. Lacking any high ground on that or most other issues, they’ve resorted to their latest choreographed outrage: packing health care town halls hosted by Democrats and attempting to drown out all discussion through screaming and intimidation. It almost makes one pine for the comparatively intelligent tea parties.

The rapid devolution of the right’s discourse suggests that being right has been surpassed by the need to win. The entire George W. Bush presidency was an exercise in the obsession with being right, to the point of making facts fit any desired outcome. This in itself is hard-headed and counterproductive, but at least it led Republicans to offer actual answers to the question, “What would you do?”

No longer. What little plans the Republican Party offered as alternatives to Barack Obama’s policies in the first few months of his presidency (remember those figure-free budget pamphlets?) have gone the way of the Bridge to Nowhere. Now, the right’s playbook has one strategy: stall, berate and intimidate. They don’t even care of they’re right; they just don’t want the opposition to have a chance to be right. Because if, say, health care reform worked and saved thousands of lives and millions of pocketbooks, conservatives wouldn’t win. And winning is what it’s all about.

But conservatives are not winning. And they know it. They’ve lost the hearts and minds of a sweeping majority of Americans, even former hard-core Republicans who feel the party has abandoned its principles for political expediency. Political cycles come and go, but recent history and trends suggest that the pendulum is likely to defy conventional physics for some time. The GOP’s rigid stance on the issues is almost comical, but changing them would require reflection (not the right’s strong suit) and/or lobbyist compromise (not happening either).

So what does a political ideology rapidly fading in influence and bereft of fresh ideas do? Stoke the raging fires, of course! It starts at the top, with Republican leaders such as Dick Cheney repeatedly going on television and declaring that President Obama is weakening our national security. Meanwhile, top conservative pundits such as Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Michelle Malkin and Ann Coulter frame the Democrats as anti-American and their agenda “socialist.” Rush Limbaugh says he hopes the president fails. Fox News sponsors and promotes tea parties. Groups like FreedomWorks - run by top GOP operative Dick Armey - urge an organized effort not to offer dissent, but to disrupt health care discussions. Many protesters lie about their political affiliation and/or are bused in from other districts. Even blog comments, such as recent ones here, suggest frustration and desperation more than coherent discussion.

Over the next few days, I’m going to explore the tactics and fallacies that many conservatives are using to stifle substantial political discussion. Whether it’s through the town hall shout-fests, appeals to party, the equivalency argument, etc., Republican discussion is becoming increasingly predictable. I think these methods are worth knowing and understanding, both for the sake of arguing and for the bigger picture of what such topics indicate about a desperate opposition.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

"LET ME ON-SER! UND I VILL TELL YOO WHY OBAMA IS NOT A GUT AMERIKAN!"

I demand that Orly Taitz show us HER birth certificate. Because I suspect she was not born in the U.S., and I want to go on an extremely pointless and desperate crusade against her.



Taitz represents everything that's wrong with the birthers, as well as many Obama critics in general. She's severe, obnoxious and has a tremendous persecution complex - just watch the video above and see how any word from either anchor immediately derails her winded rants, and sends her on an anti-media tear. She seems to think that her guest status gives her complete license to talk unimpeded throughout the entire show. Charles Manson does the same thing in his interviews, but even he occasionally listens to the questions.

But what really makes Taitz today's perfect wingnut is what she chooses to pursue so passionately. It seems to me that anyone who has a problem the Obama presidency could pull numerous points from his policies: health care, Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, the stimulus, cash for clunkers, etc. There are perfectly legitimate conservative arguments to make against any of these things on a civil and rational level (though "socialism" is not one of them). Indeed, it would help all of us to hear all of the best arguments on all sides for and against these things.

But that isn't what's happening. Instead, Taitz - and Lou Dobbs, and Glenn Beck, and millions of Americans even now - dedicate their energies and resources into some fantasy where President Obama is not a U.S. citizen. Everyone rational - and even many irrational people like Ann Coulter and Bill O'Reilly - agrees with the mountain of evidence that Obama's Hawaii birth certificate - as well as its original long-form counterpart, which no citizen of Hawaii can easily access - is legit. It's the absolutely weakest issue on which to attack Obama, short of his middle name.

But it resonates with a lot of people for that very reason. It's one of those things that, were it right, would absolutely disqualify Obama for office. But even though it has been proven demonstrably wrong on a consistent basis dating back at least two years, they still cling to hope. Why? Because it's the only hope they have, and they aren't imaginative enough to think critically and have forgotten what it's like not to have someone in office who superficially represents their mentality. And also because it's considered uncouth to straight-up object to a black president.

Which is why I don't find it particularly shocking that this bonkers woman is the current head of the movement. She's twice as entertaining as Sarah Palin, and half as smart. Maybe that's no accident. Hey Orly, quit makin' things up!

Or don't. I like to be entertained.

Monday, August 03, 2009

When we ban torture, can we also ban tortured reasoning?

Did you know that the Bible explicitly names Barack Obama as Satan? OMG!!



This video makes a convincing case for Obama being the Anti-Christ. After all, Luke 10:18 clearly states - with a little help from some back-and-forth Babelfishing - that Satan's name is "Baraq Bamah." Oooooh!

Why haven't we heard this before in 2,000 years of Christianity? The answer is obvious: YouTube wasn't around in the days of the New Testament. Though it has been around since 2005, so there's no excuse for not disseminating this information in 2008, WHEN IT COULD HAVE BEEN USEFUL!!

Jesus Christ.

I can respect people whose faith helps them get through life, but DAMN. Is there really such irrational hatred for Obama, and so little to hate him about, that they have to resort to faulty translations of faulty translations? (You know how adding "a" to the front of "typical" makes it a completely different word? Well, there's a lot of that going on here, multiplied by thousands of years and across multiple languages.) Dumb dumb dumb. And, by the way, not the best argument to abandon Obama and become a religious nut.


"I lit this cross with fire from my loins because I like burning crosses, which means I am not only Satan, but am also in the Klan. All hail Rev. Wright, my secret-Muslim Christian pastor!"

If you Obama critics are so hungry for fodder, why don't you take a cue from his critics on the left? They at least have some genuine issues in their petty bickering.