Saturday, January 30, 2010

Who We Are

I don't have to say a lot about this, but New Orleans and Louisiana are quietly sending a team to help rebuild Port au Prince.

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Killing Speech Softly

The Daily Dish links to this exhaustive examination of political correctness on college campuses.

I was dubious when first reading it, as I think PC hype is almost always overblown. Since Fox News, right-wing talk radio and blogs almost universally brand "political correctness" as some sort of "attack" by the liberal elite on aw-shucks folks who were just doing their jobs the way things have always been done, I straight-up view any "PC" charge as lacking in credibility. Think "War on Christmas," and you'll remember what I'm talking about.

No right-wingers seemed interested when Bush protesters were herded into "free speech zones" at UGA, or were denied access to St. Simons Island during the G8 in 2004. I have often argued with conservative friends that most of these "PC" rules are no different from actions taken in small towns across America to keep people like me from bothering the good, church-going baby darlins with heavy metal, rap music and library books like Huckleberry Finn.

As I kept reading this article, however, some of these concerns were addressed:

Because America’s universities tend to tilt left, and because many targets of P.C. censorship are socially conservative, campus censorship has too often come to be understood as a niche issue for the conservative media and blogosphere. This is a bizarre development, not only because free speech was once a central liberal cause but because liberals are by no means immune from campus censorship.
...
The perception that free speech on campus is primarily a conservative issue ultimately enables campus censors. Free speech zones, for example, are often tiny, out-of-the-way areas where some campuses quarantine protest activities. Obtaining permission to use even these limited spaces often involves waiting periods and registration requirements. In my experience the zones disproportionately affect left-wing protests.
...
The reason for P.C. censorship often has nothing to do with left or right. Sensitivity is often a cynical excuse to squelch speech that administrators don’t like for purely self-interested reasons.


Free speech still is a liberal cause; I would argue that free speech, respectful discourse, and free inquiries make up one of the central pillars of individual liberty. But anyone can be a bully regardless of political belief; anyone can abuse power once they have some. This is as true on a college campus as it is anywhere else in the world.

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Friday, January 29, 2010

Never Miss an Opportunity

Gotta hand it to the GOP, they never do.

Senator Vitter dares the NFL to sue him for making T-shirts? Bravo, sir!

This is close to the same level of Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) voting against a US House of Representatives resolution to congratulate the Univeristy of Florida for winning the BCS National Championship.

Priceless doesn't begin to describe it.

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High Speed Rail

This is where my partisanship combines with my blind homerism and my love for infrastructure projects. High Speed Rail?

Another. Reason. I. Voted. Obama.

Change I can catch a ride on, and be in Birmingham or Atlanta in a few short hours? Sign me the hell up for this.

And, looking at that map, it wouldn't take too much to connect NOLA to JAX, either.

Sold.

(HT: American Zombie)

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Who You Want To Be

Spencer Hall spreads some New Orleans love in the world of sports memes:

New Orleans: Gastronomic wonderland, studded with striking colonial architecture found few other places in America, prone to flooding and patches of extreme poverty. HOLY COW DID YOU SEE THAT RAT. Blessed with a long tradition of both homegrown and adopted literary and musical talent, and currently enjoying underdog status as a unique multicultural city on the comeback trail following the worst natural disaster in recent national history. Sometimes, people get naked in the streets for tiny balls of plastic.

Indianapolis: Proud of their shrimp cocktail. Clean, mostly. Much less likely to get shot in than New Orleans. Ample parking day and night. David Letterman got his start there as a weatherman, and sometimes gave humorous but fake updates...which angered people. Not exactly diverse. The favorite, and therefore not the beloved underdog. Brushes and flosses, takes the garbage out promptly, and likes a good night out at Applebees.

So America, to review: you'll root for who you want to be (New Orleans) while rooting against who you actually are (Indianapolis).
(Italics mine, HR)

HT: Kyle King at Dawg Sports, while investigating which team Bulldawg fans will be rooting for.

And there's no question what team I (UGA - 2002) will be rooting for. Woof Dat.

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Cease and Desist

The general counsel of the City of New Orleans has sent the NFL a "cease and desist" letter for using the letters "N" and "L" in their trademarks. Everyone knows that "N" and "L" are the intellectual property of the City, as letters that make up part of the term "New Orleans," a term trademarked in 1718. From now on,... the organization formerly known as the "NFL" will be known only as "F".

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Rape is What Our Enemies Do

Here's another story that did not get near enough attention in our mainstream/corporate "Liberal" media. The issue also demonstrates how politics have absolutely superceded any semblance of right and wrong.

First of all, the situation is ridiculous and criminal. A woman is hired to do clerical work in Baghdad's Green Zone. There, she claims to have been brutally gang raped by other employees of her company (a subsidiary of Halliburton). The company is "unable to locate" important components of her rape kit, and additionally tells her that, due to her employment contract, she is unable to seek a redress of grievances in court, and must submit to the company's internal arbitration proceedures. The Bush Justice Department failed to investigate.

She has taken the issue to court and Congress to get this fixed, and not a lot of people want to talk about it.

Second, a United States Senator wrote an amendment to a bill earlier this year to address just this sort of issue. The amendment requires Department of Defense not to contract (or sub contract) with companies that require mandatory arbitration clauses.

This amendment would prevent taxpayer dollars from contracting with companies that require employees to sign employment agreements restricting their ability to take sexual assault or sexual harassment claims to court.

I personally cannot think of a more bi-partisan stance than "keeping American women working in war zones from being sexually assaulted or harassed by people paid with American taxpayer dollars." This seems like a fairly simple loophole to close in the interests of justice. If you want to get paid by Uncle Sam, you've got to play by our rules, dammit.

So color me surprised when 30 GOP senators voted against this amendment.

Worse was their explanation: that the amendment was political in nature because it came from a liberal democrat. That the amendment was only written to make them look bad. They chose politics over policy and voted against the amendment (though it was later signed into law).

Luckily, not all Republicans let such base cynicism guide their votes. But if you look at which 30 voted against it, it is a verifiable laundry list of those GOP senators who overpoliticize everything: Brownback, Chambliss, Coburn, Cornyn, McConnel, Sessions, Shelby and Vitter.

Can you imagine the white-hot rage these same individuals, and their cheerleaders at Fox News and right-wing-talk radio, would exhibit if one of them proposed such an amendment, and 30 Democrats voted against it??? It would be the top item on news, and blogs and radio for at least a month. And after Chappaquiddick, Monica, and John Edwards' baby, you know I'm right.

If I behaved like they do, I'd have to ask: "Why do these 30 Republican Senators hate young American women? Why would these 30 Republican Senators want to protect sexual predators? Why would these 30 Republican Senators want to spend YOUR TAX DOLLARS to COVER UP RAPE?" (Said in a nasal and incredulous/inquisitive Hannity-like whine.)

But the altar of politics over policy is becoming the norm these days. It seems that shame has ceased to be a cultural factor in changing behavior these days. Now we just try to ignore those things we know are wrong, but allow to happen anyway.

That so many Republicans and their allies in the media take time defending those things I know to be wrong, well that drives me to find their words empty and without credibility again and again.


PS: And if Obama was the blind partisan most folks think he is, he could clean the GOP clock with issues like this. Add it to the financial state of affairs, the torture of prisoners and a raft of other issues, and he could pound them into the ground.



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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Torture is What Our Enemies Do (Part 2)

To follow up a post I wrote earlier in the month, two addtional articles are available today.

First, Foreign Policy writes that one of the anchors for the "torture works" part of the right-wing narrative has this to say in his memoir:

"What I told Brian Ross in late 2007 was wrong on a couple counts," he writes. "I suggested that Abu Zubaydah had lasted only thirty or thirty-five seconds during his waterboarding before he begged his interrogators to stop; after that, I said he opened up and gave the agency actionable intelligence."

But never mind, he says now.

"I wasn't there when the interrogation took place; instead, I relied on what I'd heard and read inside the agency at the time."


Admittedly, I am getting this information second hand, from a report in a magazine, but I'm admitting that openly, and my words are not being used to justify torture.

The second (also from FP) gets the opinions of a veteran intelligence officer. He has some rather strong opinions on the matter, as you might imagine:

One of the most striking aspects of his talk is the cold professional contempt he has for Cheney, Rumsfeld and others who not only encouraged a brutal approach, but were amateurish in doing so.


(HT: Andrew Sullivan.



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Stupid, Frivolous Lawsuits

People just need to stop suing over things like this. Doesn't she know that this will only increase the cost of health and dental care in this country by making doctors and dentists take out insurance policies against people like her.

It is like no one ever learns from GOP political narrative anymore.

< / sarcasm >

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp

Your grandmother's chinchilla jacket cannot save you now! Especially from the wit of the NOLA blogosphere. Let's take a look, shall we?

Pimpgate

Umm, but an inquisitive person might wonder: what would motivate this celebrated conservative "investigator" to work with a team to allegedly bug Mary Landrieu's New Orleans office, and why would they attempt to do it right now? (A complimentary magic jack installation? I doubt it.) Hmm... Well, Mary's brother Mitch is running for mayor of New Orleans, and despite absolutely no evidence, it's an article of faith among conservatives that Mary Landrieu has made a deal with national Democratic party party interests to assist her brother's election. Although lack of proof never stopped them before, perhaps they wanted to uncover evidence of some coordinated plot, in order to throw the race in a tizzy.


Little Liddy the Pimp

They may have *thought* this was a zany high spirited stunt that would get them on Bill-O's show but they're in deep shit with the Feds.


Lil' Liddy & the Liddettes

A Senator, accusations, and four young men "with no prior criminal record" just laying there with no verbs as though they just fell in together in Lucy's lap. What a farcical little situation we have here. Isn't it all so cute. Your heart sorta goes out to those four young men with no prior criminal record. I hope wiser persons come to extricate them from "the center of it all" before dinner.


DUMB + ASS = James O'Keefe

I hope the RNC is going to pay their legal bills for them and give them jobs when they get out of prison in a couple of years. Maybe they can work for Tom Delay. ... What a fucking moron.


What is the Pelican Institute?

That’s what The Pelican Institute is: A group of partisan ideologues masquerading as an objective, intellectual “think tank,” outsourcing their “analysis” to established conservative think tanks like Citizens Against Government Waste, the Reason Foundation, and the Cato Institute because they don’t actually employ any real scholars themselves.

The Pelican Institute. Neither pelicans nor an institute.

I Opposed Spending Freezes Before I Supported Them...

John McCain President Obama is apparently now for spending freezes after spending a good chunk of one Presidential debate telling us that McCain's proposal for a spending freeze was a foolish idea. I can see Obama standing over the operating table putting down his surgical scalpel and asking the nurse for a hatchet.

But to be fair, for a spending freeze, he's letting a lot slip through the cracks like the stimulus bill and the new job bill he's floating. I still have to ask some nagging questions: Why is a spending freeze good now when it was a bad idea during the campaign? If job creation is so important, why weren't we doing anything about it until now? And if the already-passed stimulus bill was so helpful, why are we adding a job creation bill on top of it? Wasn't that the point of the stimulus bill? And is it just me or did all the stuff that was going to happen if we didn't pass the original stimulus bill happen anyway?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Note to pre-merger AFL teams: You guys suck... hard.

With the Super Bowl coming up, I decided to revisit a favorite topic of mine: the inferiority of the pre-merger AFL teams to their NFL bretheren.

For starters, let's look at the AFL: Pats, Bills, Oilers/Titans, Dolphins, Jets, Bengals, Chiefs, Broncos, Chargers, Raiders, and Dolphins

That's 11 teams. Playing straight odds they should now have represented the AFC/AFL in 77% of Super Bowls and won roughly 38% of them. They are keeping up on appearances with 77% on the nose but their win total is a measly 25%. Back-to-back AFL wins have only happened 4 times. But to their credit, during the NFC domination of Super Bowls (XVI - XXXI) the AFL fielded a pummeling block every year but one. For the 2nd straight year and 4 out the past 5 years, an AFL team did not even win the AFC. The winners of the 4 in question were all former NFL teams given to the AFC to even the numbers out (2 for the Steelers and 2 for the Patriots Colts).

Now it's time for the pre-merger NFL teams: Cowboys, Redskins, Saints, Eagles, Browns, Giants, Cardinals, Steelers, Rams, Colts, Falcons, 49ers, Vikings, Packers, Lions, and Bears

The NFL math gets a little hairy because you have to account for the 3 teams that could potentially take an AFC spot any given year, how to handle the Ravens/Browns, and you have to account for the Seahawks. For our purposes, I'll go ahead and count the Ravens as an AFC expansion and the Seahawks are an expansion no matter how you slice it.

Statistically, the pre-merger NFL should represent the NFC 40 times and the AFC 8 times. Among those appearances, they should take home the title 23 times. They have represented the AFC 8 times on the nose and the NFC 42 times. They are +7 on their win total with 30 total Super Bowl wins for pre-merger NFL teams. (That's assuming the foregone conclusion that a pre-merger NFL team will win when the pre-merger NFL Saints play the pre-merger NFL Colts in Super Bowl XLIV.)

So for any fan of the old guard AFL teams who tries to tell you that merger was a merger of equals, you are now armed with the knowledge that the AFL-NFL merger was anything but. The NFL merely swallowed up some inferior franchises to flesh out their ranks faster and easier than they could without the merger.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Ample Food Supply

Last week, the Yellow Blog explored the difference between clownery and evil. Unlike a majority of the blogosphere to my left, I end up coming down on the side "defending" the "evil" of David Brooks' terribly worded oversimplification of US International Aid policy.

When you write specifically to generate pageviews from conservatives reinforcing their world view or liberals who are outraged, there are just certain turns of phrase you have to use. While I usually get caught up on such wording, I was able to look past Brooks' verbiage because I've read "The Central Liberal Truth" (to a great gnashing of teeth), at the behest of recognized experts on international aid. I knew from whence his "evil" ideas came.

All of this is just build up, however, to a comparison of my own.

Today, I ran across a few turns of phrase I consider far more outrageous. Strange enough, they deal with issues tangentially related to what Brooks was discussing. In a cognitive sense, these kinds of words, having been spoken over and over again throughout the course of our nation's history, lay the foundation upon which the suspicion of Brooks' words are laid.

This is not a "Modest Proposal" type farce, either, this is literally what "conservative" Republican and South Carolina Lt. Governor Andre Bauer thinks is an appropriate government policy that he will engage in should he be elected governor of the Palmetto State.

You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that. And so what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to curtail that type of behavior. They don’t know any better.”

One is forced to wonder who makes up the group of "they" of which Bauer speaks.

And, like Bookman says, if you don't believe this "starve the poor people" line of thinking was viewed in the appropriate context, go ahead and hear it from the horse's mouth.

While he drapes his rhetoric in the veil of "political correctness is killing our country" and the "big government vs small government" false choice, his ideas that free and reduced school lunches might be some ancillary cause of low student test scores is mind-boggling in its departure from reality.

Brooks's contentions were based in real sociological studies, peer reviewed academic reports and address specific grievances with American policy that is not measuring up to standards of success.

Bauer's main line of thinking is based in revisionist history, American mythology, right-wing narrative, anti-government screed, top-down class warfare and other oft-used cliches. His use of loaded phrases and comparing people to animals tiptoes upon the line where allegations of another insidious belief system come to mind. But I'm not one to truck in code words, and overused allegations of "bygone" eras are unecessary bases for my critique.

His own words are already so damning that he has already engaged in a seldom seen political tactic, the public pseudo-apology-slash-I-only-used-a-bad-metaphor-story.

But he'll be OK. It sounds like South Carolina Democrats and fellow Republicans are going to let him get away with it, by engaging in the political theatre that usually follows such a comment.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Whiplash Politics

Compare this Athens political dustup to this potential New Orleans coverup.

During my years in Athens, St. Simons and New Orleans, I've tried to keep up with local politics. Most of the time, there are enough similarities that I can keep up.

The first thing that comes to mind is how similar so many of the issues are. Housing, employment, crime, schools, economic choices. These are all at the top of people's personal lists of concerns.

The second thing that I think about is how much more effective civic engagement is when practiced at the local level. Our culture focuses so much on Washington, D.C., that the local and state arena we have the most effect on personally can be ignored.

But then, some weeks, the differences are so pronounced my brain hurts.




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Show Me the Money

Y'all remember this time last year, when all the news organizations and righ-wing partisans were screaming like Chicken Little about how Obama's election scared investors? The stock market would not respond favorably to Obama! You remember that?

I heard it for weeks as the market continued its nosedive just after the inauguration. I remember how Obama said the markets wouldn't turn around on a dime, and how politics didn't have as much effect on the market as some folks thought. Then I remember all the pundits pointing, laughing, and saying "I told you so." All the cool pundits had one line: Obama's fault!

Then a funny thing happened. The market bottomed out and started to tick upward. I remember reading a quote where Obama asked if he could take credit for the upswing, since so many folks blamed him for the downswing. And you haven't heard very much about it since.

Until yesterday, that is. That's when right-wing pundits began to credit a Scott Brown victory with the rising value of the Dow Jones. How patently laughable.

Oyster explains why.

He even directs us to this nifty chart:



You'll pay close attention to those nifty little dates on the bottom, won't you?

And since our biased, liberal mainstream media refuses to remind you of when we got into this trouble in the first place, Oyster gives us another chart that may help.



Again, the real analysis of what this is all about can be found at Your Right Hand Thief.


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Torture is What Our Enemies Do

The allegations of torture during the Bush administration have been seething for a long time. Somehow, the debate moved away from what was actually going on to what actually constituted torture. Where are the lines drawn?

It helps that the majority of Americans do not believe, nor would they wish to believe, that their own government would be complicit in such activity. (For the record, I don't want to believe that.) Their government knows how outraged the American people would be (I would be outraged), and how spiteful and divisive our nation would become, should it be revealed that a campaign of torture had made its way back into our policy decisions.

Torture is what our enemies do. We have dallied with evil in our past and overcome it. We have learned our lesson.

I wonder, then, where this news will go. Will the new allegations be found true, with all the culural fallout and recriminations that will follow? Or will there be no investigation by our legal system, government or people - consigning this messy investigation to the purview of future historians, so we don't have to face the possibility that a national evil happened on our watch?

As someone who reads history, I think we're going to end up with the latter. The current silence by the torture apologists signals that they don't want to qualify this with a resonse - responses they have been quick to offer in the past. However, I expect quick and brutal recriminations if this news actually does grow legs beyond the academic and liberal blogosphere.

How did we get here?

Torture apologists ignore history, religion, rationalism, results, and the spirit of our own legal tradition in favor of vindictive emotion. The rhetorical and legal backflips required to excuse this kind of behavior only worked within the scope of over-politization of the GWOT.

"What happened over the last 8 years was not torture," apologists begin, "These were more like fraternity pranks. These were 'enhanced interrogation' techniques that we use to train our own soldiers*."

"But even if it was torture," they rationalize, "these people are the worst of the worst. These individuals are responsible for horrible acts against Americans and our allies, so they deserve to be tortured. Oh, if we could only go ahead and torture them this whole war thing would be over."

"Even mentioning that some of our own brave forces might be engaged in committing torture is tantamount to treason," they politicize. "Why do you hate our soldiers? Why do you hate America? Why do you want to give terrorists constitutional rights, international rights and legal representation? You are with us or you are with the terrorists!"

Of course, torture opponents, anti-war types and Bush haters fell right into these political traps. "They're torturing people in our name," pronounced with a nasal whine, in the halls of academia or in homes decorated with marijuana paraphanalia, was just the image torture apologists wanted to show Joe Six-Pack. "Who do you believe, Joe," torture apologists asked, "the pothead layabout college crowd, or our brave soldiers?"

"Just following orders?" Opponents continued, "isn't that what the Nazis said? Didn't we punish people who did things like this for war crimes?" To which the apologists could now point, "they think American soldiers are Nazis. They want to arrest American troops and try them before the Hague! They really hate America."

That was the narrative for the last 8 years, and it continues to this day. Expect to see more of it if this story grows legs. Or tell your grandkids to expect it in their college history classes.



* Used to train our own soldiers how to resist torture."

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Chocolate Moose Cabinet

In 2012, resigned governor Sarah Palin (R-Alaska) and former New Orleans mayor C. Ray Nagin (R-Dallas) will team up to contest the presidential election under the banner of a third party - the Chocolate Moose Party, Baby!

It now appears that current Georgia gubernatorial candidate John Oxendine does not want to be left off the Chocolate Moose bandwagon. He has recently been making bold political moves to ensure his name is mentioned alongside luminaries like Palin and Nagin, even if he doesn't have the record to match their star power.

Insiders say that he does have intangibles, including a nickname that both fits in with the horned quadrupedal image of the campaign and rhymes with the corporate logo of the party's media relations firm.

Perhaps he is angling for a spot in the Cabinet? Secretary of Treasure would be a likely landing spot for the former Georgia insurance commissioner.

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Ender's Game

Pat called this one. Scott Brown beat Marcia Coakley in the MA Senate race. There are some random points that have come to mind during election day yesterday:

-In a very blue state like Massachusetts someone won running a really real conservative campaign. I'm not saying that's why he won but there are a lot of conservative Republicans who feel they need to act more like liberals to keep votes. It annoys me and I'm glad to see a good counter-example. By conventional wisdom, even if Coakley wore a Klan hood and shot babies on the campaign trail, she should've beaten someone who ran as far to the right as Brown ran in such a left-leaning state. The real question I have is if Brown will really be a conservative or if that was just more conservative pillow talk.

-Best comment ever: "Coakley took the Senate campaign and drove it straight into Lake Chappaquiddick." [From the comments section of a random article I was reading.]

-It would be foolish for either side to ignore the other side of the coin. Republicans should be wary of calling this the return of conservatism just as much as Democrats should be wary of solely blaming Coakley while ignoring the issues her ship sank with.

-Pat probably gets another win out of this. I assumed the health care bill on the table would be more or less what was passed, but that was before they renamed it "HR3590: Jonestown Edition." Pelosi may think she can still get the House on board with this but it won't happen.

-If jobs were so important, why weren't they your focus already?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Professor's Guild

One cultural fulcrum of our modern society is the role of a college education. I think everyone has been exposed to the narratives that college professors are too liberal, too politically correct and restrict the "academic freedom" of their students in support of some overarching left wing conspiracy. Additionally, there is the seething anti-intellectualism that pervades our popular culture. Further examine the sociological statistics (lamented by individuals like DADvocate) that demonstrate a significantly lower number of men going on to attend or finish college - and the factors that contribute to that low number.

Over the years, we have discussed many of these issues on this site, so I thought some of you may find this review of The Marketplace of Ideas by Louis Menand to be an interesting read. I know I will be going to find this book in the near future.

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The Man in the High Castle

So if you're an average German citizen, what could excite you more than a David Hasslehoff concert? That's right. It's Obama: The Musical. No, I'm not kidding.

Let That Be Your Last Battlefield*

It's election day in Massachusetts. (Did I spell that right?) Brown vs. Coakley. It is a tight race by the polls but I'm interested to see what happens when people actually vote. I don't really expect Brown to win. Romney polled close to Kennedy back when Romney challenged Kennedy's seat but it wasn't a close election. This one will be closer than that but I don't think it will even be close enough to recount. But we'll see. I'll post updates as I get them (which means sporadically).

A lot of people say health insurance reform hangs in the balance but I'm not so sure about that given that there were doubts it would pass back when Coakley was assumed to be the winner. I think the left might be setting up an excuse for themselves.

* With the title I'm actually taking a swipe at Pat's earlier (and massively overused) dismissive on science fiction "We wouldn't want too many minds to be influenced by a science fiction movie, would we?" by naming my post after a Star Trek episode that can and damn well should influence people on the topics of race and war (and all in an episode that originally aired in 1969 when such topics were still somewhat taboo). I'm mulling over the idea of doing the same with all my future posts for a while.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Entropy Vote

I can't stand party machine politicians, who just kind of expect people to vote for them because of brand name. There are few things more distasteful than a bunch of insiders, politicians and marketing-media-types who take your vote for granted, and put up a lackluster candidate because that is who you are supposed to vote for. I'm really glad I'm not a Massachusetts Democrat this month.

I identify as a Democratic voter and party member, but as I have anti-incumbent (until proven otherwise), entropic voting preferences, I'd seriously consider voting for the GOP candidate in MA just out of spite. I'd want to show the state and national party operatives that my vote wasn't just theirs because of the name-brand, and they take me for granted at their peril. I deeply desire health care reform, but I also care about the quality of the candidate and the quality of the name brand locally and nationwide.

Sometimes the only way to teach that lesson is to let the knuckleheads lose some elections, hoping better candidates will get involved next time. I thought the Democratic Party had learned this, but sometimes you have to work away from a goal to acheive a goal.

Then again, when the Republican candidate continues to support activites I consider torture, I guess the Democratic candidate can go ahead and take my vote for granted. It is a shame the GOP should allow the bar to be set so low.





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Why Do Blue People Hate America?

It is mighty important the right wing discredit James Cameron's Avatar as liberal propaganda. We wouldn't want too many minds to be influenced by a science fiction movie, would we?

I've already wrote down some a few of my opinons about Avatar. But today, I ran across where Tom Shone at Slate takes apart some of the political critiques of this year's biggest movie.

Normally when right-wingers come gunning for a movie, it's meek, well-intentioned granola like Lions for Lambs, Rendition, or Good Night, and Good Luck—movies that can only perform a single one-armed push-up before collapsing facedown into the mud.
(I've always found it interesting the right wing uses flop movies as examples of Hollywood's pervasiveness and power.)

The article gets better as Shone explores the real symbolism - and true appeal - of Cameron flicks:

Remember that Cameron was born in Canada in 1954, which means that he spent his formative teenage years—the years he was getting into guns and trucks and girls—watching the giant that lived next door receive the beating of its life in Vietnam. It left him with an almost forensic fascination for "how the mighty fall," his enduring theme as a filmmaker, from The Terminator through to Titanic.

Think of the Marines in Aliens, whooping it up in the drop ship as they load their gun clips, only to find that their superior firepower is useless on LV426 for fear of triggering the plant's nuclear core. Their armor hissing with alien acid, they cannot ditch it fast enough. The film is a study in military hubris.

This kind of forced introspection is what true right-wingers despise, because they (along with their hard core leftist counterparts) are the minority of individuals who actually enjoy not being challenged by what they watch or read. Their form of "entertainment" is to have their already-held beliefs regurgitated back to them, to reinforce their worldview.

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Three Panels

Yup. Because this is who we are.

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44 Inches of Snow on the Blog

To this day, there are still no US Army Corps of Engineers constructed domes over any northern state with the intention of keeping snow off the ground.

Here we go again, indeed. The historically revisionist "hardy northern white people deal with snow without complaint while all those lazy southern layabout black people wait for the gubbmint to save them" internet meme is making the rounds yet again.

On the other hand, New Orleans does have a US Army Corps of Engineers built wall around the whole city that was built with the intention of keeping water out.

This time, it ended up in Lord David's inbox, and he posted a spirited reply over at Humid City. You should read it. I'll wait.

So, when several hundred million gallons of water ended up inside New Orleans, you ask the government about it, with your questions directed at the government organization specifically tasked with preventing this sort of thing from happening.

Yes, the meme has been circulating for years, each time referencing some faraway northern place like Colorado, Michigan's Upper Peninsula, North Dakota, Montana, Alaska, et al. True, Snopes.com has has countered this email as nothing short of pure bullshit. Hell, I've added my share of rebuttal.

That's not "whining," that's logic.

So why, you may ask, is it important to go over this again and again and keep brining it up?

Because that is the only way you can put an end to bullshit, that is why. If someone tells a lie big enough and repeats it often enough to a population that willingly remains ignorant of factual history, you end up with the lie being history in the form of common cultural knowledge.

People who live in New Orleans, are related to New Orleans or just plain want history told the right way for the future health of our Republic are called on to respond to such bullshit, wherever they see it, with the derision it deserves.

And one last thing: the reason you have 90% less social problems north of the 48th parallel is that 90% of the world’s population lives below the 48th parallel.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Orange Apocalypse

For those of you who follow college football...and I know at least a few of my neighbors down here in Tigerland have at least a passing knowledge of the sport...you've probably heard about the, well, whatever the hell that was in Knoxville last night.

I'm still stunned.

I'm not even sure the best fan fiction would be as mind boggling as the reality. Or the sports writers:

"Paris Hilton has paid more dues than Lane Kiffin." - Pat Forde, ESPN

I try to be a classy sports fan, but it is hard to keep from laughing out loud when you read lines like that. And follow links like this. I've never needed to trade my office's big glass window for a cubicle as badly as I have today.

But that's laughter tinged with the manic edge of relief. It didn't happen to the program I follow. In our current college football atmosphere, this can happen to any program and any fanbase at any time. Think about what situation Georgia would be in if all the idiot fire-eating "fans" get their way and really put Coach Mark Richt - our program's winningest coach in the shortest timeframe - on the hot seat? Think about our position if we had a Jim Donnan-like coach in this day and age?

This is something my LSU-partisan neighbors will have to consider as they call for Les Miles' ouster.

A lot of Tennessee fans are laughing, too. Like someone waking up with a bad hangover, they'll mull over the emotions of last night, and quickly move on. The player recruiting fallout will be less than expected, a new coach will be hired, and the Volunteers will fall back on their solid, 90 year tradition of terrorizing other SEC football teams on the gridiron.

Happily, what this does afford us is even more reason to loathe USC and, especially, their coach. Culturally, I will rarely have more in common with my Tennessee, LSU, Cal and Notre Dame fanatic friends than when watching Southern California implode in Kiffin's wake.


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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Nation Building

Step one: fix the nation's army.

It helps to understand how difficult that task really is.

It might be necessary to start over. Security forces that are distrusted and feared by the population can be worse than no security at all.

...

All institutions must rise together. It is dangerous to raise a capable army that the Finance Ministry cannot pay. This is a coup d'├ętat in the waiting.


I hope what they did in Liberia will work in the long run. I hope something like it can be implemented and successful in Afganistan, so we can bring our people home without the whole region imploding.

And if this does work? Well, maybe then we can get some of our international organizations to replicate the success in other troubled spots around the globe, before invasion or widespread famine comes to pass.

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Government Rebuilds Galveston Seawall

At least, that's what you discover if you read this very short article, and didn't read the comments. The comments tell a different story.

I'll be the first to say that the repair of the Galveston seawall is both a good thing and how government is supposed to work. The Army Corps of Engineers spends $18M of taxpayer money to rebuild a damaged piece of infrastructure to protect U.S. citizens, commerce and property. This takes less than a year and a half. Well done.

I didn't hear anyone complain about spending federal money to fix things in Galveston. There was no national talk of bulldozing the place or denying Galvestonians the right to return. The good people of Galveston were subjected to disaster, and the American government responded as she always responds when hurricanes hit Florida, Texas or the Carolinas - without complaint. Roll up your sleeves, we can't leave our citizens out in the cold.

That is something I have always loved about this great nation into which I was born. That is one of the traits that makes America exceptional.

This is because the history of America is steeped in the "can do" attitude. We make things happen. We git r done. The American people demand this from their government because that which can happen to one of us can happen to any of us. Earthquakes in California, tornadoes on the plains, flooding in the Midwest, blizzards in the North East. E pluribus unum. Out of many, we are one.

And the American people are always donating money, time and effort to help with the rebuilding of any place where disaster strikes - without complaint.

To that end, we also demand the American government do its part when disaster strikes, because sometimes disasters are bigger than any one locality or state can handle on their own. To this, we demand our American government respond in kind and to do so quickly and effectively. Without complaint.

Except that one time.

Only one time in my years have I ever heard any debate about how my homeland responds to disaster against its own citizens. Once.

The comments section of this very short article serve as a reminder of what that one debate sounded like.

But we will get past it. Real history will be written and values shaped by the millions of volunteers, family, friends, residents and government agencies that, in spite of scale or talk or orders, responded to that one event in the thorougly American tradition: of rolling up sleeves and getting to work.


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Monday, January 11, 2010

Actually Prosecuting Terrorists

Or, Change I Still Believe In.

Remember all the right wing screaming to haul the Christmas Day testicle-incinerating pantie-bomber into military custody and apply "enhanced interrogation" techniques to get him to talk? Remember how they thunderously procliam that our own criminal justice system can't handle the terrorists?

Yeah, not following the advice of those discredited assclowns is one reason I voted for Obama last year, and I continue to stand proudly by my choice.

Bob Barr adds this very well reasoned and intelligent opinion on the subject.

Those who oppose the decision to use our traditional criminal justice system are focused on instilling fear in the American people.

...

It is time to face the fact that the military commissions system of trying and detaining terrorist suspects has failed. Now is the time to return to and reaffirm our faith in our constitutional criminal justice system.

Bold added for emphasis by HR.


I also like the conviction Barr demonstrates by putting his name and reputation behind Beyond Guantanamo: A Bipartisan Declaration (PDF).

In a nation where the neocons are still, inexplicably, taken seriously by so many, Barr's stance is risky. Such positions are routinely called out as anti-American, pro-terrorist, and contrary to the interests of American national security.

Risky, but necessary. The Obama administration continues (slowly) to work its way out of the catastrophic mess the last guys made of things. The voices of sane individuals on the right and the left are vital in keeping the restoration of law and order moving forward.

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Health Care Reform Shall Not Pass

JMac's Sunday op-ed in the Athens Banner-Herald looks at the difference between health care reform, and the idea of health care reform in the imaginations of progressives.

Although a host of progressive fundraising e-mails and rants on Democratic e-mail lists suggest otherwise, at no time has a robust public option been considered by Congress. In fact, the House bill has the potential to feature higher short-term premiums than comparable private plans, while the public option scrapped from the Senate bill would have affected only 2 percent of the country.

The problem, though, is that a host of progressive leaders, like Dean and Moulitsas, mistakenly told the masses the public option was essential to reform when, in actuality, it was - and is - inconsequential. Its parameters were narrow, its costs weren't lower, and its access was minimal.


This is the problem I personally have with 3,000+ page "comprehensive" bills, 10 months of wheeling and dealing, and the political culture circus that has defined both extremes around this debate (I'm looking at you Sarah "Death Panel" Palin). You have the real bill, and the idea of the bill. (Reconciling ideas with reality seems to be a big problem for Americans.)

At this point, I've mostly written off this bill as doomed to failure. All the extremes despise it, and the extremes unfortunately dominate our politics.

Every time I read or hear someone say something about it that I can finally get behind or object to, it seems that individual isn't really talking about something in the bill. This is infuriating. I can only hope that, whatever this bill does, that it will torpedo our current system in such a way that real reform can happen in the next several years.

But if reform could not pass on the Federal level with Obama in the White House with a mandate for change, control of the House, and a 60 vote Democratic majority in the Senate, then progressive populists will have to accept that real reform will have to focus on the states, localities and organizations that are more receptive and agile in implementing policy.

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Trent Lott thinks this is Bullsh*t

So, it seems that King Harry has managed to stick his foot directly into his piehole again. In the new book, "Change Game", Sen. Reid is quoted as calling President Obama -
"light-skinned" black man "with no Negro dialect unless he wanted to have one."


Amazingly, he's not being demonized by the usual gang of suspects, who couldn't hammer Trent Lott fast enough back in 2002, and eventually helped force Lott out of the Senate altogether.

But, everything is apparently hunky-dory with Reid and Obama, since King Harry has apparently apologized to PrezBo, calling his statement, "a poor choice of words". Gee, you think so, Harry?

God willing, this will be the nail in the coffin for race-baiting and racial outrage in politics, as the double-standard being applied to Sen. Reid is so egregious.

Liquor & Guns

We already went through this debate down in Louisiana, when the legislature debated allowing guns on college campuses. That bill failed.

But the same lobbyists were working in more than one state, which is why Georgia is now considering the allowance of concealed guns anywhere but court and jail. This includes the ability to carry concealed into churches, bars, and college campuses.

I hope I'm not the only one who sees this not only as a terrible idea, but a direct play on voter's public safety fears, and an election year ploy to keep candidates in line.


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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Stormwater & Drainage

I doubt this exact setup would do New Orleans any good, but Kevan Williams of Flagpole Magazine delivers links to some urban stormwater management ideas Seattle is working on here and here.

Seattle is a city that sees high amounts of rainfall yearly, and is making a cultural and civic committment to keeping local watersheds cleaner for environmental and economic reasons. While New Orleans has similar environmental concerns, the differences in topography really demand a different approach. I wonder what ideas might work locally.

It is good to see urban areas working on more effective and environmentally friendly water management infrastructure.

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Friday, January 08, 2010

Social Media Epic Fail

Mixing politics, football and cluelessness.

John Oxendine is really pulling out all the stops in his campaign for governor of Georgia. Maybe he's positioning himself for a cabinet position when Palin/Nagin win the White House in 2012 (possibly at Treasury, with his insurance background and all). The Chocolate Moose Party grows, baby!

Can't believe I missed this when it first came out a week or so ago. I was wondering what all the inside jokes were over on Peach Pundit. The comment section to this post is just gravy.

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Another City, Another Mayor

Meanwhile, back in the land of college rock, a UGA student running for mayor of Athens has posted spectacular fundraising numbers.

Throw that on top of Athens' possession of a grassroots arts district created by an authentic demographic of creative entreprenuers, and well paved and planned roads that are bicycle friendly (no matter what the haters on Flagple.com say).

If any New Orleanians feel the need to look to other cities for ideas, please ignore Houston and Atlanta. They are not the droids we're looking for.

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Messiah-mania at the Movies

I recently watched the movie Avatar in 3D. It was big, beautiful and a true movie theatre experience. I've always been a sci-fi fan, and this movie created a lush scene that allowed for enough suspension of disbelief to get into the plot.

There is a rather uncomfortable theme that runs through the plot of this movie, at a deeper level than all the pro-environment, anti-American, anti-corportation themes that a lot of folks will focus on. David Brooks appropriately identifies this as the "White Messiah" fable that runs deep in our current popular culture. To which I can only say: well done sir.

(Yes, this does make two David Brooks refrences whithin a week for me. Hat tip to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Cynthia Tucker for this most recent one.)

I am glad to know I wasn't the only person thinking of Avatar as Dances With Wolves...IN SPACE!! But Brooks' inclusion of The Last Samurai is also notable. Now, I like all three of those movies, but there was always something pinging a plausibility sense as the part of my brain that suspended disbelief wrangled with the cynical brain that tracked the probability that the story could actually happen.

I think one divergence of Avatar is that the protagonist uses only the tactics of the natives to defeat his old foes, while the protagonists of the other two films combine aspects of their culture with the culture-to-be-saved (the unearthing of guns in DWW and the Thermopalye references in LS).

Thinking of other films where this mythology comes into play led me to think of Last of the Mohicans (white boy raised by Mohicans expresses superiority of native culture), Glory (white colonel, black troops, but based in strict historical fact), and Star Wars (white heroes & robots + Lando & Chewbacca lead diverse galaxy in triumph over white Galactic Empire). Not that I think any of these movies are bad - they are all favorites of mine - but they all display strong characteristics of a white messiah theme. I wonder how many of our historical stories and narratives would fit.

How racist is this theme? While it speaks to race, I think it lends itself more to selling a story to insecurities within our society's controlling demographic - white men. What it plays on is the individualistic, hero-complex that runs deep within the white male psyche. The messiah figure is symbolically fighting against anonymity and the ordinary - each comes from a relatively obscure existence to become a cult of personality to a freer, more authentic "other" demographic where values are calculated differently from the society they left.

That such a narrative is repeated over and over in some of our culture's most important popular creations is a testament to how powerful the psychology of race still is. "The past is never dead, it isn't even past."

Notice also that none of these messianic protagonists have children within the scope of their respective narratives. Offspring being a responsibility that would intrude on the individualistic nature of the myth.

Children also taking away some of the appeal of the myth, as they form a de facto "other" demographic where the father figure can actually acheive cult of personality or hero status outside the need for narrative.

Could this kind of narrative be an essential aspect of the often elusive "white culture" that Glenn Beck labors to identify? I say this with all seriousness, as I've often wondered what constitutes "white culture."

That is a lot to think about.

As for the other stuff, there are a lot of folks out there who will complain about the anti-Americanism of Avatar. The "bad guys" are Americans in the form of former-Marines-turned-contractors and American corporations who exploit natural resources, don't care about the environment, or the science of things, or the lives of natives. The heroes and heroines are scientists, conscientious objectors and members of the native population who want to study and understand this new planet. There isn't a lot of subtelty about who we're supposed to root for.

But I don't have a problem with much of that. It is an accurate oversimplification of our current culture war: one narrative vs. another narrative. In 50 to 100 years, I'm sure historians, social and political scientists will use it as a reference point to demonstrate our deeply divided society.

The "anti-Americanism" and "anti-corporatism" are based in the worst parts of our own history (though some would excuse those behaviors) and sci-fi canon (which is mostly futuristic extrapolation of historical behaviors). The fact that sci-fi usually frames this in a fantastic setting also lessens the harder realizations so that they serve more as warnings than actual representations.

In closing, think about this: Would an accurate movie version of A Terrible Glory achieve blockbuster status without a white protagonist injected somewhere?

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The Curious Case of Troy Henry

American Zombie investigates Troy Henry's stated experience; his "resume" if you will.

For those of you not from New Orleans, Henry is running for mayor. That's a position the city has had a spot of trouble with, recently. AZ sums it up thusly:

I'm harping on this because I do not want to see another mayor in office who:

1. lies

2. doesn't take responsibility for his actions.

We've had 8 years of that and it damn near destroyed us. It may yet....we still have to get to May.


And Notre Dame fans who live in NOLA will now begin having George O'Leary nightmares...


Update: Library Chronicles has more.

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

A Quote Too Long to Quote

Crap. I do this kind of thing. Back to the drawing board.

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Best Comment of the Day

What does happen when you mix football, politics and religion? Specifically, the Super Bowl, advertising, Tim Tebow and abortion.

Yowza.

Senator Blutarsky provides your answer here.

Best comment in the thread? Batdawg at 11:16am:

Seriously. You can’t go anywhere without seeing a Christian “persecusted” these days.

May as well go back to feeding them to lions as entertainment.


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Cult of Palin-ality

The Tea Party will be having a national convention in Nashville. Sarah Palin is the keynote speaker. Tell me if you were surprised to see that coming.

Will Ray Nagin attend as a delegate from Dallas and begin their long but inevitable road to a major party ticket? Stay tuned!

Palin/Nagin 2012! Chocolate Moose Party, Baby!



Wait a second. Chocolate? Moose? Tea? CMT? In Nashville? OMG! It was meant to be!


Update! Oyster has more details about the real speakers.

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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Credibility Means Nothing

And we're Americans, we don't let facts get in the way of narrative or mythology, dammit.

It does not matter one whit that 1999 - 2009 was America's lost decade, economically speaking. There will always be people who will hold onto the fantasy that the Bush era tax cuts created some form of economic gains that were dashed only by the election of Obama, who is at fault for the recession (and will never get any credit for stopping the meltdown). Liberals are always to blame. If it wasn't for them, we wouldn't have thrown our Dow 30,000 away on entitlement spending for welfare queens.

Maybe if the liberals had spent 1999 - 2009 actually helping (instead of hating) America, Christmas and enhanced interrogation, the economy would not have tanked and we would have found those weapons of mass destruction. But no, all they did was complain, and dream up an iconic messiah without a birth certificate.

And that will be what history tells future generations, because, as Oyster writes:

Predictably, the Dems will cower in the corner and wait for the other side to craft a startlingly absurd economic explanation for the miserable Bush decade, and watch in admiration as they repeat it in coordinated fashion with straight faces. Dems love playing prevent defense on such things, with some idiotic forlorn hope that the press will call out the GOP for being crazed, unhistorical phonies.


Stupid liberal media.

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Please Take Notes

If more folks walked the walk, in government and business, our country might not be in such awkward shape. Examples below. Hat tips to E and DSB, respectively.

Mayor of Philadelphia

Mayor of Newark

Enjoy some postive news, for a change.

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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

What Drives the Negative Comments About Christianity?

The main thing that drives negative comments about Christianity, Bill, is the inexplicable behavior of some individuals who call themselves Christians.

Ignorance of the term "proselytizing" only fans those negative flames. Most Christians become upset when someone calls their beliefs and behaviors a load of stinking bullshit, and yet they have trouble comprehending why others might react the same way when Christians talk smack about Buddhism, Islam and Judaism.

Now, the vast majority of the good folks I know are real live-and-let-live types who don't care how you express your faith, so long as you don't screw other people over.

But as a Catholic in the South, there are a few times I've had to smile and nod my head and attempt to explain the theology of my baptism to born-agains who want me to "be saved" like they are. "Yes, Bubba, Catholics are Christians, too. Yes, I'm sure I know what your preacher told you about us. Thank you for your concern about my prospects for the afterlife. Yup, beer's in the cooler - no, I won't tell your wife you spent all evenin' drinkin' and playin' cards over here."

And if "Christians" give me that much crap over theological differences within their own tradition, I can't imagine the hell they give other folks. So most of the negative comments are really just backlash. Don't start no shit, won't be no shit.

And one last thing, Bill, isn't this a news program? It is? Then why are we talking about Tiger Woods's religion, of all things? The Woods story wasn't even real news when it broke. Millionaire cheats on spouse; no taxpayer money involved. Done. End of story. Y'all act like think kind of thing never happened before.

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Government Like Business

Hey, folks, you'd do well to remember situations like this when someone proposes "running government like a business."

Several thoughts:

- Most businesses fail.

- Government purchase of buildings must be waay easier in Cuba.

- The administration is bound to call the forthcoming litigation "frivolous."

- Local (and now national) Republicans endorsed this guy.

- Palin/Nagin 2012! Chocolate Moose Party!

HTs: Leigh C. and American Zombie for additional write-ups and more info.

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Panic Breeds Death

Some of y'all might have heard: some guy tried to blow up a plane sometime around Christmas. The pantie-bomber was unable to detonate the explosive tied into his underpants, however, and only succeeded in torching his own testicles. This whole thing could have been an epic vasectomy fail had not the talking heads and 24 hour news cycle jumped in to sell advertising by screaming "fire" in a crowded theatre.

Now, a lot of masochistic right wingers are engaged in one upping each others' "torture this guy" fantasies. After sex, nothing sells books and talk show appearances in this country than whispering "snuff film." Remember, those are the 'family values' Americans.

Others criticised the President's "non-response" to the near-tragedy. I had to remind my father that the only thing the last administration would have done is argue over which color our terrorist warning system should change into. Lest we forget that the same pundits hollering about this were the same ones defending Ol' Dubya for vacationing during late August and early September 2005.

I can see legitimate criticism of Janet Napolitano's ludicrous "the system worked" comments, but the situation is no where near "heckuva job, Brownie."

The long and short of it is, it has been a slow news month. You can only talk about the weather for so long, and most folks in the media have the slightest idea what to say about the economy or healthcare. So they go back to their old standard selling point: sell fear, make profit.

I've only read two articles about the pantie-bomber situation that I think have much worth (there may be others I haven't come across yet):

David Brooks (of all people) hits on some major cultural points that are worth exploring, even if he does fold it into his 'big government bad' narrative.

Ann Abblebaum at Slate investigates how fear and politics undermine the very organizations we expect to protect us.

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Monday, January 04, 2010

2010 Predictions

2010 Prediciton. Feel free to post your own.

1. Obama gets his groove back and musters > 50% approval ratings for the second half of the year.
2. Democrats lose in the ballpark of 5 Senate seats. (We'll call the margin of error 2 for tracking purposes so 3-7.)
3. Specter loses the Democratic primary.
4. Specter runs as an independent in the general election.
5. Specter loses that independent run.
6. There will be no card check bill making an up-or-down vote.
7. No immigration reform will even make it to the floor.
8. The Senate version of health insurance reform with a few token changes to make the House look important will be signed by the President this year.
9. One of those 3-7: Harry Reid
10. No climate change bill will receive and up-or-down vote.
11. Perry loses the Texas governor's race. (Perry is running for too many re-elections. Texans get antsy about that sort of thing. Between Hutchinson and the Democratic challengers, one of them will bring him down.)
12. Camp Guantanamo will be alive and well through the end of the year.
13. Republicans will not take control of the House or Senate in the 2010 elections.
14. A lot of conservative talk from both sides of the political isle will produce exactly zero legislation.
15. We get too much Palin somewhere whether it's a radio show or TV talk show or maybe just as an over-used pundit. We're going to get way more Palin than even her fans ever wanted.

EDIT: In 6 and 10, I'm referring specifically to the Senate.