Friday, November 27, 2009

The Abject Failure of the Obama Administration. Or not.

You know, as I wander around this series of tubes, occasionally heckling some poor deluded right-winger (and by "heckling," I mean "pointing out facts to someone with a limited grasp on reality"), I find myself frequently called by some variation on the term "Obamabot."

The reason for this is fairly simple (as are many of the people who use terms like that) - the Far Right tends to view the entire world in black and white terms. Every Muslim is an extremist and a terrorist. All atheists are violently opposed to all religion, everywhere. All gays are sexual deviants, and will cheerfully perform any other sexual deviance, whether it's beastiality, pedophilia, prostitution or incest.

It's the foundation of their entire world-view: America - love it or leave it. (Unless a Democrat is in charge, of course.) You're either with us, or with the terrorists.

The Bush/Cheney White House exploited this simplistic outlook to push their neocon agenda as far as they could. Fox "News" is still eating from the rotting carcass of that mentally (and often morally) bankrupt philosophy.

Black and white. No shades of grey. And so, following this simplistic and twisted "logic," if I don't immediately condemn everything that Barack Obama does or says, I must therefore support every action taken by the president. I must worship at his feet and call him the Messiah. And I must have a shrine in my living room with a bronze statue of Obama gazing off into the socialist future that the Right likes to imagine he sees.

No middle ground. Black and white.

But let's be real: there is fuck-all in this world that isn't actually some shade of grey. In the end, there are very few saints and only marginally more sociopaths: most people are simply self-centered, venal creatures with lusts they barely control and damned few positive traits. The trick is that some of us hide these traits in ourselves better than some others can manage.

So, do I believe that Barack Obama is the Chosen One, who brings the dead to life and craps gold bars? To be honest, not so much. I do, however, compare him to the previous tenant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and find him to be superior in pretty much every measurement.

Do I agree with everything Obama has done, though? Hell, no.

While I believe that Dick Cheney is dithering about that craniorectal surgery he's been putting off, I don't see Obama's measured approach to a complex situation in Afghanistan to be a problem. I would prefer if American troops were pulled out of what has historically proven to be an amazingly truculent piece of real estate, especially since my son (the Marine) has just deployed to that ugly, nasty, and excessively frigid country.

On the other hand, I can't figure out why we still have troops in Iraq. Every measurable mission that's been given our military in Iraq has been fulfilled. We didn't go into that hellhole for any particularly good reason, and I don't believe we need to stay.

And moving in from the bigger, strategic picture, I don't like all of the tactical decisions that have been made. For example, we have a program using unmanned predator drones targeting potential terrorists in Pakistan and Afghanistan. I support the fact that it keeps our troops out of harm's way. But if we had "actual" people (as opposed to "virtual" people) doing that job, they would be referred to as "hit squads." And Obama has approved this program. I do not like the fact that the White House has endorsed a program of assassination by proxy.

Since the GOP has shown that their definition of "bipartisan" is "we get our way on everything," I think that Obama is wasting his time trying to appease the Right. Just ram your agenda through Congress and move on. For example, America needs a real, robust public option, and I'm disappointed that Obama isn't pushing harder for it.

I have problems with some of his choices for advisors and cabinet positions. I think one of the best examples would have to be Islam Siddiqui, a former pesticide lobbyist, as chief agricultural negotiator in the Office of the United States Trade Representative. The potential bias implicit in that choice makes my balls itch.

There's plenty of other things I disagree with. But that's the difference. I see the president as a talented man in a difficult situation, and I understand the bigger picture: nobody does everything exactly right. I have no problem with that.

Do I think Obama is the Messiah? No. But then again, I also believe that anyone who wants to see the president fail must love their politics more than they love their country. Because if the president fails, so does the United States.

Those on the right see America's first black president, and a Democratic president at that, and actively search for any tiny mistake (or anything that they can twist and suggest might be a mistake), because they can't stand the thought of him succeeding. This became most obvious when, six months into Obama's presidency, the Right was already calling this administration a failure.

They have an instantaneous, knee-jerk response to anything that Barack Obama does: they oppose it, and it doesn't matter whether this hypothetical "something" is what would be best for the country. They're stuck in a feedback loop: if they see anything done or said by Barack Obama, they immediately search for the worst possible interpretation, despite all evidence supplied by reality.

It's a simple, mindless reaction process, performed almost automatically. They receive input labeled "Obama" and they respond to it. They will then continue in that direction, even if they end up running into a wall. And if the path that their minimalist programming lays out for them runs them off a cliff? Then they'll heedlessly march over the edge and keep right on marching until physics abruptly brings to an end what logic couldn't change.

Obviously, what we need is a better definition of "Obamabot."

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"Climategate" - Is the Sky Really Falling?

So, several thousand emails were hacked from the University of East Anglia, dumped on some other server elsewhere in the world, and are now being trumpeted as "proof" that climate change is a hoax. And thousands of global warming conspiracy theorists are now pouring over all these illegally-obtained emails trying to find anything they can spin into evidence of a global conspiracy.

Does that summarize the situation pretty well?

Personally, I think that the best take on the situation comes from Aaron Wiener on the Washington Independent:
Is 'Climategate' Really the Game-Changer Skeptics Say It Is?

On Friday, the news broke that hackers had obtained and released thousands of email exchanges between climate scientists at England’s University of East Anglia. Climate change skeptics pounced on the leak, dubbing it "Climategate" and proclaiming that the questionable communications between the scientists proved that global warming was based on cooked data.

"Climategate: the final nail in the coffin of 'Anthropogenic Global Warming'?" asked one headline. Another piece called the scandal "one of the greatest in modern science." Today, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) called for an investigation.

So what exactly in these emails is causing such celebration among the deniers? The Daily Telegraph compiled "the most contentious quotes," and while they’re certainly embarrassing for their authors, they don’t come close to undermining the very basis of climate science. Here are three of the six they list:

From: Michael Mann. To: Phil Jones and Gabi Hegerl (University of Edinburgh). Date: Aug 10, 2004
“Phil and I are likely to have to respond to more crap criticisms from the [global warming-denying] idiots in the near future.”

From: Phil Jones. To: Many. March 11, 2003
“I will be emailing the journal to tell them I’m having nothing more to do with it until they rid themselves of this troublesome [global warming-denying] editor.”

From Phil Jones To: Michael Mann (Pennsylvania State University). July 8, 2004
“I can’t see either of these [global warming-denying] papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow — even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!”

These emails demonstrate a deep disdain for global warming skepticism that does not befit scientists in objective pursuit of the truth. But disdain is a far cry from intentional falsification, which is what they’re being accused of. These scientists could — and maybe should — suffer consequences for presenting their findings, and those of their colleagues, in a way that jibes with their broader agenda. But to say that this leak threatens to undermine next month’s climate negotiations in Copenhagen strikes me as more than a bit excessive.
As Gavin A. Schmidt, a climatologist at NASA put it, "Science doesn’t work because we’re all nice. Newton may have been an ass, but the theory of gravity still works."

Or, from Nate Silver on FiveThirtyEight:
Still: I don't know how you get from some scientist having sexed up a graph in East Anglia ten years ago to The Final Nail In The Coffin of Anthropogenic Global Warming. Anyone who comes to that connection has more screws loose than the Space Shuttle Challenger. And yet that's literally what some of these bloggers are saying!

Incidentally, 2009 is shaping up to be the 5th warmist year on record, according to the conspiracists at NASA.
More to the point, from Brad Johnson on Think Progress:
Evidently due to this e-mail conspiracy, Arctic sea ice is at historically low levels, Australia is on fire, the northern United Kingdom is underwater, and the world's glaciers are disappearing. Oh yeah, and it’s the hottest decade in history.
Oh, and Inhofe's calling for an investigation. Into a UN committee. Because he thinks we have jurisdiction there? And, just so I'm clear, this is the same James Inhofe whose biggest campaign contributor is the oil and gas lobby?

Yeah, I thought so.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Scatologically Speaking (a brief essay)

Here's a fun thing to do.

Go into your grandmother's bathroom sometime while she's snoring on the sofa, in a mild coma brought on by alternating doses of Celebrex, Lotensin, Paxil, Prilosec and cheap bourbon. If you look under the sink in there, odds are good that you'll find a product called Epsom Salts.

Now, the most commonly-discussed use of Epsom Salts, or magnesium sulfate (named for Epsom, England, if anybody really cares) is to soak tired or aching muscles. Of course, the "alternative medicine" folks will further try to sell you on its benefits to clean out your liver, stop your epileptic fits, regrow lost limbs and cure acne. But we'll ignore all that, and suggest that you take two tablespoons in a glass of lukewarm water, stir well, and drink all at once.

Now the trick here is the phrase "all at once." The stuff tastes roughly like watered-down bile, and it has a sharp chemical edge to the flavor that will make you strongly consider weeping about halfway through the glass-full. And if you stop drinking, you probably aren't going to be able to make yourself start again. So chug it down.

Now that you've finished, it would probably be the wrong time to tell you that you needed to stock up on Gatorade and baby wipes; if you haven't done it already, you're screwed. Because you have just very literally kicked your own ass. About twenty minutes, maybe half an hour from now, you're going to experience a gurgling in your lower intestine, the first sign of what we sometimes euphemistically call "gastric distress." Don't try to ignore it and finish up whatever you're doing. You need to rush to the toilet right now. Because if you don't, you will crap yourself.

If you're cooking, don't leave anything on the heat. If you're stupid enough to be operating heavy machinery, leave it idling and let somebody else power it down - you don't have that kind of time.

It's too late now if you haven't installed seatbelts on your toilet, but you might want to consider that in the future. Remember those little plastic rockets you used to fill with water and pump up until it would shoot up into the sky trailing a stream of pressurized water behind it? And you'd stand there at the age of seven, giggling like Rush Limbaugh with a fresh supply of Oxycontin and Dominican male prostitutes.

Yeah, your ass is that rocket. And it's going to keep firing off every hour or so for the rest of the day.

It's not like the bowel-clearing ability of this product is a closely-guarded secret - in fact, most brands of Epsom Salts have the word "laxative" somewhere on the package. But the rectum-reaming effectiveness of this product is astounding to the average American, raised for generations on "gentle laxatives" and "soothing, overnight relief." There's nothing "soothing" about Epsom Salts - at some point during the next twelve-to-sixteen hours, as your sphincter begins to be digested by the steady stream of stomach-acid and e. Coli racing through it, you'll curse me for not having mentioned the baby wipes earlier.

In the larger sense, I find this to be a metaphor for both Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Going Rogue

You know, I was going to drop $9 on a copy of this drek and give you a review, but over at Gin and Tacos, they beat me to it. So:
(To answer your question in advance, I owe early access to the text to blind luck, persistence, and a helpful friend in the industry who demands anonymity. Cross-posted at the Putz.)
Following American politics for the last two decades (and teaching about it for the last six years), I often feel like our political spectacles have taken on the air of an elaborate Dadaist performance piece, with each "Tea Party," Fox News segment, and Republican Savior more egregiously blurring the lines between reality, farce, and surrealism. We watch each Sarah Palin or Bobby Jindal speech fully expecting Ashton Kutcher to appear and let us in on the joke, informing America that it has in fact been punk'd and laughing uproariously at our gullibility. Our collective capacity for credulity has been strained to breaking.

Now we are faced with the daunting task of wrapping our minds around the Palin memoir Going Rogue, appearing atop a bestseller list near you. Millions of copies will be sold of a book written by someone who can't write, intended for an audience that doesn't read, about the thoughts of a person who doesn't think. God is dead.

If you are in a hurry, here is the succinct version of this review: Going Rogue is shit. It is groundbreaking in its banality and disregard for facts. If you are sentient, it will pain you to read it. Imagine watching your parents 69 one another while John Madden sits behind you and bellows out color commentary and you will have some idea of how excruciating and profoundly scarring it is to plow through each page of this wholly fictional monument to self-aggrandized mediocrity. Going Rogue is to the art of writing what the Holocaust is to the concept of a just God - the piece of disconfirming evidence so overwhelming that we are left questioning whether it can exist at all.

Going Rogue is not without merit. It certainly delivers what its intended audience wants. Readers who already like Palin will love it, much as America's pedophiles will find the latest Jonas Brothers DVD to their liking. The authors' talent for communicating the ex-Governor's unique rhetorical style in print is remarkable - the Sesame Street cadence of her delivery and the intermittent Tourette's-like winks leap off the page. The book, recession priced at just $9, is also an ideal gift for the Aunt or Uncle who assaults your email inbox with a dozen weekly communique's on the President's Kenyan birth and the constitutionality of income taxes.

Unfortunately that is an exhaustive list of its strengths.

The book is less a biography than an elaborate press release. Its 432 pages (with sixteen pages of pictures and no index) barely feign interest in describing Palin's life in detail. It moves as quickly as possible to its real raison d'etre - a methodical re-imagining of her entire political career replete with more excuses than a Cleveland Browns post-game press conference. Palin has never done anything wrong. The public have merely been led to believe that she is a dangerously stupid, erratic narcissist. Going Rogue is all about setting that record straight, offering a wildly implausible excuse for every crash and bang in her train wreck of a political career.

The theme that permeates the book - and with all the subtlety of an Oliver Stone film - is Palin's overwhelming magnanimity. The book itself was written solely for our benefit, to set straight all of our misconceptions. Her Hindenburg interview with Katie Couric was done only because Palin pitied the struggling journalist (no mention of how her personal generosity forced her to answer simple questions like a lobotomized rube who had never ventured beyond Wasilla). Her hillbilly-wins-the-Lotto shopping sprees and misuse of Alaska taxpayers' funds to take her daughters on vacations in $3000 per night hotels either never happened (er, she usually eschewed lavish accommodations for simple ones) or were forced upon her by others; McCain aides practically held a gun to her head and made her buy a new wardrobe. She resigned the governorship halfway through her only term for the benefit of the people of Alaska (admittedly, she may be onto something there). Her enormous legal bills stem from frivolous ethics complaints by her enemies, and she has borne these costs for you, out of the kindness of her heart. Buying her book and electing her to the presidency is the least you can do in return, ingrate.

A serious question arises from her narrative. Is she a sociopath with a messiah complex - i.e. she actually believes the version of events she relates here - or is she simply a shameless liar? Does she honestly fail to realize that the McCain team was bending over backwards to protect her from her own stupidity when she rails on about how they abused, demeaned, and stifled her? Does she honestly believe it when she describes herself as someone who wouldn't stand for a conflict of interest from a public servant, or does she consciously sit down at the keyboard and say, "I think I'm gonna make some shit up here!" with the intention of burnishing her image?

It is not coincidental that everyone - and we can use that term without hyperbole - involved with the McCain campaign and not named "Sarah Palin" has already lambasted this book as, variously, "pure fabrication," "other worldly," "blatantly and absolutely inaccurate," "total fiction," and "a serious mixing of truth and imagination." These charges would be predictable from liberal opponents, but they come from fellow Republicans. That is the shocking and crass aspect of this book. It is petty, vindictive, and reads like Palin was checking names off of her Nixonian enemies list one by one as she wrote, and the targets of her limitless bile are almost exclusively other Republicans. Barely a word is uttered of President Obama or his campaign aside from some factually errant potshots at his policies - including the "bailout" legislation signed by George W. Bush, underscoring Palin's slavish attention to detail. Nary an insult is leveled at Obama, Biden, or other Democrats on a personal level, something that cannot be said for Steve Schmidt and the rest of the McCain team. Schmidt may have seemed to the rest of us like a salty, dumpy campaign pro desperately trying to maintain order in a campaign that, thanks to Palin, skirted the line between chaos and comedy – half Ringling Brothers circus, half Triangle Shirtwaist fire. But Palin once again sets straight the record, depicting Schmidt throughout as a profane, hysterical misogynist hell-bent on destroying her and, she bizarrely claims, forcing her to abandon the Atkins Diet.

Going Rogue is many things, but it is not a good biography. It is a fantastic work of fiction and therefore not totally undeserving of commercial success. Every autobiography - be it from a political aspirant or the latest WWE superstar - massages the truth to some degree. Abraham Lincoln once called "tact" the art of describing others as they see themselves. This book proves that there is not enough tact in the world for a person with even the most tenuous grip on reality to describe Sarah Palin as she sees herself. If this is her attempt at positive spin, it is cynical and petty. If, on the other hand, she believes a single word of this, she is psychologically unfit to run for dog catcher, let alone President of the United States.

In short, the book provides ample proof that Sarah Palin's version of her own life is like the Turkish government's version of the Armenian Genocide - and approximately as trustworthy. Going Rogue is an irritatingly vernacular, fantastical, and cloying autobiography of a malignant narcissist, every bit as thunderingly stupid throughout as the person behind it. In what world is it either necessary or desirable to spend $9 and four hours to figure that much out about Sarah Palin?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

GOP ≠ Balls

Why are Republicans such pussies?

I mean, they talk a good fight – they like to pretend that they’re brave, stalwart defenders of all things good and noble (or in many cases, all things small and petty), but it’s classic bully behavior. The minute anything even slightly out of the ordinary happens, their bladders immediately go into Pants-Wetting Overdrive.

Around the country, the militia movement is gaining strength, fueled by white guys scared to death of losing racial primacy, and conspiracy theorists frightened to the point of heart attack that Obama is going to take away their guns.

Across the right side of the political spectrum, idiots are ramping up artificial outrage over Obama bowing to the Japanese emperor, frightened that America will lose whatever standing we have left in the world if we’re polite to the leaders of other countries.

Early this month, you had one lone, well-armed lunatic in Fort Hood, and what happened? The GOP stood there in a slowly-spreading yellow puddle shrieking about how this is the end of the world! Jihad! The terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad Muslims are coming!

Even their religion is based on fear: yeah, Jesus may love you, but you mess around and God's gonna fuck you up.

When the Twin Towers fell, the Republican-controlled Congress began eagerly shredding the Constitution, on the theory that if we lost all our rights, the terrorists wouldn’t be so scary.

And now that those same terrorists are about to be hauled into court, the GOP is soiling themselves at the thought that a terrorist might actually get a fair trial.

And then we get Rudy ("a noun, a verb and 9/11") Giuliani on Fox News, apparently believing that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed would tear through his chains, escape, and destroy New York with his bare hands, telling us that we needed to ignore what he said three years ago, after he testified in the trial of terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui:
"At the same time, I was in awe of our system," the former mayor continued. "It does demonstrate that we can give people a fair trial, that we are exactly what we say we are. We are a nation of law... I think he's going to be a symbol of American justice."
Apparently, that "awe of our system" has changed to "openly sobbing in fear."

His explanation was basically "9/11 changed everything." Which is the same excuse he uses for everything from "I left the milk on the counter overnight" to "My pick for police commissioner is now an admitted criminal."

Have I mentioned that Rudy Giuliani's judgement is questionable? Of course, when your entire career, along with your job skills, are built around the phrase "I was in charge when things started blowing up," sometimes you have to use a bigger shovel to move all the bullshit.

Why does the GOP push for harsher punishments for criminals if they don't believe that the system works? And how many prisoners actually escape from a supermax prison? (Here's a hint - the word "never" is involved in the answer.)

Let's be clear on this. Either you support the American justice system, or you oppose it. America is, in fact, built on a system of laws, and now we're getting back to them. We punish criminals. Live with it.

And stop being such a pussy.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sgt Pfeffer taught the band to play

It's been twenty years, apparently, since the Berlin Wall, fell. I have to admit, I missed that particular holiday. I mean, admittedly, it was the most obvious sign that the largest communist empire in history was collapsing, but in the larger sense, the failure to enforce the integration of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance in 1969 and 1971 was probably the item that led to the eventual dissolution of the Soviet Union, but really, since that's far too deep a consideration of history for the average Republican, we should probably just ignore any deeper truths and go back to the fall of the Berlin Wall (of course, to be entirely truthful, the Soviet Union was never communist, but don't try to explain that to a Republican - their brains will explode).

So, um... woo-hoo.

(Did I mention how big a fan I am of the run-on sentence?)

Anyway, it was November 9, 1989. Roughly two years and five months earlier, Reagan had made his famous "Mister Gorbachev! Tear down this wall!" speech. Which, in the end, had absolutely nothing to do with the fall of the Soviet Union, as any reasonable person could figure out. (But, again, don't try to tell a Republican that.)

Shortly after David Hasselhoff celebrated the fall of the Wall, I came back to the Fatherland. I was stationed in Spangdahlem, Germany from 1990 through 1997.

When we arrived in-country, the bloom was seriously fading from the rose. People had reunited with family they'd (for the most part) never met, David Hasselhoff was still putting out bad albums (although mostly without wearing his multicolored electric coat), and life, as it tends to do, was continuing on, regardless of the life or death of a political ideal.

The biggest job faced by the German people was most obviously demonstrated by driving west-to-east (with a slight northern tilt) across the country. Beautiful countryside, charming villages, grass, trees, well-maintained roads... fading gradually to yellowish-green grass, dying trees (if any at all), open-pit mines (mostly for soft coal), roads in disrepair, towns of blocky concrete buildings.

People were leaving the former East Germany for anything resembling a job, anywhere else in the country. The most obvious symbol of the ex-Communist country's industry, aside from the staggering pollution they left in their wake, was a blocky little car called the Trabant. Powered by a two-cylinder chainsaw engine, the former East Germans would drive them as far as they could, and then sell the vehicle for whatever they could get (frequently, the damned little toy cars would break down by the side of the road... sorry, by the side of the autobahn, and the owner would abandon them where they fell and continue on).

American troops in Frankfurt and Munich, looking for a cheap car (or "beater") would frequently buy two Trabants: since they could be had for as low as $50, you'd buy the second one for spare parts. (Occasionally, you ended up only able to assemble one functioning model from the two cars anyway, so it worked out pretty well for the new owner...)

One of the main disadvantages of the Trabant would have to be the way you'd refuel it — open the hood, add gas and 2-stroke oil to the 6-gallon engine, and swish it around to mix it.

A lot of people got in the habit of keeping a gas can of pre-mixed fuel in their trunk, because if you drove a Trabant, the chance of bursting into flame was only one of many things you had to worry about.

There weren't actually a lot of those in Spangdahlem, though, since we were just about as far from the former East Germany as you could get. Few of them survived to make it that far.

I'm vaguely curious how much of the shredded DDR they've managed to recover. Not curious enough to actually look it up. But those are my memories of the time.

An Immoderate Proposal

Reprinted from Hullabaloo
I have a moral objection to paying for any kind of erectile dysfunction medicine in the new health reform bill and I think men who want to use it should just pay for it out of pocket. After all, I won't ever need such a pill. And anyway, it's no biggie. Just because most of them can get it under their insurance today doesn't mean they shouldn't have it stripped from their coverage in the future because of my moral objections. (I don't think there's even been a Supreme Court ruling making wood a constitutional right. I might be wrong about that.)

Many of the men who are prescribed this medication are on Medicare, so I think it should be stripped out of that coverage as well. And unlike the payments for abortion, which actually lower overall medical costs (pregnancy obviously costs much, much more) banning tax dollars from covering any kind of Viagra would result in a substantial savings:
The price of Pfizer’s Viagra has doubled since it was launched, according to a list of wholesale acquisition costs paid by pharmacies, obtained by BNET. In May 1999, a 100-count bottle of the blue diamonds cost $700. Today, that same bottle costs $1,457.61, a 108 percent increase...

The blog of online pharmacy AccessRx notes that Pfizer has also been extracting more frequent price rises in addition to higher price rises:
… we’re not sure if you’ve been tracking price increases recently, but Pfizer began to raise the cost of Viagra twice a year instead of once a year in 2007. Including the last six price increases since Jan. 1, 2007, the price of Viagra has gone up 45.5%.
The WAC list indicates that while Pfizer was initially content to take price increases of 3 percent per year, in 2003 it doubled that increase. In January 2009, Pfizer bumped it up to 11 percent. Then in August it took another 5 percent.

It’s an astonishing example of pricing power, given that Viagra is in direct competition with Eli Lilly’s Cialis and Bayer’s Levitra. The heat from Cialis is particularly severe: Cialis sales in the U.S. were up 16 percent to $149.4 million in Q2; Pfizer’s Viagra was up only 4 percent at $207 million.
I don't want my tax dollars touching even one milimeter of that overly engorged expense.

I realize that many people disagree with my moral objections to men getting erections which God clearly doesn't want them to get, but my principles on this are more important to me than theirs are to them. So too bad. If you want a boner, pay for it yourself.

And I think those noxious advertisements for the drugs should be banned as well, if only for aesthetic reasons. Having to watch my baby boomer fellows wail "Viva Viagra" is offensive to anyone who has any taste in music.
Editor's note: It's brilliant, but it won't work, of course. Not as long as Congress is controlled by old white men.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Commenting changes

Ladies and gentlemen, I apologize, but the comment section now requires that you be a registered user. The many people signing off as "Pat Riot" have been making homophobic remarks for far too long, but now they've resorted to racist "coon" and "porch monkey" comments.

The time is past. I believe in free speech, but I also believe in taking responsibility for your actions. Anonymous comments don't get to happen any more. This won't stop the problem, but it will at least cut it back for now.

This isn't, kids, nor is it You don't get to make your ignorantly racist statements, and now you have to take some credit for your words.

(You know, the racism and some of those last comments lead me to believe that at least one of the "Pat Riots" was a guy calling himself Rodger on this blog - fascinating how he "proved" his points so poorly that at least one other of his own contributors were making fun of him, and he ended by throwing up a wall of illogical conspiracy theorist garbage, and then blocking any response I made - OK, I only tried twice. I'm stubborn, but I can take a hint.)

Update: So, based on limited comments from the remarks section, and conversations with two friends over in meatspace (yes, I do have friends, hard though that may be for some of you to believe - very forgiving friends, but friends nonetheless), it would appear that I have to take responsibility here (much though that pains me) and start moderating the comments. (On the other hand, this will allow me to drop the requirement to sign in, so there's a bonus...)

(Yeah, it's depressing - I'm approaching a half-century of life, and they've finally managed to make me take responsibility for something...)

We might be tweaking things for a day or two (take that however you want), but we'll see how it works.

Update: Wow. This is actually kind of hard. I so want to respond to this moron. It's been three days, and I've deleted five posts from him. It's like he's some weird stalker who can't help himself. He's claimed (despite all evidence from his own site) that he "proved" that I was lying about my military record (I showed that what he thought was reality was false, but he didn't feel like accepting that), he claims that I can't go a day without saying "homophobic" or "racist" (I'm not the one that shouted "coon" or "porch monkey," nor am I the one with the frequent "you must be gay lovers with Diogenes" references).

And the fact that I'm reporting all this here means I'm probably in for another two additional weeks of ignoring him. Wow. It's like having a stalker who can't do anything to you - you aren't scared, you just wonder how long this has to go on....

Friday, November 06, 2009

Mid-term Elections, 2009

I've spent the last three days looking at analysis of the mid-term election just past, and I've come to one firm conclusion: the far-right wing of the Repuglican party has no self-awareness, no understanding of history, and no critical thinking skills. (OK, admittedly, I came to this conclusion a long time ago, but this election has certainly reinforced that point.)

A small minority of people (you know, it would be cool if we could call them by a vaguely demeaning name that they started out calling themselves - you know, like "teabaggers") has, or is willing to pretend to have, strong feelings on the subject, and an even smaller minority of those people is capable of spelling their name consistently. That particular subset of vaguely-literate mouthbreathers want to tell you all about the world-shaking significance of November 1, but that just means that you're getting fed a big steaming heap of double-distilled crazy.

Half of them want to paint this as a giant victory for the forces of conservatism, and the sad part is, some Democrats believe them. When really, this is just the regular ebb and flow of the electoral process.

Look at the bigger picture for a second. Really, until you get down in the trenches, what happened was that the Democrats gained two new House members, while the Republicans picked up two governors.

But with that in mind, there's two things to remember.

One, when the economy is down, the incumbent tends to take a hit.

And two, off-season elections tend to go to the party out of power. Because these elections are sparsely-attended, and only the "true believers" are guaranteed to go. The party in power tends to sit back and relax, sometimes to their detriment.

But despite that, in the elections that "count" (if any of them can be said to actually matter), the two parties came out even. Or possibly tilted toward the Democratic side, since governors are state-level, while congresscritters are national.

You really want partisan analysis? Sweeping generalizations from too small a dataset? OK, try this one.

Hoffman was a disaster for the Raving Loony wing of the GOP. A man with less personality than John Kerry, he was pushed onto the national stage armed only with the ability to parrot talking points fed to him by Dick Armey. He was lauded by salivating, clueless lunatics like Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin and Sarah Palin. But as a consequence of the distasteful nature of his stated beliefs, the voters of a traditionally-Republican district backed slowly away from him, and into the loving, nurturing arms of the Democratic candidate.

Or look at it this way: in New Jersey, where Republican Christie won with 49% of the vote, 57% of voters in exit polls say they approve of the job Barack Obama is doing. In Virginia, where Republican Bob McDonnell won with 59% of the vote, Obama had a 52% approval rating. That means that, at the very least, a good number of independent voters who voted for a Republican, approve of Obama.

Hell, in the two states where the forces of teabaggery managed to get anti-tax initiatives onto the ballot, both were roundly defeated.

And the lesson to be learned from all this? The teabaggers aren't nearly the force they want to claim that they are. They're just a bunch of sad, disaffected, easily-led lemmings. They aren't a majority, they're just the loudest minority.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Is it a feud when it's entirely one-sided?

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Eric Graff continues his stalkerish man-crush on me and Diogenes.

For those of you who haven't been hanging out with us as long as you should have, Eric (or "Eman," as he styles himself) is a chubby unimaginative chucklehead who I ran into last June, never imagining that he would fixate on me like this. You'll see his name in the comments every so often, where he'll poke his head in, scream incoherently, and run off sobbing. After two or three repetitions of this, with his breath stinking of sacramental wine, he'll shout drunkenly that he's never coming back again, and he lurches off down the street, proud of himself for having braved the heathen hordes.

And a month or two later, he comes wandering back to repeat the cycle.

(To be entirely honest, incidentally, "chubby" might not be accurate - that's just the impression I get from his profile picture, which might have been taken at a bad angle. But I'll stick with it anyway, because it will really piss him off if and when he reads this.)

In last week's entry, for instance, he kept babbling about how unfair I was to suggest that Joe the Plumber might be anything but a fine, upstanding and (most importantly) heterosexual person. I think it also made him a little bit unhappy that I'm not particularly polite to him any more.

With Eric's fascinating concatenation of personality quirks grinding against each other and creating friction, I was almost willing to bet money that it would boil over into his blog. And it did.

You remember back in high school, when you were in biology class and you'd run a few volts into a dead frog and the legs would twitch? And every time you did it, they'd always twitch the same way? But you still had to zap it a couple of more times, just to make the little frog-zombie jump again?

Yes, that's right. Eric Graff is a zombie frog.

His blog entry is a roller-coaster journey through the depths of his twisted little mind. I'm not clear whether he hates Diogenes or me more, but I think that I was the only one he suggested should be tortured and then beheaded. (It's hard to tell with Eric.)

Apparently, I love gays, Obama, muslims and socialism (interesting that he makes a distinction between them, considering the narrow pathways his mind runs on), and I hate conservatives, Republicans, christians and America (and at least he sees that there is a difference between conservatives and Republicans). Oh, and he, in no uncertain terms, supports the killing and torture of all muslims. Everywhere, as far as I can tell; he makes no obvious distinctions.

But I'm a bad person because I curse.

He sticks with Times New Roman all the way through, but the last fifth or so is a random collection of changing font sizes and bold-facing, ending in his usual all-cappy shrieking - you can practically see the cheeto-orange spittle aerosoling out from the screen as he Glenn-Becks into frequencies only dogs can hear.

I couldn’t help myself. Reproduced below is my response to that post. You’ll never see it there, of course, because he continues to "ban" me.
So much anger, Eman. Sad, very sad.

I'll ignore your ridiculous mischaracterizations. (I mean, you were the one who doesn't understand "libel.") But let's see.

19 people working for a small-time Saudi thug named Osama bin Laden ran planes into the World Trade Center, killing 2,993 people (including themselves).

Now, because 15 Saudis, one Lebanese, one Egyptian and two guys from the UAE commit a terrorist act, we attacked Iraq? How does that even make sense?

Now, what would you do if, unprovoked, the Chinese invaded America, killing millions of our people and destroying our infrastructure? Would you just sit back and take it, or would you fight back? Think about the actions of the Iraqi people in that light for a minute.

Meanwhile, looking at that last half of your post, I just have to say that you must be a great Christian, since you so obviously live by the teachings of Christ. Wasn't it Matthew 5:39 where we are exhorted, when attacked, to slap the other cheek?

Am I getting that quote right?
Thank you for the laughs, Eric. We love you. Get some help.

Update (11/25/09): Well, three weeks later, I couldn't help myself. Like a child picking at a scab, I knew I should stop, but was hypnotized by the strings of goo dripping off the bottom of the crusty bit of congealed gore.

(Wow. That metaphor even disturbed me a little...)

Having gotten comments from both Dio and Real that Eric seems to have not just gone of the deep end, but crossed his legs and planted himself obstinately at the bottom of the pool, I thought I'd take a look.

FIrst of all, he seems to have decided to become, almost exclusively, a hate site for Dio and me. Almost exclusively. It looks like he's specifically shrieking at the two of us in every other post, by name. He centers entire posts around one or both of us.

Keep in mind that this is somebody I haven't had contact with in months. Essentially the internet equivalent of waving from across the street: a single sentence in response to a question he was asking rhetorically (but making fun of somebody he thought was Dio for trying to answer), and the hundred words or so above.

(Admittedly Dio has been there - not, apparently, as often as the voices in Eric's head say he has, but still...)

His latest post is about family troubles (not going to go there - no doubt he would, but I got class), but the one right before it made me pause for just a second. It looked for a second like he was answering my post of last night. Which might have pinged a little on the creepy-meter.

A quick check on the dates, and he beat me by about 24 hours. (So hey, at least he's prompt...) But again, he's specifically calling out Dio and me?

So I skimmed his comments, and found two points that I thought were interesting.

One was that he completely misrepresents our little debates - you know, the ones he requested - as if I did nothing but insult him. (Hey, I'm sorry that the truth has a liberal bias, but still...)

And two, having been voted off the island here, our racist friend Slam/Pat/Rodger is now posting there, and probably feeding Eric's weird delusions.

(There's even a string of comments where Eric is trying to pretend - or, sadly, might actually believe - that Dio is emailing him sobbing and asking to be allowed to post, and to please not report him to Blogger again or Dio will be banned. That's odd, since twenty seconds of research will tell you that's not how Blogger operates.)

Things just get uglier and uglier in that sad little corner of the world. I mean, wow. It was like a quick tour of post-Katrina New Orleans - that's 45 minutes of my life I'm never getting back.