Tag Archives: Politics

Get Off My YouTube! (A Reasonable Political Rant)

Much to the chagrin and frustration of my friends and loved ones, I am rather apathetic about all things political.

A moderate by nature and a conservative by obligation, I tend to be able to see issues from both sides and can appreciate the roads people travel that lead them to their respective beliefs. It’s not that I agree with those beliefs, per se, but I can understand where they came from.

It’s that mindset which generally leaves me bewildered when an election year rolls around. The unmitigated vitriol with which political slurs are slung is genuinely perplexing to me. And it pops up EVERYWHERE!

Yesterday, while preparing a lovely article for The Cool Ship on several YouTube vocalists and musicians, I was inundated with political ads.

They’re all liars. Image screen-grabbed from YouTube.


V/O (MALE, SERIOUS): Mitt Romney hates your family. He wants to take all your money and give it to big pharma! 



V/O (FEMALE, LIGHT): President Obama fights for American families and jobs!  

I swear I’ve seen that one. Haven’t you? And they’re no better from the other angle, either.

However, I gotta call the win for the president’s staff in the YouTube arena. I rarely see a pro-Mitt advertisement before the videos I watch. Now, perhaps that’s because I’m not watching the “right” videos (Right…get it?). Maybe Mitt’s ads skew toward videos that I’m not interested in.It’s possible, I suppose.

But, given the social and Internet savvy President Obama’s campaign exhibited the first time around, I don’t think it’s an accident that they’re all up in my business every time I want to watch a cat meow the Game of Thrones theme.

Overall, though, I don’t go to YouTube to learn about politics. Granted, I’ve watched my fair share of news autotuning, but, more often than not, I’m going to be entertained.

So, I will end my brief and reasonable rant with this: GET OFF MY YOUTUBE!

Unless you’re Chuck Norris, and you make your own videos that aren’t tacked on the beginning of what I want to watch. I love me some crazy Chuck Norris.

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The Week in Geek: July 20, 2012

Early this morning, a gunman opened fire on a packed movie theater where people had gathered to see a midnight show of The Dark Knight Rises. No jokes on this one, folks, just thoughts for those affected.

The third season of Game of Thrones will feature the storyline that George R.R. Martin is most dreading, and it has the initials R.W. I’m not sure what that means since I haven’t watched the show yet. I’ll just assume it referred to a shoehorned in reference to sponsor Redi Whip.

Twitter Outfit

B for Bel created some rad social media-inspired outfits. I thought the Twitter outfits would be shorter. See what I did there? Image courtesy of B for Bel.

Is portable gaming dead? Like Jamie Lee Curtis standing next to Michael Myers, Tim doesn’t think so.

Ducktor Who, anyone? (Yes, this is different from that picture I posted a month or so ago.) James Silvani has some fantastic Disney/pop culture mashups, but my favorite has to be Donald Duck as the fourth Doctor.

Donald Sobol, creator of Encyclopedia Brown, died last week in Miami. With generations of readers growing up on the series, the mystery as to why he’s beloved is easy to solve.

CDowd, creator of the fantastic all-ages comic Lilith Dark, talked to us (ok, well me) about his digital comic, independent publishing, and what’s so punk rock about sharing.

Belgium has an open air library in a vineyard, and I have a new goal to make it to Ghent, Belgium and obtain a library card.

Last week, I bemoaned the workaday existences that kept me from complaining about Comic Con in person (I have to settle for vaguely complaining that it’s more about Hollywood than comics.) meaning I missed the cosplay. No worries! Neatorama has a roundup of 50 fantastic examples of cosplay from this year’s con.

I remember watching Mr. Wizard as a kid and asking my mom if he even liked kids. I think my suspicions are justified in this supercut self-explanatorily called Mr. Wizard’s a Dick.

Pinterest outfit

The Pinterest outfits are perfect. They look easy to assemble, but you’ll never have all the pieces in your closet at once. So, it’ll just chill on your board for months while you tell your friends you’ll totally make it one day. Image courtesy of B for Bel.


Though I am a proud fan (And owner of a copy of) of the unjustly maligned Punisher: War Zone, I admit that I was jacked to see Gabrielle herald Thomas Jane’s return to the character in fan film Dirty Laundry.

In news of the obvious, Joss Whedon, the interweb’s czar-king-ceo-for-life, stars in videos written by children. I think this Whedon character is going places.

Rob lets you know what came out this week so you can buy it and watch it and enjoy it.

Marvel gave us the subtitles for the sequels to Captain America and Thor (Huzzah! Winter Soldier shall have his day!), but the crowd also got a glimpse of Edgar Wright’s vision for Ant-Man. My hope is that they put an Elizabethan collar on him and make him dance.

We’re a little over three months from the Presidential election, and TJ is wondering why, if we can’t play nice, can we at least play using facts instead of taunts and jeers?

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Election Year Political Rant [Rocking the Boat]

It’s July during a presidential election year, and you know what that means: people are going nuts. Every constitutional scholar on Facebook (which amounts to everyone, even though I’m fairly sure that few of them have actually bothered to read the US Constitution) is filling their feed with memes, pictures, statistics, graphs, and other posts proving that this candidate or other is a fascist, a racist, a socialist, a terrorist, or doing the work of the antichrist.

You know what would be neat? Actual political debate. Not name calling. Not assumptions. No drive-by commenting, but actual debate. Debating actual issues and ideologies with educated and informed opinions instead of “cute” pictures full of spin, assumptions, and high school humor.

Here’s an example of a recent one.

Maybe if we could keep the racism out of things it might help.

Or this one!

Crap humor. Hilarious.

What I’m saying is this:

Get informed (from more than one news source)

Start loving truth. Start loving facts.

Figure out what you are saying before you just spew something ridiculous.

Figure out why your ideology is the correct course.

And for the love of all that is good and pure, be nice.

Yes, it’s an election year, but let’s be human to each other. Don’t let your hatred of political ideals blind you to the fact that we are all Americans, and we all want to see the United States succeed.

(Note: Pictures in this article are from politifake.org)

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Wherein Mitch Daniels’ Argument for Capitalism Becomes an Argument for Redistribution

I recently came across a FiveBooks interview from two years ago (exactly: July 4, 2010) with Republican Indiana governor Mitch Daniels. Though I don’t align ideologically with Daniels, I was happily surprised reading through the interview. He comes across as well-read and eloquent, better than John Kerry in his FiveBooks. I’d recommend giving it a read, especially if you’re interested in the political philosophy of a possible 2016 Republican candidate and what a legitimate Tea Party candidate for the presidency might look like.

Mitch Daniels

While Daniels comes across well, his defense of libertarianism and especially the ethics of libertarianism fall short in the way I think these defenses usually do. The thing is, I agree with most of his premises, but I find them inadequate in justifying minimal government. Let me explain.

For Daniels, the basic moral “premise [is] that the highest value is the autonomy and dignity and freedom of the individual.” I agree with this, and this is a value that links together all strands of thought that evolved from classical liberalism. It is largely in the interpretation of the meaning of those ideals and the ranking between competing claims that modern American liberals diverge from their libertarian counterparts.* For Daniels and libertarians, autonomy, dignity, and freedom are “best protected and promoted by property rights, by free economic voluntary exchange.” On the other hand, for most liberals, a larger government role is necessary to preserve autonomy, dignity, and freedom against excess wielding of private power, unequal opportunity due to accidents of birth, macroeconomic calamity, and in cases where individual rights are difficult to allocate (public goods).

Later in the interview, Daniels gives his policy rubric: “We believe that leaving the maximum number of dollars in the possession of those who earned them is an exercise in enlarging freedom.” This, of course, is a contested proposition in American politics (and pretty much everywhere else), and I have some troubles with it.

He has an interesting and I think useful way of getting his point across: “I do this little game sometimes if I’m in a high school classroom. I walk around and ask innocently, ‘Does anyone have a dollar bill?’ – and some kid will produce one and I just stuff it in my pocket and walk on. After the consternation and the giggling stop, I say, ‘What, What?’ Then I go into a little rap and I say, ‘Oh, Jonathan wants his money back – notice that he is a dollar less free than he was a minute ago; if he had that dollar he could decide, he could choose.’”

You know what? I think his analysis here is spot-on. The kid who has one fewer dollar is indeed one dollar less free to choose. However, if Daniels had given it to another kid, the receiver of the dollar would have been one dollar freer to choose. If we’re measuring freedom in dollars of choice across the population, there is no change. In fact, if the kid who received the dollar rarely had spending money while the kid who gave up the dollar usually had plenty, that one extra dollar of freedom would probably do more to expand his freedom than it was doing in the pocket of the kid with money. Not in aggregate dollar terms, but in practical, subjective terms. And a lot of freedom, at least when you get past the boring natural rights way of looking at it, is subjective, based on perception rather than any objective reality.

Still, the difference might not be all that great in our example here. On the other hand, when you apply this to progressive taxation and wealth redistribution, the differences begin to matter. If one individual is earning $15,000 a year, and another $15,000,000, it’s safe to say individual 2 is in some important ways more free than individual 1. Remember the importance of individual autonomy to Daniels’ philosophy? With $15 million, you can go pretty much anywhere, you can do many things, you can retire and live comfortably for the rest of your days. With $15 thousand, the same opportunities are not available. Now, if someone is earning $15 million, it’s likely they have worked hard in the past and continue to do so; I am not saying they have not earned their income. They may well work longer and harder hours than the person earning $15k. On the other hand, they may also have been born smarter, faster, or more attractive, and had these talents fostered by growing up in a well off family going to excellent schools (perhaps even excellent public schools). There are a million complications that enter any moral discussion like this and make it really impossible to generalize.

But I’ll give one proposition that I think is justifiable: Levying a tax of $1000 dollars on the millionaire won’t have much of an effect on their spending autonomy. Giving a $1000 tax break to the person earning $15k (or giving them $1000 in the form of an education voucher, in the form of healthcare, in the form of food stamps, in the form of cash, etc.) will give them considerably more autonomy. This increased autonomy might have additional benefits, like lessening anxiety over finances, and lessening that anxiety might give this person the opportunity to plan, maybe to get a better education—this can be a reinforcing process of increasing autonomy.

Mitch Daniels, and libertarians more generally, usually start with admirable first principles, but their reading of freedom and appreciation for the role of chance is generally too limited. Progressive taxation and limited wealth redistribution are not antithetical to liberty, and in fact should only be employed because they often increase it. I am not calling for the workers of the world to unite or for equal wealth distribution. I don’t even care so much about convincing you that progressive taxation is the right thing to do. Mostly, I want you to recognize that freedom is broader, more varied, and ultimately, way more interesting than just the rights to life and property.


*I fully acknowledge that there are many varied and competing definitions of liberal and libertarian, and my descriptions may conflict with some of those.

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A Better Class of MMO [Rocking the Boat]

John wrote an article yesterday about his disappointment with the current World of Warcraft. I agree with all of his points, but I thought I would take it a step further and talk about the kind of MMO I would want to play. As I was thinking about it, I came up with this formula.

Mass Effect’s character creation + Skyrim’s open world and skills + Minecraft’s building and crafting + EVE’s approach to PvP and economy + Some other stuff + World of Warcraft  = A game that I would throw all my money at for a chance to play.

Curt Schilling, if you’re reading this, and this was what Project Copernicus was going to be,  I am sad for you.

Mass Effect’s Character Creation:

Besides being very customizable, Mass Effect has you answer some basic questions about your character. I’d love to see this affect the game in different ways. I also hope that it would encourage a little more role playing from the people playing the game. I miss having roleplaying in MMORPGs. Large scale RPing would be amazing.

Image: PC Mag.com

Skyrim’s Skill System

Skyrim has a rich, open world for you to explore. Put this into an MMORPG and make it even bigger. Let me pick my own skills rather than be shoehorned into a class. Maybe instead of being a warrior, I want to be a simple woodcutter and carpenter (this ties into my next point). I don’t mind a framework that I could work from, but I hate being forced into one of three roles with my class. Instead, I want to play the game my way, unbalanced or not.

Minecraft’s Building and Crafting:

Azeroth has a problem. Everything is only related to war and making war. You can only build things that have to do with war. I, however, want to stake out claims on land. Build some buildings. Mine some stone. Cut down and replant some trees. Pick herbs and make potions/medicines for various effects. I don’t want to just be a warrior destroying things; I want to be able to create.  And this just doesn’t go for building either.

I want to be able to make my own weapons and armor. I want them to be customizable, I want them to look the way I want. And give them the effects that I’ve learned. I want to sell them and be awesome. This brings me to…

EVE’s Economy and PvP:

A player driven-economy. Let people buy and sell anything and everything. Let people found their own towns, corporations, cities, guilds. Let the player’s recruit new people and send them out on missions.  Yes, this could lead to imbalance. I don’t care. I have no problems living in an unbalanced world. Factions will rise and fall. People will band together and people will betray each other.

Imagine having to hire a high-level body guard. He’d watch your back. Go out and assassinate rivals for you. And you paid him a set amount of money per month… so long as he stayed above a certain level.

Yes, did I mention? PvP and death have consequences. They don’t have to be big consequences, but a small loss of XP and dropping everything on you is fair, in my opinion. We played MUDs like that for a long time… and instead of whining about it, we decided to get better. To play sneakier. To be aware of our surroundings. This would also force you to manage your resources well. Put your money in banks… and other safe havens…. but you might want to buy insurance… since banks can be robbed and safes can be broken into. It all depends on how the players decide to build things. It could be magnificent.

Want to be a dark lord? Do it.

Other Stuff:

I like the idea of capturing random mobs and drafting them into a faction’s army. You could then send this army to attack other factions. The army limit would be based on the cumulative power level of the mobs, and the size of the faction you run. This could replace high level content/dungeons/instances with what is essentially a strategy war game. Coordinate your NPC mobs with the PCs in your faction. Take over your opponents city. Rebuild it in your image.


I’m not worried about game balance here… I think the free game market (with certain restrictions) could actually balance out play. Things could get ugly for you… but things could also be awesome. You could run a faction. You could lose everything.

Or you could just build a house in a town or in the middle of nowhere, and just farm, log, or frolic in the grasses.

You get to play your way. With hundreds of others.

Where can I deposit my money to play this?

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It Won’t be Easy Being Green.

“The Green Party is no longer the alternative, the Green Party is the imperative”
~ Rosa Clemente

Don’t have much time right now. I have to get down to the board of elections and change my party affiliation.

After being Democrat for my whole voting life, I’m going to the Green Party. Yeah, I know. I can hear you now, telling me I’m wasting my time, money and especially my vote on a tiny little third party which has no chance in the upcoming election and is barely acknowledged by the media and not noticed at all by the two ruling parties. Yeah, if Obama loses this November, I’ll be partly to blame because I, and others like me, took votes away from Obama that might have made the difference. Heard it all, thought about it all. But I’m changing and so should you. It’s time. You know why ?

courtesy of media.photobucket.com

1) I’m tired of compromise. No matter how good a president or politician may be, they all have to compromise, they all have to operate with more than principle at stake. We have a President who’s great on domestic policy, but is continuing many of the same policies of the Bush administration (when we closing Guantonomo, Mr. President?). Yeah, he made all sorts of great promises, but we got to be “practical” (so much nastiness can be hidden behind that word) about how the world really works. So the drones fly, the bankers profit, the world moves on.

2) I have to start somewhere. Every four years we get folks complaining about their choices in the political world and saying “We need a third party”. Then even if they start to support one (always for President) their candidate loses and they give up. Until four years later, maybe. As Ralph Nader has pointed out: starting a third party isn’t a matter of just working for a few months and getting a President. It’s a long term process, starting at the grass roots and working for years.

Electing a dog catcher here, a member of the board of education there. Eventually, over years and years of work, you begin to influence the national level. But we start at the local level because that’s where we all live and have the most influence and get the most effect.

There is no quick fix or quick satisfaction. If we buy into the “waste your vote” cliche, then no third party will ever arise, no new choices will ever be offered, no really new vision will ever be available. This is the only way it’ll get done: a new party will come from the grassroots up, becoming ubiquitous over time, becoming an assumed part of the political world we deal with day-to-day. First dog catcher, county sheriff, eventually state rep, someday, President.

3) It’s time for me to walk my talk. I’m tired of cynicism. I believe in what the Greens stand for. I really care about politics and how our world is run and the people to whom we give power. I think principle and the beliefs of our politicians matter, and so I want to support a party which is about clear and specific principles. I have long been drawn Green vision of the environment, grassroots democracy, respect for diversity, economic justice and gender equity. (Come on, Ecotopia !), but have never really taken the step because i wanted to be “realistic” and “practical” (sins for which I will answer, I’m sure). Well, looking at the mess we’re facing now, one man fighting entrenched power (not enough) one man busily selling his soul to entrenched power, (the concept of the Illuminati might not be radical enough) impracticality and idealism is looking pretty good. Just wish I’d strapped on a pair years ago when I had more energy.

4) It’s time to focus on what really matters in the present, not the past. So much of the vision of our two ruling parties is still insufficiently global and insufficiently local and insufficiently 21st century. We have long faced issues of environment, diversity and economic equity (just to start) which for our rulers are still secondary issues. I want a party for whom the rights of indigenous and minorities is central, the rights of women, issues of health care, questions of economic and ecological sustainability and population, not just who gets what part of the pie. Both our ruling parties are stuck in the past, when it was a different world. We are becoming a vast community and must see ourselves as such, not simply US vs. THEM. It’s a time of the increasing importance of diversity: cultural, racial, sexual, political, philosophical, and time to give up the attitude that we’re the boss and it’s our job to push everyone around. The world has moved on: economically, socially, technologically, it’s time American politics did as well.

Courtesy www.coverbrowser.com

5) It’s time to reboot. When you have a computer program or OS that’s old and been in place a long time, it gathers old apps, sub-programs, routines, etc. that were once useful, but are no longer, which got picked up along the way, that got buried under the latest update and now only take up space and slow things down. You have to stop at some point and reboot your system, clean it up and get a fresh start. That time is now. The fact that we can still, in 2012, have one party questioning women’s right to birth control and trying to gain points by painting their opponent as some sort of OTHER (“He’s not one of us !!”) means we’re still running Windows 3.1 when the world needs Mountain Lion.

6) It’s time to stop playing someone else’s game. I admire and voted for President Obama. I think he’s a fine man and a class act. But I also see the extent to which he has to play the cards he’s dealt and the extent to which he’s accepted the given structure as unavoidable. The given power structure of business, money, banks, cronyism, obviously hinders him, but he’s also accepted much of this structure as a given. His opponent is the tool of that same structure. A structure we never really voted for, a structure we got by default and which all too many of us assume we’re stuck with. I don’t want to see my vote and the power of American politics playing someone else’s game.

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they attack you, then you win.”–Mahatma Ghandi–

7) It’s time to wake up. A minority of Americans vote. Many of them because they don’t see any real choice, so what’s the point ? Thomas Jefferson said, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” Well, as a society we’ve given up on eternal vigilance. It costs too much and we think we have more important things to do. We, each of us, have to learn that we will get the rulers we deserve and if our attitude about politics is to “leave it to the professionals” (what else is a republic?) and just grouse about it over our beer, then we have no right to whine. I am going to earn the right to whine. Being an American means having a big responsibility: to work at the building of our polity every day. Any dictatorship (large or small, Sith or well-meaning) will gladly take that burden off our hands so we don’t miss the next episode of “Dancing with the Stars.” But if we truly want to live out the heritage for which men and women have died, it’s time to wake up and get to work. Not just every four years, but all the time.

So will we see a strong Green Party ? Green reps in Congress and on School Boards and maybe in the White House ? Not in my life time, but if more people aren’t willing to walk the talk, never. But if I work, if you work, if others work, maybe our grandkids will work in a different political world.

So. I’m putting my shoulder to the wheel and that wheel is Green.

How about you ?

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New Maps through the Dark.

Well, he’s finally done it. The President has finally put in words what he’s been doing with policy for 3 years: he’s supporting gay marriage.

"Thank you, President Obama."

For many folks, this is the step we’ve been waiting for. Even though President Obama’s administration has had a pro-civil-rights-for-gays policy since the beginning, the words from the man himself have always been noticeably missing. Our world is made up of symbols and images and that was an important one.

If you thought the war on gays and women and minorities and foreigners was nasty before, here we go!

Yes, I said gays and women and minorities and foreigners, because what it’s coming down to is a war about The Other. About who runs things and whose world view is the one that will dominate. It’s not about liberal vs. conservative, it’s about the consensual hallucination our culture calls “reality,” the shared values and beliefs by which we make decisions and set policy.

It’s about fear.

Fear of mystery.

As humans we’ve always operated on the basis of fear: what’s out there that might eat us, just beyond the reach of the fire light, just outside the entrance of the cave. We evolved, both physically and culturally, in a dangerous world. We lack claws, teeth and sheer size, but there are plenty of things out there that find us yummy, so we’ve always faced death and danger around any corner.

To survive we’ve become map-makers. Creators of maps that show where the dangers lie, where the saber tooth tiger hangs out, which path leads to a 100′ drop. The better the mapmaker and map reader you are, the more likely you are to survive. The more frightened you are, the more vigilant, the more likely you are to survive. We teach these maps to our children, memorize them, base our decisions and our lives on them.

Courtesy www.waggish.org

And shun those who offer different maps.

Even our religions are complex maps of how to avoid demons, devils and the path to eternal perdition (no matter what the founders original intentions may have been). Religious maps aren’t only about where we have to go, but who we have to be.

Now our Alpha male has challenged our most popular map. Now the fight really begins about what map we follow and who we must be to survive.

A society organized by fear demands obedience to the map. If you believe you are under siege, each member of the society has to have his/her place, his/her job and has to know his/her chart of organization. You have to know that Grug will be on your left with his spear when the tiger attacks. If Grug is off smelling flowers or contemplating the beauty of the clouds, you’re going to be dead.

At the same time, the growth of human culture requires he challenging of maps, the upgrade of maps and the offering of new, hopefully better, maps. Religious maps, scientific maps, cultural maps. Before modern communications and transportation, it was possible for these challenges to be ignored by the conservative, the holders of the old maps. But no longer. Within just the past few years the structure of our basic maps, our army’s basic chart of organization has truly been challenged.

What does it mean to be a man ? What does it mean to be a woman ? What does it mean to be sexual ? What does it mean to be “normal” ? What does it mean to be one of US vs. one of THEM ? For so long, even recently the answer to these questions were commonly held and commonly followed. The past 50 years have been one’s of dramatic change, but not as much as many think (ask any feminist), but now it’s all up for grabs. The maps are being challenged and there’s nowhere to hide.

No longer may we make assumptions about how power should be distributed. To be male, white, Christian and straight will no longer be held as the standard of “normal”. We are moving

Courtesy www.aztecrevenge.com

into a time when the maps will be trashed and redrawn and that is never a time of quiet. Because maps are always drawn in fear, fear that if they aren’t drawn precisely, aren’t drawn by those who really know what’s going on, they will be our doom.

And that’s why it’s going to hit the fan bigger and badder than ever. To so many of us, this whole thing is simply a question of freedom and civil rights. To many others, it is a question of survival, of the possibility that the new mapmakers are going to draw maps that will lead us off a cliff or into the jaws of the nearest big carnivore. President Obama is offering a larger vision of freedom. But to many, he’s trying to get us all killed.

Irrational ? Precisely. That is what we are dealing with. That is why so many clear headed, bleeding heart, tree hugging liberals are banging their heads against a wall, frustrated that the other side isn’t listening.

But the other side is listening . . . to something only they hear . . . to growls and scratching claws and whispered threats from just beyond the light of the tribe’s fire.


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Like Father, Unlike Son

For those of you who, like me, might not have been particularly politically aware (or particularly alive) in the 1960s, this isn’t the first time that the name Romney has been associated with a presidential primary. Leading up to the 1968 election, Mitt’s father, George Romney was considered the front runner. Well liked by his party, Romney was  favored to win the nomination — except for his annoying little habit of saying what he really thought about things. He was a supporter of Martin Luther King Jr. at time when neither his party nor his church looked favorably on civil rights. But what really sank Romney’s campaign were his frank comments that his earlier support for the Vietnam War was the result of being “brainwashed” by the military.

George and Mitt Romney in 1957 (source: The Guardian)

Rick Perlstein of Rolling Stone asserts that the trauma of watching his father lose the nomination was key in shaping young Mitt (who was 19 at the time).  The lesson, says Perlstein, was that “authenticity kills.”

Which might go to explaining why no one really has any sense of what Mitt Romney thinks about anything these days. Is he pro-life or pro-choice? Pro-gay or pro-family? Does he even know what he really thinks about Obamacare? More importantly, does it even matter? What Mitt Romney seems to really want more than anything else is to succeed where his father failed. He wants to be president, and he is willing to be whoever he thinks we or his party want him to be if it will get him there.

This whole learning-from-his-father’s-mistakes saga is a political story we’ve heard before. In 1988 George H. W. Bush ran on the campaign promise, “Read my lips, no new taxes.” But in the 1990  budget,  he negotiated with a Democratic Congress, he agreed to do just that. He was also cautious with his commitments abroad, ensuring broad international support before launching Desert Storm to liberate Kuwait.

Whether or not these compromises were the deciding factor in his failed reelection bid against Bill Clinton is not nearly as clear-cut  as Romney Sr.’s gaffe in ending his candidacy. Still, Bush senior’s defeat  appears to have had its effect unlike his father, Bush Junior undertook only a “coalition of the willing” (i.e.. largely Britain) when launching the Iraq War.  And he cut taxes in a time of war without seeking any agreement with Democrats. It seems that if George W. Bush learned anything from his father’s presidency, it was that compromise was not an option.

Aside from possible divine intervention (which I have no doubt Gingrich is counting on), Mitt Romney has secured the nomination his father lost over 40 years ago. And Bush Jr., unlike his father, and regardless of anyone’s assessment of his accomplishments, served two terms as President of the United States of America.

Invading Iraq may not be in the same category as winning the Republican Party nomination, but in both cases, the sons can claim to have succeeded where their fathers failed.

Mssrs. George Bush in 1999 (source masslive.com)

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Passion, Warfare, and the Democratic Peace

Click through for a great track

I take this column’s title in part from Steve Vai’s Passion and Warfare, a masterpiece of guitar virtuosity. The album opens with “Liberty,” then segues into “Erotic Nightmares” and “The Animal.” The album peaks with “For the Love of God” at the seventh track, and finishes with “Love Secrets.” I’m not just listing off these titles to fill space, but instead to hopefully prove a point or two on the conceits we sometimes base our lives and politics on.

We think we’re modern, we’re enlightened, we’re past the biases and irrationalities of ages past. Mainstream economists and central bankers were sure they’d figured it out, that the “central problem of depression-prevention has been solved,” that better monetary policy had put us on the road to steady, relatively stable growth for eternity: the “great moderation.” Of course, they were wrong.

Similarly, Francis Fukuyama’s “end of history” is still a long way off. Fukuyama proclaimed that since socialism had been proven a failure by the Soviet Union’s backward economy and China’s adoption of capitalist policies. Socialism had been the last challenger to liberal capitalism, and Fukuyama saw no feasible challengers remaining to liberal capitalism. The battle of ideas, which drives history, was thus over.

But today, this does not at all look a forgone conclusion. Islamism is still strong. Places like China and Russia may eventually turn into liberal democracies, but democratization itself could be dangerous for world peace (indeed, hyper-nationalist candidates performed well in Russian elections during the 1990s). And even if we could get everyone on the liberal capitalist train, would it be enough? While Gatorade might be the consummate sugary thirst quencher, satisfying our physical craving for sweets and need for hydration, it and the consumerism it’s a manifestation of can’t satisfy our soul.

The Democratic Peace

In political science, there is a concept known as the democratic peace. Generally, the term refers to the idea that democracies do not fight other democracies, and this has found a great deal of empirical support. For those who argue that social science is a good thing and relevant to policymakers, this theory provides a good point of support. It greatly influenced the Clinton Administration’s foreign policy.

In Liberal Peace, Liberal War, John M. Owen notes that the extreme form of the democratic peace thesis, that no democracies have or ever will fight each other, is violated clearly by the numerous wars between democratic city states in ancient Greece. Instead, he develops the idea of a “liberal peace.” Liberal states have two institutional features: open discussion and free, fair elections. As important, these states have a liberal ideology. Proponents of this ideology support autonomy for individuals, based on a belief that humans, when free of violent coercion, are fundamentally rational.

Qaddafi never went to a basketball game with Obama, did he?

Liberal states perceive each other as trustworthy and perceive despotic states as potentially reckless and irrational. They may sometimes form incorrect perceptions of other states, confusing a despotic state for a liberal one or vice versa, but on the whole they tend to recognize each other. Because they are likely to trust each other, they are likely to maintain peace with each other. But there’s a dark side to this: because liberal states fear despotic states, they may be more likely to go to war when perceiving a threat from a despotic state.

Essentially, this theory of liberal peace and liberal war is based in the assumption that states act strategically and rationally in pursuit of their security, although they may misperceive the threat posed by despotic states. But Owen also argues, drawing on Hegel, that liberal states define themselves both positively and negatively, by what they are and as importantly by what they are not. That is, they define themselves as liberal democracies, but they also define themselves as being the opposite of despotic states. As a result, he worries that the liberal peace would falter if all states liberalized, because they would no longer identify with liberal states against despotic states. “Perpetual peace” is impossible.

Virtues and Passions

The risk that our identities are intimately tied to having an enemy hints at risks hidden below the rational veneer of modern man. We see violence play out on the nightly news, but if you grew up in an average middle class home like me, that was never you or anyone you knew, it was always somewhere else. A murder in the violent part of town, or intractable conflict in a distant, backward country. These problems are often seen as rooted in socio-economic ills, and thus solvable, or are characteristic of some other group, irrational by way of race, culture, or history.

Homer recognized how these passions are not aberrations but rather fundamental to human nature. In the latter portion of The Odyssey, Odysseus returns after twenty years away to find his home overrun by lesser princes from surrounding areas. These princes had no concern for the household’s integrity, instead feeding off the wealth of Odysseus and disrespecting his son while trying to woo Penelope, Osysseus’ wife. Odysseus and his son, Telemachus, proceed to brutally massacre the “guests” in retribution. And remember, Odysseus is the hero of the story.

Some modern writers are conscious of these violent passions. Journalist Chris Hedges proclaims: “War is a force that gives us meaning.” The intensity and immense gravity of every moment in war makes much of life in peace look trivial in comparison.

Similarly, Robert Kaplan writes about the “euphoria of hatred.” Rational choice explanations for violence have dominated discourse, he argues, but they are inadequate. Conflict is not rooted only in poverty or frustrated transitions to middle class society. A more fundamental thirst for passion underlies these acts. In the past, armies overran cities, raping and pillaging the conquered. “Liberty,” which comes to the army because they are too powerful to constrain, is accompanied by “The Animal” and “Erotic Nightmares.” Terrorists, on the other hand, blow themselves up “For the Love of God.”

Kaplan worries elsewhere that a perpetual peace could corrupt humanity, stripping it of wisdom, of debates on fundamental issues like the proper structuring of society. Peace is accompanied by specialization, consumerism, and the ever-increasing desire to be pampered. The need to specialize crowds out time that might have been spent on expanding one’s knowledge of ideas and the world, and the pampered society exacerbates this by deterring people from reading when it’s easier to watch The Real Housewives. This is a life without virtue, without the ability to truly sacrifice oneself.

Souls without war

Taking the Kaplan articles side-by-side presents us with a worrisome proposition. People are given to passionate violence by their nature, and neutering violence turns people into sheep. Should we find causes to wage war against in order to save our souls? Even that might be enough. As Hedges notes, peacetime life already focuses on trivia and the meaningless, the light. So not only does war seem necessary, but conscription as well.

But this is absurd. We do not need periodic world wars to keep ourselves virtuous. The liberal conception of man is not flawless, but the ethical implication, that individuals should have the opportunity to determine their own fates, is a great foundation for any social structure. Kaplan is spot-on that by overlooking passion, we overlook a key part of human nature, and policy can suffer for it. He is also right that passion is important for virtue and that pleasure can be detrimental to virtue and therefore achievement; empirical work backs him up on that (I’d have never seen that if it weren’t for The Cool Ship on my newsfeed).

On the bright side, it's easy to stay in shape

So we need virtue, and modern comforts can wear away our virtue. But we do not need war to strengthen our virtue, we simply need challenges. At the social level, the “wars” on poverty and drugs are examples of this, and a national effort to overhaul our infrastructure could be viewed similarly. A problem with viewing these domestic efforts as heroic is that rationalist discourse still tends to dominate public policy discussions, except in national security. It is very difficult, at least in the US, to look at domestic projects as great undertakings.

This is okay. We don’t all need the same source of virtue. We simply need the willpower to establish our own great goals to sacrifice ourselves for. This is a choice, though. One can dedicate themselves to something and pursue it wholeheartedly, if they have the will to do so. It takes the courage to fail and willpower to resist instant gratification. But the rewards can be great. Albert Camus recognizes this in The Myth of Sisyphus: “The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart.”

Humans may have the passions of “The Animal,” but other tracks on the Vai album include “The Riddle” and “Answers.” Humans are passionate animals, but they are reasoning animals as well, and it is often better to utilize this passion in search of knowledge. But the search for knowledge is probably not enough either. The album closes on “Love Secrets,” and understanding how to love others is probably the most valiant quest of all. And love begins by eschewing violence against others for its own sake.

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Minor Similarities: What Trayvon Martin Taught Me About Privilege

source: Democracy Now

Privilege (n): A right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed only by a person beyond the advantages of most.

I ran across the following article through a friend who was following the Trayvon Martin shooting just as it was becoming part of the national conversation.

The title tells you a lot: How to Talk to Young Black Boys About Trayvon Martin; Eight talking points about the potentially fatal condition of being black. And it was far from the only article of its kind that I’ve read in the past few weeks. It outlines a number of sad truths about racism in our country and precautions that young black men have to take to avoid being seen as a threat.

Number five really stood out to me: Be aware of your surroundings. Especially when it’s dark. Or bright. Some people are on the lookout for muggers or rapists. You need to be on the lookout for profilers who are judging you. Don’t give them an opportunity to make a mistake.

The first two sentences sounded familiar to me. Which is odd given that, as a smallish white female, I am the last person likely to be profiled as threatening in any given situation. And yet the warning was one I had heard many times before in articles and pamphlets giving young women tips on how to avoid being raped.

source: Daily Mail

Once I was looking for it, the similarities were everywhere. Geraldo Rivera saying that the Trayvon’s hoodie was “as much responsible for [his] death as George Zimmerman was,” sounded eerily like “look at what she was wearing, she was asking for it.” Are we somehow less responsible for our actions when confronted with a simple article of clothing?

What struck me, though, was the unlikely parallels between minority groups. The difficulties created by racism and misogyny are extremely different, but somehow they seem to manifest in similar ways. Perhaps it is our unwillingness as a society to face our own worst qualities that allows us to continually push the blame onto the injured party. It is easier to say, “If only Trayvon hadn’t taken the risk of walking alone at night wearing a hoodie,” than to examine our own latent racism that might push us to sympathize with Zimmerman’s fear. Part of the privilege of being white or being male is that you are not held responsible for other people’s prejudices. This is not a fact we should simply accept and get used to; it is a problem we should be glad to be made aware of, a challenge to overcome.

That is not to say that the precautions given to women and black men aren’t important. It is certainly not worth the risk of rape or death just to give the middle finger to double standards. Still, the revelation for whites reading about the risks inherent in skin color shouldn’t be about what Trayvon Martin could have done differently. It should be about how we can stop contributing to the overall perception that setting and clothes were responsible for this tragedy.

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Keith Olbermann and Other Things I Hate

I hate Keith Olbermann, but only because I have seen his show.  Over the 8 years that Countdown aired on MSNBC (which I also hate) Olbermann spewed bile and lobbed unsubstantiated charges at pretty much anyone not on the DNC’s Christmas card list.  He got into fights with Bill O’Reily (whom I also hate), his twin brother from the parallel universe of Fox News (which I also hate), and brought in fairly good ratings as one of the more angry Liberals on television.  Daily, Olbermann would look smugly into the camera and in that condescending tone that made him semi famous and unemployed by ESPN all those many years ago, declare someone for some reason “The Worst Person in the World”

Proving that journalism was the last thing on his mind and finding it more difficult to stay atop the ratings pile with a Democrat as president, Olbermann decided rather than betray his adoration for President Obama and comment on his administration’s mistakes and shortcomings (I’m looking at you Joe Biden…whom I also hate)  he would instead leave MSNBC.

Olbermann landed at Current TV the brain child of Al Gore (whom I would hate if he had ever been relevant) and other guilty rich men.  Current TV is openly progressive and strives to “shine a light where other networks won’t dare and boldly explores provocative subjects”.

As a host, Olbermann has always done whatever he pleased with no filter or standard on his show.  He made all editorial decisions and had final say over guests and how much he would let them speak.  When he did not get his way he would hold out, threaten to not go on, and insist that Rachel Maddow (whom I…oh you get the idea) change her hair style because only one of them could have it.  While that last one may not be true, the rest of the list is the Olbermann SOP and is widely and publicly discussed by his former employers.

So earlier this year when Olbermann refused to cover the Gop Primary season until certain undisclosed technical issues on his show were resolved, no one was really surprised.  Well except for Captain Planet and the self-loathing rich man’s club at Current TV.  These issues could not be resolved and last week Olbermann and Current parted ways.  Each issued statements blaming the other for the break- up of this partnership.

Al Gore said in his open letter to Current viewers:

“Current was also founded on the values of respect, openness, collegiality, and loyalty to our viewers. Unfortunately these values are no longer reflected in our relationship with Keith Olbermann and we have ended it.”

So Olbermann behaved in the way he always does and Current is somehow only now taking notice.  Did they watch his show before paying through the nose for it to anchor their network?

Current TV did not buy a pig in a poke here. Olbermann is without a doubt always himself love or hate him (everyone remembers where I fall on this right?) Current tv has created a scenario in which I am forced to defend Keith Olbermann. You win universe.

As I was recovering from this thought, I was completely taken aback by the news of Olbermann’s replacment. Eliot Spitzer?!  Really?!  Where does he fall within the respect, openness, and loyalty to viewers?  As you may recall, Eliot Spitzer was the former  Governor of New York who resigned when it was discovered that he was, for lack of a better term, a huge whoremonger.  That is progressive, right ladies?

Maybe Current will fire Spitzer after auditing his expense accounts.  Maybe then they will hire Garfield the Cat and fire him for being lazy.

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Christian Conservatism: A Contradiction in Terms

I don’t want to rock anybody’s worldview (yes I do) but… I maintain that one can’t be a Christian and a conservative and have one coherent worldview. The two are opposites. Stay with me:

American Conservatism.

USA! USA! Source: RightKlik

America was founded on the idea that people (well, white men) should be able to go do their own thing with minimal government intervention. Go worship your god, make your money, say what you like, shoot your guns, live your life with as much liberty as possible without swinging over to anarchy. We needed some government, so we didn’t hurt each other, but for the most part: follow your bliss. This idea of personal sovereignty gave way to the American Dream, that with hard work and patience you could make life better for the next generation– that we have a relatively equal playing field, at least compared to elsewhere, and that America will not get in the way of your self-reliance. (Again, we’re talking about the idealized America, not the America where the playing field is actually steep and full of divots.)

Americans, then, in their purest derivation are rugged, fiercely independent people who can help themselves, thank you very much, and would like to be left alone to do so. This mindset has made us fabulously wealthy as a nation, and the most innovative people on the planet. Yeah, China, you like electricity? Diggin’ the Internet, France? And Brazil, how do you like that automobile? You’re welcome.

Source: iStock

American conservatives hold this rugged independence at the center of their political ideology, and use it to justify minimal government oversight and low taxes. And that’s perfectly fine. Except when you try to dress it up as Christian values. That’s when pants catch fire.


Let’s go ahead and define Christianity as the teachings of Christ as put forward in the Bible, which is the purest and most universal form of Christianity we have. There are many variations on this model, but everybody can stand by the Good Book, I think.

Christianity comes from the Judaic tradition, and there’s some serious tough love in the Old Testament. But Christians are supposed to believe that Christ’s death and teachings trump the Old Testament. It’s a New Covenant. The old one’s obsolete. Nobody turns into a salt pillar no more.

Jesus was all about mercy and humility. He realized the world was flawed, and that people would stray in their quest for perfection. Even he had his moments. That’s why he offered mercy, provided you were merciful yourself. He encouraged his followers to help those who cannot help themselves, to refrain from judging others, to practice pacifism, and to focus on their own relationship with God.

Pacifism? Like avoiding war? Like NOT toting guns to political rallies? Like, maybe not having guns at all?

Helping those who cannot help themselves? You mean like food stamps? Or a unified health care system? Indeed, Jesus said that in order to be saved, one must care for the sick and clothe the poor. I have yet to find someone able to  explain to me how opposition to affordable or free health care for everybody is not a grievous violation of this teaching.  I have heard the sentiment that making charity the law removes your free choice to be Christ-like, which somehow diminishes the whole thing.  Oddly,  nobody is using that argument to repeal laws against theft, murder, or abortion.

Source: Christian Mystics

And refraining from judging… While I wouldn’t qualify bigotry as an American value, I think it’s pretty fair to say we struggle with it, particularly on the right. I’d like to point out that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality– indeed, there are only three passages in the entire New Testament that might be related to the topic, depending on your translation of the Greek. If they are related to homosexuality, they’re related in a personal sense, not a go-ahead-and-get-up-in-others’-business kind of way. Whereas there are several passages where Christ himself asks you not to be so judgey all the time.

So We Have A Contradiction.

Somewhere along the way, conservatism became associated with Christianity in our country. The two aren’t always together, but they sure hang out a lot. And Christianity gets the shaft– conservatives (Lookin’ at you, Santorum) claim their American values are Christian ones, when indeed this is far from the case.

Jesus was not a political dude, although people wanted him to be. He said you should render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and focus on God. Christian Conservatism is a bastardization of his teachings.

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Rush Limbaugh Is Fat

Rush Limbaugh.

Yep, he’s all over the news right now. He’s Godzilla to the Tokyo of American politics. He strides through breathing flames, leaving wreckage and ditto-head worshippers in his wake. He’s huge, despised, loved, followed (by both despisers and lovers) and unstoppable. Although now that he’s taken on Sailor Moon and her sisters, he may be headed back to the depths of the sea from whence he came.

And people wonder, puzzle, ask, investigate: “What drives him. What makes him do what he does? What ancient radiation mutated a supposedly normal child into Rush Limbaugh ? Why does he do it?”

Simple. It’s because Rush Limbaugh is fat.

Courtesy www.santabanta.com

Now, before you put your fist through your screen or send flames my way, give me a moment.

I’m also fat, morbidly obese, XXXXL. Have been most of my life. If you’ve never seen me, I look a little like Ganesh. Only less enlightened and with fewer arms. Some of my best friends are fat, my lovers have all been fat and even my sexual aesthetic is fat.

So what does this mean ? It means I know whereof I speak. Because I am Rush Limbaugh. I’ve lived his life, know what drives him and could probably have wound up where he is, if things had been a little different. You see, Rush was bullied horribly as he grew up. How do I know ?

  1. fat kid
  2. grows up in American Midwest
  3. goes to school with other children.

Ipso facto, QED, he was bullied. 1 in 7 kids has been bullied between kindergarten and 12th grade. Between 4 and 8th grade, the statistic goes up to 90% (those were my worst years). Bullying isn’t harmless or easy to undergo, and it sure as hell shouldn’t be a “normal part of growing up” as it was described to me.

As a matter of fact, let’s call it for what it is: mental, emotional and physical abuse. It’s brutal, sadistic and can be deadly.  Suicide is one of the leading causes of death for kids under 14 and bullying is often a factor. They call it bullycide.

Try these statistics:

  • Over half, about 56 percent, of all students have witnessed a bullying crime take place while at school.
  • A reported 15 percent of all students who don’t show up for school report it to being out of fear of being bullied while at school.
  • There are about 71 percent of students that report bullying as an on-going problem.
  • Along that same vein, about one out of every 10 students drops out or changes schools because of repeated bullying.
  • One out of every 20 students has seen a student with a gun at school.
  • Some of the top years for bullying include 4th through 8th graders in which 90 percent were reported as victims of some kind of bullying.
  • Other recent bullying statistics reveal that 54 percent of students reported that witnessing physical abuse at home can lead to violence in school.
  • Among students of all ages, homicide perpetrators were found to be twice as likely as homicide victims to have been bullied previously by their peers.
  • There are about 282,000 students that are reportedly attacked in high schools throughout the nation each month.   (www.bullyingstatistics.org )

The scars are permanent, shaping the victims mind and soul as only abuse can. I can name my three biggest tormentors in jr. high, even though I haven’t seen them in 45 years. All those moments of pain and humiliation have stuck with me. They are my most vivid memories, branded in my brain with the heady mix of fear, anger and adrenaline. The perfect mix to make trauma permanent and deep.

The wounds fester and turn into anger, rage, resentment. But if you’re a fat kid, you can’t strike out at your tormentors physically or you get pounded worse. If you’re verbally facile (as Rush is, as I am), you can turn the rage into jokes, sarcasm, humor and other passive-aggressive weapons. You become the class clown, the actor, the speaker.

But you remain angry.

You have been programmed for anger and self-loathing, fear and hatred. Even those who loved you didn’t help. Helping someone with their “problem” of being fat usually plants a life-long tape worm of “there’s something wrong with you.” The anger, rage, and hatred bubble and roil and maybe you learn to suppress them, push them down, direct the energy elsewhere and maybe you don’t develop high blood pressure, eating disorders or ulcers.

Maybe you find a career which allows you to direct that anger outwards.

Maybe politics. Maybe religion. Maybe serial killing.

Or you use that speaking talent and get into radio. You power your rhetoric with a glib tongue and 30+ years of fermented anger. You get to strike out at those who don’t have the podium you have. You get to trash and insult others, hurt them the way others have hurt you. When you get called on it, you fall back on the school tactic: “I was only joking. Can’t you take a joke ? I’m the class clown.”

The fact that these others are innocent and didn’t do anything to you is irrelevant. You get to strike out, you get to stand above them, rule over them, get your ass kissed by surrogates for those who hurt you. You throw your anger in their face and brag about your success. As the Klingon’s say: “Revenge is a dish best served cold.”

And for every meme of hate and anger you throw out, there’s always more. The supply is never ending.

And that is Rush Limbaugh. That is me. That is what is created by bullying of the young and different, the weak and helpless.

So that is the lesson we can take from all this. Not that Rush Limbaugh is vile and mean. That’s old news. Not that he’s a misogynist and a racist. Also old news.

Actually, that may be inaccurate. People like Rush don’t say mean things because they have a principled political/social stand. They take the stand so they can say mean things. The key is finding the language that hurts, no matter where the politics may be. So for Rush, conservative politics is the stance that not only allows him to be a bully, but rewards him for it. A politics that values strength, masculinity, aggression and dominance.

Is this fair and accurate, you ask ?

I ask: can you imagine the Klingons as liberals ?

The lesson, as Andrew Vacchs has put it so well, is “We make our monsters.” Rush Limbaugh is the creation of bullying. So in this time when the issue of bullying is becoming more and more worrisome (about damn time) it looks like Rush Limbaugh may actually be our most qualified poster child.

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Muggles and Republicans

I love Rachel Maddow. I really do. She does a wonderful show that I listen to (via Stitcher) everyday and am always entertained, informed and enlightened.

photo courtesy msnbc.msn.com

But sometimes, the poor woman just doesn’t get it.

Lately she’s been trying to figure out the metamorphosis of Pro-Life theory among Republicans. More and more Republicans are aligning themselves with a pro-life agenda which is more far-reaching and radical than in the past. All the GOP presidential contenders have backed an interpretation of the pro-life position which would not just end abortion, all abortion, but make most forms of chemical contraception illegal. They have all spoken out clearly that they are aware of this and have no trouble with it. They don’t approve of contraception. Officially.

The state of Virginia is working on a bill to declare that “life begins at conception.” Which would do the same as above. In addition, a bill has passed both Houses which would require that any woman wanting an abortion must be required to have an intrusive (vaginally penetrating) sonogram whether the doctor in charge thinks it necessary or not. Some call this “slut-shaming” or “punishment for sexual activity.”

Heavy duty, huh? Poor Rachel is trying to get her head around the logic here. She’s a self-described political geek and none of this makes sense politically. Virtually all women (more than 99%) aged 15–44 who have ever had sexual intercourse have used at least one contraceptive method. Yet the Republican party, on the state and national level, has thrown their weight behind the elimination of contraception. Rachel is really confused. How can making illegal something that 99% of women have done make good political sense ? How can the GOP think they’ll win votes by threatening to make 99% of all women criminals. It isn’t logical. It makes no political sense. She doesn’t understand.

And that, of course, is because Rachel Maddow is a muggle.

Muggles, for those of you who have been Harry Potter-less the past 15 years, is a sub-species of humanity which has no talent or ability at magic. They are unable to use, see or conceive of the magical reality which whirls about them. Thus they are unable to effectively evaluate the actions of those men and women who do see the reality of the magical world. They must base their judgment and actions on visible evidence, logic, reason, science, falsifiable experiments, etc… And these things simply cannot detect or manipulate magical power.

So, if Maddow is a muggle, that makes the conservatives she is talking about wizards. They are in touch with a reality she isn’t. They see a truth she can’t. Therefore what they are doing makes eminent sense–if you can see as they do.

Anyone who has listened to the conservatives lately is fully aware that they have a source of knowledge and power that their enemies don’t. They’ve given it many names, but for the moment, let’s call this source of knowledge and power “The Force” (yeah, I know I’m mixing metaphors, work with me here), but it is magical.

Like things magical, it doesn’t surrender to  “proof” or “evidence.” To be a wizard is to know that the magical world isn’t affected by things in the muggle world only vice versa. The actions of wizards can seem strange and contrary (Newt Gingrich lectures America on sexual morality). They declare the existence of things others can’t see (weapons of mass destruction) . They believe that they can make something real simply by declaring it so (“Obama is a Muslim and a foreigner”). They detect causal connections between phenomena (gay marriage and the fall of western civilization) that are invisible to muggle research or instruments. They know the power that rests in rituals (sonograms before abortion). They are privy to secrets and wisdom that is beyond others (America was founded as a Christian Nation). In light of this, Rachel, what women do with or think about contraception is irrelevant. The Force has declared it wrong and that is that. Muggle concepts such as “science” or “historical evidence” is also irrelevant, since the muggle world is a lesser part of the magical world. This is a very old and traditional model of reality: Plato would have understood it perfectly.

Logically then, wizards are more fit to rule than muggles, since successful wizards (who can be identified by their overwhelming mastery of things in the muggle world: money, sex, political power, defining of reality and the like) obviously know far more than the muggles they are ruling. It is obvious that wizards should not be bound by muggle rules, while muggles, for their own good, must be ruled by wizards who will apply their superior knowledge and power for the muggle’s own good.

"The Force is strong with this one."

The wizards of the GOP have spoken of creating a smaller government that doesn’t interfere in the life of American citizens. At the same time, they propose legislation which will require the government to monitor the Internet, entertainment media, sexual activity, emails, phone calls, political activity and other private behaviors. This is not hypocrisy or confusion, it makes perfect sense. Wizards don’t have to worry about such rules, with their magical powers they can circumvent them (or the rules cover nasty things wizards would be disgusted to do). Muggles, on the other hand, need such rules for their own protection and safety. As many in the GOP will tell you: only wizards are fit to rule.

So, unless Rachel and her fellow travellers figure this out, they are in for a very frustrating political season. They are unable to see what the wizards see and thus will never fully understand what the wizards are up to. They are limited to such things as evidence, science, research, logic and reason. None of which are able to penetrate the world of those who possess magical power.

Remember Rachel:

Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards,


Bachmann, Gingrich, Santorum, Romney, Perry and Anne Coulter at CPAC 2012.


For they are subtle and quick to anger.

J.R.R. Tolkien

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The Republican Primaries: A Few Questions

Beloved Cool Ship Readers, can you help me out? The Republican primary has me asking myself some questions to which I do not know the answer. And it’s hard to get a straight response from a candidate. Perhaps you can give me one in the comments.

1) How does Newt Gingrich in any way “articulate the deepest-held values of the American people? The man cheated on his ill wife at the same time he led the public shaming of President Clinton for cheating on his wife. Is hypocrisy our most deeply-held value? Actually, irony might well be.

Source: Fashion Facts Folio

Indeed, if I were to list the deepest American values, at least in my opinion, they would be personal sovereignty, equality, privacy, and buy-one-get-one-free. How does Gingrich represent those any better than any other candidate? (And does anyone do more than a half-assed job at this, anyway?)

Maybe my question could be better framed as: How can the party of conservative social values support the nomination of a candidate with such an awful track record in his personal life?

2) I know the healthcare reform is rabidly opposed by many Americans, but why are they so much viler than anything else we have going on? More than the Keystone Pipeline, or Guantanamo Bay, or even gay rights or abortion issues? I get that people don’t like the new law, and I understand why it might not be constitutional, but why is it hated SO MUCH? Even the Internet’s balls-out rejection of SOPA seemed tame compared to anti-Obamacare backlash.

Source: I Can Has Cheezburger

3) What do you think this election is going to be about? There are so many big issues right now. There’s global warming. There’s our tanking economy. There have been more moves to restrict abortion rights this past year than ever before. Iran’s getting cockier. The Euro might fail. There’s so much to pay attention to, so what among these various major issues will swing voting patterns?

Help a sister out– post your response in the comments below. Thanks!

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Why I Like Ron Paul, and Why We All Have To Stop Pretending He Has a Chance

I adore the pure and beautiful American concept of small government.

I long for a nation where a state is free to regulate and deregulate according to the will of it’s citizens.  To be, in my case, an Ohioan first and an American second.  Much the same way that our founding fathers identified themselves as Virginians.

So, if you were in the business of making assumptions you would assume that small government minded, states rights advocating, conservative independents like myself would be stamping envelopes and knocking on doors garnering support for Congressman Ron Paul. Right?


I love Ron Paul’s politics.  We see eye to eye on so many of our principles. How wonderful it would be to not choose progressive-lite in this election and cast a vote for a conservative. With Ron Paul, we also get his plan to limit the size of government and restore America

Ron Paul’s stance on right to life is perfectly aligned with my own.  His thoughts on right to work and his plan to balance the federal budget place him exactly in line with the principles of most conservatives, while still slightly to the left of most libertarians. What a wonderful choice for your primary and caucus vote–except that he is still… Ron Paul.

So why can’t the most conservative candidate in the whole field win the conservative stamp of approval and the nomination of the GOP?

1.  He answers criticism by telling you what his opponent did or did not do:

Mother voice: Ron did you take that cookie from Mitt Romney? 

Ron: Yes, but Rick Santorum claims he is for a balanced budget, but has never done anything about it. 

That is if he bothers to answer it at all.  Take the accusation concerning articles published in the Ron Paul Political Report that contained numerous racist and anti Israel comments.  When these comments surfaced for the second time in 2008 (the first in 2006) Paul responded, “I never read that stuff. I was probably aware of it 10 years after it was written, and it’s been going on 20 years that people have pestered me about this.”

2. He will not compromise. 

Ron Paul has by far the most consistent voting record of any candidate in this primary race.  He has time and again proven that when he holds a position he will not be moved.  A great attribute for a congressman or a state representative, but sometimes in leadership I feel the man at the top has to give a little and consider ideas that originate outside of his own head.  Failing that a leader must at least build consensus and not simply state  “this is the way it is going to be.”  The past three years have shown us what that looks like. I am not interested in four more years of ramrod politics, even if I would often agree with the man in possession of the ramrod.

3. He is kind of a creepy Grandpa type… sort of like, “pull my finger, and we’ll balance the budget.”

The longer he remains in the race the more likely it is that the nomination will go to one of the less viable candidates.  In 2008, Ron Paul’s unwillingness to walk away from a primary race that he knew he could not win gave us John McCain – a presidential candidate that doomed us to the fate of four years of full flavor progressive.

When you put all of these attributes together Ron Paul is the conservative Ralph Nader.  A humorous and dangerous distraction. A caricature that embodies all of the most extreme stances of a party and as a result is completely unelectable.

Will he have what it takes to realize the futility of his continued campaign, or will conservatives again be forced to pull the lever for the “lesser of two evils”?


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What’s Too Much Government?

Like on "Hyperbole and a Half"

Recently, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended a nationwide ban on the use of cell phones while driving.

At first, I thought this was silly. I’m an adult! You can’t tell me what to do!

Except… I totally talk on my cell when I drive. I have texted while driving on occasion. And, most memorably, I’ve been the freaked-out passenger whose friend almost killed us because she was texting while driving. I try to be a responsible person. We all do. But sometimes, we are not.

The results of cellphone use while driving are dramatic. 3,000 people died last year. Forget the expensive accidents and injuries, there are 3,000 devastated families because we like to talk or text when we should be watching the road.

So, okay, maybe we do need a law, to protect us from our own selfishness and irresponsibility.

But by that token, why don’t we outlaw trans fats and smoking? What about drunk-texting our exes and falling asleep with the lights on? At what point does it make sense for the government to save us from ourselves?

Well… hmm. If I’m not paying attention to my driving because I’m texting, there might be a body count. We could reason that the government is actually protecting other people from my negligence. And government exists to make sure we can live together without killing each other. So maybe that’s the difference? My love of junk food isn’t hurting anyone.

But what if I’m a parent, and my love of junk food– serving it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner– is harming my kids’ health? That’s a whole new can of worms, I guess, because I’m their legal guardian, and the harm is not acute. And what about smoking? Should you have the right to smoke around me, even though secondhand smoke causes harm? How big does the harm have to be, and how directly correlated?

I’m searching for a good definition of what should be left to one’s own autonomy and what actually endangers others.

What do you think?

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Balance the Budget? Eat Your Broccoli

Hey, reader, let me throw some facts your way. Ready? Catch:

Renal dialysis is the treatment for end-stage renal failure, which is diagnosed in 100,000 new people every year. Basically, a filter is hooked up to your body to clean your blood for a few hours, a few days a week, forever (or until you can get new kidneys.) Or you’ll die.

How Dialysis Works

Dialysis cost about $43,000 a year in 2008, and all dialysis patients are covered by Medicare. It cost the American people $35 billion in 2005. Plus, dialysis patients generally cannot work, so we don’t get the economic benefits of their productivity.

You know what contributes to end-stage renal failure? Diabetes. It accounts for 44% of new cases, the others coming from infections, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and–Wait, cardiovascular disease? Diabetes? Aren’t many of those cases preventable?

Yeah. While some people develop diabetes due to an infection or genetic inheritance, diabetes can generally be prevented and controlled with a good diet and exercise, maybe some drugs. Same goes for cardiovascular disease.

So here’s what I’m getting at:

Americans spend ungodly amounts of money every year on health care, and the childhood obesity epidemic is going to make things much, much worse.  A hefty chunk of our workforce will be predisposed to diabetes and heart disease for the duration of their lives. This means they could develop end-stage renal disease, or other expensive illnesses we would have to find some way to cover– heart disease alone comes with a whole cohort of expensive drugs and procedures that often have to be repeated. 

I’m saying we need to be healthier, or we’re going to further cripple our economy with our health costs.

We think of health as an individual issue– I won’t get into the moral meaning of body weight, or the media’s unhealthy emphasis on unattainable thinness. But it’s a personal thing, right? Wrong. Our individual selves make up the population of a nation, and if most of us are unhealthy, all of us are screwed. And while some illnesses are out of your control, there are a few things you can do to dramatically cut your chances of chronic disease.

Go out and get 30 minutes of exercise most days. You don’t have to run a marathon; going for a walk will do. Quit smoking. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables– this will ward off cancer and a whole other host of maladies, and might be enough to keep your weight in check. Drink enough water and get enough sleep. Set a good example for any little ones in your life, and for your peers.  Because your health is just as political as your right to vote.

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Ron Paul’s Platform: Crazy or Genius?

My last column—er, rant—bemoaned our awful choices in terms of a Republican presidential candidate. I ended with the concession that Ron Paul is a straight-shooting kind of guy, and perhaps the only decent pick of the lot.

Definitely a departure from the status quo

Paul has a non-traditional platform that seeks to shrink the size of the federal government in order to cut the national debt and turn over many government functions to the states. This is not a new idea. In fact, that was the original plan for the United States: a collection of united states. And then history happened, and we became a more singular entity.

Paul is making some beefy promises—$1 trillion cut from the national budget in his first year of presidency, a balanced budget in year three. To do this, he wants to dismantle the Departments of Education, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Commerce, and Interior.  He also wants to shrink our military presence (although we’d still have a big army ready to blot out the sun with our arrows and a really scary intelligence agency for sniffing out bad guys.)

I think Ron Paul is one of the few politicians willing to look objectively at our government structure and then truly lead Americans out of our national debt crisis, wielding a machete. Sounds great.

Unless our national debt just becomes divided into fifty, and we have no functioning government to save ourselves from the stupid.

Because we’d be giving up things previous presidents—and the voters who supported them—thought we needed. Literally, thousands of things. Things we might not realize we need. Just from perusing Paul’s website, I’m concerned about:

I can hear it in my head...

– A kabosh on the creation of a standardized electronic medical record. If you’re a student, or just moved, or on vacation, and you get hit by a car and need surgery, a standard record means your newly-appointed surgeon knows you’re allergic to latex, or a diabetic, or whatever. It keeps you safe, and makes medicine faster, cheaper, and more efficient. This is just one example of good federal spending, the reason we have a federal government in the first place.

– Overall, I don’t think Ron Paul has enough of a plan to fix our healthcare program. It’s broken, whether you support Obama’s plan or not, and we can’t ignore that.

– Oh, and he wants to repeal Roe v. Wade and completely de-fund places like Planned Parenthood, even though he must know that lots of women go there for all their basic care and, y’know, to prevent an abortion in the first place.

– Paul also thinks that the free market is enough to regulate our impending energy crisis, and that environmentalists are “alarmist.” Because that worked so well before. How did we get into this dire situation, again?

Here’s my verdict: I recognize that the only way to drastically cut our federal spending is to drastically cut our federal government. I am not convinced that we won’t still be in ludicrous debt, since we’ll just be transferring responsibilities to state governments, many of whom have revenue problems to begin with. And I’m freaked out by the repeal of laws and statutes protecting women’s rights and our environment. We fought really hard for these protections, because we recognized a need for them. I’m suspicious of the free market because, um, I read the news.

What do you think of Ron Paul’s ideas?

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The Greatest Show on Earth?

I guess I should start with a disclaimer that I’m a political moderate. No, really, there are still moderates out there. I think we should cut entitlement programs (gradually) and raise taxes. We’d save a lot of money overall if we instituted a national health care system. You can have your guns, but I want a full suite of reproductive rights. We should really scale back on our environmental impact, but we need to preserve the functioning of our military and intelligence agencies.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way:

What the hell is wrong with all the Republican Party candidates?

It’s like a continual circus, with Barack Obama just chillin’ in the wings, waiting to see which clown he’s up against. Does the GOP think moderate voters would actually support any of these people?

The elephant also symbolizes the GOP: coincidence? I think not.

Facts and reasonable arguments have been completely swapped out for gimmicks and ravings. Complete and utter bullcrap gets batted around on a regular basis, and nobody seems all that concerned. Let me throw some examples your way, although if you ever venture into public domain, I’m sure you’ve already had ample opportunities to stare this madness in the face.

Michele Bachmann leads the pack, bringing the crazy with her complete disregard for anyone with advanced scientific training:

“Carbon dioxide is portrayed as harmful. But there isn’t even one study that can be produced that shows that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas.” -April ’09

“Her little daughter took that vaccine, that injection, and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter.” -September ’11

Newt Gingrich thinks we should repeal child labor laws so poor children can just go straight to work.

He also claimed that Obama is as dangerous to the American public as Communists and Nazis, because “he gets to decide who earns how much. He gets to decide when it’s too much.” Even the FOX News interviewer thought this was a little far-fetched.

Mitt Romney is a bit more credible as a candidate, perhaps, but not by much:

“I’m happy to learn that after I speak you’re going to hear from Ann Coulter. That’s a good thing. I think it’s important to get the views of moderates.” -March ’07

Pick your poison.

That might have just been a mix-up, so let’s back that up with a quote on reproductive rights, since he’s changed teams in that arena. In 2005, Romney vetoed a bill regarding the morning-after pill, because “It disregards not only the seriousness of abortion but the importance of parental involvement.” Except, y’know, Plan B doesn’t cause an abortion. I would hope that someone tasked with arbitrating laws on a drug’s accessibility would at least understand what it is.

Beloved readers, bullets of complete and utter incorrectness are flying past our heads at breakneck speed!

One could certainly articulate thoughtful, legitimate complaints about the Obama administration’s handling of national issues. We are certainly a nation in crisis, with our financial woes (Are those real numbers!?), the coming of the most chronically-ill generation of workers in our history, and the potential for an environmental apocalypse. We are at a crossroads; we need to make some plans and execute them if we want our country to continue in its current incarnation. And what have we got to choose from? An incumbent with admitted flaws versus the Ringling Bros.

Have we brought this on ourselves? Perhaps the public has been too amused by all the hoopla, too eager to blast the other side and champion the sound bite, not the speaker. Maybe we focus too much on gaffes, and not enough on fact-checking. We are left with few good choices here, and I think it’s because we never demanded better ones.

I mean, really, shame on us.

At least he's thinking.

The one straight-shooting candidate on the Republican roster would be dark horse Ron Paul. He has some good ideas, but he wants to make dramatic changes to our current status quo, which might be more than most voters bargained for. I’m a fan of the Department of Energy, for example, and I think we have most of our government institutions because we have a need for them. Ron Paul is certainly bringing meaningful ideas to the table, which is more than I can say for his Republican compatriots.

What do you think?  Is this sad state of affairs our fault?

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