Monday, November 30, 2009

Bigots of the World, Unite!

Is it wrong that I get a certain sense of pride out of this sort of thing?
Swiss voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional ban on minarets on Sunday, barring construction of the iconic mosque towers in a surprise vote that put Switzerland at the forefront of a European backlash against a growing Muslim population.
"The minaret is a sign of political power and demand, comparable with whole-body covering by the burqa, tolerance of forced marriage and genital mutilation of girls," the sponsors said.

Anxieties about growing Muslim minorities have rippled across Europe in recent years, leading to legal changes in some countries. There have been French moves to ban the full-length body covering known as the burqa. Some German states have introduced bans on head scarves for Muslim women teaching in public schools. Mosques and minaret construction projects in Sweden, France, Italy, Austria, Greece, Germany and Slovenia have been met by protests.
Ha!  For as much as some folks like to imagine America to have some monopoly on intolerance, it's nice to see the high and mighty Europeans practicing some good old fashioned hatred for a change.  Yes, a minaret is the same as genital mutilation.  Fricking morons. 

And yeah, while I'm completely ashamed that there are such intolerant bastards in the world, it's just nice to have a little reminder that they're not all limited to my own country.  And hell, maybe this sort of news might somehow permeate into the conservative mindset and they might actually become more tolerant of internationalism. 

First, they accept Swiss and French bigots, and before you know it, they'll start accepting bigots of all races, colors, and creeds.  And in the end, they'll long for the opprotunity of having a One World Congress which permits them to outright oppose the one true enemy: Liberals.  Baby steps, people.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Gingrich Strikes Again

I now know someone who is being swindled by Newt Gingrich's American Business Defense and Advisory Council malarky.  He even bragged about how he'd be getting a replica of Newt's gavel.  I honestly wanted to tell him what a scam it was, and how they'll offer it to anyone who's willing to give them money, but the guy was so excited that I didn't have the heart to tell him.  The best I could do was muster a mild "wow, yeah" which didn't require me to lie.  Even hearing him tell the lady on the phone how evil Obama is wasn't enough for me to want to burst his bubble. 

I'm really much too kind of a person.  Or perhaps that's cowardice, I'm not sure.  Either way, I decided to let him have his fun and pray that he never decides to discuss politics with me.  He really is a nice guy and I'm quite certain that I'd destroy him in a debate.  That's a problem with life: The good guys don't want to rub it in, while the bad guys won't stop even when they're wrong. 

And besides, if giving Newt money makes this guy feel better and he thinks he can afford it, then who am I to burst his bubble?  Besides, that same money could have been used for evil, like giving it to an actual politician who might use it to hurt Democrats; rather than lining Newt's slimy pockets, so I guess that's a plus too.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Party Like It's 1994

Via Atrios, we get more clueless political commentary, this time from CQ Politics:

A lack of competitive open-seat House races in 2010 could complicate Republican efforts to fully maximize a favorable national environment and make large seat gains after back-to-back elections where the political winds were blowing in the opposite direction.
So far, 18 members have announced they are not seeking re-election in 2010 and are running for other office — but only six of those races are currently considered competitive. No member has yet announced an outright retirement, which is unusual; at this point in the 2008 cycle, 14 members had announced their retirement and five others were running for Senate.
And first off, as Atrios asks, what current favorable national environment are they talking about?  Yes, the conservative base is in an anti-Obama frenzy, but seeing as how they're all scary freaks, I fail to see how this is a good thing for Republicans.

And another thing, the article is misleading in that they mean to say that only six of the eighteen are Democratic districts, while the other twelve are open seats for Republican districts.  In fact, based upon what it says elsewhere in the article, there are currently only three open seats in Democratic districts that are competitive for Republicans.  Three.  The basis for CQ's entire article rests upon three seats.  Meanwhile, it mentions three Republican seats that Dems might easily pick up.

In other words, twice as many Republicans are retiring as Democrats, and both sides look like they can easily poach three seats from the other.  And from this, we're to imagine that the political winds strongly favor Republicans and it's 1994 all over again; all evidence to the contrary.

Twelve is Bigger than Six

But even by the standards of the article, if only six of eighteen open election seats are competitive for Republicans, that would kind of indicate a bad thing for Republicans, as it would be an indicator that they're not very popular.  And seeing as how this follows up five special elections this year in which Democrats won open seats, including a traditionally Republican district in New York, there would seem to be some indication that things aren't doing so well for Republicans.  And when you throw in the long series of polls which show Republicans in the basement, it appears that Republicans are still relying on smoke & mirrors to appear strong and are set to lose their third straight election.

The article mentions the high number of retirements in 1994 and 2008, without understanding that the reason for the high number of retirements was because incumbents felt weak.  The political climate caused the retirements; it wasn't coincidental to them.  And conversely, if there are few retirements, it would indicate that incumbents feel strong.  Even in the section I quoted above it mentions that this is a much different retirement situation than in 2008, in which nineteen Congressional retirements had been officially announced by this point, while none have been announced this year.  And again, that would be a bad sign for Republicans and indicate that the political winds do not, in fact, favor them.

Yet the CQ article seems to see these as unrelated events, as if it's purely bad luck that Republicans aren't very competitive.  Of course they're popular, because they say they're popular; too bad voters don't seem to realize it yet.  And for as much as Republicans in the article insist that 2010 will be another 1994, anyone paying attention knows that these people always think it's 1994.

And of course, even the victory of '94 was vastly overrated.  Not only have Republicans not recovered from the excesses of their hubris, but they still haven't hit bottom yet.  As a reminder, they had losses in the two congressional elections following '94, despite Republican predictions to the contrary.  Perhaps after another defeat they'll finally enter a true "wilderness" phase and figure out what they're doing wrong.  But more likely, they'll just double-down on the crazy and insist that their luck is changing.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Financing Education

Something is most definitely wrong with our education system.

AISD Superintendent Carstarphen:
If we simply reduced the number of absences by half across the district, excused and unexcused, I could generate $20 million.
This isn't how things should work.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Instant Expertise

My sister learned everything she needed to know about healthcare reform by reading an op/ed by the CEO of Whole Foods.  I swear to god, that was it.  She favors the removal of all government regulations from health insurance and health care because she's healthy and if everyone took care of themselves like she does, they wouldn't get sick or need insurance.  She just turned thirty, is childless, and hasn't gotten sick in years.  And so her preferred healthcare reform is built around the idea that everyone should be just like her, and if they're not, then it's Darwin time.  What could be easier?  And yes, this is pretty much exactly what she said.

And sure, I'm a bright guy who knows enough about healthcare to poke all kinds of holes into her theory, but no dice.  She just ain't having it.  She read one op/ed by a guy who got lambasted for the ignorance of his op/ed, and that's good enough for her.  Debating an expert like this is a sheer exercise in futility.

In other family news, my dad is still quite insistent that no one has seen Barack Obama's birth certificate and he probably shouldn't be president.  And sure, I offered to show him all the evidence he should need to prove that he's wrong, as we had a computer right next to us while we were talking, but this just angered him and put an end to the discussion.  He's been told by people he chooses to trust that Obama shouldn't be president and that's good enough for him.  People get the experts they deserve.

Terrorist Rampages

Was the shooting at Fort Hood a "terrorist act"?  Sure, I'll agree to that.  But of course, so was Columbine.  And the Virginia Tech killer.  And that guy who shot up the Aerobics class.  These are all terrorist acts.  It's all about powerless people trying to show that they're not as powerless as they seem; and of course, we're all supposed to not notice what it is that gives them their power (Hint: It's guns.).

But how to stop these things.  You can't.  This isn't something you can trace back to a terrorist training camp.  We can't wiretap their minds...yet.  And no number of invasions will make it possible for us to stop these events from occurring.  Rampages happen.  People flip out.  You can't stop the crazy.  I suppose one rational answer would be to limit their ability to obtain weapons of mass destruction, but short of that, there ain't much we can do.  There will always be crazies who kill people.

And this isn't a Muslim thing, or a school thing, and it might not even be a gender thing (though rampaging murderers tend to be male).  The primary issue is that we have an imperfect society that makes certain people feel less powerful than they imagine they deserve.  And they get roped into a warped way of looking at life, that blames everyone else for their own problems.  They are their own worst enemies and project that out upon the world; seeing hatred everywhere because they hate so much. 

And the question isn't why this keeps happening, but why this doesn't happen more often.  Killing people is easy.  And if someone feels pressured into thinking that violence is their only option, then they're going to use violence.  Our goal isn't to make it so that people can't rampage, but rather, to limit the number of these rampages.  And while I do think there are some good things that can be done in this regard, I seriously can't imagine how any of them would come from Joe Lieberman's committee.

The Movie

There is one other alternative to this: Aliens.  Shape-shifting aliens invaded Fort Hood and Hasan was the only one who figured it out and was trying to wipe out the alien menace before they took over.  He killed most of them, but the Colonel stopped him and had him arrested.  It turns out the Colonel is the head alien!  After the arrest, the aliens flood the media with negative news about Hasan, saying that he's an Islamic extremist who hates America; making him the most hated man in the country. 

At some point Hasan escapes and a giant manhunt ensues to capture him.  He's taken in by a group of Klansmen who have temporarily suspended their hatred of non-whites to focus instead on non-humans.  The final battle pits the alien-controlled Fort Hood against all the militias, separatists, neo-confederates, and anyone else with a shotgun.  They come charging in on their pickup trucks, guns blazing.  Hasan leads the charge.  It's a tough battle, interspersed with violence, mayhem, and zaniness. 

Finally, just as it looks as if Hasan is about to be killed by the Colonel, the hottie hillbilly girl kills the Colonel.  Hasan rushes up to her, they look at each other momentarily, then kiss.  Love conquers all.

Oh, and the sequel involves Hasan taking an alien ship back to the home planet, to wipe them out before they wipe us out.  And in the final movie, racial harmony ends after the defeat of the aliens, and race wars break out across the globe.  It turns out aliens are involved in this, and Hasan has to bring the ancient alien ruler to earth, in order to end the assault.  But is he in time...  And yes, I really am too good at this.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Obama: Making Shit Work

It's accepted as a matter of faith that Obama would be happy with any reform bill, so he can claim a victory no matter how shitty it is.  And the idea is that Obama would put politics ahead of policy and be happy to give us a shitty bill.  But that's absolute nonsense.  Because Obama has to live with this bill.  And the shittier it is, the worse the repercussions for him politically.  If he spends all this energy and healthcare gets worse, it's his neck on the line. 

Although many aspects of the reform still won't have started by 2012, we'll still have a good enough idea of how it's working.  And if the bill is considered a failure, they're going to hang it around his neck every chance they get.  And the only way to avoid that is to create a good bill that does what he said he wanted it to do.  And while that still might not be feasible, it's at least more feasible with Obama's technique than it's ever been with anyone else's. 

And so even if Obama is an empty political hack, it would be only natural for him to push as hard as he can for a bill he can live with.  After all, if he was a political coward, he wouldn't have offered to play with this hornet's nest at all.  But once he threw his hat in the ring, he was all-in.  That's the secret of the liberal platform: We have working magic.  We know how to use the government to truly fix problems.  And so the best thing a liberal can do politically is to provide great policies.  As long as we're making shit work, we're golden.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Punishing Children

The whole reason we treat kids differently from adults is because we don't think kids are as capable as adults at making the right decisions; and there is much science to back that up.  Yet, why is it that when kids commit heinous crimes, crimes which would indicate that the perpetrator really doesn't know what he's doing, we decide to treat them like adults?

Case in point:
With community outrage over the attacks swirling around the case, District Attorney Dolores Carr announced she would try the three juvenile defendants as adults,
Carr said her office chose to charge the juveniles as adults because of a combination of factors, including their gang membership and the fact it was "an unprovoked group attack" on the two trick-or-treaters. The defendants face a maximum sentence of life in prison.

And frankly, I don't have any decent answers for this.  No, I don't think that violent people should have a Get Out of Jail Free card if they're underage.  And of course, I think our entire judicial system is in need of a major overhaul, as it generally seems to make people worse than they were before they were in it and the concept of rehabilitation is a complete joke.  As things are, our judicial system is solely designed to punish bad people while proving that they deserved to be punished.  And that's just not something I agree with.

But the main point is that the idea that teenagers are vastly different from adults is exposed as a total fraud in cases like this.  You're old enough to get a life sentence, but you're not old enough to vote.  Similarly, you're not old enough to have sex, but you're old enough to be forced into becoming a parent.  And if anything, our standards are backwards: The less capable a teen is of making a wise decision, the more we want to punish them. 

And if that's the standard, then fine, apply it evenly.  If we think teens are capable of making adult decisions, then when they make bad adult decisions (ie, killing someone), you don't get to punish them like an adult.  But instead, we give them the rights of a child, but the punishment of an adult.  And they can't complain because they're not old enough to know any better.  And worst of all, we train them to be obedient little robots who follow orders, and act surprised when they can't think for themselves and make their own decisions.  Well, duh!  If you punish someone every time they make a decision you don't agree with, you shouldn't be surprised if they stop making decisions.  Anyone who's ever had a micromanaging boss knows that it doesn't pay to act independently.

Overall, I just think it's a major mistake to treat anyone as if their age, gender, or whatever automatically defines who they are or what they can do.  Because I've definitely known small children who had their act together more than many adults.  And I've always found that if you treat people with respect, you get better results from them, even if they don't deserve it.  And yeah, the use of "children" in the title is a joke, as teenagers aren't children.  But as long as we have people who insist that sixteen year olds are still "children," then we might as well call these brutal gang members children too.  Kids.  They're trying to give life sentences to kids.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

How Not to Save the Children

Oh, yeah.  This will keep them away in droves:
On-air promos for a sexual threesome on an upcoming episode of "Gossip Girl" have spurred the Parents Television Council to ask affiliates of the CW network to pre-empt the show.
Airing the teen tryst, which is being teased in an ad as a "3SOME," is "reckless and irresponsible," said PTC president Tim Winter in a statement Wednesday. The threesome involves three main characters in the show but they are not identified in the promos.
Yeah, no chance of this getting more people to watch a show that I know nothing about besides the fact that they apparently have teenage threesomes.  And no, I can't imagine this backfiring either:
In a letter to the affiliates, Winter asked: "Will you now be complicit in establishing a precedent and expectation that teenagers should engage in behaviors heretofore associated primarily with adult films?"
But of course, that just depends upon how many people flock to the show due to this boycott.  Seriously, has there ever been a movie, program, book, etc that was actually hurt by a puritanical boycott?  I doubt it.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Conservative Bites Republican

Conservatives chase moderate Republican out of race in Republican district and the Democrat wins.  Bwa ha ha ha haaaa!  Can there be a bigger rebuke to the insane belief that the chief electoral problem for Republicans in the last two elections is that they weren't conservative enough?  Boing!  But of course, extremists on both sides insist their party would win every election if only they'd become more extreme.

But my chief complaint is with this line in the article:
The race has been getting national attention, with some calling it a referendum on President Barack Obama and others saying it could help Republicans focus their message to attract more people to the party.
Oh, wow.  What a wide range of opinions; spanning from people who don't like Obama, all the way to people who think this could benefit Republicans.  And of course, "others" could also say that this is a referendum on the Republican Party's sanity, and they just lost big time.  And I don't even see how Obama was even tangently related to this race. 

No, this race was lost the moment conservatives decided to pull a coup against their Republican masters.  After that circus came to town, all the Dem needed was a pulse and a quick smile.  People might like a freakshow, but they don't want it running their town.

Oh, and let's not ignore the final line:
New York state now has only two Republican congressmen in its 29-seat delegation.

And finally, let's just have a moment of silence for poor Doug Hoffman.  When this guy joined the race, he must have figured he had no chance in hell of winning.  I mean, who ever heard of the Conservative Party before now?  But before you know it, the crazies decide to take a stand and all this money starts flooding in while celebrity freaks like Fred Thompson and Sarah Palin are urging everyone to be your friend, and you really start to think you've got something. 

But now, Hoffman's a loser and even if conservatives really liked Hoffman's stances, there's really no way he's going to be able to turn his loss into some sort of Palinesque celebrity pol superstar.  That crazy gravy train has left the station and Hoffman is of no use to them.  And most likely, he'll be hanging out with Ned Lamont, talking about the heady days when the crazies decided that one election was the most important thing in the world.

P.S. I didn't vote in my local election.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Orrin Hatch is Right

Orrin Hatch on why Healthcare Reform must be stopped:
"And if they get there, of course, you're going to have a very rough time having a two-party system in this country, because almost everybody's going to say, 'All we ever were, all we ever are, all we ever hope to be depends on the Democratic Party,'" Hatch said during an interview with the conservative

"That's their goal," Hatch added. "That's what keeps Democrats in power."
And, well, yeah.  That is our plan.  We're going to pass good policies that make people like us, and they'll continue to vote for us because they know our opponents will try to take away the good policies that people like.  This diabolical plot is codenamed "democracy," because that's what this is.  Jesus, it's like conservatives imagine that good policies are a cheap campaign trick or something.

All we ever were, all we ever are, all we ever hope to be depends on the Democratic Party...unless you're rich.  Then any party will do.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

The Monster Party

Carpetbagger's got a post about how Scozzafava, a leading candidate for worst name ever, is dropping out as the Republican candidate in a Republican-leaning district in New York because Doug Hoffman, the Conservative Party candidate, is stealing much of her support.  And one of the commenters there insists that Hoffman will get almost all of Scozzafava's supporters because there are no moderate Republicans left; as evidenced by their 25% party ID numbers.

Yet this clearly can't be the case, as Scozzafava is a moderate Republican, while all the hardcore righties already fled to Hoffman.  So it only makes sense that a good number of these people must be moderate Republicans, as they were supporting a pro-choice candidate who doesn't vilify gays.  And yes, there aren't many moderate Republicans left, but that's the reason why Scozzafava is dropping out.  And so it's anyone's guess where Scozzafava's supporters will go on election day.

And this is a recurring theory by many liberals, who believe that all of the remaining Republicans are the hardest of the diehards.  Yet that's clearly false.  Because the folks on the far ends of the political spectrum reject both major political parties, as they see them as being too compromising.  In fact, it's odd to hear this falsehood repeated by people who are so far to the left that they reject Obama and the Democratic Party, yet don't realize that their counter-parts on the right have done the same to the Republican Party. 

And that's a fairly odd mistake to make, seeing as how we're talking about an election in which the Republican Party candidate is dropping out because she's too moderate.  And on the other side, where could all the moderate Republicans have gone?  The reality is that there are moderate Republicans who now refuse to identify themselves as Republicans because the party is too radical for them, but they're still willing to vote for a moderate Republican.  And how else could this make any sense?  If only 25% of the population in this district was willing to vote Republican, none of this would be an issue as the Democrat would easily win.

And now the question remains whether these moderate Republicans will vote for a non-Republican conservative who drove out the moderate they supported, or the non-Republican moderate.  It's not whether or not they're hardcore conservatives, as they're obviously not, but whether they hate Democrats so much that they'd rather vote for the extremist.

One of These Races Is Not Like the Other

And as an add-on of something I read after I wrote this: The AP has their typical false equivalency with an article Third party challenges in NJ, NY are warning sign.  And while I figured they were talking about the Sazzafava-Hoffman challenge, I was wondering why the article was suggesting that Dems have a problem.  But they're wrong, as usual. 

While Hoffman's third-party challenge is knocking the Republican out of the race, the Dem problem is that a third-party candidate is hurting Governor Corzine's chances in New Jersey.  But that's just the typical spoiler role that is often seen in elections, of an outside candidate syphoning votes away from one of the two parties.  And that's not the same as in NY, where the Republican had to drop out of the race for being too moderate for her party.

Because the NY problem highlights a real flaw in the Republican strategy.  Nixon used the "Southern Strategy" to ice the cake by adding social conservatives to the Republican coalition; thus giving him major victories.  Reagan sealed the deal by placing a real emphasis on social conservatives, while also winning liberal and moderate Republicans.  By the 90's, Republicans decided to go Full Southern, which worked in exactly one election (1994).  And after that, Bush faced a backlash and was required to adopt "compassionate" conservativism, as Social Conservatism had offended too many people; and then they used 9/11 to barely win two elections which still avoided the Full Southern strategy of the 90's.

And now Frankenstein's monster has taken over the laboratory and is getting increasingly upset by all the open flames that offend him so much.  Nixon and Reagan were able to give coded messages which went directly to conservative hearts, which is now impossible in the days of YouTube and Macaca.  And here they are, with northern Republicans rejecting a moderate who was handpicked by the local party due to her ability to woo non-conservatives.  But the monster hated that most of all. 

As with progressives, conservatives would rather lose an election than allow an ideological "traitor" to win an election, and the icing that Nixon wanted for the party has now claimed the party as its own.  There will be no Republicans who aren't conservative Republicans, and only the most conservative shall survive.  Honestly, I can't think of a better situation for us.