Friday, November 20, 2009

You LIKE Me! You really LIKE Me!

Spiked at the top until 11/20

The 2009 Weblog Awards


The annual exercise in futility, otherwise known as the Weblog Awards, has opened nominations for this year's contest.

I have the distinction of being a finalist for the past two years, and a winner two years ago. I'd like to continue my unprecedented string of three straight finalist nods.

Won't you please nominate me?

Best Up And Coming Blog

Best Large Blog (What? When the fuck did THAT happen???)

Best Liberal Blog

And of course, if you want to name me in some other category...well, let's just say I can feel the love.

Thanks all!

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) I really REALLY hope he announces his divorce at a press conference again.
2) Millions of horny pre-med students cry out in agony at the loss of an excuse while dating beauticians.
3) There might actually be compelling TV on C-Span tomorrow
4) Speaking of Congress, it was not a pretty sight on Capitol Hill yesterday. Republicans embarassed themselves left and right.
5) Speaking of Republican embarassment, if you didn't see Jon Stewart's interview on-line with Lou Dobbs, you missed a helluva chat. The edited version for TV ran 8 minutes. The unedited, uncensored version ran for twenty minutes.
6) Not the kind of alarm clock you need to hear when you're in space.
8) France won their way into the World Cup tournament this week on the basis of a bad call by the officials. It's not that this was a make-or-break call, France at this point was tied on points and the next goal would have decided the game, but it did end Ireland's chances of sneaking past France. People are not happy. And soccer kills!
9) In case you wondered why Jews are not as sexually hung up as Christians...
10) Finally, yes, Virginia, there really IS a war on Christmas!
Publisher's Note: Yes, I will be reprising the popular War On Christmas Carol serial, as well as the Twelve Days of Christmas Music Blogging. I may throw a few surprises in for you.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

First Date

It's kind of funny, I suppose, the reaction that the naysayers of the right wing have expressed with regards to the now-concluded trip to the Far East by President Obama:

The result was a trip more dominated by imagery -- some positive, some controversial -- than substance. A photo of Mr. Obama bowing deeply to the Japanese emperor has stoked indignation among conservatives in the U.S. Pictures of Mr. Obama staring down at his lectern as Chinese President Hu Jintao lectured him on free trade left the impression of a U.S. leader who was frustrated but powerless.

Factually, true. Obama did bow his head to the Japanese emperor...just as Richard Nixon did.
And it is true that Hu did lecture the United States on free response to wholly unnecessary and dangerous tariffs slapped on Chinese tires. Obama's misstep, or at least mistimed step, should have been noted by Hu. Protocol demanded it, and let's face facts: China has gone from the eighth largest economy to the fourth in the space of this decade alone, and is poised to overtake the United States by 2015.
Only the European Union would be a larger economic entity. The United States enjoyed much of the 20th Century dictating world economics. It's only right that the largest have the biggest voice, so to expect suddenly that we'd enjoy some outsized voice when China overtakes us (which is inevitable) is ludicrous. It would be like the US suddenly decide that England must have the larger voice after World War II.
What is most notable about the Hu lecture didn't relieve the tariffs. For that alone, Obama should be credited, for standing his ground on an issue he feels is important enough to piss off a country that holds an awful lot of our paper.
To expect Obama to come home with a goody basket on what amounts to a first date to the APEC conference is pretty silly. It's like expecting your date to put out on the first date when you are no longer in college and are no longer the first string quarterback or the head cheerleader.
It's called maturity. Obama didn't come home with his clothes dishevelled and lipstick all over his face. He came home with a quiet smile and a phone number or two.
And this is all against a backdrop of a world community, particularly in China and Asia, that didn't trust the United States after electing that jackass tall-hatted faux-cowboy...twice!
His work was hard enough considering the economic crisis, global warming (which affects Asia far far more than nearly any other region of the world), and the simultaneous spike in poverty and hunger these twin crises have created. He had to start from his ten yard line (to torture the metaphor further) and with only ten players on his team.
I'll settle for the field goal. This time.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


To               GOP
SUBEJCT    Wooing New Voters
If u r selling fear, u r doing it rong.
This week has seen some pretty spectacular fear-mongering amongst the GOP, and I suspect it will spell the eventual downfall of the party as a whole.
Ad infinitum, ad nauseum.
And that was just today's headlines!
Fear-mongering worked in 2004 because the Bush administration, from their bully pulpit, were able to terrorize Americans with constant tales of terror alerts and rainbow-colored fearcandy. Week in and week out, month in and month out, the Bushies seemed to manufacture terrorist plots by the bushelful.
And like Rudy Giuliani's prosecution of white collar criminals in the 70s and 80s, it was mostly smoke bombs and mirrors. No real convictions to speak of, certainly none in proportion to the almost-constant stream of "We are at war with East Anglia" stentorian pronouncements of imminent death, disease, and devastation.
Are you afraid? It seems Republicans sure are. I wonder why?
Admittedly, when one has been in control for a long time and loses not only control of the executive branch but also control of the legislative branch, it's going to cause a certain amount of uncertainty.
Uncertainty creates a vacuum of authority. New voices struggle to be heard or to even grab power while old voices, now discredited and humbled, have to be muted.
And vacuums create more uncertainty. And uncertainty creates fear.
You're driving a car. You have a map. You pull over and look at the map and confirm your route.
You get back on the highway. Your map tells you "Turn right" only when you look to the right, there's this big gaping hole where the exit used to be.
What to do?
If you had GPS, of course, you'd be fine. It would adjust your route as you drove ahead to the next exit, re-routing you around your problem.
Ah, but now with a map, you've got to rely on instinct and improvisation. Suppose that next exit is ten miles down the road and then the map cuts off at the county line?
This is where the Republicans are right now: off the map. And terrified.
The odd thing, instead of being humbled and learning the lessons of 2006 and 2008, the front-runners in the party are acting as if nothing happened, that it was all according to plan.
But the true story, the backstory, is watching the Palins and Limbaughs and other crackpots try to justify their previous escapades by fomenting fear, by playing off the ignorance of the base, by manipulating information.
I foresee the crash of the Republican party as the most likely outcome here. I think within the next five years, the Republican party will have finally filled enough people with enough fear that they will either commit mass suicide like the Heaven's Gate crew, or more likely, the boy who cried "Wolf" will finally be shown to have piped up once too often with the lies and scare tactics.
After all, this is a country we're trying to all of us run here, not a class election.
What I can't foresee is what comes next? Do moderate Republicans abandon the party for the Democrats or do they force the conservative Neaderthals out, forcing them to come to grips with their hate-mongering in some backwater party like the Libertarians or Reform party?
Either way, Duverger's Law comes into play: third parties don't stand a chance in a country where winner-take-all elections are the norm.
So goodbye to the Republican party as we know it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Old Wisdoms, New Dumbness

There's an old saw that a lie has rocketed around the world before the truth gets its boots on.
That's not what I want to talk about, however. I want to talk about why it's important to stay on top of facts and the truth, in your own life.
We all live with biases and perceptive alignments that colour our view of the world, that shade the truth. They can't be helped.
They can be overcome. They can be acknowledged and admitted and then accounted for and moved past.
We use information to do this. We gather facts and data and compile a narrative for ourselves that instructs and informs us. We don't rely on other people to inform us. We don't rely on other people's opinions solely. We seek the truth ourselves.
Except it doesn't always work that way. In fact, it usually doesn't.
This lesson, one I was re-taught painfully this summer, is one that we all have to go through. Sometimes, people want to believe what they want to believe because it fits a narrative they've been instructed to believe, that somehow this person is evil or that person is good, merely because some authority has pronounced it so. They want their information precooked and predigested for them.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, mind you. There's only so many hours in a day, only so much information a brain can process. If we have an authority that we've learned or have reason to believe is solid, then why not avail ourselves of the easier route?
Often, we find out to our own cost later that authority was wrong. One reason I take great pains in these blogposts to present data and facts supporting my own opinions is so my thought processes are transparent. You can see whatever pitiful authority I have comes from a set of facts beyond my own.
When the authority is proven wrong, even once, we are faced with a dilemma: how to unlearn that which we have learned.
Remember the hierarchy: it takes little effort to take someone's word on something. It takes a little more effort to corral the facts for yourself and process them into your own information.
It takes a LOT more work to unlearn that which we have learned. And there's the nub. This is why a lie rocketing around the world is such a dangerous thing.

Take....Sarah Palin. Despite the distinctly gooberish way she ran her Vice Presidential campaign last year, she still insists on changing the narrative.
After all, when you're the Veep nominee, you are beholden to the campaign of the top of the ticket, like it or not. To critique them afterwards for not letting you be you is nonsensical and ludicrous. You didn't run all those primaries: he did. He was chosen, you were picked.
Shut up, in other words. And yet after all that, and this hideous book tour she's engaged in where she tries desperately to disavow any responsibility for the full-metal fuck ups she performed routinely on the trail, there are still a strong minority of people who believe her story above all others, simply because she is the Palin.
Take the photo on this week's Newsweek cover story.
Now, she claims this photo was taken for a Runner's World photo spread and that it's unfair for Newsweek to use it for this story.
Admittedly, she hasn't announced that she is running for President, but it's clear that she's running. She's no longer governor of Alaska but a private citizen. She deserves no more consideration than any other private citizen with a book they are humping.
And she does have nice legs, to boot.
Somehow, however, she wants to juggle authority with respect and responsibility such that she gets both. But hey, if you're dumb enough to do a spread for a running magazine, you might want to consider the implications of that frivolity if you plan on running for office.
Still, there's the inevitable bleating from the sheeple of the right that this deinigrates women, that this cover is simultaneously biased AND sexist.
It must be the American flag that makes it the product of some CommiehippiepinkoleftistIslamofundamentalistmale conspiracy against Sarah. Youbetcha!
Nevermind that the yahoos that she's selling herself to are the most sexist pigs on the planet. But there's the lie for you: Sarah Palin is a victim of the great mainstream (conservative, we should point out) media bias, and treated like a sex object to boot.
The truth is, she's gone out of her way to call attention to herself as a woman, not as a politician, and so she's the one who has denigrated and deprecated and depreciated the power of women. Lipstick on a pitbull indeed!
We can hope that most Americans are smart enough to remember her antics. Sadly, the attention span of the vast majority of Americans is so short, I doubt it.
We'll have her to kick around for a long time.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Bring It On!

What to make of the cowards like Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin?

The decision to bring Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, admitted mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attacks, and four other suspects to a New York courtroom, rather than a military tribunal, was described in stark contrasts Sunday by officials on opposing sides of the political spectrum.

Democrats hailed Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to try the men in a civilian court as a demonstration of America's might and moral certainty, while Republicans called it a bad idea based on politics rather than pragmatism.

"We have a judicial system that's the envy of the world," Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, said on the CBS program "Face the Nation." "I don't think we should run and hide and cower. Let's use our system."

But Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, speaking on the CNN program "State of the Union," questioned why foreigners who allegedly are terrorists at war with the United States should be given full judicial rights of U.S. citizens.

First, because we can and should. We've done it before and we should do it again.
As a New Yorker, I say "Bring it on!"
We've hosted trials as big, and with even more dangerous men, and survived. We held the trials of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers, including Ramzi Yussef, and while the ultimate outcome was the 9/11 tragedy, if we had a Federal government and President who was giving a rat's ass about the safety of US citizens, that would not have happened.
Indeed, 9/11 was the day before the scheduled sentencing of that trial.
We've held the numerous trials of one John Gotti, Mafia mastermind and godfather who had done everything in his power to make the US attorney's office (one Rudolph Giuliani in particular) screw up convictions. This was a man who knew his way around New York City and even knew how to get to a jury.
He was still eventually convicted.
I do not think for one minute there is any danger in a fair trial in a civilian court where Mohammed can avail himself of the best available representation. If we could try the "20th Hijacker," Zacarias Moussaoui, in an open court, then the American people should demand that Mohammed be given a fair trial.
Period. Anything less would be an acknowledgement of the weakness of the American jurisprudence system, and an acknowledgement that the Bush administration fumbled opportunity after opportunity to expose Al Qaeda for what it is: a criminal organization intent not on some zealous defense of Islam, but profit and power in a vacuum that is the secular Muslim world.
Instead, led by Dick Cheney and his ilk, Al Qaeda was quite literally and honestly turned into a scapegoat to further the, well, criminal organization known as the Bush Administration who grabbed for profit and power in the vacuum that was the Western World after 9/11.
Bring the trial to New York City. Televise it. Stream it live on-line to the 'Net. let the world see how a trial in America works. They got a taste of it in the trial of Saddam Hussein, and I'd argue that pageant may have done more to quell misgivings in the Baghdad street about what Americans were up to than any candy our soldiers handed out to children.
Justice? Bring it on.