Friday, September 10, 2010

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) You wonder: if Jesus Himself came down and told that idiot pastor down in Florida not to burn the Koran, would he finally say he won't? I suspect not. Look at all the publicity (and presumably money) he's getting.
2) Um...I thought this was happening already? It's news?
3) Justice delayed is justice denied. In other words, while it's not too little, it is way too late.
4) Glenn Beck, spnaked.
5) We have Mexicans. France has Roma. Same hate, different race.
6) Russia fears freedom.
7) If China can fix this, why can't we fix our relationship with Cuba?
8) Ikea tries the impossible.
9) Russ Meyer weeps. The before picture, if you're interested.
10) Finally, someone this week told me he'd believe in God if man started spontaneously regenerating limbs. Well, um, it happened.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

May Sanity Reign Supreme

One hopes this stance will continue. President Obama seems pretty firm that no more tax cuts for those who don't need them is a good idea.
The Clinton tax cuts for the middle class of 1993-1994, and concommitant tax hike on the wealthy created a gross domestic product (economic activity) of 3.8% per year on average. The Bush tax cuts, of which nearly all went to the wealthy, created a GDP of...well, 2.7% from 2001 to 2005 (he did inherit a brief recession) and a -0.002% from 2006 to 2009. This, despite blowing the budget surplus out of the water and creating the single largest deficit in world history (matched and exceeded only by the emergency stimulus package under President Obama).
So you tell me: which makes more sense? Giving a bunch-o-bucks to Paris Hilton to buy heroin, or a smaller sum to the family trying to choose between paying the mortgage or the car loan? Which is going to generate more economic activity?
History suggests that raising taxes on the rich has always, always, been the smarter move. As Harry Truman put it, "If you want to live like a Republican, vote Democratic." Historically, the largest spikes in economic activity have begun under Democratic presidents. The lone exception in the past 60 years was the Reagan "growth", which as it turns out was a roll of the dice on lower taxes across the board, but in reality was created by the deregulation of banks started under President Jimmy Carter which saw, much like this recent collapse, banks get too big and too greedy for their own good, and created an economic collapse that more than swamped the growth the expansion realized. So much for Reaganomics.
American history is filled with tales of, "if you just put money in the hands of the working and middle classes, things will get better." Give them Social Security, the elderly live longer, more productive lives. Allow them unemployment insurance, recessions become milder and shorter. Give them a tax cut, like Clinton did, and watch the economy soar, despite the fact that Clinton took the reins at a time when the economy was shakily returning from another Republican recession. 
Those who take the most from a society have the patriotic duty to give back to that society that provides such strong support. The army and police departments protect them more, because the rich have more to lose. The roads are better in rich neighborhoods, because the rich have the resources to complain and the connections to complain effectively. Fires are fought faster in wealthy communities because firefighters are better paid, better trained and get better equipment. I could go on.
The price of premium service is to pay a premium price. If you have an expensive sports car, you don't put cheap gas in it, at least not if you want it to last. You use premium from a reputable service station. You'll pay more for parts and service, but you're getting better quality of both. 
And one pays a premium in taxes because no one gets rich on their own. One takes advantage of government programs, and one reaps the benefits of government research. One gets back much more in return for the extra money one pays.
This isn't brain surgery. The rich should pay more.  

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Gloomy Thoughts from T&U

Because I am not currently drinking (much) and need to find new and fun ways to kill brain cells, I watched all 13 minutes of this video of interviews from Glenn Beck’s August 28 rally.

Of course, we have your usual xenophobic “I want my cuntry back!” shit, which, sadly enough, I can’t find that distressing anymore, given that it’s pretty much a universal saying for dumbasses these days. I did, however, realize a couple of pretty disturbing things beyond the garden-variety racism, nutbaggery, and morbid obesity that are seen at these events.

About halfway through the video, the adorable young gentleman interviewing the teabaggers asks them how they feel about Glenn Beck saying that Barack Obama is racist against white people. One straight-up nutball totally agrees with Beck’s assessment, but a group of four people don’t believe that Beck said that, and one person becomes visibly angry when the interviewer confirms he saw it on Beck’s show.

Obviously, these people are sane enough to realize that accusing the president of racism against white people is patently fucked up, or at least know well enough to pretend they think it’s fucked up. But if they go home and research it, they’ll see that Cute Interviewer was right, and then how will they react? Will they step away and disavow Beck? Will they at least say, “Well, that’s fucked up, but I still think he’s pretty awesome in general, so I’m okay with disagreeing with him on this”? Not likely. Either they’ll claim the quote was taken out of context, or even worse, stretch their basic ideas of decency and sanity to fit the new world they’ve been exposed to in which their hero calls the president a racist.

This, kiddos, is a major way a charismatic* leader radicalizes even relatively non-radical people. Beck will keep doubling down on cray-cray, and his followers who trust him and believe him will mold their opinions and even their moral compasses around what he says. The best hope that we have is that he does too much too fast and people become disenchanted with him. If they don’t, and these people start to gain power, then we’re absolutely fucked.

I also realized that they really don’t have as much faith in our democracy as you’d think such dedicated patriots would. They shout that America is the greatest country on earth and we are the best people EVAR and God smiles at us when we take a poo poo and blah blah blah blah...but they are terrified of the collapse of the nation from within because of the results of one election cycle. I don’t believe in American exceptionalism, but I do agree that our democracy is fragile and under threat. Unlike the teabaggers, however, I think our greatest problems are ignorance, economic inequality, and disunity--beasts that teabaggers loooove to feed Twinkies and ranch dressing. They’re basically what the Tea Party platform is built on.

The more their values take hold, the worse things get, which causes them to dig in deeper ideologically and often brings other disenchanted people along, especially when “leaders” like Glenn Beck are telling them that the Tea Party’s values are the only way out. Let’s hope that the Glenn Becks and Sarah Palins push their sophistry so far that even some of the most dedicated morans see through them, or that the economy improves enough that halfway reasonable people regain their ability to think. Otherwise our democracy is about as fucked as the teabaggers think it is.

*I don’t know how the fuck Beck managed to be considered “charismatic,” but he is. People have such low standards these days.

Goose-stepping Morons Like yourself Should Try Reading Books Instead of Burning Them!

(Editor's Note: There's more than a little irony that one of the best quotes about intolerance, above, is from a movie with the words "Last Crusade" in its title. Funny how that word has morphed in the past twenty years...)
There is an insignificant gnat of a church in Florida trying to improve its balance sheet by burning the Koran this Saturday on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. A total of fifty congregants, and undoubtedly fanatical followers at that.
I will not dignify the church by posting its name or the name of its attention-seeking, money-grubbing pastor. Instead, I want to focus on two things:
1) The repercussions of its actions and
2) The ridiculous publicity the mainstream media gives asshats like this pastor and the moronic coward running the intolerance rally in lower Manhattan this Saturday. As I've written elsewhere, this rally distresses me more than the cultural center ever could, because I'd like to think that Americans aren't chickens. 
The validation given to fringe and radical groups like these two crazies serves a dual purpose: it allows the rest of us to take comfort in our intolerance, because if slime creatures like these can get airtime, then how extreme could our viewpoints be? Mind you, I felt the same way about the Code Pink and 9/11 Truthers, so this is not a matter of disagreeing with the ideologies involved. It's a matter of recognizing the handicapping effect these idiots have on society as a whole. 
Whether it's a purported "Christian" church or a gang of rabbling lefties, the more coverage these groups are given, the more and more our society gets painted as being deeply divided. 
We are divided, no doubt, but you could portray that sentiment simply by airing any rational debate amongst opposing factions. Indeed, it would give a truer picture of just how divided, as we'd be shocked to find that we on the left have some common ground with "them" on the right. 
We love this country, we'd find. People like this congregation or that concrete harpy do not. It comes down to that, because they would sacrifice the good of the nation to the fast buck they can make raising Cain over nothing.
These actions endanger innocent people, whether they be American Muslims trying to drive a cab, American soldiers standing watch in Afghanistan, American embassy personnel in Pakistan, or the average American who went to work on 9/11/01.
That's right: I am drawing a direct line between the hate-mongerers and the deaths in the Trade Center, for if before the attacks, radical Muslims hated us for our freedom, they sure as damned hell aren't going to love us because we turn our backs on those freedoms as they pertain to Muslims. There will be more attacks and more emphasis on attacking Americans in their own homes, workplaces, and houses of worship. 
if a flame so much as licks a Koran on Saturday, there will be repercussions, and I expect they'll be instantaneous. And isn't it wonderful that someone else will suffer for your actions? I mean, that's why we hire an army in the first place, right? So we can act like assholes? Let them sort out the problems for us!
Take no responsibility for yourselves, your actions, or the damage you've done. But that's the right wing way: never complain, never explain. And that the mainstream media is enabling this speaks very badly of our "free" society. But hey, it sells newspapers, right?
So what happens when you're publishing a newspaper and no one is around to read it?  

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Losing Ground

It's sad to see a thriving community that could fit nicely into American society be ravaged by the outlandish, cowardly perceptions of fearmongerers.
Muslims have been identified as a fringe religious group ever since the day that Cassius Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali, and stood up against the Vietnam War. Ironically, a religion once associated with a peace movement has now been tarred with the brush of ultraviolent.
Nevermind that every religion (with the possible exception of Buddhism/Hindu) could be tarred with that brush at any moment in history. Nevermind that the United States committed what amounts to genocide in Iraq of Muslims, detracting powerfully from the good works done in the oppression of Muslims in Bosnia. Nevermind that Americans...Christian, Jew, atheist...stand in opposition to the opening of a goddamned social hall in lower Manhattan, detracting mightily from the message of freedom we pretend to promote.
No, it is Islam that is in the wrong, at every turn.
No one is denying that some branches of Islam, like the Wahhabists, are radical, and behave radically. And not much differently that radical Christianity, who teaches that the Pope is the AntiChrist and will at Armageddon be exposed as the instrument of Satan. Or much differently from even moderate Christianity which until not too long ago taught that Jews were held responsible for the death of Jesus and condoned the elimination of Semites.
We forget ourselves in protesting the Cordoba Center. And you'll note that I'm not even looking at past grudges. The Crusades were centuries ago. We can assume that's water under the bridge, even if the very word raises hackles.
I'm looking at current affairs. I'm looking at the state of Israel which has all but turned a blind eye on Jews establishing settlements on the West Bank, despite the acknowledgement that they shouldn't be there, with all the baggage that implies. I'm talking about Muslims launching missiles from the Gaza into Israel, too, lest you think I'm defending Islam.
I'm looking, in other words, objectively.
It's weird. Each generation of America has its bugbear, its "not in my backyard" ethnic group that is ridiculed, harassed, even assaulted, all in the name of cultural purity. It's not just the blacks of the 50s and 60s. It's the Irish. The Italians. The Jews. The Germans. The Japanese. And that anyone with any of these bloods flowing in their veins stands against the assimilation of Muslims into American culture speaks poorly of their own heritage, much less their cowardice. 
I say "cowardice," because there is not one single logical argument to be made against inclusion, from the building of the Cordoba Center to the right of a Muslim to earn a living as a cabdriver without fear of reprisal. When logic breaks down, when you cannot prove a case from facts, then all you are left with is abject fear. 
This is America. We are stronger than that. We are better than that. I watched those buildings there fall. I'm not afraid of the cultural center, anymore than I'm afraid of the next cabdriver I talk to, the next halal vendor, or my friends like Richie and Yasamin. Why should I be afraid? American history tells me that we change other cultures more than they change us, and that the changes they bring are almost all good. 
Indeed, the worst thing we can do to a minority in this country is isolate and outcast them. Just look at the history of the Native American population for an object lesson in what happens when we lord it over a people.
This Saturday, September 11, there is supposed to be a huge rally down at the cultural center site. Pamela Gellar, the shrieking harpy of hate, has decided to take what should be a sacred day, if she considers Ground Zero sacred ground, and defile it with anger, and hate.
And cowardice.
She should remember from where she comes.