29 April 2009

Leaving on a jetplane...

What do you think the thought process was behind the NYC flyby?

How do you think that went?

"Um, we want to take some pictures with a passenger jet and some tall buildings, real real close."

"Hey, how about New York City?"

"Oh, yeah, but, um, what about 9/11 ... some of those tall buildings are gone."

"Yeah, but they have plenty more."

"Should we send an alert or something?"

"Nah, who's going to notice...you can't really see the sky from most of the streets."

Caldera should be out on his ass.

27 April 2009

Who is a huckster and a sham?

CNN.com has an item that made me want to throw up when I read it. Apparently in the depth of financial crisis caused by nearly unbridled capitalism, readers are turning to Ayn Rand's fantasia Atlas Shrugged (either as comfort food or for answers, I don't know). It's bad enough to have to wade through Rand's horrific writing style and cardboard characters, but to have people take it seriously is an entirely new level of fail.

The Wall Street Journal opines:
"If only 'Atlas' were required reading for every member of Congress and political appointee in the Obama administration. I'm confident that we'd get out of the current financial mess a lot faster," Wall Street Journal columnist Stephen Moore wrote in early January.
WTF? Has Moore not been paying attention to the last thirty years in which government became more and more Ayn Rand friendly, virtually recusing itself from any oversight of the economy? Yes...by doing more of the same, only more so...we will recover. If you're driving 100 MPH toward a cliff, all the better to drive 200 MPH. You get there quicker.

While the article does point out that Alan Greenspan, former chief of the Federal Reserve and architect of much of the monetary policy that led us down this rabbit hole, was a young Randian acolyte, it gives him too much credit for moving away from her absurd beliefs -- he did so only after the wheels had come off, the engine had blown, and he himself had bailed out of the car.

Atlas Shrugged should be viewed in the same way that anyone outside the white supremacist movement views The Turner Diaries: hogwash designed to perpetuate evil.

25 April 2009

No contest.

According to the Guardian website, American conservatives are all agog over the latest celebrity bigot, some runner-up in a beauty contest. The story is banal as far as I'm concerned. First, you've got the beauty contest...a sad anachronism that has tried to keep up with the times by instituting a whiff of an "intelligence" component through a question and answer period. Then you have the questioner, Perez Hilton, whose credentials demonstrate what a decidedly low-rent affair this event actually is. This contest usually is a throw-away blurb in the smaller papers that carry news about beauty contests, so you might say that both Prejean and Hilton did their parts by injecting a little afterlife into an inherently dead genre.

So the question was something along the lines of gay marriage and whether the erstwhile beauty queen supported or opposed it. She opposed it, it turned out, but her answer was so inarticulate that it took a while to figure it out. Here's the transcript:
I think it's great that Americans are able to choose one or the other. We live in a land that you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage and, you know what, in my country and my family I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anyone out there but that's how I was raised and that's how I think it should be between a man and a woman.

Um, so she's for choice (leaving out the fact that choice is only available in 4 of 50 states, so she needs to qualify that American's are able to choose in only 8% of the United States). She reinforces that statement with another misconception that federal law covers same-sex marriage and something she calls "opposite marriage." But then she says that in her country she thinks that she believes -- so uncertainty enters in: she isn't actually sure of what she believes, but she thinks she believes something -- and then she finally comes out contradicting (slightly -- it's not a direct contradiction) her initial support for marriage choice with opposition to marriage choice.

To be generous to Ms. Prejean, one could argue that while she supports the ability of every individual to "choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage," she thinks she believes that it should only be between a man and a woman. In that iteration, it's not unlike some politicians' support for abortion rights while believing personally that it's not for them.

But, hey, she's not exactly trying to land a Rhodes Scholarship...she's trying to win a tiara and a sash, so let's forgive her confused answer to attention-hog Hilton's question. The interesting although entirely predictable thing is that blowhards like Sean Hannity and other bigots feel that she's a cause worth rallying around. It's true that their forebearers made hay and won a few elections for a while with bigotry directed against women and then, following the 19th Amendment's demolition of that strategy (at least as a national platform plank), bigotry directed against Blacks, but the larger lesson they should learn -- but apparently can't -- is that they are on the losing side of history all the time. Every time. They couldn't stop the march of women's rights; they couldn't stop the march of Black rights (and every other flower of the Civil Rights movement); they won't eventually be able to stop the march of gay rights. They've already lost so many of these battles, and soon the war.

Carrie Prejean is nothing more than a deckchair on the Conservative's Titanic.

24 April 2009

Apples and trees and dynasties.

What is it with politicians' kids that the media finds so fascinating? A few weeks ago it was big excitement in some quarters that John McCain's daughter is out of sorts with the radical racist right in the Republican Party; now the offspring flavor of the day is Cheney's daughter, Liz, who agrees with her nasty old man that Obama "doesn't stand up for America," the definition of which is, apparently, that you should never ever admit that you could be wrong or agree to meet other nations as sovereign entities.

I remember Cheney's other daughter Mary from the disastrous Edwards v. Cheney debate of the 2004 election cycle. Here John Edwards had the most black-hearted evil man in American politics sitting opposite him and he somehow humanized him with the horrible tactical blunder of harping on Mary's homosexuality. It was like asking OJ to try on the glove. Anyway, that's beside the point.

The point, I think, is that I'm getting tired of hearing what political offspring think (OK, let me rephrase: I'm getting tired of hearing from political offspring simply because they're political offspring). In general, it just highlights the nepotism of the system or, in the media's case, the way in which politics has been turned into entertainment -- celebrities and their children. Politics and movies are simply two different subdivisions within the ever-growing entertainment industry. On the one hand you have photos of Brangelina's brood; on the other hand you have sound bites from grown children of political leaders who wouldn't get the time of day if they weren't related to actual political figures.

Of course it's a juicy story when the child turns around and criticizes the positions and/or the allegiances of the parent, as in Meghan McCain's case (but wait...he's a maverick...she's got maverick blood in her too, pardner...mavericks....yeah), but still we all know that the only reason this story had any legs at all was that she's a McCain.

Liz at least has some political credentials. The fact that she gained all of them while her father was running the White House Vice President is entirely coincidental...OK, I exaggerate a little bit: she did work for the State Department under Bush the First while her father was --- wait for it --- Secretary of Defense. Yes, entirely different departments, so there could be absolutely no sign, no hint, no whiff of nepotism. None at all.

Anyway, it's not that Liz or Meghan or Chelsea or Amy or Jenna or Barbara or Ron or Mike etc. shouldn't have opinions. Or that they shouldn't choose to follow in their parents' footsteps in one way or another. It's that for the media, their opinions aren't the point: it's their relations. They are moons orbiting a star, and the media is all about the star system.

21 April 2009

The Minister of Evil has spoken.

From his permanent seat on the Legion of Supervillains Security Council, former VP Dick Cheney has opined that the CIA should declassify evidence of torture's "successes." What Cheney doesn't actually understand is that torture is wrong. It's an ethical issue, but you'd hardly expect someone like Cheney to understand ethics. It's about following principles that set us apart -- or so we'd like to think -- from the rogue states out there that we routinely denounce.

Let's not forget that Cheney's the man who voted against pressuring the Apartheid government in South Africa to release Nelson Mandela, arguing that Mandela was a terrorist. Understanding right from wrong isn't exactly his forte.

However, in a move eerily reminiscent of late Senator Joe McCarthy, Cheney alluded to "reports he'd read":
I haven't talked about it, but I know specifically of reports that I read, that I saw, that lay out what we learned through the interrogation process and what the consequences were for the country.

This from a man whose administration had been caught several times "massaging" intelligence reports to suit its own agenda.

In related news, he also has announced that even a broken clock is right twice a day.

20 April 2009

I'm going where there's no depression.

I've been puzzling over the whole "Obama as Messiah" rhetoric I've been reading. I'm wondering where it started. What's the ur-text for the trope that goes under the name of Messiah, the Prophet, the One? It seems rather long-lasting for a bit of mud slung in a campaign that ended close to six months ago. Did it come out of disgruntled Hillary supporters? Did it come from disgruntled McCain supporters? Did it come from freepers?

I find it fascinating. I wonder if there's any history for this sort of demonization of President as false prophet or cult leader in the religious sense. I know with Reagan there was certainly a critique of the "actor as politician" charisma, but did it play out as religious fervor run amok? Perhaps a good place to look would be in the months following FDR's election. There are certainly similarities: a period of great financial upheaval following a long stretch of misrule, and a President with many plans for a new course.

It's fairly common of course for one side to see the other side's supporters as dupes of some kind, but it's the specifically religious aspect of this backlash that I'm interested in. I was thoroughly convinced in the summer leading up to the 2004 election that G.W. Bush wouldn't be in office come January 2005, given his already proven record of war crimes abroad and neglect at home. Sadly, I was wrong (thanks, Kerry). It never crossed my mind to think that anyone saw Bush as God, though. I figured his supporters were simply either stupid or protofascists (often the same thing) in the main.

The religious right, who sees the election of any Democrat as both a horrible event and a hopeful sign of the End Times, have long had the canned notion that the leader of a great nation (usually someone with faith in -- or at least the willingness to work with -- a world government like the UN) will rise up as the Antichrist, so I suppose for the really loonytune rightwingers Obama's just the latest in a line from Clinton and Carter who are eligible for that role. Still, the rhetoric is too pervasive for it to be the standard Tribulation Rap. Or maybe it's that the internet allows it to spread more virally. The last time a Democrat was elected on a platform of change was 1992, when social networking consisted of BBS and text-based email clients, so maybe the whole Messiah thing was there with Clinton and it just didn't get out beyond the remote armed compounds and John Birch Society meetings.

UPDATE: I was reading up on the Energy Crisis of the late 1970's and an article in The Progressive alluded to both Kennedy and Reagan's challenges to Carter's leadership as possible "new saviors," but the reference was fleeting and not an extended metaphor.

19 April 2009

Michael Hayden: War Criminal.

So when's someone going to waterboard Michael Hayden?

This a-hole should be shut up in a prison (a real one, not one of his special secret black prisons) for human rights abuses. He most certainly should not be given platforms on national cable channels to spout his evil.