politics

Countdown to Debatepocalypse

We had the Olympics this past summer (where people seemed more focused on how NBC was ill-equipped to handle broadcasting time-delayed events in the digital age), but the real games begin this fall.  Baseball playoffs are about to begin (go Braves!), football is in full swing (go Falcons!), and we’re about to have the Presidential debates (go America!).

If you don’t think politics is a game, you haven’t been paying attention.  Policy is serious, but politics—particularly the way it’s covered—is a game.  It’s a game that has far-reaching implications for the future of our country, but we hear about it in terms of a game.  Who’s up?  Who’s down?  Who’s gaining?  Who’s losing?  Did Candidate X hit a home run with his speech?  Did Candidate Y fumble the response to the question?

And tonight, the first of three Presidential debates begin.  I hesitate to put the word “debates” into question marks because it seems too cynical.  The candidates are responding to each other in real time, but the time is so short.  Everything is condensed.  Points and counter-points have to be rapidly delivered.  But do these debates really tell us anything?  The candidates are simply reiterating points they’ve been making for months.  The format has changed, but the messages are the same.

But the debates matter for the small sliver of the population that somehow, for reasons that defy understanding, haven’t made up their minds.  We’re not talking about Jack Johnson and John Jackson.  Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have fundamental disagreements on the direction for our government.  If you believe that government has an obligation to help its people, then vote Democrat.  If you believe that unregulated businesses benefit the country, then vote Republican.  The differences regarding social issues couldn’t be clearer:  Pro-choice or pro-life?  Gay rights or discrimination?  Expansion of health care or go broke and die?  And on the issues where there’s no daylight between the candidates—war on drugs, prosecuting financial crimes—they’re not going to change their positions.

Nevertheless, the debates will dominate our media landscape for the next couple of weeks because that’s where the game is played.  For those who couldn’t be bothered to do research into the candidates, they’ll now get the biggest political ad possible.  And at the end, the punditry will squabble over who won.  Who was the most eloquent, who stumbled over a question, and who now has the edge.

Except there will be no edge.  Strangely enough, even though they’re designed to convince independent voters, debates don’t seriously sway presidential elections in the modern age.  The candidates enter at their current popularity and they leave at about the same level.  This is entertainment, and no one becomes a Texans fan simply because they played well on Sunday.

Looking at where the candidates currently stand, Obama wins the election.  The chattering class can go on about how close it is, but they’re looking at the nationwide poll, which would be important if Presidents were elected by popular vote.  But we use the Electoral College, and as you’ll see, Obama is almost at 270 electoral votes.  On election night, Obama may not have dominated the popular vote, but according to polling guru Nate Silver, Obama is likely to win the election.  Republicans will harp on the popular vote all day, but it won’t matter as long as Obama wins it by at least 50.1%.

So when you tune in for the debates, remember that we’re watching condensed stump speeches, and unnecessary ones at that.  The best thing that could happen is if Obama’s opening statement was “I killed Bin Laden, and Mitt Romney hates 47% of America,” drops the mic and walks away.  I’d vote for that.

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012 politics No Comments

Chick-Fil-A and the Age of Slacktivism

A couple weeks ago, Dan Cathy, the President and COO of Chick-Fil-A, made the following statement on the Ken Coleman Show:

“We’re inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage. And I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude that thinks we have the audacity to redefine what marriage is all about.”

Dan Cathy is an idiot.  He’s a bigot, and he’s on the wrong side of history.  In 2004, George W. Bush was re-elected in part because Karl Rove was able to prey on homophobia and intolerance (and also by getting people to believe that a decorated veteran was less able to lead the country in a time of war than a guy who never saw a day of combat in his life).  Eight years later, more states have legalized gay marriage, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is no more, the President came out in favor of gay marriage, and a nationwide movement began with “It Gets Better”.

But refusing to eat Chick-Fil-A on moral grounds isn’t part of turning the tide.  Since Cathy’s statement, there has been an uprising on social networks chastising the corporation for its homophobic believes.  Somehow, people were surprised that a business that’s closed on Sunday to observe the sabbath had deep ties to Christianity.  This shock has led to not only Facebook and Twitter posts against Chick-Fil-A, but calls to boycott the business.

There seems to be a misunderstanding regarding the efficacy of boycotts.  It’s a throwback to the 1960s when civil rights organizations boycotted segregated businesses.  However, these businesses tended to be small, family-owned shops.  If your restaurant was located in a neighborhood that was half-black and half-white, and all the black people stopped eating there, then you’ve lost 50% of your revenue, and you were forced to consider whether how much money you’d be willing to lose because of bigotry.

Boycotting a corporation like Chick-Fil-A, however, doesn’t register to them.  While they obviously can’t ignore the media blowback from Cathy’s statement, there’s no way for them to measure how many people are boycotting.  Maybe profits are lower because people are eating out less since the economy sucks.  Maybe more competitive businesses are rising up around their locations.  And how will Chick-Fil-A fix this problem?  I doubt Dan Cathy will make an apology and even if he did, how many people would it bring back?  Isn’t it easier to lay people off or raise prices?  I assume if Chick-Fil-A’s profits dropped steeply, that would be their move because Dan Cathy’s convictions are stronger than the convictions of his detractors.

As I said, I think Dan Cathy’s views are despicable, but we should acknowledge that he’s willing to sacrifice millions of dollars for them.  Chick-Fil-A could be making 1/7th more money than it makes now by being open on a Sunday.   The bible says to take a day off for the sabbath, and Dan Cathy will abide by that commandment.   His opponents, on the other hand, can’t be bothered to do more than not spend money on fast food.

This isn’t to say that people haven’t gone out to protest.  If you picked up a sign, staged a sit-in, or did anything that required you to do more than sit at home, this post is not directed at you.  I commend you on taking action, taking time out of your life, and showing people that you truly care about this issue.  You have done far more than someone who posts a negative Chick-Fil-A meme on Facebook followed by a funny picture of an adorable animal.

Because we now live on the Internet, and are defined by how we share our beliefs and spend our money, then a simple post qualifies as protest.  “I’m so angry, I shared someone else’s link.”  We’re past the point of raising awareness (and again, if you weren’t aware that Chick-Fil-A’s management has Christian beliefs, then you weren’t really paying attention in the first place), so it’s really just to make yourself feel better.  You’re pro-gay rights, and you lifted a finger to do something by clicking on your mouse.  Well done.

I can’t stand that anymore.  I can’t stand this unearned self-righteousness and people refusing to truly sacrifice for what they believe in.  Honestly, I’m not that bothered by eating at Chick-Fil-A.  As I said, history’s inexorable shift towards gay rights is unstoppable, and it doesn’t matter how much money Dan Cathy and his ilk donate to anti-gay organizations.  They’re on the wrong side of history whether I buy an 8-piece chicken nuggets or not.  I’ll support gay rights right now and you can too: click here to donate money to the It Gets Better Project.

“But if you’re pouring money into Chick-Fil-A’s coffers, then you’re just negating what you’re putting into It Gets Better!”  a person I just made up might say.  Except Chick-Fil-A is on the wrong side of history.  I will happily give them money so I can watch them waste millions of it on a social issue they’re going to lose.  Their money is poorly spent.  It Gets Better’s money is wisely spent because they need momentum, and they will touch the lives of countless young people who will in turn support each other.  Chick-Fil-A can’t create homophobes, so unless they’ve concocted an anti-aging formula that runs off intolerance, then the company can’t change the fact that homophobic people are the past and  enlightened young people are the future.

However, if your argument is that you can’t in good conscience give money to a homophobic business, then that’s fine.  But what are you willing to give your money to?  In all likelihood, you own some piece of technology made in a factory in China.  In China, they work long hours for slave wages in factories that are so bad that one corporation, Foxconn, had to put up suicide nets.  Working conditions are so terrible, that they had to come up with a way to stop employees from killing themselves.  Nets are cheaper than higher wages and decent working conditions.

If this bothers you, then I encourage you to throw away any piece of technology that was made on the backs of this kind of harsh labor.  Chick-Fil-A might be against gay rights, but I’m pretty sure there aren’t any suicide nets on the premises (I guess an argument could be made for the ball pit on the playground).  Also, if you put gas in your car, then why do you support endangering our oceans?  As we learned a couple years ago, deepwater drilling is incredibly hazardous, and conditions have not significantly improved since Deepwater Horizon.

Except giving up your technology or your car is sacrifice.  It won’t stop tech companies from using cheap labor or oil companies from drilling, but you will feel that sacrifice every day because your life will be more difficult because of it.  Circling back to Christianity, the notion of tithing doesn’t have a bad premise.  If you were forced to give up 10% of your income to charity, you would most likely feel it.  That’s sacrifice.  That’s the courage of your convictions.  Refusing to eat a chicken sandwich: not courageous.

Friday, August 3rd, 2012 politics, stupid No Comments

We Could Have Had This Conversation Yesterday

This morning, the country woke up to the tragic news that a gunman had opened fire at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises, and killed 12 people.  The number of injured was initially reported at 38, but new reports have put it at 59.  I want to say it’s “shocking”, but it’s not.  It feels inevitable.

But today, social networks are in an uproar about gun control and gun violence.  It’s the roar that comes every 6-12 months because it rarely takes longer than a year for another one of these massacres to occur.  And then the uproar dies down, and we move on to the latest news story.  It’s also a little strange that gun violence only seems to rouse people to action when it’s in a cluster.  Massacres make headlines, but I don’t hear an outcry on Twitter on a daily basis.   There were 12,632 gun-related homicides in 2007.  What makes those gun deaths less notable than those that happened at the Aurora Century 16 theater?

The question we’ve become forced to ask ourselves is not “Why does this happen?” but “Why doesn’t this happen more often?”

There’s no political will to make it stop.  If Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords getting shot in the head doesn’t spur congress to action on tougher gun control laws, then a bunch of Batman fans at a midnight screening isn’t going to register.  Just like a bunch of college kids at Virginia Tech didn’t register.  Just like the birthday party killings in Texas didn’t register (I didn’t even remember the one until The New Yorker mentioned it).  Taking on guns is a political loser because it means wasting a lot of money fighting the NRA, and stronger gun control doesn’t get candidates elected.  Americans don’t like being told what we can’t do and what we can’t have.

This post isn’t a call to ban guns, or a call for stricter gun laws.  This isn’t a call for anything.  It’s just an observation about how we could have had today’s discussion about guns yesterday, and we’ll probably be having this conversation a year from now.  The problem of gun violence in America never dies.

Friday, July 20th, 2012 culture, politics, stupid No Comments

Occupy Research

I want to support the Occupy Wall Street movement.  I really do.  I agree with the majority consensus on major issues (get money out of politics, banking reform, stop congressmen and women from passing legislation affecting companies where the senator or representative is an investor) and I’m terrified that this latest nationwide crackdown is trying to snuff out the movement.*

However, I’m also terrified of well-intentioned-yet-ignorant.  Here’s a statement released by Occupy Atlanta regarding Black Friday protests:

Black Friday gets its name because it is traditionally the day that retailers, big banks, and major corporations move from “in the red” to “in the black” where they start to turn a profit. While the 1% are doing better than ever, every day ordinary people are struggling to make ends meet. In a world of foreclosures, unemployment, and high cost of living,
Americans are seemingly always “in the red.”

Big corporations and the media try to use this day to tell us that the economy is doing fine. We know that is a lie. More and more people are falling into poverty. 50 million Americans now have to rely on food stamps. Homes are being foreclosed on at an astonishing rate every day. In Atlanta alone, 1% of the population controls almost 70% of our resources. We say the economy is not doing fine.

Occupy Atlanta is using the massive crowds of everyday people gathering on Black Friday as an opportunity to raise awareness of immoral corporate practices and income inequality. We will be reaching out to the community through symbolic actions of civil disobedience. This field guide was created not just for people from Occupy Atlanta or the rest of the city to take action, but to encourage those in the rest of the state and country to have a little fun, and raise some awareness this holiday season.

In addition we will also be holding a really, really free market at 3pm at Troy Davis Park(formerly Woodruff Park) featuring free food, clothing, and other items.

First off, not all corporations are evil.  Some absolutely are, but you can’t paint all of them with the same brush.  But more importantly, shopping is good for the economy.  Yes, small businesses deserve love too, but take a company like Best Buy:

Best Buy is not a perfect company because no perfect company exists.  Their return policies can be nightmarish and their “Geek Squad” should be avoided at all costs.  However, Best Buy employs thousands of workers.  The company is not only staffed by the blue-shirts you see on the floor.  There’s a corporate infrastructure at work and all those people need jobs.  If you cut off Best Buy, then there will be layoffs.  Furthermore, there’s a ripple effect.  The company can’t afford as much merchandise so that hurts everyone behind those products.  Most importantly, spending is how money goes back into the economy.

That’s why stimulus is so important.  It’s not just for repairing roads and bridges (although that’s also important).  It’s to put money in the pockets of Americans so they can go spend it.  Occupy Atlanta doesn’t understand this.  I appreciate that they took the day to try and raise awareness of the movement, but it’s a muddled message and people don’t like being chastised for shopping.

One final note: Woodruff Park is not “Troy Davis Park”.  You can’t rename places just because you want to.  Furthermore, the wrongful execution of a man has nothing to do with the economy unless everything falls under the umbrella of “injustice”.  Finally, this renaming damages the use of Twitter to spread the word and gather people.  If you tweet “Meet up at Troy Davis Park”, some people may not know what you’re talking about unless they’re already involved in the movement and were probably going to show up anyway.  If you tweet “Meet up at Troy Davis Park (formerly Woodruff Park)” you’ve burned off a lot of characters.  And if you just do the sensible thing and tweet “Meet up at Woodruff Park”, then there was really no point in renaming anyway.

I don’t know how Occupy is working in other cities, but here in Atlanta it needs to be smarter and better understand what it’s protesting.  No one cares if Occupy Atlanta is standing in solidarity with the Egyptian people.  The movement can’t be a catch-all, especially if it doesn’t understand what it’s catching.

*As a side note, I don’t recall this kind of force being brought against Tea Party protestors.

Monday, November 28th, 2011 politics, stupid No Comments

Spare the Innocent, Slay the Guilty

The long case of death row inmate Troy Davis is coming to a close.  His case now stands before the Supreme Court as they deliberate on whether or not he deserves to die for a crime he most likely did not commit.  The outcry has been vocal and people are refreshing news sites and checking their Twitter feed to see if Davis is free or if he is dead.

Meanwhile, in Texas, a man named  Lawrence Brewer is being executed for the murder of James Byrd Jr.*

There is no outcry for Mr. Brewer because he is most likely guilty whereas Davis’ case hits to the heart of our deepest fears about the death penalty: what if we killed an innocent person?

We already have.  In 1976, the death penalty was reinstated.  1,276 men and women have been executed as of September 13, 2011.  The odds are slim that every single person executed was guilty of their crime.

But that’s beside the point.  Mr. Brewer should not have been executed just as Mr. Davis should not be executed.  However, we rally around Mr. Davis because it makes the case that if even one innocent person is executed, then the death penalty should be abolished.  But really it just makes the argument, “Please be really, really, really sure someone is guilty before you kill him.”

The death penalty is wrong.  Period.  The innocence or guilt of the condemned is irrelevant.  The death penalty is not a deterrent and it is not how a modern society should behave.  A murderer is either too enraged to think about the death penalty or he/she doesn’t care.  And if it doesn’t reduce homicides, then it is simply the implementation of an antiquated system of moral  justice.  The Code of Hammurabi was over 3,700 years ago.  Surely, we must have made some progress since then.  But clearly, at least in America and any other place that still executes its citizens, we haven’t.

The case of Troy Davis isn’t special unless you believe that some people deserve to die and others don’t and it is up to us to make that call.  But if you believe, as I do, that the death penalty is always wrong no matter the guilt or innocence of the condemned, then the case of Troy Davis isn’t horrifying because an innocent man may be put to death.  It’s horrifying because whether Troy Davis is executed tonight or not, Lawrence Brewer was and he won’t be the last.

*I feel it’s important to note that Brewer was a white supremacist convicted of dragging Mr. Byrd to death from the back of his pick-up truck.  Despite the ugliness of the crime, I feel that Mr. Brewer should have been left to rot in prison for the rest of his days.  Executing Brewer doesn’t bring back Mr. Byrd, it won’t stop future hate crimes, and if the only benefit is that we as a society feel justified by Mr. Brewer’s execution, let me remind you that Mr. Brewer felt justified in his slaying of Mr. Byrd.  Brewer’s execution may bring comfort to the friends and family of Mr. Byrd but if the purpose of “justice” is only to bring comfort, then our definition of justice is on par with a tub of Häagen-Dazs and a warm bath.  The purpose of justice isn’t to serve individuals but to serve society as a whole.

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011 politics, stupid No Comments

We The Entertained

Obama had to move his big jobs speech up to 7pm (EST) so as not to interfere with the first football game of the season.  This speaks to two points:

1.) How far Obama has fallen in the public’s eyes.  The President’s approval rating has reached a new low and it’s not tough to see why.  The economy isn’t growing new jobs, unemployment remains stuck at over 9%, and people see banks returning to normal while their own lives have fallen apart.  Beyond that, it says something that a gifted orator like Obama can no longer command an audience.  Part of that speaks to the public’s weariness with politicians in general and the continued disenchantment with Obama and his pro-big business policies with only lip service to small businesses.

2.) We care more about entertainment than we do about our country.  Will Obama’s speech be full of big ideas, empty promises, and a vague road map sure to be thwarted at every turn by Republicans?  Probably.  But this is a Presidential Address.  Our country’s leader is speaking.  You may not agree with what he has to say but this isn’t Sunday’s weekly, “Hey, how ya doin’ America?  Really wish the Republicans would shape up.  Oh well.”  He wants prime time and the country says, “Sorry, but we’re ready for some football.”  So Obama has to move his speech up to 7pm (4pm PST when most people will be in front of a TV), and it sends the message that the speech is less important than a sporting event.  The speech is about jobs, it’s about the economy, it’s about putting our country back to work, but unfortunately there are two championship teams squaring off and we don’t want people to miss the first quarter.

And that speaks to the greater character of our country: our entertainment is more important than our nation’s welfare.  We are amusing ourselves to death.  Even how we perceive our politics is cast in the mold of entertainment.  We don’t want to hear policy.  We want to hear who’s up, who’s down, who looks good, who looks bad, the latest flub, the soaring rhetoric, and enjoy the horserace.

Even outside this “Football Beats the President” story, we can’t afford to not be plugged into something.  I went to the pharmacy today and people waiting for their prescription to be filled were immersed in their mobile device, myself included.  I was handling e-mail but there was nothing urgent in my inbox.  Our phones are filled with games, music, movies, the Internet and everything to help us dodge the awkward silence and interactions with the people sitting next to us.  A guy who looks down and doesn’t talk to anyone at a party is awkward and shy.  A guy who looks down and doesn’t talk to anyone but is typing into his iPhone might be awkward and shy, but he looks busy and perhaps even important as he can’t be bothered by the people around him due to his intense game of Angry Birds.

Entertainment is important.  It’s our cultural touchstone.  It’s how we’ve come to communicate with each other and define our identity through our interests.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with that.  But when entertainment is deemed more important than a Presidential Address, then our citizenship no longer really matters.  We don’t belong to America because we’re now part of the Packers nation or Team Edward or the Browncoats.  I was never a big believer in pledging allegiance to the flag, but now we pledge our allegiance to our entertainment.  We pledge allegiance, to the entertainment, of the United States of Distraction, and to the Episode, Sequel, or Game for which it stands, one Nation, under fandom, with liberty and justice for all who are on my side.

**Please note that when I say “we”, I’m not using it in the accusatory sense that really means “Everybody but me.”  I’m as guilty of these distractions as anyone if not more so since my job is to cover movies, TV, and video games plus I’m a big football fan.**

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011 politics, sports, stupid No Comments

Special Comment: The Four Hypocrisies

Keith Olbermann issued a withering Special Comment last night aimed at the debt deal.  It’s a good comment in so far as it uses Olbermann’s eloquence to effectively voice the anger many of us are feeling at Obama and the Democrats’ latest capitulation (or as Matt Taibbi put it, they took a dive).  But Olbermann the makes a half-assed rallying cry that progressives and the middle and working class take back the government.  Olbermann makes vague appeals to the powers of social networking and calling back the attitudes of the late 60s and early 70s (remind me, who won the 1968 and 1972 elections?  His name was Richard-something-or-other).

But ultimately such cries for change are in vein.  Obama was the last time most of us will be fooled.  So much was riding on his rhetoric and we hoped and prayed we were getting a once-in-a-generation figure.  But it was actually image politics at its finest and so many were glad to be getting a guy who spoke in complete sentences because that’s where George W. Bush and Sarah Palin were setting the bar.  We made a big deal about Obama being the first black President but he’s shown himself to be as yellow as any other.

And truly, there are no replacements.  We won’t change campaign finance laws because people, no matter how well-intentioned, will almost always find their way to the money.  They’ll do a stint in congress and then find their way to a high-priced lobbying firm and trade access for fat cash.  And since there’s no profit in helping an ill-defined group of middle-class voters (we’ve already seen this year how unions can be destroyed), no organization on the behalf of the middle-class can ever raise enough money to compete with the Goldman Sachs and Koch Brothers of the world.  Even if they could, there’s more money to be made helping the richer organizations.

We live in an oligarchy and who we choose as our leaders is about as important as who we choose as the next American Idol.

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011 politics, television No Comments

The Bachmann Nightmare

What does it say about how Barack Obama has run the country that Michelle Bachmann, a Minnesota congressman who was fighting for her seat in 2008 after implying we should institute McCarthyism, is now a serious candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination?  Only under his weak-willed governance, half-measures, and consistence ignorance about how to beat Republicans in national politics, could a horrific figure like Michelle Bachmann find a base like the Tea Party and start making a play at the White House.

If you think Michelle Bachmann is just a figure of fun because her belief are so beyond the pale that no one could possibly take her seriously, take a step back and apprise the country of the last four years.  People took to town halls and angrily wrote their representative that the gov’ment wuz gonna take away their terrible fucking health care scam.  There’s no national anger at the banks anymore but morons keep thinking that if only taxes went down then everything would be okay because who wants to pay for roads and schools and sanitation.

I encourage you to read Matt Taibbi’s recent Rolling Stone article where he voices the same warning about Bachmann.  Since he’s done such a terrific job of cataloging just some of her many hypocrisies and hatreds, I’ll add one more that went public today.  Michelle Bachmann signed “The Marriage Vow” which is yet another piece of conservative Christian bullshit designed to demonize gay people and pretend like they want to go into your house, split up your marriage, and tell you that you’re going to fuck people of the same sex from now on.

But here’s where it gets really fucked up:

Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President.

This atrocious statement is on page one.  You can click over to Mediaite for their breakdown of the hatefulness and ignorance of this statement. We can laugh at stupidity all we like, but this is where it gets scary.  Not only would anyone who paid attention in 6th grade American history know this statement is false, but let’s just break down the statement to what it is: “Hey black people, you know that black guy you elected President?  Guess what!  He’s made your life worse than when you were slaves.  IRONY.”

A person who the mainstream media loves because she’s going to say something batshit insane every time she opens her crazy fucking mouth is considered someone who could sit in the Oval Office and make decisions.  It’s tempting to laugh off Bachmann because then we won’t have to face the fact that such a grotesque figure actually has more power than us.

Friday, July 8th, 2011 politics No Comments

Low Road to the High Ground

Congressman Anthony Weiner did a gross thing.  He did a stupid thing.  He should be publicly chastised on both counts.  However, in the range of gross, stupid sexual things that members of higher office have done when it comes to their members, his crime is at the low end.  To the best of our knowledge, he never engaged in personal sexual relations outside his marriage.  That’s not to say that he didn’t hurt and embarrass his wife with his actions, but it’s the line between thinking about doing something and actually doing it.  If Weiner actually wanted to cheat on his wife, he could have gone ahead with it.

But there is no reason he should resign.  You can argue that he’ll be less effective now that he has a scandal hanging over his head, but people forget scandals unless you run for higher office.  He’ll probably be stuck as a congressman for the rest of his political career, but people will forget and move on to the next scandal.  And when the next inevitible scandal comes along, if it’s more salacious, Weiner’s sexual improperity will seem small by comparison.  And liberals should not forget that he’s been a loud voice for their causes and that matters in a congress that keeps moving to the right because the extreme right is pulling all of congress to radical conservative values to the point where Obama thinks he’s a centrist when actually his values coincide with 1980s Republicans.

So naturally, Democrats, in their infinite stupidity, are throwing Weiner under the bus.  Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee  has joined House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in the call for Weiner to resign.  Keep in mind, Democrats aren’t the party that tries to legislate morality.  There is no “moral majority” for Democrats, they don’t align with the religious right, and they don’t argue that the founders made intended America as  Christian nation.

Republicans do that, and when they have a sexual scandal, they aren’t in a rush to kick out the adulterers (except for Larry Craig, whose adultery wasn’t a problem but his homosexuality was).  Louisiana senator David Vitter fucked prostitutes, and he not only kept his job, but was re-elected last year.  South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford disappeared to Argentina so he could fuck his mistress, and all he got was censure, the equivalent to a slap on the wrist.

But Democrats, a party without values beyond what the latest focus group thinks, is willing to throw out a liberal voice because he sexted.  They want to throw him out because it tells voters “Hey!  Look!  We’re moral!  We share your values!”  It’s a short-term gain at the expense of an accomplished legislator who fights for worthwhile policy matters.  The same thing happened with Eliot Spitzer.  Yes, his sexual deviance was more extreme, but personal actions should have personal consequences, not professional retribution.  Spitzer was one of the toughest regulators modern Wall Street has ever seen and our country once again showed that it was happier to engage in moral superiority and schadenfreude than to defend someone who was trying to protect their interests.

Democrats aren’t saying “Let’s focus on more important matters.”  They’re saying, “Yes, let’s engage in this distraction.  Let’s acknowledge it as a real thing that’s worthy of the American people’s attention instead of why the price of gas is so damn high.”  But none of it surprises me anymore.  The media goes for the sensational instead of the substantive, Democrats suck at politics, and Republicans laugh all the way to the hotel where they cheat on their spouses.

I don’t feel bad for Anthony Weiner, but I feel bad for the political and cultural system he and I have to inhabit.

Saturday, June 11th, 2011 politics, stupid No Comments

Oilbama

As I was flipping through some midday news, I saw a report that the average gas price is expected to reach $4.50/gal before finally coming down in October.  Sadly, this price has nothing to do with supply and demand.  Environmentalists will use it as a call-to-arms that everyone should buy fuel efficient cars with money they don’t have while conservatives will say that it’s time to drill off shore as quickly as possible.  However, both these calls assume that the price of gas is so high because we’re running out or because of the current turmoil in the Middle East.

But that’s simply not the case.  It’s oil speculation now and it was oil speculation in 2008.  As Matt Taibbi explains in his must-read (albeit wholly depressing) book Griftopia, the price of oil is being driven up by greedy speculators (e.g. Goldman Sachs, Barack Obama’s single largest campaign contributor in 2008).  How does this work?  By screwing with the commodities market.  Here’s a helpful analogy of how it’s gone horribly wrong:

To use an example frequently offered by [Mike Masters of Masters Capital Management], imagine if someone continually showed up at car dealerships and asked to buy $500,000 worth of cars.  This mystery person doesn’t care how many cars, mind you, he just wants a half million bucks’ worth.  Eventually, someone is going to sell that guy one car for $500,000. Put enough of those people out there visiting car dealerships, your car market is going to get very weird very quickly.  Soon enough, the people who are coming into the dealership looking to buy cars they actually plan on driving are going to find they’ve been priced out of the market. [p. 143]

Also keep in mind that the price of oil drives up the price of food.  If companies have to pay more to put fuel in their trucks, they’re going to pass the loss onto the consumer.

So what does our fearful leader do in the face of obvious and well-documented fraud?  He pulls a classic Obama and hedges with the appearance of doing something without actually doing anything.  The website Transport Topics reports:

The U.S. Justice Department is “putting together a team whose job it is to root out any cases of fraud or manipulation in the oil markets that might affect gas prices, and that includes the role of traders and speculators,” President Barack Obama said Thursday in Reno, Nevada.

Oh good.  Another commission to look into something that we already know.  Obama’s defenders will argue that this is the same “prudence” he’s always exercised, but it’s really a stalling tactic.  Obama didn’t say “We’re going to prosecute speculators” or anything that would give the hint that he’s an active rather than a re-active president.  Instead, they’ll “root out any cases of fraud or manipulation”, whatever the hell that means.  And while the Justice Department continues its stellar record of not prosecuting serious corporate criminals in any meaningful way, the administration will hope that the price of oil will decline and our collective amnesia will take over.

I write all this so that every time you go to fill up your car, you’ll look at the price and know that it’s not real.  That it has nothing to do with our lack of energy alternatives or worldwide demand or that we’re not drilling enough in our own backyard.  It’s a scam and it’s a scam we may as well get to used to because Obama has shown he has no real interest in holding anyone responsible for anything.

On a related note, we just passed the one-year anniversary of the BP oil spill that destroyed the Gulf of Mexico.  Here’s a visual reminder of that enduring catastrophe.  We have passed ZERO new laws to handle such a spill in the future (although deepwater drilling permits have been issued despite “not fabulous” safety standards).  Sad fact: Reuters reports that “During his time in the Senate and while running for president, Obama received a total of $77,051 from the oil giant and is the top recipient of BP PAC and individual money over the past 20 years, according to financial disclosure records.”

Friday, April 22nd, 2011 politics, stupid No Comments
 

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