Site Meter

America vs. The World

The big trouble with dumb bastards is that they are too dumb to believe there is such a thing as being smart. — Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Friday fungus blogging


This is what's been growing in my kitchen.

World, I give you... potonions!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Back just in time

Hey all.

Mr. Meowgi
The source of all the trouble.  
So, my cat was kidnapped by these Bulgarians. They wanted 35 pounds of zinc for him. I can't afford copper, let alone zinc, so off to Bulgaria in pursuit it was. Several winding, fruitstand-destroying car chases in comically small European cars later, I'm back home with my cat, some duty-free chocolate and a scorching case of herpes.

Ha ha, just kidding. That duty-free stuff is a ripoff.

Which is to say, sorry about the not blogging thing. And here I come back to find the partisan rhetoric flowing like wine.

Despite some of the language thrown around here from time to time, I am usually not prone to partisan politics. And this blog was certainly never intended to be. Shit, Gordon has voted Libertarian more than once. I don't really agree with Mandasaurous in her disdain for Republicans. Personally, I find that kind of moral superiority hands down the most annoying thing about Democrats and the left. As I said before, I would have no problem voting for the right Republican. And though I can't imagine being friends with anyone who genuinely supports President Bush, in saner times I've known and liked many Republicans.

That said, these times are not sane. Gordon's "why don't both sides knock it off" message implies that both Democrats and Republicans (and both the left and the right) are responsible for the current state of our nation and our political discourse. That is, to put it nicely, fuckin' bullshite.

For the last six years, the Republican Party has dominated U.S. government and American politics in a way rarely seen before. Not only have they controlled all three branches of government (the judicial branch is mostly Republican appointees), they have taken unprecedented steps to secure and retain that control. From passing laws without allowing debate or amendments to guaranteeing elections through gerrymandering to excluding Democrats from legislative conferences between the houses, Republicans have changed the very way the legislative branch operates.

One of the most pernicious changes is the so-called majority-of-the-majority rule: Republican leadership in the House will only allow a vote on bills that have the support of a majority of Republican representatives. This means that if a law can only be passed by collecting some Democratic votes to go with some Republican votes, it will not be brought to the floor. Period. In one fell swoop, Tom DeLay and Dennis Hastert cut the Democratic party out of the legislative process.

There's plenty more; John Dean does a good job of detailing many of the institutional changes they've made in Conservatives Without Conscience. And of course that's just Congress. The executive branch is so ridden with unqualified Republican hacks and cronies that it will take years to undo the damage.

To put it another way, Democrats have spent the last six years recoiling from one big, long Republican bitch slap. Even if they want to get in on the fun and piss off some moderates, they've got to pick themselves off the floor first.

I'm hesitant to endorse a party simply because the other guys are even worse. But I'm not sure that's the case here. Tom called the Republicans the evil party and Democrats the stupid party, but it seems to me that Republicans embody both evil and stupidity a lot better than the Democrats these days. The Clinton years now seem like a relative paradise, and while the high-taxing, free-spending, hippy peacenik Democrat Party has been a right-wing boogeyman for years, I have yet to see much of it in practice.

I came of political age during the 90's, and have never been able to understand why the Republican Party has traditionally been the party of libertarians and "leave me alone" conservatives. Perhaps once upon a time Republicans represented those views better, but since I've been watching they've stood for government endorsement of religion, the scaling back of Constitutional rights, laws favorable to business at the expense of consumers, intrusion into citizens' private lives and large budgets supported by borrowing, rather than taxes.

Markos Moulitsas (aka Kos) recently published a piece for libertarian thinktank The Cato Institute making the case for the "libertarian Democrat," and I think it's a good one. Here's an even better one from Sifu Tweety:
If there's been one thing most galling about the Worst President Ever's era, by the way, it's been having to care about the opinions of rank idiots. That somebody jollily febrile enough to rationalize torture — torture! — or question evolution — evolution?! — is actually in a position to influence my own life one way or another is flat fucking offensive to my strong sense of idiot-free self-determination (very libertarian democrat!).
Tom is right — there's been nothing remotely conservative about the Bush administration and this Republican Congress. Or as he put it, "some kind of bastardized corporate-lobbied state giving government support to rapacious, evil men." Sounds about right.

Help oust Republicans!

Give money


Even if you don't like the Democrats, it's clear to most people that Republican one-party rule has been an absolute disaster for America. It will take years for the United States to regain the prominence in the world it once had and reverse some of the damage Republican polices have had at home.

In a few years, we can go back to judging candidates individually on the merits. But right now we have to get these crazy assholes out of power before they mess up the country and the world any worse.

You've still got time to help the cause of idiot-free self-determination. Give some money to Democratic candidates, and if you live in the Chicagoland area, consider volunteering for Melissa Bean or Tammy Duckworth, who are both in fairly close House races.

And make sure to vote!! I've got a $40 bet with Gordon that rides on the Democrats retaking both houses. After losing to him the last two elections, I could use the cash.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Seven things Dems and Reps should do to avoid pissing off moderates

Some words of wisdom from the extreme middle:

Democrats: stop turning global politics into a popularity contest. Though an America that’s loved has more potential power than an America that’s despised, you have to acknowledge that large populations will always dislike and blame us for reasons beyond our control. (We represent the status quo, and unhappy people hate the status quo.) America requires just enough popularity to retain authority in an increasingly democratic world—any less and we’re pariahs, any more and we’re suckers. That being said, we’re a long way from that minimal level of popularity.

Republicans: stop working religion where it doesn’t belong. Hundreds of years ago, a couple of heretics named Copernicus and Galileo dared to engage science free of religious intervention, and that seems to have worked out for everyone. Today, we need to follow that example by keeping creationism and “intelligent design” out of classrooms, by pursuing stem cell research like a first-world nation, and by acknowledging abortion as a proven way to reduce poverty and crime. Let the scientific Renaissance live on. Jesus will understand.

Democrats: Stop pushing for nationalized healthcare. Europe’s cushy healthcare structure is so expensive, it currently threatens to bring down entire economies when Baby Boomers start retiring in five years. So while a significant chunk of Americans can’t afford medical care, we need to approach this with our heads, not our hearts. That means baby steps: start by making preventative and critical care more available, then find a way to give insurance companies an incentive for adjusting prices and accommodating subsidies at the state and federal level. Our goals should be realistic—if we can’t get the healthcare we want for ourselves, let’s aim to get it for our grandchildren.

Republicans: stop blocking gay rights. Republicans may claim a history of defending civil rights, but a political party is defined by what it is, not what it was—and what you currently are is a party searching for a Constitutional Amendment that takes rights away from a specific group of people. At some point, you need to realize that gays are the new blacks, and they’ll eventually get the rights they deserve, so stop embarrassing yourselves and let this one take its course.

Democrats: stop thinking only with your hearts. The concept of “redistribution of wealth” is shortsighted, socialist and (to most red-blooded Americans) truly sinful. A government collects taxes with the permission of its citizens, and it does so with the understanding that it will use the money in a manner that best benefits the nation as a whole—at the very least, better than if those dollars were spent privately. Just remember: tax revenues and social programs are a means to an end, so don’t be surprised (or upset) if your dollar goes to pesticide research instead of the homeless.

Republicans: stop thinking only with your wallets. Adam Smith was dead-on when he said “it is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.” But that’s not to say that what’s best for your particular bank account is always best for America as a whole. Sometimes we should embrace that small extra tax or fee (within reason, of course) that may improve our aggregate social health or snowball into economic growth. Just realize that a true laissez-faire economy exists only in textbooks, and a helping hand doesn’t have to be associated with a bleeding heart.

Everyone: Start keeping an open mind. Generally speaking, the other side’s extremes are not much more evil or idiotic than your own—they just see the world through a different lens, emphasize different details and draw different conclusions. Most Americans want a country that is strong, smart and successful, but what that means and how to get there vary person to person, and sometimes even one person’s means and ends don’t line up. So let’s think before we make blanket accusations, avoid the name-calling and try to minimize selective reasoning. You’ll be doing yourself—and your party—a huge favor.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

I'm not ready to make nice, either.

Right on, Dixies.

My recent post about my personal refusal to date Republicans was met with some criticism. I'm pretty thick-skinned so my response here isn't meant as a defense. It might even be meant as something more — a call to stand up and get mad.

This topic came up recently as I watched West Wing with my dear friend who called the show "liberal porn." He said that the West Wing makes us think that Republicans are reasonable. And in real life, in Washington at least, that's not true.

Republicans (professional ones, especially) are bad. Republican policies are hurting America.

Schools in America are worse for the policies that Republicans have put into action. More children are dropping out of school, or finishing school without an education that could help them go further. Healthcare isn't improving like it could. Civil rights are being curtailed in favor of a vague notion of security. More than 2,500 American soldiers have died in Iraq.

This isn't right. And I'm not going to be wishy-washy or compromising about it. I'm going to stomp my feet, yell, vote and tell my friends to vote too. I'm giving money to candidates I support, and I might volunteer my rowdy ass on Election Day.

I'm going to take lies spouted by Republicans as personal offenses and I'm going to shout the truth from the rooftops. I'm going to call people out on being racist, sexist and discriminating in other ways. (George Allen, I'm taking about you.) I'm not fooled by Republicans shrugging their shoulders about corruption.

I'm not saying I hate you if you're a Republican. You're probably perfectly nice, and you're probably confused about why you've been led astray. But I am saying that you're wrong. And you're hurting America.

How do you fix things without switching over the dark side? Stand up, too. Tell Republican policy makers and pundits that they're hurting the party. Tell them that Republican ideals don't match this nonsense. Scream from the hilltops that you, a Republican at heart, think that all people deserve equal treatment — equally fair shots at education, equal right to marry someone we love, equal opportunity to be great.

The Dixies are right. We shouldn't make nice, back down. Let's be mad as hell. And do something about it.
Jeff Goldstein is a wanker.