Tuesday, August 25, 2015

American heroes stop terrorist train attack



I know. This has had tons of media attention already. But do you know how seldom it is that I can post a feel-good video?

The Republican campaign for president, not to mention the continuing insanity in Congress, is making me ashamed to be an American. This makes me proud (even though I had nothing at all to do with it).

There are a lot more good people in America - and around the world - than there are crazies. It's just that the crazies usually get all of the attention.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Donald Trump's 'passionate' supporters

Republicans sure are 'passionate,' aren't they?
A Boston man allegedly told police that he beat and urinated on a homeless man early Wednesday because the man was Hispanic, citing real estate mogul Donald Trump's comments on undocumented immigrants as justification for the attack.

In response, the Republican presidential candidate said that "it would be a shame" if his anti-immigrant campaign rhetoric inspired the beating. He immediately pivoted from the mild condemnation to praising his "passionate" supporters' commitment to restoring America to greatness. ...

"I will say, the people that are following me are very passionate," he continued, as quoted by the Herald. "They love this country. They want this country to be great again. But they are very passionate. I will say that.”

Sick stuff, isn't it? Republican politicians incite this kind of violence - or worse - and then wash their hands of any responsibility.

Most Republicans won't do this kind of thing, not even most Trump supporters. But their rhetoric inevitably pushes a certain percentage of people - people they've deliberately made angry - into violence.

Republican politicians have found that pushing fear and anger works great, politically. Fox 'News' makes a ton of money from it, too. But is this really the kind of country we want?

Josh Duggar, family values lobbyist, cheats on wife


You could have guessed this, right?
In 2013, conservative reality TV star Josh Duggar—of TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting fame—was named the executive director of the Family Research Council, a conservative lobbying group in D.C. which seeks “to champion marriage and family as the foundation of civilization, the seedbed of virtue, and the wellspring of society.” During that time, he also maintained a paid account on Ashley Madison, a web site created for the express purpose of cheating on your spouse.

In May 2015, Duggar was forced to resign after In Touch Weekly reported that he had molested five young girls (four of whom were his own sisters) beginning in 2002. When the accusations became public, the family went into crisis mode, insisting that Josh had reformed and that the media covering the claims was intent on “exploiting women.”

Since then, Duggar has admitted to cheating on his wife. So much for reforming, huh? But will it even matter? Look at Sen. David Vitter, another right-wing Christian 'family values' promoter caught patronizing prostitutes. He didn't even lose his Senate seat, and he's currently leading in the race for Louisiana governor, still pushing God-based family values (i.e. one man and as many concubines as he wants, apparently).

None of this will matter to the faith-based, though. That's because reality doesn't mean anything to them. They believe what they want to believe, and that's that. It won't affect the power of the Family Research Council, either, or of the Republican politicians who genuflect to them.

The hypocrisy does make me feel good, though.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Bernie Sanders takes on the media



This is why Bernie Sanders is doing so well (far better than I expected, I must admit).

Blaming the victims

I'm sure glad we've got Republican men addressing the problem of sexual harassment, aren't you?
The Missouri legislature would like to continue its internship program despite the program being marred by the recent sexual harassment of interns.

The idea the lawmakers have come up with? Imposing a dress code for the interns to "help everyone keep their focus on legislative matters."

Missouri state Rep. Kevin Engler (R) sent a memo to his colleagues Monday night with suggestions, including minimum number of credit hours for participation and mandatory sexual harassment training for both interns and lawmakers, according to the Kansas City Star on Tuesday.

The move came after two legislators, including former Missouri House Speaker John Diehl (R), resigned amid allegations of sexual harassment of interns.

State Rep. Bill Kidd (R) responded to Engler with a suggestion of his own: "Intern dress code," he wrote, according to the newspaper.

Rep. Nick King (R) agreed, the newspaper reported. ...

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) said establishing an intern dress code would put responsibility for the harassment on the interns when it should be on the harasser.

In letters to the Missouri lawmakers, McCaskill (who once worked as an intern at the state legislature) wrote that the proposed solution "bitterly disappointed" her.
I refuse to stand by idly while any suggestion is made that victims of sexual harassment in the Missouri State Legislature is the responsibility of anyone other than the legislators themselves. It is the responsibility of you and your colleagues to uphold the law, protect the young people working in our state’s capital, and confront and change a culture that excuses sexual violence. This problem has nothing to do with how interns are dressed.

You see? If you women didn't look so hot, we men wouldn't harass you. Well, not as much, at least. Clearly, it's all your fault. LOL

Ah, Republicans!

Republican presidential debate highlights, take 2



OK, I already posted the debate highlights (here), but this covers some important points the other video didn't.

I must say, I didn't realize these guys could make this much sense - not much sense, admittedly, but more than I've ever heard from them before. Don't you agree?

Where is Jon Stewart when we need him so desperately?

From TPM:

Monday, August 17, 2015

Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption



I hope you laughed at the last video I posted, because this one will make your blood boil. Well, the first half of it will. The second half is funny enough, itself.

Mr. Deity and the sting



Heh, heh. This is one of the best of these Mr. Deity videos. Listen carefully, so you don't miss anything.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Why I get depressed



OK, this is just a regular in Steve Shives' series of Five Stupid Things videos, but I like my title better.

Yeah, the hardest part is only picking five...

John Oliver: sex education



With Jon Stewart gone - and Steven Colbert, at least in his Colbert Report persona - at least we still have John Oliver.

Helping Kent Hovind understand the speed of light



This is why you don't let a preacher tell you about science. Ignorance does not affect their confidence in the slightest, since they just believe whatever they want to believe.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Politics, American-style - part two

We laugh at Donald Trump. We complain about the political circus in the GOP. But this is America, and we've done this to ourselves.

Sure, some people have brought us here deliberately - for money, for political power. But the rest of us let it happen. This is our fault - not as individuals, necessarily, but collectively.

And here we are:
On June 9, The New York Times ran a useful, detailed consideration of the finances of Marco Rubio. Publicly, the Florida senator describes his everyman’s struggle to “finally pay off his law school loans.” Privately, according to state records unearthed by the paper’s Steve Eder and Michael Barbaro, he spent “$80,000 for a luxury speedboat.”

The detail revealed a larger pattern: Rubio has been financially in the hole for nearly his entire adult life. The reason this mattered, noted the Times—whose work on Rubio has been a welcome exception to the rule of bad campaign reporting—was that it “has made him unusually reliant on a campaign donor, Norman Braman, a billionaire who has subsidized Mr. Rubio’s job as a college instructor, hired him as a lawyer, and continues to employ his wife.”

These details were explained in the Times a month earlier. The same two reporters described the 82-year-old Braman, an almost comically plutocratic figure who sells Rolls Royces and Bugattis for a living, and almost single-handedly recalled Miami’s mayor. Braman, who implored the Times reporters, “I don’t consider myself a fat cat. Don’t make me out to be a fat cat,” has been able to call the tune for the 44-year-old Rubio.

Then came Politico’s bubble-headed media reporter Dylan Byers with a scoop: Rubio’s “luxury speedboat” was “in fact, an offshore fishing boat.” Speedboats, you see, are for rich swells; fishing boats, even ones costing almost $100,000, are for jes’ folks.

Immediately, this supposed error became the shiny bouncing ball the political media decided to chase.

Politico covered Boatgate eight times over the next two weeks—Byers twice in two consecutive days. They didn’t mention Braman once.

If the billionaire bankrolling a candidate for president - indeed, funding his entire adult life - isn't important, what is?
The name of today’s game is TV commercials, not endorsements, door-knocking armies, and “walking around money.” TV is costly and it takes don’t-call-me-fat-cats like Norman Braman, Sheldon Adelson, and the Brothers Koch to pay those kinds of bills.

The bottom line is that the penumbras and emanations of Citizens United are changing the campaign game in ways that throw all previous understandings of how Republicans nominate presidents into a cocked hat. To see how it’s working on the ground, come with me to Southern California, where last year David and Charles Koch convened one of their dog-and-pony shows, where the aspirants lined up to stand on their hind legs to beg before their would-be masters. Politico spoke to two people who were there, and offered the following account of the performance of Ohio’s Governor John Kasich.

“Randy Kendrick, a major contributor and the wife of Ken Kendrick, the owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks, rose to say she disagreed with Kasich’s decision to expand Medicaid coverage, and questioned why he’d said it was ‘what God wanted.’” Kasich’s “fiery” response: “I don’t know about you, lady. But when I get to the pearly gates, I’m going to have to answer what I’ve done for the poor.”

Other years, before other audiences, such public piety might have sounded banal. This year, it’s enough to kill a candidacy:

“About 20 audience members walked out of the room, and two governors also on the panel, Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, told Kasich they disagreed with him. The Ohio governor has not been invited back to a Koch seminar.”

Which is, of course, astonishing. But even more astonishing was the lesson the Politico drew from it—one, naturally, about personalities: “Kasich’s temper has made it harder to endear himself to the GOP’s wealth benefactors.” His temper. Not their temper. Not, say, “Kasich’s refusal to kowtow before the petulant whims of a couple of dozen greedy nonentities who despise the Gospel of Jesus Christ has foreclosed his access to the backroom cabals without which a Republican presidential candidacy is inconceivable.”

Caring for the poor? How un-Christian of you! Sorry, no billionaire sugar-daddy for you.

But it's not the details which are so disgusting, but the whole process. Is this the kind of America we want?
If the winnowing of front-runners from also-rans has traditionally been a financial process (when the money dries up, so do the campaigns) Sheldon Adelson of Las Vegas and Macau began tearing up that paradigm in 2012 by shoveling money to Newt Gingrich; $20 million total, including $5 million dispensed on March 23, three days after Gingrich won 8 percent in Illinois’s primary to Mitt Romney’s 47 percent, keeping Gingrich officially in the race more than a week after the RNC declared Romney the presumptive nominee.

Now, four previously unheard of super-PACS supporting Ted Cruz, who has no support among the GOP’s “establishment,” raised $31 million “with virtually no warning over the course of several days beginning Monday.” The New York Times reported this shortly after reporting that “[t]he leader of the Federal Election Commission, the agency charged with regulating the way political money is raised and spent, says she has largely given up hope of reigning in abuses in the 2016 presidential campaign, which could generate a record $10 billion in spending.”

The Koch Brothers, you can learn if you take a deep enough dive into the relatively obscure precincts of campaign coverage, are battling to take over a major functions of the Republicans National Committee.

And all this, admittedly, gets reported, in bits and pieces. But all this noise doesn’t amount to an ongoing story by which citizens can understand what is actually going on. Not just concerning who might be our next president, but what it all means for the republic. And not just concerning the candidates, but the behind-the-scenes string-pullers whose names, really, should be almost as familiar to us as Mr. Bush, Mr. Rubio, and, God forbid, Dr. Carson.

Instead, we get the same old hackneyed horse race—like, did you know that Rick Santorum is in trouble? Only one voter showed up at his June 8 event in Hamlin, Iowa. The Des Moines Register reported that. Politico made sure that tout Washington knew it. Though neither mentioned that Santorum is still doing just fine with the one voter that matters: Foster Friess, the Wyoming financier who gave his super-PAC $6.7 million in 2012, and promises something similar this year. “He has the best chance of winning,” Friess said. “I can’t imagine why anybody would not vote for him.’’ Which, considering only 2 percent of New Hampshirites and Iowans agree with him, is kind of crazy. And you’d think having people like that picking the people who govern us would all be rather newsworthy.

It's not that Rick Santorum is ever going to become president, any more than Newt Gingrich in 2012. But whichever Republican wins the primary contest, he'll have his own billionaire owners backers.

And the other billionaires, whose preferred candidates lost, will get on board, because partial ownership of a winner is a lot more valuable than full ownership of a loser. Face it, these billionaires mostly want the same thing, anyway - corporate welfare and more tax cuts for themselves. And at the very least, they're all fine with the racism and religious lunacy required to keep the GOP base happy while they get it.

As I noted above, we've done this to ourselves. We elected the Republican presidents who appointed far-right Supreme Court justices. We elected Republicans to state legislatures, where they gerrymandered election districts, and we elected the right-wing Republicans who now control Congress.

Most importantly, we let ourselves be manipulated. No matter how much money a candidate has, he still needs votes. Money is only important because it works. It gets candidates elected. If it stopped working, even Republican candidates would stop letting billionaires buy them.

In a way, it's like the Republican Party's notorious 'Southern strategy' of deliberately wooing white racists. It worked. That's why they did it. To a large extent, it's still working. If it hadn't worked, they wouldn't have done it - or, at least, they would have quickly stopped.

The fact that it worked - and worked very, very well, too - makes it our fault. The fact that big money works is also our fault. It's not my fault, and maybe it's not yours, but collectively, it's our fault.

This is America. ISIS didn't do this to us. Al Qaeda didn't do this to us. We did this to ourselves.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Jesus vs aliens: the culture war at Roswell


Wow, this is weird:
I had these stereotypical alien abduction experiences when I was a kid,” Guy Malone tells me. “Little creatures with big black eyes were raping me and trying to eat me and trying to operate on me.”

We’re standing in the Roswell [New Mexico] mall’s CosmiCon—a space-themed collection of comics, costumes and other oddities presented in collaboration with Roswell’s 20th annual UFO festival, a kind of alien enthusiasts’ TED conference and county fair. Malone, an effusive storyteller with an easy laugh and a slight Tennessee twang, is here to hawk his memoir and pick up a few new believers while he’s at it.

“There were multiple dreams and memories spread across years. I didn’t want to believe it, but once I read books on the subject I thought, ‘yep, that’s me.’”

Malone’s a Christian now, and he no longer believes aliens abducted him—he thinks demons are responsible for the terrifying recurring visions of his childhood and adolescence. After finding Christianity, Malone says he received a calling from God in 1999 to move to Roswell, where he would spread the word of Jesus as a means of stopping alien abductions.

Yup, there's apparently a culture war between competing fantasies in Roswell, New Mexico. Of course, it's all about money, too, since UFOs bring in a lot of money to the community.
It’s a microcosmic culture war in which competing believers—of extraterrestrial identity, of Christian theology, of the holy church of the American dollar—proselytize their own mutually exclusive notions of reality.

I see no real reason to comment on this. I just thought it was interesting - and very, very weird.


PS. For a hoot, try doing a Google image search for "Jesus aliens." Yeah, that's where I got these images, but there are lots more where they came from!

Trumping the Republican campaign


God, I'm going to miss Jon Stewart! He'll be gone in another week. Stephen Colbert is already gone. What am I going to do?

We've still got John Oliver, but he's on HBO. What am I going to do for political humor this campaign season? (Larry Wilmore calls it "The Unblackening." Heh, heh. Yes, I do watch The Nightly Show, but only the opening monologue.)

Incidentally, did you notice that there are now 17 declared candidates in the Republican field? Yes, Jim Gilmore (I know you're asking yourself, "Who?") has just jumped at this golden opportunity, too. After all, there's plenty of room for one more, right?

This isn't the first time. He ran in 2008, too, lasting less than three months before dropping out again. Now, the first Republican Party debate - hosted by Fox 'News,' of course - is only another week away, and he's going to have to beat seven other candidates just to get an invitation.

Personally, I'm praying (secularly) for Sarah Palin to throw her hat into the ring. That's all this circus needs, don't you think?

Off-duty state trooper fires on unarmed teens

Absolute insanity:
Three young adults were arrested in the early hours of Saturday morning after mistakenly knocking on the door of a New Jersey State Trooper and fleeing the scene.

... According to people close to the investigation, three young adults, after leaving a graduation party, attempted to go to a friend’s house nearby.

A source said, they mistakenly went to the next door neighbor’s home. After repeatedly ringing the doorbell and loudly knocking on the door, the homeowner, a state trooper, came to the door. When he opened the door and shouted at them, the three men ran away.

The three got into a vehicle and the officer fired three gun shots as they attempted to flee.

Yeah, the state trooper shot at them as they were trying to get away (hitting the car at least once). Now, these teenagers are under arrest. The article goes on to say, "It is not clear what charges, if any, have been brought against these men."

The state trooper who shot at three unarmed teenagers who were simply trying to get away? Nothing - so far, at least. In fact, he's still on active duty.

Welcome to America, the gun-and-paranoia capital of the world.