Race to the Bottom

August 31, 2010

The sad, shabby tale of how Gov. Christie and his administration screwed up the state’s application for the federal Race to the Top educational funding program, as covered by Rachel Maddow:

You gotta love that bit about how the mistake was made because that RTTT application was just so goshdarn big. Remember those first months after George Waterboard Bush’s invasion of Iraq, when those weapons of mass destruction remained stubbornly invisible to the eye? That’s when the wingers started telling us that Iraq was the size of California, and gosh, there were so many places to hide those weapons. The moral of this story is, conservatives just can’t handle big jobs.

Sorry to say, I have to agree with Charles Stile’s view that this story doesn’t have what it takes to damage Christie’s long-term prospects as the GOP’s adipose Great White Hope. I mean, it’s not like incompetence and lying have been barriers to advancement for anyone else in the conservative fold.

If there are no local fireworks shows in your area, you can always watch the self-immolation of Sarah Palin.

Personally, I hope this is not the last we see of Wailin’ Palin. I want her in the next GOP primary, preferably with Newt Gingrich running alongside.

The Winger Mindset

June 17, 2009

Okay, people, somebody walk me through this.

Bill O’Reilly can spend hours of television time denouncing Kansas physician George Tiller as a Nazi, a moral equal to NAMBLA and Al Qaida, and call him “Tiller the Baby Killer” because he performed legal late-term abortions, but nobody can suggest that his words played any part in Tiller’s assassination by an anti-abortion psycho . . .   

. . . but mere words in a novel about a teenaged boy’s coming out are so dangerous to the public that a group of Wisconsin wingnuts not only want it banned from the local library, they want it burned in public.

I mean, the ranks of Wingnuttia are swollen with culture warriors who have built whole careers on the notion that mere video games, movies and TV shows have the power to warp minds and turn innocents into bloodthirsty criminals. The mere existence of Michael Moore was enough to cause the 9/11 disaster, to hear Dinesh D’Souza tell it. But a FreaksNews cable troll can howl against George Tiller night after night and that’s not supposed to have any effect on his viewers? The less stable ones, I mean, assuming that’s a distinction one can make among O’Reilly’s followers. 

While we ponder that question, let’s relax with some highly entertaining video built on O’Reilly’s latest froth-fest against Salon editor Joan Walsh. Good times!

God Squawk

March 30, 2009

The argument about same-sex marriage has been going on long enough now that we can sort the anti-SSM rationales into three, you must excuse the term, positions: (1) EEEEEYEEWWW!; (2) defining marriage as anything other than a union of man and woman undermines the foundations of civilization; (3) the Big Guy in the Sky says it’s forbidden, and we have to do like he says or he will withdraw his blessing from America and all kinds of bad things will happen.

Since (1) is self-refuting and (2) usually leads to (3), let’s focus on the religious argument — specifically the Christianist view. As it turns out, Damon Linker in The New Republic has a pretty cool rejoinder to the Big Guy in the Sky contingent:

Among many other things, Christian scripture and tradition affirm the legitimacy of slavery, claim that the Jews are cursed for killing Jesus, and assert that one must give away all of one’s belongings and even learn to hate one’s own family before following Christ. These are just a few of the matters on which contemporary Christians, including orthodox Christians like Rod (Dreher), feel quite comfortable breaking with, or explaining away, scripture and tradition. And it’s a good thing, too, because it shows that they’re willing to think for themselves about important moral issues and to use their minds to separate out what is enduringly true in scripture and tradition from the unexamined prejudices that shape and distort everything touched by human hands, very much including received religious norms, practices, and beliefs. The issue, then, is to determine why so many contemporary Christians have decided that the teaching on homosexuality — but not the teachings on slavery, Jews, and the most stringent requirements of becoming a disciple of Christ — deserves to be preserved.

As I’ve noted before (and implied many times as well), I tend not to be impressed by arguments that involve waving around the nearest handy copy of the local holy book. If the Almighty wants to part the clouds, shine down a beam of light and inform the world in thunderous tones that he doesn’t want to see SSM accorded equal status with opposites-attract wedlock, then he’s got my attention. Until then, Jesus whoopers and Christianists can put away their witch doctor paraphernalia and frame their arguments in a rational fashion.

I realize that I have failed to take into account the Rick Santorum if-we-allow-gay-marriages-then-we’ll-end-up-letting-people-marry-house-pets-and-livestock point of view, but since most of us would need nine-tenths of our brains surgically removed before we could address that argument on its proper intellectual level, I figured I’d save us a lot of trouble.

Atlas Frugged

March 4, 2009

After the Hieronymous-Bosch-Meets-The-Island-of-Dr. Moreau spectacle that was CPAC, followed by the entirely predictable news that RNC chairman Michael Steele has leased a long-term parking spot for his lips on Rush Limbaugh’s butt cheeks, I thought the conservatives had topped up their crazy tank and would spend the rest of the week chilling out in their padded cells.

Silly me. Now the flappers are talking about “going Gault.” Let’s trek into the fever swamp and listen as these strange creatures gather around their favorite salt lick:

  • I shut down my online businesses in early November, I don’t remember why. I’m now a net user of Obama Cheese. I may even apply for food stamps.
  • Small businesses will lay off employees, and I hope the first to go are the ones that voted for bho. They wanted ‘hope and change’, well you got it. These bho voters have NO idea how much more taxes they are going to be paying. I just hope those bho voters have their IRA, 401k and stocks cratered as much as those who DID not vote for bho. Such(sic) it up kids!
  • I’m starting my victory garden this spring. My sister is expanding hers and in exchange for my helping with that I will be able to claim some of the produce. I’ve been couponing for over a year now and have a nice stockpile of food for when things get really, really bad. I can’t believe that my country is on this path. From Ronald Reagan to this Marxist in the span of one generation. Unbelievable.

I trust the Ayn Rand reference is already clear.

Debate of the Living Dead

February 24, 2009

I think it’s safe to say that if a geologist decided it would not be worth his  time to engage in a staged discussion with a hollow-earth cultist, you would not hear people of average education accusing him of being pissy or trying to stifle scientific debate. That’s because people of average education and intellect understand that the interior of the earth is not a vast cavern with its own sun, and that the Pellucidar novels are pulp fantasy, not scientific speculation. They also understand that for a scientist, getting into a “debate” with a scientifically illiterate crank has no upside — it is simply a time-suck that will keep him away from career-advancing research, while giving the crank a spurious air of authority.

So why is it that somebody who is demonstrably well-educated in many areas fails to grasp that evolutionary biologist Nick Gotelli has better things to do with his time than engage in yet another “debate” about creationism and evolutionary theory with somebody from the Discovery Institute, that wellspring of bad-faith argument and impenetrable ignorance? And that Gotelli’s elegantly phrased and utterly scathing rejection of the offer of debate is not “posturing” or pissiness, but simply streetwwise recognition of the fact that the Discovery Institute is interested only in grubbing for publicity.

“Debate” implies an exchange of arguments that leads to a conclusion and an adjustment of opinions in the face of the stronger argument. Gotelli knows that he can spend hours demolishing creationist arguments, like other scientists before him, without changing a single mind on the other side. When a creationist’s points are refuted, he simply reshuffles and restates them. If George Romero makes another zombie movie, I humbly suggest he clothe the undead in t-shirts with terms like “Irreducible Complexity” and “Intelligent Design” across the chests. No matter how many times you shoot them down, they get back up and keep coming.

There is plenty of debate taking place every day about the nature of evolution. Creationism — or intelligent design or whatever new bottle is fashioned to hold the old whine — is not a part of that debate. The staffers at the Discovery Institute are either half-smart religious cranks, or fully sleazy operators who know better but keep pushing discredited nonsense because they want to keep cashing their wingnut welfare checks.

Twilight of the Clods

February 3, 2009

Far be it from me to stand back and keep a straight face when everyone else in the progressive blogger ranks is chortling about the woes of the wingnut web: Dignity Pants Media is switching from one losing business model to another, losier model (i.e., expecting people to pay for something they didn’t even want when it was free); and Culture 11 has proved to be a bad bet, as should have been expected from any venture launched with the help of Diamond Bill Bennett. Schadenfreude, do you say? Damn right it is.

The problem with right-wing blogs is not so much their crack-brained content or their delusional business plans, but the fact that they simply aren’t necessary. The progressive blogosphere grew directly in proportion to the insanity unleashed by conservatives, starting with the Clinton impeachment farce and the hijacking of the 2000 election  and continuing through the Iraq War fraud, spurred along by  the wingnut  infestation of mass-market punditry, and the cluelessness of respectable columnists like David Broder who mumbled about bipartisanship while the Visigoths ran riot in the halls of government.

 Daily Kos, Eschaton and Crooks and Liars,  as well as the lefty blogs that followed in their train, didn’t spring into being because some daddy wingbucks wrote them  phat checks. They developed and thrived because they trafficked in reality, and in a media realm dominated by the likes of Michelle Malkin, Rush Limbaugh and Thomas Friedman, reality was and is  a scarce and valuable commodity.

Wingers have no shortage of propaganda spigots to sup from, and while they are a breed with a seemingly endless capacity for hearing the same nonsense over and over, there are only  so many hours in a day, and one cannot live at one’s computer. When the airwaves and op-ed pages are full of professional ranters, amateurs can’t expect much of a crowd for their flea-circus versions.  

That’s why the smart money is  betting on the amount of time it takesfor  Big Hollywood, the latest methane-pumped conservative ego balloon, to settle to earth with a long, flatulent hiss. No, I’m not going to link to it, but if you scout it out you’ll find a Web site devoted to . . . wait for it . . . complaints about liberal bias in the movie industry — a theme so tired  even Z-list wingers like Michael Medved resort to it only on exceptionally slow news days. The last time I checked, their spotlight post was a long whine about the revamped Battlestar Galactica from Dirk Benedict, a talentless refugee from the original series  who’s been  over-the-hill for so long that the hill itself has eroded away. Oh yeah — that’ll bring the masses in at a gallop.

Keep the Schadenfreude pot brewing, folks.

Steeley Scam

February 2, 2009

Like Field and Nordette, I find myself a bit underwhelmed by the choice of Michael Steele to chair the Republican National Committee. As a matter of fact, I find it pretty hilarious and unconvincing, even if the David Dukes of the world are getting their white sheets in a twist.

Steele may be sitting on the throne, but his behind isn’t the one Republicans are bending to kiss.

Oh well. I wouldn’t want to pre-judge the man, so let’s see what his backbone is made of, but something tells me it will be something a lot more pliable than steel.

No matter how tough a day I may be having at work, I know there’ll be a smile waiting for me whenever a NewsMax e-mail alert appears in my in-box. Whether it’s an  investment scam, a call to arms  against another mythical threat to the winger talk radio aviary, a  morsel of  quack health advice, another Dick Morris toe-sucker bulletin or a hustle to buy a hand-cranked emergency radio (“Terror chatter is high — protect your family!”) NewsMax bulletins are like a CNN Headline News broadcast beamed directly from the conservative Id.  Since the conservative mind consists solely of Id — no Superego, just a lot of Egos and  Super Egos — we may assume that NewsMax bulletins function as an EEG of conservative brain activity, with its cyclical bursts of psychotic frenzy and long stretches of flatlined unresponsiveness.

Perhaps a better metaphor would be a diner with an extremely limited menu and staff ranging from incompetent to indifferent. At the NewsMax Diner the food is indigestible, the pies are always half-baked and the crockery is never clean, but the stupid is always brewed fresh and served straight-up, piping hot.  

Now I see DougJ has discovered this reliable source of grins, and I wish him much fun with it. He should bear in mind that they’ve been predicting that war with Iran since Mitt Romney was considered a shoo-in for the presidency, but the NewsMax Diner never stocks anything with a clearly dated shelf life.

In the aftermath of the multiple conservative-engineered disasters on the financial, moral, military and electoral fronts that we are now struggling with, there was a great deal of talk about “soul searching” among “thoughtful” conservatives, who would try to find ways to bring right-wingers back to “true” conservatism.

It’s a laudable goal, but from where I stand, most conservatives seem less interested in coming to grips with their failures than in redefining them so that actions undertaken by Dubya with the enthusiastic support of conservatives suddenly become examples of liberalism, the sort of thing the sainted Ronald Reagan would never have dreamed of doing.

On the local front, Star-Ledger columnist Paul Mulshine has been forlornly trying to redefine Bush’s invasion of Iraq as “liberal do-gooder internationalism,” while railing against “the essentially left-wing views of Bill Kristol, John Podhoretz and the Fox News crowd,” thereby giving us a taste of what might have resulted if George Orwell had offered Groucho Marx a chance to rewrite Nineteen Eighty-Four.   

Now I see that one of Andrew Sullivan’s readers has decided to see Mulshine on the Iraq War and raise him:

A reflexive abhorrence of violence of all kinds (war, torture, even the death penalty and abortion) is inherently conservative – part of any meaningful definition of conservatism. 

Having spent the last couple of decades hearing conservatives grunt about liberals being a bunch of pacifist hippies, and the last few years being called all kinds of nasty things by drive-by wingers with “Whack Iraq” and “Kick Their Ass, Take Their Gas” bumper stickers, I can only laugh at this attempt to retrofit conservatism with dove’s wings, much less the notion that Bush has somehow degraded the Reagan legacy.

For the overwhelming majority of conservatives, and middle-of-the-roaders who never offered more than token objections, Bush’s invasion of Iraq was going to be Reagan’s invasion of Grenada writ large — a little dodgy in moral terms, sure, but hey it was all going to be over quickly and once the smoke cleared we’d have loads of oil to burn.

When it came to running up huge deficits, undermining public safety through deregulation, packing government positions with cynical operators and using American might to stomp on ninety-pound weaklings, Bush and Reagan were and are more alike than different.

Face it, wingers: When you got Bush, you got everything you’d ever dreamed of having, and the result was poison. Now be a bunch of dears and go play your word while the rest of us try to restore a measure of sanity and stability. Hey, why don’t you check in with Jonah Goldberg? He’s been redefining words in all kinds of interesting ways.