Maggie, I wish I’d never seen your face…

It has been a week or so, but all of the world is still chattering about Maggie Thatcher’s death. It feels a bit surreal, like Reagan’s death a few years ago — especially since people in the public sphere are falling over themselves to memorialize a woman many of them hated while she was alive. And, perhaps because she seemed to thrive on controversy and appeared to relish a good fight, ‘hating’ Maggie might be a better tribute to her than getting all misty eyed and sentimental.

About the best thing I saw about ‘Maggs’ wasthis Steve Bell cartoon in The Guardian. I think Bell is an underappreciated artist; a modern day Hogarth with the whimsy of Herriman.

I don’t live in the UK, so much of the debate on Thatcher’s reign doesn’t resonate with me because I doubt I understand all of the issues. But the breast beating and the discussion of ‘legacies’ and the eulogizing make me sick, much like the sight of all of the ‘war hero’ pomp and eulogizing of President Reagan in 2004 seemed fairly ridiculous since Ronald Reagan had spent his WW2 military service in Hollywood making training films. And now I hear that Maggie is getting the Hero’s funeral with carriages and guards and gold braid and the whole nine yards — giving ‘military honors’  to people who stuck pins in a map and signed the orders that sent others to die without ever bleeding themselves just does not sit right with me. John McCain IS both a politician and a war hero — I’m glad every morning that he isn’t my president, but I won’t deny that he earned his medals. Give him the military honors when he passes and I’ll have no complaints.

Maggie never bled, but she certainly liked to fight.  She was the scrapper to Ronald Reagan’s more avuncular and telegenic cold warrior (In addition to being fellow ideologues,  Maggie and Ronnie both shared an affection for extremely sculptural hair care). Maggie’s “any enemy of my enemy must be my friend” mentality found her cozying up to stone cold killers like General Pinochet simply because he was anti-Castro. Never mind that Pinochet overthrew the democratically elected president of Chile and herded his political opponents into a stadium to be tortured and executed.

Any who dare to ‘speak ill of the dead’ can count on being treated as a pariah by a certain demographic. But Maggie didn’t pull any punches in life, disenfranchising those who didn’t vote for her and even relishing the media ‘he said she said’ dustups. I don’t know if she truly believed all her Ayn-Rand, social-Darwinist free market capitalism claptrap or not –  but she acted (and ruled) as if she did. Maggie didn’t pull any punches or ever concede that her opponents might have had a good point while she was alive; she described ‘compromise’ as ‘failure.’ Given how intractable and vicious she was in life, I see no reason to suddenly treat her with velvet gloves in death. The ‘Iron Lady’ is dead. I won’t miss her.

Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out…

Tea Party congressman Jim DeMint (R-SC) has apparently bailed on serving the people of the great state of South Carolina in order to take over as president of “The Heritage Foundation.” DeMint served only 2 years as a congress member before accepting what is apparently a very cushy gig as a non-elected member of a political ‘think’ tank.
As a principled opponent of “big guvvernment” and leading light of the Tea Party, I wonder if Jim ‘The Freshmaker’ DeMint will refuse the lifetime healthcare that members of congress have elected to give themselves?  Or, like most congress members, is he only against funded government healthcare when it is for anyone other than members of congress?

“These hands have never done an honest days work… my palms are as soft and supple as a baby’s bottom!”

only 2 more weeks

In less than 2 weeks, Americans will cast their ballots, and, after lots of drama over the count of both the electoral college AND the popular vote, the man who serves as US president for the next 4 years will have been decided. Like the Christmas fatigue that strikes me late in the year every year when I have been “BUY MORE NOWed” to near death, I can’t wait for the election thing to be over.

I’ve already written (on this very blog!) that I think it will be Obama (and I think that’s still true). There’s been a lot of drama in the past couple weeks, especially over Romney’s performance in the debates, but I think the vast number of voters don’t pay attention to debates or issues[1]or parties or platforms[2]. I suspect the vast majority just vote for the person they like most who happens to be in the party they aspire to identify with, with some vague idea that voting for a rich man will make everyone richer or voting for a black man will make other people less racist. These seem like naive reasons to choose a president, but I think people have the right to choose presidents the way they make any other choice in their lives — I might think it is short sighted to choose Geico over another insurance company because you like the gecko with the Australian accent on their commercials, but I can’t deny that it is the consumer’s right to pick Geico because of the gecko. Similarly, if Romney’s Mormonism or his helmet-hair or his wife’s horses makes him seem like a better candidate than Obama’s Christianity or his close-cut hair or Bo the dog, then go for it. It is your right as an American to make a decision for stupid reasons.

I think the main reason for all the media drama is that reporting that we already think that Romney won’t win makes very unexciting television. By continuing to indulge in the shared fantasy that it really will be down to the wire up until election day is in the best interest of pundits, experts and peddlars of infotainment.  Speaking of exciting television, did you hear that Donald Trump has ‘very big’ news about President Obama? Even Mitt Romney (who will presumably benefit from whatever bullshit Trump reveals) can’t pretend to be interested. It’s Geraldo Rivera excavating Al Capone’s vault all over again. (edit: the “very big news” was revealed… and it was not big news after all. Surprised?).

The one issue that doesn’t seem to get any press is environmental stewardship. Yes, I think climate change is real. Even if I didn’t care about the other issues[3] that have already made me think that 4 more years of Obama would be preferable to 4 years of Romney, I’d have to vote for whomever was the ‘greener’ candidate simply because I believe we are destroying the planet faster than it can heal itself… and I think that is an extraordinarily stupid thing to do. Why that isn’t an ‘issue’ in the campaign and abortion is makes me think of Churchill:

Many forms of Gov­ern­ment have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pre­tends that democ­racy is per­fect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democ­racy is the worst form of Gov­ern­ment except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…

[1]”Issues” seems to mean so many things to so many people that I don’t even know where to begin.  Earlier in this election cycle, gay marriage and the ironically named ‘Defense of Marriage Act’ seemed to be “issues” for some people, although, if you are a God-fearing Christian heterosexual, how your marriage needs to be defended against other people getting married is beyond me.  I mean, if you believe in a vengeful, mean spirited God who will make people want to “be gay” (or “act gay” or “live the gay lifestyle” or however the conservative minds currently phrase the gay ‘condition’) and then send them to hell for that, then why would you want to attempt to interfere with his will by making laws that will presumably prevent sinners from doing the sin that God will want to punish them for?

[2] I remember reading a poll from a few years ago where they discovered that almost a third of Americans polled apparently don’t know who the Vice President is or that Washington DC is not in Washington state — and the Republicans are worried about illegal aliens voting in the election? Could a Nicaraguan nanny without a green card who speaks English as a second language really be a greater threat to democracy than the people who were born here and still don’t understand basic geography or what job Al Gore had before he became the bête noir of Fox News and the American Petroleum Institute?
[3] See ‘DOMA,’ athlete doping scandals, prayer in schools, etc. In short, the softball topics that politicians and the press concentrate on when they really should be concentrating on other things.

Election Map (warning: political)

There’s an election map quiz on BBC World that asks readers to define how the battleground states will vote in the US election:

Here is my prognostication:

I think my prediction is probably too weighted towards Obama (I believe the actual election will be closer), but believe that Obama will win the next election (as I have said before). I don’t plan on watching the debates tonight… I’ll be playing in our regular DCC game over at my friend Kevin’s house (in other words, I have more important things to do).

A few of my picks:

Florida: Florida has usually been close (just ask Al Gore), but I think enough old people will be worried about the vagaries of Romney’s position on Social Security that it will push a few of the elderly centrists (reluctantly) into the arms of the Democrats.  Many of the seniors probably don’t like either candidate, so they may just stay home — which is bad for Romney.  Plus, Florida has a fairly large Latino population… with the exception of Little Havana, they are probably going to go Obama. Of all my predictions, I think this is the most likely to be wrong, but I have a hard time seeing the fixed income people being that comfortable with the current war on entitlements being waged by some of Romney’s supporters.

Michigan: Michigan went to Obama last election and Romney probably lost Michigan when he said that the car companies should be allowed to fail. Now that Chrysler and GM are doing better (and Ford, who turned down bailout money, is looking a bit flat), Obama can count on the Michigan vote.

Minnesota:  I think Minnesota is always a tossup, but I’m calling it for Obama. The “Main Street vs. Wall Street” debate seems to look on Obama with a bit more favor than Romney, plus Minnesota is one of the states where the Democrats can claim job growth under Obama after getting pounded years before.

New Mexico/Colorado: These two are a toss-up. Obama gets love on the coasts but not in cattle country. I split the difference by giving Colorado to Romney and New Mexico to Obama. I think that Colorado has more electoral votes than New Mexico, so Colorado is a better prize, but I’m predicting Obama will get around 75% of the Latino vote for obvious reasons, thus New Mexico, California and maybe even Florida are probably all going to go blue.

There you have it.  Feel free to stop in after the first week in Novemeber to congratulate me on my accuracy or gloat over my stupidity.

Working for two dollars a day

This is what lawful evil looks like.

The richest woman in the world, mining company owner Gina Rhinehart, recently stated that African workers who were willing to go to work for around two dollars a day should be considered an ‘inspiration.’  Rhinehart considers the africans ‘inspiring,’ perhaps, because they earn so little. I wonder what she thinks of the South African mineworkers who were ‘inspired’ to strike because their wages were too low and their workplaces too dangerous?

Rhinehart lives in Australia and owns a gigantic company that produces iron ore. She did not build this company; she inherited it. Her complaint is that normal Australians, with their expectations of a life beyond what you can get for 2 dollars a day, are destroying her industry’s ability to compete with Africans who earn 2 dollars a day or less.  Yes, she does seem to be serious.  She says that in order to get ahead, the poor could work harder and ‘drink and smoke less.’ I’d point out that if she wants to cut wages to two dollars a day, she will have to add ‘food, healthcare, a place to sleep and water’ to luxuries that Australian workers will have to do without in order to get by on 2 dollars a day. And who will buy the items made from the ore that her 2 dollar a day wage slaves will be producing?

I think rather than trying to change Australians, Rhinehart should move herself to somplace in the world where two dollars will buy you 8 hours worth of labor. She also looks a little too hefty for someone who feels she has the right to preach self restraint to those uppity Aussies who won’t settle for her gilded age level wages and give up ‘luxuries’ that make working in a mine more bearable like a can of beer or a smoke.

Nostradamus Predicts (warning: political)

American Heroes: Captain America, Paul Revere and Tim from Accounting.

I recently told Annie (my significant other) that Obama was going to beat Romney in the upcoming election so we didn’t have to pay any more attention to the head-up-it’s-own-assery of politics and political reporting in 2012. I’m basing this prediction on the fact that the LA Times already called it for Obama (the LA Times is hardly a bastion of liberal ideology and I suspect it’s editorial board would probably prefer Romney, but they would also like to say “We told you so” on November 7th ). Plus I just don’t want to feel I need to pay any attention whatsoever to all the press releases from all of the political strategists who are out there telling us what it means when Mitt eats a corndog in Iowa or Barack shoots some hoops in Baltimore.

I don’t think the US election is really a choice between Romney and Obama; it’s more of a choice between the Democratic and the Republican parties. My own sentiments are that the Democrats are a slightly less bad choice than the Republicans for me and mine, but “I hate them slightly less than the Republicans” is about as enthusiastic as I can get for the Democrats. I also take solace in the fact that 4 more years of probable continuing political stalemate in Washington is bad, but what Mitt intends (assuming anything he has said resembles what he would do in office) would be worse for the middle and lower classes. I’m not a Marxist (unless you count being a fan of Groucho); I just think the idea that releiving billionaires and corporations of ‘burdensome’ taxes and regulations will not make the life of the people I feel loyalty towards any better, only worse.  We’ve tried it already for 12 years. If you are a member of the 1% and reading this makes you mad, well, go count your money, Scrooge McDuck.

Money issues aside, there is another reason I can’t see myself voting for a Republican, and that is the ‘culture’ issue. I think it’s fine if people want to go to their church or temple or mosque on Sunday and pray to Jesus or Vishnu or Allah or Santa Claus, but the way the party of Lincoln has lowered the bar by painting mainstream white christians as the ‘victims’ in a culture war that they started would be laughable if the gullible saps were not so eager to lap it up.  How somebody else being gay or building a mosque or not wanting to pay for a Christmas nativity scene at City Hall makes ‘christians’ victims in this fight was a genius political tactic a few years ago, but only the people who are too angry or stupid to think for themselves are still paying attention to that  schtick.  Even Dick Cheney came out in support of gay marriage after having rode to the Whitehouse 2x in a row on the “social conservative” ticket.  Way to live by your principles, Dick. Although I have to thank the ‘culture warriors’ for comic relief.  Just yesterday Rick Santorum said that social conservatives “will never have smart people on our side.”  Yeah, I know it’s not really what he meant to say, but judging by the angry word-salad that usually flies out of Santorum’s mouth, he seems to have spoken the truth by accident.

If the election were a really choice between Barack and Mitt (the men, not the parties), I’d still vote for Barack. Mitt tied his dog to the roof of his car, had his friends hold another kid down in high school so Mitt could cut his hair and ran a Financial Sausage shop that may have been perfectly legal but was still a predatory organization that destroyed companies and cost working people their jobs. And, call me old fashioned, but I think people without jobs tend to be bad for the economy. And, when he appears in public, Mitt is so stiff and Bryll-creamed that he makes the stumpin’ 2000 version of Al Gore seem warm and personable in contrast.  Barack, on the other hand, smoked pot in college, serves beer at the White House, sneaks an occasional cigarette and collects Conan the Barbarian comics — how could I not like the guy? Plus he’s finally copped to the idea that the government shouldn’t be in the business of regulating who you marry… better late than never.  If you are still not convinced, just look at their names.  ‘Barack’ is Hebrew for thunderbolt; that’s a kick ass name. ‘Mitt’ is what I use to take a hot caserole out of the oven. Would you rather vote for SHAZAM or a potholder?

Of course, I could be wrong, but I don’t think I am.  If you think I am, bookmark this post and come back in November to gloat.

Another ill-advised foray into politics / social commentary

Let me tell you ’bout the birds and the bees **

Note: This was supposed to get posted ages ago — whoops.  Probably less current, but my thoughts remain the same.

Both of the people who read this blog probably already know that I sometimes write ill-advised things about politics and / or social issues on my blog.  And so it is with great joy that I write about the stupidity of Congressman Todd Aiken, from the great state of Missouri, who is running for Claire McCaskill’s seat (which isn’t my former home district, but is near to my hometown of St. Louis).  Aiken, who is gunning for the incumbent McCasskil’s seat*, was (not so) recently being interviewed on his views about reproductive freedom/abortion in the case of rape.

Then on Sunday, Mr Akin was asked by local news station KTVI-TV about his no-exceptions view on abortion.

The 65-year-old congressman said: “It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that is really rare.

“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

 I don’t know if Akin defined what differentiated a ‘legitimate’ case of rape from an ‘illegitimate’ one.  And the people of the state of Missouri wonder why some of us want sex ed in the public schools.

Later, Akin said he “had mis-spoke” and did not intend to say what he said. He also complained that ‘one word’ was accidentally used which caused people to misunderstand him and he was a victim of the “gotcha” media in action — but if we gave him a do-over in which he were allowed to change one word, which word would he change in order to change the fact that the statement he made means that he is in denial about how women get pregnant? This also causes me to wonder what, exactly, he was trying to say, because there are very few ways that what he did say could be interpreted.  And the “from what I understand from doctors” comment has me puzzled, too.  Are these medical doctors? Or people with doctorates in some other field?

The official deadline for Akin to drop out has passed, but there are apparently still other ways in which the candidate could withdraw. The Republicans want him out.  The Democrats***, who are delighted to see that they now actually might have a chance of retaining McCaskill’s seat, want him to stay on. It’s a real nailbiter.

*Rumor has it that McKasskil’s staff celebrated when they heard that Akin won the Republican primary because he was thought ‘most likely to self destruct’ of all the potential competion. I’m sure they are gratified to see that their prediction has (sort of) come true. I wonder if they have bought liquor, party hats, noisemakers and a ‘pin the word LOSER on the Elephant’ game for their McCaskill re-election party in advance now that Akin has decided to stay in?

**No actual horses were harmed when this picture was taken although a wooden horse was temporarily made to look silly.  This image merely illustrates that some merry-go-round horses have detatchable tails, although there is something rather perverse about the picture that caused me to choose it over all the other images that popped up when I typed, “horse’s ass” into image search.

***People who don’t know me very well might think of me as probably being a ‘democrat,’ and that is sort of true, if by ‘democrat’ you mean I think that the democratic candidate will occassionally be the less destructive of the choices that the voter is usually presented with, but I think ‘less destructive’ is not really as an endorsement of the Democratic party — just labeling them the lesser of two evils.  Thinking Mr. Akin is an incompetent, dangerous douche has less to do with whether a D or an R follows his name and is more about the fact that he wants to legislate human reproduction without understanding how women get pregnant.

What the Pluck?

Is this chicken going to grill himself?

People are getting agitated because the crusty old bastard who owns ‘Chick-fil-A’ opposes same sex marriage (or, in his words, he supports the “biblical definition of a family”).  (If either one of my two readers is not from the US, ‘Chick-fil-A’ is like McDonalds, but they serve breaded chicken patties on a bun instead of beef.  The name is pronounced, “Chick-Filet.”)  As far as I know, Chick-fil-A has not refused to hire gay people and has not refused to let gay people eat their crappy food.  But people from both sides are mad anyway.

The gay people and their friends (mostly lefties; the folks I usually end up self-identifying with) think that Dan Cathy, president and owner of Chick-fil-A, is ‘an intolerant bigot’ and are encouraging a boycott.  Aldermen, mayors and other bottom feeders in the political arena are threatening to make things hot for Chick-fil-A in their districts.  On the other hand, the ‘Chick-fil-A’ kerfuffle has become red meat for the likes of right-wing opinionators like Sarah Palin and Michelle Malkin, who are holding up the idea that people would boycott a restaurant because of the owner’s  opinions on gay marriage as ‘un-American’ or are impinging on Dan Cathy’s religious freedoms. Even ‘The Muppets’ have weighed in on the controversy; Henson Studios recently backed out of a deal to provide promotional muppet themed toys for Chick-fil-A’s kid’s meals because they didn’t want to be associated with the Chick-fil-A brand due to the owner’s comments.
I will have no problem in stopping myself from eating ‘Chick-fil-A’ because I think their food is absolute crap. But I do think that it is wrong for mayors and aldermen to threaten to refuse to allow ‘Chick-fil-A’ to open in their districts or interfering with the business as a ‘fuck you’ to the owners simply because of what the owner said in order to score points with some of their liberal base, much like I think it’s wrong for political operators in Rutherford County, Tennessee to attempt to stonewall the opening of a mosque in order to score points with anti-Muslim conservatives. However stupid I think the opinions of the owner of ‘Chick-fil-A’ may be, having opinions should not be illegal (maybe calling Chick-fil-A suitable for human consumption ought to be illegal, but I digress).  Besides, if McDonalds and Burger King can serve crappy food, Chick-fil-A ought to be able to as well.
That said, I think boycotts are as American as succotash*,  and, as Americans, we should feel free to boycott whatever we want whenever we want for whatever reason we want.  Speaking of ‘biblical principles,’ Reverend  Jerry Fallwell encouraged his followers to boycott ‘Teletubbies’ because, in Fallwell’s opinion, the ‘teletubbies’ encouraged kids to ‘turn gay’ (His evidence? One of the Telletubbies carried a purse and had a triangle on its sexless head — case closed!). In 1997, the Southern Baptist Convention voted to boycott Disney because Disney Corporation offered same sex partner benefits to their employees. What’s good for the goose ought to be good for the gander.  If consumers don’t want to eat ‘Chick-fil-A’ because they don’t like the cut of the owner’s jib, they should go for it. If the owner of Chick-fil-A doesn’t want to have gays and their friends boycotting his store, he might want to keep his opinions to himself.  It’s not as if there is any shortage of crappy fast food in America, anyway.

*The usual phrase is, “American as apple pie,” but I understand that ‘apple pies’ have been served in England since at least the middle ages (if not earlier), making them not very “American” at all, so I went with succotash, which was introduced to the pilgrims by the Narragansett Indians and was apparently one of the first ‘Thanksgiving’ foods).

Texas politicians oppose "higher order thinking skills"

I hope this is fake but I worry it is not.

“Texas Republican Party Calls For Abstinence Only Sex Ed, Corporal Punishment In Schools”

My favorite nugget:

The position causing the most controversy, however, is the statement that they oppose the teaching of “higher order thinking skills” — a curriculum which strives to encourage critical thinking — arguing that it might challenge “student’s fixed beliefs” and undermine “parental authority.” 

Yee-fucking-haw. We are doomed.

Addendum: I went to the source.  Visit the homepage of the Texas GOP Convention and you can download a copy of their platform statement.  I didn’t read the whole document, but found this:

Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”

Based on this, one of the ways in which the Texas GOP has been misrepresented is that they state opposition to a certain kind of teaching philosophy, and not “thinking” itself, but the meat of the criticism seems to stand.  Since the platform statement is intended to be the ‘doorbuster’ that gets people fired up about what these politicians are going to do for them, this is some scary shit.  Granted, based on past and current performance, the opposition isn’t any better, but sheee-it.  So seldom have politicians been so honest.

Newt or Shrute?

One of these men is a scheming weirdo with a penchant for drama. The other is Dwight Shrute.

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

Mother Jones published a quiz with bizarre quotes and statements  from either Newt Gingrich (former speaker and Presidential aspirant) or from Dwight Shrute (fictional weirdo character on ‘The Office’) and the taker of the quiz has to determine if the quote, expressed desire, etc., is from Newt or Shrute.   Normally, you would think it would be pretty easy to tell if a quote, idea or aspiration came from a fictional characher on a situation comedy TV show, but, according to the people who published the quiz, out of the thousands of people who have taken it so far, there has been only a 45% rate of correctly identifying whether any given pearl or quote is from ‘Newt or Shrute.’

Actual question from the quiz for example: When debating the eating habits of T-Rex’s, this man explained, “I believe [the T-Rex] was a predator because I saw ‘Jurassic Park’ and he ate a lawyer and it wasn’t a dead lawyer.”

Was it Newt or Shrute?  The answer may surprise you.  Take the quiz.