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Thursday, July 19, 2018

How does this guy have a column?

Why Are So Many Political Parties Blowing Up? 
Thomas L. Friedman

Um, are they? Are there a lot of political parties "blowing up?" Seems like I would've heard about that, but okay. I'll bite. +

If you haven’t already noticed, let me be the first on your block to point it out: The big mainstream political parties across the industrialized world are all blowing up at once. It’s quite extraordinary.

Really? So there are like major political parties going out of business? That can't be right. That can't be what you mean.
Can it?

The U.S. Republican Party has blown up in all but name, going overnight from an internationalist, free-trade, deficit-hawk party to a protectionist, anti-immigrant, deficit-dove party — all to accommodate the instincts of Donald Trump and his base.

Oh, ye. The Republican Party. The Republican Party has completely blown up. They are barely able to even control the White House, Senate and House and the governorship of a mere 33 out of 50 states.

And the Republicans have always, in my lifetime anyway, been a party that vacillates between pretend deficit hawks and economic libertines depending on who is in the Oval Office. Was the GOP a party of "deficit hawks" when Ronald Reagan was tripling the national debt? Were they being hawkish on deficits when George W doubled it again? 

And are you saying that there was a time when the Republican party wasn't anti-immigrant?
Must be before my time, but I'm only 50.

As the former House Speaker John Boehner noted: “There is no Republican Party. There’s a Trump party. The Republican Party is kind of taking a nap somewhere.” Actually, it’s dead, but it’s not alone in the cemetery.

Yes, he did say that. And it was bullshit when he said it and it's bullshit now when you're quoting it. Trump didn't launch a hostile takeover of the Republican Party.He is the apotheosis of 40+ years of conservative anti-intellectualism, eliminationist rhetoric and disdain for reality. Do you not see that a clear line can be drawn backwards from Trump through Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Pat Buchannan, back at least to Richard Nixon?  The Republican party isn't dead. It has just emerged from it's chrysalis fully formed as the gleefully nihilistic party of destrruction, the end stage of the transformation begun when Strom Thurmond led racist southerners out of the Democratic party into the welcoming arms of the GOP.

And yet, they have control over all three branches of the federal government and a majority of the states'.  If that's what you call "blowing up," where do I sign up to be blown up?

Italy’s last election ended with its mainstream center-left getting crushed, bringing to power instead a coalition of far-left, far-right populists, whose focus ranges from guaranteeing minimum income for Italy’s 11 percent unemployed to rebuffing immigrants and the European Union.

Okay, so. . . Italy's center-left lost AN election. By that measure, you should be declaring the Democratic Party "blown up" not the Republicans. Losing one election is not the end of the world. Hell, even Tom Brady has lost a couple Super Bowls and no one is putting him out to pasture.

Britain’s Labour Party has gone from center-left to quasi-Marxist. 

Britain's Labour Party has rediscovered its roots. There is more excitement around Labour since the rise of Jeremy Corbin then there has been since. . . actually I don't really know UK political history that well, but Labour is poised to retake Parliament just as soon as Teresa May's government collapses. Any day now. . . tick tock. . .

I know that mainstream American political conventional wisdom states that a party moving to the left is somehow assumed to be a party committing electoral suicide, but the facts on the ground state otherwise. Moving back to the left has revitalized the Labour Party. Bernie Sanders is the most popular politician in America (although he is in danger of being eclipsed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez). Medicare for All is going to be a plank in the Democrats' platform and that is generating buzz for them they haven't seen since a young Barack Obama strode on to the scene and fooled us into thinking he was a pro-labor progressive.

Anyway, this column goes on and on and on, mentioning other European parties that lost their most recent elections after having won the previous one (!) as if that is something new. No country has ever gotten disillusioned with the party in power and voted in their rivals before! The parties are imploding!!!

All of which raises the question: How does this guy have a column?

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Who's Stupider?

Here's a game we haven't played in a while:

Who's Stupider?!?!?!?!? your host, Art Clip!


Thank you, thank you. Let's meet our first contestant!

Our first contestant is someone I stumbled onto on Twitter. He's known as "one of the religious Right’s most influential young voices," according to his own blog Please welcome Matt Walsh!

Featured Image

Okay, Matt - question number one: Name something that could make you stop loving your wife.

Um. . .
I mean. . . is that something that could plausibly happen?
And if it could, would your wife's mind and spirit be inside the lizard? Would she be able to communicate with you? Would she still be the same person, just in lizard form? Because if she was, then you should still love her. I mean, I get you wouldn't be attracted to her anymore, but. . . why is this even something you've thought about?
I mean, turning into a man, that's at least possible. With a lot of surgery and hormone therapy. But in that scenario she would definitely still be the same person, so presumably you would still love that person even if you're not sexually attracted to her anymore. Or can you only love someone who gives you a boner? Honestly, I'll have to check with the judges, but I don't hink we can give you any points for this answer.

Judges, what do you say?

Project Runway's judges

Oh, right! I forgot that this is a contest to see who is the most stupid. Points to you, Mr. Walsh!

Okay. Our next contestant comes to us from the Fox and Friends minor-league team. She's a failed candidate for office and every right-wing racist's one black friend: Star Parker!

Ms Parker - your question: Name an event that is similar to Pride Month.

Gay Pride Month has become a time for LGBTQ storm troopers to pursue political enemies. Not much different from the infamous Kristallnacht in Nazi Germany, when Nazi brown shirts took to the streets to smash windows of shops owned by Jews.



Oh no.
No no no no no .
There's a limit.
We're not even going to the judges for this one.
Just no.
Get the fuck off my game show.

Okay, Matt, the game is yours to lose. Name something that is insane.


God DAMN, you're good at this game Matt! That was truly stupid!

I mean, comparing a kid with a lemonade stand to an adult trying to earn a living, support himself and maybe a family, I mean wow! That is just astoundingly stupid!

But then, THEN, to do the math?

thumb image

I mean, figuring out that, in order to make what a McDonald's employee makes in a year, a kid would have to -- well, let's see. Assuming the kid is working full-time, that's 40 hours a week, let's say 50 weeks a year, that's probably comparable to the McDonald's employee's schedule, 8 hours a day, the kid would have to sell. . . 40 cups of lemonade per hour? And then to act like that wouldn't be do-able if the kid had a good location? And to pretend that the kid selling lemonade is somehow in any way relvant to the ammount of money a fast-food worker earns to pay for his rent, his car note, his utilities, his food. . . all the things the kid does not have to pay for at all? That is some weapons-grade stupid right there. See you in the tournament of champions!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

How is this not a cult?

Remember back in the early days of President Cartman's administration (like what, 10,15 years ago?) when he put out that video of the cabinet meeting where they all went around the table taking turns telling President McCheese how honored they were to be working for him?

And I figured "well, they know he's a fragile narcissist and that flattering him is a sure path to job security and if they don't kiss his ass they'll probably get fired, so I assume none of this is actually sincere." Oh, sweet, naive younger me!

Well, it turns out I was wrong, because the letter we are about to explore comes from Scott Pruitt, a man who is resigning and therefore has no professional need to stay in Cheeto Mussolini's good graces. I mean, he can't go around telling the truth about Il Douche because that would cut into his wingnut welfare opportunities, but he's got no need to suck up to Orange Julius Caesar.

And yet. . .

(via WaPo)
Here is Pruitt’s resignation letter to Trump:
Mr. President, it has been an honor to serve you in the Cabinet as Administrator of the EPA. 
Okay, first of all - you weren't serving Donald tRump. I mean, you weren't really serving anyone except the extraction industries and big corporate polluters, but you were SUPPOSED to be serving the American people.

Truly, your confidence in me has blessed me personally 

Okay, that's the first use of the word "blessed." (we'll be counting how many times some form of the verb "to bless" is used.) In most religious traditions, blessings come from God. Not from a bloated orange narcissist. So if you're telling someone that they have "blessed" you, that's getting into cult territory.

Truly, your confidence in me has blessed me personally and enabled me to advance your agenda beyond what anyone anticipated at the beginning of your Administration. Your courage, steadfastness and resolute commitment to get results for the American people, both with regard to improved environmental outcomes as well as historical regulatory reform, is in fact occurring at an unprecedented pace and I thank you for the opportunity to serve you and the American people in helping achieve those ends.

Again you were not serving him. You were supposed to be serving us. But thanks for adding us on as an afterthought there at the end.

That is why it is hard for me to advise you I am stepping down as Administrator of the EPA effective as of July 6. It is extremely difficult for me to cease serving you in this role first because I count it a blessing to be serving you in any capacity,

Jeezus! He counts it as a "blessing" (2nd use) to serve this man "in any capacity?" Waylon Smithers doesn't kiss Mr Burns ass this grotesquely.

but also, because of the transformative work that is occurring. However, the unrelenting attacks on me personally, my family, are unprecedented and have taken a sizable toll on all of us.

And there's the obligatory conservative crybaby victim-card-playing.

My desire in service to you has always been to bless you as you make important decisions for the American people. 

There's that word again.

I believe you are serving as President today because of God’s providence. 

Hmm, you're saying the one in charge is God's chosen one? Yeah, that's not culty at all.

 I believe that same providence brought me into your service. I pray as I have served you that I have blessed you and enabled you to effectively lead the American people. 

Stop blessing each other! You're not God and neither is he! And neither of you are blessing anything, you're both a scourge on humanity. If God's providence (and by the way, the word providence means: a: divine guidance or care / bGod conceived as the power sustaining and guiding human destiny so it's redundant to say "God's providence) but if God's providence put you and the turd reich in charge, that means God is pissed and he's punishing us.

And that's 4 "blessings" in a three paragraph resignation letter.

 Thank you again Mr. President for the honor of serving you and I wish you Godspeed in all that you put your hand to.
Your Faithful Friend,
Scott Pruitt

gagging gag GIF

So that's a cult, right? People believe that their leader is sent by God to bless them and they are honored just to be allowed to serve the leader? How is that not a cult?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

America Can Never be Honest With Herself

The Fourth of July got me thinking about how the United States can never be honest about ourselves. I don't know how it is in other countries, but we are so consumed with this idea that 'Merica is the greatest country in the history of the world, blah blah blah that we have never, i our 250+year history, had to have a reckoning with our past (and present) crimes. I know Germany has. Losing WWII forced them to face up to their evil deeds. Now it's illegal in Germany to deny the Holocaust. Mein Kampf is banned in Germany. (or it was, the ban may have expired). But in America, we insist on a sugar-coated, rose-colored, warped view of our own history in which everything we do is upstanding and moral and just and we are always the hero of every story.

And part of the reason probably is that we've never really lost a war. I mean the kind of loss where you have to sign terms of surrender and foreign troops occupy your land, not the Vietnam/Iraq/Afghanistan type of losing where you just eventually call it quits without having accomplished anything and everything goes back to normal. That's never really happened to us. Although it happened to the Confederate States, but somehow they learned nothing and still think they were in the right.

Anyway, that's probably part of it. But I think there's a deeper reason. It's one thing for, say, Japan to acknowledge the attrocities committed in China and elsewhere (although I don't know if they really do), Japan has existed as a culture since at least the 17th Century, They can face up to the times they've committed monstrous violations.
 But America has a problem in this area. If we acknowledge our great original sins, that of genocide against the Native Americans and the enslavement of Africans - to recognize these as being morally indefensible is to admit that the United States should not exist. At all. Every bit of the land upon which our nation sits was stolen from other people. If we admit that we were in the wrong, then we have to admit that we shouldn't be here as a nation at all. It's much more of an existential crisis for us to confront our past than Japan or Germany or Russia or any other country because they can acknowledge that they were wrong to do this or that without having to feel like their very existence is an affront to fairness and decency.

Anyway, that mental block inevitably leads to nonsense like this:

Reasons to love America, 2018

Forget D.C. Forget Twitter. Forget what's on your screens.
Yeah, you know I'm reading this on my screen right now,, right?

Forget D.C. Forget Twitter. Forget what's on your screens. On America's 242nd birthday, the numbers in the poll below should be a hell of a lot higher.

We are a country that had a choice between an intelligent, experienced, competent woman and a senile, vulgar, has-been two-bit swindler with frightening personality disorders and we choose the latter to be our president. Now we're letting that bloated sociopath take children away from their parents and lock them in cages.  What right do we have to be proud of ourselves?

Our thought bubble: When we begin conflating "America" with partisan forces on either side, they've won. The strength of our country has been that it transcends the fads, fevers and foul-ups of the moment.

Okay, "partisan forces on either side" IS AMERICA. We are a country divided along partisan lines. I assume most countries are, just most countries have more parties to choose from, so maybe the divisions don't seem as stark.
And "fads, fevers and foul-ups?" Is that what you see going on in America right now? We have a party in control of all three branches of government who are intricately tied to a Russian strongman-dictator.


We have Nazis and racists crawling out of the woodwork to threaten, intimidate and commit acts of violence against innocent fellow citizens. We have a president who sees the executive branch as a tool for exorcising his petty grievances, and we are TAKING CHILDREN AWAY FROM THEIR PARENTS AND LOCKING THEM IN CAGES.

When you see headlines like this:

Man, 92, Allegedly Beaten With a Brick ; Told 'Go Back to Mexico' by a Mom in Front of Her Child
Rodolfo Rodriguez

Migrant Baby Returned To Mom Covered With Lice: Lawsuit
It looked like they “had not bathed him the 85 days he was away from us,” said the boy’s mom.

And you think of this?

Foul-Ups, Bleeps & Blunders (1984)

All right, so what are all these reasons we should all be singing Lee Greenwood songs and getting Uncle Sam tattoos?

  • "The U.S. had more job openings this spring than unemployed Americans." (Wall Street Journal)
Okay. That's good. Hardly seems uniquely American, I mean people have jobs in other countries, but yeah that's a positive. I mean, it would be even more positive if those jobs paid enough for the people who take them to get out form under their student loan debts, maybe had good benefits, maybe a union or something, but sure, more jobs is good.

  • We travel freely: Every day, 2.5 million of us board 42,000 flights.
Law School Seriously GIF

Really? That's your number two big point of pride? We are allowed to travel. That's pretty much the bare minimum for not being a dictatorship.
Do you think that  being free to travel is rare? Do you think that Germans, Italians, Australians, Taiwanese, Brazilians and Turks don't travel freely? This really isn't much to brag about. It's like me bragging about my wife saying "she's never slept with any other men during our marriage!" It's really the bare minimum for being a decent spouse. (For the record, she hasn't and I have way more reasons to brag about her than that)

  • 25% of us do volunteer service.
When you’re feeling sarcastic.

Ooooohhhhh!!! An entire twenty-five percent? So only three quarters of us are selfish dicks? Well, let's all pat ourselves on the back now!

You know, if you want me to be impressed with that statistic, you need to show what the percentage is for at least one other country. If you could say 25% of Americans do volunteer work, on 10 % of those tea-drinking bastards in England do, I'd say Oh, well done, us! But if you're only showing one number, it's like saying "the Giants scored four runs last night." That's great if their opponent scored three., not so great if they scored five. You know?

  • The U.S. government spends close to $50 billion (1% of total federal budget authority) helping the world, plus billions more from U.S.-based philanthropies.
When you’re feeling proud of yourself.

Whoooo!!! An entire ONE PERCENT!

First of all, see above re: not having any other numbers for comparison.
Secondly, let's not pretend that we don't know that a pretty big chunk of that money is in the form of military aid which those countries use to purchase armaments from US defense companies, so it's kind of a scam anyway, just a way to funnel taxpayer dollars into the coffers of some of the most evil companies in existence.

  • Americans are part of just 39% of the world population judged by Freedom House to be "free."

When you are truly taken aback.

Wait, what? Only 39 percent of the world's people are "free?" Who is deciding this? Who the hell is "Freedom House?"

Okay, I Googled them and they are some sort of NGO that was founded by Elanore Roosevelt, so they at least were good like 80 years ago, but they get funding from the US government, so I don't know how objective they are. But whether this percentage is realistic or not, it's still an awfully low bar to clear. Americans are "free." So are Britons, Frenchman, Italians, Swedes, Noweigans, Australians, Spaniards, just being "free" is more bare minimum stuff, like being free to travel. Actually, now that I think about it, freedom of travel really should have been folded in to the "free people" bullet point. It's really not a separate point. It feels like you just couldn't come up with enough features and benefits to fill a whole column.

  • "Violent crime in the U.S. has fallen sharply over the past quarter century." (Pew Research Center)
Okay, but unless it has risen in other countries similar to us, it's kind of hard to feel all flag-wavie about that.

  • "Crime in New York City Plunges to a Level Not Seen Since the 1950s." (N.Y. Times)

Okay, you're doing it again. You're taking one selling point and trying to make it into two separate things. You doiong that is as sad an indictment of America as I can imagine. The guy whose job it is to convince us how wonderful America is can't think up enough bright spots, he has to use duplicate talking points.

  • "Powered by a booming stock market and a strong economy," charitable giving in the U.S. last year "exceeded $400 billion in a single year for the first time." (Giving USA)
Once again, you aren't telling us whether this is more per capita than other affluent countries or less. Also, you're glossing over the fact that that number includes the money that the faithful tithe to their churches so the Joel Osteens and Creflo Dollars of the world can buy bigger mansions and private jets. It also includes monies that wealthy alums give to their almas mater. Harvard and Yale aren't exactly charity cases, but donations to them count towards that total the same as money given to Cancer research or a soup kitchen.

And finally:

About 1.3 million of us are on active duty in the military, and 20 million of us once served. 


That's too many people in the military. The only reason we need to have that many people in the military is that we have to be in a state of constant war to feed the insatiable maw of the military-industrial complex. How many countries have US troops stationed in them? I'm pretty sure that it's over 100. Why? What do we get out of it other than a smug sense of superiority, the feeling that we are the biggest, toughest country in the world, aaaaaaand I just answered my own question.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Flashback Friday -- Pride month edition

I almost let all of  Pride Month go by without a tribute to some of the great LGBT musicians I have loved over the years. That would have been a damn shame. 
Let's cue some up, in no perticular order.

Well, I'm off to California for a week to visit family. See you in July!