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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Responding to Creationists, Cranks, Conspiracy Nuts, Zealots, Deniers of All Stripes, and other Crazies.

A couple of days ago, I made a smart Alec comment on Facebook.

This is not unusual, I make a lot of smart Alec comments on Facebook.

But in this case I was commenting about the Texas School Board’s recent decision to remove discussion of any religion other than Christianity from US history books and to actively foist their warped, verifiably wrong, and willfully incomplete view of history on America’s school children.  Specifically, I said, “I’d like to personally thank Texas for rolling the US educational system back to the 14th Century.” Way to go, douchebags and etc. With a link to Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy Blog at the Discover Magazine and a discussion of the same topic from the view of an actual no-foolin scientist who spends an admirable amount of time slapping around stupid people.

It didn’t take long for a creationist to show up, and not just a creationist but a global climate change denying, Big Bang denying anti-evolutionist who doesn’t understand the difference between the origin of life and the origin of a species. Here’s his comment:

Evolution has about the same evidence as global warming. No transitional forms and no missing link. Look it up. Even the Big Bang doesn't make sense without a creator or cause. Darwin’s book Origin of the species never addresses the Origin of the Species.

People seemed think I was going to debate this guy, and while I found their comments amusing – there was no way I was going to do anything other than point and engage in ridicule. Not that he wouldn’t have been easy to rip apart, mind you, and in fact I count over a dozen things in that ridiculous paragraph that are verifiably wrong, provably so, definitively so, obviously so, beginning with the fact that my post had nothing whatsoever to do with either global climate change or evolution but rather the Texas school board’s decision to edit out an enormous historical contribution to human history, science, culture, and language because they don’t like Muslims and don’t want them portrayed in a favorable light. Ever. This pisses me off. I don’t give a flying fig what kind of ignorance they wish to indulge in down there in the land of pointy-toed boots, giant hats, and horny toads, but when their nonsense impacts my child’s education and makes my country the laughing stock of the of civilized world, then they are making it my business. I would feel the same way about it if they’d decided to edit Jesus out of the history books – if Jesus had actually invented optics, developed advanced mathematics and medicines, preserved human knowledge throughout the Dark Ages when Europe had fallen into illiterate feudal savagery while his Church was busy spreading the Black Death and burning people for hearsay, carried science and civilization to a third of the known world in his caravans, or explored more of the planet than the fifty miles of desert surrounding the place where he was supposedly born. It is true that I could have resoundingly debunked that creationist nonsense. Hell, I could have done it when I was ten.  Scientists like Plait and Michael Shermer make a career out of refuting this kind of bullshit, and I admire them for it.

But it doesn’t make any difference.

Not to the crazies anyway.

And it is my policy not to engage in debate with willfully stupid people.  Mostly I point and laugh. When that doesn’t work, I tend to resort to violence.

Now look, I’m not saying that debunking the cranks isn’t an honorable and worthwhile endeavor and a crappy job that has to be done. But people like the commenter mentioned above simply don’t operate within a fact based, reality oriented framework. Through design or defect, they are functionally incapable of processing input in a rational manner. Instead they see the world through some kind of warped goggles the way a mental patient views the world and no amount of debunking will ever change their delusional outlook. Period. In other words, it doesn’t matter how debugged the program is if the processor circuitry adds 2 and 2 and gets the square root of negative one, and in fact always returns (i) no matter what numbers you put in. You can keep plugging in the proper values, checking and refining your input, but the machine relentlessly spits out (i) and only (i). That’s exactly what it’s like to debate a creationist, or scientologist, or a moon landing denier, or an anti-vaxxer.

Oh, you can maybe force these nuts to eventually modify their silly nonsense – take for example how Creationism evolved (sorry) into Young Earth Creationism (Dino Variant) when the creationists simply could not deny overwhelming fossil evidence any longer. Like a psychotic incorporating the doctor and mental ward into his delusional world, the creationists simply put vegetarian dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark and then twisted bible quotes to make them fit. When debunkers pointed out that it would have been impossible to feed such creatures on an extended sea voyage, let alone shovel hundreds of tons of dinosaur manure over the side every single day in pitching seas (you know, like you would have when God drowns the whole damned (heh) world), hell eight people with shovels couldn’t do it in calm seas – and never mind the utter idiocy of this scenario in the first place. Creationists then decided that the thunder lizards were either carried onboard as eggs, babies, or that God put the full grown adults into some kind of divine stupor where the giant beasts neither ate nor shat. Asked where the creatures are now, Creationists claim they died out around about the time Jesus showed up.  God changed his mind about saving them apparently, the big sinners, guess they shouldn’t have eaten from the coconut tree of knowledge.  When the utter implausibility of the Deluge itself was painstakingly pointed out, Creationists invented an elaborate fantasy structure of an Earth that was as flat as a billiard ball (despite biblical references that contradicts this silly bullshit, not to mention, you know, actual science) and a globe-circling floating orbital water shield of Jesus that rained down for 40 days and nights to become a world drowning ocean that was also supplemented by geysers and fountains and other such juju magics and later just completely disappeared after turning into dinosaur bones or something – I mean, Jesus, web-toed Kevin Costner’s Water World makes more Goddamed sense and it had Jeanne Tripplehorn in a fish skin bikini. But, no matter what evidence is presented, the creationists will keep moving the goal posts like mental patients to persist in their increasingly elaborate and bizarre delusions. (Now, I suppose I must digress for a minute and admit to a certain mean spirited enjoyment when I see creationists get into deadly serious screaming matches over the fine points of their shared delusion – like when I listened to a couple of YECs arguing over the depth of the Deluge’s world girdling ocean, the point of their argument hung on a mere two foot difference (100 feet or 102 feet) based on what each of them thought it would take to drown a full grown brachiosaurus.  It was so like watching the class spaz argue to the verge of tears with the class dork over who would win a fight between the Gorn Captain and Boba Fett, entertaining if you have nothing better to do.) 

But see, that’s the point, I do have something better to do.

And it is neither my job nor my duty to debunk the idiots or pamper the mental patients.

In America, the Constitution may give these people the right to speak their bilge in public, but it doesn’t require that I have to respect it.

And I do not.

I cannot, and will not, suffer fools gladly. And I really can’t understand people who do.

Arguing with these people, attempting to reason with them, is a lost cause – because they are not reasonable people.

The only proper response to this nonsense is: Shut Up.

Let me give you an example.

Remember Marshall Applewhite?

Marshall was a fun guy. He got fired from his job for “emotional issues” (HR speak for “basket case”). In fact, he had a whole host of mental issues, which included hearing voices in his head and the belief that he was storing the preserved mind of Christ in his noggin (I guess if you’re going to keep Jesus in your head, you should have somebody for him to talk to – or at least cable basic). I don’t suppose it will come as a surprise to you that he was a big believer in UFOs and alien visitors.  Marshall, who preferred to be addressed by his secret space alien name “Do” (as in doodoo), also had himself surgically castrated, because, and dig this, the Jesus voice told him to cut his balls off. He founded an outfit named Heaven’s Gate.  Maybe you’ve heard of it – the whole bunch of them committed mass suicide back in 1997 so they could go meet an alien spacecraft hiding in the glowing tail of comet Hale-Bopp.

Marshall was nuts, right? (or rather no-nuts, if you want to get technical about it).

Here’s the thing, he didn’t get that way overnight. He didn’t just wake up one day and decide to cut his balls off. He got there a piece at a time, little by little, over years and years, because people indulged his bullshit rather than telling him to just shut up.

I know, I know, I see you over there waving your arms. You going all 1st Amendment in the face and shit. Hang on.

Hear me out.

You’re sitting on a bench, reading a book, enjoying the sun, poisoning the pigeons in the park. Whatever it is that you do in the half hour when you’re not pestering me here. This strange old dude with a funny walk and bleached hair comes mooching up. He asks if he can sit down. He seems harmless enough, so you nod to the empty half of the bench, and raise your eyebrow so he knows not to start anything.  He sits down in sort of a weird space alien sort of way, and after a minute says: “Say listen, after work a bunch of us are going down to Mexico for margaritas and to have our funberries hacked off by a drug lord’s plastic surgeon, then we’re going to dress up in purple capes and white sneakers and drink the strychnine Kool-Aid and put plastic bags over our faces. We’re doing this because Zombie-Jesus-who-lives-in-my-head says the Earth is about to be destroyed by aliens but we’re going to abandon our bodies and go live on the comet with the comet people.  We’ve got an extra seat, you interested?”

To which you reply, (a) “Whoa Doggies, count me in!” or (b) “Piss off you creepy little eunuch or I will snatch you up by the top of your pointy bald grape and jam my Thick Tip Sharpie into your eye so deep that I’ll be able to write Fuck You on the inside of your skull in four inch high indelible ink.”

The correct answer seems obvious doesn’t it? (it also explains why I always carry a Sharpie, just in case you were wondering)

But, see, here’s the thing: thirty nine people chose option (a).

It wasn’t a secret. They told people. They put out movies. They had a website – they still have a website. And nobody said to them, listen here, you stupid silly bastards… Everybody just sort of said, well, they’re a little odd. 

And it happens all of the time. Jonestown. The Branch Davidians. That bunch in France what burned themselves up along with their kids. Those obnoxious goofs who like to wave their bibles in your face while you’re waiting for the light to change. Creationists. Tom Cruise.

And people shake their heads and say “how could this happen?”

How could it happen?

It happens because nobody told these deluded idiots to shut up and stop acting like fucking retards – until it was too late (Note: about the use of the term “retards,” yes I know it’s offensive to some people. It is however an accurate description in certain cases. I don’t use it lightly. Further explanation in the comments section). It happens because we are far too indulgent when it comes to this kind of nonsense.  It happens because when somebody looks you in the eye and says with a straight face, “I believe Jennifer Love Hewitt really does talk to ghosts, it’s totally true,” you don’t immediately break into gales of taunting laughter and follow them about for the rest of the day ridiculing their stupidity with sarcastic barbed wit in front of their friends and co-workers.

Look, if you tell people you hear voices in your head commanding you to kill the President because Jodie Foster will dig it and want to have your babies, we lock your silly ass up and make fun of you on TV.  But if you tell people you hear a voice in your head and he’s telling you the president is a space alien in a rubber human suit, the TEA Party of Nevada will ask you to be their Senator – as long as you say the voice in your head sounds like Jesus. 

Sure, Jim, OK, but that’s not the same as creationism, or holocaust denial, or moon landing hoaxers, or the Anti-LHC crowd, or Neo-conservatism.

Yes it is, it is exactly the same.

Look, I’m not talking about restricting the freedom of speech or freedom to worship – what I’m talking about is intervention. I’m talking about cranking the public bullshit filter up to 11.

If somebody tells you that that the magical science fiction power of L. Ron Hubbard gives them the ability to fly, are you denying them their 1st Amendment rights when you prevent them from stepping off the roof? Or, in my case, not.  Because to be perfectly honest, personally, I don’t really give a fig if they jump off that roof or not. Stupid is a terminal disease, it’s going to get you sooner or later – hopefully before somebody convinces you to cut your balls off. And, hey, you know, if they do fly well maybe I’ll go pick up a copy of Dianetics, and if they go bounce bounce squish well that’s just one less moron in the gene pool as far as I’m concerned – speaking of Scientology, hopefully it’s Vinnie Barbarino, that way I don’t ever have to watch another one of his shitty movies, I’ve never forgiven that hammy bastard for Battlefield Earth

But what about the people on the sidewalk below? Don’t we have a moral obligation to keep those poor bastards from getting crushed by falling idiots?

Yes. Damn it.

We do.

But you can’t do that by debate.

Debating them only rewards their bad behavior. Debating them only encourages them more. Having a real scientist like Plait engage them in debate automatically elevates their nonsense to legitimacy. When PZ Myers goes after creationists, he gives them equal footing with science.  Again, don’t get me wrong here, those scientists are professionals and I have nothing but respect for people like Michael Shermer – but they should come with the same warning as those Mythbuster Guys, i.e. don’t try this at home. Ever.

And it wouldn’t be necessary if more people would tell these idiots to step off.

The proper response to crazy is: Shut the fuck up.

It’s not for the government to tell people their beliefs have jumped the sharktopus, it’s up to us. Each and every one of us.

Oh, and pick yourselves up a couple of Sharpies.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Stonekettle Station’s Guide to The GOP Pledge To America

I know.

You’ve been trying to wrap your heads around the new GOP Pledge to America, haven’t you?

But you’re just not having much luck.

It’s hard, isn’t it?

Of course it is, you drink coffee not tea and have more than two brain cells clicking together.

Do not be disheartened, gentle reader. As a public service, Stonekettle Station provides the following handy guide to the GOP’s Contract On America, Part II: Boehner, It Came From Behind!

Given some of the comments and email I’ve received lately, it’s obvious to me that not all of you have been keeping up on your GOP terminology.  American politics are complicated during the best of times, and no more so than this year when the bullshit factor is running about 9.8, you people really need to do your homework. The Pledge contains some highly technical terms specific to the conservative agenda and it can be more than a bit daunting – especially for you non-Americans, what with your substandard socialist educations and all – and you’re going to get left behind if you don’t stay current.

So, let us begin with a definition of terms.  The following is a list of some of the common words and phrases used in, or in relation to, the Pledge to America. These terms are difficult to understand, they sound like English, but in actuality are a complex republican dialect (called Rovelish) that means something completely different from the Webster’s definition. To use the guide, whenever you see or hear the term or phrase in question, simply apply the Stonekettle Station substitute.

Take the following example:

House Minority Leader John Boehner defended the GOP’s Pledge to America on Fox News Sunday, saying that the pledge is intended as a starting point and that a more systemic process will follow. Boehner said, "Let's not get to the potential solutions. Let's make sure Americans understand how big the problem is. Then, we can begin to talk about possible solutions and then work ourselves into those solutions that are doable."

Read the above quote again and this time substitute “We don’t actually have a plan, we just want to get elected” for the underlined phrase.

See? It reads much more clearly when written in plain English and the meaning doesn’t change at all. Simple.

The following is a list of commonly misunderstood conservative terms and phrases. Examples are provided where necessary for additionally clarity:

 

TEA Party – replace with:  Tools, Fools, Dupes, Dorks, Dicks, Saps, Schmucks, Suckers, or collectively “Cannon Fodder.”  Example: The TEA Party, because only in America would people living on either Social Security or making minimum wage be out in the streets angrily demanding tax breaks for millionaires.

The American People – replace with: “conservatives.” State Rep Pete Sessions (R-TX) speaking about the GOP Pledge to America, said that "it recognizes that it is past time for the Majority in Congress to halt its reckless agenda and put the power back into the hands of the American people." (related) The American People Have Spoken – “the check cleared.”

Fiscal Responsibility – replace with: “buy more stealth bombers.” WisePolitics Headline: Pledge to America, Republican Party Plan focuses on fiscal responsibility.

Common Sense Solutions – “wave a magic wand.”

Liberals: see socialists

Socialists: see communists

Communists: see fascists

Fascists: see Hitler

Hitler: see liberals

Entrepreneurial – “Halliburton.”

Self Appointed Elites – “People to whom we lost the last election.”

Newt – a cold slimy toad-like amphibian with a toxic skin

Now that you’re familiar with the basic terms, let’s take a look at key portions of the Pledge itself, amplifying information provided in blue.

The Preamble

America is more than a country in fact, if elected this November, the first thing we will do is officially change America’s name to: America, What A Country! America is an idea, an idea that free people can govern themselves as long as they do what we say, that government's powers are derived from the consent of the governed (wait, I thought they were governing themselves, Newt, didn’t you proofread this thing?), that each of us is endowed (heh, heh, we said “endowed”) by their Creator with the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (unless they’re gay, or Muslim, or Latino, or poor). America is the belief that any man or woman can, given economic, political, and religious liberty and huge honkin tax breaks, advance themselves, their families, and the common good (common good? Sounds like Socialism. Damn it, Newt WTF?). America is an inspiration to those who yearn to be free as long as they don’t try to actually come here and have the ability and the dignity to determine their own destiny (be careful, or we’ll dignify your country with some air dropped inspiration too). Whenever the agenda of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to institute a new governing agenda and set a different course - i.e. whenever a Democrat is President, it’s OK to advocate armed rebellion, patriotism, secession, and open revolt. Whenever a Republican is President, those things should be referred to as “treason.” These first principles were proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence which is the same as the Constitution, enshrined in the Constitution which is the same as the bible, and have endured through hard sacrifice and commitment by generations of Americans and by Americans, we mean Conservatives, and by sacrifice we mean Huge Honkin Tax Breaks. In a self-governing society, the only bulwark against the power of the state is the consent of the governed like the last time we had the Majority, and regarding the policies of the current government, the governed do not consent like the last time we had the Majority. An arrogant and out-of-touch government of self-appointed elites makes decisions, issues mandates, and enacts laws without accepting or requesting the input of the many like the last time we had the Majority.

Some highlights from the text:

Permanently Stop All Job-Killing Tax Hikes which is why we filibustered the Small Business bill: We will help the economy by permanently stopping all tax increases thus increasing the national debt by $13 Trillion, currently scheduled to take effect January 1,2011. That means protecting middle-class families by killing programs they depend on, seniors worried about their retirement  because we’ll be handing Social Security over to our friends in the banking industry, and the entrepreneurs Halliburton and family-owned business like Exxon and AIG on which we depend to create jobs in America. (Wait, hold it a sec. Wait, just a minute here. If we win in November, just say, we won’t actually take over until January.  The Bush Tax Cuts expire when?  Hmmm. Republicans aren’t good at any math that’s not in the Bible, but it would appear that this promise is complete and total bullshit that we’ve already failed on. Fuck it, nobody will notice. Brilliant, John. Thanks, Newt, they don’t called me The Boner for nothing).

Repeal Job-Killing Small Business Mandates (That’s actually what it’s called, the Job-Killing Mandate, but you have to say it with ominous music in the background Dum Dum Da Dum): One of the most controversial mandates of the Democrats' government takeover of health care requires small businesses to report to the Internal Revenue Service any purchases that run more than $600 – ok, it doesn’t actually say that, that was just some bullshit we made up back when we were trying to keep the Healthcare Reform Bill from passing but it sounds good. This 1099 reporting mandate is so overbearing that the IRS ombudsman has determined that the agency is ill-equipped to handle all the resulting paperwork… except of course that the IRS has completely refuted this (this morning, again actually) and stated that it is fully equipped to handle it when business actually start paying the taxes they are supposed to be paying in the first place. We will repeal this job-killing debt reducing small business mandate.

End TARP Once And For All: Americans are rightly outraged at the bailouts of businesses and entities that force responsible taxpayers to subsidize irresponsible behavior by our friends on Wall Street who were bailed out by TARP – a program that we really hope nobody remembers was actually signed into law by George W. Bush. We will cancel the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), a move that would save taxpayers roughly $16 billion – except of course that TARP is almost completely paid off now, with interest, and in fact cancelling the program would actually cost taxpayers because see the money has already been paid out. Cancelling the program would only serve to forgive the recipient’s debt and leave the taxpayer holding the bag. But never mind that! TARP is due to be terminated before the next Congress is even seated – so, in order to keep this promise, we have to do basically nothing. Whooo! That’s right, oh yeah, that’s right (do the Boner dance, Newt! Thrust with your hips!)

Purchase Health Insurance Across State Lines:Americans residing in a state with expensive health insurance plans are locked into those plans and do not currently have an opportunity to choose a lower cost option that best meets their needs . We will allow individuals to buy health care coverage outside of the state in which they live, this of course being totally at odds with that whole “States Rights” thing we’ve been going on about for the last two years, but it’s not like the mouth breathing dolts who vote for us are actually going to notice. They probably also won’t notice this provision is already in the current Law, you know, Obamacare. Basically what we’re promising here is to repeal the law and then replace it with exact same thing. Ta Da!

And as long as we’re talking about healthcare, Ensure Access For Patients With Pre-Existing Conditions: Health care should be accessible for all, regardless of pre-existing conditions or past illnesses (Holy hell, are you sure we should be saying shit like this, Newt?). We will expand state high-risk pools, reinsurance programs and reduce the cost of coverage (why does this sound so familiar?). We will make it illegal for an insurance company to deny coverage to someone with prior coverage on the basis of a pre-existing condition, eliminate annual and lifetime spending caps, and prevent insurers from dropping your coverage just because you get sick (Damn, I could swear I’ve heard this somewhere before). We will incentivize (incentiwhatis? Did Sarah make that word up too?) states to develop innovative programs that lower premiums and reduce the number of uninsured Americans (Eureka! I’ve got it, this is the exact same provision that’s in Obamacare right now. So, once again, we’d be repealing the law in order to replace it with the exact same thing) and we hope you can see why we fought so hard against Obamacare now. Looking out for you, America!

Read The Bill:  We will ensure that bills are debated and discussed in the public square by publishing the text online for at least three days before coming up for a vote in the House of Representatives. No more hiding legislative language from the minority party, opponents, and the public. Legislation should be understood by all interested parties before it is voted on just exactly as the Obama Administration does right now, only they publish the bill far in advance of three days. In point of fact, all three versions of the health care bill were published more than three months in advance of the vote.  Hey! As a matter of fact, the text of all bills up for debate are actually posted on the Library of Congress website and updated daily. Woohoo, basically all we’re promising is what we do right now!

Pass Clean Troop Funding Bills: When asked to provide our troops with the resources they need, we will do so without delay just like we did when we sent them to war without armored transport, body armor, or well fuck it, you get the idea. We’ll buy a couple extra yellow ribbon magnets to atone for our sins, that’s almost the same as providing actual funding to the VA, right? That means no more troop funding bills held up by unrelated policy changes but so we’re clear the current troop funding bill we’re holding up right now and that we tacked a bunch of shit onto is totally different, totally different, or extraneous domestic spending and pork-barrel projects. (Did that sound sincere? It sounded sincere to me. Look at me, when I say “Pass clean troop funding bills” do my eyes shift back and forth like a weasel with a stigmatism? Damn it).

We will fight efforts to use a national crisis for political gain now that the 9/11 anniversary is past and we all got our speeches in. Wait, isn’t that exactly what this Pledge is? Newt? Newt? Hello?

And lastly, there’s this beauty:

Advance Legislative Issues One at a Time: We will end the practice of packaging unpopular bills with "must-pass" legislation to circumvent the will of the American people whom we respect and would never lie to. Instead, we will advance major legislation one issue at a time, one at time, yes one at a time. To begin the process of implementing a new governing agenda that honors our Constitution and reflects the will of the people, we call on the leadership of the 111th Congress to bring these reforms and policies to an immediate vote.Whoops, look at that! We couldn’t even make it to the end of the Pledge before we tripped over our own nonsense. Heh heh. Move along, folks, nothing to see here.

 

There’s a definition I left off the list above. Did you spot it?

 

Pledge To America -  replace with “bullshitting gullible morons.”

 

This pledge isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on, and I’ve heard republican promises before – when I was heading into Iraq, and when I was leaving.

Of course, I’m one of the lucky ones, I’m still alive.

Six thousand of my comrades in arms aren’t – that’s what GOP promises got them.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Penalty Clause

It’s a new day, America!

Smell that? It’s the piquant aroma of warm and steaming freshly excreted bullshit wafting in the from the fecund bowels of Washington DC.

Today, at a lumberyard in Northern, Virginia, Republicans unveiled their new “Pledge to America.”

Yes, I know, I know, you’re excited and confused and a little turned on.

Who wouldn’t be?

The exact same people, Newt, Boehner, et al who brought you political loyalty oaths, purity pledges, and chastity belts make yet another solemn promise to the American people. Conservatives so love to spit in their palms and swear blood oaths, don’t they? God, you can almost hear the angels singing.

As reported by CNN, Republicans say they realize the voters are angry with both Democrats and Republicans (but mostly Democrats – their humility act only goes so far), so they cooked up the “Pledge To America” in order to convince voters Republicans take those concerns seriously and if they are returned to power, why, they will act differently than when they had the majority under Bush (which they confidently figure the average mouth-breathing voter has long forgotten).

Honestly, they’ll do better this time.

Really, truly, cross their black inky hearts and hope to die (well, hope there’s a war and they can send your kids off to die, but hey, that’s just a quibble, bottom line, somebody is going to die, but not fetuses because the very first thing on the agenda is to outlaw abortions, but never mind that, hey, look, over there, is that Ollie North? Everybody, God Bless America dum dum da dum!). Republicans made the pledge with their hands over their hearts and little paper hats made from folded Wall Street Journals perched jauntily on their heads, like Calvin and Hobbes taking the official freebooter vow in their tree house pirate ship.

Conservatives at the signing were visibly angry:

"The federal government is too big, it spends too much, and it's out of control," snarled House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH). “The current federal government isn't listening and doesn't get it."

“Our government has failed us," Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) asserted. "The land of opportunity has become the land of shrinking prosperity. People are outraged."

Oddly, nobody seemed outraged that despite both the unfortunately named Boehner and even more unfortunately named McCarthy being actual no foolin’ sworn members of the US House of Representatives, nether seemed to realize that they themselves were members of the Federal government that they were condemning. Watching them was like watching that episode of Scrubs where The Janitor grabs JD’s hand and smacks him repeatedly in the mouth with his own fist while chanting, “Why do you keep hitting yourself? Why? Why?”

I think that’s a pretty good analogy for the larger question of why Republicans insist on dredging up the same old cast of characters, Newt Gingrich, Dick Armey, John Boehner, the other conservative buffoons who keep popping up like a parade of clowns exiting from the doors of their battered little car.

Why do you keep hitting yourselves, Republicans, why, why?

Conservatives don’t seem to realize, or care, that this Pledge to America is little more than the second coming of the same old empty promises and just about as worthless as those aforementioned chastity oaths they make their pregnant teenage daughters take.

These are, in point of fact, the same exact people who brought you the Republican’s “Contract with America.”

Remember that?

Who could forget. Big success, right?

Let’s review: Back in 1994, during Bill Clinton’s first term in office, Newt, Dick, John, and their pals Tom DeLay, Bill Paxon, and the clowns over at the Heritage Foundation cooked up the Contract. They billed it as a revolution in commitment to Americans and a specific promise to 1) reduce the size of the federal government, 2) reduce taxes, 3) increase entrepreneurial enterprise, 4) complete tort reform, and 5) overhaul welfare.

If you read the Contract with America, you’ll see there were some weasel words in there. We’ll come back to those in a moment.

Republicans, specifically the same exact republicans who orchestrated this morning’s Pledge, solemnly signed the contract. In fact, all of the party’s candidates up for election at the time, and all but two incumbent members of the House, some Republican members of the Senate, and the GOP leadership signed the Contract With America, including Gingrich and Boehner.

How’d the Contract work out for America?

Well, a contract is a contract, right?

Wrong.

Unfortunately for us, they had all the lawyers and we got to represent ourselves – and you know how that always works out (None of the photographers present at the signing thought to take pictures from behind the Conservatives, so it wasn’t until later that we realized that they all had their fingers crossed).

The contract specified eight major reforms:

1. Require all laws that apply to Americans also apply to Congress. Didn’t happen. Didn’t, in fact, make it out of committee. We’re still bitching about this.

2. Have a major independent auditing firm (that wasn’t actually owned by members of Congress) conduct a comprehensive audit of Congress for waste, fraud, and abuse. Bawahaha. Good one. Horrorstruck, conservatives realized too late that “independent audit” meant all their defense contractor and Wall Street buddies would get audited too – this item died a panicked hyperventilating death with two bullets right in the brainpan. Then Haliburton threw a bitchin’ shindig and handed out stock options as party favors.

3. Reduce the number of House Committees, and cut the remaining committee staff by one-third. You folks want to compute the delta between the number of committees then and now, or you want me to do it? Ironically, conservatives formed committees and hired staff to examine how to reduce the number of committees and staff. Today, some of those staffers are still working for us.

4. Limit Committee Chair terms. Didn’t happen. Anything involving term limits of any kind doesn’t make it out of committee and isn’t going to, contract or no contract. Most committee Chairs die in office, we’ve buried how many this last year alone? What? I’m just sayin’.

5. Ban proxy votes in Committee. And have to show up? Not likely.

6. Open committee meetings to the public. Don’t make me laugh. Not only didn’t this happen, with the implementation of the Protect America Act and Patriot Act, a large number of committee meetings became classified in the name of national security and off-limits to not just the public and press, but even government oversight. Hell, in some cases, even the sanitized minutes of those meetings are classified. Want to guess who was the big push behind this? Liberals or Conservatives?

7. Require three-fifths majority to pass a tax increase. They tried to amend the Constitution, it passed the House, but was rejected by the Senate. So they wrote a law instead, despite specific provisions in the Constitution against this type of thing. The statute passed both houses and was signed into law by Clinton who didn’t have the votes to prevent a veto override – and was promptly struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional when the State of New York sued the federal government. Not only did they not keep this provision of the contract, but they ended up costing the tax payer millions of extra tax dollars when the government sued itself for passing a law that it knew in advance wouldn’t stand up in court. Brilliant.

8. Guarantee realistic accounting of the Federal Budget through the implementation of zero baseline budgeting. You’ve heard of this, right? No? How realistic do you think accounting of the Federal Budget is today?

There were a bunch of other minor items in the contract, some were actually implemented, some weren’t.

Final Verdict on the Contract with America? Did they reduce the size of the federal government? Did they reduce taxes? Did they increase entrepreneurial enterprise? How about tort reform? And that welfare overhaul?

Well?

What they did was flail about madly over tort reforms and welfare overhaul, until everybody forget about it. They did cut taxes – and then drastically increased the size of the federal government and started two wars and sent the bill to the next administration. As to entrepreneurial enterprise? Well let's just say that nowadays as long as you’re making body armor and Predators, or working in the foreclosure industry, life is groovy.

By the time Republicans lost control of the House and Senate, the cost of the programs the Contract with America promised to eliminate completely had increased by 25% and the rest of the items were long, long forgotten.

But in the end, today, this morning, the conservative framers of the Contract with America, the very same folks, are pointing to it as proof of their commitment and trustworthiness and are asking you to put them back into power so they can do the same exact thing again.

Why do you keep hitting yourself? Why? Why?

Remember those weasel words? See, the Contract with America only promised to “bring to the House Floor the following bills…” When pressed, Newt and Boehner are quick to point out that they never said they’d do any of the things promised in the contract, only that they’d introduce them on the House Floor. Which they did.

Booyah, bitches, and read the fine print.

This is why it’s a good idea to have a lawyer go over the contract. Especially when you’re entering into a contract with lawyers.

On the surface, the Contract with America was an abject failure.

Except it wasn’t.

The simple truth of the matter is that not one of those eight major contract points was ever the real agenda. Republicans never had any intention of passing that legislation, they didn’t have a prayer, Clinton was still in Office and he would, and did, veto any of it that actually got past the Senate. By the time Clinton was out of Office and Bush the Lesser was stinking up the place and scheming his little schemes, everybody had pretty much forgotten the Contract With America.

The Contract was never intended to be an actual contract. What it actually was, was a brilliant piece of Information Warfare waged against the unwitting dupes of the American public.

See, Newt’s Contract with America was a success, it did accomplish its one and only real goal – it flimflammed the American voters long enough to give Republicans control of Congress in 1994. That was the real agenda right from the very start.

And that is exactly what the goal of today’s bullshit Pledge to America is. Exactly the same.

It’s the same plan.

It’s the same wording.

It’s the same situation.

It’s the same promises.

It’s the same goddamned politicians.

Americans are being played. Americans are letting themselves be played. This Pledge is tailored directly to the fears of the old fashioned conservatives, including moderates and progressives, and the newly powerful TEA Party extremists. All the key words and hot button issues are there, spelled out in small words and sound bites so the average idiot will pick it up and pass it along, all the way to the voting booth.

After November, no matter who wins, this Pledge like the Contract before it will quietly disappear. The weasel words have been carefully crafted and the plan is already in motion.

This contract isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on, just like the last one (somewhere, there are a bunch of Native Americans shaking their heads and laughing. Contract with the US Government? Bawahahaha. Sweet sweet irony is ours. Welcome to the party. Hey! Maybe they'll offer you a land deal).

Contracts, real contracts, are legal instruments entered into by both parties – not something drafted up by one side and foisted on the other (unless, you’re those aforementioned Native Americans, but I digress, as is my wont). Here’s the thing, we already have a contract with Congress, it’s called their Oath of Office:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.“
That, my fellow Americans, is the contract our leaders have with us. That right there, nothing more and nothing less.

However, since Republicans seem to need something more, I say we, us Americans, take them up on it.

Let us sign a contract.

Yes, let us.

A real contract.

One that contains penalty clauses, substantial legal penalties and hefty monetary consequences, for breach of contract, for mental reservation and evasion and obstuction and for failure to live up to their promises. Then we’ll have our lawyer go over it in nitpicking detail and line out all the weasel words. And have it witnessed and attested by a notary public and entered into the public record.

They want a contract? Let’s give them a real one.

See how many Conservatives sign the damned thing then.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Choices, Choices

I know this guy.

We’ve never been what you could call close, but suddenly he won’t speak to me at all.

Why?

Well, see that’s the funny part.  He won’t speak to me because he’s embarrassed.  And not just embarrassed, but red-faced like Christine O’Donnell caught on security camera video buying a shower massager. 

Here’s the thing, this guy I know, he’s a lifelong conservative who is mortally afraid of hippy Liberals, tree kissing moderates, and those nefarious skulking progressives and their all-pervasive socialist/commie agenda.  He’s 100% sure that the President of the United States is a reptile in a rubber human suit who sucks the blood from white babies on an alter made from Saul Alinsky’s devil magic Jew bones and about 90% convinced that Obama is the literal anti-Christ as foretold by Nostradamus (see, according to the venerated Quatrains, if you rearrange the letters in “Obama” and push on the side of your eyeballs with the tips of your index fingers while sniffing gasoline vapors it spells “Secret FEMA Fascist Death Camps of Death!”). He’s been stockpiling ammunition because he’s absolutely sure that the fiendish Nancy Pelosi is personally coming for our guns with her army of genetically engineered atheist super-ninjas and she’ll probably have gay abortion doctors insert a microchip into our brains while we’re sleeping that will make us all believe people evolved from monkeys or space aliens or something. He once received spam on his computer that contained a picture of, shudder, teh nekkid gaiboy and he’s been waiting for the FBI to show up and cart him away ever since – because as you know, there was this guy once who knew somebody who was related to this guy who accidentally looked at some porn on the Internet, totally unintentionally of course, but was arrested for perversion and THE LIBERALS FRAMED HIM AND PUT HIM AWAY FOR TWENTY YEARS (probably in a FEMA Death Camp of Death, it’s twue!). He’s pretty sure revolution is coming, orchestrated by the Al Gore Global Warming Illuminati or the New World Order or Hitler’s Electrified Brain in a pickle jar.  And it’s just a matter of time until the Liberals totally turn America into a socialist nightmare like Canada.

Needless to say, he tends to vote Republican. Period.

That said, this time around he’s  going to have to vote for…a…gasp…a…oh God this is so embarrassing…uh...a…Democrat.

See, he didn’t like Murkowski because he didn't think she was conservative enough, so he didn’t go vote in the primaries, just like 83% of his neighbors here in Alaska.  As a result he ended up with Joe Miller as the conservative candidate. He can’t support Miller (for a number of reasons that I’m not going to mention since I’m going out of my way not to identify him) and in fact feels that he really must oppose Miller’s election, i.e. he’s going to have to vote against Miller. Voting for the Greens or the Independents makes him start to hyperventilate and break out in a rash.  That leaves him with one option, vote for the Democrat (well, two options actually, since Murkowski has now declared a write-in campaign. Good luck with that, losers, really).  What’s so galling for this guy is that the Democrat, Scott McAdams is a damned decent fellow, intelligent, well liked, respected, experienced, reasonable, moderate, centrist – yes, yes, to a Republican that equates to Hippy Liberal Homo Baby Sodomizer, but in truth McAdams is a hell of a lot closer to Murkowski than Angry Joe (and speaking of write-in campaigns, if Murkowski actually had any class she’d have endorsed McAdams and told Miller to shove it up his hairy ass while singing the Star Spangled Banner, instead she decided to act like the second coming of Ralph Nader, but I digress). It really bugs him that McAdams is a decent guy and might actually get elected - see, he could hold his nose and vote for McAdams as long as McAdams didn't actually get elected. That way he could vote against the carpet bagger Miller, but still get a Miller anyway.  The danger, in his mind, is that he's going to have to vote for a democrat in protest, with the very real possibility that the democrat will actually get elected - and Alaska will have two liberal Senators.

Holy Hell!
 
But he’s going to do it, vote for a democrat, for the first and probably only time in his life. 

And it embarrasses him, hell it’s mortifying. He has spent his entire life thinking of democrats as The Hated Enemy of America. He listens to Rupert Murdock’s harem of talking heads and they tell him that liberals aren’t like real Americans. Democrats are the party of queers and queens, commies and socialists, lazy pot smoking draft dodging hippies, ball busting flat chested childless hairy legged bulldykes, and Green Peace.  They’re anti-business and anti-military and anti-freedom and anti-American. 

He considers having to vote for a democrat as an act of treason.

It scares him shitless.

I strongly suspect that he’s not alone. 

In fact, I strongly suspect that hell of a lot of conservatives woke up this morning with the sick realization that their side of the ballot has been Shanghaied by right-wing extremists. 

Here in Alaska we’ve got the aforementioned Angry Joe.  He looks good, handsome, bearded Alaskan (Alaskans dig beards, unless they’re on Muslims), West Pointer, veteran, Bronze Star. Lawyer (wait, what?).  He’s got some reasonable ideas (personally I think his suggestions for a balanced federal budget and a constitutional clause in each bill before Congress have some merit, I don’t think they’re workable as Miller has stated them, or that either has a chance in hell of making it out of committee, but that doesn’t mean they are entirely bad ideas). He’s not dangerously insane, though he may be dangerously narrow minded. What he is, is dangerously hard right and in thrall to the outsiders of the TEA Party Express and he owes his soul to Sarah Palin.  He’s stated more than once, both expressed and implied, that he only represents TEA Party Conservatives and the rest of us can go hang.  He wants to end earmarks - as a Senator of a state that depends more than any other on earmarks, and that scares the ever living shit out of Alaskan conservatives who venerate Ted Stevens nearly to sainthood. Joe doesn’t compromise.  He intends to increase the obstructionism in Congress, not reduce it. He’s the typical Type-A GI Joe product of West Point and the military promotion system, a bullheaded Army officer, might makes right and it’s his way or the highway.  And a whole lot of Alaskan conservatives who never bothered to vote in the primaries are kicking themselves in the ass right now, wondering how our former half-term quitter of a Governor and the TEA Party Express zealots, from California of all goddamned places, managed to push Murkowski off the ballot.

In Delaware, conservatives face the same dilemma. They can stay home, or they can vote for Christine O’Donnell.  She’s attractive, in a former plaid-skirted Catholic girl who found UberJesus after her college years of pot and anal sort of way.  She’s got a blazing smile and a burning ambition. She’s the darling of the TEA Party and the Palin heir apparent.  And this morning the press is flogging themselves blind in an orgy of web-fingered self-gratification over O’Donnell’s stance (heh, heh) on masturbation, dirty dirty sex, and witchcraft (it’s like the mother lode for the Huffington Post, liberal bloggers, and late night monologues).  But frankly, if I was a Delaware conservative, I’d be less concerned about whatever silly nonsense this vapid woman said fifteen years ago and a whole lot more concerned about where she stands right now. Like the fact that she used to be a Catholic but now she’s a fanatical evangelical who has made it very clear that she would like nothing better than to turn her version of Christianity into public policy. See? That would concern me a whole lot more than whether or not she blew a guy on a Wiccan altar when she was a teenager. She claims that she has heard the actual voice of God. Let’s repeat that, Christine O’Donnell believes that she has actually heard the voice of God, the actual voice not some vague feeling but the actual voice of the Almighty in her empty little head. We put people in the boobyhatch for hearing the voices in their heads, but elect Christine and she'll be following the advice of the imaginary people in her head to guide her hand in Congress. Really, think about that for a minute or two, then breath into a paper bag for a while until your despair passes. Despite trumpeting the conservative flimflam snake-oil of fiscal responsibility, she has one hell of a lot of trouble paying her own bills, including her taxes (one strongly suspects that might be her motivation for joining an outfit that retconned its name to Taxed Enough Already, but again, I digress) and shamelessly used campaign contributions to (allegedly) pay her rent - something she's currently under investigation for.  She talks about reducing the size of government and the Constitution, but in the same breath explains how the federal government owns a woman’s reproductive system.  Sex in general, it seems, is something that O’Donnell feels is subject to regulation in accordance with her religious beliefs (you can see why that would scare the hell out of certain conservative members of Congress and Evangelical Christendom, can’t you? Oops, look at that, yet again I digress).

In Nevada, conservatives can thank Sarah Palin and the TEA Party for crapping out Sharron Angle like a glowing radioactive turd of crazy. I’ve written about Angle before, you remember, she’s the special TEA Party Conservative that believes God has women raped to teach them a lesson. Have fun with that Nevada.

Across the land, TEA Party candidates, hand selected by Sarah Palin, are crowing their victories.

My personal favorite? Carl Paladino, TEA Party wackjob for Governor of New York.

Carl wants to convert underused state prisons (Underused? Underused state prisons? How many of those does New York have? I'm just asking here) into welfare islands, fill them with the poor, who he will then force into working for the state in "military service, in some cases park service, in other cases public works service." Yes, that’s right, Carl wants to round up poor people, put them in prison, and impress them into bondage to the state. Slavery and debtor’s prison – except the inmates in question are not debtors, they’re just not Republicans.  Think about that, really think about it very carefully.  Let's round up the undesirables and put them in camps where work will set them free.  Where have I heard that before? Where? And as if reviving concentration camps and the Gulag system isn't enough, Paladino has declared that as governor he’ll use eminent domain to seize the "Ground Zero Mosque” property and turn it into a "War Memorial."  Hell, as Lord-Governor he says he'll seize all property owned by Muslims on so-called sacred ground. What does Paladino define as sacred ground? Everywhere that the dust from the collapsing World Trade Center towers settled. Basically all of Manhattan (and apparently parts of New Jersey too. Honestly, New Jersey sacred ground? Hmmmm. Heheheheheh. Okay. Sure.  In actuality, dust from the collapsing towers was carried for hundreds of miles all the way to the Midwest United States, we're going to be rounding up a lot of Muslims, I'm just saying).  Paladino is an unabashed racist and doesn’t really care who knows it – preferring instead to blame liberals for his outlook on life. No word if he also blames the child he fathered in an extramarital affair on the democrats as well, but he's promised to impose traditional "family values" on the citizens of New York if elected. That ought to be fun.
 
Faced with such choices across the country, it’s really no wonder why a lot of Conservatives today are suffering a crises of conscience.  They either get to vote for the batshit crazies, or a Democrat. They’re finally waking up to something that’s been obvious to me for a long, long time – that their party has been highjacked by extremists while they were asleep at the switch. While they were busy acting like snotty petulant children, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin and the TEA Party Conservatives stole their party away from them. Increasingly, those conservative politicians that aren't TEA party stalwarts are faced with a dilemma, either they start acting like hardliners and court the extremists or one day they'll wake up to find that they've been branded a RINO and they're running a write-in campaign like Murkowski.

Embarrassed?

Damned right, they're embarrassed. They should be embarrassed.

But not half as embarrassed as they’ll be if these stupid bastards get elected.





* Note: I use the term “Tea Party Conservative” as specifically distinct from the standard issue conservative, the way a rabid hyena is distinct from other canidae.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Weekly ShopKat

After a week of cold wet fog, the sun finally came out yesterday afternoon.

As you can see, the leaves are turning already. There’s no snow on the mountains yet, but it’s coming.

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Cognitive Dissonance

As you know, I’m a bumper sticker-O-phile

They’re like little sound-bites of the driver’s personality.

Today, as I drove through the port area, this jerk cut me off:

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We stopped at the light and I suddenly realized what I was looking at. I snapped a quick shot before the light changed, because I knew you, gentle reader, would be as bemused as I.

I know, you can barely see the stickers.  Sorry about that, I took the picture with my Blackberry straight into the glare of the sun. Here let me help you out.

 

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I didn’t get a picture of it, but on the giant chrome bumper there was this:

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and this:

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Guns. Check.

Hates poor people. Check.

Hates Liberals. Check.

Hates Obama. Check.

Giant truck. Check.

Giant chrome exhaust. Check.

Blaring Country & Western music. Check.

Drives like a monkey with a head injury. Check.

Yep, your typical mid-life crisis Conservative Hard-on-mobile.

 

 

Wait.

What’s that?

That, right there. On the cargo box.

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Could it be?

Naw, it couldn’t be.

Surely not.

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Couldn’t quite make out the logo on the left (I think it might have been for the IBEW, but I can’t be sure), but the big red letters spell out:

 

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The whole thing says: UNION! YES!

 

I assume that when he gets to the voting booth, he just pushes buttons at random.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Too Damned Stupid to Get In Out of the Rain

Behold, the key to happiness, The bucket theory:

To those who have been given much, much is required. I take that admonishment at face value. Not out of fear, but with joy, with confidence. And that you need to understand that, not about me, but let my little example inspire you to do the same thing. I want to give. It's my privilege. It's my honor. It's my responsibility. But I also believe in what I call the bucket theory, and I never heard anybody say this theory before, but I think we're all given buckets and we all start with the same size bucket. And what do people do, if you're collecting rain water, because you're thirsty, you're collecting rain water people have a tendency of doing this, they will cover their bucket to protect it. I believe, take your bucket, blessings rain down on you all the time, take your bucket. And if you see somebody who needs water, there's more, it's raining all the time: Empty it. Eventually, somebody who's handing out the buckets is going to go: You know what, get that guy more buckets, get him a bigger bucket. Stop protecting it. Give it and more will come.

There you go, folks. Thanks for coming, work hard, be happy, and remember to wear a rain jacket.

 

 

 

What?

You’re still here?

What do you mean the Bucket Theory sounds like gibberish babbled by a meth addled seizure monkey with a head injury?

Perhaps you just need to read it again, slower, and sound out the big words. Here, let me help:

First rule of Bucket Theory, nobody talks about Bucket Theory. There’s a guy with a bucket.  See his bucket. He is joyous and happy. Because he has a bucket. But it’s not about him. Or his bucket. Or maybe it is. Let’s follow his example. Everybody gets a bucket. All the buckets are the same size. Some thirsty people collect rainwater by covering their buckets when it rains to protect it from the rain that they are collecting. In their buckets. Because they’re thirsty. And it’s raining. It rains all the time. Everybody has a bucket. Buckets are fun. If you see somebody who’s standing in the rain with a bucket but has a thirst on, you should empty your bucket. Then the guy who hands out buckets will give you a bigger bucket. Pretty soon you’ll have lots of buckets. In the rain. Where there are people with buckets. Who are thirsty. Then you can collect more rain. In your big bucket. Because you’re thirsty. Don’t protect your bucket. It’s raining.  Thus, joy and satisfaction.

Clear?

I know, I know. It is a seductively compelling philosophy, this theory of the buckets. Sucks you right in, doesn’t it?

It’s like Japanese poetry – if Japanese poets were also meteorologists who dropped acid and ate bad Fugu sushi while listening to The Doors lyrics rapped by a prepubescent Japanese schoolgirl Punk/Furry-slash band in a typhoon.

 

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From the context of the article that this theory was taken from, and the previous writings of the great humanitarian who penned it, if you boil away all the bullshit and Ah Shucks hand waving, what the above paragraph says is this:  Everybody is born equal. Everybody has the same opportunity. However, some folks are more equal than others because they take risks or are luckier or are favored by the Big Bucket God.  Since they have more, they should get more because they deserve it.  It is the responsibility of those people to help out those less fortunate. They should be honored to do so. They should set the example of charity. 

Moral of the story: Don’t protect what you have, give it away, and somebody will give you more.

Whoa.

Rich people should give their money to poor people?  The fortunate should help out the less fortunate?  Those who work hard collecting rainwater should give their buckets of tasty refreshing life-giving H2O to the thirsty? No questions asked? Just out of the goodness of their hearts?

What kind of socialist bullshit is that?

Read that first line again: To those who have been given much, much is required.

Sounds a lot like “redistribute the wealth” and “tax the rich” doesn’t it?

Honest to God, folks. What if people really thought like this? It would be a hippy utopia wet dream (literally, since we’d all be standing around in the rain). This is the kind of na├»ve, simplistic liberalism that just encourages lazy people to stay lazy and robs America of her greatness by bringing on the welfare entitlement state – you starting giving people water without making them work it, and pretty soon they start demanding it as a right.

In the same article, the author of this socialist manifesto also said:

Look, I don't have a side. My side is the idea of what was called the American experiment. It was an experiment. Now, are we going to move past it and say, yes, it failed? Or are we going to take the things that we learned, take the best of those ideas and continue to go forward for our next great leap for our children and our grandchildren?

He doesn’t have a side? He wants “go forward” and make “our next great leap” (for the children, of course). He starts out sounding like a Moderate and ends up talking like a Progressive.  And it gets worse.  He’s also the kind of guy who believes in giving people free healthcare. Again, in his own words:

I employ forty people in New York City. I have the best health insurance for everybody and nobody pays a deductible. It's the best that money can buy. I'm told that the insurance that I pay for my employees is actually, uh, I'm the only one in New York still buying it because it's too expensive but I believe in treating people right.

Not even a deductable, folks. Not even a deductable, just because he believes in treating people right. This guy says he’s a conservative, but does that sound like a conservative to you?  More like RINO, I’d say.

You give a man a chance to better himself and his children and he will push himself. He will work day and night. He will have sleepless nights. He will do everything we can, especially if he has an idea and something in his heart that he believes in. He will work tirelessly because he believes in it and it will do great things for him and his family and his community.

Throw in “Arise Ye Russian People!” and raise a heroic statue!

Communist, socialist, progress, moderate, RINO, whatever this leftie is, he’s obviously the kind of guy the patriots of the TEA Party would tear to pieces. Obviously.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Scary Thing is…

…not how cannily lifelike the puppet is, but that everything he says is an exact quote:

 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Weekly ShopKat

 

For the ShopKat Fans (you know who you are):

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Shot in Auto mode from 70ft with the 200mm lens, black cat in shade with a brilliantly lit background. Photo is edited only for size.

 

You’ve really got to love Nikon. Seriously.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

9-11 Nine Years On

At the moment, I have nothing to add to what I said on the 7th anniversary of 9-11

Friday, September 10, 2010

Return of Balloon Boy, Terry Jones and the Religion of Conceit

Update: Apparently, Ariana Huffington at the Huffington Post made the Terry Jones/Balloon Boy comparison yesterday.  Despite being a regular reader of HuffPo I wasn’t aware of it. I put some effort into this piece, to find that Huffington stole my thunder makes me feel like I’m wasting your time with this. Apologies.


 

 

Remember Balloon Boy?

Sure you do.

His name was Falcon Heene and he was the son of a self involved lunatic.

The lunatic in question, Richard Heene, was an attention whore.  People who knew him called him a “shameless self-promoter who would do anything to advance his latest endeavor.”  He started out as a failed actor and then moved on to unfunny failed standup comic who eventually became an eccentric unfunny handyman who billed himself as an amateur scientist.  Somewhere along the line, he either watched one too many episodes of Battlestar Galactica or accepted a drink from L. Ron at the Xenu Bar and got it into his head that humanity had evolved from ancient space aliens whose saucers continued to visit the earth to this very day.  Heene chased storms and alien UFOs with roughly equal enthusiasm, and about equal success – and upon one occasion he damned near killed himself by riding a motorcycle into a tornado, which will give you some idea of this guy’s mental state.  He came up with an idea for a TV show called The Science Detectives, which sounds kind of cool until you realize that given Heene’s background it probably would have been about as scientific as Ghost Whisperer, but without the Jennifer Love Hewitt empty headed goodness. Needless to say, the studios passed, and Heene looked to be in danger of failure yet again.

He needed something more.

He needed something big.

He needed something that would grab headlines and get his name in front of studio executives.

There are those whose minds we say are held together with a few loose screws, Heene’s appears to have been lashed to his cranium with a couple of SpongeBob SquarePants Band-Aids.

In 2009 Richard Heene began construction of what he billed as the next step in transportation technology, a saucer shaped balloon made from cannibalized plastic tarps, string, duct tape, and tinfoil (Oh yes, it was inevitable we’d come across tinfoil in this story sooner or later). According to Heene, this testament to advanced next generation human-alien hybrid engineering was supposed to include a “high voltage timer” (UFOspeak for “flux capacitor”) which would allow the saucer to maneuver by periodically emitting “one million volts” (uh, sure, you go first, Duck Doger, I’ll watch from the bunker).

On October 15th, 2009, the Heenes launched their advanced alien technology craft, accidentally they claimed – and according to initial reports Richard gave to the press, it appeared his young son, Falcon, was onboard.  The silver balloon stayed aloft for hours and reached 7000 feet in attitude and flew for more than 50 miles – chased by news helicopters and rescue aircraft from the National Guard, the local FAA and military radar systems, and hundreds of folks on the ground including police and emergency services.  All were concerned for little Falcon’s welfare. Rescue crews put their own lives in danger in an effort to get close to the flimsy craft, praying for a chance to rescue the unfortunate and ironically named lad.  The story went national, then international, and very rapidly took on a life of its own. There were reports that  something, maybe poor Falcon himself, had fallen from the craft. Thousands searched the fields under the balloon’s path, hoping against hope that they wouldn’t find the kid’s crumpled body smashed into the ground like a dropped jar of strawberry jam.  Denver International Airport was shut down for a while, halting passenger and cargo service in one of the nation’s busiest transportation hubs and disrupting schedules nationwide.  The balloon stayed airborne long enough for a media storm to develop, for a circus of horror and rage and sympathy and human interest to arise, and for Richard Heene to promote his real agenda.

Eventually the balloon came to ground.

Of course, you all know what happened. It was all a lie, a hoax, a sick twisted publicity stunt designed to advance the agenda of a sick twisted narcissist who thought nothing of using people that had trusted him.  Little Falcon was never in danger, he was hidden safely away in the rafters of the Heenes’ garage. Richard Heene had staged the entire thing, used his own children, to garner attention for himself. It wasn’t the Balloon Boy who was on camera throughout the contrived ordeal, it was Richard Heene – finally starring in his own reality movie, emoting on the TV screen like the actor he’d always wanted to be.

But the stunt got away from him and it took on a life of its own and instead of controlling it, the situation took control of Richard Heene.

Eventually, in the end, Richard Heene was caught up in a web of his own bullshit.

In the end, it cost the public over two million dollars.

In the end, he and his wife went to jail for it.

In the end, those who trusted him, his children, his family, were the ones who had to pay for his selfishness and his self-involved nonsense.

 

But, in the end, the Balloon Boy stunt was a success.

 

Richard Heene, that obscure failure of a human being, got exactly what he wanted, attention, fame, recognition, and his own Wikipedia page.  There are those who admire him, admire him for fooling the world, if albeit only briefly.  They envy his fame and wonder how they could do something similar.  When he gets out of jail, don’t be surprised if Richard Heene manages to parley that into, well if not his own reality show at least a judgeship on Dancing with the Stars or maybe a shot on The Apprentice. Certainly there will be book deal and maybe a Lifetime Channel movie of the week.

 

Well thanks for that little trip down memory lane, Jim, but why do you mention it? I hear you ask in that curious and wide-eyed tone you use when you wonder what I’m going to do next.

Thanks for asking.

See, I was reminded of the Balloon Boy incident this last week as I watched a similar hysteria develop around yet another selfish and self-involved glory-hound, the right Reverend Terry Jones, God’s mutton-chopped prophet.

If you recall, I mentioned Jones and the Dove Outreach Center long before anybody else and I would have weighed in earlier on the current hoopla, but I was pretty sure “International Burn a Koran Day” was nothing more than a stunt staged by Jones to garner attention.

I wanted to see the balloon land before offering my own opinion.

And now it has.

Jones is the failed pastor of a tiny pitiful failing Pentecostal church.  He was booted out of his last church for being a controlling asshole, and the congregation of his current flock has been drifting away one by one for years.  The Dove Outreach Center is the kind of ingrown pocket charismatic tent-preacher insanity that you find only in the deep South.  Drive down the potholed and rutted back roads in the sweltering humidity of lower Alabama, the panhandle of Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and the peanut fields of Georgia and you’ll see these same little cracker box churches everywhere. A dilapidated building of warped boards, covered in peeling paint and crawling ivy.  A couple of double-wides pushed together, and moldering in the sun.  They’ve got names like Jesus is Lord Primitive Baptist Church or Praise the Lord Pentecostal Assembly of God (Some assembly required.  Why doesn’t God come pre-assembled? Are batteries included? I wonder about these things, religion makes my head hurt).  They have congregations of ten or twenty or maybe even thirty uneducated ignorant rednecks, mostly composed of members of the preacher’s family and neighbors and one or two denizens of the local trailer park. Out front are signs with dire apocalyptic bible passages warning passersby of God’s hatred for gays, Muslims, Atheists, Catholics, liberals, dirty Mexicans, and Barack Obama. Inside, well, inside you’ll sing pious hosannas and listen to sermons taken solely from the books of Leviticus and Revelations and, if you’re really lucky, you can watch your kids handle poisonous snakes and roll around on the floor spouting gibberish for Jesus. These churches are full of fear, fear of God, fear of Jesus, fear of Satan, fear of evil spirits and fallen angels and dark skinned minorities, fear of the End Times, fear of Commies and liberals and queers and Yankees and the government. 

Terry Jones isn’t anything unusual, rather he’s one of hundreds, thousands, of controlling narcissistic holier-than-thou assholes who preach fire and brimstone-laced end times bullshit from their little card table pulpits every single Sunday, rain or shine. The city of Gainesville has condemned the Dove Outreach Center, but there are a hundred Churches just exactly like it within an hour’s drive, with signs of hatred and fear out front, and pews full of xenophobia and intolerance inside facing a pulpit that preaches that not just a holy book, but everything these people don’t approve of, will be burned, gays, liberals, non-believers and people who don’t believe in the right God or don’t believe in the right God in the right way – the difference is that instead of doing the burning themselves, these days, they preach that God will do it. The method may be different, but the message is exactly the same. They don’t try to hide it, instead they are proud of their hatred and fear and intolerance. They put it right on that signboard out front.

And that, of course, is the problem.

There are too many of them. And they are all the same. These preachers. These churches. These so-called Christians.

Just like Richard Heene, they crave attention, they crave control, they crave fame – but their voices are lost in a sea of other similar noise.

To stand out, they need a gimmick.

Heene launched a balloon.  Jones, he’s been looking for a hit for a couple of years now.  A while back, he hit on Islam.  Last year he got himself some minor notoriety with his “Islam is of the Devil” garbage, and that gave him the idea for something bigger. 

But now it’s gotten away from him.

And just like Richard Heene, Jones is trapped in a web of his own bullshit.

See, he claims God speaks to him.  God told him to burn the Islamic Quran. 

This is a dodge, of course, just like it always is with religious leaders. Hey, hey it’s not me telling you to have sex with me, oh no, it’s God’s will!  Hey, it’s not me telling you to invade the Middle East and take back the holy land, oh hell no, that’s God’s idea. It wasn’t my idea for you to give me money, no no, that’s all God. It’s not me deciding to burn Islam’s holy book, God commanded it. Last night. In a dream. After I drank a couple shots of Wild Turkey and counted the take. Swear to Jesus, it’s true!

Terry Jones is hoist on his own petard. He can’t back down, because it’s not his decision – it’s God’s. See?

Here’s the funny part, by his own admission Terry Jones doesn’t know anything about Islam.  He doesn’t know a single Muslim. Up until a day ago, he’d never ever spoken to a Muslim and had no interest in doing so. In fact, what he said was,

“I don’t know any [Muslims] personally. I have not attended any interfaith discussions and I think such discussions are part of our problem.”

The implications are obvious, Terry Jones doesn’t believe a damned thing he’s saying, he’s just using Islam as a target of opportunity.  And people started to notice.  At first he was pleased, because it was exactly what he wanted, notoriety, fame, attention, power – hell, he even had the President of the United States asking him pretty please not to do it – it was better than he’d ever imagined. Until it blew up in his face. Suddenly, he was endangering Americans with his bullshit.  Suddenly he was not just an enemy of the ungodly heathens, but to Christians as well.  He wasn’t a hero or a simple shepherd, he was a goddamned villain

But he couldn’t back down, could he? Not if God had commanded the book burning  - not to mention that once he vows not to burn the Quran, all that attention and power will just go away like it never was, leaving Terry Jones once again the failed inconsequential pastor of a slowly dying flyspeck of a shithole chapel in the middle of nowhere and nothing more.

Faced with the bleak prospect of disgrace, of yet another disgrace, of becoming irrelevant, Terry Jones did what sad miserable creatures of his ilk always do, he moved the goal posts.

Suddenly, somehow, he made it all about the so-called Ground Zero Mosque.

The mosque, an Islamic community center actually, in New York never had a damned thing to do with Jones’ declared intention to burn the Quran before. He never said, hey, I’m going to piss on Muslims everywhere unless they agree to move that mosque. But, the Mosque is Jones’ ticket out. By making the mosque’s location a condition of categorically halting his Divinely directed book burning, Jones intends to become a hero – the man who forced Islam off of sacred ground (even though it really isn’t on so-called sacred ground at all, it’s between bars and strip clubs on a shitty litter strewn street two blocks away, but that’s just quibbling).  He intends to make Imam Reisel Rauf the bad guy here.  If Jones goes ahead with the Quran burning – and all the violent consequences that will no doubt result from it – then it will be all Imam Rauf’s fault.

It’s popular to hate Muslims in America nowadays.  Islam is the bogeyman of our times.  It is a measure of the current climate of intolerance and hatred in American today, that Terry Jones just might get away with it.

A couple of additional thoughts:

- If Rauf were to move his community center, then it will be the Muslims who will have demonstrated a willingness to compromise in the interest of peace and community and the Christians who have demonstrated intolerance and fear and hatred and terrorism and a willingness to spread their faith by force and threat.  How ironic that, and what a telling comment on Christianity in America.

- Jones wants to negotiate with Imam Rauf. Beg pardon? Is not, according to Jones, Islam of the Devil? Logically then (if logic is a term that can be applied here, even tongue in cheek), would not the good Reverend be negotiating with Satan?  His congregation was pissed at him for being a control freak, how are they going to feel when they find out their church struck a deal with the devil? It’s going to be hell on the membership drive. I’m just saying.

- Jones first claimed that a deal had already been struck.  The Imam’s spokesman immediately denied such, and in fact said that Rauf had not even been contacted by Jones. Somebody is lying here. Turns out it’s the Christian. The statement was an obvious attempt by Jones to manipulate public perception and make Imam Rauf and Muslims the bad guys in this sordid mess.  I’m curious as to why this specific act was not immediately condemned by Christians. Christians, I might note, who have been specifically admonished not to “bear false witness” against their neighbors in both the Ten Commandments and by Jesus himself.  I believe this was exactly the type of situation that particular Commandment was referring to. Hmmm, maybe we ought to allow the Ten Commandments to be posted in the court house if we ever get around to trying Terry Jones for endangering the public and inciting a riot. No? What, have you no poetry in your soul?

- Protests have broken out among Muslims the world over. Jones has received, and continues to receive, death threats and threats of violence.  One suspects this attention only stokes his ego and serves to reinforce his view of Islam.  Jones wears body armor and carries a pistol for protection wherever he goes – ironically, this gives Reverend Jones something in common with abortion providers, who out of fear of Christians just like Terry Jones, often go armed and armored themselves. Hell of a thing to live in fear, isn’t it, little man?

- Of course, Christians the nation over have condemned Terry Jones, including the President of the United States, members of Congress, and senior military commanders. Sure they have.  And every time I write something about Christianity, I receive email admonishing me not to condemn all of Christianity because of ten or twenty extremists.  I got a number of letters after I wrote the Tea Party piece linked to above.  This amuses me.  Why? Because it reminds me of the biblical admonishment about a certain eye, mote, and beam.  Don’t condemn an entire religion because of a few extremists? What a novel idea. Perhaps certain Christians should heed their own advice, especially tomorrow.

- I have long heard calls for Muslims to police their own.  I think there is some merit to this. When an Iranian Ayatollah issues a fatwa to jihad, I think it imperative that Islamic Imams the world over issue their own missives directing Muslims not to follow such a directive and declaring murder, martyrdom, and suicide unIslamic.  But I hold Christians to the exact same standard.  And it takes more than words.  Though Jones has declared that his book burning will not go forward “for now,” he hasn’t ruled out that he won’t go do it at a later date.  Watch the hoopla die down, watch Jones fade from the headlines – and see if he doesn’t bring the idea back up.  Christians need to take this for action.  How? Simple, you have only to surround Dove Outreach Center en mass and block all access to the media with your bodies.  Sing hymns, hold hands, and prevent any image of this idiotic act from reaching the airwaves – or be complicit in the consequences. Churches often send their own off to witness and to missionary work and to attend prayer rallies, instead send them to Gainesville and do something that actually makes a real difference.  You can pray about saving lives, those lives that will be lost should this despicable event go forward, or you can actually save those lives. What’s it going to be?

Richard Heene was a grandstanding ass of a human being, Terry Jones is no better, worse actually as his selfish and self serving actions will put Americans into harm’s way.  Just as Richard Heene succeeded in his real goal, so too has Terry Jones – no matter how this ends, Terry Jones is now world famous.

It will be most ironic, if this sad silly little man, this windbag full of hatred and hot air, brings the rest of us, Christians and Muslims and Jews, believers and non-believers, Americans, brings us all closer together as a nation.

Even if it is only in condemnation of something so un-American as the burning of a book.

That would be the ultimate irony indeed.