Wednesday, March 28, 2018

A New Proposal



Apparently the right wing, as well as others who engage in masturbatory gun fantasies, are clutching their pearls over the fact that the students behind the March For Our Lives event didn't fund it from their allowance money, relied on adults to provide advice and guidance, and do not have minds of their own.

In one video from "Here's The Deal" (which, despite the title, is not at all about providing truthful analysis and is instead all about pushing propaganda), the host, Deneen Borelli, gets all choked up talking about how "liberals use teenagers -- CHILDREN -- to push their agenda." This is followed by footage of an eleven year old girl speaking into a microphone in front of a crowd, saying "I have a dream: no more guns."



This is in keeping with things I have heard from others on the right -- anything from established organizations to far-right nutjobs on Facebook -- that these kids aren't to be taken seriously because they didn't do this themselves and they are just puppets for liberal media and even if they did they had to take money from people like George Clooney and Oprah Winfrey and it's all lies and these poor kids are being used by the liberal media to take away our rights and guns are wonderful things and you ain't commin' fer MAH guns, dammit and what about Hillary's emails? Murica.

Look, I'm not going to get into a play-by-play recount of right-wing hypocrisy here. I'm not, for example, going to point out that these kids raised money in precisely the same way the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville did: by contacting people with whom they share goals and asking for donations. Nor am I going to highlight the fact that these kids asking for adult help for this event is no different than asking for adult help with a bake sale to raise money for new band uniforms; the only difference is the scale. I'm not even going to mention how ludicrous it is that a school district in Pennsylvania has decided that having a bucket of rocks in each classroom is a valid response to an active shooter situation, or Rick Santorum suggesting that, instead of marching against guns, these kids should be learning CPR so they can respond swiftly when the next shooting event happens. Above all I am not going to point out that Emma Gonzalez is a far better spokesman for -- well, anything -- than someone like Dana Loesch (plasticized Barbie puppet of the NRA).

No, today I am going to focus on this fundamental basis of the argument:

March For Our Lives protesters: "We don't want people to get shot in school. Please stop."
Right wing gun nuts: "Um ... no."

Got that? The official stance of the NRA and its supporters is "yeah, we know you don't like getting killed in class, but that's just too damned bad because Second Amendment and shit." Then they lock themselves in the bathroom and yank off to a copy of "Soldier of Fortune."

No less than former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens -- who penned a dissent to Scalia's majority opinion in the ridiculous Heller v. DC case (2008) that essentially guaranteed an individual's right to have an insane arsenal in their home -- has said that the Second Amendment is outdated, obsolete, no longer relevant, and should be repealed. Naturally, this has gun nuts stopping to thoughtfully consider the ramifications --



Of course, I'm kidding. These people are getting their 18th century breeches all knotted up over the apparent sanctity of the Constitution. They spout drivel like "the Constitution should be interpreted EXACTLY AS WRITTEN," but when pressed on the specifics (such as counting non-whites as three-fifths of a person, or doing away with the direct election of Senators, or disenfranchising women of their right to vote) they will start mumbling something about it not being the same thing, then they will pivot to Hillary's emails or Obama's birth certificate or why is shooting someone different than an abortion? Then they start dropping catch phrases: "liberal media," "leftist tyranny," and so on.

Occasionally one of these mouth breathers will offer up gun rights as protection from tyranny and governmental overreach. However, when it is pointed out that their cute little AR-15 and camouflage t-shirt will be about as effective against the United States military as a garden hose against a volcano, they will then pivot to the Triumvirate of Stupid: Hillary's emails, Obama's birth certificate, and abortion.

I actually saw one guy who maintained that "Certain death is the inevitable human condition that governments impose on an unarmed populace." According to this outlook, the only way to prevent government agents from stomping into your home and assassinating you just for fun is to shoot the fuck back, and if the people don't have guns then they are all doomed to being sent to a gulag in extreme northeastern Montana, or something.

Oh, and that post had a picture of a very scary-looking black man with an AR-15.

This is all silliness. Yes, the Second Amendment is obsolete and needs to be repealed. Yes, the National Rifle Association is nothing more than a way for the right wing to engage in a circle jerk that nets them millions of dollars. Yes, the kids have a valid point: it's not at all unreasonable to ask that people please stop shooting them. For some reason the right is very threatened by this, so much so that the amount of online propaganda has reached staggering proportions.



Videos accusing the kids of being shills for George Soros. People accusing Emma Gonzalez of being a closet commie who supports Fidel Castro (even though he's dead) because she had a Cuban flag on her jacket (never mind that she's of Cuban heritage, she's a socialist). Op-ed pieces calling for the arrest of protest organizers. Hand-wringing over the amount of litter left behind after the march (ignoring the even larger amounts of garbage strewn all over the Mall after trump's inauguration ... from a smaller group of people).

It is time to shut these assholes down ... permanently. We need to take the following steps:
  • Repeal the Second Amendment.
  • Declare the National Rifle Association to be a terrorist organization, the rationale being they routinely fund and support activities that would be labeled as "terrorist activities" if they were being done by brown people or people with Arabic-sounding names.
  • Punch Mitch McConnell in the throat and watch him squirm (okay, not at all needed to address this situation; I just want to watch him suffer).

I gotta lie down.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Modern Conservatism Is Dead



There has been a lot of uproar from the right ever since Barack Obama was elected President in 2008. Even now, over a year after he left office, conservatives are still pissing and moaning about Obama, Hillary, and liberals in general.

News flash: liberals aren't going away. After all, everything that has moved this country forward -- from the repeal of slavery to equal credit and pay for women -- has been an issue pushed out there by liberals. Sometimes Republican, sometimes Democrat, but liberal.



Conservatives, on the other hand, have been on the losing side of every single one of these battles. Decrying the repeal of slavery on the grounds that African-Americans were just too simple to understand how to take care of themselves, gosh darn it, so it was the job of whites to take care of them, and what better way to do that than to treat them like property and abuse them with no repercussions? Complaining that women were biologically unsuited to voting. Demanding that "separate but equal" be treated as a valid option instead of the blatant discrimination that it was. Preaching abstinence as the only acceptable form of sex education because if you give teenagers anything more then they will only go out there and use it, whereas if the don't know in the first place then they won't be able to have sex, right? I know that approach worked smashingly for me and my friends in high school. No, really. We spent our time in prayer circles, meditating on how we were saving ourselves for marriage (understand, "prayer circles" actually means "playing in a band in my friend's basement" and "meditating" means "trying to figure out how to get as many naked women there as we possibly could," and "saving ourselves for marriage" is translated as "marriage? That's, like, a million years away but I want someone to touch my winkie NOW.").

What I have not been able to understand -- ever -- is how social conservatives think that endless shrieking, countless personal attacks against liberals, and distortion of facts that ranges from mild spin to outright fabrication is ever going to accomplish their goals ... or even if they know what those goals are in the first place.

So far, all I have seen from the right is reactionary, knee-jerk crap. The days of conservatism being the home of a philosophy of limited government are over, thanks to the religious right and the NRA. "Limited government is fine," they seem to say, "except when it interferes with making the rich even richer and dumbing down the population so they become stupid, compliant serfs." Then we see things like anti-sodomy laws, which are intended to police how individuals engage in private sexual activity (never mind that the question of personal privacy as a Fourth Amendment right was settled in Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965; after all, that only applies to heterosexual white males), or travel bans that prohibit entry from "countries that are state sponsors of terrorism," even though places like Saudi Arabia were omitted and there was a carveout for Christians.

It has played out like this since the founding of the nation. Liberals propose an idea to improve the lives of the average American, and conservatives immediately start running around with their hair on fire, claiming it is going to undo the family/Constitution/society/our economy/our very existence. They then spend the next several weeks, months, or even years creating these false narratives (Obamacare death panels, you ain't comin' fer MAH guns, and so on), even going so far as to fabricate complete untruths to further their position.

Fully 81% of NRA members nationwide support sensible gun control legislation, for example, but the NRA does not represent those members ... it represents gun manufacturers, ammunition manufacturers, and whoever else can afford to pay for their lobbying. Over 60% of Americans feel that abortion is not an issue that should be regulated by the government, yet you still keep trying to ban it.

For cryin' out loud, it was you guys who got "under God" inserted into the Pledge of Allegiance, even though it could be construed as a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Give it up, guys.

You are obsolete. You are no longer relevant. Take your bow, exit the stage, and enjoy your retirement in some gated community in Boca Raton. Just stop wasting our time, and let the adults handle things from here on out.

I gotta lie down.

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Monday, March 26, 2018

Media Bias And You: A Primer



I have been accused (in every instance by someone from the Right Wing Shriek Factory) of having a liberal bias. To which I respond ...

Well, DUH.

However, when it comes to any fact-based reportage and analysis, I do my best to present as unbiased an opinion as the subject matter allows. Very rarely will my material fall into the green square on the chart (the Scalise shooting in Alexandria being an example ... in the initial hours and days, I did not editorialize at all and instead simply reported events as I got information from the Alexandria Police Department and the FBI); usually I do my best to fall into the yellow square.



That's not to imply for an instant that I am on a professional par with AP, Reuters, et al. What I am saying is that I am striving for the level of opinion and analysis one finds in publications like the Washington Post or The Guardian (which skew slightly left) or The Economist or Foreign Policy (which skew slightly right). Sometimes I am more successful than others ... then again, this is a one-man operation.

I do not, as a rule, cite sources that are too far left or too far right, unless I can find sufficient corroboration from neutral sources to support it ... and even on these occasions, I am very wary of the language used (for example, if there is an article in the Conservative Tribune that refers to a "despicable act" by a Democrat, I will try to find something that corroborates the FACTS of the story while ignoring the language used).

So, with all this being said, I will now embark on my bitch session.

All too often I am approached online by people who demand that I respond to some ridiculous charge or another, usually with no supporting information:
  • Hillary Clinton conspired with the Russians to lose the election, because people do that.
  • Emma Gonzalez, the 17 year old Cuban-American high school senior who was at Marjorie Stoneman High School while the shooting on February 14, 2018 was happening, is actually a supporter of Fidel Castro because she has a Cuban flag patch on her jacket.
  • Adolf Hitler used children to promote gun control.
  • Putin’s Wikileaks Host: “Mob Laundromat” Funded GOP
  • Exclusive: China Syndrome – Xi and Putin Partnered in U.S. Election Interference
None of which I try to defend, because it is patently obvious that these are people just looking for an online fight. However, examples like these are indicative of a much larger problem: the replacement of rational, thoughtful discourse with blatant attempts to score points. Liberals aren't trying to explain their agenda in an attempt to sway people to their point of view; they are interested in painting all conservatives as heartless monsters. Similarly, conservatives are foregoing trying to further advertise their real agenda and instead spend their time trying to prove how liberals are a bunch of whiny, guitar-strumming hippies who are too easily triggered.

And because this is such an effective approach, political discourse in the United States has reached new heights of thoughtfulness and seriousness, if "thoughtfulness" is defined as "the most creativity used in distorting or fabricating an accusation," and "seriousness" is defined as "while simultaneously maintaining a straight face."

Now, I know of a couple of conservatives in Facebook groups in which I am a member who are instantly going to leap on this and accuse me of not loving America, of not knowing what I'm talking about, being a hack, etc. simply because it's coming from me and these people are so wrapped up in their self-righteousness that the mere thought of giving a liberal credit for -- well, ANYTHING -- causes them to get the vapors and call for their fainting couches. And to these people I say, "Enjoy your mint juleps, and the Sons of the South will come rescue you in due time."

To everyone else, I implore you to consider the source before you share something. If you are going to disseminate information, please make sure it's accurate. If you are sharing anything from a source in the red square in the diagram above, it is automatically suspect and probably complete bullshit. If it is in the orange square, it is most likely using partisan language to unfairly distort the perspective even if the underlying facts are legit.



My advice? Stick to outlets in the green square for straight news, the yellow square for opinion and analysis.

And not for nothing, this is actually version 3.1 of this diagram. When it first came out in December of 2016, Fox News was on the border of "skews conservative" and "hyper-partisan conservative," (on the X-axis) and squarely in "Opinion; fair persuasion" (the Y-axis). It is now on the border of "hyper-partisan conservative" and "most extreme conservative" on the X-axis, and on the border of "unfair persuasion" and "propaganda" on the Y-axis ... in short, it has become less legitimate as a source of valid news (you can find more about this chart and the methodology used to populate it here).

I gotta lie down.

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Changing tack

About a week or so ago I announced that I was taking a break from politics. As it turns out, this is not entirely true. In fact, I am taki...