The Death of Fun in Politics

September 26th, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Politics

Warren Ellis has a new column appearing weekly on VICE magazine’s website. In his most recent piece, “The Death of Fun in Politics,” Ellis has interesting things to say regarding the lack of “authentic monsters” in the world of politics today.

And his thoughts on Lyndon Johnson are particularly entertaining:

It’s kind of awful to contrast [Obama], with, say, Lyndon Johnson, a man so frightening that to this day some people still believe the legend about him skull-fucking John Kennedy’s dead head during the flight back from Dallas. Washingtonians spoke of “The Johnson Treatment”, where they would discover that Johnson knew everything about them and beat their minds into submission with a welter of promises, debts and threats. Johnson blithely destroyed South American democracies, almost started World War III a couple of times, drove civil rights through, became the first President to cause the arrest of Klan members in a century, and threw the ’68 election to Richard Nixon. He was clearly unbalanced and lived to intimidate people. He was interesting. Democrats today just can’t compare.

THE ENTIRE GOVERNMENT HAS FAILED US ON IRAQ

June 17th, 2007 at 5:08 pm | Politics

Not for the first time I find myself wishing that Keith Olbermann were running for President next year:

Who among us will stop this war—this War of Lies?
To he or she, fall the figurative keys to the nation.
To all the others—presidents and majority leaders and candidates and rank-and-file Congressmen and Senators of either party—there is only blame… for this shameful, and bi-partisan, betrayal.

Watch the video here.

(Via B.)

JAB

YOU CLEVER, CLEVER MAN

November 12th, 2006 at 3:00 pm | Politics

Oh, Rummy. We’ll miss you so.

Moving on, the Washington Post has an interesting article up: “Democrats Find Lessons in GOP Reign.” It details how the new Democratic majority plans to be equal parts cautious and ambitious after coming into power, the latter being most prevalent in their planned first 100 hours:

House Democratic leaders have put forward an ambitious opening salvo for January, a 100-hour legislative blitz that includes raising the minimum wage, boosting alternative-energy research and repealing tax breaks for oil companies. They also want to beef up seaport screening, expand college tuition assistance, boost stem cell research and allow the federal government to negotiate lower drug prices under Medicare.

House Democrats also hope to approve rules changes to limit the influence of lobbyists, offer the minority party more input on legislation, curb home-state pet projects in spending bills and, possibly, give the District of Columbia voting rights on the House floor.

I have good feelings about the next two years. So long as the Democrats don’t go fucking batshit insano right off the bat and immediately alienate the moderate or more Republican-leaning citizens who helped get them into power, they might actually be able to start turning the country towards a better, more hopeful future.

Now that this election is behind (and thank Gods for it, too; I was already sick of all the campaign ads and rhetoric back in September), I’m starting to look towards the ’08 Presidential election. Currently, it seems Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham-Clinton are the front runners for the Democratic nomination, with John McCain leading the Republican nomination, but a whole lot can change in two years.

And now I’ll finish with some shameless self-promotion: Remember, in 2020, vote Josh Bales of the People’s Party For A United Earth for President.

I’m already starting to work on my stump speech. Here’s a rough excerpt:

“I will turn this planet into a Paradise, an Eden, not seen since two mythical celebrities never walked the Earth. And those who would oppose such a Paradise will be gently educated with harsh and punitive measures.”

JAB

COMING TO OUR SENSES?

November 7th, 2006 at 9:27 pm | Politics

Congratulations, Mister Ted Strickland — you are now the Governator of Ohio! Strickland seems to have won 60% of the vote, versus Blackwell’s puny 37%. These statistics are only projections, and may change slightly. The point, however, remains, that a majority of Ohioans — or at least those with the intelligence to vote — have removed their collective heads from their asses. Gods only hope that they had enough sense, an urge for change, to kick out DeWine. Guess we’ll know later tonight.

I don’t know about you all, but my polling place was packed. I meant to go early this morning before work, around 6:30 . . . a notion I remembered halfway to Huber Heights. So instead I went at about 5:45 pm, and had to wait in line for twenty minutes. It wasn’t too bad; I made small talk with a hot goth girl and watched in amazement as some guy bitched that he “didn’t know he had to have his ID to vote.” I mean, really. It’s only been publicized just about everywhere.

All said, it was nice to see a lot of people out voting, especially during a midterm election, when turnout is historically less than during a Presidential election year. I’ll be curious to see what the turnout was like compared with the shitty 2002 election. My thoughts then were a little bleak. I’m considerably more upbeat about the results this time around.

UPDATED 9:56 PM: Oooh! It looks like Sherrod Brown beat out Mike DeWine for Senator, 56% to 44%. That’s fucking awesome. Democrat candidates have apparently also won two other Senate races, in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. Three more, and the Democrats will have a majority in the U.S. Senate for the first time in 12 years. Now that’s something to be excited about.

JAB

WHAT IF

September 7th, 2006 at 8:16 pm | Current Affairs, Politics

New York Magazine has a really interesting piece up right now: “What If 9/11 Never Happened?”

They assembled a varied list of contributors — columnists, political advisers, public figures, even graphic novelists — to pontificate on what the world might be like had the terrorist attacks that day never happened. All of the speculations are very, very fascinating, and, perhaps not unsurprisingly, more than a little depressing.

My two — I hesitate to call them “favorites,” so I’ll go with the two I thought were the best, perhaps the most thought-provoking, are actually the first and last entries. Andrew Sullivan, former editor of the New Republic, contributed a series of alternate history blog posts relating very plausibly how a different, more deadly terrorist attack might have affected a different world.

The other highlight is by the aforementioned “graphic novelists” Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris, cocreators of the excellent comic book series Ex Machina. Theirs is probably the most striking too, consisting of one panel of art and one caption.

If you’ve got some free time I recommend reading the whole thing. If you don’t, then just read the ones I pointed out. It’s worth it.

JAB

NOW SPYING on AMERICANS

May 11th, 2006 at 7:39 pm | Politics

Un-fucking-believable. No, actually, I guess it’s not that unbelievable at all that President Bush lied to the American public. Again. Last year, when it was leaked out that the President had authorized the NSA to eavesdrop on people who were suspected to have links to terrorist organizations, Bush stressed that only emails or phone calls where one party was outside the USA were being monitored. But it turns out he may have left out a small bit of information:

The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.

The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans — most of whom aren’t suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews.

“It’s the largest database ever assembled in the world,” said one person, who, like the others who agreed to talk about the NSA’s activities, declined to be identified by name or affiliation. The agency’s goal is “to create a database of every call ever made” within the nation’s borders, this person added.

For the customers of these companies, it means that the government has detailed records of calls they made — across town or across the country — to family members, co-workers, business contacts and others.

The three telecommunications companies are working under contract with the NSA, which launched the program in 2001 shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the sources said. The program is aimed at identifying and tracking suspected terrorists, they said.

The sources would talk only under a guarantee of anonymity because the NSA program is secret.

Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, nominated Monday by President Bush to become the director of the CIA, headed the NSA from March 1999 to April 2005. In that post, Hayden would have overseen the agency’s domestic call-tracking program. Hayden declined to comment about the program.

The NSA’s domestic program, as described by sources, is far more expansive than what the White House has acknowledged. Last year, Bush said he had authorized the NSA to eavesdrop — without warrants — on international calls and international e-mails of people suspected of having links to terrorists when one party to the communication is in the USA. Warrants have also not been used in the NSA’s efforts to create a national call database.

In defending the previously disclosed program, Bush insisted that the NSA was focused exclusively on international calls. “In other words,” Bush explained, “one end of the communication must be outside the United States.”

As a result, domestic call records — those of calls that originate and terminate within U.S. borders — were believed to be private.

Sources, however, say that is not the case. With access to records of billions of domestic calls, the NSA has gained a secret window into the communications habits of millions of Americans. Customers’ names, street addresses and other personal information are not being handed over as part of NSA’s domestic program, the sources said. But the phone numbers the NSA collects can easily be cross-checked with other databases to obtain that information.

Don Weber, a senior spokesman for the NSA, declined to discuss the agency’s operations. “Given the nature of the work we do, it would be irresponsible to comment on actual or alleged operational issues; therefore, we have no information to provide,” he said. “However, it is important to note that NSA takes its legal responsibilities seriously and operates within the law.”

The White House would not discuss the domestic call-tracking program. “There is no domestic surveillance without court approval,” said Dana Perino, deputy press secretary, referring to actual eavesdropping.

She added that all national intelligence activities undertaken by the federal government “are lawful, necessary and required for the pursuit of al-Qaeda and affiliated terrorists.” All government-sponsored intelligence activities “are carefully reviewed and monitored,” Perino said. She also noted that “all appropriate members of Congress have been briefed on the intelligence efforts of the United States.”

The government is collecting “external” data on domestic phone calls but is not intercepting “internals,” a term for the actual content of the communication, according to a U.S. intelligence official familiar with the program. This kind of data collection from phone companies is not uncommon; it’s been done before, though never on this large a scale, the official said. The data are used for “social network analysis,” the official said, meaning to study how terrorist networks contact each other and how they are tied together.

John Scalzi has written before that he thinks our government works most effectively when one party controls the Congress and the other the Presidency. It establishes something that’s been almost unheard of in this country for the past six years: a system of checks and balances. Scalzi’s thoughts on this subject have merit, I think, because the GOP-controlled Congress is doing a terrible job of checking President Bush’s mad grabs for power. Lump in the U.S. Supreme Court, which has taken a huge swing to the right in the last year, and now we have the other two branches of government — the checks and balances — that can’t seem to get out of the President’s way fast enough. Sure, upon news of this being leaked today, Republican Senators and Congresspersons made a huge stink about it, saying that such spying is wrong, that there will be investigations, and blah blah blah. . . .

What, do they think we’re retarded? Nothing is going to change. In a few weeks, this whole clusterfuck will blow over, the cable news channels will have moved onto something else, and President Bush and his Death Commandos will continue to merrily steamroll over our civil rights. And what’s worse, when the elections roll around this fall, despite the abysmal job that the Bush Youth Brigade* has done, despite how low they’re ranking in the polls right now, the fucksticks of America will re-elect the Republicans and our country will continue to accept the unlubricated assfucking we’ve been taking ever since November of 2000.

Times like this I wish I had the money to buy my boat and just sail on down to the Caribbean.

JAB


*Even though the “Bush Fat-Old-White Brigade” would be more accurate. What can I say; I like Hitler parallels in regards to Bush.

DO YOU HAVE THE BALLS TO WATCH THIS VIDEO?

May 5th, 2006 at 1:32 am | Politics

I’m a little late on this one, but since I just got around to watching the video in question today, I figure I’m okay.

Stephen Colbert (Colbert Report, Daily Show) recently delivered a speech at the White House Press Correspondents’ Dinner, and he was hilarious. He said all sorts to biting, funny and true things about the Bush Administration and the supposedly “liberal” media in bed with them that few would be bold enough to say in front of the President himself and his cronies. Shockingly, they didn’t see the humor in it.

To watch the speech in its entirety, go here and click on the link that says it’s part 2. Why it says “part 2″ I don’t know, because it’s the whole thing, but click on it to watch the speech. Part 1 is basically the same as 2, but appears to be of slightly lesser quality. The speech itself is about 20 minutes long and the video is streamed, so it loads pretty fast.

I think my favorite bit is when Colbert is talking about an interview he did with Reverend Jesse Jackson:

“[Jesse Jackson] is a very challenging interview. . . It’s like boxing a glacier. Enjoy that metaphor by the way because your grandchildren will have no idea what a glacier is.”

Great stuff. Well worth your time.

JAB

FUCK INTELLIGENT DESIGN

November 8th, 2005 at 10:32 pm | Politics

I get so frustrated sometimes with the direction our country has taken that I just want to scream…or kill a small puppy. In this case, I’d also settle for the asshole who invented the phrase “intelligent design”:

TOPEKA, Kansas (AP) — At the risk of re-igniting the same heated nationwide debate it sparked six years ago, the Kansas Board of Education approved new public school science standards Tuesday that cast doubt on the theory of evolution.

The 6-4 vote was a victory for “intelligent design” advocates who helped draft the standards. Intelligent design holds that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by a higher power.

Critics of the language charged that it was an attempt to inject God and creationism into public schools in violation of the separation of church and state.

All six of those who voted for the standards were Republicans. Two Republicans and two Democrats voted against them.

“This is a sad day. We’re becoming a laughingstock of not only the nation, but of the world, and I hate that,” said board member Janet Waugh, a Kansas City Democrat.

Supporters of the standards said they will promote academic freedom. “It gets rid of a lot of dogma that’s being taught in the classroom today,” said board member John Bacon, an Olathe Republican.

And as if that weren’t bad enough, there’s this, the icing on the cake:

In addition, the board rewrote the definition of science, so that it is no longer limited to the search for natural explanations of phenomena.

Right. So according to their definition of science, anyone can make up whatever shit he or she wants and it’s automatically an explanation for phenomena in the universe. Fantastic.

Now that this is all out in the open, I can finally let you all in on a little secret:

I created the universe.

Because I’m God. Not just a god, either, but the God.

And for my first public act as God, I am going to transport the city of Topeka, Kansas back in time 6000 years when — as everyone knows — dinosaurs ruled the Earth. But don’t fret for the safety of the Topekans — I’m sure all of the humans living side-by-side with the dinosaurs will protect them, right? I mean, according to most Bible-fuckers, once upon a time humans and dinosaurs coexisted, at least until the liberal, heathen dinosaurs were struck down by God me and the worthy humans inherited the Earth. ‘Cause according to the board of education of Topeka, Kansas (the very same board of education that brought you this little case fifty years ago), science now implies that this, in all likelihood, is (probably) true.

To read the story that sparked this little tirade, go here. And to you people who think intelligent design should be taught alongside evolution, one: take your kid to whatever private school will indoctrinate the little bugger for you and leave the already intelligently-designed curriculums of public schools the hell alone,and two:

Go fuck yourselves.

JAB

WOULDN'T SURPRISE ME IF IT WAS TRUE

November 1st, 2005 at 11:04 pm | Politics

This joke is a little outdated, but still damn funny and appropriate, especially since we’re gearing up for a huge fight over the newly nominated Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. So here’s the joke:

Q: What was President Bush’s reply when asked what his position was on Rowe vs. Wade?

A: “I don’t care how people get out of New Orleans.”

JAB

BRAINWASHING THE KIDS

October 9th, 2005 at 6:03 pm | Culture, Moving Pictures, Politics

I was watching some TV yesterday morning before I went to work. It was like 7:20ish or so and FOX was rerunning old episodes of “Captain Planet.” Talk about a show that’s major aim is to indoctrinate children. In the episode I watched, some bad guys — who kept referring to the Planeteers as “eco-dorks” and other assorted words prefaced with “eco” — were driving huge four-wheelers around in the desert, which according to the Planeteer’s leader, Guinan, was “ruining the desert and setting it back over 1000 years.” So the Planeteers — or as I like to call them, “eco-terrorists” or “eco-nazis” — summon Captain Planet who stops the bad guys and takes their expensive-looking vehicles away to be recycled. Sexually energized by their harrowing victory, the Planeteers then retire back to their lair and have an orgy. This last part wasn’t part of the episode, but from the gay banter I think it can be reasonably inferred.

Now as you all know, I lean much more heavily towards liberalism than conservatism. But this show’s message offended me. Sure, the antagonists were characterized as flat-out villains, but the Planeteers came off as meddlesome zealots who have no ability to empathize with the other side. Captain Planet himself is a big bully, a tool used by the extremist, nature-worshipping left to do their bidding, which basically is to stop the right at all costs. In fact, I think if the cabal of Planeteers used their magic rings to order Captain Planet to kill the four-wheeling idiots, he’d willingly do so. To save the desert. I think “eco-nazis” can accurately describe Der Fuhrer Planet and the Secret Planeteer Police.

And, of course, it’s not just the environmentally-conscious yet emotionally-disturbed left that is trying to inculcate Saturday-morning-cartoon watching kids. The religious right has its own conditioning to instill.

In the middle of being assaulted by Captain Planet, a series of commercials run. The first couple of ads are for toys and such. And then this one innocuously starts:

A teenage girl — a little overweight, a little punk-ish/goth-ish — is sitting alone in a coffeeshop (for the sake of this writing, let’s call her Devi). Devi is reading a magazine and looking more than a little depressed. A half-empty cup of coffee sets on the table.

In comes another girl (we’ll call her Suzie), presumably Devi’s friend, who sits down at the table. Suzie is thin, wears very little visible make-up, dresses conservatively, and looks all-around cheerful and happy.

SUZIE (smiling): “WHATCHA READING?”

DEVI (an unfulfilled look on her face): “MAGAZINE. READ ANYTHING GOOD LATELY?”

SUZIE: “ACTUALLY, I HAVE.”

Suzie reaches into her handbag and pulls out a book which she places on the table.

Devi looks at the book, interest lighting up on her face.

DEVI: “OH WOW.”

SUZIE (smiling again): “IT’S THE BOOK OF MORMON. IT’S ANOTHER TESTAMENT OF JESUS CHRIST. I STARTED READING IT A FEW WEEKS AGO. EVER SINCE, I’VE BEEN HAPPIER, MUCH NICER TO OTHERS, AND, IN GENERAL, MORE AT PEACE.”

Devi looks even more interested.

DEVI: “GO ON.”

Suzie starts to talk again, but we don’t hear it because of the voice-over.

VOICEOVER: “TO OBTAIN YOUR FREE COPY OF THE BOOK OF MORMON, TALK TO A NEIGBOR WHO BELONGS TO THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER DAY SAINTS, OR CALL THE NUMBER ON YOUR SCREEN. DISCOVER THE SPIRITUAL AND PERSONAL FULFILLMENT PROVIDED BY THE BOOK OF MORMON TODAY.”

…and the commercial ends. It’s pretty basic. To a kid watching, the punk/goth and let’s not forget fat girl is unhappy with her life. The thin, normal-looking girl walks in and is clearly happy. She lays out the Book of Mormon, delivers her pitch, and suddenly, the fat girl seems intrigued, and the audience is inclined to thing it’s probably that she will too become happy. “The Book of Mormon will make you thin, happy, and probably more popular” is the message kids will be walking away with.

Religion has its purposes, I understand. Not for me perhaps, but for the majority of people it works. I just don’t think religions should be pandering to children on TV, and certainly not Mormons. Not that I’m picking on Mormons, or ever have in the past. Parents should be the ones introducing their kids to religion, and most definitely not force it upon them. Religion has absolutely zero place outside the family. It doesn’t belong in the government, schools, and kids’ Saturday morning cartoons.

However, if you read the subtext in the commercial, I think you can read an entirely different message from the commercial….

A teenage girl — a little overweight, a little punk-ish/goth-ish — is sitting alone in a coffeeshop (for the sake of this writing, let’s call her Devi). Devi is reading a magazine and looking more than a little depressed. A half-empty cup of coffee sets on the table.

In comes another girl (we’ll call her Suzie), presumably Devi’s friend, who sits down at the table. Suzie is thin, wears very little visible make-up, dresses conservatively, and looks all-around cheerful and happy.

“Whatcha reading?” Suzie asks, sitting down and smiling.

“Magazine,” Devi replies disinterestedly. Then clearly realizing she has nothing in common with the girl sitting across from her, she lamely asks, “So…read anything good lately?”

Suzie is still cheerfully smiling, oblivious to the fact that the “project” she is sharing a table with is starting to find her toothy grin discomforting. “Actually, I have.” She reaches into her hideously oversized handbag and pulls an oversized book, which she sets upon the table with an audible thump. Suzie’s grin, if physically possible, becomes even wider.

“Uh, wow,” Devi mutters, unable to remove her eyes from the massive tome. Guess it’s too much to hope that she’d have the Necronomicon in her purse, she thinks.

Inside Devi’s a bit torn — partially relieved that she has something to look at other than Suzie’s skeletal smile, but also disturbed that the fucking Book of Mormon is in front of her. Absently, she reaches over and takes a drink of her coffee.

“It’s the Book of Mormon,” Suzie says, as though Devi is incapable of reading — after all, she is a Godless heathen. “It’s another testament of Jesus Christ. I started reading it a few weeks ago. Ever since, I’ve been happier, much nicer to others, and, in general, more at peace.” Her smile now seemingly occupies the entire lower portion of her face. The Cheshire cat would have nothing on her, indeed would probably be terrified of her visage.

This is at least how it seems to Devi, but it could be otherwise — her thoughts are currently too muddled to process much of anything. Except strangely enough, Suzie’s soothingly hypnotic voice.

“Go on,” Devi intones dreamily, picking up the book. She drinks some more coffee.

Eyes carefully watching Devi, Suzie suggests: “Why don’t we go hang out today? We could go to my chur — my friends’ place. They’re all neat people, and we can play all sorts of fun games!”

“Okay.” Devi’s eyes are completely clouded, her brain mushy, pliable. She likes Suzie. Suzie makes sense. Devi likes games too.

“Let’s go.” Suzie stands up and moves around the table to help Devi stand. “Don’t forget your coffee,” Suzie says.

One arm clutching the Book of Mormon, Devi picks up her drink before Suzie leads her away. “Coffee’s good,” Devi says, taking another drink, completely unaware that she’s been ingesting a large dose of sodium pentothal surreptitiously placed there earlier by Suzie.

See? Clearly, Mormons like to employ some insidious recruiting methods.

Basically, as I grow older, I find that extremism in any form is just stupid. Neo-conservatives, far-left liberals, religious zealots, environmental nazis — they’re all idiots. That’s basically my point. That, and they all should stay the fuck away from Saturday morning cartoons.

To quote Maud Flanders: “Will somebody please think about the children!”

JAB