Month: April 2013

A Note Regarding the Obvious, a Point That Should Not Need Making

Although a pathetic preface, I would recall here a common discussion my father and I had through the years of my youth, about business and politics, results-oriented justifications, and other such notions. Maybe it’s just easier to go with the sports version*: By the time one achieves the premier level of anything ….

You can fill in the blank, as such. You don’t get to the top of the business world by making bad decisions. You don’t get to the White House without being smart. You don’t get to the NFL without having respectable talent and discipline.

And so on.

Thus prefaced, we might consider Steve Benen’s explanation:

PPP has discovered that Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) is in even worse shape, with an approval rating of 32%. And like McConnell in December, the Arizona Republican is responding to the news by blaming the messenger.

Who am I?Responding to a survey from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling that showed his popularity in the gutter, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) on Monday questioned the accuracy of the pollster. […]

“If we believed PPP polls,” Flake told The Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis, “I wouldn’t be here at all.”

It’s not clear what Flake is referring to, exactly. PPP had Flake leading for much of his 2012 race, including a five-point margin shortly before Election Day, when he won by three. Flake would have lost if he believed PPP results? That doesn’t make sense.

We all know that the political art is that of rhetorical sleight, but they’re not even trying.

The branches of the United States government are the premier league of rhetorical sleight in the nation. The Executive and Legislative weave tangles of rhetoric, and the Judicial wields a sword to cut away the knots.

Whatever else, I think we can expect better of Flake and his Republican colleagues. PPP outdid Pew, the major news outlets, and far exceeded Rasmussen and Gallup in the 2012 cycle. Benen reminds—

If there was ever a time GOP officials could dismiss Public Policy Polling results as unreliable, that day has long since passed.

—but at least as important is Flake’s flaccid critique against PPP. “If we believed PPP polls, I wouldn’t be here at all.”

Dealing with poll numbers can be a tricky business, but come on, Senator, at least show up for the game.

I promise you, sir, the polling firm isn’t the problem.

* A former collegiate football coach, he is still the most reliable mind I know with whom to discuss the game, though that is hardly surprising given the lack of performance pressure since he’s not analyzing for television or anything like that.

I know, I know. Just … just work with me, here. Thanks.

Allow me, please, to reiterate the preceding note.

An Exploitative Question

Every once in a while circumstance presents what seems a necessary occasion to ask an obviously exploitative question:

Ramon Gustavo Castillo GaeteRamón Gustavo Castillo Gaete, who refers to himself as “Antares from the Light,” is on the run from police after four members of his group were arrested by Chilean authorities for the ritualistic murder of an infant girl.

So: Do we blame the individual, the cult, religion in general, or “Christianity”?

(The detail of Megan Carpentier’s report for Raw Story, BBC’s article, or other news source is genuinely soul-scarring; do brace yourself before setting out along that path.)

Ineffably Stupid

Herbert and Catherine SchaibleWhat was it President George W. Bush said? Oh, right: “Fool me once, shame on—shame on you. Fool me—you can’t get fooled again.”

No, really. He actually did say that, though I recall in the moment it did not occur to me that we were witnessing the stuff of legend. Stupidity, yes, to be certain, but such monumental, titanic idiocy? Well, come on; was a time when being President of the United States actually meant something.

Never mind; this isn’t about Dubya. Rather, this is about something even more stupid than our forty-third president.

No, really. Such things do exist, though as you might imagine, ineffable stupidity is also often tragic. The Associated Press turns our stomachs:

A couple serving probation for the 2009 death of their toddler after they turned to prayer instead of a doctor could face new charges now that another son has died.

Where does one begin? Quite obviously, the answer is that one simply doesn’t.

Naturally, it gets worse.


A Necessary Reminder

The recent budget sweepstakes in Washington, D.C., in which at least five Beltway factions have proposed their fiscal plans for the nation, have drawn much attention. President Obama’s budget has drawn many headlines for putting Social Security on the table, resulting in morbid political comedy akin to a Mack Sennet film.

Democrats are mortified, and Republicans are so confused by the president’s maneuver that they cannot seem to figure out how to respond.

But that’s the thing: It’s a political maneuver.

Political cartoonist Bob Englehart explains:

Bob Englehart, "Obama's Budget"President Barack Obama is supposed to be showing his willingness to compromise with the GOP on the budget by going after some of our most vulnerable citizens, people on Social Security and Medicaid. The funny part is that the Republicans have wanted this for years, but since Obama is offering it, they say it’s not enough.

In the meantime, the liberals are freaking out that Obama has turned against the very ideals that the liberals found so compelling in the last election. Look, a presidential budget is a political tool and that’s all. It won’t be enacted. It’s designed to help moderate Senate Democrats win re-election next year.

Meanwhile, everybody’s pissed, the conservatives because there’s nothing Obama could ever do to assuage their rage. The liberals are in a snit because any proposed cut to any social program, no matter how transparently a Trojan horse, sets their hair on fire.

You could say he’s trying to out-GOP the GOP for effect. He has an eye on the 2014 elections. He needs a Democratically controlled House and Senate if he hopes to get more done, but that will be almost impossible with the gerrymandering and election stealing going on in the red states.

There are, of course, various ways to interpret the responses.


Bigotry: The Next Generation

Well, now. Where to begin?

Okay, how about with an update from Winston-Salem, North Carolina:

A young demonstrator took aim at North Carolina’s Green Street United Methodist Church after its recent pledge to stop performing weddings until same-sex marriage is legalized.

The next generation of HatredAs Good As You blogger Jeremy Hooper first reported, the boy—who is not identified—stood in front of the Winston-Salem church on Easter Sunday with a placard that read, “Jesus Must Be Your Lord Or He Will Not Be Your Savior.”

“The Bible talks about the homosexuals—they’re worthy of death,” the boy proclaims, as seen in video footage of the protest which was also posted on Hooper’s site. “They’re worthy of death, and you people approve of them! That’s why you’re going to Hell without Jesus Christ. You can turn from your sin!”

He adds, “It’s time to stop sinning and follow the lord Jesus Christ!”

This is one of those good news, bad news situations. That is to say: Good news! An eleven year-old boy has awoken to his political conscience and is expressing himself! And, of course: Bad news! An eleven year-old boy has demonstrated the heritability of bigotry!


The Strangest Phrase

“If you don’t want to include a graphic illustration of rape in a graphic novel about rape, that’s understandable. But I’d be interested to hear victims of sexual assault weigh in on what they believe a graphic representation of rape might look like, and I suspect that it wouldn’t be the jaunty exploding star that in 100% of the world’s comic strips denotes exaggeration for the purpose of humor.”

Mary Adkins

Three words: Rape education comics.

‘Nuff said?

Alright, then. Your turn.

Last week the Dallas Observer reported that Dallas County will print a series of graphic novels to teach kids in juvenile detention about rape. The Project on Addressing Prison Rape at American University, Washington College of Law is behind the comics, which are available in full on the project’s site.

Rape Ed TriptychA warning: they’re weird. Not just because you’re reading material designed to educate kids about rape, but because of the way in which the choice of form—a comic strip—seems to inherently turn what is a very serious thing into a lighthearted romp. This isn’t parody for the sake of stressing the weightiness of the issue; it’s not about placing a horrific phenomenon in a playful genre in order to highlight its grimness via juxtaposition. This is exactly what it purports to be: a set of traditional comic books (or graphic novels—same thing) with sexual assault plots. The panels where rape happens read: BAM!

If that isn’t already unsettling, here’s the other thing. The series conveys problematic messages like: you should be concerned whether being raped by someone of the same sex makes you gay; you should expect your superiors not to believe you when you report an assault; and even, ironically, you should expect to be raped if you wind up in juvenile detention.

So, yeah. Right. Your turn.

I have no idea what goes here; the (ahem!) “rape ed comics” have about them a spectral weight that makes it difficult to muster the courage to read through them.

So … no. There is no review or critique to go here, though Adkins’ consideration is worth a read. And, yes, ’tis true, “rape ed comics” is perhaps the strangest phrase I have heard in … er, yeah. The notion is transcendent.

A Deadly Beaver

When tragedy becomes the stuff of legend:

In a rare incident, a beaver bit a man to death in Belarus as he was attempting to take the animal’s photograph.

Randy Suarez, 2010The victim was on a fishing trip with two friends when he stopped to snap a photo of a nearby beaver, according to Sky News. The beaver attacked the man, biting him on the thigh and severing an important artery, causing him to bleed to death.

The man, whose name was not given, reached medics 30 minutes after the attack, but was pronounced dead upon arrival, according to Russian news agency RIA Novosti, citing local media reports.

Sergei Shilinchuk, deputy head of the environmental protection committee for the city of Brest, told The Telegraph that he had never heard of a beaver killing a man before in the region.

“People have lost fingers – that’s the worst I’ve come across,” Shilinchuk said. “The beaver is not normally aggressive, but it does have big teeth and immensely powerful jaws; it can cut down a tree three feet wide.”

The obvious downside is that someone is dead. Beyond that, though, it’s not all bad news ….

• Lots of puns about dangerous beavers.

• The unfortunate beaver enthusiast has transcended mere humanity to become a minor legend.

• Unlike the eel dude in China, when you die in an absurdly ridiculous manner, you’re not around to hear your friends mock you at the pub.

Still, despite the great human temptation of indecency toward the dead, condolences all around. One would imagine that “death by beaver” is not nearly so funny as it is actually happening.

Image credit: Randy Suarez, 2010.

A Brief Update: I Was Wrong

GOPUSA logoWell, of course I was wrong. There are reasons why I am not much for betting, especially when betting against human frailty.

Doug Patton, former conservative speechwriter and current senior hack for GOPUSA* rushes faithfully to RNC Chairman Priebus’ side as Republicans look to pick a new fight with Planned Parenthood:

From Margaret Sanger to Barack Obama, this is the world the left has created for us. It is a twisted, amoral utopia, where right is wrong and wrong is right, where good is evil and evil is good, where fully born babies can be murdered in abortion mills.

If Priebus’ tantrum depended solely on epistemically closed inference, Patton’s apoplexy is perhaps described as entirely reliant on his own twisted fantasies. If nothing more, Patton gives us a scary glimpse at his own outlook.

To the other though, he’s also the kind of partisan hack who believes Supreme Court Justices owe fealty to the political party that nominated them.

So, no, nobody so unfortunate to actually have made the mistake of paying attention to Mr. Patton is suprised to see this latest hit piece.

* A right-wing activist operation perhaps most famous for being part of Talon News, which in turn is most [in]famous for the sordid tale of “Jeff Gannon”, a gay male prostitute hired to softball President Bush at press conferences.

A Memo to Reince Priebus


To: Reince Priebus, Chairman, Republican National Committee

re: I beg your pardon, but what?

While it is not quite a Don Young style misfortune, your RedState rant about Planned Parenthood also is not an accidental mistake. The Alaska congressman’s slip of the tongue certainly was unfortunate, but slips happen, everyone chuckles, and it just happens to be really bad timing for the GOP’s effort to improve its standing in minority communities.

Your tantrum, Mr. Priebus, about Planned Parenthood and media conspiracies, however, is no accident; and yet, it is a mistake.

Not once in her testimony did the Planned Parenthood representative say the newborn baby has a right to life. Not once did she say anyone has a duty to care for the child. Whether the living, breathing child survives is up to the adults in the room because, as we now know, Planned Parenthood doesn’t believe the baby has rights.

Reince PriebusPlanned Parenthood is an organization that receives taxpayer funding, including millions from the federal government. They also enjoy the unwavering support of almost all elected Democrats.

The President, the Senate Majority Leader, the House Democratic Leader, and the Chair of the Democratic National Committee (in whose home state this hearing occurred) made funding Planned Parenthood an issue in the 2012 campaign. They should now all be held to account for that outspoken support. If the media won’t, then voters must ask the pressing questions: Do these Democrats also believe a newborn has no rights? Do they also endorse infanticide?

Certes, ’tis a dramatic presentation. But it is also a bit of a stretch.


A Prediction: Gillespie on Eternity

“I’d remind the Republican establishment that forever is a long time.”

Steve Benen

One can certainly call it a bit pedantic to pick on casual rhetorical use of the word “never”; indeed, it might also seem a bit childish. But as Steve Benen explains of the former RNC Chair and Bush administration White House Counsel’s response to Chris Wallace’s question about marriage equality:

Gillespie replied, “I don’t see the Republican Party or most Republicans, obviously, changing in terms of believing that marriage is between one man and one woman.”

Ed Gillespie and George W BushThe host pressed further, asking, “But looking at the polls, and, particularly, looking at where younger people are going, would you have any problems in 2016, with a Republican Party platform saying that marriage is between a man and a woman?” Gillespie noted that the platform currently calls for a federal constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality, and going forward, “there may be a debate about that.”

I suppose this is what qualifies as social progress for today’s GOP.

But before the discussion moved on Gillespie added this:

“I don’t think you would ever see the Republican Party platform saying we are in favor of same sex marriage.”

Never? Gillespie may well be right, but I’d remind the Republican establishment that forever is a long time.

And as one commmenter noted, “We had the debate. You lost.”