Addendum

[CW: bigotry]

Stumbled onto Dan Fincke’s lengthy defense of Charlie Hebdo in my feed reader, so I decided to see how it addressed my own point. It didn’t, really, just making the tired “it’s okay because they’re liberal” argument that holds water about as well as most sieves. Fincke specifically brings up South Park’s hilarious use of antisemitism used to skewer antisemites and Colbert’s anti-rightwing schtick, conveniently ignoring1 all the times both those shows have, despite liberal (or left libertarian in South Park’s case) intentions, crossed well into racist, misogynist, transphobic, or otherwise bigoted territory, without making the bigots the butt of the joke. Read some trans people’s writing on the number of jokes at their expense on primetime TV someday. It rather takes a lot of wind out of the sails of those arguments.

But Fincke brought up one point in the process that’s worth tackling specifically.

And, to the point of stereotypical depictions, Ashley Miller has made the important point that the medium of political cartoon inherently plays in caricature. It plays on over-exaggerated imagery. It’s a stylistic element of the medium. Everyone usually looks awful or stereotyped in a political cartoon. That’s usually the point.

Yeah, no. It’s true, caricature is an art of exaggeration, whether it’s racist or not. The problem is when caricaturists rely on racist imagery, rather than their actual subjects, to make their caricatures. Take, for instance, most right-wing political cartoons featuring Barack Obama2. You’ll find a litany of bulbous noses and big lips, which (as this cartoon by Shmorky points out) are not features that Obama possesses. Rather than caricaturing a person, Barack Obama, who has a very caricaturable face, they fall back on caricature shorthand for black people that dates back to Al fucking Jolson.

The same is true for the Charlie Hebdo cartoons that have made the rounds lately. So many Muslim men with turbans, thobes, bushy beards, and big hook noses; so many Muslim women in burqas. Why is that? Muslim women wear a wide variety of different garb, depending on their particular denomination, from simple scarves and hijabs to the more restrictive niqabs and burqas. Muslim men have more clothing diversity, and both genders have far greater diversity than the cartoons would suggest. If Islam isn’t a race, why is every Muslim drawn as an Arab caricature3? Even if it weren’t racist, it’s lazy.

But then, lazy caricature often trades in racism, because racism is the laziest form of caricature. No need to consider anything about the people, what they look like, how they behave, just reduce them to a set of signifiers determined by their skin color.

Fincke links positively to Understanding Charlie Hebdo, a website that helpfully seeks to explain the cartoons for a non-French-speaking audience. That site compares Charlie Hebdo to Mad Magazine, which seems apt. Mad Magazine is also a humor publication that skewers current events with a left-leaning bias, and Mad also trades heavily in cartoonish caricatures of their targets. Mad also has a long history of bigoted cartoons that aren’t covered by the blanket immunity of “they’re liberal!” or “no, no, the bigots are the punchline!” because the bigots, very clearly, are not the punchline. And lest you think that cherry-picking the most easily-found images from the ’70s demonstrates that it’s no longer a problem, here’s one that drew some understandable heat in 2013.

Being liberal, making fun of bigots, and using caricature are all well and good. They are not, however, things that prevent your work from serving bigotry of one sort or another. That requires more thought, more consideration, and more awareness of context. Folks like Fincke want us to consider these French cartoons in the larger context of the magazine’s politics and French culture, but to ignore the larger context of a long, worldwide history of racist and homophobic imagery, and the splash damage caused by using that imagery, the way it undermines any intended message of anti-racism. Wouldn’t this cartoon be more effective at lampooning racists if it didn’t feature a black caricature who could have been traced from a 1940s Spirit comic? Wouldn’t this cartoon have been more effective if it didn’t think replicating racist imagery were the same thing as lampooning it?

In science and skepticism, we often talk about the Galileo Gambit, where cranks will compare themselves to Galileo because his ideas were rejected too. I’m starting to think we need an Onion Gambit: “It is not enough to wear the mantle of satire; you must also be good at it.”


1. Fincke acknowledges some of South Park’s issues with transphobia later in the post, but doesn’t seem to see the actual distinction. From Fincke’s perspective, apparently, all targets are fair game for whatever caricature the satirists decide to use. The problem is only when the content of the satire is actually false. I think the problem is when the satire feeds into or relies on stereotypes that have, traditionally, been used to demean and oppress the underprivileged. It’s especially egregious when the target of the satire is not the stereotype itself (South Park’s transphobia, the Asian caricature that led to #CancelColbert), but even material which tries to make bigots the butt of the joke often falls flat. Fred Clark wrote a piece awhile back that often comes to mind when this topic comes up. Making fun of bigots by exaggerating actual bigotry is a difficult tightrope walk for even very talented comedians and satirists, and we shouldn’t be surprised when they occasionally stumble. But saying that those stumbles aren’t problematic because the satirist usually has good intentions ignores the difference between intent and outcome, and robs us of a conversation that often needs to be had. Why is the joke/caricature/etc. problematic? Where does it come from? Why was it thought to be funny? Dissecting those issues often gets us to the messy world of how we all absorb and sometimes repeat bigoted stereotypes without thinking. These missteps should be opportunities for us to talk about how bigotry works, how to be more aware of splash damage, more compassionate. Getting defensive and saying “nuh-uh because liberal” only perpetuates the problem.

2. The special case is Ted Rall. Rall is a leftist cartoonist who drew fire in 2013 for cartoons that depicted Barack Obama in a decidedly apelike fashion. Those defending Rall pointed out that he depicted everyone in a decidedly apelike fashion. He and his defenders thought this equal treatment meant that the cartoons weren’t actually racist. I think it’s a prime example of the problem with “equal opportunity offense.” Things that aren’t really problematic when done to privileged groups aren’t so benign when they feed into or draw from a context of bigotry and oppression. It’s one thing to draw George W. Bush like a chimp. Dude looks like a chimp. But drawing Obama to look like a chimp, when he doesn’t, and when there’s a huge history of cartoons and propaganda and pseudoscience about how apelike black people are, when “monkey” is a slur, it means you may have to rethink your stock caricature.

It also shows what a lazy, shitty artist Ted Rall is.

3. To be entirely fair to Charlie Hebdo, many of these caricatures are of Muhammad, who was Arabian. The fact that Muhammad is basically indistinguishable from any other male Muslim in their cartoons, however, is a problem.

The Shocking Truth SHE Doesn’t Want You To Know About!!!1!

Yesterday, I introduced you to the kinds of laughable conspiracy theories that can result when, like Twitterer Atheismpluscrap, you choose comforting delusions over unpleasant realities.

But man, if you’re going to believe ridiculous things, you might as well go all-in, right? “Atheism plus is a covert religious group trying to discredit atheism by promoting fascist feminism” barely registers on the conspiracy theory wackyometer. Chart of conspiracy theories where craziness is on the x-axis going from less to more crazy as you go left to right, and where importance is on the y-axis, going from less to more important from bottom to top.It’s on the very bottom of this chart, and only slightly toward the right-hand side. So let’s help Atheismpluscrap out a bit by punching up their conspiracy.

It all starts in Atlantis, a perfect society built on MRA principles, where the social recognition of women as inferior emotional sperm-vampires led to the development of a technologically-advanced continent the likes of which have not been seen since. When men are not distracted by the needs of and endless competition for women, there is no need for war or hierarchy. There was no need for stifling government in Atlantis, for the perfect free market directed all things, unsullied by feminine influence.

This is not to say that women were mistreated in Atlantis; quite the contrary. They were well provided-for, never needing to work beyond mating. The lack of a system of marriage or paternity ensured that children would be raised by he community as a whole, without distracting men with the unnatural demands of monogamy and the so-called “nuclear family”–nuclear because it’s radioactive, causing a slow wasting-away death of both individual and society.

Of course this hyper-rational, enlightened culture was atheistic. The concept of gods never even occurred to a society without the feminine invention of “faith,” or knowledge derived from womanly “feelings” and “intuition.”

But then there were the Amazons, a warlike, man-hating, petty matriarchy living on the mainland. The influence of the Amazons on other cultures was what led to the development of most violence and disease in the Mediterranean and Middle East, and they pillaged technological advances from the men of those lands. They spread their philosophies of religion and feminism to indoctrinate women and enslave men to a system of faith-based “tradition,” installing an unachievable male ideal as the head of a system of gods which emphasized the notion that males and females could be equals.

Atlantis had the oceans and its technology to protect it from the toxic influence of fascist feminism, but eventually those barriers were breached, the Amazons wearing away at their defenses until they could no longer stand the assault. Once the women of Atlantis began to believe the comforting myths of the Amazons, they rose up and demanded male enslavement, or male extermination. Some enlightened men escaped, but the knowledge and technology of Atlantis was scattered to the winds, and the island itself was lost forever.

The Amazonian system of religion spread, changing here and there, but always holding men in an emasculating position subordinate to some greater man. This, along with the inventions of sex competition and marriage and paternity, created competition and hierarchy between men, and led to all wars and conflicts, all class stratification and government.

There have been men who stood up to this system, but the system endures, striking them down whenever possible. Abraham Lincoln was a strong red-pill man, who recognized that all men were equal, superior to women, and so the feminazi woman supremacists had him killed by an effeminate thespian. John F. Kennedy was a virile red-pill man, openly flaunting the oppression of marriage and selecting multiple mates as any alpha deserves, so the gynotalitarian femifascists had him killed by a simpering beta who bought into the feminine collectivist lie of Communism. John Lennon and Paul McCartney were fearless red-pill men who openly spoke about putting women in their rightful places, so with the help of manginas like George Harrison and Eric Clapton, they emasculated John with a forced feminazi marriage and killed and replaced Paul with a beta-male double. When John still wouldn’t cooperate, openly promoting the rational standards of world peace and atheism, compelling people to throw off the government shackles and make a new society, they had him killed by a beta who was infatuated with a book about a frustrated, emasculated mangina.

Whenever men have banded together to fight hysteroppresion, women have subverted their organizations. The Illuminati began as an enlightened male attempt to get back to the roots of rationalist male primacy, but was subverted from within by false doctrines about gender equality. Now, it’s another arm of the gynocracy, secretly manipulating subservient beta-males (e.g., Obama) into positions of world power, and opposing the alphas who make it there through sheer force of manliness (e.g., Putin, Clinton). Freemasonry was much the same, beginning as a masculine attempt to exalt manly physical labor and building things, but subverted by female-controlled betas into being obsessed with girly secrets and fashion accessories and hierarchies.

And now atheism has risen up to battle the evils of feminist religion, and it’s strengthened through alliances with Men’s Rights Advocates and libertarianism. Each of the three groups has a pillar of Atlantean social perfection, which is why feminists are so afraid of them. If they aren’t stopped, then Atlantis may rise again, and this time thanks to globalization and the Internet, the whole world would be part of the glorious Atlantean perfection.

With the control of the FemIlluminati, it’s easy to marginalize libertarians, because the few red-pill elected men like Ron Paul can’t get a foothold in the woman-defined system. With the power of Pussy Control over emasculated beta-men, it’s easy to marginalize MRAs as “misognynist” and “sexist” and creep shame them. But atheism isn’t so easy to marginalize, because it’s so obviously correct with its foundations in masculine science and reason. The enlightened red-pill men who reject feminine religion are too rational and intellectual to fall for the other lies of the hegematriachy. So feminists must resort to other methods to strangle the nascent Atlantean perfection before it leaves its crib.

And that method is Atheism Plus, atheism tainted with the lies of feminism and run by subservient lickspittle beta-males like P.Z. Mayers who are controlled by female supremacists and their fanatic religious adherence to feminist dogma. By insinuating themselves into atheism, they plan to subvert it just like 18th-century radfems subverted the Illuminati, by diverting its efforts and energy to hopeless, unrelated causes, and causing internecine strife by imposing a hysterical hierarchy and forcing inter-male competition for atheist female mates. If they succeed, the rational power of atheism will be scuttled, and the resources that remain will be redirected toward supporting the gynocratic rule of the shadow matriarchy, setting back the rebirth of the perfect Atlantean system, perhaps beyond reclamation.

This is why the alliance between atheists, MRAs, and libertarians is so vital, and why the feminarchist powers are so keen to silence liberated red-pill alpha-males like Michael Shermer and Richard Dawkins and Penn Jillette and The Amazing Atheist. Their natural male power and charisma can’t help but convince people, even semi-rational women, and drive them toward the natural state of humanity, which is the restoration of the Atlantean standard. We need only protect, amplify, and follow these voices, and we can defeat hysteriarchical gynofascist tittytalitarianism forever!

There we go. That’s a ludicrous conspiracy theory. If you’re going to be so unrealistic and unreasonable as to believe in a comforting conspiracy theory, that’s a respectable theory to buy into. Anything else just makes it look like you’re sacrificing reason and evidence and skepticism for nothing.

The Business of Fear and Murder

All the depressing bullshit about gun violence and accidental shootings was running through my head last night, as I was falling asleep to an old “Law & Order” episode about easily-modified guns. I’m sure others have written about this more and better, but a new facet of fucked-uppedness of the gun situation in this country clicked with me last night.

Specifically, that gun manufacturers benefit directly from increasing fear and murder.

It’s no secret that there are tons of guns in this country, hundreds of millions of them, which works out to roughly one gun per person in the country, not counting government-owned weapons, and it’s unclear if it includes illegally-owned ones.

There are varying stories about how guns fall into the hands of criminals, and the prevalence of gun shows and Internet firearm merchants suggests that it’s probably not that difficult for most people who want guns to obtain them through legal or semi-legal means. But even if every gun on the streets was stolen from a home, a gun shop, or Wal-Mart, it wouldn’t matter: the manufacturers get paid either way.

Unless gun retailers work very differently from other retailers, the manufacturers/distributors get paid when shop owners order product to put on the shelves. Whatever happens to the gun after that–if it’s legally purchased, if it’s a straw purchase, if it’s stolen from the shop, if it’s stolen from the distribution truck on the way to the shop, if it’s acquired in some way then given, sold secondhand, or stolen–is irrelevant from the manufacturer’s perspective, because they’ve already been paid. Weapons stolen from the shop or the purchasers would presumably be covered by insurance, and then those people would presumably use that insurance money to buy more guns, which would be even better for the gun manufacturers/distributors.

We’ve seen surges in gun sales any time the gun lobby can convince enough people that someone’s gonna come take their guns away. Fear of new gun regulations increases gun sales. I talked last year about the memes and myths surrounding the gun conversation, so many of which hinge on fear–fear of home invasion, fear of muggings, fear of tyrannical government, fear of black youths–which form the justifications for owning guns “for protection.” I’ll be curious to see if there’s any upswing in gun ownership by people of color, as racist trigger-happy vigilantes and racist trigger-happy cops have reentered the news cycle in a big way.

A shame the fear of an accidental shooting never seems to drive people’s gun ownership decisions.

So the more fear there is–of violence, of government, of criminals–the more guns sell, the more gun manufacturers profit. Even in a climate of steadily declining violent crime; there’s no reason the fear needs to be realistic or justified. And the more criminals obtain guns, the more gun manufacturers profit. And the more criminals use those guns, the more fear they create, and the more fearful people buy guns, and the more gun manufacturers profit.

Gun manufacturers–and ultimately, the whole gun retail sector, though the manufacturers most of all–directly benefit from increasing gun crime. It’s time to stop pretending that the gun lobby is about advocacy or protection. They are selling both the disease and the placebo they call a cure. They profit no matter who buys, no matter who dies. We need, as a society, to stop letting the gun lobby bully us out of having a serious discussion about gun control. We need, as a society, to stop pretending that any gun control measures would be some risky, untested experiment when countless other nations have paved the way for us to follow. We need, as a society, to realize that “guns don’t kill people” and the other bumper sticker phrases that pass for gun lobby arguments amount to empty deflections designed to distract from actual problems. We need, as a society, to finally realize that the only people who benefit from more guns on the streets are the people who manufacture and sell them. We, as a society, need to realize that those benefits are paid for with innocent blood.

Dear Mr. President,

Here’s what I did today instead of blogging.

June 12, 2009

President Barack Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama,

I have been a supporter of yours since I could vote. I was a student at Augustana College when you spoke there in 2005, shortly after your election to the Senate. There are things you said in that speech that resonate with me even today, and I hoped even then that you’d turn your intellect and oratorical skills toward the Presidency. When you announced your Presidential candidacy, I was among the thousands rejoicing around the courthouse in Springfield. When you took office in January, I knew it would usher in the amazing changes that you promised over the course of your campaign. The months since have been rocky. I do not envy you your position, trying to save the nation from two mismanaged wars, a faltering economy, collapsing industries, a disgraceful healthcare system, and the threat of a global pandemic. You have done much already to clean up the mistakes of the previous administration and to keep the country afloat despite rough and uncertain waters.

And over these difficult months, I’ve questioned some of your decisions. I think the nation collectively dodged a bullet when Tom Daschle declined the nomination to head the Department of Health and Human Services, given his history with unproven and often unsafe “alternative” medicine. I’ve wondered why the tax cuts for the wealthy have not been rolled back, why I hear that military tribunals are once again being considered for Guantanamo detainees, and why the government can’t just give some stimulus money directly to the middle class citizens who need it. But through my questioning, I’ve always thought that you had the country’s best interests in mind, and that your actions have been a measured and thoughtful, rather than radical and sweeping, approach to progressive changes.

But today, I read that your Department of Justice has filed a brief defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). I realize that this falls well within your repeated statements that you do not support same-sex marriage, but instead support granting marriage protections to same-sex couples under some different name (civil unions). I find that position questionable enough, but I supported you in spite of it—surely, it was better than your predecessor and opponent’s positions on the matter. More recently, you said that you “don’t think it makes sense for the federal government to get in the business of determining what marriage is.” Again, I’d prefer a more proactive stance (and I’m sure your legions of supporters in the GLBT community would as well), but this recent defense of DOMA gives the lie to that noninterventionist position. If the federal government is not in the business of determining what marriage is, then why throw your support behind a federal law which attempts to do precisely that?

Even that might be forgivable, albeit profoundly hypocritical, were it not for the arguments used in defense of DOMA, which read like hateful right-wing talking points. Your administration compared same-sex marriage to incest and marrying children! That’s one ‘marriage to a pet’ citation away from a Rick Santorum stump speech. Further, the brief argues that same-sex marriage would be prohibitively costly to the country, that DOMA is constitutional in spite of Equal Protection clauses and the Fourteenth Amendment, that homosexuals have the right to marry, as long as they marry people of the opposite sex, and effectively ensures that your administration sees homosexuals as second-class citizens, since they are not “entitled to certain federal benefits.”

This position, Mr. President, is disgusting, deplorable, and hateful. If the federal government is not in the business of defining marriage, then keep the federal government neutral. Allow DOMA to be overturned, if that is the court’s decision. Don’t engage in doublespeak on this level, claiming to be a friend of gays and lesbians one night and comparing them to statutory rapists another.
Your previously-affirmed neutrality would be a better option, but still a nonsensical one. I cannot fathom why the right to marriage, a civil institution, would be afforded to some citizens and denied to others. Nor can I fathom how anyone could argue that this denial is not discriminatory. The case against marrying children is based on the matter of consent; children cannot marry because they cannot legally enter into contractual agreements or consent to sexual activity with adults. The case against incestuous marriage is less legally defensible, but can at least be reasonably supported. What is the case against same-sex marriage? Can it be made without falling back on fallacious comparisons to incest or appeals to religion or tradition? And if such a case can be made against same-sex marriage, a case which outlines why two consenting adults should not have the right to enter into a civil marriage contract based on their combination of genders, then why would that same case not apply to civil unions, or any other separate-but-equal rebranding of marriage? If it would be costly or dangerous to allow same-sex couples to marry, then wouldn’t it be equally costly or dangerous to allow them to form civil unions? Why haven’t Massachusetts, Connecticut, or Iowa been undone by those pitfalls? If same-sex marriage would bankrupt the nation, why didn’t it bankrupt California, and why would California not annul the 18,000 marriages which had been conducted during the period of legality? If the financial risk is so great that it warrants the denial of basic civil rights to a minority and the establishment of a second-class citizenry, then why are so many states jumping on the legalization bandwagon?

I am not homosexual, bisexual, or transgendered myself, Mr. President. My rights are not in any danger, but I am committed to the equal treatment of all persons under the law. I cannot see any reason to deny any consenting adult the right to marry any other consenting adult, and I would hope that a reasonable and intelligent man like you would recognize that the position against same-sex marriage is simply untenable. If it were otherwise, then your administration would not have to resort to defending DOMA with the same logical fallacies peddled by the right wing. It makes me happy to see that other state courts and legislations have recognized the flaws in the anti- equality position, and I feel confident that the vast majority of the United States will recognize same-sex marriage in my lifetime. Progress marches on, as it always has. I only wish you could be leading the parade instead of standing in its way.

And yes, it’s going in the mail tomorrow. There’s a lot of things I haven’t quite agreed with from this administration, but none of them have caused me to write an actual letter (I did e-mail about Daschle’s appointment as head of Health and Human Services, though). This, however, is utterly outrageous.

For more outrage, see this and this and this and this and this.


Update: Well, at least the Bushite rhetoric makes sense, now. Of course, that doesn’t really make it any better.

Several Steps Backward

Almost makes me sorry I supported the guy.

An Open Letter

Dear America,

Thanks for not fucking this one up. I’d like to say you should pat yourself on the back, but I’m honestly not that impressed by people who do what ought to be expected of them. Let’s face it, this is the 21st Century, and we’re the ostensible leaders of the free world, a superpower among industrial nations; we shouldn’t still be seriously debating whether or not healthcare is something that the people ought to have. We shouldn’t be considering people for the highest offices in the land who are opposed to science, who think mankind walked with dinosaurs and that a planetarium is in any way comparable to an overhead projector. There shouldn’t be a question over whether or not children should be educated about their bodies, over whether or not women should have inviolable control over their reproductive rights, over whether or not marriage should be an equal right for all people.

Oh, and that reminds me: fuck you, America. Fuck you, California, for voting to amend your fucking constitution to make gays into second-class citizens, to remove a right guaranteed them by the highest laws in the land, regardless of whether or not you backwards fucks realize it. Fuck you, Florida and Arizona, for passing similar amendments. And Arkansas, well, let’s face it, no one expected you to be a beacon of progressive values. The one hope I have about all this is that President Obama will have the chance to appoint new judges to the Supreme Court, and those judges may get to hear the cases objecting to the Amendments in these states, and they may get to decide those cases based on any reasonable person’s reading of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. And then this won’t be a state-by-state issue anymore.

But I don’t want you to think I’m not happy, America. In fact, I’m elated. I’m so proud of you for pulling out an election that wasn’t on the goddamn razor’s edge all night; it was really nice to be able to vote in a landslide for once, and to go to sleep at a decent hour on an election night. I’m proud of you for rejecting McCain and Palin and their consistently inept and vitriolic campaign. I’m proud especially of young America, who didn’t just wait for the world to change, but actually went out in droves and recognized that they need to make a stand about the issues that affect their lives. Don’t get a swelled head about yourself, America–you’ve still got quite a way to go just to clean up the messes of the last eight years, let alone catching up with the rest of the civilized world–but you did well last night. I had some harsh words for you up there, America, but it’s only because I recognize that you’ve got a lot more potential than you’re actually exercising.

To the Republicans of America: This might be a good time to stop and think and actually consider what your party’s values are. What this election should have taught you is that you can’t continue on trying to hold two vastly different groups of people together with masking tape and string. The fiscal conservatives, whose rhetoric has dominated Republican talking points for decades, are obviously no longer represented in the party’s decision-making process; while I heard non-stop claims about tax-and-spend Democrats in this election cycle, it seemed hollow compared to the Republican administration’s gigantic deficit, no-bid contracts, and endless war. Their calls for smaller government ring hollower still as the administration works to expand the powers of the Executive Office, flaunts the rule of law, ignores checks and balances, and uses every excuse to pry into the private lives of its citizens; meanwhile, the social conservatives seek to legislate their religious convictions, interfere with education, intervene in people’s relationships, and determine what individuals are and are not allowed to do with their own bodies. Cronyism and pandering to big business do not constitute fiscal responsibility, and moral legislation is not small government. Republicans, you need to figure out which base you want to appeal to: the small-minded set of rubes and radicals whose primary concerns are fetuses and suicide-bombers, who you can convince entirely through fear and dog-whistle words and apocalyptic rhetoric, or the Grand Ole Party of sober fiscal conservatives who believe in small government and the rule of law, and who have spent the last six years wondering if maybe they ought to be voting Libertarian instead. The two groups clearly do not get along, and I think that infighting and disagreement was a lot of what cost you this election.

To the American Democrats: Okay, we have all three houses now. Can we please stop acting like the minority party? For two years, our majorities in the House and Senate have been squandered by party leaders who have seemingly lacked any initiative or desire or courage to stand up to the failed and destructive policies of the President and the Republican party. Yes, we lacked a veto-proof majority, and yes, the President decided to get out his veto stamp at every opportunity this term, after largely forgetting he had one for the first four or five years of his presidency. None of that should have been a barrier to more decisive actions, more symbolic gestures, and more clear demonstrations of desire to make changes and do the right thing. There’s no reason that the Speaker of the goddamn House should have categorically opposed bringing articles of impeachment to the floor, except that the party didn’t want to rock the boat and potentially endanger the future of its majority. Can we be done with that now? Can we please actually do things now to enforce the rule of law, to restore checks and balances, to shrink the Executive Branch, and to make things better for the people of the United States?

It’s a great new day in America, and I think I’m going to have to look into a nice going-away party on January 20th. I’m so happy I could cry. Thanks for that opportunity, America.

All my best,
Tom

P.S.: Please don’t kill this one, okay?

Having it Both Ways

People have been questioning Sarah Palin’s ability to be a good mom to her five children, one of whom has Down Syndrome, if she’s busy being the Vice President. Others have criticized those critics as sexist, suggesting that they wouldn’t think of asking such questions about a male candidate.

And yet, every time I see Republican talking heads and McCain’s surrogates talking about Palin, her status as a “super-mom of five kids” falls somewhere between “former mayor of Wasilla, Alaska” and “former PTA president” in their lists of her qualifications to be the President of the Senate. Now, maybe she doesn’t promote herself as such, I haven’t seen much of her speeches, but if she’s saying “don’t put my family on my résumé,” her surrogates aren’t getting the memo.

From my perspective, you can’t have it both ways. If she’s going to use her family as though it’s a qualification for being Vice President, then questions about said qualification are fair game. It’s precisely the same as John McCain’s years as a POW or Rudy Giuliani’s involvement in 9/11–if they weren’t continually brought up as (often the prime or sole) qualifications for being President, they wouldn’t be subject to nearly as much scrutiny and criticism.

And yes, if a male candidate were running a campaign where “#1 Dad!” was on his short list of executive experience, I think it would be absolutely fair to question whether or not he actually is “#1.”

Sarah Palin is a hilariously underqualified candidate, and the Republicans are doing their best to make up for that. Some are trying to pad her résumé with experiences that are irrelevant to the job she’s applying for; others are hoping that what she lacks in experience she’ll make up for in vitriol and radicalism. But it seems to me that they’re trying to run her–as they’re trying to run McCain, as they ran Bush–on a narrative. In 2004, Bush was the normal guy that the voters would want to have a beer with; Kerry was a foppish elitist with no integrity. In 2008, they’re trying to force-fit the Kerry narrative onto Obama, with limited success, largely because McCain fits it far more obviously than Obama does. Their other recourse against Obama is to paint him as inexperienced…more on that in a moment.

Meanwhile, they’re trying to play up the “Maverick McCain” story that made him so popular before the 2000 elections, despite the fact that he has since changed his position on nearly every one of the issues that made him a “maverick.” They’re running McCain as a war hero with a sense of humor, who is very much in touch with the common people. Again, with limited success, as the counter-narrative of “McCain is an old fogey who promises four more years of Bush” gains traction.

Sarah Palin represents the infusion of a great new apple-pie-American narrative into the McCain campaign: “She’s a super-mom! She’s a strong woman who can accomplish anything and still retain her femininity! She’s young–but she’s got plenty of experience!–and she’s the governor of Alaska–but she’s totally in touch with the concerns of average Americans! She’s Hillary, only younger and better!” It seems that the McCain campaign hopes they’ll be able to win over enough disenfranchised Hillary supporters to make up for the loss of their best argument against Obama.

I’m curious what their next step will be. It seems like everyone is caught off-guard by Palin’s nomination, even McCain. It seems to be the only way to explain some of the idiocy coming out about her. PTA presidency as experience to be Vice President? What, her position on the High School Cheerleading squad wasn’t important enough? Alaska’s coast shares an ocean with Russia, so she’s got foreign policy experience? Really? I guess that means Obama’s only qualified to protect us from a Wisconsonian invasion force, and Dick Cheney has the necessary qualifications to send a diplomatic envoy to Boise. The Palin campaign so far has been laughable, and combined with John McCain, I’m wondering if the Republicans are just trying to pull the biggest practical joke in American history.