Friday, August 22, 2008
Friday, August 8, 2008
I’ve come across a strange thread in my recent (odd) fixation with right-leaning blogs. Apparently there was a story reported recently by the National Enquirer that John Edwards has an illegitimate “love child”. Sounds about right for the National Enquirer, the same publication that brings you stories of presidential alien hybrid children and Bigfoot vs alien competitions, not to mention countless libel lawsuits and corruption charges.
Byron York, writing for the National Review Online, actually wants to take this “love child” charge seriously. Talk about desperate. When your side of the political divide is looking to the National Enquirer for traction, you know you’re almost out of air pressure. Mr. York is screaming for blood because nobody else in the news business is taking the love child charge seriously. I’m not kidding. Here’s the money shot:
But the question is not whether the news organizations should simply repeat the Enquirer’s reporting. It’s whether they are actively pursuing the story, doing their own reporting in an effort to confirm the basic allegations that Edwards had an affair with campaign staffer Rielle Hunter, and then had a baby with her, and is now covering it up.
"Covering it up." Huh. We'll get right on that. Just one question: where was the indignation from the right when the press failed to delve deeper into the Enquirer's charge that President Bush is getting wasted in the Oval Office, hmm? Nowhere. You know why? It's for the same reason that the mainstream media largely ignores all stores from the National Enquirer. It's pretty simple, really.
It's because it's the National Enquirer!
The right didn't complain then, and they shouldn't complain now.
I hate to reduce my arguments to ad hominem attacks, but this time I'll make an exception. When you have an organization as polluted, as twisted, and as unreliable as the National Enquirer, it's fair game to raise an eyebrow and change the subject. If there actually was a shred of evidence that John Edwards had a baby out of wedlock, the press would be all over it -- with Fox News leading the way. But that's not happening. Could it be because there's no there there?
You know, I'm trying to reach out here. I'm looking for thoughtful, intelligent, persuasive voices from the right so that I can feel less guilty about spending so much time at places like The Huffington Post. This is a deeply divided country, and I actually want to read well-written opinions from both sides of the political divide. I thought going to the National Review website would finally bring me some compelling arguments from the right, some reason for me to consider keeping my fragile new status as a political centrist, but no such luck.
The search for intelligent life on the political right continues.
Update as of 2:oopm CST 8/8/08: John Edwards just confessed to the extramarital affair on ABC. That makes him a liar and a generally scummy person, and I wouldn't claim him in the name of France. He has continued to deny that the baby is his, citing a problem of timing - he apparently stopped seeing her long before she started showing. He is basically saying, "The kid is not my son." (Will somebody please videoshop John Edwards' face onto Michael Jackson's in the Billie Jean video? That'd be great, thanks.)
If he turns out to be the father, then I will eat this entire column and personally send Byron York a $20 Starbucks gift card in apology (a scumbag is a scumbag, be he democrat or republican, and I'll go where the evidence points). If the father proves to be somebody else, then I will do the Cartman dance of victory and taunt.
Update as of 9:00am 8/10/08: It turns out that John Edwards lied during his on-air confession Friday night. He claims the affair started after Rielle Hunter was hired by his One America Committee, which has since been proven to be untrue by the Huffington Post, not exactly a bastion of right-wing politics.
Since this story has taken two turns for the worse in a matter of only two days, and taking into consideration that Ms. Hunter is now refusing to allow DNA testing of her daughter, I'm going to revisit my position and allow for an even greater possibility that John Edwards is indeed going to turn out to be the father. I now fully plan to eat this entire blog entry, as a matter of fact.
So you may bask in the victory of this moment Mr. York. There is an 85% chance that a $20 Starbucks gift card will be gracing your inbox sometime very soon. You will have the overpriced drink of your choice on me once it comes out that Mr. Edwards is indeed the father of this child. And then you may elect to do the Cartman dance of victory and taunt in my face, if you are so inclined.
See how I just did that, there? I'm cupling. I go where the evidence points, regardless of politics. A liar is a liar. Scandal knows no political boundaries.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!? What is the deal here? Why is this song getting beaten to death in movie previews? I even heard teenage girls snickering over their tinny one-note Lux Aeterna cell phone ring tone while perusing a Blockbuster last winter. No song deserves to be clobbered to death like this, despite the fact that the pretentious gothic sting outfit Kronos Quartet dropped the original back in '99.
Monday, August 4, 2008
I started reading "conservative lite" writers like George F. Will and Tony Blankely. They lean right-of-center on issues of defense and economics, but tend to shy away from "values" issues like gay marriage and school prayer. I even find myself reading William Kristol from time to time.
What is behind this desire for equal time, for truly fair and balanced information? I blame the writers of The West Wing for planting the idea in my head that it's a good idea to surround yourself with smart people who disagree with you. Besides, why wouldn't I want to keep my enemies close? I want to know what the other side is thinking so I can stay one step ahead of the zeitgeist.
But it became abundantly clear that I had waded in over my head when I started reading conservative blogs. I made sure that they were well put together and well written, but I always ran into the same problem: ideology. The writers were just echoing the same tired, old stories. There were no compelling arguments to win me over.
And so I find myself becoming less interested in what people think, and more interested in why they think what they think. It's not enough to call for the suppression of the right to choose simply because you're sure that the fetus inside the womb is some kind of angel-human hybrid sent directly from God's outbox. I can get next to someone who opposes abortion because it ends a life (it does), but not because it's thwarting God's will (a religious argument in a legal debate).
Same goes for gay marriage, school prayer, and all the rest. Give me your reasons for believing what you believe. If there is a legitimate concern, let's hear it. If your objections are emotional and religious, then say so -- but qualify it by acknowledging that our judicial system does not exist to make you spiritually comfortable. (See the Lemon Test if you don't believe me.)
In considering all this I find it might be a good idea to make my beliefs manifest, if for no other reason than to make it clear to myself where the hell I stand.
- I believe it should be possible for any consenting adults to enter into any romantic or sexual contract they wish, no matter how untraditional.
- I believe American adults should be left alone whenever possible. This should include but should not be limited to gay marriage, abortion, religion, and freedom from religion. Freedom means freedom.
- I believe that churches should be free to refuse to marry gay couples, but the state should not. If the state cannot refuse a marriage license to an interracial couple, it should not be able to do the same for homosexuals.
- I believe this country was founded on Christian principles, and there are many Christians who live here, and that's all fine... but I'm very grateful, once again, for the Lemon Test. The wall between church and state must never fall. I don't give a cat's whisker about God on dollar bills or commandments on courthouse lawns. Just keep the laws of this country neutral when it comes to religion, thank you.
- I believe we need to pay some taxes. We all have needs that we can't fulfill ourselves. When's the last time you paved a road, put out a fire, moved water to your home, or moved sewage away from it? How often do you feed the poor or help single mothers get an education? We should all put money in the kitty for the bare essentials of society.
- I believe we shouldn't have to pay endless taxes. The wealthy should not be penalized for making lots of money. A doctor might have a luxurious lifestyle, but how much did she spend on her education? I'm going to go with a lot.
- I believe that national security is paramount, but invading Iraq was a folly. Foreign acts of war should come with the full blessings of congress, the UN, and NATO. Terrorism is a problem, but we're treating it like the new Communism. Al Qaeda might be a bad assortment of thugs, but they're no Soviet Union.
- I believe that Americans have no collective sense of history.
- I believe abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. We need to look at why abortion is necessary in the first place, not just argue about whether or not it should be allowed. We can all agree that an abortion kills an unborn child. Why can't we agree that the unborn child wouldn't exist in the first place were it not for the mother? Don't take away rights from one just to protect the other. We need a global rethinking on this question, and I believe we should start by rethinking how we educate our kids on the matter of human sexuality. (Just screaming, "No sex until marriage!" until one is red in the face hasn't exactly worked like gangbusters so far, has it?)
- I believe college students should not be forced to parrot back the views of their professors. Independent thought and freedom of expression are endangered species on our university campuses.
- I believe we should leave the science to the scientists.
- I believe that our environment is in trouble. I think it's clear by now that our future is green, but give the paranoia and fear-mongering a break. Do something about it instead. I got rid of my car. What have you done for the environment lately?
- I believe that the highest respect should be paid to the Office of the President of the United States, and all the offices of the United States government, but this does not mean that I cannot disagree with my president or with my government.
- I believe that we should leave our troops out of political quarrels. They've done more for our country in one day than you probably ever will in your lifetime, so please resist the temptation to blame them for the decisions made back home. They deserve nothing less than our sincere respect, admiration, and thanks. This does not give them a blank check to run amok, of course. No one is above the law.
- Speaking of the law, I believe that any public official caught breaking the law should be appropriately punished, be he conservative or liberal.
- I believe we should give Congress a break. The men and women of Congress work extremely hard, and they care deeply about their country. (Why else would they volutarily work for the least popular outfit in the nation?) Furthermore we should not hold any public official up to super-human standards. They are only people.
- I believe that proposing a religious litmus test for public office is asking to be lied to, and it will be the easiest lie a politician will ever tell.
- I believe that assholes come in all flavors.
- I believe it's wrong to use "cultural sensitivity" as an excuse for not properly doing one's job. Being late to work is being late to work, regardless of where your family comes from.
- I believe that affirmative action is racism in reverse. It's a slap in the face to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who admonished us to judge a person by the content of his or her character, not by the color of his or her skin. Fighting racism is crucial, but this is a terrible solution.
- And no, the white man is not the new minority. Give me a break with that shit.
- I believe there is such a thing as a moral absolute. Physicists might have something positive to say about relativity, but moral relativism has no place in this interconnected and interdependent world. It's not ethical to treat a real disease with real witchcraft, no matter how traditional it might be in your village. Western medicine has the corner on real medical science. How do we know? Because it works everywhere in the world! (Not just in the "West.")
- I believe that athletes should be disqualified from sporting events if they have been found guilty of using drugs, but they don't belong in jail. Save jail for the truly dangerous. (Same goes for non-violent street drug offenders.)
- Speaking of which, I believe all street drugs should be legal and regulated by the FDA.
- I believe that the 12-step approach to drug and alcohol addiction is a sham.
- I believe that recycling is a sham (except for aluminum).
- I believe that intelligent design is a sham.
- I believe that evolution does a great job of describing how life works on our planet. It stands up to the harshest scrutiny. If people don't like it, they should be free to teach their children otherwise - but this does not give parents license to pull their kids out of public school science classes one day and then demand a diploma on the next day. No one should be told what to believe, but it shouldn't be too much to ask that one understand the basics of life science. It may be possible to disagree about the origins of life, but denying the process of evolution is just plain silly. It's there whether you agree with it or not, just like gravity. It can be measured, tested, and verified by anybody on the planet, anytime.
- I believe that no one should be silenced, not even Ann Coulter. (Hi, Ann!)
Friday, August 1, 2008
And the machines take over. The man who once promised to be one of the most unconventional, promising, barrier-breaking republicans to come along in a generation has been compromised by the soulless scum bags of the Bush/Rove cult.
So let's talk about this race card business. Where did it come from, what was the context, and how is it shaping public opinion? I'm not trying to shill for Obama, here. I really want to understand this, because I've never seen anything like this before. And I feel like I will understand it more deeply if I dive face-first into the facts and bring them forward one at a time.
Going back a few notches, we have Obama's trip overseas. There were screaming hordes of fans and photo ops with world leaders. Back home, McCain stumbled and fumbled his way through grocery stores and restaurants in what is widely regarded in the media as one of his worst weeks ever.
Then there was the Obama-Hates-Our-Troops ad that John McCain unleashed, which proved to be only one side of an either-or attack; McCain would have slammed it over Obama's head whether he visited those wounded troops or not. (Gee, it's starting to feel lik 2004 again already.)
Then there was the now-infamous Paris/Britney ad. All I'm going to say about this one is that no one seems to be talking about the subtle racist overtones the McCain camp is thought to have used in juxtaposing Obama's image next to two young white women (subtext: scary black man is coming to take away your pretty, white wives and daughters).
What happened next is what really creeps me out: the McCain camp accused Obama of playing the race card. How did this get turned inside out so quickly?
It turns out that it all stems from the Paris/Britney ad. Obama's reaction to this ridiculous comparison - why not compare him to Bono or Brad Pitt? - was to say the following, according to an article published today in the New York Times:
“So nobody really thinks that Bush or McCain have a real answer for the challenges we face, so what they’re going to try to do is make you scared of me,” Mr. Obama said in Springfield, Mo., echoing earlier remarks. “You know, he’s not patriotic enough. He’s got a funny name. You know, he doesn’t look like all those other presidents on those dollar bills, you know. He’s risky. That’s essentially the argument they’re making.”
The McCain camp pounced. They immediately issued a statement the same day:
“Barack Obama has played the race card, and he played it from the bottom of the deck,” Mr. McCain’s campaign manager, Rick Davis, charged in a statement with which Mr. McCain later said he agreed. “It’s divisive, negative, shameful and wrong.”
Ever since this comment left the lips of Mr. Davis we've seen nothing but the words "race card" splayed all over every website from blogs to magazines to newspapers. The McCain camp, finally back on top (however temporarily) has done the dirty deed: used whatever means necessary to control the spin. They set it up, the media keeps it alive. "Race card" is now the sound byte of the day, and will probably echo throughout the talk shows over the weekend.
*** (Update: The JED Report reminded us this weekend that it was John McCain who first suggested that Barack Obama would be out of place on a dollar bill, as seen in a June attack ad. June!)
Obama rightly points out that one would "think we'd be having a serious debate but so far all we've been hearing about is Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. I do have to ask my opponent: Is that the best you can come up with?"
Yes, it is the best they can come up with. But it worked. McCain used one of the oldest, nastiest tricks in the racist book to scare voters away from a black presidential candidate, and without missing a beat, slammed Obama almost at the same time as the one who's playing the race card.
We can expect to see much, much more of the same hateful, vapid, accusatory, baseless, tasteless, and substance-free attacks in the coming weeks and months. McCain is on record as promising to never run a negative campaign. In a way he hasn't. His campaign has been completely hijacked by the far right.
And that's why he's going to lose.