Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wikileaks? I'm Confused!

In response to the recent release of hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables by the infamous website, Wikileaks, some are calling for the head of founder, Julian Assange. Conservative pundits and lawmakers, including Rep. Peter King and Senator Rick Santorum (remember him? the guy who put the intelligent design curriculum into the No Child Left Behind bill?) are calling for Wikileaks to be treated as a terrorist organization. They think that leaking government information to the public is thwarting the war on terror, and such activity should be severely punished.

But hang on, I'm confused. I thought we DIDN'T trust the government! That's, like, the ultimate conservative value these days, right? After all, we didn't trust the government to run our healthcare. We didn't trust the government to bail out the economy. Why should we trust the government to be honest with us about how it does business? Why shouldn't we resent the government keeping secrets from us?

Either we trust the government or we don't. Make up your damned mind.

Here's a thought: If we trust the government enough to keep diplomatic secrets or classified information from us, how can we not equally trust the government with our healthcare, and not be a hypocrite?

How about this: In addition to prosecuting Wikileaks as a terrorist organization, we should also prosecute as terrorists all those who withhold federal healthcare from the sick masses. How's that strike ya?

You know what? I've changed my mind. I'm not confused. THEY are.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Airport Security? Yeah, Right!

Seems like the story du jour in the news lately, especially over this Thanksgiving break, is about how airport security has taken to either groping passengers or subjecting them to an x-ray device which renders them more-or-less stark naked. Faced with such humiliation (that is, for those of us who are insecure and/or still childishly uncomfortable with the realities of the human body) many people have taken to asking if all of it is really necessary.

What's really entertaining, as usual is the spin taken by the conservative talk show hosts. Everyone from Beck, Limbaugh, O'Reilly and Hannity to all of their satellites, is screaming for airport security to start "profiling." In other words, instead of groping, stripping, and x-raying white people, start groping and scanning brown people with towels on their heads, or wearing black robes, with names like "Ahmed" or "Haji."

Because, apparently, there are no white Muslims, are there?

What makes me laugh about this (well, almost laugh, as this really isn't funny) is that the T.V. and radio cons are bluntly admitting themselves to be what we've always suspected: A bunch of racists. And they want our airport security to be racist so that suburban Aryans aren't inconvenienced, those poor bastards.

Speaking as a white suburbanite, I'm more than a little pissed off at these hacks making themselves into a bunch of fucking crybabies on my behalf. Shit, go be a crybaby on behalf of someone else! You bastards don't speak for me!

I'm growing tired of using this introductory phrase, but... I shouldn't have to say this: Airport security is not checking everybody out of some politically correct sense of treating everyone equally. They are checking everybody because it's tactically the right thing to do!

Let's say that the conservative racists had their way, and Airport security was only checking people of Arab appearance or with Arab names. This would create a hole in airport security which any terrorist with even two beans in his skull would immediately exploit. Inevitably as the blond-haired and blue-eyed white people get through the security, one of them would turn around and, at 1,300 feet, scream "Allahu akbahr!" as he blows himself, and his fellow travelers, right out of the sky!

Look, I can only assume that conservatives distinguish themselves by being in favor of tough security measures in order to win the war on terror. So creating a very obvious hole in our line of defense, and doing so for purely racist profiling reasons, is a move I simply don't understand.

We grope and scan travelers equally because we aren't racists. We grope them because we don't judge based on appearance alone. We grope them because we can't establish Orwell's 1984 and put spy cameras in everyone's bedroom.

And, frankly, we grope them to remind them of why a few religious assholes ruin things for everybody, which reminds us why none of us should be like them.

But, of course, screaming for "profiling" will continue anyway. And it will remain popular fodder for talk-show hosts because xenophobia runs deep. Nevertheless, even without racial or ethnic profiling of passengers, security lapses can and will occur. For the enlightenment of all, I've included a list of ideas on where such lapses could take place. Please remember, I am doing this for the benefit of airport security, and not for those trying to thwart it.

1. Explosive device in the luggage. This has to be the biggest lapse in security there is. We're scanning the people like there's no tomorrow, but the bags? Eh, who cares, right? Hey, WE care. If we have to take off our shoes then turn our heads and cough, the least we could do is scan the shit out of the bags, which won't, after all, get cancer!

2. Explosive substance in the old man's colostomy bag. Yeah, that's right, the poster-child of airport security run amok becomes the vehicle for the next attack. Brilliant!

3. Explosive substance in a woman's artificial breasts. Seriously, airport security cannot cut the skin of a woman with fake titties to make sure that stuff inside isn't saline! It's the perfect hiding place. She's a bombshell, in more ways than one!

4. Fake wand. Yes, some people still do make themselves eunuchs for the Kingdom of God, a la Origen. For such as these who happen to be Muslim, we can go one better than the underwear bomber, and have the C-4 plastic shaped like... well... like a man's normal outward-showing plumbing! If it looks like a dick... Er,I mean, duck... it might not necessarily be a duck... I mean, dick.

5. Wanna check the Huggies? No, that might not necessarily be shit in the baby's diaper! That's right, you're never too young to be a martyr for the cause of Allah.

So what is one to do? There are holes in security to be exploited no matter what. Granted, these holes aren't as gaping as they would be if the Glenn Becks of the world had their way, and only non-white people were screened, but they're still there.

Israeli security provides a good model. In Tel-Aviv, police actually (gasp!) talk to the people who are traveling! Yes, they strike up friendly conversation. Those who give evasive answers or who seem slightly nervous are singled out. This is a kind of profiling, but not racially based, and it's meant to focus in on those who might be nervous for obvious reasons. This, plus improved security among baggage handling, plus our current security measures, would do the trick, as I see it.

And we didn't even need to tap their phones.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Signs Your Fave TV Show's Jumped The Shark

I've probably written something similar to this in the past, but I have a different conclusion. Here goes:

When a favorite TV show has finally milked its ideas for all they're worth, it's time for that show to retire to make room for new and interesting drama or comedy. When "Happy Days" finally crossed that line, there was a famous episode in which Fonzie ski-jumped over a shark. Even though the show continued for several years after that, everyone knew after that point that it was over. Ever since then, "jumping the shark" has been a term used to describe when a television show has passed its peak. Network executives are often oblivious to the signs that a TV show has outlived its usefulness, and the fact that Happy Days continued for so long despite the ink well running dry just goes to prove that point. Today's television shows aren't nearly so prone to such banalities as the latter Happy Days -- or ARE they? Indeed, they are, and even more so! So, for their benefit, and your entertainment pleasure I present the top ten signs your favorite TV show has "jumped the shark."

1. Major cast member gets pregnant.
2. Major cast member gets married. Double the shark if the marriage is with another major cast member. Triple the shark if the pregnancy precedes the marriage.
3. Primary protagonist turns evil.
4. Major cast member is suddenly replaced by another actor playing a similar role.
5. Guest appearance by a highly recognizable, yet totally washed-up elderly actor is headlined.
6. Major characters transition to new location; the high school soap opera characters go to college, for example.
7. Major cast member is shot as part of a season-ending cliffhanger.
8. Romantic tension between two major cast members gets permanently resolved.
9. Sidekick gets killed.
10. Anniversary episode gets billing on NFL Sunday.

So what's got me ranting about this? Basically, as I go down this self-made list, I notice that just about everything on this list applies to everything on TV! Are the network executives asleep at the wheel? Wait, strike that, of course they are. I meant to say: are the network executives' toadies asleep at the wheel? It was no accident I placed the first two qualifiers at the top regarding marriage and pregnancy. As soon as you throw wedding bells and diapers into the mix, it's all over. Seriously! And the really strange thing about this time-proven axiom is how brutally it's ignored. Hell, we even have entire series which have jumped the shark before the show has even begun. Raising Hope is about a bunch of misfits trying to raise a baby. Two and a half men is about bachelors raising a kid. Is the general idea to start a series at the end, and pretend it already has an established audience? Elder washed up actors are a staple of sweeps, but when one builds an entire series on one, such as William Shatner in "Sh** My Dad Says," then somebody's not even screening the items on the producers desk!

There are exceptions to each. For example, it's pretty clear when a change of venue fails, as in Weeds leaving the burned-out city of Agrestic. But moving Law & Order to L.A. was nothing short of genius!

Still, it would be nice if there were actually something on once in a while.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

An Idea for Pres. Obama

I've noticed a pattern in politics lately. You see, it used to be that the definition of socialism was government controlling the means of production. But that's apparently changed. These days, to hear conservative pundits define it, socialism is defined as: "Anything Barack Obama does."

We've seen it pretty consistently over the last two years. Obama made concession after concession to the Republican interests, and then never got one Republican vote. Not even an entirely Republican-structured healthcare reform bill which gave away the entire store to the insurance companies was enough. It was still deemed "Socialist."

All this has nothing to do with socialism. It has to do with denying Obama any victories. The basic idea from the Republican camp is this: "If Obama's for it, we're against it." And now that the content majority decided to not vote, and hand the latest midterm elections over to the malcontented minority, it looks like the strategy is going to be applied even more strongly. Nothing Obama is in favor of will be supported.

Okay, fine. I therefore have a suggestion. I think President Obama should reverse course. He should endorse tax cuts for the wealthy in the midst of a dire national debt crisis. He should openly oppose embryonic stem cell research. He should campaign to privatize Social Security and Medicare. That way, Republicans will have no choice but to oppose the President on all these issues!

Okay, I'm being facetious, naturally. But who knows? Things on Capitol Hill (excuse me, I meant Capital Hill), are so crazy that the strategy just might work!

Then again, maybe Obama should finally stand up to such thuggery. Okay, Obama's embodied the highest ideals of Jesus so far by turning the other cheek. I get that. We should all be proud. (Why we're not, I'll never know.) But how many times must he be stabbed in the back before he finally realizes he's in a knife-fight?

Come on, Barry. Fight 'em back!


Sunday, November 7, 2010

What Really Happened to Keith Olbermann?

When I heard that liberal-leaning political commentator, Keith Olbermann, had been suspended by MSNBC for doing what that station pays him to normally do, namely, support a more left-leaning agenda, I was disgusted. He'd paid money to political campaigns without notifying his superiors first. I joined the hordes of protesters signing on every internet-based petition to get Keith back on the air, and it has apparently worked, since he'll be back on this Tuesday, which is a day late in my humble assessment. One thing is clear, however, Keith did violate an MSNBC policy of not contributing money to political candidates without prior notification. Now, this rule itself is silly, and is tantamount to having to ask Mommy permission before spending one's own allowance, but it is in place for an important historical reason. The more I explored this reason, the more I found that it has everything to do with the culture wars, and its current fight over the airwaves.

That's right. Freedom of speech is being lost over the airwaves due to the Culture War.

From the beginning of radio and television, there was a decided slant in favor of conservative viewpoint. Early hits on radio were Father Coughlin and Sister Aimee Semple MacPherson. Why, even the word, "broadcasting" references using radio to "sow the seed of God's Word." The FCC was instituted to be the airwaves' puritannical nanny. But then, in 1949, the FCC was persuaded that putting only one side of a controversial viewpoint on the air was detrimental to the public interest. And so the Fairness Doctrine was born. It was generally accepted at the time that news organizations should simply give the news, and leave the editorializing to local papers or other formats. These were the glory years of broadcasters with integrity. People like Walter Cronkite. People like Edward R. Murrow.

The Fairness Doctrine was finally challenged twenty years later in 1969, in a famous court case, Red Lion Broadcasting Co. vs. FCC. At issue was a book by Fred Cook, called 'Goldwater: Extremist of the Right.' Billy Hargis, host of a daily radio broadcast called "Christian Crusade" in WGCB, Red Lion, PA, blasted the book. Cook argued that he had a right, under the Fairness Doctrine, to respond to the personal attacks levied upon him. The Supreme Court agreed, and in an 8-0 vote, upheld the constitutionality of the Fairness Doctrine.

In plain English, the Supreme Court said that WGCB could not do precisely what Fox News and numerous A.M. radio stations are doing today! Both sides had to be presented!

Well, this handcuffed the would-be conservative moguls of the world, and they resented it. But broadcast networks really didn't mind. They felt it was their duty to maintain integrity and balance, regardless of what the rule said. So they did so. But the perception slowly developed among people of a media bias towards liberalism. Edward Murrow dared to speak out against Joseph McCarthy. Walter Cronkite dared to voice opposition to the war in Vietnam. All media outlets seemed anti-Republican during the Watergate scandal. Rightly or wrongly, conservatives grumbled increasingly against the "liberal media."

This came to a head in 1987. Ronald Reagan, facing the end of his presidency, issued an Executive Order to the FCC to abolish the Fairness Doctrine, which it did in August of that year.

Let me translate that: No votes were cast! No public opinion culled! No bill was presented to Congress. We The People were NOT consulted! Instead, an act of sheer Imperialism by one, lone man, ended the legal enforcement of presenting both sides.

You'd think an actor would have appreciated sharing airtime.

Bush Sr. won election in 1988, and so it would be nearly five years before conservatives realized that the shackles had been removed from their wrists. Enraged over Bill Clinton's election, they began buying up greater control over the airwaves, beginning with that media format which had always been maintained by elder conservatives -- radio.

Slowly, a media format which had largely been local and balanced became one-sided and nationalized. Rush Limbaugh caught the apex of this wave, and surfed it well. The rise of the Internet made turning to national media outlets the only way to avoid losing money, and the rout was on.

And here, we must recognize why the Fairness Doctrine was so important: If left to sheer market forces, monopoly will ensue. This is true for media as it is for any other business. Private interests simply cannot buy a radio or television station without a shitload of money, and so whomever wins the consolidation race has the ability to shut out the dissenting view. Anti-trust laws break up monopolies, but the only anti-trust law ever in place for broadcast media, the Fairness Doctrine, was removed without any input from either you or me. Conservatives recognize this, and crave monopoly of their interests over the air. They hunger for it. They yearn for it. Clearchannel is close to achieving it.

This finally brings us around to Keith Olbermann again. We must remember that MSNBC wasn't always so left-leaning. Rather, they were dragged to the left as upper management kicked and screamed against becoming so. When they launched (a few months before Fox News), they attempted a slightly more right-leaning approach to go head to head with a more liberal CNN. Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham were regular contributers! They did live broadcasts of Don Imus in the morning! Fox News, gave a clearly more right-wing bias than MSNBC from the onset, and beat out MSNBC in winning the conservative viewership. At least, at first. During the Monica Lewinsky scandal, MSNBC had higher ratings. Keith Olbermann, who at the time had just recently been brought over from ESPN to provide edgy color, left the network in disgust over the treatment of the news story. Former Carter speech writer Chris Matthews was brought in to MSNBC to replace the failing Phil Donohue, and Laura Ingraham and Ann Coulter went their separate ways leaving MSNBC with a more liberal appearance, and the tug of war with Fox News was on. CNN assumed a new role in the balanced center. Air America Radio attempted to even the balance in the free radio market for liberal opinion, but radio was always a conservative old man's format, and liberal young people simply preferred Jon Stewart. But the career of Rachel Maddow was born of this, and added to MSNBC, drastically improving their ratings. They brought back Keith Olbermann from Fox Sports Net, and from 2007 on, received a boost in ratings with their more leftist approach, even though upper management was clearly less than comfortable with it. They simply couldn't ignore the left-leaning success during the 2008 presidential elections. Today, MSNBC has better internet ratings but lower cable TV ratings than Fox or CNN, and that's the way it appears it will stay.

So what's the deal with Keith Olbermann? Basically, the rule requiring news anchors to notify management before donating to political campaigns is a holdover from MSNBC's early years, when they hadn't been pushed to the left, and news commentators were meant to be impartial reporters rather than partial editorializers. That rule has now been made obsolete due to the evolution of the network's format over the years. Yet it seems that management is still resentful over having been dragged away from the center by the remnants of Air America and an ex-sportscaster. Having caught Keith Olbermann in a technicality, they yanked him from the air.

Here, finally is my ultimate point: Republicans yearned to "take back America" (as if they'd ever lost it). Now, in like manner, we need to take back the airwaves. Over and over again, conservative hacks bellyached over "The Inevitable Return Of The Fairness Doctrine" as a direct result of Obama's victory. They kept saying, over and over again (perhaps to convince themselves that it was true) that the Fairness Doctrine would rob them of free speech. (As opposed to robbing others of it, perhaps?) Two years later, it seems re-instating the Fairness Doctrine is simply not a priority in Barack's administration.

BUT IT SHOULD BE! Requiring both sides is simply NOT stifling of free speech! Not by any stretch of the imagination! We have between now and mid-January to persuade our exiting Democrat majority to do this one, last thing. Make no bones about it, we need the Fairness Doctrine put back before George Orwell's nightmare - that of a monopolized media - comes true!

It was taken away without our consent, and without representation (something our Founding Fathers got really pissed off about!). Let's put it back, WITH representation, and represent all sides of the politically controversial issues. Oh, Our Trophy President my reinstate it via Executive Order, just as Reagan took it away - but I'd rather see this done properly, through Congress, through We The People, who still, despite the recent election results, lean Democratic.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Post-Election Thoughts...

Yes, naming this blog post with anything having to do with "post-election" has probably guaranteed that nobody will read this blog. I'm as over-saturated with political commentary about it as all of you are. But hopefully you'll bear with me for just one more tidbit. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

First: The election results were awful! No, not with Republicans winning. We can deal with those clowns. No, I'm talking about Prop-19 being defeated in California. Prop-19, for those who aren't aware, would have decriminalized small amounts of marijuana in the most medical-cannabis-friendly state in the nation. Yet in the state where nearly 100% of the people have smoked pot, 53% somehow found the hypocritical hubris to vote against that which they've done, presumably on the notion that it will prevent their children from doing it, as if that ever works. How is it conceivable that, at a time when the tsunami of LESS government intrusion was overwhelming, people would vote for MORE government intrusion?

I'll tell ya: Those who are raking in the dough from cannabis' illegality suddenly woke up and realized that Prop-19 would cut into their profit margins. I think they suddenly began to grease the opposition palms to keep the status quo, just to avoid having to pull up stakes in Beverly Hills and move back to Oakland. Why else would a referendum with a nearly 2/3rds pre-poll approval suddenly crash to below 50% in the final two months?

But I have another thought: Yes, we've had a big pro-Republican swing. And the Elephant is dancing, dancing, dancing. BUT, beware what you wish for! Historically, when an opposition party takes over, the sitting party has about 2 and 1/2 months to strike one final blow before exiting, stage left. Remember when the Republicans took back congress in 1994 under Newt Gingrich's Contract With America? One month afterward, on December 1, 1994, President Clinton signed the bill that created the World Trade Organization! (Interesting, huh?) Some doubt he would have had adequate support from his own party, but when you're a lame duck, you have the luxury of voting exactly what you think without fear of reprisal.

The G.O.P. picked up 60 house seats and 6 senate seats last time I counted. That's 66 democrats who have absolutely NOTHING to lose -- more than enough to swing some BIG legislation! What that means for happy conservatives, I predict, is this:
1.) You can kiss your precious stem-cell research ban goodbye! It's history!
2.) You can forget the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest 2%. They're gone.
3.) Expect at least one more economic stimulus package to breeze through, unhampered.
4.) President Obama will likely use his Executive Authority at least once after late January.

About that last one, there's again precedent. In January of 1993, blocked by the Republican-led Congress, President Clinton used Executive authority to rescue the national debt of Mexico -- a bad idea, in retrospect, but illustrating that Congress can be sidestepped, if the Pres. really feels he must.

And he will. Why? Because the Republicans under the Contract With America were bright, young, idealistic, and open-minded. They made a great foil for a Democrat president, and we saw the deficit eliminated, and the national debt begin to get paid off. This time, however, the new Republicans are neither bright nor young. They are not open-minded, and rather than idealistic, they are idealogues. Clinton had to deal with intellectual opposition. Obama will have to deal with opponents who are one tick shy of carrying pitchforks, torches, and rope! I fear this, truly.

But mark my words: Backlash swings both ways!

In defense of Ron Johnson and Scott Walker, I'll say this: They're comparable to the Contract With America style of Republican, and so at least there's hope on that front. If people like them can reign in the Tea-Party wing-nuts, we should be able to stop them from pulling the temple down over our very heads.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

How Democrats Can Win Today

Well, it's already Election Day, and I know I'd promised to do a little bit more expounding on how Ron Johnson managed to get duped into defending priestly pedophiles, but my how time flies when you're too busy to have fun. I haven't even had time to levy another round of insults at our under-educated ex-IBM toner-cartridge junkie, "Little Boy Blue" (a.k.a. Scott Walker). So, I thought I'd share my brief analysis of today's election-day fracas, and illustrate why I think Democrats actually have a fighting chance today.

As has been reported in quite a few news organizations this fall, among registered voters, the majority still favor the Democratic party. 49% approve of the Democrats, while only about 44% approve of Republicans. Yet among LIKELY voters, the numbers flip: 49% favor Republicans, while 43% favor Democrats. If you run the numbers, and assume that all 43% of the Republicans are voting (which they likely are) the only thing capable of producing a percentage shift that large is if between 12 and 15% of registered democrats stay home.

That's a HUGE number! To suggest that well over 1 in 10 democrats just doesn't give a shit this election cycle is too mind-blowing to believe. Yet polls show it's true. So, while expectations for Republicans are high, and projections show that big gains will be had for the G.O.P. after today, the underlying numbers show that if that extra 12% of Democrats decide to get off their asses and go vote, the Republicans will suffer massive surprise upset losses.

What could possibly make the Democrats decide to go vote today?

Here's my answer: Republicans gloating in advance! Hell, it seems like conservatives have been guffawing all week about how badly the Democrats are going to lose. They're doing it so much, that they'll goad the apathetic Democratic base into getting pissed off and going to the polls, if they're not careful!

So, go ahead, Republicans! Gloat! Celebrate your victory too early! Tempt fate! Count those chickens before they hatch! Be as impolite today as you've been this entire year! Nothing will help get out the Democratic vote better. It might not get Feingold re-elected by itself, but it might make for an interesting photo-finish!