Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Christian Mingle What a concept!

Here, Christians can find other Christians for matrimony, mating, and more. But why? Why on earth is this at all a successful online business? Why isn't or e-Harmony enough? I have some thoughts on this, and you Christians out there are not likely to appreciate them.

First, there has always been a traditional method for meeting Christian singles. It’s called “church.” A person would go to church, join a singles group, and meet other single people. Or, if his/her church doesn't have a singles group, that person could give a discreet word to the Pastor about hoping that The Lord would provide a spouse, at which point said minister might occasionally drop hints about someone being single at the next Bible study or church picnic. Isn't this enough?

Well, no. Bottom line is, a lot of congregation members just plain don’t attend church anymore. In a world where Christian ministers constantly say how their religion is under attack, their armies are not even bothering to show up. Even serious Christians find services difficult to endure sometimes. What does it say about a religion’s following if even die-hard members find it difficult to endure one more sermon, just one more week, even on the promise of potentially finding a sexy single person? And, if you happen to be Catholic, Lutheran, or Episcopalian, then it’s even worse. The old-fashioned format serves only to offend the senses. All the non-elderly don’t bother being there, and so going to church means hobnobbing with the little old biddies running this year’s bake sale, and that’s not exactly a place that’s likely to kindle romance.

Enter the Evangelical Megachurch! Here, they bring in some decently modern music, complete with electric guitars, drum-sets and synthesizers, and project the lyrics to sing on a giant projection-screen (because they at least realize that people typically can’t read the music charts in the hymnal anyway). Plenty of single-and-looking people here!

But apparently, this isn't enough. I once attended a singles group at Elmbrook Church many years ago (before I realized I was an atheist, you see). Elmbrook is the largest church in Wisconsin, so you can’t get much more of a Megachurch than that. Sunday services require dozens of police cars just to direct traffic! But when I went there and attended the singles group, I found… Well, let’s just say there’s a reason those people are single. Good looking people take on lovers and file for divorce in order to marry them. The ugly and/or ones with significant baggage get dumped and join groups.

Still, that shouldn't prevent nice, attractive Christian singles from meeting each other, should it? I mean, there are plenty of other avenues, aren't there? Indeed, there are. There are Christian conferences, festivals, galas and shindigs of all sorts. There are Christian bookstores to hang out in, Christian rock concerts to go to, and Christian Bible Colleges to attend. (In fact, the joke at any Bible College is, “A ring by spring, or your money back!”) Isn't all this enough?

The answer is, no. The reason for this is because these things are just fine if you want to meet someone who is really serious about his/her religion. And let’s face it, if you’re male and serious about your religion, you’re a hot commodity. Single fundamentalist women outnumber single fundamentalist men by a significant margin. Exact numbers are hard to come by, but the number might be as high as a 5 to 4 female to male ratio. For Christian women, that’s bad news. For atheist men, that’s a statement in itself – we unbelieving males are turning down an awful lot of potential hoochie by rejecting your silly, little creed! (You’d think people would realize that we’re damned serious about it.) But for Christian men, that might be good news. Can’t a man name his own ticket in such a target-rich environment?

Well, no, that’s a problem, too. You see, the main problem with church dating is that it leads to inter-congregational politics and gossiping. If a Christian man wants to date a particular Christian woman, he’d better pick right the first time, or else all her Christian friends at that church are going to write him off. And if he dares date more than one, he gets pegged as “that type of guy.” If he dates only one different Christian woman per year, and it doesn't involve sex, that might seem to be prudish, but the gossip-mill among the Christian women is, “He dated three different women in three years! Don’t go out with him.” That’s totally unfair to the poor guy, but that’s the reality of it. And if it’s a big church, the effect is even more devastating – all those extra women are now denied to him. Bigger isn't necessarily better.

For the single Christian women, a reverse effect takes hold. The other single women notice a newly single guy attending the service. He immediately tries to date the cutest of the single ones available. The date is a dud, and the guy is politically out of luck. But when the other women see the pretty one getting rejected, they say to themselves, “Well, geez, if even SHE can’t get a husband, what chance have I got?” Despair settles in for both sexes.

As such, Christian men often decide not to bother dating women who go to their own church, especially after they've been burned by the experience once or twice. They turn to other outlets, and there are many. The women, in turn, decide to turn to other outlets, too. This causes more men to do the same, which causes more women to do the same, and before you know it, none of the single people in church are dating each other. For them, that’s just as well. When they’re at church, they’d just as soon concentrate on The Lord. It seems inappropriate to go to church and be constantly thinking about the woman or man over in the next aisle. That’s not just sinful, it’s distracting!

So, it seems that if a seriously Christian woman wants to get married, she’s better off meeting a guy who belongs to another church. Either that, or one who is Christian, but isn't quite so rabid a fan club member. Certainly, there are a few women out there who try (literally!) to be “sluts for Jesus,” using her, um attributes to bring men to The Lord. (They call it “gal-vation.”) For other women, they might decide to trade their sexual favors for religious influence only after the fact, and only for a more moderately religious male. (More on that, later.) For many Christian women, aiming for a moderately Christian male makes more sense. He’s serious enough to appreciate her faith, but not serious enough to cause her any inter-congregational headaches. Also, there are a LOT more men available to her that way! But where can she find such a man? For that matter, where can the men who have been burned by church-dating go to find other women outside their particular clique?

Enter online dating! It’s been around for decades, and seems to work fairly well as a solution. Christians select “Christian” as their religious preference, and manage to weed out all the prospective mates who don’t meet that criteria.

Or do they? The Internet is a treacherous place, and with women outnumbering men in the fundamentalist department, many “players” find themselves in a plentiful harvest field. They put up their profile, pretend at religion, then lure some nice, Christian lady into a few dates, and then into bed. For a Christian woman, finding herself in a situation where the man wants sex before marriage when she does not is disturbing. But she’s caught between a rock and a hard erection. If she stands by her principles, she saves her honor but dies a spinster. If she compromises, she’s a secret slut, but finally gets herself a husband. For most such women, the secret slut option is the better of two evils, plus it finally has the benefit of letting her get her rocks off. His too. Every once in a long while, this tactic works. But typically, the man finds some excuse to leave, and then she’s been screwed twice. It’s understandable that she might be frustrated.

For men, the experience is somewhat different. They go online hoping to find a nice, Christian woman, and inevitably get at least one “hit” from a remarkably pretty girl who is (I so hate this term) “spiritual but non-religious,” whatever the hell that means. He’s smitten by her, and they might even end up getting into bed, but when he proves to be much more serious about religion than she is, or argue about politics, planned parenthood, or some other such difference of opinion, she dumps him, and he is devastated, knowing that he’ll likely never score that high on the girlfriend scale again.

The semi-solution? Christian Mingle! Because it loudly advertises a “Christians only” type of message, it wards off the casual people on the faith-scale. It also is more serious about dumping the “players” from the roster list. One complaint from a Christian woman, and the guy’s membership is canceled. For the guys, it means that every pretty woman they see is his type, and that means the world to him.

So! Happily Ever After? Not a chance! Oh, this solution will have a benefit, and it will help bring more Christian babies into the world (which is the most effective method of evangelizing – always has been), but even this will eventually fail. It doesn't ward off the serious fake Christians who are players - it attracts them!

All this is only half the point. You see, Christianity is dying. Part of the reason why Christian Mingle is such a successful business is because the number of available single Christians is getting smaller and smaller all the time. In our grandfathers’ era, one did not dare even marry a Lutheran if one were Catholic, or a Presbyterian if one were Baptist, etc., etc. But today, Christians are blissfully grateful just to find another Christian to marry, and to hell with denominational affiliation! The endorsed evangelicalism of the Christian Media Empire is pretty much becoming the de facto denomination of all America anyway.  Today, evangelicals have fallen to less than 50% of the nation’s populace. Not coincidentally, conservatives lost with a vote of 47%. This downward trend will continue. That’s good news for Christian Mingle, as more people will be willing to pay more for their services in seeking a commodity which is becoming rarer and rarer. But it’s bad news for Christianity as a whole.

I have a unique perspective in all this. As an ex-Christian, I have observed much of this first hand. The rest I have been able to glean from Christian magazine articles and blog entries. As an atheist, I am able to observe all this without bias. For the same reason, I am also able to laugh my ass off at the whole thing. But I stop laughing when I remember that there is yet one more reason for Christian Mingle to exist. Namely, the intense desire of the Christian community do wall itself off from anything secular. Any online dating service will have a feature which lets Christians match only with other Christians, but even this isn't enough. Today’s Jesus Freaks don’t even want to encounter the same electrons as non-religious people. Thus, to avoid “secular cooties,” they set up their own singles website, and thus thicken the plastic bubble they dwell in.

As an example, I need only point to any Christian bookstore where mountains of products are sold to insulate the Faithful from Satan’s temptations. There are Christian games, Christian movies, Christian rock artists, Christian action figures, Christian children’s shows… the list goes on and on. My head hangs in utter disgust when I see something like “Bibleman” hanging on such a store’s display hook. I simply cannot fathom how someone can actually spend money on something like that.

Christian Mingle is not as silly as "Bibleman," but it's done for exactly the same purpose. And as any Christian bookstore owner will tell you, fundies will buy anything!



Sunday, January 27, 2013


The number one reason we hear from the National Rifle Association about why we need assault rifles is that, should the government become oppressive, and take away our rights, we need the ability to revolt against said government, and remove it from power.

Now's  your chance! NOW!

Yes, now's the time when the revolution you've been hoarding your gun for has arrived! Now is the time when you must aim your gun at every Republican who wants to take the majority vote away, and SHOOT TO KILL!

No, no! PLEASE don't kill anyone based on what I'm saying! I only espouse defensive weapons. But my logical point is sound. If an oppressive government is the reason for assault rifles, then there should not be a single assault rifle not fired at this point! Hey, YOUR standard, not mine!

Oh, you think I'm KIDDING? Well, I'm only using YOUR OWN rhetoric - the one you've been using for YEARS, where you have said, over and over again, that if the government attempts to thwart the people's voting rights, that it's time for the people to rise up and strike back at the oppressors.

Well, the Republican Party is now saying that it wants to extend gerrymandering - a form of (what goddamned SHOULD be) illegal vote-tampering that has been inexplicably in existence for 200 years - to permanently affect the election of our next President of the United States.

Yeah? Well, some of us believe that the majority vote matters!

HERE! NOW! THIS IS YOUR CHANCE FOR YOU NRA MEMBERS TO DEMONSTRATE WHAT YOU BELIEVE IN!  This is your opportunity to show that you mean what you say - that you want guns, not just for the sake of shooting people you don't like, but for the sake of PROTECTING AMERICA!!!!

Do you? Do you  care about America? Then you have NO CHOICE, if you are an NRA member, but to point your gun at EVERY REPUBLICAN WHO ESPOUSES THE MAD DOCTRINE OF GERRYMANDERING THE PRESIDENCY and, IF, they don't reform, PULLING THE TRIGGER!!!

No, I don't want you to actually pull the trigger. But I DO want you to aim the barrel at their heads! If you fought for the right to have a barrel to aim with, that was the whole point of why you wanted it, RIGHT?!

And if you don't back up your words WITH YOUR OWN STANDARDS, then everything you say is nothing more than piss in the wind!

No, this is not the same, mad hypocrisy of stupid fuckers like Ted Nugent. Ted's (oddly uncharacteristic) stupidity rests only on a hatred of Socialism, assuming that Barack Obama espoused such, which he clearly does not. (What, you Republicans want him to change parties? He's practically a Republican already!) But this time, the Republican party has openly, and brazenly, said that they intend to take away the majority vote and hand it to their own minority, just so that they don't have to deal with the realities of a secular, insured, more realistic world.

This is not just naked evil. This is naked evil, with a long, strong hard-on, shouting to the world, "We intend to RAPE democracy until she screams for mercy!"



(Excuse me while I catch my breath!)



Friday, January 25, 2013

Three things:

Part 1.) Screwing With The Vote (Again!)

Well, back on January 11th, I argued very strongly against gerrymandering.  And before that, on November 9th, I pointed out that Republicans had to make serious adjustments if they wanted to have any chance of winning future elections.

Put those two ideas together, and you have what the website is currently promoting.

Unfortunately, they’re going a slightly different direction. You see, my idea of Republicans making adjustments was removing or altering one or more planks in their outdated political platform. After some analysis, I concluded that the likeliest areas for this to happen would be either immigration or the drug war. But no! I forgot, these are conservatives we’re talking about, here. They would rather dig out their testicles with a grapefruit spoon than change their minds about one, single thing. Hence, their “adjustment” comes in the form of extending their gerrymandering to include presidential elections instead of just congressional ones.

As an example, consider Ohio. What Republicans are deciding to do there is take their gerrymandered districts and apply them to the electoral college representation for that state. In other words, electoral college representatives from Ohio would be decided based upon congressional districts rather than a state-wide victory in the popular vote. Were this method to have been applied during the 2012 election, Mitt Romney would have carried Ohio, even though he lost the popular vote 51% to 47%.

Have we really sunk this far? Has our respect for Democracy sunk so low that we are willing to piss all over the will of the people so thoroughly? Well, apparently we have.

What boggles my mind is how obviously evil this is. It's as though Republicans just don't give a damn that they just don't give a damn about voter rights. (Nope, that wasn't a typo. It's like saying they are careless and couldn't care less.) They're determined to win, by rook or by crook, and it's becoming more crook by the minute! Loudly and without shame, Republicans are saying, "We don't care if you're in the majority, we're taking your voice away from you." And what's odd is, they could conceivably get away with it, too! Two states, Nebraska and Maine, have electoral college structures based on Congressional district already. There is precedent. 

The second thing about this that boggles my mind is how thoroughly it is guaranteed to backfire! Let’s just say they succeed in making congressional districts determine the electoral college. It practically begs for Obama and the Senate to step in and propose legislation which will force states to hand the drawing of districts over to independent, non-partisan entities! To which I say, GOOD! That's the way it SHOULD be! But even if this legislation doesn't manifest, the demographic will then almost certainly shift beyond the point where even this level of gerrymandering won't affect a favorable outcome to the Democratic Party. At that point, state elections will also go Democratic, and Republicans can kiss their gerrymandered districts goodbye. Either Democrats will make the districts balanced, or (and this is far more likely) the Democrats will gerrymander things back in their favor. That puts states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida in the Democrat column, permanently out of reach forever and ever.

Part of me wants to say, screw ‘em! If they’re so goddamned dumb, let their failure be that much more complete! But on balance, no. I don’t want the vote gerrymandered toward my own view any more than I want it gerrymandered toward theirs. I want a goddamned FAIR vote, even if it goes against my own opinion. So, I say again, a federal law must be enacted which requires all states to turn their districting process over to non-partisan entities.

Independent Districting! Take up the cry! It’s 200 years overdue! Let’s get it done!

No, seriously! Sign every petition! Write your representatives! Do it TODAY! Independent Districting!

Part 2.) Ron Johnson’s Colossal Screw-Up

I was writing stuff on while listening to Hillary Clinton’s testimony on Benghazi, so I wasn't watching the faces of the people on the television while that bit of news was going on. What an interesting day! At one point, I heard some dickhead spouting off about how it wasn't true that the attack was made by a mob, but rather was by an organized group of militants. Hillary rightly smacked that jerk down by yelling, “What does it matter at this point?!” And then went on, quite sensibly, to point out that the important part was that four Americans had been killed, and we need to bring the perpetrators to justice. Indeed, the mob vs. militant argument is quite obviously splitting hairs, and such minutiae is not where the focus needs to be. Hillary knows so, and so she was right to bitch-slap that shit right back up the asshole it came from!

The legislator who attempted to argue that idea to Hillary’s face was obviously a patsy who was chosen to attempt a lame justification for the phony witch-hunt which had been aimed at Susan Rice. And THAT witch-hunt was seeking, not a witch, but a special election in Massachusetts to re-elect Scott Brown (by means of forcing John Kerry to be the new Secretary of State). Now, with even that ill-conceived plan in total disarray, some fool had to volunteer to do damage control by throwing that conspiracy theory in front of Hillary Clinton in hopes that it would stick well enough to seem credible. But Hillary would have none of it.

“What a dumbfuck!” I thought. The Republicans actually found some moron who was willing to run that play against Hillary’s formidable defenses? Must have been one very green fool.

Only later did I learn that the idiot was none other than Senator Ron Johnson of my own Wisconsin.

Mother fucker! That asshole has gone and embarrassed our state yet again?!

Oh, yes, Johnson has thrown coffee on Wisconsin’s white dinner jacket before. He was one of a few dozen senators who blocked an international treaty to protect people with disabilities. The treaty was based on America’s own Americans With Disabilities Act, so no national sovereignty was at stake. Even nations like China and Russia passed this treaty, but for the rat-bastards of the Tea Party, even that’s not enough. The vote embarrassed not just Wisconsin, but all of America in the eyes of the entire world. When I wrote Johnson chiding him over this particular vote, I received a polite reply, laced with the kind of grassy-knoll stuff which let me know that he’s the type of man who is penny-wise, but pound foolish.

But even that wasn't enough for him. Not content with embarrassing himself in front of Hillary Clinton, he went and made the same, damned mistake in front of John Kerry. He insisted on knowing the truth of what happened in Benghazi, but when Kerry informed him that we already know the truth, and was he present at the briefing where the truth was plainly shown on surveillance video, Johnson was forced to admit he wasn't even there. Fuck! It seems Johnson is bound and determined to make an ass out of himself no matter who happens to be Secretary of State.

And for the last, fucking time, Susan Rice made an honest mistake! She sincerely passed on the only information which she had been given during a very tumultuous situation. There was no deliberate deception!

Heloooooo? Ron Jooooohnson? The witch hunt is oooooover! Susan Rice is goooone! There's no more need to be phooooney! You can put down your burning cross noooow!

Jesus Christ, I knew he’d be bad, but I had no idea he would be this na├»ve! I mean, is politics just a hobby for this noob? (Yes, "noob," gamer slang for "newbie.") Did he listen to nothing but talk radio for years while a businessman and then decide to go into politics knowing only what Limbaugh knows?

No, wait, that’s not quite fair. Johnson’s a good, smart businessman, and he’s well educated in that particular field. But as anyone who’s read Dilbert knows, being smart in business often means being stupid in nearly every other field. An MBA teaches almost nothing about national-level economics (outside of macroecon-1), and business schools exist in an insulated, politically conservative bubble. I give Johnson all the credit in the world for working his way up in his education. He did well in that regard. But what excuse does he then have for being duped by people like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, both of whom are college dropouts?

I suppose this comes from Johnson’s style of education. He clawed his way up. Good for him. But all he ever saw while going up that side of the mountain was taxes and regulations blocking his way. He’s probably never tried the other side of the mountain, where science and the humanities so clearly illustrate the necessity of a progressive slope. As such, he only got half the picture, and now he’s acting like he has half a brain.

He doesn't have to embarrass himself, or the Dairy State, in this way. He has the brains to overcome his initial blindness, if he really wants to. It is possible to know business and reality at the same time. Herb Kohl illustrated this. But was Kohl so balanced because he went to Harvard instead of a local night school? Was Kohl more progressive because he was Jewish and Johnson is Lutheran? Or is it more that Kohl was born into money? Certainly Herb had a liberal youth, then turned conservative when he took over the Kohl’s business, and then became so rich he turned more liberal again. Ron, by contrast, married into a little money (not an interstellar amount), but largely worked his own way up, building PACUR in the plastics industry. Or perhaps one has to be more balanced if one’s business is in retail rather than in manufacturing? (Greater emphasis on public relations.) Does all that color one’s perspective? Or is it impossible to be successful as a businessman without adopting a tycoon’s mentality?

Regardless, one thing is clear: Johnson is, once again, learning on the job. Nothing wrong with that per se, except that it’s given Wisconsin one hell of a black eye in the meantime! We might well endure these growing pains of Ron’s long enough for him to become as capable as, say, William Proxmire, but first he needs to back off and take notes for a couple of years. If he doesn't, and he continues, stubbornly, to try swimming in the deep end of the pool without water wings, then we’ll have to quickly yank his ass out after one term before he drowns – as a kindness to both him and us.

Hey Ron! Welcome to the Big Leagues! Jerk!

(Yeah, I’m a Monday-morning quarterback. But I’m still right.)

Part 3.) Obama’s Gun Proposals

Pop quiz: How many assault weapons did the assault weapons ban of 1994 (you know, the one Obama wants re-instated?) actually ban?

Answer: Almost none.

That’s right, the assault weapons “ban” did almost nothing to ban any assault weapons. Gun dealers easily found ways around the provisions. What was actually banned was the manufacture and import of assault weapons, with the exception of law enforcement and military contracts. But assault weapons manufactured before the ban was put in place were still available for sale and resale. This, of course drove up the price of these kinds of guns (supply and demand), but one could still get them.

That higher price destroyed the gun-running business. With the price of assault rifles so high, there was simply not that much profitability in arming thugs in Mexico. Drug lords below the border were slowly becoming disarmed between 1994 and 2004. By 2005, that progress was completely undermined.

So, here’s my question: If the “ban” on assault weapons doesn't really ban anything…


The buck-naked truth, told here for fucking once, is that nobody is coming to take away anybody’s gun! Second amendment rights are not in jeopardy, and all law-abiding Americans will be able to own and carry small firearms as a deterrent to crooks.

Is the NRA defending Mexican drug cartels? Because that’s surely what it looks like!

Actually, I should re-phrase the citing of the name, “NRA.” It should be “NARA” – the National Assault Rifle Association. Because that’s closer to the truth. They’ll defend weapons that kill en masse, but when it comes to sensible defensive weapons, such as tasers, well, you’re on your fucking own!

So don’t hand me this shit about ‘self-defense!’ It’s ‘self-offense,’ and you goddamned well know it!

The other aspects of Obama’s gun-control proposals, universal background checks for everyone, including those at gun-shows, banning high-capacity ammunition clips, banning armor-piercing bullets, increased policing of gun-trafficking and more funding for mental health programs, are all measures which make so much sense that opposing them is nothing short of wild-eyed extremism. Those who block it might get money from the NRA next election season, but they won’t get any votes. Just wait.

Did I say the NRA has no horse in this race? Correction, they're defending a dead horse. No, correct that, too. Because the horse isn't even there. They're defending a dead unicorn!

Well, that’s it. I left it all on the battlefield. Cheers!



Thursday, January 17, 2013

Mexico Wants U.S. Gun Laws

Mexico is closely watching the recent moves the U.S. is making at potentially changing its gun laws.

It’s hoping for assault weapons restrictions.

It’s the dirtiest little secret in politics, but there is a direct link between U.S. gun laws and Mexican poverty. The economy in Mexico suffers in large part because drug cartels keep crushing it with gratuitous violence. It is no secret how these cartels get their arms - they receive most of their guns from black market merchants within the United States. These gun runners buy up assault rifles at gun shows (such as the one recently held in Waukesha last weekend) and then sell them to Mexican thugs, either just north or just south of the border, at a profit. Often, a guns-for-drugs barter is the arrangement.

With drug lords threatening Mexican citizens at every turn, and protecting drug grows in unpredictable locations, business owners find it impossible to expand their interests and hire any workers.  Drug cartels hamper everything in Mexico, whether it be building infrastructure for power, water, roads and bridges to destabilizing the kind of domestic tranquility any business needs to survive. As a direct result, frustrated and starving citizens who are pissed off at not being able to feed themselves and their families end up fleeing north of the border – because they simply have no other choice.

Then, as if to pour salt upon Mexico’s wounds, the very ones who are the strongest opponents of gun laws are also the strongest opponents of immigration! Talk about hubris! It’s a big, fat middle finger to all Latinos. If rednecks are going to force Mexicans to starve with their oh-so-precious NRA extremism, then for Christ’s sake, they should at least let them escape to the U.S.!

Let’s spick it to ‘em!

Of course, the other side of the equation is to legalize marijuana, thus robbing Mexican drug cartels of their financial wherewithal. But that’s a subject for a different blog post.

At barest minimum, the hammer must fall on goddamned gun shows! Even if one absurdly insists that a citizen has the right to own the weapon of a soldier and not a hunter, there is absolutely, positively no fucking excuse for buying more than one assault rifle in a given year! If any fool buys two or more assault rifles at a gun show, that asshole should have two or more feds tailing his ass! Doesn’t it at least make sense to limit the purchase of an assault rifle to one per year, per citizen? Over 25 years, that’s 25 rifles, which is more than enough to defend any man’s castle!

And it would stop the Mexican drug cartels cold!

On second thought, nah, that would make too much sense!



Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Radio Ratings Lie

For some time now, I've been engaged in a research project to evaluate how radio show ratings have changed since the time when Ronald Reagan did away with the Fairness Doctrine – something he did without input from voters or Congress. Since that time, as most analysts agree, conservative talk radio has spiked in popularity. But it is generally thought that this means that conservative talk radio is somehow a successful format which has won popular support through free market economics.

Bullshit, I say. And I believe I can prove it.

You see, conservative talk radio is not a free market economy. It is an oligarchic economy where old men with their old-fashioned values own all the radio stations there are. They therefore hold ultimate veto power over dissenting views through corporate bigotry. They have always put curmudgeons on the air who agree with their own viewpoint and have done their level best to squelch all debaters who get in their way.

But it was not always so. Once, small broadcast networks held sway. Local talk show hosts talked locally about issues which were of interest to people only in local markets, like Cleveland, St. Louis, or Milwaukee. Nationally syndicated talk show hosts, like Rush Limbaugh, were artificially popular because they were carried by radio giants like WABC. The other major players in nationwide radio were WNBC and WCBS. In television, cable networks now had hundreds of channels, but when it came to nationally syndicated radio shows, there were still only three major players, and your national talk show host only had to be better in his time slot than the other two.

Then, Rush Limbaugh got his big break. Reagan removed the Fairness Doctrine as one of the closing acts of his lame-duck presidency. Limbaugh was now free to present his views without his studio needing to give the opposing side. The timing could not have been more perfect. The Republican and Democratic national conventions were underway shortly thereafter, and Limbaugh quickly became the most popular conservative voice among only a few lucky radio personalities who were in the right place at the right time. Like most rich people, Rush Limbaugh’s success did not come as a result of brains or hard work.

Exact numbers for radio ratings are hard to come by because records for nationally syndicated radio show ratings have only been kept since 1991. But Rush Limbaugh’s show has always rated fairly high, ranging from about nine million listeners to above fourteen million today. That might seem like a lot, but when one considers what has happened with corporate control over radio stations during that time, Rush’s success suddenly doesn’t seem so spectacular. During the early ‘90’s, local radio stations were in financial trouble. Nationally syndicated radio shows became a popular means for struggling A.M. markets to make ends meet without having to pay a more expensive local talk show host a permanent salary. Rush was, as previously mentioned, the biggest of only a handful of radio talk show hosts available for local markets to turn to. But local radio stations often rebelled at having to resort to ultra-conservatives like Limbaugh. They wanted more balanced people to put on the air. As such, it was during this time that certain more liberal radio personalities, such as Jim Hightower, had their own radio time-slots on local networks. For a little while, it appeared that this lopsided “balance” was where the A.M. radio market would stay. But greed, as it often does, wins out.

In 1996, Bill Clinton made what I consider to be his biggest blunder in passing the Telecommunications Act. Prior to that point, one company could own no more than 40 radio stations and no more than two A.M. and two F.M. stations in any one market. But afterward, all restrictions were lifted. Radio stations were bought out and bought out again at a frenzied pace until only a few media giants owned nearly everything the radio market could provide. The biggest, of course, was ClearChannel, whose solid commitment to conservative-only talking heads has been nothing short of legendary. A market which was free only in the barest possible sense went to completely locked in only a couple of years. Plus, to add insult to injury, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 allowed hucksters to peddle bogus products such as penis-enlarging pills and breast-growing creams – all without fear of any prosecution for perpetrating a public fraud!

Rush Limbaugh and his ilk now had every orator’s greatest wish: a completely captive audience. If you were a commuter, and you just happened to have your dial on the same radio frequency you’d been using to listen to your favorite sports team, you were guaranteed to be subjected to his mad opinions. To escape, said commuter had to take his/her attention off of the road for a time, and they’d only sometimes bother – which was the point. All insanity, all the time, and limited means of avoiding it.

All this, and the ratings themselves are a lie. Rush Limbaugh supposedly has a weekly listenership of 14.75 million. But is this accurate? Not quite, because if one person listens to one small segment of one broadcast on one day, that counts as a “weekly listener.” How big a percentage of Rush Limbaugh’s numbers are hyper-inflated by this simple fact? Quite a few, I would imagine. Sean Hannity, who comes in at almost exactly 14 million himself, is almost certainly the beneficiary of this phenomenon, as his show airs at exactly the time of the afternoon commute, when automobile listeners might be too lazy to change over the dial to another station.

Here’s the real crime of radio ratings: National syndication guarantees a high listenership. In other words, your radio show will artificially appear to be popular if it is aired on 400 radio stations instead of 40, or 200 instead of 20. Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity are the beneficiaries of this artificial inflation. Their national syndication has been making their crap look good for nearly 20 years, now!

The bogus nature of radio show ratings is further emphasized by the #3 radio show in America, namely, NPR’s Morning Edition. It comes right after Rush and Sean with 12 million listeners. But Morning Edition, for all its benefits, is rather dull. People so prefer dull and truthful to exciting but wing-nutty that it actually competes in a truly free market!

All three of these shows are buried – yes BURIED! – by the highest rated radio show in America, which is America’s Top 40 Countdown. It leads the pack by a ridiculous margin at 20 million listeners weekly. But remember, this radio show is only aired ONE day per week, NOT during a commuting time, and competes head-to-head with church and NFL football!

In case you need further proof of how radio ratings lie, consider this: ClearChannel was in financial distress back in 2008. Yes, the free market dictated that ClearChannel’s all-conservative media format could not make enough money to survive! So what happened? Well, the company was purchased in a leveraged buyout between Thomas H. Lee Partners and – yes – Bain Capital! Mitt Romney had long since left as CEO of the company, but conservative interests still ran it, and they were not about to let the Oligarchy of A.M. talk radio slip away! Heavens, a liberal might actually sneak onto the airwaves and do well! We just can’t have that, can we?

Could a liberal do well? I argue, yes! An experiment in liberal media (Air America) using a new format known as Satellite Radio, did not do so well, both because it was too new a format and because liberals simply do not like ultra-leftist opinions unless they are on television. MSNBC was already on the rise, and liberals already had Jon Stewart and the balanced approach of NPR. There simply wasn’t enough of a market. But the failed experiment did show that liberal talk show hosts could succeed. It launched the career of Rachel Maddow, and catapulted Al Franken right into the Senate. It has power, and potential. Look for its return!

In past blog posts, I have argued for a return to the Fairness Doctrine. Yet I now feel that I must publicly rescind that position. The unfair advantage of conservative talk show hosts being able to artificially look popular through forced national syndication under the protection of ultra-conservative CEO’s is being undermined by the Internet. Podcasts, iPods and satellite radio have ripped the monopoly right out of the hands of the wealthy. Just look at the success of the Thom Hartmann Show, and you’ll see. The revolution happened, the Bastille was stormed, and the zoots didn’t even notice! Besides, ClearChannel bottomed out financially once, it will do so again and again until there are no more rich-bitches willing to shell out the money it takes to bail Rush Limbaugh's syndication out.

In the meantime, Rush can continue to fool himself about how popular he thinks he is, even though his numbers have stayed around 14 million over the two decades he’s been on the air, during which time the U.S. population more than doubled. Yes, in the midst of a growing populace, he has remained stagnant, and is dining off of nothing more than the ashes of his past success. Well, I say, bon apetit, you fat, irrelevant fuck!



Friday, January 11, 2013

Kill Gerrymandering!

I laughed when pundits actually dared to be baffled over the election results this past November.  On the one hand, the public re-elected President Obama and added more liberals to the Senate, while at the same time basically giving them the same House of Representatives, with very few Republicans being tossed from there.  It was almost as if America wanted its infighting.  How on earth did that make any sense?

Well, it made perfect sense, as I well knew. That’s the power of gerrymandering.

Gerrymandering is basically the practice of drawing congressional districts in a way which deliberately favors one party over another. With it, a political party can thwart the will of the people who deliberately voted for the other party instead. It’s an anti-democratic maneuver which has plagued our elections process from the very beginning, and has bafflingly remained unresolved in the two and one-third centuries America has been in existence. The term comes from former Massachusetts governor Ellbridge Gerry, whose 1812 state senate redistricting was so twisted and convoluted that it caused a great deal of controversy. One particular district was said to look like a salamander, hence the portmanteau of "Gerry-mander". Yet despite this deliberate back-stabbing of voters being two hundred years old, nothing has been done to change it in all that time! Here’s how it “works:”

Let’s say you have a municipal region which is 50/50 in terms of its registered Republicans and Democrats. Should make for a fairly even split in representation, right? But more of one or the other happens to be concentrated in a particular neighborhood. So, if the districts are drawn to concentrate as many opposition neighborhoods into as few districts as possible, a political party can effectively surrender one congressional seat in exchange for securing two or more for itself. For example, Republicans in Wisconsin helped ensure that Gwendolyn Moore’s seat in Milwaukee was completely safe by giving her Shorewood and Whitefish Bay, while helping to keep safe the seats of Jim Sensenbrenner and Paul Ryan by giving them more republican-leaning areas in Mequon, South Milwaukee, and my home city of Greenfield. Two for one, see?

This shameless maneuver to undermine people’s votes would be bad enough all by itself, but the dire consequences of it go even deeper, especially in today’s world of hyper-extremism being preached over the Internet and the A.M. radio waves. The more gerrymandering there is, the more extremist representatives in those slanted districts tend to get. Populations with lopsided districts elect lopsided people. Party loyalists, not centrists, decide not only the primaries but also the general election, shutting out moderates from the political process. Gerrymandering helps ensure that the maximum number of moon-bat wing-nuts goes to Washington. This is a large part of why an entire political party is currently hell-bent on steamrolling our nation’s economy in a mad attempt to protect the monetary hordes of the super-rich at the expense of inner city children and desperately underemployed parents. This is why there is such a willingness to play chicken with the vehicle of our nation, while playing Russian roulette with the debt ceiling. It can all be traced to gerrymandering, and the evil it permits.

Gerrymandering has such a key role to play in fostering political wickedness that I’m shocked no one is pissed off! When an attempt was made to slant the vote through voter I.D. requirements, it was argued that interference with the democratic process was anti-American, and a backlash rightly ensued. Yet where is the outrage over gerrymandering? When the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary took place, the whole nation said that enough was enough, and gun-laws are now seriously about to happen (finally). But when the nation’s children are directly attacked by the politicians who are completely untouchable through gerrymandered districts, not just in one New England town but nationwide, where is the outrage there? Why isn't there an equal, no, greater, sense of being goddamned fed up?!

I won’t bore you with the answer. You already know how subtle evil flies under everyone’s radar, and politicians who accuse their opponents of gerrymandering are just as quick to embrace it themselves when the opportunity arises. So the question becomes, how do we fix this?

The solution comes from the examples set for us by the states of Washington, Idaho, California and Arizona. They have something called Independent Districting, where an entity other than the elected politicians decides and then draws the congressional districts. In other states, the state legislatures decide upon the districts to be drawn on a semi-regular basis, which means that the political party in power can gerrymander those districts to favor its own interests. But an independent commission, not affiliated with any political party, guarantees that that rather obvious conflict of interest can never happen!

Ideally, one might think that there should be an equal number of Republican and Democratic districts. But it goes much deeper than that. All districts should be drawn in such a way that the number of registered Republicans and Democrats are about equal, thus allowing the issues which affect people in the center to win the day. This ensures that any politician who loses the center gets tossed out on his ear, and that’s the way it should be! Also, this ensures that moderates will always win, regardless of party affiliation, and that cooperation is the norm on Capitol Hill. Contrast this with the stubborn, pit-bull-headed insistence upon scorched earth policies, and you see just how important it is to have congressional districts drawn well, and fairly.

Well, there’s our solution. But how do we implement it? Minority parties will always claim to be in favor of it while majority parties will always oppose it, even when the roles were reversed in the previous term. Can there be any way to break the temptation of a politician to be able to vote favors for itself?

The only possibility, as I see it, is for our entire nation to shriek for this with one, unified voice! The federal government in Washington must require ALL states to adapt non-partisan, independent commissions to draw their districts, and it must require it today! We must all realize that this issue is more important than taxes, more important than abortion, more important than guns, more important than nukes in Iran, and more important than any other political issue I can think of! If we remain unified on this one, overriding issue, we can greatly improve our nation and our future for both political parties in one, bold move!

Kill gerrymandering! Kill gerrymandering! It must become our two-word battle cry! It is a bipartisan issue which should have 100% support from all of us! And it should be as much a part of our American heritage as the cry for “no taxation without representation.”