Tuesday, August 23, 2011

God Issues Earthquake Statement


Earthquake Result of Shift in Tectonic Plates, Not Divine Retribution

The creator of the universe has issued the following statement about the 5.9 magnitude earthquake that hit the Eastern seaboard of the U.S. this afternoon:

"Before anyone gets the idea that today's earthquake was some sort of divine punishment of people who support same-sex marriage, universal healthcare, taxing the wealthy, or a woman's right to choose, let me just state that nothing could be further than the truth, and that this quake, like all previous quakes in the history of the world, was in fact the result of two tectonic plates getting a little bit stuck and then breaking free.

"I'm issuing this preemptive statement because I know some of you are getting your sound bites ready. I'm looking at you, Pat Robertson. Just keep it to yourself this time. You too, Falwell. Wait, Falwell's dead? OK, well, Limbaugh or Beck or anyone else that sees heavenly retribution when and only when it's convenient to their cause. I don't have time to keep track of them all or remember their names, but I can assure you I find their supernatural interpretations of natural disasters quite tiresome, annoying, and presumptuous. Thank you."

Friday, August 19, 2011

Can We Afford Another Norman Conquest?

Michele "Don't Know Much About History" Bachmann makes the Runes again today after a radio interview in which she noted that Americans are worried about "the rise of China, the rise of India, and the rise of the Soviet Union," which would be a pretty neat trick considering the Soviet Union has not existed for 20 years.

Twenty years. Does Bachmann ever read the newspaper? I mean, even if she didn't read the paper the day the USSR broke up into independent countries (December 1991), has she read one since then? Has she looked at a world map in the last couple of decades?

I mean, the last time the Soviet Union existed, Elvis Presley had been dead for 14 years. By the way, happy birthday, Elvis.

I'm one American who isn't worried about the rise of the Soviet Union. However, we should probably keep an eye on the Prussians. For that matter, those sneaky Visigoths should never be counted out either. I've also heard the Babylonians are massing on the Assyrian border. And can we really afford another Norman Conquest?

Of course, to be perfectly fair, I'm guessing 90% of Bachmann's supporters aren't aware the Soviet Union no longer exists either.

* * *

Bachmann went on to say that thanks to the debt-ceiling bill, President Obama is going to "whack $500 billion at a time when we're fighting three wars." She didn't happen to mention that any fighting we're doing these days isn't actually a war and isn't actually necessary.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Bachmann Fails Government 101

See, why would you take the time to poke fun at a picture of Michele Bachmann eating a corn dog when all you have to do is wait a few minutes for her to say something idiotic? Eating a corn dog doesn't make someone a bad presidential candidate, but not understanding how the government works sure as hell does.

In an interview with CNN, Bachmann trotted out the tired old phrase "legislating from the bench" in reference to Varnum, the 2009 Iowa Supreme Court decision that allowed same-sex marriage here. She's opposed, she said, to legislating from the bench. She's opposed to judges "substituting their opinion for that of the people," which is what she thinks happened in Iowa.

OK, listen closely, Michele: Judges have one job, and that's to interpret the laws in light of the Constitution. Judges do not consult "the people" before making their decisions. They don't have to. If judges based their interpretation of the laws based on the will of the people, we wouldn't need judges. Hell, we wouldn't even need law schools.

Does Michele Bachmann really not know this?

I mean, I can understand pretending not to know it in order to appeal to the uneducated. But those people are already going to vote for her. How does a real or pretend misunderstanding of how government works help you win over the undecided? The independent? The people who actually know what role the judicial branch is supposed to play?

The CNN interviewer asked Bachmann what harm she thought had been done by the 2009 ruling. She didn't answer the question, but rather said it was more important for people to "weigh in on the laws they choose to live under." In other words, she thought the people should have been able to vote on same-sex marriage.

But what people, Michele? The bigoted? The self-righteous? We had a vote last November and a slim majority of Iowans--incited by out-of-state special interest groups--fired three Supreme Court justices. Not for malfeasance. Not for corruption. For disagreeing with them.

For doing their jobs right, essentially.

I wish Bachmann had attempted to answer the question about what harm had befallen Iowa since gay men and women were allowed to marry. If she were truly honest, she would have had to admit that the state has proceeded apace with nary a blip attributed to Varnum. If on the other hand she was just being Michele Bachmann, she would have come up with something. I have a feeling, though, that she probably would have just echoed what the State claimed during the 2009 hearing might happen if same-sex marriage were allowed--harm to children of same-sex couples, basically. The Court found these arguments specious and unsupported.

Of course, "specious and unsupported" means "perfectly logical" to the people Bachmann is trying to appeal to.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Corn Dog Affair

By now everyone has seen the ridiculous picture of Michele Bachmann eating a corn dog at the Iowa State Fair, and of course there have been scores of lascivious comments about how it looks like she's performing fellatio and isn't that hilarious and ha ha Michele Bachman is going on down on a corn dog and so on and so on.

The jokes are tiresome, and they're cheap, and even taking into account what a nasty human being and even worse presidential prospect Bachmann is, they're not really fair. Yeah, remember this date, because this is going to be the first and last day the Runes ever sort of stands up for Michele Bachmann.

Let's approach this from a comedy standpoint: Corn dogs are not a new invention. They've been around since the '20s. Everyone knows what they look like. Everyone knows they go in your mouth. So if you believe that someone eating a corn dog appears to be performing fellatio, then you have to believe that everyone eating a corn dog appears to be performing fellatio. Thus, there is no joke. You can't pick and choose: "Hey, this person I don't like looks as if he or she is knob-gobbling that corn dog--but of course it looks perfectly respectable when I do it."

Some pundits and bloggers and Facebook commenters have said that publishing the unflattering picture of Bachmann is an attempt to sexually humiliate a female presidential candidate. (One person, apparently new to the planet, asked "Would the same picture have been published if it were a man with half a corn dog in his mouth?" Uh--yes.) Others are taking a more sophomoric approach, posting remarks implying that Bachmann is sure enjoying that phallic substitute, wink wink. The former group might be jumping to conclusions; the latter group's leering is misguided because, again, you can't make fun of someone else's enjoyment of, uh, corn dogs if it's something you enjoy yourself. After all, to borrow (and truncate) a quote from Lenny Bruce, "...that's one nice lady."

There are plenty of good reasons to make fun of Michele Bachmann, including the fact that she thinks aligning herself with the right-wing fringe is going to make her electable in November 2012. But hey, as a corn dog eater she has nothing to be ashamed of.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Things That Aren't Going To Happen

Here's one thing I know for sure: I'm never going to be involved in the election process for a new pope. One reason is that popes are elected by the College of Cardinals, a group of which I will never be a member for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I'm not Catholic.

I only mention this because the sad human being and delusional presidential candidate Rick Santorum was in the news again today, blathering on about how the Iowa Supreme Court tried to "redefine nature" by allowing same-sex marriage in this state in 2009. (As in my previous Santorum post, I wish someone would start pinning him down on phrases like this. "Hey, Rick, can you point to the passage in the court's decision that redefines nature, or, if you can't do that, could you explain what the hell you mean by redefining nature? Because not only didn't it happen, it doesn't make sense.")

In the midst of his blathering, Santorum was asked if he would appoint a Supreme Court justice who would reinstate anti-sodomy laws. According to the story in Mother Jones magazine, he dodged the question. But beyond the idiocy of someone who thinks it's perfectly sensible and Constitutional for government to regulate what two consenting adults do in private, I have to laugh at anyone who thinks Santorum will ever in his life have an opportunity to nominate a Supreme Court justice.

The closest this twit will ever come to selecting a Supreme Court justice will be if he coaches a team in the Fantasy Judicial League.

Monday, August 08, 2011

America, We Have A Problem

This is a piece I posted on Facebook a few days before Congress screwed the pooch on the debt-ceiling compromise. Looks like you're going to have to squint to read it, so here's a recap. That first little Venn diagram shows that the government--the people we elect to office--is a subset of all Americans. If someone wants to argue that point, bring it on.

The second Venn diagram illustrates what I consider a problem (and by the way, of all the things I've forgotten from junior high math, why isn't the Venn diagram one of them?). The problem is that most elected officials think that being elected lifts them out of the set they came from. As the diagram shows, they think Washington orbits the rest of America. This isn't a good thing. If they feel they don't have to work for the greater good of the entire country (because, say, they're in the pockets of corporate interests), then who will? Who's going to protect us from the people we elected? Who's going to bring these people down to Earth where they came from?

Here's another part of the problem. Too many Americans also think Washington orbits the rest of us. Too many people have forgotten that the government--and the power it holds--comes from us. Thus, we hear constant griping: "The government can't do anything right," "I love my country but don't trust my government," "If you think [whatever] is screwed up now, wait till government gets a hold of it." And those who gripe are naturally going to be highly susceptible to the Tea Party message that "the government" is the problem.

If you can't point to any examples of your elected officials working on your behalf (or if elected officials actually do do something on your behalf and the opposition manages to make you think exactly the opposite--hello, admittedly flawed healthcare bill), then hell, no wonder you think of the government as your enemy.

This has to change.

We have to stop thinking that our elected officials are somehow above the rest of us. Sadly, this probably means we'll have to stop thinking that way before the elected officials do. We have to start thinking of the government as "us" instead of "them." That's the kind of thinking that led to the safety nets of Social Security and Medicare. That's the kind of thinking that led to consumer protection and worker safety laws. That's the kind of thinking that's going to get us out of this "Every man for himself" mindset.

Social Security isn't the government helping us. It's us helping us.

Universal healthcare isn't a socialist* plot. It's us helping us.

Our elected officials aren't "them." They're us. Or they're supposed to be, anyway.

There are people who say we should leave everything up to the vagaries of the free market. I say those people are worshiping at the wrong altar.

If we don't start electing people who will stand up for us, our elected officials might as well start wearing the logos of the corporations who are sponsoring them.

*The use of scare-words by corporate tools will be covered in a future entry.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

E. Coli Claims Life of Local Sailor

Remember the big e.coli outbreak of 2006? Yeah, I wouldn't have either except that I was reminiscing in my long-forgotten Rat Race Choir blog and found this entry from September of that year. Enjoy.

WHARFTOWN, Mass. - Contaminated spinach is being blamed for the death yesterday of Popeye T. Sailorman, a colorful local character known for his massive forearms, his infectious laugh, and his decades-long rivalry with a local bully known only as Brutus.

Witnesses say Popeye had just squeezed open a can of spinach, forcing the contents to arc into the air and land in his open mouth--a feat of dexterity he had performed on numerous occasions without incident. Only after the elderly sailor dropped to the ground and began vomiting did the onlookers notice that the can was labeled Earthbound Farms, a brand of spinach recalled recently because of its link to an outbreak of e.coli.

"He was strong to the finish," said an acquaintance, Wimpy J. Wellington. "Well, except for when he was convulsing and screaming for a merciful end to the excruciatingly painful cramps, bloody diarrhea, and complete kidney failure."

Popeye's longtime girlfriend, Olive Oyl, released this statement: "Popeye was always ready to fight for my honor. It's one of life's bitter ironies that he was felled by the vegetable he loved most, the vegetable that gave him his incredible strength.

"I'll miss him," concluded Ms Oyl. "He was what he was."

Friday, August 05, 2011

Rick Santorum's Fantasy World

Noted GOP presidential candidate and sad human being Rick Santorum is in the news again today. That's the trouble with living in Iowa during the pre-caucus season--I didn't even get a chance to blog about the last thing he was in the news for before he shot off his mouth again. (Two days ago Santorum signed the National Organization for Marriage's pledge that as president he would try to amend the Constitution to define marriage as "one man, one woman," which isn't really news because I suspect Santorum signs one or two pledges of this sort before breakfast every day, but which I would have used as a dig at Mitt Romney, who also signed the pledge in an effort to prove that there are no depths to which he will not sink to grab the votes of the most hatefully diseased minds in the state.)

So yesterday Santorum told the Des Moines Register editorial board that the courts have "created a right to sexual liberty that diminishes the right to religious liberty." I hope the editorial board laughed in his face, but I don't know anyone on the board so I don't know if that's their style or not. The story doesn't say one way or the other, so let's assume they heard him out.

His explanation: "Same-sex marriages jeopardizes religious liberty because the government may threaten license-holders such as marriage counselors who refuse to treat gay couples." He goes on to say that the courts have thus created a "super-right."

Much the way Santorum has created an argument that is "super-specious."

Sexual liberty, beyond the fact that it has nothing to do with same-sex marriage, is not now nor has it ever been a right granted by the courts. It's yours when you're born. It's a human right. You are free to have sex with anyone who is legally and mentally capable of granting consent. Courts and governments through history have tried to repress this right, but it makes no different if they're repressing it or recognizing it: The right exists.

Santorum doesn't want to acknowledge this because he lives in a fantasy world where his religious beliefs trump everything else. He also told the Register editors that if the pursuit of happiness means the pursuit of pleasure, then "we won't be a country very long."

This is where I wish someone would have asked "Rick--what the hell do you mean by that? I mean, seriously, that doesn't make sense. What will happen to the country? Tell us how it will cease to be a country. Please explain what you're talking about instead of making vague threats."

Personally, I think the country would be in more danger--certainly the Constitution would be--if people like Rick Santorum were given the power to define "the pursuit of happiness."

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Newts in the News

Well, we're five months away from the Iowa Caucuses and every day a different combination of Republican presidental candidates descends on the state and traipses around saying silly things. At this point in the process, candidates are not looking for the votes of moderate Republicans and certainly not interested in independent voters. They're mainly trying to out-bigot and out-reactionary each other so they can bring out the most rabid anti-gay, anti-Muslim, anti-Obama voters next January. There'll be time enough to court sensible folks if they win the nomination.

So who's making news in Iowa today? Let's start with Newt Gingrich, who addressed a group of civic leaders at the Cedar Rapids Country Club (truly a man of the people, that Newt) and made up a new phrase, "bureaucratic socialism," to describe Obama's policies. He also called the president a left-wing radical, which if true would certainly be news to all of us who have watched Obama capitulate to the right-wingers for the last couple of years. The actual quote was "Obama is a left-wing radical who wants to raise taxes." I don't know if the Newt has noticed, but (a) most economists agree that eliminating the Bush tax cuts is essential to a balanced budget, (b) most Americans think this is the fair thing to do, and (c) if Obama wants to raise taxes, he has a funny way of showing it--namely, not raising taxes.

According to the story in the Register, the Newt got a hearty round of applause for suggesting that the Wall Street reforms enacted in 2010--the reforms meant to prevent the unethical practices that led to the economic quagmire we're still in--should be repealed. Who stands to benefit from the absence of such regulations? The people who already have all the money.

But that doesn't bother the Newt. He says Wall Street reform "restricts business" and is an example of unnecessary government regulation. I have no doubt that's where the applause broke out. To Newt and his followers at the Cedar Rapids Country Club, there's no such thing as a necessary government regulation. If it stands in the way of the rich getting richer, it's unnecessary.

And later, when the Newt said "Obama is creating bureaucratic socialism," the newspaper account doesn't give the context, other than the fact that it must have followed the equally fanciful "left-wing radical" remark. But I'm not sure the Newt needed context in that crowd. I'm not sure he needed complete sentences. He could just as easily have read from a list of dog-whistle words: socialist, left-wing, unnecessary regulations, raise taxes, ya-da-ta, ya-da-ta.

And the Cedar Rapids Country Club would have thought he was actually saying something.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Return of the Runes

Maybe it's because the 2012 campaigns are heating up. Maybe it's because I have more to say than I can fit in a Facebook status.

Or maybe it's because I keep running into stuff like this:

The drought in Texas has killed all the fish in the OC Fisher reservoir in the western part of the state, and has caused an overabundance of a bacteria called Chromatiaceae, which thrives in oxygen-deprived water. The presence of all this bacteria has also given what's left of the water a blood-red hue.

Now, according to the story on msnbc.com, the picture of this blood-red reservoir caught the attention of an Indiana theologian named Paul Begley, who responded with a YouTube video in which he noted that this could in fact be a sign of the apocalypse--which a lot of people seem to be in quite a hurry for, though that's another entry for another time.

Begley cited a verse in Revelation that goes something like "The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it turned into blood like that of a dead person, and every living thing in the sea died."

I stopped caring about apocalyptic predictions when I learned in one of my college religion classes that people have been making them for about 2000 years. But by golly, when some attention-craving yahoo with a camcorder can read Revelation and interpret "the sea" as "a 5000-acre lake in west Texas," I know one thing: It's time to crank up the Runes again.