Digital Chum - Virtual fish guts and other nonsense



An insightful excerpt from this article:

And right now the Republican Party accommodates too much quackery, belligerence and misplaced moralism to play a fully credible part in a vital, essential debate about the size and scope of government.

I make special note of the phrase "right now" because the Republican Party was not always that way. The editorial also notes that there’s hope, which is encouraging.

I agree with Bachmann. Oh… nevermind.

In yesterday’s Republican debate, Michele Bachmann made an uncharacteristically lucid comment regarding Newt Gingrich’s claim that “I did no lobbying of any kind for any organization.” (Freddie and Fannie)

Said Bachmann…

You don’t need to be within the technical definition of being a lobbyist to still be influence-peddling.

Gingrich comes off as very Clinton’esque when he makes his “I didn’t lobby” claims.

Of course, at another point during the debate, Bachmann headed back to her comfortable but loopy world of sunshine and rainbows.

I think it’s just outrageous to continue to say over and over throughout the debates that I don’t have my facts right, when it as a matter of fact, I do. I’m a serious candidate for president of the United States, and my facts are accurate.


That sounds very much like, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.”

Anti-science? No surprise there.

Denying realityPaul Krugman had an editorial today in the New York Times about the decidedly anti-science bent of the Republican party… or at least of the current crop of candidates. John Huntsman seems to be the only candidate grounded in actual scientific reality at the moment. Romney was, too, but now he’s hedging.

When it comes to science, Republicans seem to have no problem with things like atomic theory, gravitational theory, germ theory, physics, chemistry, etc. The problem is just when it comes to science that reaches conclusions that don’t mesh well with their ideology (or the ideology of their base). The obvious mentions are evolution and climate change, both of which are supported by an astounding amount of evidence, yet both of which cause Republicans some discomfort; one on political note and one on a theological note. But rather than acting responsibly and dealing with the reality the science represents, they attack the science or the scientists or the data or (more often) the make-believe stories conjured up as easily-attackable straw men.

Sadly, Huntsman is way behind in the polls, so that leaves either the outright anti-science group or Romney, who has, in a politically stereotypical move, hedged his bets on science in an attempt to placate the Republican base. That leaves the party with pretty lame options. As Krugman says in his editorial…

So it’s now highly likely that the presidential candidate of one of our two major political parties will either be a man who believes what he wants to believe, even in the teeth of scientific evidence, or a man who pretends to believe whatever he thinks the party’s base wants him to believe.

Phil Plait, on his Bad Astronomy blog, follows up on Krugman’s piece with a few more details on some of the candidates, and with this thought…

[Huntsman] recently said he thinks both evolution and global warming are real. This makes me sad, and scared. Why? Because this statement is considered bold.

How can it be bold to accept reality, to not deny the overwhelming evidence, and to agree with the vast, vast majority of scientists studying the very topics of discussion?

Huntsman wants his party not to be "the antiscience party". But that shouldn’t be bold. That should be common sense.

It should be common sense. Sadly, for most of the Republican presidential candidates, it seems to be neither common nor sensible.

Hooray for New York!

New York finally passed legislation to allow same-sex marriage in their state. According to CNN (and other news sites), the vote was 33-29 in favor. It was the “first time a state Senate with a Republican majority has approved such a bill.”

Other than the awesome news that gay couples will now have the same rights as straight couples, that also means that there are still 29 people in the New York senate that are probably theocratic bigots.

Says the CNN article…

The new law, which will allow same-sex couples in New York to marry within 30 days, drew a sharp rebuke from opponents, who spent millions to try to defeat the measure.

Because, you know… those damn gays!

But the Catholic Church stepped up in support! Oh wait. No they didn’t.

“We worry that both marriage and the family will be undermined by this tragic presumption of government in passing this legislation that attempts to redefine these cornerstones of civilization,” the state’s Catholic bishops said in a joint statement released late Friday. It was signed by Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan and seven other bishops.

It’s an absurd argument. Marriage isn’t undermined by omg-teh-gheys!!!. It’s undermined (if it is at all) by drunken Vegas weddings, marriages of convenience, sex scandals and infidelity, hypocrisy, televised marriage contests, marrying for money, serial marrying, arranged marriages, and a myriad of other things, none of which have anything to do with two people of the same sex loving each other.

And to show how loving and considerate the opponents of same-sex marriage are…

Opponents of the marriage equality law have vowed to take political action against any Republican who voted for the bill.

Because presumably, standing up for equal rights is just wrong and should be punished!

Fortunately, there were enough rational politicians to get this measure passed. It’s sad that it needs to be passed at all. You’d think in a country that prides itself on freedom and human rights, this would be a complete non-issue, but the religious right can’t help but try to impose their twisted moral values on the rest of us.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg gets it, though.

“In recent weeks, I have had many conversations with our state Senators. I emphasized that not only is marriage equality consistent with bedrock American principles, but it is also consistent with bedrock Republican Party principles of liberty and freedom — and the Republicans who stood up today for those principles will long be remembered for their courage, foresight, and wisdom. In fact, 10 or 20 or 30 years from now, I believe they will look back at this vote as one of their finest, proudest moments,” Bloomberg said in a statement released shortly after the vote.

So three cheers for New York. Kudos to those Republicans who had the wisdom and courage to stand up to their party’s archaic stance on the matter.

And congratulations to all those who are waiting to be married and now are able.

The RNC’s “Purity” Resolutions

The Republican National Committee will be in Hawaii this week for its annual meeting to discuss its agenda. One of the items on the agenda is a series of ten statements dubbed the “purity” test by the media. The actual name is a mouthful: Resolution on Reagan’s Unity Principle for Support of Candidates. The idea is that Republican candidates must agree with at least eight of the ten statements in order to qualify for campaign contributions and/or an endorsement from the RNC.

It seems it was originally proposed in November of 2009, but wasn’t taken up for consideration. Reportedly, it will be this week.

I’ve read mixed reactions about the proposal. Some think it’s a good idea. Some think the Republicans are shooting themselves in the foot. Of course, the RNC can do what it wants, and though I can understand their desire to have a sort of litmus test for candidates, this seems somewhat draconian.

Here’s a link to the entire document (it’s a PDF), and below I have a list of each of the ten items along with my commentary on each one.

We support smaller government, smaller national debt, lower deficits and lower taxes by opposing bills like Obama’s “stimulus” bill;

I’m onboard with that… except for the wording. It seems silly to include the final clause “by opposing bills like Obama’s ‘stimulus’ bill.” Not only are the scare quotes overly dramatic and laden with unnecessary sarcasm, but wouldn’t it be more constructive to give a more positive suggestion about how to reach the goal?

We support market-based health care reform and oppose Obama-style government run healthcare;

Again with the unnecessary “Obama-style” word choice. Why not just “We support market-based health care reform?” I think a simple approach to health care reform would be a good choice, but of course there needs to be regulation. There is some good in the current healthcare proposal… no exclusions for pre-existing conditions, for example… but something leaner would be better. On the other hand, if the current proposal doesn’t pass, healthcare reform will be essentially dead for another few decades. I suppose I can say that I, too, support market-based health care reform, but it really depends on what is meant by “market-based health care reform.” There’s plenty more to say here, but I’ll just leave it at that, since the statement is so vague.

We support market-based energy reforms by opposing cap and trade legislation;

This statement is mostly meaningless in what it supports, but says more about what it opposes. Republicans are notorious for being climate change deniers, and it almost seems that their denial stems from their dislike for any solution that costs money. I don’t know what is meant by “market-based energy reforms” but gauging from what I hear from many Republicans, it means letting companies pollute all they want, drilling for more oil, burning more fossil fuels, and flipping the bird to the environment… and to science.

We support workers’ right to secret ballot by opposing card check;

Hooray! This is one that I support 100%!… and it’s strangely specific compared to most of the other statements. The union push to eliminate anonymous voting is basically giving them free rein to use precision bullying and intimidation tactics. They complain about corporate intimidation of employees, but the fact is that, with secret ballots, neither the company nor the union knows how any individual voted. That’s as it should be.

We support legal immigration and assimilation into American society by opposing amnesty for illegal immigrants;

I’m of mixed opinion here. I support legal immigration and assimilation into American society. The rest of the statement is a non sequitur in reference to the first part. You don’t support legal immigration by opposing amnesty. The two are related but not dependant. I’m undecided on the amnesty issue.

We support victory in Iraq and Afghanistan by supporting military-recommended troop surges;

“We support victory.” That’s meaningless tripe. Everyone supports victory. It’s not a question of whether someone supports victory or not. It’s a question of whether victory is even possible… which it probably isn’t in any meaningful way. Invading Afghanistan was understandable and (mostly) warranted. Invading Iraq was not. That aside, these people have been fighting amongst themselves for longer than our country has been in existence and suddenly we think we can resolve all their problems? Not gonna happen. Waste of money. Waste of time. Waste of human life.

We support containment of Iran and North Korea, particularly effective action to eliminate their nuclear weapons threat;

Yes. I support this as well, but the caveat is that it depends on what they mean by “effective action.” The recent Republican track record on this is less than stellar.

We support retention of the Defense of Marriage Act;

The Defense of Marriage Act is nothing but blatant rights-removing, religion-based bigotry and homophobia. No… I don’t support this statement in the least.

We support protecting the lives of vulnerable persons by opposing health care rationing and denial of health care and government funding of abortion;

This statement is laughable because our current system is all about rationing and denial of health care. Are they suggesting that everyone should have unlimited health care coverage? Isn’t that… *gasp!*… socialistic? As for government funding of abortion… I don’t care if it’s government funded or not as long as the right to have an abortion isn’t restricted. However, I do support protecting the lives of “vulnerable persons.”

We support the right to keep and bear arms by opposing government restrictions on gun ownership;

I’m okay with this statement, too, assuming it doesn’t mean that Average Joe and Frank the Felon can stock up their houses with automatic weapons and RPGs. The statement is vague on that point. I think existing regulations are fine for the most part… waiting periods and registrations are nothing insidious.

So, overall, the statements are a bit too vague to just accept unconditionally… and a few of them are vague to the point of meaninglessness… and at least one is reprehensible. It doesn’t seem to be a collection of statements on which the Republicans want to hang their future, but it will be interesting to see what they decide.

However, it looks like I would pass the test because I support at least eight of the statements. In most cases, my support is conditional, but given the vagueness of some of the statements, I think it’s only fair that I add the necessary detail on my own. But even though I’m not a Democrat, I don’t think I’ll be calling myself a Republican any time soon.

They still have a long way to go.

These few things aside…

I was watching some news commentary shows this morning and it just reinforced my view that, from a fiscal standpoint, I agree so much more with Republicans than I do with Democrats.

Regardless of stripes, it seems that politicians can’t seem to answer simple questions. So much so that when one actually does answer a question directly and clearly, it seems like the fabric of space-time has been torn asunder.

That aside, I would almost consider myself a Republican if it weren’t for their blatantly anti-science positions… and their love affair with the religious right…  their disdain for education and intelligence… and their tendency to spout disinformation when it serves their purposes (okay… Democrats do that, too, but Republicans are just better at it).

But I like the way (generally) the Republicans (used to… pre-Bush) handle money.

Right turn, Clyde… or not.

I’ve mentioned before that I wish the Republican party would “go back to being the fiscally conservative, small government party they used to be instead of the religious, anti-science, anti-intellectual, anti-environment party they are now.”

Andrew Sullivan, over at The Daily Dish,  seems to have the same idea, but in more detail. Andrew and I are not alone, either, since I’ve seen links to his post from two other blogs today, as well as a post by Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs who also put together a list of why he’s parted ways with the Right. No doubt there are plenty more who agree with these folks.

Here’s a sampling of items from both posts that I find particularly noteworthy (though I recommend going through the full posts of both blog authors).

From Andrew Sullivan:

  • I cannot support a movement that holds torture as a core value.
  • I cannot support a movement that holds that purely religious doctrine should govern civil political decisions and that uses the sacredness of religious faith for the pursuit of worldly power.
  • I cannot support a movement that would back a vice-presidential candidate manifestly unqualified and duplicitous because of identity politics and electoral cynicism.
  • I cannot support a movement that does not accept evolution as a fact.
  • I cannot support a movement that sees climate change as a hoax and offers domestic oil exploration as the core plank of an energy policy
  • I cannot support a movement that refuses to distance itself from a demagogue like Rush Limbaugh or a nutjob like Glenn Beck.
  • I cannot support a movement that believes that the United States should be the sole global power, should sustain a permanent war machine to police the entire planet, and sees violence as the core tool for international relations.

From Charles Johnson (reasons why he parted ways with the Right):

  • Support for bigotry, hatred, and white supremacism (see: Pat Buchanan, Ann Coulter, Robert Stacy McCain, Lew Rockwell, etc.)
  • Support for throwing women back into the Dark Ages, and general religious fanaticism (see: Operation Rescue, anti-abortion groups, James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Tony Perkins, the entire religious right, etc.)
  • Support for anti-science bad craziness (see: creationism, climate change denialism, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, James Inhofe, etc.)
  • Support for homophobic bigotry (see: Sarah Palin, Dobson, the entire religious right, etc.)
  • Support for anti-government lunacy (see: tea parties, militias, Fox News, Glenn Beck, etc.)
  • Support for conspiracy theories and hate speech (see: Alex Jones, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Birthers, creationists, climate deniers, etc.)
  • A right-wing blogosphere that is almost universally dominated by raging hate speech (see: Hot Air, Free Republic, Ace of Spades, etc.)
  • Hatred for President Obama that goes far beyond simply criticizing his policies, into racism, hate speech, and bizarre conspiracy theories (see: witch doctor pictures, tea parties, Birthers, Michelle Malkin, Fox News, World Net Daily, Newsmax, and every other right wing source)

I think all of those issues are critical issues with the Right, but I tend to focus in on the anti-science, anti-intellectual issues like evolution and climate change… and then I just continue down the path of monumental incredulity at the crap that is touted, supported, and defended by what used to be a fiscally and bureaucratically conservative and responsible party.

I will grant that not all Republicans are this way, but the party in general (or as Andrew Sullivan puts it… “in so far as it means the dominant mode of discourse among the institutions and blogs and magazines and newspapers and journals that support the GOP”) has taken on the self-righteous air of superiority, while in practice, promoting ignorance, hatred, and the idea that the better educated you are, the smarter you are, and the more experience you have, the less qualified you are to partake in intellectually challenging endeavors.

If this country is going to improve its status (and it does need improving) or even maintain its current position in the world, the Right needs to change its ways or get out of the way, because its current pattern of blocking science and education, glorifying ignorance, and pounding its virtual fists on the podium of bigotry doesn’t cut it and it won’t cut it in the future.

As Charles Johnson said:

The American right wing has gone off the rails, into the bushes, and off the cliff.

I won’t be going over the cliff with them.

I won’t be jumping off that cliff, either.

Political Wish

I wish the Republican party would go back to being the fiscally conservative, small government party they used to be instead of the religious, anti-science, anti-intellectual, anti-environment party they are now.

Just sayin’.

Glenn Beck and the Key to the City

It seems that Glenn Beck has received the “key to the city” from the mayor of his hometown, Mount Vernon, Washington. Bud Norris (the mayor), evidently emphasized that “the honor was for his professional accomplishments, not his political views.”

There were about 800 demonstrators on hand, reportedly evenly split between supporters and detractors.

Beck gave an acceptance speech at the event. MSNBC reports (emphasis mine)…

Beck, 45, mostly stayed away from discussing politics. But he said he didn’t remember politics being so divisive when he was growing up. The country could count on a bright future if people would stop tearing each other apart, he said.

I’m not sure if that’s hypocrisy or irony coming from the guy who said that Obama is a racist and has a “deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.” He’s also the guy who said “Everyone is Hitler, except for me!” and…

The Manchurian Candidate couldn’t destroy us faster than Barack Obama. If you were planning a sleeper to come in and become president of the United States, this is how he would do it.

(and that’s pretty mild compared to a lot of his stuff)

This buffoon of hatred, bigotry, and absurdism is the guy who says we should stop tearing each other apart? Well… actually, he didn’t say we should stop. He said that our country could count on a bright future if we would stop.

I guess he wants no part of that.

Palin’s popularity is declining

Sarah Palin According to an MSNBC article, Sarah Palin’s "favorability" is dropping a bit as she prepares to leave her position as governor of Alaska. A Washington Post-ABC poll showed that 53% of Americans view her negatively, while only 40% see her in a positive light, which is her lowest positive rating since she was first chosen to be John McCain’s running mate (and became a subject of polls such as this).

Not surprisingly, Republicans still hold her in high regard… as many as 70% view her favorably and rank her among the top three contenders for a presidential candidacy in 2012. White evangelical protestants are her most avid supporters, but even their view of her hasn’t remained untarnished.

Here’s a quote from the article summarizing the poll (emphasis mine).

As Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin prepares for the next stage of her political career, a majority of Americans hold an unfavorable view of her, and there is broad public doubt about her leadership skills and understanding of complex issues […]

I had to pause when reading that because, as usual, I’m constantly amazed that anyone ever thought she did have an understanding of complex issues… or that they thought she did have leadership skills suitable for a vice presidency.

In the 2008 election, I had been wavering between Obama and McCain. I was leaning toward McCain because he seemed like he was going to maintain fiscal conservatism without going all theological on the country the way Bush had done. I was leaning away from Obama because of typical "Democrat" things like union support, crazy spending, and bigger government.

Then McCain picked Palin (or was directed to pick her… I don’t know) and after I learned about her and heard her speak, my decision was made. Palin was not (and still is not) vice presidential material, much less presidential material, and she repeatedly showed it every time she took the microphone or granted an interview. The media wasn’t hard on her. They tossed softballs. Katie Couric wasn’t even hard on her, but Palin came across looking like a uneducated bible thumper in nice clothes. She couldn’t answer simple questions. She got defensive when Couric pressed her for an answer to a reasonable question about what news sources she reads. She conveyed what I consider to be some reprehensible moral positions.

I was disappointed because, even though I had (mostly) liked McCain, I couldn’t support him as president after making a choice like Palin for his vice president. So I was stuck with Obama, who I admired for some things, but who didn’t quite represent what I wanted. I liked (and still do) his international stance, his speaking ability, his education, some of his ideas… but I didn’t like some fiscal positions and union support.

Palin was a deal-breaker because she was clearly unqualified on multiple fronts… yet Republicans and evangelicals just loved her to death. Maybe it’s just a religious thing… a carryover from Bush’s eight years of mobilizing and empowering the religious right to commandeer the Republican party. Maybe it all has to do with Palin making claims of God-inspired wars and praying that the country is following God’s plan. Maybe they liked her because, not only was she overtly religious, invoking God and faith on a regular basis, but she also winked at them and said, "You betcha!"

It certainly can’t be her professional qualifications.