Wednesday, May 26, 2010

American I-dull

The honeymoon is over. I officially no longer give a crap who wins Idol.

I've noticed for a while that the show had been becoming more and more formulated and predictable, which is a shame. For the first few seasons I was glued to the TV but over the years it seemed that they started picking contestants more for their ability to fit into a convenient niche or their ability to predictably appeal to marketable demographics and the fact that they could (not always capably) carry a tune was a secondary consideration. It seems like every year there MUST be an ambiguously gay man, a rocker chick, a rocker dude, a cute kid, the perky girl, the black guy and girl, the Latino/Latina, the sob story, etc... I think with Taylor Hicks winning a few years back the producers had a shocking "OMG" moment and realized "This guy is easily not marketable and selling his records are going to be difficult." Since then they've seemed to have stacked the deck so that at the end they would stand a better chance of having a winner who could sell records. The result has been a string of safe, non-controversial winners who are easily forgettable. Honestly, do you find yourself saying, "I simply could not live without my David Cook CD?" Me either.

And now that Simon is leaving as well the only highlight for me during the "critique" part of the show is going to be Ellen's occasional one-liners. The snarkiness at the end of the line of drivel was usually some of my favorite part of the show. Randy's "Dude! Dog! What?!" and Kara's overwrought mental contortions do nothing for me. If they do not find someone who is absolutely ruthless and nasty to replace Simon (for me they will have to out-Simon Simon) I don't know if I will actually watch it next season.

And what the hell is going on with Seacrest? Is the strenuous schedule the man keeps causing him to crack? He does realize he's just an emcee, right? The moments where he transformed into Contestant Advocate Man were awkward and unbecoming. His responsibility should be to make sure that the show flows along at an acceptable pace, not to ensure that the judges are giving adequately constructive feedback.

If Idol wants to keep me as a viewer next year they have to go back to what they were during season one: an open competition where anyone with a great voice can get a shot at a record deal - not a controlled marketing machine pandering to the largest possible demographic mix.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Rand (I'm not a racist - I only pander to racists) Paul

Joe Conason had an excellent article in about the candidate from Kentucky:
"To understand Rand Paul's agonized contortions over America's civil rights consensus, let's review the tainted pedigree of the movement that reared him. Specifically, both the Kentucky Republican Senate nominee and his father, Ron Paul, have been closely associated over the past two decades with a faction that described itself as 'paleolibertarian,' led by former Ron Paul aide Lew Rockwell and the late writer Murray Rothbard. They eagerly forged an alliance with the 'paleoconservatives' behind Patrick Buchanan, the columnist and former presidential candidate whose trademarks are nativism, racism and anti-Semitism."

. . .

"The last time that anyone examined the details of the Paul family's gamy history was back in 2008, when the New Republic dug up copies of newsletters sent out under Ron's name to raise money, and found that they were replete with ugly references to blacks, Martin Luther King, homosexuals and other targets of the racist far right. At the time, Reason magazine, a libertarian magazine that opposed the 'paleo' deviation, gave the most revealing account of its movement's degenerate element.

"Following Ron Paul's dismal performance in the 1988 presidential campaign as the Libertarian Party candidate, Rockwell and Rothbard 'championed an open strategy of exploiting racial and class resentment to build a coalition with populist "paleoconservatives," producing a flurry of articles and manifestos whose racially charged talking points and vocabulary mirrored the controversial Paul newsletters' uncovered by the New Republic. Rothbard died in 1995, but in 2008 Rockwell was still at Paul's side as a top advisor, 'accompanying him to major media appearances; promoting his candidacy on the blog; publishing his books; and peddling an array of the avuncular Texas congressman's recent writings and audio recordings.'

"According to Sanchez and Weigel, the tone of Paul's newsletters shifted to reflect his political circumstances. Between his first presidential campaign and his return to Congress in 1996 as a Republican, they were filled with slurs against blacks generally and Martin Luther King Jr. in particular, including the accusation that the civil rights leader 'seduced underage girls and boys.' Rothbard hated King deeply, describing him in November 1994 as 'a socialist, egalitarian, coercive integrationist, and vicious opponent of private-property rights ... who was long under close Communist Party control,' and concluding that 'there is one excellent litmus test which can set up a clear dividing line between genuine conservatives and neoconservatives, and between paleolibertarians and what we can now call "left-libertarians." And that test is where one stands on "Doctor" King.' (Then again, he hated Lincoln too, whom he disparaged in the same essay as 'one of the major despots of American history.')"

. . .

There is a reason why Rand Paul is choosing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as his primary example of the government over-stepping its boundries. There are a lot of other pieces of legislature at which he could have taken aim: anti-trust laws, OSHA, the newly-passed financial reform law... But in speaking out against the Civil Rights Act he's secretly winking at the far, far-right wing racist factions of the GOP. This is just like Reagan giving his first major campaign speech in Philadelphia, Mississippi where civil rights workers were killed in the 1960's. In speaking about the importance of "State Rights" at that speech he was giving a little wink and nod to racist southerners in a code that they clearly understood.

This veiled, secretive embracing of racism is present at every level of GOP campaigning. From the '08 presidential campaign where McCain did nothing to dispel or disavow the rampant racism that infected his campaign. It was only when he couldn't put the genie back in the bottle that he actually took the trouble to address the xenophobia and racism that began to overshadow his message. Just look at the TV ad campaign Linda McMahon is pushing in Connecticut: the whitest, white people in the whole state talking about how Linda is "one of them" and "understands their concerns." It may be a bit more innocuous than Sarah Palin blathering about "Real Americans" in redneck central but it essentially sends the same message.

Rob Simmons, We Hardly Knew Ya...

...well, not really. Anyone who has lived in Connecticut for a while knows who he is. He is getting another fifteen minutes of fame on the national level now that he is bowing out of the Republican primary race for the U.S. Senate. Which is a real shame. I actually kind of like Rob Simmons (OK, not really. but I do not loathe his very existence which is saying a lot for a Republican politican.)

I would rather he got the nomination over WWE CEO and general slimeball, Linda McMahon. He would have had broader appeal, is more moderate and falls more into the mold of the prototypical New England Republican. He would have fared MUCH better against Blumenthal than McMahon. Neither one of them stands a snowball's chance in hell of beating AG Rich Blumenthal, but if I were to choose who would be more representative of my state's values, I would have chosen the former congressman and decorated Vietnam War veteran over the "lady" who has appeared on national TV kicking wrestling commentators in the groin and sharing a beer with Stone Cold Steve Austin. ...not to mention the scandal swirling around her and her stable of wrestlers' steroid use.

Simmons is dropping out of the race after the GOP state convention chose McMahon over him and endorsed her. She's spent sixteen million dollars on the campaign thus far and with the election still over a year away is on pace to break records with her spending. Supposedly, she has set aside fifty million dollars of her own money to campaign for the seat. Simmons just could not match that pace of spending and is, like I am, that the GOP chose McMahon's over-stuffed war chest over the character and record of someone who has served his country in the Army and the CIA as well as in Congress.

"I'm not a multi-millionaire," Simmons said in an interview with the CT Mirror. "I own my home. I've got some property in Vermont that has some value. My wife and I are what you might call a middle-class family, and we have chosen to enter politics at this stage in our lives and have been successful without being multi-millionaires."

This is just further evidence of the continuing erosion of the Republican middle ground to the out of control, torrential flood that is the teabaggers. Simmons would have gone to the Senate and would have worked with members on both sides of the aisle. He was fairly moderate when he served in the House of Representatives. He's widely respected in the state for the work that he did to keep the sub base in Groton open. But that took bipartisan cooperation and that is an affront that simply will not be endured by the teabaggers. McMahon's message, on the other hand, is that she's going to D.C. to shake things up and implement "real change" whatever that means. To show that she's just a "normal person," a Beltway outsider she's running ads in Connecticut (and they have become rather ubiquitous) with "normal people" saying that Linda is one of them; that she understands them; blah blah blah... The only problem is that she's somehow corraled the whitest looking group of people possible. They all look like they've just walked out of the lounge at the Greenwich Yatch Club.

That's certainly not the Connecticut that I live in.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

It's Not Every Day...

...that I agree with Ann Coulter:

"Republican consultants are doing a wonderful job raising expectations sky-high for the November elections, so that now, even if Republicans do smashingly well, it will look like a defeat (and an across-the-board endorsement of Obama's agenda). Thanks, Republicans!
"That's what happened in the 1998 congressional elections, nearly foiling Clinton's impeachment. It's what happened to the Conservative Party in Britain a week ago.
"And that's what happened this week in the 12th Congressional District of Pennsylvania, formerly represented by Rep. John Murtha.
"Note to Republicans: Whenever possible, victory parties should be held after the election, not before it."
I'll go a step further, though.
The Democratic victory in PA's 12th district and, more importantly, Rand Paul's (I still cannot get over the fact that idiotarian Ron Paul named his son after Ayn Rand) defeat of the establishment GOP candidate in Kentucky's primary on Tuesday does not bode well for the G.O.P. at all. There were at least three other primary races, none of which got the attention that the Kentucky race recieved where a Tea Party-backed candidate defeated the establishment-backed G.O.P. candidate. It only illustrates how far to the extreme right the party is migrating. While it's true that usually only the die-hard, semi-fanatical part of either party votes in the primaries, what happened on Tuesday, I think, is a pretty clear sign of the direction in which the Republican Party is headed. The Tea-Party is highjacking the G.O.P. The inmates are now running the asylum.
This is nothing but good news for the Democrats. Fewer and fewer people outside of the fringe are really taking the nonsense being spewed by the far right very seriously. Most sane, normal people know that President Obama is not a Muslim, Socialist Manchurian Candidate poised to overthrow our way of life. The teabaggers polls lower than both the G.O.P. and the Democratic Party. The more mainstream candidates that fall to their burn and purge, the greater that chance that those seats will wind up being held by Democrats. The name Dede Scozzafava ring a bell for anyone?
Not to mention that Rand Paul has already shot himself in the foot... and we're not talking with some paltry .22 pea shooter. He pulled out a .357 Magnum and blew his damn toes off. One whole day after winning the primary he went on national TV and said that he supported the Civil Rights Act of 1965, but... ...thinks that the ignorant bigots of the time had the God-given first amendment right to tell African-Americans to get the hell away from their damn lunch counters and out of their frickin' store.
Yes, that's right. While he's all for making sure that the government doesn't discriminate against an individual because of the color of their skin but that they have no right to tell a privately-owned business that they cannot discriminate for the same reasons. To his credit, he did say that he, as an individual, would protest such an abhorrent practice. He's not bigoted; he's just an idiot. Just like his whack-a-doodle father he's all for abolishing income tax, the Department of Education, repealing laws like the Fair Labor Standards Act that protect individuals from being exploited by employers. In short, all the usual idiotic Libertarian ideas that would send us back in time to a point where child labor would be tolerated, your meat and produce isn't inspected to make sure it won't kill you and monopolies like Standard Oil run the country instead of the voting populace. Doesn't that sound quaint!?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

No manners

Via Balloon Juice:

"This kind of pointless, macho posturing is no doubt part of the reason Rand Paul is a teabag icon: 
"After winning Kentucky's Republican primary Tuesday night, Bowling Green ophthalmologist Rand Paul refused to take the call of congratulations from opponent Trey Grayson, according to Grayson's campaign manager Nate Hodson.

"Hodson did not elaborate, except to say 'it happened.'
"'This is truly a classless act in politics,' said Marc Wilson, a Republican lobbyist and friend of Trey Grayson."
 . . .

I'm sorry, but Rand's behavior isn't "macho posturing" or any such thing. It's just rude and asshole-like misbehavior. I guess that what comes with being named after an idiot, misguided author (Ayn Rand) by a father who is just as big an idiot (Ron Paul).

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Euclid Would Be So Proud!

Alabama math teacher uses potential assassination of President Obama as an example to explain geometry problem.
Secret Service pays him a visit.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Over-reaction to the new Miss U.S.A.

Via Tapped:

"Apparently, the new Miss USA, Rima Fakih, is of Lebanese descent. For the anti-Muslim right, her winning is a sign of the apocalypse.

"Michelle Malkin is savvy enough to mostly cloak her freak-out behind horror over Fakih's politics (although she can't resist a dig at those 'identity politics' people), while other conservative bloggers just go ahead and call her a terrorist. Professional Islamophobe Daniel Pipes combs the internet for other instances in which Muslim women have won beauty contests, and concludes there's some kind of 'an odd form of affirmative action' going on. Because how could anyone choose a Muslim over a 'real American' in a beauty contest?
"I'm not really a fan of beauty contests, but the tone and substance of the fever swamp's reaction to an Arab-American winning a beauty contest is at least useful for pointing out how some people's political opinions aren't based so much in questions of policy as anti-Muslim animosity. The level of anger is just so plainly disproportionate to the matter at hand as to be self-implicating. These people aren't worried about terrorism -- they're offended by the idea of Muslims being integrated into the most mundane and banal aspects of American society."

My Health

Some of you know that I have been struggling with low energy levels, intermittent low grade fevers and the like. My primary care doc has a theory and a lead he's following up on. The theory is that this is all related to a possible sleep apnea problem. I snore like someone trying to outroar a lion... I don't really ever get a decent night sleep and cannot honestly remember the last time I slept through the night without waking up at least once or twice. So, I have an appointment next month to see a pulmonologist to start working through and testing for my possible sleep apnea.

The possible lead, however scares me a little bit. I've had a slightly elevated white blood cell count for at least a year now with my monocyte count being high as well. Monocytes are macrophages. They way they work, unlike other white cells, is by consuming and enveloping cells that invade the body and sort of doing a suicide bomber kind of move, destroying the antigen and itself all at once. It's usually elevated in viral infections and, hence the name, Mononucleosis. But an elevated monocyte count could also be an indicator of monocytic leukemia...

He's referred me to the local Hematology/Oncology group for a consultation. I'm waiting to hear from one of the two offices as to when my appointment is going to be. In the mean time, I sit and imagine the worst.

Crazy 101

According to TPM:

"Texas textbook proposal would require teaching high school students about 'alternatives regarding long term entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare' and 'efforts by global organizations to undermine U. S. sovereignty'."

Yeah... and we liberals are the crazy ones? Aside from the Larouchies and truthers, the left is pretty devoid of paranoia or at least paranoia of this magnitude.

Friday, May 14, 2010

File under WTF!?

"28% of Republicans said the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico made them more likely to support drilling off the coast to an equal 28% who said it made them less likely to be supportive."

Any group of which 28% says that a catastrophic environmental disaster is going to make them more likey to support the methodology that created the disaster needs to be locked up in an asylum, en mass.

GOP Commiting Political Suicide?

From the Washington Post:

" would be absurd to deny that the Republican ideological coalition includes elements that are anti-immigrant -- those who believe that Hispanics, particularly Mexicans, are a threat to American culture and identity. When Arizona Republican Senate candidate J.D. Hayworth calls for a moratorium on legal immigration from Mexico, when then-Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) refers to Miami as a 'Third World country,' when state Rep. Russell Pearce (R), one of the authors of the Arizona immigration law, says Mexicans' and Central Americans' 'way of doing business' is different, Latinos can reasonably assume that they are unwelcome in certain Republican circles.

"The intensity of these Republican attitudes is evident not just from what activists say but also from what Republican leaders are being forced to say. Sen. John McCain, a long-term supporter of humane, comprehensive immigration reform, has run a commercial feeding fears of 'drug and human smuggling, home invasions, murder' by illegal immigrants."

"Never mind that the level of illegal immigration is down in Arizona or that skyrocketing crime rates along the border are a myth. McCain's tag line -- 'Complete the danged fence' -- will rank as one of the most humiliating capitulations in modern political history."


"Republicans have now sent three clear signals to Hispanic voters: California's Proposition 187, which was passed in 1994 and attempted to deny illegal immigrants health care and public education before being struck down in court; the immigration debate of 2006, dominated by strident Republican opponents of reform; and now the Arizona immigration law. According to a 2008 study by the Pew Hispanic Center, 49 percent of Hispanics said that Democrats had more concern for people of their background; 7 percent believed this was true of Republicans. Since the Arizona controversy, this gap can only have grown. In a matter of months, Hispanic voters in Arizona have gone from being among the most pro-GOP in the nation to being among the most hostile."

"Immigration issues are emotional and complex. But this must be recognized for what it is: political suicide. Consider that Hispanics make up 40 percent of the K-12 students in Arizona, 44 percent in Texas, 47 percent in California, 54 percent in New Mexico. Whatever temporary gains Republicans might make feeding resentment of this demographic shift, the party identified with that resentment will eventually be voted into singularity. In a matter of decades, the Republican Party could cease to be a national party."

Monday, May 10, 2010

AZ Governor's Over-Heated Rhetoric : No More Than Hyperbole for Political Gain

Via the Wonk Room:
"This weekend, Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) lashed out at President Obama for employing dark humor when joking about new Arizona immigration law SB-1070 at last week's White House Correspondents' Association dinner. In his comedic speech, Obama stated, 'We all know what happens in Arizona when you don't have ID — adios amigos!' Brewer, apparently, did not find Obama's comments very funny.
"Brewer has repeatedly cited drug related border violence to justify signing off on the likely unconstitutional SB-1070. 'The drug trafficking and border violence is out of control in Arizona and demands serious attention,' said Jan Brewer for Governor campaign spokesman Doug Cole in a statement released this weekend. 'Mr. President, this is not a laughing matter.' In a video released by her campaign, Brewer outlines a variety of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants that she characterizes as plaguing Arizona in the past year.
"Brewer has a right to be unamused by Obama poking fun at the absurdity of her state's new immigration law, but her self-righteous attack doesn't add up. FBI Uniform Crime Reports and statistics show that 'while the nation's illegal-immigrant population doubled from 1994 to 2004, according to federal records…the violent-crime rate declined 35 percent.' If anything, 'cartel operatives pass through border communities as quickly as possible, avoiding conflicts and attention.' The Arizona Republic reports that crime rates in Arizona border towns 'have remained essentially flat for the past decade, even as drug-related violence has spiraled out of control on the other side of the international line.' ' While smugglers have become more aggressive in their encounters with authorities, as evidenced by the shooting of a Pinal County deputy on Friday, allegedly by illegal-immigrant drug runners, they do not routinely target residents of border towns,'
the investigative report concludes.
"It's curious that Brewer still chose to release her video even after the Arizona Republic's widely disseminated article was published. However, some Arizonans aren't fooled as to what her motives are. Leo Federico, a retired teacher, told the Arizona Republic, 'That's politics…It's all about votes.' Yet while Brewer courts immigration hardliners, Latinos are overwhelmingly flocking to her opponent, State Attorney General Terry Goddard (D) — who is now leading in the polls.
"Brewer also hits Obama on federal inaction on immigration. Yesterday on Al Punto with Jorge Ramos, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) responded to similar criticisms, stating, 'it's illogical to hear the state of Arizona complaining about the federal government not doing anything and the two Republican senators from Arizona [Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl] won't join with us to do anything.' On her campaign website, Brewer also doesn't cite a single commitment to working with the federal government to solve the problem comprehensively by enacting immigration reform.
"Opponents of Arizona's law meanwhile claim that SB-1070 will make the state less safe by forcing police to prioritize immigration enforcement over violent crimes, draining strained financial and manpower resources, exacerbating civil rights violations, and fueling costly lawsuits."
. . .
As is usual with all Republicans, the truth or honest representitation of the issues is the first casualty in the quest for political gain. To claim that drug-related, violent crime is "out of control" when it's actually decreased by 35%, simply to inflame the residents of her state into supporting this unconstitutional law is reprehesible at best, utterly vile and disgusting in respect of a civil rights viewpoint.