Archive for the '[Politics]' category

Some thoughts on the recent tenure-related shooting

Feb 15 2010 Published by under [Politics], Science news

In the wake of the tragedy in Alabama, there has as expected been a lot of discussion on the internet about the nature of the shooting and its implications.  In some sense, my impression is that the case has become a Rorschach test for lots of people, and they've seen reflected in it their own concerns or political crusades.  In that spirit, I thought I'd share a few thoughts on the incident and my impressions of some of the other commentary out there.

To summarize, last Friday afternoon at the University of Alabama in Huntsville three professors were killed and three others seriously wounded when a shooter opened fire at a biology faculty meeting.  Biology professor Amy Bishop was taken into custody and charged with murder.

The "twist" to the story is that Bishop had been denied tenure in April, and had appealed the decision.  The appeal was turned down on Friday, and this decision is what evidently precipitated the shooting.

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Captain America has a tradition of social commentary

Feb 13 2010 Published by under ... the Hell?, [Politics], Entertainment

If you haven't seen it yet, the most recent issue of the Marvel Comics series  Captain America has drawn the ire of teabaggers because of its negative portrayal of them.  Via Yahoo news,

Since 1941, Captain America has been one of the most popular comic book characters around. The fictional super-patriot fought Nazis during World War II, took on those who burned the American flag during the Vietnam era, and raked in hundreds of millions of dollars for Marvel Comics along the way.  Now, the appearance that he is taking on the Tea Party Movement in a storyline about investigating white supremacists has forced Marvel to apologize for the comic hero.

The Yahoo article also includes the relevant pages from issue 602 of Captain America:

I am of somewhat mixed feelings about the whole "controversy", if indeed it is one.  On one hand, I probably wouldn't be thrilled if a right-winger wrote a comic caricaturing liberals as fanatical communists (though I wouldn't be whining about it), on the other hand in my opinion the strip doesn't depict anything that isn't spot on.  I'm sorry to see that Marvel felt like they had to apologize for an artistic decision by a writer, though I can somewhat understand that they are an entertainment business that doesn't want to alienate any customers.

One thing I'd like to point out, though, is that the Captain America comic has a long history of addressing  social issues.  This isn't the first time that its writers have used the book and the character as a mirror to show its readers some of the unpleasant traits of America.

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Benjamin Franklin's words on the Constitution

Nov 18 2009 Published by under [Politics]

On Tuesday night, almost on the eve of a historic Senate vote on expanding health care coverage for Americans, hundreds of people congregated outside of Joe Lieberman's Connecticut house in a candlelight vigil to advocate for healthcare reform. The vigil, organized by the Interfaith Fellowship for Universal Healthcare, included rabbis who appealed to Lieberman's conscience to make him to the right thing and support reform.  From the Danbury News Times,

STAMFORD -- Quietly holding candles, hundreds of clergymen, congregants and reform advocates lined the sidewalks outside Independent U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman's Stamford home Sunday night in a show of support for universal health care.

"When we heard not only would he vote against it, but he'd use his power, his position as a swing vote ... to block it from coming to a vote, we had to send a message so he knows people who vote overwhelmingly favor the public option," said Rabbi Stephen Fuchs, of Congregation Beth Israel in West Hartford.
The vigil began at Stamford High School, Lieberman's alma mater, and ended at the senator's home, the Hayes House, across the street.

"In some sense, it's poetic," said Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy, who attended the vigil. "The place where Sen. Joseph Lieberman received his high school education, the place he visited upon his announcement to seek the vice presidency, a place where his run for the presidency began -- and it just so happens, a place across the street from where he lives."

Lieberman is going so far as to say that he'll filibuster health care because he doesn't believe that a public option will work.  He is, in essence, saying that his knowledge and "understanding" is much deeper than health care experts, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the evidence of every other industrialized nation's government health care systems and, quite frankly, a majority of the American people.

Putting aside the question whether Lieberman is sincerely critical of the idea of a public option or just continuing the disingenuous douchebaggery he's been known for ever since losing his Democratic primary, I thought this was a good time to remind folks of another man who had doubts about a big piece of legislation.  He was a big enough man, however, to realize that he was not the wisest person on earth.  (This realization, however, ironically meant that he probably was.)

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The Linkin' Log, video edition: October 8, 2009

Oct 08 2009 Published by under [Politics], Entertainment

Over the past couple of weeks, a few videos caught my eye, for various reasons.  I thought that it was a good time for a collection of links:

Via Steven Benen at Political Animal, a video has been found which encapsulates the obstructionist policy of the Republicans with respect to health care and, come to think of it, everything else:

Via Roger Ebert's "Answer Man" column, I learned of the movie Paranormal Activity, a low-budget, "Blair Witch"-style documentary horror film which is getting rave reviews as a stunningly scary film.  It hasn't received wide theatrical release yet, but hopefully it will be coming to a theater near you soon:

Shepard Smith, though an anchor on the stunningly dishonest Fox News, manages to demonstrate an admirably independent thought process.  This week, when Senator John Barrasso spouted spurious GOP talking points about the proposed public health option, Shep let him have it (via Talking Points Memo):

As long as we're speaking of Fox News personalities, I can't pass up pointing out what a phony slimebag Glenn Beck is.  Though it will surprise few that his teary-eyed commentaries are completely faked, it is still amazing that this video was released showing his tear-producing method: Vick's Vapo-Rub:

Finally, via HuffPost, some truly amazing video: the only known film footage of Anne Frank, a short scene in a video of the wedding of the girl next door.  This footage was released by the Anne Frank House, and is now on YouTube:

That's all for now!

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DougJ of Balloon Juice won the internets yesterday!

Sep 03 2009 Published by under [Politics], Silliness

I don't usually like making short posts without adding much substance, but I couldn't let this one go by. DougJ of Balloon Juice wrote yesterday about people's desire to see Dick Cheney actually run for President in 2012. His choice of title for the post is priceless, and I hereby declare that DougJ won the internets yesterday...

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Roger Ebert on 'death panels' and the power of a phrase

Aug 17 2009 Published by under [Politics], Entertainment

If you don't read Roger Ebert's blog, you probably should.  In recent years (and probably before that, but before blogs) he's been writing some of the most thoughtful posts I've seen on a range of topics, from politics to science to, of course, movies.  His recent post discusses "The Big Lie" that is Sarah Palin's "death panels."

Update: The comments are well worth reading as well.  Roger does an amazing job of remaining polite while concisely slapping down the rudest of the crazies who stop by for a fight.

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Catching "The Wave": still relevant

Aug 13 2009 Published by under ... the Hell?, [Politics], Entertainment

Watching crowds of lunatic extremists attempting to shut down any reasonable debate about healthcare by shouting down politicians at town halls and even bringing firearms to protests is reminiscent of the scare tactics that brownshirts used to secure power in pre-WWII Germany, a point that has been made by at least one observer.

It's worth pointing out that strong-arm and intimidation tactics, though often viewed as acceptable in an "end justifies the means" way,  tend to spiral out of control because of their very nature.  I'm reminded of an old made-for-TV movie, The Wave, about a high school teacher who starts a "youth movement" as a lesson which spirals quickly out of control.  The entire movie can be viewed on YouTube, in two twenty-something minute parts:

The movie, and its novelization, are based on a real-life incident which occurred in California in the 1960s.

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The anniversary of McCarthy's downfall

Jun 09 2009 Published by under [Politics]

Via Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann, I was reminded that today, June 9, is the anniversary of the day that red-baiting Senator Joseph McCarthy was given his comeuppance on national television by soft-spoken lawyer Joseph Welch.

In 1954, a series of meetings were convened by the United States Senate's Subcommittee on Investigations to investigate counter-allegations between McCarthy and the U.S. Army.  On June 9th, McCarthy had been pressured by Army lawyer Welch to provide evidence of Communists in the defense industry, and he responded by singling out a young lawyer in Welch's firm as an alleged sympathizer.  Obviously, McCarthy hoped to put Welch on the defensive, but Welch responded with a mellow but devastating criticism of McCarthy's reckless cruelty.  This confrontation is generally considered the beginning of the end for McCarthy, the moment when the nation got to see how ugly his politics really were.

The speech of Welch is amazing, and moving; I never get tired of hearing it.  It is a timeless testament to the real human cost that the politics of fear can exact.

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The great Presidential book-reading race!

Jun 03 2009 Published by under ... the Hell?, [Politics]

At times I'm simply dumbfounded by the idiotic stories the big news organizations can come up with.  In a short article titled, "Obama keeping up with Bush's reading pace?", CNN's Political Ticker reported, on June 2,

It appears President Obama has to step up his reading pace if he wants to beat his predecessor in one particular measure: how many books a president can polish off a year.


If Obama is close to finishing the novel, that puts him on less than a 10 book-a-year pace, far less than the close to 100 books President Bush was reportedly able to finish in the same amount of time.

According to former top Bush aide Karl Rove, he and the former president engaged in a friendly wager every year to see who could read more books.


While Obama may have had to put aside “Netherland” last month in favor of pages of court briefs with a Supreme Court vacancy to fill, it nevertheless appears the president has some summer reading to do.

Let's put aside the fact that maybe it isn't a virtue for the "leader of the free world" to have lots of spare time to read two books a week, and also take Karl Rove at his word (ha ha) that Bush actually read that amount of books.

Reading isn't a horse race -- it's not just about how fast you read a book, it's about how well you understand and retain the information you've read.  I was immediately reminded of an anecdote from Al Franken's Lies (and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them):

In an early Republican presidential debate, Bush was asked what book he was reading.  A biography of Dean Acheson (Truman's secretary of State), he answered.  Twelve days later, in the next debate, moderator Judy Woodruff asked him what he had learned from the biography.  Bush couldn't think of anything directly related to the life or work of Dean Acheson and went directly into his stump speech about how we have to be strong to keep the peace.  When John McCain fielded his next question, he answered it quickly and used the rest of his time to talk in great detail about Acheson's role in the creation of NATO and the Marshall Plan.

Or, to put it more succinctly, as others have before,

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Valancourt takes a stand against Proposition 8!

May 29 2009 Published by under [Politics]

Valancourt Books, once again justifying why they're one of my favorite small publishers, issued a press release in support of gay marriage following the California Supreme Court's  disappointing ruling upholding Prop. 8:

To that end, from now until the end 0f 2009, 50% of all our profits from our gay-themed titles will be donated to Lambda Legal, a not-for-profit legal advocacy group devoted to protecting the rights of gays and lesbians.  Despite the setback in California, Lambda Legal has had remarkable success in safeguarding the rights of gay people, including, most recently, the unanimous decision in Varnum v. Brien, giving same-sex couples the right to marry in Iowa.

Here's an opportunity to support an excellent publisher and a great civil liberties cause at the same time!  The list of eligible books are included in the full press release linked to above.

And congrats in advance to James for his upcoming wedding!

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