Friday, May 30, 2008

Still sucking.

It was five years ago today that Thomas Friedman said, I kid you not, that the Iraq war was necessary in order to tell the Arabs "suck. On. This."

It pains me to say it, but I get the strong impression that America's leading foreign affairs columnist is a complete tool with the mentality of a seven-year-old in a peeing-for-distance contest.

Friday Cat Blogging

Monday, May 26, 2008

I Drew This

Expect these on Tuesdays.

Lumpy and Barack

Seagull asks, "do you think it's insensitive to call McCain 'Lumpy?' He had cancer.

I told him, yes, but I'm going to say it anyway. If he doesn't want people to make fun of how he looks he shouldn't have run for president.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Teh st00pid

I went to a Jesuit high school, and in the religion classes I had to take there, I was often the token doubter, and thus the center of many a debate. On one occasion, I was asking why, if the world was created and overseen by a loving God, the world was so cruel, arbitrary, and, ultimately, profoundly flawed. This flustered a girl in the class to the point where she blurted out "YOU'RE not perfect, so you can't expect God to be, either!"

I mean this girl no disrespect; actually, at my tenth high school reunion a couple of years ago, I had a 45-minute conversation with her and enjoyed her company immensely. She is not an idiot. But, forgive me, that was one of the most humorously stupid arguments ever.

Another time, a guy explained to me why he was voting for George W. Bush in 2004 this way: "He's been so successful because he surrounds himself with advisers and he's smart enough to listen to them."

Apparently, in this person's mind, a president having advisers is some sort of great innovation, and not, say, something every president in the history of presidents has done automatically. It's like saying someone is a great baseball manager because he "surrounds himself with players and he's smart enough to put them on the field."

I bring this up because there is a monumentally stupid argument I sometimes hear from people who e-mail me, and I've actually been subjected to it twice in recent weeks, and I want to take a minute to make fun of it.

It's this: "You can't criticize the job Bush is doing as president because YOU couldn't do any better."

I have no idea why this argument, in some people's minds, applies to the presidency and to pretty much nothing else. I would suck at being a major league baseball player, but I reserve the right to say that a pitcher who beans 35 consecutive batters is doing a crappy job. I would suck at being a plumber, but if I hire one and my sink begins shooting sludge, I reserve the right to say he didn't do his job very well. I would suck at being a truck driver, but if one drives his truck into the side of a children's cancer ward while drunk, I feel entitled to criticize his performance. I would suck at being a heart surgeon, but if one puts someone's heart in upside down and then leaves a sponge in her chest cavity, I don't think I have to be a world-class heart surgeon myself to evaluate that performance negatively.

I would suck at being the president of the United States. I'm lazy, disorganized, forgetful, flighty, cranky, and self-absorbed. If I were suddenly president, we'd all be in trouble.

But if someone becomes president and then gets us into a ruinous, expensive, and intractable war by lying about weapons of mass destruction; ignores a pending environmental collapse that just about every other civilized country on earth wants to address; pushes and funds sex education programs that every study shows are totally ineffective at best; appoints his incompetent, unqualified cronies to important federal agencies, thereby leaving the country unequipped to deal with unforeseen disasters like hurricanes; and shreds the constitution's separations of powers, triggering a constitutional crisis almost weekly...

In that case, I definitely reserve the right to say he really really sucks at his job.

Also, since I believe I can make well-reasoned arguments, I definitely feel qualified to say that anyone who makes any of the above arguments needs to go take arguing lessons immediately.

Where's the Internet's corrections column?

This election season seems particularly rife with people holding strong misconceptions about candidates, probably because the Internet allows rumor and innuendo to spread so quickly. (How exactly do people manage to believe simultaneously that Obama is a closet Muslim, and that he's anti-patriotic because of the rhetoric of his former pastor?) One accusation I've been hearing a lot lately is that Obama blocked attempts to hold a do-over primary in Michigan. I'd like to do my part to support reality by putting that one to rest.

While it's true that Obama was not particularly enthusiastic about the idea, he's not the guilty party here. The Michigan Democratic Party officially pulled the plug on the idea on April 4, after a bill authorizing a June 3 primary died in the state legislature. The state party "concluded that it is not practical to conduct such a primary or caucus," mainly due to the lack of time to organize one.

Gender trashing

There would be absolutely no point in denying that the Clinton campaign has brought out, in depressingly vivid detail, just how openly sexist many, many people in our society are still willing to be. More than that, how "respectable" sexism still is.

Sure, the Obama campaign has also brought to the fore no small amount of lingering racism. (That West Virginia idiot who said he wanted the president to be a "full-blooded American" is merely the most quotable example.)

But you don't see many "respectable" talking heads on cable spouting openly racist drivel (at least not against black people). We've managed to make that a taboo. Anyone with a brain knows not to say it on television even if they're thinking it. I'll probably get e-mail from people listing counterexamples, and I won't deny it occasionally happens, but I still think it's nothing compared to the smug, open sexism we apparently still find acceptable.

I mean, Republican hack Roger Stone still gets invited on TV even after he founded an anti-Clinton group called Citizens United Not Timid. Ha ha ha ha ha. Does anyone really think he'd keep getting invited on TV if he'd started an anti-Obama group called Nationally Interested Good Guys Entirely Republican?

But, let's step back and really look at this. Yes, Clinton, the onetime Dem frontrunner, has been getting gender-trashed to a shocking degree.

Except it's only shocking if you've forgotten recent political history. And therein lies the key point I want to make.

Hillary Clinton is not being gender-trashed because she's a woman. She's being gender-trashed because she's a Democrat.

It comes out as sexism because she's a woman and that's the most direct way to gender-trash a woman. But make no mistake, a male Hillary Clinton would not get treated any better. It would just sound somewhat different.

It would sound more like how they treated John Edwards or Al Gore or John Kerry.

Yeah, they make fun of how Hillary dresses, calling her things like "Hillary Clinton, D-Pantsuit" and feigning a fainting spell if she wears any clothes that don't hide the fact that she has breasts. Remember 2000, when Al Gore got endless shit for wearing "earth tones" and suits with too many buttons on them? And the (false) story about how he got fashion advice from Naomi Wolf grew into a story about how he "needed a woman to tell him how to be a man"?

Gender trashing.

Yeah, there are those Hillary Clinton "nutcrackers," and that's inexcusable. But more inexcusable than Ann Coulter being handed platform after platform to call John Edwards a "faggot"? Or Maureen Dowd--an alleged liberal, with a column in the New York Times--smearing Edwards as the "Breck girl"? Peggy Noonan declaring that George W. Bush should beat John Kerry because, unlike that flaccid, flip-flopping eunuch Kerry, Bush "has two of 'em"?

Gender trashing.

Ah, you will be saying. But, Eagle, why then has Barack Obama not come in for the same amount of gender-trashing? Surely that's sexism.

Actually, no, I don't think so. In 2000, Bill Bradley got a bit of a free pass because the press hated Al Gore so intensely and wanted someone to beat him, and Bradley looked like the only shot. I think Obama benefits from a bit of the same. (Do you honestly think the press hates Hillary any more than they did her husband?) But you can already see the general election narratives taking shape. Obama is a sissy girly elitist who can't bowl like a real man.

Monica Crowley, on McLaughlin: "If [Obama] is this prickly, he is way too much of a girly man to be president of the United States."

Kathleen Parker, for some reason allowed to spew this drivel in the Washington Post: "Well, at least they didn't kiss. I was bracing myself for the lip lock Wednesday when John Edwards endorsed Barack Obama....Obama and Edwards make an attractive picture -- Ultra Brite cover boys of youth and glamour united against old men (and women) who worship the status quo. Obama -- the man who makes Chris Matthews feel a thrill up his leg..."

Maureen Dowd, who should be fired from the New York Times immediately, got out ahead of the game, and has been calling Obama things like an "anorexic starlet" and a "desperate debutante" for months now.

The pattern is clear. Big Democrats are all sissy girly women, except for big Democratic women, against whom that slur wouldn't work, so they're emasculating bitches, which is just the other side of that coin.

Is it a problem that sexism is still so shockingly acceptable in this society? Hell yes. Is it the problem in this election? No, no, it's so much bigger.

So, hey, mainstream media Kool Kids. Speaking as a genuinely gender-confused Democrat who nevertheless feels she has the same right as some macho tractor boy or some pretty rich bitch to have political opinions? Go fuck yourselves. And after that, start reporting on actual matters of policy and give up on all this Democratic gender-trashing. It's not 1% as clever as you seem to think.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Clinton's scorched-earth strategy

In a speech yesterday, Hillary Clinton compared the rules fight over Michigan and Florida to the 2000 election and even to the bloody election dispute in Zimbabwe. She also declared that the primary votes in those two states should be counted "exactly as cast," which would seem to rule out any of the compromises that have been proposed so far that would have split the votes between the candidates or awarded Obama the votes of people who voted "uncommitted" in Michigan.

This strategy seems designed to drive a wedge into the party in two key swing states, Michigan and Florida. It's a troubling suggestion that Clinton is willing to damage the Democratic Party's chances in November if it can get her a slight advantage in the primary fight.

* * *

EDIT: I continue to get mail, based on these posts, accusing me of writing out of favoritism for Obama. It really isn't like that. If the roles were reversed, I'd be telling Obama he should stop campaigning. The fact is Obama has a significant delegate lead with very few contests remaining, and the math simply doesn't work for a Clinton nomination. Obama will be the nominee, so the sooner the party can start to coalesce around him the sooner we can stop fighting each other and start fighting McCain.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Care to rephrase that?

This passage in the Seattle P-I caught my eye today:
Cynthia Ruccia, 55, a sales director for Mary Kay cosmetics in Columbus, Ohio, is organizing a group, Clinton Supporters Count Too, of mostly women in swing states who plan to campaign against Obama in November.

"We, the most loyal constituency, are being told to sit down, shut up and get to the back of the bus," she said.
Because, you know, African-Americans have had all the advantages in this country. Surely no one ever would have told one of them to get to the back of the bus. Right?

* * *

All sarcasm aside, I think sexism is well down the list of things that sunk Hillary's campaign. She was running on inevitability and Washington insider experience in a year when people wanted change. She represented a sort of two-family political dynasty (Bush/Clinton/Bush/Clinton) that a lot of people are weary of. She chose campaign staffers for loyalty instead of skill, and they made strategic blunders early on; her chief strategist didn't even understand the rules for awarding delegates. In short, she ran a poor campaign with none of the excitement that characterized her husband's run for office.

I really hope we can get past this idea that her loss is somehow a slap in the face to women — especially since the idea that her gender should have guaranteed her the nomination is, frankly, more insulting.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Where we're headed

"It may be said with rough accuracy that there are three stages in the life of a strong people. First, it is a small power, and fights small powers. Then it is a great power, and fights great powers. Then it is a great power, and fights small powers, but pretends that they are great powers, in order to rekindle the ashes of its ancient emotion and vanity. After that, the next step is to become a small power itself."

-G.K. Chesterton, Heretics

"The next American president will inherit many foreign policy challenges, but surely one of the biggest will be the cold war. Yes, the next president is going to be a cold-war president -- but this cold war is with Iran."

-Thomas "Suck-On-That" Friedman (via Glenn Greenwald)

I personally would have no problem with the United States becoming a "small power." One thing I have never understood about the particular species of patriotism most common in America is that it's so dominance-based. It's "my daddy can beat up your daddy." My country can beat up your country. And for a certain kind of patriot, the U.S. has to go around proving that, every once in a while, so they can go on feeling good about themselves.

But, of course, they don't want to mix it up with a country that would actually put up a tough fight. they want to pick on little countries (Iran, Iraq) that won't put up much of a fight, all the while loudly proclaiming they've vanquished the Next Hitler. (Also they don't want to do it themselves; they want to send other people to do it.)

Of course, when we fought the actual Hitler, we did so not because we needed to do it to feel big and tough, but because there was an actual need to stop Hitler. I guess, having done so, we felt really really good about ourselves. It was like we suddenly noticed we were the toughest kid on the block. Maybe we got addicted to that rush. And decades of nuclear standoff with an equally imposing Soviet Union didn't help either.

Of course, toward the end, the Soviet Union was a creaky has-been of an empire that eventually just fell apart under its own weight. And rather than change our thinking, we've been running around like a junkie of a country, ever since, desperately looking for a fix, for a big scary enemy we can vanquish. And it really is pathetic how much we seem to need to elevate the likes of Saddam Hussein or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to that level.

American patriotism is so macho, aggressive, and ultimately insecure. We could learn a lesson from Canada. In my experience, Canadians are very patriotic, too--if you don't believe me, attend a concert of the band The Tragically Hip, and watch the Canadian flags wave--but it's not about "my country can kick your country's ass! Boo yah!" It's about "Canada is a very nice place to live! We like being here!"

I'd have to say that right now the idea of just admitting we're a "small power" and adjusting to the idea and concentrating on making this country a nice place to live, too, sounds pretty appealing. I really really don't care whose ass my country can or can't kick.

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