Archive for October 2nd, 2008

You shut up with your big city facts!

Oct 02, 2008 in Politics, Sarah Palin

Ever notice that it’s perfectly acceptable for Republican politicians running for federal office to write off a state like Massachusetts (6.4 million people) or a city like San Francisco (776K people, more than all of Alaska), as if they weren’t really America, much less under federal jurisdiction? Or how about dismissing the “blue coastal elites,” (population 125 million just in coastal watersheds)?

Reason (aghast!) dismantles some myths of small town snobbery, perpetuated by big city politicians even though “small town” describes only 1/5 of the US population because even big city people like to romanticize rural America.

Maybe if they ventured beyond the city limits more often, those people would not be so inclined to believe everything they hear about the merits of rustic hamlets, which harbor a full complement of social ills.

Not everyone in rural America gets high on fresh air and the smell of new-mown hay. Illicit drugs are nearly as common out there as they are in cities and suburbs.

In 2007, a survey of 8th graders by the Monitoring the Future project at the University of Michigan found that country kids were 26 percent more likely to experiment with drugs than middle-schoolers elsewhere. Overall methamphetamine consumption among adults and teens is more than 50 percent higher in the country.

The story with alcohol is worse still. “Relative to their urban counterparts, rural youth ages 12 to 17 are significantly more likely to report consuming alcohol,” says a 2006 study by the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire. Excessive boozing among adults, it noted, appears to be no less widespread in Mayberry than in Metropolis.

Nor is the countryside exempt from social problems often associated with the inner city—such as, if you’ll forgive me, out-of-wedlock births. The federal government apparently doesn’t tabulate these births according to whether they occur in urban or rural areas. But it does break them down by state, and wide-open spaces are no guarantee of responsible sexual behavior.

The highest rates of births to unwed mothers are in Mississippi and New Mexico, both of which have high rural populations. The most urban states, New Jersey and California, do better than the average in out-of-wedlock births.

Mike and I grew up in a rural Iowa town as small as they get. We were responsible for some hell-raising and bad behavior, but we were pretty tame compared to some of the kids we went to school with (we were late bloomers when it came to booze and sex). Given that our time predates the scourge of meth, we might have a rosier view of small town life in Iowa than is likely warranted today. As for the debauchery going on in college towns, you don’t even want to know. Well, unless you’re in one…

The point is that small-town folks aren’t necessarily better than big-city folks. I know lots of good and moral people in the urban sprawl of Southern California, people who anybody could learn from. One could argue they possess a “small town frame of mind,” but that’s pretty close to a no-true-Scotsman fallacy. The prevalence of good Americans in big cities means that a city frame of mind must possess its own virtues as well, or possibly be neutral morally (given that you interact with people every day you’ve never met, you’re very likely to produce a code of behavior that is applicable to all). Yet it’s fair game in politics to deride and insult the majority of Americans who live in cities.

Republicans have perpetuated this in order to get votes and advantage in the big sparsely populated states, taking a country where those states already had a lot of political punch and dividing it for their own personal gain. Tonight, Sarah Palin, a proven liar, will take to the stage and undoubtedly spout some vague claptrap about how she loves the “real hardworking” Americans in those small towns, but as anybody from a small town can tell you, we’ve got some slimeball liars too. There’s the usual salesmen, drunks and thugs, but you can find the Sarah Palin type easy, crashing school boards or taking a check to lobby for some big company to build a hog factory upwind of your peaceful country home. Them small towns got the same DNA as them fancy cats in the big city, folks. Human nature prevails.

-jb

McCain is dropping out of Michigan.

Oct 02, 2008 in Uncategorized

This one’s gotta hurt.

-mg

Whoops, hey, no, keep your kid, really we didn’t mean that! Fire up the legislature again!

Oct 02, 2008 in Culture

The tragicomedy of unintended results plays out in Nebraska:

OMAHA — The abandonments began on Sept. 1, when a mother left her 14-year-old son in a police station here.

By Sept. 23, two more boys and one girl, ages 11 to 14, had been abandoned in hospitals in Omaha and Lincoln. Then a 15-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl were left.

The biggest shock to public officials came last week, when a single father walked into an Omaha hospital and surrendered nine of his 10 children, ages 1 to 17, saying that his wife had died and he could no longer cope with the burden of raising them.

In total last month, 15 older children in Nebraska were dropped off by a beleaguered parent or custodial aunt or grandmother who said the children were unmanageable.

Officials have called the abandonments a misuse of a new law that was mainly intended to prevent so-called Dumpster babies — the abandonment of newborns by young, terrified mothers — but instead has been used to hand off out-of-control teenagers or, in the case of the father of 10, to escape financial and personal despair.

Whether it be deals with Satan, wishes from a monkey’s paw, or writing legislation, always be very specific about what you want…

-jb

McCain?

Oct 02, 2008 in Sarah Palin

Naw, Palin again

While suturing a cut on the hand of a 75 year old rancher, who’s hand was caught in the gate while working cattle, the doctor struck up a conversation with the old man. Eventually the topic got around to Palin and her bid.

The old rancher said, “Well, ya know, Palin is a Post Turtle'”.

Not being familiar with the term, the doctor asked him what a ‘post turtle’ was.

The old rancher said, “When you’re driving down a country road you come across a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, that’s a ‘post turtle”.

The old rancher saw the puzzled look on the doctor’s face so he continued to explain. “You know she didn’t get up there by herself, she doesn’t belong up there, and she doesn’t know what to do while she’s up there, and you just wonder what kind of dummy put her up there to begin with”.

Okay, some McCain there at the end…after all, can you imagine who else he’d appoint if he’d hire Palin? I mean, besides “Architect of the Economic Meltdown” Phil Gramm as Secretary of the Treasury?

Bonus: Letterman’s Top Ten Things Said At Palin’s Debate Practice:

10. “Let’s practice your bewildered silence.”
9. “Can you try saying ‘yes’ instead of ‘you betcha’?”
8. “Hey, I can see Mexico from here!”
7. “Maybe we’ll get lucky and there won’t be any questions about Iraq, taxes or healthcare.”
6. “We’re screwed!”
5. “Can I just use that lipstick-pit bull thing again?”
4. “We have to wrap it up for the day — McCain eats dinner at 4:30.”
3. “Can we get Congress to bail us out of this debate?”
2. “John Edwards wants to know if you’d like some private tutoring in his van.”
1. “Any way we can just get Tina Fey to do it?”

-jb

Conservatives surely don’t send vile hate mail to those they disagree with.

Oct 02, 2008 in Uncategorized

Only liberals do such things. They’re the meanies. Conservatives politely disagree with people and make logical arguments, liberals send death threats and call names.

Allow me to introduce myself. I am a traitor and an idiot. Also, my mother should have aborted me and left me in a dumpster, but since she didn’t, I should “off” myself.

Those are a few nuggets randomly selected from thousands of e-mails written in response to my column suggesting that Sarah Palin is out of her league and should step down.

Who says public discourse hasn’t deteriorated?

The fierce reaction to my column has been both bracing and enlightening. After 20 years of column writing, I’m familiar with angry mail. But the past few days have produced responses of a different order. Not just angry, but vicious and threatening.

Some of my usual readers feel betrayed because I previously have written favorably of Palin. By changing my mind and saying so, I am viewed as a traitor to the Republican Party — not a “true” conservative.

Allow me to blow your mind: this isn’t about ideology. People of any ideology can get very angry, bitter, and threatening. Fundamentalism in any belief system can lead to a furious e-mail or blog comment. Hell, the nature of the Internets itself can lead one to write all sorts of things one would never say in person to any but close friends. Thus, blogging!

Unfortunately, the right seems determined to keep saying that “This is the left, that’s what they are, they’re horrible people!” Bill O’Reilly wouldn’t have anything to say if it weren’t for this line. He talks about Daily Kos like it’s the Charlie Manson pad, which makes no sense to anybody who actually reads the site regularly. Sean Hannity, who really is a frighteningly ignorant tool except that he knows exactly what he’s doing, talks about the “hateful left” all the time. Where do they get this? A few samples from blog comments or an angry diarist here and there, bingo. Bring up Michael Savage and his 8 million listeners though, and they’ll swear they’ve never heard his show.

What’s most interesting about Kathleen Parker’s column, however, is the shocking ignorance displayed in the defenses of Sarah Palin, which are no less stupid than anything Michael Gerson has written about her “values.” She’s been ambushed, she’s not been allowed to “be Sarah,” her rambling idiocy is charming because it’s not “polished,” etc. These people have nothing, and have given up defending her as a vice-presidential candidate in any way that relates to her ability to take over the country if John McCain deteriorates in office or passes away. It’s all, “She nice lady!”

Parker hyperventilates a bit:

Readers have every right to reject my opinion. But when we decide that a person is a traitor and should die for having an opinion different from one’s own, we cross into territory that puts all freedoms at risk.

Well, not really. “Drop dead,” in an e-mail doesn’t put anybody’s freedom’s at risk. “I’ll track you down and kill you!” does, and anybody who writes that should be prosecuted (though I’ve received death threats from online debates before, and the cops laughed at me). Andrew Sullivan mentions that Parker should see his inbox, and I’ve no doubt that fella receives the worst of the worst, being an openly gay conservative. Being a “traitor” is one thing, but being a gay one? He’s lucky he isn’t dead already, being the undeclared leader of GOP-defecting conservatives. But it’s important to put things in perspective.

What’s most damning is that the rambling of Sean Hannity, Hugh Hewitt, and other apparatchik GOP buffoons is that at the core, they don’t have any better a case for Palin, and don’t have a better response than “traitor” to conservatives who speak the plain truth about her. She’s going to get up there tonight, and if she manages to halfway pull it off it’ll be by successfully saying nothing real whatsoever. The format may allow her to speechify and her cramming may have given her enough soundbites to pivot to whenever she’s asked a question. It hasn’t worked so far, but maybe tonight she’ll manage to not completely embarrass herself. And these true buffoons will hail her victorious.

My suspicion, however, is that independents won’t be fooled by mere survival, or some snappy put-downs spread out over a whole lotta nothin’. The curtain has already been pulled back, and we’ve seen the Empress’s firm backside. And we’ve seen who’s been wooed by empty titillation and vacuous prattling. They who loved the fool Bush now love the fool Palin, because they see mirror reflections of their foolish selves. The fate of the country is entirely irrelevant.

-jb

Would it be a “gotcha” exam if I failed my driver’s test?

Oct 02, 2008 in Uncategorized

It wasn’t that long ago that Barack Obama was being lampooned by the Howler Monkeys that comprise the Republican blogosphere (can we please stop referring to them as conservatives?) as an empty-shirt who would crumble as soon as the teleprompters were turned off. What a difference a few months makes. Now that Obama has shown himself to be a very capable debater who is able to formulate nuanced and thoughtful opinions the Howler Monkeys are back to their usual MO; simpering about liberal media bias and “gotcha” journalism when the questions get too difficult (“what do you read?” being a real brain buster, apparently) or the slogans (“Thanks, but no thanks!”) start falling flat. It looks like John Q Public isn’t buying their bullshit, either:

Though she initially transformed the race with her energizing presence and a fiery convention speech, Palin is now a much less positive force: Six in 10 voters see her as lacking the experience to be an effective president, and a third are now less likely to vote for McCain because of her.

A month ago, voters rated Palin as highly as they did McCain or his Democratic rival, Sen. Barack Obama, but after weeks of intensive coverage and several perceived missteps, the shine has diminished.

You see, the press is doing their jobs when they dutifully report the right-wing talking points but when they start to ask questions like “How does living across a body of water from Russia count as foreign policy experience”, a claim that she made, the liberal press needs to shut the fuck up and leave that poor woman alone!

-mg