Archive for the 'Current Events' Category

Surprising facts about Fox News Conservatives

Oct 21, 2009 in Current Events

Democracy Corps - The Very Separate World of Conservative Republicans

This eye-opening focus group study paints a portrait of the modern conservative movement — the Glenn Beck watching, Palin-loving bloc that composes one-fifth of our electorate. Some of the facts are surprising, others are downright mind-boggling:

They’re not really racist

Conservatives bristle at the suggestion that their opposition to Obama is based on racism. Rather, it’s based simply on the fact that he’s a liberal democrat with a dynamic personality — just like Bill Clinton was. Although there are undoubtly some racists among their ranks, it’s not really a motivating factor.

They dislike the Republican party too

These conservatives see the modern Republican party as out of touch with their base, having moved away from its conservative ideals. They’re embarrased by George W. Bush, although they like him personally and admire his convictions. For these Republicans, Sarah Palin is the great white hope of the Republican party.

They really believe that Obama intends to install a socialist dicatorship

Just like all conspiracy theorists, these conservatives feel like they know what’s really going on in this country, while everyone else remains in the dark thanks to the efforts of the all-powerful liberal media. Fox News, not surprisingly, is where they get much of their information.

Everything from the bank bailouts to health care reform is an attempt to topple our government so that Obama and the secretive moneyed “liberal elites” who put him into power can install a socialist government. No really, I’m serious. This is what they actually believe.

They are far outside the mainstream of American political thought

Although they’re loud and omnipresent, the Fox News conservatives stand alone in the realm of American politics. Compared to an focus group of moderate conservatives, the differences are striking.

The moderate group hopes that Obama succeeds, even though they may have voted for McCain. They have concerns about the Democrats, but it’s mostly due to government spending. They think Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh are idiots, and that Sarah Palin is unqualified for national office.

The Fox News conservatives comprise two-thirds of the Republican party, and with this level of mass delusion it’s apparent that the Republican party is in trouble.

Growing up in the 80s with Michael Jackson

Jun 26, 2009 in Pop Culture, Music, Current Events

I was never a big Michael Jackson fan, but having grown up in the 80s, it’s hard to deny how big of a phenomenon he was. For those of you who are too young to remember his heyday, it’s hard to imagine how big a single celebrity could be.

Michael Jackson was everywhere in the 80s. Almost everyone had heard his music, seen his videos, or owned a copy of Thriller. Kids did the moonwalk and dressed like him. Remember the jacket from ‘Beat It’? That was a coveted fashion statement in the early 80s!

Just an anecdote to relate how big MJ was — I remember walking into a department store in 1983. Right inside the front door was a display stocked with the Thriller album. There was a small TV playing the Thriller video. What’s more — there was a crowd, watching the Thriller video on this small TV screen, in the front of a discount department store.

In today’s fragmented pop culture, it’s no longer possible for a musician to attain the level of fame that Elvis, the Beatles, and Michael Jackson once did. (And to a lesser extent, Nirvana). Of course, that level of fame has a sinister dark side.

Elvis died on the toilet an overweight drug addict. John Lennon was shot by a crazed fan. Kurt Cobain took heroin and killed himself. And Michael Jackson steadily grew weirder and whiter until he died of as-of-yet unknown causes. Maybe it’s better that we not deify our celebrities so much.

Shaolin vs. Ninja! The Pride of a Nation Rests on the Outcome

Aug 31, 2007 in Humor, Current Events

t16106sy58r.jpgReuters reported today that a lawyer for the Shaolin Temple in China demanded an apology from an internet message board poster who claimed that a Japanese ninja once defeated several Shaolin monks in unarmed combat.

“The Internet user, calling themselves “Five Minutes Every Day”, said on an online forum last week that a Japanese ninja came to Shaolin, asked for a fight and many monks failed to beat him, the newspaper said.

“The facts that the monks could not defeat a Japanese ninja showed that they were named as kung fu masters in vain,” the Internet user was quoted as saying in the post.”

The Beijing News said, “The so-called defeat is purely fabricated, and we demand the Internet user to apologise to the whole nation for the wrongs he or she did,” while the Shaolin Temple “’strongly condemned the horrible deeds’ of the user.”

Lets step back here for a minute. The entire nation of China is demanding an apology from some kook on an internet message board who said that ninja could defeat Shaolin. You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.

I won’t speculate on how a ninja/shaolin battle would turn out (except to say that it would be fucking awesome), but China seriously needs to grow a pair. For the most populous nation in the world — and the second largest economy in Asia — to be so sensitive about a message board comment demonstrates a lack of cojones. And it’s not just the Japanese. Mention Taiwan and the Chinese will turn red (no pun intended).

On second thought, a ninja would totally kick a Shaolin monk’s ass. Until next time, when the Chinese gov’t demands an apology from In My Room, and I create an international diplomatic incident by laughing at them…

Finally, someone comes out and says it!

May 01, 2007 in Current Events

In the ongoing debate on illegal immigration, the simple truth is that the primary motivator of much anti-immigrant sentiment is plain bigotry and scapegoating. And despite America’s history as a land of immigrants, the “great melting pot,” it has almost always been this way. In a CNN commentary piece, Ruben Navaratte Jr. elaborates:

‘In the late 1700’s, Benjamin Franklin fretted over Pennsylvania becoming “a colony of aliens” thanks to German immigrants. In the mid-1800’s, concerned that immigrants from the Far East wouldn’t assimilate, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act to keep out … guess who. And in the early 1900’s, Congress targeted Italians, Jews and Greeks by creating quotas that limited immigration by country of origin.

In each of those cases, those who tried to shut the door didn’t care a whit that the people they were keeping out were coming legally. All they cared about was that the immigrants on the other side of that door were foreigners with weird languages, strange religions, and peculiar customs.

Not much has changed. Much of what’s driving the current debate is the same fear of foreigners and the changes they bring.’

This paper from the National Immigration Forum, Cycles of Nativism in U.S. History offers a brief history of anti-immigrant movements — from the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 to waves of anti-Catholic sentiment in the 19th century and the English-only legislation of today.

The consensus among those who have studied the history of immigration is that many nativist movements spring up during times of political or economic turmoil, causing some to seek scapegoats at which to vent their frustration. A focus on illegal immigration — namely the sudden emergence of the topic on the national stage within the past year — can serve as a convenient distraction from other, more pressing, political issues. Such as an unpopular war.

Real-life Korean murder flick

Apr 18, 2007 in Current Events

cho_large.jpg

The country is still reeling in shock after an angry, disturbed and depressed Asian kid shot 32 of his fellow students and professors at Virginia Tech. One of the most frustrating things about this case is that it is not clear exactly how this could have been prevented. The warning signs were obvious to anyone who encountered him: the vacant gaze, the violent writings, the undeniable creepiness. And it wasn’t as if no one had acted upon it. Roommates, teachers and the university itself had all taken action — repeated suggestions to go into counseling, a forced stay at a mental hospital, disciplinary actions for behavior…

But ultimately this kid made a conscious decision to bottle up all that anger inside of him and let it all out in a premeditated act of senseless violence. Mental illness certainly played a role — between shootings, the killer sent a package to NBC with a long, incomprehensible rant against rich kids. But unlike Columbine, there were apparently no school bullies, neglectful parents, or dysfunctional institutions that may have contributed to this tragedy. The only person responsible for this massacre is Cho himself.

Of course, that hasn’t stopped people from trying to play the blame game. Already, certain demagogues are blaming video games and the teaching of evolution for inspiring this rampage. The only thing that’s missing is Marilyn Manson.

Things like this are just a little personal for me, for at one time I was an angry, depressed and withdrawn twenty-something. While I can certainly understand what Cho’s day-to-day state of mind might have been like, the difference is that I didn’t snap and kill anyone and I eventually grew out of it. (I’m starting to think that time, maturity and experience are the best anti-depressants.)

It’s practically a rite of passage to be young, angry and at least somewhat depressed. The world does that to you. Eventually you grow, and it passes. The sad thing about this incident is that — just like Columbine — every angry, depressed or withdrawn young male is going to be treated like a potential murderer. That’s not to say that more aggressive action shouldn’t be taken on behalf of people like Cho. It’s just that the people in charge won’t always know where to draw the line between violently disturbed and just clinically depressed.

In reference to the killer’s Korean background, I couldn’t help but think of the films of popular South Korean director Chan-wook Park, most notably the “vengeance trilogy” films Oldboy and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. It turns out that according to a New York Times blog, several of the photos Cho sent to NBC bear an uncanny resemblance to scenes from Oldboy.

Park has said that the vengeance theme in his films are meant to display the futility of revenge, and how it destroys the lives of everyone involved. (In Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, all of the main characters are dead at the end of the film). That’s certainly an apt description of what happened here. Nevertheless, it’ll only be a matter of time until someone blames violent movies and Chan-wook Park for this tragedy.

And so, on behalf of every angry young man, asian film fan, Virginia Tech massacre victim and family member, I say to Cho Seung-Hui: Thanks asshole. I hope you burn in hell.

How much do you know about religion?

Mar 26, 2007 in Current Events

An AP article posted on Fark today revealed that Alabama residents polled higher on Biblical knowledge than the rest of America: “For example, nearly 70 percent of respondents to last week’s Press-Register/University of South Alabama survey correctly named all four Gospels.”

But Fark commenter “MrKraclenutz” noted: “As an Alabamian I have to say that while my fellow residents may sport a higher knowledge of the contents of the Bible, they in no way adhere to the teachings of said book at any higher rate.”

I guessed two of the Gospels correctly, John and Luke. The other two are not Paul, George, Ringo or Bo (for you Dukes of Hazzard fans). The correct answer is Matthew and Mark. Which are both better names for your children than Cody, Dakota or Ashton.

The article mentions the new book from Stephen Prothero, Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know - and Doesn’t. The author makes the case that Americans — even those who are “Bible-believing” — don’t know jack about religion.

The main culprit for our religious illiteracy? It’s partly the Christian evangelicals themselves, who place more emphasis on emotion (read: “faith”) than knowledge and who teach doctrine primarily through dumbed-down Sunday school classes. Supreme Court decisions outlawing Bible readings in public schools have also had a chilling effect, even though the court has repeatedly stated that factual discussion of religion is okay.

The author recommends reinstating academic religious instruction in schools and colleges. In an age where religion is frequently the basis of political arguments and extremism runs rampant, a better knowledge of religion would go a long way toward lessening the influence of the bin Ladens, Falwells, Robertsons and Bushes of this world.

The Indoctrination of America’s Schoolchildren (or, the dumbing down of America’s kids, for you not-so-bright folk)

Feb 27, 2007 in Current Events

I’ve long wondered why it seems that a significant percentage of people (especially — but not exclusively — in America) seem content to live in sheepish ignorance — uncritical, unthinking and accepting of any line of bullshit promulgated by the government, the media and the corporations.

Perhaps John Taylor Gatto (Wikipedia link) has the answer. A public school teacher for almost 30 years, he won numerous awards and was named New York State Teacher of the Year in 1991. Later that year he quit teaching, explaining his rationale in an essay published in the Wall Street Journal: “If you hear of a job where I don’t have to hurt kids to make a living, let me know.”

He later became a public speaker, railing against the public education system in America. He has written several books, including An Underground History of American Education, a damning indictment of public education and its effect on our society. A pre-publication edition of the full book is available to read on his website.

If you’re not inclined to read the entire book, I suggest you read the Prologue and Chapter 2. Both offer a eye-opening overview of the problems with compulsory education.

In brief, Gatto makes the case that modern public education is a product of the Industrial Revolution, an enterprise primarily designed to mold subservient and obedient workers and consumers. Through discipline, boredom, irrelevant subject matter and a brutal social hierarchy, the modern public education system strives to strip creativity, inquisitiveness, individuality and self-worth from children — churning out a broad social class of undereducated workers and consumers who will not question their social condition.

Sounds like hyperbole or exaggeration? Check out these quotes from some of the architects of the modern educational process:

‘The gigantic Behavioral Science Teacher Education Project, outlined teaching reforms to be forced on the country after 1967… The document sets out clearly the intentions of its creators—nothing less than “impersonal manipulation” through schooling of a future America in which “few will be able to maintain control over their opinions,” an America in which “each individual receives at birth a multi-purpose identification number” which enables employers and other controllers to keep track of underlings and to expose them to direct or subliminal influence when necessary. Readers learned that “chemical experimentation” on minors would be normal procedure in this post-1967 world, a pointed foreshadowing of the massive Ritalin interventions which now accompany the practice of forced schooling.

‘The Behavioral Science Teacher Education Project identified the future as one “in which a small elite” will control all important matters, one where participatory democracy will largely disappear. Children are made to see, through school experiences, that their classmates are so cruel and irresponsible, so inadequate to the task of self-discipline, and so ignorant they need to be controlled and regulated for society’s good.’

“In our dreams…people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands. The present educational conventions [intellectual and character education] fade from our minds, and unhampered by tradition we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive folk. We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into philosophers or men of learning or men of science. We have not to raise up from among them authors, educators, poets or men of letters. We shall not search for embryo great artists, painters, musicians, nor lawyers, doctors, preachers, politicians, statesmen, of whom we have ample supply. The task we set before ourselves is very simple…we will organize children…and teach them to do in a perfect way the things their fathers and mothers are doing in an imperfect way.”
General Education Board - Occasional Letter Number One, 1906

“What we’re into is total restructuring of society.” Mid-Continent Regional Educational Laboratory, 1989

“We must continue to produce an uneducated social class.” Gerald Bracey, 1989

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Gatto’s not the only voice decrying the manipulation of our educational system. Charlotte Iserbyt, formerly of the U.S. Dept. of Education, wrote The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America (available online as a free PDF), a whistleblowing expose of Reagan-era educational policies. Parents who have opted to home or private school their children and even many educators can opine in depth on the sorry state of public education.

A reading of Gatto’s analysis produces this significant implication: Our public educational system, in all its bureaucracy, dysfunction and violence, is not an accident. Rather, it is by design. I’m not the type to believe in conspiracy theories — the idea that a small powerful, elite is manipulating our society to selfish ends. But I can’t help but wonder whether this is in fact happening.

The Bush tax cuts, the widening income gap, the high poverty rate, the unsure and fearful working and middle class whose lot has not improved despite recent economic successes: Someone is gaining from this, and it certainly isn’t us.

The most powerful democracy in the world has failed — perhaps intentionally — to produce citizens who are informed enough to participate in a representative democracy. If the better part of the American population were educated enough to think critically, would we have had George W. Bush, the Iraq War, and more people voting for the next American Idol than the president? I think not.

Mark Foley in action!

Oct 07, 2006 in Current Events

The Mark Foley scandal has been all over the news, but if you haven’t yet read the leaked instant messages, they’re hilarious. Well, if you find sexually explicit messages from 52-year-old congressmen to bi-curious 16-year-olds funny, that is.

The interesting thing is that Foley’s messages are often misspelled and grammatically mangled — just like most text messages. Either he’s trying to ingratiate himself to his teen pages, or the esteemed congressman just has lousy typing/spelling skills. Or else he’s typing one-handed.

Among other things, Foley and his bi-curious ex-page discuss fetishes (Foley likes steam rooms, while the boy likes plaster casts and school uniforms), penis size (7 1/2 inches), and Mom’s computer illiteracy. Here are a few highlights:

  • Maf54 (7:37:27 PM): how my favorite young stud doing
  • Maf54 (7:46:33 PM): did any girl give you a haand job this weekend
  • Maf54 (7:48:34 PM): i am never to busy haha
  • Maf54 (7:55:51 PM): cute butt bouncing in the air
  • Maf54 (7:58:37 PM): well I have aa totally stiff wood now
  • Maf54 (7:58:59 PM): but it must feel great spirting on the towel
  • Maf54 (8:01:21 PM): i am hard as a rock..so tell me when your reaches rock
    Xxxxxxxxx (8:01:23 PM): i have a cast fetish

  • Maf54 (8:04:17 PM): um so a big buldge
    Xxxxxxxxx (8:04:35 PM): ya
    Maf54 (8:04:45 PM): um
    Maf54 (8:04:58 PM): love to slip them off of you
    Xxxxxxxxx (8:05:08 PM): haha
    Maf54 (8:05:53 PM): and gram the one eyed snake
    Maf54 (8:06:13 PM): grab
    Xxxxxxxxx (8:06:53 PM): not tonight?dont get to excited
    Maf54 (8:07:12 PM): well your hard
    Xxxxxxxxx (8:07:45 PM): that is true
    Maf54 (8:08:03 PM): and a little horny

On a related note, as fun as it is to make fun of Mark Foley’s horny instant messages to teen pages, part of me actually feels sorry for him. These are not the actions of a fully self-aware, healthy gay man (as Foley himself just recently disclosed). Rather, these are the actions of a highly repressed gay man — one that happened to be a high-ranking Republican congressman.

The Republican party is decidedly anti-gay and anti-sex, so scandals such as this are no surprise. When people have to choose between their political career and their sexual orientation, their sex life often ends up lurking in the shadows as a dark, dirty secret. Thus, the in-the-closet Foley ends up soliciting teen pages for sexual favors, as opposed to having relatively normal, healthy sex with consenting gay adults.

God damn it, I hate my government!

Oct 02, 2006 in Current Events

While there’s a lot about our current leadership that I — and plenty of other people — are dissatisfied with, it takes a lot to make me utter the above sentence. Now that the government has decided to hit my pocketbook, I feel no shame in saying it.

In a cowardly, last-minute move on the last day of business before midterm elections, Congressional Republicans slipped a measure into an important port security bill to ban banking transactions related to internet gambling. A similar bill had already passed the House in July, but instead of getting a fair hearing in the Senate, our own Senator Bill Frist slipped the measure into a bill that was guaranteed to pass. Thanks, asshole.

Social conservatives such as Frist like to drone on about how online gambling “hurts families and children.” (groan) But in reality, Congress’ short-sighted ban has done more financial damage than online gaming ever could. The collective stock price and revenue of an entire multi-billion dollar international industry has declined by at least half, virtually overnight. Nice move for a party that prides itself as the friend of big business. Perhaps the gaming industry should have been more astute about lining the pockets of Republican legislators.

If Congress truly had legitimate concerns about online gambling, prohibition was not the way to fix it. The online gaming industry was practically begging to be regulated. Now, online poker (at least in the US) will be underground and still unregulated. Determined players will still find a way to play, despite the ban.

It’s unclear what effect this ban will actually have on internet gambling. The bill bans credit card and banking transactions for online poker rooms and casinos, but credit card companies have banned gambling transactions for years. The vast majority of US players use third-party transfer services such as NetTeller and FirePay. Unless banks place a blanket ban on all transactions from these companies, the ban will be almost fruitless.

There’s an glaring hypocrisy to the online gaming ban. The original bill carved out exceptions for online lotteries, horse betting and fantasy sports. Many states — including districts whose legislators voted for the ban — make significant revenue from local gambling operations, including state lotteries (”a tax on stupidity,” said Voltaire), casinos and racetracks. A regulated online gambling industry could have produced millions of dollars in tax revenue, but online gambling income is now, for all intents and purposes, illegal.

Not to mention that a US online gambling ban violates free trade agreements. In an as-yet-unresolved dispute with the tiny island nation of Antigua, the World Trade Organization has ruled that the US can not ban online gambling. Other nations that headquarter online gaming companies, such as the UK, will likely join in the fray in the coming months.

And finally, Congress is going against the American people on this one. Recent polls by the Wall Street Journal and CNBC showed that 85-90% of Americans support regulation of the online gaming industry.

The online gaming ban was the only major measure added to the port security bill. Measures that were rejected include:

  • Billions for rail and transit security
  • Lifting the cap on federal airport screeners
  • Tightening security at courthouses and increased penalties for attacking a judge

I guess going after internet poker players was more important than all these frivilous measures.

Freedom of the press coming under attack worldwide.

Jul 02, 2006 in Current Events

There’s been a lot of controversy recently concerning the New York Times’ report on the secret government program that monitors financial transactions to fight terrorism. Some have called the NYT report “treasonous,” and Republican lawmakers are calling for investigations.

But consider: Even if the government’s program of monitoring bank records does help to fight terrorism, it is only the latest in a series of revelations that our government is doing things that possibly violate the Constitution, or the Geneva Convention. Before this, it was the NSA’s database of phone records, the secret CIA prisons, Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.

Did the NYT make a mistake by revealing the existence of the program to monitor bank records? Possibly. Does the press occasionally make mis-steps? Certainly. Should the press (or in this case, the NYT) be prosecuted for revealing information that they feel is in the best interests of the public to know? Absolutely fucking not.

The purpose of a free press in a democracy is to keep watch on the government, lest it does something that infringes upon the rights of it’s citizens. It’s right there in the First Amendment. And in many so-called democratic countries across the world, that purpose is coming under fire.

This recent AP article details the legal troubles that reporters and newspapers are having across the world when it comes to reporting questionable actions by their governments. And these aren’t countries like Iran or North Korea, No, we’re talking about Britain, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and of course the United States.

In almost all of these cases, the ‘leaks’ have to do with activities concerning the war on terrorism or the war in Iraq. Whistleblowers who revealed that there was no evidence of WMDs in Iraq have faced prosecution or retribution. Two officials in Britain are charged with leaking a memo revealing that Bush suggested bombing the headquarters of al-Jazeera — probably the only major free press outlet available in the Arab world.

It’s been said that the first casualty of war is truth. The truth is still being told, but it is under attack by those who’d prefer we trust Big Brother instead. In two days, we will be celebrating the occasion when our forefathers broke free of an oppressive empire to create a free country. Our greatest enemy now is not Islamic terrorists or insurgents. The greatest threat to our country is ourselves. No external force can take away our freedoms. Only us, or our government, can do that for us.