Wednesday, August 29, 2012

When Did the GOP Lose its Collective Mind?

I caught tidbits of the Republican National Convention last night while playing the Teetotaller's Drinking Game: down a swig of booze whenever you see a black person on screen. By the end of the night I remained stone-cold sober and still despaired of ever answering the question: when did the GOP lose its collective mind?

I've said all I plan to say about the ludicrously misogynistic views on rape held by the likes of Todd Akin or Paul Ryan, yet the Republicans still haven't figured out "Every time we discuss rape we make asses of ourselves, so maybe we need to shut the hell up for awhile." Tom Smith, senatorial candidate from Pennsylvania (same state which inflicted Rick Santorum on the nation), never got this memo, which is why he told the Associated Press that getting pregnant from a rapist is just like getting pregnant from consensual, non-married sex:

MARK SCOLFORO, ASSOCIATED PRESS: How would you tell a daughter or a granddaughter who, God forbid, would be the victim of a rape, to keep the child against her own will? Do you have a way to explain that?
SMITH: I lived something similar to that with my own family. She chose life, and I commend her for that. She knew my views. But, fortunately for me, I didn’t have to.. she chose they way I thought. No don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t rape.
SCOLFORO: Similar how?
SMITH: Uh, having a baby out of wedlock.
SCOLFORO: That’s similar to rape?
SMITH: No, no, no, but… put yourself in a father’s situation, yes. It is similar.
Because in RepublicanWorld there are two types of pregnancies: the decent kind that result in a baby at least nine months after a legal, Christian wedding ceremony, and The Other Kind. Why waste time parsing the others?

Still, I naively thought "These rape comments are so stupid, so bigoted, so utterly clueless, it is not possible for any mainstream Republican to say anything stupider." Wrong! Over in New Mexico, GOP lobbyist and RNC leader Pat Rogers ignored issues of rape and sex altogether, in favor of something even worse: criticizing New Mexico's governor for meeting with Indian leaders, on the grounds that such a meeting dishonored the memory of General George Armstrong Custer. (Note to non-American readers who might not get the Custer reference: that's roughly equivalent to one modern German politician saying to another, "How dare you meet with that influential rabbi? You're dishonored the memory of every soldier who fought for Germany in World War Two.")

Seriously -- I'm addressing this, again, to the non-Americans who are reading this -- the majority of United States citizens are not like this. Even if you focus exclusively on those of us who think Obama's doing a lousy job as president, the majority are not like this. Who is the GOP trying to appeal to, here?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Purveyors of the Homosexual Agenda are Clearly Neglecting Their Duties

I just wanted to point out that I've been part of a traditional heterosexual marriage for almost a month and a half, now, and I'm still waiting for the gays to threaten it. Tick tock tick tock tick tock ....

A Ryan Analogy

Rape is merely "a method of conception," just as slavery was merely "a method of harvesting cotton." The end result is the same either way, so why give a damn about trivial matters like consent?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Facepalming My Way To A Concussion

After Todd Akin made his idiotic remarks about "legitimate rape" rarely leading to pregnancy, the Republican establishment hastened to distance itself from him and for one brief, shining moment, I dared hope that was the moment the Republicans would snap out of it and realize "Whoa. We've really hit rock bottom, here. We're supposed to be the party of small government, personal liberty and fiscal responsibility, remember? Not the haven for theocrats, science deniers and fury at the thought of consenting adults having babyless sex."

Alas, as I explain in the Guardian today, that hope evaporated when the GOP convention down in Tampa unveiled the anti-abortion plank in its campaign platform: a "Human Life Amendment" that would ban abortion in all instances, even to save the mother's life.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The GOP: Run By Deep-Cover Democratic Operatives Since 2009

If I were prone to conspiracy theories, I'd swear the Republican Party has been taken over by secret-agent Democrats whose mission is to ensure Obama's re-election no matter how lousy a president Obama actually is.

After Obama's inauguration, many people who voted for him, like me, were soon dismayed to learn that Candidate Obama outright lied when he promised to (for example) order the Department of Justice to lay off prosecuting medical marijuana patients, close the unconstitutional monstrosity that is our prison camp in Gitmo, and other things. I voted Obama in 2008 because I felt it very important to repudiate the previous eight years of Bush/Cheney chicanery, and was flabbergasted to discover that on pretty much every constitutional/civil liberty issue -- government transparency, punishing whistleblowers, ignoring the fourth amendment on mass transit -- Obama was actually worse than George W. Bush. Obama makes me nostalgic for the carefree freedom of the Bush/Cheney years -- and pre-2009, I never believed anything short of powerful hallucinogens could make me do that.

"Well," I thought sometime around 2009, "if the Republicans nominate a nice, sane, centrist moderate -- maybe Huntsman, or Gary Johnson -- they have a pretty good chance of overcoming Obama's incumbent's advantage and taking back the White House in 2012." But what did the GOP do instead? Look at a president whose own base was fed up with his anti-civil-liberties stance, and offered us a choice of Newt Gingrich the megalomaniac, Rick Santorum the Catholic Taliban, or Mitt Romney, who changes his principles almost as frequently as I change my socks.

The GOPers below the presidential level are even worse. Missouri Congressman and senatorial candidate Todd Akin collected unwanted headlines this weekend when he insisted that victims of "legitimate rape," as he put it, could not be impregnated by their rapists. Bad enough a few months ago, when Santorum said that rape victims impregnated by their attackers should consider their rape-babies "gifts from God" -- but at least Santorum's comment tacitly admitted that the pregnant woman in question had actually been raped. I doubt I would've believed anybody then, who told me "You think Santorum's view of preggo rape victims is bad? Give the Republicans a few extra months, and they'll top it."

If all you knew about modern America came from today's GOP, you'd swear the majority of Americans think gay marriage is the greatest threat to the republic since Nazism, and science is an atheist plot and the single most evil thing in the earth's 6,000-year history. Oh, and "fiscal responsibility" means "We can afford a military almost as expensive as every other military on earth combined, and we can afford to run a worldwide chain of secret CIA torture prisons, but giving some poor family 200 bucks a month in food stamps will bankrupt us." And women's fallopian tubes contain special anti-sperm firedoors that slam shut whenever she's raped.

I miss the days when the GOP was the party of small government and personal and fiscal responsibility, rather than the party of unvarnished theocrats, scientific denial and utter incoherent rage at the thought of consenting adults engaging in non-procreative sexual activities. But I suppose this was inevitable, once the GOP started sucking up to Moral Majority/Christian Coalition types a generation ago.

Paul Ryan, Romney's vice-presidential pick, once sponsored a bill that would allow states to ban abortion in all circumstances -- including cases of rape, incest, and even when necessary to save the mother's life. (Which, by the way, is another reason I wish anti-abortion people would quit calling themselves "pro-life" in favor of the more accurate "pro-forced gestation." There's nothing remotely pro-"life" about telling a pregnant woman "Better you should die in childbirth than live childfree.")

Mind you, I have no inherent philosophical objection to the death penalty; I agree with the idea "Certain actions are so heinous, the individual who commits them deserves to die." I just don't think being a woman with an ectopic pregnancy is one of those death-worthy actions. But Paul Ryan does, and Mitt Romney finds the idea palatable enough to make its adherent his veep, one heartbeat away from the Oval Office.

I'll be voting for Gary Johnson this November, but I can no longer criticize those who'll vote for Obama again, not with the GOP going out of its way to make Obama the lesser of two evils.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Raising Facebook's Bottom Line

Dear Facebook,

Your stock price is dropping like a rock because you have no ad revenue. Why not? Let's peruse the ads currently on my Facebook feed and find out.

Seven advertisements in all: an invitation for my childfree self to join a "proud mothers" group; a local photographer who specializes in portraits of newborns; the chance to supplement my Master's degree with a GED; an ad offering my 112-pound self the chance to lose 48 pounds as Rachael Ray did; an ad offering the chance to lose seven pounds a week; an ad telling me how to lose 23 pounds as Kim Kardashian did, and another ad offering me the chance to lose seven pounds a week.

So: two ads offering services I'd never use, one insulting my education and intelligence, and four offering advice that will literally kill me within a month if I listen to them.

THAT'S why nobody's clicking on your ads, Zuckerberg.


P.S. Who the hell told you I even like Rachael Ray or Kim Kardashian, let alone want to model my life after theirs? Tell me who told you this, so I can sue his ass for libel.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Reporting From The Twitterverse

Over at the Daily Dot, I play Captain Obvious long enough to point out to Netflix: pushing shoddy rip-off merchandise on your customers might not be a good long-term business strategy.

Monday, August 13, 2012

No Allies To Our Axis

If you live in America and have a cable TV subscription, as I do, there's barely an hour of the day or night when you can't find a World War Two documentary to watch. World War Two is a big deal here, doubtless because that was the last war where we unequivocally won, and could say without reservation "We were the GOOD guys in that fight." (Even the bad things we did then were exponentially less evil than what the Nazis did -- our concentration camps for citizens of unpopular ethnicity were still better than their concentration camps for citizens of unpopular ethnicity.)

But the German people never rose up to overthrow the Nazis -- had Germany won the war, or Hitler been smart enough to never start it in the first place, the swastika flag might still fly over Germany today, and the Holocaust dismissed as mere conspiratorial ravings. Indeed, most Germans never even thought there was any reason to overthrow the Nazis -- after all, Hitler "only" grabbed all those emergency powers for himself after the burning of the Reichstag, and claimed valid-sounding national-security reasons for doing so, and the majority of Germans then -- like the majority of Americans now -- told themselves "I have nothing to worry about, because I've done nothing wrong. Only terrorists and evildoers need fear the growing power of the state."

The Nazis stopped ruling Germany because the victorious Allied armies demanded it. But there's no country or group of countries on Earth willing and able to do the same for America, if it comes to that. Voting won't do it either: where the NDAA, TSA and other unconstitutional monstrosities are concerned, there's no difference whatsoever between Obama and Romney. If we Americans don't clean up our mess, there's nobody who will do it for us. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Change Of Heart

In the seven weeks since I moved back down south, this has been my life: Bugs, weeds, insects, poisonous plants, creepy-crawlies, kudzu, cicadas that never STFU and birds with permanent diarrhea. 

When I lived in New England, I truly and sincerely cared about the environment. Now, I mostly just want to napalm it.

A Good Reason To Vote For Obama and/or Romney

The only good reason to vote for Romney is this: you are so determined to "stick it" to the Democrats, you don't mind sticking it to the whole country as well. And the only good reason to vote for Obama is this: you want to stick it to the Republicans badly enough to stick it to the whole country too. If you think cutting off your nose is a good way to spite your face, vote Rama or Obamney this November. Ha! Take that, Face!
Other good reasons to vote Obama or Romney: you think job security for TSA child molesters is far more important than the fourth amendment. You support the NDAA, and think the president has the right to imprison or kill American citizens solely on his say-so. You think ordinary people should pay higher taxes to bail out multinational corporations. You support the legal use of torture. There's no limit to the freedoms and civil liberties you'll abandon in exchange for the false promise of "security." You find a totalitarian government superior to a government that operates by the consent of the governed. Or -- most likely -- because you're such a strong supporter of Team Red or Team Blue, you just don't give a damn about Team America.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Slow Fast

I cannot consume anything except water today, in preparation for this evening's life-insurance physical. (If all goes well, soon I shall be more valuable dead than alive!) Fasting is supposed to promote deep, spiritual insights; the only insights I've discovered are, I really want a cup of coffee and I really, really want a cheeseburger.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Political Activist Seeks Label

If you’re a longtime reader of my blog, then thank you. Notice anything different today? Take a moment, look around, see if you can spot the change… I’ll be right here when you’re done.
--passage of time –

--Barry Manilow in Muzak form fills your ears while you wait--
--Oh Mandy, you came and you brought me some bacon, but you cooked it flambé oh Mandy--
See the difference? I took the subheading off my blog title. No more mention of “gonzo libertarianism.” No mention of libertarians at all. I’ve discarded that label for the same reason I quit calling myself a feminist: because both words have become so contaminated, their mainstream use is entirely different from their original meanings.

Whenever I said “I'm a feminist,” I meant men and women should be legal and social equals. But I quit applying the F-word to myself once I started collecting criticism from other self-described F-words who apparently believe feminism means “attractive women betray The Sisterhood” or “Ditto the women who work in the sex industry” or even “Andrea Dworkin was right: men are scum.”

I’ve written professional articles describing how I paid for college by working in exotic-dance clubs, and had self-described F-words in the comment threads tell me outright that I was a disgusting human being who caused harm to all women, and “should have” remained an impoverished high school graduate rather than dance my way to a college degree. I view feminism as a ladder to help women climb up; they view it as a cudgel to beat women down when we don't behave as they demand. I’m a strong advocate of ladder feminism and utterly abhor cudgel feminism, but the cudgel version is best-known today and I don’t want anybody thinking I adhere to it, which is why I’ve stopped saying “I’m a feminist” in favor of clunkier phrases like “equality for all.”

Which brings me to libertarianism. Or any political label, these days. Pop quiz: in modern American usage, what is the definition of a “political conservative?” I can give you multiple contradictory and equally valid answers off the top of my head: A conservative is someone who believes in smaller government and more personal liberty. Or someone who believes government should be small enough to fit inside a gay person's bedroom, drug user's bloodstream or woman's reproductive system, the better to regulate what goes on within. Someone who believes anything a Republican does is good because it’s a Republican doing it, and anything a Democrat does is bad for an equal and opposite reason. Someone who believes the Bible rather than the constitution should be the law of the land. There’s even conservatives who believe science is a left-wing atheist plot and the single greatest evil in the 6,000-year history of planet Earth. I consider myself a conservative according to the first definition I listed, but want nothing to do with the latter groups.

What is a “liberal?” It could mean “someone who believes in the importance of individual rights and civil liberties.” I’m extremely liberal, in that sense of the word. But it can also apply to someone who believes “anytime anything bad happens, it’s because the government didn’t pass the right regulations,” with a strong subcategory of “someone who believes only agents of the government should be allowed to own guns.”

And quite a few partisan-hack liberals believe “Destroying civil liberties is only bad if Republicans do it; TSA was an unconstitutional monstrosity as a Bush baby, but now that Obama’s president I fully support TSA’s fine efforts to keep me safe. Also, warrantless wiretapping is evil because – oh, wait, it’s Democrats doing it now? Never mind, then.”

I’ve even seen self-described liberals who sincerely believe “individuals must be forced to suffer in the name of the greater good” – like the ones who oppose school choice and believe poor-but-bright kids must remain in their dangerous, failing public schools, because if the poor-but-bright kid can leave and get a better education somewhere else, that would hurt the dangerous, failing school he just abandoned. The school doesn’t owe him a good education; he owes the school the state funding tied to his attendance.

And what is a “libertarian?” If you limit the definition to someone who plans to vote for Gary Johnson in the next presidential election, that’s me. If you stick with the old definition “someone who believes government power over individuals must be kept to a minimum, because power corrupts and attracts the corrupt, and also because adults are better off running their own lives than letting bureaucrats run their lives instead”  … that’s me, too.

But I’m fed up with being mistaken for the self-described libertarians who support the racist drivel of the infamous Ron Paul newsletters, libertarians who support Bob Barr, libertarians who believe “any sort of law protecting a worker’s rights relative to his employer is a net loss for freedom,” libertarians who think Rush Limbaugh made a good argument when he called Sandra Fluke a slut and a prostitute for thinking medical insurance should cover ovarian cysts and other problems with women’s reproductive systems.

As the Fluke debacle played out on the national stage last March, I wrote “Sandra Fluke Was Not A Fluke: A Secular Crisis of Faith,” my first blog post where I wondered, publicly, if I really wanted to label myself a libertarian anymore:
Limbaugh's rant didn't surprise me at all. Here's what did surprise me: when I'd go on Facebook, or visit various political blogs and forums I'm prone to frequent, all run by people I'd considered political allies of a sort (mainly self-described libertarians who claim to share my mantra "Social liberal and fiscal conservative"), I saw to my dismay how many "libertarians" favor Limbaugh's view of ovarian-cyst treatment over Fluke's.

I saw countless photos of Fluke's face with captions suggesting she wants taxpayers to buy her silk sheets, Barry White albums and vibrating dildos; captions suggesting that only whores want or need healthy reproductive systems. I saw self-described libertarians who view women's hormone pills the same way callous drug warriors view pain medicine for the dying: if there's even the theoretical possibility a drug or medical treatment can be used solely for fun -- a painkiller that can also get you high, a hormone-balancing treatment that can also let you have sex without fear of pregnancy -- then let's pretend these treatments are only used for fun, and furthermore that only irresponsible criminal loser-types would ever use those treatments. Only hopeless-loser potheads would ever use marijuana, only trashy-filth meth whores would ever buy decongestants, and only promiscuous sluts would ever take hormone pills, right?
A couple days later, my friend and fellow blogger Mark Draughn linked to me in a post of his own, which he called “How not to bring women into the libertarian movement.”

He quoted parts of my post, added commentary of his own, then said this:
Like many other radical movements, libertarianism has some very dark corners. Probably the darkest of these corners — the ones we talk about the least — are the corners where all the bigots are hiding.

I think it’s a reaction to shifting political power. There was no such thing as the Ku Klux Klan when white people were completely in charge and black people were literally slaves. But once the slaves were emancipated, white bigots lost some power in the world, and they fought back by forming a terrorist organization, with the goal of keeping blacks in their place.

That hasn’t worked out real well for them: Just check the skin color of our current President. It took a damned long time, but black people have risen up in this country and begun to take their share of political power. Women have been on the same path, gaining in power and influence every decade. These changes frighten a lot of bigots, and when people who frighten you are beginning to control the government, the idea of a smaller government begins to look really attractive. So they start calling themselves libertarians.

(Stripped of the racist elements, that’s a pretty good description of why I’m a libertarian: The people who control our government are frightening me.)

We all know a few of those libertarians. They’re the ones who complain endlessly about the government’s abuse of power, but the only example they ever come up with is Affirmative Action. They’re the ones who can only list “welfare” when asked for an example of government waste. They’re the ones who oppose gun control because “the streets are filled with savages.” They’re the ones who wrote the worst of the Ron Paul newsletters. And when the government wants to restructure healthcare, they’re the ones who only seem really upset about the parts that help women. 

That darkling breed of libertarian Draughn calls out is part of the reason I’m shying away from the label now. But the bigoted libertarians aren’t the only reason. I’m also fed up with the ones who might, for lack of a better word, be called “libertopians”: those who believe that, since X law would not be necessary in a true free-market libertopia, this means X law should not exist now, and anyone who argues for it must only be a freedom-hating statist. Take, for example, the ones who oppose Sandra Fluke – NOT because they hate women, but because they honestly, sincerely believe that making employers pay for health insurance benefits if they don’t want to is detrimental to their freedom.

Yes, it would be in libertopia. But we don’t live there: we live in a country where the laws effectively makes it impossible for most people to buy decent health insurance on their own; either you get it through your employer or you don’t get it at all. Yet even under these warped circumstances, as far from a truly free market as you can get, libertopians insist that “freedom” means employers need the right to pry into their employees’ medical records and make decisions regarding employees’ medical care. And if that means Sandra Fluke’s friend loses her ovary because medical treatment for ovarian cysts offends her employer’s religious sensibilities — let freedom ring! The system works as advertised!

Or consider the libertarians who say they oppose gay marriage because they think government should get out of the marriage business altogether. Meanwhile, they’re willing to stick with the status quo “straight people can marry and get government benefits that wouldn’t exist in libertopia,” then claim that extending these same privileges to gay couples would be a step backwards, freedom-wise.

“Gay couples shouldn’t be getting government privileges” would be a valid anti-gay marriage argument if we lived in libertopia, where NO couples got special government bennies and gays sought to make themselves the exception to that rule. But in our world, our real, utterly non-libertopian world, where such privileges are already doled out to everyone except gay couples, such arguments reek of utter cluelessness at best, rank bigotry at worst.

I’m imagining today’s libertarian-utopians circa 1850: “Yeah, in libertopia, divorce will be legal, and wives free to leave abusive husbands. Until then, though, it would be antithetical to freedom if we pass laws telling men they can’t beat their wives. We can’t let the government interfere with the family! Men NEED the freedom to manage their households as they see fit, and women still have the freedom to just say no to a marriage proposal from an abuser.”

Around the time of the Fluke debacle, some Arizona legislators proposed a law that would make it legal for employers to look at all employees' medical records and fire any women who take birth control pills.

And I know self-described libertarians who supported that law, and opposed any counterlaw banning employers from perusing their employees’ medical records, in the name of supporting employers' freedom. Which, again, might persuade me if we lived in libertopia, but we don’t. If true libertarian freedom requires codifying into law an employer’s “right” to peer into every aspect of an employee’s physical condition and personal life, and fire those who take legal medications the employer dislikes, then true libertarian freedom can go fuck itself with the taxpayer-subsidized dildo it pretends Sandra Fluke actually demanded.

So how do I describe my political beliefs? Liberal, conservative, feminist, libertarian? All apply to some extent – but only if you focus on what they used to mean, and not enough people do anymore.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Read Cosmo

If I had a teenaged daughter and wanted her to grow up with a healthy sense of self-confidence, I'd buy her a subscription to Playboy before I'd let her read Cosmo (and I'm not just saying that because I've been published in Playboy, either). For all Playboy's airbrushed unreality, its essential message is "women are great, and so is personal freedom," which beats the hell out of the Cosmo premise "You aren't good enough."

FIFTEEN SEXY NEW EYE-MAKEUP TECHNIQUES (which you need to master because your natural eyes are so hideously ugly on their own, you'll never get laid without the right mascara)

KICKY NEW FIGURE-ENHANCING FASHIONS (necessary because your unenhanced figure, quite frankly, looks like a cow's)

HOW TO MAKE HIM COMMIT TO YOU (which due to your various personality flaws he'd otherwise never consider doing unless you follow the techniques outlined in this-here $4.95 magazine)

LOSE TEN POUNDS BY BATHING SUIT SEASON (Christ, what a lardass you are)

MUST-HAVE TRENDY CLOTHES THAT WILL BE HOPELESSLY OUT OF STYLE BY THIS TIME NEXT YEAR (nonetheless you need to buy them if you ever want a man in your life. What, save your money for investment purposes? Pshaw, a man is the only investment you'll ever need).

Monday, August 06, 2012

Another Unconstitutional Bill Signed Into Law

The president has signed into law the "Honoring America's Veterans" act, because what better way to honor veterans than to shred the constitutional rights they supposedly fought to defend? The law prohibits any protests two hours before or after a military funeral, and even when protests are allowed, they must be 300 feet away from the actual burial site.

The intention is to stop the loathsome bigots of the Westboro Baptist Church from insulting people at soldier's funerals, but it's using an unconstitutional sledgehammer to squash a gnat. If the law is allowed to stand (though I suspect the supreme court will strike it down on first amendment grounds) then it would be illegal if, for example, survivors of the My Lai massacre dared to protest when the men who murdered their families were given heroes' burials.

In my ideal fantasy version of America, politicians would face a three-strikes law: any lawmaker who votes for (or executive who signs) a law that is later struck down for being unconstitutional gets one strike. Three strikes and you're out, and banned from holding public office ever again.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Bloomberg: Billionaires Know Best

Over at the Guardian I discuss the latest "I know better than you" inititiave Michael Bloomberg wishes to inflict upon New Yorkers.
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