Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
WHAT HAPPENED TO HONEST OPINIONS?
I watched the above video of a recent teabagger protest thinking some wingnuts might give me a hearty chuckle.
But midway through the video, I remembered that a majority of Americans now disapprove of President Obama's performance. Which is to say, these teabaggers are making a difference.
By the end of the video, I was so frightened by it that it made torture porn movies look like My Little Pony.
What scares me, however, is not the anti-Obama sentiment, but the nature of the actual words expressed.
I know that there will always be fierce opposition to any American president, regardless of his or her ideology. Dissent is an American tradition. Undoubtedly, the anti-Bush rallies were an even larger assembly of angry people with the same passion as the people interviewed above.
But what shocks me about these oft-repeated wingnut talking points is how much they depend on lies.
In expressing their views, these teabaggers rely on "facts" with no credible support. Obama is not an American citizen. Obama is a Communist. Obama is the first president to have "czars." Obama wants to kill my grandma. Obama is Muslim. Obama is raising my taxes (said a person who is probably not making more than $250,000). Obama is taking my doctor away.
In contrast, most anti-Bush protesters never needed to lie. They either chanted pure opinions (e.g., "The war on Iraq is wrong," "Bush is the worst president in US history," etc.) or expressed beliefs stemming from undisputed facts (e.g., "No Tax Dollars to Halliburton", "How can the White House defend torture?," etc.).
Granted, there were many leftists who passionately believed unproven assertions. For example, thousands (including me) believed that the White House was raising the terror alert levels during the 2004 presidential campaign just to skew support towards President Bush. Sure enough, it turned out to be true. But even if it wasn't true, most Bush critics could articulate their opposition to President Bush's policies without lying (or repeating lies that they believed to be true).
Consider the "You Lie" controversy. Personally, I am not outraged with Rep. Joe Wilson for merely interrupting Pres. Obama's speech and violating so-called rules of etiquette. If he blurted out "Shame!" during one of Pres. Bush's speeches defending the Iraqi invasion, I would have praised him. Instead, what outrages me about Rep. Wilson's statement is that it's a patently false assertion. He's not expressing an opinion. He's stating that Obama's proposed bill would apply to illegal immigrants, when it clearly does not.
Also, the imbalance in what constitutes acceptable dissent blows my mind. Among other things, I don't remember any anti-Bush protester holding up a sign like, "Unarmed, this time," which one teabagger is carrying in the above video. Moreover, any anti-Bush supporter who showed up to a Bush rally in 2002 with a gun would have been immediately arrested.
Another reason I am especially flabbergasted by the right-wing talking points is because I have no difficulty articulating legitimate ideological grounds for a conservative to criticize the Obama White House. Opposed to a strong, active federal government? Obama is probably not your man. Do you think stem cell research constitutes murder? Obama is not your man. Should insurance companies suffer financially by being forced to insure people with preexisting conditions? If not, Obama is definitely not your man.
Although I completely disagree with the fundamentalist in the video who compared abortion to a holocaust, I respect that it is an opinion not dependent upon lies. He believes that the termination of any fetus is murder. Fair enough. He doesn't need to believe or spread lies -- e.g., Obama is forcing women to get abortions -- to articulate his opposition.
Similarly, today, I respect any person who says, "I oppose Obama's health care reform because I do not believe that wealthy taxpayers should have to pay for poor people's hospital bills."
I don't share that view. I find it greedy and selfish.
But at least it's an honest opinion.
Do these Glenn Beck supporters see any irony in their criticism of Obama as a leader who has used his charisma to create a blind allegiance among supporters?
On a related note, I feel compelled to make two points about the recent surge in Hitler comparisons.
First, I think it is inappropriate to seriously compare someone to Adolf Hitler unless he is responsible for the genocide of hundreds of thousands of people.
(I would make an exception, however, for people who have Hitler mustaches.)
I acknowledge that I am a hypocrite in saying this. I have referred to at least one stringent meter maid or iron-fisted supervisor as a Nazi, which, at the very least, is insensitive to Holocaust survivors.
Thus, I cringe when I see Obama compared to Hitler. Today, I would also cringe if someone compared George W. Bush to Hitler.
But having said that, I feel compelled to make this second point: Obama-Hitler comparisons seem far more indefensible than Bush-Hitler comparisons.
Bush was compared to Hitler when he had unilaterally invaded, in the face of global opposition, the sovereign nation of Iraq and killed at least 100,000 -- and, by some estimates, a million -- civilians. Granted, that death toll doesn't rival the millions who died in the Holocaust. And unlike Hitler, Bush did not systemically calculate to decimate a whole race of people. But I can appreciate the point that 100,000 dead innocent civilians puts Bush on a very short list of people responsible for equally grave numbers.
Obama, on the other hand, is being compared to Hitler for trying to ensure that every American has health care.
Do the protesters drawing Hitler mustaches on Barack Obama's face (fun fact: Obama is not an Aryan) really believe the comparison is valid?
(Credit: Thanks to J. Song for the video)
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
A LOOK BACK AT THE MILLENNIUM
This morning, I was reflecting on how lucky we all are to have seen the dawn of a new millennium. Most humans never lived to see a new one, after all.
Moments later, a friend sent me the above and below clips of George W. Bush speaking.
While I was watching it, I stood at the edge of truly appreciating what humans in the year 3000 will think of humans in the year 2000.
They'll look back at these clips of the first person that the most powerful country on the planet elected to be its leader.
And they will feel smug and intellectually superior, secure in the belief that any society that elected George W. Bush as its leader must have been profoundly retarded.
Labels: George W. Bush
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
WHEN STOPPING THE VIOLENCE MEANS TAKING SIDES
The latest casualty of war
The senseless deaths in Israel and in Gaza have been a horrifying way to end 2008 and begin 2009.
But for me, what is equally horrifying is how many people in power -- especially in the United States -- continue to take the stand that calling for a cease-fire is anti-Israeli, pro-Palestinian, or pro-terrorism.
President Bush is balls-out defending Israel's continued aggression, which is hardly a surprise, since for him to do otherwise would be to challenge the core tenet of the Bush Doctrine.
But President-elect Obama has also been painfully mum. He finally broke his silence today, only to say that he is "deeply concerned about the conflict." Sadly, he has yet to utter a single word that calls for calm, cooler heads, or a cease-fire.
I realize Obama isn't president yet, but his silence is costing lives.
What Obama says (or doesn't say) matters, since Israel's war will continue so long as the United States supports Israel's rejection of calls for a cease-fire.
Moreover, the US just blocked approval of a UN Security Council statement that calls for an immediate cease-fire. If Obama indicated today that he would discontinue Bush's blockade in two weeks, his words would have a huge impact now.
What is the political risk for Obama (or Bush), especially when almost half of all Americans are questioning Israel's aggression in Gaza?
Moreover, what would be the political cost to calling on Israel to let the media into Gaza?
I wish Bush or Obama said something similar to the statement issued by J Street, a Jewish group in the United States:
Israel has a special place in each of our hearts. But we recognize that neither Israelis nor Palestinians have a monopoly on right or wrong. While there is nothing "right" in raining rockets on Israeli families or dispatching suicide bombers, there is nothing "right" in punishing a million and a half already-suffering Gazans for the actions of the extremists among them.J Street is urging people to sign a petition that calls for "immediate and strong U.S.-led diplomatic efforts to urgently reinstate a meaningful ceasefire that ends all military operations, stops the rockets aimed at Israel and lifts the blockade of Gaza. This is in the best interests of Israel, the Palestinian people and the United States."
And there is nothing to be gained from debating which injustice is greater or came first. What's needed now is immediate action to stop the violence before it spirals out of control.
Sounds like a harmless statement to me. It certainly isn't questioning, for example, Israel's right to exist or defend itself.
But given that other prominent members of the Jewish community have attacked J Street's position, there isn't much hope for the peace movement.
I still hold out a knowingly-naive hope that Barack Obama represents the kind of change necessary to help effect a lasting peace in Israel and Palestine.
But as of now, I am disappointed.
If I were the president-elect, when children and other innocent civilians are dying, I wouldn't care if the victims are Israeli or Palestinian. I wouldn't care who started it or whose attacks are retaliatory. And I wouldn't care if the inauguration were still two weeks away.
I would want the killing to stop.
But sadly, in 2009, after eight years of witnessing the epic fail that is the Bush Doctrine, those of us Americans pushing for peace are still being marginalized.
Monday, December 15, 2008
You know your approval ratings are low when the secret service won't even take a shoe for you, much less a bullet.
I love how all the articles about this incident explain the context with a sentence like, "Hitting someone with a shoe is a deep insult in the Arab world."
Is there a country where throwing a shoe at someone is a sign of affection or arousal?
Sadly, this might be George W. Bush's finest moment.
First, he gave the Iraqis a true hero: Muntader al-Zaidi will probably have thousands of children named after him.
Second, he has helped Americans to be more liked in the Arab world. Undoubtedly, any moment now, many Americans will begin mailing their shoes to the White House. (The address is 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20500 for those of you who are putting your kicks into a box right now.)
Third, he demonstrated his quick thinking and physical agility. He avoided not one but two flying shoes.
My dad is a ninja and sometimes even he gets hit with the occasional flying boot.
Thank goodness nobody got hurt. Otherwise, we would need licenses to carry shoes and animated GIFs like these would be practically illegal:
Labels: George W. Bush
Thursday, November 20, 2008
THE HEIGHT OF UNPOPULARITY
I vaguely remember a classmate from my childhood who often smelled like he defecated in his pants every morning.
As if that weren't reason enough for the rest of us to avoid him, he was once sent home from school for having lice in his hair ... for the third time in a month.
The guy in the video above reminds me of that kid, except that I don't feel sorry for him.
(With thanks to Adam Pheiffer)
Labels: George W. Bush
Monday, November 10, 2008
THE O OFFICE
Thank you for being instrumental to my election, sir.
The current tenant occupying 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, #43, is now giving the future tenant, #44, a tour of the government-subsidized housing project.
That welcome must be incredibly awkward in light of these mirror image approval ratings:
I can only process what this meeting will be like if I imagine Billy Bob Thorton giving a tour of Angelina Jolie's house to Brad Pitt while Thorton acts like his mentally challenged character in Sling Blade.
Apparently, the two are to meet alone. I can't imagine what they will discuss.
Obama will want to talk about whether US intelligence confirms that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev chose to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states in order to mask the incursions Prime Minister Vladimir Putin secretly has planned for Georgia.
Bush will want to show Obama which button on the remote control for the ceiling fan makes the paddles spin the other way.
Choice commentary from a TPM reader: "I can't believe Obama is already sitting down with an unpopular, aggressive world leader without preconditions."
Monday, September 22, 2008
WHY CHARLIE RANGEL GETS A FREE PASS FROM ME
Bull Connor brushes the dirt off Rangel's shoulder
Congressman Charlie Rangel is in hot water for saying "You got to be kind to the disabled" after being asked why Democrats seem to fear Governor Palin.
He later said he meant to say "disadvantaged" and not "disabled."
Republicans claim to be outraged.
Admittedly, it was a poor choice of words.
But if you ask me, Charlie Rangel deserves a free pass. In fact, he can fumble all the words he wants.
Why? Because he is the author of the best quote in the history of modern sound bites.
Back in 2005, when Rep. Rangel was asked about what he thought of President Bush, he replied:
"If there's one thing that George Bush has done that we should never forget, it's that for us and for our children, he has shattered the myth of white supremacy once and for all."
Best. Quote. Ever.
(Hattip to Games of Berkeley)
Friday, September 12, 2008
PROJECT OSAMA BY 11/4
"All Things Considered, September 12, 2008 · NPR has learned that the Bush administration is pushing for increased military action along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The plan is part of an effort to kill or capture Osama bin Laden and other top al-Qaida leaders before Election Day on Nov. 4."
Uh...why didn't they do this Nov 4, 2007? Or Nov 4, 2006? Or Nov 4, 2005? Or...
I'd never root for Osama but Bush isn't winning bonus points for such a transparent, partisan play.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
GUESS WHO, BATMAN?
Lily politely asks that you not stay in touch
One of the few good things about wars and horrible leaders is that they usually invite terrific musical responses.
But somehow, George W. Bush, one of our country's most incompetent and ignorant presidents, has not inspired many good songs.
Songs like Bright Eyes' "When The President Talks to God," NIN's "Capital G," and Pink's "Dear Mr. President," for example, are well-intentioned, but rarely get repeated listens from me.
Before today, The Legendary K.O.'s "George Bush Doesn't Care About Black People" was the catchiest W-related tune, but the poor production led me to skip it most of the time.
Thankfully, today, I got a hold of a complete cut of Lily Allen's "Guess Who Batman." (Currently, the song is only available on her MySpace page and it cuts off midway through the song.)
I need to give it a few more spins, but so far, this song is catchy as hell and one of the better anti-Bush songs to see the day of light.
Lily claims the song is about nobody in particular, but the initials of "Guess Who Batman" -- GWB -- are only shared with one politician I know.
The lyric, "You want to be like your father / His approval, you're after," also leaves little doubt.
Have a listen and see how long it takes for the chorus to leave your head:
P.S. Justified or not, I'm going to add Lily Allen to the list of people who, like me, sees corollaries between GWB and the Dark Knight.
Monday, July 21, 2008
DID THE BUSH ADMINSTRATION BANKROLL THE DARK KNIGHT?
Up next: Waterboarding
In The Dark Knight, Batman seeks to protect the world from terrorists and suicide bombers.
But evildoers like the Joker don't play by the rules. So Batman, who has always operated outside of the law, must become even more vigilante and take measures with which even his own staff is uncomfortable.
And so Batman wiretaps all of Gotham's citizens' cell phones. He listens to their conversations to infiltrate terrorist cells. When the Joker is in custody, he resorts to violent interrogation techniques that rise to the level of torture. Not only does he refuse to listen to authorities, he doesn't even stay for the end of conversations. Batman is The Decider.
As Bruce Wayne, Batman also embeds himself in the shady worlds of cronyism and money laundering. His company secretly funds defense contractors and top secret weapons research. He calls upon his rich friends to support men like Harvey Dent who take tough stances on crime. The fundraising is especially important to offset the influence of the Chinese, who are literally sitting on top of our money.
As the film progresses, Batman's approval rating with the citizens of Gotham City begins to tank, in light of the rising death toll of Gotham's soldiers. But the film makes clear to the viewer that Batman was only acting for the greater good.
Which leads to the question that serves as the title of this post: Did the Bush Administration bankroll The Dark Knight?
The movie is well-crafted and undoubtedly entertaining. (To my surprise, Heath Ledger really does give an Oscar-worthy performance.)
But TDK is also a powerful propaganda film that ultimately justifies Bush's actions in his global War on Terror.
Intentional or not, the Nolan brothers clearly support the use of torture and other unlawful custodial interrogation techniques in times of terror. The film climaxes with multiple "ticking time bombs," which is the exact scenario that GOP Congressional leaders and other pundits have cited when defending the need to torture. The sadistic criminal refusing to leak life-saving information is both at the apex of TDK and at the core of why this country hasn't passed more laws banning the use of torture.
Plus, if Congress had any trouble passing the FISA bill, they could have delayed the vote until after this film, which showcases the need for eavesdropping and glorifies other temporary deprivations of civil liberties to fight the bad guys.
As if the allusions to the current administration's policies were not obvious enough, by the end of the film, Harvey Dent even looks like Dick Cheney blew the left side of his face off.
A movie that reflects our post-9/11 world? Nothing new.
But a post-9/11 film that actually seems to unabashedly endorse Bush's post-9/11 response? New to me.
Perhaps the only point that the analogy fails is when we see Batman actually struggle with the moral complexities and ethical constraints of what he's doing.
P.S. Since Nolan's version of Batman learned about war in Southeast Asia, perhaps John McCain is a better substitute for The Dark Knight.
(With thanks to Jingalls and Sarisa)
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
DARING THE DEVIL
Those who scour Brazilian news for potential nominees for the Darwin Awards are familiar with the story of Father Adelir Antonio de Carli, who set out on April 20th to break a record by floating more than 400 miles in the air while strapped to a thousand helium-filled party balloons.
I give Father de Carli credit for finding the most imaginative way to get high on 4/20.
Unfortunately, he drifted out to sea and has been missing for over a week. He had a GPS system on him, but didn't know how to use it and forgot to bring instructions.
The Brazilian Air Force and Navy are two of several government and private groups that spent days searching for him. After finding some of his balloons in the water, most searches have finally been called off today.
Am I the only one who considers this story an apt metaphor for George W. Bush? Consider the commonalities:
- Wasted countless government resources on pointless expedition
- Planned poorly; counted on God to guide him
- Lacked exit strategy
- Failed to accomplish mission
(With thanks to A. Haden)
Labels: George W. Bush