Thursday, April 30, 2009

Waterboarders for Christ.

The results of a recent Pew poll finds quizzically that the strongest supporters of torture outside the Cheney household are most likely to be found among the same folks you'll find in church most often.   The contradiction is obvious of course but it speaks to a larger truth about what passes for religion in America these days.

"Christian" is frankly quite often an entirely false designation among those self identifying.    What's really important about the classification is not that it identifies a large group  of people who actually emulate the life of Jesus but rather its a cultural marker for people who are in fact merely traditionalists or conservatives in the smallest sense of the word.  

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Scalia don't like talk about poo, boning, or empirical data

I've already pulled several muscles in my neck  shaking my head over this but in case it passed your notice the Supreme Court upheld the FCC's authority to regulate naughty words aired over broadcast television.   Irony abounds....

First of all Im an unlikely ally of the Fox Network in this.  Clearly they are on the side of God here, but this would be the same Fox Network whose "news" division employs  legions of windbag assholes who would use the facts of this case to evidence that liberal elites are debasing our culture with their potty-mouthed disregard for wholesome American values.  So just to tie up loose ends, one side of  Fox's mouth is suing the government for the protection to broadcast Cher saying "fuck" while the other side of its mouth points to Cher saying "fuck" as a sign of the unravelling of society.  Fuck.  Clear contradictions in behavior just don't  embarrass some people so what can you do.

Small beans however when compared to Scalia's majority opinion.  For the sake of review the man is one of the most aggressively conservative Justices in decades who claims to wash his ideological hands clean on the altar of original intent and strict construction.   Perish the thought  that he might ever allow his thinking to be muddled by personal biases or passing fads of society that could tempt him into (gasp) judicial activism.  Lets cut to the opinion shall we.....?

This sworn enemy of  constitutional creep has somehow discovered in that very same eternal document that the government has the right to limit free speech in the interest of  protecting children from the "first blow" of bad language, Im assuming no pun there.  Scalia opines: 

"Programming replete with one word expletives will tend to produce children who use (at least) one word indecent expletives.  Congress has made the determination that indecent material is harmful to children and has left enforcement of the ban to the Commission"

So this man who finds no  explicit right to privacy in the Constitution can find justification for the government to proactively determine what language is harmful for your children to hear and limit free speech accordingly at its discretion.   That's right, small government hero Scalia has no problem with allowing some unelected agency lifer to decide what warrants governmental smack down and what doesn't.

"...the agency's decision to consider the patent offensiveness of isolated expletives on a case by case basis is not arbitrary or capricious"

Im not making this up.   Lest you  think Scalia has summarily changed the definition of arbitrary or capricious he goes on to justify that a prime time recitation of  Chaucer's The Miller's Tale  would not likely fall under the scope of the FCC's concerns because it "would not be likely to command the attention of many children who are both old enough to understand and young enough to be adversely affected".   Cher however is one of those glittery Hollywood types that kids can't resist I guess....

Just to keep score now.  Scalia's government can: make determinations about what your kid should hear, judge the relative level of societal  harm by guess-timating  audience size, and peg exactly how old a kid has to be to occupy this "fist-blow" danger zone.

It gets even better.

How, you might ask, does Scalia justify all this??  Turns out that's a goddamn good question because he does admit that  "There are some propositions for which scant empirical evidence can be marshaled and the harmful effects of broadcast profanity  is one of them."  Meaning of course that I have no idea if this is even bad in the first place but Im going to support its ban anyway.  See, that doesn't feel original intent-ey to me at all....

Clearly though he's foresees the corner he paints himself into:
"If enforcement has to be supported by empirical data, the ban effectively would be a nullity"    Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!!!!!!!    Don't ask me for evidence, Im a Supreme-fucking-Court Justice here.  You may kiss my ring now.

If you  know me you know I cannot get through the day without saying fuck repeatedly and obviously my children know this too.  I've chosen to deal with that by telling them what curse words mean and allowing them to use them around me and only me if they choose and mostly they choose not to.  When they do curse around me they don't do it very well.  I want to teach discretion here without making certain words seem "grown up" and more alluring to them.   Like most of my parenting I probably have this exactly wrong but the point is that its my choice to make and not some appointed douchebag who has made a career out of pretending like he's purged of personal bias and guided by the purity of his intellect alone.

But feminists really have NO sense of humor at all.

This simply cannot be.  Its a study from Ohio St. that shows both liberals and conservatives think Steven Colbert is making fun of the other side and actually supports them.  There are only two possibilities here; either conservatives wouldn't know funny if it made them slip on a banana peel and squirted them with seltzer, or Im fucking out of my mind.

Help me someone.  Can anybody explain how a guy who is clearly doing a send up of right-wing blowhards appeals to the right wing blowhard's audience?  According to this study red staters are tuning in to Colbert and lovin' how he skewers them libruls.  I don't have words.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Who knew that flu might brew??

This is Michael Steele, who is the single most entertaining nut job politician this side of Blagojevich, explaining why Republicans should not be held accountable for voting money for pandemic research and prevention out of the stimulus package.

His point, to the extent there is one, is that of course they did not know this bird-swine-pig flu was going to happen so they shouldn't be blamed for tossing it out of what was supposed to be a jobs bill. Okay, fair enough. 

Of course you're not being faulted for being unable to predict the future Mike.  You're being faulted for knowingly running the risk of distorting the value of this research for your own cherry
picked short term political purposes. 

Arlen. Welcome my friend, welcome.

When combined with the eventual and inevitable outcome of the death march otherwise known as the Norm Coleman campaign in MN Specter's switch will give the Dems an on-paper filibuster proof majority, however in real terms it changes very little as Specter has long been a reliable swing vote.   The real gravy here is how this supports the narrative that the GOP is down to its 
bat shit crazy core and getting crazier by the day.   On the heels of national polls showing that party identification is at its lowest levels in more than a generation the news that a senior senator like Specter fears he would lose his state party primary but is confident that he can win a general with a different party isn't helping get any poles up  in that big tent.   The GOP will get a lot nuttier before things get any better.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Hosting the Olympics. Numbers don't lie. Much

I'll say upfront that I strongly support Chicago's bid to get the games in 2016 and find most of the opposition to be of a vague "fuck Daley" nature  or a piggy-back effect by groups looking to elbow their long list of pre-existing grievances into the attendant press spotlight.

The National Bureau of Economic Research has put up  an interesting working paper on "The Olympic Effect" with a more detailed discussion at Marginal Revolution.  While the upshot of hosting an Olympics is undeniably positive from an economic perspective there are similar benefits to bidding and  failing as well. Maybe that can be our common ground.  The paper focuses on the Olympic bump from countries more so than host cities and a 30% jump in trade from the Olympics would be much harder to quantify and isolate in America than it would a less dynamic national economy but still the basic tenets should hold.   Its unlikely that the games would have an overall positive effect on host nations but have a negative one on host cities.  Both Salt Lake and Atlanta (despite a bombing and congenital cheeziness) saw significant upswings in the local post games economy.

In fact the working paper characterizes the effect as "statistically robust, permanent, and large" so if any serious arguments against hosting the games are going to gain traction they'll have to argue against the investment rather than the expenditure.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Audiences should boo actors more often.

Doesn't relate strictly to theatre but this piece in the WSJ concerning Mary Zimmerman finally getting her fucking come-uppance from an audience at the Met starts a larger discussion, in my own head anyway, about actor's self perception and our often artificial relationships with audiences.

Why not boo?  I don't think there's a good argument for audiences not to.  The simple truth we all know is that at least some  of what happens on stage exists in a shadowy purgatory ranging from the merely ineffective to the puke-your-guts-up-bad.  So why shouldn't audiences feel freer to verbalize what we already know to be the case?  Must it really be that paying patrons should be expected to silently suffer our weaker efforts AND subsequently pretend like its actually not so bad, all in the name of theatre etiquette?   Too often I think its so.  How often do we sneer at the guy asleep in the front row or roll our eyes at the people who leave at intermission?   We know how often.  Conversely then how many times will we receive that "inappropriate behavior" as a clear  sign that maybe we just aren't doing a very good job?  Almost never, and that's a problem.

We're a too tender breed who too often think we deserve an audience's rapt attention and appropriate responses just because its hard being an actor.  I don't think that cuts it.  The crystallization of the polite response helps no one.   Not us, not the audience, and certainly not the cause of relevant theatre.  Yes it is hard tearing our guts out 8 times a week but we chose it and lots of things are hard.  The price of a ticket entitles one to an opinion and when they run to an extreme I think we have an artistic obligation not to dismiss the messenger.  In other words we should take the fucking note.

If you're at all like me you get goose bumps when you read or hear about the opening night curtain call for Waiting For Lefty.   The audience raised en masse and spontaneously yelled "STRIKE" back to the actors on-stage.  It seems to me that this kind of thing is the entire point but I think we make those real and spontaneous moments less likely if we expect the audience to cheerfully receive everything we do.

Friday, April 10, 2009

7 days. 837 Miles. This is what I learned.


In the last ten years or so it has become common for the relatives of a person killed in a car crash along a highway to erect a little ad hoc memorial on or near the accident site.   Perplexing on two counts. 

Why should it be that only the site of fatal car crashes are demarcated??  My grandma died at a nursing home and my dad died in his  home.    While we grieved the passing of both it has never occurred to my family to hang a wreath in what was grandma's semi-private room or nail a cross with dad's name on  it above the couch.  I suspect its much the same with your family.

And while it must no doubt be true that some of  these interstate shrines are a heartfelt expression of love for the deceased it must also be true that some of them exist only because the recently bereaved have grown accustomed to seeing these shrines along the road and feel its "what's done" in these cases now. Its not like we have archeological evidence of little shrines along side the road to Damascus.   The thought of families trudging  to the spot of their grief and marking it against the wishes of their State Departments of Transportation so as not to appear less caring than the family up the road is maybe the worst thing I've ever heard.


This was a terribly disappointing place and I begrudge it its "swing state" status in national elections.


I'll never understand this I suppose because I have always assumed that most Americans would now in retrospect identify with the Union.  Silly me.   But even so it must be said that this rush of pride in "Southern Heritage" is finally a celebration of losing  and that's not generally part of the the American ethos.   The Arizona Cardinals didn't go to DisneyLand. I haven't seen any new McCain/Palin signs in my neighborhood.   In the freely competitive Burkean paradise that is America winners win because they're inherently better and losers lose because they're inherently suck-ier.  Except in the case of the Confederacy.  That's the one example I can think of when people say "nice try" and evidently really mean it.  

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Did my tax dollars pay for those hideous boots?

When you get off a plane in Mexico there are often Federal troops in full special ops regalia roaming the terminal, maybe with a dog, sunglasses, and a pistol strapped to their thigh looking to pop a cap in your ass.   For me there can be no clearer indication that you are not in a real country.   Geographically maybe, but communally, spiritually, or politically not at all.  The not so tacit admission it seems to me is that this thing could spin completely out of control at any second and you should just get you goddamn luggage and get out while you still can.

Its a lot like that in D. C. now.  No doubt we've always  had the snipers or whatever on strategic roof tops  but now they've come down and are leaning on Doric columns kinda casual like.   Its an odd show of force.  Odd because I don't think it contributes to greater security in any real sense but casts us all as extras in a huge production of public performance art titled I Have A Gun And You Don't. 

If I've got violence in my heart (if!) and a suicidal bent, messianic or bi-polar, am I really going to be less likely to ignore the voices in my head because there's a metal detector in every building and a guy out front in reflective sunglasses?  I don't think so.  Perhaps my mayhem is a good deal less effective and that's not nothing but the daily tradeoff amounts to grown men with guns making damn good and sure you don't sneak a bottle of water or a contraband apple into the Capitol and that's not nothing either.   Its a pain in the ass dressed up like an enhanced security perimeter so  the illusion of safety is created and we just mostly swallow the attendant frustration.  Threat neutralized bitches!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

This should be read in every church in America tomorrow morning.

The "this" in this case is the text of the Iowa Supreme Court ruling that overturned the state's prohibition against same sex marriage.  So of course  it wont be read in church tomorrow.  In fact it most likely wont be read ever by any of the same people who'll be in church denouncing the decision tomorrow and that's to their everlasting shame.

Of all the state decisions handed down this one is far and away the most direct and clearly reasoned.  Must be something about the Midwest.  As Prop 8 has painfully demonstrated however one shouldn't presume that these decisions actually "legalize" gay marriage in their states.  In fact I'd be surprised if this stands up to what will surely be several attempts to subsequently amend Iowa's constitution.  But this is yet another hammer and chisel chip, chip, chipping away at what passes for the intellectual basis for SSM prohibition. 

Admittedly the whole issue seems so desperately obvious to me that I have difficulty seriously considering any opposition to SSM and frankly not much of it warrants serious consideration.
The strongest (relative term) arguments that opponents make are of course that while allowing SSM may not have any obvious short term downsides we're talking about a fundamental underpinning of society and we best not mess with such things lightly.  We don't know what the future holds and by allowing SSM in the name of equal protection today we may be buying sack loads of unanticipated trouble down the road  Couple that with the issue of child  rearing and its easy to get a bunch of people good and pissed off.

Its considerably more difficult to get people to stop and think about what they're saying.

The "trads"  or traditionalists (who apparently are calling themselves "trads" so as to appear more.... zippy) are I believe largely serious in their concerns and that's fine.  However what is entirely lacking is a legitimate reason for their concerns to become yours and mine through law.   You don't have to listen to their arguments for very long before someone will bring up polygamy, bestiality, incest and god knows what else all resulting from allowing SSM.  
One can only get to this place to my mind by deeply fearing people, freedom, and change.  In that order. And if we're going to be honest that's exactly what conservatives fear in all social issues.   Conservatives default to the belief that what can be known about humankind is already known and life is essentially the business of not letting our baser instincts run amok and bring civilization down around our heads.

Clearly history tells a different story.  If it didn't we'd all either own or be a slave and women would be for the most part illiterate chattel.  Every time, every single fucking time in history we have stopped thinking of one group as "the other" or lessor somehow and allowed them a full stake in society it  has only been to the good and strengthened society as a whole. I think we're made of sterner stuff than my conservative friends do.  And honestly, what does it say about a world view whose adherents seem to feel that the only thing standing between us and dog fucking on a massive public scale are laws against same sex marriage?  It takes a very particular kind of disdain for one's fellow man (and self) to believe that civilized behavior is so tenuously situated.

As for the child rearing issue.... well.... this is where I start to get pissed off at these people.  If the state is going to prohibit SSM on the assertion that it has an interest in children being raised in  two parent male-female marriages then it ought to assert that interest in cases of divorce and make it illegal as well.  It ought then also assert that a single parent under ANY circumstance is similarly  harmful and  dissolve parental rights on that basis alone.   Likewise single foster or adoptive parents ought to be disallowed out of hand.  Its too silly to suggest, but this is exactly the argument they make and the fact that the state asserts one right in the case of homosexual parents but does not assert the same right in the same circumstance involving hetero parents so clearly violates equal protection that I can hardly believe it.   

The final canard they'll throw out is that if same sex marriage is allowed that this will impede the expression of religious freedom somehow.  Perhaps opposing SSM will be a "hate crime" or some such other nonsense.   The truth is that Catholics, Mormons, and Jews all have singular traditions concerning the recognition of marriage and divorce that have no basis in civil law at all and they've been troubled for it not one wit.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Mark to market bullshit

The stock market had a significant run up today after some obscure group of nefarious suits decided by ONE VOTE to relax  the standards for mark to market accounting procedures which many of the bigger financial institutions overburdened by bad loans have been crying for.  So despite truly awful unemployment numbers financial stocks soared today.  Hurrayyyyyy for Main St.!!!!

Essentially what the suits want us to believe is that the issue isn't that they have baskets full of stupendously worthless loans but  rather that they have to admit that they have baskets full of stupendously worthless loans.  Well played fat asses.... well played.

I don't know about you but it'd do my soul a world of good if more of this pricks  would start jumping off their ledges.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I almost punched the appraisal man right in the fucking nose.

So we're doing the re-fi thing at an insanely low rate and of course part of that rodeo is getting a new appraisal done so the mortgage folks can make an accurate loan to value determination. Im resisting the urge to reel off about 1,500 blistering words here over how many of these very same people just essentially pulled numbers out of their asses the last decade or so and sprayed gasoline on the flames of an out of control housing market. Maybe Im not resisting that urge very well but all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and mortgage people gotta eat too....

Anyway, we've re-fi'd before so I wasn't sweating the thing at all but.....

The guy shows up to the house, perfectly pleasant and professional and not off putting in any way. Except I got put off by the whole deal. Every time he asked a perfectly legit question, like "how old is the roof" I felt like saying "go fuck yourself". "Did you replace the furnace?" "Get the fuck out of my house right now" "How many bedrooms upstairs?" "How'd you like to have your ass kicked?"

A tad too sensitive perhaps but I think I hid it well. I hope I did anyway. If loan to value comes back with negative equity or something then we'll know he saw right through my weak phony-assed smile.