They taught you about Joe Camel.They taught you that he was a ploy to get kids into smoking, young kids, I suppose, since the irony of walking around with an ugly, inbred, cartoon human-camel amalgamation on your chest can only get you laid so many times.When I was in middle school they taught us that the cigarette companies were clever; not only did they place the warnings in the least noticeable place on the cigarette pack, they organized the words in such a way that linking smoking to unhealthiness at first glance was unlikely.
For example, in these labels,
the word “Smoking” was intentionally left on a different line than the action’s deadly effects.Further, what Stan Gantz, a professor of medicine at the University of California-San Francisco and a leading anti-smoking crusader, explains is that these labels are intentionally difficult to read; in fact, they take a high level of reading comprehension to even understand.Combine that with an effort to try to get kids addicted early and it’s like explaining in German the safety functions of an M-16 to an 8-year-old from Mobile, Alabama.
Federal health officials now seem to have a solution to this problem that mimics measures taken by other countries: shocking warning labels.
France and Canada have labels that are easier to read and cut straight to the point.They say, “FUMER TUE.” Smoking Kills.Other countries have implemented warnings that include graphic photos either of what smoking can do to a body or, the more theatrical and post-modern, body cavities actually used as ashtrays like this one from Brazil:
Today, heath officials unveiled a number of possibilities for their new warning labels.Everything from a person dying of cancer,
to a person in a coffin, presumably dead from smoking,
to an ashtray beside a baby’s pacifier, a lighter, a stack of magazines and what looks like cracker crumbs and the wet residue from a beverage that suggests, I suppose, this person exposes their baby to smoking, drinking, heroin addiction and rear-facing car-seats.
According to the Washington Post, “The new warnings, which will mark the first replacement of warnings that cigarette packs began carrying 25 years ago, will cover half the front and back of each pack and 20 percent of the top of each ad.”
Essentially, I find the new warnings to be a step in the right direction.Personally, I’ve never been tempted to smoke by advertisements nor dissuaded from smoking by warning labels.I take up no judgment when someone lights up in my presence.However, if we do want to attenuate or eliminate smoking in America, these warnings are not a large enough step in the right direction.
Perhaps this is a necessarily small effort now that will help the measure pass congress around pressure from the tobacco lobbyists.But, if we want smoking to cease, we need to either get where Brazil is, or further, or start punching people in the face as they bring a lighter or match to the white stick hanging from their lips.
Regardless, anything we have is better than India where, as Mr. Gantz tells us, they use a picture of a crab as a health warning on a pack of cigarettes.The crab, as good horoscope reader knows, is the symbol for cancer.So, smoke a pack of cigs and you’ll either cough up blood or enjoy a delicious appetizer from the raw bar.
President Barack Obama is spending all of our TARP and stimulus and social security and education funds gallivanting with 3,000 of his closest terrorist friends around East Asia.While in India, he will visit a mosque to pray to Allah and help plot the next attack on the country that provided him the opportunity to prosper with his family and the opportunity to help millions of his fellow citizens try to reach the same fortune. Before leaving from Japan to head back to Washington, the U.S. President will find time to burn down some playgrounds and perform a few puppy lobotomies to create a new strain of zombie puppies that will slowly spread their virulent zombie ways across the globe until the cute, cuddly, playful little creatures that we have grown to love in hole-punched cardboard boxes on Christmas morning leap from out their red and green and gold bow-covered packaging to gnaw at the face of capitalism as represented by our blonde eight-year-old, her excitement for this moment unable to be contained for even a breath before running, almost stumbling with anticipation down the stairs of our four bedroom, three-and-a-half bathroom suburban house, still dressed in her jammies, only to be the first victim of our Infidel Western Lifestyle mangled into unrecognizable horror by our American President and the new radical Muslim friends he made on his tax-payer funded trip to India, Indonesia and beyond.
Or so Rush Limbaugh, Michele Bachmann and the brain trust over at Fox News would have you think, as they hail incredulity into the American Political conversation.Bachmann went on AC 360 last week and expressed outrage that “the President of the United States will be taking a trip over to India that is expected to cost the taxpayers $200 million a day.He's taking two thousand people with him. He'll be renting out over 870 rooms in India. And these are 5-star hotel rooms at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel. This is the kind of over-the-top spending, it's a very small example.”
(Talking Points Memo noted that the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel “only has 560 rooms including 44 suites, according to its website.”)
This claim, it might come as no surprise, is based on more or less nothing; Obama’s visit to Asia is highly secure, which would mean that very little even superficial information on travel plans, companions and itineraries would be made public.And, yet, here we are: listening to absurd claims that Obama is going to bankrupt the nation by taking a “vacation.”
The left is just as guilty as the right, it seems, in the politically absurd.Earlier this week, Sarah Palin swung back when a story in Politico cited anonymous Republican sources that suggested a 2012 Palin run at the presidency could end in disaster.
“I suppose I could play their immature, unprofessional, waste-of-time game, too, by claiming these reporters and politicos are homophobe, child molesting, tax evading, anti-dentite, puppy-kicking, chain smoking porn producers…really, they are… I’ve seen it myself,” Palin helpfully pointed out in a letter to the Daily Caller.“But I’ll only give you the information off-the-record, on deep, deep background; attribute these ‘facts’ to an ‘anonymous source’ and I’ll give you more.”
I’ve seen it to, but, to be fair, you can’t produce good porn unless you’re high on fags and insulting dentists at every opportunity.(Palin lives in a world where “Seinfeld” was a show about four socially inept friends living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan who, at some point or another, stopped being polite and started being real.Fantastic.)
Outrageous claims would be next to hilarious if they weren’t so dangerous.Did you hear the one about how Republican’s added 151,000 American jobs in October 2010, just three days after winning a majority in the House of Representatives and gaining six seats in the U.S. Senate?
Stop yelling.Ok.Fine.No one really claimed that…yet.But I don’t think the suggestion that they might, that in two years – although the Obama administration will have had worked tirelessly to get the unemployment rate down to something reasonable like seven percent following the financial disaster that began with Clinton, translated into Bush and peaked with the nadir of the housing market and the financial sector bust in 2007 and 2008 – certain Republicans will claw their ways to victory based on the work of their opponents and that we, we the gullible people, will believe, as reactively as we always believe, that things will be better, that the system will change if we swing back to the other side away from the porn producers and child molesters.
Unfortunately, the more entertaining politics becomes, the more insane politics becomes.Saying Obama is spending $200 million a day on a trip and abusing the protection of 34 Navy vessels, including an aircraft carrier is great television; but those bedtime stories aren’t helping industrial plants in Ohio stay open anymore than witchcraft helped Christine O’Donnell coast to victory in her senatorial campaign.
Fact is that we should look at Obama’s Asian invasion as an investment, no matter the cost.Not only could the nascent economy of the recently ravaged country prove to be key for future trade, the U.S. is in something of a war with China for the heart of the Indonesian people.
As Professor Dewi Fortuna Anwar, Deputy (Political Affairs) to Indonesia's Vice President, put it, “At the moment there are more Indonesian students studying in China than there're going to the United States...If the United States does not take care, they are going to lose a lot of social capital.”
If the goal in U.S. politics is to tell the craziest story that people will believe, we might as well tell the tale of how India had workers remove all of the deadliest coconuts from trees surrounding the city’s Ghandi Museum… Oh.Shit.Sorry.That one’s actually true.
It happened again last night, like it always does on election days.A six-foot, four-inch overweight gentleman with dark curly hair and a worn navy blue Dave Matthews Band tour t-shirt stood a warm stony breath behind my chair at Pineapple Hill pub in Sherman Oaks, California and leaned in to check out election coverage on MSNBC and tell all of the corner of the bar, through sloppy lips, that he watches Jon Stewart a lot and Jon said that this republican swing would happen and it isn’t as dramatic a change as everyone is frantically pretending it is.
There’s a theme here, I think, and one I’m not entirely comfortable embracing.This metaphorical mule of a man continues to lean over bars during election nights because we are in Los Angeles, an overwhelmingly Democratic area.Most people at the bar speak of the Democratic candidates in personal terms, like they’re speaking of the LA Lakers.
“We lost too many seats tonight to get anything done in the next two years.”
“They ran a dirtier campaign than we did.”
“We should be happy we at least won governor and that Boxer held on.”
Look for a dissenting Republican opinion in Los Angeles, and especially in this bar, and you will be looking long into the night before you find someone willing to stand toe-to-toe with the guy in the DMB t-shirt and argue that we need to crack down on illegal immigration over the Mexican border by beginning to deport more of those who are in California without permission.The fact is, those opinions are certainly out there in LA, but most Republicans around here are too fearful to share because, with the attitude being as obstinate as it is, the fight isn’t worth the energy.And I think that’s a shame.
It’s a shame the way that it’s a shame there is this tacit assumption that The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is a leftist program.Given, many of those who watch the show are, indeed, democrats – in fact, a recent poll commissioned by the Hollywood Reporter found that “Daily Show host Stewart's viewers were, no surprise, largely Democrats who watched MSNBC and AMC, drank beer and were most likely to be married and Catholic.”
Be that as it may, that doesn’t mean The Daily Show’s segments espouse only Democratic values or ideas.As Daily Show creator Lizz Winstead once said in a radio interview, the show addresses absurdity in politics with no regard for the political party that is acting absurdly.It just so happens (and she said that during the Bush Administration) that Republicans coincidently behave more inanely than do Democrats.
If Jon Stewart – or anyone for that matter – claimed what the guy in the DMB shirt said he claimed, that the results of yesterdays elections, the swing back towards the right in the House and the Senate is not as apocalyptic as some are suggesting, then he is a) not a leftist host of a leftist show, and b) he’s correct.
Although our voting system is far from perfected, when it comes to congressional elections the system at least allows for proportional representation, where, as John Stuart (different one!) Mill said back in the day, there is a “government of the whole people by the whole people, equally represented,” rather than “government of the whole people by a mere majority of the people exclusively represented,” which is what we have with presidential elections.(I wanted to leave this in as well because I found it amusing: an article in The New Yorker pointed out that Mill wanted proportional representation because he was concerned for the minority of “superior intellects and characters,” who would be overwhelmed as more citizens got the vote.)
If the swing, then, is not detrimental to the nation, “we” all can calm down about losing or gaining seats in the House and Senate.“We” can feel free to share our Republican opinions because “we” ultimately all want the same thing: a road back to prosperity on a bus that is driven by anyone but Christine O’Donnell.
"The gentleman says: Learning should never cease…If the gentleman studies widely and each day examines himself, his wisdom will become clear and his conduct be without fault." ~ Hsün Tzu, Chinese Philosopher, Third Century B.C.
Seven and a half years later, the good news is we’re still trying to learn, even if we started a little late. While that’s undoubtedly so, with the recent withdrawal over the past few months of more than 90,000 troops from Iraq, one hopes we haven’t been trying to learn the wrong lesson, or for the wrong reasons.
Everything that’s happened in Iraq last month is predicated upon the premise that an elevated level of American involvement in the country has run its course and it is time to have it end. We know, and no one has claimed that the war went to one side or another – mostly because there are too many sides to count, and because no one knows what anything means yet.
If we’re to stipulate the latter point, this very well might be the most honest ending to a conflict throughout American history. We like to think wars finish with treaties signed in Paris or Geneva, but, even if American soldiers aren’t side-stepping rubble in Berlin, there is still much work to be done – and that never really ends. We are admitting that fact with Iraq.
Iraq certainly wasn’t the most honest war at the beginning, as most of us know, built on falsified (or at least false) intelligence about uranium, weapons of mass destruction, as well as the conjuring of Nazi ghosts. The disingenuous re-entry into Baghdad in 2003 soured many people on the war’s legitimacy, and then the infamous human rights violations at Abu Ghraib the following year cut into, not just the legitimacy of the war, but the overall morality of the U.S. Armed Forces.
However, without those two egregious notes – and the fact that this was a counterinsurgency battle – the Iraq War was not longer or more bloody or more horrible that any of the other wars America has fought. The American Civil War remains our most fatal conflict, and not merely because Americans died on both sides. In "A People’s History of the United States," Howard Zinn writes: Six hundred thousand "dead on both sides, in a population of 30 million – the equivalent, in the United States in 1978, with a population of 250 million, of 5 million dead."
Although begun upon files of lies, the Iraq War was not terribly unlike any of the other wars in American History, many of which we hold in esteem. The Civil War "freed the slaves," but that is not why the Civil War was fought. Again Howard Zinn: "The northern elite wanted economic expansion – free land, free labor, a free marker, a high protective tariff for manufacturers, a bank of the United States. The slave interest opposed all that; they saw Lincoln and the Republicans as making continuation of their pleasant and prosperous way of life impossible in the future."
Abraham Lincoln fought for the rich people in the northern states, he did not wage war for those held in bondage. He replied in a letter to Horace Greenley, editor of the New York Tribune, in 1862: "My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or destroy Slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it."
After the American Civil War ended, the conflict between the blacks and whites of all of the United States, not just the south, could begin. It was not pretty, but could have been worse had the government not stepped in at times. Similarly, we’ve spent seven years since the Mission was Accomplished, trying to remedy that Accomplishment. And it would have been worse, no matter what the ladies dressed in pink at the back of every C-SPAN broadcast say, had American troops not stayed in Iraq.
Before March 19, 2003, Col. Alan Baldwin predicted that the American invasion of Iraq would lead to a "rolling civil war." He was right. He is also right that it is good that we stayed: "We opened Pandora’s box," he told the New York Times. "Lots of bad things were flying out of there. But good things are there now too. It’s amazing we had the patience to be where we are today."
It’s amazing that politicians in Washington had the patience to listen to, eventually, American soldiers like Col. Baldwin and not American citizens like Cindy Sheehan, who became a well publicized anti-war activist after her son died in Iraq. That’s not to undercut her loss or his sacrifice in anyway. It is to say that sometimes an emotional reaction can lead us to making the wrong decision. Getting out of Iraq in 2004 or 2005 would have been the wrong decision.
In September, President Barack Obama’s approval rating hit 50 percent. The reason, some believe, is American’s approve of the way he is handling Iraq, and sticking to his timeline.
"Obama's decision to remove combat troops from Iraq is very popular," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Only three in ten Americans say that the U.S. should still have combat troops in Iraq, with 28 percent saying that this is the right time to remove them and another four in ten thinking that should have happened before now."
I’m happy those who came home safely are home. But I do not believe that they should have come home sooner. No matter if we like the reasons for the war, or for anything that happens, what happened happened. If we would have left the people of Iraq without a (semi) functioning government, police force and army (all of which we disbanded or destroyed), if we would have allowed learning to cease in Baghdad, that would have been a great loss for Iraq and a great obscenity for America.
Right now I’m doing exactly what Glenn Beck wants: writing about Glenn Beck. Knowing that gives me pause during these first few sentences; I don’t want to give crazy any more attention than crazy deserves; but I also feel as though crazy shouldn’t be ignored like a petulant child, particularly if it is crazy for crazy’s sake. It seems appropriate, in a way then, to handle Glenn Beck much as one would handle a specimen in a chemistry lab or a patient in a hospital: objectively, academically, through the looking glass, so to speak, in pure, curious observation. After all, we need to find out what causes behavioral changes in such a creature. Please, grab a lab coat (they’re on your left when you enter), and join me as we plod the halls of the asylum, me leading the way with a syringe loaded with haloperidol – just in case.
Glenn Beck wasn’t popular until the campaign of 2008, when a black man was more likely than not about to win the election for President of the United States. Beck became more popular after he called the President of the United States a racist. He then compared pretty much everything – Al Gore, the UN, the Obama administration, Barack Obama – to either Nazis, Nazi Germany or Adolf Hitler. And Beck got more popular.
Lewis Black sums this up nicely:
Beck has apologized for some of the remarks, such as calling Obama a racist, saying last week on Fox News Sunday: "Of course I do (regret using the term racist)... ‘Racist,’ first of all, it shouldn't have been said. It was poorly said. I have a big fat mouth sometimes and I say things. That's just not the way people should behave. And it was not accurate. It is liberation theology that has shaped his world view."
That was a change from July 2009 to August 2010; Obama went from being a racist to being a follower of liberation theology.
Now. I can accept someone apologizing for his remarks. However, I don’t think that’s what’s going on here. I think if you apologize for your remarks it doesn’t take you 13 months to realize your remarks were fucking insane and need clarification. It takes maybe a week. Glenn Beck is up to something else. Something fishy.
If you watch Glenn Beck’s show daily, God loves you. But more than that. You realize that it’s not a news show, it’s not a political show, it’s a religious show. Glenn Beck has mysteriously gone from talking about Nazis to talking about God at every jump.
Here is a diatribe from yesterday’s Glenn Beck in which he is going on about the dangers of investing in gold:
"You’re in a house that is coming down all around you and [gold] is your protection? But if this [gold door frame] doesn’t work, what’s here? What’s on the other side of the doorframe? (Glenn steps onto a bright red square with a large "?" pasted on its top.) Nobody knows… Look, these problems (stocks, bonds, real estate, treasuries) are so big, and this (gold) isn’t enough protection. That’s why I’ve said, ‘Before you get to gold, turn to god.’ Because the only one that can really solve all of these things and the only one that can really protect us is firm reliance on divine providence. It is critical that America wakes up. Millions are still investing everything back here (in stocks), while some, like (George) Soros, know what’s coming and they’re standing in this door frame."
Of course, not 15 minutes later, this advertisement appears after Glenn Beck throws to commercial:
Don’t invest in gold, invest in God. (Don’t worry, I have my haloperidol ready.) Clearly this is an insane idea, even metaphorically. Growing the country, getting the economy on solid ground again will not come with God. I’m neither a theologian nor an economist, so let me use an example from high school American History since religious zealots are so eager to cite our Founding Fathers: Roger Williams, who came to American from England in 1631, was probably the most devoutly, purely religious man in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In fact, he was kicked out because he was too religious; he turned down a teaching position at the colony’s church because there was no separation of church and state – in other words, he didn’t think the state-appointed governor (John Winthrop) and assistants would punish those who broke the Ten Commandments. For his life Williams stayed close to God, he invested in God. But he also invested in a trading post, where he traded furs with the Narragansett, Pequot and other tribes.
Glenn Beck is nuzzling up to religion. I find his relationship with God curious. I find it worth closer inspection. This is a man whose book, "The Overton Window," was supposed to be nonfiction but was so full of fabrication, his publisher chose to release it as a work of fiction. I want to know what Glenn Beck wants with God.
If his goal is money, book sales, show ratings, fine, that’s innocuous enough. If his goal is self-help, life instruction, that’s fair enough as well; there are plenty of former drug and alcohol addicts who "found God" exactly as Glenn Beck did later in life and think they’re qualified to help other lost souls do the same.
I hope what Glenn Beck wants from God is mentioned above because the alternative is much more nefarious, much more dangerous for America and, perhaps, the world. If Glenn Beck wants to run for political office, God help us.
He's killing God. The words were repeated throughout the evening, whenever someone would ask, within earshot of the blonde hostess, what book was I reading. "The End of Faith," by Sam Harris. He's killing God.
The blonde hostess has never read the book, discerning, correctly more or less, only from the title that it is a denouncement of religion and therefore a denial of the godhead present at the core of each of the world's religions. The book’s message can be neatly summarized by something William Durant said over 60 years ago, and something that Harris repeats in his book: "Intolerance is the natural concomitant of strong faith; tolerance grows only when faith loses certainty; certainty is murderous."
Harris, himself says: "The only angels we need invoke are those of our better nature: reason, honesty, and love. The only demons we must fear are those that lurk inside every human mind: ignorance, hatred, greed, and faith, which is surely the devil's masterpiece."
The bold author and speaker hits a truculent precipice along his secular highway when it comes to the proposed mosque at Ground Zero in Manhattan. Harris says that building the mosque is, indeed, a First Amendment right. However, there is a fundamental problem with tolerance in Islam today and moderate Muslims, above all others, should see that that problem persists and should also understand why building a mosque at Ground Zero, while a right, is in bad taste.
The Bad Taste argument has been proposed by other less-than-conservatives such as Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post, who last week wrote, "While no one objects to Japanese cultural centers, the idea of putting one up at Pearl Harbor would be offensive." (There, in fact, exists a Japanese cultural center just up the road from Pearl Harbor in Honolulu; given, it’s not set on the submerged U.S.S. Arizona.)
Theses points are by no means invalid and therein lies the conundrum; President Barack Obama was not beyond all reason, either, last week.
"I understand the emotions that this issue engenders," said the President. "The Ground Zero is indeed a hallowed ground. But let me be clear. As a citizen and as president I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community centre on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances."
It is indeed a conundrum. One that I can only wrap my head around if I attack from a personal level, a perspective at which those who lost family members and friends on September 11, 2001 must be experiencing.
Say someone murdered my family at my childhood home and then he immediately killed himself. Five years later, I still live there. Would I be opposed to the murderer’s family moving in next door or starting a lemonade stand on the corner? Yes. Undoubtedly. I would fight with fire and blade to stop that from happening.
But that is not what is happening at Ground Zero.
A 15-story mosque at Ground Zero is not my family’s murderers setting up a lemonade stand next to the place of my family’s murder. Neither is it people who condone the murder of my family doing the same. It is people who like to listen to Lynyrd Skynyrd, just like the murderer of my family did, setting up that lemonade stand. And, as much as that makes me miss my family, as much as that makes me want to break the Sweet Home Alabama boom boxes in the lemonade pushers' rectums, as much as I never will and never should forget, within me, rationally within me, I know it is not only illogical to hate them and disapprove their nascent lemonade business, I know my condemnation is Wrong.
At this point we need tolerance. That is what Harris argues, as well. Harris wants an end to faith, an end to faith-driven causes such as religion – Islam, Christianity, whatever – because he aims for an end to intolerance. However, if we end intolerance by ending faith, then we have nothing to tolerate. There is no fun in killing God.
Harris is right in one respect: intolerance begets intolerance. What, then, begets tolerance…
That is why they should build the mosque.
By definition, the term "ground zero" is terrifically interesting, simultaneously meaning "where it all began" and "the point of detonation" – or, in other words, "where it all ended." I find it horribly appropriate for the site in Lower Manhattan. Let Ground Zero, New York City not merely be the tragic place where it all ended. Let it also become the place where we began again.
Wedding season just got a little more fashionable, little more fabulous and a little bit fiercer. And just in time. This year, it’s going to be the best wedding season ever – not for the open bars and conga lines and shirtless men, but for the reactions of people so adamantly opposed to something that, immediately and directly, does not affect them at all – only what they think are their values.
Today, Federal Judge Vaughn Walker has the opportunity to make his decision to overturn California’s ban on gay marriage official. From his conclusion on Wednesday:
Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite sex couples are superior to same-sex couples. Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.
One thoughtful woman commented on the decision to NPR: "If not allowing gays to marry is unconstitutional, why has it not been brought up until now?" As if, for the last 222 years, since the U.S. Constitution was ratified (or 131 years since California’s current constitution was adopted), through slavery, suffrage, economic hardships and war, the legislative branch of the United States government had nothing better to do than to sit and ponder, "There really aren’t enough show tunes played at weddings; I wonder why that is…"
Others disapproved on a legal basis. Proposition 8 was not unconstitutional, a single federal judge overturning the will of the people in a legal vote, now that is. The problem with this logic is thick and deep. Were the United States to take a vote in 1860, five years before Amendment 13 said, "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction," it is likely (based on my vast historical, social and anthropological knowledge) a proposition ensuring slavery for the next 300 years would have found overwhelming support among United States citizens who were allowed to vote.
Judge Walker addressed this, as well, in his decision: That the majority of California voters supported Proposition 8 is irrelevant, as "fundamental rights may not be submitted to [a] vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections."
Regardless, votes and polls are so close, it makes little sense to restrict liberty based on their results. A California Field poll of registered voters last month found 51 percent support legalizing gay marriage with 42 percent opposed. While, according to the most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, 47 percent of Americans polled favor gay marriage while 50 percent are opposed.
And others repeat, soullessly, their moral objection that marriage is the sacred bond between a man and a woman, that gay marriage will destroy the American family (such an upstanding convention as it is), that children in America will suffer from confusion and will opt for hedonistic sodomy and will cause a run on glitter at every corner craft store in the nation.
Judge Walker had this to say on moral disapproval: "Moral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and lesbians. The evidence shows conclusively that Proposition 8 enacts, without reason, a private moral view that same-sex couples are inferior to opposite-sex couples."
As usual, the best reaction came from Fox News. On Thursday, the organization posted a hard-hitting, in-depth investigative piece – on celebrity Twitter reaction.
Tongue stabbing far into cheek, Fox News reported: "I am ecstatic that proposition 8 has been overturned in the state of California. This is an incredibly exciting and historical day and a big step towards equal rights for all," [Portia de Rossi] told Pop Tarts in a statement. They went on to post tweets from Kim Kardashian, Ricky Martin, Adam Lambert, Paris Hilton – causing eye-rolls across America, from Alabama to Montana. Those silly celebrities are at it again!
Starting today, wedding season swings fully into freak mode. Grab your hair product and leave your shirt and home and let’s go! Before it’s too late; there are warnings that these gay old times won’t last forever.
"Let's not lose sight of the fact that this case is headed for the U.S. Supreme Court," said Maggie Gallagher, chair of the National Organization for Marriage, "where the right of states to define marriage as being between one man and one woman will be affirmed."
Ignatius J. Reilly was surprised to learn that the sailor prancing down Chartres Street was not a sailor at all.
"What?" Ignatius thundered. "Do you mean that he is impersonating a member of the armed forces of this country? ... This is extremely serious." Ignatius frowned and the red sateen scarf rode down on his hunting cap. "Every soldier and sailor that we see could simply be some mad decadent in disguise. My God! We may all be trapped in some horrible conspiracy. I knew that something like this was going to happen. The United States is probably totally defenseless!"
The comical reaction of John Toole Kennedy’s anti-hero in "A Confederacy of Dunces" could easily repeat and reverberate throughout the U.S. Armed Forces when Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is finally repealed.
You mean he’s gay? My God! The United States is probably totally defenseless.
This week, the Pentagon set out to ask those defending the United States how they would feel to know that the country was totally defenseless. On Wednesday, they began emailing a survey, which contains more than 100 questions seeking views on the impact of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, to around 400,000 active duty and reserve troops.
The survey was evidently approved (in theory, anyway, if not question-by-question) by Sec. Robert Gates and President Barack Obama. Almost immediately, a few concerns have surfaced in light of the survey.
One of those: service men, no matter how thankful we are to them for their service, have never been a dependable compass when it comes to the implementation of policy. As one expert put it on CNN yesterday, those in the military were at first resistant to blacks and women serving on the frontlines, too.
On top of that, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which supports gays and lesbians serving openly, released a statement say that it cannot recommend that lesbian, gay, or bisexual service members fill out the survey – not that it recommended LGB (gonna leave transgender out of this one for hopefully obvious reasons) service members do not fill in hte blanks, but that the organization just couldn’t get behind something that might out gays or lesbians…even though the entire point of the organization is for gays and lesbians to be able to serve openly in the military. Sigh...
"There is no guarantee of privacy and (the Pentagon) has not agreed to provide immunity to service members whose privacy may be inadvertently violated or who inadvertently outs himself or herself," said Aubrey Sarvis, the group's executive director. "If a service member still wishes to participate, he or she should only do so in a manner that does not reveal sexual orientation."
If you’re a member of the military, don’t listen to either of the aforementioned reasons. Fill out the survey. Here’s why: you know Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is an absurd policy, and your answers don’t matter anyway. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will be repealed. This survey is the government’s way of placating critics, pretending to take your opinion under consideration simply so that they can later say they did. It’s like asking if you’d appreciate a blow job from Lara Logan; the answer is yes (unless you’re gay, then maybe Anderson Cooper), but that doesn’t mean that that answer won’t meet the e-shredder the moment it leaves your outbox.
As for the actual questions, the Pentagon is keeping the survey secret for now, but Military Times reviewed a draft copy: "[I]f the draft version is any guide, the general tone of the survey questions – developed by the independent research group Westat in cooperation with the Pentagon – leans toward the potential impact that repealing "don't ask, don't tell" might have on unit performance."
With that in mind, here are some possible sample questions for those who did not get the survey to consider:
How do you think morale would be affected were openly gay people to serve in the military?
How would readiness and willingness of troops be affected if their commander is thought to be gay or lesbian?
How would the repeal affect your spouse's, family's or "significant other's" attitude toward your continued military service?
Do you like cock?
Are you comfortable sharing a room, showering, etc. in warzones with someone who might be gay or lesbian?
Ironically, the major behavior change in male soldiers might be attenuation of gayness in the rooms and showers in warzones. They might stop grabbing each other’s asses and balls and calling each other faggot.
Or (shrug) that won’t stop and if that’s the case, if the law is repealed and men on the frontlines continue their usual homosexual/anti-homosexual antics (which are clearly posturing mechanisms to display their toughness), we just might find ourselves in the best possible situation: we are forced to be bone-core honest.
Gays and lesbians in the military would be required to continue to wear the warzone-thick skin they should wear in a freaking warzone anyway, and non-gay and lesbians would lose the pejorative; the same anti-gay comment they would have made with malice ten years ago, would not convey the same spite in an openly gay unit. Were they to make that comment in an openly gay military warzone with openly gay comrades (as I hope they would), morale would not be shattered, feelings would not be hurt, dissention would not descend. Quite the opposite. That kind of honesty and kidding would enmesh our men and women (psychologically, not physically), making them better friends, better soldiers, and a better team.
Maybe, in the end, everyone in the military would become gay. Wouldn’t that be nice. Ignatius thinks so: "The power-crazed leaders of the world would certainly be surprised to find that their military leaders and troops were only masquerading sodomites who were only too eager to meet the masquerading sodomite armies of other nations in order to have dances and balls and learn some foreign dance steps."
What happened exactly is never knowable. And, if by some aberration it is knowable, it is never conveyable. And, even if you can tell it just right, it’s never relatable. What we can know and convey and relate to are the events that transpire in the wake of what happened; those reactions occur at a pace that we can comprehend. While the flotilla attacked last week by Israeli commandos fades into memory, the responses to the attacks remain vivid and increasingly without context.
The response to the attack on the flotilla has been much more polarized than even the response to the recent attack by a North Korean submarine on a South Korean ship, an obvious act of war. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for a strong response from other nations to the Korean incident; while she said reaction to the Gaza incident should be thoughtful and measured.
"I think the situation from our perspective is very difficult and requires careful, thoughtful responses from all concerned," said Clinton. "But we fully support the U.N. Security Council's action last night in issuing a presidential statement. And we will work to implement the intention that this presidential statement represents."
It has not been. The responses range from Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who made no excuses for the raid, indicating that it was just and that Israel would "continue to protect our civilians, we will continue to allow our soldiers to protect their lives, and the state of Israel will continue to practice its right for self-defense."
They range to the realism of Michael Chabon, a Jewish American writer who shook his head at the stupidity of his Israeli brethren in the op-ed of the New York Times: "Now, with the memory of the Mavi Marmara fresh in our minds, is the time for Jews to confront, at long last, the eternal truth of our stupidity as a people…Now is the moment to acknowledge that the 62-year history of Israel, like the history of the Jewish people and of the human race, has been from the beginning a record of glory and fiasco, triumph and error, greatness and meanness, charity and crime."
They range to the folly of veteran White House press member Helen Thomas whose muppet head said to a Flip cam last week that the flotilla raid was an example of why the Jewish people should "get the hell out of Palestine" and go home to Germany and Poland.
The responses here, the reactions are what matters. Maybe the commandos got out of control; maybe the flotilla for floatillaing a little too close to Gaza with a suspicious amount of weight on board; maybe those on board were murdered; or maybe those on board were planning an attack and were killed in self-defense. None of that really matters.
The incident itself can be covered up and glossed over and remembered incorrectly or remembered how we’d have preferred it happen. It’s there that we realize that these reactions are not effects, but causes for future incidents exactly like what happened off the shores of Gaza. Even if we’re not anti-Semitic octogenarian White House columnists, we should be careful how our legs jerk.
Then there was the oil spill that became the worst natural disaster in U.S. history. On April 20, an explosion killed eleven people on the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico. From there, things just seemed to get worse, if not more convoluted, in a bureaucratic (and now dead) swampland. Another explosion two days later took the rig to the bottom of the gulf; an investigation commenced on April 27; then a relief well was begun; Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar promised to restructure the Minerals Management Service that has apparently been corrupt and enabling negligent safety measures for years; two attempts to stop the leak failed; the smallest of the holes was plugged; the FDA approved and then reneged approval of an oil-cleansing chemical; a third attempt to plug the hole using dense mud was initiated, and we are presently waiting on the results that "look promising" after approximately 65.6 miles of Louisiana shoreline have already been impacted by oil.
Through all of that, it wasn’t until this week that people really began looking for someone to blame. For a month, it was enough that BP (formerly British Petroleum before a KFC-esque name contraction) was going to pay for all of the cleanup – a promise that remains after President Barack Obama’s news conference this morning. (Full transcription here.) However, now more and more, including traditionally leftist organizations like NPR and CNN, are raising the question, "Is this Obama’s Katrina?"
The question itself, with its implications, confused me the first time I heard Neal Conan of NPR pose it two days ago. Yesterday, Anderson Cooper, with raised eyebrow all a-gray, inquired the same. And this morning, Karl Rove answered in the Wall Street Journal with a yes as thick as the oil spewing from the well his friend’s administration approved.
"Could this be Mr. Obama's Katrina? It could be even worse," writes Rove. "The federal response to Katrina was governed by the 1988 Stafford Act, which says that in natural disasters on-shore states are in charge, not Washington… But BP's well was drilled in federal waters. Washington, not Louisiana, is in charge. This is Mr. Obama's responsibility."
The question and its implications are, after reading Rove’s most recent Katrina excuse, now beginning to frighten me. "Is this Obama’s Katrina?" inherently indicates that a) the BP oil spill cleanup is the federal government’s responsibility, b) the lack of regulation of the offshore oil drilling that was practiced by the Bush administration should have been restructured by the Obama administration, and c) the reaction of the federal government to Hurricane Katrina was insufficient.
Let’s begin by all agreeing that the cleanup should at least be overseen by the federal government. Well, that’s happening.
Now, let’s accept that we cannot go back in time and change the Bush administration’s policy on off-shore drilling, nor can we go back in time and beg the Obama administration to concentrate on deep-sea drilling safety measures instead of the war in Afghanistan or healthcare or getting the Olympics to Chicago.
Finally, in his answer, Rove finds the loophole he needs to make Katrina a state issue and the oil spill a federal issue (even though, again by implication, the phrase Obama's Katrina says federal disaster). Rove insinuates either that the federal government had no responsibility in reacting after Katrina (if so, what is the point of Federal Emergency Management Agency, and why was their involvement necessary), or that helping people off of roofs is commensurate to stopping a volatile eruption 5,000 feet below the surface of the ocean. Rove is admitting that Katrina was devastating and the reaction was egregious; he’s simply denying federal culpability, and that’s a happy place to be.
As Rove answers yes, this is Obama’s Katrina, he does so with a tacit slight-of-hand. He is not comparing Obama’s Katrina to Bush’s Katrina; in Rove’s mind there is no Bush’s Katrina.
But there was a Bush’s Katrina and it had only very little to do with a hurricane. Bush’s Katrina was the political fallout based on the public’s disgust with the administrations lack of response – but not just that, because Bush’s Katrina didn’t happen in a vacuum – it was the federal negligence (and continued denial of culpability) piled on to off every other incompetent decision made by the office of the President between 2001 and 2005. That is what incited the outrage that became Bush’s Katrina.
"Is this Obama’s Katrina?" suggests, through some absurd logic that this could be Obama’s Katrina as Bush's Katrina was Bush's Katrina. Not nearly enough incompetence has been displayed by Barack Obama or his team to make that possible. Regardless, it’s now apparent that we voted poorly; this disaster never would have happened if Sarah "Heartbeat Away" Palin were President. Drill. Baby. Drill.
We turned off the paved road that leads from the marine base near Twentynine Palms, California onto a sandy section of land, cutting from the base towards town. The driver pushed the accelerator towards the floorboard and the backend of the pickup truck fishtailed before catching a rivet in the slick sand, sending the truck and its involuntarily devoted passengers jumping between the dunes at over 70 mph.
"This is the song we listened to before going on raids," the driver shouted over the existing music. He turned it up. The driver, a marine corporal, veteran of two tours in Iraq (most recently in Ramadi), was set to be discharged from the Marine Corps today. He pushed "next." And I furtively grabbed the seat as 110 dB of Dope’s dubious hit "Die Motherfucker Die" quaked through the cab.
We’d just finished touring the base with our guide: seven-tons, howitzers, M1A1 Abrams tanks, a lake of sewage that smelled exactly like a lake of sewage, dorms advertising "9" days without an alcohol-related incident, a gym advertising a "bp" contest on May 7. We ran to the top of the Sand Monster, a ten-story hill that falls half a step for every step you take – deadly in bare feet and jeans, just exhausting. Boots, as well as officers, do it 20 times in an hour. We ran an obstacle course, reverse flips over bars, leaps for wood planks, over-under-over, scale a wall, climb a rope, failing to overcome a third of the obstacles. An officer on the base holds the record for running that fucking thing 48 times in a row.
Back on dry (paved) land, I was told by a woman in the back seat that I look like I’d just seen a ghost. If I had, he looked like a dead motherfucker.
With a number of hours to go before his retirement from the Marine Corps, our young corporal seems to be enjoying himself. He does a lot of the talking.
"How do you become a marine? You fuck up. If I could, I’d take a shit on the General’s lawn before I get outta here. My room is a disaster and I’m refusing to clean it before my fucking roommate gets back. Fuck Obama. Taking all of the military’s money away. Wasting time thinking about sending more troops to Afghanistan, while guys there are dying every day. Doesn’t know what the fuck he’s doing."
"That’s cause he’s never been In It," the same woman, his mother, says from the back seat. This is met with nods from the others in the cab of the pickup truck. I don’t nod. They notice. "He doesn’t agree because he’s never been In It either."
It’s a curious requirement, this whole In It thing. Understandable from the alcoholic’s perspective; if you’re overcoming a (bio)psychological disease, you want to deal with someone who intimately understands that disease. But not even forgivable from an erudite perspective: if you’re in a fencing match you want the help of someone who has studied fencing, not someone who has carried foils and masks his whole life.
I don’t nod because I don’t want to commit a sin of inaccuracy, but neither do I want add the insult of dissention.
Yes, in 2009, Obama proposed to cut the Pentagon’s supplemental budget in 2010 – and, yes, this is what paid for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (and so on), but the key word here is "supplemental." Without having access to the accounting records, I feel as though it’s safe to assume that various unnecessary programs were cramming their way onto the supplemental elevator in the hope of getting a free ride. Obama’s decision was, more likely than not, intended to force the Pentagon to leave some of those freeloaders at lobby level.
The problem with Obama taking money from the supplemental budget in 2010, is that new planes, tanks, weapons won’t be built, which adds to the substantial gaggle of unemployed Americans – a point that was raised a year ago by the likes of Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), who argued that the Obama plan to cut the government’s F-22 program would drastically affect the welfare of his state – even though Air Force officials (and the Bush Administration) agreed that the F-22 program was antiquated.
I’m spending too much time on this. Point is that cuts to military spending were and will be done smartly. As Dan Gerstein wrote last year for Forbes, "For the record, Obama's 2010 budget increased overall spending by 4% – without including the operational funding for Iraq and Afghanistan." (You can see these numbers on this chart. Jump to page 126 for recent years and upcoming estimates.) Increases will be considered smartly as well: Earlier this year, Michelle Obama announced a three percent increase in funding for military families in 2011, the money going to programs including housing, child-care, and spousal-education support.
(If you want an opinion on Obama’s dithering over troops in Afghanistan, go here.)
It sounds like a great deal of liberal bullshit. Stop wasting money on weapons so we can waste money on food stamps. Maybe it is. While I wholly respect (nearly) every troop sent to fight for the United States abroad (the parentheses are reserved for those who would rape Iraqi civilians, for example), I don’t buy the idea that you have to have been "in it" to understand "it." You don’t have to be ex-military to lead a country any more than you have to be an ex-farmer to run a restaurant.
After our departure from Twentynine Palms the following morning, our brave host would learn that his much anticipated departure from the Marine Corps had been postponed, the result of an on-base speeding ticket. Going 15 in a 30. How do you stay a marine? You fuck up again.