Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Dumb Voters: The Real Problems Behind Citizens United Vs. the FEC

Just as hurricane Katrina and the recent earthquake in Haiti have exposed deeply rooted problems in New Orleans and the Caribbean nation, so too has the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United vs. the Federal Elections Commission exacerbated the problems of money in politics. While saying that money in politics is bad might sound good if you're standing on top of a rented pickup truck to a crowd of tea-baggers, the truth is that running a campaign, especially a statewide or nationwide campaign, cost a lot of money.

A lot of that money goes towards legitimate expenses like money for offices, phone lines, electric bills, travel costs, and most importantly, pizza and caffeine for campaign volunteers. That money also goes to pay salaries for the paid staffers, who have left behind other jobs to devote themselves completely to the campaign. They don't always get a lot of money, and if the campaign finds itself short on money, they might get a few IOUs instead of actual paychecks, but that's fair because they are putting in long hours and doing a job that probably can't be trusted to the college interns. Finally, a distressingly large amount of campaign cash goes to "pollsters" and "consultants."

Firms like Mark Penn's Penn, Schoen, & Berland Associates LLC are among the recipients of large amounts of campaign dollars. They ran up millions of dollars in bills for Hillary Clinton's failed presidential campaign, going after Obama even when the end for Hillary was in sight. But still, to say that Mark Penn is the problem is scapegoating, pure and simple. The problem isn't that people think up the stuff that wins voters, it's that voters are so ill informed on the issues that big spending can tilt the scales and win an election.

If the American people were well enough informed on the issues facing the country, then all the billions of dollars in corporate America wouldn't mean much. But because of our ignorance and our apathy, a few million here and a few million there make a big difference come election day. So, due to our inability fulfill our responsibilities as citizens of a democratic republic, the Supreme Court ruling, that will allow unlimited corporate money to pay for ads for or against any candidate, will further the problems of money in politics.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The ever brilliant Wally Shawn

Many of you will undoubtedly remember Wally from The Princess Bride. Here he is reading from his book of essays (titled "Essays"). I'll let his words do the talking, but suffice it to say, he has the kind of amazing insight that should be shared by our politicians today.

Friday, January 22, 2010

From the C-Span archives

Norm MacDonald at the 1997 White House Correspondents dinner.

Good bye Conan

It's official. Conan is leaving NBC's The Tonight Show after only 7 months on the air. Why? Because Jay "the douche bag" Leno had a smarted manager and legal team when his contract was written. Unlike Conan, Jay actually had the time slot designated in his contract, so if NBC wanted to move him to placate their local affiliates (whose news ratings Jay was killing) they would need him to agree to the move and sign a new deal or risk having to pay him $150 million.

The end result is a much less funny late night show on NBC that appeals to the elderly and the dumb. Because seriously, if your idea of humor is watching a bobble head bounce around and chuckle at his own jokes all night then you deserve to watch Jay.

Now I must admit, I am not a regular viewer of the late night shows. Given their need to churn out material on a nightly basis, and the push to sell whatever crappy movie the guest that night is in, much of the show (any of them) is pretty boring, but consistently, the bits that Conan has been doing at the top of the show and up until the first guest is on has been the best of the 4 main late night shows over the past decade. And when it comes to guest interview moments the best ones have almost always come from Late Night with Conan O'Brien when he allowed some comedian buddy of his to sit in on an interview with someone promoting their crappy movie (case in point below).

So farewell Conan. I hope you get another show soon and I hope that Jay Leno's cars all rust apart and that his core audience finally figures out how to change the channel (old people are bad with remote controls) and NBC pays dearly for this mistake. They don't really have any decent shows left other than Thursday night's lineup so to hell with them.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Presenting, the next Senator from the state of Massachusetts....

Way to go Massholes! To all those morons that complained that Obama had not delivered enough change yet, and that things were moving too slowly in Congress, you should be real happy now. With the GOP gaining their crucial 41st vote, all legislation will now suffer one of two fates: grind to a halt or get gutted to the the point where it is no longer worth passing.

One such piece of legislation is the current health care reform bill, aka, the health insurance bill. I call it that because in order to get even members of their own party on board, the Democratic leadership tore out the soul of health care reform and turned what could have been a great advance in American politics and society into little more than a handout to insurance companies. With Scott Brown joining the Senate, Democrats will either need to find something incriminating on Olympia Snow and Susan Collins, or rip out even more of the health insurance bill.

The biggest problem with the health care bill (Senate version) is that it has already been compromised to death. The American people are proving themselves to be dumber than a box of rocks by buying (and then stuffing into their mouths) the echo chamber feces that tells them that this bill was written by Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro. The false outrage at things like Harry Reid's comments and the efforts to provide health care to America's poor is sickening and needs to stop.

But it won't. The party of "No" is finding power in the ability to deny and delay. Tactics that would not work if people would simply pay attention and turn off American Idol, Top Chef, or the 20th season of Flavor of Love. Chances are that come November, the Republicans will be hammering home the fact that the Democrats haven't done anything despite majorities in both houses of Congress and the oval office. And the public will continue to eat that shit up and holler back "yeah! they haven't done anything!"

*****AUTHOR'S NOTE*****
The closing to this post contains language not suitable for all audiences. If you do not want to see any offensive language you may as well just stop reading here. Take a look at C-SPAN or Google News.

If you still want to read on, don't complain about the language used.
*****AUTHOR'S NOTE*****

So fuck you Joe Lieberman for dragging your feet before Christmas.

And fuck you Ben Nelson for trying to block insurance companies from covering abortions.

And fuck you Max Baucus for gutting the public option.

And fuck you Tom Coburn for forcing the reading of Senator Sanders' amendment and then leaving the room while it was being read.

And finally, fuck you Senate Democrats for being spineless, gutless, cowardly little wimps who can't even get a decent bill passed with 60 votes. Maybe you need to learn some lessons from your colleagues across the aisle who seem to be able to pass whatever piece of shit legislation Karl Rove and Dick Cheney could dream up.

Monday, January 18, 2010


There is an awful lot to be said about the devastating earthquake that has claimed over 50,000 lives in Haiti already. For now though, please click the link below and sign the petition to eliminate Haiti's debt. The best relief that could possibly be given to the decimated country would be for the wealthy nations that control the IMF to forgive Haiti of all or at least most of its debt. So long as the country is shackled by hundreds of millions in debt obligations, it will never be able to build up a fruitful society.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Harry Reid is no Trent Lott

Crocodile Tears: To weep crocodile tears is to put on an insincere show of sorrow. (http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/104800.html)

Ever since it was revealed in Mark Halperin and John Heilemann's new book "Game Change", that Senate majority leader Harry Reid used the terms "light skinned" and "no Negro dialect" in reference to then candidate Obama the infonews media have been salivating more than Rush Limbaugh in a Mexican pharmacy.

The fact that it has now become an accepted fact that Mr. Reid's comments were "insensitive" and "racist" is a testament to the "truth" making power of repetition. While the Nevada senator's comments were unwise given his position and how they might be used against him at a later date, they are not in any way false or racist. Mr. Reid was giving his opinion of the American electorate. He was not saying that Obama's "light skin" or his lack of a "Negro dialect" were characteristics that he himself sought out in a candidate, but rather, that those attributes were things that Mr. Reid felt the American people would react well to, and he was right.

Despite what Michael Steele's said about Reid's comments being "that's anachronistic language that harkens back to the 1950s and '60s, and it confirms to [Steele] a mind-set that is out of step with where America is today," it sadly is not as out of step as he would like to pretend. As recently as 2007 the Kenneth and Mamie Clark's doll experiments were recreated by film maker Kiri Davis, and the results were the same. Black children consistently chose the white dolls over the black ones.

Looking back at Senator Lott's comments in 2002 we find a very different sort of statement being made. In those comments made on Strom Thurmond's birthday, Senator Lott said that Mississippi was proud of supporting his segregationist campaign "and if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either." Given that Strom Thurmond's campaign was about keeping Jim Crow laws and retaining a segregated society (except where Carrie Butler was concerned) voicing support for it is support for a racist platform and racist policies and is, an offensive and racist statement to make.

The problem with Mr. Reid's comments are not that he said them, or that they are racist, but that they are true. While some, like Whoopi Goldberg, may argue that President Obama is not technically "light skinned", he's no Wesley Snipes and the end result is that he did not scare white people. Pointing out racism, or speculating on how the general population (the white general population) might react to someone based on their skin tone and inflection is not a racist act. Feigning outrage and demanding resignations is nothing but political maneuvering, and does nothing to address the systemic racial problems that exist in America today, but then those have never been big priorities of the GOP.
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