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Archive for the ‘Political Ramblings’ Category

Thoughts on Andrew Breitbart (Spoiler: they’re not good)

I’m very sorry for Andrew Breitbart’s family. They didn’t ask for the storm of crap that is likely to come from his passing. They ought to be able to mourn in peace. As it stands, though, opinions will swirl in a hostile online environment that Breitbart himself helped to create.

I can’t actually muster much enthusiasm to write about this guy, but several people have asked me my thoughts (although I’m not sure why). More than twenty-four hours have passed, which is reportedly more time than Breitbart allowed before ripping into Ted Kennedy (apparently this is a popular talking point among people who did not like Breitbart). That gives me some small measure of smug moral superiority. All I really have to say is that he was a thug and a liar.

He died of natural causes. That is being widely reported alongside the news that we don’t know how he died. That these two statements don’t yet go together ought to be clear, but if we learned anything from Andrew Breitbart, statements don’t have to be mutually consistent to be truthy.

The casualties of his mendacity are many. As so often happens, others have written more eloquently than I, so I turn to the words of this Tumblr blogger (h/t Karnythia):

Andrew Breitbart dropped dead unexpectedly today. His fellow journalists, eager to justify one of their own and “Make Some Larger Sense Of It All”, are already embarrassing themselves with their eulogies. Breitbart was the “cutting edge of the new journalism.” He “was among the first to see” that with the internet, the old standards of journalism no longer applied.” Blah, blah, blah.

No. Andrew Breitbart was nothing more than an accomplished liar. His “gotcha” journalism was deliberately dishonest but he justified his lies in the name of a higher truth. If he victimized his liberal targets with fabricated videos, that was OK because the larger truth (as defined by the Radical Right) was being served.

This is how fascists think.

I’m skipping the eulogies.

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Here’s a birther who doesn’t even pretend not to be racist

Meet Gordon Warren Epperly of Juneau, Alaska. He has found a novel way to challenge Obama’s place on the 2012 presidential ballot. Considering the absolute and utter smackdown that birther lawsuits took in Georgia recently, it would seem a new set of tactics is necessary (giving up and admitting it’s not only a lost cause, but also completely psychotic, is clearly out of the question) (for an excellent summary of the bloodening that the birthers endured in Georgia, check out BadFiction’s blog). How is Mr. Epperly presenting his case? Well, obviously, Barack Obama is ineligible for the office of President of the United States of America because he is black, or to use Epperson’s words, “Mulatto.” Don’t believe me? Good, that means you’re not insane.

Let’s hear Epperson tell it, shall we? (A full PDF of the complaint to the Alaska Division of Elections is here.)

[F]or an Individual to be a candidate for the office of president of the United States, the candidate must meet the qualifications set forth in the United States Constitution and one of those qualifications is that the Candidate shall be a “natural born citizen” of the United States. As Barack Hussein Obama II is of the “mulatto” race, his status of citizenship is founded upon the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Before the [purported] ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment, the race of “Negro” or “mulatto” had no standing to be citizens of the United States under the United States Constitution.

DredScottThere’s more, but it is worth pointing out that at this point he cites the Dred Scott decision, the 1857 Supreme Court case that held that slaves, and descendants of slaves, were ineligible for citizenship. He claims that the case “has never been distinguished (overturned).” Moving on:

As the Fourteenth Amendment is only a grant of  “Civil Rights” and not a grant of  “Political Rights,” Barack Hussein Obama II does not have any “Political Rights” under any provision of the United States Constitution to hold any Public Office of the United States government. Furthermore, there is considerable debate within the enclosed supporting documents that shows Barack Hussein Obama II was not born on the soil of the United States and that he was not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States at the time of his birth. If this is true, it would appear that Barack Hussein Obama II may not only be in want of having the status of being a “natural born Citizen,” but he may not even be a “citizen of the United States.” Being absent of proper status of Citizenship, Barack Hussein Obama II, nor his Delegates, have the qualifications to appear on the Election Ballots for the State of Alaska. (Emphasis in original)

A few observations at this point. First, he hedges quite a bit in his language, more than one might expect in a petition to a government agency. “There is considerable debate…” and “If this is true…” Not exactly the sort of forceful language one might expect in an original pleading. It is also common to use a shorthand when a name is repeated, e.g. “Barack Hussein Obama II (hereinafter “Obama”)” or something like that. I suspect he just couldn’t resist the opportunity to remind us at every turn that the president’s middle name is Hussein. At least he managed to stay away from the caps lock key.

Others have done an excellent job of putting Mr. Epperly’s arguments out of their misery, so I don’t need to waste too much ammo. If I am correctly reading his complaint (and my ability to read legal documents written in batshit can be a bit rusty), he is arguing that the Fourteenth Amendment did not actually overturn Dred Scott, and that therefore Barack Obama, and presumably anyone else of black, African-American, African, Caribbean, etc. ancestry is not a United States citizen, even if they were born here.

My legal analysis in brief: that’s crap.

Aside from that, he is rehashing many familiar tropes of the birther movement. President Obama is not “natural born” because his father was not a U.S. citizen, or because he was secretly born in Kenya, blah blah blah. This argument would have the intriguing effect of stripping U.S. citizenship from thousands of people born to citizens of other countries, despite the fact that “natural born” has been construed to mean “born on U.S. soil” for decades and longer.

In fact, any excessive amount of scrutiny of what it means to be “natural born” as it pertains to the presidency really didn’t come up at all until a black guy with a funny-sounding name got elected president. Don’t insult yourself, America, or humanity by trying to claim that racism is not a factor in all of this. Gordon Warren Epperly at least has the courtesy, and the courage, to be honest about it.

Photo credit: By Louis Schultze [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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The Kindness of Strangers

Manhattan at night by hsosa5150 on stock.xchngAngy Rivera came to the United States from Colombia when she was three years old. Today, she is a 21 year-old criminology student at John Jay College in Manhattan. She is also an undocumented immigrant. People who lack empathy might call her an “illegal alien.”

Like so many in America today, she cannot afford college on her own. She managed to get a few scholarships, and the state of New York allows undocumented immigrants to qualify for in-state tuition if they live, you know, in the state. She cannot, however, qualify for ant sort of federal financial aid.

Debate the relative merits of immigrant education policy on your own time. Today I’m here to talk about how awesome people can be sometimes.

With a tuition bill of over $2,500 per semester, she needed to raise some funds. She took the remarkably bold step of “outing” herself online as undocumented so she could sell handmade “education bracelets” for $5 a piece. She wanted to raise $1,000 for a reduced academic schedule.

As the New York Daily News reported on January 7, she only made $60 selling bracelets online. She took a more direct route, going on Facebook and Chipin and asking people to donate $5 towards her education. It takes a certain amount of moxie not only to expose your immigration status to the world on the internet, but then to expose your financial plight to the world and ask for help. It just seems so…..American to seek opportunity that way…

If only 200 people contributed $5 towards her tuition bill, she would be set for a part-time semester. That’s not what happened, though. Life has a way of doing unexpected things.

Luis Hernandez, a 59 year-old retired subway conductor living in Brooklyn, saw her story in the Daily News and saw an opportunity to do a good deed. On January 10, he walked into the John Jay bursar’s office and plunked down $2,500, which means she can take a full load of courses this semester. The Daily News reported on him, saying that he tried to shun any publicity. “I’m just glad I was able to help her,” he told them. He told Rivera over the phone that her tuition bill was paid in full. She took the call while at a Starbucks in Greenwich Village and reportedly burst into tears.

Beyond that, the two of them apparently have no plans to meet in person.

I hope that we can find a sensible way to help people like Rivera get an education. Our immigration system, it should come as no surprise, struggles daily with its own psychosis. The DREAM Act would have allowed students who came here “illegally” as children (i.e. through no volition of their own) a path to education and citizenship if they would be willing to work their butts off for it. It was sensible and compassionate, so of course it was doomed. New York state has its own Dream Act in the works, and the state’s education department even has a price tag for offering tuition assistance to undocumented students. Based on the best available estimates of the total number of undocumented students in the state who would want to attend public colleges and universities, it would cost the state just over $600,000 per year to provide full tuition assistance. In state government terms, that’s small potatoes. And it’s an estimate, which means it is negotiable.

For now, I do not hold out much hope for a federal DREAM Act, or even a New York Dream Act. Don’t even get me started on Texas.

For now, politicians will continue to compete to see who can take the biggest dump on the dreams of hard-working immigrants everywhere.

While that is happening, I hope there are more people like Luis Hernandez.

Photo credit: Manhattan at night by hsosa5150 on stock.xchng.

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Ahlquist Case Update: RI State Rep. Peter Palumbo is a Bad Person

The case of Jessica Ahlquist, who bravely stood up against an entire town to defend the Constitution, has been a model of good citizenship (on Ahlquist’s part, at least). Many, many other people have not behaved in much of an honorable manner. Now we have her duly elected state representative, Peter Palumbo, playing to his baser political instincts (via JT Eberhard):

Peter G. Palumbo, the Democrat in the RI House from the Cranston district, has no rebukes for the Jesus-loving liars, bullies, or thugs. He has nothing negative to say about the people who felt they were above the Constitution and lied to subvert it. He did, however, have something to say about Jessica. Palumbo said, sarcastically, that she is “An evil little thing.” That may have bee said sarcastically (there is debate over whether or not that line was sarcastic, but I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt), but the line “I think she’s being coerced by evil people” was most assuredly not. She is not being coerced, and her cause is not evil.

He said this of the girl who sought to do right to the best of her abilities and understanding, agreeably to the Constitution, and laws of the United States. The latter half of that comes from the United States oath of office. It is a pity, though not a surprise, that Jessica is the one who feels abiding by that oath is not “evil”.

Palumbo’s email address is rep-palumbo@rilin.state.ri.us. His office phone number is (401) 785-2882. Spread the word and inundate him. Our leaders should respect the constitution, not snipe at those who have been been confirmed to have fought in its defense. Palumbo has just sided with dishonesty and bullies. We should have higher standards for our leaders, but evil men with Jesus in their hearts and a populace of the same keep these kinds of monsters in power, and they keep noble women like Jessica standing between the monsters and the Constitution those monsters are sworn to uphold.

In a moral world, this man’s career would end with this. Let’s continue to pursue a moral world.

I can’t add much of anything to that, except this little aside to Rep. Palumbo: tsk, tsk.

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Arabic numerals! They’re everywhere!!!

No 5 - ArabicThe keen eye of Jesus’ General has caught something that I had completely overlooked: the nefarious influence of Muslim extremism over our society at the numerical level:

Lowe’s may have bowed to God’s will and pulled advertising from TLC’s “All-American Muslim,” a show with the gall to depict Muslimolibs as human beings, but the hardware/appliance chain still promotes the Islamuninistoprog agenda. They do so by using Arabic numerals in their pricing.

Arabic numerals (e.g. 1, 2, 3…) were designed by a Muslim named Al-Khwarizmi in DCCCXXV A.D. They were then imposed on the West by the Great Whore of Babylon, Pope Sylvester II, a man who constantly fingered his astrolabe, in the late Xth Century.

Please write Lowes, today, and ask them to stop exposing our children to Arabic Islamonumbers.

Great Scott, he’s right! Not only did this Al-Khwarizmi fellow create this insidious numerical system, he also developed a form of mathematics that he called al-jabr, translated into American as “algebra.”

Algebra, of course, was the instrument used to torment me endlessly in MCMLXXXVIII, when I was in the VIIIth grade.

His name also forms the basis for the word “algorithm.”

You know what’s even worse? Pope Sylvester II was French. Our entire numerical system is a conspiracy of evil Islamofascists and cheese-eating surrender monkeys [source].

Or, maybe numbers are just, you know, numbers, and it’s just that the people who made the decision to pull Lowe’s advertising have made effective parody almost impossible to distinguish from actual crazy ideas.

Just my II cents…

Photo credit: No 5 – Arabic by kirstyhall, on Flickr.

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The Florida Family Association has gotten me to do something I never thought I would do

They have gotten me to willingly watch a TLC reality show.

You should understand that I hate reality television. I’m currently doing an improv show based on “The Amazing Race,” and I refuse to even watch that show for source material. But I have now Tivo’d all available upcoming episodes of TLC’s “All-American Muslim,” the reality TV show that has angered people whose anger and annoyance usually tickles the crap out of me. I can’t add much to what has already been said by people who are arguably more clever and insightful than me. To quote Popehat’s commentary on the matter:

It is beyond question that some Muslims are violent religious extremists who will kill Americans if they can. It’s even beyond question that some such Muslims are here in America. It’s clear that some Muslims favor imposition of Sharia law — antithetical to American values like equality and freedom of expression and worship — upon societies, and that some harbor a grand ambition to impose Sharia law here in America.

But those Muslims — however many of them there are — are powerless to change America’s nature by themselves. The most horrific terrorist act, the most aggressive campaign to impose their religious values upon us — none of that can, by itself, alter fundamental American traditions and values. Those traditions and values were born in rebellion and deprivation, raised on the frontier, toughened through slow and painful progress from wrong towards right. They include hard work, fair play, due process, equality before the law, liberty, and individuality. Terrorist bombs cannot quell them.

But Americans’ reactions to terrorist bombs could.

I’m going to watch as many episodes of this show as I can, and I am going to learn. I encourage everyone to watch this show and to learn. Educating ourselves is one of the best tools, dare I say weapons, we have against people like the Florida Family Association. I believe that they are the real enemies of freedom, preferring to have us cowering in fear, jumping at shadows and lashing out at anyone or anything they deem to be too unfamiliar, to strange, too other for their liking.

As a final note on the more capitalist aspects of this whole debacle, I feel a need to violate my self-imposed ban on excessive profanity, because quite frankly, some people and institutions do not deserve our politeness.

To the architects of Lowe’s decision to pull its advertising from this show, I say this: Go fuck yourself.

I will be buying my home improvement wares at Home Depot from now on. I hope you’re proud of yourselves.

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A thought experiment using football

I have not yet used my occasionally-read soapbox here to discuss my thoughts on the Occupy Wall Street movement. Honestly, when I’m not working I’m reading and commenting on other people’s content and getting progressively angrier at some people’s dogged insistence on Not Getting It.

Yes, my use of the word “progressive” above is now retroactively claimed as a political double entendre.

I have however, been using my other blog (which is much easier to maintain, I must admit) to share news, pictures, and the occasional brain burp on matters pertaining to Occupy Wall Street. (When I’m not sharing animal welfare stuff and Star Wars kitsch, of course.)

So this is really just a cross-post of something I started over there:

Suppose that NFL referees applied the rules of the game as follows:

  • The wealthiest players, because of the value they bring to the game by attracting fans and television revenue, get one yard added to each play where they advance the ball.
  • Referees will not penalize minor rule infractions by the wealthiest players, in order to entice them to continue playing.
  • Penalties against African-American players, particularly ones who do not pull as high a salary, will be enhanced by three to five yards.
  • The score will start at 5 points for home teams with nice stadiums.

Would football still be a fair game? Would football even be a good game anymore? Would anybody want to watch that kind of sport?

Anyone see where I’m going with this?

Clip art licensed from the Clip Art Gallery on DiscoverySchool.com

Feel free to discuss.

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