Archive for October, 2006

It’s the payoff, stupid (abstinence programs for adults)

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

One mistake that’s easy to make with Bush & Co. is confusing out-and-out corruption with ideologically based silliness and stupidity.  With so much of both going on all the time, if you’re not careful you can end up losing the mendacity forest for the idiocy trees.

Here’s a prime example.

(USA Today) Abstinence message goes beyond teens

The federal government’s “no sex without marriage” message isn’t just for kids anymore.

Now the government is targeting unmarried adults up to age 29 as part of its abstinence-only programs, which include millions of dollars in federal money that will be available to the states under revised federal grant guidelines for 2007.

The government says the change is a clarification. But critics say it’s a clear signal of a more directed policy targeting the sexual behavior of adults.

“They’ve stepped over the line of common sense,” said James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit that supports sex education. “To be preaching abstinence when 90% of people are having sex is in essence to lose touch with reality. It’s an ideological campaign. It has nothing to do with public health.”

Is funding abstinence only sex education for adults stupid?  You betcha.  Is it also evidence of the ridiculous degree to which ideology trumps reason (or even common sense) with this bunch?  No doubt about it.  Is that all that’s going on here?  Not on your life.

It’s also an example of a good old-fashioned political payoff scheme.  The Religious Right is, of course, one of the most important constituent groups within the GOP alliance.  And abstinence only programs pour millions of dollars of public money into the hands of conservative faith-based organizations every year.

It’s the perfect scam: When silly legislation like this is adopted and then combined with Bush’s faith-based initiative, the money is virtually guaranteed to go to the GOP’s friends.  Liberal and moderate mainline denominations, suffering as they do from the handicap of being part of the reality based world, mostly want no part of such programs.  So the lucre flows to the Religious Right as inexorably as the Mighty Mississippi heads to the sea.         

Of course, no actual public good is done with the money.  But then that’s the beauty of being part of the modern conservative movement, isn’t it?  When you don’t view the public good as being  relevant to the purpose of government, it frees up the money for your own nobler purposes.

No doubt about it: Viewing the government as little more than one giant slush fund can be a truly liberating experience.

Non-political question of the day: Does anyone know anyone who has ever purchased a penile enlargement product off the web?

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

I don’t know about you, but penile enhancement spam comes in a close third to Viagra spam and “investment opportunities” spam when it comes to filling my inbox with crap.  So I have to wonder: Do these e-mails actually generate any sales?

And if the answer is yes, what sort of guy would buy something — well, like that, to be used on something — well, like that from an Internet spam operation?

It boggles the mind — and potentially certain other organs.  

So tell us: Does anyone know anyone who has ever actually purchased and used one of these products as a result of an e-mail solicitation?

(I’ll confess to being so unworldly as to not know much about how these products are supposed to work, but, to be clear, we’re not looking for graphic or prurient  details here, as this is a family café . . . Winston notwithstanding.) 

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Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

So Comedy Central, getting all corporate media on us (they are part of Viacom, after all), has demanded that YouTube scrub all video clips of its programs, including The Daily Show With Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report, from the site.  This should earn the network an extra — well, not much of anything that I can see.

Still, I suppose a profit center’s got to do what a profit center’s got to do.

(NY Times) YouTube Is Purging Copyrighted Clips

Hitting the financial jackpot, it appears, may have created some headaches for YouTube, the wildly popular video-sharing Web site that has agreed to be bought by Google for $1.65 billion in stock.

The site late last week began purging copyrighted material from Comedy Central, including clips from YouTube stalwarts like “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” “The Colbert Report” and “South Park.”

The action was “a result of third-party notification by Comedy Central,” according to one such e-mail message sent to a YouTube user, Jeff Reifman, who broke the news on the Web site NewsCloud.

*   *   *

The situation is tricky for a network like Comedy Central, part of Viacom. Its audience is young and technologically sophisticated, and Comedy Central stars in the past have used YouTube and clip services to interact with their audience.

This seems dumb to me.  Clips posted on YouTube and elsewhere on the web are extraordinary effective advertising for Comedy Central — something the network itself apparently understood until recently.  People get hooked on the clips and then start tuning into the programs.

How they benefit by pulling the plug on this escapes me.

It remains to be seen whether this is purely a Google thing, or whether Comedy Central will start going after other Internet “poachers.”  If it’s the latter, they will have no one to blame but themselves when, having dropped out of the Internet conversation, they end up losing much of their cutting edge appeal.

Dumb, dumb and dumber still.

The power of round numbers: 100 dead in Iraq

Monday, October 30th, 2006

Surely being the 100th American to die unnecessarily is no greater tragedy than being, say, number 11 or 47 or even 99.  The death in each case is as final, the waste as unspeakable and the agony of those left behind as pronounced. 

Yet, round numbers speak to human beings in powerful, if illogical, ways.  And today the number 100 shouts out like an atomic bomb blast.

(AFP) Iraq bombs kill dozens, US toll passes 100

A bomb ripped through a crowd of Shiite labourers, one of six attacks in Baghdad that killed at least 36 people, as the monthly death toll for American troops and civilian contractors in Iraq hit 101.

Four non-American coalition soldiers were also killed during the month.

The blasts came as Britain evacuated its large consulate in the southern city of Basra after it came under repeated mortar attack, and one day after 17 Iraqi police were murdered when they left a nearby British training base.

The US military said October had seen 96 US troops, four coalition soldiers from other countries and five American contractors killed, confirming it as the bloodiest month for the allies since January 2005

America has lost 100 people or more in a single month in Iraq before, of course, but I think in a way it’s worse this time.  Futility makes it worse.  And while the futility of the Iraq War has been clear for some time, it’s become so much more obvious lately, so open and notorious: Few people even bother denying it anymore.  And those who do look increasingly deceitful, if not deranged.

Still, the dying goes on, every day and in the most horrific ways imaginable.  And like anything else that goes on day after day far away, eventually it becomes wallpaper: You know it’s there, but you think about it less and less.  The dull hum of the evening news — the stock market is up or down, rain is coming or going away and another 3 Americans have been killed in Iraq; or is it 6 or 11?

You still care, but life goes on — your life anyway.

That is the great power of round numbers, of course — they scrape away the wallpaper and rub a little salt into a wound that’s best not forgotten.  And hopefully in this instance remind us that while the 100 plus deaths in October can never be undone, the hundreds that will come in the months ahead — if nothing changes — are still very much at issue. 

The party of hate

Saturday, October 28th, 2006

What can you say about a political party that prospers almost entirely by feeding on fear and hatred?

(San Francisco Chronicle) GOP ads warn of ‘homosexual agenda’ from S.F.

Republican charges of a San Francisco “homosexual agenda” and allegations that a liberal “San Francisco majority” in Congress would endanger the nation have emerged as themes in the final two weeks of the Nov. 7 midterm election campaign.

The latest salvos are variations on a constant GOP refrain this year, tied to the prospect that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a “San Francisco liberal,” would become speaker if Democrats make at least a 15-seat gain in the midterm elections.

“You know, they use me all over the country, my radical homosexual agenda,” said Pelosi, in San Francisco Friday before heading to campaign stops in Colorado and New Mexico.

“I’ve never seen a situation where a national party has run against a particular part of the country. It makes me wonder what the Republicans in San Francisco think about the assault that they are making on our city. But it doesn’t bother me,” she said

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Talking to people: What a radical foreign policy concept

Saturday, October 28th, 2006

It seems that the adults — you remember, the ones we were told were back in charge after George W. Bush won in 2000 — are being confronted with a radical thought: That maybe, just maybe, instead of endless posturing and breath holding directed at our foreign policy adversaries we should actually try talking to them.

(NY Times) Dissent Grows Over Silent Treatment for ‘Axis of Evil’ Nations

WASHINGTON, Oct. 26 — Ever since President Bush first proclaimed there to be an “axis of evil” in 2002, pundits, diplomats and politicians have urged him to talk to its members. But in the last few weeks, with Iraq experiencing a further surge in violence, North Korea testing a nuclear device and Iran continuing to defy a United Nations Security Council demand to stop enriching uranium, the cries for dialogue have grown louder.

James A. Baker III, the Republican former secretary of state, said this month that he believed “in talking to your enemies.” After North Korea’s nuclear test, former President Jimmy Carter said that “the stupidest thing that a government can do that has a real problem with someone is to refuse to talk to them.”

Senator Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois, said last weekend that even at the peak of the cold war, “when there were nuclear missiles pointing at every major U.S. city, there was a direct line between the White House and the Kremlin.”

The question arises: Is any of this cutting ice with the administration?

In case you had any doubt on the subject, the answer to the last question is no.  Bush insiders continue to cling to the spoiled brat philosophy of foreign relations: When a country refuses to do exactly what they want it to do they get mad, go home and refuse to talk to its leaders.

With adults like this how about putting the kids back in charge? 

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If You Have Nothing Nice to Say about the Preznit . . .

Saturday, October 28th, 2006

. . . Join the club. Membership is growing.

Unfortunately, NBC lost it’s membership card and thinks it’s their job to protect Bush’s precious little feelings from people who don’t like him or his anti-democracy policies. On Thursday, Variety reported that NCB won’t air a commercial for the new Dixie Chicks documentary because the spots are, get this, “disparaging to President Bush.”

Watch the trailer for “Shut Up and Sing.” This movie could prove to be a strong statement for freedom of speech at a time when we desperately need one.

You know, the more I think about NBC’s censorship of opinions unfavorable to Bush, I’m increasingly stunned and, amazingly, still a bit flabbergasted by the insulting notion that we have a “liberal media.” Not even close. Perhaps, in some far-flung locale in a progressive state, there are “liberal” reporters. Perhaps.

(Of course, I’m not talking about real progressive media, like Democracy Now, Mother Jones, and BuzzFlash, to name but a few).

The vast majority of the media business is a profit-driven enterprise. Until we eliminate profit as the main motivating factor behind business decisions, concepts like fairness, truth and accuracy will always get side-swiped in the stampede of greed.

- Greg

PS. Oh, just to lighten things up, you MUST also watch Bush talk about his friend “Dave,” a candidate who actually uses a different name, not at all like the one Bush used. Heh-heh. You wonder if people asked for their money back after Bush spoke.

Gosh, I wish Rummy had told us this earlier

Thursday, October 26th, 2006

Now he tells us!  Donald Rumsfeld apparently wants critics of the Iraq War to shut up.

(AP) Rumsfeld tells war critics to ‘back off’

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Thursday that critics should “just back off” on demands for deadlines in Iraq and that it is difficult to predict when Iraqis will resume control of their country.

I just wish he’d told us this earlier so we could have quieted down more quickly.  I hate being tardy in carrying out orders.

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The power of the stem cell research message

Thursday, October 26th, 2006

I guess we now know why Rush Limbaugh has engaged in such bizarrely self-defeating excess in attacking Michael J. Fox: Stem cell research, as a political issue, is hurting the GOP, potentially quite badly.

Voters Increase Support for Stem Cell Research After Viewing Michael J. Fox Ad (via Kos)

• Among all respondents, support for stem cell research increased from 78% prior to viewing the ad, to 83% after viewing the ad. Support among Democrats increased from 89% to 93%, support among Republicans increased from 66% to 68% and support among Independents increased from 80% to 87% after viewing the ad.
• The level of concern regarding a candidate’s view on stem cell research increased among all respondents from 57% prior to viewing the ad to 70% after viewing the ad. Among Democrats, the level of concern increased from 66% to 83% and Republicans’ level of concern increased from 50% to 60%. Independents’ level of concern increased from 58% to 69%.
• The perception that the November election is relevant to the U.S. policy on stem cell research increased across all voter segments, with an increase of 9% among all respondents pre- and post-viewing from 62% to 71%. The Democrats’ perception increased from 75% to 83%, Republicans’ perception increased from 55% to 62% and Independents’ perception increased from 60% to 68% pre- and post-viewing.
• The advertisement elicited similar emotional responses from all responders with all voter segments indicating that they were “not bored and attentive” followed by “sorrowful, thankful, afraid and regretful.”
• The vast majority of responders indicated that the advertisement was believable with 76% of all responders reporting that it was “extremely believable” or “believable.” Among party affiliation, 93% of Democrats 57% of Republicans and 78% of Independents indicated it “extremely believable” or “believable.”

Even more strikingly, the survey found that watching the ad (see it here) actually changed how people planned to vote.  The number of Republicans reporting they planned to vote for a Republican went down 10%, while the number of independents planning to vote Democratic went up 10%.  In a close election like this, those numbers are huge.

And what should be particularly troubling to Republicans in all this is that — Michael J. Fox notwithstanding — the ad’s potency doesn’t arise entirely, or even primarily, from star quality.  No, this is about common sense and basic humanity.  And putting the “interests” of a small collection of cells, destined to be thrown away as medical waste anyway, ahead of the hopes of millions of Americans who, just like Fox, are suffering from catastrophic diseases fails the test badly on both counts.

The real power of Fox’s message then is in the fact it speaks the truth — a truth so obvious that attempting to counter it serves only to increase its strength.  And for Republican politicians who feel compelled to kiss the ring of the Religious Right on this issue, this is an extraordinarily inconvenient truth.

So keep on spewing your hate, Rush.  Let’s keep this in the news right up until election day.

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